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A Tonic for Ramshackle Wordsmiths
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Shaggy Dog Story: The Painter
Once upon a time, there was a little village just north of the next mountain ridge. It was a quaint village, its people friendly, the town tidy. But it was noticed that the church was fading, paint chipping away where the sun had scorched it. So the town decided to have it painted.

They put out a request for contractors to make bids, their funds being small, and soon, there was a stack of bids for the mayor to read. He took the five lowest bids to the aldermen and the church leaders, and at last, they settled on one: Mortimer James Teepoke.

Well, Mortimer had been in the business a while, and he knew that the only way he could make a profit on such a low bid was to thin his paint. So he climbed up the side of the church with a bucket of half-paint, half-water and began to work. He’d gotten three walls painted and was beginning at the top of the steeple when the weather changed drastically. He could see the clouds roiling in the distance and he could hear the dark rumble of thunder.

But he was motivated to finish the church that day so he could get on with better-paying jobs, and he stayed up the steeple.

At first, the wind began to blow, and Mortimer found himself covered in half of the thin paint with nearly every brush-full. Then the rain began, a spatter here, a spatter there. He knew there wouldn’t be much point in continuing with his thinned paint if the rain thinned it further, so he added a little more paint to his concoction. He worked frantically, trying to beat the storm.


He painted and painted as the weather swished and swarmed around him, high on the steeple. His knees began to quake as he saw distant lightening, and he knew he needed to finish with this high part of the church. He redoubled his speed, barely covering the wall with his thin paint.

Suddenly, the skies opened with a huge and horrible flash. Mortimer was struck!

He was flung to the ground off of his high ladder and knocked half unconscious.

Mortimer lay there, struggling to regain his senses, staring at the sky, trying to focus his eyes.

The clouds parted and, to his wondering eyes, it looked like the clouds were forming words. He blinked into what must surely be a concussion.

As he lay on the ground, watching the miracle of the words appear, a small fear began to quake in his belly.

At last, all the words were revealed. “Repaint! Repaint! Go and thin no more!”
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