The Water Man (A Short Story)

Many little villages have what is sometimes known as the “town character”. He might be someone of high eccentricity, making him the gossip of the town. On the other hand, it may be one who is simple-minded or foolish in behavior and thought. Well, in this particular rural village there was a man that we will simply call the “Water Man”. He had two large buckets with a yoke. This day, he had newly made buckets. He came out early in the morning to a public well to fill up his buckets. He then put on his yoke and attached his large new buckets to his yoke. One attached to each side of his yoke. He stood up and started carrying his load away from the well. pengzhou-china-farmer-water-pails-16618724

As Water Man was walking along, one of his buckets was dripping water out of the bottom fairly fast, while the other bucket held its water fine. Another man watched this spectacle. I don’t know his name or his occupation, so I will just call him Talker. He watched with amusement as Water Man began walking, recognizing that over time he would become unbalanced walking like that. “Hey Water Man,” yelled Talker. “You have yourself one leaky bucket. You are going to break your back like that!”

Water Man responded, “Thanks. I think you are right. I better fix this quick.” So Water Man went back to his house. A bit of repair was all it took; and soon Water Man was back at the well with his yoke and two (repaired) buckets. He filled his buckets with water, attached them to his yoke, and stood up. Now both of his buckets leaked.

He began walking with water now coming out of both buckets. However, the water was coming out of each at about the same rate, so he did not seem to be becoming unbalanced. Talker was still near the well and he saw the spectacle. “Hey Water Man!” yelled Talker. “You’re worse than before. You are leaking out of both buckets now. What fool would fix one leaking bucket by making his other bucket leak?”

Water Man replied, “You just are never satisfied. You were worried about my back, which is certainly nice. I fixed the problem, and you just keep complaining.”

What can you say to someone like that? Well, Talker kept watching as Water Man kept zigzagging back and forth with his heavy load that kept getting lighter as he lost his water.

Talker could not keep silent with this. “Water Man, it’s bad enough that you come to the well with leaky buckets; but you are now weaving to and fro like some drunken fool. At least if you kept to the nice flat path you would likely get most of your water back to your house before it ran out. However, I fear you are going to waste every drop of water you got before you get half-way.”

Water Man shrugged with his eyebrows because he could not with his shoulders. A few minutes later, Water Man’s buckets were indeed empty just as Talker predicted. Water Man began walking back to the well to refill his buckets.

He did refill his buckets; hooked them up to the yoke, and stood up to begin walking again. The buckets were leaking as much as before. Talker just stared in disbelief as Water Man continued to meander. Finally, he could not take it anymore.

“Water Man! You are the biggest fool I have seen. You try to protect your back by damaging a perfectly good bucket so it leaks like your other bucket. But then you wander around like a blind man instead of taking this perfectly straight and smooth path home. Further, you end up running out of water because of your fool behavior, and have to come back for more. Finally, even though you try to avoid breaking your back, with all this waste and refilling you are going to have a back far sorer than you ever would have had if you had gone home with one leaky bucket.”

Water Man just ignored him, pretending to be too intent in his task. Eventually, a combination of boredom and exasperation got to Talker. He had enough of this. So the town character ambled back toward the village while Water Man continued to water his garden with his sprinkling buckets.

Not a particularly deep moral with this story. The point is simply that we should not be quick to judge a person or a method until we take time to perceive and try to understand.


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