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Proverb of the parched

Back in the city after a long hike in the mountains, my two canteens drained, my feet scorched, my head beaten nearly flat by the yellow sword of the sun, I was so thirsty I could barely muster up the moisture to swallow.

Stopping in front of a cafeteria window, I looked at the many people hoisting tall, bubble-spangled glasses of iced drinks. For a few moments I was tempted to rush in, buy a glass for myself, and drink it down so fast that the amazed beholders wouldn't even be able to count the corklike bobs of my Adam's apple.

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But I resisted the temptation. Iced drinks, I remembered, played tricks on me. Sweet it was going down, all smiles and promises to slake my thirst, but it always left dry spots. It was a mirage.

Mercy, I thought as I turned from the window, what I wouldn't give to be standing right now under that waterfall I saw in the mountains. My head thrown back, my mouth opened wide as an inner tube, I'd drink every scenic drop. I'd dry up the river.

But what, I suddenly wondered, if I got myself waterlogged? What was the good of going from the extreme of being thirsty to the extreme of being immobilized by scenic drops?

I'd about decided to go home and restore myself with some safe glasses of ice water, when I happened to spot, heaped high in a supermarket window, several juicy-looking watermelons.

"Eureka!" I rejoiced. "That's what I need, a watermelon, the true thirst-fruit."

I went into the store and bought the one that looked and felt fullest of wild sugary rivers of coolness. Then I headed home, running.

I could hardly wait to slice that beauty open with my knife, plunge in head first, gobble away my thirst, and then emerge all gooey-faced and seedy-haired with a shout of "Thirst, where is thy sting? I have slain thee!"

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So great was my excitement at the thought of that imminently yummy swim that I began exuberantly tossing the watermelon into the air and catching it.

At first I didn't toss it very high, and I caught it easily. But growing overconfident, I started tossing it higher and higher and catching it more and more miraculously.

And finally I tossed it wildly off to one side and so high that it seemed to soar above the sun. Blinded by the sun's brightness, I lost sight of the watermelon for a few seconds, and when I could see it again, yards and yards away, it was plummeting toward the ground.

Arms outstretched, I sprinted toward it, desperately wishing that a parachute would sporout from its rind and lower it gently, gently to the ground. But alas , no magic parachute billowed out. And my hands never even came close to catching it.

With a thick, flat, mushy crash like, I suddenly thought, the sound of summer's heart cleft in two, it hit the street and split into smithereens the color of emeralds and rubies.

Destined, it seemed, to slake my thirst in the plain old watery way, I knelt beside the beautiful accident, the scattered jewels of incomparable delight, and sighed, "Master of the Universe, why did You give me the gift of thirst in a world where watermelons don't bounce?"

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