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The Village Idiot
by Ken Waugh

 

In Hampshire there is a small village called Little Biggin. At least it was there when the War begun. Today it may have vanished completely, or on the other hand, it may have grown into a small town.

In those days, Little Biggin was famous for two things. The first, was, despite its small size it boasted two pubs. The other, was, it had its "village idiot". Having said that, it was well recognised that almost every village in England had its own village idiot.

Now Little Biggin's village idiot, by name of Josh, spent his days at one or other of the two pubs. In the fine summer days and evenings, he would sit outside on the wooden bench, drinking the ale from who ever he was having it on. In the cold, dark days and nights, he would sit inside, doing the same thing.

Now it came to pass, that america entered the War due to the Japs misbehaving themselves at Pearl Harbour. In what seemed no time at all, a big camp sprung up just outside Little Biggin. Runways were laid, and soon the camp was peopled by thousands of American airmen. Not having much to do in their off duty spells, quite a few took to wandering into one of the pubs in little Biggin.

The ale sold in these pubs was a little stronger than the brew Americans were used to. One night, early in their War, one airman had drunk a little too much, probably a full pint. This made him somewhat inebriated and seeing Josh sitting there, decided to play a joke on him. He placed a pound note and half a crown in front of Josh.

"Here Josh," he said rather loudly, "You can have one of these. Pick up the one you want."

Now this airman, who remains nameless to this day, and knowing Josh's reputation felt he was too much of a fool to pick up the pound note, and instead would pick up the bright, shiny, half crown. The airman was right, Josh did pick up the half crown.

The rest of the airmen who had gathered round, laughed that anyone could be so stupid.

The news of Josh's idiocy spread and most nights after that, some one would test Josh with the pound note and half crown. He always picked the half crown.

After years of drinking at the Americans' expense, the War came to an end. Almost as quickly as the camp had filled, it became empty. Practically the last one to leave was the Padre. He was

having a drink in one of the almost empty pubs when he saw Josh sitting alone and looking right miserable. Going over to him he sat down beside him and asked, "Josh,the usual?" Josh nodded, the Padre got him his pint and put it before him.

They talked for a while and then the Padre fished into his pocket and brought out several pound notes.

"I'm shipping out in a little while, Josh. You may as well have these. they will be no good to me in the State."

Josh thanked him and put the money away, as the Padre asked, "this business of the pound note and half crown. Could you not really tell which was the most valuable?"

"Course I could," responded Josh.

"Then why the Dickens did you always pick the half crown." "Simple," said Josh. "If I had picked the pound note, that would have been the end of it. I would never have been asked to choose again. This way I made hundreds of half crowns, whereas I would have made only one pound if I had chosen it."

"You know Josh," said the Padre. "Its not you who is the village idiot, we are. We all are."

 

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