The Apple Seller
Once upon a time there was a man who owned an apple farm. He would pick apples from the trees and sell them to the townsfolk for 25¢ an apple. He made a pretty good living selling apples.
One day he noticed that during the night, hippies had stolen some of his apples. They’d picked them right off the tree and hadn’t paid him a dime! This made him very angry, so he decided to hide behind one of the trees overnight to see if he could catch any of the thieving hippies.
Sure enough, right around midnight he heard a sound at one of the other trees, so he leaped up and ran towards it. There was a hippie, climbing down from one of his apple trees with a bag of apples in his hand!
“Aha!” said the apple seller, grabbing the hippie by the foot, “I’ve caught you red-handed!”
“Hey, let go of me!” shouted the hippie.
“Think you can steal my apples, do you?” demanded the apple seller. “Don’t even try to deny it, I see the apples right there in that bag you’re holding!”
“I’m not going to deny taking the apples,” said the hippie, “but why shouldn’t I? Apples should be free, man.”
“What? Such nonsense! They’re not free, they’re twenty-five cents each!”
“But they grow on trees! It doesn’t cost you anything if I take your apples, more will grow without you doing anything,” said the hippie.
“That’s preposterous!” said the apple seller, “Each apple you steal is one less I can sell to the good townsfolk for twenty-five cents.”
“So what are you going to do to me?” asked the hippie, whose foot was still in the grip of the apple seller.
“Why I’m going to charge you, of course,” said the apple seller. “How many apples are in that bag of yours?”
“All right, let’s see... eleven apples... twenty-five cents apiece... five plus six... carry the one... got it. You owe me forty-eight thousand dollars.”
“Forty-eight thousand, one hundred fifteen dollars and eleven cents, to be precise,” said the apple seller.
“I thought you said you charged twenty-five cents for apples!”
“Well, that’s if you buy them legally. If you try to steal them, there are various punitive damages, compensatory charges, legal fees and other surcharges included,” said the apple seller. “Now will you be paying by check or cash?”
“Nuts to you!” said the hippie, as he pulled an apple out of his bag and conked the apple seller over the head with it.
“Oof!” said the apple seller, as the hippie broke free of his grip and ran away. “Hey! Come back here with my apples!”
The next day the apple seller hired some security guards to guard his apple trees. He couldn’t afford to have all the trees guarded, but he thought having at least a few guards patrolling the premises would scare off some of the apple-stealing hippies. He instructed the guards to demand nine thousand dollars per apple from any hippies caught trying to steal apples. He also adopted some more... unorthodox practices.
“Ah, good morning, Missus Green,” said the apple seller to a customer who had just entered his store. “Are you here to buy some apples?”
“Why, yes I am,” said Missus Green. “I would like four apples.”
“Splendid! I have four very nice ones right here. But first, I’ll need you to watch this short film.”
“Film? Whatever do you mean?”
“It’s about apple-stealing,” said the apple seller.
“Apple-stealing? But I’m here to buy your apples, not steal them!”
“Oh, I understand, Missus Green. I know you would never steal apples. But apple-stealing is a very serious problem. Please, have a seat.”
Missus Green reluctantly sat down as the apple seller fired up the projector. Five minutes later the film was over, and Missus Green stood up.
“See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” asked the apple seller.
“To be honest, it was rather insulting, and I quite resent being treated like a criminal,” said Missus Green.
“Well, apple-stealing is a serious problem,” the apple seller reminded her.
Missus Green left the store with her apples.
Ten minutes later she returned. “I’m afraid in my rush to leave your store, I dropped one of the apples, and it rolled into the creek.”
“Oh dear,” said the apple seller, “I’m terribly sorry. Not to worry, I’ll be happy to sell you a replacement. Please have a seat.”
“I have a short film to show you about apple-stealing.”
“But I’ve already seen that film! You just showed it to me ten minutes ago!”
“I understand,” said the apple seller, “but apple-stealing is a serious problem.”
“I don’t have time for this!” said Missus Green. “I think I’ll just buy my apples elsewhere, some place where I’m not made to feel like a crook!”
“Elsewhere?” demanded the apple seller, “Who else in this town sells apples?”
“I saw a hippie with a fruit cart just a mile down the road, and his apples looked just like yours! I don’t know how much he charges, but I bet he won’t make me sit through a stupid film just to buy an apple!” With that, she marched out.
The apple seller was horrified. Could it be that the hippie was selling the apples he’d stolen from the apple seller the night before? What a terrible thought! He immediately phoned his solicitor.
“Listen,” he told the solicitor, “I want you to write the following letter and send it out immediately: ‘Dear Sir or Madam, it has come to my attention that you may be involved in the trading of ill-gotten apples. I would like to offer you this opportunity to settle this unfortunate matter for a sum of nine thousand dollars. If you agree to renounce apple-stealing, and enclose the aforementioned amount (cash will be fine), I shall not be forced to pursue any further legal action against you... at this time. I strongly recommend you take this offer while you still can. Sincerely,’ blah blah blah et cetera et cetera,” said the apple seller. “Have you got all that?”
“Yes,” said his solicitor. “To whom should I send this letter?”
“To each of my customers,” said the apple seller, “and to any and all hippies within the city limits. No, wait... In fact, I want you to send this letter to each and every citizen in the city.”
“Everyone? Are you sure about that?”
“Yes,” said the apple seller. “Apple-stealing is a serious problem.”
As he hung up the phone, another customer walked into his store.
“Ah, hello Mister Jenkins,” said the apple seller. “How are you today?”
“Fine, thank you. Say, did you know there’s a hippie a mile down the road giving apples away?” said Mister Jenkins.
“What! Giving them away?”
“That’s right. He was saying something about how ‘apples should be free’ or some such nonsense. Looked a little fishy to me. ‘No thanks,’ I said, ‘I’ll just get my apples the old-fashioned way, by buying them from the apple seller,’ I said.”
“I see,” said the apple seller. This was worse than he feared... the hippies were giving away his apples... free of charge! Something drastic had to be done.
“Anyway,” said Mister Jenkins, “I need a half-dozen apples.”
“Very well,” said the apple seller. “What for?”
“Whaddaya mean, what for? I’m going to eat them.”
“You, personally, are going to eat them? You’re not going to take the seeds out and plant them, are you?”
“What business is it of yours?”
“Well, I’ll be happy to sell you a license to eat the apple, but I expressly forbid you to plant the seeds, or to give or re-sell the apple to someone else,” said the apple seller.
“What are you, crazy?” asked Mister Jenkins, “Once I buy the apple from you, it’s mine, and I’ll do what I darn well please with it.”
“No, no,” said the apple seller. “I’m afraid I can’t allow that.”
“You can’t allow that? Who the heck do you think you are, anyway? You know what, I think maybe I will go get some apples from that hippie and his fruit cart. I’ll bet he doesn’t tell me what I can and can’t do with the apples!”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said the apple seller.
“And why not?” demanded Mister Jenkins.
“Because I’ll sue you for a hundred billion dollars if I see you with any of those ill-gotten apples! And I’ll win, too!”
“You know what? You’ve become a real jerk. I don’t think I’m going to buy any apples from you anymore.”
And that was the day that apple-stealing became a very, very serious problem.