For the most part, these 'Not Even' entries will be essays but they won't be limited to that form. Aside from the original story each week, it may sometimes be fun to include a real-life story, a poem, or a traditional story re-told along with an essay or an explanation.
Occasionally, I write stories or poems that seem worth sharing but they don't have a place in Not Zen. The entry below is one of those. I heard it or read it long ago, then told it again at the office. (It's an office sort of story.) Of course, I told it again at a party, at a different office, and on a few other occasions. I searched online for it but I could never find a version of the story that matched the one I told. So here's my version, possibly changed quite a bit over the years from the original.
Not Even 3: The King's Counselors (A Traditional Tale)
Long ago, there lived a huge lion, a king of beasts who ruled his land with courage and ferocity. Even the pack leaders of other predators bowed down to him. The migratory herd leaders stood in awe. So the lion became an emperor. He had many counselors and many wives. He ruled for so many years that only elephants could remember when he had not ruled them. But at the late end of his maturity, he contracted halitosis. His breath smelled so bad that his wives revolted against him.
"Leave us until you're better," said his chief mate. "We can't stand it any longer."
The king was angry. Lions can't rule without the consent of their wives. He understood how serious his problem had become. He called his counselors together. Three came quickly: the sheep, the wolf, and and fox.
"Tell me truthfully," he roared at them. "Does my breath stink?"
"Wow," said the sheep, knocked back by the odor. "Yes, sire. It's awful. I've never smelled anything like it."
"Liar!" screamed the lion. He fell upon the sheep and tore him to bits.
"What about you?" he said when he was done. He turned to the wolf. "Do you think my breath is bad?"
"Oh no, sire," said the wolf, who could hardly keep his eyes off the bloody remains of the sheep. He bowed his head and simpered. "Perhaps your mate's nose isn't working right. Your breath smells fresh like daisies."
"Coward!" screamed the lion. He fell upon the wolf and tore him to shreds as easily as he did the sheep. Then he turned to the fox.
"Well?" he said to the wisest of his counselors. "Do you think my breath stinks?"
The fox had been waiting for the question. He'd given his answer some thought.
"To tell the truth, sire," replied the fox patiently. "I have a terrible cold and I can't smell a thing."
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