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The lab tech quickly was surrounded by
A crowd of would-be shoppers, which was why
The bartender shouted, "Buyer! Tell your tale!
And at the end we'll share a glass of ale,
Since we will be the last ones listening."

His large, round face and chin were glistening
With sweat; his appetite for tales was gone.
Besides, a few loud gamblers who had won
Were at the bar demanding drinks, and so
The bartender was right then on the go.

The buyer looked around to see if any
Would listen to her tale. There weren't many
Of us left, although a few came round
A little table at the rear, and found
Good company enough to listen to
This final tale that I shall tell to you.


I knew a salesman once who had a wife
He doted on, the only thing in life
He cared about, he was so much in love --
Too much, in fact, as I shall shortly prove.

For life is often less than one might hope,
And love serves fate as just the sort of rope
One needs to hang oneself. This wife of his
Was nothing much to see, as often is
The case with such obsessions, being he
Was just as unattractive as was she.

But he was grateful for her, his best friend,
Who would, he hoped, be with him to the end,
His lover, helper, sharer of his life,
All he ever wanted in a wife.

And she loved him -- at least to him it seemed --
And did for him all he'd ever dreamed
With gusto and with relish in their play,
And pleasured him in every possible way.

She was a generous person, gentle, kind,
Good-natured, courteous, funny, quick of mind.
It made him happy just to think of her,
But when he saw her, he was happier.

Unfortunately, he often had to go
To visit customers whom he would show
The latest line of goods. While away,
He missed his sweetie terribly each day,
Thinking of her near incessantly,
Wondering each moment where she'd be,
Though not one bit afraid she might be cheating.

First, he thought such thoughts were self-defeating,
Destroying what was beautiful in life,
The love and trust between a man and wife.
Second, his wife was good and pure of heart,
Incapable of playing such a part.

And third, he knew that most men found her ugly,
Even as he found her soft and snugly,
Which was a blessing since he knew it meant
That she would tempt but few to the attempt.

So he rested easy in his love,
Being, as he was, as certain of
Her honesty as he was of his.
But one can never be certain of what is.

One day while he was raking leaves, his neighbor
Invited him to break off from his labor
And have a cup of coffee, which he did.

After fiddling with the sugar lid
While talking about nothing, his neighbor said,
"For several years now I have had to tread
Uncomfortably on treacherous ground with you.
I can't keep silent forever. For what is true
Is like a fire that will eventually
Burn through all walls. And so it is with me.

"For several years now when you went away
A man would visit sometime during the day --"
"My house?" "Yes, your house, for several hours --"
"Perhaps he was a repairman." "Bringing flowers?"
"Flowers? Then perhaps he was a florist!
I sent her flowers regularly!" "He kissed
Her at the door, many times." "He did?"
His neighbor nodded, fiddling with the lid.

"The same one?" "Yes," his neighbor said. "The same."
"Did you by any chance find out his name?"
"No," his neighbor said. "Nor could I tell
You much about him, not seeing him too well
Through these curtains. I know that he was fat
And squat and had a bald spot just like that."
He pointed to the back of the salesman's head.

"Are you sure it wasn't me?" the salesman said.
"Afraid not," said his neighbor. "But for years
I've kept this to myself because of fears
That I might be intruding where I shouldn't.
But seeing you so happy, I just couldn't
Bear to hold the truth in any longer,
Not at all afraid that I would wrong her,
Having seen so much so long a time,
But that I would wrong you, a far worse crime.
Ignorance is bliss, as is often said."

The salesman then wished that he was dead,
For dying was far preferable to this.
All he could see was that quick doorway kiss,
Again and again and again, as though a knife
Were twisted in him, sparing him his life
That he might be dismembered on and on.

All he wanted now was to be gone
Where he could gather up his scattered soul,
And so with that one uncontested goal
He thanked his neighbor for the information,
Assuring him of his strong approbation
For the choice of telling what he knew.

And then he staggered out into a new
World with neither happiness nor hope,
Without a thought or clue how he might cope
With living all alone with his despair.
Oh how he wished his loving wife were there!
But she was gone, gone, gone, and in her place
Was someone strange with a familiar face.

Of course he told her of the accusation,
And she admitted to her fornication,
Telling him she loved him very much
But long ago lost pleasure in his touch,
Not having an orgasm all those years
Except with her new lover. So in tears
The two divorced. The wife remarried soon
Her lover of the occasional afternoon
And went on happily with married bliss.

The salesman, however, long would miss
His former happiness, although the pain
Over years would leave and come again
A little duller, duller, till it died
Along with what of love was left inside.

Ah, me! he thought. What good did knowing do?
Happiness, I should have chosen you!
I should have held my ears and closed my eyes!
I should have hated truth and valued lies!

What good is truth, that ever ruins joy,
And all that one might cherish would destroy
With knowledge cold and vicious, hard as stone.
For those who know must ever be alone!
I wish, I wish, I wish I never knew!
And so he lived and died, as many do.

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