One day an unknown manure salesman hurried to load his camel. Shovelsful of manure were thrown up and into a large wood crate strapped to the camel until it became a heaping pile and the camel’s legs shook from the weight. At that point, the salesman threw handfuls of hay onto the load to keep it together, and to knock down the smell, as if that were possible.
A woman watched from the shadow of a doorway.
Sweating from his labor, the man stood back and looked at the camel – loaded and ready to go. Glancing at the ground, he picked up one more long stray piece of straw and tossed it on the load. In the time it takes a summer breeze to appear, the camel collapsed and died, crushed by the weight of the manure, which spilled into the street and onto the salesman.
He stood there stunned and speechless, covered, stinking, his hands not wanting to touch his soiled clothing. Tears filled his eyes from the loss or the smell.
“That was unfortunate,” the wise woman said, stepping carefully to avoid the mess as she approached.
“It was the fault of this one straw,” the man said, as he plucked a sample from his shirt and held it up for her to see. “It only took this cursed piece of hay to kill my animal. If not for this single straw, I would still have my livelihood and load.”
“It’s never the fault of a single straw.”
“All of that manure weighed a ton. You were an idiot for loading too much on your camel – to the point it only took one straw to tip the scales toward disaster. But it was the total load, not the single straw, that killed your animal.”
The man gave this some thought, his facial expressions mirroring the realization of the truth and his responsibility. Then his face became calm, his body relaxed, and he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the heart while the wise woman watched.
She stood there for a minute, calm, quiet, studying the scene in front of her. The man, the camel, and the fertilizer, all linked together. Her hand raised up to her face, slowly wiping away a drop of blood, but no lines appeared on her face for anyone to read – if they had noticed her.
People circled around the man and camel, letting their curiosity overcome their sense of smell. A young girl stood next to the wise woman and tried to peek through the cracks of the wall the onlookers formed.
“What happened?” she asked the wise woman.
Looking down into the young green eyes, the woman said: “Always choose your words carefully when speaking to someone who doesn’t have their shit together.” Then she turned and walked the opposite direction of the growing mass.