There was a town called Greedytown, nestled in a small innocuous valley, ribbed by alien trees such as eucalyptus and oaks. Greedytown was a unique place because it was a town that ate its inhabitants! It had an appetite for misery and it slowly but surely ensured that each and every resident suffered untold sadness while living there. The more wretched the inhabitants got, the fatter and happier the town became, you see it sucked the miserable life out of each of the members of the town and it grew stronger and more twisted with every meal.
Greedytown had a trick for capturing unsuspecting victims, well it would need one I guess for who would willingly stay in a town that promised to eat you up?! Greedytown played nice. For about two or three years it lulled residents into a false sense of security, provided for their every need. It was welcoming and comfortable and easy to settle down in, it was above all quaint and charming, and most important of all…safe. Everyone felt safe when they came to live in the sleepy hamlet of Greedytown. They were so contented to finally find safety that they rapidly settled in and put down roots, determined to never leave for the dangerous big cities again.
But once people started to put down roots, Greedytown had them, for it was hard to move once you had put down roots you see. And once rooted and permanent, the residents became easy to suck the life from since their every activity and each event of their lives was rooted and wired into the framework of the town. The town gathered up their energy by first making them miserable and then it would capture their little bundles of misery and spread the news of their misfortune all around the town feeding each of its greedy residents their daily dose of gossip making them fat and tasty for the awaiting Greedytown. You see Greedytown had wisdom, it had learned something about human nature and small towns, and it was using it against its inhabitants. The wisdom was this “life in a small town is hard to stomach. Other people’s misery is the gravy we need to make our own lives digestible”. Greedytown knew that its small town residents were ravenous for the misery of their fellow townspeople and it readily fed them misery and gossip of downfall and despair. And the townspeople gobbled it up and got fatter and fatter on envy and bitterness.
Every three or four years people would go missing from Greedytown and a new bunch of residents would come in. No one living there ever talked about it except to laugh and sneer at the failure of those who had to leave and go somewhere else. They assumed that their lives had taken such a bad turn that they were forced out to town. What they didn’t know is that the missing ones were the victims that the town had finally eaten and that they were all next.
Occasionally some residents cottoned on to what was happening and they could see the murderous intent of the town. These ones were some of the most unfortunate for they didn’t get eaten by the town but instead became feed for the other residents. The town would load so much misfortune and misery on these ones that the townspeople would shriek with glee at their mishaps and gobble up every morsel of their shame, failure and despair. This would happen until there was nothing left to inflict misery upon, until the person who was at first enlightened, had been so beaten down and diminished that no more merriment could be derived from their demise. Then, and only then, would the town and the townspeople lose interest and move on to another victim.
Soon, all that envy and bitterness began to bleed through the infrastructure and the land of the town, soiling everything and causing things to malfunction. The water pipes became clogged with bitterness and regularly burst leaving the town without a regular water supply. Despite the best efforts of the residents, the pipes could not be repaired and when a repair seemed possible, it would prove to be a stopgap before another catastrophic failure in the water system. Technology and manpower seemed to have no impact on this disaster, there didn’t seem to be a way to fix the broken water pipes. In desperation the local residents called for a Sangoma (a traditional healer). The Sangoma came and shook some bones and threw some herbs and spoke for some time to the ancestors. He came back with a cure. The Sangoma told the residents of Greedytown that they must stop gorging on the misery of one another, that they must put a stop to the town’s appetite for despair and it must find a way to make nourishing food for the residents and for the town to eat. The Sangoma explained that the water pipes would only be fixed when the time came that Greedytown was feeding on healthy nourishing food that had been grown with love and compassion by the residents of the town. The Sangoma ordered the residents of Greedytown to start making farms and growing their own fruit and vegetables and to stop stealing the happiness of others and nibbling on their misfortune…once they were able to do this the water would flow again.
Disclaimer: I live in a small town and have many wonderful nurturing friendships and appreciate many of the benefits of living in a small town. However, this piece is inspired by the darker side of small towns that I was reminded of when reading another blogger who said “In a small town, everyone knows everything. We are all in one another’s business, we all spread words like sickness on the breeze. Stories bleed out into the air like blood in snow. “ Quote from the blog Hang your hopes from trees