‘You’re making a terrible mistake,’ said the traveller.
‘You would say that, we’re hanging you,’ said the local.
The noose made a terrible scarf. It was rough, heavy, and too loose to keep a neck warm. ‘A wise man never shies away from helpful advice,’ said the traveller.
‘A wise man doesn’t get hung,’ said the local.
The traveller winced at this crime against grammar. ‘No, he gets hanged. And frequently. Because people like you would rather think they’re right than admit they’re wrong long enough to actually become right.’
‘What’s the difference?’
‘Between thinking you’re right and being right? For a doctor, life and death, for a general, war and peace, for a priest, eternal salvation and missing out on sex for no reason.’
‘What about for me?’
‘For a hangman?’
‘I’m not a hangman, I’m a middle manager. I just do the hangings when Tony’s under the weather.’
This made a lot of sense. ‘Tell you what,’ said the traveller, ‘I’ll wait for Tony to get better. It’s no trouble.’
The local shook his head. ‘Then there’ll be a backlog waiting for him when he gets back to work. To be honest, he’s been having a hard time of it recently. Wife left him, took the kids, then he found a lump where he already had enough lumps, then he found out they weren’t even his kids in the first place. So we all decided to chip in and take a bit of the old weight off his shoulders.’
‘That’s very civic minded of you,’ said the traveller.
‘Well, it’s Tony, isn’t it?’
‘Go on then.’
‘The difference between right and just thinking I’m right, to a middle manager.’
The traveller thought for a moment. ‘Well, you might tell someone the wrong thing, and they’ll do a bad job.’
The local shrugged. ‘I’ll just tell upper management I told them the right thing and they did the wrong thing of their own volition.’
The traveller thought again. ‘Well what if you tell someone the wrong thing and they get hurt?’
The local shrugged again. ‘I’ll tell ’em upper management made me.’
‘So you’re telling me you just take credit for other people’s good work, and blame other people for your bad work, and everyone else has to deal with the consequences?’
The local grinned. ‘Like I said, I’m in middle management.’
The traveller gave up. ‘Tell Tony to get well soon from me.’
‘That’s a class act, he’ll appreciate it.
He local pulled the lever. The trap door fell away. The noose came undone immediately. The traveller landed spryly on his feet.
‘The noose wasn’t tied properly,’ said the traveller. ‘That was the terrible mistake I tried to tell you about.’
The local shrugeed. ‘No worries, I’ll just blame the bloke who tied it.’
The traveller legged it.