Once upon a time, there was a very rich man. He had all toys the world could offer to such a rich man. He drove big cars, and he flew big planes. He went on big vacations, and he threw big parties. But most of all, the man lived in a very big house on a very big estate.

He was very bored. He had few friends, back from school, when children didn’t really worry about how much money their parents had. As an adult, he made no new friends anymore, because he never met anybody, just by accident. And he hated all those people who just wanted to be his friends because they saw him driving a big car, or giving big parties.

The man was very envious of all the small people he could see living in the small village. They lived in small houses, one right next to the other; they had small, private backyards where they grew lots of vegetables, in small gardens. But they had a large park in the middle of their village, and they went for long strolls in the park. And in the park, they had a large swimming pool. In the summer, everybody swam and splashed around there, and the people could remember their summer fun long into the autumn.

The small people had no cars. Every morning, they got up and walked out into their small town, and they greeted each other and chatted about this or that. They sat down to drink coffee at small coffeehouses, right on the sidewalk, and they talked to their friends who just walked by. Often their friends, who were just on the way to this or the other thing, sat down with them and had a coffee too.

This went on like that all day long. At lunch, people met each other, and for dinner, and when they were shopping, and when their kids were playing, and when they walked back from their work – even when they went to church, they greeted each other afterwards and went to the inn to have a meal, or a drink. The small people were not rich, but they were very happy. They had many friends, and they were making more every day.

They did not think much about the rich man. He was not one of them, and they had little to do with his world.

But the rich man thought a lot about them. It bothered him that he was so rich, and so unhappy. Sure, sometimes he drove his big cars into town, and had big meals, and spent big money, and everybody looked up to him – but not for long, then the small people met one of their friends and were off to better things. How could these people be so happy with having so little? And how could he be so miserable? Was he not better than they were? He had so many big things, and he had so much more money!

One day, the devil visited the rich man. “I make you a deal”, he said. “If I tell you a way to make you so much happier than those small people in the village, what will you give me?”

“Everything” the rich man said, “I own everything, and I will give it to you when I die, if you make me happier than all those small people in the small village.”

“Done” said the devil. “I will make you much richer than you are now. I will tell the people in the village that they can be more like you. And every time they become more like you, you will get to be even richer. I will make the people envy you, and they will be dissatisfied with their small lives, so they will be coming back to you again and again, and every time they do, you will be richer still. And in the end, they will no longer laugh and be happy, but you will, because you will be more ahead than ever before. This will make you very happy.

And the devil dressed up with a nice grey suit, and went to town and told everybody that they could be more like the rich man. All they needed to do was to drive a car and buy a house in the country. Everybody could have their own house in their own lot. They could all be better than their neighbors. And they certainly didn’t have to live right next to them anymore.

And the devil went out into the country, and took the beautiful fields he found and ripped them out. He cut every tree, and leveled every hill he could find. In the end, he just had an empty place full of boring dirt. “What have you done?” the rich man said. “I built a litter box for the big monster that shits houses” said the devil. “It lives up in the old forests, and eats all the old trees. If you build a good litter box, the House Shitting Monster will come down and shit houses all over. Then you just sell them to the people. But you must build a good litter box first.”

How do I build a good litter box?” said the rich man. “You must destroy everything that is good about a place, otherwise the monster won’t come. And make the box flat, the monster is so big and fat from all those trees it ate, it hates hills. After the house shitting, you can make little hills in between houses, and name the streets after what you destroyed. It makes people feel good to live on Pine Bush Hill, or on Oak View Lane, or something like that, even though you cut all the pine bushes and oak trees down and leveled the hills.”

And the people in the village all wanted to buy their own houses. They wanted it to be better than their neighbor’s house, and they wanted it to be just like the rich man’s house – in the middle of the lot. Then they could look out and, for a moment, feel like the rich man himself.

But the people were not happy. They had to drive everywhere, and never met anybody by accident anymore. They lost their friends, and the café’s and inns in the little village died. There were no friends anymore to sit down and drink coffee. They all sat in their cars and moved very slow. And they did not even have any great place to go to anymore. This all make the people very sad. Off and on, the devil had to visit them and talk with them. “If you work hard”, the devil said, “you can buy a bigger house. This will make you happy”.

And the people worked very hard, and bought bigger cars and bigger houses. They felt good about that for a while, but only until their neighbor could buy the bigger car and house too. Then they had to work hard again to get ahead. And every time they bought a bigger house, the rich man got richer.

“Hurry up,” he said to the devil, “we need the House Shitting Monster to come back and poop more houses, the market demands that.” And he felt almost good about saying that. After all, wasn’t he providing the small villagers a bigger life? Without him where would they be?

“So the devil was right”, he thought to himself, and he smiled. “I am happy, and I am getting much richer by the day. The small people admire me more than before, and I am much richer. We just need to make the monster come back and shit more houses. And I will get richer every time that happens.”

But there was a point where the rich man did not have any more land other than his own huge estate. He could not build any more litter boxes; and he could not earn any more money.

But he needed more money. He was in the middle of building the biggest, most lavish and expensive home ever built, on top of a hill, in the middle of his estate, and he needed to finish it.

So he started to dig up pieces of his estate, and he made more litter boxes, and the monster came and shit more houses. He made a lot of money with those houses, because now people thought they were finally getting close to being him, because they lived closer to him, and they could see him sometime from their windows.

And the house on top of the hill grew and grew bigger and bigger. It was almost bigger than the entire hill it was built on, and it was so high that it looked like it wanted to fall over. There was not much land left all around it, the rich man had converted most of it into rings of house shitting around his castle. But the rich man kept building, he was so obsessed that he even went against the advice of his builders, who said that the hill could not hold any more of his additions. But he made them build it anyway.

One day, the House Shitting Monster came back at night, and it did not find a litter box to poop more houses. It became very angry. If flew up in the air, over the rich man’s castle, and it flapped its wings like a crazy bat, and it was spitting and foaming from its mouth.

The wind it created was too much for the castle to bear. One tower slowly started to tip over, and fall, and then the next, and the next, and then the whole castle broke apart and crumbled.

There was no land left anymore, and so the falling house had nothing to land on, and so it kept falling down the hill, like a big avalanche, taking down everything in its path, and growing bigger by doing so. The whole mountain, with the castle, and all the houses that were shit around it, were all crashing down to the bottom. Not one house was spared.

Through a miracle, nobody was hurt. All the people stood outside, and looked at the empty dirt where once there was their house. The rich man stood on top of the hill, and he cried. The people saw that and walked up there, sat down next to him, and cried too.

All that crying made so much liquid, that it ran down the hill, like a gentle bubbling stream. It soaked in the dirt, and the dirt began to grow again. Very soon thereafter, there were little plants growing everywhere, the kind of plants that were destroyed originally, and after which the streets were named. But there were no more streets, only the little plants that once again felt good to grow.

All the adults sat around with their heads hanging low. “What are we going to do” they said, and they felt hopeless.

But the kids were not hopeless. “Look”, they said, “we still have the old small village! Our grandparents told us that a long time ago, we had so much fun there; let’s go back and live there!” And the people thought about it for a little bit, and then they smiled, got up and walked down to their old village.

The last guy getting up looked at the rich man, who was still sitting down and felt very bad about the world. “Why don’t you come with us”, he said, “we have a few empty houses in the village, you can live in one of them and be one of us”.

And the rich man smiled, got up and followed them down the hill. At last, he thought, he might really be happy.

The end