(an Italian folktale)
Once upon a time a mother sent her son, the young fool whose name was Giufa, out into the woods to gather herbs. Giufa set off full of spirit, and all day long he picked rosemary and basil and thyme. He worked so long, filling his bag to the brim, that by the time he was heading for home, the sun had set.
Before long Giufa noticed the moon was rising.
“It is here!” he cried at the sight of that big, fat moon, but a moment later, a cloud passed before the moon, and it was hidden from view.
Amazed at the speed with which the moon had vanished, Giufa cried out, “It is stolen!”
The cloud rolled past, and once again the moon was visible. Giufa was delighted, and he called out, “It is here!”
A few moments later another cloud drifted before the moon, and Giufa cried, “It is stolen!”
And when it appeared again a moment later, he called, “It is here!”
This went on and on.
Most of the people who lived in the village knew Giufa, and they understood he was a fool. But it so happened that as he was walking and wailing at the moon, he came near a group of thieves, strangers to this place. They had stolen a calf from Giufa’s neighbor. They were hiding in the woods where they had killed the poor creature, and just as Giufa came near, they were preparing to divide it amongst themselves.
They heard Giufa’s voice and feared he had found them out. The head thief whispered, “He’s sending the police to find us; we must run!”
They scattered, running this way and that, but they left the meat behind.
Before long Giufa came upon the calf, and he bent down and cut off a slab of meat. “How shall I carry it?” he asked himself. Then his eye fell upon his sack of herbs; he knew what to do. He emptied the herbs from his sack onto the ground and placed the meat inside.
He hurried home.
When he arrived, his mother looked at him and shook her head. “Why are you so late, Giufa? And where are my herbs?”
In his haste, Giufa had forgotten all about the herbs, but pleased with himself, he grinned at his mother. He handed her the sack. “I’ve brought some meat to sell in the market tomorrow.”
“Very good,” she said, “but you’ve forgotten the herbs.”
“Never mind,” Giufa said. “You go to market to sell the meat, and I shall go collect the herbs again.”
“Fine, fine, fine,” his mother said.
“But promise me, mother, you will pay me my share for the meat. After all, it’s I who brought it home.”
When Giufa turned his back, his mother rolled her eyes. But when he turned again to look at her, she said, “Of course, Giufa, of course.”
The next day Giufa skipped off into the forest to collect herbs, and his mother put the meat in storage so that they would have plenty of food.
When Giufa returned home, he said to his mother, “Here are your herbs. Did you sell the meat?”
His mother sighed. There’s no sense in arguing with a fool, so she said, “Yes, Giufa, I did.”
“And where is my share, then?” Giufa asked.
Again his mother rolled her eyes. “I sold the meat to the flies, Giufa. I sold it to them on credit.”
“Did you drive a hard bargain?” Giufa asked.
“Of course,” his mother answered. Accustomed as she was to her son’s foolish ways, he still surprised her sometimes.
“And when will they give you the money?” he asked, hopeful and happy.
“The flies?” she said. “They will pay me when they get it.”
“Good enough!” Giufa said merrily.
For the next week, Giufa spent his days dreaming of all he could do with the money he would earn from the flies.
But at the end of the week, when he asked his mother where his money was, she said, “The flies have brought nothing.”
Giufa was furious. Without a word he stormed out of the house and marched to the village square. There he went to the courthouse and waited in line to appear before the judge.
When his turn came, the judge rolled his eyes. Everyone knew tales of Giufa’s foolishness. “Yes, Giufa, what is the problem?” the judge asked wearily.
“I sold meat to the flies on credit,” Giufa said. “And a whole week has passed, but the flies have not come to pay me.”
A few people in the courthouse began to snicker, but the judge roared, “Quiet!” And he looked very seriously at Giufa.
“I pronounce judgment,” he said. “The flies are guilty, Giufa. And this is my sentence: Wherever you see a fly, you may kill it!”
Giufa beamed, delighted to hear the judge’s ruling.
Just at that moment, a fly lit upon the judge’s nose, and Giufa stepped forward and smacked down so hard, he broke the poor judge’s nose.
“Out with you!” the judge bellowed. And ever since that day, Giufa has been running around, chasing flies.