A student-cum-goatherd chanced upon a beautiful pool. He sat down in the shade of the willows that grew by its edge and took out his book to read. Presently, a curious wheezing sound reached his ears.
He looked up.
A Ghastly Apparition appeared to be attempting to drink from the pool, its generous belly preventing it from bending.
The Student/Goatherd could not help but stare.
“Ya mind, ya little footlicker?” the Abominable Thing snapped.
The Student-Goatherd was shocked! Such coarse language, such an appalling manner of speech!
He opened his mouth to speak.
“Ah, don’t get your knickers in a twist.” the Crude Monstrosity grumbled as it struggled to get up, and promptly fell into the pool.
The Student (also a Goatherd) weighed the merits of saving the creature, and was about to return to his book when it crawled back out.
“Don’t be strainin’ yerself fer the likes o’ me. Ya needn’t hafta.” It spluttered.
“If you say so.” The Scholar-cum-Livestock Manager replied with the utmost of feeling.
The creature peered at him through beady little eyes that seemed to pop out of their sockets. “What be yer line o’ work, lad?” it asked.
“I am a Student—and a Goatherd!” the boy declared with much aplomb.
The creature rolled about on the ground with laughter.
How utterly distasteful, the boy thought to himself.
“Student and Goatherd? Looks like some old hack ran out o’ ideas, eh?” the creature cried out between hoots.
He’s right; I read too much.
Determined not to let such thoughts enter his mind, the Academically Aspiring Keeper of Goats turned once again to his awaiting tome.
“Ya gonna rip it inta shreds wi’ yer brain power?” the creature mocked, prompting the boy to sigh as dramatically as he could and say,
“If a love of books is a crime then lock me away, for I am guilty! Guilty! Guilty a thousand times over!”
The creature’s eyes twinkled with mirthful tears, and it snorted as it cackled.
“Kid, you’re just the sort of ragamuffin li’l brat I’m looking for. Any time ya feel like getting’ a life, call me. Here’s m’ card.” It waddled over to where the boy sat and handed him a rather well-designed business card.
Memo to Self: Consider offer carefully.
Shaking himself free of such outrageous ideations, the youth asked, “So what…uh…who are you?”
The creature blinked.
“What, alluva sudden ye can’t read now? I’m The Love Bug. M.A., M.L., F.Sc., L.Sc., L.L.B, and M.B.A. Cronus Academy, graduating class of 5900 B.C. Graduated top o’ me form, don’tcha know.”
The boy gasped and fell backwards in his surprise.
“What now, ya little maggot?” the creature barked impatiently.
“Masters in Bachelor(-hood) Annihilation. Mastre d’ Amour. Masters in Love. Legitimate Love Bug course. An’ I studied Love Sciences too. Impressive, eh?”
“F.Sc?” the boy asked with much curiosity.
“Yer too young ta know.”
He thought about this some more before venturing to ask, “If you’re The Love Bug, why are you not amazingly good-looking?”
“Getting’ a little ahead o’ yerself, aren’t ya, ya base-born street urchin?” The Love Bug growled, menacing enough to make the boy flinch.
This made the creature laugh once more and say, “I got a great P.R. guy. Just great. You should meet ‘im. Ya need ‘im more, bein’ the ‘Student and Goatherd’ that ya are.”
Memo to Self: Get the P.R. guy’s number.
“Granted, you are the Love Bug and you may indeed have an excellent publicist. But do you have any cures for the malady that you so happily inflict?” the boy asked.
The Love Bug peered closely at the boy before saying, “Sure I do. But no cure is 100% effective… an’ I ain’t about ta hand any to you if that’s what yer hoping fer, pondscum.”
The Erudite Caretaker of Domesticated Herbivores was crestfallen. His grand dreams of an expensive car…er, carriage, had been cruelly crushed under the feet of reality, as had his fanciful visions of designer suits…uh, garb by the finest dressmakers…and world-renowned supermod—um, the fairest maidens from every land—fawning at his feet.
“Prevention?” he asked, still vaguely hopeful.
“Yep. Prevention be the best cure. Can’t tell ya how though. Conflict of interest. ‘Tis a tough business, see?”
Cra-a-ack. The sound of the boy’s heart breaking, as his more modest dreams—of a middle-class suburban house, a sort-of-tolerable wife, a family sedan and maybe even a child or two—went the way of his ill-fated Rolls-Royce.
Memo to Self: Change career.
The Love Bug began to shuffle away, muttering, “Gotta go. Duty calls, ya know. Two kids, I gotta ruin their lives…they think they’re immune or somethin’.” It chuckled and rubbed its hand gleefully as it mumbled, “I love this job.”
The boy pondered over this last sentence.
“What do I do if I get struck?” he called out, mostly as an afterthought.
The Love Bug paused and turned to say, “Sick little masochistic ragscallion, ain’tcha?”
It sneered with delight.
Memo to Self: Stop making memos to self.
“Well…?” the boy asked once more.
The Love Bug looked at him and slowly answered,
“Don’t fight it.”
And then The Love Bug was gone, just as mysteriously as it had come, leaving the boy aghast as well as upset. Was there no way to defeat this most awful of diseases, that ravaged so completely the entire person of its victim, that toyed with minds and rendered them incapable of sensible thought, that distinguished between neither prince nor pauper? How unjust! How horribly terrible and unjust!
The Herdsman with a Passion for Learning sat back again under the gentle shade of the willows, but this time intent on discovering the cures of The Love Bug. Even if took him a lifetime.