Once upon a time, there was a man who was traveling on a pleasantly warm day. He walked for many miles and eventually saw a little house at the side of the road, where there was a woman working in the garden.
"Good morning, Ma'am," the traveller called with a cheerful grin.
The woman looked up from her work. Peering at the man suspiciously from under her sunhat, she squinted in response.
"I'm just on my way to the next town," he continued without missing a beat. "I was wondering, could you tell me, please, what kind of people I'll find when I get there?"
The woman's face puckered as if she'd just eaten acid-covered lemons. "Oh, they're awful!" she said, shaking her head in disgust.
"Really?" said the man in surprise, waiting to hear more. But the woman returned to her work in silence.
After a few moments, the man went on. "What's so awful about them?"
Frowning and pursing her lips, the woman looked up with an exasperated sigh, obviously not appreciating the interruption. "They're terrible. They're miserable, unfriendly. You can't trust 'em as far as you can throw 'em! You'd do well to stay away and go somewhere else!" she warned.
"Well!" said the man, raising his eyebrows. "Thank you very kindly. I wish you a good day."
"It'll be just as awful as those people are! I have all this work to do, and in this blistering heat, too!" she scowled.
The man nearly disputed her comment on the weather, as it was only pleasantly warm. But he thought better of it, tipped his hat and carried on.
A little while later, he came upon another little house at the side of the road. A woman sat on her front porch, rocking in an old chair with a cat in her lap.
"Good morning, Ma'am!" he called.
"Oh, good morning to you, sir!" she called back. Gently putting the kitty on the porch, she rose and walked down the path to meet him. "I'll bet you could use a cool drink," she offered, opening the gate.
"Why, yes, Ma'am, I really could. Thank you," he replied.
"Please sit down in the shade on the porch and I'll be back in a minute," she offered, gesturing toward her chair.
The woman returned a few moments later with two tall glasses of icy lemonade, "Where are you headed, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Oh, just up the road to the next town," he replied. "Tell me, what kind of people will I find when I get there?"
"Oh, they're lovely!" the woman enthused. "Very kind and helpful! The friendliest people you could hope to meet anywhere!"
Sipping on his lemonade, the man smiled.
(Photo courtesy of Johan Stydom, freerangestock.com)