There was once a Japanese monkey who by trade was a shrewd businessman. In business, he took calculated risks, but at night he was an impulsive gambler. He played cards in basements and bars, or wined and dined wealthy clients at casinos. If he got bored, he studied the odds and placed bets on horses and dogs. Whatever the risk, he was always successful.His companies flourished and his wealth grew, as did the card-playing and drinking. He placed higher stakes and downed more shots, yet he never lost big or once wrote an I.O.U. Amazingly, even when he was hung-over he still made lucrative deals, and so it appeared the Japanese gods of fortune favoured his habits.
He was entirely Westernised. Living a Japanese Americanised life was simply better. He had the most obedient Japanese wife and the best cuts of meat money could buy. Nothing said wealth like eating red meat and each year his tailored suits went up a size. He quickly turned into a crimson-faced, sweaty-skinned baboon Sumo Wrestler, but to him this only affirmed he was at the peak of his power. People were alarmed by his largeness and virulent temper. It would not do to upset him, which meant that he was able to outmanoeuvre more biddable associates and with his huge appetite gobble up ailing companies as if they were his favourite premium steaks and beef burgers. He got carried away with outrageous business plans, mergers and takeovers. Nobody ever said NO to Baboon-san.
As he got richer, his corporation ran without him, but fat as he was in flesh and profits there was one item he wanted which could not be so easily acquired. His ambitions filled, he dreamt every night about capturing it, and determined that one day he would have it. The difficulty was there was nobody he could schmooze to obtain the rights to it. The item had never been up for sale and the sky was apparently its permanent home.
The moon was round and solid like the biggest, most valuable gold coin. Astronauts said its surface was scarred, but Baboon-san would not believe it. To him, this golden coin was smooth and perfect, so he told the whole world he would be the first Japanese monkey to bankroll the moon and stamp his name on it. It would soon be a local currency. He would crew rockets to the moon and bring back large slices of it. In the papers, the headlines screamed BAKA! FOOL! And business advisers said, “Baboon-san, Baboon-san, it's just not possible!”
Unfortunately the critics were proved right for Baboon-san refused to slim and would not launch a rocket if he was not manning it. Why should he have to undo his years of ballooning into wealth? Wasn't being thin what held the East back? No, it would be even more of a disgrace to return to that.
But he still thought the moon was attainable, and drunkenly bragged about Plan B to a gambling pal: he was going to captain a ship all the way there and bring the moon back in a bucket. His new theory was that if he couldn't fly to the sky he would set sail in it. This, he said, was achievable, and toasted his genius with a line of whisky shots. Half-seas-over, he stumbled out of the bar and saw the moon in a deep and quiet pond. His alcohol-soaked brain assumed the gods had turned the world upside down so he could finally capture the moon. He didn't hesitate, he dived into the cool, calm pond and instantly drowned.
His cruel lesson is now taught to aspiring Japanese businessmen: Drink to foolish dreams, but don't try to capture them unless you're sober.
*My version of a Japanese fairy tale as told in My Year Of Meats by Ruth Ozeki