The other day the initiator of the
Norm was at a supermarket to
buy some food, juices and household supplies.
It was the last day that they were handing out prophets.
For two weeks the chain to which this supermarket belonged had been
offering pictures of prophets to their customers, one for every standard
amount of money spent.
They were immensely popular with people of all ages.
There were eleven of them, of eleven different religious denominations.
The problem for the collectors, however, was that some prophets were given
away so often that you would stumble over them --you saw their
pictures already lying on the pavement in the streets--
whereas others were very hard to come by.
Some shoppers would even (almost?) start a fight when a customer who was
not very interested in these free gifts, but had not declined them,
received a picture which turned out to represent the last prophet that
would make their set of eleven complete.
One of the shoppers was a joiner who, except for the last two weeks, seldom
visited this supermarket, but now went there for the pictures of the
'E had already collected ten of
them, and on this last day 'e desperately wanted to get the eleventh and
'E got altogether three pictures for the enormous quantity of groceries
'e had bought, but two prophets were of the type you could find anywhere in
the streets and the third one was rare indeed, but one 'e had already.
So 'e was terribly disappointed,
altho 'e would
have enough sustenance now to eat and drink 'er disappointment away.
Before leaving the supermarket the joiner looked around
'im one more time to see if
there was, perhaps, another shopper who had ended up with a prophet 'e
already had, a prophet that might just be the one lacking in the joiner's
While 'e looked at the lines of people waiting to pay for their groceries,
the joiner was struck by an incomprehensible spectacle: one of the
customers who was being served did not seem in the least interested in the
pictures, even refused to accept a prophet offered to 'im by the cashier.
Imagine, this one could have been
'er last prophet!
The joiner walked up to the customer who had mistified 'im as soon as 'e
was finished, and asked 'im with some anger in 'er voice why 'e had not
accepted the picture.
"Because", the other said with some irritation,
"i'm not normally interested in
prophets and their activities, certainly not at a supermarket, where i come
to do my shopping.
I've not been here for some time and didn't know they had this action.
Otherwise i'd definitely have gone somewhere else."
"But", the joiner said, "i've got already ten of them. Your picture might
have been the eleventh and my set would've been complete."
"I'm sorry, i can't undo this", the other replied.
"Your set wouldn't have been complete anyhow, because there's one prophet
who doesn't allow 'er image to appear on paper or anywhere else.
So there should actually be twelve in one set."
"No, a set of eleven is a complete set", the joiner maintained.
This dispute was never settled.
"Do you have some kind of professional interest in pictures of prophets or,
perhaps, in people's reactions to such pictures?" the unknown other asked.
"No," the joiner answered, "i'm just a simple joiner."
"Well," the other rejoined, "then i am the even simpler child of a
"You're kidding me" the joiner said, little amused, while they walked out
of the supermarket.
"Why should i?" the carpenter's child asked.
"I'm not a carpenter myself, but my father was once.
He died when i was only seventeen years old.
I felt like mentioning it, because in spite of the prophets that divide us,
we have something in common in our families: the making and repairing of
wooden stuff, like furniture and doors and frames in buildings.
Are you really a joiner or only the child of a joiner?"
"Both", replied the joiner (and child of a joiner), who was still not sure
whether the other was serious or not.
Since this story is being used as material for the novel
Triptych of Times,
you are presently being given free access to less than a third of it.
(For more info about this novel by Vincent van Mechelen see