There were just four Hungarians left now. (In Hungary, that is; there were still quite a number scattered around the globe.) They dwelled under a cherry tree. It was a very fine cherry tree; it afforded both cherries and shade, though the former only in season. But even of the four Hungarians, one was hard of hearing, while two stood under police inspection. Why this was so neither of them could recall any more, though from time to time they'd sigh, "We're under police inspection."
Only one of the four had a name--i.e., only he could remember it. (His name was Sipos.) The others had forgotten theirs along with so much else. With four people it is not essential that each should have a name.
Then one day, Sipos said, "We ought to leave something behind to remember us by."
"What on earth for?" asked one of the two men who stood under police inspection.
"So that when we're gone, something should remain for posterity."
"Who's going to care about us then?" asked the fourth Hungarian who was neither Sipos nor one of the two men under police inspection.
But Sipos stuck to his guns and the other two backed him. Only he, the fourth, insisted that the world had never seen a sillier idea. The others were highly offended. "What do you mean?" they said indignantly, "how can you say such a thing? You're probably not even a true Hungarian!"
"Why?" he countered, "maybe it's such a godsent being a Hungarian these days?"
He had a point there. And so, they stopped bickering. They racked their brains about what they could leave to be remembered by. To carve a stone would have required a chisel. If only one of them had a stickpin! With it, Sipos reasoned, they could etch a message into the bark of the tree. It would stay in the bark for ever, like a tattoo on a man's skin.
"Why don't we throw a big stone into the air," suggested one of the two who stood under police inspection.
"Don't be a fool, it'd fall back down," they told him. He didn't argue. Poor man, he knew he was short on brains.
"All right," he said to the others after a while. "Why don't you come up with something better if you can. What is it that would last?"
They put their heads together. At long last they agreed to hide a cherry pit between two stones (so the rain wouldn't wash it away). It wouldn't be much of a memorial to be sure, but for want of anything better, it would have to do.
However, they were faced with a problem. While the cherry season lasted they had lived on cherries, and afterwards had gathered up all the pits, crushed them into a fine powder, and consumed them. Consequently, there wasn't a single pit to be had for love or money.
Just then, one of the Hungarians who was neither Sipos nor one of the men who stood under police inspection remembered THE CHERRY. (He was no longer contrary, but was, in fact, with them heart and soul, and couldn't wait to help.) But the cherry grew so high up on top of the highest branch of the tree that they couldn't pick it back then. And so it had stayed where it was, shrivelled down to the pit.
They concluded that if they stood on each other's shoulders they could bring down the solitary cherry after all. They mapped everything out in fine detail. At the bottom stood one of the two men who were under police inspection, the one short on brains but long on brawn. On his shoulder stood the man who was neither Sipos nor was under police inspection, and last came Sipos, the flat chested weakling.
With a great deal of effort he climbed to the top of the column made up of his three companions, and once there, stretched out to his full height. But by the time he had reached the top, he had forgotten why he had bothered to climb up in the first place. It went straight out of his head. The others shouted to him to bring down the shrivelled cherry, but it was no use, because he was the one who was hard of hearing.
And so, things came to an impasse. From time to time, all four would shout in unison, but even so, the problem persisted, and they stayed just as they were, one Hungarian on top of the other.