A solitary monk was carrying a large fish to his home to prepare it for his meal. As he walked along the path, a man approached from the other direction. As he reached hailing distance, the man called out “Hey monk! I see you coming! What is that you're carrying?”
Not wishing to shout in the quietude of the forest path, the monk thought: I will answer this man’s question when I am close enough so that a shrill shout will not be necessary.
As the two approached one another closely, the monk opened his mouth to speak but he was cut off by another bellow from the man.
“Why didn't you answer me, Monk?” The fellow demanded “Do you think I'm unworthy of your time and voice? What kind of idiot monk would go about carrying a fish, anyway?!!”
The monk again attempted to respond: “Why, sir,I....”
To which the man exploded: “Sir??? Why do you call me sir with such sarcastic formality? Never in all my travels have I met a sarcastic monk carrying a stupid fish. What do you mean to do next? Whack me with that fish?”
The monk, taken rather aback by the unexpected behavior, grasped the fish more tightly lest it slip from his grasp and into the dirt.
“Ah Ha!” Cried the man. “I see you gripping that fish more tightly at the tail. I am now have no doubt that you intend to whack me with that fish!”
“Good man,” replied the monk, “why would I ever whack you with a fish?”
“A trick question!!!” exclaimed the man. “I have seen this before. You will ask, and then (no matter what the answer!) will just haul off and whack me. You can't fool me you charlatan!”
“Do you wish to be whacked with the fish?” The monk asked.
“I know your type, false monk,” the man answered. “You are no holy monk! You are a highway robber who would whack me with the fish to stun me and then steal my gold while I was disoriented in surprise.”
“I do not know why I would do that,” the monk then explained, “but if your wish is to be whacked with a fish, I am happy to do so for you.”
“Ah Ha!” The man cried again. “There we have the truth! It was your intention all along to do nothing but drag me into debate and then whack me with that fish!”
"Good man,” the monk tried to explain, “I am on my way home to prepare a meal. We must be finished with this discussion, as the smell of the fish has attracted a tiger who would have a taste of us along with the fish!”
By this time several other travelers and neighbors of the monk had gathered beside the path and were listening to the odd interchange with the monk, scratching their heads and wondering about the man with the strange fixation about being whacked with a fish. None of them noticed the tiger that the monk had seen moving toward them through the brush.
“And so we see more lies!” said the man, gesturing to the crowd as he stepped squarely in front of the monk. “I see no tiger. And everyone knows that a monk is not allowed to eat fish. More proof that you are a highwayman dressed as a monk!!!”
“Hear me well, people,” the man shouted as he blocked the monk from moving forward on the path, “this man is a brigand whose only intent is to whack me with that fish!”
At which point, the monk said quietly “As you wish” and smacked the man squarely with the fish, knocking him out of the middle of the path. As the monk walked past and on toward home to make his meal, he could hear the man regaling the group who stood laughing at the roadside.
“You see! You see!” the man shouted. “What sort of monk would go about whacking people with a fish? A fraud, I tell you!! A fraud, a charlatan and a brigand!”
The tiger, deprived of his dinner of monk, man and fish, skulked off into the deep forest.