Once upon a time there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. And they grew next to each other. And every day the straight tree would look at the crooked tree and he would say, "You're crooked. You've always been crooked and you'll continue to be crooked. But look at me! Look at me!" said the straight tree. He said, "I'm tall and I'm straight." And then one day the lumberjacks came into the forest and looked around, and the manager in charge said, "Cut all the straight trees." And that crooked tree is still there to this day, growing strong and growing strange.
My kids are starting to notice I'm a little different from the other dads. "Why don't you have a straight job like everyone else?" they asked me the other day. I told them this story: In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, "Look at me... I'm tall, and I'm straight, and I'm handsome. Look at you... you're all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you." And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, "Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest." So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.
The good news is that by the second year, those cravings were about as half as frequent, and by the third year, half as much again. I'm still a little bent, a little crooked, but all things crooked, I can't complain. After all those years of all kinds of abuse and crashing into trees at eighty miles an hour and jumping off buildings and living through overdoses and liver disease, I feel better now than I did ten years ago. I might have some scar tissue, but that's alright, I'm still making progress.
In this world, the only easy path is the course of least resistance. This is the path always taken by a stream of water as it seeks lower and lower ground. It will never go over an obstacle, and even when it has to go around one, water will always find the easiest way around, the way that requires as little work as possible. This, you have have noticed, is what makes rivers crooked, and it makes men and women crooked too. The easy path never goes anywhere but downward, and spiritually, that is not the direction we want to go. Worthwhile destinations always take extra effort.
And the Crooked Man heard her dreams, because that was where he wandered. His place was the land of the imagination, the world where stories began. The stories were always looking for a way to be told, to be brought to life through books and reading. That was how they crossed over from their world into ours. But with them came the Crooked Man, prowling between his world and ours, looking for stories of his own to create, hunting for children who dreamed bad dreams, who were jealous and angry and proud. And he made kings and queens of them, cursing them with a kind of power, even if the real power lay always in his hands. And in return they betrayed the objects of their jealousy to him, and he took them into his lair deep beneath the castle...
I happened to notice that among the men who had willingly presented themselves for jury-service was one whom I knew to be the father of seven children. Under a law of Augustus's he was exempt for the rest of his life; yet he had not pleaded for exemption or mentioned the size of his family. I told the magistrate: "Strike this man's name off. He's a father of seven." He protested: "But, Ce¦sar, he has made no attempt to excuse himself." "Exactly, " I said, "he wants to be a juryman. Strike him off." I meant, of course, that the fellow was concealing his immunity from what every honest man considered a very thankless and disagreeable duty and that he therefore was almost certain to have crooked intentions. Crooked jurymen could pick up a lot of money by bribes, for it was a commonplace that one interested juryman could sway the opinions of a whole bunch of uninterested ones; and the majority verdict decided a case.