It was cold inside the manor.

It was always cold when it was hot outside. Comfortability was of the utmost importance in the master’s line of work. He sat stiffly in his leather chair behind an old oak desk pondering the same question he had been ruminating on for quite some time.

Am I happy?

As a matter of fact, the master had been stumped by this question on more occasions than just this one. He asked himself the question as he ducked to enter his limousine on weekend night trips to the city.

He asked it of himself as he planned the latest business venture.

He asked it of himself had his favorite meal prepared for him. Beluga caviar. He even made sure not to request it made too often to keep it from growing stale.

The master meticulously filled his time with the delicacies of life that would make any other man red with envy. He knew how blessed he was. He was appreciative. He prayed almost every night before bed. He was an influential member of the city’s close council whenever they were faced with a controversial conflict. He was, by all intents and purposes, the epitome of a happy man.

Yet he wasn’t happy.


He heard the door to his study unlatch and saw his servant slip through the crack with ease.

“Sir, you wished to see me?” said the servant.

“Yes, thank you for coming so quickly,” said the master.

“Why of course. How can I be of use?”

The master paused, hesitant to ask him such a burdensome question. Finally, the words escaped his mouth before he could reel them back in. “Are you happy?”

The servant staggered back, caught off guard by the question. Once he regained his footing, he rubbed the stubble on his chin with his thumb and pointer finger. “Well, sir. I’m not quite sure if I’ve ever really stopped to think of an answer to that question. I know I am fortunate to have a wife that loves me. I have two kids that wrap me up in big hugs whenever I return from work, and I serve an influential master everyday. But happy? I’ve never really thought of the word.”

The master squinted, unsatisfied. “Well, now that you have thought of the word… are you?”

After another moment, the servant spoke slowly. “Well, yeah, I suppose so. Yes, I’d say I’m happy. I find happiness in many of the things I do. Why do you ask?”

“I ask,” said the master, “because I’m not. Do you know why?”

“Me? You’re asking me?” The servant put a withered palm against his chest.

“Of course I’m asking you. We’ve known each other for quite some time. You’ve seen me accomplish many things. You’ve prepared countless meals for me. Cleaned a plethora of rooms. You’ve seen my ins and outs and everything in between. You must have noticed something.”

“Well, sir,” said the servant, “It would be foolish of me to think two men of very unequal circumstances would embark on the same journey to happiness. I can only speak from my experience. I’ve never been on the cover of a magazine. I’ve never ridden in the back seat of a limousine and opened the door to cameras blinding me in every direction. I wouldn’t know how that type of person becomes happy.”

“Well, then, I suppose you are dismissed. Thank you,” said the master.

“Of course, sir.” And the servant was gone.


The next day, the master was consumed by the same parasitic thoughts. Again, the answer he wound up with left him unsatisfied. And again, he called in the servant.

“Yes sir? How can I be of use to you today?”

“Have you done anything today that has brought you happiness?” asked the master.

The servant paused, thinking back on his day. “Well, sir, my wife got a flat tire on her way to work today. I had to drive about twenty minutes outside of town to help her put the spare on. Then I had to hurry all the way across to the other side of the city so I wasn’t late to get here.”

The master furrowed his brows. “How could that bring you happiness? That will cost money to fix the tire. And you had to drive completely the opposite way. Does your wife not know how to fix a flat tire?”

“Well she does,” said the servant. But she cooks for a living, you see. And I knew that if she changed out the tire, her fingers would get greasy and oily, and she’d get dirt under her fingernails that could stick around for days. She was extremely happy to see me.”

“Is your wife happy?”

“I don’t know, sir. That’s a good question. I might ask her one of these days.”

The master was growing frustrated. Just then, his phone began to ring. It was an important client. “I’m sorry. But I need to take this. Thank you once again.”

For the rest of the week, the master called the servant in from whatever he was doing at the time. And every day, the servant told the master about things that had gone wrong, work he was required to do for the master, and the time and the sweat he spent fixing these problems and doing these duties. And every day left the master more and more confused. Surely a servant couldn’t possibly be as happy as a master. The servant had nothing. He was ordinary. The type of person that is invisible next to a master, or walking down the street, or buying goods in a convenience store…


At the beginning of the following week, the master called the servant in once more. Even as the servant slipped in he could feel a pair of red hot eyes staring at him.

“Sir? How may I be of use today?”

The master took a step out from behind his desk. “You’ve been lying to me.”

“Sir?” The servant raised an eyebrow.

“How else can you explain it? You sit here and tell me of your problems and try to tell me they make you happy. They don’t make you happy. They make you tired and weary. Overworked. Used. You haven’t been boasting. You’ve been complaining.”

Then the servant did something unexpected. He laughed. It was a deep belly laugh, the kind that can only be described as genuine. It reeked of amusement and youth as it came out of the wrinkled mouth. “I suppose you caught me.”

“I knew it!” The master said, raising a finger. “But why? Why would you lie? Did you want to make me feel bad about not feeling happy?”

The servant shook his head. “Oh, dear. No, sir. I didn’t lie. Every word that came out of my mouth was the God’s-honest truth. Maybe I was complaining. Venting, even. But that doesn’t mean that those stories didn’t make me the happiest and luckiest man alive.”

“But how?” The master pleaded. He felt weak. He rested a palm on his desk to prevent him from collapsing. “How can your complaints be triumphs?”

“Well, sir, I think that on this quest for happiness, I think you and I have very different paths. But I also think that there is one thing you are doing that I’m not.”

The master inched closer. “And what is that?”

“You are trying to be happy.”

Silence inflated the room, which threatened to burst at the seams with the pressure. The master took a step back but dared not look away from the servant’s calm demeanor. All the while the servant had remained motionless, but he started to spin, along with the rest of the room, in the master’s vision.

“And you’re not?” said the master.

“No, sir.”

“I don’t suppose you try to be… miserable, right?”

The servant chuckled. “No, sir.”

“But I reckon you do try to be something. I mean, nobody tries to be nothing.”

“You are correct in that assumption sir. Everyone’s got to be something,” said the servant.

“So what are you?”


The room was a whirlwind now. An oil painting if all of the colors were blended together to muddle the image and render it valueless. The master fumbled for something to grab onto. His desk. His chair. Yes, he needed to find his chair. He began working his way back around his desk, feeling for the edges he had come to know so well while spending his countless hours studying the paper that lay on top of it.

But he couldn’t find his chair.

It had gone missing. There was a wall where the chair was supposed to be. A floor plant where the wall was supposed to be. A door where the plant was supposed to be.

The master had become nothing more than a slave to his own vision, as it began to fail him, seemingly permanently. His breath shallowed, and his knees grew weak. He was going to fall.

And fall he did.

It was a slow fall. The kind of fall you see in movies, where the actor or actress needs to make sure every set of eyes from the audience is fixated on them before they give way to the tumble behind a chorus of gasps. It was the kind of fall that the master was aware of, yet couldn’t avoid. His muscles ceased to obey him, and he had no choice but to let it happen. To be a first-hand witness of his own demise, as he prepared to give way to unconsciousness and the unforgiving embrace of his mahogany floors.

Just as all seemed lost, two steady hands caught his shoulders. They trembled only slightly under his weight, but held firm enough to allow the master to regain his feet.

“There, there. I got a hold of you, sir,” said a soft voice. With the help of the firm hands, the master was guided to his chair, where he collapsed helplessly under his own weight. “Here, drink some water,” said the voice. An icy glass was held to the master’s lips, and he drank. A sip turned into two, and two turned into ten. And soon, the water was gone. The master’s vision began to return to him, and his breath slowed. He soon found himself nose to nose with the servant, who was studying him from head to toe with a pair of warm eyes.

“Are you okay, sir?” said the servant.

“I think so,” the master replied, only partially aware of what had just transpired.

For a while they were frozen - the master, slumped in his chair, and his servant, towering over him. The master opened his mouth several times, but no words came out. Though the water had retired his vision, his throat felt dry and dusty. He wanted to say something to his caregiver. Had to…

“You’re welcome.” The servant smiled.

“Yeah…” was all the master could say at first. Then he found words. “You helped me. I owe you -”

“You owe me nothing,” the servant interrupted.

“Of course I do. Who knows what could’ve happened if you weren’t here. I could have fainted and been unconscious for hours.”

“I’m sure someone would have come to your aid.”

“But you did,” said the master. “I haven’t done anything for you. Ever. I could’ve sent someone to fix your wife’s flat tire. I could have bought her a brand new car. I could have paid for your children to attend a private school. I could have given you ten raises over the years. I could have done so many things.”

“But you can’t do any of those things now, can you?” The servant’s smile widened.

“So what can I do?” The master’s eyes bulged, as if he were a puppy begging for scraps. He sat patiently as the servant’s heel, waiting on his command. Waiting on direction.

The servant closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He took his time to answer the master’s plea, though he didn’t need it. Though he hadn’t thought of it, he knew what happiness was. And he knew he was happy.

“You can be of use.”