Long long ago and far far away in the Kingdom of Cambodia, there lived four bald men in a village near Phnom Penh. The four men were fast friends because they shared one affliction. They had been born bald, and year after year, they stayed bald. Throughout elementary school, throughout secondary school, the four bald boys were teased and ostracized for their baldness. When they turned thirty, the four bald men were still bachelors. In fact, they did not even have girlfriends.
One day, the first bald man scratched his shiny head and said, "We must do something."
The second bald man said, "There must be some magic herb somewhere..."
The third bald man said, "A doctor! We need a doctor!"
And the fourth bald man said, "We must go to the capital, Phnom Penh. Everybody knows that you can find everything in Phnom Penh."
They walked and searched for days, then finally somebody sent them to a retired physician who was known to have cured all sorts of strange diseases.
The four bald men immediately rushed to the doctor's house. Imagine their dismay when they saw that the doctor himself was bald!
When the doctor asked, "How can I be of help?" the four bald men would have turned around and left without answering, if they hadn't been so tired.
When they remained tongue-tied, the doctor asked, "Are you looking for a cure for baldness?"
The four bald men rubbed their hands excitedly and answered:
"We'll be eternally grateful!"
"We'll never want for anything more."
"Yes, oh yes!"
The doctor smiled and said, "You've come to the right place. There's a magic well in the courtyard behind my house. Dunk your heads in, and you will no longer be bald. But remember, you must not dunk your head more than once, or there will not be enough magic water left for other people."
The four men raced to the magic well, each thinking: "What do I have to lose?"
In a matter of minutes, they were rewarded for their faith in the doctor. Thick black strands of hair covered their hitherto bald crowns.
When the four men returned to their village, they quickly became the talk of the town. For the first time, girls started showing some interest in them.
The first man said, "I wonder if any of them will go out with us."
The second man said, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
The third man said, "What? That they'd certainly marry us if we were a little handsomer?"
The fourth man said, "Let's go back to the magic well in Phnom Penh."
The four men were so impatient that they took a rickshaw instead of walking to Phnom Penh. When they reached the doctor's house, they paused at the door.
The first man said, "What if the doctor refuses to help us? Then we'll have wasted our rickshaw fare for nothing."
The second man said, "Actually, didn't he -- didn't he say we could only use the magic water once?"
The third man said, "Stop it, you two. We're here already. The magic well's on the other side of this wall. You want to be handsome and married or not?"
The fourth man said, "Let's climb over this rear wall into the courtyard. The doctor won't mind if he doesn't know."
The four men climbed over, found the magic well, and once again dunked their heads in. They stood up, grinning with anticipation. But horror of horrors! Their heads felt bald! They put their hands up, and screamed, "Where's my hair?" "What happened to my hair?"
The doctor ran into the courtyard. "Oh, it's you, the four bald men."
The four bald men said, "But ... we shouldn't be bald."
The doctor said, "Well you shouldn't be, but you are now. I warned you. You shouldn't have come back. What the magic well gives the first time around, it always takes back the second time."
The four bald men said, "Why didn't you explain it more clearly before?.... Can't you help us again?"
The doctor said, "I'm afraid not. You shouldn't have been so greedy. Let what happened to you remind everybody not to be too greedy."
So the four bald men returned to their village, feeling more bald and unhappy than they'd been before the whole affair.
(Phnom Penh, Cambodia)