Advent: In This Age of Uncertainty…(December 20, 2008)

…comes the sixth installment of the story of the little boy who had no gifts.

   His parents moved the little man to the poor side of Delphis when the father's job fell away from him. They moved to an even smaller place when the social safety net under them sundered completely, during the Golden Age of Recovery in the early teens.

   They moved him completely out of town when they saw how he acted.

    One day his father came in from the field to find the little boy crumpled next to his bicycle on the deep grass of the front yard. He had evidently been lying there for some little while.

   "What are you doing?" his father asked him.

   "I was tryin' to rahd that bahk," he answered from his prone position.

   "It felled dahn and I felled with it," he continued.

   "When?" his father asked.

   "This mornin' sometahm," he finished.

   His father went in for supper.

   One day, when he was still allowed at school, the little boy went out to recess, a bit after the rest of the class, because he had taken off his shoes and could not find them. They were under his desk. He looked everywhere else. His shoes were not everywhere else, or anywhere else. They were under his desk.

   When he got outside the little boy found all the games already in progress, which he thought was the usual way of things, since almost everything started without him anyway. He was later than usual that day, and bare-footed, so he walked around looking at the ground. He found a small rock and held it tightly in his hand.

   Later, during story time in class, he suddenly stood up, unclenched his hand and threw the rock across the room, smashing a globe on the teacher's desk.

   "Why did you do that?" the teacher demanded.

   "Ah was tarred o' holdin' that rahk," he said.

   "Go to the corner," she insisted.

   On the way, he tripped over his shoes, which were still under his desk but the desks had been pushed back to make room for story time. His hand was bleeding where he had held the rock so tightly for an hour.

   He got blood on his shoes and on the floor in the corner.

   His mother had told him he had to find something nice to say about his neighbor's mean dog. He could not think of anything good or bad about the dog. In fact, he never noticed the dog at all. He did remember that his mother wanted him to speak kindly of the mean dog.

   One morning the little boy fell out of a tree This was not unusual. He fell out of a lot of things.

   This time, the little boy fell from the tree that reached over into his neighbor's backyard. The mean dog owned by his neighbor ran after him, barking and growling and snapping. The little boy began to run in tight circles in the neighbor's backyard, with the mean dog tearing at his heels, and sometimes striking home.

   The neighbor, who knew his dog was mean but could not stand to think of putting him down, heard the commotion and ran out into the backyard. The little boy was running in tighter and tighter circles, bleeding from both heels where the dog had sunk sharp teeth into him, for he had lost his shoes again. Perhaps they were back at school but he could not go there, because it was Saturday, and, anyway, he was not allowed at the school because of the rock throwing.

   Also, they had moved and the school was very far away now.

   His shoes probably were not there, anyway.

   The dog chased  him, growling and snapping. The little boy looked up at his neighbor, all the while fleeing the mean dog, with limited success. It finally occurred to him to be afraid but he remembered his mother's words.

   "Think of something nice to say about Mr. Bernard's mean pet," she had told him.

   The little boy thought, ran and bled, all at once. It was too much.

   "Ah shore like playin' with yer dog," he said, through clinched teeth with ragged breath.

   "Ah shore do lahk playin' with yore dog, shore do," he added.

   One day the little boy came in the house limping.

   "What happened to you?" his mother asked him.

  "Ah dropt a brick," he told her.

   "Why are you limping?" she asked him.

   "Ah fergaht to move mah foot," he said and limped into his room to look for his shoes. It was another Saturday.

   Wilbur, the Wizard of the Woods, who was not a Wizard and did not live in the woods, happened on the little boy, beaten and bloody, just after the little boy admonished his attackers to guard their souls from one another. Wilbur did not much care for the little boy but he thought he should ask him something.

   "What did you do?" Wilbur finally mustered.

   "I lived in the wrong place," the little boy answered in perfect grammar and enunciation, a dream-like look deep in his close-set hazel eyes.

   "What do ya mean, ya lived in the wrong place? Where else would ya live?" Wilbur fretted.

   "I should have lived anywhere else," the little boy continued.

   "Why live somewhere else?" Wilbur queried.

   "I should have lived when things are different," the little boy told him.

   "When?" Wilbur was confused.

   "Yes," he said.

   "What's a-matter with here and now?"

   "This is a wrong time," the little one said.

   "How?"

   "Here," the little boy thought out loud, "is a place where the good are not strong and the strong are not good."

   Wilbur pondered.

   The little boy limped off to find his shoes again.

   He was wearing them. It was a Sunday.

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