The Wise Man
There were two occasions when Thing could recall being really unhappy. The first time was when his mother left to go to hospital and didn’t return (although he still knew she would one day) and the second was when the Wise Man came to town.
Thing still spent most of his days standing on the ledge above his cave and watching the Horizon for his mother. Some days he thought he could see her but it would only be a shadow caused by the sun.
Sometimes he would treat these shadows as being just part of life but on other days, and he wasn’t sure why, he would take himself to the back of the cave and cry his heart away. None of it ever made any sense to him. She had gone to hospital and had promised to return.
On the days when Thing went to school, he would slide down the mountain side, cross the road and walk as silently as possible. Keeping to the sides so as not to attract too much attention to himself. And for most parts the plan worked. If he was unlucky enough to attract the attention of a larger boy, he would keep his head down and walk fast. Sometimes they caught up with him and called him names. He was called names that came – not from the children’s lips – but from the parents who had taught their children well in the art of intolerance. Thing had realised that people weren’t born bullies, they were made in homes.
But Thing still had inner strength, all he had to do was remember that he was loved by his mother and he found something deep inside which gave him courage.
Then one bright Friday, a man who walked from town to town and told stories, came to where Thing called home. He was staying at the house of one of the teachers and, as such, had been invited to talk to the whole school, the parents and Thing (who was still waiting on his mother).
The Wise Man talked of love and of tolerance and of consideration and everyone smiled and nodded their heads. But then he said that he had bad news and that it came from the Book Of Records. You didn’t need to take his word for it, for it was written by the Wise Ones before time and therefore it was the solid truth.
“Those who do not look like us are an abomination. For this is an outward sign that they do not think like us,” said the Wise Man while holding both his arms aloft. “And if they do not think like us then they are an evil, and if they are evil then they must be destroyed.”
Thing wasn’t sure what the Wise Man meant but as he looked around he saw some of the bullies looking in his direction. Thing wondered why anyone would write such things, or more importantly repeat them.
The first rock hit Thing’s head as he was crossing the road to go back up the mountain. It caused a little bleeding but he knew if got home quickly he could wash it off. How he wished his mother was here. The second rock hit him on the back of the head. He was about to turn and see where it came from when he heard chanting of ‘evil…evil…evil..’ and somehow he knew they were talking about him.
He didn’t go to school after the weekend instead he decided it was safer to stay in his cave. Except that the Wise Man came up the mountainside on the Wednesday evening followed by a crowd of people, adults as well as children. They had torches and signs that said ‘Destroy those who do not look like us for they are evil’.
“We must rid the town of this pestilence,’ said the Wise Man and everyone agreed. Thing moved to the back of the cave and waited on the rocks.
“Help me, mother,” he whispered under his breath.
Maybe she heard from where ever she was or maybe she didn’t, but a group of people from the town, who Thing had never seen before, came up and blocked the mouth of the cave telling the Wise Man to go home as they were not leaving.
The Wise Man said they would burn as well – it was then that one of the those guarding the cave mentioned that Wise Man was wanted in the next State for causing destruction and that he had deserted his own family.
People looked at the Wise Man in a new light and wondered if they had been wrong about him.
“What about the Book Of Records?” Shouted the Wise Man.
But by the then the townsfolk had started to walk down the hill and go home.
Thing learned two things that night. Unhappy people spread unhappiness and there are still good people in the world.
When Thing and his parents lived in the cave, it was their custom to paint pictures on the walls about what they had done that day. The cave was covered with stories; some new, some from many years before, and Thing would spend hours looking at them.
When Thing’s father left and then his mother, Thing continued to paint the pictures on the wall, knowing that someday they would return and see how he had spent his time.
Then one day – and Thing was sure if it was because of the sadness that came to visit him from time to time – he didn’t feel like painting on the wall anymore and so put away the brushes for good.
Instead he found a little animal that lived at the back of the cave and he told it all the stories of the day he had just spent.
“And the teacher said that I was the best in the class for listening,” and if the little animal was interested or if it wasn’t, it was hard to tell as it scurried about the dark parts of the cave looking for food.
Then one night, when the sun was setting, and the little animal was nowhere to be found, Thing found a pen and paper and started to write his stories down. Because he knew that when his family returned he would be able to read those stories to them.
One day when Thing got home he realised that nothing much had happened to him that particular day and he wondered what he could write about. That was when thing decided to make a story up in his head about a pretend day.
The story started ‘One day…’, because Thing felt that was how all stories should start. It told of the day that Thing came home from school and he found that his mother and father were waiting on him. They hugged and held him and promised him that they would never leave. Thing loved that story and decided to take it to school with him so that he could read it when he was feeling sad.
At break, he sat in a quiet corner where he would disturb no one and he took out his story that started ‘One day….’ and he read it all the way through. It was just as he was putting the story away that it was snatched from his hands.
“Lookie here what weird kid has written. Aw, he misses him Mom and Dad. Well ain’t that a shame,” and the kid ran off with the story, laughing and joking.
Thing went to class and said nothing. At the back of the room, two kids who had now got hold of Thing’s story, were laughing and repeating some of the words that Thing had written.
The teacher went to find out what was the source of all the noise and took the story from them. She returned to her desk and read it.
“Does anyone know who this belongs to?” Holding the paper up.
The boys pointed to Thing.
“This is really very good, Thing, very good indeed. Come and see me at the end of the class. “
At the end of the lesson the kids all left except for Thing, who assumed that he was to be punished for writing a story.
“I think this is brilliant, “ said the teacher. “And in future I should like to read any stories that you have.”
Thing thanked the teacher. She asked if she could take it home to read again and then she held his hand and said:
“I know those boys were laughing at your story but it is only fear. They are scared of activities that they can’t do themselves. There is bound to be some stuff that they can do, that you can’t. That is life. However, just because people laugh or criticise what you do, doesn’t mean that they are right and you are wrong; if everyone did the same things, thought the same way – what a boring world it would be. As long as there is one person who attempts or believes something different, then that immediately means that there are at least two truths – they are not right and you are not wrong. “
And with that, Thing walked away happy and was already thinking of another story he would write that evening.
bobby stevenson 2016 (and Thing)