The Strange, Sad Saga of a Boy and His Mountain
There was once a boy.
And he lived in a small wooden house that sat in a green valley next to a mountain made of black granite.
And the boy was happy.
He lived there with his father and his mother and his little sister. Every morning he would wake up and he would go downstairs and his mother would make him and his sister a breakfast of eggs from the family’s chickens, and bacon from the family’s hogs, and toast that she had burnt from the bread she had made herself. His mother would spread butter on it, churned from cream given by their dairy cow and dab on honey she had bought from the bee keeper that lived on the same gravel road as they did.
His father was a carpenter. And he built furniture, and cabinets, and sometimes barns and sheds, and houses. He had learned to be a carpenter from another carpenter when he was a young man, and generations of knowledge cost him nothing.
After his breakfast, and after his father had gone to his workshop to build, his mother would teach the boy and his sister history, and geography, and math, and reading at the kitchen table. They learned everything they needed to know right there in the family’s own home.
But his mother only taught them for a few hours each day and for only a few days each week. She knew that children have imaginations and are naturally restless, and have a curiosity that can only be full filled with the play that children know. So she would let them loose into the green valley where they lived. His sister and he would run through the green grass, in the shadow of the big mountain and they would run to the creek that ran along the family’s property. They would flip over rocks in the creek, and catch frogs, and fish, and chase dragonflies. Their lungs were filled with pure mountain air and their eyes saw everything. Sometimes in the heat of the day, they would work the handle of the pump next to the house and out would come the coldest, freshest water that came from deep with-in the Earth, which had flowed from some ancient spring. Throughout the day they could smell the scent of laundry drying on the line and even at the youngest age, the boy somehow, felt deep inside, a remarkable comfort.
When the sun had begun to sink in the sky, the boy and his sister would head for home. Tired and dirty they would sit around the table there in that little wooden house, in that green valley, in the shadow of that great mountain and they would give thanks to all that they had been blessed with.
And so the years went by, and the boy and his sister, and his mother and father lived right there, in that little valley.
And the boy grew abled with his curiosity and wonderment.
One day up the gravel road came a car, and into the driveway it pulled. The boy and his sister ran through the wild flowers of spring to see who this stranger was. When they got to the house, the boy could see a man talking with his mother. He was a tall, pale and gaunt man in a black suit who spoke in a convincing voice. At a point in the conversation he turned and looked directly at the boy, winking with a black and soulless eye.
The man told the boy’s mother that there was a huge world beyond this little valley. A world where there was much to have, much to own. A world where there were stores for eggs, and stores for furniture, and where heat came from a furnace that needed no hand-cut wood. Where you could dial on a device that had no cords and talk with a neighbor, and where there were machines that would send mail in seconds.
But the boy’s mother told the man that everything they needed was right here in this valley. That they had a cow for their milk, chicken and hogs for their food, and her husband made all the furniture they needed. There was a pump for their water, and on the property that had been in her family for over 200 years there were trees that gave them firewood in the winter and shade in the summer.
She told the man that, for them, every necessity was free.
But the man was persuasive, and his words were crafty and soon the boy’s mother was not herself.
The next day, the boy and his sister came downstairs as they always had, except things were very different. The boy’s mother seemed rushed and indifferent, she told them to eat quickly and that she would be taking them to school. The boy seemed confused. He had always been taught everything he needed to know right there at the kitchen table. The boy’s mother explained to him that there were teachers at the big school that knew far more than she did and that this is where his sister and he would be going from now on.
The boy’s mother rushed them into the car and then to school. The school was a busy and chaotic place. During class the boy grew restless. He was surrounded by walls and there were no windows. Instead of just a few short hours of learning, he spent the entire day in one small room for five straight days. The teachers at the school spent very little time teaching; instead they pointed out things on overhead projectors and then assigned him to do busy work when he got home, and when he got home from school it was all ready dark.
Everything was now very different.
Several weeks passed. But the boy had always liked to learn and read and study. And soon it was time for a test. When the boy had been taught at home, his mother never tested him, she knew he had learned what she was teaching, because she had taught him. And when the teacher passed it out, the boy found the test to be filled with trick questions, written to confuse and manipulate. The boy filled in the answers the best he could, but left feeling defeated and humiliated.
He couldn’t wait to go home that day, to a place where he felt safe, and where things made sense.
But when he got home he saw a familiar car sitting in the driveway. He found the man talking again with his mother. The man told his mother now that her children were no longer at home, she should take a job outside the house. The man said that she was a victim of a male dominated world, where men had collectively enslaved women to existences of mere motherhood, and that a huge world awaited her. The boy’s mother said that her children were still young, and that they needed a mother who was at home. She told the man that her job as a mother and as a wife was an important one. She told him that her kids still needed her. But again the man was convincing and he was sly, he said her children were in the good hands of the others now. He told her it takes many to raise a child.
So the boy’s mother soon got a job outside the home.
She drove long miles to and from work every day but the wage she earned barely afforded her the gas in her car and the new stress in her life. But the man had convinced her that a job outside of the home was a far more dignified life than one spent serving a man’s home and his children.
The boy was soon in trouble with his teachers. A young boy was never meant to sit in small rooms for weeks on end, so he had grown restless, and the gray walls had turned him bored. His teachers soon arranged a meeting with his parents where they were told their little boy suffered from a disease, a disease that caused the mind to wander and to dream. And that there was a pill that must be administered to heal the boy of this infirmity. The boy, upon learning he had been living with such imperfection, grew depressed. But the pill was strong and it worked quickly and efficiently. Soon the boy didn’t dream of a world outside of school, he was no longer curious, he no longer felt the urge to wonder.
The man in the black suit then paid a visit to the boy’s father too. The man told his father, “look at your wife, she works and works, and here you are, working from home for such meager pay.”
So the boy’s father quit working for himself and took a job in the city.
Now when the boy and his sister got home from school, there was rarely anyone home. Soon his sister was left to the wolves, searching for acceptance elsewhere.
The boy’s mother and father soon sold the cow and the hogs and the chickens. With both of them working, there was now no longer any time to care for the animals.
Groceries were now expensive.
There was no longer anytime to cut firewood on weekends, so the boy’s father bought a furnace that ran on natural gas.
Heating their home was now very expensive.
The boy’s mother and father spent very little time together. They both grew close to others at work, and told those people of their dreams, and complained to these co-workers of their lives at home. When the boy’s mother and father saw each other, it was to discuss the bills and the business that their lives had now become.
Very rarely, when schedules overlapped, they would sit down at the kitchen table like they once had, but they no longer folded their hands in prayer, for there was no time to reflect on what they were thankful for. Resentment and bitterness grew in the belly of the boy’s mother and father, and they both were soon miserable.
The boy’s father grew sick with stress and his mother grew sick with distain. The price of pills and therapy along with groceries and the rest of the new necessities soon were too much to bear,it seems their new wealth had impoverished them.
The boy’s mother and father soon sold off their family’s green valley to developers. The developers built sprawling subdivisions, Wal-Marts, Starbucks and Applebees. They cut down the trees and named roads after them. But the developers saved the strip of land closest to the black granite mountain, and this is where they built the homes of the rich.
The boy was now almost a man. Years of school had taken the place of his education and he could barely hold a thought in his head. His sister was a mother of her own now and lived in another town. Ready to begin his own life in the world, he looked towards his green valley.
But it was gone.
He took a walk to clear his head by the creek.
But it was now a concrete culvert.
He drove past the urban sprawl to try and once again stand in the shadow of his mountain.
But there was now a gate.
A gate that led through a neighborhood of million dollar estates which now sat in the shadow of the granite peak. Instead of children playing in the green valley, next to the creek, in the shadow of the mountain, adults spoke of mergers, and money, and their golf vacation in Greece last winter.
And just as the boy was about to leave, he noticed a car pulling from the driveway of the largest, most extravagant house, set on the hill closest to the base of the mountain. The car took the winding road down to the gate, the driver gave a quick wave to the thug guard and then drove past the boy. For a split second the boy’s eyes locked with the man behind the wheel as he gave the boy a wink through a cold black eye.
Author: Abe Yanko