Friday, March 09, 2007

The Boy With No Candy - a children’s story

Category: Issue 6, Short Story Winners

In the land of beautiful children there was much merriment and play. All the children would hold hands and dance around the beautiful flowers. And they would sing songs and play games. And they would eat the fruits and nuts from the never-ending bowl, and they would all bring candy to share with one another as a treat. They dressed in beautiful colorful clothing, and they all wore new shoes.

One day a new boy came to watch them play. But his clothes were all raggedy and torn and dirty; and he was not good-looking like all the other little children were. They saw him as they danced and played their games, but no one said anything. They could tell that he was different, not like them; and that was a surprise to them, to see someone who was different, not beautiful or wearing pretty clothes. They seemed unsure of what to do, but they thought if they just ignored him and didn’t look at him or his dirty clothes then maybe he’d go away. After a while the new boy went away.

But the next day he came back and watched the beautiful children playing again. The children all saw him there standing quietly by himself, and then one of them said “do you want to join us?” “Yes” he replied. Then another child spoke up. “Did you bring candy?” she asked. Her name was Morita, and she wasn’t as smart as some of the others, but she made up for it by carefully memorizing all the rules. That way if someone forgot or didn’t follow one of the rules, Morita would quickly remind them; and that made her feel like she was just as smart as the others.

“I have no candy” said the new boy. “Then you can’t play” replied Morita “those are the rules.” The new boy watched them for a while and then went away again. Some of the other children were not so sure of how Morita had handled this, but they didn’t say anything because she was the one who always reminded everyone of the rules. And no one wanted to challenge her, because then she might find some rule that they had broken. So it was best to leave her alone.

The next day the beautiful children were all playing again, all dancing and singing around the beautiful flowers. And again the new boy came to watch them, quietly standing by himself a short distance away. And as the children saw him there again, they were no longer surprised by his presence or by his ugly tattered clothes or even by his homely appearance. They stopped singing and playing for a moment and looked at him. They were uncertain of what they should do. But finally one of them said “why don’t you bring some candy? Then you could play with us.”

“I don’t have any” replied the new boy. “Why not?” asked another of the beautiful children. This seemed to interest all the children, and they walked toward the new boy, trying to find a way to understand him. “Why do you wear such ugly clothes?” asked one of the beautiful children as they came nearer. “Yeah” said another child “and why are you so…” then she stopped herself in mid-sentence and blushed but hastily added “why don’t you get some candy from your mother?” “Or your father?” asked another child. “Or bring some from home” said another.

As they surrounded the new boy they were surprised now to find out that not only was he not a good-looking child, and that his clothes were even uglier and dirtier than they had appeared in the distance, but also he didn’t smell good. In fact he smelled bad, and this was something very strange to the beautiful children. They had never known a child to smell bad, and all they could think of was that it was somehow like the garbage that people threw out. That was what the new boy smelled like to them. The beautiful children didn’t know what to make of this, but one of them asked “why don’t your parents take better care of you?”

“I don’t have any” replied the new boy. “Where’s your father?” asked one of the boys. “I don’t have a father” said the new boy. “Why not?” they asked. “I never did” he said, unable to explain it to them. “Well then, what about your mother?” asked one of the girls. “She’s in prison” said the new boy. It seemed to the beautiful children that the new boy was nothing but problems and troubles, but being children, they persisted, trying to find the bright side to things. “So who do you live with” they asked him “where is your home.” “I don’t have one” he said. “I used to live with relatives, after my mom went away; but the occupational army killed them and then bulldozed our house.”

The beautiful children were not familiar with geo-political issues, but they were an optimistic bunch of kids. “You can come and stay with us” said one boy. “Yeah” said a little girl “and my mom can be your mom.” “And my dad can be your dad” said another. “And you can take a bath” they told him “and get some clean clothes.” “And bring some candy” said Morita. The new boy was amazed by their responses. “You are all so good” he told them “so generous and kind; but you must understand, no one could ever give back all that has been taken away from me.”

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Old Comments

  • I like this a lot. 
    I would cut the last part out; ie. lose this:
    “The new boy was amazed by their responses. “You are all so good” he told them “so generous and kind; but you must understand, no one could ever give back all that has been taken away from me.”

    The facts in the story speak for themselves.  He hasn’t complained up until now; why END on a plaintive note?  Anyone reading the story can see that he’s been shafted.  Earlier on in the story we have: ““I never did” he said, unable to explain it to them.”  I like his inability to explain things to them then; for him to suddenly realize how shafted he is, at the end, kind of wrecks his innocent victimhood, or something. 

    ““And bring some candy,” said Morita.” would be a nice way to end (IMHO), because it returns to something that’s been said or alluded to before.  Maybe get a bit deeper into the role Marita (her perspective, the thing about memorizing rules) plays in this?  It seems more like an allegory than a children’s story. 

    Don’t mind me… (please!) I wouldn’t rattle on like this if it didn’t resonate in a good way!

    Posted by julianyway  on  03/10  at  03:15 AM
  • A touching story. Children do have their own language to speak. Ultimately it is one of honesty and innocence. Inspiring indeed!

    Posted by Dr George Karimalil  on  03/10  at  08:07 AM
  • When I got to the end of this story, I was shocked.  A story to me is introduction, growth of tension, climax, and denoument.  This one seemed to stop just short of the climax.  And it was so good: simple and engaging, offering much to consider.

    However, I have to check myself because I’m being Morita, sort of.  I am simply quoting the rule about the structure of a story and expecting it to be understood as constructive criticism.  But really, the traditional structure isn’t necessary if the story does what you want, and I think it does it excellently.  I just didn’t want it to end.  Can you add to it?

    Is it an argument against karma?  I think it isn’t.  There’s no justification offered for dirty-boy’s claim that he can never get back what he lost.  I suppose most people would simply agree that he’s right, but I can’t.

    It kind of reminds me of Faust - well, an analysis of Faust anyway - because he made a deal with the devil that if he could ever achieve a moment of pure happiness, the devil could have him for all eternity.  So the devil sets out to make Faust happy (like these children set out to make the boy happy), but Faust and the boy both expect that it is impossible.  I believe that in Faust, the question is left up to the reader to decide.  But Faust contains the story of the devil’s attempts to earn Faust’s soul.  This story ends just before the children make their attempt.

    Please consider making a discussion post as this would make an excellent discussion piece.  Here are instructions

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:15 PM
  • Dave, I tried to follow the instructions, but it didn’t seem to work. Also, when I click on “discuss” it appears to lead to a different topic.

    Posted by Mikael Covey  on  03/11  at  01:55 AM
  • This is probably getting too philosophical or something, but another thing about the ending that gets me, relative to the body of the story, is that the general impression is that the boy has never actually HAD anything much TO lose. He’s NEVER had a father (and he doesn’t know why—he just hasn’t), his mom’s in prison… he’s just a kid.  That something’s been “taken away from him” assumes that he ever HAD something, at the very least a Right to something he hasn’t been getting…that he’s been ROBBED in some sense. 

    *I* would tend to agree with this, but perhaps some people might not.  (Eg. yer rabid libertarian might say, “Ah well, tough beans… he has a right [only] to whatever he can lay his grubby little hands on, but nobody has any obligations to make HIS life better, and nobody’s done him any injury [except perhaps his parents) if they haven’t helped him out or given him the same chances as the other kids.])

    From certain strict libertarian perspectives, if he was born into the world with nothing, and still has nothing, then he hasn’t been ROBBED.  Nothing has been “taken away” from him, because he didn’t have anything in the first place.  The fact that nobody’s GIVEN him anything isn’t (from that perspective) THEFT. 

    I don’t AGREE with the above, and in fact I think the piece is a good thought experiment, that tends to show that there’s something wrong with that hard-nosed picture.  BUT, SO, THEN… I don’t know whether its necessary or effective to BUILD that judgement into the story itself.. to explicitly SAY so.  In my own case, enough sympathy (or indignation on the boy’s behalf) has been built up by the time I get to the end that I’m already convinced that (as I said) the child has been shafted (and the other innocent children’s puzzlement at his situation drill that home).  It’s rather a good argument for somesuch claim, maybe, as that there are such things as “Children’s Rights” or something like that. But I don’t think the child has to literally TELL us this at the end. 

    Throughout the piece he just looks on, longingly, innocently.  HE doesn’t make judgements, and the other children are equally innocent.  THEY don’t understand why he’s smelly, and so forth.  It’s baffling to them as well.

    It seems to me that it’s for US (readers) to recognize or decide that and how he’s “lost” things, opportunities and so on.  For HIM to explicitly say so at the end gives me a bit of a jolt, as if he’s been secretly thinking political science or sociology thoughts all the way through the story, when *I* thought he was just a poor little kid, standing around wishing to be included. 

    I have no idea if any of this makes any sense… it’s Monday night!

    Posted by julianyway  on  03/12  at  11:42 PM
  • The story isn’t changed by the last line, only the reader’s perspective. The viewpoint goes from forward looking to backward looking. Not just the possibilities, but also the impossibilities.

    Posted by Mikael Covey  on  03/13  at  12:08 AM
  • I would like to distance myself from Libertarians if they are indeed lacking so severely in compassion.  However, I think it behooves us all to recognize how valuable free choice is.  While I agree that he ought to have no legal right or claim to anything if that’s how he started, and that all the other children ought to have no legal obligation to help him, such claims, rights, and obligations are created and, more importantly, enforced by coercive government.  That’s what the legal system is all about.

    When the government starts enforcing moral obligations, it is perceived that things are improved overall.  However, that is only possible when we ignore the costs of such enforcement, which is remarkably easy to do.  Some of that cost is to taxpayers in general, but some of it is also in social capital.  These children will all be happy with each other because they *freely* give to dirty-boy.  If they were forced to do so by the playground IRS-agent adult, they would be bitter and selfish instead.

    I think of horses.  You whisper them, or you break them.  One takes more skill, is more effective, and makes everyone happy.  The other is dangerous and even a little disturbing.  And that’s not people, it’s horses.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/13  at  01:30 PM
  • The concept of life (physis) is based on children according to Heidegger. The concept of ethics presumes taking care of all children, not some. A choice - bless the beasts and children - or, they shoot horses, don’t they?

    Posted by Mikael Covey  on  03/13  at  01:54 PM
  • I just don’t think ethical behavior is worth much when we force people into it.  Sometimes it is, at least to me.  But I could never use that as an excuse to take your hard earned money.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/13  at  08:56 PM
  • “These children will all be happy with each other because they *freely* give to dirty-boy.  If they were forced to do so by the playground IRS-agent adult, they would be bitter and selfish instead.”

    This seems like a black-and-white fallacy. 
    Whatever “freely” means, and however we could achieve true freedom of choice, there’s surely a realm of difference between being blindly (freely?) doing as you were raised (coerced?) to do, and blindly (unfreely?) being coerced at gunpoint by evil CIA/KGB agents/tax officials. 

    First, I doubt that we can easily come up with an understanding of “free”, such that any children in any story are really any more free than ones who HAVE been to Night School, and taken (been FORCED to take) Comparative Religion (and Politics)... and/or had reasonable parents.  I can’t imagine having such a nice Liberal Arts Education and Friendly Attitude as I do, unless I had been “coerced” into it by me parents, and by evil academia and their bluddy curriculae, wot gave me money and stuffed me head full of packs and packs of socialist lies (at tax-payers expense, I might add!).  But now I give FREELY, with a smile on me face, and I don’t feel bitter or selfish at all!

    Truly, the kids in the story are NICE, but I’ve run across kids that aren’t so nice, even at the age the ones in the story seem to be.  It has to do with how you’re raised. 

    Is there some way to make sure that kids are raised right?  The kids in this story have been raised right (although they haven’t been much exposed to “the other side of the tracks”), but I can imagine a nightmare alternative to this, where they bully the boy and chase him down and beat him with sticks, taunting him.  The story has a “Noble Savage” element to it, in that we never really think about where the innocence COMES from, or about who or what it was that allowed these children to retain their innocence, if it was indeed innate. 

    Second, if it had been up to ME, I would have signed up for “Hockey 101” and “Draw Your Own Beagle in Five Easy Lessons”.  But you couldn’t get accredited that way.  Assholes!  Who do they think they are, telling ME what to study!? 

    “They shoot horses, don’t they?”
    “They spank children, don’t they?”
    Well, not so much, anymore. 
    Now it’s just injections and ritalin.

    “I think of horses.  You whisper them, or you break them.  One takes more skill, is more effective, and makes everyone happy.  The other is dangerous and even a little disturbing.  And that’s not people, it’s horses.”

    Absolutely right on.  I just want to ask what the horse is doing in an enclosure with a human being in the first place, when the horse could (theoretically?) be out there being a wild horse.  And given that he IS in the enclosure, whose responsibility is it to make sure that the guy or gal that trains him isn’t some nut case that wants to take the spurs to him until he submits?

    I thought this was a thought-provoking story when I first read it.  Arghhh.  Every time Dave says “tax-payers”, I feel like arguing for taxes.  And I don’t even WANT to pay taxes!


    Posted by julianyway  on  03/14  at  01:21 AM
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