What If UR Wrong

 

“Things are not always as they seem; the first appearance deceives many.”

Phaedrus

Oliver

 

by Mark Karapetyan

 

One early morning, in the far, far away village of Arfurt, a young boy with big ears, named Oliver, was playing by himself in a forest not too far from his cabin. Suddenly, he noticed a stranger sitting on a rock by a small lake facing the water, weeping uncontrollably.

Young Oliver carefully looked around, then slowly and cautiously approached the stranger and asked: “Mister, why are you crying? Are you hungry?”

The stranger lifted up his head, looked at Oliver, covered his face with his hands, and continued crying.

Oliver was moved by the stranger’s tears. He immediately pulled apiece of baked biscuit out of his pocket and offered it to the stranger: “I only have one. Would you like to have this biscuit sir? My mother baked it.”

The stranger was touched by Oliver’s heartfelt move. He smiled at Oliver, snatched the biscuit, and quickly gulped it.

Moments later, the stranger wiped his tears and spoke: “Thank you young boy…you have made me feel better. There are a few good people left in this world, after all. I would like to repay you for your kindness. What is your name?” 

“My name is…”

“Oh, wait! I think I know,” the stranger interrupted. “Your name is Oliver!”

“Wow, cool… you must be very smart, mister. How did you know?”

“I know a lot about you, Oliver. In fact, I know a lot about your brother and sister as well. I know that your mother is a teacher and I know your dad, the pastor, very well. I also know that you don’t have many friends and that other kids poke fun of your big ears. I hear your cries everyday and I feel your sadness.”

“Do you know if my brother took my favorite coloring book last week, mister? I lost it and it seems that no one knows where it disappeared to.”

The stranger pulled a coloring book out of his coat and handed it to Oliver: “You can have your favorite coloring book back. Go ahead, take it, this is the least I can do to repay you for your kindness, young Oliver.”

Oliver plucked the coloring book out of the stranger’s hands and in excitement, he exploded: “Yay, Yay…thank you sir, you are awesome, you are the best!”

The stranger smiled, pulled some cookies out of his pocket, and offered them to Oliver: “Here, eat these cookies. They taste delicious. Come sit next to me, look at the water, and see if you can sketch the fish or the frogs that are everywhere in this small lake.”

“Okay…” Oliver happily agreed and, with a grin on his face, took the cookies and sat down beside the stranger and started eating. Then, he pointed his finger toward the water and yelled in amazement: “Oh, wow, look mister, that big fish moves so fast, it has big eyes.”

“Yes! Oliver,” the stranger agreed. “Would you like me to catch it for you?” We can cook it here and eat it together,”he offered.

Young Oliver took a bite of the cookie and asked: “Mister, why were you crying earlier? Did someone take your coloring book as well?”

The stranger replied: “Yes, my dear Oliver, someone did. In fact, the person who took my book also lied about it.”

Oliver seemed a bit confused and needed some clarification.

“Okay, I will tell you a story, but I need you to pay attention and listen carefully,” the stranger asserted. 

“Cool! I love stories,” Oliver beamed.

The stranger recounted the events of his story in detail while young Oliver listened earnestly.

Then, a loud voice interrupted them: “Oliver, come on, it’s time for supper. Oliver…”

Young Oliver jumped to his feet, said goodbye to the stranger, grabbed his coloring book, and at once bolted to his house.

His mother greeted him with a smile as she continued setting up the dinner table: “Wash your hands and get ready for supper, Oliver.”

Oliver washed his hands and sat down with his family to eat. His father, the pastor, noticed that Oliver was unusually quiet, so he decided to get to the bottom of it: “Oliver, say grace before we eat,” he directed.

Oliver put his hands together, closed his eyes, composed his thoughts, and prayed:

“Bless, O Lord, this food we are about to eat;
and we pray You, O God,
that it may be good for our body and soul;
and if there be any poor creature
hungry or thirsty walking along the road,
send them into us that we can share the food with them,
just as You share your gifts with all of us.

Amen.”

 

Oliver’s mother thanked him for the prayer and asked everyone to enjoy the delicious meal.

The next morning, Oliver got up early and returned to the same lake to play, when suddenly, the same stranger he had met a day before approached and loudly greeted: “Hello there, my little friend, how do you do?”

Oliver greeted the stranger back and they both sat down again by the lake to converse.

“Would you like me to tell you another story?” the stranger asked.

“Yay!” Oliver bubbled.

For long hours, the stranger recounted another story as young Oliver listened to every word that came out of the stranger’s mouth.

“Oliver, Oliver… it’s supper time. Come back home.” Oliver’s mother called from afar.

Young Oliver quickly arose and ran toward his house. While helping his mother set up the dinner table, Oliver reminded her that he wished to have a blue bicycle.

Once again, Oliver was a bit quieter than his siblings. His mother gently directed him not to put his elbows on the dinner table and then asked him to pray before supper.

Oliver put his hands together and mumbled:

“I give thanks for this food we are about to eat;
If there be any poor creature
hungry or thirsty walking along the road,
I hope that we can share the food with them,
for these poor creatures have no gifts to

share with anyone.

 Amen.”

 

Oliver’s father, the pastor, raged and questioned Oliver: “EXCUSE ME! What kind of a prayer is that, son? When did you start praying this way?”

Young Oliver kept quite as his father peppered him with questions. After dinner, Oliver’s father, the pastor, went upstairs to kiss Oliver good night and put him to sleep, but Oliver had already been asleep.

Oliver’s father added more wood to the fireplace as he addressed his wife: “Sweetheart, what’s with Oliver? He seems very distant, uninterested, and annoyed. What’s the matter with him?”

“Oh, no worries Hans, he is just a boy. He is just acting like a young boy,” she assured him.

When Oliver went to play at the same lake days later, he spent longer hours with the stranger, listening to all kinds of interesting stories.

Their meetings became a regular occurrence as Oliver and the stranger met at the lake every day.

Then, it came to pass, that on one warm, sunny morning, Oliver addressed his concern to the stranger and informed him that he would like to have a blue bicycle.

“But why won’t your father get the bicycle for you?” the stranger inquired.

“My dad is a pastor; he doesn’t make a lot of money. My dad says that we are poor,” Oliver explained.

Suddenly, as usual, Oliver’s mother called for Oliver to return home for supper, as it was getting late.

Oliver continued talking to the stranger as his mother kept calling.

“Go ahead, young Oliver, your mother is calling for you. Go home before she gets worried.”

Oliver slowly stood up, said goodnight to the stranger, and walked to his house.

“You are late!” his mother reminded.

Oliver kept quite as he washed his hands and sat at the table to eat.

When his father, the pastor, asked him to say grace before supper, Oliver initially hesitated but then prayed:

“Bless this food we are about to eat;
that it may be good for our body and soul,
Amen.”

Oliver’s father, the priest, was infuriated as he scolded Oliver harshly: “LISTEN TO ME YOUNG MAN, IN THIS HOUSE, YOU EITHER PRAY TO THE LORD PROPERLY, OR YOU WILL BE GROUNDED FOR A WEEK,” he threatened.

Oliver’s mother also chimed in as she reminded Oliver that he was behaving very rudely and strangely.

That night, when Oliver was in bed sound asleep, and his parents were sitting by the fire place talking, Oliver’s mother had a suggestion: “Hans, maybe we should get Oliver that blue bicycle he wishes so badly to have. Maybe that is why he has been behaving so strangely.”

The father agreed, but reminded her that they were low on funds and getting Oliver a blue bicycle was not a priority at the moment.

The next evening, when Oliver returned home from the lake, there was a blue bicycle parked right outside of the main door with a short note on it that said:

“A small gift to my little friend…”

Oliver could hardly contain himself as he jumped on it for joy and began riding it around the yard.

He went inside the house for supper and hugged his parents, thanking them for the amazing gift they gave him. To his shock, they assured him that they did not get him the bicycle and that they had no idea where the blue bicycle had come from. They informed Oliver that the blue bicycle was parked outside when they came back home from work.

Oliver immediately realized that it was the stranger by the lake that got him the gift. The stranger was the only one capable of doing such a nice thing. “Who else could have given me a blue bicycle other than my friend, for he once magically returned to me the coloring book that I had lost,” Oliver thought to himself.

The source of the gift didn’t really matter much to Oliver, as he was in love with his new machine on wheels. The only thing he cared about was when and how fast he could ride the blue bike to the lake.

Oliver’s parents questioned him about his friend at the lake and his motive behind giving him such a beautiful gift.

Oliver told them all about the stranger and the stories he tells every time he goes by the lake to play. His parents cautiously listened to every word and asked him to be cautious. 

Days went by as Oliver spent almost all of his time at the lake playing and listening to stories from the stranger while riding his bike back and forth. Soon after, Oliver started re-telling these exciting stories to his friends at school every day, and then to his siblings at home. All the kids stopped making fun of Oliver’s big ears, and they loved listening to his fabulous tales as he became the most popular kid in the village and quite the story teller himself. For the first time ever, Oliver had so many friends!

One day, Oliver rode his bicycle back to the lake, when he noticed that his friend, the stranger, wasn’t there to meet him. Oliver waited all day, but to no avail, no one showed up!

Oliver rode his bicycle home, washed for supper as usual, and sat down to eat.

“So, how’s your friend at the lake?” his mother asked.

“He wasn’t there momma. He didn’t come,” Oliver gasped.

In an effort to cheer him up, Oliver’s father, the pastor, asked Oliver to invite his friend to supper one evening.

Oliver grinned as he listened to his father’s invitation. However, the stranger was nowhere to be found, as Oliver went to the lake day after day, for weeks, looking for him.

Eventually, Oliver gave up going to the lake and forgot all about his friend. Although their friendship became a distant memory, like vapor fading away into thin air, the countless stories the stranger had told Oliver were engraved in Oliver’s little brain, for he held on to them like treasure.

Months later, when Christmas Eve arrived, all the people in the village gathered in the small church to celebrate together as one, big family. The atmosphere was euphoric; the delicious smell of the baked cookies filled the church. Everyone was singing Christmas hymns and praising the Lord.

Moments later, it was time for the annual reading of the Christmas story. All the people of the village sat down to listen. Oliver’s father, the pastor, got on the pulpit to read from Genesis, when all the kids screamed and cheered:

“Oliver, you read!”

“Let Oliver read the story, pastor!”

“Pastor, Oliver is the best story teller!”

“Oliver, get up there and read!”

Everyone in the church clapped in support of Oliver.

With a big smile on his face, Oliver’s father invited his son to get on the stage and read the story.

The entire church erupted in cheers as young Oliver walked up the small steps to the stage. Oliver was so happy and proud of himself-for he was no longer the lonely, big-eared kid with no friends.

On that Christmas Eve, and for the first time ever, Oliver was the most popular kid in the village and the star of the show, thanks to his friend, the stranger at the lake!

Quickly, the pastor gave his son a high five, a warm, proud hug, and left the stage.  

“Merry Christmas,” Oliver addressed the crowd with a smile.

“Merry Christmas, Oliver,” they responded.

All eyes were on Oliver as he adjusted the microphone.

“Today, I will tell you the real story of Christmas. The story of a man named Jesus, who was born in a manger,” Oliver proclaimed.

“Once upon a time, a man named God so loved everyone, that he sent his Son Jesus to earth to teach us how to be nice to one another. Jesus’ father and mother couldn’t find a place to stay in, so they begged a stranger for help. Eventually, they were able to find a manger for Jesus to beborn in. As Jesus grew older, he became wiser and smarter, but he didn’t know everything, for he once said that only God knew certain things. Many years later, when Jesus started his ministry, lots of people didn’t like him because he was combative and angry. He turned the money tables of the poor people at the Temple. He also beat the peasants with whips, and even called them nasty names. He once…”

“Oh, come on!” someone shouted from the back in objection.

“What kind of Christmas story is this?” another farmer echoed.

“Hans, control your son,” a woman screamed in anger.

At this point, the crowd in the church appeared shell-shocked. Oliver’s father, the pastor, was infuriated, as he didn’t understand what Oliver was doing.

Some thought it was a joke, or perhaps a play, leading up to the real Christmas story.

Oliver, however, seemed unfazed as he continued:

“Jesus told us to be perfect, yet he wasn’t! He told us to love one another, but he wants to send others who don’t love him back to Hell. When one day…”

“YOUR SON IS A FOOL!” Someone shouted while standing up and pointing his finger at the pastor.

Some booed Oliver and others hurled objects at him. Oliver’s mother, the teacher, tried to defend her son as there was chaos in the church. Everyone was screaming, yelling, and pointing fingers. Parents were calling each other names and some came close to fist-fighting.

Oliver, however, stood his ground and loudly exclaimed: “Jesus claims to be God, but is He? Some say he is an angel, others, that he is just a man. I don’t know which Jesus to believe in because no one knows who He really was. So what I am…”

This was the last thing Oliver said as the crowd invaded the stage to stop him. The pastor tried to defend his son, but he was overpowered. Somehow, Oliver escaped, and quickly dashed toward the lake with twelve of his closest friends. When they arrived at the lake, Oliver’s friend, the stranger, was there, waiting with three horse chariots. They all hopped in and disappeared into thin air, never to return to Arfurt ever again…

The same night, when Oliver’s parents returned home, they found a note on the kitchen table that read:

“Papa, momma, I love you both.

 Please don’t worry about me.

 I am with my stranger friend, the Angel of Light.

P.S. Papa, you always wanted to meet my friend in person.

He is present in your church every Sunday.

Momma, he is in your classrooms every day.

Love, Oliver.”

 

“Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.” 

 Aristotle

 

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