The Old Man and the Boy (Flash Fiction)

Brian approached the man slowly. His bare feet moved quietly along the dry grass, and when he looked down to take care of his step, he noticed his feet were very dirty. It was a strange moment for him, to notice such a thing. It was never something to be concerned of before.

The old man sat with his legs crossed and his eyes closed under a tree that offered very few leaves for shade. His bald head was dark with tan, and he had a long beard that was very white and very clean. His garments were nothing more than rags around his waist. The lines on his face showed his age but were warded off by a look of pure serenity.

As Brian dew near, he suddenly felt very aware of his own presence. The old man sitting before him made no motion nor gave indication of being disturbed, so Brian stood and looked at him, watching for several minutes. When he finally found comfort, he began his questions.

“Why do you sit beneath this small tree?” Brian asked. “It gives no shade and you’re sweating quite clearly.”

Still as a statue, the man responded. “This tree is as good as any other,” the old man said.

Brian’s face furrowed at the answer, and he looked about to see large swathes of shade from the large trees that were nearby. “What do you think of when you sit here?”

“Nothing,” the old man said.

“But how can that be?” Brian asked. “My father says we all think about something.”

“I think of nothing because I am nothing. I am nothing and I am everything. There is no need for me to think.”

Brian’s young face twisted as questions filled his young mind. He rubbed his dirty feet on the brown grass and dug at the dusty soil with his toes. “What shall I be when I grow up?” he finally asked.

The crack of a smile came across the old man’s face. “Be you,” he said.

“But what does that mean?” Brian asked with a whine in his voice.

The closed eyes cracked open, and the old man saw the boy standing before him. The boy was dirty, like he was, and clearly very poor. Big brown eyes emplored. The old man drew in a deep breath. “What does your young heart say?”

Brian’s brown eyes dropped to the ground.

“Speak,” said the old man.

“I like music,” said Brian. “The acoustic guitar. It makes my heart spin in circles. It makes me want to sing.”

“So sing,” said the old man.

“My father says that I cannot afford to make music. Guitars are too expensive. I need to work hard to make money and help my family.”

“So sing,” said the old man. “Sing with your heart while it spins in circles. Sing and play guitar. All music is free.”

“But I cannot afford it,” said Brian.

“Singing with an honest heart is the only thing you can afford,” said the old man.

Brian’s brown eyes came up at this. He saw the deep lines on the old man’s face. The calluses on his feet. The rags around his thin waist.

“What happens when we die?” asked Brian.

The old man smiled and dark grooves formed in his cheeks. “When we die, we awake for the first time,” he said. “You close your eyes here and your open your eyes elsewhere, and you sing. You sing songs with all your heart and all forms of music are free.”

Brian sat on the dry grass and crossed his thin legs. He stared at the old man for several minutes before finally closing his own eyes. But when he did so, he was met with disappointment, for all he could do was think.

Not long after, he heard his father calling.

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