The kid saw the door cracked open and ran outside. She could barely walk, so her sprint looked a lot like a drunk penguin waddling toward a bucket of fish. But it worked. She was out.
The moment her feet touched the pale brown earth she went down into a perfect squat. At that exact moment, coaches around the world were drilling Olympic athletes and powerlifters, trying to replicate that movement. Trying to undo the countless hours spent sitting at a desk, commuting in a car, and slouching in front of a TV. But she did it just like that — with an ease and elegance that only mother nature can teach.
She then dug her fingers deep in the mud, spreading them out like tiny antennas. Like small sample collectors for all the germs and bugs living in the dirt. But she didn’t care. She was out there to play and learn.
She stood up, raising her fists triumphantly, and started examining her bounty. Clumps of earth and grains of sand were rapidly sieved through her fingers. Some dead leaves and splinters were discarded too. She had seen those before. What remained were a few rocks, one of which was round and smooth, with blue-greenish reflections. She liked that rock. So she clenched her fist around it, threw the other ones away, and started walking.
Leaving the backyard, she went out on the street. Cars were zipping by and a helicopter roared through the sky. She looked up and saw construction workers on a scaffold, drilling holes in concrete and cutting metal bars. She looked down and saw an ant carrying a crumble of bread. She followed the ant until it got to a pack of cigarettes. It looked like a small box. And boxes often contain fun things like toys, or shoes, or crackling paper, so she picked it up. But this box was empty. She couldn’t see the heavy clouds of frustration, the shallow promises, and the tainted malignant cells it contained. She only saw emptiness. So she put her pretty stone in the box, so it wouldn’t be so empty.
She kept walking until she got to a crossroad. On the left, there was a hot dog stand with a long line of people in front of it. They were all dressed alike and had their eyes fixated on their smartphones. On the right, there was a park with tall trees, green bushes, and chirping birds. So she went into the park.
By the dirt road, she saw a pretty flower. It had a long stem and bright yellow petals. She picked it up and went further. At one point her feet got tired, so she sat down in the mud. The wind was blowing through her curly hair as she started caressing the grass. A butterfly briefly landed on her flower, then flew away. She followed it for a while until she came to a bench.
On the bench, there was a man. He had a grey beard and a dusty beanie, and was sleeping on his side. He also smelled funny. Next to the bench she found an empty bottle. She knew that bottles contained either water or milk, so she peered inside. But it was empty and dry. The couldn’t see the moments of fear, the bursts of anger, and the numb desperation it contained. To her it was just empty. She placed her pretty flower in the bottle, so it wouldn’t be so empty. And she kept walking.
Next she came to a bus stop. She liked busses and waited excitedly for one to arrive. When the bus finally came, it was full of people with blank looks in their eyes, standing crammed next to each other. As the doors were closing, she saw a man with a suitcase running toward the bus. He was breathing heavily and his jacket was flung open. By the skin of his teeth he somehow managed to squeeze inside the bus. But he must have angered the fat lady standing next to the door. She yelled at the man, as the bus drove away, but the little girl couldn’t hear what she said.
She looked down and saw that the man had dropped a pen. It had golden letters on the side and a shiny little rock at one end. It looked pretty in the sunlight. She took the pen, pressed it tightly against her belly, and kept walking.
She took a right and saw a big building with lots of flashing displays. It had tall windows, through which she could see brightly lit dresses and shoes and hats. In front of the building she found a $50 bill. She looked at it curiously. It was almost like a photo, but not quite. The photos she knew had more than one person on them — and they were usually smiling. She looked at the man on the green photo. He seemed kind of sad. She couldn’t see the desperate struggle, the sleepless nights, and the bottomless greed behind that piece of paper. She just thought the man had sad eyes. She took her pen and drew a smiley face next to his, so he wouldn’t be alone. Maybe then he wouldn’t be so sad. She left the bill and the pen on the sidewalk and kept walking.
She turned right again and saw a bright green car, so she walked toward it. A man stepped out of the car. His shoulders were slumped and his head was hanging low. He turned around and saw the little girl waddling toward him as fast as she could.
He dropped his bag and picked her up. His arms were still strong, but his eyes were small, itchy, and dry. Her eyes were peaceful and clear, with an unearthly shade of steely blue. My god, those eyes!
She was gazing at him with the piercing innocence that only small children possess. She couldn’t see the innumerable fears, the unimaginable hopes, and the unmeasurable love hiding behind his eyes. She just saw that he was tired. And she thought of all the nice things she had found that day: the colored stone, the pretty flower, and the shiny pen. If only she had one of those to give him.
Then the corners of her mouth curled up, revealing the gap between her two front teeth. It was the most beautiful smile he had ever seen.
She couldn’t yet talk, but she knew one word that could heal any pain, wash away any worry, and dispel any doubt he had ever felt. She took a deep breath, opened her mouth as wide as she could, and let out two perfectly articulated syllables:
And all was good in his world.
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