The boy was born during a violent snowstorm. Trumpeted sounds of ferocious wind battered the window ushering him forth triumphantly.  The bellowed tones were harsher for his exhausted mother and her last breaths granted his first. With a sweep of their powerful tendrils Life and Death had danced together in the draughty single roomed shack. While devotedly wiping the gunk from the boy’s face Papa whispered into the newly formed ears, “You’re my last chance.” The room was silent save for the howling of wind and infant alike.

The early years were strenuous mountains to climb formed of hours of care and labour. Boy grew strong despite the scarcity of food and like a resilient variety of desert flower he began to bloom in hard conditions. Papa was proud, especially when amongst the monotonous throwing of objects spattered with drool and snot a short, quick set of syllables slipped from the toothless mouth, “Papa”.

Everything seemed to accelerate around Papa once his name escaped Boy’s lips. Boy began to walk in a manner that reminded Papa of his dearly departed wife, usually after the final drops of crimson alcohol had drained from the bottle. Boy began to talk in semi intelligible sentences that also resembled conversation with his grape drunk spouse. Papa’s face stretched with a smile as he said “Boy, you remind me of her”, to no one who understood.

The days left the period of time that felt to Papa like somersaulting up a steep hill and entered into a new phase; a phase of immeasurable joy that reminded Papa of catching that first bouquet of rain in his nostrils on a Summers’ Eve. Seeing Boy, his Boy, take his first steps and point out Bear, his first friend made Papa weep. Boy loved Bear instantly and would delight in throwing Ball at Bear and when Bear wouldn’t return Ball, Boy would find his feet and give his furry friend a helping hand. This cycle of playfully innocent friendship continued until Boy was old enough to learn that Ball bounced off Wall better than off of Bear’s head, and so Bear’s glass eyes twinkled as he was relegated to spectator. Instead Bear would partake in story time every night with Boy and Papa and listen intently.

Papa owned very little other than the draughty shack in the countryside and the small collection of farm animals that populated it. Boy’s curiosity rivalled Cat the neighbour’s inquisitive furry menace. When he was old enough Papa would let Boy wander amongst the animals. There was Cow, Horse, Pig and Dog, “There are FOUR, plus CAT makes FIVE”, Boy would say victoriously, he was a quick learner. Of the inhabitants only Dog showed any sign of knowing Boy was even there. Dog and Boy were natural friends, and Ball and Bear and Dog and Boy would go on drool covered adventures together. On one such adventure Boy wondered why Ball and Bear wouldn’t listen to him like Dog and Papa, Papa explained “Some things like Ball can’t hear because they have no ears, and other things choose not to listen because their heads are filled with stuffing, like Bear.” Boy nodded, and explained it to Dog.

Papa worked hard by day to provide milk and cheese and vegetables for Boy and Boy thanked him by saying “Thank you, Papa”. The trips to town were highlights for Boy and on a particularly mellow Spring afternoon Papa bought Boy a present. “What is it?”, Boy asked Papa. “It’s a book”, Papa told Boy, “It has stories in it that you can read to Bear and Dog and Ball”. “Don’t be silly Papa, Ball has no ears to hear and Bear’s head is filled with stuffing”, and Papa realised he was getting too smart for such childish things.

Boy devoured the book that Papa gave him and soon boy was telling Dog all the tales of worms, apples, and little old ladies that swallowed things she shouldn’t have. “Papa”, Boy said at the table, “Why did that lady swallow all of those things?”, Papa thought for a second, “Because some people take more than they ever need” he said with a mouthful of food. Boy nodded, and looked at Dog cautiously as Dog had a habit of eating more than he should as well.

It didn’t take long before Boy was walking up and down the aisles of the Library with Papa and they would sit in the comfy chairs that squished. “Why don’t we have these chairs at home Papa?”, he asked suddenly while swishing back and forth. “Because Dog and Chair wouldn’t get along too well for too long I think. Remember that time Dog got angry at Bear? This would be messier.” Boy nodded, and settled in to read comforted with knowing Chair wasn’t going anywhere because of Dog.

Seasons passed and as if knowledge were the fertiliser Boy grew and grew. He grew so tall that he could now help Papa with the farm work. Papa would milk Cow and Boy would watch and learn and help carry the bucket of milk back to the shack. “Papa, why does Cow let you take her milk all the time?” he asked through a milk moustache, “Because Cow and I are friends, we trust one another, and Cow understands we need her milk. Friends help and share with one another.” Boy nodded, “Cow sure is nice Dog”, he said taking another sip. Lapping at his bowl Dog couldn’t agree more.

To be continued…

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