“Psht…Phillip…Phillip, what’s the plan Mr.?”

“We are waiting for the baker to take his lunch break, then we are going over the fence, through the backyard into the kitchen.”

“What about the dog?”

“What dog?!”

“The DOG!!! Remember I spent 15 minutes explaining to you that he has a huge dog who HATES children?”

“And what exactly did that perverse mind of yours had in mind as to what the dog will do? Do you really think he will tear us & turn us into gory gooey mess on the lawn? There are laws for these things you know!”

“What laws?! It is just a big fat animal who functions by instinct.”

“Look Sarah, if you want to turn back it’s ok. I will remember you when I come into my Muffin Kingdom.”

Sarah mustered an overly dramatic expression on her face, as tears were welling up in her eyes. She turned Phillip’s face towards her while focusing all her attention into a melancholy beam. She looked deep into Phillip’s eyes and with a broken voice she said:

“Goodbye my love, ride safely on the wings of eternity.” And thus, Sarah broke down crying at Phillip’s feet.

Phillip calmly looked away and through a missing fence-board into the yard.

“Quit your acting Sarah.” Phillip’s face was touching the fence, as he was trying to see as wide of an angle inside as possible.

Sarah looked up, although she had tears in her eyes, she had a cheeky smile.

“Did you like my acting Phillip?!”

“You know I love your acting. I am your super fan, remember?”

“Really?” Said Sarah

“Yes, really…”

Sarah took Phillip’s hands and got herself up. Phillip looked very handsome today, with his messy I just woke up hair and fingers that looked like they have seen a few adventures in the day already; there was dirt & blackberries and a scar Sarah was personally responsible for.

“Hey look Sarah, I don’t want to go past a check or anything. Maybe we can forget this whole thing. I honestly underestimated the dog.”

“Underestimate how?!” Sarah said as she pushed Phillip away with her body while chuckling. When she saw the dog her whole face opened up with a gasp.

“The dog is HUGE! Why does the baker have such a huge dog anyway? Do you think maybe he is hiding something?”

Phillip was half paying attention to Sarah while closing his eyes with his head up feeling a gentle breeze & the sun. He drank this moment deeply; since he was on an adventure with the playful girl he truly loved. “Thank you God.” He whispered.

Sarah knew these dramatic moments of praise very well, and she was enjoying every second of it. “God does not want you to steal dummy!”

Phillip could not help but chuckle, and with a pompous philosophical air he answered “God does not see as man sees, for man judges by the outward appearance but God judges by the heart.”

“The only thing you are judging by robbing the fat baker is from your belly.” Both of the young lovers burst out laughing.

“It’s 5 minutes after 12, he should be gone now, as my informant has informed moi.”

“Let me guess, you are exploiting poor Al again?” 

Albert, otherwise known as Little Al by the kids in the neighborhood, was a sickly & skinny boy who had a cute but prone to bullying stutter. The thing with his stutter was that it only went away when he felt loved and safe, and if there was any pressure whatsoever, it would get increasingly worse until nothing would come out but the first syllable of the word he was trying to say.

“Shouldn’t we wait for him? He said he will come.” Sarah asked with a concerned look.

“Maybe we should wait for him. I caught him crying yesterday you know; apparently the English teacher forced him to do a presentation to make him “get over it” so poor Al let out a “ma ma ma ma,” he couldn’t even say my name properly, and the whole class laughed at him.

Sarah, who had the gift of compassion, genuinely teared up. She loved little Al and wanted to surround him with comfort & long-kindness. This awkward child had been dealt a bad hand in life and she tried hard to protect him.

“Let’s wait for him Phillip, and if he doesn’t show up, let’s cancel the robbery for another day.”

Our two lovers sat in the back-alley with their backs against the wooden fence; as they kept waiting in the heat of the day, Sarah held Phillip’s hands and rested her head against his shoulder.

“I love you Sarah!” Phillip kissed Sarah’s delicate hands.

She had the most beautiful hands he had ever seen. On her left wrist was an Amber bracelet her mother had made, which glowed in the sun.

“Hey Phillip, did you know that Amber is made from Tree Resin.”

Phillip was genuinely shocked to hear this fact. “Really?! How does it get made?”

“Do you want the scientific version, or the romantic-poetic version moi made?”

“The romantic one of course!”

“Millions of years ago there were ancient and now extinct forests. In these forests there were gigantic trees who had been soaking in the love that the sun has for them for centuries. At one point there was a catastrophic event which wounded & hurt these trees deeply. As they were dying the old trees cried and over time the trees vanished and sunk deep under water.

But the spirit of the trees had gone into their tears, and instead of becoming a victim of their circumstance, the spirit decided to sit and take the injustice while in bondage and under the pressure of the water.

Millions of years later, these tears through the furnace of affliction were transformed into golden amber. The ocean, once it saw the beauty & long-suffering of these gemstones, had compassion and pushed the gemstones out and they were washed ashore. One morning one of our ancestors, who was deeply in pain because of the loss of her child, saw the gemstone shine under shallow water during the sunrise.

Once she touched the Amber, she was immediately comforted, because the love that the sun showed the trees, by the act of surrender & long-suffering of the tree spirit had been immortalized into a gemstone. So now anyone who sees Amber knows that the universe loves her, and that if she would face her pain instead of running, she will turn into a gem.”

Phillip once again drifted into a dramatic moment with a dreamy look in his eyes as he started to get lost in the beauty of what he had just heard; he gazed contemplatingly at the fluffy-kind clouds above. 

“That is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard Sarah.”

Sarah was surprised by how much Phillip loved her story; she felt great about herself and she was blushing with a joyous look of admiration. Phillip always had a way of building her up. He drew out of her what was in her heart, and whenever she would forget the song of her heart, he would play it back to her.

“Hey Sarah, do you think little Al is going to turn into a gemstone someday?”

“He already is…”

Our two star-crossed lovers sat by the fence resting in one another’s love, the light of this precious moment shone brightly and rippled outward not only throughout their lifetime, and for those around them, but till all eternity.

Little Al

Little Al looked at his reflection in the wash-basin; his thin sickly face and the black under his eyes made him look like he had just been through a rough time.

And he was having a difficult time, not only was he sick every few days because of a weak immune system (he had a weak everything really), there was also his chronic stuttering.

This stutter, like a plague, followed him wherever he went. There was never one moment in which he felt free from being harassed. His two oases were lonely walks in the woods when he felt well enough, and Phillip & Sarah.

The thought of those two star-crossed lovers immediately put a faint smile on his face. He knew that as sure as the sun will rise, these two mischievous friends were up to something.

“BANG, BANG, BANG!”

“HURRY THE HELL UP, GOOD FOR NOTHING MUTE!”

“I will be out in a sec father.”

“I SHOULD HAVE HURRIED WITH YOUR MUM AND SHOT MY LOAD ON THE WALL, TRASH, WASTE OF TIME!”

Little Al quickly put on his worn-out clothes, including his short pants, which had given him the nickname “daddy long-legs” among the bullies, and he darted outside the washroom.

He did not try to talk or apologize; the smell of alcohol told him all he needed to know; when his dad was in this mood, the least painful way out was complete surrender & obedience. 

Along with the smell of alcohol, his stutter and the threat of a beating, he was also feeling a bit unwell today as though he was coming down with another sickness; this last bit was what worried him the most; he could take everything else but when he was physically unwell, it pushed him into a desperation mode; when this happened, his stutter would get worse and alongside that more pain from his dad would ensue and the downward vortex would lead him to a place which he was afraid to go.

Little Al had a secret; he sometimes, in these windows of desperation, thought about killing himself. This betrayal of life and his two friends, haunted his conscience.

He did not hate his father. As he was getting ready to leave the house, he took a compassionate look at this man, the gross obese & filthy man, without any self-control and self-judgment, was sitting in his usual spot with a bottle.

“This is where I will end up, if I let desperation and that thought get the best of me.”

His dad was happy when little Al left the house. This gem of a boy was living beside him and the ungrateful pig could not discern the treasure he had in his own home. He saw Al as a good for nothing waste of time, and he felt Al owed him everything to justify his useless stuttering-existence. 

Walking down from the third floor, Al walked by the chubby 2nd floor lady sweeping the floor.

“Hello, Mmmmrs. Jones, hhhhhow are you tttoday? cccan I hhhhelp?”

“Oh Al, my dear! I am well, thanks but I need the exercise. How are you feeling my love?”

Little Al loved Mrs. Jones. She was one of his tiny oases, and whenever he could, he would get close to her to have some sort of human contact which was soft & caring. Because of this his stutter was not so bad when he talked to her.

“IIIIII…am well.” 

(He had a habit of keeping his sentences short to not waste people’s time.)

Al felt bad about his condition really; he was deeply in thought, often wondering why he is alive and what life has in store for him but suffering & calamity.

As strong as he was, the constant toxic worthlessness & accusations of his father were slowly working their way to the core of who he was.

This core, which was exposed when he would reach that desperate place, was the wellspring of life deep within him that he spent most of his effort trying to protect.

Life felt like a gauntlet of pain to him and when you overdose on suffering without confirmation, you start to get hopeless, and there is nothing worse than a hopeless man, because he could commit the most horrible atrocity and not care.

“I need help.” This thought was the next part of his plan in combating that thought and the infiltration of hopelessness. 

So hands in his pocket, our little friend strolled down the street with his head down. Occasionally he would gently kick a rock or two.

Al was a master of avoiding eye-contact, but on that extremely rare moment, when he was joyful and able to let go of the fear, if you looked into his sad eyes, you would see the flame & passion of a profound soul.

And this was why Al suffered so much. He was too soft-hearted & gentle-natured to let his circumstances and the acidic shower of abuse, harden him; so instead, what was forming day after day month after month & year after year, was a gemstone of great power.

Little Al was not aware of this since he always underestimated himself.

As Al was in his own little universe, trying to avoid being noticed, he saw a rich elderly lady with a dog; all of a sudden it was as though a gigantic bolt of lightning had zapped right through him.

“I AMMMMMM LLLLLLATE!!!”

Following this stuttering shout from our adorable friend the fluffy over-groomed dog did a jump with a “wooof,” which made the overweight lady go “ahhhh” in panic.

A couple of resident street hooligans also heard Al which made them start walking towards him.

“Oh no!” (This one was his own thoughts, and luckily our plucky hero did not stutter inside his brain!)

Unfortunately, dear reader, little Al sent out a vibe which attracted certain types of people to prey on him; the predators started to salivate when they say this weak boy, who was so easy to exploit.

“Hellllllo Alllllll!” Said the older of the two while the other one was mockingly laughing.

“HHHHHHHHHHH…” (hi max, but it did not come out.)

“Sounds like he is blowing birthday candles!”

“HA HA HA” both burst out laughing while pointing their fingers.

“IIIIIII…IIII…II!” said the younger of the two, as he changed his facial expression to look miserable & desperate. In addition to these two scums, a couple of passersby also started to join in on the fun.

What happened in these moments was a lot more complex than one would think. There were many wounds & scars twisted together into a knot, plus the dyeing of the fabric of reality in constant pain, which formed a horror-show around him.

Coupled with sexual abuse from his father, and having a man standing over him, which was one of his triggers, there was also a feeling of being stalked. He sensed as though the whole universe was one hostile eyeball staring malevolently at his pain & weakness.

All the above, fused with physiological problems and the stutter, made Al freeze in a sort of traumatic-state. As he would stutter, with each “a” of “aaaaaa” it was as though you were repeatedly pressing Play/Pause in his universe.

 “Breathe,” Al reminded himself.

He had been practicing to bring down the time the Play/Pause goes on. The key was to focus only on his breathing, another technique he was trying is to not engage or say anything anymore in the conversation, in order to cut down on further stress to not over-load his system.

Putting this technique in practice, unfortunately, had made it appear as though little Al was running away from the conversation because he was scared, since he suddenly walked away after they started mocking him.

Today it was about 20 seconds that he froze and afterwards as he walked away he ignored the insults.

This might seem like a long time but for Al this was a great victory. He had spent months and weeks at a time being trapped in the vicious cycle of these triggers.

Once they mocked his stutter, he would try to talk, only to stutter more, eventually more & more people would gather, and he had to be at the mercy of being rescued by someone like Phillip or a caring adult figure (which was very rare in his universe.)

Afterwards, for days he would feel worthless about himself; this even made his stutter worse and on and on this quagmire of hurt would drag our little champion down.

As he got further away from the hooligans, he started to focus on his sickening sense of anxiety & the insecurity in his belly; this part was the last clean-up before he was able to interact with others, which means Al tried to withdraw to somewhere quiet.

Today he took a small twisty dirt road into some old-growth trees & tall grass. I believe if you were to look through magical glasses, you would see each blade of grass hugging little Al’s legs. The trees were bending over a little bit closer to cover our sad & broken friend, with just a tiny amount of loving-kindness.

But little Al was actually starting to feel like a boy about to partake of a giant Peanut Butter Chocolate ice cream resting on a hammock in paradise.

This is how much he loved Phillip & Sarah. They were a marvel to him really. He saw between them a force so shatteringly powerful that he believed all his pain, that he patiently endured, was worth it just for another taste of their presence. 

These two lovers were like gentle healing balm for our deeply-wounded hero.

By a small pond he took a few seconds to calm down. In this part he was practicing focusing on the portion of his feet that touches the ground.

“I can’t get too perfectionist today; I need to go.”

The Two Lovers

While all this was happening Sarah & Phillip were arm in arm relaxing by the baker’s back wall. The universe had now fully charged up the love-battery if these two balls of light, ready to shower kindness on the grandmaster champion Al.

You see, dear reader, sometimes some of the most powerful people appear small & unimportant; but as the saying goes battle is the great redeemer and if you were to put little Al under an extreme situation, compared to let’s say the two bullies we just encountered, you would see who really was made up of precious material.

Fire of affliction always tests the heart of men; although this beautiful young man saw himself as weak, looking through the magical glasses again, one would see a war-proven mighty warrior king. He was rock solid, but also blind to the treasure he had inside, ready to burst out.

Unfortunately, that thought he sometimes entertained under extreme pain, had created a toxic-guilt in him which was taking his confidence away. Today his plan was to open up to the two bubbly-lovers and get help.

Before Al arrived at the baker’s house, Sarah & Phillip had decided to not be too obvious that they wanted to love him, but rather stealthily try to amp up the love machine volume, to get some extra good times into the little-man.

This had created a kind of predicament; there was a chance that their attempt would be a catastrophic failure and they were worried that it might stress Al out.

What Sarah saw in Al, more than anything, was his over-stressed & hypervigilant state. This made Sarah’s heart feel as though it was being ripped apart by compassion.

So she continually tried to gently surround Al with her presence. She always put arms around his shoulder or tried to hold his hand.

They even had a mischievous door thing going, in which Sarah would say “Monsieur” and Al with his hat down and giving a bow would respectfully guide Sarah with his hand through the doorway. When this happened, Sarah, as she went by, gave Al the look of a player lady who is really charmed by the handsome rich merchant.

 A couple of times even, little Al was able to say “Mademoiselle” without stuttering!

Today Sarah was planning to do this routine but she was contemplating when. She knew that because of going over the fence, they would not do this adorable routine right away.

The second position which Sarah though about was from the backyard into the kitchen, which brought up the problem of the huge dog.

The third position was after the successful muffin-robbery on the way out, as a sort of victory dance; after careful consideration, Sarah decided to delay the routine until the latter portion of their adventure.

What Sarah was able to do right away though was to hold little Al’s hand, which she ran forward and did as soon as he came into view.

O how happy the goofy balls of love were to see each other!

“Hey Al!” Said Sarah while holding Al’s left hand with both her hands and blushing.

“HHHey Sarah!”

This was one of the rare moments in which Sarah was able to look into little Al’s eyes. She gasped in her heart when she peered into little Al’s soul.

Here was a jewel of a boy, who deserved better, knew better and wanted better, trapped, with no end in sight, in a perpetual horror-story.

Even if Al’s problems were to go away, he would still be stuttering and sick all his life. This, my dear reader, is the key to understanding the inner power & the super-diligence of this masterful boy.

His eyes, though sad & in-pain, had a certain sharp and penetrating presence.

Little Al would always side with the truth, even to his own hurt; and if you really needed him, when the fire of affliction came knocking at your door, this young prince, having seen many battles himself, would carry you and be a rock of refuge for your weary soul.

Afterwards Phillip gladly hugged him and even roughed up his hair a little bit, while stealing away Al’s hat with his other hand.

Hand to hand & arm to arm, our 3 heroes were united, body, soul & spirit, in the grand adventure of obtaining the beloved muffin.

The Backyard

Now, it is time for us to look at the flip side of this universe, which is inside the baker’s yard.

The gigantic dog in the backyard who HATES children, went through his kingdom with a confident stroll, dispersing all evil with his eyes. His walk was established and his steps confident & firm. His chest and head held high, Abacus marched forward, marveling at the peace of his realm.

On the wooden deck to his right, the evil overlord, gazed upon the grey Persian cat, this pathetic peasant, after a full day of hard labor, was resting for a short time. As Abacus went past, he looked away with disgust, even making a little stinky “whifff” noise.

If we were to look at the legs of this powerful beast, we would see that there was a lot of dog power behind this killing machine.

Abacus, AKA Mad Dog AKA Child-killer, had a long diagonal gash across his face. On his skin there were many bruises & scars and even some burn marks, demonstrating what he would do to those who dared to peak behind his iron curtain.

A mama mouse and her little baby micy hid themselves as soon as they heard him coming. You never know when this savage carnivore would finally snap and tear you up limb to limb.

As he walked there was a ripple of energy going out from him, like echoes of water in a pebbled pond, some ants started to speed up around him in a circular motion, gathering for winter at a faster pace.

Proud, strong & fearless was Abacus, and with a steel arm, he dominated and controlled his empire.

Well, my dear reader, looks can be deceiving, and although this is what we would like to think, the truth beyond the matrix was much different; this “mad” dog named Abacus, was in reality a gentle-giant from an abused animal shelter.

They had found him half dead by a dumpster which had resulted in an investigation, leading the police to bust out a large underground dog fighting ring; later on one of the organizers had confessed that Abacus, no matter what they did, refused to fight, even making some of the other dogs hesitant to fight, prompting them to get rid of this toxic virus.

This gentle creature was actually the Persian cat’s favorite resting position, using him as kind of a pillow, which had caused an eruption of criticism among the garden sparrows, because they felt Abacus is too kind to tell the cat “no,” and that he is really bothering Abacus.

Abacus of course did not want to bother anyone. In his heart he was a gentle & soft and humble creature and he LOVED children.

The mama mouse and her daughter were actually trying to come up with a reason to engage Abacus, since he always made them feel loved, but they decided to not bother him for now.

And thus, do not bother anyone was the slogan for this wonderful dog.

Because of this attitude there was a really relaxed and loving atmosphere in the backyard; there were no leaders really; it was a continual good time.

So everyone was careful to not bother one another; the Cat even carefully & skillfully guided Abacus if he needed to go through the ant-heavy areas.

The Sparrows quickly made a ruckus if something was out of order.

Unbeknownst to Phillip, Sarah & Al, the Sparrows had already gotten the full scoop of what is about to take place.

***

Inside the backyard there was an emergency meeting by Abacus’ yellow & green dog house.

“I say we should attack them; I can go for the eyes of the skinny-boy!” Said the Cat as he licked his right paw.

There was an agreeable commotion among the Mice, the Sparrows and the Ants and even a couple of the Cockroaches.

Abacus was sitting, fully relaxed and deep in thought.

“I can go and peck a police officer and bring him over.” Said Joe, he was an outcast sparrow; and I am not going to lie to you ladies & gentleman, he was very hard to love, always giving completely out of place advice.

“That’s not a bad idea Joe! But I think it might be a bit dangerous. We love you Joe and do not want to lose you.” Said Abacus with a friendly smile.

Whenever Joe would get these little tidbits of love from Abacus, he would actually calm down and get quiet; and overtime, although ever so slightly, he was getting easier to love.

Finally after going back & forward about the horrible pain they would inflict on these pesky intruders, including ear-deafening by the Ants, crawling inside underwear and biting by the Lizard, eyeball-eating by the Sparrows and many other forms of slow & horrible torture, one of the cockroaches said:

“Hey Abacus, what do you think we should do?”

“Me?!” Abacus smiled.

“I am your servant and here to support you. Whatever you say, that I will do.”

“No, come on Abacus!”

“We want to hear you!”

And many such remarks could be heard. Finally after a couple of seconds, Abacus came out of his pondering mode and looked with warmth & love at the face of his friends and gracefully opened his mouth with these words.

“I was thinking that you said those two seem to be a couple; and they were having a good time; and you even heard that they were trying to help the little boy. I say, my friends, why bother them? Freddy (the baker) has lots of muffins anyway; he is always giving them away for free. I say we try to hide and make it look like we don’t see them. Why bother these people?”

A thunderous roar of applause could be heard in the backyard with vehement shouts of “Bravo!” and “Amen!”

The Cat jumped forward and gave a congratulatory hug to Abacus; even the two mice were finally able to get close and get a love-squeeze from the lovable dog.

An explosion of mirth could be felt in and around the baker’s house, as the scent of freshly-baked muffins filled the sunny afternoon air; the spirit & vibration was lifted up and joyous in the backyard; and like a bustling bee-hive, this beautiful community prepared for their act of hidden-love.

THE END

By Ashkan Jafarpisheh – May 2020

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