The Little Boy

‬Once there was a little boy who was a friend to all creatures big and small.‭ ‬On his way to school,‭ ‬he would give the bottle of milk that his mother prepared for him to a calf roaming in the street.‭ ‬He would give piglets belly-rubs whenever he saw them.‭ ‬He petted every dog he met on the road.‭ ‬Every time he saw a goat or a sheep tied to a post, he dreamed of setting them loose.‭ ‬Whenever he passed by the butcher’s shop,‭ ‬he wanted to release the chickens from their cages.‭ ‬Once he tried but was caught.‭ ‬His ears were pulled and twisted.‭ ‬He was also heavily scolded by his mother.‭

“‬I’ll save my allowance to buy all my friends and set them free.‭ ‬In the jungle,‭” ‬he said.‭

‬If ear twisting was painful,‭ ‬what other kids in school did to him was worse.‭ ‬They would drop a piece of flesh or bone in his lunch box‭. ‬They laughed seeing the tears in his eyes.‭ ‬They bullied him just because he called all animals his friends.‭ ‬Often times,‭ ‬he wished he were big and strong so he could break a limb or two of these bullies.‭ ‬But he always remembered his father’s words,‭ “‬Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.‭” ‬So he held his peace.‭

‬One Sunday,‭ ‬he carried food for his friends but the street was deserted.‭ ‬There were no pigs wallowing in the mud‭; ‬no piles of fresh dung on the road‭; ‬no famished dogs foraging in the overflowing garbage bins‭; ‬cages that were cramped with chickens stood empty‭; and ‬only the rope that was used to tie his friends remained on the post.‭

“‬How did my friends vanish without a trace‭?” ‬he mumbled.‭

‬He went home befuddled and sad.‭

But he was in for a surprise.‭

‬A flamingo in her pink and crimson plumage marched towards him.‭ ‬Her hooked bill carried a heart-shaped leaf, which she gave to the boy.‭ ‬Moments later,‭ ‬smoke rose from the leaf and the following words appeared on it, ‭“‬Meet us in the forest‭!”

‬Burning with curiosity,‭ ‬he told his mother he was going out to meet his friends.‭

“‬Come back before dinner‭!” reminded ‬his mother.‭ “‬And take the torch with you.‭”

‬Grabbing the torch, he headed towards the forest.‭ ‬The little boy was excited‭; ‬his eyes sparkled with anticipation.‭

‬As he neared the forest,‭ ‬a sudden wave of cold air passed by, giving him goosebumps.‭ ‬When it subsided,‭ ‬a wide doorway appeared amidst the trees, and‭ ‬a soft voice asked him to step in.‭ ‬With his heart drumming fast,‭ ‬he approached it with wonder.‭ ‬Right by the door,‭ ‬he saw‭ ‬his animal friends, the calf, piglets, goat and sheep, chickens and dogs, all happily playing together.‭ ‬Overjoyed at finding them again,‭ he dropped his torch and ‬darted towards them. ‬The following morning,‭ ‬a police officer presented a cracked flashlight to a mother whose‭ ‬9-year-old son had gone missing.‭