'Born to be a King'
- by Harry AnderS -
An inspirational fantasy
Chapter 1. That first day of the rest of my life; and meeting five little friends.
"You KNOW our Dad told us never to speak to a stranger!"
"I know, but I WANT to know who is living in Harry's house now..."
"Come on, let's ask him. I want to know too!"
"Now look, he even fell asleep..."
It was a beautiful day. The bright sun was shining from a slightly clouded sky, and a subtle breeze comforted every living soul in the neighborhood.
This was the first day of my retirement in this small village, and I was already starting to feel at home in my new surroundings.
Ten minutes ago, I had stretched my back to relax my poor muscles, looked around lazily, and smiled with content...
A couple of sparrows had been twittering enthusiastically, chasing each other playfully through the gardens.
One of them landed on the railing of my new porch, staring curiously at the lazy newcomer it hadn't seen here before...
I had grinned at the daring animal; and it seemed to think:
"Don’t you have any crumbs today? Shame on you!"
It shook its head and took off again, twittering loudly and resuming whatever sparrows were supposed to do for a living.
I had laughed, thinking that maybe I could make a couple of little friends next time by offering them some crumbs.
I had sipped my coffee, put the empty cup onto the floor, stretched out, closed my eyes; and now I looked back at my life...
All my life I had been working as a freelance psychotherapist, trying to support troubled children (and, most likely, their desperate parents as well).
Now, at the age of wisdom (or at least I hoped so, being a rather bright and still fairly energetic sixty-fiver), I had bought this nice 'house with a garden' for a reasonable price; to spend the rest of my life here, hopefully in peace and without too many things to worry about.
The moment I saw the house and its surroundings, I immediately loved it; while everything around it was offering me a sensation of being welcome.
The house had been inhabited by a single man, who passed away two months ago. The realtor told me the man had been living here on his own for at least twenty years...
Fortunately, everything was in reasonable condition, and I only had to make a few minor adjustments to enjoy the pleasurable feeling that from now on this was MY house.
Now I lounged on the porch of my new residence for the first time, lazily dreaming away and contemplating my life.
My possessions had been stowed away by the movers, the sitting room held a couch and two easy chairs, the kitchen was usable, and my bedroom already accommodated a big waterbed. Of course, many more boxes had to be unpacked and stowed away, but my new house was ready for the night.
At three o'clock, my old muscles started to feel tired, and I decided to call it a day. I brought a folding chair to the porch, brewed myself a cup of coffee, closed my eyes, and dreamt away...
A year ago, my wife and I had decided to go our separate ways.
Both our daughters were married and lived their own lives in another town, far away. Unfortunately, there were no grandchildren to spoil.
The last year together, my wife and I just both lived in the same house, and we didn't even share the bed any more.
One evening we had a long and deep talk; and then the decision was easily made: we divorced, and went our own ways.
My wife moved to another town, near her mother; and I rented a temporary two-bedroom condominium, looking out for something more appropriate.
Now I had granted myself this nice house, to enjoy my retirement and hopefully the rest of my life here.
I had been dozing away, feeling lazy, and enjoying the peacefulness and the warmth of the sun...
Now I woke up, because a couple of arguing children's voices tried to demand my attention.
I left my reveries, shook my head to dispel the cobwebs, and opened my eyes...
Five children huddled together in front of my house, curiously staring at its new inhabitant.
When they saw I opened my eyes and looked at them, they hesitantly approached my fence...
"Are YOU living in Harry's house now?" a girl asked me with a soft giggle.
"Of course, silly, can't you see that's obvious?" a boy responded, sounding a bit annoyed.
Apparently, the name of the former owner of my house had been 'Harry'...
Maybe, he and the children had been friends, as they were using his first name?
Two more boys and another girl completed the flock, now all of them leaning against my gate and appraisingly staring at the newcomer...
At first, I just stared back at them, being curious about what they were going to do.
Nothing happened, and I decided to take the first step and try to break the ice. I smiled at them, and lifted my hand in a greeting gesture.
The oldest boy smiled back and lifted his hand too, maybe in an effort to make friends.
The other children started to argue again, deliberating about being allowed to enter my property or not; while the smallest girl tried to open the gate.
Suddenly, the gate opened itself under their pressure with a squeaking sound, and the children tumbled over each other into my driveway.
They scrambled up hastily, looking at me in some kind of panic and ready to run for their lives...
I could not help it... I nearly fell off my chair, slapping my knees and laughing aloud at the comical sight!
At first, the children looked surprised, but then they started to laugh too.
Giggling and pushing each other, they hesitantly stepped into my front garden...
The oldest boy craned his neck, and looked around in my backyard:
"Where's Harry? Does he know somebody else is living here now?"
The other children looked around too, until one of the boys shrugged his shoulders:
"Last time I saw Harry, he was still hiding somewhere in the backyard..."
Of course, I was curious. What were they looking for? The former owner of my house died two months ago, so the 'Harry' they were looking for had to be somebody else...
Were the children looking for another inhabitant of the house? That was nearly impossible; as, according to my realtor, the former owner had been living here alone.
Maybe, the former owner had a cat or a dog? Of course, that had to be what they were looking for...
I decided to try to help them find the lost animal, and beckoned them over to the porch:
"What are you looking for? What is that 'Harry' you are talking about?"
The children froze on the spot, and furtively looked at each other.
Suddenly they seemed to be very unsure, nervously shuffling their feet. Obviously, they were not at ease with my question...
Now I was even more curious. What was the trouble? Didn't they want me to help them find the abandoned animal?
I beckoned them over to the porch again, and offered:
"Listen, maybe I can help you find 'Harry'? However, first you will have to tell me what animal it is..."
The children reacted very surprised, and the smallest girl even started to giggle.
One of the boys stared at me reproachfully, shook his head, and answered a bit wryly:
"Sorry, sir, but our parents don't allow us to talk with a stranger..."
I raised my eyebrows, and lifted both hands in a gesture of surrender:
"I am living here now, and that means I am NOT a stranger! Moreover, I am not going to bite any of you... yet. Well, maybe another time, but not today!"
The children started to chuckle; and one by one they shuffled towards my house, although they were still looking at each other for approval...
One of the boys courageously climbed the steps to my porch, and that did it. The other children followed him, still grinning and pushing each other.
Now I had a better look at them, estimating them from the about eight-year-old youngest girl to the around twelve-year-old oldest boy.
All of them crowded around me; and we looked at each other, unsure how to proceed...
Of course, I was still curious about that mysterious 'Harry', so I decided to rephrase my question:
"Who is going to tell me more about 'Harry'?"
The oldest boy looked at me hesitantly, showing a hint of fear in his eyes:
"Harry is our friend. This was Jack's house, and Harry used to be here all the time. Now Jack is dead, and Harry is devastated. He is crying every day, because he misses his big friend. Please, sir, will you try to be nice to him and not chase him away? He is missing Jack badly, and we all like him very much..."
Well, that was it. The mysterious 'Harry' turned out to be another boy. I could have guessed it myself!
The twelve-year-old boy slowly shook his head, and heaved a couple of deep sighs...
Did I see tears in his eyes? He blushed, looked away, and bashfully wiped them with a sleeve of his shirt.
Why did I suddenly feel such strong emotions in my own heart? I even felt tears welling up in my own eyes...
How strange! I took my handkerchief out of my pocket and carefully wiped my tears away.
I offered the handkerchief to the now sniffling boy, and he gratefully blew his nose in it before giving it back.
I stuffed it back into my pocket without looking, and involuntarily heaved a couple of deep sighs myself. What was happening to me?
The other children seemed to be very nervous now, but my twelve-year-old boy clearly decided to trust me.
He went on, still sounding a bit quivery:
"Harry used to live here, in Jack's house, and they were always together. However, we kept it a secret from everybody in the village, because nobody else should know. Please, sir, don't betray us, because Children's Protection Services would take him away again and put him in an orphanage, and that would break his heart..."
That explained it! Obviously, 'Harry' was sort of an abandoned boy, seeking shelter at the former owner of my house...
However, I wondered, how did he get around CPS? That was nearly impossible, according to my rather negative experiences with those heartless bureaucrats...
I decided to ask the children later on. For now, I wanted to reassure them, and let them know they could trust me and had found a friend!
For the second time I lifted both hands in surrender:
"I am not going to betray you. I would NEVER do such a thing, to any of you! I promise, cross my heart and hope to die!"
For a second, nothing happened...
Suddenly I had a lap full of twelve-year-old boy, crying his heart out.
He clamped onto me and buried his face in my chest; desperately, like a forlorn child that is looking for solace...
An intense feeling of compassion overwhelmed me, and I put my arms around the crying boy.
I was sure I knew this child! He felt like a dear friend, a kindred soul, but don't ask me why...
I pulled him closer and hugged him, while he tried to melt into me even deeper, still sobbing loudly.
The other children tried to cheer up their crying friend, until at last his sobs lessened and his death grip relaxed.
I held him close until finally he pulled himself together and timidly looked around...
I wiped his eyes, using a dry corner of my handkerchief, and decided to try to break the tension:
"I don't have any drinks in my refrigerator, but maybe I can offer you a cup of tea?"
They all nodded enthusiastically, and I took my twelve-year-old boy to the kitchen to wash his face and help me with the tea.
Soon we returned with a kettle of hot tea; and my still pale looking helper carried a tray with glasses, a box of sugar lumps, and a spoon.
We settled down on the porch, and each of us took a glass of tea and some sugar.
Together we sipped our tea, and put the emptied glasses back onto the tray.
After all the emotional turmoil, I decided now it was a good time to ask them for their names:
"I think this is a good time to introduce ourselves. To start with me: my first name is 'Harry'."
"Are you serious? You're not pulling our leg?" a surprised girl piped up.
"No, I am dead serious. My full name is 'Harry AnderS'. Please have a look at my identity card..."
The girl blushed fiercely, shook her head, and refused to look at my ID.
Now the twelve-year-old boy took over, still sounding a bit shivery:
"My name is John, and I am thirteen years old. The boy over there is my brother Mark and he's eleven. This is my sister Marrie and she's ten. That's my friend Thomas and he's twelve, and the girl over there is his sister Chrissy and she's nine years old...
"Our friend Harry is hiding somewhere in the backyard, and he is only eight years old. We all are his special friends. He is like my little brother, and we are always protecting him from the other children in the neighborhood."
John looked maybe a bit small for his age, but he was firmly built; with deep brown eyes and dark brown hair, showing little curls at the edges.
Mark was a slender boy, with hazel eyes and wavy light brownish hair. I could hardly imagine he and John were brothers.
Marrie was a tender girl, also with hazel eyes and wavy light brownish hair; just like her brother Mark.
Thomas seemed to be a rascal. He had greenish eyes and yellowish hair, wearing it a bit too long to my taste. He was the first one to climb the steps to my porch.
Chrissy was just a little lady, with greenish eyes and curly yellowish hair. She seemed to be a bit giggly and not very intelligent.
I liked them all at first sight, and decided to dig a bit further:
"There's one thing I don't understand: why would your little brother hide in the backyard?"
John decided to tell me everything, from time to time filled in by the other children:
Two years ago a car with a Gypsy caravan attached and carrying a man, a woman, and a small boy, stopped in a clearing along the road.
After a while, the small Gypsy boy left the caravan and approached the children, dragging a huge jerry can and asking for 'watter'.
The children accompanied the little boy to their neighbor, Jack; who, by chance, was just washing his car in his driveway.
Jack provided the Gypsies with fresh water, a lot of food, and some used clothes. The children assisted him by carrying everything to the caravan.
The friendly and grateful parents, who didn't speak our language and seemed to be very poor, thanked them abundantly.
A few people in the village seemed to dislike gypsies; and the next day, in the middle of the night, the caravan burnt down.
The man and the woman both perished in the fire. The little boy barely survived, but he was badly burnt all over his body.
An ambulance took him to a hospital, accompanied by a furious Jack who desperately tried to tell the boy to be brave and stay alive.
Of course, there was no insurance; but Jack offered to pay everything for the little boy, from hospital treatment to medicines and everything else he needed.
Month after month, he visited the boy every day. He comforted him, encouraged him, cheered him up, and taught him our language.
The very day the boy was ready to leave the hospital, Children's Protection Services took over and placed the boy in an orphanage.
That morning Jack entered an empty hospital room, and nobody could or wanted to tell him where his little friend was...
Jack was desperate. The children found him in his driveway, next to his car, curled up into a ball and crying his heart out.
They took him to John's parents, where Jack told them his story of loving the six-year-old boy from the moment he saw him, nurturing him in the hospital after the fire, comforting him after the loss of his parents, and teaching him the language.
He had built a strong relationship with the little orphan and provided him with everything he needed...
Now the hospital room suddenly was empty. The authorities had taken the boy without saying a word, and Jack didn't have the slightest idea where his little friend could be...
John's parents immediately contacted CPS and tried to convince them to trust Jack with guardianship over the little boy.
However, being a single male and living on his own, there was no chance he could ever raise an unrelated six year old boy, befriended or not...
After many deliberations, John's parents and CPS reached an agreement: John's parents took the boy into their custody, and they would raise him until he was eighteen years old.
That is how the little Gypsy boy became John's little brother, and the special friend of all the other children.
They protected him from the children in town, they defended him when necessary; and above all, they kept the secret a secret: little Harry lived with his Big Friend Jack in what now was my house.
Jack provided him with everything he needed; and little Harry even had his own room in the house, upstairs, second door to the left...
That is, until two months ago, when Jack suddenly died. The house was for sale, and the little boy was passed on to John's parents. Since then he and John had to share John's bedroom...
I felt overwhelmed by an intense feeling of compassion for this so unfortunate little boy.
How could I help the poor child? Of course, he would always be welcome in my house! I would even give him his own room back, upstairs, second door to the left.
I looked at the children; and they stared back at me, nervously and hesitantly, waiting for my reaction...
What should I do now? How should I tell them I wanted to help their little friend?
I tried to reassure them, by making a couple of promises:
"Of course your little friend will always be welcome in my house! I am even willing to give him his own room back. All of you will always be welcome here too! You can count on me, and I will try to help all of you with everything. Just ask me..."
Something was not right. The children were listening to me intently, but they kept looking at each other and shuffling their feet nervously.
What was the problem? Didn't they tell me everything? Did I overlook something? What were they waiting for?
I decided to give them some space, and waited...
Eventually John hesitantly addressed me, nervously looking at his feet:
"There's something else you need to know. Harry is burnt all over very badly; even in his face. Everybody is calling him a 'freak' and an 'alien'..."
Suddenly I started to tremble, slumped down on my folding chair, and froze...
I couldn't help it. All the long forgotten memories of my horrible youth returned and tried to suffocate me.
I nearly collapsed. As a sudden thunderclap, everything was coming back, cruelly crushing me and causing my body to shake.
Those little words 'freak' and 'alien' were irresistibly bringing back my own youth, as if it had been yesterday...
Now I understood the hesitancy of the children; and why I should be nice to that poor little boy and not chase him away.
Little Harry was severely burnt all over, even in his face, and he looked like a 'freak' and an 'alien'...
I shuddered, felt dizzy, and nearly threw up.
My body started to tremble all over, while I forced myself to stand up and leave the porch.
I staggered into the house, unsteady and tripping over my own feet, avoiding five pairs of now very frightened eyes...
I closed the door without looking back, and wavered towards the living room.
This was too much for me! I couldn't deal with such a terrible thing again!
I came here for my retirement, and not to be saddled up with a crippled boy for the second time...
"Damn!" I shouted into the living room, desperately kicking a chair,
"Why is life doing this to me again? What am I doing wrong?"
I let myself fall onto the couch, and slumped down with my head in my hands.
One by one all the forgotten memories of my own youth started to flash back...
I was fourteen years old; and my little brother, Joshie, was barely eight.
My parents were out on a visit somewhere in the neighborhood, and I was reading a comic book in my bedroom.
My little brother was playing in his own room, as usual.
Everything was silent and peaceful, as always...
Suddenly my little brother started to scream, and rushed into my room with his clothes and his hair on fire. He had tried to light a candle, and something went awfully wrong...
I didn't know what to do, and panicked.
First, I pulled him into the bathroom and put him under the shower to extinguish the fire.
Then I tried to peel off his burnt clothes, but some skin came off too and he screamed louder and louder.
I tried to remember where my parents were, but didn't know the address...
After a while, I remembered the emergency-number and rushed to the phone.
Ten very long minutes later an ambulance arrived with a howling siren, and they took my poor brother to the hospital.
After five worrisome months, little Joshie returned as a crippled freaky alien.
Both hands were reduced to little stumps, he breathed through a tube in his throat, and he couldn't speak any more.
His face looked like a mask with a couple of dark holes in it.
His nose was nearly gone, and he was completely bald. Even his eyelashes were burnt away.
My parents were blaming everything on me; and I had to take Joshie with me, all the time and wherever I went.
Everybody was always staring at him, and all my friends were laughing at him and calling him a 'freak' and an 'alien'...
Fortunately, for him and for me, Joshie died after a couple of months and went to heaven.
I was free again, and tried to forget my horrible youth. However, my feelings of guilt and shame remained...
Little Joshie was burnt in his face, but I am still burnt in my soul!
I can still feel the pain, the shame, and all the humiliations of that time.
I certainly can NOT stand another little boy like Joshie around...
Or can I?
I pulled myself together, and went to the kitchen to wash my face and drink some water.
That helped, and I hurried back to the porch; but of course, the children were gone.
The street looked very empty now; at least as empty as my own soul did feel at that moment.
I slumped down onto the folding chair in my porch, and started to think about my youth...
I loved my little brother. I really loved him. He was the little brother every boy would wish.
Joshie was my little shadow. Wherever I went, he followed me. Always when I was home, he was home too.
He didn't bother me, he just always was there, quietly playing in his room or sitting at the table in the living room.
We didn't have any television. Sometimes we both listened to the radio or we played a game, until it was his time to go to bed.
My parents were always busy, or out somewhere. They trusted me enough to leave us alone from the time I was twelve years old and little Josh was six.
We never had any problems, it seemed like we were always in harmony with each other.
Until the little duffer did something stupid with a burning candle...
How strange, having my eyes closed I could swear I was feeling Joshie around!
That was impossible of course, because Joshie was dead. However, it felt as if he was watching me from quite nearby.
Again, I had the feeling of being in total harmony with my brother. I even opened my eyes and looked around, but, of course, nobody was around me. Now I felt a bit stupid...
The strange feeling remained. Even with open eyes, I could clearly sense somebody was watching me from somewhere close...
It certainly wasn't alarming. On the contrary, it even felt reassuring, as if everything was all right now.
The feeling started to change, and my eyes were irresistibly drawn towards the back of the garden.
I looked at a thick bush in a corner of the backyard, and was sure I saw a little movement...
My first thought was: 'There's one of the children, spying on me.'
However, why should anybody try to hide in my backyard?
Suddenly I had another thought: 'Of course, that's little Harry!'
I tried not to look too obviously, hoping he would show more of himself...
After a moment I was sure I saw the same little movement again. I even thought I saw a pair of small eyes, peeking through the bushes...
There he was!
I smiled at the bushes and waved; but immediately the bushes moved wildly, and he was gone.
Damn! I had blown it.
Feeling frustrated and disappointed, I went into the house and started to unpack the next couple of boxes.
All the time, my thoughts were with that scared little boy, secretly peeking through the bushes and running away when he saw me waving.
Why did he run away? Didn't he trust me? Was he afraid of me?
I started to be more and more ashamed of myself, and muttered:
'Why did I leave those children alone all of a sudden? What will they think of me now? Did they already tell little Harry about me? Will he be afraid of me now, or was he just curious? Will I see him again? Where are the children living? Where is little Harry living? Shall I try to find him?'
I thought about going for a walk in the neighborhood, hoping to see the children and create an opportunity to make my excuses, but I took the coward's way and stayed home...
That night I had a nightmare, for the first time since Joshie's death.
The night was very dark; and, in a clearing along the road, a small Gypsy caravan was attached to a car.
Two men headed for the caravan and threw some liquid at it, followed by a burning match.
Within a few seconds, everything was on fire.
A little boy came stumbling out of the caravan door, burning like a torch, yelling and screaming.
I wanted to help him, but my feet were stuck in the mud and I couldn't move...
I started to scream myself, but woke up, trembling all over and in shock.
Just before I was awake, I heard a voice somewhere in my head, telling me:
"He NEEDS you."
Again I sensed that same feeling of being in total harmony, as if my brother, Joshie, was around and watching...
Suddenly I was absolutely sure I had heard the voice of Jack, the former owner of my house. Don't ask me how I knew it was him...
I could clearly feel him around, and it was a very reassuring feeling. Everything was all right now. I had received his message, and now I should go back to sleep.
Within a few seconds, I drifted into a sound and dreamless sleep again.
Thank you for reading the first chapter of my story 'Born to be a King'.
Yes, our regulars already saw it: it's the same storyline as used in 'Little Harry'...
However, nearly everything else has changed, making it to a new experience of love.
Enjoy the reading, and help us to make our world to be a better place!
I would LOVE to receive your comments...
Harry AnderS, Dutch psychotherapist and alternative writer.