This story full of Love is my gift to YOU.


Chapter 1. How it all started...

    "You KNOW that Dad told us never to speak to a stranger!"
    "Yes, but I only want to know who lives in Harry's house now."
    "Come on, let's have a look. After all, he IS our new neighbor."
    "I think he looks like and old man, with his gray beard..."
    "Now, look at that... The old grandpa fell asleep!"

    A couple of neighborhood children seemed to be rather curious about who this 'old man' and 'old grandpa' could be...
But, how the heck, did they know my first name?

   The first day of the rest of my new life was a beautiful day.
The bright sun was shining abundantly, while a subtle breeze mercifully cooled my tired sixty-five-year-old and a bit rusty body.
This was the first day of my retirement in this small village, and I already started to feel at home on my new porch.
Lazily, I stretched my old back to relax my cramped muscles, and looked around...
A couple of sparrows twittered enthusiastically, chasing each other playfully through the gardens.
One of them landed on the railing of my new porch, staring curiously at the newcomer it hadn't seen here before.
    I 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, twittering loudly, resuming whatever sparrows were supposed to do for a living.
I laughed at its ministrations, thinking that maybe I could make a couple of little friends, next time, by offering them some crumbs.
I sipped my coffee, put the empty cup onto the floor, stretched out again, and closed my eyes.
Slowly dreaming away, I enjoyed the warmth of the sun and the quietness of my new surroundings.
Dreamily, I started to look back upon my life...

    For many years, I had been working as a freelance psychotherapist, supporting troubled children (and, likely, their desperate parents as well).
Now, at the age of wisdom (at least, I hoped so, as I was rather bright and still fairly energetic), I bought this nice 'house with a garden' for a reasonable price; to spend the rest of my life here, without too much to worry about.
The moment I saw the house and its surroundings, I immediately fell in love with it; and everything around it offered me a sensation of being welcome.
According to my realtor, the house had been inhabited by a single man, who suddenly passed away two months ago. 
The man had been living here all alone for at least twenty years.

    Fortunately, the house was in reasonable condition; and I only had to make a few minor adjustments to enjoy the feeling that, from now on, this would be MY house.
Now, I lounged on the porch of my new residence for the first time, lazily dreaming away and contemplating my life.
I had put most of my possessions in place, the sitting room held a nice couch and two easy chairs, the kitchen was usable, and my bedroom already had a comfortable double waterbed.
My new house was clean, livable, and ready for the night.

    Around three o'clock in the afternoon, my rusty muscles started to feel tired from the unaccustomed work, and I decided to call it a day.
I brewed myself a cup of coffee, brought a folding chair to my porch, sat down, closed my eyes, and started to think...
About a year ago, my wife and I finally 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 few years together, my wife and I were living in the same house but we didn't share the bed any more.
One evening, we had an emotional talk; and then we made our decisions...
We divorced and went our own ways.
My wife decided to move to another town, near her mother.
I decided to rent a small two-bedroom condominium, while looking for something more appropriate.

    Now, I was the proud owner of this nice home, hoping to enjoy my retirement and the rest of my life here, in peace and quiet.
My spacious two-story house was surrounded by a slightly overgrown yard, which definitely needed to be cleaned up.
I would also have a look at a strange spot I had seen in a corner of my new backyard, after I accidentally stumbled over a couple of stones.
To me, the spot looked just like another bunch of weeds.
However, somebody had carefully marked it out by several white cobblestones!
Could it be sort of a little garden?
Who placed it here, and why?
I dozed off, granting myself the luxury of being lazy and enjoying the peacefulness and the warmth of the sun...

    Suddenly, after a couple of dreamy minutes, some loudly arguing children's voices harshly pulled me out of my reveries!  
Obviously, a couple of neighborhood kids started to be curious about who this newcomer could be...

    Well, now I was curious about them as well; and certainly about why they had the audacity to call me an 'old man' and 'grandpa'!
Who were these nosy kids?
And, why did they call my new house 'Harry's house'?
Who was this 'Harry' they were talking of?
That is, apart from it being my own first name, but they couldn't possible know that.
I shook my head to dispel the sleepy cobwebs, and opened my eyes...

    A couple of children huddled together in front of my house; still arguing while curiously staring at the new inhabitant.
When they saw that I opened my eyes and looked at what they were doing, they stopped abruptly.
Hesitantly, they approached my fence...

    "Do YOU live in Harry's house now?" a small girl asked me, with a soft giggle.
    "Of course, silly, can't you see that's obvious?" a slightly taller boy told her.

    Apparently, the former owner of my house had been named 'Harry' as well.
Well, the original 'Harry' had left this house two months ago; although involuntarily, by passing away...
Thus, from now on, this was MY house, and I was living in it.
From now on, these kids would have to get used to me, being the new inhabitant.
Why were they still staring at me, as if they saw me as sort of an intruder?

    Five curious children playfully jostled each other, to have a better look at me...

    I supposed they were my new neighborhood kids; and, of course, they were curious about the bearded newcomer who replaced the former owner.
Well, the former owner had passed away!
From now on, they had to deal with me, living here and proudly sitting on my own porch.

    They all leaned against my gate, appraisingly looking at the 'old grandpa'...

    For a moment, I glared back at them.
What were they doing here, leaning against my gate and staring at what the 'old man' was doing?
I came here to live in peace, and not to be gawked at by the curious neighborhood youth!
My new property was not a zoo, displaying 'old grandpas'.
Did they pay at the entrance?

    Then, I started to chuckle inwardly, realizing that I felt VERY annoyed with their words 'old' and 'grandpa'.
Ultimately, I was only sixty-five years old; and, in my heart, I certainly felt much younger.
Everybody else always told me I still looked rather young, despite my grayish hair and nicely trimmed beard.
I was also a bit curious about why these kids were here, and what they wanted.
What were they waiting for, still leaning against my gate and staring at me?
Maybe, they expected me, obviously being an intruder, to take the first step...
That would be very understandable from their point of view; because I hadn't behaved very nicely by glaring at them and looking angry.

    I silenced my upset ego, by unselfishly forgiving the kids.
Then, I decided to break the ice, by starting some conversation.
After all, these kids were my new neighbors, and they were to be around for a very long time.
I also didn't want them to think I was a grumpy grandpa or an annoyed old whiner, because I certainly was not!
Besides, it always pays off to befriend your nearest neighbors and their children...
Still chuckling inwardly, I relaxed my frowning and smiled towards the staring kids.

    They reacted immediately, by looking relieved and behaving less tensely.
It looked like they really wanted to talk to me, but didn't know how to initiate the contact...
Well, I would try to help them out.
    Slowly, I lifted my hand in a greeting gesture and told them:


    The oldest boy immediately smiled back at me, enthusiastically lifting his hand to greet me in return.
He had a warm and open smile, and seemed to be a nice boy.
The other kids looked at each other, obviously in doubt about what they should do.
The smallest girl tried to open the gate, impatiently fumbling with its rusty lock...

    Suddenly, the gate opened with a squeaking sound, and five shocked kids tumbled over each other and into my driveway!
Obviously not quite understanding what had happened, they scrambled up hastily, trying to disentangle from each other.
The two younger boys stared at me with sudden panic in their eyes, as if they were ready to run for their lives.
The oldest girl started to help up the giggling youngest girl, motherly trying to rearrange her crumpled skirt.
The oldest boy grinned at me, with twinkling eyes and a broad smile on his face, in vain trying to suppress his snickering...

    Honestly, I could not help bellowing with laughter.
This was the funniest drama I ever witnessed!
I almost fell off my chair, slapping my knees and guffawing at the comical sight.
This incident could easily have been the catching introduction to a funny slapstick!

    The surprised kids now seemed to be convinced that I wouldn't be angry with them, because they started to grin back at me.
Giggling and pushing each other, all of them stepped into my front garden, still looking a bit warily at my reactions.
Then, the oldest boy took another step forward, craned his neck, and tried to look around in my backyard...
    Sounding a bit sad, or maybe disappointed, he asked the others:

    "Where is Harry? Does he know that somebody else lives in his house?"

    Of course, now I was very curious about whom he was talking of!
Who, or maybe what, could be this mysterious 'Harry'?
The late owner of my house died two months ago, so the 'Harry' he was looking for had to be somebody else.
Were the children looking for another inhabitant of my newly bought house?
That wasn't likely; as the former owner had been living here all alone.
Maybe, the former owner had left them a cat, or a dog...
Yes, of course!
That had to be what they were looking for.
    I decided to help the kids find their lost animal; and asked them:

    "What are you looking for? What is this 'Harry' you are talking about?"

    The children froze on the spot; staring at me and at each other with surprised faces.
Suddenly, they seemed to be unsure, nervously shuffling their feet and fumbling their hands.
Obviously, they didn't know how to answer my question...

    Now, I was even more curious!
What was the trouble with them?
Didn't they want me to help them find their lost animal?
    I beckoned them over to my porch, and asked a bit more forcefully:

    "Listen; maybe I could help you find 'Harry'! However, first you will have to tell me what kind of animal it is."

    This time, the children reacted as if they were upset.
They stared at me in doubt, as if they didn't understand how I could ask them such a question...
After a moment, the youngest girl shook her head and started to giggle, while a small boy with brownish hair glared at me with a look of disbelief on his face.
    After some hesitation, the boy told me, sounding a bit wryly:

    "Sorry, sir; but our parents don't allow us to talk to strangers."

    I raised my eyebrows at him, and lifted both hands in surrender:

    "Well... I am living here from now on; and that means this 'old grandpa' is no longer a 'stranger' to you. And, there is absolutely no need to be afraid of me, because I am not going to bite you!
"That is, at least, not for now... Maybe, next time, I will try to take a small nibble. And then, only a tiny one, just for the taste of it."

    All five kids stared at me, open-mouthed, trying to understand my little joke...
After a moment, they started to chuckle, now openly smiling at me and nudging each other.
Obviously, they decided I was a bit strange, but certainly not dangerous enough to be afraid of!
One by one, they shuffled towards my house.
One of the boys courageously climbed the steps to my porch, and that seemed to be the signal for takeoff.
The others followed him, grinning and pushing each other.

    Within a moment, five curious neighborhood children crowded together on my porch.
They smiled at me, but still carefully kept some distance...
I estimated them to be from the age of the eight-year-old youngest girl to around the twelve-year-old oldest boy.
They seemed to be nice children; and I even thought we might become friends, after some time.

    I also wondered why they were paying their new neighbor so much attention.
Was it something to do with the mysterious 'Harry' they had been talking about?
    I decided to rephrase my previous question, and smiled invitingly:

    "Who is going to tell me a bit more about this 'Harry' you are looking for?"

    The oldest boy took a step towards me, seemingly wanting to answer my question...
Then, he hesitated, and stopped.
He started to blush, while his brown eyes shyly tried to read mine.
He had a nice and open face; and deep brown orbs, looking straight into my soul.
For a few seconds, he continued his stare, as if he thought he recognized me...

    All of a sudden, I had an intense feeling of recognition myself.
I seemed to know this boy; but I was also relatively sure I had never met him before...
However, my heart seemed to be happy, and jumped up in my chest with joy!

    I didn't know what to think of it, and forcefully pushed my strange feelings out of the way.
Maybe, he only resembled somebody else, sort of an odd coincidence...
The boy continued to stare at me, as if he didn't believe his own eyes.
Slowly, he shook his head, as if trying to dispel his strange thoughts.
    With a hint of fear in his voice, he hesitantly told me:

    "Harry is not an animal; he is our FRIEND! This was Jack's house, and Harry used to be here all the time...
"Now, Jack is dead; and Harry cries every day, because he misses his big friend. Please, sir, will you try to be nice to him and not chase him away?
"He still misses Jack badly, and we all like him very much!"

    Well, that had to be the end of this riddle.
The mysterious 'Harry' turned out to be another boy.
I should have guessed it myself!
But, why would that other boy hide in my backyard, instead of joining his friends?
Maybe, he was afraid of me, being the new owner of 'his' house; while he used to be here with his big friend, Jack...
Had I really looked that grumpy?

    Again, the twelve-year-old boy shook his head in frustration, heaving a couple of deep sighs.
Did I really see tears, slowly welling up in his eyes?
He blushed, looked at his feet, and bashfully wiped them with a sleeve of his shirt...
This boy certainly cared a lot about their missing friend, Harry!
Why did I suddenly feel such strong emotions in my own heart?
I even felt tears welling up in my own eyes, and I could not suppress them.
How strange!
This certainly was not my normal behavior...
I worked my handkerchief out of my pocket, and carefully wiped my tears away.
What the heck was happening to me?

    I offered my 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, and involuntarily heaved a couple of deep sighs.
In vain, I tried to understand what was happening to me...
Why did I suddenly feel all these strange emotions, obviously without any reasonable explanation?
I was a trained therapist and should be in control of my own feelings, for crying out loud!

    The twelve-year-old boy seemed to want to tell me some more about his friend.
Again, he stared into my eyes; as if he thought about opening up to me, but wasn't sure how I would react.

    I looked back into his deep brown eyes; and felt like drowning in them.
Again, I had an extremely strong feeling of recognition.
I even got goose bumps all over my body, from the forceful emotions that tried to overwhelm me.
My heart was absolutely SURE I knew this boy!
He felt like my dearest friend, although I was still sure I had never met him before.
I also had a strong sensation of coming home, or reaching my final destiny...
What was happening to me?
Was I becoming senile, at this young age?

    The boy smiled at me, bashfully, showing a deep longing in his eyes.
He waited for another moment, again wiping his tears with a sleeve of his shirt.
    Then, he went on, now sounding a bit quivery:

    "Harry used to live here, in Jack's house. He and Jack were friends; and they were always together, but we kept it a secret from everybody else in the village.
"Officially, he is in our custody; but, in reality, he lived with Jack and had his own room in this house. Jack always bought him everything he needed.
"Please, sir, don't betray us, because Children's Protection Services will take him away and put him in an orphanage, and that would break his heart..."

    Well, that explained quite a lot.
At least, to a psychotherapist who had worked with abandoned and neglected children for a very long time.
Obviously, 'Harry' was sort of an abandoned boy, and he had sought shelter with 'Jack', the late owner of my house.
I wondered how he had gotten around the rather bureaucratic CPS...
I decided to ask the children my questions later on.
For the moment, I only wanted to let them know they could trust me and had found a friend!

    For the second time, I lifted both hands in surrender, while I promised:

    "I will NOT betray you. I will NEVER do such an abominable thing, to any of you. I promise I will help you, and be your friend. Cross my heart and hope to die!"

    The children were dead silent, holding their breaths and staring at me...
Hadn't they expected me, a grown-up, to offer them such a generous vow?
Had I used the wrong words?
Or, had I overdone it a bit, by using the old children's promise?

    A second later, the youngest girl started to giggle, looking at me with adoration in her eyes.
The other kids started to breathe again, smiling at me and looking relieved...
I had used exactly the right words.

    The twelve-year-old boy took a tentative step towards me, but hesitated...
He stared at me, showing something in his eyes I could only describe as a lot of pain and despair; and a desperate longing to share his disturbing feelings with me.
For a moment, I thought he started to cry again...
Then, he launched himself at me, blindly jumping into my still unfolded arms!

    All at once, I had a lap full of a twelve-year-old boy, crying his heart out.  
He clamped onto me with all of his might, desperately trying to bury his face in my chest.
He sobbed and wailed, desperately craving for comfort and understanding...

    For a moment, I was too surprised, and didn't know what I should do.
Then, a powerful feeling of compassion for this desperate child overwhelmed me.  
I almost started to cry myself, from my own welling up emotions.
At the same time, my heart jumped up in my chest again, filled with pure joy...

    For heaven's sake, what was happening to me?
My heart was absolutely sure I knew this boy, who so trustingly crawled onto my lap and cried.
He felt like my dearest friend, a kindred soul, my best buddy, maybe even my blood brother.
It also felt totally normal, to have him on my lap and comfort him.
Only, don't ask me why...

    I put my arms around the now loudly sobbing boy, and pulled him closer.
Immediately, he tried to melt into me even deeper, muffling his sobs in my shirt.
I cradled him, lowering my head and whispering soothing little words into his ear...
At the same time, I started to wonder why my inside was reacting so happily.
I had a weird feeling, as if some sort of predestination started to fulfill itself; as if my soul had been waiting for this boy for a very long time...
Was I really becoming senile?

    The other kids crowded around us, trying to cheer up their crying friend.
Strangely, none of them seemed to think this could be an awkward situation!
Maybe, they were already used to seeing their friend crying like this; or, they were used to being personal with 'Jack', the late owner of my house...
However, what would his parents think about me, a total stranger, having their crying son in my arms?
Wouldn't they think the worst, and immediately call the police to arrest me?
We were living in a very mistrustful world, where every single man easily could be seen as a potential child molester...

    After a while, the boy's heavy sobs lessened, and his death grip started to relax.
I held him close for another minute, until he pulled himself together and timidly looked around.
Again, I worked my already wet handkerchief out of my pocket.
Carefully, I wiped both his and my eyes, trying to look for a relatively dry corner.
Finally, I helped him blow his nose; which he did, sighing and looking grateful.
He looked up at me with gratitude in his deep brown eyes, and a feeble but very warm smile crossed his still pale face.
Then, he hopped off my lap, threw his arms around my neck, and enthusiastically kissed my cheek.

    Feeling very surprised, I returned the kiss onto his forehead.
Wow, he surely was affectionate!
Did he do this to every stranger he just met?

    I decided to try to break the tension, and asked the patiently waiting kids:

    "I don't have any drinks in my refrigerator, but maybe I can offer you a cup of tea?"

    All of them nodded enthusiastically.
I rose from my chair, and started to go inside my house to brew some tea.
My new friend followed me inside.
He went straight to the kitchen, as if he had been here many times before.
Maybe, he used to help Jack, the late owner of my house?
He went to the sink, washed his face by splashing some water onto it, and dried it using the only towel I had been able to find so far.
Next, he rummaged in my cupboards without asking, and filled a tray with cups, milk, sugar, and a spoon.
In the meantime, I poured some water into a kettle and put it on my electric cook top.

    Soon, both of us returned to the porch and the other patiently waiting kids.
I carried a kettle of hot tea, and my helper proudly carried the filled tray.
We settled down on the porch; and everybody took a cup of tea and added some milk and sugar.
Together, we sipped our tea, putting the emptied cups back onto the tray.

    After all the emotional turmoil, I decided to ask them for their names:

    "I think this is a good time to introduce ourselves. Starting with this 'old grandpa': my first name is 'Harry'."

    "Are you serious? You are not pulling our leg?" a surprised girl piped up.

    "No, I am dead serious. My full name is 'Harry AnderS'. Here is my identity card..."

    The girl blushed fiercely, shook her head, and politely refused to look at it.
I smiled at her, and stuffed the card back into my pocket.
The other kids started to laugh, and playfully teased her a bit about being mistrustful.
    An impish boy, with long yellowish hair and greenish eyes, chuckled at me:

    "I think we can trust you, because you are only an old man..."

    "Oh yeah? Now, I will let you feel how trustworthy this 'old man' really is!"

    I grabbed his arm, and pulled the surprised boy towards me.
Next, I tickled his ribs; until he writhed, moaned, and pleaded...
I told him to behave from now on, and show a bit more respect to 'old men' like me!
    He shrieked with laughter, and desperately tried to tickle me back:

    "You are really strong, for a grandpa! Do you always torture younger kids?"

    "Only when they don't behave properly and call me 'old'."

    He gave up, and told me I had proven I wasn't THAT old.
At least, not yet...

    I laughed at him and let him go; but he didn't leave me and trustfully settled down next to my chair.
Our romping seemed to clear up the last bit of tension, and all of us started to feel more at ease with each other.
The other kids shuffled a bit closer, and the youngest girl even leaned up against my leg.
    Now, my twelve-year-old boy decided to introduce himself and his friends:

    "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 ticklish rascal next to you is my friend Thomas, and he's twelve; and the small girl at your leg is his sister Chrissy, and she's nine.
"Our smallest friend, Harry, is only eight years old. He is like my little brother, and we always protect him from the other kids in the neighborhood."

    John looked 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.
His brother, Mark, was a slender boy, with hazel eyes and wavy light brownish hair.
I could hardly imagine that he and John were brothers!
His sister, Marrie, was a firm looking girl; having 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 for my taste.
He was the first one who courageously climbed the steps to my porch.
His sister, Chrissy, was just a little lady, having greenish eyes and curly yellowish hair, just like her bigger brother.
She seemed to be a bit giggly.

    I liked all of them at first sight, and felt lucky to have them as my neighbors.

    After our introductions, I decided to dig a bit further, and asked John:

    "There is something I don't understand. Why would your little brother hide in the backyard, instead of joining you?"

    John heaved a deep sigh; and trustfully told me everything, from time to time filled in by the other children:

    Two years ago, a car with a Gypsy caravan attached and occupied by 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 them for 'watter', talking with a strange accent.
The children took the little boy to their neighbor, Jack; who, by chance, just washed his car in his driveway.
Jack provided the Gypsies with fresh water, some food, and some used clothes.
The children assisted 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.

    Some people in the village seemed to dislike Gypsies; because, in the middle of the night, their caravan was set ablaze.
The man and the woman both perished in the fire.
The little boy survived, but he was burnt very badly all over his body and face.
An ambulance took him to a hospital, accompanied by a furious Jack who desperately told the boy to be brave and stay alive!
Of course, there was no insurance; but Jack offered to pay everything for the six-year-old boy, from the hospital treatment to the medicines and anything else he needed.

    Month after month, Jack visited his little friend every day.
He comforted him, cheered him up, encouraged him, and taught him our language.
The same day the boy was ready to leave the hospital, Children's Protection Services took over and placed him in an orphanage!
That morning, Jack entered an empty hospital room, and nobody could or would tell him where his little friend was...

    Jack was desperate.
The children found him in his driveway, 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.
He nurtured him in the hospital after the fire, comforted him after the loss of his parents, and taught him the language.
He had built a very strong relationship with the little orphan, and provided him with everything he needed.
Now, suddenly, the hospital room was empty!
The authorities had taken the boy without saying a word, and Jack didn't have the faintest 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 child, befriended or not...
After many deliberations, John's parents and CPS finally reached an agreement.
John's parents took the boy into their custody; and they would raise him until he was at least eighteen years old.
That is how the little Gypsy boy became John's little brother and the special friend of the neighborhood children.
They protected him from the other kids in the village, and they defended him from too prying eyes whenever necessary.

    Above all, they kept the secret a secret: little Harry lived with his Big Friend Jack in what was now my house!
Jack provided him with everything he needed; and little Harry had his own room here, upstairs, second door to the left.
That is, until two months ago, when Jack suddenly died.
Jack's house was up for sale, and the little boy was passed on to John's parents.
Since then, he and John had to share John's bedroom, while his belongings were stowed away in their garage...

    I felt overwhelmed by an intense feeling of compassion for this poor little boy.
How would I be able to help this poor child, after the sudden loss of his big friend?
Of course, he would always be welcome in my house, whenever he wanted.  
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, as if they were waiting for my reaction...
What should I do now?
How should I make it clear I wanted to help their little friend?
    I tried to reassure them, by making some promises:

    "Of course, your little friend is always welcome in my house. I will even give him his own room back!
"All of you are always welcome too. You can count on me, and I will try to help you with everything that I can."

    Something was not right.
The children listened intensely, but they kept looking at each other...
What was their problem?
Hadn't they told me everything?
Had I overlooked something important?
What were they waiting for?

    Eventually, John addressed me, again showing a hint of fear in his eyes:

    "Sorry, sir, but I think you need to know something. Harry is badly burnt all over, especially his face. Everybody calls him a 'freak' and an 'alien'..."

    Suddenly, at hearing these two loathed words, 'freak' and 'alien', a forceful lightning bolt slammed into me and threw me into a seizing panic!
My body started to tremble all over, while I slumped down and froze on my chair.
I couldn't help it.
All at once, all the long forgotten memories of my own youth slammed back into my mind...

    I felt myself collapse into darkness, and had to struggle with all my force to remain conscious.
Like a sudden thunderclap, everything from my youth returned, cruelly crushing me and causing my body to shake with horror.
Those little words, 'freak' and 'alien', irresistibly brought back my own horrible youth, as if it had been yesterday!

    Now, I understood the hesitancy of the children; and why I should be nice to that poor boy and not chase him away.
Little Harry was severely burnt all over, even his face...
He looked like a 'freak' and an 'alien', just like my own little brother...

    I shuddered, started to be dizzy, and felt like throwing up.
My body trembled all over, while I forced myself to stand up and leave the porch.

    Slowly, I staggered into my house, unsteady and tripping over my own feet, avoiding five pairs of frightened eyes.
Then, 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 for the second time!
I came here for my retirement, and not to be saddled up with a crippled boy again...

    "Damn!" I shouted into the living room, desperately kicking a chair,
"Why me again? What did I do wrong this time?"




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