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The Boy In Black
Nobody cared that Leonard had dies, most people were relieved. All of his neighbors despised him for his perfect lawn and his bad-temperedness. They all towered over the small Vietnam veteran, but were afraid of the permanent creases his scowl left on his forehead. The wrinkles had set in many years before Leonard had moved to the neighborhood, but they grew deeper and deeper as he became more pessimistic.
The neighbors would pass by his small one bedroom patio home day after day, never acknowledging him as a person, but more of a monster. Most of the children would leave behind a toy that accidently landed on his lawn, knowing the night’s garbage would hold it for them to grab. There were many ridiculous rumors about Leonard that kept people away, but that’s how Leonard liked it. He had never married, had children, or cared for a pet; he found it a waste of his time. So he would sit alone on his front porch reading old war novels again and again.
When Leonard’s funeral rolled around, his neighbors arrived dreading the next few hours. They thought of many things they would rather be doing. At traditional funerals, there is a sea of black, but at Leonard’s, it was a sea of farmer’s overalls and food stained aprons. In the midst of the crowd a mournful child dressed in all black could be spotted holding the hand of his red faced mother.
As everyone took their seats, dust rose out of the worn church pews. The casket was rolled to the front of the congregation, getting no emotions from the southern crowd at all. Not a single tear dropped as the priest prayed for Leonard and those who would miss him deeply. Little did he know nobody cared if he went to heaven; most expected he’d be destined for hell.
The crowd got restless as the sermon wound on, but still politely sang along with the old hymns. The young boy dressed in all black tugged on his mother’s sleeve, anxious to get her attention.
“Shhh. It’s almost over,” she assured him.
The boy didn’t want to leave; he didn’t want the funeral to end. Once the funeral was over would never be able to be in the same room as Leonard. He knew that once Leonard was buried, he would be forgotten by the whole world, but not but not by him. The boy tugged on his mother’s now stretched out sleeve, hoping to get a different result than before.
“Knock it off. I don’t want to be here as much as you do. Now sit still,” his mother warned.
The small boy looked at his mother’s exhausted face, coated with perspiration. How could she be so insensitive? He thought to himself. He looked around at the beautiful stained glass windows and wondered how such horrible people could be in the presence of such beauty.
The boy obeyed his mother and sat in the aged pew quietly. He glanced at two girls much smaller than he a few rows behind him who were tugging each others golden pigtails. Pay attention, he silently told them, A man’s life ended and you two are playing around? He looked to his right and saw a man hefty man with a face full of hair tip his head back and nod off to sleep. The angry boy balled up his fists in fury. Leonard deserves better.
The boy looked again to the priest who was talking about life, death, acceptance, and forgiveness. Hypocrites, The boy wordlessly screamed, they’re all a bunch of hypocrites. They sit here and talk acceptance and forgiveness, but they can’t find it in their rotten hearts to pay mourn for an old man’s life. So what if he didn’t attend neighborhood get-togethers? Who cared if he never complemented on your new baby?
Just then the priest closed his book signifying the end.
“Does anybody have any last words or thoughts that they would like to share with Leonard?” The father asked the crowd.
A slightly corpulent man stood from his pew, leaving it creaking beneath him.
“Leonard, you old bastard, you deserve what you got. You deserved your lonely life and funeral full of people who hate you,” the man unguiltily said, sitting down.
There were many nods of agreement as more people began shouting out their thoughts about Leonard. Within a couple of minutes, none of the cruel comments could be understood; they all blended together creating one loud hum.
I don’t hate you Leonard. The small boy silently told Leonard.
The congregation’s loud uproar continued even as the priest exhaustingly took a seat at the front of the church. They complained about his Leonard’s negativity, about the way he isolated himself, and about anything bad that he had ever done. What nobody talked about was the time he gave the small boy an umbrella to stay dry in the rain, or the time he bought three tins of Boy Scout popcorn when the young boy hadn’t sold any.
The little boy, dressed in all black, stood on his pew.
“Stop it! Just stop it!” he yelled as loud as his small lunges aloud him to.
The congregation instantly silenced and turned to stair at the small child. The boy’s mother, again with flushed cheeks, urged him to sit down, but he ignored her request.
“Do you hear yourselves?” he questioned, looking around at the people he thought he knew so well, “Can’t you hear how insensitive you sound? You’re acting disrespectful and tactless.”
He looked at the wide eyed faces staring at him in shock. He was disgusted by the large outspoken man’s bored, uncaring posture.
“None of you took the time to get to know Leonard. Not one of you ever said hello to him. Well I did,” the boy confessed, “and I learned that Leonard was a heroic man, not the monster you believe him to be.”
As the boy paused, silence rang throughout the church and through the beautiful stained glass windows, which now felt gloomy and cheerless. The room was filled with shame and embarrassment as heads turned down to look at the floor. Not one person would make eye contact with the small boy dressed in all black who had called them on their insensitivity and childish behavior.
“You all missed out on a great man,” the boy informed them, “and you had 94 years to get to know him.”
With that the young boy dressed in all black jumped down from his pew, only his head to be seen, and walked out of the church, leaving the shameful crowd in silence.