Welcome to the world of Denny’s Fable. This is a story for grown-ups, and those that never did. It is a story of childhood fantasies that all adults carry, tucked carefully away, in the dark corners of our minds. It is a story of an old man, who believes himself to be a wise man, in search of that elusive treasure – happiness. In his search, he discovers he has not been a wise man, but a fool. A fool who has been “shat” upon repeatedly. But in his search, he discovers a special treasure. A very dear friend, in the form of a little field mouse. It is his little furry friend who shows the old man where happiness lies, and always has been. In his own field of beauty.
It is a story of all of our lives and our struggles. A story that is repeated, over and over again, in as many lives as there are people who seek the truth. It is a story of love, and joy, and sadness. It is a story of philosophy, psychology, and man’s search for meaning. In other words – – a story of life. A story about me. A story about you.
It is written at two levels. A fantasy, that can never be true, but with a message that pries deep into your subconscious. A message designed to move you. The artwork is intricate, and in itself, a masterpiece that adds significantly to the story.
The complete manuscript is about 175 pages in length, with some 45 illustrations. In the enclosed manuscript, you will find; the beginning, a significant passage midway through the book, and the ending.
I hope you like what you read, and are moved to read more. I look forward to your thoughts and comments. It is my sincere wish, that this has been a very good day for you.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago,
in a place, not so very far away, just over the ridge where the eye cannot see, but your mind knows how to find the spot, there lived a wise man who was growing older. He had seen many things, and experienced much. In his journey to seek truths, he discovered a young man, also on a journey.
“Where do you travel, my friend?” asked the wise man.
“Hither and yon, and over hill and dale.” replied the young man.
“May I walk with you for awhile?” asked the wise man.
“Do what you like.” replied the other. “The path is wide, and I do not own it, so you are free to walk where you please.”
“Thank you.” said the wise man. “I believe you may have a package for me.”
“I do?” questioned the lad.
“Yes.” said the wise man. “The package I seek from you contains wealth, and jewels, and happiness, and love, and adoration.”
“I have no package.” replied the man.
“Oh but you must,” said the wise man. “for I have searched far and wide for such a person as you, and I know you have such a package for me.”
“I do?” asked the young man.
“Now here is what you must do to give me the package. At precisely 12 noon, I shall be standing in the middle of the field of beauty, with my gunny sack opened wide, and you shall fly over, and drop the package from your plane, and I shall catch the package in my gunny sack, and shall be eternally happy.”
“But I cannot fly.” said the young man.
“Oh, but you must.” replied the old man. “You must be able to soar to heights beyond man’s dreams, for my happiness is at stake.”
“Yes, and you will.”
“Yes, you will!”
“I believe this is where our paths separate.” said the young man.
“I am sorry you must depart.” said the wise man. “But remember, at precisely 12 noon, I shall be waiting in my field of beauty, with my gunny sack open, waiting for the package from you.”
“Goodbye.” said the young man.
“Have a good day.” said the wise man.
“Same to you.” said the departing figure of youth.
“He cares, he really cares.” said the wise man. “Or else he would not have said those beautiful words, ‘same to you’. He will be there, and I will get my package from him.”
“What are you doing, my friend?” asked the field mouse.
“Go away, you wretched creature.” said the wise man. “I have no time for the likes of you.”
“I called you friend.” said the little mouse. “Will you not be a friend to me?”
“No.” said the wise man. “I have but one friend, and he soars in the sky for me – and so – be off with you, for I am waiting for him to fly by and make my day happy.”
“Why do you have the large gunny sack open, with your eyes looking toward the heaven?” asked the little mouse.
“Hush.” said the wise man. “You are distracting me, and I may miss catching my package of happiness as it falls from the sky.” and he kicked at the little mouse.
“May I sit and watch as it by the corner of the rock?” asked the little mouse. “I shall not be in the way.”
“Very well,” said the wise man. “but do not disturb me in my quest for happiness.”
“Are you not happy?” asked the mouse.
“No.” replied the wise man. “But I will be when I catch the package from the young man who soars in the heavens.”
“Did the young man say he would deliver the package today?” asked the mouse.
“No,” replied the wise man. “but I told him I would be here precisely at noon, and my happiness depended on his flying overhead. I know he shall be here.”
“You look very foolish, wise man, with your eyes to the heavens, and your arms outstretched, holding an open, empty gunny sack, trampling on the beautiful flowers under your feet.”
“Be gone,” said the old man. “and speak no more to me, lest I miss catching my package. I shall gaze into the heavens and walk through this field until I catch my package. No more words from you. What do you know of happiness?”
“I only know from my own experiences, and learning from those of others.” said the mouse.
“And what do you learn of mine?” asked the wise man.
“I have learned that while watching only the heavens, and running desperately to catch that mystical package in your gunny sack, you have stepped in some cow manure, in this field, on this earth. I have learned that by your actions, you have betrayed yourself, for you are not a wise man, but a fool with manure over your feet. Your head may be in the heavens, but your feet are not.”
“Be still, you stupid mouse, for you know not what you say. See, even now, on the horizon, in the sky. See that speck approaching? It is my friend bringing my package. I knew he would come It is his plane. See, he comes closer and closer.”
“I fear it is not a plane, my friend, but only a bird soaring. An illusion of a plane.” said the mouse.
“It is a plane. It must be a plane. I has to be a plane, for I have waited long and traveled far. It must be. It has to be his plane. See, it flies directly overhead. Hello, my friend. I am here. I am waiting. My gunny sack is open wide to catch the prize. I have waited a lifetime for this moment. Now I shall be eternally happy. I see the package coming. It is but a speck from the plane, but it becomes larger and larger as it approaches earth. Here it come. My great moment.”
“Your great moment of happiness,” said the little mouse, “is a white trickle, slowly oozing down your forehead. I fear, my friend, that you have been shat upon, and if that is what you have waited your whole life for, then I am sorry for you.” The little mouse sat next to the old man, tears welling up in his eyes, and he cried, “I am so sorry.”
The wise man stood stunned. His head, still turned toward the heavens. His arms, outstretched, holding an open, empty gunny sack, and a small white spot, becoming larger, on his forehead. He slowly lowered his head, and looked at his feet, for they too had been soiled. Then, slowly, he sank to the ground, and sat with bowed head. His arms wrapped around his knees; and if you really listened; really listened hard – – above the noise of the breeze, whispering through the grasses and flowers – – if you listened, really listened, above the rustling of the leaves – – if you really listened – – you could hear the soft sobbing of a broken man. The soft whimpering sob from the very depths of one’s being. And the tears dropped silently by his feet, glistening in the grass, catching each ray of sunlight, and bursting it into a rainbow of colors.
“What did I do wrong?” asked the wise man, quietly. “I wanted it so much. So very much. I thought this was the moment. I am a failure. Rejected. Unwanted. Unloved. I have stepped in the manure of life, and had it deposited on my forehead. I have searched for wisdom, and for love, and for happiness, and have found none. I am such a fool. I am so sad. Is this all that life has to offer? I am so tired of stepping in manure, and having it deposited on my forehead. Perhaps I may just lie here in the grass, and go to sleep, and not live any longer. Living hurts. It hurts a lot.”
“My friend,” said the little mouse. “if you look to others to meet your needs, you will always be disappointed, for you will expect more from them than they can ever give. If you look to others for happiness, you will always be disappointed. Happiness does not come from without. It comes from within. Happiness is being content with who you are. Not who you want to be, nor whom others tell you that you should be, but who you really are. That means accepting you, with the wart on your nose, or the hair that does not part just right. That means accepting you who is short, or tall. It means accepting and recognizing that you are a unique creation. In all the world, there is none other like you. Never has been, and never will be. You are unique, unto yourself. You were not created bad. You were created good. You may not have been loved, but you were created in love. You are loved. You are loved very deeply, but to see that love, you must lower your eyes from the heavens, and look to the world you walk upon. Love does not exist in the heavens, except as it lives in your mind, and that is a fantasy. An illusion, and it is so hard to maintain fantasies, and live in the world. Live in the real world. But, let me assure you, you are loved. You are loved on this world, and you are loved because you are a part of this world.”
“I am not loved.” said the wise man.
“Oh my friend, but you are. Can you not see?” said the mouse.
“Who would love me?” asked the man.
“I would, and I do.” replied the mouse.
“Why should you care – – about me?” asked the man. “I have kicked at you; and I have cursed you; and told you to go away. I did not want you around. You did not fit into my plan of happiness. I rejected you. Why should you care? Why should you – – love – – – me?”
“Why should I not love you?” asked the mouse.
“Ah, there are so many reasons why you should not, that I could spend endless days telling you all the bad I see, both within and without.” replied the man.
“Why do we fail to see the good?” asked the mouse. “Why do we choose to dwell on the disharmony? Why do we make life such a terrible tragedy, and surround ourselves with gloom and unhappiness? Can we not take but one moment, and look for the good that surrounds us? Can we not, for one moment, take time and recall one pleasant experience in our day? One experience, that makes our tummies feel warm inside, and brings a sparkle to our eyes, and a smile to our lips, and a goodness inside our very being, that we want to share with another human being? Can we not find that? Is it so deeply buried under crusts of old manure, that we cannot discover that life is good? Can you not find one thing about this day that is good?”
“No.” said the old man sadly, shaking his head. “I cannot find that which you speak of. I cannot find any good in my day.”
“You cannot find it,” said the little mouse, “because you do not choose to look. You do not choose to see. You cannot see through other people’s eyes, for they are not you. You cannot hear through their ears, for they may listen for different things, and not hear as you do. You cannot live your life through another, for they have their’s to live, as do you – – and each life is unique – – irreplaceable. We cannot use other people’s eyes, and ears, and hearts, and lives to show us the good. We must use our own eyes and ears and hearts and lives to discover the world. Our world. To look for it with all the tools available to us. To seek it with fervor, and with our very being. It is not hard to find, when we use our own tools. Not hard at all.” said the little mouse.
“Will you help me?” asked the old man. “Help me to see the things I have never seen before? Help me to hear the things I have never heard before? Help me to feel the things I have never felt before?”
“Oh, my friend,” responded the mouse, “you have seen, and heard, and felt all of these things before. It’s just that somewhere, somehow, someplace, someone told you those experiences are all foolishness. They do not belong in the world of men. Certainly not in the world of wise men, but only in the world of fools. Men do not see, and hear, and feel like that. Now if you are to be a man – – a real man – – here is how you must see – – and how you must hear – – and how you must feel. Only fools see the things real men do not look for. Only fools hear the things real men do no listen to. Only fools feel, deep within, experiences in life real men do not seek. The real men of the world will gaze up unto the heavens, walking with outstretched arms, holding an open, empty gunny sack, waiting for their package to fall from the sky. And they shall walk with courage through the manure of the field, and have birds shat upon their foreheads. Now, I ask you, my friend, who is the fool?” asked the mouse.
“Where do I begin?” asked the wise man. “For I have not seen the good in life. Not on this day, nor for many days before it. Not in this week, and perhaps – – not even in this year. Help me to see. To hear. To feel. I have lived life as I was told, and I am tired of stepping in manure – – and having little birds shat upon my forehead.”
“To begin,” said the little mouse, “you must get down on your hands and knees with me, and we shall explore the earth together. Our home. The place we live in and on. You do not see the earth – – you do not see your world – – from afar. You are not a spectator who wits and judges from a distance. You must jump in, and be an active participant in the game of life. You must join it, and welcome all that life has to offer you. Now come, on your hands and knees, and let us see what we can discover.”
“I cannot do that.” said the old man.
“Why not?” asked the mouse.
“I am too old.” replied the wise one. “And besides, what would people say? What would they think? Me – – the wise old man, crawling on my hands and knees – – in a field – – crawling with a mouse. What would people say?”
“What would they say?” asked the mouse.
“They would say he’s a fool. Look at that old man. What a foolish thing to do.”
“Who is the greater fool?” asked the little mouse. “The man who sees his world with his own eyes, hears with his own ears, and feels with his own being; or the man who stares at the heavens, with outstretched arms, carrying an open empty gunny sack? Looking for a illusion. Not seeing where he walks. Not hearing what his world has to say to him. And the only feeling he knows, is that of panic and desperation. Who is the greater fool?”
The old man looked at his new found friend through puzzled eyes. He scratched the hairs on the back of his head, and looked up to the sky. He looked back at the mouse as his friend began to speak.
“People like labels. They like to label others, because they feel it gives them greater control. It’s like a handle, so you can manipulate and keep others in line. People need to label – – when they become frightened. When you frighten them, they will label you, in hopes you will be like everybody else. There’s a security in sameness you know. And so if you dare to be somebody different – – if you dare to do something different – – if you dare to see your own vision, hear your own thoughts, and feel your own feelings, they will label you. Hoping their label will make you see the world as they do. Hoping you will hear the same sounds and feel things the same as they. And it’s blandness. King of like eating cream of wheat without any lumps in it. But one of my fondest memories as a baby mouse was to discover these lumps within the blandness of my cream of wheat. And when I found an unusually large lump, I was ecstatic with happiness, for a usually boring breakfast became an exciting experience. A good moment in life – – and I was happy. Most people do not like lumps in their cereals. They want the bland sameness – – they don’t want the unexpected. They don’t want something they may have to chew on for a while and decide for themselves whether or not they like it. They want it to be as it always has been. Sameness. As it is now, and forever shall be – – sameness – – and that’s security – – and that’s so dull, but it’s safe. And to be safe, and free from fear, they label, and pass that fear on to you. The fear of being labeled. The fear of being labeled as somebody different. And that’s what I am trying to tell you. You are different. You are unique – – and there is nothing wrong with that. The danger lies in sameness – – in trying to be like somebody else – – in trying to make everyone like everyone. And so we label. But labels do not hurt. They may control, but not hurt. Now come, join me, and let us see what we can discover in this world. In our world. This world, that share together.”
And the old man slowly lowered himself onto the field of beauty, so that he might be closer to his new found friend – – so that he might listen to the words that were spoken, and perhaps, just perhaps, for the first time in his life – – to listen, and really hear what another truly was saying. To listen with his third ear. The old man rested on his hands and knees beside the mouse.
“You’re too far above me.” said the little mouse. “If we are going to communicate with each other – – communicate within our very being – – to speak and discover our real feelings, we must speak at the same level. Not one higher, and one lower; one better and one poorer; not one more important and one lessor. We both must be equal. We do not speak up nor speak down to each other. But rather, we speak to each other – – and we listen- – to – – each other. And out of this, we learn to care. Now, come join me in the field of beauty.”
And the old man lay down. No, perhaps a better description is that the old man hugged the earth, and joined the little mouse at his level, and the two were equal. “What if someone comes along and sees me laying in the field?” asked the man.
“What if?” replied the mouse.
“Well, they might think – – they might think – – I’m not sure what they might think, except that someone is laying in the field.” said the old man.
“Would their label hurt?” asked the mouse.
“Not really.” replied the man. “I’m just used to living according to other people’s standards. Doing what is expected of me. Doing what they expect me to do. Living my life as they feel I should. It’s going to be hard for an old man like me to be different than I always have been. It’s going to be hard – – but I think I can do it.”
The two lay in the grass on their stomachs, their heads propped up on supporting hands. Looking at each other. Listening. Thinking.
“Do you want to die?” asked the mouse.
“Of course not.” replied the old man. “No one really wants to die.”
“Let me rephrase the question then.” said the mouse. “Do you want to live? Do you really want to live?”
The old man paused for a bit, rolled over on his back, and placed his hands behind his head, cradling it, as if in a pillow. He closed his eyes, as if to shut out the world, and gathered his thoughts. “No one’s ever asked me that before. Do I want to live? I’m not really sure. I know that I don’t want to die, but I’m not sure if I want to live. I have to think about that.”
“Do you find life worth living?” asked the mouse.
“The old man, with his eyes still closed, slowly rocked his head back and forth. “No.” he said. “No. I’m sorry, but I do not find life worth living.”
“Are you getting all that you want out of life?” the little mouse asked.
The old man opened his eyes and furrowed his brow. “No, I’m not getting all that I want out of life.” He began to sit up, but then slowly rested his head back on his hands. “No, I’m not getting all that I want out of life. I’m sure that there must be more – – but I don’t know what it is. Maybe I don’t even know what it is that I’m looking for. If I knew, then it might be easier to find. That’s an interesting question – what is it that I want out of life? What do I want? What do I really want? – – I don’t know.” And he closed his eyes again.
“Do you see others around you getting more out of life – – than you? Are they getting more? Are they enjoying living – – more than you?” asked the mouse.
The old man closed his eyes tighter, and pulled his lips together – tighter.
“Do you ask yourself, ‘Why them and not me? Why do they receive more – and me, less?’ Do you ask those questions?”
“Yes.” said the old man quietly.
“Do you like yourself?”
“Oh, God,” moaned the old man, “you are hard. You really dig deep, don’t you? Well, it hurts.”
“Do you like yourself?” asked the little mouse, in a voice that was so very kind. So very gentle. Not a voice of demanding, nor a voice of prying, nor a voice of cruelty. It was a quiet voice of concern – – of caring. “Do you like yourself?”
The old man closed his eyes and pursed his lips ever so tighter. His chest rose and fell with an increased breathing rate. A lone solitary glistening spot grew larger at the corner of one tightly closed eyelid, and slowly traced a pattern down his cheek and disappeared near his ear. He took a final deep breath – his chest rising to its fullest, and as he exhaled, you could hear a silent shudder in his breath. “No.” he whispered softly. “No – – I do not like myself.” And he slowly shook his head as he replied.
“Why?” asked the little voice kindly. “Why don’t you like yourself?”
The old man lay in the grass. His eyes tightly closed. A slow, but steady bead of a tear formed near his ear – then disappeared, only to reform.
“Of all the people in the world, who need your kindness – – you need it the most.” The mouse was standing near his friend’s cheek. He reached out and touched the tear. “Be kind to yourself, my friend. You deserve that. You have a right to be here. A right – – to live. A right to experience all this world has to give you. A right – – to be – – you.”
The two lay there – – in that field of beauty – – for a long time. Not saying anything. Just laying there. The gentle rays of the sun warming them in their light. It felt good – – to be alive.