by Jay Palmer


    Once there was a table without any chairs. The table was big and strong and the townspeople came everyday to stand by it and pick the choicest morsels from the heaping platters of food that laid upon it. Three times a day they would gather about the stout table, moving slowly, talking softly, and sharing in each other's company as they shared their daily meals.

    The little boy seldom watched them. He would play and run and tumble upon the grass. He climbed the trees and swam in the stream. He danced and cavorted freely, swept up in the throes of boundless energy.

    Then the boy grew hungry and ran towards the table, but the townspeople scolded him for running, and sent him away until he could be more like them. The boy ran away, and he danced and played until he was hungry again.

    Carefully the boy tried to walk to the table, although it was difficult. His legs were like coiled springs, his feet unaccustomed to balancing slowly, one step at a time. The townspeople ignored him, lost in conversations too slow and boring for him to comprehend.

    But, when he finally reached the table, the little boy stood helpless. The table was too high, and there were no chairs for him to climb upon. He jumped, trying to reach the food, but the townspeople scolded him for jumping, and sent him away until he could be more like them. The boy ran away, although he was very hungry, and he danced and played because that was what his body was built to do.

    When he could stand it no more, the boy ran back to the table. The townspeople scolded him, but he would not stop. They were so slow that the boy easily darted between them, so clumsy that the boy simply dodged their big, grabbing hands. With a single bound, he leapt so high that, had he landed, he would have stood atop the tallest platter in the center of the table.

    The little boy never landed. They caught him, angry that he was so unlike them. They threw him down and beat him, scolded, mocked and humiliated him. They chased him away from the table, and laughed at him for not being like them.

    The little boy cried, tears of sadness and shame, for he was desperately hungry, yet he could not go back to the table. The little boy suffered, alone, in ways that the townspeople could never understand, for they were as different to him as he was to them. He didn't understand them any more than they understood him. Yet he danced and he played. Driven by unharnessable energies, he could do nothing else.

    A long time passed, and the boy grew very lean. He ignored the pains of his hunger when he could, and cried when he couldn't. But in growing lean, the little boy grew hard, and in growing hard, the little boy grew tough. They had given him pain, and shaped and molded him into something even stranger to them than the little boy had ever been before.

    The little boy had to go back to the table. He ran, because that was what he did. The townspeople moved to stop him, because that was what they did. But the little boy did not run around them. He did not run between them. The little boy ran through them.

    The townspeople fell like grass beneath a mower. As each tried to block his path, the little boy tore through them. He no longer had a choice. The boy was starving. He had to eat.

    And when, at last, there were no more townspeople, the little boy strode to the table defiantly. He did not reach up. He did not jump. The little boy seized upon the tall table legs and broke them off completely, hurling them away over the bodies of the fallen townspeople.

    The table-top laid flat upon the ground, all its delicious delicacies bountifully his. The little boy leaped into the center of it, and gorged himself upon trays and plates and bowls piled and brimming with food. He ate everything he could find, and did not stop until he had eaten every bite on the table.

    Yet still the little boy was unhappy. He had been so hungry for so long, suffering so much, that he knew no other way to be. No matter how much food he consumed, he could not ease the agony that would consume him as long as he was alive.

    Then the little boy looked down upon the remains of the townspeople. Slowly, as slow as they used to be, he licked his lips. There was still one meal that he was certain would be extremely satisfying.

                              THE END.