A Fine Gentle Man
By Kalen Marquis
Once upon a time--not too-too long ago-- there was a little boy who wished to be a fine gentleman. He wanted to live a life that was strong and proud and bright.
Actually, this little boy was not so little. He was born with a big, roly-poly body that ballooned around him. It ballooned around his arms and legs. It ballooned around his neck. And it ballooned around his hips and belly. This boy did not like his big, roly-poly body, but those who knew and loved him thought it fit just right. Besides, they knew that inside beat the softest, gentlest heart.
Along with this big, roly-poly body, this boy had cherry red lips and a mouth heaping full of craggy, white teeth. Those cherry red lips, as bountiful as they were, could not contain all those teeth which shot this way and that like stumpy bits of broken chalk. This boy did not like his cherry red lips and his craggy, white teeth but they did not prevent him from making the kindest, most caring smile.
Along with that big, roly-poly body, those cherry red lips, and those craggy, white teeth came the trappings of poverty too easily overlooked in youth. This little boy's family did not have much money. They could not buy the freshest, healthiest foods. They could not afford clothes to match each passing season. They could not go to the movies or the skating rink. And they could not afford to fly away on fun-filled vacations.
Although they may have been short on the many nice things that money could buy, they were never short on the things that money could never buy--the warmth and brilliance of the Golden Rules of love, manners, and respect.
As the boy grew up, people began to stare and make fun of his big, roly-poly body, cherry red lips, craggy white teeth, and tell-tale trappings of poverty. Even visting family members would wryly comment, "My, he's a bigggg boy, isn't he?" The little boy felt hurt and sad.
As the years rolled on, he began to wish even more that he could grow up to become a fine gentleman. Every wish and each passing year made him more determined. He would show them. He would work hard. He would study. He would free himself from his big, roly-poly body. He would straighten his craggy, white teeth. Most of all, he would shed all the trappings of poverty.
Just thinking about this--hoping, planning and dreaming as he did--would make him excited. He would do all the right things and make money--gobs and gobs of glorious money. He would no longer be poor. Then, and only then, he told himself, he would finally be a gentleman.
And like all fine gentlemen, he would:
live in a grand home, a palace of polished wood, glass, marble and gilded gold...
wear tailored clothes made from bolts of the finest imported weaves...
drive a candy apple red sports car...
ride in a long, black limousine with shining silver chrome...
spend mornings writing at a big mahogany desk overlooking the ocean...
read great books crammed full of the oldest, loftiest thoughts...
eat tiny finger sandwiches and mouth-watering wedges of watermelon...
spend long afternoons walking in the garden with family and friends...
eat elegant candle-lit dinners and clink glasses at fine restaurants...
saunter off to absorb the lilting music of the symphony, the frenzied action of live theatre, or the belting baritones of the opera...
and, finally, spend long snow-quilted evenings before a roaring fire with a hot cup of cocoa in front of a fireplace with a book.
* * *
As time moved swiftly on, the little boy began to grow into a man. He ate healthier foods and exercised to try to free himself from his roly-poly body. He brushed, flossed, and wore braces to straighten his craggy white teeth. He worked and studied hard--everything and anything he could!--to begin to shed the prejudices of poverty. Eventually, his body became trimmer, his teeth became straighter, and he began to make some money.
But then, on the night when the last piece of furniture--a mahogany finish desk--had been set in its place and he was finally set to live the life of a fine gentleman, great soggy tears splashed down his cheeks and rested at the top of his still cherry red lip.
Where were they coming from? What did they mean? Were these tears of joy? Or sorrow?
Flushing and going red in the face, he realized that fine gentlemen do not need trim bodies. Fine gentlemen do not need straight teeth. Fine gentlemen do not need lavish excesses of money.
He realized that fine gentlemen do not need to live in a fancy palace, wear finely tailored clothes, drive candy apple red sports cars or ride in a long, black limousine. They do not need to spend mornings writing at a big mahogany desk, read books full of the oldest, loftiest ideas, or eat finger sandwiches and wedges of watermelon. Even more, he realized that they do not need to spend long afternoons walking in the garden, eat elegant candle-lit dinners, saunter off for pleasant evenings or spend long winter nights before a fire.
Oh sure, these were all pleasant enough things to have and do, but they had nothing to do with being the gentleman he had imagined when he was young. In fact, no matter what he looked like, no matter where he lived, and no matter what money might buy, they could not help him realize his dream. His childhood dream could not be bought.
His heart and smile, jewels that had once shone bright, had become dull and tarnished. Despite early promises to himself, he sensed that he would become as coarse and common as stone. No matter how he would try to polish and play dress up, the inner joy, warmth, and light would be gone if he played such stone-cold games as "Making the Grade" and "Fitting In." The Golden Rules, once so brilliant and rich, would lose their luster and he might never live a life that was strong and proud and bright.
It would only be by returning to the place where he had started that he might become the finest gentleman of all--the one he had been as child with a big, roly-poly body, cherry red lips, craggy, white teeth and the 'trappings' of poverty. The makings, he realized, had always been there. They lay in the little boy with the softest, gentlest heart, the kindest, most caring smile, and those Golden Rules of love, manners and respect.
Looking back on the years he had wasted made him feel angry and sad at first. But then he started to laugh. He laughed at the time and money he had spent. He laughed at how hard he had tried. He laughed at all the hard work he had done. He laughed, more than anything, at his own foolishness. He even laughed, kindly and lovingly, at all those parading around doing as he had done. He could not be angry or sad. He could only be gentle with himself others.
It was then that his wish had come true. It was then that he became what he had always wanted to be... a fine, gentle man.
© 1999 Kalen Marquis
In the words of Omar Bradley: "Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of passing ships."