A Conversation Along the Path: A Short Story

“Hello,” said the man sitting by the side of the stream.

“Hello,” said the stream.

“Hello to you both,” I said, as I walked steadily towards them, coming to rest beside the clear water. The path had taken me by this simple stream, which was apparently starved for conversation, despite the talkative man sitting on its opposite bank.

The man looked somehow malnourished, even though his body was in prime physical condition. When I looked closer, I saw a large indentation in the spot where he was sitting. He had been there for some time, and the earth was packed and stale beneath him.

“Seventeen years.” He spoke up, happy to share with me. “I can tell what you’re thinking. Everyone asks the same thing. But it’s worth it.” He smiled, and there was no hint of deception or craftiness in his voice.

“Why?” I asked. I didn’t want to doubt his integrity, but it seemed strange. If anything, I was insanely curious as to why someone would sit in the same place for seventeen years straight. I quickly received my answer.

“This, my friend, is a healing stream.” He paused and let that piece of information sink in a little. He could tell that I didn’t quite get it. After all, I was new to the Kingdom. He continued: “Seventeen years ago, I barely made it here. My right leg was rotting away, muscles degenerating more every day. When I washed in this stream, I was completely healed. I owe it everything, and I stay here, telling travelers my story.”

“Amazing,” I replied across the water. “It really is amazing. You two must be great friends by now.”

“I really wish we were,” said the man, “but he doesn’t even talk to me any more. You know, I wish I could pick up these banks and take him everywhere, to all the hurting people in the world. I wish I could take him right back to my hometown. They need him there. But his borders are stuck here, and earth is a hard thing to move.”

I sensed the longing and frustration in the man’s voice. The stream was such a source of comfort to him. All he wanted to do was share it with the world, but he was entirely powerless to do so. He didn’t even have a shovel or bucket. All he could do was sit there. Even as he sat in the dirt, he fell asleep. I didn’t have a heart to wake him. His existence seemed so meager, and I thought that maybe his dreams would be a more comforting place.

Even as the man drifted to sleep, the stream bubbled to life, and I turned my attention to it. I peered into its clear waters, happy fish swimming freely within, light shining through, dancing on polished stones. In the daylight, it shone with an elegance I had never seen before, and I could imagine it shining all through the night as well. It was pure. It was a good stream.

“He doesn’t listen to me.” The ripples and current of the water spoke with a tone of sadness. I watched and listened in awe. “He doesn’t listen…” The voice drifted away.

“Tell me more,” I said softly, dipping my hand in the cool water. In that one touch, I felt refreshing and renewal coursing through my heart. The stream carried such power, such love. I wondered, what could have happened to bring such sorrow to it concerning that man? With another swell, a sighing swell, it continued to speak.

“Seventeen years ago, I met a broken man. I gave new strength to his limbs, but he is still broken. Still he sits there, and his limbs rot away again. When it becomes too unbearable, he returns to my water and is renewed again. But those times are becoming less and less. He thinks he knows me, but he’s going to die there. He speaks my praises, but he doesn’t listen to me.”

I thought I saw tears forming on the surface of the water, small drops rising, then returning to the rippling current.

“There is a Source, far upstream,” the tone of the water rose with delight as it spoke of its great joy. “I tell this man, ‘Go to the Source!’ There he can become like me. He can carry the same power, take it back to his family. Still he sits here, unmoving.”

Suddenly overcome with emotion, on my knees, I plunged both my hands into the stream and dipped my forehead in the cool water. “Is this Source the King I’m looking for?” My words buried themselves in the sound of the rushing water, and my heart leaped in my chest.

“Go to the Source,” the sound whipped through my ears, and the passion of love hit my whole being. I sat back softly on the bank, tears streaming lightly down my cheeks.

“Thank you,” I said to the stream. I stood up and walked back to the path. I ran for a while, then walked again.

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