flash fiction by Phil Benton
The little boy stood before the sand mandala in wide-eyed amazement. The brilliant colors and the intricacy of its design fascinated him. He reached for his father’s shirtsleeve and gently tugged at it.
“Dad”, he said with a sudden frown, “I’m confused.”
“Confused about what son?”
“These men in the pretty robes made this right?”
“Yes son. They’ve been working on it for the past four days. It’s finished now and we get to come look at it. Isn’t it beautiful?”
The little boy stared at the colored sphere and shook his head. “Yep. It’s real nice. But…what’s it sposed to be?”
“Well, think of it as a beautiful world and you’re looking down on all its beauty. Imagine yourself looking from above at a beautiful palace.”
The boy cocked his head and studied the mandala through squinting eyes. “OK” he conceded, “can we go to this palace?”
The father smiled. “It’s not here on earth, son. It’s in the heavens.”
“If it’s not here, how do we know what it looks like?” the boy asked.
It was now the father’s turn to be confused. How do I explain this one?, he thought.
“Well, you know that pretty picture you drew? The one with all the trees and flowers.”
“Yep. Teacher said to draw what made me most happy.”
“The monks made a picture like that. It’s a picture of the most beautiful world they can imagine; the kind of world they want to live in… understand?”
“Yeah..I guess so…but now I’m really confused.”
“Why”, his father asked.
“You and mom said you wanted to keep my picture forever… and…this picture is much prettier than mine. How come these men want to mess it all up and dump it in the river?”
“Nothing is permanent son. Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is kind of like that.” He smiled and took his son’s hand. “Come on buddy, let’s take a seat. The ceremony’s going to start soon.”
The little boy sat and, in silent wonder, soaking in the pageantry of the sacred ceremony. The throaty chants of the monks and their strange instruments fascinated him. He watched intently as the monk sliced through the sand structure and finally, with a brush, turned the beautiful picture into swirls of multicolored sand.
The boy was uncharacteristically quiet on their drive home from the ceremony. Finally, he spoke triumphantly. “Dad, when we get home, I’m going to tear my picture into little pieces and bury it in the backyard.”
“Why would you want to do that son? Your mom and I like looking at it.”
“Like you said dad, everything has a start and an end. I’m gonna plant the picture in the ground so more beautiful pictures will grow.”
“OK, son. That sounds like a good plan” his father said, shaking his head and smiling. “You do that.”
The two travelled the rest of the way home, silently, enjoying the sights and smells of the warm summer’s day, wishing it could last forever.