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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Robert, a huge, thirty-something-years-old man with long, swinging arms and hulking shoulders, was making his way through the small crowd of customers which forms at noon on Sunday in the Home Depot store. He wore a silly smile on his face, and held a balloon in his right hand. Robert was making sure to wave to every one of the orange-aproned workers he met on his way. His mother and father, who called him Rori, followed him, trotting, trying not to lag behind and lose sight of him. The huge man waved to the woman and man mixing paint behind the paint desk, the graying associate from the hardware department and, of course, every single cashier he passed. Some ignored him, but most of the associates in the store smiled encouragingly. These made him the happiest. A huge smile appeared on his face every time someone waved back.

Rori was 6’5”, broad in the shoulders, and could make anyone have nightmares if he knew of his tremendous strength and the fact that he was stuck mentally at age ten. Rori loved the most of all going to the Home Depot store.

On Sunday, right after church, Mark and Jane, his parents, brought Rori to the store because he liked to look at the power tools or to just stroll the aisles. Mark was a thin, short, hunched over man, and Jane was taller than her husband with gracious, curly grey hair trimmed around her head.

Rori was walking with big strides down the main aisle as if he had something on his mind, a mental list of things to buy, but of course, he didn’t want to buy anything, just possibly greet someone with a hug. A customer pushing a cart full of merchandise was coming out of one of the side aisles, and Rori didn't see him on time. The 250-pound-man collided with the customer, who, being significantly smaller than Rori, lost his balance and fell to the ground.

“Rori!” shouted Jane. Mark ran to the man and helped him stand up. Several people looked at them curiously.


“I apologize, sir. He is so absentminded. He should look where he is going. Apologize to the gentleman, Rori,” said Mark.

“I am very sorry,” said Rori, hiding behind his father.

The man realized that the guy who pushed him was “slow” and asked, “How old is he?”

Mark turned to his son and asked, “How old are you, Rori?”

“I am thirty-six,” said Rori, blushing and grinning.

“Well, my boy,” said the man, who was in his thirties himself, “You should learn to watch where you are walking. All right?”

“All right,” repeated Rori, smiling.

“What is his condition?” asked the man with the sense of someone who has been touched in some way by Rori's affliction and because of that could know more about it.

“We don't know,” Mark said, a little embarrassed. “He has a retardation. Doctors say that everything is fine with his brain. Rori was a normal boy until he reached ten, and then he just stayed at that age while his peers continued developing mentally. But do you know? We are thankful for that. He is such a nice boy – obedient, cheerful, he makes us happy, me and my wife. When we found that he would be like this for the rest of his life we were heartbroken, but now I take it as a blessing, as if a great gift was bestowed upon us. Because of him, we are happier people.

“That is great. That is the way you should feel. Does he have a special talent?”

“What do you mean?”

“What is his talent? What is he good at? He must be good at something. Not only good. Sometimes people like him are prodigies. You just have to find his talent.”

“Well, he is a good boy. He likes to help around the house, right Rori? He likes to help me work around the house and he loves animals and he loves people ... he loves everyone. He loves to hug people, and animals, but we don't allow him to – you understand why.”

“I understand, but he must have a “skill,” like math or playing a musical instrument, or learning languages ... do you understand what I mean? I have been obsessed all my life with prodigies who have deficiencies. Sometimes ... often ... these people have rare talents. You should try to find what he is good at.”

While the three of them were talking, Rori wandered away. He saw a man with a dog on a leash. The dog was a big Rottweiler. When he saw the dog, Rori happily rushed toward him. He squatted and tried to pet the dog. The Rottweiler was startled and alarmed by the big man. It growled at him, but Rori nonetheless tried to pet it. Before the owner of the dog could react, it bit Rori's hand. The owner managed to pull his dog away while it was barking and trying to bite Rori again. The noise attracted the attention of his parents. Mark and Jane saw him with a bloody hand trying to get to the dog, which was growling and pulling on his leash, trying to bite Rori, while his owner was desperately pulling it away. Mark rushed toward his son and took him away from the dog.

“I am so sorry,” the dog owner said. “Rex has been moody today, but he has never bitten anyone before. Hebgot really scared. This guy just lunged at him and scared him. What is wrong with him? He didn’t move away, even when Rex started growling.” said the man holding the barking dog, who was staining on the leash.

“Rori, are you all right,” said Jane, taking his hand into hers. He was bitten badly and it seemed he needed stitches. Still, he didn't seem to be scared or in pain.

“I just wanted to hug him.”

“Come on, lets go,” said Jane. “We’ve made a big enough scene for one day. Let’s go to the hospital.”

“My balloon,...” cried Rori. In the commotion, the balloon had flown away and was touching the ceiling of the store, 30 feet above their heads.

“I will get you another one. Let's go,” said Jane.

The three of them left the store hurriedly. In the car, Rori started feeling pain and began to cry.

“Rori,” Mark asked suddenly, “Why did you keep going after that dog after it bit you?”

“It is just that...”

“I told you, no more hugging. From now on, don't hug anyone. I know that you want to. But understand, you are so big – you scare both people and animals. And you can hurt someone, too, without meaning it. I know that you love everyone, but leave them alone. Do you promise me to do that?”

“Yes, I promise,” Rori said reluctantly.

“Okay, we have a deal. And I will buy you a new balloon. Did you see how that one flew away?

“I had wrapped the string around my hand, but the dog's teeth cut it.”

“It's okay. It was funny how it got to the ceiling, right? There is nothing like seeing a balloon that has cut off its string and flows up to the sky. There is such a liberating feeling about it.”

Rori laughed.

“Mark, it is not the time for jokes,” said Jane.

“It is even better for him. To distract him.... Does it hurt, Rori? We will be in the hospital in no time.”

They drove to Wilson hospital and went to the emergency room. Mark and Jane went to speak with the receptionist and fill out paperwork. Rori sat at the back, where another patient was sitting alone. He was an old man holding a cane. He was calm, although he must also be in pain for he was holding his stomach and sighing from time to time. He was looking at Rori, who was sobbing, with disgust, but didn't say anything. At last, Rori stopped sobbing and looked at the old man – first into his eyes, then at his stomach.

“What are you looking at?” His neighbor asked him.

“I can't talk to you, sir.”

“Why not?” the man said, surprised.

“My parents don't like me to talk to strangers.”

“How old are you – ten?”

“No. I am thirty-six,” said Rori. After a little thinking, he said, “Dad always says that it is impossible to set yourself free from the things that tie you down if someone else doesn’t help you.”

“How do you mean?”

“There is so much pain in you,” said Rori seriously. “Your belly feels as if it is filled by a big balloon, and it presses on you from your insides. I can feel it. Daddy had a headache like that once before. But it passed.”

“It did?” said the slightly interested neighbor.

“Yes. I just had to hug him and it went away.”

“Are you a healer or something?” sneered the man.

“No,” blushed Rori. “I am just a boy; I can't work anything yet.”

“What do you mean you are a boy? You are thirty-six.”

“Yes, but Mom and Dad always say I am still a boy. I can cut the string and it will fly away.”

“What will fly away?”

“The balloon that's inside of you.”

The man looked at Rori with a mixture of curiosity and disbelief.

“So, you will heal me, healer?” he said at last and laughed. “Well, I don't believe it but even if I did I wouldn't want it. I've spent enough time here. It's time to go. The sooner the better. This cancer is a gift…. Painful, but a gift still. I don't know even why am I here, in the hospital. Maybe some weakness of mine. I want to die in a hospital and not to go alone at home like a dog…. And I can't stand the pain – it is the same pain here and at home, but here at least there are people around. It's better to hurt around people, to have someone hear me screaming. Strangely, it makes me feel better.”

“Like that dog which bit me.... It felt so much pain. In its tummy, too. I could have helped it.... I can help you, you know?”

“You can cure me?”

“No. I don't know how to do that. If I take away the pain, you will go ... faster. There will be no more pain. I will cut the string of the balloon.…”

“You mean you will kill me?” The old man felt fear. He had realized by then that Rori was mentally underdeveloped and although he was dying, he instinctively feared what he thought was a huge, homicidal retarded man.

“Kill ... I can't kill. I can just take the pain away.…”

“Can you heal emotional pain, too? When my wife died, or my brother, or my parents. Could you have helped me then?”

“You mean if I could have made you to feel better? I think I could have. Since not too long. Since I helped dad with his headache and that one dog and it died after I did help it. I told Mommy that I see the pain in people and animals and could take it away, but she didn't believe me. They – mom and dad – don't allow me to hug other people because they are afraid that I will hurt them and “they” will take me away. Like that one dog that I hugged. It felt pain, too. After that my mom and dad are afraid I will hurt a person and they don't allow me to hug anyone. It died after, the dog ... you understand, sometimes the pain is the only thing that keeps us here.

“Haha,” the man laughed again. “How ironic. And how true. ‘The pain keeps us here.’ This world is built out of pain, for the pain is needed. You can't be alive and not feel some kind of suffering. We come in pain and sometimes we go in even worse pain. But I want no more of it. I am ready. I have prepared myself. How fitting that it is a child who can forget the pain so fast to be the one who can take it away from other people.... Okay, go on. I want to see how you operate ... healer. I don't believe it. Let's see if you can take away my pain.”

Rori sat on his seat indecisively until the old man said, “Come on, now.” Then Rori got up, bent over his neighbor and they hugged. The old man looked at Rori, surprised, then closed his eyes and his body relaxed. Rori let him carefully on his seat and then sat a few seats to the left. No one saw what he did. It looked as if the old man had fallen asleep.

“Like a balloon cut from its string. It is lib-er-ating.” He pronounced the complicated word to himself and continued waiting for his parents to return

Submitted: April 22, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Rosko Tzolov. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:



A kill or cure situation. Difficult for Rori, for his parents, and yet he seems strangely content with his 'gift'.

Mon, April 22nd, 2019 7:57pm


Thank you for reading this one. Yes, I thought it was interesting to leave it like that - not clear if Rori can cure of he kills trying to cure.

Tue, April 23rd, 2019 10:16pm

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