A thin, pale boy walked alone through the desert with two empty buckets. The walls of the city shrunk in the distance as he re-enacted the conversation he had with his dad that morning.
“You’re such a sickly boy.” He said in an uncaring voice, just like His father had. “Stop complaining. This work will make you stronger.”
The pale boy spoke into the air, much bolder and more assuredly than when he had really said it to his dad, “But it isn’t fair that we have to carry two buckets for several hours, when one of them goes directly to the King.Why doesn’t he get his own water?! He uses people to get what he wants. He doesn’t care about us!”
He recited mockingly how his father had replied, “Son, you know how important it is that I look like a good and trustworthy servant to this king? If he makes me a royal guard we could live on the royal grounds and eat of his leftovers, and drink of the water that peasants like you bring to him.”
The boy rolled his eyes and swung one bucket into the air like an uppercut, “Then why don’t you get the water?! You know you aren’t going to make important connections like you say you will tonight, and you’re not going to work, it’s called the tavern.” The boy hadn’t really said that to his father, but he wanted to use his dad’s own words to lay bear his father’s false motives. The boy knew the system was corrupt, but his dad was working for the system, trying to win the stupid system’s game. He was just continuing the cycle.
If only the real king would come back. But it had been two generations, 60 years, since the true king had been run out by the tyrants who had turned the city into this.
The weak, pale boy waited at a distance from the well until some women in rags were done drawing their water in front of him. Ever since the new king had taken power, the natural way was to never make contact with people lower than yourself. It didn’t make much sense to the little boy, though. They looked pretty nice, and were even laughing a little bit with each other. The laughter seemed as fresh as water. Both were seldom to come by.
When they were done and at a safe distance, the little boy carried his buckets up to the well and attached them to the rope.He let the rope down for each one, and then pulled it up, hand over hand, laboriously lifting the heavy water. It took several minutes and almost all of his strength to pull up each bucket of water.
As he sat, catching his breath, on the edge of the well, he looked at the heavy buckets of tepid, dirty water setting on the ground in front of him. He looked into the desert in the direction that the city was, an hour and a half away, and sighed, already exhausted.
“Hello.” An unexpected voice came from behind him.
The boy leaped like a skin-and-bones cat from the well, landed on his hands and knees in the dirt and looked back. A man walked up to the well. He was thin and maybe 35 years old.His clothes weren’t dry, long faded fabric like the boy was used to seeing. Around his upper body were thick brown vines woven into straps, holding on a backpack in which was woven pockets and tools of many types.He wore an animal skin around his waist and upper legs but instead of fabric wrapped heavily around his feet and ankles he simply wore a sole of pliable wood wrapped in leather that became straps that tied around his feet.He wore a big fresh green leaf on his head for shade. He must be from the mountain forest country in the other direction.
As he walked to the well, he pulled his backpack off and set it on the well. He pulled a pouch made of animal skin from a pocket in his back pack and unrolled it. He knelt against the well and rested his elbows on it. He opened the pouch and connected the rope to it. He looked over at the boy and held it out to him. “Will you please draw me some water?”
The boy hesitated. His dad and others asked him to bring them water quite often, just because he was weak and couldn’t defend himself. But this man seemed to have different motives. Even just the “Please” and his small smile, and the way that he waited for him patiently, made him seem different.
The little boy was accustomed to obeying and serving so it came as second nature to get up, and do it yet again for this man. He took the rope and lowered it, let the large pouch fill, and then drew it back up, again using almost all of his reserve energy. He handed the leather pouch to the man and started to turn around so he could catch his breath in the shade of the well.
But the man said, “Wait.” He dropped a drip from a small vile in his hand into the water, and then held the pouch out to the boy and said, “This one is for you to drink.”
The boy looked at him questioningly. “Why would you ask me to draw water for you and then give it to me?”
“Because that is the type of king that i am. You have proven yourself worthy of my kingdom. Now drink it.”
The little boy had known it! there was something different and special about this man! But the boy had been trained to be skeptical so he asked, “Why should i believe that you are a king?”
“Don’t you already know it? The ones who are worthy of my kingdom recognize my ways. Drink, my friend.” The man’s smile was almost brimming over with tears; he was so full of joy! It was as if he had been searching for members of his kingdom for years and he had finally found one.
The boy smiled slightly. He put the water skin up to his lips and tasted it. It was sweet. He glanced down at it. It was clean and glistening as well. The boy lifted it and continued drinking until the whole pouch was emptied. He knew who this man was. He was the son of the king who had been run off years ago. This man spoke justice. He had given water to one who deserved it, instead of commanding someone to draw it and then taking it from them. And this man knew how to make the water clean and good.
The boy sighed and let the water run down and fill his stomach. It seemed to rejuvenate his system as it soaked into him. He felt stronger, even before drawing the pouch up. He looked back up at the man and said, “Why did you come?”
“I came to divide people,” he said. “I came to start the war. I came to bring a new way of life to those who want it. Can you tell your parents that you will no longer draw water for that rat king?”
“I don’t know!” The thought of it horrified the little boy. “My mother and father would disown me.”
“Could you do that, if it meant that it would help my kingdom take over in your city?”
The boy thought about it. “But my family is all i have.”
“Could you do it?”
The boy swallowed and looked into the moist pouch as he pondered. “I could do it if that’s the only way. They love their kingdom. I hate it.”
“Then you are worthy to be in my courts with me.” The man said with a somber smile. “For now, my trusted vassal, you should do everything your parents say except for things that would help that impostor king. In that way they will know where you stand, even as you love them and honor them. They will see my kingdom coming in you before the rest of my army arrives. And if they do reject you, and you have no where to go, come and find me. Now, go do good work, my boy. I will return soon. Tell others, and prepare the way for me.”
“Yes, my Lord. It will be my honor to obey.” The boy swallowed, just now realizing the gravity of what he was about to go back to. This would divide his household, but it was the only way. It was long past time for the new king’s kingdom to come, and he would in no way turn it down after waiting so long. And maybe even his parents would believe him and invite this new kingdom, but if they didn’t, the boy still had to try.
The boy loaded up the two buckets onto his shoulders, turned and whispered a genuine “thank you” and set out for home.
He seemed to have new energy. He seemed to have an inner strength. He no longer felt weak and sickly in the core of his being. He was ready to stand up to his father when he needed to, and ready to serve him when that was necessary too, because both would be serving the real king.
It was going to take incredible strength that was rarely seen in his city. But he was confident that he now had it. And he wasn’t sure if it was just something in that water, or if the man truly had the power to bring a new kingdom into the city, and a new life into the hearts of his people.
The quiet revolution had begun and he was ready to risk all to bring it home.