Although I was quite poor, somehow, a new shirt had come into my possession. The shirt had beautiful buttons, no two of them alike.
Having heard good buttons were valuable, I presented the shirt to a large, pale, flabby man standing behind a counter, hoping to exchange the article for a useful sum of money. The man glanced at the shirt, told me he had all the buttons he needed, then handed it back to me.
I had also brought a book. I had written the book myself. I no longer remembered what it was about, but I knew it was a good book — a book people would love to read, if only they had the chance. I gave the book to the man. Without bothering to open it, he explained that there was little need anymore for that kind of book — people liked different kinds now.
The man handed me the book. It had weathered considerably, and now there was a dirty thumb print on the cover.
I turned to go. The door, only a few feet from the counter when I had come in, now seemed miles away. After I had covered part of the distance, I stopped and looked back at the man who had deemed my book and my buttons worthless. He seemed familiar, like someone famous whose picture I had seen long ago in a newspaper or magazine, and whose life had since turned into an aimless cloud. That happens to people sometimes. Usually they don’t know it until they bump into a mountain, or get burned by the sun, or someone on the ground shoots holes in them with a toy bow and arrow.
I wish people wouldn’t do that. I wish they would feel pity for aimless clouds.
Songs and Letters, August 21, 2006
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