J Almon Polk - Flash Fiction


Under the stars of a moonless night, deep in the forest, Shishya, an eight-year-old dark-skinned boy, sat facing a small lake. Next to him sat his master. “Bapu,” the boy said, pulling his guru’s saffron-colored robe, now dark without color in the night.

Bapu, the white-bearded old man, came out of his meditation. “What is it, my dear child?”

“I have been thinking about God,” the boy said. “Every time I try to imagine what God looks like, I become confused. Is God a man? Or is God a woman?”

“Those are good questions,” the guru said in a soft, warm voice. “God is both. God is our Divine Father. God is our Divine Mother.”

“I don’t understand,” Shishya said. “How can God be both a man and a woman?”

Bapu rested his hand gently on the boy’s shoulder. “Look up, my dear child.” He pointed with his other hand toward the night sky. “Tell me what you see?”

“I see stars. Thousands of tiny points of light scattered all over the sky.”

“What you see is our Divine Father,” the old guru said. “We are all stars’ children. All the things of our world—both living and not living—are made from the materials formed in the fires of the stars. The universe is our Divine Father. Do you understand, my dear child?”

“The universe is our Father,” Shishya said. “So God is a man.”

“You are a good student,” the guru said, and then he fell again into his profound silence.

The boy sat gazing up at the stars. All the people, all the animals, all the living and not-living things of this world, the ground on which he sat, the trees around him, the lake in front of him—all of them came from the stars. For a long time Shishya sat wondering until he could no longer keep his eyes open. He fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed of the stars. 

When the sun rose in the morning, Shishya woke up. Beside him sat his master meditating. Rubbing his sleepy eyes, the boy gazed at the lake. He wondered about the things his master had told him about God. Then he became confused. “Bapu.” He pulled the guru’s robe.

Bapu opened his eyes and smiled at the boy, his white-bearded face glowing with the color of the sunrise. “What is it, my dear child?”

“I do not understand,” the boy said. “I have been thinking. You said we all come from our Divine Father who is of the stars. Then how can God also be a woman?”

 “My dear Shishya,” Bapu said and raised his hands. “Tell me. What do you see around you?”

“I see a lake before us,” the boy said. “There, I see a fish jump. In the sky, I see a falcon flying in a circle.”

“Tell me more of what you see.”

“I see trees,” the boy said, looking around him. “There are birds singing in the trees. I see a squirrel hunting for nuts. I see ants crawling on the ground next to me.” He looked at his master. “And I see you sitting beside me.”

Bapu touched the back of the Shishya’s head. “You are a smart boy,” the old man said, stroking his fingers through the boy’s long hair. Then he raised his kindly eyes out toward the stretch of waters. “What we see all around us is our Divine Mother.”

“Our Divine Mother?”

“Our Earth is what nurtures us. Without Her, we will not be here. Earth is our womb from where we and all the other living things are born. Without Earth, the star stuff from our Divine Father would not have blossomed into life.” He gazed at the boy. “My dear child, do you understand?”

Shishya touched the ground with his tiny hand. “Earth is our Divine Mother,” he said, feeling the warmth of the earth. “Without our Mother we will not be.” Then he looked up at the rising sun. “And without our Father we could not be.”  

*** End ***

J Almon Polk Flash Fiction
A scene from the 2008 film “Bab’ Aziz” – An old man, Bab’ Aziz, and his granddaughter, Ishtar, travel through the desert
Categories: Flash Fiction


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