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Balen and the Factory

Here’s a little story I wrote today called “Balen and the Factory”:

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BALEN AND THE FACTORY
by Sean Patrick Hannifin

Balen stood before the door, just one among a crowd. He was only fourteen, but it was never too soon to try, was it? Balen knocked and waited patiently. He didn’t know exactly what was inside, but he knew it was wondrous; it was where people made music and books and movies and candy. It was where anyone with an imagination as amazing as his should be. It was a paradise inside.

The doors slowly opened. A man in a blue coat stood in the doorway, peering out into the small crowd. Balen was surrounded by men and women, old and young, even children. The man in the blue coat pointed at someone, some kid who lept for joy and disappeared into the darkness beyond the doorway. The man in the blue coat pointed at someone else, an older woman. She smiled and walked in proudly. The man in the blue coat pointed at several others and they went in. But he ignored Balen. Then he closed the door.

Oh well. It was a long shot. Like winning the lottery. Except the prize was better. Maybe next year.

So the next year Balen returned to the door and knocked. Again he was surrounded by a small crowd of people. Again the man in the blue coat did not choose him.

The next year Balen returned again. And the next year, and the next. Many years passed, decades even, and Balen became old. He hated the surrounding crowds. They were noisy and annoying. He just wanted to get inside. It was unfair that he should have to wait so long. So many others were getting picked, children even. Who else had returned as many times as he had? He deserved to be inside by now.

The man in the blue coat opened the door. He was now very old and slow. He shook his head and spoke, his voice as cool as the wind:

“I’m sorry. This is the end. There will be no more. We’re shutting this place down.”

The crowd grumbled and left, but Balen stayed. As the man turned back to the door, Balen pulled on his coat.

“What?” the man asked calmly.

“Can I come in?” Balen asked.

“No,” the man said.

“Please!” Balen begged, falling to his knees. “Please! Let me in!”

“Sorry,” the man said. “It’s too late.”

“I’ve been knocking and waiting for fifty years! Surely you must have noticed me! Why would you never let me in?”

“You never smiled.”

Balen felt like punching the old fool. “I would’ve smiled if you had let me in!”

The man shook his head. “We wanted people who were already happy.”

Balen smiled.

The old man frowned. “You can’t fake it. And it’s too late.” And he slammed the door.

Balen went home and lived out the rest of his boring life in boring boredom.

Categories: Stories

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S P Hannifin

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