The Boy Who Cried One Thousand Tears_by Lorraine Carey
This short story is dedicated to my former students who I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. I especially remember those of you who felt things deeply and who have inspired me to write this story.
Ethan Morales was a happy boy. His favorite thing to do was to visit the seashore with his mother and dog Taffy. He felt so at home there. It was a place of comfort to him. He loved the way the warm sun felt on his skin and the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks.
~ He felt a lot of things, and when he felt them, he felt them deeply.
He loved to walk along the shore always looking out into the sea in hopes of spotting some dolphins. He worried when he would see one alone that he had lost his family or not might end up in the net of some fishermen.
Many times he’d spot a stray dog on the beach. He worried it was homeless. He’d beg his mother to let him bring it home and care for it.
“Who will take care of him if we don’t help him?” Ethan asked.
He’d get upset with people who littered the beach not picking up after themselves. Ethan picked up the garbage and disposed of it the best that he could.
He ran back to his mother who waited for him while he made his last trip over to the trashbin. “Why don’t they care about the beach, mom?” A few small tears trickled down his cheek.
Ethan’s mother sat on the sand with him. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and hugged him tightly. “It’s not that they don’t care; sometimes people just don’t think. They’re not like you.” She wiped a few tears from his eyes with her beach towel. “Now, let’s head home. Tomorrow is a school day.”
The next day at school, Ethan’s teacher, Mr. Landon was reading an article from the newspaper to the class about the Trudell family who lived in town. They had lost their home in a fire. He had an idea for the class to have a bake sale and raise money to help the family.
The class was just beginning to have a discussion about the bake sale when Ethan could feel the pressure building behind his eyes. I’ve got to get out of here now. He quickly asked to be excused to use the restroom.
He rushed into the restroom hoping no one was in there. Tears began to roll down his cheeks as he thought about the family that had lost their home. He knew he had to go back to class before Mr. Landon would send someone to look for him. He splashed water on his face trying to clear his red swollen eyes.
It was hard for Ethan to focus the remainder of the day. He continued to worry about the family and where they would stay. It wasn’t long before Mr. Landon had noticed something was wrong.
Sure enough Mr. Landon was standing right next to Ethan's desk. He put his hand on Ethan’s shoulder. “ Would you like to talk about what is bothering you?”
Ethan didn’t want to make a scene in class. He wrote Mr. Landon a note stating he would talk to him at recess.
Jason Markson, one of Ethan’s best friends was standing right behind him. “Are you joining us over at the Tetherballs?”
Ethan turned around not wanting Jason to know anything was wrong. “Sure, just have to ask Mr. Landon some questions about homework.”
Ethan peeked into the room making sure no one else was there. He closed the door behind him.
“Come sit with me Ethan.” Mr. Landon motioned for him to come in as he sat grading papers. “ Want to talk about it?”
Ethan hung his head down as tears rolled off his face and dribbled onto Mr. Landon’s desk, wetting a stack of papers.
“I’m sorry Mr. Landon. I just feel so bad for those children who lost their home. It makes my stomach hurt.”
“It’s okay, Ethan. I’ve noticed how sensitive you’ve been during these past few weeks. I know you are a happy boy and don’t want these issues to upset you. There are things in life we just can’t control. We do the best we can. Maybe it would help if you spoke with Mrs. Kramer, our school counselor. “Would you like that?”
Ethan nodded his head as he grabbed some tissues to wipe his eyes.
The recess bell rang and it was time for the class to resume.
Ethan thought about talking to Mrs. Kramer. He didn’t want this to get out. No way was he going to let anyone know he was crying.
It was now reading time and his class was reading Island of Thieves. It was an action - adventure story and he couldn’t wait to begin reading. He shot his hand up to volunteer to read the first page.
That night at dinner Ethan told his mother what had happened at school.
“I know. Mr. Landon called me today. We are both meeting with Mrs. Kramer tomorrow after school. It will be okay. I actually think she can help you. Now finish up your dinner. Ethan gobbled down the remainder of his mom’s baked macaroni and cheese. It was his favorite.
As he was passing through the living room on his way to his bedroom he caught a glimpse of the evening news. It was reporting on a recent earthquake in Japan and how hundreds of people had lost their lives. He clicked off the TV. A flood of tears rolled down his face. He ran up to his room and shut the door. “This is terrible! Why does this happen? I’ve got to call Jason and talk to him!”
Just as quickly as he punched in the numbers to Jason’s phone, he hit end. He didn’t want his best friend to think he was a crybaby.
He sat on his bed glancing out the window to see the sun was just beginning to set. He looked down at all the tissues he had wadded up that were strewn on the floor.
Ethan had an idea. He opened up his closet and took out the box with the small baby food jars he was saving for his science exhibit. He washed them in the bathroom sink and let them dry on the counter. He looked at this face in the bathroom mirror. “I am going to collect my tears in these bottles. I will cry for all those people who have lost their homes and their lives. I will cry for all the animals that don’t have homes. Maybe, just maybe it will save them from shedding more tears. They all must have cried so hard they won’t have any left.”
Feeling quite proud of his new plan, he crawled into bed and made room for Taffy. “Hey girl, I can tell you like my idea.” He was soon fast asleep.
Ethan was in a great mood the next day at school. He played ball at recess with Jason and his friends. He wasn’t even nervous about the meeting with Mrs. Kramer.
School was out and Ethan waited in the room until he saw his mother come in with Mrs. Kramer. They were chatting as they came through the door. Mr. Landon called for Ethan to join them as they sat around his desk.
Mrs. Kramer was the first to speak. “So, Ethan, I understand you have felt sad lately. Would you like to tell us what is bothering you?”
Ethan felt his hands become cold and clammy but knew he had to respond or they could end up sitting there for quite some time. He just wanted this meeting to end. “Some things just make me feel really sad,” he commented.
“Are any of the students bullying you?” Mrs. Kramer asked.
“No, not at all. It’s just that… that I feel sad when things happen to people and animals. I feel it deep in my chest. It’s a feeling that stays with me a long time.”
Ethan’s mother looked at Mrs. Kramer and Mr. Landon. “He’s always been like this for as long as I remember, however it seems to have gotten stronger these past few years. He’s still a happy boy, he just feels things more deeply than others.”
Mrs. Kramer scooted her chair next to Ethan’s. “You know Ethan, it’s okay to feel sad when bad things happen to people and animals. It is normal to feel that way. However you can’t let it bother you for a long period of time. Life has sad times with the good. The time comes when we must just let things go. I know you understand this. I think we can have a plan to meet once a week to discuss your feelings if you like,” Mrs. Kramer suggested.
Ethan looked at Mr. Landon, Mrs. Kramer and his mother who were waiting for his response. “It’s okay. I have a plan. I came up with this idea last night right before bed! I am going to save my tears in little jars. I will cry for all the people and animals so they can save their tears. I will cry for them!”
Mr. Landon, Mrs. Kramer and Ethan’s mother just looked at one another.
And just what do you plan to do once the jars are filled?” Mr. Landon asked.
“I am going to go down to the seashore and release them into the water. It will wash away the tears and hopefully release the pain that others have suffered.”
Ethan’s mother gave him a big hug. Mr. Landon and Mrs. Kramer sat speechless.
Ethan was asked to wait outside for a moment while his mother had a word with Mr. Landon and Mrs. Kramer. Mrs. Kramer took hold of Mrs. Morales’ hand. “I have to tell you that you have a most unique son. In all of my years of counseling I have yet to see someone as caring and sensitive as Ethan. You should be very proud of him. There are very special children such as Ethan whom we call, ‘Empaths’.
Mrs. Morales put her hand on Mrs. Kramer’s shoulder. “I am aware of his special qualities. He's just like his grandmother. She was the same way. And yes, I am very proud of him.”
Tomorrow was Saturday and Ethan had planned to go to the movies with Jason and some of his friends. He turned on the TV to catch the tail-end of the news. It was reporting more clips from the aftermath of the Japan earthquake. Entire villages had been wiped out.
Ethan sat frozen on his bed as the tears began to flow. “The jars! I almost forgot!” He grabbed one and let a few tears trickle into the clear glass jar. They were silent as they fell to the bottom. He clicked off the TV, wiped his face and sealed the jar. “This is for all the people who lost lives in the earthquake.” He sat the jar on his dresser and knew he would release those tears the next time he went to the seashore.
The weeks went by and it was almost time for winter break from school. Ethan had met with Mrs. Kramer a few times and all seemed to go well. On their last meeting she had told him he didn’t need to see her unless he had requested a special session.
Just as Ethan was about to open the door, Mrs. Kramer asked, “By the way Ethan, just how is your plan working out?”
Ethan turned sporting a huge grin on his face.“ I have five jars now. One is for the Japan earthquake, one is for the Trudell family who lost their home in the fire, and one is for the missing boy from San Diego, and the rest, well…”
“Go on Ethan. Enjoy your winter break.”
“Thank you Mrs. Kramer. I plan too.”
One chilly winter day, Ethan was ready to release his tears into the sea. He bundled up in his heavy parka and had on his rubber boots. He carried his box full of jars carefully to the shore. His mother and Taffy were right there with him. The wind whipped and kept blowing the hood off of his parka.
“Let me know just where you want to release these,” his mother called out.
Ethan led his mother and Taffy up the beach to small cove. The beach was pretty much deserted being winter.
He knelt down on the sand removing the jars gently. He walked into the water and was ready to release the first jar. Taffy was having fun running on the beach. His mother was standing right in back of him. “Be careful Ethan!” The water had been choppy this morning.
“ You know mom, I think I have cried at least a thousand tears over the years. I wish I had thought of this sooner. Even Mrs. Kramer had said you need to let things go after a while.”
Ethan stood in the shallow water as the waves splashed him, soaking his clothes. He raised his arm holding the first jar. He emptied the precious contents into the icy waters. “So there you go, tears! Let the water wash away the pain and sorrow for the Trudell family.”
Ethan turned around to see his mother with a smile on her face. She handed Ethan the next bottle. He stood there until he emptied the very last jar.
The sea seemed to calm down a bit. The waves appeared to not be as choppy. It was if the sea really did carry his tears and worries away. He grabbed the box now containing the empty bottles screwing the lids back onto all of the jars.
The three of them walked along the beach back to the car.
Ethan turned to his mom, “You know how much I love the sea.”
“I know, Ethan… I know.”
~ The End