Once upon a time, in a small town several miles away from where you live, several people were on their way to work, smiling and politely greeting each other. The town had been named Darlington after its founder and was a place where everyone was meant to be happy all of the time. To celebrate the fact the residents should feel great about their lives, a flag was put up in the centre of town. This decision was made by the mayor, Mayor Samson, and every decision Mayor Samson had made up until then had made the residents of Darlington happy and more fulfilled and content. He loved the town and the people in it and would never do anything to deliberately make their lives worse. The decision to put the flag up would, however, be the last big decision he would make as Mayor of Darlington.
The flag seemed innocent enough and, if you spent any longer than twenty seconds staring at it closely, then you would notice that it was simply made out of different coloured pieces of cotton with each piece not meaning anything on its own. When you took a step back and looked at the pictures formed out of the cotton, however, it was easy to be filled with emotion. Particularly if you were one of the happy residents who lived in Darlington as the picture made up the face of Mr John Darlington himself and it reminded you why you were here and why you should be happy. Unless, of course, you were an eight-year-old boy and your name was Oliver Smith.
Oliver disliked the flag the moment it was put up, which was odd in itself because the residents of Darlington were not used to disliking anything. Oliver didn’t like the colours, he didn’t like the face on the flag, nor did he like the picture of a dove next to the face on the flag. One night, while eating a roast dinner, Oliver’s mother and father were discussing how much they loved the new flag and what it meant to them. “I don’t really like it,” Oliver announced much to the shock of his parents. They took a moment to comprehend what they had just heard.
“Oh,” said Oliver’s Mum, “And why is that, honey?”
“I don’t like the colours,” he announced. “Or the face on it. I think it looks a little scary.”
Oliver’s parents were not sure how to react. They had never been dissatisfied with anything before and were worried what might happen if other people found out that Oliver didn’t appreciate the flag at all. They asked him not to talk about the fact he didn’t like the flag, an instruction Oliver followed until 10am the next day.
Oliver and his mother were paying for their groceries at the local store when the lady behind the counter asked them what they thought of the wonderful, new flag. Oliver’s mother responded immediately that she loved it and how proud her family felt to look at it every morning. “I don’t like it,” Oliver responded bluntly. Oliver’s mother turned around and noticed several families behind her were looking quite concerned. She tried to reassure them by saying that Oliver was just joking.
“No, I’m not, Mummy,” Oliver said looking up at her. “I don’t like it at all and I think we should have a flag that shows a picture of a slice of cheesecake.”
Most of the store was now looking at Oliver and his mother. “What have I told you about being silly in the stores, Oliver?” his mother asked nervously.
“Wait,” one of the customers interrupted. “I want to hear what young Oliver has to say.” All eyes were now on the young boy.
“Well,” he started. “The picture on the flag doesn’t make me happy, but cheesecake does. So, why can’t we have a flag with cheesecake on it instead?”
“I’d like a flag with cheesecake on it as well,” another young boy spoke up from behind his father. Before long, many people in the store were agreeing with young Oliver, saying they much prefer cheesecake over the picture of Mr Darlington. They marched down to Mayor Samson’s office, demanding the flag be changed. This obviously caught the Mayor off guard because everyone he spoke to had said they were quite happy with the flag. He suggested that Darlington could have two flags. One for Mr Darlington and one with a cheesecake on it. For a moment, this seemed to keep everyone happy and Mayor Samson felt pleased he had solved the problem. That was until an older lady from the crowd announced that she didn’t like the picture of Mr Darlington, nor did she particularly like cheesecake and that she would prefer a flag with knitting needles on it. “Yes, but, surely it’s more about what the cheesecake represents?” Suggested the Mayor.
“No, I just like cheesecake,” replied Oliver.
Before long, there were nearly as many suggestions about what picture to have on the flag as there were people in the town. Mayor Samson was unable to keep everyone happy and made the decision to leave the town. Others went with him, in search of towns with flags that would make them feel happy.
In the end, no one lived in Darlington and the only evidence that people once lived there were some abandoned buildings and a single flag, waving to no one in the middle of town.
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