I wrote this piece for a Chuck Wendig Terrible Minds flash fiction challenge.
The photo I used can be found here: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=3003524
I’m trying to write more recently, and flash always gets me started so I can focus on longer works. I hope you enjoy.
Found: Small boy. Won’t sit still. Speaks no English.
He bit my hand when we found him. Sitting on a school chair in the cave near the river where we fished. A baby really, but wild like an animal. I don’t know how long he’d been there and whether his behavior indicated he’d been raised by wolves or simply abandoned by the people who were supposed to care for him.
I’d read, in the old days, deformed babies or unwanted babies were left out in the elements to die. But he was neither. Blonde hair and blue eyes set in his head like a china doll. He was perfect looking but for the layer of dirt so thick it had turned his skin the color of a darkie. He squealed and clawed at my face when I tried to put him in the tub. Jeffrey had to take over, and he seethed so much with anger I thought he’d drown the boy. When I pulled the baby out, his skin looked red and raw from being scrubbed so hard with the lye soap. The water in the tin tub looked as black as the soil on the land we farmed.
“Wild animal. Can’t live here,” Jeffrey said, as the boy ran around the room screeching and hollering.
He posted the signs around town. Went out on horseback and listed our address below the words. But no one wanted a castaway and so the boy stayed. For months. And the baby growing inside me began to make its presence known.
I tried to teach the boy English. I pointed to the bump on my stomach and said, “Baby.” I labeled all the objects in the cabin, pointed to the words and said the names. He moved his mouth but only pathetic animal sounds erupted from his lips. In anger, he projected his small body onto the floor kicking up dust and dirt until I had to walk away.
“We have to get rid of him,” Jeffrey said.
But I shook my head. I did not agree.
Jeffrey and I lay under the quilt in the oak bed as the boy, or the animal as Jeffrey called him, slept on the pallet on the floor kicking and screaming in his sleep. Jeffrey reached over and rubbed my belly. The baby didn’t move for him.
“This is our child. That’s not,” he said pointing to the boy.
Weeks of arguments as the baby inside me grew. And the boy seemed to become more wild.
“Cannot be tamed,” Jeffrey said, sitting at the kitchen table wiping the sweat and the dirt from his brow.
And the whole time something grew inside me. Guilt, fear, and anger. On the inside I began to take on the feelings of the boy. A wild rage Jeffrey couldn’t understand swelled up like a hurricane within me. A wild rage threatened the humanity inside of me. And Jeffrey began to turn his back upon me. At night, the gulf between us grew. He’d touch the small of my back, and I pulled away from the roughness of his fingertips. And even as the chasm widened, I became closer to the boy. I felt he was a part of me. I felt I understood his pain. I felt he had given it to me to share. Something inside, deep down, told me not to give up on him.
The boy began to take my hand. He would roll his hand into a fist and push it against my open palm. His cries ceased, and he became silent. His silence permeated me, and I began to speak less and less. He put his grimy little hand against my belly, and the baby inside me squirmed and moved under the softness of his fingers.
In one breath, I let go of the rage, and Jeffrey inhaled it, filling up his whole body with a palpable anger. He shouted at me and the boy. He spent longer days in the field away from me. Away from the boy. When the shouts didn’t work he filled our house with an unthinkable void of sound. The silence sat at our dinner table like an uninvited guest. The tension took on a personality filling our souls with hatred.
And then one morning, I awoke to find the boy gone. Jeffrey sat at the table with a pocket knife, sharpening a branch.
“Going fishing. Want to come?”
I shook my head but didn’t utter a word. I felt alone and abandoned stuck within myself, but Jeffrey’s terrible anger had fled with the boy.
Jeffrey had been gone a few hours when the contractions started. I knew from watching my mama give birth that labor wasn’t quick. But there were other plans for me. The boy clawed his way out of me as quickly as he could. The pain felt so intense that all the rage and loneliness of the last few months escaped through the bestial screams coming from my lips.
The baby stared up at me with blue eyes. He opened his mouth to cry, but instead the boy’s animal sounds spilled out of his throat. I held him to my nipples, and I whispered into his ears, “Now you’re mine forever. No one can take you away. I will never abandon you again.”
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4 thoughts on “The Boy”
Great piece. It’s amazing how one photo can bring such different emotion and ideas to people.
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Thank you Tracy. I enjoyed writing it. I had a lot of emotions stirred out within me that day and it played out well in the flash fiction.
This one takes you on quite a ride. I like the depth of it.
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Thank you M.D.! I had a lot of emotions when I wrote it.