Boy: Part 1

Boy is a story which is very dear to my heart. It was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1971, and since that time it has been translated to 12 different languages.The story has garnered 12 literary awards, including the Staunton Award for Oblique Literature. And now, please enjoy part 1 of Boy.

The door to governing center #231 slid open and a man stepped inside. He was frail with mussed and thinning hair. He led a small boy by the hand. Behind the desk sat an old woman. She did not look up when the two entered and when the service chime rang she muttered something unintelligible. Reflected in her glasses was a television screen. The man cleared his throat.

“Mm?” The old woman did not look up.

“Excuse me madam, excuse me, but… this boy…” The man started.

“He can’t treat her that way. It just isn’t done these days.” The woman murmured.

This did not seem to be addressed to anyone in particular. She shoveled a handful of blue candy into her mouth and continued to stare at the screen.

“Well, yes. I was traveling along Tenth Street, you see. Well, I was passing the bakery when-”

Just then the woman bellowed and pounded the desk with her fist, causing a tin full of supplies to come clattering off the desk and roll across the tiled floor. The man skittered backwards with a yelp.

“Dreadful!” she thumped the desk. “Scandalous!” and again, “Outrageous!” a third impact and the woman broke into a fit of thunderous guffaws. “HAW! HAW! HAW! AND WITH THE CHIEF OF POLICE, NO LESS! HAW! HAW! HAW!”

The man stood in a half crouch with eyes wide, ready to flee at the first sign of danger. The woman abruptly quieted and resumed watching her program as if nothing had happened. During this ordeal the child had not moved at all. He stood silently in front of the desk. There was no talking for a time, and all that could be heard was a gentle murmur from the televisions tin speaker. Soon, the old woman snorted crudely and glanced up from the screen. The program she was watching had ended, and she now turned her attention to the visitors.

“What’s this now?” The woman heaved herself out of the chair with a grunt and stood up, leaning against the desk, flecks of the blue candy flicking from her tongue as she spoke. “Who are you,  Eh?” Her eyes narrowed.

“Well, um…I mean, you see,” the man was sweating and began shifting his weight from one foot to the other, “I-I-I only came to drop the child, I found him wandering the streets an-”

“Anything else? Is there anything else I can help with? Anything at all?” The woman did not wait for a reply and settled down into her chair.

The man frowned and slapped his hand feebly on the desk.

“The whole reason I came here was to turn in this child.”

“A child? What’s that?”

“A child, that child!” He pointed at the boy, who was now sitting in a chair and humming a tune.

The woman sighed and staggered to her feet again.

“Turn him in? Why? What has he done” she asked.

“He hasn’t done anything! I found him roaming the streets!”

“Roaming the streets,” the woman clucked her tongue, “The little wretch!”

“It’s true I tell you! I found him digging through the dumpster behind the bakery. I asked him where his parents were an-”

“What did he tell you?” The woman interrupted, staring at the boy.

“Ask him for yourself.” The man stepped aside. “Come here child.” he said.

The boy jumped from the chair and marched over to the desk. The old woman took off her glasses and leaned forward. The desk moaned.

“Where are your parents, silly boy?”

“Dis-da-peared.” He said.

The old woman puckered her lips.

“Listen boy, you needn’t lie. Just tell us where mother and dada are and we'll call them to come pick you up.”

“Dis! Da! Peared!” The boy cried, crossing his arms. The old woman scowled.

“You see?” The man said. “Do you see how he is? That’s all he would tell me. The little liar ought to be given a good thumping if you ask me. That’s the only real way to get through to a child. Bash their little heads in!”

The old woman sighed and hefted herself off of the counter. She sauntered around and bent over next to the boy.

“Now then, it’s alright. It’s OK. You can tell us the truth. Auntie Mila is your friend, you see? Now can you tell us where you live? Can you tell us where your house is?”

She reached out to put her arm around the boy, but he wriggled out of her grasp and began marching in a circle.

“DIS-DAPEARED! DIS-DAPEARED! DIS-DAPEARED!” He cried out in time with his march.

“The Braaaat.” The woman hissed. She lunged at the boy, who darted away, just out of reach.

“See what I mean.” The man laughed and began striding towards the door.

“Just WHERE do you think YOU’RE going!?” The old woman shouted as she stumbled around the room after the boy.

“I simply must be going! There's work to be done.”

The man stepped in front of the door and it slid obediently open; a cool breeze drafting in. “Ta-ta!” He said and whisked out, leaving the door to close behind him with a thwip. The old woman snatched at the boy’s collar and swore under her breath, wresting him to the ground and sitting across his back. From under the old woman’s dress came a muffled little voice, chanting defiantly.

“Dis-da-peared. Dis-da-peared.”

The old woman growled.