The boy was trashed, or worse. Drunk, stoned, or mentally challenged—the only three options. A double whammy was not impossible, however, nor even a triple one. The kid wore grimy wind pants and a flannel shirt with the sleeves torn off; he crouched in the stairwell, his back against the wall, hugging something to his chest, crooning to it. There was no cup or upturned cap by his feet, but he glanced at everyone coming down the steps, trying to make eye contact. In the piss-colored light, his face looked dead. Lips moved in the corpse-face, a cracked voice chanted in monotonous rhythm: “This is my child, my dear, dear child, who will not grow, who will not thrive.” Some garbage from a poem, sounded like. His shirt was unbuttoned, and he was clutching it, whatever it was, against his chest, up close to his left nipple. “My dear, dear child, who will not grow, who will not thrive.” Certainly not a baby; the head was the wrong shape, triangular, like a folded newspaper, and the body much too bumpy and lumpy under the grimy dishtowel the kid’d draped over it. Alive, though. It moved. Maybe. Or perhaps it was just the quivering of the kid’s scrawny chest, the pulse of his heart and the piston of his breaths, that caused it to seem to move. You put your hand on my arm and said, “Don’t laugh,” squeezing hard, “don’t laugh at him, he loves it,” as we hurried down the steps to the platform and the train.
Patricia Russo’s stories have appeared in City Slab #8, Surreal #4, Corpse Blossoms, Fantasy #2 and Best of Not One of Us. She is also a previous contributor to Cabinet des Fées.
Image: Silence, Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (1865-1953)