Bodies In the Sandbox I: The Mutant Boy


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The Mutant Boy

Tommy Gillespie fought hard but couldn’t break away. He was tangled in the grasp of George Turnboat, a 6-foot meaty giant, who flashed a grin that could make grown men buckle to their knees and the Stitcherton High girls swoon. At first glance, Tommy appeared courageous, a superhero standing up to the evil villain for every other bullied fourth grader in his school, but that wasn’t the case at all. Rather, his stoic expression was the pizza rising back through his esophagus, and his puffy chest was simply severe Marfan Syndrome. In reality, Tommy was a flea against an elephant, a child against a yeti. He knew very well this wasn’t a battle he could win.

George forced Tommy against the freshly painted lockers, staining Tommy’s backpack and elbows bubbly crimson. “You scared, Mutant?” snapped George, spitting in the boy’s matted chestnut hair. As George released his grip, Tommy fell on his ass with a thud. “Stay away from my girl, or we’ll see if your insides are as red as Stitcherton red, pussy.

For the moment it took George to march out of the main hall, Tommy remained still and reserved. A stream of wet red paint streaked down his forearm and fell off his wrist. “This must be what it looks like if I slit my wrists,” he thought somberly. “Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea, after all.” He waited until the metal doors clashed shut, when he was alone with the welcoming silence, before he lost himself.

Tommy wiped the tears away, striping his cheeks crimson. Never in his life had he talked to George’s girl, Natalie. The only one he ever talked to was his brother, but not even his twin could help him in such a hopeless situation. When George Turnboat wanted to beat the living hell out of the school’s deformed weakling, nobody could stop him from doing just that.

Mrrp, mrrp.

A cellphone vibrated in one of the lockers behind Tommy’s head, reminding him to check his own. And sure enough: “Three missed calls,” Tommy blubbered. Each were from unknown callers. He sat still against the wet lockers for a few more minutes, just crying. With his cherry face, he resembled the Stitcherton Devil mascot suit — flaming red, stinky as fuck, and empty on the inside.

Tommy found his brother sitting atop the monkey bars at the playground, chewing on a wad of bubble gum. “Hey, David,” Tommy sniffed, rubbing the dark welt rising on his throat. “We can go home now.”

David hopped off the bars and landed in the soft grass, trampling the recently sprouted wildflowers. “George again?”


Chuckling, David added: “In the main hall? Y’know Mr. Harris is going to be pissed when he gets back tonight to see your pack print in the lockers.”

“Fuck him,” rasped Tommy. Following his brother to the sidewalk, heading towards home. “Did you know they’re calling me Mutant?” He rubbed his nubby sixth finger on his left hand, kicking gravel into the ditch as he walked.

David beamed. “Started that one myself. Figured it was better than Titty Tommy.”

A semi raced past the duo, stirring up dust and a crumpled page of Stitcherton Daily. When the soot settled down and the boys moved farther from the dirt road, Tommy patted the dirt from his hair and whispered, “He called again.”

David stopped. “Did you answer?”


“How many –”

“Three,” answered Tommy. “It’s not stopping like you thought it would.”

“Whatever. Let’s just get home before Mom grounds us for life.” David’s attempt at quickly changing the subject had no effect, as neither of the boys could escape the thought of what was to come should they continue to ignore the blocked calls.

“It’s going to come again,” warned Tommy.

“And when it does, we’ll be ready.” David swallowed his gum. “As long as we have a bathtub….”

Tommy hid his panic behind a quivering grin. “…We have a fighting chance.”

Where Good Children Play

He fought hard but couldn’t break away. With one hand knotted in his dark, curly hair, my other submerged his head deeper and deeper. He threw and rotated his arms to the side desperately searching for a something, anything to latch onto. His revolving, clamped fists sketched imaginary ovals in the air as he struggled to breathe. His body turned and writhed, his stomach constricting and releasing, under my heavy palms.

I could hear him try to speak, his fragmented pleas floating to the surface as air pockets. But I remained emotionless, just like the other times.

Then, when it was time, I heaved him from the tub, his small figure meeting the bathroom floor in a loud slap. In between asphyxiated gasps, he coughed and spat at his feet. And after wiping his mouth on the front of his shirt sleeve, he looked at me with glistening eyes – his cheeks flushed and his lips curved in a mischievous smirk. “It’s your turn now,” he said.

And I grinned.



There were times he would just sit at the park in his Mustang and watch the little butterflies dance and play. Then when he felt an uncomfortable rise in his jeans, he’d drive away.

He would stick the pin through those he caught, immortalizing their innocence and youth. And they would just sit there, their graceful energy frozen, with all the others. But unlike many of the caterpillars in the park, he could play with his butterflies.

Sometimes, he would stumble upon a wounded moth, wings tattered, covered in ants, and he would sit and watch. He watched as the ants nipped at the writhing thing until it gave up at last. The moths, they spat their sinister accusations, befouling his collection with their hideous disfigurement. So he watched their torment with delight.

While others spoke with malice about his art, he was but a spider hard at work. Every night he spun his web – an intricate fortification of contemplation and passion – only to have it smashed under their big feet.

With his freedom, dignity – everything – to lose, the spider would wait in the crevasse with the other spiders. Next time he was going to pin the most beautiful one in the park, he was sure of it.



Featured image is from David Lee on Flickr.

Aiding and Abetting

I didn’t give my parents time to react before I was already out the door.

For a while I have been feeling lost and alone in this tormenting life I live, but nobody seems to notice or care that I’m suffering. It only took my noticing Jason flirting with Shawn to send me into an escapable void of sorrow and hopelessness. Jason and I almost reached our one-year anniversary until I realized he was gay.

Afterward, nothing seemed to go well in every facet of my life: I flunked out of the 12th grade; my best friend Cal killed himself; I was fired at my job at the Dairy Queen, and I became familiar with oxycodone. My one friend, the only one who could truly relieve me of my pain, was a broken Green Day CD. And even that escape was temporary. I needed a distraction.

Tears chap my face as I speed down Pierson Road, the glowing needle of my silver 1995-model Ford Mustang passes 95mph like it was a vat of hot shit. Thoughts of crashing into the stalled pickup in the right lane or those of a police car hidden behind the “Now Leaving Graybach” sign do not cross my mind; all I want to do is get away.

My eyes flick to my rearview mirror, though, when I notice a truck quickly approach my back. Who the hell would be driving 110mph at seven o’clock in the evening, besides me? “Goddamn speeding motherfuckers better not get me pulled over just ‘cause they’re trying to get to a sleazy hotel to fuck some bitch in record time,” I mutter inaudibly against a blaring radio.

Then the fucker clips my bumper, sending yesterday’s cup of coffee into the floorboard.

“Whoa! What the fuck are you doing?” I inquire the dark vehicle in the mirror.

Then a little voice resonates from my back floorboard. “Don’t stop. Please,” it pleads.

Part of me wants to scream in terror that there is a fucking child somewhere in my backseat, but my oxy haze keeps me in the clouds. “Who’s back there?” Could it be George, the young kid next door? The voice was small enough to sound like him. But then again, George is fourteen.

I’m so out of it right now.

After repositioning the mirror, I make out a short body in the back. Using the evanescent light from the street lamps and back lights of cars I’m passing, I see a dirty mess of blond hair and an innocent face. “Just don’t stop. You can’t. I can’t go back there.”

I wipe the last of my tears on my sleeve. “How did you…”

The boy interrupts, “Just don’t let him take me, okay?” With another street lamp, his bruises become clearer; he’s got a black eye and a dark mark across his neck like he’d been strangled.

“You’ve got to give me more than that, kid.”

He whimpers as the truck rams my Mustang once more, forcing me to slow down to a manageable speed. Part of me hopes that it would play out like a movie and the truck would go speeding past me, unable to slow down as quickly as I have. Things are never that simple, though.

Suddenly, a bullet whizzes through my back window, striking the dashboard. An influx of freezing air flows into my car.

I know what I have to do now. “Get in the front, kid! Be careful around the glass,” I say, taking his hand and pulling him into the passenger’s side seat. His figure is perfectly visible now: he’s dressed in a torn green-and-red-striped Abercrombie t-shirt and blue cargo shorts; his muddy cream face is sunken in and his body is gaunt and weak. I imagine that he was a cute boy at one point.

A pair of innocent, blue eyes blinks at me. “You look a lot like my sister; she was pretty, too,” observes the boy, completely unfathomed by the shooting maniac behind us.

I flash him a grin, reach over his skeletal frame, open the passenger door, and push him out onto the street. This satisfied the raging lunatic, and I pick up my speed once again – losing sight of the boy and his captor.

“Fucking oxycodone,” I say, laughing. “You can’t trick me with these ridiculous hallucinations. I know what’s real.”

It’s not until I reach a shoddy motel that I realize that I will need to stop by a mechanic soon to fix the bullet hole in my window. I wouldn’t want the snow to ruin the Mustang’s upholstery.

Painted Faces

Once a year I take time from home to visit a cabin in Chesapeake Bay in which I sit next to the fireplace, with a notebook on my lap and pen grasped tightly in my palm, and I write. I write for hours, submerged in my work until in my peripheral I notice the sky darkening, the vibrant streaks of pink and yellow fading into a cobalt canvas. The surrounding forest grows darker by the minute, dusk’s damp dew settling into the soft earth. And with this spectacle I take a breath and smile; it is time.

It’s only seconds after sundown that I excitedly shove the key into the lock of the back room and reveal my private play pin, the place in which my creativity blossoms and my block for new material fades. Finally, I will have material to start the new chapter.
For the most part, the room is empty – the windows are smeared with black paint and sheets of newspaper – save for the little beauties: my best friends. I turn on the radio sitting on a dust covered three-legged table. There is no radio reception this far into the forest, but I find the crackling static exhilarating, as do the others.

Sitting around a cream table are the figures of my three perky friends. Each is dressed in the same apparel in which I discovered them: Penny is in her pink-checked nightgown; Timothy is in his denim shorts and white t-shirt; Charlotte is dressed in a gorgeous yellow sundress and white stockings. But something is different. Something is very wrong.

“Charlotte!” I scream, rushing to her limp frame, but she’s already gone. One of the others must have done it. “Who did this?” I demand, pointing to my darling girl’s corpse.

My eyes well up with tears as I imagine one of my own friends doing such an unthoughtful thing.

The others remain quiet. How dare they say nothing! If neither of them speaks, then both of them are surely lying. Could they both have been so ruthless that they murder one of my most precious friends! How can they sit there with that smile plastered on their face, while I handle the body of their dead sister? God, I’ve raised a bunch of psychopaths!

But I have to keep it together. There is a way to work this out. I have two options: I could forgive Timothy and Penny, or whoever had murdered my precious Charlotte – no, I surely can never do that, what is done has been done – or they both should be punished. Regrettably, that’s exactly what I have to do. I must do what is right for my beautiful Charlotte.

There is a hammer in the kitchen cabinet, and I return to the playroom with it in my hand. I used it last year to nail Penny’s drawing of a flower to the wall. How ignorant was I to fall for Timothy and Penny’s devious antics! But before I punish them I have to explain. They have to know.

“Timothy, Penny, I have known you both for three years. Three! And during those years I believed that we each loved and understood one another. I set aside a slice of my life to spend it joyously with you all. Getting to play with you is what I look forward to doing every year.” I glance at the cold, metal head of the hammer. “And because somebody so callously murdered Charlotte – and neither of you will confess – I can’t play with any of you anymore. That’s why I have to do this.”

I open my mouth to mutter, “I love you”, but my lips are shut as firm as my babies’. How could I ever have thought of doing this if I loved them? Did I even love them? Is it my love for Charlotte that drove the other two to destroy her?

Oh, God, it is my fault. It is not Timothy or Penny who should be punished; I should be! For not devoting my life to taking care of each of them initially, I am to blame for Timothy and Penny’s negligent behavior. While I slave restlessly on that computer, typing chapter after chapter to meet publishing deadlines, I destroyed everything. I tore my family apart.

I do not have any options. I must atone and prove to my children how sorry I am for leaving them. So I grab the pair of scissors I used to cut the loose thread on Charlotte’s sundress last year and firmly run the blade against my wrists. My tears finally start to fall as I lie down and rest my head against the icy, shattered face of my darling Charlotte. I try to hear her voice once more, but hear only empty static.

My other porcelain children do not make a sound, nor do they budge. And I am left staring endlessly at their perfect smiling faces.