Glenn Gray, The Little Boy Inside
The Little Boy Inside
Publisher: Concord ePress (Oct. 4, 2013)
Length: 245 pp.
At first, Greg thought he might be choking. After all, he did have acid reflux and maybe his esophagus was inflamed and irritated. He lost his breath for a moment and then it felt as if he would vomit, a little gagging, and then he coughed up the little boy right onto his desk.
The boy was naked and he was tiny, no bigger than a pen cap.
The boy was alive, somewhat lethargic, but alive; and covered in mucous.
Greg was shocked and thought that maybe the couple of beers he downed might have had something to do with the whole thing. Was he that buzzed? Greg jolted up from his desk, scared and vaguely appalled, not knowing quite how to react.
His first impulse was to get some tissues and clean him up but he didn’t want to leave him alone. What if the little guy disappeared or woke and ran away? He didn’t want that.
Greg scanned his study, grabbed one of his medical journals from the stack on the floor, the firm glossy blue one, the American Journal of Neuroradiology, and carefully tapped and slid the little boy onto the cover.
He practically tip-toed to the bathroom, one hand holding the journal, the other cupping the edge so the boy didn’t slip and fall off. He rested the journal on the counter and studied the boy closely in the brighter light, noticing the sandy hair with the bowl cut, matted down in splotches from the phlegm.
The boy was on his side now, in the fetal position, looking cozy and comfortable.
Greg ripped some toilet tissue from the roll on the wall and patted the boy gently, drying him off, and the boy seemed to enjoy it, bending his knees closer and hugging himself tighter.
Greg draped the boy’s body with a few sheets of dry tissue and the boy fell asleep.
* * *
Greg rummaged around in his garage until he finally found it, the cardboard box that his recently purchased computer came in. He hadn’t thrown it away yet, just in case something went wrong with the computer and he had to return it.
But now it would serve a different purpose.
He tore off the top portion and flattened out the bottom.
Greg got one of his old t-shirts and a couple of old socks and arranged them along the bottom of the box.
He gently slid the sleeping boy onto the fuzzy sock, covered him with some pieces of another soft shirt he had ripped up.
The boy rustled but didn’t wake.
The boy looked relaxed and snug.
Greg crumpled up a chocolate chip cookie and let the crumbs fall next to the boy. From his kitchen garbage, he fished a cap from a two-liter bottle of diet soda, rinsed it and filled it with milk, plopped it in the box.
Greg stared down at the boy in his new box-home, fascinated, and thought that he absolutely without a doubt must be losing his mind.
* * *
Greg didn’t know what to do.
He brought the box to his study, placed it on his desk next to the computer. He poured himself a Jameson and sat there staring down into the box.
The boy slept soundly.
He got up, paced the house and then sat back down.
He thought about going to the ER. But then thought again. What the heck would he do? Walk in with the box, set it down and say, I just threw this up? Look?
Besides he couldn’t see going to his own hospital, the one where he worked. He could just hear the staff now: “Dr. Baxter in Radiology has lost his mind. Walked in with a mini boy in a box, said he threw it up. Guess he’s had too much radiation exposure.”
And out here in the sticks there wasn’t another ER for a hundred miles. Greg figured that’s what he gets for taking the job nobody wanted in Upstate New York, middle of nowhere.
Greg thought maybe he should get a CT scan in the morning. What if there were other boys living in his abdomen. A whole swim team? A Fraternity? Christ. But surprisingly Greg felt fine now; he didn’t even have the slightest hint of bloating or epigastric pain he had usually experienced every day for the past several months.
He felt totally normal.
* * *
Greg admitted to himself that he would need some help, someone to talk to, and he knew who he had to call.
Greg had basically just met Cindy.
He thought he was falling in love with her. No, he definitely had fallen in love with her.
But he didn’t want her to think he was a freak.
Could he really call her now and tell her he just threw up a mini boy and could she please come over. Could he? They had been dating for only two months.
And he had just broken up with her the day before last.
Greg grabbed the phone, held his finger above the number pad for a long moment, then punched her number.
“I know it’s late, but I need to talk to you.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No. No I’m not. I need to see you.”
“Hellloo? Greg? You said you didn’t want to see me anymore. Getting too serious, remember?”
“I’m sorry, Cindy. Really, I am. It’s just, well, something’s happened.”
“I’d like to talk.”
“I wanted to talk, you didn’t. Now you want to talk.”
“I know. I need to talk now.”
“I was trying to get close. You ran.”
“Now you call, late Friday night, say you want to talk.”
“Well, I need to show you something.”
“You tore my heart out, Greg.”
“I didn’t mean it.”
“And I’m not doing it again.”
“But I have this thing...”
Greg stood for a moment in the middle of his study with the phone to his ear, sighed.
The old clock on the wall ticked and ticked.
He finally clicked the phone off and placed it on his desk, next to the box.
He looked into the box.
The little boy was lying on his back, eyes wide open, a swath of material pulled to his chin like a blanket.
Greg reflexively backed off, as if he were not supposed to be looking, caught peeping. He then slowly peeked back over the edge.
The boy met his gaze and tilted his head.
Greg stared. He leaned closer. He could hear his own breath whistling through his nostrils.
“Who,” Greg finally said, coming out like a whisper. “...who are you?”
The little boy looked puzzled, scrunched up his face.
The boy’s voice was a distant soft squeak. “I don’t know.”
The little boy’s eyes shut and he nodded off to sleep.
* * *
Greg watched the sleeping boy for an hour.
Greg had another Jameson and two beers and then brought the box into his bedroom, put it on the floor next to his bed.
Greg changed into flannel pajamas and climbed into bed.
He intermittently woke up to check on the boy.
In the middle of the night Greg was roused by a funny noise. He flicked on the lamp, leaned over to look in the box. The little boy was hunched over on his stomach, sobbing.
“Hey, little boy,” Greg said, leaning on an elbow. “You okay?”
The boy turned to his side, looked up at Greg. He took a few breaths, wiped his face. “I feel scared.”
“What’s that? You’re scared?” Greg lowered his ear, reached into the box. “It’s okay, little guy. It’s gonna be okay. Here.”
Greg splayed his fingers, creating a welcoming flat surface. The boy hesitated, then crawled on hands and knees onto Greg’s fleshy palm.
“There you go.” Greg lifted him out of the box, brought him close to his face. “Everything’s gonna be just fine, little boy.”
The boy twisted, pushed, then stood, a scrap of cloth twisted about his waist. He smoothed his face with both hands. “Thank you.”
Greg lay back in bed against two pillows, turned his wrist and let the boy roll onto his chest. “You’re safe here.”
The boy curled into a flannel fold.
A moment later, they both fell asleep, Greg’s chest rising and falling like rolling waves, his heart rhythmically thudding beneath the boy.
* * *
Greg woke at dawn, still on his back, and the little boy was still curled up on his chest.
Greg cupped the boy in his hand and gently maneuvered his little body onto the bed next to him, in a fluffy roll of covers. Greg watched him sleep.
Greg thought about going over to the hospital. It was Saturday after all and things would be quiet in Radiology. He thought again about getting a CT scan, just to check things. He knew Mike was the tech working today so there wouldn’t be many questions.
He also thought that maybe he would bring the little boy, put him on the table next to him. Secretly, of course. And then he thought about the radiation dose and if it would be okay, given the boy was so small. He figured, gosh, we scan little premie babies when we have to and if it’s just once that should be harmless.
He had to see what this boy was made of.
Greg showered, got dressed and had breakfast. He kept checking on the boy, who continued to sleep comfortably in the bed.
He figured he’d phone Cindy again, see if things were different now, given it was morning and she had time to think.
There was no answer, just the machine, which he hung up on.
He then remembered that Cindy sometimes worked on Saturday. She was a physical therapist at the hospital and often times she would spend Saturday mornings working with some difficult patients.
When Greg entered the bedroom, he abruptly stopped in the doorway. The little boy was running and jumping on the bed. Sliding down some of the bunched up covers, rolling around.
Greg went to the bed and kneeled at its side.
The boy stopped and smiled at Greg. The boy was breathing heavily.
Greg said, “Hi.”
“I feel better now.”
“You want to go on a trip?”
“To my work.”
Greg put on his navy blazer and slipped the boy into the breast pocket.
The boy pulled up on the edge of the pocket, peeked his head out.
“Yes,” he said. “This is fun.”
* * *
“I’m having some abdominal pain,” Greg told Mike the tech. “I just want to get a quick non-contrast abdomen and pelvis. Check things out.”
Mike smiled, made a goofy face. “You’re the doctor, Doc.”
Mike helped Greg onto the CT gantry, positioned him. Greg didn’t say anything, but he had the little boy in his hand and he was going to place him on the table at the right time.
“Okay, Doc.” Mike said. “I’ll do a scout view and you know the drill.”
Mike went into the CT control room, watched from behind the glass as the CT whirred into action. Greg’s right hand was opposite the control room. He let the boy out onto the table. On the way over, he had instructed the boy as to what would happen. The boy got on his back along side Greg’s abdomen.
After the scan, Greg cupped the boy in his hand, met Mike in the control room.
Mike was looking at the images on the screen. “That good, Doc?”
“Yes, yes. Fine,” Greg said. “Just save it to CD and then delete the case from the system. This is off the record, okay?”
“You’re the doc, Doc.” Mike grinned.
Greg changed back to his shirt and blazer, got the CD from Mike.
He went to the reading room and punched in the extension to physical therapy.
“I’m here in the hospital. Just did a CT.”
“Fine. Had some abdominal pain,” Greg lied. “Can we talk?”
“I have a lot of patients.”
“I really need to talk to you. Seriously.”
“I thought we had something, Greg. This isn’t easy for me.”
“I know, I know.” Greg said. There was a long silence. “Cindy?”
“Um. I love you.”
Another even longer silence.
“Now you love me?”
“I always did.”
“Christ, Greg,” Cindy said. “You’re like a child.”
“What’d you say?”
“You’re like a child. A typical man.”
Greg’s head was spinning. He looked into his pocket. The little boy was looking upward, smiling.
“Greg? You still there?”
“Oh. Yes. Yes, yes.”
“You were telling me you wanted to show me something.”
“Um. No. I wanted to talk to you.”
“Last night. You said you wanted to show me something.”
“I did. Well, I wanted to show you my love.”
“You’ve lost your mind.”
“I’m lost without you.”
Greg could hear Cindy inhale, breathe out heavily. “So you wanna swing by PT?”
* * *
Greg stood at the door to the physical therapy department, watching Cindy work with a stroke patient on a mat. The gaunt, skeleton of a man was hemiparetic, his right arm and leg paralyzed, spasm twisting his limbs inward. Cindy was gently stretching his arm, doing some range-of-motion exercise.
Greg realized then how much he loved Cindy. She was loving and caring. She understood things. It was the first time in his life he could remember feeling this way. There was a sense of calm, a warmth that infiltrated his gut whenever he studied her.
Greg decided that he wanted to marry her.
Cindy looked over and smiled at Greg.
She gave the man an elastic band, had him start an exercise on his own.
She walked over.
She stopped in front of Greg, held his gaze.
Greg said, “Hi.”
Greg moved in close and hugged Cindy, pulled her toward him. Cindy was stiff at first and then softened.
“You know,” Greg said. “There is something I want to show you.”
Cindy made a face. “Oh?”
“Really. But you have to come over. Now is not the time or the place.”
“Is this a joke?”
“No. We need to talk anyway. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I made a big mistake.”
“I don’t want to lose you. You, you make me whole. I love you, Cindy.”
“Hmm.” Cindy narrowed her eyes, smiled. “I guess we can talk.”
* * *
As Greg exited the hospital through the sliding glass doors he realized that probably for the first time in his life he felt happy. Not just a pleasant transient happiness but the deep kind of solid genuine happiness that is filled with hope and great possibilities.
The air outside was crisp and he cherished the feel of it across his face. The sunlight glinted off a mountain in the distance and he felt as if he could climb that mountain, dash up the green slope and reach its peak, breathless.
He hurried to his Lexus and climbed in, careful not to squish the little boy in his pocket.
As he pulled off the lot onto the road, he thumbed open the pocket of his coat, “You okay old chap?”
“Yes,” the boy said. “I feel happy too.”
“Well good thing,” Greg said and slapped the steering wheel, sounding silly. “Cause we going on a special mission, my boy.”
Copyright © 2015 by Glenn Gray