Literary Break . . . The Children's Hour Revisited
The response to my previous story for children was so overwhelming that I feel compelled to offer another.
This one is also a story that I made up at the demand of my son. At the time, he was going through his terrible twos -- or possibly his threatening threes -- and often acted in very disobedient ways. He wanted a story. I gave him a story.
The Bad Little Boy
by Horace Jeffery Hodges
Once upon a time, there was a bad little boy living not so very far away from here. He never did anything that his mother and father told him to do. If they told him to go to the river, he went to the mountain. If they told him to go to the mountain, he went to the river. He always did the opposite of what his parents said.
But he had a good skeleton, and eventually, the skeleton could stand the bad little boy's bad behavior no longer. The very night of that eventual day, the skeleton unzipped the boy's stomach and ran away to do good deeds.
The next morning, the boy woke up and discovered himself unable to move . . . except for his eyes. He rolled them around as best he could and saw himself as flat as a pancake -- or flatter, like a crêpe. He tried to call out but found that he had no voice. In despair, he lay there staring at the ceiling and wondering what had happened to him to leave him so flat.
And he'd be lying there still if his parents hadn't begun to wonder why he was so late coming down for breakfast. Ordinarily, he would come bouncing down the stairs demanding whatever he felt like eating that morning. But not today. So, they went to investigate.
But when they opened the door to their little boy's room, they saw not their own little boy but instead a flat little boy who could neither move nor speak! Not recognizing their son, they did the humane thing and sold the flat little boy to the circus, which put him on display in the freak show and received invitations the world over from towns that wanted to see such a freakish little boy.
Meanwhile, the bad little boy's skeleton was finding very difficult his attempt to live a good life, for everyone who encountered him drew back in fear. He might try to help an old woman across the street, but from one look at him, she'd rush off into the traffic on her own. Or he'd offer to help a harried mother carry her bags of groceries, but she'd drop the bags and run screaming away. Or he'd offer to shine a man's shoes, but the man would take off so fast that he'd leave his shoes behind.
No matter how much good he tried to do, he seemed to create more bad.
So, he decided to return to the bad little boy and offer to crawl back inside his skin if he'd be good. He went back to the bad little boy's home and knocked on the door. When the parents answered, they first screamed in horror, but the bad little boy's skeleton quickly explained everything. After listening, the parents felt even more horrified to realize that they had sold their own little boy to the circus, even if he was bad.
"You mean!" they cried, "That was our own little boy?" And they, in turn explained everything that they had done.
At their words, the skeleton promised, "Don't worry. I will find your bad little boy and bring him back."
At last, something good for the good little skeleton to do. He went in search of the circus, but it had traveled far off into the world, and only after seeking long did he find it, in a distant land halfway around the world. There, the skeleton saw huge crowds gathered to see "The Freaky Famous Flat Little Boy," as the circus hawkers called him.
The bad little boy had apparently come into such fame and fortune that the skeleton at first imagined that the boy would refuse to leave. With such a thought in mind, the skeleton thought of leaving without talking to the boy.
But he also thought, "I have come so far. I should go to him."
Late that night, the skeleton crept into the flat little boy's room and awakened him. The little boy stared in alarm till the skeleton explained himself, then said, "I know that you cannot talk, but if you can blink, then one blink means yes, two blinks mean no. If you will promise to behave from now on, then I will crawl back inside your skin and we will run away from here and back to your parents. But you must promise to be good, and if you do not keep your promise, then I will leave again. Do you promise?"
The flat little boy blinked once, so the skeleton unzipped his belly, crawled back inside, and zipped it up again. Together, they jumped out of bed and ran off into the night and across the world back to the little boy's home.
After that, the bad little boy kept his promise and became known as the good little boy. He always did what his parents asked him to do. If they told him to go the river, he went to the river. If they told him to go to the mountain, he went to the mountain. He always did exactly what his parents said.
Consequently . . . they all lived happily ever after.
After hearing this story, En-Uk lay very quietly in his bed, reflecting. Then, he smiled. "En-Uk-ee good boy," he insisted.
As was proven the very next morning when he awoke, skeleton intact.