His mother referred to him as The Special One. Other islanders referred to her as Mother of God. This was not a compliment. Usually unable to contain herself, she did have the presence of mind to keep one of his many attributes a secret. He was born double jointed, as was his older sister. And she suffered a lifetime of painful teasing.
The boy possessed outstanding hearing, and sensitivity to vibrational shifts in the earth, a talent much needed on their vulnerable island. But because of the mother’s bragging about her son being the second coming, the islanders did their best to reject him along with his skills.
When he detected an impending belch from the belly of the ocean, not entirely trusting their fragile location, the islanders heeded his warning. Everyone fled to higher ground. Of the bodies of land overcome by the wall of water, theirs’ was the only one to escape human casualties.
The houses, however, were flattened, leaving only sticks and scattered debris. As they rebuilt, the villagers’ meanness toward the boy heightened. Since their dogs were the first ones up the mountain before the quake erupted, they whistled for the boy as if he were less than human. The losses, their grief, all horrible feelings had to land on something, or in this case, someone. A big job for a little boy, he became the island’s grief eater.
In order to turn around the hatred poured on her boy, his mother invited all the pregnant girls, babies being the result of many a disaster, to a group shower. As if performing in a theatrical production directed by the mother, he confidently predicted in-coming genders. A good time was had by all until he went into details of the sexual orientations of their future children.
When the manly men heard of these forecasts, just thinking their seeds might contribute to an ‘other,’ they were driven into action. Only one cure for this latest affront: that boy had to go.
For weeks, he managed to elude their advances. But when the worse-than-usual red tide interfered with his senses, the men corralled him in the lane just feet from his front door. A hapless posse of testosterone, they hadn’t planned beyond the capture. So they tied him to a chair in a derelict house and went outside to discuss their options.
As his captors sat under a starry night sky drinking and arguing, the boy used his secret ability to shimmy free of the ropes and chair, and contorted himself out the tiny rear window. Exhaling like a hunted panther, he wound through dark alleys, ducking his way under windows, back to his fretful mother. She took him up the mountain to his aunt, who had protected the sister too. There, he was hidden in the only cellar on the island, a secret room.
The men reached the single conclusion on which they could all agree: by tying the boy to an oarless canoe and depositing him in the ocean, the tide would perform their dirty work. But upon discovering the empty chair, a brawl ensued. Like another natural disaster, their roars were heard all over the island. Families followed the sounds to a pile of big heads, little minds, muddy arms, twisted legs, bare torsos, burning hatred: the ruins of inebriated men. Treated like naughty children, they were untangled from each other and escorted home. The episode was handled as if a good night’s sleep would cure the troubles of their little world.
Text and photo by Stephanie Urdang