The Boy With the Thorn in His Side

And then it happened. Oscar had been so focused on pulling his leg over the side of the eave that he didn’t see the tile beneath his buttocks crack until it was too late. The slate tile shattered into tiny fragments of rock which in turn splintered and shattered the next two tiles beneath it and so forth until Oscar found himself falling sideways over the eave and towards the gutter.

“No,” I shouted. I punched my foot into the side of the boy’s head surprised when my foot collided with something solid. The blow had knocked wood boy sideways enough that I could use the moment to slide past him and towards Oscar who hung precariously over the side of the gutter. I scrambled to clutch onto something, anything, which would give me a better grip on Oscar.

Oscar was struggling to stay topside, but it didn’t keep him from going on at me. “It’s all about what he wants. He wants to be loved . . . just like everybody else does.” I clenched my teeth and tried to pull Oscar up, but I could hear the copper piping groaning under his weight. My fingers screamed with the effort.

“How am I supposed to show love to that thing?” I rasped, slowly running out of energy. The muscles in my arms were starting to give in to the burning sensation of fatigue. I knew what would come next. They would start to shake and then it would only be a matter of minutes before I could no longer hold him. I knew that whatever happened I couldn’t let Oscar die. If he died here, he’d be dead there, too, there was no question in my mind of that.

“Why do you think he entered our dreams, Rory? Because we were all looking for love ourselves. You have to show him what it means to be loved,” gasped Oscar. He was losing his grip on the copper gutter.

“I can’t,” I cried.

“You’ve got it with you, I know you do. We always knew you kept it hidden in the mattress,” said Oscar panting.

My mum’s necklace. The only thing I had left of the woman who had given birth to me and then left me alone.

“It won’t be enough,” I said refusing to budge. “If I let go, you’ll fall. That’s no choice!”

“If you don’t we’re all dead and the next ones, too. You must end this, Rory.” Oscar’s face showed no fear; instead his face held a quiet resignation, a stoicism that crushed my heart.

I didn’t look at his face again as I let go of his hand and scrambled back up the slick slate towards the boy with the thorn in his side. He had cornered Jack up against a chimney and Jack sat crunched up in a ball unable to move any further. Without thinking, I lunged at the boy, landing on top of his calf, and proceeded to use his leg as a makeshift ladder. He whipped his head around and glared at me, his mouth open and hissing. The odor that oozed out of his mouth smelled of rotting death. Clutching the jagged wood exposed in his side, I plunged my other hand in my pocket and pulled out my mother’s necklace. The gold glistened in the rainy twilight.

“Here,” I screamed at him. “She was the only mother I ever had and I loved her. All I ever wanted was her to love me.” I shoved the necklace into his maw of a mouth and scrabbled off him. He stared at me surprised before he pulled the necklace out and stared at it. It felt like minutes ticked by when in fact it had been mere seconds. As he stared at the necklace, the rain stopped.

The boy with the thorn in his side tilted his head slightly and gave me a sad smile. With the necklace in his hand, he stood up and walked to the place where I had abandoned Oscar. Without so much as a glance at us, he jumped off the ledge.

We never saw him again.

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