ONE DAY IN A NICE NEIGHBORHOOD
"I don't know, Rick. I tried to be a good mother.
I just don't know where we went wrong with him."
"This is because we sinned, Alice. God is punishing
us by doing this to Justin. That's why all these people
are being changed, and now it's come to us."
"Maybe it's because he *wants* to be a coety-moony,
or whatever the doctor said he was. Just look at all those
cartoons he watches...and at his age! He's 13,
for heaven's sake!"
Justin got slowly out of bed, and put his pants on
backwards, allowing the long barber-pole tail to stick
out the fly. He closed his eyes at his reflection in
the mirror, his furry face with its ridiculously long
nose making his whole body numb with horror. He had been
so sick before that they feared he would die. Now he wished
that he had.
His parents continued their argument uninterrupted as
he snuck down the hallway and out the door, into the
warm summer day. He just had to get out of the house,
stop hearing his folks fighting because of him. What could
he do? If only he could think of something!
He walked to the park where he had such good times
only a few weeks ago, watching the little kids playing and
their parents enjoying the outdoors while watching over
the little ones. But now everyone looked at him differently
than they ever had before, looks that seemed to burn into
him like a laser beam. Several people called him "animal"
and "filthy SCAB" and made him want to sink into the mud.
After a few minutes, Justin slunk off to the edge of the
park where it bordered on a large woods, and began to cry
with a sort of grunting sound that only made him feel worse.
He wondered if he would ever be able to talk again. He just
sat on a tree stump for a very long time, locked in his
"Hey, kid, it'll be alright." Justin looked up at the
three boys who were gathered around him. They seemed to be
a couple years older than he was, and looked at him just as
if he was still a normal human. He hadn't even heard them
coming towards him. One of them was carrying a coil of rope
and another put his hand on Justin's shoulder. "You just
Justin nodded his head. "Look, we know how that can be.
Howie, here, has a cousin who's got...well...your problem.
How about we go for a walk in the woods? We got ourselves
a tree house in the woods back there. We can go and talk
things over. Maybe Howie can give you a few tips on how
to deal with stuff."
This was the first time in days anyone had said anything
really friendly to him. Even his parents had been very
tight-lipped when he was around. Now it looked like he may
actually have gotten himself some pals. He stood up and
began following the boys into the forest.
The quartet went deeper into the woods. Justin figured
the rope was probably to make a ladder to the tree-fort.
He would have to figure out how to communicate with his
new friends. He could nod or shake his head, but that does
not make for vivid conversation. Maybe there was some way
he could write...in the dirt if nothing else.
They reached a little clearing and stopped. Justin looked
about but could find no trace of a tree-fort. He looked
quizzically at the three boys and lifted his paw-like
hands to indicate his confusion.
"So you think that you're as good as we are, right?"
"Yeah, walking around in clothes just like a person."
"You stinking SCAB, who do you think you are, anyway?"
"Why don't you go to a zoo where you belong, flea bitten
varmint like you?"
Justin made a break for it so suddenly that the bullies
were taken by surprise, and he managed to escape and run off
into the woods, even though he had no idea where he was.
But he was unused to his new legs, or perhaps he was just
plain unlucky. He snagged his foot on an exposed tree root,
and went sprawling to the ground. A dull crack sounded from
his ankle, and a flash of white-hot pain made him squeal.
The gang reached him lying and whimpering on the ground.
One of them, the one who complained about his clothes,
proceeded to take off his clothes one piece at a time while
the other two held him. He started to scream, but the rope
was looped around his throat and tightened till he stopped.
The rope had a heavy branch through the knot, making it
into a tourniquet, and by the time they stopped his head
felt about to explode. Then the pressure lessened
and he was able to see through the fog in his eyes.
His long tongue seemed swollen, and strings of saliva hung
off of it as it protruded.
"Get down on all fours, SCAB." The boys pushed him down
to the ground. He went down, he didn't know what else to do.
The movement made the pain in his ankle flare up again.
He groaned at the torment and stayed down, shaking. Then an
odd zipping sound and, a moment later, a sprinkling of
water on his side. "This is all a SCAB like you's good for!"
Justin realized he was being urinated on, and finally
started to weep and sob.
"Lousy freak. Give him what he deserves, Howie!" Howie
tightened the rope even tighter, this time. Very tight.
The rope kept on squeezing until sight blacked out and
sound faded. A few moments later, Justin's heart stopped.
"Come on, honey. We'll get over this. God's helped us
through tough spots before. Let's go and talk it over
with Justin. We'll face this thing together." They began
walking toward the empty bedroom.
DRIZZLE DRAZZLE DRUZZLE DROME
TIME FOR THIS ONE TO COME HOME