"The Boy" by Bentley Little
This story was from "Dark Screams: Vol 8" edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar. Published by Hydra and imprint of Random House.
This was an interesting story. There were quite a few subtle layers built into this short story. They were layered very nicely together to really make an impact at the end of the story.
A couple, Kent and Christine, moved into a new house in a nice little neighborhood. Kent worked while Christine stayed at home. She was supposed to be unpacking the boxes and settling into the house, but she just couldn’t get into unpacking. She decided to go outside and plant and water some flowers in the front yard. That’s when she saw her neighbors across the street, two women, Jenna and Sam.
Going across the street Christine introduces herself to the ladies. They fall into a comfortable friendship quickly. While they were standing on the front porch talking school children began to come down the street on their way to school. That’s when the smell of raw sewage assaulted Christine’s nose.
Christine looked around, but couldn’t find the source of the smell. Turning she asked Jenna and Sam about the smell. They tell her the smell comes from a boy that walked to school down their street.
Christine couldn’t believe that smell came from one person, let alone one small boy. Sure enough, as the boy came down the street towards them the smell grew stronger and stronger. The smell was horrid and made Christine want to puke.
When Christine inquired to Jenna and Sam as to why no one has talked to his parents, or made some sort of complaint at school, they just told her that no one has ever said anything about the boy smelling. No one has ever complained about the boy despite the smell he carried with him.
As the days passed, the boy walked down Christine’s street each day to school. And each day Christine would be assaulted by the smell of raw sewage. The smell of the boy was making Christine red with anger at having to put up with the smell every day. She thought that somebody should do something about the boy. Someone ought to talk his parents. The more days that passed the more common-sense reasoning was being replaced with odd thoughts and behaviors. What was going to do about the boy? She could no longer stand the sight of him, let alone the smell of him. Something had to be done, once and for all.
This story was subtle in its horror. I didn't see things coming until they showed up in front of me. There was a subtle undercurrent of anger, hatred, and how these emotions can affect thought processes. There were also some influences in play that I didn't pick up on until the very end.
This story dealt with prejudices and judging a book by the cover. Things may be what they appeared to be, but often they are not. To assume just makes an ass out of you (u) and me. Christine found out that she held prejudices she didn't know she had in her. They fanned the flames of hatred and anger and gave her thoughts that she thought not possible of herself.
Another layer of this story was how we are affected by our sphere of influence. To be careful of what we hear and are told. To judge for ourselves and hold to our principles and not just go along with the popular belief. How the popular belief could cause things that are not real to become reality.
This multi-faceted story was definitely a good The story seemed like a quick read because I was constantly turning the page to see what happened next. Not just because it was a short story. I think this story would do well in a bigger more widely published anthology.
The author's potential was there. Great language and storytelling abilities. I would definitely look forward to reading more work by Bentley Little.