Stories, Poems, Essays
by Jens Grabarske
Big Boys Don't Cry
When his father leaves after a fight, Bobby's world comes apart. In more ways than he can understand.

The picture, “Cam by the mysterious concrete wall”, by ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This short story won 1st place in the 2013 “Zombies, Run” fan competition in the category “Writing (Prose)"

You can listen to a wonderful reading of this story by Jeremy Long here:

I did something bad and now everything is wrong. And I’m scared and I don’t want it to be wrong, but it’s all my fault. And now Daddy is gone and Mummy is mad at me and Peter is gone. I still have his action figure. He gave it to me when I turned 16. He said that I could have it because we are friends.

Peter’s smart. He’s 10 and lives next door. I know that he’s smart because he can count and he can read and he laughs all the time when we watch television and I don’t get why it’s funny. He goes to a normal school, too.

I haven’t seen him for a while. I was in my hiding place where I go when I want to be alone and I could see how he ran to the car with his daddy and his mummy and suitcases. There were things sticking out of the suitcases. And then they drove off and they were gone. I would’ve walked to them to say “Hi” or to ask where they are going, but I was crying and I don’t want Peter to see it when I cry. He said that crying is for babies. And that must be true, because Mummy always says that big boys don’t cry and that I’m a big boy now. But then she hugs me and kisses me and ruffles my hair. And then I stop crying because it feels nice. But I couldn’t go to Mummy that day because she was mad at me for making Daddy go away.

The day I made Daddy go away Mummy made me a bath. Mummy had been away at granny’s for a while and came back early and when she returned she had filled the tub with water and foam. I like foam. She said that I should get ready for the bath and I took off my shirt. Mummy looked at me in a funny way and turned me around.

Then she asked “Bobby, where did you get this?”

And I knew what she meant because I had spoken to Daddy about it and I said that I fell down the stairs.

“Bobby, did your father do that?”

And I didn’t know what to say because I promised Daddy that I wouldn’t say anything and he bought me a huge bag of candy and I could choose everything and I didn’t want to upset him, but I also didn’t want to lie to Mummy. So, I was breathing fast and that made Mummy really upset and she said “Oh my god” a lot and started shaking. And then she said “Sweetie, wait a moment, ok?” and she opened the door and walked out and that was when I knew that I was in trouble because she would tell Daddy that I didn’t say that I fell down the stairs.

I heard her walking downstairs and talking with Daddy and then it got really loud and they started shouting and I got really scared. I pressed my hands over my ears but I could still hear them and I started crying because I knew that I messed up and I couldn’t go to my hiding place because I was afraid to go downstairs.

I did go downstairs after I heard the door bang real loud and then I only heard Mummy crying. And I hugged her and I kissed her and she hugged me back and I told her that I was sorry for making Daddy go away and that made her cry even more. Because I knew that it must be my fault. I had heard how she shouted

“He’s a good boy, Arnold! He’s a good boy!”

and how Daddy shouted

“He’s a bloody retard, Claire, that’s what he is! A bloody retard! And that’s all he ever will be!”

Peter had told me that “retard” is a word for people like me but that it’s not nice. So I knew that Daddy was upset with me for not telling Mummy that I fell down the stairs and that was why he left. The next morning Mummy wasn’t there to wake me. Sometimes that happens, so I wasn’t scared. I went downstairs and I made myself breakfast because I’m a big boy and I know how to do that, you just put cereal and milk into a bowl. And I ate my cereal and then I watched TV but there were no cartoons on anywhere and that was confusing and almost all stations showed the same show and the rest didn’t show anything. So I went to play in my room. Then I heard a noise so I walked downstairs again and there was Mummy on the lawn. I walked to her to say good morning and to see whether she was still sad because Daddy left, but she just stared at me and her eyes looked weird and her skin was strange. She walked towards me, but she moved like Daddy when he had been at the pub and he drank too much of that smelly stuff.

I didn’t like Mummy to walk like Daddy. She never did that before. She didn’t like it when Daddy did it. And I didn’t like it, because when Mummy was away at granny’s and Daddy had been at the pub, he stopped being nice to me and he took off his belt and he would tell me to come closer so that he can “beat the stupid out of me”. And it hurt a lot, but I do want the stupid to go away if that means that I could be smart like Peter. The next day, Daddy always said that he was sorry and that he missed Mummy so much and that sometimes things get to him and then he would buy me ice cream or candy and he made me promise to tell Mummy I fell down the stairs.

It’s wrong to break promises. And Mummy must have found out that I broke one and that’s why she didn’t hug me or kiss me but walked like Daddy and she made these noises that these monsters do on the TV shows I’m not allowed to watch because they give me nightmares.

And I remembered how much the last time hurt when Daddy beat me with his belt and so I ran away from Mummy and went to my hiding place. That’s when I saw Peter and his mummy and his daddy leave and I think it was because Mummy was upset. Later I saw a truck like in the movies with soldiers and they were saying something loud over speakers. Something like “ever queue Asian”, which I did not understand, because we have an Asian restaurant that Mummy and Daddy took me to once and we didn’t need to queue.

But there were people who came to the transporter and queued and that’s when I remembered that soldiers often help finding people and Mummy must have asked them to help her find me because I made Daddy go away and I broke a promise and she needed to beat me with a belt. And the people wanted to help like with the boy near Glasgow that got lost. But I wanted to wait for the next day because Mummy may be nice again, just like Daddy is nice the day after. And I was in my hiding place and I didn’t want people to see that I was crying.

I slept at my hiding place. I got my blanket and my teddy from the house. I was worried that I may run into Mummy, but she wasn’t there. The next day I looked for her. She was near the house of the Petersons. But she didn’t say anything. She didn’t hug or kiss me. She still walked like Daddy and she was still looking weird and she still made these noises they also make on Halloween where I always stay in bed because I’m scared.

So I ran back to the house and I knew that I really screwed up, because Mummy was still mad at me. I saw other people too. They all walked like Mummy and made these sounds and had strange eyes and strange skin. Mummy must have told them that I broke a promise and that I made Daddy go away and they must have gotten really angry and now they all want to beat me with their belts. So I got food from the house and went back to my hiding place and waited for the next day to see whether Mummy would be better. But she was still mad the next day and the next day and the next day. And then I didn’t have any more food so I went to the shop.

The shop belongs to Mr. Grant and he’s always nice and smiling and sometimes he gives me some extra candy. Mummy normally gives me some money and a list but I couldn’t ask her because she was still mad so I went there anyway. There was nobody at the shop, not even Mr. Grant. That was weird and I stayed there and waited until I realised that he must be mad, too, because I broke a promise and made Daddy go away, so he must be looking for me. And that made me scared, so I took some candy bars and cereals and cheese and sausage and I left the shop. I thought that Mummy could pay him back but then I realised that I took the stuff without paying and that this is theft and that I’m now a thief and that Mummy might be getting even more upset. And my stomach turned and I wanted to return it, but I was really hungry and so I just ran back to my hiding place.

I went to the shop often when I got hungry and I didn’t have any food left. I kept all the wrappers so that Mummy can pay Mr. Grant later. But it was theft and theft is bad. When I couldn’t find anything at Mr. Grant’s shop, I went to the Tesco’s down the road. And then to the Safeway.

Peter once said that if you are a criminal and you regret doing it, you can turn yourself in, which means, you go to the police and you admit that you did it, and then the punishment isn’t that bad. And I felt bad and I didn’t want to be beaten with a belt, so I went to the police station to say that I had broken a promise and that I made Daddy go away and that I was a thief and that they must lock me up because that’s what they do with criminals.

There was nobody there, but it smelled really awful. Still, I was a criminal and I couldn’t just leave. The police constable gave our class a tour of the station once. He had also shown us the cell where they lock people up. He had said “And this is where you go if you’ve been a bad boy!” and he winked at me. And I’ve been a bad boy so I went to the cell. But it wasn’t empty. There was a man lying there and he didn’t move and he looked really sick and he smelled awful and he looked like a skeleton with skin. I once saw a TV show with my Mummy where they talked about children in Africa that don’t get enough food and then they look like skeletons and then they die. So I think the man died because he didn’t get any food. And it must be because he was locked in the cell and nobody gave him food because they were too busy looking for me. So he died because of me.

I ran back to my hiding place and I started crying and I realised that I broke a promise and I made Daddy go away and I made Mummy mad and I made everyone mad and I made Peter go away and his mummy and his daddy and I stole from Mr. Grant and from Tesco’s and from Safeway and because I broke that promise a man died so I’m a murderer, too. And I realised that to make everything better, I need to go to Mummy. I don’t want to be beaten with a belt, but I want to make things good again and I need my Mummy. Maybe she will be good again after she beats me with a belt, like Daddy. And she will buy me candy and ice cream and she will make me promise to say that I fell down the stairs and I will keep that promise because I’m a big boy and I don’t want to make her mad.

And then we will go and look for Daddy and I can tell him that I’m sorry that I broke his promise and that it will never happen again and then he will forgive me. And then we can tell Peter’s daddy and Peter’s mummy that they found me and that they can come back and they can tell the neighbours that they don’t need to be mad anymore because everything is good again. This is what I will do now. I will go to Mummy now. After I stopped crying. I don’t want Mummy to see me crying. I want to show her that I’m a big boy.

But I’m scared.

Last modified on 2013-02-23