The Red Boy

He comes into the kitchen where I'm cooking dinner. "Mommy," he says. "What?" I answer, distracted. "There's a red boy walking in my room." I glance at him. "A red boy?" He nods. "He walks like this." He presses his chubby arms tightly against his small body and cocks his head to the side. He takes a few jerky, shuffling steps. _____________________

He carries an armload of plastic dinosaurs into the living room and dumps them on the floor. "Why aren't you playing in your room?" I ask. I'm folding laundry and watching TV. He doesn't answer. He arranges the dinosaurs on the rug, with careful concentration. I watch him for a minute, then go back to the clothes and Dr. Phil. "Mommy, can we go to the playground?" he asks, suddenly. He is not looking at me. He is looking down the hall. "Not now," I answer. "It's getting dark." _______________________

He is standing beside my bed. "Mommy," he whispers. "What?" I ask, softly, sleepy. "The red boy is walking in my room again," he says. I throw back the covers and he climbs in, his small body shivering. I tuck the blankets around both of us. "There is no red boy," I whisper into his ear, in the warm darkness, snug in bed. He lies awake for a long time. I can feel him watching. _______________________

He is late for breakfast. I go to his room, and I open the door. I see the red boy. He looks like he is inside out. He is lying on his bed, seeping red onto his Star Wars sheets. But he is not the only red boy in the room. He isn't moving. He isn't the one walking.

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