I get home, frazzled, relieved, and with shaking hands give the kid the cartons, and he seems happy about this. Thank you, he says.

My hands won’t stop shaking.

We watch TV late into the night, even the news, or what passes for the news, before I suggest to him that maybe he should think about going back to the lab or hospital or whatever it is, or maybe taking up with one of those street gangs, and he’s so shocked all he can do is stare.

I tell him he could just wear a mask and tuck his tail into his pants, and he could easily pass for a regular little boy.

His eyes go to big dinner plates, then wet blobs of clear acrylic, taking up half his face. He bursts into tears, wailing, screaming, I’m practically smothering him with a couch cushion to quiet him, and he kicks and slaps against me, the muffled screaming like a high-pitched car engine revving. I tell him what happened at the store, about the risks I’m running, what’ll happen to both of us if we’re caught. His fit slows to sobs but he persists. You really might be better off there, I suggest.

please don’t leave me

I give up trying to persuade him. Exhausted, I go to bed, tell Willie to do whatever he wants; he stares back at me, wounded and confused. As my head hits my pillow, it finally dawns on me that there must be people looking for him.


For all installments of “The Engineers,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2