The little boys cries in bed. His wings are coming in. It’s like the teething he did when he was years younger, but it hurts more.
He doesn’t remember teething, his mother does. His cheeks, fire-engine red, all urgency and get out of my way, his gums swollen, how he tugged his ear and chewed his fingers, dribble roping down his arm. His mother cursed the stupid design of teeth. Getting teeth before your old enough to understand the pain, and before your old enough to look after them properly. She’d give him junior paracetamol and hold him, his face tucked into her collarbone, her chin rubbing his head.
Now, nearly eight, the little boy’s wings are pushing through his shoulder blades. He’s older, he gets it, understands, he knows that in days, a week, he’ll have his wings.
And the little boy was born to fly. He’s been flying without taking off for years.
‘It hurts Mummy, it hurts.’
‘I know, my love,’ his mother says.
Gristle, bone, feathers, pushing through his skin, blood on his dinosaur sheets, on his pillow. Panadol won’t touch the pain.
‘Darling, think about when you get your wings, think about everything you’ll be able to do.’
In his dreams the little boy has done it. He’s seen the roof of his house, he knows there are three broken tiles at the north-west corner. And he’s followed his big brother, flown above him on the bike path.
There will be wind, in his ears, his hair, stinging his eyes. The little boy plans to wear his swimming goggles, save up and get another pair, red ones, just for flying.
‘Darling, beautiful boy,’ she says, whispers. ‘Let me change your sheets.’
His mother sits him in a chair, covers him with a blanket. Then, a pile of bloodied laundry in the hallway, new dinosaur sheets and pillow slip, she carries him back to bed, careful not to touch his broken, breaking skin.
‘Darling, see if you can sleep. Dream of chocolate cake, of licking the mixing bowl. I know, dream about Daddy and that day at the beach.’
The little boy closes his eyes. His nose, his eyelashes arranged on his cheeks, his curly hair slick to his head, sweat along his hairline. He sleeps. His mother stands in his doorway.
The little boy’s wings are through.
The little boys shines. He unfurls his wings. They scrape the posters on his bedroom walls, they tip the light fitting, light bumps an elliptical circle round his room. He spreads his wings, like a cat stretching, he feels his broken skin settle into position. He tears out of his bedroom. He’s running down the hallway, it doesn’t take him long to learn where his new centre of gravity is.
‘Mum, mum, mum, they’re in. My wings are in!’
His mother is at the sink.
His mother turns to see the little boy burst out the back door, off the deck and into the sky. She runs outside, head up she watches him. The little boy is a star, he’s beautiful. For the longest time she catches glimpses of silver, a twist of shadow.
Stephen King Junior, flying for the land-locked.
I wrote this short story years ago and I still think it’s the best, most beautiful thing I’ve written.
I love you, SKJ, keep flying!