j o n    s w a n

Wendell on the Lawn

 

Wendell was out there again, standing on the lawn.

Every day it was the same thing: other kids walked to the corner to meet their buses. Wendell walked halfway across the yard and stopped. That was as far as he ever got.

Buses came and went. People came and went. Time came and went.

Wendell never moved.


*****


Itís weird how quickly things can change.

One day Wendell was laughing and playing. The next he was just standing there.

It was like his batteries ran down.

Or someone flipped a switch and turned him off.


*****


Wendell's parents tried everything.

They took him to doctors.

They took him to hospitals.

They took him to shrinks.

Nothing helped.


*****


Then it started happening to other kids.

That's when people started calling Wendell's house and hanging up.

That's when they put the "For Sale" signs in Wendell's parents' yard.

That's when they chucked a brick through the front window.


*****


The local media had a field day.

Their headlines joked about "the town coming to a standstill."

But it wasn't amusing for long.

It was Stanley Leiberman who first noticed it was all boys.

Stanley had a personal stake in the matter: his son Ben was "one of them."


*****


There was a lot of fear, of course.

People thought the boys were zombies or vampires or something.

It wasn't long before the story drew national attention.

Soon the streets filled with a cavalcade of buses and vans and limos.

It seemed like everyone had a camera.


*****


No one knew what to do.

No one knew what to say.

No one wanted to stare, but they couldnít help themselves.

No one wanted to acknowledge that the boysí numbers were growing.


*****


Everybody had a theory.

Some said it was mass hypnosis.

Others said catatonia or sleeping sickness.

Still others said the boys were faking it.


*****


Everyone agreed something had to be done.

Then the Andrews boy got struck by lightning.

They said his hair burned like the head of a match.

He never screamed. He never ran. He never fell.

He just stood there until his skin turned black and shiny.


*****


That's when the government got involved.

They sent in a team of medical experts.

They thought if they could figure out what happened to Wendell; they could figure out what happened to the rest of them.

They gave him blood tests and urine tests and IQ tests.

All turned out normal.


*****


People were disappointed.

They needed someone to blame for all of this.

It was frustrating to discover that Wendell wasn't a monster.

He was just a kid.


*****


A Hollywood director visited the town.

He said he was thinking of making a movie about Wendell.

He said the working title was "Wendell on the Lawn."

He described it as "a modern day fable."


*****


Some reggae band made a song.

It was called "The Boy Who Stopped By."

They swore it wasn't based on Wendell.

"Bullshit," the mayor said.


*****


The town council was at the end of its rope when it passed the new ordinance.

It said that all "inanimates," which is what they were calling kids like Wendell, were to be kept out of sight during the day.

Any violation of this ordinance could result in a fine or even jail time.

Parents started locking children in their rooms.


*****


For about a week, Wendell stayed inside.

Then his parents broke down and unbarred the door.

People were angry when they saw Wendell.

They yelled and pointed at him.

Wendell just stood there.


*****


The town council warned Wendell's parents.

"You do something about him or we will," they said.

Wendell's parents agreed to disagree.

The supervisor called the police chief who called the mayor.

Plans were made to meet at Wendell's house the next day.


*****


The plan turned out to be unnecessary.

Wendell and all the rest of them disappeared that night.

Everyone was sleeping soundly but the children.

They looked out their windows and saw the boys floating into the sky on beams of light.

All they did was smile.

 

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JON SWAN's stories have appeared in Gargoyle, Pindeldyboz, Hobart, Snow Monkey, Opium Magazine and Bullfight Review, among others