He dreams of stones. Boulders, pebbles, rocks the size of his fist. One night he dreams that he is made of all different kinds of stone: his skin a translucent marble, his eyes are coral still wet with the sea; his tongue is common mud clumped – it falls apart when he tries to scream. His quartz heart quivers in beats of light.
When the boogieman comes, his hands are a soft cloth. His fingers trace the little boy’s ribs one by one and whispers beautiful, you’re beautiful. The boy thinks these are magic words; they turn his head to a dull red brick, hollow and echoing. He wiggles his toes, and wonders if there is a type of rock that moves. It would have to be slow, it would have to not move fast enough.
The boy holds his breath until his lungs are large chunks of cement, and then he smashes them with air. He does it again and again. Between his legs, a diamond glows hot and shiny. Beautiful.
When the boy wakes in the morning, he finds himself ordinary. He eats his eggs and toast and ham. He drinks his orange juice in a glass and kicks his legs under his chair, which drives his mother crazy. Stop that! she says, and he does, but then it starts again; he can’t help it.
The sun streams in through the large windows and lights up the little particles of dust floating in the air. The boy’s mother walks past and tousles his hair. Mo-om! he says.
She smiles, throws her shoulders up in a shrug and pinches his cheek for good measure. If I were a statue, he says, you couldn’t do that, you know.
Ah, his mother says, but you’re not. She stands behind his chair and wraps her arms around him. You’re my beautiful boy. The boy shudders and pushes her away. He looks down at his plate, but he isn’t hungry anymore, which is sad, because he’d eaten the whites of his eggs and saved the yolk for last. It’s his favorite part.
Footsteps thunder down the stairs and the boy doesn’t look up. They tap-tap-tap across the linoleum and stop somewhere behind him. He hears a murmur and his mother giggles low in her throat. The boy peeks up. His mother is standing in a halo of sunlight and is being lifted toward a kiss. The boy looks away.
I’m going to the bathroom, he announces, pushes back his chair and walks past his mother, who has a hand around her waist and doesn’t mind it at all. He thinks she looks like a doll hoisted like that, her head lolling back, her eyelids fluttering like butterflies. She doesn’t notice that he slips out the door instead and goes out into the garden. He ruts about, kicking the brushes in his path, looking.
The stone is jagged; little flecks wink as he turns it over and over in his palm. He tosses it into the air and catches it again – thunk, thunk. He squeezes it as hard as he can. The edges etch themselves into his soft flesh. His tears are the tiniest grains of sand.