Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Short Excerpt: The Naughty Boy Factory

Finally, no Naughty Boy Factory would be complete without the Hands and Feet Department. It was their last stop. Scott’s line of boys stood and stared, mouths open, at the building in front of them. It was the tallest building at the factory, and it was shaped like a giant leg! The bottom floor looked like a large foot with separate hallways branching out like toes, and there were skylights at the end of each hallway that actually looked like toenails.

An unusually tall man with fuzzy, bright-red hair greeted the boys at the entrance.

“He must be at least eight feet tall!”

“Yeah. And have you ever seen hair like that?”

“It’s no wonder he’s in charge of this department. Look at the size of his feet!”

The boys gawked in wonder as they waited for him to speak.

“Hello. I’m tickled to announce that this is where your most momentous changes will take place. Following a series of complicated, top-secret adjustments, that compulsive and annoying need to always be touching, pushing, hitting, kicking, bouncing, poking, and run-run-running will be gone. Yes, we’ll have you fixed right up.”

All the nerves in Scott’s little body were tingling. He didn’t feel quite right about this. How was he supposed to be a little boy if he couldn’t tussle with his friends at recess or tackle his big brother in the backyard or pinch his little sister just for the fun of it? That’s what little boys do. They kick the pew in front of them at church. They run recklessly down the hallways at school. They accidentally trip each other, shove each other, and whack each other, all day long and wherever they go.

Suddenly, Scott didn’t want to do this anymore. He glanced around, searching for a way out and noticed the other boys looked just as panic-stricken as he felt. As a last hope, he raised his hand and murmured, “Excuse me. Sir? Please. Excuse me.” The man and every boy in line gaped at Scott.

“I don’t get it. I know I’m not a very good listener, because everybody’s always telling me to open my listening ears. And I know I’m not a good cleaner, because I always need someone to help me clean my room - I’m really good at making messes, but I hate to clean them up all by myself. My manners are okay, but I do like to stick my tongue out at bratty girls, and my mom says I talk too loud. Fixing that stuff made a little bit of sense to me. I guess. But I don’t get how come we can’t wrestle or kick or chase each other really fast down the hall anymore. That’s just fun stuff. My grandma says that’s what little boys are born to do.”

The boys in Scott’s line enthusiastically agreed with him. Some of them were giving him the ‘thumbs up’ sign and others just smiled encouragingly.

“I’m not trying to be rude, sir. Honest. But I really don’t get it. Can’t we have any fun? Does being good all the time mean we can’t sword-fight with sticks or smash bugs or thump on each other…ever? I mean, that’s the best part of having hands and feet!”

For the first time that day, Scott had left a factory guide speechless. After a few uncomfortable seconds, the tall man answered guiltily, “Well, we can’t have boys running around all the time and beating on each other, can we? Grown-ups everywhere would complain.”

Inspired by Scott’s bravery, a shy boy near the front of the line timidly whispered, “But didn’t you ever play like that when you were little like us?”

The man blinked in surprise, but didn’t say anything.

Then another boy asked, “Don’t you remember how much fun it is to beat sticks on the ground until they break? Or to run in circles after the neighbor’s dog until you fall down dizzy? Or to tackle and wrestle your best buddy until one of you gets hurt?”

The boys stared at the fuzzy-haired man, almost as if they felt sorry for him.

Just then, one of the delivery wagons stopped nearby. The baffled man from the Hands and Feet Department looked from the boys, to the wagon, and back to the boys again, while restlessly rubbing his fuzzy, red hair. In a madcap moment of weakness, the man made a quick decision. He was sure he’d regret it later, but for the moment it didn’t matter.

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