The boy’s mother had been dead for several days when he found a bone in his house. It was in the washing machine. He wondered where it had come from. Bits of rough skin and hair still clung to it. It wasn’t really a bone at all, but sometimes things can be whatever you need them to be, at least for a while.
He took it to his room and measured it against his arm. It was longer and thicker than that, but not quite so long that he could set his chin on it and stand comfortably. He tried to use it as a peg leg, but he found it too difficult to balance and wondered how all the pirates in his books managed. The bone seemed to him to be about the right length to be a sabre, so he made an eye patch out of the only construction paper he could find, a pale yellow the color of hard butter, and decided to go pirating.
He was not allowed in his mother’s room, normally, but he was pirating and pirates didn’t obey silly landlubber laws. He burst in but found that rummaging through her jewelry made him sad deep in his body, in the cracked-open part of him. He kept picturing her smiling and she hadn’t smiled in a while now. He pressed his face into one of her dresses, the long grey one with sleeves that had reached his mother’s wrists and always made him think of frosted glass. It still smelled like her.
When he was done crying, he wiped his face on the dress like he would if she were wearing it and then he pulled it down and took it to his room. He took the bone, and his plastic hockey stick, and some other toys and stuffed them all into the dress. He couldn’t find anything that worked for her face. Somehow everything he tried felt wrong, so he left the makeshift mother without a head.
He pulled on the sleeves until she sat upright and they twirled and spun. She chased him around the house and they laughed and laughed.
They played all the games they used to play and drew all the monsters they used to draw. The boy’s mother had always told him to draw the monsters, to put them somewhere, because they would be less scary if he knew where they were.
He was told much later that when the police finally found him he had refused to part with the dress. The floor had been littered with crudely drawn pictures of his mother. They never found a bone.
Evan James Sheldon‘s work has appeared in CHEAP POP, Ghost City Review, Pithead Chapel, Typehouse, among others. He is an Assistant Editor and Editorial Coordinator for F(r)iction. You can find him online at evanjamessheldon.com.