Joshua R. Helms

There once was a boy who wasn’t born a complete boy. He had boy legs and boy feet, boy arms and boy hands, boy stomach, boy back. But his head wasn’t the head of a boy. His head was the head of a bull. He had a bull tail just above where his boy legs met his boy back. His mother and his father were a complete woman and a complete man with complete woman and man parts.

The mother and the father didn’t understand why their son wasn’t a complete boy, but they loved him like he was a complete boy. They named him a complete boy’s name and they dressed him in complete boy clothes and they fed him complete boy food and sent him to a school for complete boys and girls. But the boy was not quite complete.

The not quite complete boy didn’t mind his complete boy clothes or the complete boy food his parents fed him or the school for complete boys and girls he attended. The not quite complete boy enjoyed his complete boy name. It’s how he introduced himself. It’s what he wrote on his papers at the school for complete boys and girls.

The complete boys and girls were nice to the not quite complete boy when complete men and women were watching, which wasn’t all of the time. The complete boys and girls would sometimes throw dirt and sand into the not quite complete boy’s matted fur and the not quite complete boy’s dark brown eyes would water and he would sob and his sobs sounded like angry snorts.

The not quite complete boy didn’t always mind being around the complete boys and girls, but sometimes he was lonely. When his mother and his father would take him places he would look for other not quite complete boys and girls. The not quite complete boy would look for boys and girls with heads and tails like his. This would get confusing for the not quite complete boy when Halloween would come around.

When the not quite complete boy’s sister was born, she was born a complete girl. The not quite complete boy could sense his mother and father’s relief to have a complete girl for a daughter. The not quite complete boy was eight years old. He began constructing mazes in his family’s backyard using large cardboard boxes he collected from around the neighborhood. The not quite complete boy would hide his sister the complete girl in the middle of the maze.

The mother and the father would ask their not quite complete boy where their complete girl was and the not quite complete boy would scratch his bull head and say he didn’t know, would say that perhaps they should check under the couch cushions or behind the refrigerator. His bull tail would swish back and forth. The mother and the father had yet to figure out that their not quite complete boy’s tail would swish back and forth when he wasn’t being truthful.

 
 
 


Joshua R. Helms is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama and an assistant editor for Black Warrior Review. His work appears or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, elimae, NANO Fiction, TYPO, and PANK.