Gwyn Ruddell Lewis
The Stubborn Child

We told our children he hadn’t listened to his mother. We said he played Chicken. With a train. His mother had told him to stay away from the tracks. The train braked, much too late. We told our children he was a boy although he was closer to a man. We said Chicken when we knew it was no such thing. Our children kept away from the tracks. We heard them, in our gardens, talking about the boy. The boy who did not listen to his mother. The train could have stopped, but God pushed it on. Our children went quiet when they walked past the always drawn curtains of the boy’s house. We didn’t go to the funeral. William Jacob said he’d ditched school and was there. We knew his parents and could well believe it. He told the children what he saw. He wouldn’t stay dead. He climbed out of his coffin and his Mum shouted at him to stay dead, but he wouldn’t listen. That wasn’t what others heard. It was just his arm, out of the soil like a zombie. Either way, they all agreed on what happened next. His mother found a hazel branch and she beat him, back into his grave. She beat him until he was quiet and gone beneath the ground. Our children stayed closer to home and, for a few weeks at least, did as we said. We knew the story was nonsense, of course. We knew it was not the mother who did the beating in that house.