It started gradually. Simply, actually. A lot of sneezing. We both assumed it was allergies, and so did the doctor. Rhinitis, Dr. Reznik diagnosed. Chad was only 8-years old at the time, but he was an avid reader. He would read anything and enjoy it. So of course he read the doctor’s notes and the diagnosis startled him. “I’m turning into a rhino?!” he asked us, tears welling up in his eyes. Confusion grew in them, too, when Dr. Reznik and I burst out laughing at my poor little boy. “No, no,” the doctor said. “Rhinitis. Inflammation of the nasal passages — the inside of your nose. It just makes your nose runny and stuffy. If you take your medicine like your mom and I tell you to,” the doctor assured him, “it should clear up in a few days and you’ll be all ready for school on Monday!” Chad groaned. “I’d rather turn into a rhino so I can live at the zoo!” In addition to being an avid reader, he was a great student. Yet, like all kids his age, he would rather have stayed home and played video games.
That doctor’s appointment was on a Friday, exactly 10 years ago today. I don’t have much time to recall all of this, because I have a lot of important tasks to attend to today. But Chad is really such a wonderful and unique boy — now a man, by law, but still my baby boy — that I must tell you how I help him.
As the weeks and months wore on, the rhinitis never cleared up. Other symptoms started to appear; a harsh cough, itching and flaky, rashy skin, and an increased appetite. “Increased” is an understatement. Chad would eat anything. I tried to fill him up on protein, but chicken and beans just weren’t doing the trick. Eventually, he was eating moderate to large amounts of beef every day. The doctors (now others instead of Dr. Reznik, because Chad’s symptoms were beyond his practice of pediatric medicine) advised against his diet of red meat; they suggested I clean the house every day and wash his laundry with mild laundry detergent (to ease his apparent allergic reactions); they recommended specific and expensive air purifiers; they prescribed medicines I could barely pronounce.
None of these things worked. For a while, I stopped taking Chad to any doctors at all. His symptoms, I noticed (and also kept track of in a journal), seemed to ease while he was eating, but they flared up and made him miserable when his appetite was strongest. After several years (Chad was then 14), school became too difficult for him. He was embarrassed by his constant, unrelenting sneezing and itching, and the rashes had darkened and spread over nearly all of his exposed skin, which he was made fun of for. He began skipping his classes and spending them in all of the lunch periods so that he could eat. It didn’t take too long for the faculty to catch on. He was not gaining the weight that a person of his age, consuming thousands of calories a day, would normally have gained. His principal told me that he was probably going through a “teenage growth spurt” and that “boys get really hungry” and that Chad was “experimenting with rebellious behavior, which is to be expected by a boy in a single-parent household.” The principal allowed him to “take some time off.”
It was time to see more doctors. Chad’s internal organs were checked. He was studied, poked at, and prodded. His brain was scanned. Nothing at all was visibly wrong. That’s when his neurologist said he should see a psychiatrist. I was shocked, and a bit offended. Chad was a wonderful teenager, I never had any issues with his behavior, but he had no friends because of his symptoms. He was no longer doing well in school because his symptoms and his appetite interrupted his studying. But otherwise…he was a wonderful child.
I was forced to home school Chad until he turned 17. We managed his symptoms the best we could. On my salary, after paying bills and buying groceries and necessities, I could not fully afford the extra food that Chad needed. I had to work extra hours, but I ceased to do that when Chad turned 18.
One evening, the doorbell rang. Chad was impatiently waiting for dinner to be ready. He was in his room, trying to distract his growling stomach by occupying his brain with violent video games.
It was a stranger at the door, an elderly man. Simple chance brought him to our door. “Hello there!” he said. “I’m Eddy, I’m new next door. I’m sorry to ask on our first meeting, but may I use your bathroom? The plumbing is all messed up at my place.” Eddy was a very nice man. At least he was on that one occasion. “Nice to meet you, Eddy,” I said. “I’m Charlotte. I live here with my son, Chad. Do you live alone, if I may ask?” Eddy told me no, he lived alone. In fact, he confided, no one had even known he moved. He was a private man with a very small family who lived nearly all the way across the country, but he didn’t much like them anyway. “No one would even miss me if I hadn’t made it here!” he said, and I couldn’t tell if that upset him or if he was indifferent.
I told him where the bathroom was. Upstairs, second door on the right. Chad’s room was the first door on the right. I didn’t tell him that, though.
Eddy thanked me and went upstairs.
I heard Chad’s door open, and I heard muffled conversation. It was brief, but friendly. And then I heard the scream. I stood in front of the closed front door with my arms crossed and just listened. There had been only one scream. Good, I thought. No struggle. After a few minutes I went upstairs. I was thankful that I have hardwood floors throughout the house, because had there been carpet in the upstairs hallway and in Chad’s room, I never would have gotten the bloodstains out.
Chad had dragged Eddy’s body into the middle of the bedroom floor, and used a pair of scissors to cut him open from the sternum to the top of his groin. That wasn’t what had killed him, though. Chad had used the scissors to stab the old man in the throat, just under his chin, and it was obvious from the blood all over his face that he had drank a lot of what had spurted from Eddy’s throat.
I sighed heavily. I was angry, I’ll admit. There was such a mess! Chad had started scooping out the man’s intestines and — liver? Or maybe it was the spleen, I couldn’t tell the difference what with all the blood — and his room was a pigsty to begin with. There was blood on the clothes that I had just washed for him and had repeatedly told him to hang up in his closet. Teenage boys! You know how it is if you’re a parent.
“Chad Alexander!” I had my hands on my hips, like a sitcom mother who has just discovered her toddler has drawn all over the walls with permanent marker. “No dinner until you clean up this mess. How many times did I tell you to put your clothes away? Do you want them to be wrinkled? And—stop that! Don’t eat that raw, let me cook it for you.”
Chad must have heard my conversation with Eddy; of course he knew that the man wouldn’t be missed. Otherwise he would have risked getting us into major trouble, and Chad was never a troublemaker. He was a wonderful boy.
Chad’s symptoms nearly disappeared that night, after his dinner. I did not ask him to help me dispose of the remainder of Eddy, but I did make him mop his floor. Chad enjoyed leftovers for the rest of the week, and his symptoms were mild or nonexistent for the rest of the month.
After that night, though, he became very sick. I had to continue providing for my son. I started to hunt more frequently, but I had to travel farther. No, not the deer or skunks or possums or even rats that lived in the woods behind our house — I had to go find people. People who wouldn’t be missed. The few times I turned on the news, I watched for a bit about the prostitutes or runaways who had mysteriously vanished, but I never heard anything about the homeless men and women. I still haven’t. If you think about it, we’re doing society a favor by ridding it of undesirables. The prices of beef, a few years ago, began rising and eventually were too much for me to afford. I had to try an alternative. Sure, the “shopping” now carries risks and is messier, but it is, ultimately, much cheaper. And wouldn’t you do anything for your child?
I could go on for pages and pages, but like I mentioned, I have things to do. I keep very busy these days. But if you’re a parent, you know the joys that come along with knowing how your hard work and tight schedules ultimately benefit your pride and joy, your child.
Chad really is such a fantastic boy. And good mothers provide for their baby boys.