Those of you who’ve read this one already are already nodding your heads in fond remembrance and appreciation of Matheson’s artistry. For those of you who haven’t, you’ve got a nasty treat in store for you.
Except that doesn’t quite do the story justice. Sure, a tale that’s only a couple pages long—that’s right; you’ll be able to swallow this story in about five minutes—is the kind a person would usually refer to as a treat. But there’s nothing sweet or savory about this one. No, rather than swallowing it cleanly, it’ll stick in your gullet and remain there, the flesh growing over it until you’ve got an abscess the size of a golf ball. Gross, to be sure, and though the story is definitely unsettling, gross isn’t the right word for it either.
Let me try again.
It’s about an abused child. It’s heartbreaking. It’s full of hurt and sorrow and humanity.
When you finish the tale, you’ll be full of teeth-grinding fury. No matter how placid your demeanor is, no matter how beatific your outlook on life, you’ll want justice for this poor, tortured soul. You’ll be a little frightened. You’ll be a lot uneasy. You’ll badly want the child to do what you think he’s going to do, then you’ll glance left and right to make sure no one saw the evil look on your face as you daydreamed with the boy of the savage revenge he’s plotting.
Richard Matheson‘s “Born of Man and Woman” is only about 1200 words long. There are shampoo bottles with more words on them. But if you read it, the story will stay with you, I promise. So for goodness’ sakes, go read it (and anything else by Matheson) now.
Just don’t complain to me ten years from now about the abscess in your throat. Trust me, there’s no cure for it.