I was a good boy. Everyone said so. I did as I was told, and I minded my manners. It was only right. I was a child, and I was to be seen and not heard. This was just, and this was right.
On my eighth birthday, the justice and rightness of the world vanished very suddenly.
My father approached his boss at the factory and demanded a raise for working harder, better, and longer than anyone else. His boss told him no, and for his lack of proper humility, he was fired. I was angry at him, but it was not my place to tell my father that he did something wrong. I kept my silence, and was seen and not heard, like a proper young boy.
My father became frustrated. He searched for a new job for a long time, his pride was all that kept our family hungry. We could not afford doctors, and my younger sister became ill. We could not afford to feed everyone, and my older brother left home to search for work. My sister died, and my brother never came home. I was alone with my father and mother, and I kept my silence. It was not my place. I was seen and not heard, like a proper young boy.
Mother became ill, and Father stayed home to desperately care for her. The thought of losing the last two members of his family was too much, and he began to beg for a job with proper humility, but when he finally got one, he came home to find that Mother was dead. He screamed horrible words at me and did not go to work. I went instead, and found the work difficult. I said nothing. This was only proper. I was seen and not heard, like a good boy.
When I returned home from Father’s work, he was always seated in his seat, watching our old black and white television and drinking beer. He was growing fat, while my flesh became tight over my bones. I went to bed. In the morning, I ate a piece of toast and went to work. The boy who worked next to me had four fingers on one hand and only three on the other. The girl who worked on my other side had only one eye. My hands were covered in bandages. I said nothing, for a good boy was seen and not heard.
The other children spoke of their own parents, who lost their jobs to the bitter sin of hubris. One boy spoke of a murdered father and a working mother. Another spoke of no parents at all, and a little sister to care for. Each of the children was here in place of a proper father figure. Each of us was dirty, sick, thin, and filthy. The others spoke often of their woes with each other during our short lunch. I did not. I kept my silence, and was seen and not heard, like a good boy.
A representative of the state came and evaluated the factory. I overheard as our boss was told the factory had to be shut down for too many safety violations because new laws were in place. He had to either close it down or refurbish it. The look in our boss’s eyes was strange that night when I went home. When I returned to work, our boss was not present. A few older boys found a note that said we were to continue work as usual, and if our quota was not met, he would take each of us out back to be given the switch when he arrived. We got to work. I remained silent. I was seen and not heard as I worked. I was a good boy.
Fire licked at our ankles inside the locked doors of the factory. The other children screamed in terror and pounded on the doors. Their screams stabbed my ears, and I hid in a corner, far from them. I couldn’t breathe, and when the doors finally opened, nobody could find me. I said nothing. I was neither seen, nor heard. I was a good boy, and the fire suffocated and burned me until I died.
When my father was told, he began to weep. When the police officers left, Father drank the rest of his alcohol and placed his grandfather’s revolver to his head. The blast was loud, and blood sprayed on his couch and beer. Pink littered the area, and white fragments of skull stood out like a bare sprinkling of confetti. I wandered, and was neither seen, nor heard. I was a good boy.
The dirt road stretched before me. I felt it was a beginning, and my feet landed on the muddy ground. Mist enveloped my form as I walked along the road. My feet no longer made sound as they trod, and I thought it was good. It was my place to be seen and not heard.
As I walked, I came across other children who nobody heard. The others all had voices that no adults could hear, and I was the only who had no voice. They let me lead them, and we walked along the dirt road called “Route 36 North” to no place in particular. Everyone was happy, and despite our appearances, none of us were hungry or thirsty. None of us hurt, and all of us paid no mind as the world around us changed. Our road was paved. The cars took on different shapes, but continued to drive through us. Homes became more numerous, and buildings took on different appearances. We remained the same. I was seen and not heard by my friends, and they called me the Good Boy.
We found a man on the side of the road. His car was broken and smoking. We played on top of it, and he spoke to someone with a square-edged device held to his ear. I leaned close to listen in. He was talking to his wife, and he was bragging about how he was the best person at his job. The mist that so softly enveloped my friends and I turned red as we all looked at him with eyes filled with anger. He saw us, and we said nothing. We were seen and not heard, and we were Good Children.
When we left him, our mist once more white and warm, his bloody form understood that his pride would kill him with less mercy than the Good Children, who are seen and not heard.