Sitting on the small patch of public grass across the street from our row house was a young boy whose sweatshirt bore the name of the local middle school, although he said he was from Modesto, California, which my neighbors who eventually brought him into their living room (he seemed lost and afraid standing outside) dismissed as a childhood fantasy. The boy, whose homework worksheet, which they found in his backpack, identified him as Sheldon Weathers, explained that his real name was George and in June, right after school had let out, he had boarded a bus from Modesto to Phoenix, then to Chicago via Denver, and finally to Baltimore (after having spent an afternoon in Washington, DC). In August, right before the new school year was set to begin, he said that he had returned to Modesto, but sitting in a classroom in California on the cusp of fourth grade, he realized that he had no desire to stay in Modesto and so left school immediately and set out on another days-long Greyhound trip, retracing his steps to Baltimore. My neighbors called the police who responded immediately and, after about an hour, with just a few phone calls, confirmed that the boy’s story was completely accurate. They also learned that at seven years old he had shot and killed his father, a physically abusive man, and that the court had deemed it best for the boy to live with his aunt far away in Baltimore. Social Services records suggested that even in his new home, Sheldon, as he was newly christened by his aunt, was a victim of abuse; this time the abuse was neglect.
John Dermot Woods draws comics and writes stories in Brooklyn, NY. His debut novel is The Complete Collection of People, Places & Things. The image-text novel he wrote with J.A. Tyler, No One Told Me I Was Going To Disappear, was released by Jaded Ibis Press. Next spring his first collection of comics will be published by Awesome Machine Press. He edits the arts quarterly Action, Yes, and organizes the online reading series Apostrophe Cast. He is a professor of English at Nassau Community College. Read more of his work and others’ in HFR 1.1.