Tag Archives: The Heartless Boy

“The Heartless Boy” – Fiction by Ed Ahern

Pandora’s Box, Omoi Tsuzura and Yokubari Obasan – Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1880

We’re giddy to open the box of our Summer 2014 Issue and unleash its first excerpt! Ed Ahern‘s “The Heartless Boy” is a mischievous modernization of one of the world’s most famous myths, swirling with twisted humor, demonic spirits, and wisps of what you might call romance.

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TOM WILLMAN WAS BORN EXPERIENCING NO STRONG FEELINGS–in fact, no feelings at all. No love or affection. No hate or dislike. Certainly no fear. The closest he came to emotions were pleasing or displeasing sensations.

Tom’s parents, desperate for a smile, had him tested for a litany of diseases, but he proved to be uncaringly above average. They quit trying to show Tom affection by the time he was six, and by the time he was ten were providing only what was legally required of them.

He ate because the tastes were good and food kept him alive. He avoided the harmful and the idiotic, so no drugs or gluttony, but also no designer water or wandering chickens. He exercised and bathed because his body felt better, and exhibited an attractive trimness about which he was oblivious.

Girls in high school viewed Tom’s indifference as cool and his trimness as attractive, feelings heightened once they discovered that his lack of emotion gave him extraordinary staying powers. Tom viewed his frequent sex acts as pleasant consensual exercise.

The person who tried hardest to know Tom best was Arthur Lausten, the high school psychologist. Lausten, with no significant life of his own, compulsively coached people on how to live better. His recurring daydream was perching in a confessional and prescribing atonements.

Tom was required to attend frequent sessions with Lausten, who toiled through hundreds of hours trying to etch Tom’s stainless steel persona with the bristles of a verbal toothbrush.

“Tom, you appear to be neither sociopathic nor psychotic, but except for satisfying basic biological requirements you’re completely indifferent to your humanity.”

“What’s your point, Mr. Lausten?”

Lausten was desperate He pulled out a large folding knife, flipped open the blade and waved it in front of Tom. “What would you do if I threatened to stab you?”


“And if you couldn’t get out of the room?”

“Ask somebody to reason with you.”

“And if that didn’t work?”

“Hit you with this book end.”

“How do you feel about me right now?”

“That question is inane.”

Early in his freshman year a bully had cornered Tom on the football field. Tom let the boy hit him twice before retaliating, knowing that in order to avoid discipline he had to have the boy’s aggression witnessed. Then he broke enough of the boy’s bones that the boy couldn’t be aggressive again for several months. The onlookers noticed that Tom’s expression had remained calm.

At the graduation ceremony, Tom was approached by several girls and avoided by most boys. Tom perceived both the attention and avoidance as irrelevant. An unknown young woman was among those who approached.

“Mr. Willman, I’m Raissa Pandorapolis. I have a job offer for you.” The young woman curved aesthetically and looked no older than he was, although her eyes had the worry lines of middle age.


“Am I correct that you’ll be leaving home and are looking for work?”


“Am I also correct that you’ve had difficulties with pre-employment screening?”

“The human resource departments tell me that I’m inhuman.”

“Not me. Please join me for lunch while I explain my offer.”

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