Posted on March 2nd, 2010 by
Harvey Stickman is my second novel and boy is it weird. I followed my gut with this one and ended up with something special but there’s no way a publisher would risk this one on a no-name author – I could be wrong about that, but I’m still going to sit on it until I have some success – it is just too strange. But that’s why I love it. This one is Middle-Grade best for 9-12 I think.
When Harvey Stricklund was born, his Father screamed. His Mother screamed too, but there’s nothing unusual about that. Father’s scream was unusual. It was a scream of horror.
Harvey remembered everything even though as an infant he didn’t really understand what was going on. With tiny ears and tinier eyes, he took it all in.
“Wh-what IS that?” Father sputtered, pointing at Harvey with a trembling finger. “What is that – thing?”
“It’s your son!” said the nurse, her lips pursed underneath glaring blue eyes. Harvey noticed that she wouldn’t look at him either.
There was a pause. Father cringed, the nurse glared, and Harvey dangled from her outstretched arms like a spindly wooden puppet. A stringless marionette.
“Would you like to hold your son,” the nurse insisted.
“No! That thing isn’t normal!” Father tore off his hospital gown and ran from the room. Harvey never saw him again.
The nurse snorted and placed Harvey in the bassinet.
“Is something wrong with my baby?” Mother asked urgently.
“Well, he’s thin,” said the nurse. “Very thin,” she amended almost immediately. Then she paused as if thinking it over.
“Unnaturally thin,” she tried, seemed to like it, and then looked at the doctor for support.
“Why! He’s impossibly thin!” the doctor blurted. His bald head appeared over the bassinette and his beefy hands hoisted Harvey into the air.
Harvey kicked and squealed, very much alarmed.
“Dr. Gein,” Mother said darkly. “Give me my baby.”
“Just look at him!” said the doctor, holding Harvey at the end of outstretched arms. “He looks like a twig with four branches for limbs!” The doctor grinned. “Otherwise healthy too remarkable!”
Harvey looked at his mother for the first time. Her soft brown hair flowed down to her shoulders. She was a plump and the lines on her face made her look mean, but her pale blue eyes glowed as they looked back at him. Harvey remembered this as the first time he saw love. The tiny boy held out his stick-arms out to her.
“Dr. Gein, give me my son!” Mother demanded.
The doctor looked startled, “Of course!”
Mother clutched Harvey close and cooed to him softly. Harvey nestled against her bosom with a small smile of satisfaction.
“My dear woman,” Dr. Gein said, in a comforting tone, as he smoothed the tufts of gray hair that decorated the back of his head,
“Your boy is a freak!”
Mother looked up with fiery eyes, “He’s not a freak, Dr. Gein. He’s just . . . thin.”
“Let me explain,” the doctor continued. “There’s never been a baby born this thin!”
“And his name is Harvey!”
“Yes, yes! His name is Harvey! Lovely name,” the doctor smiled. “But he’s still a freak and that’s why I think you should leave him with me.” The doctor’s smile grew, his voice turned syrupy and soothing, “Go and have a normal life. Find your husband. Just leave this baby here and I will study . . . er, take care of him! It will be for the best! It will be . . . Hey! What are you doing?”
Mother exited the room carrying little Harvey, her small bag of belongings, and her coat, leaving the startled doctor behind.
“Don’t go!” Doctor Gein called after her. “You don’t understand! Your baby is special!”
“Welcome to Wauwasota Falls, Harvey.” Mother sat in the back of the cab and held Harvey so he could see out the window. The cab driver kept staring through at the rear-view mirror, gawking at the strange thin baby. Mother stopped that nonsense with a glare. They passed the local Elementary School, Harvey stared at the children at play. They passed a small playground complete with a swing set, slide, and a crouching spider-like merry-go-round. and then they passed an old woman walking alone and staring into a hand mirror. Little Harvey felt a chill run up his tiny spine as he gazed at her, then she looked up and scowled at him.
Soon the cab stopped in front of a quaint little house with torn awnings over each window. Mother paid the fare, carried Harvey inside, and sat with him on a faded duct-tape repaired couch.
“We’re alone now Harvey, that awful doctor is far away now and you’re father is . . . gone.” She sighed and watched as he curled his tiny thin hand around her pudgy finger. “People think you’re a freak, but I’ll keep you safe.” She stared into his eyes for a long moment.
The doorbell’s chime broke the silence. “What now?” Mother sighed heavily and went to the peephole. “Oh no! Harvey I have to let her in or she’ll never leave us alone.” She opened the door and a women pushed past her and into the room.
“I suppose you can come in,” Mother said with an annoyed tone.
“I’m here from the Ladies Auxiliary!” said a large woman with her hair tied into a tight bun, her eyes were green and her demeanor arrogant. “You have a new baby? Yes?” She looked around the room.
“Where is that husband of yours, Mr. Gacy?” she said, a trace of a smile on her lips.
“He’s gone, Mrs. Gacy,” said Mother. “And please, call me Miss Stricklund now. I’m taking my name back.”
“Sensible,” said Mrs. Gacy. “Oh, and I’m sorry to hear he’s gone.” Harvey didn’t think she sounded sorry at all.
“Thank you . . .” Mother began.
Just then her eyes darted to the couch, and Harvey lying there, and, as one, they gasped.
“What is that? Is that a doll?” she leapt forward and hovered over Harvey as he kicked his spindly legs and waved his skinny arms.
“That’s Harvey!” said Mother, she rushed past her and gathered Harvey up in a protective embrace.
The woman clucked her tongue and snorted, “Figures you’d have a weird one Hortense.”
Harvey’s Mother turned and laid Harvey gently on the couch again. Then she grabbed Mrs. Gacy and rushed forward pulling the women out the open front door. She landed in a heap on the stoop. Mother brushed her hands together and slammed the door:
Through the door they could hear, “Well I never! No wonder your husband left! Your baby looks like a stickman!”
Mother went back inside and sat on the couch heavily, she sighed and held Harvey close. She stared at Harvey and a smile crept across her face.
“My little Harvey Stricklund,” she began. “If we’re going to live here in Wawausota Falls and you should know that this is a small town.” She sniffed loudly. “Everybody knows everybody in a small town and it’s well known that small town people don’t like people who are . . . different. You’re wonderful, special, and delightfully impossible Harvey, but you’re also quite different.” She cleared her throat. “Now, the people of Wawausota Falls really don’t like people who are different.” She looked grave, haunted, as if she could see into the future. “They’ll never accept you Harvey, and you’ll never be safe among them.” Shaking her head and smiling at him, she continued in a brighter tone. “But that doesn’t matter. I keep to myself anyway, you might say I’m a recluse, a hermit, and that means I’m going to keep here, at home, where you’ll always be safe.”