Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The boy the kids called Magpie had an unstoppable appetite for chalk. At school he’d be particularly attracted to the colorful varieties—neon pink, yellow, and orange—that looked like candy but tasted like plain chalk. He’d get caught with multi-colored powder on his lips, crunching with his mouth closed even after getting caught, the teacher yelling, your blood’s probably cornstarch! Some days, the kids applauded Magpie’s efforts, as the teacher, chalkless and lesson thrown into disarray, would throw up his hands, let the kids play. But as punishment Magpie would have to sit in the corner, hands on chin, eyes downcast. Some said his parents were poor and he didn’t eat anything nutritious beyond free school lunch; others insisted he was insane, he was conceived by insane parents, that he suffered brain damage being attacked by ravenous birds. Eventually the teacher hid the chalk. Magpie turned to other things: glue, paper, pencil erasers. One day, in a darkened classroom after school, he was found eating desk parts. A screwdriver and saw nearby. The sound of metal on teeth. That was the last of Magpie. The kids joked he’d one day be in the circus. Maybe he’d return as a 50-foot monster that devours the city. Maybe he’d come kill them all.