Author’s note: I’ve had this idea rattling around in my head. Now, since the system’s down at work, I thought I would start working on it. Hellboy belongs to Mike Mignola and Dark Horse Press, for the original comics, and to Guillermo del Toro and Sony Pictures for the film adaptation. Reminder: The name ‘Bruttenholm’ is pronouced ‘Broom’.

I Call Him Son

Somewhere in Virginia, January 1945

A squealing sound disturbed my sleep. As I opened my eyes, I was confused, both by the pain in my right leg and by the unfamiliar surroundings. The sound that awakened me became more strident, bringing back to my sleep-befuddled brain why I, a British university professor of folklore and specialist on the paranormal, have been hidden on a variety of covert American military bases.

I have been finding it difficult to adjust to the colder winters here in the States and the still healing bullet wound in my leg was throbbing. In many ways, I wanted nothing more than to swallow some of those sleep-inducing painkillers I had been prescribed and allow myself to sink to a place of no pain; but as the squealing became more and more like the crying of an infant, I knew what I had to do.

Switching on a small lamp on a table near the bed, I fumbled in the sudden glare for my spectacles; after my eyes adjusted, I opened a drawer and pulled out a key. I had not been at all keen on the idea of the poor boy being kept locked up in a cage, but the military authorities had been insistent.

Yet, on some points, I myself had been even more insistent than they; and President Roosevelt allowed me to keep the child in my assigned quarters on whatever base we resided. He made it clear that the child was to be locked up only when I was unable to attend to him and that I had the authority to unlock the cage anytime I chose.

Barely able to walk, I painfully made my way to the large cage where the infant demon we had named ‘Hellboy’ was confined. The child calmed down as he saw me approaching him and moved closer to the entrance. I really detested the idea of keeping him confined like this, even if an effort had been made to make that cage as comfortable as possible.

As soon as the cage was open, a bright-red, diaper-clad, toddler-sized infant waddled out; that huge stone-like right hand almost dragging on the floor. Standing a little taller, he reached up with both arms indicating that he wished to be picked up. Steeling myself for the possibility of increased pain in my leg, I bent down and pulled him into my arms; attempting as much as possible to avoid being inadvertently whacked by that huge right hand of his.

As I shifted the child’s weight to avoid my bad leg, a whiff of something unpleasant gave a good indication of what the trouble was. Thank God, the surgeon who had first tended my leg after I had been shot had also shown me how to pin up diapers on a squirming child with a tail to accommodate; and I had managed over the last several weeks to obtain a supply of safety pins and torn up sheets at every location we had moved to.

Utilizing a table that had been installed in my quarters for just such ministrations, I soon had the boy cleaned up and carried him back over to the cage. Clinging tightly to my neck as I began to lower him in through the entrance, he grunted and squealed his objections to being separated from me again.

Right then and there, I decided that I had had enough of this barbaric practice of locking the child up as if he were some kind of animal. Carrying him over to the bed I had been sleeping on, I laid him down and slid into the bed next to him. Gathering him into my arms, I quietly sang a lullaby I could just barely recall my mother singing to one of my younger sisters. At one time, this memory of my childhood before my sisters’ untimely deaths, and my parents’ subsequent separation, would have been too painful to bear. Now, that I had a child of my own to sing to…

“A child of my own,” I whispered to myself in wonder. When my fiancé had died when I was barely in my twenties, I had thrown myself into my work; forgetting any ideas I may have had of seeking a family of my own, a son to carry on the family name of ‘Bruttenholm’. The Grandfather who had raised me often said that the Lord always has a plan for us, but many times this plan seems to sneak in the back way or suddenly appear when we least expect it.

As I looked at the ‘son’ who lay sleeping in my arms, for the first time I understood what he meant.

Thanks for reading. All comments welcome, Beth Palladino

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