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I'm trying to find information about a short story which involved a little boy who brings a dead cockroach back to life at the end of the story. I recall that he is repeatedly told to stop playing with it by adults who think he's just playing with a gross squashed bug before it is revealed what he's done, and that there was at least a hint of physical abuse by his father, but I might be getting those details mixed up with something else.

The short story was part of a paperback book collection of genre fiction that I borrowed from a friend and read at least 30 years ago, probably around 1991, and I recall the book looked pretty weathered, so possibly published much earlier than that. It was definitely not meant to be read by children, if that helps.

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    Reminds me of Christopher Moore's Lamb but that's not a short story, and the only critters brought back to life (as far as I can recall) are lizards. And the boy is the young Jesus Christ, which you probably would have remembered and put in your description.
    – user14111
    Aug 22, 2023 at 21:27
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    This may be a false memory, but I'm sure I remember a story like this that ends with something like He opened his fist and the cockroach scuttled away. If I'm right maybe this will help jog memories. Aug 23, 2023 at 5:45
  • @JohnRennie that does actually sound familiar, like I kind of remember that the reveal that he has brought the cockroach back to life was how the story ends. That does help! Aug 28, 2023 at 4:07
  • @user14111, don't remember him being Jesus and it was definitely a short story, but there may have been some allusion to him being the second coming of Jesus for all I know. But it was set in more modern times, probably the "present." Aug 28, 2023 at 4:11

1 Answer 1

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This bears some resemblance to Talent by Theodore Sturgeon, which has been widely anthologized, including in Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales and available here.

In the story, a young (seven-ish) boy named Joachim (or "Jokey") is playing with another child, a girl nicknamed "Precious." Jokey has reality-warping powers (like Anthony from "It's A Good Life," but without the telepathy). In the story he does thoughtlessly cruel things, like turn a pig into a living piggy bank. Near the end of the story, he turns himself into a very large beetle to frighten the girl, and this happens:

Something moved into her field of vision. She glanced at it, squealed, and moved back. It was an enormous stag beetle, three times life-size, and it was scuttling toward her.

Another beetle— or the same one— met her at the corner.

With her hard black shiny shoes, she stepped on this one, so hard that the calf of her leg ached and tingled for the next half-hour.

Resulting in this:

In the car, Mrs. Brent told her husband that she thought Jokey was driving Mrs. Purney crazy.

It was her turn to be driven very nearly mad, the next morning, when Jokey turned up. Most of him.

Surprising, really, how much beetle had stuck to the hard black shoe, and, when it was time, turned into what they found under their daughter’s bed.

Implications of abuse:

“What about your father?” “Aw, I guess he’d like to lick me. But he ain’t got a* chance. Mom’d have a fit.”

“You mean she’d get mad at him?”

“No, stoopid. A fit. You know, scrabbles at the air and get suds on her mouth, and all. Falls down and twitches.” He chuckled. “But-why?”

“Well, it’s about the on’y way she can handle Pop, I guess. He’s always wanting to do something about me. She won’t let ’um, so I c’n do anything I want.”

and

“He’s got to be given everything he wants,” murmured Mrs. Purney in a strange tone. It was fierce and it was by rote. “He’s got to be kept happy.”

“You must love him very much,” snapped Mrs. Brent viciously, suddenly determined to get some reaction out of this weak, indulgent creature. She got it.

“I hate him,” said Mrs. Purney.

Her eyes were closed again, and now she. almost smiled, as if the release of those words had been a yearned-for thing. Then she sat abruptly erect, her pale eyes round, and she grasped her lower lip and pulled it absurdly down and to the side.

“I didn’t mean that,” she gasped. She flung herself down before Mrs. Brent, and gabbled, “I didn’t mean it! Don’t tell him! He’ll do things to us. He’ll loosen the housebeams when we’re sleeping. He’ll turn the breakfast to snakes and frogs, and make that big toothy mouth again out of the oven door. Don’t tell him! Don’t tell him!” Mrs. Brent, profoundly shocked, and not comprehending a word of this, instinctively put out her arms and gathered the other woman close.

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    Thank you for responding with so much detail! I just read the story you linked to and, although I do see why you suggested it, I am pretty sure it's not the one I'm referring to. I did get a kick out of it and the similarities to the classic Twilight Zone episode though! I also appreciated the links provided; now I can go down a new rabbit hole I wasn't familiar with to try and find what I'm looking for. Thanks again! Aug 22, 2023 at 19:49
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    No problem.Hope you find the story you're looking for
    – Andrew
    Aug 22, 2023 at 20:02

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