I read a short story some 25-35 years ago about a boy -- or maybe man might be a better word -- permanently stuck in the body of a pre-teen boy. He would live in a town for a few years, and then just before people would begin to notice him not aging, would hop a train and move on to another town.

I don't remember how he would explain to his new playmates and their parents why he didn't arrive with his family. Much of the story was taken up with his conversation with a mother to whom he divulged his secret. I think she wanted to adopt him and he had to explain why that wasn't possible.

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    And as I read this, I suddenly remember reading this story myself. I remember the conversation with the woman and I think it was because she had figured out what was going on. I think it was by Ray Bradbury.
    – Tango
    Jan 26, 2015 at 5:20
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    Yeah, it's Bradbury, all right. And the boy makes the point to the woman that, in order to thrive as a child, he has to be child in his mind. Can't for the life of me remember the name of the story. It's pre-1968, though. Jan 26, 2015 at 5:41
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    This matches P. J. Plauger's "Child of all Ages" except the protagonist is a girl in that case. In her story, she mentions specifically that getting set up in a new town is getting more difficult over the centuries (she is from Ancient Greece and is now floating around mid-20th century USA), and that her current technique is forging social services paperwork to get herself admitted to orphanages and foster care systems. Apr 9, 2022 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


"Hail and Farewell" by Ray Bradbury.

But of course he was going away, there was nothing else to do, the time was up, the clock had run out, and he was going very far away indeed. His suitcase was packed, his shoes were shined, his hair was brushed, he had expressly washed behind his ears, and it remained only for him to go down the stairs, out the front door, and up the street to the small-town station where the train would make a stop for him alone. Then Fox Hill, Illinois, would be left far off in his past. And he would go on, perhaps to Iowa, perhaps to Kansas, perhaps even to California; a small boy twelve years old with a birth certificate in his valise to show he had been born forty-three years ago.

'Willie!' called a voice downstairs.

'Yes!' He hoisted his suitcase. In his bureau mirror he saw a face made of June dandelions and July apples and warm summer-morning milk. There, as always, was his look of the angel and the innocent, which might never, in the years of his life, change.

'Almost time,' called the woman's voice.

'All right!' And he went down the stairs, grunting and smiling. In the living-room sat Anna and Steve, their clothes painfully neat.

'Here I am!' cried Willie in the parlor door.

Anna looked like she was going to cry. 'Oh, good Lord, you can't really be leaving us, can you, Willie?'

'People are beginning to talk,' said Willie quietly. I've been here three years now. But when people begin to talk, I know it's time to put on my shoes and buy a railway ticket.'

What was I? A boy. I looked like a boy, sounded like a boy, so I might as well go on being a boy. No use fighting it. No use screaming. So what could I do? What job was handy? And then one day I saw this man in a restaurant looking at another man’s pictures of his children. “Sure wish I had kids,” he said. “Sure wish I had kids.’ He kept shaking his head. And me sitting a few seats away from him, a hamburger in my hands. I sat there, frozen. At that very instant I knew what my job would be for all the rest of my life.

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