Miracle Boy and Other Stories
“Miracle Boy” is from Pinckney Benedict’s third story collection, Miracle Boy and Other Stories (Press 53). Benedict, who grew up on his family’s dairy farm in the mountains of southern West Virginia, has published two previous collections of short fiction (Town Smokes and The Wrecking Yard) and a novel (Dogs of God). His stories have appeared in Esquire, Zoetrope: All-Story, the O. Henry Award series, the Pushcart Prize series, and elsewhere.
Benedict said this about his story: I remember, when I was in high school, reading a story in a newspaper about a kid who was working on his family’s farm, and his arms, both of them, were amputated by some monstrous piece of agricultural machinery. Accidents of that sort, and even worse, often fatal, were commonplace in rural communities like the one where I was raised. So the central notion of the story, a farm boy maimed in a run-in with some implacable mechanism, wasn’t extraordinary or newsworthy at all.
What made the story remarkable was what happened afterward: the kid made his way back to his house (no one was home, apparently) and managed to call the ambulance by holding a pencil between his teeth in order to dial the phone. His life was saved by doctors, and his arms were reattached. Such operations are routine now, of course, and even more astonishing surgeries take place every day: face transplants and so on. But the miracle of that boy’s survival and his recovery of what had been lost made an indelible impression on me.
The story’s composition began with a contemplation of the life of a similar kid in the moments before the accident that transformed him into a miraculous creature: ‘The trees are beginning to go gloriously to color in the windbreak up by the house.’ That present-tense passage, now positioned perhaps a third of the way into the story, was the first writing I did for it, and it stayed very much the same through every draft of the story (and there were many). It was an anchor for me, that episode, and it’s still my favorite moment of prose in the piece, the one I like most to read aloud.