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Murphy's Boy

Murphy's Boy

4.8 7
by Torey L. Hayden

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His name was Kevin but his keepers called him Zoo Boy. He didn't talk. He hid under tables and surrounded himself with a cage of chairs. He hadn't been out of the building in the four years since he'd come in. He was afraid of water and wouldn't take a shower. He was afraid to be naked, to change his clothes. He was nearly 16.

Desperate to see change in the


His name was Kevin but his keepers called him Zoo Boy. He didn't talk. He hid under tables and surrounded himself with a cage of chairs. He hadn't been out of the building in the four years since he'd come in. He was afraid of water and wouldn't take a shower. He was afraid to be naked, to change his clothes. He was nearly 16.

Desperate to see change in the boy, the staff of Kevin's adolescent treatment center hired Hayden. As Hayden read to him and encouraged him to read, crawling down into his cage of chairs with him, Kevin talked. Then he started to draw and paint and showed himself to have a quick wit and a rolling, seething, murderous hatred for his stepfather.

Product Details

Sagebrush Education Resources
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
3.94(w) x 7.08(h) x 1.11(d)

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Chapter One

Zoo-boy. The legs of the table were his cage. With arms up protectively over his head, he rocked. Back and forth, back and forth. An aide tried to prod him into moving out from under the table but she had no luck. Back and forth, back and forth the boy rocked.

I watched from behind the one-way mirror. "How old is he?" I asked the woman on my right."Fifteen."

Hardly a boy anymore. I leaned clue to the glass to see him. "How long has he been here?" I asked.

"Four years."

"Without ever speaking?"

"Without ever speaking." She looked over at me in the eerie gloom of the room behind the mirror. "Without ever making a noise at all."

I continued to watch a little longer. Then I picked up my box of materials and went out into the room on the other side of the mirror. The aide backed off and, when I entered, she willingly left. I could hear the click of a door in the outer corridor and I knew she had gone behind the mirror to watch too. Only Zoo-boy and I were left in the room.

Carefully, I set down my box of materials. I waited a moment to see if he would react to a new person in the room, but he didn't. So I came closer. I sat down on the floor an arm's length away from where he had barricaded himself under the table. Still he rocked, his arms and legs curled up around him. I could get no idea of his stature.


No response.

Not sure what to do, I looked around. I was acutely aware of the audience beyond the mirror. They were talking in there, their voices indistinct, no more than an undulating murmur, like wind through cattails on a summer's afternoon. But I knew the sound for what itwas.

The boy didn't look fifteen. Even wrapped up in a ball like that where I couldn't get much of a look at him, he didn't appear that old. Nine, maybe. Or eleven. Not nearly sixteen.

"Kevin," I said again, "my name is Torey. Do you remember Miss Wendolowski telling you someone was coming out to work with you? That's tee. I'm Torey and I work with people who have a hard time talking."

Still he rocked. I wasn't given even the slightest acknowledgment. All around us hung a heavy, cloying silence embroidered with the rhythmic sound of his body hitting against the linoleum.

I started to talk to him, keeping my voice soft and welcoming, the way one talks to timid puppies. I talked of why I had come, of what I was going to be doing with him, of other children whom I had-worked with and had success. I told him about myself. What I said wasn't important, only the tone was.

No response. He only rocked.

The minutes slipped away. I was running dry of things to say. Such a one-sided conversation was not easy to maintain, but what made it more difficult was not Zoo-boy so much as the ghostly presence of those beyond the mirror. It was too easy to feel stupid talking to oneself when half a dozen people one couldn't see were watching. Finally, I pulled over my box of materials and sorted out a paperback book, a mystery story about a teenager and his girl friend. I'll read to you, I told Zooboy, until we feel a little more relaxed with one another.

"Chapter One: The Long Road."

I read

And read.

The minutes kept moving around the face of the clock. Occasionally there was the muffled noise of a door opening and closing beyond our little room. They were leaving, one by one. Nothing in here was worth wasting an afternoon to see. I was not a spectacular reader. The story wasn't riveting. And Zoo-boy only rocked.

I kept on reading. And counting the openings and closings. How many people had been in the room behind the mirror? I couldn't recall exactly. Six? Or was it seven? And how many had gone out already? Five?

I read on.

Click-click. Another gone.

Click-click. That was seven.

I continued to read. My voice became the only sound in the room. I looked over. Zoo-boy had stopped rocking. Slowly he brought his arms down to see me better. He smiled. He was nobody's fool He had been counting too.

He gestured at me; a small movement within the confines of the table and chairs.

"What?" I asked, because I couldn't understand what he was trying to communicate.

He gestured again, more widely this time. Only it wasn't just a simple motion. Rather, it was a sentence, a paragraph almost, of gestures.

I still couldn't understand. I moved a chair aside to see him better but I had to ask him to repeat it.

There was something he wanted me to know. The motions were poetic in their gyrating, wreathing urgency. A hand ballet. But they were no sign language I understood, not Ameslan, not the hand alphabet. I couldn't comprehend at all.

From under the table came a deep sigh. He grimaced at me. Then patiently he repeated his gestures again, more slowly this time, more emphatically, like someone speaking to a rather stupid child. He became frustrated when he could not make me understand.

Finally, he gave up. We sat in silence, staring at one another. The book was still in my hands, so in desperation to fill the time, I asked him if he'd like me to read a little more. Zoo-boy nodded.

I settled back against the wall. "Chapter Five: Out of the Cave."

Zoo-boy pushed the other chair slightly out from the table and reached to touch the cloth of my jeans. I looked up.

He had his mouth open, one hand pulling the lower jaw down. He pointed down his throat. Then dismally, he shook his head.

Murphy's Boy. Copyright © by Torey Hayden. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Torey Hayden is an educational psychologist and a former special education teacher who, since 1979, has chronicled her struggles in the classroom in a succession of bestselling books. She currently lives and writes in North Wales, U.K., with her husband and daughter.

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Murphy's Boy 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Another MUST READ from Torey Hayden! I couldn't put it down...Torey proves again that the love of someone who never stops caring can make miracles. This was a wonderful book!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This may have been the best book i have ever read. It is written in such a way that keeps you from putting the book down to the very end. I would recomend this book to everyone. I can't wait to read the rest of Torey Hayden's books!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and I must say it was wonderful. Torey Hayden's stories are so easy to read they almost seem to not be real. She makes non-fiction read like fiction. I'm personally working with troubled children this summer and I can relate to her books a lot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far the best book Torey Hayden has ever written. It is brutally honest and touching in a way that you will never forget. If you haven't yet read this book, run get it. You won't be able to put it down!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It not only made me cry, but also made me think. This book helped me find my true hidden happiness: Child Psychology. Tory Hayden uses great description and psychological terms. I could hardly put it down. It is a must read, and it activates one's emotional side.