“The Kid” by Salvatore Scibona is a heartbreaking short story. It opens with a little boy lost in a German airport. People are trying to help him, but the boy is unresponsive. The story then shifts to Elroy Heflin, a private in the United States Army, who is stationed in Latvia. As the story progresses, we see Elroy grow up somewhat, or at least age since his initial deployment overseas.
The title of the story is slightly ambiguous. It’s easy to recognize Janis, the boy lost in the airport, as the kid; however that term could also apply to Elroy, the boy’s father. Elroy is off. Whether it’s due to fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, or simply his own upbringing being abandoned by his mom and raised by a distant stepfather, Scibona doesn’t elaborate. That detail is unimportant though. We have enough context that it frames Elroy’s actions in a way that provokes more sadness than dislike in the reader.
The strongest part of “The Kid” is Scibona’s ability to create a character that reader’s can at least sympathize with, or understand some of his potential motivations. Sad and haunting, “The Kid” will stay with you long after you’ve closed the pages.