Tormented as a young boy, a man decides to settle the score and devises an intricate plan to get back at the one person who truly wronged him.
Of course Mr. Newby had a first name. But it is immaterial, and by the time this story takes place there was no one in the world who knew what that name was except himself.
As an infant he had been found wrapped up in a blanket on the steps of St. Dinadan’s Orphanage for Boys, without even a note pinned to his diaper. Though he was officially given the name of a saint, the adults at the orphanage always referred to him in private as “Unfortunate.” As he moved from infant to toddler to school age, the other boys, both large and small, gave him other names, most of them unkind. “Ugly.” “Fatty.” “Stupid.” “Retard.” “Queer.” “Moron.” “Lard Ass.” “Four Eyes.” “Faggot.” They regularly put him headfirst into toilets and garbage bins.
Through it all, he smiled.
Pete Carson, two years older and much larger, was the worst of his tormentors. Once he yanked Mr. Newby's pants down in the schoolyard in full view of the giggling girls in St. Cecelia's Orphanage for Girls, next door. Mr. Newby’s round face turned red, tears filled his blue eyes. Even then, he smiled. No matter what his torment of the day, he always just picked himself up when it was over and soldiered on. Always smiling.
He had smiled from the day of his birth. It was fortunate that a newborn baby could not understand what was happening around him, because this is what transpired on that day almost a half century past.…
The young woman sat up in the hospital bed, held her new baby in her arms, and with trembling anticipation drew down the triangle of blanket that covered his face. She paled and shoved the infant in the direction of the nurse and the frowning doctor and the priest who stood beside the bed. “I don’t want him. Take him away.”
“He is your baby, Miss Newby,” the doctor said in an icy tone, stressing her unwed state. “You have to take him.”
“Why can't you keep him? Find him a home? I don’t have anywhere to take him. And he’s—he’s ugly.” She looked pleadingly at the priest. “Father? Take him to the orphanage. Let the sisters raise him.”
Father Erasmus peered down at the baby and shook his head. “I'm afraid not, Miss Newby,” said the priest gently. “It would be impossible.”
And so she took him home. For the next five weeks Mr. Newby's mother cried whenever she looked at her smiling infant son. “All I wanted,” she sobbed, “was a baby who looked like every other baby, not one that looks like a troll.”
A strange congenital stiffness in his facial muscles accounted for his gremlin smile that remained even when he was crying. She hated the way people stared at him when she took him out. When the baby was six months old she met a man who was willing to take her away from her troubles if she’d ditch “the freaky retard.”