The Boy Vanishes

Haigh’s deeply haunting story of the disappearance of a fourteen-year-old boy in a fictionalized blue-collar seaside town shows how much a community loses when one of its own suddenly vanishes.

  • Fiction
  • Byliner Original
  1. The boy vanishes in the summer of the Bicentennial, a time when American flags are everywhere: ironed onto T-shirts, airbrushed onto muscle cars and motorcycle helmets, brightly tattooed over biceps. On Massasoit Beach patriotic buntings drape the lifeguard chairs. Boardwalk vendors sell out of rocket-shaped popsicles striped red, white, and blue.

    He vanishes on a Sunday night in June, the first warm weekend of the short New England summer. Half of Boston—the half that will never see Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard—has spent it sprawled on Massasoit Beach, showing winter-pale skin. All weekend long, Funland is crowded with teenagers—boys mostly, some with girlfriends attached. The girls are sunburned blondes in tube tops and cutoffs, lip gloss and Claddagh rings. A few wear Mizpah coins on gold chains. They accept teddy bears in Uncle Sam hats, red plush lobsters and shiny worthless trinkets. For the boys it’s not the thing won but the speeding dart, the satisfying thunk of ball hitting target, well and forcefully placed.

    Up front, at a table opposite the Skee Ball, the Cigarette Game is in full swing. The boy at the table pipes up: Bet your two packs and win a carton. At the head of the line you hold up four fingers. The boy places your quarter on a flat face of his eight-sided ball, covering the number 4.

    The table is marked with a numbered grid. When you toss the ball, the quarter lands in the 4 block. We got a winnah here! The boy throws you two packs—Marlboros by defau...

Originally published in