Stress Relief by Molly Pefley

2019-2020 Magazine Featured Writing

A conversation with the author

The sun scorched James’ skin as he sprinted from the school with the lamb’s head he stole from his science class. That day in class, the students all shied away with disturbed looks on their faces while making an incision into the lambs head. There was hardly any educational value from accidentally mutilating a specimen that was once living. However, this experience was extremely educational for James. He saw the way the lambs little hairs looked as though they were swimming in formaldehyde. His heart began to flutter as he saw his new friend with grey, cloudy, lifeless eyes.


He ran all the way home and up the stairs, hearing his parents talking in the dining room. Sitting at his desk, he turned on the lamp, filling his dusty, dark room with a dim light. He opened a drawer in his desk, revealing leftover bones and dried up carcasses from experiments from his previous labs in science. He shuffles around and pulls out a box of white latex gloves. Putting them on, he reached into the jar and stroked the hairs that the lamb had left on its head. It was mesmerizing; the way that his hands felt when he glided them over the chemically dwindled hair on the lamb’s head. Oh, how good this would feel if it were human James thought to himself.


James furiously shook his head as he tried to shake these dark thoughts out of his head that would come and go so often. He knew what he was doing was nefarious, but it gave him a calm that nothing else would. With his new acquired friend, he felt accepted and safe. He looked in the slits that his window’s blinds created. The moon filled the night sky. The light that shone in James’ eyes was almost blinding, but he didn’t mind. He shifted his body in his chair. But as he shifted, his grip on the jar slipped. To James, it felt like slow motion as the jar dropped with a loud bang and shattered all over his floor. The lamb’s head rolled quickly but was stopped when it knocked the door across his room.

“James, sweetie? Is that you up there?” his mother’s soft, weak voice spoke through his closed door. James silently cursed himself as he tried to pick up the shattered glass that once incased the lamb. He lifted his sheets and swept everything under his bed. Blood gushed from his hand as he cut it from a sharp piece from the jar. He clenched his fist and the blood became quick patterns of drops rather than a large stream, almost like a red river. James was still panicking to get the mess cleaned up, though he couldn’t seem to get the pungent stench of formaldehyde out of his carpet.

“James, what’s that smell in there?” his father’s strong voice called out. The soft knocks on James’ turned into heavier pounds. James’ doorknob began to turn, and his door opened slowly, revealing James scrambling on his floor. As James looked up at his parents and pushed up his glasses, he began to curse himself for forgetting to lock his door. “What is going on here?” his father asked, clearly disgusted by what James was doing and the aroma his hobby created. James stayed silent without anything to say. His parents leaned closer, crouching down next to him. “Your mother and I are very concerned for you. We think that it is in your best interest that you go see a professional. I can’t keep turning a blind eye on your antics. We are worried you may hurt someone; we are afraid you may hurt yourself.”

James stared at his parents with betrayal. “My best interest? How do you know what’s i-in my best interest?”

“Sweetie, pack your things. You’re being admitted into BroneSteir tonight. We’ve already made the call,” his mother said politely. His parents left his room and James began to pack. Only he wasn’t packing to go to some psych ward – he was leaving this place.

James quickly grabbed his duffle bag and stuffed all his friends, including his new lamb into his bag and started walking, not knowing where he would head to next.