Stephen has a problem. The Beast is about to outgrow his cage, and Stephen knows that if it gets out, its teeth and huge appetite are sure to get him in trouble.
Stephen's got a problem. It's not because his mother's a nutcase and his dad's a drunk ex-con who lives in a shack in the woods. It's not because he and his brothers grew up in foster homes. It's not because he's almost eighteen, and will get kicked out of his latest foster home in two weeks.
It's because of a birthday present his dad gave him years ago when he was just a kid. A birthday present he kept in a fish tank, and then in a bathtub. But it grew, and it grew and it grew. It was a baby when he got it, but it's not a baby any longer. It's twelve feet long, and still growing. And it's Stephen's secret. He's never told anyone about it, not his brothers, friend, foster families—no one. Years ago, he told his family that it died, and they believed him. One way or another, he's managed to feed it all these years. Four years ago, he found a half submerged iron cage near the foot of the dam. The hatch was on top, so Stephen could drop his pet inside and lock the hatch. It was only three feet long then, and Stephen could control it. He can't control it now. He calls it The Beast, and spends most of his money feeding it-a whole baby pig a month, plus whatever else he can find. He spends a lot of time worrying about it and what it might do if it escaped, and how many people it might kill. Stephen's read up on The Beast, and it could live for eighty years, and it's only about twelve now.
Stephen's done a lot of bad things in his life. He was a car thief at eight, a trespasser at ten, and an arsonist at twelve. But he's planning something worse now. He's planning a murder. Somehow, he's got to kill The Beast before it escapes. If he doesn't he'll be responsible for everything and everyone The Beast kills, trying to stay alive. The Beast has been his secret all these years. Now it's his responsibility to make sure it stays a secret—for ever.
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian, and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.