The boy recession, p.1
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       The Boy Recession, p.1

           Flynn Meaney
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The Boy Recession

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  For my gal pals,

  and the nights we spent scheming at Starbucks


  “Summer Jobs with Sex Appeal: A Teen’s Guide to Working in Whitefish Bay”

  Aviva Roth for The Julius Journal, Special Summer Break Edition

  When are you gonna get off your lazy ass and get a job?” Eugene asks me.

  I’m so Zen right now, I don’t even realize the kid is talking to me. Eugene and Derek and I are out on Eugene’s sailboat on Lake Michigan. We’re pretty close to shore still, so the wind isn’t too crazy here. It’s just this nice breeze rocking the boat a little bit back and forth as I lie stretched out on the deck, the warmth of the sun on me. Man, this is a nice day.

  We live in Wisconsin, and in Wisconsin, you really appreciate days when it’s warm and sunny. In winter this town is freezing. You step out your door in the morning and the whole place looks like one of those nature specials in which a guy brings a camcorder to the North Pole and then the camera cuts out and you hear on the news that he got eaten by a bear. Since school starts next week, I’m taking advantage of the last full day I have to lie on my ass and do nothing.

  “Hunter!” Eugene says. “Are you gonna get your act together for the school year or what? You were supposed to get a summer job, and the summer’s over.”

  “I tried to get a summer job,” I tell Eugene, sitting up and yawning.

  I open my eyes, but the sun is really bright, because I’ve been lying down with my arm over my face for so long.

  “It’s, like, a recession, dude.”

  It’s Eugene’s sailboat, and he’s doing something sailboaty—tying a knot, or something like that. Like usual, he’s dressed like an eighty-year-old dude on a golf course—pink shirt and shoes with tassels and all that crap. Even though he’s wearing big sunglasses, I can tell he’s rolling his eyes.

  “It’s a recession, for real!” I tell him, lifting up my T-shirt to scratch my stomach. “My dad hasn’t had a job for, like, six months.”

  Derek’s sitting balanced on the side of the boat. He thinks he’s a badass for balancing there, but the boat is barely moving at all, so he’s definitely not gonna fall off. Derek actually came out here to fish, but we’re so close to the docks and the beach and the people swimming there that he’s not catching anything. Now he puts down his fishing pole and swings his legs around so he’s facing us.

  “I thought your dad was a stay-at-home dad, Huntro,” Derek says.

  Derek and Eugene call me “Huntro” sometimes. I have no clue why.

  “He’s not a stay-at-home dad,” I scoff. “He has one kid, and it’s me. If he’s supposed to be watching me, or whatever, full-time, he’s doing a crappy job. Because I’m out every night, doing stupid shit with you guys.”

  “Don’t be sexist, Huntro,” Derek says. “Dudes can be stay-at-home dads, too. I think it would be pretty cool. I’d be one.”

  Derek’s totally given up on fishing. He reaches into his pocket for a pack of Marlboros and shakes out one really old, wrinkly cigarette. I’m pretty sure he’s had this same pack since eighth grade, when health class sparked his interest in smoking. He takes out a match, too, and strikes it on the brim of his hat.

  “Yeah, you’d be a great role model,” I tell him, lying back down on the boat deck.

  Eugene is still all stressed out about my job search.

  “Where did you apply this summer?” he asks me. “Did you actually apply for any jobs?”

  “I did!” I say, putting my arm back over my eyes to block the sun. Whoa, I don’t smell so good right now. I must be sweating through my shirt.

  “I applied at the pool,” I tell him. “To be, like, the snack-bar guy, or lifeguard, or something.”

  “Which one?” Eugene asks.

  “I don’t know. Maybe it was a job application for the lifeguard, and I wrote about snack-bar stuff.”

  Eugene sighs loudly. “What else?”

  “Uh… I applied at Culver’s, too. I was there, eating a bunch of Butter Burgers, and I saw a job application, so I grabbed it.”

  “So what about that?” Eugene says.

  “Still waiting to hear back,” I tell him. “Apparently, no one’s impressed with my eating experience.”

  Man, I could really go for a Butter Burger right now.

  “Hunter, you can’t just sit around waiting for people to call you back,” Eugene tells me. He stands up and starts to pace the deck.

  “Finding a job is about bothering people. You’ve got to go door to door, ringing doorbells, finding old ladies who need you to do stuff to their chimneys. You gotta be willing to do anything. Go out and find something. You’ve got to get aggressive.”

  “I don’t know,” I say, yawning so wide I kind of drool on myself by accident. “I’m not a super-aggressive person.”

  “You’re Hunter,” Eugene tells me. “Be a hunter, Hunter.”

  It is pretty ironic that my name is Hunter. I’m actually much more of a gatherer. I don’t do stuff; I let stuff happen to me. If we were still cavemen, I wouldn’t be out there at dawn, stalking down buffalo and turning their bladders into beer mugs or whatever. I’m pretty sure I’d be sleeping in until someone dragged my ass out of that cave. And if I was hungry, I’d end up eating grass or ants or whatever you could scrounge up in the Homo erectus version of a vending machine.

  Derek’s still leaning on the side of the boat, but he’s not smoking. He just keeps lighting matches against his hat and then holding them between two fingers, letting them burn down until they’re close to his skin. Once they burn down, he throws them over the side of the boat, into the water.

  “If you wanna help the kid out,” Derek says to Eugene, “why don’t you hire him?”

  Actually, Eugene probably could hire me, since he’s an “entrepreneur.” That’s what he calls himself. He makes most of his money buying beer for people’s parties. Eugene’s got a fake ID, and he actually gets away with using it because he looks like he’s thirty-six, thanks to his devotion to tasseled shoes and his ridiculous carpet of chest hair. Besides buying beer, Eugene sells Maxim magazines and cigarettes, and does stuff like make fake notes so people can watch that Miracle of Life video in bio class. That’s part of the reason he has this boat—he stores a lot of illegal shit on here.

  “I don’t think so,” Eugene says. “No offense, Huntro, but I work in a high-pressure, high-stakes environment. I just can’t take a chance on you.”

  I’m not offended. And I don’t give a crap. I don’t want to work for Eugene. Actually, I don’t want to work at all. It will be hard enough to go back to school next week; I don’t want a job on top of that. I’ve gotten way too used to my summer schedule: waking up at 2 PM, going to the pool, falling asleep in the sun without sunscreen, going home, going to Derek’s house to wrestle in his wrestling ring (which is actually a bunch of mattresses in his basement), going home again to play World of Warcraft until 3 AM, then going to sleep after a day of being generally irresponsible.

  “Ugh. Will you look at those douchebags?” Derek says. “Those preppy d-bags piss me off.”

  Derek is glaring over at the docks at a bunch of guys we go to school with, the guys who are really into sch
ool and sports and crap. These guys are on the student senate, go to dances, and throw keggers—and all the rest of that Zac Efron typical high-school crap. Right now, a bunch of them wearing plaid shorts are doing cannonballs off the dock.

  Our town is Whitefish Bay, but people call it “White Folks Bay” because it’s so preppy and privileged and whatever. A lot of the terrible stuff people say about the suburbs is true about Whitefish Bay. There are rich white kids who drink too much. There are spoiled kids who get Bimmers for their sixteenth birthdays, crash them, and then have their parents buy them new ones. This kinda stuff offends Derek; I don’t let it get to me.

  “Just ignore them,” I tell Derek. “Let them have their fun with their plaid shorts. Don’t be jealous.”

  “They’re probably jealous of us,” Eugene says, letting the mainsail out by unhooking a rope. “We’ve got a boat.”

  “Yeah, I’m sure,” Derek says sarcastically. “We’ve got a boat, and they’ve got girls.”

  That’s true. They do have girls. There are about thirty girls over on the dock with those plaid-shorts guys, and all those girls are wearing bikinis. Those guys have girls jumping on their backs, girls diving into the water with them, girls dunking their heads underwater, girls racing them back to the docks all soaking wet and hot. Eugene, Derek, and I don’t have any girls. We never have any girls.

  “Look at that crap,” Derek says bitterly. “Look at those pricks with their abs and their… haircuts. Guys like that try to look all clean and shit so no one realizes how sketchy they are. Girls might think we’re sketchy, but those guys are sketchy. Those guys are sexual assaults waiting to happen. Those are the guys who get girls wasted and take advantage of them.”

  Derek shakes his head and sits down on the deck next to me. He lights another match against his hat. Derek’s kind of a pyromaniac—in case you haven’t noticed. On the Fourth of July he had this whole plan; he was gonna learn how to become a fire-eater by watching YouTube videos. It didn’t pan out, though, because his mom found out, and she stopped him because Derek’s already been to the emergency room three times this year. So I guess he’s pissed because that plan didn’t pan out.

  “Yeah, those guys get girls wasted on alcohol they buy from me,” Eugene says. “Don’t talk shit about my clients.”

  “Don’t you ever get mad when you buy all their beer and deliver all their kegs and you don’t even get invited to their parties?” Derek asks Eugene now.

  Eugene shakes his head. “I just sit back and count up my money.”

  Now Eugene does that. He sits down in what he calls the “captain’s chair,” and he whips out his wallet. This kid carries an amazing amount of cash on him. Sometimes I think about pickpocketing him. It would be pretty easy—he’s only, like, five-foot-three. I’m pretty sure I could rob him, no problem. Right now, though, I’m too lazy.

  Derek’s so busy glaring at a guy in plaid shorts who’s groping this freshman girl underwater that he lets the match burn all the way down to his fingers.

  “Shit!” he cries out, shaking the match so hard it drops to the floor of the boat.

  Eugene looks up from his money, all pissed.

  “Do not light my boat on fire,” Eugene tells Derek.

  “A boat can’t catch on fire,” Derek says. “If it does, we’ll put it out. We’ve got water all around us.”

  He picks the match up off the boat deck and throws it over the side. He stays standing up and shades his eyes so he can watch the dock some more.

  “You know who I want to punch in the face?” Derek says, stretching his arms over his head. “Charlie Devine.”

  When I sit up, my hair is all over my face. What I really want to do right now is jump in this water. I’m sweaty as balls.

  “Don’t you hate guys like that?” Derek asks me. “I seriously can’t deal with those guys for another year.”

  “I don’t really give a crap,” I tell him. “I mean, yeah, girls like them better than us, so that sucks. And they have parties and we’re not invited, but… whatever. I mean, we do stuff. And they’re not invited to our stuff.”

  Derek rolls his eyes. “We hang out at the gas station and TP people’s houses.”

  “And they’re not invited!” I tell him, laughing.

  “You know what girls call those pricks?” Derek says. “The guys. That’s what they call them. They’ll be planning their parties and crap, and they’ll be like, ‘What time are the guys getting here?’ You know what that means, Huntro? They don’t even count us. We’re not even guys to them.”

  To be honest with ya, I don’t like “the guys” any more than Derek does. But I don’t get worked up about them. I’m not an angry dude. It’s too much effort to get pissed off. The other night we were wrestling in Derek’s basement and he accidentally crotch-stomped me. I didn’t even get mad; I just forgot about it and ate some Fritos.

  “You know what you need?” I tell Derek, throwing my arm around his shoulders.

  He’s blowing on the fingers he burned. “What?”

  “A swim,” I tell him.

  Now I wrap both of my arms around him and start pushing him toward the boat railing. I think I can throw Derek overboard. I mean, he’s stronger than Eugene, but I caught him by surprise, so I’ve got the advantage. Unless he lights me on fire, I’m gonna push him into that water.


  “Summer Lovin’: Tips for Trapping Your Own Danny Zuko”

  Aviva Roth for The Julius Journal, Special Summer Break Edition

  Do you ever feel bad our lives aren’t more like Grease?” I ask Darcy.

  It’s the last day of summer vacation; Darcy, Aviva, and I are at the beach; and for the sixteenth year of my life, I’m disappointed with my tan. You can’t even call this a tan. There’s one strip of pinkish sunburned skin between the bottom of my tankini top and the top of my tankini bottom. That’s it. That’s as tan as I’m going to get this summer. In Wisconsin, we don’t see the sun from October to April, so in a few months, I’ll be able to go skiing naked and just blend in with the mountains.

  I reach for Aviva’s tanning oil to rub on my shoulders, but then I think, What’s the point? and throw the bottle at Darcy, who hasn’t answered my question. She’s too busy reading this huge book that’s almost as big as her entire body. When I first met Darcy, I was seven years old and I was jealous of her blond hair and blue eyes because I thought she was like Tinker Bell. I found out pretty quickly that she is nothing like Tinker Bell. I don’t think Tinker Bell would be reading a book called Shostakovich and Stalin.

  “Darcy!” I say.

  When she gets to the end of the page, Darcy takes her blue zinc oxide–covered nose out of the book and repeats, “Do I ever feel bad our lives aren’t more like Grease?”

  “Uh-huh,” I say.

  I spray some Sun-In in my hair. As well as being my last chance for a tan, today is my last chance for natural highlights. And by “natural,” I mean highlights made by spraying my hair with sticky fake-lemon-scented spray and then sitting in the sun, crossing my fingers that all those reports of the ozone layer breakdown are true. Maybe if I go back to school tomorrow all tan and blond, people will think I went to some exotic island this summer.

  Darcy holds her place in her book with her finger and asks for clarification.

  “You mean like ancient, naked-Olympics Greece, or economically corrupt modern-day Greece?”

  I snatch Darcy’s huge book out of her hands and put it on Aviva’s towel, which is on the other side of mine.

  “You need to stop reading at the beach,” I tell her. “School starts tomorrow. This is our last day to gossip and have fun.”

  “That is fun!” Darcy whines. “That’s my fun book!”

  “Why would I want our lives to be like economically corrupt modern-day Greece?” I ask. “I’m talking about Grease Grease.”

  I grab Aviva’s pink iPod off her towel and scroll through the summer playlist I made for her. I choose “Summer Ni
ghts,” which I put on the list after my seven-year-old sister, Lila, made me watch Grease five times in one week, and put the volume up so Darcy can hear the opening notes.

  “Oh, the movie Grease,” Darcy says. She’s obviously disappointed I’m not trying to start a conversation about gross domestic product. “The movie Grease? No way. Drag racing and pregnancy scares? I don’t think so, Kell.”

  “But it’s so cute on the first day of school, when Sandy’s telling everyone about her and Danny, and how they met on the beach, and they were so cute together, drinking lemonade. I didn’t do any of that stuff this summer. We’re sixteen. Shouldn’t we be summer loving?”

  Darcy is slathering her arms in SPF 85. At least I look tan compared to her. She could fly to Canada right now and ski naked—not that she would ever be naked in public.

  “It looks like Aviva’s getting some summer loving,” she says, shading her eyes and looking out at Lake Michigan.

  My other best friend, Aviva, is with a cute lifeguard on the dock. She just jumped on his back and wrapped her ridiculously long legs around him. The lifeguard is jogging down the dock, and when he jumps off the end, Aviva is still on his back. After a minute underwater, she pops her head up above water and laughs in the guy’s face. When she climbs back up onto the dock, Darcy and I can see down her bikini top from fifty yards away. According to Aviva, it was her good karma that gave her boobs that look amazing in a bikini top that doesn’t even have underwire in it.

  She also says that people stare at her a lot because she’s one of the three and a half black people in Whitefish Bay—she’s actually the half, because her mom is black and her dad is white. But it’s actually because she’s really pretty. And because she decided to have a “braless summer.” Now she gets stared at the most often in places with air-conditioning.

  “That’s not summer love,” I tell Darcy. “Aviva’s gonna do what Aviva always does. Make out with him, then defriend him on Facebook and move on to someone else.”

  Darcy, Aviva, and I have been best friends since fourth grade, when we were in the advanced reading group together. Aviva gives me credit for holding the three of us together. I’m a Libra, which is all about balance, and Aviva claims I balance her and Darcy out with my normalcy. I guess you could look at it that way. Like, Aviva has those amazing boobs, Darcy has no boobs, and I can go either way, depending on how much effort and how many Victoria’s Secret products are involved. Right now, Darcy’s wearing a one-piece bathing suit that the Pope would approve of, I’m wearing a tankini that shows only the decent part of my stomach, and, out on the dock, Aviva’s bikini bottom is creeping toward thong status.

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