Kamikaze Boys, p.1Jay Bell
Kamikaze Boys © 2012 Jay Bell / Andreas Bell
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1468198140
Other available formats: PDF, ePub, Nook, Kindle, iPad/iPhone
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or events is purely coincidental. They are productions of the author's fevered imagination and used fictitiously.
Writing is said to be lonely work, and it sure can look that way from the outside. But if I could teleport into my office all the people that help my books come to life, you’d see that it isn’t lonely at all. Linda Anderson would be there the most, surrounded by red pens drained of ink and a good number of empty M&M wrappers. Andreas would be in the corner, painting covers for books I haven’t dreamed up yet, while Katherine Coolon and Kira Miles occasionally pop in to lift me up or smack me down, depending on how my ego is fairing that day. Zate Lockard would be there as well, waiting patiently by the door, since my books never see the light of day before he’s had his say. Occasionally my mom would barge in, hopefully with a vacuum cleaner to take care of the mess around me. (And no, I don’t live at home anymore, but a guy can fantasize, right?) Add in all the wonderful readers and reviewers, and you’d end up with a workspace that is more crowded and much happier than any corporate cubical farm. In short, thank you one and all for making my long hours of toil feel like one big picnic.
For Kati, who once saved me from three very nasty bullies, and who has had my back ever since.
by Jay Bell
A concrete field stretched out before David Henry, a herd of secondhand cars idle in the afternoon sun. Among them was one shiny and new—the bull among cows—standing next to it the person determined to kick his ass. David supposed he could still turn around, flee back into the school and choose a different exit like he had the day before. The problem was, there was no avoiding the ten-minute walk between school and home, and so much could go wrong along the way.
One way or another, he had to pass by the school parking lot to get home. Yesterday he had thought the busy street traffic would hide him. He had almost made it too. But before reaching his neighborhood, a car had zoomed up behind him, engine roaring and horn blaring, voices howling in amusement as he raced off down the street. David had run across a perfectly manicured yard and hid behind its two-story house for nearly an hour, but even that humiliation was better than a bloody nose.
Today was another chance for the bullies to catch up to him, or if he was lucky, for him to get away. David stood in the school doorway, uncertain what action to take if any, until one of the students swarming around him hissed at him to move and shoved him from behind. David stumbled out into a mild Kansas afternoon, the kind he used to love when he was a kid. Too distracted to notice who had pushed him, he glanced over the slowly departing cars to see if Chuck Bryl had spotted him. Beady black eyes locked onto his. Chuck had seen him, all right. Now, even if David reentered the school, they would know they had him on the run. And they would find him.
Chuck wasn’t the most popular guy in school, but he had more status than David did. For one thing, Chuck had friends; a couple of them were flanking him now, eyes hungry for a show. Their lanky frames only made Chuck look more toadish, like a frog squatting between two tall flowers.
Or like a fat troll, which was exactly the description that had landed David in this mess. These foolishly courageous words had escaped his lips in the middle of fourth period math. David’s head had been bowed—as always—while he covertly read a fantasy novel hidden behind his precalculus book. He was just reaching the end of a chapter when Chuck had reached over and grabbed the novel, taking one look at the cover before tossing it to the floor.
“Faggot,” Chuck had muttered, and not for the first time.
David’s face had burned as he reached down to pick up the book. On the cover was a picture of a longhaired man clutching at a white horse. David had known the stupid cover with all its lavender swirls would attract attention. He liked the book anyway, but felt angry that he couldn’t even read without people recognizing him for what he was. So angry, in fact, that he didn’t think about the consequences of the words he said next.
David’s bravery had swiftly fled to be replaced by fear, because he knew Chuck would be waiting for him outside after school. And Chuck was glaring at David now, or squinting, as he always seemed to be. Maybe he needed glasses. Maybe he was just a big nerd inside that was terrified of being discovered. One thing was for sure: As Chuck leaned against his shiny new sports car, he appeared more stocky than fat. David had never noticed how broad his shoulders were or considered how hard toppling Chuck’s heavy frame would be.
Not that he was going to fight. God only knew what David was going to do besides whimper as they pummeled him.
He could run. They would laugh and they would chase, but David could run. He glanced to his left, toward the street, to see another of Chuck’s friends, the one with the long grungy hair. That escape route was blocked. The right led toward the sports field behind the school, dangerously deserted by now, so David kept moving forward, hoping to duck between parked cars and escape.
But Chuck was through playing games and stepped into the center of the lane. “Hey faggot. I think you and I need to talk.”
“What?” David’s voice came out as a squeak.
Chuck pushed the dry, thin hair from his forehead and smiled, already knowing the battle was won. “You owe me an apology.”
The other guys chuckled.
A car honked from behind. David jumped and moved out of the lane, bringing him closer to Chuck’s car. Cursing his stupidity, he fought the urge to cry. He should have gone back into the school and pleaded with a teacher to drive him home. That would have made him feel even more pathetic than yesterday, but he would have been safe.
Chuck and his friends circled around him, blocking David in. He turned, Chuck’s car at his back, not daring to take his eyes off any of them. Maybe David could still talk his way out of this. “Listen, I shouldn’t have called you a troll. I was just—”
Chuck shoved him. David had been right: Someone who weighed that much had a lot of force at their disposal. David stumbled backward, arms pinwheeling, but his backpack threw him further off balance and he fell. He landed ass first on the hood of Chuck’s car, then slipped onto his hands and elbows.
The guys surrounding him sucked in air between their teeth. They knew what was coming. David did too.
“Get the fuck off my car, faggot!”
“I said get off!”
Chuck was moving forward, fists balled as David braced himself for the inevitable.
An arm wrapped around Chuck’s neck, pulling him down as if he weighed nothing before subjecting him to a good-natured noogie. “What’s up, Chuck? Causing trouble again?”
“Get off me!” Chuck pulled away and turned, scowling, to see who he was facing.
Connor Williams. If their school had a bigger monster than Chuck, it was Connor. Big was the right word too, not necessarily in regards to height,
David didn’t remember seeing Chuck hanging out with Connor before, but this meant his situation had gone from bad to a freaking disaster.
“Fuck off, Williams,” Chuck mumbled, keeping his eyes down and glaring at the asphalt. His friends, whom Connor hadn’t even acknowledged, shifted uncomfortably. David didn’t blame them. Everyone knew what a psychopath Connor Williams was.
“What’s going on?”
David realized that Connor was addressing him and felt the blood drain from his face. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
“This asshole,” Chuck said, having recovered, “just threw himself on my car.”
Connor raised an eyebrow. “Weird. To me it looked like you pushed him.”
As if to demonstrate, Connor shoved Chuck again. This time he didn’t seem to be playing.
Chuck stumbled but managed to stay standing. “He’s a faggot!” he said, as if this made a difference.
There was a good chance it would. If one word could turn others against him, David knew that word was faggot. He had worn the label for most of his teenage life. By junior high, everyone seemed to have figured it out, even before David did.
Connor looked at David. “Yeah?” Then he cocked his head, gave a crazy smile, and turned back to Chuck. “Funny, ’cause I’m a faggot too.”
Chuck swallowed. “Shut up.”
“No, seriously,” Connor insisted. “Push me too.” He moved to the front of Chuck’s car, his back to the hood and his arms spread wide. “Go on. Push me. Push the faggot.”
Chuck shook his head and fumbled in his pocket for the keys while mumbling something about having to go. His friends, following his lead, piled into the car. David moved out of the way, but Connor stayed where he was, turning to stare at Chuck through the windshield. The engine came to life, but still Connor stood his ground, as if daring Chuck to run him over. Just when the situation was about to reach critical mass, Connor stepped aside, and Chuck sped out of the parking lot.
David wished his adrenaline would let up. His heart was still thudding, his body drenched in sweat. Connor turned toward him, increasing the temptation to run.
“Do you have a car?” Connor said.
“No,” David croaked.
“Want a ride?”
David stared at him, waiting for some bizarre twist to this offer, but Connor no longer looked as insane as he had a minute ago. His expression was serious, which only made it more intimidating. The hint of stubble on his chin and the scar running from his jaw to his Adam’s apple reminded David of the legends that followed Connor. If he got in that car, Connor would probably drive him to the edge of town to play some hellish game with him. David imagined himself running through the woods, fleeing from Connor’s maddened laughter and crazy green eyes.
“No. Thanks. Thank you.”
David turned and walked away while keeping his head down, certain that Connor would call out or follow him in his car. The tension lasted until he reached the edge of the parking lot. Only when he crossed to the other side of the street did David dare glance back. Connor Williams was nowhere to be seen.
* * * * *
The condos where David lived weren’t far from school, the walk just long enough for him to gain control of his nerves. What a mess he had gotten himself into! If he could travel back in time, he’d keep his mouth shut in math class. Or maybe he would go even further back and leave that book at home. Then again, seeing someone push Chuck around was almost worth it.
He remembered the first time he had seen Connor. David’s ninth grade history class was in the library doing a project on ancient civilizations. The girl David had been partnered with had pointed across the worn desks to the old card catalog that no one used anymore. Standing there, flipping through the index cards with his back to them, was Connor.
“He used to go to the same junior high as me,” the girl had said. “That was before we moved to this side of town. He’s psycho. They sent him to juvenile hall for a whole year.”
“Why was he in juvie?” David had asked.
He still remembered the girl’s excited expression, as if she had been hoping David would ask. “He tried to kill his dad!” she whispered. “Almost did, too. The guy survived, but he’s a cripple now.”
“Wait until he turns around. He’s got this scar on this throat. A couple of guys tried to kill him while he was in juvie. Connor nearly beat them to death.”
Ignoring his assignment, David had sat and waited for Connor to turn around. When he finally did, David was surprised at how human he appeared—handsome, even. Then David had noticed the scar and knew the stories were true.
He shook away the memories and hoped that, like most people in school, Connor would forget he existed. Besides, Connor had seemed more interested in messing with Chuck. Maybe Chuck had opened his mouth at the wrong time, attracting the anger of a bigger fish in their little pond. High school was vicious, as David—the lowest on the food chain—knew all too well.
Lowest except for Gordon, maybe. And there he was, sitting on the front steps of the condo and waiting for David to come home, just as he always did. Gordon was like a kid brother to him. Only a year’s difference in age separated them, but the chubby cheeks and goofy bowl haircut made Gordon seem younger than he was. He was homeschooled too, which added to his naïveté. Gordon was bright, but so socially awkward that David felt cool by comparison.
David never figured out why Gordon’s parents kept him home. They weren’t overly religious and seemed like fairly normal people. Maybe their school days had been rough too, and they wanted to spare their son the same pain. Sometimes David felt a little sorry for Gordon, but on days like today, he was envious. At least it was May. David just had to make it a little longer until summer break.
“I think I understand why we can’t steal the dragon armor from the orcs,” Gordon said, standing up and unselfconsciously tugging the wedgie from his cargo shorts. He held up a video game strategy guide. “We haven’t completed the quest for the crystal chalice yet.”
“I thought it was optional,” David said.
“It is, but not if you want to get the dragon armor.”
David unlocked the condo’s front door and held it open. So what if Gordon was a little weird? At least David could be comfortable around him. Much of that comfort came from knowing what to expect. He and Gordon had their daily rituals, tried and true. They would grab a juice box from the fridge, go down to his room, and David would play video games while Gordon poured over his most recent strategy guide. He treated these guides like bibles, reacting with shock if David ever went against their advice. David suspected that Gordon enjoyed the guides more than the actual games.
This routine was rarely broken. Only occasionally would the fantasy games and books inspire them to go out for a hike. On these rare outings they would walk through the woods, discussing plots or pretending they were on the verge of crossing over to a magical realm. But usually they just stuck to their familiar habits.
David opened the door to his room and breathed out a sigh of relief. This was his sanctuary, the place where the madness of the world receded and he could relax. The blinds were pulled, as usual, to create the illusion of night outside. The walls were dark too, every square inch covered with posters and pages torn from magazines. Some had to do with David’s hobbies, others were pictures of remote locations he wished to visit someday: Egypt, Greece, China—anywhere but here. Then there were the images of male models, barely noticeable among all the rest. Not that David had anything to hide.
David plugged in the bar lights—strings of Christmas lights with plastic jalapeños covering every bulb that cast a me
Gordon had been the first person David came out to. He had paused the game they were playing and blurted:
Gordon had scrunched up his face and replied, “Well, I’m not.”
And that had been that. They had kept playing games, and the topic had never come up again. Of course Gordon had loaned him the fantasy novel with the lavender cover. The main character of that book was gay, by no coincidence. They didn’t discuss this, but David took it as a supportive gesture.
“I’m looking forward to playing today,” David said. He meant he was glad that Gordon was his friend, but saying it this way was easier.
“I’m excited too.” Gordon flipped through the pages of his guide. “There’s a couple of good treasures on the chalice quest that I think will help us later on.”
The game console hummed and purred as it booted up.
“You’re lucky you don’t have to go to school, you know.”
“I know,” Gordon replied, even though he didn’t.
“Any plans for the weekend?”
Gordon sat up straight, a rare event. “I got a birthday card in the mail from my aunt. I haven’t opened it yet, but she always sends me a couple hundred dollars.”
“Yeah. I thought we could go to the mall on Sunday. The new Final Fantasy just came out, and we can hit the used bookstore across the way. Think you can get the car?”
David nodded. He hadn’t figured out what to get Gordon for his birthday, but maybe he would find something while they were out.
They spent the next hour gaming, David working the controller while Gordon split his attention between the screen and the book in his lap. Usually this was enough to let David forget his troubles, but today his mind kept wandering back to the confrontation in the parking lot. Chuck was likely to be twice as pissed tomorrow.
Kamikaze Boys by Jay Bell / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes