Just Boys

What starts as a typical story of adolescent boys struggling to get a steer on their hormones and the changing world they find themselves in slowly descends into a nightmarish account of kids committing sex crimes against other kids, of one boy’s sexual fantasies veering dangerously and, finally – fuelled by a cocktail of loneliness, pornography and parental neglect, fatally – out of control.

Extract

He was in the kitchen and he was leaning over talking to someone – on the floor. As I moved round the table I saw it was his mum. It looked kind of funny at first as if he’d run into her and knocked her clean out, but the look on his face told you that was probably not the case. He was asking her if she was alright, telling her to wake up. Simon’s back was toward me. He seemed to have forgotten all about me. I didn’t know whether to hang back, disappear or get involved. She didn’t look drunk or anything; she looked far out, not a good colour at all. I decided to step further into the room so he could see me and maybe I could help in some way. Finally he looked at me. His face was like watery with emotion and he gawked at me like he didn’t even know who I was…

“She won’t wake up.”

The washing machine next door was squeaking and whistling to a climax. Simon was on his knees now, his ear against his mum’s chest. He shook her gently again. The mother of a friend of mine in LA was always dopey when we went round. She had this permanent dreamy smile – her large firm breasts always seemed more awake than she was – and always asked if I wanted hash browns or cereal the minute I turned up. My friend and I found her on the living room carpet one time.

With a T-shirt on, but no knickers. It was embarrassing. But at least she’d woken up when my friend started saying her name. He said she had to have sleeping pills because she had a nervous condition, and that was all he said about it as we were going upstairs to his bedroom to play a computer game. But that was David Kravitz’s mom. Simon’s mum wasn’t getting up. I figured she was seriously unconscious, possibly in a coma.

Simon glowered at me now as if I were the enemy. As if I’d brought a curse with me.

“She’s not waking up! What do I do?!”

A gurgle came from the knackered washing machine. Then it kind of hummed with satisfaction from that last violent spin.

I suggested a glass of water. He said don’t be stupid, she might choke, but then he got up and went to the sink and poured a glass and tried to get a little of the water in her mouth but it mostly spilled down her neck. Her eyes were slightly open, glistening like the backs of beetles in a slither of light.

Simon began to panic. Like I thought he would. I don’t like panicky people. He insisted we had to move her, get her onto a sofa where she’d be more comfortable.

I took the feet. They had nothing on. They had a nice shape and felt smooth but cold as stone in my hands. We lifted. She was quite light. Her hands hung limply. As we got into the hallway, her skirt ran up to her middle and I could see her panties. They were a very plain grey for such an attractive woman and stained pale red around her crotch, old blood, I thought. Even though I knew Simon must have noticed I was looking there, it was difficult to tear my eyes away. Our socks kept slipping over the varnished floor and we nearly dropped her. I might have laughed, except Simon looked so cut-up, I held everything in. It was a relief when we got to the fitted carpet of the living room.

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