Grasshopper Jungle

Michael Grant calls it ‘Original ,weird, thought-provoking…One hell of a book.’ Charlie Higson said ‘Cool, funny, sexy, gross’. ‘A literary joy to behold’ according to the New York Times. A book about life, love and the end of the world. In Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend Robby have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army of horny, hungry six-foot-tall praying mantises. This is the truth. This is history. It’s the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.


17. Never Name a Pizza Joint Stan’s

Robby parked the Explorer at the end of Grasshopper Jungle.

He positioned the vehicle facing Kimber Drive, so we could make a quick getaway if we had to.

Like real dynamos.

The pretense of doing something daring and wrong made the rescue of our shoes and skateboards a more thrilling mission to us. Nobody, ultimately, would give a shit about two teenage boys who’d been embarrassed and beaten up by some assholes from Hoover, who climbed up on an insignificant strip mall to get their shoes back.

Shann waited in the backseat.

When we were about ten feet from the car, Robby got an idea.

“Wait,” he said. “We should leave our shoes in the Explorer.”

It made sense, like most of the shit Robby told me. Once we got up on the roof, it would be easier if we didn’t have to carry so much stuff back down. We could wear our roof shoes to make our descent.

It was really good that Grant Wallace and those dipshits didn’t throw our pants up there, too, I thought.

We went back to the car.

Shann was already asleep on top of Robby’s underwear and shit.

We took off our shoes and left them on the front seat.

Robby grabbed his pack of cigarettes and a book of matches and said, “Now we can do this.”

A narrow steel ladder hung about six feet down from the roof ’s edge. It was impossible to reach the bottom of it, so Robby and I rolled the heavy green dumpster across the alley and lined it up below the ladder.

Then we climbed on top of the dumpster in our socks.

I didn’t believe the garbage collectors ever emptied the thing anymore. The dumpster was sticky, and leaked a trail of dribbling fluid that smelled like piss and vomit when we rolled it away from the cinder-block wall beside the pubic-lice-infested couch.

From the top of the dumpster, we could barely reach the lowest rung on the ladder. I gave Robby a boost. His socks, which were actually my socks, felt wet and gooey in the stirrup of my palms.

I felt especially virile doing a pull-up to get myself onto the ladder after him.

Soon, we were up on the roof, where we could stand and look down at the dismal, cancerous sprawl of Ealing.

We lit cigarettes.

Robby said, “You should never name a pizza joint Stan’s.”

We stood, looking directly across Kimber Drive at the yellowed plastic lens that fronted the long fluorescent tubes illuminating the lettered sign for Stan’s Pizza.

Someone had painted an A between the S and T, so the sign read:

Satan’s Pizza

People were always doing that to Stan.

They did it so many times that Stan simply gave up on cleaning the paint, and allowed the sign to say what the good people of Ealing wanted it to say:

Satan’s Pizza

People from Ealing had a good sense of humor, too.

“I have seen Pastor Roland Duff eating there,” I said.

“Did he order a Satanpreme?”

It was difficult to find our shoes and skateboards up on the roof at night. As I had originally theorized, there was plenty of cool shit up there, so Robby and I kept getting distracted. It didn’t matter much, since Shann had fallen asleep, anyway.

We found a plastic flamingo with a long metal spike descending from its ass, so you could stick it in your lawn and fool passersby into thinking that flamingos were indigenous to Iowa.

Robby discovered two bottles of screw-top wine, full and sealed, and he placed them on the roof beside the top of the ladder.

We theorized that maybe back in the days when Ollie was thinner, he may have climbed up here to get drunk and talk to the flamingo. Ollie Jungfrau weighed more than four hundred pounds now.

Satan’s delivered to Tipsy Cricket Liquors.

“Have you ever been drunk, Porcupine?” Robby said.


“One of these days, let’s get drunk together.”

“Okay,” I said.

Like considering most things that were against some well-intended list of rules, thinking about getting drunk for the first time with Robby made me feel horny.

We found two round aluminum canisters that had reels of 16 mm film in them. Nobody watched 16 mm movies anymore. There was an old projector at Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy, but we decided not to take the films, just in case they were pornos or something.

We did want to take the flamingo, though.

Robby placed the plastic pink flamingo next to the bottles of wine.

“One of us can climb down first, then the other can toss down the bird and the wine,” Robby said.

Robby also found a Halloween mask. It was covered in fur and looked like the face of a grimacing lemur. It was the face a lemur in an electric chair would make. That had to come home with us, too, we decided.

“If you ever want to get shot in Ealing, walk through someone’s backyard at night with a lemur mask on,” Robby said.

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