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.

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24. Priorities

Robby Brees and I had our priorities.

As soon as we closed the hatch and were outside on the roof

again, we lit cigarettes.

Smoking dynamos.

“Shit,” Robby said.

“Shit,” I agreed.

Shit, like the word okay, can mean any number of things. In fact, in the history I recorded in my book for that one Friday in Ealing, Iowa, I believe I used the word shit in every possible context.

I will have to go back through the history and check.

Robby and I said shit—nothing else—approximately eleven more times as we smoked our cigarettes up on the roof.

“What do you think that shit in the ball was?” Robby said.

“I don’t know. You read the nameplate on it. It said Contained Plague.”

“Nothing good is ever called Plague,” Robby said.

“Maybe it was just some glow-in-the-dark experimental stuff,” I said.

“I’ve done an experiment. We made a battery out of a lemon. Remember that?” Robby asked.

“Yes. It was a good experiment,” I agreed. I nodded like a scientist would. “We knew what was supposed to happen before we even started it. And it worked.”

“But I don’t think things called Plague are the subject of the kinds of experiments we do in the lab at Curtis Crane,” Robby said.

That’s what it was—what Robby and I had done up there on the roof at Grasshopper Jungle—I thought.

An experiment.

It is perfectly normal for boys to experiment. I read it somewhere that was definitely not in a book at Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy. Or if it was in a book, it would certainly no longer be part of Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy’s library collection. Not after the shit I did

in eighth grade.

Maybe I heard some psychologist who specialized in Teen Sexuality say shit about things like Boys experimenting on one of those afternoon talk shows that are only on television for the fulfillment of depressed and lonely women.

Depressed and lonely women need to know about Teen Sexuality and how it’s normal for boys to experiment. Normal. That’s what the psychologist would say. The psychologist also would have been a slim woman with nicely trimmed hair, a sincere and calming smile, and modest jewelry.

That was bullshit.

History shows that real experiments, like the one we did with the lemon, always involve some reasonable expectation ahead of time about the outcome. About how things will work out.

Robby slid the pack of cigarettes into the back pocket on his sagging jeans and we gathered up our flamingo, wine, grimacing lemur, and skateboards. We made our way down the ladder and onto the dumpster we’d rolled across Grasshopper Jungle.

“Don’t say anything to Shann,” I cautioned.

I didn’t need to tell Robby that. It was just one of those things boys do sometimes to confirm that there are secrets that shall be protected.

Robby said, “You mean about what we saw in her stepdad’s office, or what we did up on the roof ?”

I said, “Shit.”

I imagined I had two arguing and confused heads sprouting up from my shoulders.

I felt sadness for that other boy inside the jar in Johnny McKeon’s office.

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