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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15. The Death-Ray Gun

At one hour before midnight, Shann and I waited inside an old Ford Explorer parked behind the Del Vista Arms. Robby Brees, dressed in a pair of my clean white socks, best Adidas skate shoes, and Titus Andronicus T-shirt, dashed into his apartment to get us more

cigarettes and wave, in passing, at his mother.

Events that night were going to set in motion a disaster that would probably wipe out human life on the planet. That night, I was going to say something to Shann I had never said to anyone. I was going to do something I’d never done, and see things I could not understand and never believed existed.

This is history, and it is also the truth.

I sat in the front seat.

Robby refused to chauffeur us around like he was some kind of limo driver, he said, so either Shann or I always had to sit up front with him. This rule increased the degree of difficulty in actually fulfilling my fantasy regarding Shann Collins and Robby’s backseat.

But now, Robby was gone.

“What are you doing?” Shann said as I shimmied my way between the front seats, over the center console where there was still an assortment of cassette tapes that had belonged to Robby’s dad.

I thought what I was doing was obvious enough, so I said, “I’m looking for my death-ray gun.”

“Well, if your ray gun doesn’t look like a pair of Robby’s underwear or socks, it isn’t back here.”

Robby needed to stop accumulating so much laundry this way, but it did keep the floor of his room tidy.

My foot got stuck between the passenger seat and console. My shoe came off. I left it there.

“I’m coming back there with you till Robby comes out.”

“Robby came out in the seventh grade,” Shann said.

A lot of things happened in seventh grade.

“There.” I said, “I’ve never been back here alone with you, Shann. It’s rather sexy.”

I thought using the word rather would make me seem mature and like I was not from Ealing.

“I’ve never heard you say anything like that before, Austin,” she said.

“Rather?”

“No. Sexy,” Shann explained. And she was right about that. I never had spoken about sex with Shann. I was too afraid to.

“Well, it is sexy,” I said. I kicked off my other shoe and scooted myself against her.

I put my arms around Shann. I leaned into her and brought my feet up onto the bench seat. I put my lips on her neck and licked her.

She gasped.

“Shann, I want to tell you that I’m in love with you. I love you,

Shann.”

I had never said that before, either.

“Oh, Austin. I love you.”

It was the first time Shann said it, too.

Then the dome light in the Explorer blinked on. Robby opened the driver’s door.

“You are not having sex in my car—on top of my clothes!” Robby said.

I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but the basketball shorts I’d been wearing that day were halfway down to my knees.

“Um. No. Robby. No.”

Shann coughed nervously and straightened up, while I pulled my shorts back over my hips.

“One of you,” Robby said sternly, “up front now. Let’s go get our shit.”

I squeezed my way back into the front seat.

Robby gave me an intense, scolding stare.

He shook his head and laughed at me. Robby wasn’t angry. Robby was as shocked as I was. He and I both knew what probably would have happened if he had waited about one more minute before coming back to the car.

I extracted my shoe from the center console. Somehow my socks had come off, too. I tried to find them. Clothing has a way of abandoning ship sometimes.

Then Robby dropped a pack of cigarettes in my lap and pushed in the dashboard lighter.

He started the car.

“Light one for me, Porcupine,” he said.

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