In an author’s statement up front, Mia Kerick sets the table for her novel by letting us know today’s teenagers have become convinced virtually any and all forms of insecurity can be temporarily alleviated via the consumption of various forms of reality inhibiting substances. She doesn’t condone it. She simply understands it. She also understands that while love and hard work are the real cures, they’re often not effective until the aforementioned palliatives have been tried. Translation: We all have to make our own mistakes. Lanny Keating, the author’s protagonist, is certainly hell bent to make his. He drinks beer, sniffs glue and hairspray, and sucks down copious amounts of cough syrup for a dextromethorphan high. When we first meet him, he’s just finishing a back seat tryst with his basketball teammate, Trevor Ladd. It’s obvious that Lanny seeks more from this association than Trevor. It’s also obvious that things are quite likely to get more complicated and potentially more dangerous. Kerick has a good ear for contemporary dialogue plus emotional empathy for young people going through the pains of growing up in a society that often sends all the wrong signals. The author does an excellent job of getting yhid story off to a compelling start.
“It’s damn late. Past time to get our asses in gear, jock boy.” That’s exactly the kind of romantic confession I was hoping for. Well, not so much, but this is Trevor Ladd I’m messing around with, so what do I expect? Flowers, candy, and silly love songs? Not in this lifetime. I pride myself on being a realist, not that I have much pride left.
And you can count on me to crack some kind of a lame joke when it’s time to get back in the front seat of the car. I’m witty that way. Incidentally, “always” can be defined as “for the past two nights” because that’s how long Trevor and I have been hooking up. You know, getting horizontal…or, as horizontal as two dudes can get in the back seat of a Chrysler 300 sedan.
“You’re right. We aren’t gonna get anywhere but off from the backseat. See what I’m saying, Trev?” I hear a soft groan and realize that I should accept comedic defeat tonight. This is my third bad pun in as many minutes. In my defense I will say this: I scored on nearly all of my attempts at the foul line in varsity basketball games and pick-up games on the blacktop. Nearly every shot—nothin’ but net! Why should I have less success with my efforts at live stand-up comedy, even if the comedy show is in the back seat of my nonboyfriend’s car?
I feel the weighty gaze of his narrow dark eyes upon my face; eyes that really aren’t narrow at all. Trevor just knows how to make them seem that way. He pushes his shaggy brown hair off his face and looks at me, but he doesn’t nod or shake his head, or make any expression at all. No matter how hard I try I can’t make this guy crack a smile. But since never-say-die has long been my motto on fields, diamonds, and courts, I already know I’m going to try again. But maybe first I’ll explain my most recent attempt at humor.
“You know, get off, right? We get off in the back seat.” Without thinking, I search the back seat for my cell phone that seems to have fallen out of my pocket during our hook up, not that I have a pressing need for it. Reaching all around me in search of my cell phone is just another one of those persistent old habits; back in the day Mom used to call to check up on me like every five minutes. I clear my throat and say, “It’s called a joke, Trevor.”
Fixing his belt so the buckle is perfectly centered, Trevor says in a low voice, “Yeah. I get it.” Then he opens the car door, slides out, and bends down to look back in at me. “It’s just not funny.”
The skin on my face burns. When it comes to Trevor, I never learn to keep my mouth shut. But at least I can almost still feel his hands on my butt, my dick, my chest…. Nothing he says or doesn’t say can take that away.
I sigh more audibly than I’d intended. And then shrug, even though Trevor isn’t looking at me anymore. But I climb out of the rear passenger seat before he tells me again to get my ass in gear, because I’m not up for another heavy dose of humiliation just yet. I hop to my feet and shut the car door, but naturally it doesn’t close right, which is par for the course when I’m with Trevor. I have to slam it again, and I just know Trevor is rolling his eyes, thinking, “Good thing he’s pretty, cuz he sure is a dumbass.” Then I get into the front passenger seat, buttoning my fly as I sit down, which I’ll admit is a challenge. In my defense, buttoning while simultaneously sliding into a seat would be difficult for anyone, but it seems like I’m always in a tangled rush when I’m with Trevor. Time always goes way too fastwhen he’s near me.
“There anymore brews on the floor, Keating?” When he glances over at me, his expression is as blank as his voice, but then he lifts his left eyebrow in the sexy way that drives me nuts. And I swear I’d do anything to make him like me.
Instead of cracking another joke, I shrug one moretime, fumble around on the floor with my left hand, and rip a can off a half-gone six-pack. “Yeah, here you go,” My voice is cool, the same one I use on all the jocks I hang with, and I pass it over instead of tossing it to him so I can feel his fingertips on my skin just one more time this weekend. “Can I have one?”
“No need to ask.” His eyes grow even narrower, and it’s obvious that he’s irritated by my question, but his voice warms up after he gulps down a few swallows of beer. “I’m gonna drop you off in ten minutes. You’d better suck that brew down fast and then chew some gum so your folks don’t smell nothing.”
Ten minutes. I have ten minutes more of feeling like I matter to somebody, if only just a little. “They won’t notice,” I mumble.
It might be the understatement of the century.