Authors: Dede Crane
Copyright Â© 2009 by Dede Crane
Published in Canada and the USA in 2009 by Groundwood Books
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Distribution of this electronic edition via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal. Please do not participate in electronic piracy of copyrighted material; purchase only authorized electronic editions. We appreciate your support of the author's rights.
This edition published in 2011 by
Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press Inc.
Avenue, Suite 801
or c/o Publishers Group West
1700 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION
Poster boy / Dede Crane.
PS8605.R35P68 2009Â Â Â Â Â jC813'.6Â Â Â Â Â Â C2009-901070-4
Cover illustration by Gary Sawyer
Design by Michael Solomon
We acknowledge for their financial support of our publishing program the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF).
“Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he needs.”
It was Friday night at my house. My best bud, Davis, trying to recall old Chuck Norris jokes. Five of us were in the hot tub, others inside on the computer or playing Xbox. I had dope rock on the stereo, one speaker set just outside the door of my “sweet.”
Nine months ago, my mom moved her silkscreen stuff out of the basement and into the pimped-up shed out back, and I moved down from my room upstairs. Tonight my parents were home, but they were chill as long as we didn't trash the place or piss off the neighbors.
“Chuck Norris doesn't sleep. He waits.” Davis laughed, and we laughed at his pathetically dumb laugh. Taking great gulps of air, he snorted and hiccuped like some drunk hillbilly.
“Lame, Davis,” said Natalie. Erin, her sidekick, nodded.
“You're lame,” said Hughie as he splashed her.
Whipping her face away, Nat's breast pressed against my arm, her bare thigh against my leg. I had to remind myself to breathe.
Natalie was ringleader of the popular girls at school. My friends and I were fringe stoner types. Three weeks ago at the Halloween dance, she touched me on the shoulder and asked me to dance.
“You know who you remind me of?” she said. I just shook my head. “Johnny Depp in that Scissorhands movie.”
I was dressed as a vampire, my brown hair gob-slicked with gel. I was naturally thin, pale, had the sunken-cheek thing going on, and Mom had done my eyes with black eyeliner. I made a sick vampire.
Natalie, though, was majorly hot. Silky black hair, cat-shaped eyes, caramel skin, body like Scarlett Johansson. Her voice was more like Lois's on
and drove Davis crazy but didn't distract me. She dressed to enhance, wore blue mascara and regularly applied a tiny wand to her lips which smelled of coconut. To kiss her tasted like wax but who cared.
I'd just turned sixteen. Still had my V-card. Was primed for love.
Ciel came out with the ice cubes that Natalie had asked for. Ciel (pronounced See-el, as in French for sky) had just moved from city to burbs and into the house across from Natalie's. Nat's mom had insisted she invite her along tonight. Ciel was in our grade but seemed older â read duller.
“Ice?” she asked ï¬atly. Standing over the hot tub, she began to twist them out of the tray. They dropped like rocks into the water, and we scrambled to catch them. I caught two and slipped one down Natalie's top.
“Ahhâ¦ stop,” she yelled, standing up to slap my head, her breasts at eye level. “You asked for it.” She slipped hers down the front of my shorts, incidentally brushing the self. Under the camouï¬age of bubbles, the self saluted.
Trying to be casual, I threw back my head and laughed.
Davis and I had been calling our dongs the self ever since grade two when we had a kid in our class named Deeki. A super happy-looking kid, Deeki had a habit of storing one hand inside his pants. Deeki enjoyed holding onto his dickie. Our teacher, Mrs. Sweeney, used to say to him in slow-moron English, “We do not touch our
in school.” As she stressed the word, her prim eyes glanced off Deeki's crotch to aid her point.
It all made perfect sense to me and Davis. Our self was our dick and our dick our self.
Davis was now balancing three ice cubes on his blond head and whistling the national anthem. Thankfully, the self was calming down.
Davis and I had known each other since we were snot-nosed kindergartners ï¬dgeting on our squares of colored carpet. Terminally bored, Davis spent most of his kindergarten day making faces or farts to get the other kids to laugh. I was the kid that laughed the loudest, and we did a lot of bonding from our respective time-out corners.
“Why don't you come in, Ciel?” said Erin, glancing at Natalie.
“Don't feel like getting wet.” Ciel was the only person not in a bathing suit.
“When Chuck Norris gets in a hot tub, he doesn't get wet. The water gets Chuck Norrised,” said Davis, horking laughter, ice cubes sliding off his head. He caught one, threw it in the air and caught it again in his mouth.
“Anyone for ping-pong?” asked Ciel. She looked around the circle for takers and her eyes landed on mine. If eyes could sneer, hers were sneering. I looked away.
“I'll play,” said Davis. In one smooth move, he hopped over the side of the tub and onto the deck.
Davis was unnaturally coordinated. Short and stubby (my polar opposite) he was always the best player on any sports team. Until, that is, he got kicked off for not showing up. I think it was his not caring that made him so good. He never choked because he never cared if he choked.
“Davis powns nubes,” Hughie warned Ciel.
“Pardon me?” she asked, the eye sneer infecting her whole face.
“Powns means owns and nubes are newbies like you,” said Hughie.
“Meaning he's impossible to beat,” I translated. Even when stoned and drunk, Davis would beat you at ping-pong.
“I'm up for a challenge,” said Ciel, sounding bored. I couldn't help thinking that the girl with the pretentious name was one stuck-up bitch.
I slipped my hand around Natalie's bare waist and she didn't ï¬inch. Her slippery softness made my head swoon, and I had to sit up on the edge of the tub.
“Be merciful,” Hughie called as Davis and Ciel went inside.
last night?” asked Natalie, nuzzling her shoulder against my knobby knee. “That new guy's scary.”
“Yeah,” echoed Erin.
“But he has such a cool hair cut,” continued Natalie. “Shaved on the sides and long on top. That would look good on you, Gray.”
Clean-cut was the new hip. Davis and I were the only two of our friends who still had long hair.
Natalie kept talking but I barely noticed what came out of her mouth, because from my lofty angle I couldn't get past what was coming out of her bathing suit top.
The others started to get out and go inside. When Natalie started out, I stopped her with a kiss. Her lips were two chubby velvet cushions. Unlike me, she was a conï¬dent kisser. She had a make-out routine that I did my best to follow â a few times around my tongue, a slide along my top teeth, some deep-throat challenge, then a slide across my lower teeth, one last trip around the tongue and a smacking kiss to separate. I liked the teeth thing a lot.
But tonight, afraid she might be thinking I was some kind of wuss, it was time to go beyond kissing. Earlier I'd had a couple of conï¬dence-boosting shots of the vodka Davis had scored off one of his half-brothers.
Sitting on the tub's edge, our bodies steaming in the fall air, I did a quick check for my spying sneak of a little sister. No sign of her. I kissed Nat's neck, one eye straining to watch my hand as it tentatively cupped her left breast. When she didn't say anything, I touched more ï¬rmly, my nerves doing a crazy-ass dance.
I waited for a reaction. Nothing. Did that mean she liked it? Or maybe it needed to be skin on skin for the girl to get off. She was probably waiting for just that and thinking I was a douche. Hoping my hand wasn't shaking, I slipped it inside her suitâ¦ couldn't breathe and had to stop the neck-kissing part before I passed out.
Natalie still wasn't doing anything. It wasn't like her to be this quiet.
Hand still holding the goods, I looked at her.
“Do youâ¦ uhâ¦” â it was hard to get enough air â “Want toâ¦ go backâ¦ inside?”
“Sure,” she said, all bubbly.
Oh. I slipped out my hand.
Natalie's smile was so white it seemed to glow in the dark. She readjusted her top.
Next Top Model
's on tonight,” she said. “You got to see the legs on this one girl.”
* * *
Inside, Ciel was losing to Davis but not by much.
“I'm kicking her newbie ass but she won't give up,” said Davis when he saw me.
Natalie wandered over to Chrissy and Erin on the computer. Hughie and Parmjot were playing Xbox. Watching the ping-pong ball click back and forth, I tried to ï¬gure out what I did wrong out there. Was there some trick, some technique I should know about?
Ciel missed Davis's serve and grunted at herself. Seemed to be taking the game seriously and was going to be pissed, I thought, when she lost.
“Parm, do you spell your name like the cheese?” Natalie asked.
Not missing a shot, Davis laughed. “Yeah, Parmesan. Mom name you after her favorite cheese?”
“That right,” Parmjot laughed.
The girls looked confused. Obviously they'd discussed this question before.
“Just kidding,” Parmjot assured them.
“It's Parmjot, you idiots,” said Hughie. “Not jan.”
“Don't call us â ”
“Means stinky cheese in Punjabi,” laughed Davis as he gave the ball an overhand spin and it blew by Ciel.
“Come on,” she reprimanded herself and retrieved the ball to serve for game point. Davis's, that is, which he effortlessly won.
I was surprised to see her laugh when she lost.
“You make it look so easy.” She looked admiringly at Davis. I suddenly wanted her to look at me that way.
“Just a stupid game,” Davis shrugged.
I grabbed a paddle and began juggling the ball. “You want a chance to redeem your â ”
“Gray,” called Natalie. “Where's the remote? You guys have to stop that stupid game.
's on. This one girl has legs like a giraffe.”
I found the remote and Natalie pulled me down beside her to watch these freakishly tall skinny girls with their freakishly tall skinny legs bitch at each other.
I saw a ï¬ash of movement to my left and realized my twelve-year-old sister, Maggie, and her friend Sasha were eavesdropping on the stairs. Maggie was always spying and trying to get something on me.
“It's red and a convertible!” Erin was inheriting her grandmother's old Beemer.
“I love Beemers,” cooed Chrissy.
“Hey, Hughie.” I mouthed the word “Maggie” and indicated with my head.
Hughie's eyes lit up and he casually backed up toward the stairs. Then, in one ï¬uid, well-practiced motion, he bent over while yanking down his jeans. Maggie and her friend laugh-screamed and ran upstairs.
“Put that frightening thing away,” said Natalie.
“Really,” echoed Erin.
“Was that Maggie?” asked Chrissy. “She's so cute.”
“Maggots are not cute,” I said.
Davis pulled his bong from his backpack. It was time for the guys to go blaze in the bathroom with the fan on. Us guys would get wrecked and speechless, while the girls sipped their orange pop and vodka and predicted America's Next Top Bitch.
I looked at this Ciel girl ï¬ipping through one of my music mags and wondered what she'd do. Her clothes didn't give anything away. Her tight turquoise jeans were cool enough, but the white blouse was major conservative, as were her white sneakers.
As if she sensed she was being watched, she honed in on me with those critical eyes. I turned back to the TV.
“Maggie would look so good with her hair short. Like that redhead, see?” Natalie pointed at the screen. “With the feathered bangs.”