Excerpt: 'Ten Thousand Saints' by Eleanor Henderson


From WNYC:

“Is it dreamed?”Jude asked Teddy. “Or dreamt?”

Beneath the stadium seats of the football field, on the last morning of 1987 and the last morning of Teddy’s life, the two boys lay side by side, a pair of snow angels bundled in thrift-store parkas. If you were to spy them from above, between the slats of the bleachers — or smoking behind the school gym, or sliding their skateboards down the stone wall by the lake — you might confuse one for the other. But Teddy was the dark-haired one, Jude the redhead. Teddy wore opalescent, fat-tongued Air Jordans, both toes bandaged with duct tape, and dangling from a cord around his neck, a New York City subway token, like a golden quarter. Jude was the one in Converse high-tops, the stars magic-markered into pentagrams, and he wore his red hair in a devil lock — short in the back and long in the front, in a fin that sliced between his eyes to his chin. Unless you’d heard of the Misfits, not the Marilyn Monroe movie but the horror-rock/glam-punk band, and if you were living in Lintonburg, Vermont in 1987, you probably hadn’t, you’d never seen anything like it.

“Either,”said Teddy.

They were celebrating Jude’s sixteenth birthday with the dregs of last night’s bowl. Jude leaned over and tapped the crushed soda can against Teddy’s elbow, and Teddy sat up to take his turn. His eyes were glassy, and a maple leaf, brittle and threadbare from its months spent under the snow, clung to his hair. Since Jude had known him Teddy had worn an immense pair of bronze frames with lenses as thick as window panes and, for good measure, a second bar across the top. But last week Teddy had spent all his savings on a pair of contact lenses, and now Jude thought he looked mole-eyed and bare-faced, exposed, as Jude’s father had the time he’d made the mistake of shaving his beard.

With one hand Teddy balanced the bud on the indentation of the can, over the perforations Jude had made with a paper clip, lit it with the other, and like a player of some barnyard instrument, he put his lips to the mouth of the can and inhaled. Across his face, across the shadowed expanse of snow-stubbled grass, bars of sunlight brightened and then paled. “It’s done,”he announced, and tossed the can aside.

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