Young Life (excerpt)

Bret Anthony Johnson

You are 13, almost poor, afraid of the wrong things. A very partial list of what scares you includes being hit in the face with a baseball, dropping your lunch tray in the cafeteria again, never kissing a girl or seeing an albatross. You’re actually sure you’ll never kiss a girl, so what you’re really afraid of is getting caught in a lie. There’s also an illogical, subterranean fear that if a girl ever did agree to kiss you—maybe at, say, a charity kissing booth—you’d botch the whole shebang and word would spread through school like when you ate the Frito Pie you’d dropped because you didn’t have enough money for another. The cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s album Speak of the Devil scares you, as does the dentist and the whine of circular saws. You are not afraid of Willis Godbout. Willis, who’s been held back twice and steals wheelchairs from Kmart. Willis who, last Halloween, dressed as a Klansman.

Emily Gilbert