All-Boys - 002
Anthony was sitting on the inset steps to the Science Building watching Father Ambrose, a seventy-year-old, six-and-a-half-foot, beanpole of a monk, who everyone called Boo, come up the path. Dinner was over. The light was fading. The air was warm and more humid than it had been recently, blurring the edges of things. In 30 minutes study hall would begin. Anthony held the postcard he’d gotten from Laird. Father Ambrose kept coming. The monk had given Anthony a 27 on his first Latin quiz, but Anthony liked him. Failing a monk’s class was different than failing a regular class. Failing for someone who regularly spoke to God, who didn’t have sex, who lived in a black robe, seemed more dignified, like losing in the Olympics. Still, the monks always seemed out of it and Anthony jumped a bit when Boo stopped and said his name.
“You received a post?”
He lifted the card. “A friend in Vermont.”
“Hold on to your letter writing friends.”
Anthony nodded in agreement.
“I didn’t know you were from Vermont,” Boo said.
“I’m not. But he lives there,” he held up the postcard. “I grew up with him.” Then after short pause, it didn’t seem like Boo was going to say anything. “This guy, father,” Anthony said, still holding up the postcard,” he once said God is dead.”
“Oh, did he?” The monk smiled. “Unoriginal, but A for enthusiasm.”
Then cheer went up from some kids on the quarterpipe by St. Alered’s. Boo turned from Anthony, still smiling, and watched the next skateboarder go.
“What do you think?” Anthony asked.
He turned back to Anthony. “God dead? Oh, I very much doubt that. Could be though, what do we know?” He smiled again.
“If He’s not, does it mean my friend’s going to Hell?”
“Don’t be silly. God’s not too concerned about your friend’s opinions. He’s probably just happy being considered. Possibly a little humbled.”
Metal piping lined the top lip of the ramp and when a skater caught air, there was be a distinct clack! as the board left and then returned to the ramp.
Boo turned back to the skateboarders. “The silence, when they’re in the air, it’s thrilling,” he said after watching a few boys go.
“I don’t know why they have that piping on the lip,” Anthony said. “It’s so noisy; they should have just used epoxy, or something.” Not being a skater, Anthony had no idea where this was coming from.
Boo turned back to Anthony. He furrowed his brow, as if he knew the boy was bullshitting. “It’s a beautiful sound, Nicholas. And leaving the Earth like that,” turning back to the skaters, “with so little effort. Deserves a sound off.”
The tall monk stood there listening to them roll onto the ramp, hit the piping, hang in the air for a few seconds, then returning.
“What does God think of skateboarding?” Anthony asked.
“Who knows what God thinks? But if I should be so bold, I’d guess God intends skateboarding to be a perfect, practical, and sometimes beautiful way of leaving the Earth. Don’t you think?” He laughed at himself.
Anthony had a moment of clarity: I don’t think. My brain just kind of reacts. Thoughts aren’t so much as processed, as they just seemed to appear out of my mouth. But just as quickly the idea drifted away.
“Well goodnight, Anthony. Write a nice letter back to your friend. If we all could write letters…” Boo continued down the path.
Boo was better than Anthony’s nickname. In the second week of English class, when they were going over the books from the reading list, Father Stoddard asked Anthony to read aloud a passage from the Red Badge of Courage. It was a description of the men pouring over the hills into each other’s bayonets. Anthony started tearing up in front of the class. He was mostly just shy, but also something in the passage cracked him open and reminded him of the parking lot and Laird and how he didn’t have any friends like Brett at the Abbey. In the hall after the class, a strong-jawed kid named Tom Secuar decided Anthony, the Pansy Ass Cry Baby, was a more appropriate than just Anthony. But by dinner that night, the majority of the student body decided the name was a mouthful, and Anthony was deemed just C.B.
He had been at the Abbey three weeks. Even before the nickname, he was generally terrified. There were apparently tons of Catholics in Connecticut, and they all seemed to know each other from summers on Martha’s Vineyard or the Gold & Silver debutante dances. They also all knew how to tie a bow tie. And owned overcoats. And knew that argyle was the Poor Man’s blackwatch. Anthony peppered every conversation with the fact he’d been to a Dead show, but Joey Sigliotti had a collection of over 200 bootlegs. The other kids seemed to have hundreds of letter-writing friends. In the half hour between study hall and lights out there was a line at the phones where kids called real girlfriends. When Anthony saw the postcard through the tiny mailbox window, he almost audibly yelped. The card was a watercolor of a man taping a maple tree.
Vermont’s awesome in the fall. I hope Rhode Island is too. I’m living with the last people who matter. I’m sorry about losing you guys at the show. But tell everyone not to worry. After what went down (pun!) at Easter, it had stopped working out for me back home anyway. But with Yahwee, I’ve at least got a chance. There are some incredibly cool people in this world.
I’ll send you an address in a few weeks. But please refrain from telling Madame Boudreau.
p.s. Scrawny Little Burn-Outs Rule!
Kids were now heading back to their dorms in their small cliques. The Darien-New Caanan kids, the hyper young prodigies, the ABC kids, the South Americans, friends that would last for the next four years and on into their lives. There wasn’t a Small-Town-Upstate-New-York-Cry-Baby clique yet and Anthony stood up to start back alone.
In front of St. Benedict’s, Padrick, a large-headed blond kid from Wyoming, was looking up into the sky. He freaked everybody out a little because he spoke very loudly, giving one the impression he was slightly deaf or autistic. He was even more out of place than Anthony, but one of the few kids who seemed interested in being Anthony’s friend, an association Anthony was sure would only further isolate him from the general student body.
Anthony looked up to see what Padrick was looking at, and Padrick caught him.
“It’s hurricane season. You know that?” Padrick said, smiling.
“One’s coming as we speak. It’s off the coast of the Carolinas. Mani had us bring in the football dummies after practice. And they tied down some of the bleachers.”
“They’re sometimes more powerful than an atomic bomb. That’s something, isn’t it?”
Anthony agreed it was and looked up again. The sky was clear and windless. There was still light in the air, but some stars were beginning to poke bright holes through the pale awning.