An excerpt from All Native
Rudy Kelly's debut novel, All Native, will be released in about a fortnight. In the meantime, here's a small preview. Enjoy!
That summer, word got out that Jeannie was moving and when BJ told Nate, Nate tried to hide the sound of his heart breaking. He just nodded and said he had heard, although he hadn’t.
“I think you should say goodbye,” said BJ, assuming an unfamiliar sensitive guy posture; it was like watching Charles Bronson trying to talk a bad guy into an apology instead of just beating the crap out of him.
“What am I supposed to do?” asked Nate, not taking the suggestion seriously. “Go knock on her door?”
BJ pursed his lips and made that face that said not a bad idea. Nate laughed, shook his head and exclaimed, “No way!” – the first of many times he would say that to BJ only to find that there was, in fact, very much a way.
The journey to Westview was a considerable road trip by foot, taking over an hour, if you consider the meandering manner in which most kids travel. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon so BJ and Nate took their time, with the odd detour and stop, like Frodo and Samwise, checking out random items like scrap metal, a pallet board, or a broken umbrella that could be turned into a sword.
BJ had been to the Westview area before and it had been for the same reason they were going there today: to spy on the pretty girls. It was like visiting a different community altogether. They marveled at the large homes, the well-kept lawns, manicured hedges, and the trucks in the driveways. They skulked, not only because they didn’t want to be seen by the girls or their parents but because it just felt like they needed a pass or something, like the internal visas First Nations once needed to travel off their reserves and into cities.
Finally, they came to a house, which had two giant hedges, one on either side, at the end of the walkway to the door. There were long, short hedges on either side of them, making the walkway the only way to get to the door.
“Here we are,” whispered BJ, looking around.
“This is her house?” asked Nate.
“How do you know?”
BJ sighed. He didn’t want Nate to know that he had a thing for Jeannie too (although it was not exclusively for her; she was one of a handful he coveted) and had scouted her out before, so he said, “I told you. I’ve been up here before, a couple times, to see what it was like and, well, I saw some of the girls hanging out at their homes.”
Nate nodded as if it made perfect sense.
“Follow me,” ordered BJ and they scampered across the front of the walkway and crouched behind the hedge on the other side.
As he crouched behind BJ, Nate’s heart rate picked up. He trusted that BJ knew what he was doing but, now, it suddenly struck him: just what is the plan here??
“If you see a dad, run,” BJ whispered. “If you see a mom, just say you dropped something, and we’ll start walking.”
“What will I say I dropped?”
“I don’t know. Anything.”
“I gotta say something.”
“For fuck’s sake! A comb – whatever.”
Nate shook his head. “I don’t carry a comb.”
BJ hung his head and this time, just thought, fuck’s sake.
Then they heard voices, first muffled but then loud, as the door had opened.
Nate could hear two girls speaking; one of them was Jeannie’s voice and he smiled. And then, he heard a man’s voice and his heart jumped.
“Shit,” whispered BJ. “Let’s get out of here!”
And BJ crouched-ran along the hedge, and the man’s voice said, “hey! Who’s there?”
BJ stayed in a semi-crouch and, using the big white truck parked out front as a shield, ran across the road.
Nate was doing the same but, when the dad yelled “Hey!” again, he panicked and crawled into the back of the truck and lay flat on the bed of it. BJ, as he was hiding behind a hedge in the yard across the street, glanced back in disbelief, thinking what the fuck?!
Nate was thinking along the same lines as BJ, unable to figure out himself why he jumped into the truck. It was just the nearest thing to hide in. And now, as he lay there, all he could do was hope that this was not their truck. There was another car, a red Ford Mercury just in front of it and he prayed that he would hear its doors opening. But Jeannie and her friend had caught a glimpse of Nate as he tumbled into the truck’s bed. They looked at each other quizzically, smiling then giggling.
Nate heard the giggles and thought, not good. Then he heard their footsteps coming down the walkway. He briefly considered jumping out of the back of the truck and bolting in the direction that BJ had fled but he knew they would definitely see him then and it would be terribly embarrassing anyway. So, he clung to the hope that they hadn’t seen him and were going to get in the other vehicle.
The girls walked up to the truck and peered over the side panel into the bed. Nate lay there, hands by his side, frozen like Captain America in his block of Arctic ice. Jeannie looked surprised. “Nate??”
“Hi.” Nate said, ridiculously.
They both giggled and Jeannie asked, “What are you doing??”
“N-nothing,” said Nate, as if he was the one who had been surprised and wanted them to, please, just move on.
Nate then heard the voice of the dad, who had straggled, say, “what’s going on?”
With speed that startled the girls so much that they screamed, Nate jumped up, put a hand on the panel, and hurdled down onto the street. The man’s “Hey!” and the girls’ laughing was the last thing he heard as he ran down the street and around the corner. He briefly considered continuing down the street and to the main road, Second Avenue West, but there was no hiding there so, instead, he sprinted down a dirt alleyway that was about halfway down the street. The alley led to a dead end of bushes, which Nate crashed through fearlessly before tripping and falling about 20 yards into them. This was far enough. He won’t see me in here, Nate thought, and lay still.
Jeannie’s dad didn’t pursue Nate – not that he had much chance of catching a terrified 14-year-old boy – and just watched in bewilderment as he bolted down the street, before asking the girls if they knew him. They confirmed they did, and Jeannie said he was in her English class and she liked him.
“He likes her too – a lot,” smiled her friend.
“Ahh,” Jeannie’s dad said with a knowing nod. “I once jumped out a girl’s second-floor window.”
The girls squished their faces up, wishing he hadn’t told them that.
Meanwhile, around the corner and down the alley, in the bushes, Nate lay on the ground, catching his breath. He didn’t know exactly how long he should stay there but he figured an hour would do the trick. About 15 minutes later, though, he heard BJ’s voice, at first, in the distance then getting closer, calling his name.
Nate sat up and saw BJ and said, “over here.”
BJ had guessed he was in the bushes and walked towards him. “The coast is clear. They’re gone.” Nate, relieved, stood and carefully weaved his way out of the bushes.
“Why’d you jump in the truck??” asked BJ.
Nate grinned, “I don’t know,” and shook his head as they had a good laugh.
Copyright Rudy Kelly. All rights reserved. Copying, scanning, or distributing of this excerpt is prohibited without permission from the author. Thank you for supporting authors' rights.