For Karen Lansdale



Not so long ago, about a year back, a very rotten kid named Clyde Edson walked the earth. He was street-mean and full of savvy and he knew what he wanted and got it any way he wanted.

He lived in a big, evil house on a dying, gray street in Galveston, Texas, and he collected to him, like an old lady who brings in cats half-starved and near-eaten with mange, the human refuse and the young discards of a sick society.

He molded them. He breathed life into them. He made them feel they belonged. They were his creations, but he did not love them. They were just things to be toyed with until the paint wore thin and the batteries ran down, then out they went.

And this is the way it was until he met Brian Blackwood.

Things got worse after that.



Guy had a black leather jacket and dark hair combed back virgin-ass tight, slicked down with enough grease to lube a bone-dry Buick; came down the hall walking slow, head up, ice-blue eyes working like acid on everyone in sight; had the hall nearly to himself, plenty of room for his slow-stroll-swagger. The other high school kids were shouldering the wall, shedding out of his path like frenzied snakes shedding out of their skins.

You could see this Clyde was bad news. Hung in time. Fifties-looking. Out of step. But who's going to say, "Hey, dude, you look funny"?

Tough, this guy. Hide like the jacket he wore. No books under his arm, nothing at all. Just cool.

Brian was standing at the water fountain first time he saw Clyde, and immediately he was attracted to him. Not in a sexual way. He wasn't funny. But in the manner metal shavings are attracted to a magnet—can't do a thing about it, just got to go to it and cling.

Brian knew who Clyde was, but this was the first time he'd ever been close enough to feel the heat. Before, the guy'd been a tough greaser in a leather jacket who spent most of his time expelled from school. Nothing more.

But now he saw for the first time that the guy had some­thing; something that up close shone like a well-boned razor in the noonday sun.

Cool. He had that.

Class. He had that.

A Difference. He had that.

He was a walking power plant.

Name was Clyde. Ol' mean, weird, don't-fuck-with-me Clyde.

"You looking at something?" Clyde growled.

Brian just stood there, one hand resting on the water fountain.

After a while he said innocently: "You."

"That right?"


"Staring at me?"

"I guess."

"I see."

And then Clyde was on Brian, had him by the hair, jerking his head down, driving a knee into his face. Brian went back seeing constellations. Got kicked in the ribs then. Hit in the eye as he leaned forward from that. Clyde was making a regular bop bag out of him.

He hit Clyde back, aimed a nose-shot through a swirling haze of colored dots.

And it hurt so good. Like when he made that fat pig Betty Sue Flowers fingernail his back until he bled; thrust up her hips until his cock ached and the rotten-fish smell of her filled his brain. . . . Only this hurt better. Ten times better.

Clyde wasn't expecting that. This guy was coming back like he liked it.

Clyde dug that.

He kicked Brian in the nuts, grabbed him by the hair and slammed his forehead against the kid's nose. Made him bleed good, but didn't get a good enough lick in to break it.

Brian went down, grabbed Clyde's ankle, bit it.

Clyde yowled, dragged Brian around the hall.

The students watched, fascinated. Some wanted to laugh at what was happening, but none dared.

Clyde used his free foot to kick Brian in the face. That made Brian let go . . . for a moment. He dove at Clyde, slammed the top of his head into Clyde's bread basket, carried him back against the wall crying loudly, "Moth­erfucker!"

Then the principal came, separated them, screamed at them, and Clyde hit the principal and the principal went down and now Clyde and Brian were both standing up, together, kicking the goddamned shit out of the goddamned principal in the middle of the goddamned hall. Side by side they stood. Kicking. One. Two. One. Two. Left leg. Right leg. Feet moving together like the legs of a scurry­ing centipede. . . .



They got some heat slapped on them for that; juvenile-court action. It was a bad scene.

Brian's mother sat at a long table with his lawyer and whined like a blender on whip.

Good old mom. She was actually good for something. She had told the judge: "He's a good boy, your honor. Never got in any trouble before. Probably wouldn't have gotten into this, but he's got no father at home to be an example," and so forth.

If it hadn't been to his advantage, he'd have been dis­gusted. As it was, he sat in his place with his nice clean suit and tried to look ashamed and a little surprised at what he had done. And in a way he was surprised.

He looked over at Clyde. He hadn't bothered with a suit. He had his jacket and jeans on. He was cleaning his fingernails with a fingernail clipper.

When Mrs. Blackwood finished, Judge Lowry yawned. It was going to be one of those days. He thought: the dockets are full, this Blackwood kid has no priors, looks clean-cut enough, and this other little shit has a bookfull . . . yet, he is a kid, and I feel big-hearted. Or, to put this into perspective, there's enough of a backlog without adding this silly case to it.

If I let the Blackwood kid go, it'll look like favoritism because he's clean-cut and this is his first time—and that is good for something. Yet, if I don't let the Edson kid go too, then I'm saying the same crime is not as bad when it's committed by a clean-cut kid with a whining momma.

All right, he thought. We'll keep it simple. Let them both go, but give it all some window dressing.

And it was window dressing, nothing more. Brian was put on light probation, and Clyde, already on probation, was given the order to report to his probation officer more frequently, and that was the end of that.

Piece of cake.

The school expelled them for the rest of the term, but that was no mean thing. They were back on the streets before the day was out.

For the moment, Clyde went his way and Brian went his.

But the bond was formed.



A week later, mid-October.


Brian Blackwood sat in his room, his head full of pleas­ant but overwhelming emotions. He got a pen and loose-leaf notebook out of his desk drawer, began to write sav­agely.


I've never kept a journal before, and I don't know if I'll continue to keep one after tonight, but the stuff that's going on inside of me is boiling up something awful and I feel if I don't get it out I'm going to explode and there isn't going to be anything left of me but blood and shit stains on the goddamned wall.

In school I read about this writer who said he was like that, and if he could write down what was bothering him, what was pushing his skull from the inside, he could find relief, so I'm going to try that and hope for the best, be­cause I've got to tell somebody, and I sure as hell can't tell Mommy-dear this, not that I can really tell her anything, but I've got to let this out of me and I only wish I could write faster, put it down as fast as I think.

This guy, Clyde Edson, he's really different and he's changed my life and I can feel it, I know it, it's down in my guts, squirming around like some kind of cancer, eat­ing at me from the inside out, changing me into something new and fresh.

Being around Clyde is like being next to pure power, yeah, like that. Energy comes off of him in waves that nearly knock you down, and it's almost as if I'm absorbing that energy, and like maybe Clyde is sucking something out of me, something he can use, and the thought of that, of me giving Clyde something, whatever it is, makes me feel strong and whole. I mean, being around Clyde is like touching evil, or like that sappy Star Wars shit about being seduced by the Dark Side of The Force, or some such fuck­ing malarkey. But you see, this seduction by the Dark Side, it's a damn good fuck, a real jism-spurter, kind that makes your eyes bug, your back pop and your asshole pucker

Maybe I don't understand this yet, but I think it's sort of like this guy I read about once, this philosopher whose name I can't remember, but who said something about becoming a Superman. Not the guy with the cape. I'm not talking comic book, do-gooder crap here, I'm talking the real palooka. Can't remember just what he said, but from memory of what I read, and from the way I feel now, I figure that Clyde and I are two of the chosen, the Super­men of now, this moment, mutants for the future. I see it sort of like this: man was once a wild animal type that made right by the size of his muscles and not by no bullshit government and laws. Time came when he had to become civilized to survive all the other hardnoses, but now that time has passed 'cause most of the hardnoses have died off and there isn't anything left but a bunch of fucking pussies who couldn't find their ass with a road map or figure how to wipe it without a blueprint. But you see, the mutations are happening again. New survivors are being born, and instead of that muck scientists say we crawled out of in the first place, we're crawling out of this mess the pussies have created with all their human rights shit and laws to protect the weak. Only this time, it isn't like before. Man might have crawled out of that slime to escape the sharks of the sea back then, but this time it's the god­damned sharks that are crawling out and we're mean son­ofabitches with razor-sharp teeth and hides like fresh-dug gravel. And most different of all, there's a single-mindness about us that just won't let up.

I don't know if I'm saying this right, it's not all clear in my head and it's hard to put into words, but I can feel it, goddamnit, I can feel it. Time has come when we've be­come too civilized, overpopulated, so evolution has taken care of that, it's created a social mutation—Supermen like Clyde and me.

Clyde, he's the raw stuff, sewer sludge. He gets what he wants because he doesn't let anything stand in the way of what he wants, nothing. God, the conversations we had the last couple of days ... See now, lost my train of thought... Oh yeah, the social mutations.

You see, I thought I was some kind of fucking freak all this time. But what it is, I'm just new, different. I mean, from as far back as I can remember, I've been different. I just don't react the way other people do, and I didn't un­derstand why. Crying over dead puppies and shit like that. Big fucking deal. Dog's dead, he's dead. What the fuck do I care? It's the fucking dog that's dead, not me, so why should I be upset?

I mean, I remember this little girl next door that had this kitten when we were kids. She was always cooing and petting that little mangy bastard. And one day my Dad— that was before he got tired of the Old Lady's whining and ran off, and good riddance, I say—sent me out to mow the yard. He had this thing about the yard being mowed, and he had this thing about me doing it. Well, I'm out there mowing it, and there's that kitten, wandering around in our yard. Now, I was sick of that kitten, Mr. Journal, so I picked it up and petted it, went to the garage and got myself a trowel. I went out in the front yard and dug a nice deep hole and put that kitten in it, all except the head, I left that sticking up. I patted the dirt around its neck real tight, then I went back and got the lawn mower, started it and began pushing it toward that little fucking cat. I could see its head twisting and it started moving its mouth— meowing, but I couldn't hear it, though I wish I could have—and I pushed the mower slow-like toward it, watch­ing the grass chute from time to time, making sure the grass was really coming out of there in thick green blasts, and then I'd look up and see that kitten. When I got a few feet from it, I noticed that I was on a hard. I mean, I had a pecker you could have used for a cold chisel.

When I was three feet away, I starved to push that thing at a trot, and when I hit that cat, what a sound, and I had my eye peeled on that mower chute, and for a moment there was green and then there was red with green and hunks of ragged, gray fur spewing out, twisting onto the lawn.

Far as I knew, no one ever knew what I did. I just covered up the stump of the cat's neck real good and went on about my business. Later that evening when I was fin­ishing up, the little shit next door came home and I could hear her calling out, "Kitty, kitty, kitty," it was all I could do not to fall down behind the mower laughing. But I kept a straight face, and when she came over and asked if I'd seen Morris—can you get that, Morris?—I said, "No, I'm sorry, I haven't," and she doesn't even get back to her house before she's crying and calling for that little fucking cat again.

Ah, but so much for amusing sidelights, Mr. Journal. I guess the point I'm trying to make is people get themselves tied up and concerned with the damndest things, dogs and cats, stuff like that. I've yet to come across a dog or cat with a good, solid idea.

God, it feels good to say what I want to say for a change, and to have someone like Clyde who not only understands, but agrees, sees things the same way. Feels good to realize why all the Boy Scout good deed shit never made me feel diddlyshit. Understand now why the good grades and be­ing called smart never thrilled me either. Was all bullshit, that's why. We Supermen don't go for that petty stuff, doesn't mean dick to us. Got no conscience 'cause a con­science isn't anything but a bullshit tool to make you a goddamned pussy, a candy-ass coward. We do what we want, as we please, when we want. I got this feeling that there are more and more like Clyde and me, and in just a little more time, we new ones will rule. And those who are born like us won't feel so out of step, because they'll know by then that the way they feel is okay, and that this is a dog eat dog world full of fucking red, raw meat, and there won't be any bullshit, pussy talk from them, they'll just go out and find that meat and eat it.

These new ones aren't going to be like the rest of the turds who have a clock to tell them when to get up in the morning, a boss that tells them what to do all day and a wife to nag them into doing it to keep her happy lest she cut off the pussy supply. No, no more of that. That old dog ain't going to hunt no more. From then on it'll be every man for himself, take what you want, take the pussy you want, whatever. What a world that would be, a world where every sonofabitch on the block is as mean as a junk­yard dog. Every day would be an adventure, a constant battle of muscle and wits.

Oh man, the doors that Clyde has opened for me. He's something else. Just a few days ago I felt like I was some kind of freak hiding out in this world, then along comes Clyde and I find out that the freaks are plentiful, but the purely sane, like Clyde and me, are far and few—least right now. Oh yeah, that Clyde ... it's not because he's so smart, either. Least not in a book-learned sense. The thing that impresses me about him is the fact that he's so raw and ready to bite, to just take life in his teeth and shake that motherfucker until the shit comes out.

Me and Clyde are like two halves of a whole. I'm blond and fair, intelligent, and he's dark, short and muscular, just able to read. I'm his gears and he's my oil, the stuff that makes me run right. We give to each other... What we give is... Christ, this will sound screwy, Mr. Journal, but the closest I can come to describing it is psychic en­ergy. We feed off each other.

Jesus Fucking H. Christ, starting to ramble. But feel better. That writer's idea must be working because I feel drained. Getting this out is like having been constipated for seventeen years of my life, and suddenly I've taken a laxative and I've just shit the biggest turd that can be shit by man, bear or elephant, and it feels so goddamned good, I want to yell to the skies.

Hell, I've had it. Feel like I been on an all-night fuck with a nympho on Spanish fly. Little later Clyde's sup­posed to come by, and I'm going out the window, going with him to see The House. He's told me about it, and it sounds really fine. He says he's going to show me some things I've never seen before. Hope so.

Damn, it's like waiting to be blessed with some sort of crazy, magical power or something. Like being given the ability to strike people with leprosy or wish some starlet up all naked and squirming on the rack and you with a dick as long and hard and hot as a heated poker, and her looking up at you and yelling for you to stick it to her before she cums just looking at you. Something like that, anyway.

Well, won't be long now and Clyde will be here. Guess I need to go sit over by the window, Mr. Journal, so I won't miss him. If Mom finds me missing after a while, things could get a little sticky, but I doubt she'll report her only, loving son to the parole board. Would be tacky. I always just tell her I'll be moving out just as soon as I can get me a job, and that shuts her up. Christ, she acts like she's in love with me or something, isn't natural.

Enough of this journal shit. Bring on the magic, Clyde.




Two midnight shadows seemed to blow across the yard of the Blackwood home. Finally, those shadows broke out of the overlapping darkness of the trees, hit the moonlight and exploded into two teenagers. Clyde and Brian, run­ning fast and hard. Their heels beat a quick, sharp rhythm on the sidewalk, like the too-fast ticking of clocks; time­pieces from the Dark Side, knocking on toward a grue­some destiny.

After a moment the running stopped. Doors slammed. A car growled angrily. Lights burst on, and the black '66 sailed away from the curb. It sliced down the quiet street like a razor being sliced down a vein, cruised between dark houses where only an occasional light burned behind a window like a fearful gold eye gazing through a contact lens.

A low-slung, yellow dog making its nightly trashcan route crossed the street, fell into the Chevy's headlights.

The car whipped for the dog, but the animal was fast and lucky and only got its tail brushed before making the curb.

A car door flew open in a last attempt to bump the dog, but the dog was too far off the street. The car bounced up on the curb briefly, then lurched back onto the pavement.

The dog was gone now, blending into the darkness of a tree-shadowed yard.

The door slammed and the motor roared loudly. The car moved rapidly off into the night, and from its open windows, carried by the wind, came the high wild sound of youthful laughter.



The House, as Clyde called it, was just below Stoker Street, just past where it intersected King, not quite book-ended between the two streets, but nearby, on a more nar­row one. And there it waited.

Almost reverently, like a hearse that has arrived to pick up the dead, the black '66 Chevy entered the drive, parked.

Clyde and Brian got out, stood looking up at the house for a moment, considering it as two monks would a shrine.

Brian felt a sensation of trembling excitement, and al­though he would not admit it, a tinge of fear.

The House was big, old, gray and ugly. It looked gothic, out of step with the rest of the block. Like something out of Poe or Hawthorne. It crouched like a falsely obedient dog. Upstairs two windows showed light, seemed like cold, rectangular eyes considering prey.

The moon was bright enough that Brian could see the dead grass in the yard. the dead grass in all the yards down the block. It was the time of year for dead grass, but to Brian's way of thinking, this grass looked browner, deader. It was hard to imagine it ever being alive, ever standing up tall and bright and green.

The odd thing about The House was the way it seemed to command the entire block. It was not as large as it first appeared—though it was large—and the homes about it were newer and more attractive. They had been built when people still cared about the things they lived in, before the era of glass and plastic and builders who pocketed the money that should have been used on foundation and structure. Some of the houses stood a story above the gothic nightmare, but somehow they had taken on a run­down, anemic look, as if the old gray house was in fact some sort of alien vampire that could impersonate a house by day, but late at night it would turn its head with a wood­-grain creak, look out of its cold, rectangle eyes and sud­denly stand to reveal thick peasant-girl legs and feet beneath its firm wooden skin, and then it would start to stalk slowly and crazily down the street, the front door opening to reveal long, hollow, woodscrew teeth, and it would pick a house and latch onto it, fold back its rubbery front porch lips and burrow its many fangs into its brick or wood and suck out the architectural grace and all the love its builders had put into it. Then, as it turned to leave, bloated, satiated, the grass would die beneath its steps and it would creep and creak back down the street to find its place, and it would sigh deeply, contentedly, as it settled once more, and the energy and grace of the newer houses, the loved houses, would bubble inside its chest. Then it would sleep, digest, and wait.

"Let's go in," Clyde said.


The walk was made of thick white stones. They were cracked and weather swollen. Some of them had partially tumbled out of the ground dragging behind a wad of dirt and grass roots that made them look like abscessed teeth that had fallen from some giant's rotten gums.

Avoiding the precarious stepping-stones, they mounted the porch, squeaked the screen and groaned the door open. Darkness seemed to crawl in there. They stepped inside.

"Hold it," Clyde said. He reached and hit the wall switch.

Darkness went away, but the light wasn't much. The overhead fixture was coated with dust and it gave the room a speckled look, like sunshine through camouflage netting.

There was a high staircase to their left and it wound up to a dangerous-looking landing where the railing dangled out of line and looked ready to fall. Beneath the stairs, and to the far right of the room, were many doors. Above, behind the landing, were others, a half dozen in a soldier row. Light slithered from beneath the crack of one.

"Well?" Clyde said.

"I sort of expect Dracula to come down those stairs any moment."

Clyde smiled. "He's down here with you, buddy. Right here."

"What nice teeth you have."

"Uh-huh, real nice. How about a tour?"

"Lead on."

"The basement first?"


"All right, the basement then. Come on."

Above them, from the lighted room, came the sound of a girl giggling, then silence.

"Girls?" Brian asked.

"More about that later."

They crossed the room and went to a narrow doorway with a recessed door. Clyde opened it. It was dark and foul-smelling down there, the odor held you like an em­brace.

Brian could see the first three stair steps clearly, three more in shadow, the hint of one more, then nothing.

"Come on," Clyde said.

Clyde didn't bother with the light, if there was one. He stepped on the first step and started down.

Brian watched as Clyde was consumed by darkness. Cold air washed up and over him. He followed.

At the border of light and shadow, Brian turned to look behind him. There was only a rectangle of light to see, and that light seemed almost reluctant to enter the base­ment, as if it were too fearful.

Brian turned back, stepped into the veil of darkness, felt his way carefully with toe and heel along the wooden path. He half-expected the stairs to withdraw with a jerk and pull him into some creature's mouth, like a toad tongue that had speared a stupid fly. It certainly smelled bad enough down there to be a creature's mouth.

Brian was standing beside Clyde now. He stopped, heard Clyde fumble in his leather jacket for something. There was a short, sharp sound like a single cricket-click, and a match jumped to life, waved its yellow-red head around, cast the youngsters' shadows on the wall, made them look like monstrous Siamese twins, or some kind of two-headed, four-armed beast.

Water was right at their feet. Another step and they would have been in it. A bead of sweat trickled from Brian's hair, ran down his nose and fell off. He realized that Clyde was testing him.

"Basements aren't worth a shit around this part of the country," Clyde said, "except for a few things they're not intended for."

"Like what?"

"You'll find out in plenty of time. Besides, how do I know I can trust you?"

That hurt Brian, but he didn't say anything. The first rule of being a Superman was to be above that sort of thing. You had to be strong, cool. Clyde would respect that sort of thing.

Clyde nodded at the water. "That's from last month's storm."

"Nice place if you raise catfish."


The match went out. And somehow, Brian could sense Clyde's hand behind him, in a position to shove, consid­ering it. Brian swallowed quietly, said very coolly, "Now what?"

After a long moment, Brian sensed Clyde's hand slip away, heard it crinkle into the pocket of his leather jacket. Clyde said, "Let's go back, unless you want to swim a little. Want to do that?"

"Didn't bring my trunks. Wouldn't want you to see my wee-wee."

Clyde laughed. "What's the matter, embarrassed at only having an inch?"

"Naw, was afraid you'd think it was some kind of big water snake and you'd try to cut it."

"How'd you know I had a knife?"

"Just figures."

"Maybe I like you."

"Big shit." But it was a big shit to Brian, and he was glad for the compliment, though he wasn't about to let on.

Clyde's jacket crinkled. Another match flared. "Easy turning," Clyde said, "these stairs are narrow, maybe rotten."

Brian turned briskly, started up ahead of Clyde.

"Easy, I said."

Brian stopped. He was just at the edge of the light. He turned, smiled down. He didn't know if Clyde could see his smile in the match light or not, but he hoped he could feel it. He decided to try a little ploy of his own.

"Easy, hell," he said. "Didn't you bring me down here just to see if I'd panic? To see if those creaky stairs and that water and you putting a hand behind me would scare me?"

Clyde's match went out. Brian could no longer see him clearly. That made him nervous.

"Guess that was the idea," Clyde said from the dark­ness.

Another match smacked to life.

"Thought so."

Brian turned, started up, stepping firmly, but not hur­riedly. The stairs rocked beneath his feet.

It felt good to step into the room's speckled light. Brian sighed softly, took a deep breath. It was a musty breath, but it beat the sour, rotten smell of the basement. He leaned against the wall, waited.

After what seemed like a long time, Clyde stepped out of the basement and closed the door. He turned to look at Brian, smiled.

(What nice teeth you have.)

"You'll do," Clyde said softly. "You'll do." Now came the grand tour. Clyde led Brian through rooms stuffed with trash, full of the smell of piss, sweat, sex and dung, through empty rooms, cold and hollow as the inside of a petrified god's heart.

Rooms. So many rooms.

Finally the downstairs tour was finished and it was time to climb the stairs and find out what was waiting behind those doors, to look into the room filled with light.

They paused at the base of the stairs. Brian laid a hand on Clyde's shoulder.

"How in hell did you come by all this?" he asked.

Clyde smiled.

"Is it yours?" Brian asked.

"All mine," Clyde said. "Got it easy. Everything I do comes easy. One day I decided to move in and I did."

"How did you—"

"Hang on, listen: You see, this was once a fancy apart­ment house. Had a lot of old folks as customers, sort of an old fossil box. I needed a place to stay, was living on the streets then. I liked it here, but didn't have any money.

"So I found the caretaker. Place had a full-time one then. Guy with a crippled leg.

"I say to this gimp, I'm moving into the basement—wasn't full of water then—and if he don't like it, I'll push his face in for him. Told him if he called the cops I'd get him on account of I'm a juvenile and I've been in and out of kiddie court so many times I got a lunch card. Told him I knew about his kids, how pretty that little daughter of his was, how pretty I thought she'd look on the end of my dick. Told him I'd put her there and spin her around on it like a top. I'd done my homework on the old fart, knew all about him, about his little girl and little boy.

"So, I scared him good. He didn't want any trouble and he let me and the cunt I was banging then move in."

A spark moved in Clyde's eyes. "About the cunt, just so you know I play hardball, she isn't around anymore. She and the brat she was going to have are taking an ex­tended swimming lesson."

"You threw her in the bay?"

Clyde tossed his head at the basement.

"Ah," Brian said, and he felt an erection, a real blue­-veiner. Something warm moved from the tips of his toes to the base of his skull, foamed inside his brain. It was as if his bladder had backed up and filled his body with urine. Old Clyde had actually killed somebody and had no re­morse, was in fact proud. Brian liked that. It meant Clyde was as much of a Superman as he expected. And since Clyde admitted the murder to him, he knew he trusted him, considered him a comrade, a fellow Superman.

"What happened next?" Brian asked. It was all he could do not to lick his lips.

"Me and the cunt moved in. Couple guys I knew wanted to come too, bring their cunts along. I let them. Before long there's about a half dozen of us living in the god­damned basement. We got the caretaker to see we got fed, and he did it too on account of he was a weenie, and we kept reminding him how much we like little-girl pussy. I got to where I could describe what we wanted to do to her real good."

"Anyway, that went on for a while, then one day he doesn't show up with the grub. Found out later that he'd packed up the dumpling wife, the two ankle-biters and split. So I say to the guys—by the way, don't ask no cunt nothing, they got opinions on everything and not a bit of it's worth stringy dogshit, unless you want to know the best way to put a tampon in or what color goes well with blue . . . so, I say to the guys, this ain't no way to live, and we start a little storm trooper campaign. Scared piss out of some of the old folks, roughed up an old lady, nailed her dog to the door by its ears."

"Didn't the cops come around?"

"Yeah. They came and got us on complaints, told us to stay out. But what could they do? No one had seen us do a damn thing except those complaining, and it was just our word against theirs. They made us move out though.

"So we went and had a little talk with the manager, made a few threats, got a room out of the deal and started paying rent. By this time we had the cunts hustling for us, bouncing tail on the streets and bringing in a few bucks. Once we start paying rent, what can they say? But we keep up the storm trooper campaign, just enough to keep it scary around here. Before long the manager quit and all the old folks hiked."

"What about the owner?"

"He came around. We paid the rent and he let us stay. He's a slumlord anyway. It was the old folks kept the place up. After they left, it got pretty trashy, and this guy wasn't going to put out a cent on the place. He was glad to take our money and run. We were paying him more than all the old codgers together. The pussy business was really raking in the coins. And besides, he don't want to make us mad, know what I mean?"

"Some setup."

"It's sweet all right. Like being a juvenile. The courts are all fucked up on that one. They don't know what to do with us, so they usually just say the hell with us. It's easier to let us go than to hassle with us. After you're eighteen life isn't worth living. That's when the rules start to apply to us too. Right now we're just misguided kids who'll straighten out in time."

"I hear that."

"Good. Let's go upstairs. Got some people I want you to meet."


"A girl I want you to fuck."


"Yeah. Got this one cunt that's something else. Thir­teen years old, a runaway or something. Picked her up off the street about a month ago. Totally wiped out in the brain department, not that a cunt's got that much brain to begin with, but this one is a clean slate. But, man, does she have tits. They're big as footballs. She's as good a fuck as a grown woman."

"This going to cost me?"

"You kidding? You get what you want, no charge—money anyway."

"What's that mean?"

"I want your soul, not your money."

Brian grinned. "So what are you, the devil? Thought you were Dracula."

"I'm both of them."

"Do I have to sign something in blood?"

Clyde laughed hysterically. "Sure, that's a good one. Blood. Write something in fucking blood. I like you, Brian, I really do."

So Brian saw the dark rooms upstairs, and finally the one with the light and the people.

The room stank. There was a mattress on the floor and there was a nude girl on the mattress and there was a nude boy on the girl and the girl was not moving but the boy was moving a lot.

On the other side of the mattress a naked blonde girl squatted next to a naked boy. The girl had enormous breasts and dark brown eyes. The boy was stocky and square-jawed. They lifted their heads as Clyde and Brian came in, and Brian could see they were stoned to the max. The two smiled at them in unison, as if they had but one set of facial muscles between them.

The boy riding the girl grunted, once, real loud. After a moment he rolled off her smiling, his penis half-hard, dripping.

The girl on the mattress still did not move. She lay with her eyes closed and her arms by her sides.

"This is Loony Tunes," Clyde said, pointing to the boy who had just rolled off the girl. "This is Stone," he said, pointing to the stocky boy. "If he talks, I've never heard it." He did not introduce either girl. "This is all we got around here right now, cream of the crop."

The girl on the mattress still had not moved.

The one called Loony Tunes laughed once in a while, for no apparent reason.

Clyde said, "Go ahead and tend to your rat killing, me and Brian got plans." Then he snapped his fingers and pointed to the nude girl with the big breasts and the silly smile.

She stood up, wavering a bit. With ten pounds and something to truly smile about, she might have been pretty. She looked like she needed a bath.

Clyde held out his hand. She came around the mattress and took it. He put an arm around her waist.

The one called Stone crawled on top of the girl on the mattress.

She still did not move.

Brian could see now that her eyes were actually only half-closed and her eyeballs were partly visible. They looked as cool and expressionless as marbles.

Stone took hold of his sudden erection and put it in her.

She still did not move.

Stone began to grunt.

Loony Tunes laughed.

She still did not move.

"Come on," Clyde said to Brian, "the next room."

So they went out of there, the big-eyed girl sandwiched between them.


There was a small mattress in the closet in the next room, and Clyde, feeling his way around in the dark with experienced ease, pulled it out. He said, "Keeping in practice for when I quit paying the light bill, learning to be a bat."

"I see," Brian said. The girl leaned against him. She muttered something once, but it made no sense. She was so high on nose candy and cheap wine she didn't know where she was or who she was. She smelled like mildewed laundry.

After Clyde had tossed the mattress on the floor, he took his clothes off, called them over. The girl leaned on Brian all the way across the room.

When they were standing in front of Clyde, he said, "This is the big-titted thirteen-year-old I told you about. Looks older, don't she?" But he didn't wait for Brian to answer. He said loudly to the girl, "Come here."

She crawled on the mattress. Brian took his clothes off. They all lay down together. The mattress smelled of dirt, wine and sweat.

And that night Brian and Clyde had the thirteen-year-old, and later, when Brian tried to think back on the mo­ment, he would not be able to remember her face, only that she was blonde, had massive breasts and dark eyes like pools of fresh-perked coffee, pools that went down and down into her head like wet tunnels to eternity.

She was so high they could have poked her with knives and she would not have felt it. She was just responding in automaton fashion. Clyde had it in her ass and Brian had it in her mouth, and they were pumping in unison, the smell of their exertion mingling with hers, filling the room.

The girl was slobbering and choking on Brian's penis and he was ramming it harder and harder into her mouth, and he could feel her teeth scraping his flesh, making his cock bleed, and it seemed to him that he was extending all the way down her throat, all the way through her, and that the head of his penis was touching Clyde's and Clyde's penis was like the finger of God giving life to the clay form of Adam, and that he was Adam, and he was receiv­ing that spark from the Holy On High, and for the power and the glory he was grateful; made him think of the Frankenstein monster and how it must have felt when its creator threw the switch and drove the power of the storm through its body and above the roll of the thunder and the crackling flash of lighting Dr. Frankenstein yelled at the top of his lungs, "It's alive!"

Then he and Clyde came in white-hot-atomic-blast uni­son and in Brian's mind it was the explosive ending of the old world and the Big Bang creation of the new.

Only the sound of panting now, the pleasant sensation of his organ draining into the blonde's mouth.

Clyde reached out and touched Brian's hand, squeezed his fingers, and Clyde's touch was as cold and clammy as the hand of death.


Clyde drove Brian home. Brian stole silently into the house and climbed the stairs. Once in his room he went to the window to look out. He could hear Clyde's '66 Chevy in the distance, and though it was a bright night and he could see real far, he could not see as far as Clyde had gone.


And later:

back at The House the girl Clyde and Brian had shared would start to wail and fight invisible harpies in her head, and Clyde would take her to the basement for a little swim. The body of the girl on the mattress would follow suit. Neither managed much swimming;

and there would be a series of unprecedented robberies that night all over the city;

and in a little quiet house near Galveston Bay, an Eagle Scout and honor student would kill his father and rape his mother;

and an on-duty policeman with a fine family and plenty of promotion to look forward to would pull over to the curb on a dark street and put his service revolver in his mouth and pull the trigger, coating the back windshield with brains, blood and clinging skull shrapnel;

and a nice meek housewife in a comfortable house by Sea Arama would take a carving knife to her husband's neck while he slept; would tell police later that it was because he said he didn't like the way she'd made the roast that night, which was ridiculous since he'd liked it fixed exactly that same way the week before.


All in all, it was a strange night in Galveston, Texas. A lot of dogs howled.



"Boys Will Be Boys" was originally published in 1985 in Hardboiled #3, and was later incorporated into Joe's novel The Nightrunners. It also appeared—as a short story—in By Bizarre Hands, a collection published by Avon Books. "Boys Will Be Boys" 1985 Joe R. Lansdale. All rights reserved.


You head on back here next Thursday, July 24, and we'll give ya something else to howl about.