Thirteen days until What Boys Are Made Of is released, and the clock is ticking down. Last week I posted Chapter 1, told from Simon’s point of view. This week the perspective shifts to Erin in chapter 2.
Why multiple point of views? It’s a style I enjoy, showing people through the eyes of others. We don’t see people the same; what one person views as integrity, another sees as obnoxious moralizing. This person believes someone keeps their heart on their sleeve while that one finds the same person completely impenetrable. No two characters think alike, and the best way to show this is just to go inside someone’s head.
After all, this is a book about people: why they do what they do. Why they have to–even when it seems like they don’t.
You can read Chapter 1 here. Now, on to chapter 2!
The look, the lost look on Simon’s face when he comes through the back door: a thousand yards long and going nowhere at all. It shows, don’t it just? Yeah, I know what happened. Just because this ain’t the kind of town to bother about another body don’t change what’s going on in his head. Blood on his hands, blood on his heart.
I strip him down to his boxers right there in the kitchen, set his fight gear to soak in a tub while I set about stitching the cut on his chest. It’s maybe three inches below the collarbone, a clean wound at least, easy to pull back together. I smear on the numbing gel before I put the needle in, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t notice even without the gel, not with the way he is right now. I know shock when I see it.
He needs to wash the blood off, that’s the important part. He might never feel clean again, but stains of the soul shouldn’t show on the skin. I slap a sponge in his hand, and it’s like he’s eleven years old all over again, shown up in my backyard, digging through my compost heap for scraps as the peace treaties were being signed in Washington. Back then he was a foot shorter and hella skinnier, nothing but a war kid with no family to speak of. I dewormed him like a stray dog, cleaned him up and found that he shined underneath. A good kid. A sweet kid. And I kept him for my own.
And now the only sound in my kitchen is Simon behind the curtain in the corner, washing off blood into a basin careful-like so he don’t mess up the bandage, careful like he always is. I swear, it’s been five years since he came to me, but some days it’s been all my life.
Art stands in a corner and don’t say a word. Too late to say anything. Too late to take things back. Drones change course, but the bombs have already dropped. Ain’t nobody gonna come to arrest Simon, but that don’t make what happened right, and even Art understands that. He and I both have our share of bodies in our wake, but there’s killing because you have to, and there’s this.
Not that a little difference like that stopped Art from collecting the prize money, of course, grimy paper notes that dirty my kitchen table. That was the point of the fight after all. Art ain’t got principles, but he does have priorities.
An hour to opening time at my bar, Art finally gets the hint, slamming the back door behind him. From behind the curtain, Simon emerges with a damp shirt and blank stare. The table’s set with a plate of stew and a measure of cutthroat gin to cut the pain he’ll be feeling any minute now from those stitches.
The stitches, yeah. Inside his head, from his heart, from every bit of his soul that’s screaming out for what he’s done. I know, I know. Gotta numb that pain before it takes over.
“I’m going to hell,” he whispers.
We ain’t going down that path. “It was a fight.”
“But it weren’t supposed to be like…like this.”
His eyes, oh his eyes. Blue, so familiar in a million ways too many. My boy, my kid brother. My charge and ally against this harsh world.
I put my hands on my hips, wait for him to sputter to a stop. “What was it supposed to be like, exactly?”
“I…I don’t know. He just pulled a knife. Art and I had practiced––”
“Simon.” I stop him right there. “Now you listen, and you listen good. He pulled a knife?”
“And then you pulled one?”
“A baseball bat.”
“Jesus. Fine. A baseball bat.” Good God, Art, what have you done. Simon’s staring at his bowl like he’s waiting for the dead to rise, and I can’t tell him it ain’t his fault, but I can tell him why it don’t matter. “Point is—and you listen to me—point is, he pulled first. He upped the ante, not you. Do you understand?”
“I said, do you understand me?”
“But I walked into that fight. I touched his knuckles. And I—” He stops himself, runs his fingers through his hair as the sunset catches on it so it shines red like the blood I wiped from his face. The gin disappears in one shuddering gulp. Simon, boy-o, I won’t tell no one if you cry, I swear I won’t.
But men don’t cry, and Simon ain’t a boy no more. You don’t get to kill people and stay a child, not even in this town.
Especially in this town.
“I’m going to hell.”
“No more than the rest of us.” On the other side of Buchell a bell begins to ring. Five o’clock. Just another night in a town what don’t care about another body, so long as it don’t block the door to the bar. “C’mon, Simon, it’s opening time. Let’s get this place moving.”
What Boys Are Made Of is due out on March 15th, 2016. You can put it on your to-read list on Goodreads here, where you can enter a contest to win one of two signed paperback copies.
You can also make sure you know the minute the book is available for purchase by connecting with me on Twitter here.
See you next week with the final preview, chapter 3!
Copyright © 2016 by S. Hunter Nisbet
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.