December 07, 2005

Novel Excerpt: Playing War

I used to play war behind my house with my GI Joe action figures. I would leap from rock to rock on the landscaped trail my parents built to decorate our farmhouse—I dashed quickly for battle scenes and slowly for dialogue. I was the narrator, good soldiers, bad soldiers, vehicles, weapons and sound effects all rolled into one. One day I tripped while playing a particularly violent campaign and bounced my skinny body off a rock. I lay there, sucking air and whispering, “Damn! Damn! Damn!” because I was still too scared of god to swear out loud. In the fall, my best GI Joe had snapped in half. His torso and legs were connected by the flimsiest of rubber bands and when that broke, it left me with a torso, a pelvis, and two separated, ball-screw legs.

Lying flat on my back and wheezing, I thought about Rachel, the girl who sat in front of me in the Band flute section. I was convinced she would drive past my house with a carload of her friends and somebody would say, “Isn’t that Jason Boog playing with those toys over there?” and Rachel would laugh and zoom away forever inside this car she was inexplicably driving even though both of us were in eighth grade. I felt trapped, wanting my toy wars even though I was too old for GI Joes. Even so, I put them away that same night and started writing private detective stories instead.

The only thing I was ever good at was writing stories.

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