Chapter 1:

A Boy and His ****

A Boy and His ****

You know, it's funny.  Somehow I always knew I would end up kicking it on the can. Y’know, croaking on the throne. Eating it in the oval office. Departing this mortal plane on the ol’ dump chute before I’d even had the chance to reach down and barehand my ass clean, if you know what I mean. Dying on a ratty old shit-stinking fly-swarmed scuffed-up plastic porta-crapper, to put things euphemistically.

What? Don’t give me that look. Lifetime and counting of Mom’s rabbitgut salad firebombing your colon thrice a week and you’d think so too.

And you’d be right.

I just never figured that this was how it would all go down. My best friend in all the world, turned against me, gone feral, hungering for human flesh and bodyslamming into the dented blue grain of the barely hinged-on plastic door to get it, all as I sat here like a shitting — excuse me: sitting — duck with my pants around my ankles and my knees drumming together like thunder as I waited for the end.

But, well, what can I say? There I was. Already fucked 67 ways to Sunday and now about to be eaten alive on top of it all. Getting rocked back and forth in the cramped piss-reeking plastic portable toilet that was going to be my coffin. Inches away from sharp claws and sharper canines itching to rip the meat off my bones. Toilet paper — first I’d ever seen in my life, and last — tamped to the bottom of my wet boot and bare thighs quaking on a flimsy seat slathered in more diseases than a hooker’s tampon.

Yep. That was me. Living large and living fast. Dying fast too, in a minute, if I couldn’t find a way out, and quick.

To be honest though, I wasn’t trying to get out. After all, I was the one who’d locked myself in here to start with, for one purpose and one purpose alone. Truth be told, I didn’t really want to find a way out of this literal shitstain of a situation I’d gotten myself into. I mean, think about it. At some point each and every one of us has to get where we’re all going in the end. And somehow or another, I didn’t really much mind if now was my time.

As long as I got to go out doing what I’d always done best.

That might sound crazy. Maybe it is. Or maybe it’s not. I don’t know. How about this? I’ll tell you how things ended up the way they did. I’ll tell you everything, from the very beginning all the way to now. And then you tell me if I’m nuts or not. Cool?


To explain, I’m gonna have to start by going back. Way back. All the way back to when this all began.

All the way back to when me and Scratch left town.


The wasteland was hotter than Satan’s asscrack and drier than something really dry. My brain was too bleached to cook up a decent metaphor or comparison or whatever they’re called. At least back home there was shade. Out here there was nothing. Nothing as far as the eye could see. Nothing except the feeling of being baked alive. I felt like someone had screwed my skull off and was beaming sunlight directly down my fried throat. Me and Scratch had been going for hours now. At this point I was slogging on autopilot, dragging feet like sacks of rocks at the ends of legs that felt like they weighed a thousand pounds. Totally dehydrated, I’d stopped sweating hours ago. Now I was just sticky and salty all over and would’ve killed my best friend for a sip of water.

Scratch was walking next to me, paws padding the cracked earth. I looked down at him and instantly took it back. You’d have to give me a lot more than a sip of water to get me to even consider scrubbing Scratch out.

Yeah. Three sips maybe. Or two.

I licked my cracked, rubbery lips.

“You seem thirsty,” Scratch said without looking at me. His eyes were on the horizon, a hard straight line cutting blue from brown and spreading out wide to both sides, far as the eye could see. That was all there was to see around here, just the earth and the sky.

We weren’t even halfway there yet.

“I am thirsty, genius.”

“Why not drink some water then?”

My eyes globed. Why didn’t I think of that? Scratch really was a genius! Instantly I scrambled for the canteen slung to my pack, unscrewed the thing mid dangle, slammed the spout to my lips, and titled.

That wasn’t water in there. It was heaven.

“FWAAAAAAAAAA! That hit the spot!” I wiped my dribbly chin. There was a big wet splat on the ground. Pretty much half the water had spilled out my mouth, but I didn’t even care. I was back in action, baby. “Great idea, Scratch!”

Scratch was looking at me now.


He blinked. “Did you just…?”

“Just what?” I said, my head ticking to the side in confusion.

“Did you just…?” he repeated.

“Look. Scratch. I’m not a mind reader, ok? And you’re not psychic. If you have something on the brain, you’re gonna have to spit it out or else I’m not gonna know what the heck you’re think—”

“Spit it out?” His ears were twitching. His canine eyes seized.

“Yeah, or else how am I gonna kno—?”

Then he snapped. “You were the one who practically spit it out, you utter imbecile! You just drank half the water we had left and spilled the other half! You idiot! You dunce! You absolute moron! What are we going to drink now?!”

“Oh.” I looked at the dark patch on the ground, already halfway dry in the blistering sun. “Shit.”

“‘Shit’ my mongrel ass! This deserves a ‘fuck’ at least, and more like a ‘fuck you!’ How could you do this to me, man? Oh, god, we’re doomed, aren’t we? We’re gonna die out here, man!”

“L-look, Scratch, I-I’m sorry, alright?”

“Sorry isn’t gonna undrink all that water you just slugged back!” He started stepping towards me and I backed off, hands raised to show I didn’t want anything funny. He did, apparently. “Come here, you hydrated bastard! I’ll rip you open and drink the water right out of you! Hear me? You’re dead! Get back here, you moron!”

I screamed and ran and Scratch barked and ran after me and chased me and after a while we were both laughing and screaming and after another while we forgot why we were even running around to start with and collapsed on top of each other and laughed and laughed. We were tuckered out and panting like both of us were dogs instead of just one and we laughed some more and I swung my arm around Scratch and he licked my face with his dry tongue.


Before long we found a little oasis with a pond and one tree. We were lucky. We were usually lucky, me and Scratch. That was how we had survived up till now. I filled up our water and took off my shirt. Me and Scratch sat in the shade.

“Y’know, man,” Scratch said, “when we finally get back to town, I think I’m gonna hit up old Shell again.”

“Michelle?” I asked. “Your old lady?”

“Yeah, man. Old bitch.”

“Right. Bitch.” Proper term for a female dog. Scratch had taught me that. Scratch had taught me a lot of things. “Didn’t she dump you for some slick retriever?”


“Some purebred specimen from uptown?”


“Some rich, bourgeoisie” — that was another word I learned from Scratch — “fancy, cash-slinging, card-swiping, handsome, intelligen—”

“Yes, ok, yes. Stop rubbing it in, man.”


“It’s ok.”

We were quiet for a minute and then Scratch said, “She had a litter with him too, last I heard.”

“So what the hell?”

“What do you mean?” He looked at me. He was laying down with his front paws crossed and his head resting on top.

“Why go crawling back to her? What the hell is in it for you?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“That’s what I said. But I got to thinking lately. About how I feel about her, you know?”

Couldn’t say I did, but I didn’t say anything and just listened.

“I was thinking about how I feel about her, or if I still feel anything one way or another,” he continued. “And I realized something. I still do feel something about her, actually.”

“Which is what?”

“I think I still love her.”

Well that about sawed my scalp off. He loved her? Like loved loved her? What hell did he mean by that? I couldn’t make heads of it or tails, so I asked him.

“I don’t know, man. I just mean I still love her. That’s it.”

“Are you stupid? That’s stupid.”

He opened one eye. He’d had his eyes closed for a while now. It was just after midday and bright out. “You think so?”

“I think it’s most likely she hates your guts is what I think, you sap, that’s what I think,” I told him. “Pretty stupid,” I repeated. I leaned back against the tree and unsuctioned my goggles from my eyesockets and let them snap back onto my forehead. Way cooler to do it that way than to keep them hanging around my neck when they weren’t on my face. Plus, might as well let my eyes breathe as long as we weren’t moving and dust and sand wasn’t flying into them like I had a target painted on my damn pupils. I was smart like that. Not like Scratch. For all the big words and math and history and politics and whatever other crud he had swimming around inside his skull, he was still a big idiot. Still in love with her. With a lousy bitch who might as well have told him to bite rocks. God. Still in love. What a stupid thing to think.

“You’re just not thinking big picture, MD.”


He sat up. “That’s your problem, you know that?”

I spat and it actually came out wet now that I had some water in me. “What is?”

“The big picture, man. You gotta think big picture.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look at it this way, MD.”


“Here’s a question for you so that maybe you’ll see it my way.” I didn’t think that was gonna happen but I told him to shoot. “Is my love not my own? Does my love not belong to me? Does it belong to someone else?”

It was a weird question. “What’s that mean?”

“I’m asking if my love isn’t mine to give to whom I want to give it and when. Cause isn’t it?”

I thought. I was starting to see what he was getting at.

“Or,” he went on, “is it contingent upon the reciprocation of its object? See what I mean? Do I love something or someone only if and because they love me back? Or do I love them cause love is how I really feel about it? I’d like to think it’s the latter. Cause if it’s the former, then that ain’t love, man. I don’t know what that is. Selfishness, maybe.”

“So that’s why you’re gonna go crawling back to Shell?”

“Man, I’m not crawling back to anything. I’m not gonna shower her with affection or try to win her back or any mushy-feely crap like that or anything. I’m just gonna tell her how I feel, and that I feel it even if she doesn’t feel the same about me. And that’ll be that. After that I’ll probably never see her ever again. But I think it’s what I have to do. Think about it.”

It was something to think about alright. I guessed he was right. I mean I loved a lot of stuff. Games. Fireworks, when we could still find em. Clubbing windows in with Ted and them — I mean back when we were friends and there were still unbroken windows to club in. I also liked reading what I could find of old stories. All that stuff people wrote before the whole planet went to crud in a crapbucket. By now I had collected enough discarded loose pages out of garbage piles and put them all together in page-number order to have almost read an entire story all the way through. Though they were all from different books so it didn’t really make much sense in the end. Still, you get what you can get. But even more than that, more than anything else in the world, I loved… uh… well, there was something else I really loved more than anything, but I’ll explain that later when it’s more relevant. Suffice to say there was a lot I loved, and most of it didn’t depend on it loving me back. So yeah, it sure seemed like Scratch was on dollar here. Not like I was gonna admit it though.

“It’s still pretty stupid if you ask me.”

“Yeah, well.” He put his head down and closed his eyes again. “Oh well.” And he yawned like he was about to fall asleep and a few minutes later he did and a few minutes after that I did too.