To scare them straight, the men—
threatened to show the boys where they would land if cops or death didn’t catch them first. Stank. Drove a car that stank like them: like liquor, gin, and moth balls in a gym.
squirmed on hot upholstery till the car, stifling, stopped at a light. Darted across three lanes. Rushed through IHOP. Puzzled coworkers. Spilled their story to said coworkers.
welcomed the boys to stay. Speculated: maybe the men were just into their roles. Spotted, over video surveillance, the men come in.
greeted the men.
asked, “Where them boys?” Threatened to kill they little asses.
sent the men next door, to McDonald’s, after agreeing that, yes, killing them boys is a good idea. Returned to the boys a minute later. His bald head burned red. Had just come out of jail. Promised the boys he’d kill the men should they return. Was backed by a server, a skinny teen mom, moonlighting as a stripper and a coke dealer, who—
stayed all night. Ordered ecstasy, for the “stress,” the “trauma,” the effects of men trying to kill them. Sat chain smoking in the smoking section till dawn, repeating the story about the men to whomever.
Coddled us. Left us stunted—
our boyhoods extended.
Bernard Grant lives in Washington State. He is an MFA candidate at the Rainier Writing Workshop, and his work appears or is forthcoming in Blue Lyra Review, Barely South Review, and Gravel.