Phil Duncan is a graduate of Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing program and the University of Washington’s English program. He is a former Jacob K. Javits Fellow and recently served as a Creator-in-Residence at the Tokyo Wonder Site — Aoyama in Tokyo, Japan. His short fiction has been published both in print and online. Wax is a young-adult novel published by RainTown Press in Portland, OR where Phil currently lives.
With a tag line like “Dead: It’s the new alive,” you know you’re in for a wild ride. Excerpt from Wax by Phil Duncan. © 2012 by Phil Duncan.
Unsuccessful in their first attempt at danger, Yancey and Russell decided to up the stakes.
“Ready when you are,” Russell called out. He sat in the driver’s seat of his mother’s pink Cadillac with the dog—who they had started calling Big Kitty due to his tendency to purr—riding shotgun. The rose-colored car idled in the middle of a desolate street on the outskirts of Effington.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Yancey was standing on a skateboard and holding on to a ski rope Russell had fastened to the chrome bumper of the car.
“Sure. I’m only eight months away from getting my learner’s permit.” Russell buckled his seat belt, and then fastened the one he’d pulled across Big Kitty. “Here we go!” he called out as he put the car in gear.
“Actually, I’m starting to rethink this,” Yancey responded. But he was too late; Russell had already mashed his foot down on the accelerator, causing the car to lurch forward like a big, pink missile. Before Yancey could position himself, the skateboard shot out from under his feet. As the rope went taut, Yancey considered letting go—but before he had time to make this decision, he was being dragged over the pavement, swallowing chunks of asphalt along the way.
“Yee haw!” bellowed Russell, neglecting to look in the rear-view mirror as he drove the Cadillac haphazardly along the road. Big Kitty barked along in encouragement.
Meanwhile, Yancey was thrown around behind the car, bouncing in and out of ditches and tumbling across the road’s surface. He finally managed to get his feet beneath him and, using his newfound speed, was able to keep pace behind the car.
By the time Russell had turned to check on his friend, Yancey, face caked with dirt and imbedded gravel, was running alongside the speeding Cadillac just beside the driver’s side window.
“Your turn,” Yancey growled as Russell screeched to a stop.
With the night still young and plenty more to accomplish, Yancey, Russell, and Big Kitty drove to Effington High’s football field.
“So what’s the quintessential thing that you’re not supposed to do?” Russell asked as the three made their way across the dark field to the fifty-yard line.
“Besides taunt a junkyard dog and get dragged behind a car?”
“Yes, besides those.”
Before Yancey wagered another guess, Russell produced a pair of scissors and a baseball bat. “Let’s try out a new spin on an old classic.”
Yancey placed his forehead on the end of the bat and began spinning around wildly in a circle. He stopped after a few rotations. “This is pointless, I don’t get dizzy anymore.”
“I was afraid of that,” Russell said as he rubbed his chin. “That’s why I have a backup plan.”
“Why can’t you just tell me?” Yancey asked as he lined up at the goal line, scissors in hand.
“Because it’s a surprise.”
“I don’t like surprises.”
“Just shut up and close your eyes!” Russell called to him from ten yards away. “And then start running.”
Yancey obliged and started sprinting down the field. When Yancey reached him, Russell took the bat and swung ferociously at his kneecaps. On impact, he was launched into the air, before landing with a squish on the sharp end of the scissors.
“I will say this,” Yancey said, rolling off his stomach, his kneecaps audibly repairing themselves from the trauma. “You are very resourceful, Russell Katz.” He pulled the scissors’ blades from his stomach and watched as the wound sealed itself shut.
“Hold still,” Russell said as he steadied his bow. The two were continuing their evening of mayhem and had moved from the football field to an abandoned city park.
“I know that this won’t hurt,” Yancey said, precariously balancing an apple on his head. “But the anticipation is killing me.”
Big Kitty sat by Russell, shielding his eyes with his paws. Russell’s arms quivered as he struggled to nock the arrow. “Okay, now don’t move. One…two…three.”
“I think you need a bit more practice.”
It had taken most of Yancey’s strength to dislodge the arrow from his eye socket. His impaled brain repaired itself, sending a faint tingle throughout his body. He secretly hoped that it would also rejuvenate the memories he had lost in death, but just as Blankenship had predicted, it only regenerated itself to the place at which it had been restored. There were still blurry holes that could never be refilled.
As dawn approached, the three made their way back into the city. They walked by the town’s only French restaurant, Le Jardin, located in an old stone building adorned with a red-and-white striped awning.
“I’ve got an idea,” Yancey said as he took off around the building.
A moment later, he was standing on top of the three-story building looking down at Russell and Big Kitty. Somewhere in that time, he had managed to construct a makeshift cape out of a black plastic garbage sack.
“I always wanted to try the old Batman trick,” he yelled down to Russell.
“What old Batman trick?”
“You’ll see, Robin.”
“Don’t call me Robin!”
Yancey jumped from the building and began plummeting down toward the awning. However, instead of gracefully sliding down it and safely landing on his feet as he had envisioned, his body went right through the fabric as if it was made of wet toilet paper.
“I guess you can’t believe everything you see on TV,” Russell said as he helped peel his friend from the sidewalk. “Now what?”
Yancey thought for a moment. “Why don’t we go out to the lake?”
“No,” Russell said abruptly. He tried to soften his reaction. “It’s getting pretty late, and I have a plan for tomorrow that’s even better than everything we’ve done so far.”