He used a cherry ChapStick to protect his lips, and some boys said it left a
mark down there when he'd finished. Like peeling the scab from a cut, they
joked, if you went back enough times, there was the chance you'd stay marked.
He'd tried other flavors, but the cherry was the strongest, and it covered up
the smell of them which was damp and yeasty and so strong it sometimes overcame
There were never more than two or three of them in the old locker room and
none came every week. Few came without skipping two weeks between. He would take
them one at a time on Wednesday afternoons in an inoperative shower stall, the
walls of which were brick instead of greasy cinder block like those in the
modern addition. It hadn't always been him, but whoever it was, it had always
been here. The graffiti attested to it. DICK, it said in big
letters on the wall, a penis-shaped arrow pointing down into an open mouth. When
he'd first started, they'd called him "Dick," though his real name was
Before this, he'd found other ways to make friends. He'd started in sixth
grade with packs of gum, the cheap brands in short-lived flavors like orange and
watermelon that the better companies stayed away from. After this there was the
digital watch that played parts of three songs. Then handheld electronic games.
Then toothpicks (cinnamon, mint, anise) flavored by soaking overnight in oil
extracts. Later it was pills and pot, but by eighth grade, everyone knew where
else to get these and Greg didn't have enough to compete with the dealers
He wasn't scangy. He never wore shorts, like Kevin or some of the other faggy
boys for whom the shortest shorts were both a competition sport and an insider's
code. He didn't carry his books clutched to his chest, eat lunch with a table
full of giggling girls, or wear argyle socks. To get a reputation you had to be
outlandish-obvious-and this was something he told himself he was not.
But by spring, the ChapStick started to stain, and though it was Greg's lips
that were unnaturally red, people began calling him "Rudolph."
A boy, a regular down in the old locker room, sang as they chose relay teams,
"Rudolph the red-nosed fairy." Other boys joined in and
the words bounced around the gymnasium like a handball.
The school was on the inland side of a suburb of LA, a bike ride away from
where Greg lived. His house was somewhat closer to the ocean, and Christopher
Isherwood had once lived in a nearby bungalow up a number of steps and actually
overlooking the water. Gregor and his "brother" had been long ago
adopted by a woman with strong views about hands-off parenting. It wasn't that
she didn't care for the boys, but her house was always peopled with one or
another transient friend. There for a week or a month between living
arrangements, these men were not incredibly demanding, but they further
disassembled the structure of family relations, leaving the boys much to their
own accord. It was experimental living. Greg often told people that Agnes
was his older sister.
They lived in a geodesic dome made of panes of octagonal glass. Agnes had
bought the house cheap from the hippies who'd built it, fleeing, they said, a
vision of encroaching development. Rimmed with metal pipes full of saltwater,
the glass let light in during the day, and the water was supposed to hold heat
during the cold coastal night. Some of the pipes had calcified, the panes
cracked. Her houseguests complained the house was often drafty, but it actually
worked remarkably well. And there was always the beauty of the glass, cut so
that instead of magnifying, it diffracted the sun, casting tiny rainbows on the
brush-cut lawn. It meant little privacy, especially at night. But there were no
neighbors, which is part of what gave her the prerogative to build a family here
in the first place.
Every spring, going back so far he remembered the early ones only from
pictures, Greg's mother had a beach party. It was always in a semiprivate
section near the end of the beach, an area locked in by cliffs and trees.
Because she was unclear about specific birthdays, it was at these affairs that
Greg and his brother were offered their annual gifts. Long before she'd bought
the glass house, Agnes had mediated between a group of drag queens and childless
lesbian couples who wanted their sperm. These men, in their rotating stints as
her houseguests, had acted as a kind of serial parent to Greg and his brother
(their biological parents having been lost in the late sixties); a second
mother, they were fond of calling themselves both individually and
collectively. They would all come out for the picnics and they smiled on Greg
and his brother with affinity. Even the ones who objected to children gushed
comments to Agnes about nurturing and community.
Either because they identified with this notion of "family" or in
some underhanded way wanted to comment on or counteract it, these men gave Greg
two kinds of inappropriate presents. The first consisted of things like
pornographic male pinup calendars or poppers inhalers. The other kind of gift
was somewhat more insidious: bowie knives with self-locking features, books
about Corvettes, or even things that would embarrass normal boys two years
younger, like plastic swords and shields, or army men.
The day he was to turn fourteen, Greg sat with his brother on the sand in the
organdy sun and got tan.
"Hey, Rudolph." His brother pointed at a shadow on the surface of
the ocean. He licked his fingers and pinched out the end of a joint.
Greg leaned up on his elbow, then laughed at himself for responding. Though
he'd told him about the old locker room weeks ago, his brother had heard this
new nickname only last night.
He stared where his brother had pointed. There was an otter there. "Do
you think they made us this way?" When they were alone together, in the
silences, this was the question that often ran through Greg's mind.
"You mean with this?" His brother gestured to indicate the whole
scene. "None of them grew up in families like this."
Five years back, lying probably in this same spot, Greg and his brother had
cut their thumbs with a piece of sea glass and pressed them together swearing
away the secrets in their lives.
"Do you think what I'm doing . . . at school? Do you think it could hurt
"Maybe? Yeah." He gave Gregor time to respond and when he didn't,
he leaned back and looked away, up at the sun for a long time without shielding
his eyes. "But I guess . . . you should be doing what you want. At our age,
doing what you want can't be bad."
Sand fleas hatched out of the damp beach around them. They jumped, one at a
time, like surprises, from the wet-packed sand toward shore, spreading out as
they encountered decaying plants or starfish.
"Are we going to have to move? Get to move?"
Though Agnes had not yet addressed it, Greg had seen a notice in the paper
that the property bordering theirs had been sold. He'd saved the clipping and
kept it pressed in a Hardy Boys mystery under his bed.
His brother didn't answer.
They each received only one present that day, and Greg's came first. Before
he'd touched what was inside, he thought the gift was something waterproof, made
of colored vinyl. When he picked it up, he realized it was only wrapped in tight
plastic, and when this was off, he discovered the shirt inside was damp on the
sleeves and along the ribs.
There was an iron-on decal of Farrah Fawcett Majors covering the front, and
on this, water beaded. Having been in the box and in the shade, the shirt was
cooler than his skin. Greg held it to his chest.
"Imagine that," said one man.
The T-shirt was a faded red, almost the pink of a washed-out tie-dye. And
though it was not the first time Greg had seen a photo like this, it was the
first time he had seen this photo. It was of Farrah wearing a red one-piece, and
Greg was drawn at once from her wet, toothy smile to her hands, wrinkled and
painted. Her loopy autograph was down in the corner, lending authenticity and
her alleged approval to the image.
"It's Farrah," a man said. "She's on TV, but that's her real
Once the party caravaned back to the house the boys holed up in their room.
The cocktail hour extended through sundown.
Greg's brother shrugged at him. "What are you trying to prove with
that?" He placed his palm flat on the front of Greg's shirt. Though it came
across like an accusation, Greg knew this was only a direct question. His
brother had a complete system of meaning attached to the things he wore on his
body: the fur hat, the pants that erred in the size of their flare to a grand
degree in both directions.
Greg pulled back. "Who says I'm trying to prove anything?"
His brother slid his bathing suit off and slowly eased into a pair of briefs.
"What about when people look at you?"
Their mirror was cheap and it bowed as Greg rubbed a spot out of it. He made
fists with his hands and curled his toes in under his feet as he looked in the
mirror. He felt he was in possession of the cue that would spring some terrible
Neither Uncle Max nor Agnes said anything about the shirt when Greg wore it
the next morning at breakfast. Max nodded with affinity (I see you like that
gift.), his mother, knowingly (This too will pass.). Max coughed his
persistent hacking cough and rubbed at swollen glands as he funneled coffee into
a thermos for their drive toward LA. Agnes swallowed a couple of pills Greg knew
not to be vitamins.
He kept a plaid shirt snapped up high over the tee for the first few hours of
the school day. He had seen kids embarrassed over less: wearing blue nail
polish, or a halter top, or roller skates, and having nothing to change into.
Waiting his turn in the guidance counselor's office, he'd heard kids calling
home sick on days like this. He wanted to ensure himself options.
After lunch, he tied the plaid shirt around his waist. Hands in pockets, Greg
held tight to his thighs as he walked through the crowds between classes. Though
he worked for every step to look normal, he could feel in his movements a
deliberate confidence. It was similar to the time he'd marched with his extended
family in LA's first Gay Pride parade. A kind of excited power, conditioned by
Seeing only his bobbing head in the distance, two boys called Rudolph in
unison and then sang, Won't you guide my sleigh tonight. Each clutched a
hand around his crotch and made antlers on top of his head with the other. Some
kids nearby shrieked with laughter. How'd your lips get so red? What's that
lipstick for kissing?
Greg straightened, his facial muscles tensing painfully as they approached.
When they were close enough to scan the image on his shirt, he watched their
features carefully and rejoiced in the puzzle of their expressions. She's
almost nude, they were thinking. They glanced quickly up to his face. The
boys moved their tongues around inside their closed mouths as if checking their
teeth for sore spots or bits of food. One stomped his foot. Greg's mind played,
in slow motion, the delicate flounce in Uncle Miguel's step when he walked in
Many didn't recognize Farrah that first day. Some were too young to be
allowed up late enough to have seen her on Charlie's Angels. Some-because
they lived in a valley beyond the city's first ring of mountains-didn't even get
that station. But they all noted her framing, her celebrity, and because of the
unabashed way she looked back at them, they knew better than to ask.
In gym, Greg left the shirt on and finished that day's run alone in the
middle of the pack. The gym teacher required the boys to strip nude and shower
after running. They had to stand in line for towels, and their wet fingers bled
ink down the roll list as they pointed out their names. Greg hoped the boy Jason
(whose last name was before his) would blur for him, and he backed out of the
locker room once the steam and the towel snapping started.
He hitchhiked, catching a ride with a skinny truck driver who leered and
asked, "You got a girlfriend?" and with a man in a sedan who had Greg
search the glove box (full of porno mags) for a gas station receipt.
"Expense account," the man said.
At the mall, Greg bought six more Farrah shirts at a free-standing shop near
the food court; five new colors and a second in pink. He had the name FARRAH ironed
on the back of each shirt, styled in an arc like the letters on a player's
The shirts smelled of heated plastic, like unloading a dishwasher full of
Tupperware. Greg carried them, tied and boxed like dry cleaning, in a shopping
bag. He ran into his brother at the chili-fry stand and caught a ride home with
his brother's disaffected friend Stanley, a gaunt Chinese boy with grayish skin
and spiky hair. Stanley wore an earring and didn't go to school.
Greg's brother intuited what was in the bag. "Pretty brave," he
The compliment, however vague, meant a lot to Greg.
"Hope the principal doesn't strip those off you." Stanley had
obviously been briefed on the situation (another compliment). Though up to this
point, Greg hadn't been concerned about the principal.
He wore the baby blue Farrah shirt the next day and as he parked his bike
around the front of the school near the flagpole, he glanced from side to side.
He was too late, but out of habit more than hope he scanned the terra-cotta
plaza for a few stragglers from fast-food breakfasts or getting high to help
shield him a bit as he walked inside.
The principal's office was opposite the front door, and the boys in the
morning detention group pressed their faces to the glass and stared as Gregor
walked in. Their eyes were full of the kind of dangerous awe that adolescent
boys usually reserve for girls who develop early. Strangely, Greg knew this
stare. They looked right at his chest, and right at his crotch.
Unable to forge the composure needed to leave, he was reminded of the instant
of embarrassment he felt meeting eyes (in the gym showers, in the halls) with
boys he'd sucked off in the old locker room: can't wave, can't run.
A secretary stepped out of the office, and Greg turned to look at her.
Because the school's doors hung on very strong springs, the door jerked toward
closed quickly at first, then extremely slowly.
One of the detention boys cupped his hands around his mouth. He and the two
boys nearest him were half standing out of their chairs. "Farrah!" he
said. "Hey! Far-rah!" And then, because he couldn't whistle, he
howled, "Whoo-whooo." As the door closed, the other boys screamed in
hysterics, and just before it clicked shut, another boy started, Far . . . but
Above the sound of his pulse ringing through his ears, Greg heard the first
call, and began walking. And he imagined that the second boy had stopped short
when he saw on Greg's back, in big letters, the very name he was prompting to
call out. And Gregor imagined the boy's panic at having even said that much.
On his approach home that afternoon, Greg saw a pair of surveyors tracking
the far side of the property adjacent to his. More than a quarter mile away, a
solitary man walked the road edge. He was pushing a hand truck which clicked
(out of sync with Greg's bike's hub) with each rotation. As Greg pedaled closer
to where the property bordered his own, he saw two more men pounding stakes into
the dirt. They were running blue and yellow wire alongside the edge of his lawn,
marking where it met with the overgrowth next door. A man carrying a clipboard
walked right behind Greg's house, so close that Greg thought he saw the man drag
his finger across the glass.
Agnes was sitting in a square armchair near the middle of the house's main
room. She had half a glass of water in her hand, a sure sign she had just taken
something. Greg asked who had bought the land. Starting with her index fingers
together, she drew in the air a shape like home plate: a triangle with a square
"Developers?" Greg asked. "Where are they going to
Agnes pointed straight out, a path which, if followed through walls, led
right through his bedroom. "The people that are moving out here now."
She shook her head. "They don't want to live near any blacks or Mexicans,
let alone drag queens."
"Watch it!" Max called from the kitchen.
"It's likely to cause a riot."
Max made the Black Power salute.
"We'll all get taken away from each other. The man with the clipboard?
He asked questions. He snooped. Relation of residents?" She imitated
the man's smug voice. "Max was here." She indicated the kitchen as if
this was the first time she'd remembered he was there. "Jesus. Neighborhood
makeup. Property values."
Greg waited for Max's makeup quip, but he didn't make one. He felt a rush of
panic. "So we're moving?"
His mother made no response.
Greg passed through the weekend in the way one speeds by a truck on a
rain-swept highway, at once reckless and cautious. He had cut out early from
school all week, holding on to an unspecified concern about what might happen at
the end of the day.
He washed the shirts on Sunday afternoon and hung them in the corners of his
yard to dry while he lounged on the back patio. He hadn't eaten all day, and in
the hot sun, shirtless, he became intermittently possessed by the feeling that
he had gained magic and could move things with his mind. A front-end loader
gouged away at the far end of the lot next door. Greg attempted to turn off its
droning engine by grinding his teeth together painfully.
"What you doing, little boy?"
Greg had drifted off to sleep and was awakened by one of the construction
workers who'd crossed into his yard.
"This is a weird house. Your family build it?"
Greg blinked, his eyes still adjusting to the bright sun.
"Didn't mean to scare you," the man said. His shirt was off and his
sinewy body was covered in sweat. He was scrawny, kind of young for the crew,
and his pants hung low on his hips.
Greg watched as he left. The drying shirts, scattered around the yard,
reminded him of a photo of Antarctica he'd seen in his social studies textbook.
The flags of eight or twelve countries ringed the research compound there, a
treaty holding them in place. Antarctica is a continent but not its own
country, read the text.
His new nickname made its way through the student body. By the middle of the
second week, he was called "Farrah" more often than
"Rudolph." But there seemed to be a shrinking concentration of people
willing to deride him. Greg hoped they wouldn't hurt him. Uncle Salvador said
people won't hurt what they won't touch, and though he could almost feel their
stares sometimes, so far no one had touched the shirt.
Some students steered clear of him entirely, whispering at his back. Greg was
somehow reassured by them. He thought about the boy Kurt Catallo who had so
insistently worn a dark suit and straw hat every day that no matter how they
protested, people were left with no choice but to accept it.
Around lunchtime, when the crowds were most fierce, Greg hid between stacks
in the library. He tore pages from bound periodicals and sailed them behind the
shelves. Because it met only twice a week, he flat out skipped gym.
Alongside two vaguely familiar faces, there was a pair of anxious boys
waiting when Greg returned to his spot in the old locker room. These new boys
straggled on the dark benches, repeatedly rinsing their hands in the enamel
sinks, wiping their palms on their pants.
The boys took their turns as if there were something owed them. One at a time
they walked into the far corner of the stall. The tiles there smelled like a
mixture of mildew and bleach; somewhere between clean and dirty.
Feeling they had no audience to embarrass them, these boys whispered and
moaned while it was their turn. In time with one boy's heavy breathing, Greg
felt the surprise touch of a hand passing repeatedly through his hair, sometimes
catching harshly on knots. Another boy pulled back and leaned down for a deep
open-mouth kiss. "Tell anyone and I'll cut you," he whispered
as they separated. Those waiting, murmured. And as Greg finished and readied
himself to leave, another boy came down and had to be turned away.
Rivalries, even fistfights had started over ownership of less noteworthy
items: switchblade combs, novelty pens. But even as her popularity increased,
not one other person came to school with a Farrah shirt. There was no club
organized to oppose them (unlike the kids who carried gold membership cards in a
group encouraging the abolition of disco music). And no doubt by this time the
shirts had been offered as birthday gifts from aunts or teenage cousins.
The work in the lots next door became more persistent, sometimes continuing
late into the night. Greg and his brother had explored the foundations of the
houses being built and noted, slipping on mud and the remains of uprooted trees,
how close together they were being dug. Sometimes at night they spoke in loud
whispers about the possible dangers and changes that might take place in their
lives once the development was complete. What if mean kids move in? People
who voted Reagan for Governor?
Greg was kept awake by the light and the noise of the construction team the
night they routed out the holes for sink drains. His brother had fallen asleep
an hour before. He hugged himself around the shoulders and shook with the kind
of anxious thoughts that often led to bad dreams.
He didn't dare wake his brother. Trying to remain in shadows, he snuck into
his mother's end of the house. Her sleep was precious and she had never been the
type to let the boys crawl in with her after nightmares. Gregor opened the
medicine cabinet in her bathroom, holding the door along the edge so as not to
smudge the mirror. A tiny light went on illuminating the rows of pill bottles.
He searched for a prescription he'd heard his uncles discussing. It was for
something else, but it had the side effect of producing a feeling not of
euphoria, but of disinterest. Greg had difficulty matching the sound of the
drug's name to any of the spellings on the labels. Off the damp enamel lid of
the toilet, he emptied and snorted the powder from two blue capsules. He placed
the empty casings on his palm, planning to carry them carefully to the kitchen
and refill them with some odd powder like cream of tartar. But as he held them,
the gelatin wilted and began to dissolve in the sweat on his palm. Soaking in,
they left nothing but a slick little stain.
Almost immediately, Greg began to be seized by a tickling feeling that crept
up his spine.
The carpeting in his mother's bedroom felt deep under his feet. "I'm
radical. Pill-popper," he whispered to himself. He saw endless series of
the colored spots that appear when you stop rubbing your eyes. He added a swing
to his hips as he came out into the hall and imagined himself strolling through
the bright shuddering lights of a disco. "Come on down/To 54," he
whispered like he'd heard in a song. He padded around the house, dancing
silently, and each time he stopped, he concentrated on the muscles in his back.
They felt as if someone were gathering them into slipknots.
At school, a straggler held the door open for Greg the next morning.
"Hey, Farrah," he said. The detention group had already been dismissed
to first period.
Greg had taken two more pills that morning and their effects strangely
relaxed his sense of panic.
"I said, hey."
Greg nodded, Hi. The boy released the door and smoothly offered his hand to
shake, catching the door at the end just before it closed. Greg recognized him
as a high-on called Martin. He had a gentle smile and a deep slur to his speech
that was almost like an accent, though Greg knew he wasn't foreign.
The boy followed Greg inside, and they walked laps silently around the
school's halls. It often surprised Greg how few people walked around during
classes. There was a camaraderie that developed immediately upon meeting another
person, you almost had to smile, you felt like you were getting away with
something. Greg turned his head a few times as they circled and the boy Martin
always turned at the same time as if their stoned thoughts could read each
other. Greg could hear the murmurings of teachers and students behind closed
classroom doors and he murmured back, unwittingly imitating their tones and
A door latch clicked. Greg whispered quickly, "Careful," and like
being awakened by your own sleep-talking voice, he was surprised he'd been the
one who'd said it.
They fell asleep head to head between the stacks in the library, their
fingers almost touching. Greg woke just before fifth period ended and Martin was
gone. There was a piece of paper in his hand, but Greg's thoughts were even
fuzzier after his rest, and he found himself unable to investigate it fully. He
ran his empty hand down the front of his shirt as he stood, smoothing the spots
where, warmed by his sleeping body, the decal had stuck to itself. There seemed
to be a cognitive lag between touch and sensation, and Greg marveled at the
sense of phantom hands tracing his chest.
He started toward the lunchroom in hope of being first in line to buy snacks
and chips, but he quickly lost track of this plan and wandered down the halls
holding the old hall pass so loosely that he had to keep stopping to check it
was still there.
Greg was lured by the fuzzy mumble of the Drama Club's projection exercises.
He leaned against the auditorium door and looked through the thin window,
watching the students puff out their chests or hunch their shoulders in response
to the teacher's strange hand signals. His feet shuffled around as if he were
walking on hot sand. Trying to keep his balance, he righted his knees, only to
have them slip and unlock again. The lunch bell rang.
He barely had time to take his first running step. The opening door struck
the back of his head just above the divot where the base of his neck met his
skull. Before he felt his body being thrown, Greg felt his brain slosh forward.
It pressed behind his eyes creating incredible pressure, then snapped back on
its tendrils, its fluid mounts shaken and disturbed.
Greg recalled the times he'd been sent flying before: off his bike when a
broom handle was thrust in the moving spokes; across his room (over the bed)
during some ambitious wrestling with his brother; through a hoop and into the
ocean, hurled by the uncles on a long-ago spring picnic.
Besides the sensation of effortless traveling, from this flight he remembered
only that his tear ducts went dry.
He landed on his stomach, his eyes level with the dusty bottom shelf of the
school's athletic trophy case, the back of which was mirrored. The engravings on
the trophies' bases were blurred smooth, and the gold trophies themselves seemed
to rotate ghost-like. Greg noted the feet of a crowd gathering behind him. Like
a crush before a fight, they pressed together and careened to get a better view.
Someone called out, Haii-yaah, and kicked in the front of the trophy
case. Smooth squares of safety glass fell around Greg's sides and back.
Roll him over. Let's see it.
Greg faded conveniently in and out of consciousness. Two boys used marching
band flags to roll him on his back and his face banged on the tiles as they
prodded. Once on his back, the overhead lighting strained his pupils even
through his eyelids, and Greg imagined that the fluorescent bulbs would burn
Farrah's image onto his chest the way a photo negative prints when exposed to
bursts of light.
Someone ran the helmet end of a long football trophy back and forth across
his front, pressing flat the decal on the shirt .
Look at it. Look at her. Sexy. They touched the trophy's tip to
different parts of Farrah's body.
He's batting his eyes at us. Flutter, flutter, butterfly.
They worked up the front of the shirt, exposing Greg's stomach and the band
of his underpants. They crept the trophy up higher, sweeping the end across his
chest, pressing down in places (on his sternum, near his nipple, on the lymph
gland under his arm). No one forced the trophy into any place they couldn't see.
The doctor instructed Greg to stay awake and gave him pills to keep him up as
well as an injection to dull the pain. By the time the assistant principal had
arrived, most of the crowd had dispersed and Greg was left with a concussion and
some serious bruising in and around his groin and chest. In the guidance
counselor's office, so they told him, he'd been euphoric, wanting to walk on the
desktops and insistent on being taken back to the scene to pick up flowers
dropped in tribute. On the ride back from the hospital, Greg focused on the hum
and clang of the condo construction which seemed to be taking place on every
ridge they passed.
It was dusk when they got home. Greg and his brother shared a joint in their
room. The house was strangely empty; none of the uncles were around to poke
their heads in and check the progress of things. Greg modeled his shirt in front
of the mirror as the bright lights of the construction crew threw crazy rainbows
through the ceiling. He assumed various poses, pulling the shirt or his
underwear tight over his body, studying the effects-the creases, ropy outlines
"Do you think?" He exhaled and took another drag on the joint. His
jaw ached from the fall. "Did they make us this way?"
His brother lay on the bed, eyes opening and closing, sometimes watching Greg
intently. "Didn't you just ask me that?"
Greg didn't answer.
"I heard a joke today." His brother sat up. "A man gets
arrested and the arresting officer . . ."
"I think I've heard it."
"Let me finish. The cop reads him his rights. You have the right to
remain silent. Anything you say will be held against you. The man blurts
out, Farrah Fawcett Majors! Farrah Fawcett Majors!" His brother
Greg spun around. He pulled Farrah's image wide across his chest. "Do
you think she's beautiful?"
His brother gestured at the shirt without looking. "That?
"Think where she could take me." Greg indicated toward something
larger, a future. Outside, the frame of the nearest house was being bolted full
of wall studs and cross bracing. Greg stared intently at it. Squinting, and
holding his finger straight out, he maneuvered about a quarter turn, tracing
precisely, as if with an instrument, the narrow arc of his foreseen scope.
His brother kept silent, stuck, as if in a kind of extreme agreement that
bordered on panic.