Content warning: Drug and child abuse; homophobia.
Being a teenager is complicated. Being a lonely teenager trapped between the charybdis of behavior you know is wrong and the scylla of not wanting to be alone any longer is even more complicated.
“Are you a killer?” is the question the story opens up with, asked of the narrator by one of his classmates. It’s all too easy for that question to bring up thoughts of all the high school shooting incidents that populate recent US history, from Columbine on down. The story we’re always told about them is that it is the lonely, bullied outcasts who suddenly snap, grab a gun, and kill. But more and more we’ve been learning that that “story” is not true: It is the bullies, not the bullied, who tend to act so lethally. So when an insecure and lonely teen is asked, in this story, if he is a killer, the quiet voice that runs through my head is “This isn’t how things go.”
No, the narrator (whose name we never learn), isn’t a killer. That doesn’t mean his friend doesn’t end up worse than dead. This, like many of the other stories in this anthology, is not a pleasant story.