I walk down the stairs of the basement to see the boys playing the pass out game again. “You meddling boys,” I say to them, all stringy skateboard hair and tee shirts reaching knees. My fingers wrap around the railing gently so as not to upset the arthritis in my knuckles. Our boys in the basement, soaking like mold, stowed away like secrets. They go in clockwise order, one heaving out, puffing quick bunny breaths, a fast and sweet huffhuffhuffhuffhuffhuff and then shooting upwards before the drop. The boys hoist him to the wall and his eyes go all butter creme. We love our boys. They speak a dead language when they start to come to, one only they understand, one that whirrs over the gentle warbling of the Goldeneye menu screen on the television in the back. A boy with hair like a theater curtain goes down, huffhuffhuffhuffhuffs and falls limp into the arms of his friends. When he catches himself waking up, he says “thawafukinawsom” and makes way so that another boy can have a go.
They find themselves wanting more. Bending deeper, huffing faster, rising quicker. One little stinker knocks out for an hour. We nearly called emergency services, but he rose up, blinked twice, and smiled a little shit grin. “Feeling good” he said with a lazy thumbs up. This was a ritual, a teenage baptism, how they gracefully held and dipped one another, watching their spirits rise and bodies drop. Another boy did a resurgent huffHUFFhuffHUFFhuffHUFF and drifted away for nearly three weeks. We took him to the hospital and they said he was just asleep. Child protective services came around and we showed ‘em to the basement. They said to take it easy. One boy passed out so long that we’d thought him a goner, had a funeral where everybody said sweet somethings and signed their names in the guestbook, and when they started to spill the dirt on his coffin he shot up like a weed asking what time dinner was.
“Why,” I asked the boys over grilled cheese, “do you keep playing this game?”
The boys all looked up with that same sparkled glimmer of goo in their eyes.
“Try it,” they said, motioning to their place on the wall. And they lowered me and then lifted me and I just kept going, just like that, until I was right there with them all in the clouds, wrapping our lips around the pure, concentrated sunlight and glugging it down like lemonade.
Tucker Leighty-Phillips is an MFA candidate in Fiction at Arizona State University, where he is currently the Managing Editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. His work has appeared at Cutbank, Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, and elsewhere. He can be found on social media at @TheNurtureBoy.