That Way They’ll Know I’m Alive by Charles Bock

This short story by Charles Bock was published in 2000 by AGNI, the literary journal at Boston University. It is a precursor to Bock’s debut novel, “Beautiful Children” and, for the most part, survives intact in the book. This piece introduces the Girl With The Shaved Head and Ponyboy, two characters who have a pivotal role in the novel’s climax. Here is one of the better excerpts:

“On the opposite side of the eight-lane superhighway, their sprint ended at a stretch along the edge of the Circus Circus complex. Here the pedestrian stream thinned, and tourists did what they could to avoid the string of heavily-pierced teenage corpses. Hooligans reclined against the bottom of the casino wall, some pouring condiment packages down their throats, others finger-painting, tracing portraits on the sidewalk with mustard and ketchup. A circle of teenage ghouls were passing a bottle to and fro. Ponyboy spotted the dude with the battery through his nose and immediately left the girl with the shaved head, surprising his buddy with a bear hug and an affectionate cry, COCKSUCKER.”

This short story is a good representation of the writing in “Beautiful Children.” There are wonderfully descriptive passages that contain a tremendous amount of energy, but occasionally Bock tends to get over descriptive, which saps the prose of its momentum. If you like this story, you’ll most likely enjoy the entire book.

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