MVP
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MVP

3.6 5
by James Boice
     
 

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Superstar Gilbert Marcus rapes and kills a young woman in a hotel room during the off-season. That's the prologue. MVP is Marcus's life story from conception to his act of incredible violence. Raised an only child — the son of a difficult and demanding father — Gilbert Marcus, a basketball player with extraordinary skill, is expected to be the

Overview

Superstar Gilbert Marcus rapes and kills a young woman in a hotel room during the off-season. That's the prologue. MVP is Marcus's life story from conception to his act of incredible violence. Raised an only child — the son of a difficult and demanding father — Gilbert Marcus, a basketball player with extraordinary skill, is expected to be the greatest. His life is one of both excessive privilege and immutable obligation. He becomes a monster. James Boice is a startling and exciting new voice in fiction, and MVP is his ambitious and fascinating debut.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Boice's prose grabs you and never lets go....MVP is the start of something big."

Orlando Sentinel

"A fantastic, chilling portrait of a vain pro athlete."

Chicago Tribune

"An incredible novel."

— Sherman Alexie, author of Flight

"[James Boice] masterfully employs a style all his own."

Boston Magazine

"A frightening trip through the misogynistic, homophobic mind of a professional athlete. A-"

Entertainment Weekly

"There's a jittery brilliance...[James Boice] has considerable stylistic flair."

Kirkus Reviews

"Dark, sordid, creepy and not exactly beach reading, but good luck putting it down."

ESPN Magazine

"I am unable to compare MVP with any other works of literature, simply because I've never read any other books that are remotely like this. It's an astounding synthesis of reality, imagination, and psychological clarity. James Boice is going to crush the world."

— Chuck Klosterman

Publishers Weekly

This stunning debut from Boice opens with Gilbert, a pro basketball star, raping and murdering a young woman in a Las Vegas resort. Boice then circles back to an account of Gilbert's warped life, largely spent beneath the demanding thumb of Gilbert's washed-up ballplayer father, Mervin, who sees in Gilbert a chance to capture the greatness that eluded him. Thus, Gilbert endures a regimen of awful health food (Mervin: "Death begins in the colon!") and endless drills (running alongside his father's car in the dark while Mervin throws coins at his head). Gilbert jumps straight from high school to the pros, where he racks up championships and MVP awards and secures global superstardom while still just an insecure (yet grossly narcissistic) man-child who is both seduced and tormented by the sex- and celebrity-obsessed culture he sits atop. Changing fortune brings a tanking team, a nationally televised humiliation, and money and marital problems, and the cracks in Gilbert's psyche begin to spread ominously. When Boice revisits that night in the Vegas hotel room, Gilbert's path from a lonely, sensitive boy to the monster choking an unnamed girl is clear, convincing and shocking. With its bristling intelligence and crystalline prose, this provocative novel secures Boice's status as a player to watch. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
This scattershot debut novel about scandal in professional basketball shows flashes of virtuosity, though some of the writing clangs off the rim. There's a jittery brilliance to the book's prologue, in which the Kobe Bryant rape case is used as a launching pad for fiction that draws plenty of inspiration from recent years' headlines. It begins in staccato rhythm, relating and repeating the facts of a case in which a famous basketball player checks into a hotel, meets a girl whom he believes is there to service him, leaves her dead and flees. In the mind of Gilbert Marcus, a renowned athlete since high school, what he has committed is neither rape nor murder, though the society that has let him coast through a life of limitless privilege isn't about to let him slide on this one. The rest of the novel can't sustain that opening momentum, as it details the backstory that has brought Gilbert to this critical juncture. His father is a former pro-basketball journeyman who never fulfilled his potential and who drills Gilbert to become the star that Mervin Marcus could never be. When Gilbert finishes high school, he jumps to the pros as a can't-miss prospect (giving the novel a slightly dated feel, since the league no longer allows this). Though Gilbert isn't Kobe (there are traces of Tiger Woods and LeBron James mixed in), other characters are barely disguised stand-ins for Shaq and Michael Jordan, while one seems like a bad-boy amalgam of Allen Iverson, Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest. The lives of most of these professional basketball players are as seamy as their public images are polished. While Gilbert is extraordinarily precocious as an athlete, he has barely progressed beyond puberty in hisrelationships with his teammates and his sexual relations, which he finds unsatisfying and his partners find weird. Though the developing writer has considerable stylistic flair, the novel mixes slam dunks with air balls.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743292993
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
05/08/2007
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

One day, a light.

It is opaque and weightless and is created from the back of a starless sky. It comes twirling down through the gravity-less expanses, through galaxies we'll never know, finding eventually the Milky Way, then planet Earth, its eastern hemisphere, the United States of America. It hits Boston, Massachusetts, on a Thursday night in November when there's already snow on the ground. Muddy slush is hit by Greek bus drivers who are grayheaded and have bad knees, barely missing the shivering legs of girls going home alone from discos (this is the 1970s), smoking cigarettes and hugging themselves, walking briskly, heads down and highheels clacking. Men sit at bars talking about the Colonials game. The city of Boston is alone and oblivious. The light goes to a posh apartment in The Berkshires building in the Back Bay. It buries itself into the ovaries of a Japanese woman — not much more than a girl herself, actually — as her husband, a Colonial, comes inside her after returning home from the game. Somewhere down in the street a man is yelling something.

Her husband's name is Mervin Marcus. Former army private, current professional pine jockey. They've been married two years. Their apartment is enormous and highly coveted, in a building with a surveillance camera pointed at the sidewalk and a doorman. He plays for the Colonials and tonight they played New York, the Boston Center halfempty and desolate, ever-lingering warm stench of human sweat. Both Mervin and Sue are fit and attractive and young. After a Thursday night home game, the players' routine — because Friday practice isn't until eleven — is to shower, dress, and seep out into the city's private rooms, for expensive food, comped drinks, pussy, and anxious club owners leading them through the crowd. Not Mervin though, he doesn't like to go out with them — makes him feel absorbed by the masses. He believes that to be great one has to exist alone, different and weird and even unliked, unbound by social responsibilities and uncompromised by friendship. And he'll be great, soon enough. Just not yet. For now he'll have to settle with watching John McNeal be the starting point guard. The reason they don't invite Mervin out is because they used to but he never goes out, always has something like he's not feeling well or he has to study film or practice free throws or hit the weights. Though the truth is most nights he goes home and argues with Sue. Like tonight, a sort-of argument because he doesn't care about the candle she bought today.

When he got home tonight after the game he wanted her to speak to him about him. He wanted her to say, — I saw you on TV.

He wanted to shrug as he undressed and go, — That? That was nothing, baby . . .

— Sure it was. At least you got a chance. I was so proud.

— You call that a chance? That wasn't no chance.

— Called my mom. Sister. Denise.

— I don't mean to be overly negative baby and I appreciate you saying that. But the towel guy could have done it. They could have gotten some dope from the stands to run around like a moron for thirty seconds and not even touch the ball while John McNeal got his ankle looked at.

— Thirty-one seconds.

— That wasn't a chance. I'm sorry baby and I really do appreciate you calling them and saying that. But that wasn't shit.

— Don't worry baby, was all he wanted his loving sexy young wife to say. — You'll get your moment.

And he wanted her to rub his shoulders and make him something to eat and sit across from him at the table with her chin in her hand, watching her husband eat.

Got out of the cab, which he took home even though the Boston Center was not even a mile away. He nodded coldly to the doorman and stood in the elevator staring back at his reflection, liking how he looked. He walked down the hall and opened the door, turning the key the wrong way first and almost kicking it in. Before he could turn and take the key back out once inside, Sue was in his face blabbing about a goddamn candle and he told her, — That's fucking great, Sue. A candle. Wow. I give a shit. Fucking amazing.

Her Asian features, her eyes like inexpressive notches, her mouth spastic.

And she stared at him, walked away and into their bedroom, slammed the door, protecting the candle in her arms like a baby. Mervin apologized, and then they screwed, tired and uni-position. He got the idea to spice it up a little by putting a finger up her butt. She told him once that she liked it and he remembered they hadn't done it in a while. At least eight months. He has a mustache. Sue had been drunk when she told him that she liked it when he put his finger up her butt and had said yes she liked it because he had asked her specifically if she liked it and she'd wanted to answer correctly so that he would be pleased. Their apartment has four rooms and wood floors. Mervin's mustache is neatly trimmed. The alley next door has a sign posted that says it is under surveillance. His hair is grown poofy and makes him look like a dandelion. Sue has the same hair. She searched his face as he had sex with her. He watched himself, dipping in and out. She wanted him to kiss her, to feel his thick jaw against hers, his tongue and heavy breath in her mouth, the stubble, dangerous but safe. She grimaced and yanked his hand away, and he felt ashamed and alone, started thinking about the taxi ride and the gray of the road in the driver's windshield, then Philadelphia (Saturday night) and their defensive schemes, which is when he shot it and got off her.

Sue and Mervin go for weeks without it, Sue not noticing but Mervin notching the wall behind the nightstand, and she likes to converse from the other side of the apartment, so most of their conversations consist of what? huh? who now? And in the rare circumstance when they do find themselves doing it, it's boring and cold, and he finds himself either thinking of other girls or thinking of offensive schemes. He thinks on his way downstairs to a cab waiting to take him to practice one morning, This shit has to stop. I know what I'll do. Go down to Victoria's Secret. Get her some sexy drawers. That's the problem here. Put some sexy drawers on her, that'll heat things right up. Girls love that sort of shit. Get her a couple thongs. Asian girls like her don't have much ass to work but she'd still be sexy in a thong. Sexier than she is in those damn big-ass granny panties she wears all the time.

Met in a bar in Japan when he was stationed in Nagasaki his second year in the service, as he calls it. He spoke to her slowly and loudly for the first couple of hours until she told him she not only understood English but was from Boston. They fell in love, fucked in the barracks when no one was around, and in the canteen and the shitter, after breakfast, before breakfast, during breakfast. Squeezed into his bunk when he was supposed to be asleep and she was supposed to be gone, knowing the others could hear them, but that only made it better. High school basketball star from the grit of Dorcester serving his country and becoming a man like his own father before cashing in his full-ride scholarship offer from Boston College and the English major from Emerson going at it like mad jolly elves in empty public libraries, alleyways in the city at night, feet in trash, in the bathroom at bars while angry drunk soldiers pounded on the door, closets, cars, the firing range over spent shell casings in the moonlight, three times a day sometimes, exhausted and grinning and their privates aching and useless, in love. Got married, played so well at B.C. that he quit school and declared himself a pro after two years but no one signed him. Tried out for the Colonials as a free agent and made it only because the team was in such a dour state at the time, with the retirement of Q____ and T______ and the rest of the core that had dominated for nearly two decades. A rebuilding era. He was promptly put on the bench, where he stayed.

And now, ever since, it's only once a month.

But some red panties will change that, Mervin thought. Small red ones, lace, so her ass hangs out and you can almost see that little tight coochie, yeah, and black too, a whole truckload of them, call Filene's and tell them just dump a load on our roof from a helicopter so Sue can go up there every morning and grab a new pair, no excuses. That's what you do if you want your life to be the best, Mervin thought, remembering the military: take responsibility, make changes, put some effort into things, work a little. That's the matter with people who aren't happy, is Mervin's opinion on the matter — they don't want to motherfucking work. If you're unhappy it's because you're too motherfucking lazy to do anymotherfuckingthing about it.

Mervin Marcus masturbates in the shower every morning. Sometimes he stands before the bathroom mirror in the bathroom with the door locked pretending to be shitting. Mervin watches Sue come into the room and walk over to the oak dresser and bend down to the lowest drawer, slightly bow-legged he's noticed, pouting in the way she does when she's tired. As she bends down her ass beneath her sweats flattens and morphs into her back, the elastic waistband of her big gray panties, uninviting and nonsexual. Could be a man's ass.

An ass is an ass, he thinks.

Mervin pulls himself out of Sue and wipes himself off with Kleenex from the box on the nightstand and lies beside her for a second, where they both stare at the ceiling. His sperm begins swimming up her birth canal and they stare. He goes into the living room to watch game tape with his notepad as sperm by sperm die out, until one is left, and it approaches the membrane skin of an ovary.

She goes into the bathroom where she knows he masturbates nearly every morning when he's home, pretending to be going to the bathroom. Her feet are cold on the tiles of the floor, her skin veiny and purple in the fluorescent light. She touches her belly, caressing herself where she senses something amiss, the low part right above the heavy untrimmed tuft of hair, the sounds of Mervin out in the living room talking to the tape and himself. And she cocks her head like she's listening to something far away or deep in the most lost pits of her, absently looking into her own glassed eyes in the mirror, and her lips part slightly, her thin eyebrows furrow, and she listens.

Though the season was winding down and the Colonials were making a push for the playoffs, Mervin took two weeks off to be with his boy, who looked just like him he said when the nurse first handed it to him. He said to the middle-aged white nurse with an Irish accent who seemed to pride herself on her inability to smile (plus look Mervin in the eye), — You know, people talk about babies so much you don't realize how amazing it is when it happens. This life crawls out of you. It just pops out of us.

And the nurse said, — Maybe that's why everyone talks about it so much.

With his new free time he painted the spare bedroom powder blue like how Sue wanted it and though he thought yellow or green might be better he wasn't about to argue with someone who had done what she'd done — he was in an awe of her so great that it bordered on fear, if not apprehension about having sex with her anytime soon — the image still vivid in his mind of the grotesque facts of birth, the mess he witnessed with open jaw as he held her hand, things being stretched and pulled and sea urchins popping through there — yikes.

As Mervin watched Sue give birth he made a note to himself to get her on some sort of exercise regimen starting tomorrow to help her get all that weight off.

With his new free time he assembled the crib, cursing and scrambling for lost pieces. He did the dishes for her, cooked dinner, watched her breast-feed, not a little irritated about it. He liked himself for being a good father and husband, supportive and helpful and taking some weight off her shoulders. It seemed like every week he was pushing the stroller through a department store swallowing the emasculation it sent through him every time another, childless man passed him, as Sue searched through racks of faith-strainingly small clothes — the little fucker could sure as hell grow!

That's right, that's my boy.

They sat next to each other on the couch and marveled at the being they created, confounded by the simple ease of the world and comforted by something primal and necessary, laughing from the joy of seeing their child's eyes scan the room and fat hands grasping air until the eyes, which were huge, as big as theirs, landed on them — the parents, the ones he relied on for survival — and focused, twinkling. And Mervin and Sue's baby, who they named Gilbert Animal Marcus, smiled.

Mervin liked to make the comment that young Gilbert looked like someone took Sue and Mervin and mashed them together.

Sue serene in her motherhood. An easy grace to her lips that said nothing when Mervin kept shaking his head and talking to fill the silence: — It's a little PERSON. I can't believe we all start out this way. He's TINY. He's a tiny PERSON.

Gilbert changed everything and they needed space. They moved west into the contentment of Hingham, after another season of failed expectations in which the championship slipped through the Colonials' fingers, the first year with Larry Bird, aka Larry Legend, the Hick from French Lick. Bird was the savior, white, goofy, who played with your head and knew the game like he was staring at your X-rays. He arrived the season after Jerome Alvin told Mervin he was improving dramatically and would be seeing some real playing time this year, especially with how much success Julius Erving was having over in Philly, the same kind of flashy street ball that Mervin played but up till now kept Mervin on the bench.

A white kid comes in and they call him Legend? Mervin thought. But I was supposed to be Legend. I was supposed to be the slamdunking, no-look-passing, behind-the-back-dribbling human highlight reel, king of the league, sitting on a pile of gold. So why do they get to be Dr. J and Larry Legend and I have to be the towel boy? They're stars, I'm on the bench. They get six million, I get one. It makes no damned sense.

Mervin made a pact with himself then and there to make sure that Gilbert would be everything Mervin was supposed to be but the coaches and owners (white, all of them, by the way) cheated him out of becoming. Gilbert will never be on the bench, he told himself. They'll see Gilbert and how he came from me and they'll say, We screwed up, we passed on greatness.

Told himself, Gilbert will be a star.

It was a massive off-white house on Oak Hill Drive, in a windy town by the water.

The thought of moving outside the city where she was born and raised, away from her friends and family and any other Asian person, made Sue ill. But she knew a good house when she saw it. She saw herself as the kind of woman who knows how to appreciate what she has. She grew up in semipoverty, waiting tables since she was eleven after school and all day on the weekends at her parents' café in Jamaica Plain, waking up when it was still dark and all her friends were sleeping happily. Sue was a girl who in high school was on the debate team and went to the football games on Friday nights with her friends from church and was an English major at Emerson College, who married the first and only boy she'd had sex with, even if her father — born in Japan and could barely speak English, who worked the grill unseen in the back at the diner — didn't speak to her for two and half years (breaking the silence only when his grandson was born) because she married a nigger.

She'd sort of technically had sex with another boy once when she was in high school. This smart Japanese boy whose parents were friends with her parents and who ended up going to Amherst and lived on the Cape she heard now.

A display of their success, this house. But, as she whispered to Mervin, after going through with the inspector, little Gilbert snoring on her shoulder, — There just doesn't seem like much to do out here.

— What're you talking about? You don't do shit.

— I do too. I worked at Houghton Mifflin.

— Answering phones. Making coffee. Look, baby, this place is within the jurisdiction of the Benny Glenn League. Know what the Benny Glenn League is? The best youth basketball league in the state. The state. Nothing to do . . .

The boy waited silently in the backyard facing the wall like he was about to be shot, in his pj's, snow no longer falling but a deep gust of ice-wind gnawing at his ears and nose. The sky was gray and the trees naked, the snow up to his shins and digging through the skin.

The boy sniffed a leak of clear thin snot back into his nostrils, his palms flat on the siding, studying a hard crust of bird poo right at eye level.

He wasn't crying anymore. His mouth was tight and eyebrows furrowed in a little-boy pout. And aside from involuntary shaking, he showed no signs of freezing. He was woken up at 4:30 AM, still dark, in the middle of a dream having something to do with a bag of potato chips and being alone, by somebody standing over his bed with the cool basketball sheets on it, like the wallpaper that had basketball and football and baseball and everything just about, shaking the bejeezus out of him, and when he opened his eyes and sat up and rubbed his face, squinting, he saw that he was in the presence of the greatest coolest most strongest feared man on earth, who was saying, — Get up, Animal. Get up, Animal . . .

— Why?

— Go out back. Put your hands on the siding. Don't move until I get back.

— But there's no school today. It's a snow day.

— Not for you. The neighbors say they saw you screwing around on the court last night.

— Nuh-uh.

— They tell me they saw you half-assing it. Throwing up circus shots. Punting the ball. Sitting on the ball. Playing with worms. Screwing around.

— But I did a hundred.

— The neighbors told me everything. They don't lie. You saying the neighbors lie?

— No, sir.

— I have the neighbors watching. I'm going to ask them, Did his hands leave that siding? They better tell me no. Not even a little? Not even to scratch his nose? They better tell me, No, Merv. He stood like that all day. Like a rock. Nothing could shake him.

Gilbert went downstairs and looked at his mother standing in the kitchen in her turquoise bathrobe next to the coffeemaker, eyes puffed by sleep, porcelain skin, so pretty, and he pulled on his waterproof boots with fur, tied them tight, slowly pulled on his new blue ski jacket, knit Philly hat with fuzzy ball, waterproof gloves. Sue stopped pouring her coffee midcup and reached over, snatched the Philly hat off his head. — But Mommmm . . .

She replaced it with a green and white Colonials hat, saying, — I don't want to hear it.

Mervin came downstairs and said, — Nuh-uh. Did I say anything about a jacket? Did I say Animal go put on your boots and jacket and gloves and go outside?

— No, sir.

— Did I say Animal I want you to stand out back in your boots and jacket?

— No, sir.

— I didn't say anything about boots and jacket. Who said anything about boots and jacket?

— No one, sir.

— Did your mother?

— No, sir.

— Sue, honey, sweetie, did you happen to mention to our son here that I said to put on his boots and jacket?

— Merv, Sue said.

— Maybe Animal's soft? Maybe Animal likes to wear his furry little boots and new pretty jacket? Do you like your beautiful pretty jacket? Do you feel cute in it? Is that the kind of man you are? A sweet cute little man? A little soft faggot who wears furry little boots and pretty blue jackets?

— No, sir.

— Then take it off.

— . . .

— I said, Strip. Now.

The snot frozen on his upper lip. The slow itch of waiting. Seeing what kind of shapes he could make his breath come out in.

Though he was hungry and bored and cold, he hoped that Mervin would come back and tell him he was like a pro, like Julius Erving, Gilbert's favorite. (But he'd never tell his daddy that.)

He'd come home from a road trip late at night, and Gilbert would be waiting for him in the living room. Sue would let him stay up late. And when he heard the garage door opening he'd run to the door and open it and see his daddy walking toward him, gym bag in one hand, jacket slung over his shoulder, and he'd go running out and wrap his arms around his daddy's legs and his daddy would smell like aftershave and he'd say, — Did you win, Daddy?

— Yeah, we won, Animal.

— Did you score the most points?

— The most, Animal.

— Did you dunk, Daddy?

— I dunked, Animal.

And Mervin would look away from Sue, standing in the doorway giving him a look. He'd walk into the house, dragging the small boy behind him.

The Marcuses had never met the old couple next door. Not like Boston where everybody on your block knew everything about you. Here just scattered grand homes built with pieces from the warehouse, with stone fronts and gates and long driveways and well-kept grass and built-in ponds and multicar garages, pool houses, silence. A mid-upper-class Camelot.

The next-door neighbors weren't next door — they were three hundred yards away and obscured by trees. They didn't wave in the evenings when they drove by Gilbert frantically shooting a hundred baskets in the driveway so he'd be allowed to go inside and eat.

The neighbors who Mervin had spying on him now.

The only kids Gilbert knew were Sandy who was a girl and whose mom was friends with Gilbert's mom and Brian and Lauren whose dad played basketball with Mervin. They'd drive forever to Brian and Lauren's house so Brian and Lauren could gang up on him and tell him his name was stupid and why did he look like an alien and they wouldn't let him play hide-and-seek with them. They hardly ever drove to Medfield to see Sue's friend and Sandy. Gilbert asked his mom once why there weren't any kids around here to play with and she ignored him and so he asked again and she said, — You'd get dirty . . . and turned up the TV.

What's incredible is how something as beautiful as snow, which wields almighty powers of school cancellation and sled-ability, can turn on you and become your torturer.

You can't trust anything, was the lesson Gilbert was getting out of this.

He could see his mom inside through the window. It had been only a half hour of being out here, and he was already crying. He hated himself for crying. Mervin wouldn't cry.

He wanted to lift his tender destroyed size 4 feet one at a time for air. But the neighbors were watching. He was all alone. There's nothing worse for a little boy than being all alone.

After a half hour he pissed his pants. He didn't want to do it. He held it in as long as he could, clenching every muscle. But suddenly he was pissing, the snow below him yellowing, which turned out to be good because it warmed him, his legs coming back to life.

He started banging his forehead against the wall and screaming like a girl, — Mommy! Please! I love you, Mommy, please help! MOMMY!

THWACK! THWACK!

— MOMMMMYYYYY!!!!

As her son thumped away at the window, Sue's ass was firmly implanted in the cushions of the couch, watching the big-screen Magnavox that wasn't so much a TV as it was a hulking portal into the future, arms folded in order to keep her robe closed, her legs stubbly and crossed in the womanly way with her right foot twitching nervously, worn-out blackened-sole blue slipper dangling from her big toe, watching the Today show and sipping her coffee, getting ready to get up and take a shower, when she put her mug down on a coaster on the coffee table, splashing a little. She stood up, wrapping her robe and walking into the kitchen, came back with a bottle of Pledge and a roll of paper towels and took all the cooking and homemaking magazines — NO sports magazines during the season! — off the coffee table and the cork basketball coasters with basketball hoop coaster stand and remotes for TV and VCR ( — These things are bad, baby, Mervin'd said when he came home with it. — It can tape things off TV and play movies and game tapes. And it was only six hundred dollars!) and sprayed the table down with Pledge and wiped it with long gentle loving strokes that quickly turned frantic, paper towels tearing, grunting with force, blood rising into her face, a tit about to spill out of her robe. When she was done she let out a long breath and stood up and, clipping her robe closed at the neck and thighs with her hands, carried the Pledge and paper towels under her arms back to the kitchen, put the Pledge under the sink and the paper towels on the paper-towel holder and came back in and sat down. She took a sip of her coffee but it had gone cold. Gilbert's screaming and thwacking only got louder, and she was biting her lip, trembling as her teeth sank into her flesh, short bitten nails digging into her arms, and all Sue really needed right now was to know who was celebrating their one hundredth birthday today, finding herself shouting at the TV, — Tell me who's fucking turning one hundred today, Willard!

— MOMMMMYYYYYY!

She turned the TV up with the remote and tried to concentrate on the segment now about baby races. But whatever Jane Pauley was saying was drowned out by the muffled screams of horror interspersed with the sound of five-year-old skull striking the aluminum siding they'd had installed just last summer.

MOMMY! (Thwack!) HELP ME! (Thwack!) PLEASE LET ME IN! (Thwack!) PLEE-HE-HE-(Thwack!)-HE-HE-HE-(Thwack!)- HEEEEASE! (Thwack!)

And standing up, back firmly to the window, hands hanging at her sides and bathrobe completely untied and only barely covering her nipples, big white panties in full exposition, hair a thin drooping mess, eyes bloodshot, fists clenched and shoulders rising and falling, she went to the storage closet and came out lugging the vacuum and plugged it in, almost bending the little prong things in the process, jerking it to and fro like a dead dog, and STOMPING the foot switch, causing an eruption of noise that brought instant relief.

And Sue vacuumed, little pinpoints of perspiration gathered at her hairline and neck, even though she'd vacuumed yesterday afternoon and the morning before that. She ran the machine over every square foot three, even four times, because there will be NO DIRT IN THIS HOUSE, closing her eyes and sighing because the whir was good, calm, her eyeballs rolling back into her head. And when she was done, gasping for breath, she knelt down on her shaky knees and pushed the foot switch with her hand, killing the machine. Gilbert had gone silent. Sue put the vacuum back and retied her robe, unpeeled her hair from her face and tied it in a ponytail, refilled her coffee, and sat down in time for the weather, which is when the phone rang.

— You're five, Mervin said, — start acting like it.

Twice a day: one hundred shots before he could eat breakfast and one hundred shots before he could eat dinner.

It was nothing, according to Mervin. The pros put up one thousand a day at least. Pro baseball players took five hundred swings a day. Pro golfers hit seven hundred balls a day, blindfolded, with their caddies jingling keys in their ears to distract them.

So Mervin said.

— I bet there are kids your age right now shooting five hundred. You gotta keep up, Animal, or you'll be left behind.

So Mervin said.

And Mervin put his son on a diet of goat's milk and seaweed, the refrigerator stacked with little Tupperwares containing the day's portions.

Gilbert would gag as it went down, the goat's milk stinky and yellow.

In the cupboards there weren't candy or cookies, only unsalted saltines and dehydrated tofu and zucchinis and tomatoes grown out in the garden Sue tended mostly but Mervin helped out with on weekends in the off-season.

— This is what champions eat, Mervin'd say. — The worse it tastes the better it is. You see, Animal, the body's energy can be maximized by eating easily digestible, contributive foods.

And Gilbert would look at his father blankly, his tongue tingling for candy.

— One day you'll understand.

At school Gilbert would watch the other kids eating their delicious lunches and he'd fight back the tears and force down his can of water sprouts and thermos of the mysterious gray health shake Sue mixed every night, the contents of which remained incomprehensible to him. He guessed bug butts and snake heads.

— These American kids' colons, Mervin said, — are clogged to motherfucking hell with all this processed shit they eat. It's not food. It's fake food. No wonder they're all so fat. And they'll all be lazy and depressed and unproductive because their bodies are being strangled. Where did anyone get the idea that food was supposed to taste good? You think that's bad you should see what we ate in basic. By the way, how many times did you move your bowels today, Gilbert? Be honest.

Sue spoke calmly into the phone, — No, Mervin's not available right now, honey. I'm sorry. Mervin's on his way to the Boston Center. Don't call me and ask for Mervin and hang up when you know he's got practice and a game today. Go to the Boston Center if you're looking for Mervin. Stand outside with your lipstick and tits with all the others. I'm sure he'll get to you eventually if he hasn't already. Now if you'll excuse me, my son, our son, mine and Mervin's, because we have a family — our son is playing basketball in the house again and scuffing up my kitchen floor. He's just come in from the snow and so he is in a very excitable state of mood right now and has forgotten I guess that the floor is new and should not be treated like that. I've told him I don't know how many times but you know how kids are. Actually you probably don't, do you? I'd assume you don't have any children. I'd assume your eggs are dried up and shriveled and your pussy is diseased and oozing puss from the clap. You have disrespected my family and so I am allowed to speak like this to you. Your uterus is scraped raw from too many abortions.Well I do have children and I am a mother and I work hard to keep my house clean and my child fed and safe. Go sit at that bar where your kind hang out outside Boston Center. Have a drink and smoke your cigarettes and wait for my husband. He'll be along soon enough. Lord knows he's never here, so he has to be somewhere. But I'm sure you know that's how men are. He'll get done with you whatever it is he gets done with you girls. I don't know how you people live with yourselves. But I have to go now, honey. I have to get Gilbert into some warm clothes before he catches cold. I'll tell Mervin you called. Thank you, dear. Die. Good-bye.

And when the screaming stopped and the shivering stopped and the head banging stopped is when the gate opened and in stepped Mervin, basketball under his arm.

— D-d-d-d-did you w-w-w-w-win, Daddy? Gilbert asked, teeth chattering.

— I won, Animal.

— Did you score forty points?

— Fifty-two.

— Did you dunk?

— I dunked, Animal.

— Are you the best, Daddy?

— No, you're the best, Animal.

Copyright © 2007 by James Boice

Meet the Author

James Boice was born in California in 1982, raised in northern Virginia, and currently lives near Boston. He was featured in the McSweeney's New Writers Issue in 2003. His work has also appeared in Fiction, Like Water Burning, and The Shore, among other publications. MVP is his first novel. An excerpt appeared in Esquire, which deemed him the "New Voice" and his work "A Story Unlike Anything You've Read Before."

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MVP 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Puts muy hand around her waist and kisse a littlw harder
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
((Gtg nook dying ))
Guest More than 1 year ago
This has to be the only book i have had to stop while in the middle beacuse it was so bad. I would not recomend this to anyone at all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The plot was good overall and had good psychological aspects but as a teenager, i thought that the book was very sexually explicit and had too much profanity. It was one one of the most vulgar books I have ever read.