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It's the summer before senior year, and Marcus should be hanging out, filling his sketchbook, maybe asking a girl out for once. So why is he in a car with his brother, his brother's girl, and the pistol, headed straight toward his dad?
David Hernandez writes with striking lyricism and unfaltering poise. Suckerpunch marks the debut of a superb and important new literary talent.
About the Author
David Hernandez is a web designer and a poet whose collections include Always Danger, winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, and A House Waiting for Music. He also wrote the novel Suckerpunch. He lives in Long Beach, California, with his wife, the writer Lisa Glatt. No More Us for You is his second novel.
Read an Excerpt
At the funeral for Oliver's father I daydreamed about killing my own. I'd come at him with a switchblade while he was in the garage, the table saw whirring in his hand as it chewed through a 4x4. I'd come at him with a hammer. I'd come at him with a baseball bat, his head splitting open like rotten fruit. With stealth I'd come at him, his back always turned, the way he finally turned his back on us early one morning and drove off to who-knows-where.
The minister had a comb-over and silver-rimmed glasses. His face was pink as a slice of ham and his lips were thin, almost nonexistent. With his thin lips he spoke highly of Mr. Thompson—what a great father he was to his son, what a great husband—and I remember thinking, How the hell would you know? Did you have a hidden camera in their bedroom and watch him make Mrs. Thompson come? Were you there when Oliver wiped out on his bike and Mr. Thompson sprayed Bactine on his knee, then ruffled his hair and called him a tough guy even though Oliver was bawling his eyes out?
I looked over at Oliver, who wasn't bawling now. He wore a white button-down shirt, black slacks and shoes. He had the pamphlet with his father's face on the cover rolled up into a paper baton. He slowly turned toward me, his dilated pupils large as dimes, then turned back to the minister, who was going on and on about Jesus and the valley of darkness and the glory of the Lord Almighty.
Mrs. Thompson wore a black veil and barely moved.
There is nothing more precious than life, the minister said, than to do the will of God. And the only thing more powerfulthan death is the supreme power of Jesus.
I imagined Jesus with lightning bolts zigzagging out from his palms. I imagined one of those bolts striking my dad through his chest, his eyes rolling back, skin smoldering and foam bubbling out of his mouth. I imagined my dad in the mahogany casket instead of Mr. Thompson.
After the service, Oliver wanted to know what I had planned for the evening. Even though the sun was right on his face, his pupils were still huge.
I've got nothing going on, I said.
Want to get wasted?
My dad left behind a lot of booze.
How's your mom doing?
She's on Valium. Want any?
Before I could answer, Mrs. Thompson came out of the wooden doors of the church and walked up to Oliver.
I know you're still angry, she said, her voice quivering, watered down. You don't have to come to the burial if you don't want to.
I don't want to, Oliver said.
It's something you might regret later on when—
I won't regret it, he said, cutting her off.
Fine, she said.
Mrs. Thompson glanced at me. Sometimes when I beat off I thought of her sucking me. Now she was standing before me, wrecked. The black roses sewn to her veil looked like flies on a window screen.
I'm sorry for your loss, I said, which sounded stupid after I said it. As if she'd misplaced her husband. As if he were wedged between the couch cushions. As if she'd opened her purse and Mr. Thompson slipped out and fell through the bars of a grate, and all she could do was watch him glinting down there at the bottom.
What actually happened was he walked down to the basement with an orange extension cord and hanged himself.
You're a good boy, Marcus, Mrs. Thompson said to me. Then she squeezed Oliver's arm lightly and then headed toward the inky black car that waited to take her to the cemetery. She climbed into the backseat and closed the door, her face hidden behind the tinted window reflecting the fat white clouds sailing above us.
So what time should I pick you up tonight? Oliver wanted to know.
Anytime after eight, I said. Honk when you get to my house.
My horn stopped working.
Rev your engine then.
More people spilled out from the church and down the concrete steps. An elderly woman with a back curved like an awning. A man with an eye patch, tapping a cigarette out from a pack. This little girl in a powder blue dress, holding her father's hand.
Oliver and I stood there in our black clothes, watching. I didn't know what to say. I looked over at Oliver, at his large pupils.
What happens when you try to honk? I finally said.
Nothing happens, he answered. A small wind played with a piece of hair that had fallen across his forehead. Just silence, he said.
My home was a two-story house with cream siding and a shrub at the entrance that my mom kept clipping into some dumb animal. One month it was a cow, a couple months later it was a grizzly bear, and sometimes I didn't know what it was, a creature half horse and half antelope. The front door of our house was chocolate brown, as was the roof, where a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee was stuck on the shingles, as if someone had gone up there to eat dinner and left their plate behind. My home had a swimming pool and a giant lemon tree sagging with fruit. It had four bedrooms and a chandelier dangling over the foyer like a garish earring.
The day of the funeral, I came home and found Enrique standing in his room with his head bowed, his palms pressed flat against the wall. Between his hands there was a hole, the knuckles of his right hand were dusted with drywall. What? he said, even though I hadn't said anything. He was sixteen then, one year younger than me.
It doesn't look like nothing happened.
I was just pissed, that's all.Suckerpunch SNY. Copyright © by David Hernandez. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Please tell me
defonatly not a kids book
SUCKERPUNCH is the story of two brothers - narrator Marcus and his younger brother, Enrique.
Marcus, the shy one, has spent most of his life looking out for Enrique. For some reason that Marcus has yet to fully understand, their father physically abused Enrique. Why one boy and not the other? That is a question Marcus would love to have answered. As a result of the abuse and then abandonment, Enrique is medicated for depression and violent tendencies, and Marcus is trying to keep things under control as the "man" of the family.
When the boys learn their father has continued to send money to help their hardworking mother, they are pleasantly surprised. When their mother tells them that their father is planning to return home to live with them, their reaction is anger and fear. Enrique decides he must be stopped, so with the help of a friend and his car, the brothers set out to visit their father. Armed with a starter's pistol, Enrique's green-haired girlfriend, and minus Enrique's medication, the positive outcome of this confrontation is in serious doubt.
SUCKERPUNCH is gritty and hard-hitting. Readers will soon bond with both Marcus and Enrique. The story flows smoothly, although my English teacher side did have trouble dealing with the lack of quotation marks in the dialogue. I did get over it somewhere around the halfway mark, but it could be a distraction for some readers.
i loved this book and i even recommended it for my best friend to read. the end could have been better but hey i cant complain. overall this book is a good read!