Authors: Brian Francis
Tags: #Humor & Entertainment, #Humor, #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary, #Humor & Satire, #Humorous, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Teen & Young Adult, #Children's eBooks, #Contemporary Fiction, #General Humor, #Lgbt, #FIC000000
Copyright © Brian Francis, 2004
Published by ECW PRESS
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Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E 1E2
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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any process — electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise — without the prior written permission of the copyright owners and ECW PRESS.
A version of the first chapter originally appeared in
The Church-Wellesley Review
NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION
Francis, Brian, 1971–
Fruit : a novel about a boy and his nipples / Brian Francis.
PS8611.R35F78 2004 C813'.6 C2003-907291-6
Editor: Jennifer Hale
Cover and Text Design: Tania Craan
Cover illustration: Kagan McLeod
Production and Typesetting: Mary Bowness
The publication of
has been generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $20.1 million in writing and publishing throughout Canada, by the Ontario Arts Council, by the Government of Ontario through Ontario Book Publishing Tax Credit, by the OMDC Book Fund, an initiative of the Ontario Media Development Corporation, and by the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP).
Thanks to the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Toronto Community Foundation.
Thanks to the team at ecw and to Jen Hale for being such a joy to work with.
Thanks to Tania Craan, Kagan McLeod, and Kathryn Gaitens.
Thanks to the Ryerson class.
A very special thanks to Lesley Krueger for the guidance and encouragement.
Last, but not least, love and thanks to Serge, my family — both immediate and extended — and to my friends for continued support throughout the years.
My name is Peter Paddington. I just started grade 8 at Clarkedale Elementary School. Six days a week, I deliver the
and the other day, my nipples popped out.
I’ve always had boobs, but not girl-boobs. More like the “I need to lose weight” kind. I’m not thrilled about them, but they’re pretty easy to hide under my sweatshirts, and it’s not like I ever jog or anything, so they stay in place. Besides, I know I won’t have them for much longer because I’m planning to start my diet any day and be thin and normal by Christmas.
I know that I’ve got my work cut out for me, because there are lots of things about me that need fixing. For starters, I’m big-boned, which is a nicer way of saying “All my pants have elasticized waistbands.” When I stick my finger into my belly button, it goes just past my second knuckle. That’s my own test to see if I’ve gained weight or not. Last year, my stomach only went to my first knuckle, so I’ve put on a knuckle’s worth of weight this year.
There are plenty of other things wrong with my body. Last year, I started growing hair on my legs and in my armpits, which was pretty disturbing. I was already having a hard enough time getting over the new hairs around my
dink. Before that, I had peach fuzz, which I didn’t mind at all because it was soft and blond, like the hairs inside a corn husk. But then it turned brown and curly and now the hair looks like the stuff that comes out of the tops of corn husks, all dried up and burnt by the sun. I thought about shaving my dink hair off once, but then I read somewhere that if you shave a part of your body, the hair grows back thicker and bushier. And then you’re really in a pickle, because even though you’re shaving like crazy, the hair will keep coming back like an angry weed until one day, you can’t even see your dink anymore. That’s how hairy you’ll be.
The hair on my legs is softer than the hair around my dink, but it still grosses me out. I wish my legs were bare and tanned, like James MacDonnell’s. He’s adopted and sits two rows over from me. He has a tan the whole year through, even in the wintertime. He must be Mexican. Or maybe Greek. James came to school the other day wearing a pair of navy blue short shorts and I couldn’t stop looking down at his legs. I had to be careful that I didn’t get caught, especially by Brian Cinder. He sits behind James. So I pretended to study the patterns in the linoleum tiles. Was that a cow I saw? And over there, wasn’t that the face of Jesus? I chewed my lower lip to look really convincing.
Anyways, I couldn’t stop thinking about James’ legs and I was so jealous of them. There he was in his tube socks and short shorts, not even thinking twice about what people thought of his legs. I haven’t worn a pair of shorts since grade
, mainly because I don’t want to gross anyone out. Maybe my legs wouldn’t look so bad if they
were tanned like James’ legs, but then, how are they ever going to get tanned if I never wear shorts? And since I never wear shorts, my legs have pimples on them from rubbing against my pant legs all summer long. So my legs have three strikes against them.
The only other boy in my class with hairy legs is Andy Dover, but he’s pretty hairy all over. He’s the tallest student in our class, too. Even taller than Mr. Mitchell, our teacher. I wonder if Andy is really thirteen, because he looks older. Sometimes, I think that Andy is a spy investigating our school. Maybe he’s a secret agent and has to prove that the chocolate bar money we raised last year wasn’t for new curtains for the stage. Instead, the money went to Mr. Grey, our principal, so he could buy drugs. Or maybe Mr. Mitchell stole the money to buy a new van for his wife and seven kids.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that there’s no way Andy could be a secret agent. He’s pretty stupid and spends most of his recess making fart noises under his hairy armpit. A secret agent would find better things to do with his time.
The morning I noticed my nipples, I was getting ready for school. I couldn’t decide what to wear, since it was still hot outside. My grey sweatshirt would be cooler, but I wanted to wear the new black one I got through the Sears catalogue.
While I was standing there in my underwear, trying to make up my mind, something in the mirror caught my eye and I turned to look. My nipples looked like two little cherries.
“That’s not right,” I thought to myself and frowned. My nipples were round and puffy and not the two pink raisins they used to be. I ran my finger over the left one. It was soft as a rose petal. I turned sideways in the mirror and went from my nipples to my big white stomach to my dink with its burnt corn husk hair to my fat, pimply, hairy legs.
“This is the last thing I need,” I said.
Then my mother banged on my bedroom door. “Hurry up or you’re not going to have time for breakfast!”
It was hard to pay attention at school. I was afraid that someone might see my nipples poking out from under my sweatshirt. When my pencil tip broke during math class, I should’ve gone up to the pencil sharpener. But I just couldn’t. So I finished off my questions using the broken lead stub, which wasn’t easy, and my fingertips were all black by the time I finished.
While I was delivering papers later that afternoon, I kept my fingers crossed that Mr. Hanlan wouldn’t see me. He usually keeps a lookout for me from his living room window. But he has to be careful that his wife doesn’t catch him or she’ll blow up and start screaming at him.
Mr. Hanlan is my favourite paper-route customer. He lives on Evergreen Street and works as an electrician. He’s younger than most of my customers and has the brownest eyes I’ve ever seen. His wife, Mrs. Hanlan, is evil. She tricked him into marrying her because there’s no way Mr. Hanlan would ever marry someone as ugly as her. She’s so skinny, her arms look like toothpicks and her boobs look like acorns. She’s got a very bad perm, too.
Mrs. Hanlan pretends to be all nice to me whenever I come collecting.
“Oh hi, Peter. Is it that time of the week already?” Or, “You must be awfully hot today. Do you want something to drink?”
“Keep your poison to yourself,” I think.
I feel bad for Mr. Hanlan because I’m the only bright spot in his day. When he sees me coming up his driveway, I can just imagine the smile on his face. But if he ever finds out that I have a medical condition and my nipple disease might kill me, he’ll get so depressed.
“What’s the point of getting out of bed if someone has stolen my sun?” he’ll ask.
“Shut up and go make some money!” Mrs. Hanlan will scream.
Anyways, while I was walking up the driveway, I noticed that Mr. Hanlan’s car was gone, so he still must’ve been at work. Probably working overtime so that he can afford to get Mrs. Hanlan a new perm. I folded up the paper and stuck it in the mailbox before Mrs. Hanlan had the chance to run out and offer me a cup of bleach or something worse.
Tonight, I had trouble concentrating on my homework. I kept sneaking peeks down my pajama top to see if anything had changed. But my nipples were the same. Maybe even bigger. I snuck out of my room and went to the kitchen to grab some ice cubes.