Welcome to the club
Beau has been scouting since first grade. Not because he loves it, but because his dad does. It’s the only thing they’ve ever bonded over, what with Beau’s dad being into sports, beer, and brawling. So when they move to yet another Midwest town, Beau expects the usual Boy Scout experience, filled with horribleness and insults. Instead he finds something else entirely. Kicked out of every other patrol, their little band of brothers is equal parts nuts and awesome. For the first time, people are watching Beau’s back instead of throwing things at it. Nice. Novel. And also necessary, when you’re dealing with parents splitting up, crushes, first love, and coming out.
The first—and only—rule of Hurt Patrol: We are never going to win—but if you’re outcast elsewhere, you’ll do just fine here.
Read an Excerpt
The Hurt Patrol
By Mary McKinley
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Mary McKinley
All rights reserved.
We are sitting in the van, freezing—me, my best friend, Beau, and our best friend, Leo, who's asleep in the backseat of the van and doesn't feel the cold. The heat leaks out fast when the engine is off, which it is. We are waiting for a ferryboat. Then we are driving to the Washington coast. We are headed to the extreme edge of the United States of America—Forks, Washington—on a ridiculous nostalgia detour. I say "ridiculous" because
1) Twilight was/is ridiculous.
2) We are supposed to be headed to San Francisco (which is completely in another direction).
3) We need to focus—we are running away!
WE ARE OUT!! I can't quite believe what we've done, yet. Right now, we're killing time waiting for this boat, which isn't for a while.
I took my mom's van. Like stole it. Omg, I am in so much trouble. Or will be, when she finds out.
But someone had to do something to figure all this drama out, and no one seemed to know what that was, except us. So we are running away because Beau got his ass kicked at school. We don't have to stand for this. And we aren't. Beau is my best friend even though we've only been friends for three months, since school started. Like I said, our friend Leo came with, and is in the backseat, sound asleep. Leo, btw, is a girl.
Beau and I get out of the car to stretch our legs for a second. We are the only ones here because we're really early.
"Wow ..." Beau says as he looks around the dark dock.
"Yeah." I still can't believe I just boosted my mom's van, though officially I did pay her for it—just not with her knowledge, or consent. I arch my stiff back.
"Wow ... this is so messed up," Beau says, rolling his neck. We touch our toes. Twice.
"Yeah," I say again. We get back in the minivan.
He shakes his head and looks out the window.
"It's like a new installment of the Hurt Patrol." He says this almost under his breath.
"Of the what?"
"The Hurt Patrol."
"What's that?" I stare at him quizzically.
"It was the name of my Scout patrol, when I lived with my dad."
"Wait—you were a Boy Scout? Like the Boy Scouts? Of America? How could you be? I didn't think they used to let gay guys be Boy Scouts. How did you get in?"
Oh yeah. I should probably have mentioned that. It's kind of the point of this whole trip.
Beau is gay.
"I know, right?" he says. "That's so idiotic! I didn't even know I was gay when I started Scouting. I was in first grade. But besides that, there were so many gay Scouts it's not even funny!"
"Wow. So did you like it?"
"The attitude, I guess. The 'us against them' thing. Somebody always had to lose and then be the loser. It was stressful. And I was the new kid. It was like they were all against me."
"How long were you a Scout?"
"First to eighth grade. It seemed like for hundreds of years, till I was fourteen. Then I quit."
"Was anything awesome? Or was it all just bad?"
"There was some stuff ... there was this giant camping thing they did called Camporee, which was like a series of competitions. I was all keen to sign up, to please my dad, so I went, and since we'd just moved again I was late joining so they put me in this one patrol."
"Like what kind of competitions?"
"Knots, swimming, first aid, keeping a clean campsite."
"What was it called, again?"
"Yeah, Camporee. So that all must have been quite the adventure," I say, getting comfy. "Tell me about it."
"So, when I lived with my dad in Kansas ..."
"My dad always wanted to be a Boy Scout but never was, so he wanted me to be a Scout, instead, like for life. I wanted my dad to like me, so I said sure."
The matter-of-fact way he says it is weird. Beau and his dad aren't close. Like very not close. "I kept going the whole time my mom and dad were still together. This was before I even suspected anything about myself. I knew I was weird, but I just thought it was because I was smarter. I really didn't add it up till I was fourteen."
"Omg ... you know what? I think I'm different because I'm smarter too! Wow—maybe I'm gay!"
Beau rolls his eyes over to me and shakes his head.
"Uh, no-no. I heard you liked Werewolf Guy with the six-pack."
"Um, nope! You guys liked him! Not me—I'm intelligent! Even back then! I like elephants and that British comedian, what's-his-face—Stewart Lee!"
"Whatever ... Do so. Leo told me. You liked him secretly for years back in the day, apparently...."
"Again: Nope," I tell him, rolling my eyes.
Our other friend, Leo, who is still crashed behind us, chimes in drowsily, "... s's okay, Rust; we'll always think Twilight's hella tight ..." before she flops over and goes back to sleep. She snores gently, like a kitten. She's on the short bench seat behind us, wrapped in fluffy comforters.
Beau goes on. "Anyway, we moved a lot in those days, so we were always the new family in town when my dad signed me up for Scouts. He was already starting to bag on me over all kinds of stuff, which freaked me out, so whenever he wanted me to do something, I always said sure!"
I don't say anything as I sit and feel for the bewildered little boy that Beau must have been. I have the luxury to reflect about this now, because it's not something I've ever had to figure out. I was always fine with the thought of a boyfriend someday, and since I'm a girl it all works out easily.
I get busted on for other reasons. Fun Fact: I'm so immense, I'm visible from space.
Beau's okay, though. This is all old news to him. He rubs his hands together. "Dude, turn the heat on for a minute! Jeez!" is all he says. It's not all that troubling now for him, this story.
So I do. I turn on the engine. I set the fan on HI. It starts blasting. It feels awesome.
I go back to his life story. "Did you like the other Scouts?"
"Some of them. I moved so much the troops changed over the years."
"Do you remember what your favorite thing was?"
"The Hurt Patrol. They were the patrol I was in for Camporee. They were nuts. But that part turned out awesome."
"Yeah? Awesome how?"
"Because they so didn't care."
I give him a look like "How is that awesome?" So he elaborates.
"I could tell from their attitudes ... like, 'don't bother.' Because the Hurt Patrol never won. Ever."
"Dude! That sounds so random! Why? Were the Scout leaders out to get them for some reason?"
"Not exactly. It probably wasn't even planned." He shrugged. "But I fit right in. Total misfit. I was born to be in the Hurt Patrol."
"Everyone else was a bunch of freaks. Except one, this guy Pete, who could easily have had his Star badge by then, he'd done all the stuff required, but he'd stalled out because he just wouldn't get the Scout leader's signature on a promotion. He didn't care about badges, so he wouldn't play the game. He was the leader, whether or not it was official. He was awesome. He was the oldest. Since he couldn't care less, he was indestructible. It was epic." Beau's voice is nostalgic.
"How old was he at the time?" I ask.
"Fifteen, when I first signed up there. It was my last year Scouting, though I didn't know it then. I was fourteen. I thought he was sooooo much older!"
"How many guys are in a patrol?"
"It varies; four to eight or so. In ours there was Pete, me, and three other guys. All fails."
"Jeez, Beau." I kind of laugh. "Like why?"
"Everyone had some weird thing that got some other patrol in the troop to kick them out. One dude snored and if we yelled enough to make him stop, he'd get up in his sleep and walk around. It freaked me out because he would fall over us in the middle of the night. Then another guy ground his teeth and he'd take out his mouth protector in his sleep and pretty soon he'd be snoring so loud I'd wake back up, and then I'd just listen to him grinding away. It was awful. And the other one got kicked out because he'd wet the bed and then he'd wake up and get pissed off and start yelling and throwing things ... ughhh ... just so bad! We were such a bunch of losers!" Beau snorts and trails off.
We wait quietly on the dark dock for a while, and then Beau starts reminiscing again.
"See, that's the thing about being made to do things, like Scouts. I think if you try something for a while and hate it, you should be allowed to bail. It's not having a choice that's so bad. Because even though I sucked so totally at Scouting, I still had to go and 'get my character built.'"
"Yeah? How's that going, Beau? How's your character coming along?"
"It's good ... just a little warped from all the Scouting." He looks over and we laugh. It feels amazing to have someone to laugh with. It is a relatively new experience in my life.
For until very recently, it has been unheard of. For until very recently, I have been Rusty, the Un-chosen, Rusty the Shunned. I'm so spurned and reviled by my peers that it seems normal to be given grief and bagged on, and I am now very suspicious around people my own age, which is sixteen, like Beau and Leo. Though sometimes I wake up and I've forgotten I'm horrifying, but NEVER on school days!! Thankfully, my school buddies are always there to jog my memory. And I used to think it was just me that got hated on until I got to be friends with Leo, short for Leonie. Then I saw that she is a target too. Only she is a different kind of target. She is so nasty/beautiful that trouble just seeks her out.
More on all this, later.
Then Beau joined our lil' loony-bin high school, aka Baboon High, and he really got busted on! Literally. Like ribs cracked and ass kicked. Very dangerous, some of these folks in our school. Very primitive. Very lame.
We watched in disbelief as no real repercussions or reprimands or anything were enacted, just some suggestions for Beau on how to get along better (like maybe: find another school) from our principal, Ms. Blip.
So, since nobody seemed to have a clue what to do, we decided it was up to us. It was time to say enough and take matters into our own hands.
So we did. We are.
Meanwhile, Beau's mom is furious and getting a lawyer. She is suing everyone she can think of: our alma mater, the highly accredited Baboon High; the school district; the principal; and the prizewinners who kicked his ass, as well as their parents. That's a whole lot of suing. This Beau does not want her to do ... but she won't listen. Thus, he's running away. And I'm helping! Because I'm coming with, because he's my friend.
Because of Beau I am no longer the Un-chosen. I probably would have gotten to be friends with him eventually, but I am so shut down it would have taken, like, fifteen years. However, since we are both so hated on, it was like expresslane friendship. Buddies by default.
We smile at each other, Beau and me. Beau's cheek shifts gingerly; his face is still greenish purple and bruised. At least his black eye is better.
I sigh and shrug, taking his side. "Well, it sounds like you would have been an okay Scout if you had been with guys who wanted to show you how."
"I kind of thought so, too, at first, but not really. When they first told me to chill, I was still worried enough that I actually went around and spied on other patrols to see what they were like and maybe ask them to let me in. But every patrol I observed was a bunch of posers. They would be acting douchey to each other until they saw me; then they were like, 'what are you lookin' at?!' All the leaders called the Scouts 'ladies' every time they yelled anything ... whatever. I came back really quick and decided I would rather be one of the guys who hated Scouts than one of the guys who were the reason." Beau frowns.
I nod. "Yeah ... me too, I guess. I would rather be around people who are checked out than mean ... some choice."
"I think those guys are encouraged to be bullies. By their parents or someone."
"No way! No one would want their kid to be a bully! I'd be so freaked out if my kid turned out to be a turd!"
"Yeah, me too, but think about it.... Wouldn't you rather your kids take care of themselves than be victims?"
"I would rather they rise above the whole mess and be a tipping point, like that Malcolm guy talks about, and make it better!"
"I know, right? But if they didn't. You'd want them to be safe."
"OMG! I NEVER WANT MY KID TO BE A BULLY! I would FREAK!" I say, freaking a little.
"Same here. You're right. I would never want my kid to dog someone on how they look. But it's not like I was ever trying to be weird—more like the opposite: I was trying to be regular! To blend!"
"Like how did you try to blend?"
"I tried to act like a straight guy." Beau glances down in embarrassment when he admits this.
"Really? You did? You tried to be straight?" I grin, curious, but he doesn't grin back. So I stop smiling.
"How'd that work?"
"Bad how?" I ask.
"Bad-Really-Really-Bad." His face falls grimly, in memory.
We see the ferry in the distance. At least we see the ferry's silhouette, light on the black water.
* * *
It's complicated getting on the boat, and we stop talking till the crabby albino-looking dude in the reflective orange vest signals us up onto the top ramp of the upper deck. He puts a little wedge under our front wheel, since the ferry is pretty empty and we are near the front, where it slants downhill.
Finally we are aboard, so we just sit tight and don't go upstairs to check out the galley. I'm sure it's closed, anyway. Leo sleeps through everything. It's only, like, a half-hour ride, but if she were awake she would probably be hungry. She always is.
Beau and I sit, lost in our thoughts, as we chug over the dark water. Below us waves froth from the prow, briefly lit bright white by the ship's lamps.
I can't believe I have agreed to take these nuts to Forks Freaking Washington. I tried to deny them, but no! And I say Twilight-Smilight! Sooooo spent! But no, apparently we'll love it for eternity, so off we are scampering! Yep, hippity-hop, to nostalgically search out the sparkly vampires and buff werewolves of our youth, just loitering in the old growth. If I sound pissy, it's because I am. This detour is embarrassing.
It's not a very long boat ride, like I said, and we are unloading in no time. We pull out of the terminal and start into the darkness of the sparsely populated far west of Washington. I drive cautiously because it's so dark. Eventually, I can ask Beau to keep telling his story and settle in to listen.
So, this is it. Some things I learned later, but most of this is what Beau told me while we drove into the dark: how he attempted to figure out his way and navigate the quagmire of school and Scouts and sex and lies ... and realizing you're gay in the Midwest.
* * *
Beau is his parents' only kid. He was always a good son, who totally loved them both, but admired his dad, who really liked sports and hunting and fishing. His dad was handsome and buff and could make or fix anything. His dad also liked to drink. A lot.
Beau's dad got weird about Beau early. Beau is creative and artistic. When he was three or four, Beau's dad, Jason, started telling him not to be "such a little fag." This would be over something like if he used too many colors in his art project. Beau, being in preschool, didn't even know what "a little fag" was. Just something really bad that he didn't want to be ...
So, he tried not to be such a little fag.
It was such a baffling word to Beau. The first time he heard it, from someone other than his dad, was in first grade. Two girls were holding hands in line, and a third grader, a loud kid named Joel, whom they all (privately) called Mean Joel, pointed at them and yelled, "Fags! Look at the fags!"
When Beau looked, the girls, who were wearing the same kind of shoes, were staring at Mean Joel blankly. They both looked in confusion from his finger to their shoes, as did Beau. They all thought maybe fags was slang for Dora the Explorer sneakers.
So that was his first impression—until his dad got all wild-eyed and very diligently explained it to him.
Excerpted from The Hurt Patrol by Mary McKinley. Copyright © 2015 Mary McKinley. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews