The coolest thing about James’s older brother wasn’t that he worked for Nintendo or that he got kicked out of the army for smoking pot cigarettes, although he did both of those, too. The coolest thing about him was his secret book of Japanese sex moves that was so rare the Library of Congress didn’t have a copy—and they had every book ever made. The book was illegal and so were all the moves in it, even though they would make you go all the way with a girl. The overhead sweat chop would make your penis go twice as long and there was this one special way to fold a girl’s boobs over like bread and if you left them like that for half an hour they would get bigger and twice as horny. There was also this one move that could make girls’ heads explode from horniness that they taught guys in the CIA but James didn’t tell us how to do it or even which hand it used. That was the first time he told us about the sex moves book. After that it slowed down to a sex move a week, then too few to count. Every time we thought he was out of sex moves or that he was just making it up he’d tell us another one, the kabuki nipple pull or the Mandarin dishwasher, and we’d all wait again for the next one, except for Jeff, who said James was making it all up, even though he listened too. Once after months of no sex moves we were playing German Spotlight and James and I were out at home base under the garage floodlights. James stood on the edge of the light looking into the dark and I sat by the door looking at James. At school there was always a group around but in the light we were alone and all we could see was us, although he wasn’t looking. He was bouncing on his feet, opening and closing his hands. I could have reached out and touched him with my arm but he felt so far away, it felt like all night before he turned to me and asked, “Do you know what my brother said to me the other day?” I started to lean forward, play it cool, say no, but Will jumped out of the bushes, tagged us both free, and ran up the driveway. James crouched and stepped out of base, disappearing into the night. I tried to follow him but he told me I couldn’t, I would give away his place. I ran through the front yard and found a place to hide flat on the ground near the mailbox but as hard as I tried I couldn’t hear James’ voice anywhere, so I didn’t know if he was whispering sex moves to someone else across the night.
My mom and dad hid me in the back of the closet and told me to stay safe and said I had run away. That’s how I stayed safe. I waited as long as I could until I couldn’t hear anything in the house or outside and I ran to James’s house at night through back alleys where I wouldn’t leave footprints. It was dark and the only lights out looked like they had nothing alive in them. I got to James’s house and everyone was down in the basement by candlelight and they had all jammed socks in the cracks around the upstairs door. Will and Peter were putting up blankets over the basement windows and Edward was passing out old Snak Paks and cans of black beans. Rich and Jeff were sitting on the floor, eating, and James was just sitting. Jeff told me to be quiet; James’s brother was upstairs and would be coming down soon. No one knew anything so there was nothing to say. I sat down and started eating, one bean at a time on the edge of my spoon. James’s brother. I had only ever seen him once from behind going upstairs. He had long hair but not girl long, which was cool. I didn’t know if he knew my name or if he’d even seen me before or how he’d managed to stay upstairs in his house after all the adults had been taken away or if he would tell us all the things he had told James. I ate, it was quiet, then there was a snap in the floorboards and we looked up to see him backlit, face dark at the top of the stairs, all of us except James, who kept looking at nothing like he knew what was coming, like he’d seen where we were going and didn’t know how to turn us back.