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Ostrich Boys
Ostrich Boys
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Ostrich Boys

Written by Keith GrayAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Keith Gray

· Random House Books for Young Readers
· Trade Paperback · January 25, 2011 · $9.99 · 978-0-375-85844-4 (0-375-85844-X)
Also available as an unabridged audiobook download and an eBook.

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Our best friend was ash in a jar. Ross was dead. Kenny, Sim and I were learning to live with it.  

And this was all Sim's idea. It was just that Kenny and I weren't convinced exactly how great an idea it was.  

We'd had to wait for it to get dark, which at this time of year wasn't until after half-ten. We'd given it until eleven. Now we were crouched whispering in the shadow of some scraggy fir trees in the front garden of the history teacher's house. We hadbranches jabbing at us, needles in our hair and down the backs of our collars. But no matter how much we shuffled and hunkered, the shadow wasn't quite big enough. We were still wearing our dark funeral clothes, and that helped. The problem was Kenny, who keptsquirming, shoving bits of me and Sim out into the glare of the streetlights. All it would take was one eagle eye to look our way and we'd be seen for sure.  

A car sped by and we ducked our heads. It wasn't just the warm June night making me sweat.  

"This is for Ross, remember," Sim whispered. "We can't flake out now--we all agreed. You agreed too, Kenny. Don't say you didn't."  

Kenny made a noise--not quite yes, not quite no. "Can't we just put a note through his door or something? I'm telling you: if we get caught--"  

Sim looked disgusted. "Christ-on-a-bike, Kenny! You want to write a poem in a card too? A card with love hearts and rabbits wearing hats on the front?" He shook his head, popped the lid off the can of spray paint he was clutching. "No. It's got to be big."  

Kenny opened his mouth to argue but I nudged his arm, hushing him.  

Mr. Fowler's house was a corner terrace with a small square of scrappy garden on Brereton Ave--a busy enough road within walking distance of the pubs and clubs along the sea front. It was Friday night in Cleethorpes and for most people the only place tobe were those pubs and clubs. We could hear giggling and chatter from a group of girls clacking along the pavement in their heels. We huddled down even further under the fir trees, ignoring another showering of needles. One of the girls wanted to get a taxi,her feet were killing her--but her friends said it wasn't worth it, they were nearly there now. We waited for them to decide. I stared hard at the ground, hoping they wouldn't look at us if we didn't look at them.  

At last they walked on and I whispered, "Either we do it or we don't, okay? We can't stay here all night arguing about it." I didn't care how edgy I sounded. More edgy than nervous. Of course I was worried about being seen, but more than that I still wasn't convinced this was the right thing to do. For Ross, I mean. I didn't give a damn about Mr. Fowler.  

Two, three cars swept by.  

"I don't want to do it," Kenny said. "We shouldn't do it."  

"I'm gonna do it," Sim said.  

"Well, yeah," Kenny agreed. "It's your idea, so you should do it."  

Sim looked to me. "Blake?"  

"You're gonna do it whatever I say."  

He grinned. "I know."  

Kenny felt brave enough to poke his head out from under the low branches, looking toward the house's dark front windows. "D'you think he's in?"  

Sim shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not."  

"There're no lights on," I said. And then, just like that, one went on behind the front-room curtains. I ducked my head and swore.  

"He's in! He's in!" Kenny hissed. He scrabbled as far back under the fir trees as he could get, pushing me and Sim out into the open again. I had to elbow my way back into hiding.  

We kept our eyes on the glow of light behind those curtains. What was Mr. Fowler doing in there? Watching TV? Reading a book? Eating takeaway pizza? How come he could still do those things but our best friend was dead?  

Ross was hit by a car, knocked off his bike. At the funeral the vicar had called it an accident. But somehow the word wasn't enough. It wasn't big enough, powerful enough--didn't mean enough. He hadn't spilled a cup of tea, he hadn't tripped over his ownfeet. He'd had his life smashed out of him. It felt like there should be a whole new word invented just to describe it.  

Sim didn't seem in the least bit worried that the teacher being home might make his plan riskier. Although I didn't think I'd ever seen Sim get nervous about anything much. He was more comfortable being angry. He had these dark brown eyes that hardenedlike snooker balls whenever he got mad. And he'd always had short hair, but only yesterday he'd had it shorn to within a millimeter of its life, leaving his freshly exposed scalp much too pale compared to the rest of him. In his funeral getup he looked like a fifteen-year-old version of the bouncers who guarded the doors to the rowdy clubs along the sea front.

Excerpted from Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray Copyright © 2010 by Keith Gray. Excerpted by permission of Random House Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.