Ten Thousand Saints

Part I

Sad Song


Is it dreamed?” Jude asked Teddy. “Or dreamt?”

Beneath the stadium seats of the football field, on the last morning of 1987 and the last morning of Teddy’s life, the two boys lay side by side, a pair of snow angels bundled in thrift-store parkas. If you were to spy them from above, between the slats of the bleachers—or smoking behind the school gym, or sliding their skateboards down the stone wall by the lake—you might confuse one for the other. But Teddy was the dark-haired one, Jude the redhead. Teddy wore opalescent, fat-tongued Air Jordans, both toes bandaged with duct tape, and dangling from a cord around his neck, a New York City subway token, like a golden quarter. Jude was the one in Converse high-tops, the stars Magic Markered into pentagrams, and he wore his red hair in a devil lock—short in the back and long in the front, in a fin that sliced between his eyes to his chin. Unless you’d heard of the Misfits, not the Marilyn Monroe movie but the horror-rock/glam-punk band, and if you were living in Lintonburg, Vermont, in 1987, you probably hadn’t, you’d never seen anything like it.

“Either,” said Teddy.

They were celebrating Jude’s sixteenth birthday with the dregs of last night’s bowl. Jude leaned over and tapped the crushed soda can against Teddy’s elbow, and Teddy sat up to take his turn. His eyes were glassy, and a maple leaf, brittle and threadbare from its months spent under the snow, clung to his hair. Since Jude had known him Teddy had worn an immense pair of bronze frames with lenses as thick as windowpanes and, for good measure, a second bar across the top. But last week Teddy had spent all his savings on a pair of contact lenses, and now Jude thought he looked mole-eyed and barefaced, exposed, as Jude’s father had the time he’d made the mistake of shaving his beard.

With one hand Teddy balanced the bud on the indentation of the can, over the perforations Jude had made with a paper clip, lit it with the other, and like a player of some barnyard instrument, he put his lips to the mouth of the can and inhaled. Across his face, across the shadowed expanse of snow-stubbled grass, bars of sunlight brightened and then paled. “It’s done,” he announced and tossed the can aside.

Bodies had begun to fill the grandstand above, galoshes and duck boots filing cautiously down the rows, families of anoraks eclipsing the meager sun. Jude could hear the patter of their voices, the faraway din of a sound system testing, testing, the players cleating through the grass, praying away the snow. Standing on his wobbly legs, Jude examined their cave. They were fenced in on all sides—the seats overhead, the football field in front, a concrete wall behind them. Above the wall, however, was a person-size perimeter of open space, through which Teddy and Jude had climbed not long before, first launching their skateboards in ahead of them, then scaling the scaffolding on the outside, then tumbling over the wall, catlike, ten feet into the dirt. They’d done it twenty times before, but never while people were in the stadium—they’d managed to abstain from their town’s tepid faith in its Division III college football team; they abstained from all things football, and all things college. They hadn’t expected there to be a game on New Year’s Eve.

Now Jude paced under the seats and stopped five or six rows from the front. Above him, hanging from the edge of one of the seats, was a pair of blue-jeaned legs. A girl. Jude could see the dirty heels of her tennis shoes, but not much else. He reached up, the frozen fingers through his fingerless gloves inches away from her foot, but instead of enclosing them around the delicate bones of her ankle, he lifted the yellow umbrella at her feet. He slid it without a sound across the concrete and down into his arms.

“What are you doing?” whispered Teddy, suddenly at Jude’s elbow. “Why are we stealing an umbrella?”

Jude sprung it open and looked it over. “It’s not the umbrella we’re stealing,” he whispered back, closing it. Walking into the shadows a few rows back, he held it over his head, curved handle up, like a hook. In the bleachers above, there were purses between feet, saving seats, unguarded, alone, and inside, wallets fat with cash. Teddy and Jude had no money and no pot and, since this