Books by Philip Hoy

No one asks where you’re going. 

When you get to the ambulance, it’s already surrounded by a mob of fourth period PE students. No coaches are in sight, but the school’s single security guard is there clearing a path for the paramedics and their gurney. You should be in English right now. Of all your subjects, you hate it the least, but you wait with the rest of the crowd to see Slick, the same guy that’s been bullying you in PE all week, get rolled around the side of the gym and loaded into the back of the ambulance. You almost don’t recognize him. He looks smaller somehow, except his face, which is red, puffed up, and so huge his eyes are swollen nearly shut. Somehow, he sees you standing near the rear door of the van and as the paramedics lift him inside his mouth moves and you can just make out what he says. “Fuck you, faggot.”

“No thanks,” you say, mostly to yourself, and then you turn and start walking. The events of the morning press in on you, but you shove them away. You’re tired, confused, and you want to go home. The sidewalk becomes dirt, the dirt turns to asphalt, and the asphalt becomes a street. No one asks where you’re going. No one even sees you leave through the front gate. Even the ambulance when it passes you several blocks later, fails to slow down on its silent rush to the nearest hospital two towns away.

Two summers ago, the August before your freshman year, you and Eric rode out to the high school on your bikes. Past the date trees, the citrus groves, the rows and rows of grape vines, the empty fields of drift sand and thorn bushes, and the vicious ranch dogs, rushing at you from out of nowhere and threatening to tear you from your bikes and maul you in the street.

It felt like forever to get there and you were exhausted and dying of thirst when you finally arrived. You gulped warm water from a drinking fountain while football players, like warring Gargantuas, crashed into each other on the field. Then you ran through the empty halls, pulling on door knobs, peering through windows, and opening empty lockers. What a little punk you were, pretending you weren’t scared shitless to start high school.

Now you scan the roadside just ahead of you, not yet regretting what you’ve done, but knowing you soon will, and look for a large stick, or at least some palm-size stones to threaten potential ranch dogs with. You could sure use your old bike about now.

An hour later, you are almost home. Somewhere along the way you found a corroded, metal signpost sticking out of the ground with no sign attached. It wouldn’t pull free of the earth, so you bent it back and forth at the base until it broke loose. Now you carry it resting on your shoulder like a club, or maybe an old, rusty sword. You think about Ansgar of Holgur slicing through his enemies, and then you remember that you left the book with your backpack in your locker at school.

The fields on each side of you have been recently disked, their perfect furrows rolling on and on into the distance like grey waves on a dusty ocean. A lone house with white siding and lime green trim sits close to the street like a small ship at anchor. There is no fence, but the yard is covered in lush green grass and two flowerpots made from old car tires, painted red with their inverted edges cut in a zig-zag pattern, sit like giant pomegranates on the front lawn. As you walk past, a large dog on the porch lifts its head but doesn’t bark or get up. “That’s right, dog,” you say, not loud enough to be heard. “You don’t want to mess with me.”

Semi-trucks pass on the highway just ahead of you and when the sand turns to sidewalk at your feet, you toss the sign post into the dirt field and push the crossing button at the signal lights. As soon as you hear the approaching trucks begin to downshift and grind their gears, you hurry across all four lanes without waiting for the green “walk” to light up. There is a gas station with a mini-mart on the corner and you consider stopping in to buy a soda, but your house is only a block away now, so why waste your money.  

A cinderblock wall separates the back of the gas station from the first house on the street. As you pass it, you see a small boy in only his underwear and a white t-shirt standing behind the chain-link fence surrounding his front yard. He looks up at you with sad eyes and a pouty lower lip. You don’t know his name, but you’ve seen him out here before. “What’s up, little dude?” you ask.

“Mi perrito esta muerto,” he says.

You stop walking, your brain slow to translate. “Your dog?”

He nods. “My dog is dead.”

“I’m sorry, man.”

His little hands reach up and grip the chain link fence. “He got hit by a car.”

“Oh,” you say, wondering when this actually might have happened.

“He was eating ice cream.”

“He was?” That’s when you notice the dented trashcan lying on its side in the gutter ahead of you, its contents spilled half on the sidewalk, half in the street. “From there?”

He nods.

“Does your mommy know?”


You look past him toward the front of the house. The screen door is closed, but the door behind is half open. “Maybe you should go tell her.”

“Okay.” He turns and walks with his head down back to his house.

As you draw closer to the trashcan you see an empty carton of vanilla ice cream tossed onto the sidewalk. It must have been some kind of mixed flavor though, strawberry or cherry maybe, because the white melted cream dripping into the gutter is blending with the bright red of the fruit, and there seems to be so much of it that you can’t help but wonder why someone would throw all that food away. Only when you see the dog lying nearby in a twisted heap, its head cracked open and the pale fur of its ruptured torso split and spilling its insides into the street do you realize what you’ve actually been looking at.

Just as the sour, animal musk of its insides hits your nose, you step back, turn, and hurry past the next three houses until you are finally home.

Avoiding the front windows, you enter the back yard through the side gate. Your dog, a mostly German Shepherd mix, is waiting for you. He doesn’t bark, but makes a tight throated whimper instead. “Come here, boy,” you say, and maybe it’s because you smell like fear, or death, or he somehow knows you’re not supposed to be home so early, but he hesitates a moment before finally approaching, head down, to let you rub the thick fur around his neck and behind his ears.

In the back yard you take a piss against the side fence and then gulp water from the hose until your stomach swells. Your dog sniffs at your pee and then lifts his leg to add his own.

The high window to your bedroom is propped out just enough for you to reach in, push aside the wobbly screen, and use the tips of your fingers to turn the crank. When the opening is wide enough, you scramble up and crawl through on your stomach, lowering yourself head first onto your unmade bed. You roll off and onto your feet, then quickly move across the room to listen at the partially open door before carefully closing it. The house is quiet. Somewhere your six-month-old brother is probably sleeping, most likely in your mother’s arms. Maybe both are napping, enjoying the last few hours of calm before your three little sisters and, well, you, get home from school.

On the other side of the room is your brother’s bed. It is neatly made, the navy bedspread tucked in at the sides and folded back along the top to reveal the coordinating light blue sheets and pillow beneath. The same set is on your bed, only your top covers are pushed against the wall in a twisted heap. There isn’t a white line drawn down the middle of the room, but there might as well be.

Between your two beds is a wooden dresser with six drawers, three on each side. The items on his side, several trophies of various heights, a photo of his cross-country team, a few paperback books, and a shallow glass bowl with some loose change and the keys to his car, are all arranged and orderly. On your side, besides a few paperbacks, some cassette tapes, and the balled-up socks you opted not to wear this morning, is a radio-cassette player complete with two speakers and a “bass-boost” button on the side. Your mini boombox is not much bigger than a loaf of bread, but it’s probably the greatest thing you own.

Since you can’t listen to it now, you open the top drawer on your brother’s side and take out his blue Sony Walkman with its foam-covered earphones. You pop open the cover and remove the cassette inside, Rush’s Moving Pictures, and replace it with one of your own, Reggatta de Blanc by The Police. Then you kick off your shoes and roll onto his bed. As soon as you push play, you are overtaken by the rhythmic thump, choppy guitar, and skipping bass of the song. “Bring on the night,” sings Sting. “I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight.”

Your chest feels suddenly tight, frozen, like you forgot to breathe. You gasp for air, let it fill your lungs, but now you’re shaking. It starts in your stomach then moves to your chest and shoulders. You clench your teeth as the tears come steaming down your cheeks, rolling out of your nose, blubbering past your lips. Surely your mother will hear you, come bursting through the door, and find you here, but you can’t stop. When no one comes, you hug your arms tightly to your chest, roll over on your side, and cry yourself to sleep.


When you open your eyes, you see them coming.

Shoulder to shoulder they march, their shields held together and overlapping like massive scales on a metal-clad beast, one thousand legs strong and just as many points and blades for arms. It moves toward you, this dragon of men, down off the bluffs and onto the beach, an undulation of flesh and steel.

You peer from behind your own shield, feel the heat of the bodies pressing against your sides, all of you slick with blood and sweat, reeking of fear. Smoke from the burning ships bites at your eyes, and the rising tide strikes coldly at your ankles as it rolls up from behind and pulls at your heels.

Your wife. You have hardly considered her for weeks, but now she will not leave your thoughts. The silk of her raven hair, the way she would sit on her side of the bed and brush it slowly, patiently, from crown to waist before finally turning to you.

Terror and regret overtake you, like two fists, one at your chest, the other, your bowels. And then you see it, all of it, just before it happens, because you are already dead.

With a deafening crash, the wall of soldiers is upon you. You thrust desperately, blindly, forward with your blade. The man beside you falls, his shield with him. An enemy lance stabs through, penetrates the exposed flesh beneath your raised arm, slides between your ribs, and pierces your heart.

 You blink and the enemy is still seconds away. You know there is nothing you can do to stop this, but still, you feel you have a choice.


(A) Accept your fate and fight like you are already dead.

(B )Reject your fate. Fight to live. Fight for your life!

​​THE MISADVENTURES OF MATTHEW VAN DER BOOT is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental … no matter how many times you ask.