Benny Hopstock was a boy with curly blond hair and big, brown eyes, like a doe. His mom said he looked like Goldilocks, but he didn’t like that. He was pudgy and looked a bit like a pig, like the cartoon character on the logo disc outside the slaughterhouse where they made bacon, by the bridge.
Benny had allergies, and what seemed a constant crust around his nose. He was a sickly kid, but made up for it with a high IQ. Mom hoped he would be a lawyer some day.
Benny’s cousin was in from upstate New York with her mom. They walked to the Magic Place and Benny gestured proudly over the gate, this is where it happened.
His cousin was a leggy girl with short, red hair, who was just starting to form a chest. She carried a tin of tobacco and offered him some, said don’t swallow. This way they can’t smell it on you, but you still get the buzz.
Benny first started talking about Mr. Bingley that fall, after his parents split up. Mr. Bingley was a slug with a face; he had the face of the man in the moon, from a TV commercial about chocolate milk that Benny liked.
His mom didn’t like Mr. Bingley, or the fact that Benny wouldn’t let them meet. No, Mr. Bingley said that was the one rule: this is our secret, our time together, and if you break our secret I’ll have to leave, like dad.
Mom said they were going to take Benny to Talk To Someone, because mom didn’t like the idea of a talking slug with a face, it wasn’t normal. Mom’s sister said she needed to talk to someone too, talk to someone about dad.
Benny’s cousin called it Therapy, said that’s what the rich people do along with tennis and nannies. She wanted to be a nannie because it was good money, and a chance to see something called Cable: a box with a sliding lever that let you see up to 38 channels on the TV.
Benny and his mom just had a black and white set, but mom let him keep it in his room to help him sleep, and he’d doze off to the ball game and the soft sound of the commentator’s deep voice, the people who were not real people but faceless figures there in the stands, their cheering sounds soft static, stroking him to sleep.