Silas Hart is the 17-year-old character in the YA novel I am writing. Here are a couple scenes to show why I love him so much.
1) He is ridiculous.
“So this is why you need a summer job,” I said to Silas as I surveyed his garage sale finds, which were laid out across his bed one afternoon like cheap museum displays: a dollar sign ice cube tray, a box of old eight-tracks, and a “D-Bag Poet”-themed Magnetic Poetry set. I held up the magnet collection. “Really?” I asked.
“It’s missing fo sho and dayam,” he said, trying not to crack a smile, “so I won’t be able to write a poem about you, sorry.”
I burst out laughing. I loved Silas like this—strange and quirky and hilarious. “What are you going to do with a box of eight-tracks, kid?”
He shrugged. “Dunno, but aren’t they great?”
“You … are so …”
“Enchanting? Delectable? Ambrosial?”
“Weird.” We grinned at each other.
I marveled at the fact that Silas lived in this pristine palace and yet loved to scrounge around other people’s junk, amassing a variety of worthless treasures to add to the collection in his bedroom. Well, they weren’t worthless to him—in fact, he’d found a ridiculous t-shirt featuring a unicorn rearing before an American flag, and you’d have thought he’d discovered the pearl of greatest price.
“I saved the best for last,” he insisted, and I realized that he was hiding something
behind his back.
“Don’t tell me,” I said. “Macaroni art of Steve Buscemi?”
“I wish!” he teased. “But no.” Silas pulled from behind him a carrot-colored plastic transistor radio. It was a little larger than his hand—an awkward size, like an old Walkman on steroids.
“What do you want that for?” I asked, raising both dubious eyebrows.
“Because it’s awesome. Durr,” he said. “And because we’re going to use it to listen to that radio show of yours. Yes?”
I grinned. “Yes.”
2) He is crazy.
Silas and I spent the rest of that week together, and I quickly determined that he was absolutely crazy—but the very best kind. One morning he showed up at my house wearing an honest-to-goodness windbreaker suit straight out of the 90’s, purple, mint green, and what is best described as neon salmon. I could feel the goofy grin on my face while Silas gathered our supplies from my garage. “What?” he deadpanned. “What are you staring at?”
I played along. “Your windbreaker is just so …”
“Fetching?” he interjected. “Voguish? Swanky?”
“Hot,” I said. “Just all out sexy. Screw trends. The 90’s neon just exudes sex appeal.”
“Well, I thought so myself.”
And after the sun was high in the sky and the pavement was heating up, he took off the windsuit, revealing shorts and a New Moon t-shirt beneath, Edward Cullen’s pale face dramatically screenprinted on the front. “Vader’s competition,” he said, shrugged, and started vacuuming the floors of the Corolla left in our care.
Silas talked about the strangest things. “Can you ever really prove anything? How?” or “I read about this composer who said his abstract music went ‘to the brink’—that beyond it lay complete chaos. What would that look like? Complete chaos?” or “A group of moles is called a labor; a group of toads is called a knot. Who comes up with this stuff? It’s a bouquet of pheasants, a murder of crows, a storytelling of ravens, a lamentation of swans. A lamentation of swans, West!”
We sat in the backseat of a dusty Saturn one afternoon, trading off the handheld vacuum as we talked—or rather, shouted—over its noise. I ran the hand-vac over the back of the driver’s seat, while Silas said, “I used to think I was the only one with a crush on Emily Dickinson until a couple years ago.”
“You have a crush on Emily Dickinson?”
“Did you just ‘durr’ me? Is that like a ‘duh’?”
He nodded as I handed him the Dirt Devil. “But then I read this Don Miller book that says it’s a rite of passage for any thinking American man. I still wasn’t a hundred percent sure, but then I read a Collins poem called ‘Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes.’”
Just the title made me blush.
Silas, unruffled, continued, “The end of it talks about how he could hear her inhale and sigh when he undid the top fastener of her corset, ‘the way some readers sigh when they realize/that Hope has feathers,/that reason is a plank,/that life is a loaded gun/that looks right at you with a yellow eye.’”
Silas sighed unhappily.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, frowning.
“I finally made it into the backseat with a girl,” Silas cracked, looking hard at the Dirt Devil. “This is not all I was hoping it would be.”
I slugged him in the arm while his wry smile gave way to laughter.
3) He’s brilliant.
It was a new experience to visit the library with Silas along. Every section of the library was like its own island—one Silas had explored in the past and was now showing to me. He started in fantasy, pointing out titles and introducing me to authors—and then we moved into young adult fiction … through the classics … memoir. Silas indicated story after story that he had read, telling me what he loved about each one, his favorite parts, favorite lines, favorite characters. It felt like going around a family reunion, meeting all his relatives, and sometimes discovering that we were friends with the same people. In the poetry section, he showed me pages of Kit Kaiser and Jolie Brightman.
“Here,” he said, pulling a “Best of e.e. cummings” book off the shelf, “I’ll show you something.” He checked the table of contents, flipped open to the right page, marked a place with his finger, and handed it to me.
I read the line aloud: “nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.” I looked up at Silas, and his eyes were shining.
“I still think I’ve never read anything better than that. The morning I first read it, I went into some kind of shock,” he said. “I hadn’t known anything could be so incredible. It’s the line that made me want to write.”