Posted by: Jeanie F | February 17, 2011

“Summer, Boys” by Ethan Rutherford

I’ve written before about One Story, a non-profit organization that sends “one great short story in the mail every three weeks”. The day it arrives in my mailbox is always a good day for me. I’ve read some fantastic stories and been introduced to wonderful writers I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

This month’s story, “Summer, Boys” by Ethan Rutherford absolutely knocked my socks off. It’s the story of two boys, best friends, the summer before they enter sixth grade. I think many of us remember this particular time in our lives as a pivotal period between childhood and adolescence. In sixth grade, everything seems to change.

Rutherford has captured this moment perfectly. The boys are unnamed – simply referred to as “one friend,” or “one of them.” This is never confusing. Instead, it has the quality of allowing the reader to put any eleven-year old boys they know into the picture.

The affection between the boys, as well as their total compatability, is as pure as only childhood friendships can be. Rutherford takes us squarely into their world:

These are their moments of gathering. At the house in Laurelhurst, in the June heated nights, in the July afternoons, down in the basement where it just feels like night and a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game stands in the corner unmoving like a dim-lighted guardian, they give in with slack-jawed fervor to the movies they’re allowed to rent: Ghostbusters, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Gremlins . . . Is there anything they won’t watch? They repeat dialog and collapse, laughing, into the wide recess of the L-shaped couch, the couch they eat on, the couch they spill soda on, the couch they fort up, the couch they sleep on, in their matching sleeping bags, heads almost touching so that even after it comes from upstairs that it’s time, finally, to shut up and turn in, they can still whisper those moments in the movie they’ll see again, in the morning, before it’s due at the video store.

However, by the end of the summer their world has shifted slightly, and we are there to watch.

This story is beautiful and heartbreaking. I don’t remember ever reading anything that so purely shows us the fierce and unspoken love between boys, the odd rituals that define their friendships.

It’s this quality of story that I’ve come to expect from One Story. Do yourself a big favor and check them out. If you decide to subscribe, it may be the best $21 you ever spend.


  1. I loved this story! I’m always interested when an author doesn’t name his/her characters – and here, it was as if the boys were one boy for most of the story. Then the division and reconnection was heartbreaking. The tone was perfect for the story, delicate, not boyish like you’d expect, but it worked so well. And I don’t even know who Boz is!

    I usually rotate my subscriptions to get a wide variety of publications – this was my first year with One Story – but this, plus “The Husband” plus “The Quietest Man” plus a few others convinced me that I had to renew.

  2. Your comment made my day! I’m so happy to hear from another One Story reader! Personally, I plan to keep this subscription, as well as my Glimmer Train subscription, for a long time.

    I looked at your website – very cool! – and signed up to follow you.

  3. One Story is the first subscription I signed up for a few years back and I love giving it away as gifts. This was definitely one of my favorites and I love Ethan Rutherford’s story in the BASS 2009 collection – The Peripatetic Coffin.

    • I’m going to have to go back and take a look at that one – I don’t remember it, and I’ve read all the BASS editions since 1995. Thanks for the reminder!

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