Long before the best-seller lists were dominated by John Green, Veronica Roth, and Stephenie Meyer, there was S.E. Hinton. Her novel The Outsiders—written when Hinton was only 15—revolutionized the young adult publishing world, causing teenage readers to demand books that reflected the realities of their own lives. For many readers, her third novel, Rumble Fish—like The Outsiders, made into a film by Francis Ford Coppola—is her best. It’s the story of 14-year-old Rusty-James and his brother, the Motorcycle Boy—the “Robin Hood, Jesse James, and the Pied Piper” of Tulsa’s teens.
To celebrate the first appearance of this title in e-book format, Slate, along with Diversion Books, is pleased to offer Hinton’s Rumble Fish at a special low price, $2.99—50 percent off regular price—for one week only.
Read Chapter 1 of Rumble Fish below.
I ran into Steve a couple of days ago. He was real surprised to see me. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time.
I was sitting on the beach and he come up to me and said, “Rusty-James?”
I said, “Yeah?” because I didn’t recognize him right off. My memory’s screwed up some.
“It’s me,” he said. “It’s Steve Hays.”
Then I remembered and got up, brushing sand off. “Hey, yeah.”
“What are you doing here?” he kept saying, looking at me like he couldn’t believe it.
“I live here,” I said. “What are you doin’ here?”
“I’m on vacation. I’m going to college here.”
“Yeah?” I said. “What you goin’ to college for?”
“I’m going to teach when I get out. High school, probably. I can’t believe it! I never thought I’d see you again. And here of all places!”
I figured I had as much chance of being here as he did, even if we were a long way from where we’d seen each other last. People get excited over the weirdest things. I wondered why I wasn’t glad to see him.
“You’re goin’ to be a teacher, huh?” I said. It figured. He was always reading and stuff.
“What do you do here?” he asked.
“Nothin’. Bum around,” I answered. Bumming around is a real popular profession here. You could paint, write, barkeep, or bum around. I tried barkeeping once and didn’t much like it.
“Lord, Rusty-James,” he said. “How long has it been now?”
I thought for a minute and said, “Five or six years.” Math ain’t never been my strong point.
“How did you get here?” He just couldn’t seem to get over it.
“Me and a friend of mine, Alex, a guy I met in the reformatory, we just started knockin’ around after we got out. We been here awhile.”
“No kidding?” Steve hadn’t changed much. He looked about the same, except for the moustache that made him look like a little kid going to a Halloween party. But a lot of people are growing moustaches these days. I never went in for them myself.
“How long were you in for?” he asked. “I never found out. We moved, you know, right after…”
“Five years,” I said. I can’t remember much about it. Like I said, my memory’s screwed up some. If somebody says something to remind me, I can remember things. But if I’m left alone I don’t seem to be able to. Sometimes Alex’ll say something that brings back the reformatory, but mostly he don’t. He don’t like remembering it either.
“They put me in solitary once,” I said, because Steve seemed to be waiting for something.
He looked at me strangely and said, “Oh? I’m sorry.”
He was staring at a scar that runs down my side. It looks like a raised white line. It don’t get tan, either.
“I got that in a knife fight,” I told him. “A long time ago.”
“I know, I was there.”
“Yeah,” I said, “you were.”
For a second I remembered the fight. It was like seeing a movie of it. Steve glanced away for a second. I could tell he was trying not to look for the other scars. They’re not real noticeable, but they’re not that hard to see either, if you know where to look.
“Hey,” he said, too sudden, like he was trying to change the subject. “I want you to meet my girl friend. She won’t believe it. I haven’t seen you since we were thirteen? Fourteen? I don’t know though”—he gave me a look that was half kidding and half serious—“you leave other guys’ chicks alone?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I got a girl.”
“Or two, or three?”
“Just one,” I said. I like to keep things simple, and God knows even one can get complicated enough.
“Let’s meet for dinner somewhere,” he said. “We can talk about the good old days. Man, I have come so far since then…”
I didn’t stop him from naming a time and a place, even though I didn’t much want to talk about the good old days. I didn’t even remember them.
“Rusty-James,” he was saying, “you gave me a real scare when I first saw you. I thought I’d flipped out. You know who I thought you were for a second?”
My stomach clenched itself into a fist, and an old fear started creeping up my backbone.
“You know who you look just like?”
“Yeah,” I said, and remembered everything. I could of been really glad to see ol’ Steve, if he hadn’t made me remember everything.
Excerpted from Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton. Copyright © 1975 by S.E. Hinton. Excerpted by permission of Diversion Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.