A trick of the light is a short novel about a boy struggling with anorexia (or, as some may know it as: Manorexia) His mirror is warped to shape his thinking. He doesn’t think he can be an anorexic, because only girls are anorexics, or can have an eating disorder. He thinks he is fat, so he stops eating, and receives help from a girl, who is also an anorexic. She has a boyfriend named ‘Eddy’ and her best friend is “Anna”. What you find out later is that ‘Eddy’ isn’t a person, but a pet name for ‘Eating Disorder’ and “Anna” is “Anorexia”. With help from his real friend, and family, he gets on the road to recovery.
Here’s an except from Lois Metzger’s story, A Trick of The Light:
The first time I reach Mike Welles, he’s in a tunnel. It’s hot, syrupy hot, July hot, the kind of heat where your breath going out feels the same as the air going in, or so I imagine. I’ve been trying to talk to Mike but he can’t hear me or can’t listen—the distinction isn’t important. How long has it been—weeks or months, days? Time is a syrupy thing, too, not always so easy to pin down.
Mike is walking with his best friend, Tamio Weissberg, in the long tunnel beneath the expressway. There’s pigeon crap pretty much everywhere, which has earned this place a nickname: the stinky tunnel. They just saw King Kong, the original 1933 version, at You Must Remember This, a neighborhood place that shows only the classics. This is far from the first time Mike and Tamio have seen King Kong, which they hail as the masterpiece of something called stop-motion animation. But it’s their first time seeing it in a movie theater and, needless to say, they were the only ones in the audience without gray hair.
They have to talk loudly because of the whooshing cars overhead, and their voices echo against the concrete walls.
Tamio: “That’s the best death scene in movies. Nobody dies like Kong.”
Mike: “Every time I keep hoping that he won’t die. It’s so stupid.”
I couldn’t agree more. It’s a movie. It will never change. But other things can change. I wish I could tell Mike that.
Mike: “The expression in his face is so amazing—how’d they do that? He’s just a little model of a gorilla, but he looks really, truly in love. Love at first sight, poor guy.”
Tamio: “On the big screen you really notice his fur moving around. You can practically see fingerprints on him.”
Mike: “Well. You can’t help that. When you handle the model—”
Tamio (shaking his head): “Hair spray. Then the fur won’t move as much.”
Mike is always impressed by Tamio’s knowledge of what seems like everything. This summer they’re working at a baseball camp for all of July and half of August, along with a kid named Ralph Gaffney. They’re counselors for the six- and seven-year-olds. It also impresses Mike how much the little kids love Tamio, how they beg to help him with the equipment. They’re actually disappointed when they can’t carry buckets of balls. And when they skin their knees, like a little kid named Ezra did this afternoon, they don’t want to cry in front of Tamio.
Mike: “You know, when Ezra got hurt, Ralph couldn’t care less—he just got mad because it was taking too long to wash the blood off and put on a Band-Aid.”
Tamio: “Ralph’s an asshole. Poor Ezra. Did you tell him he shouldn’t have been trying to steal third?”
Mike: “Not only that, but he was sliding.”
Apparently they’re not supposed to slide until they know how to do it right.
Tamio: “Ezra’s a nice kid, but he thinks he’s in the majors. When I pitch to him, he tries to tell me how to throw a slider. Hey, watch out!” He pushes Mike away from a ton of pigeon crap.
Mike: “Thanks, you saved my life.” He laughs. But he doesn’t feel like it. I can tell. I know everything there is to know about Mike Welles.
Why Mike doesn’t feel like laughing:
Sometimes in June, Mike’s mom, Regina Welles, known as Gina, a professional organizer, started sleeping whenever she wasn’t helping people clean out their closets, and at night began taking baths that last so long, the water must be cold by the time she finally climbs out. Around the same time, Mike’s dad, Douglas Welles, lawyer, started going to the gym. He spends so much time there that Mike hardly sees him.
I don’t know why this bothers Mike. He should relish the freedom all of it gives him. But he can’t resist his natural urge to talk to Tamio.
Mike: “Things have been kind of weird at home.”
Tamio: “Yeah? How so?”
Mike stops walking.
Tamio: “What’s the matter?”
Mike stares ahead blankly.
Tamio: “Are you all right?”
Mike is thinking about how he just heard a voice in his head. A whisper of a voice, but definitely a voice.
Tamio: “What do you mean, things are weird at home?”
Don’t talk about it.
Mike still can’t move, stuck in the stinky tunnel. He thinks, Am I crazy?
Tamio: “Hey, what’s going on?”
Tamio: “Dude. Say something.”
Mike: “It’s nothing.”
Mike knows something’s wrong but doesn’t know where to turn. He thinks things are bad and can only get worse. He has no idea what achievements are within his reach, what rewards await him, how much better his life is going to be.