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NEWT WAS NOT a little man. He was thick, hairy, and hulking, and after an astonishing experiment at seven, which had left him confused for almost eight months before he tried it again, by the age of eleven, he was jerking off between three and five times a day.

Thirty-four years later, Newt—in New York City for almost seven months—had been riding the subway end to end for almost three months, during which time he had not had a shower and, for two weeks, had had no shoes.

Most of the day, he’d been sleeping, till he got hungry. Then he’d come out and try to panhandle up some food, but that was a few hours off. And he’d managed to find somewhere to beat his meat between five and eight times a day. He’d done it between the cars, about an hour ago; it had run down the far side of the door, and he’d returned to sit down to drift off again almost immediately.

When he blinked, a dark-haired kid—seventeen? eighteen?— was sitting across the car from him, beside a backpack. Newt opened his eyes a crack, saw the kid was bending forward and, unlacing first his left sneaker, then his right, fingered them free of his feet, sat up with both of them hooked to one hand, and shoveled them into the backpack. Barefoot, the kid stood up, unbuckled a wide leather belt, thumbed apart the button, unzipped his fly, and dropped the pants (from the rivets and the change pocket, Newt realized they were black jeans; his own were a pair of green workpants, with some white and orange paint stains, he’d found in a trash receptacle, which someone had left and gratefully he had taken), awkwardly stepped out of them, pushed down a pair of black briefs with “FELLINI” in broad white letters, slipped them down over his knees, and, hopping on one foot, then the other, got out of those as well. The briefs were set on the knapsack; the jeans were pulled up and buckled. He sat once more and shoved his briefs into the sack after his shoes.

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About Boston Review

Allies is the first publication of Boston Review's newly inaugurated Arts in Society department. A radical revisioning of the magazine's poetry and fiction, the department unites them—along with cultural criticism and belles lettres—under a project that explores how the arts can speak directly to the most pressing political and civic concerns of our age, from growing inequality to racial and gender regimes, a disempowered electorate, and a collapsing natural world.