The Japanese Model

I am 13 years old and my parents went to bed two hours ago. I hunch over my dimly lit desk and squint as I pull tiny gun turrets from the sprues of a plastic-parts tree. My room smells of Testor's model glue. I will eventually get so delirious from inhaling the fumes and struggling to assemble this 1/700-scale model of the aircraft carrier Akagi that I will pass out at my desk.

The early teens are difficult years for American boys. The first flickers of puberty bring with them confused longings. New social skills are suddenly required; the conversation in...

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