Marcus Rosenbloom wants to be a writer almost as much as he doesn’t want to be a virgin anymore. At seventeen years old, Marcus thinks, shouldn’t he have done it already? Crossed over to the other side, where everyone is different, more adult, more . . . experienced?
His friend Alec is smooth and charming around girls; Marcus definitely can’t talk to him about his doubts. The only person he confides in is Wendy, a childhood friend who just moved back to Sherwood High to finish her senior year. Marcus and Wendy share their crushes, their disappointments, and their nervousness about dating and sex. Then Marcus has an idea: If he and Wendy share the same problem, maybe they can share a solution, too . . . or maybe it’s all much more complicated than he ever imagined.
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About the Author
After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, Mazer joined the US Army Air Force, serving in World War II from 1943 to 1945 as a sergeant. He received a Purple Heart and an Air Medal after his B-17 bomber was shot down in 1945. Mazer’s wartime experiences later inspired several of his novels, including the Boy at War series.
Read an Excerpt
I Love You, Stupid!
By Harry Mazer
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1981 Harry Mazer
All rights reserved.
Entering the school cafeteria, Marcus imagined that girls all over the room were looking up at him. Standing apart this way, on top of the steps, tall, an inch over six feet, made taller by a mass of curly dark hair, he observed—and was observed (he hoped). "Who's that stunning guy, that senior?" "Look who just came in ... Isn't he gorgeous?" "Oh, god, it's Marcus Rosenbloom. He's a writer, you know, only seventeen and so brilliant ... Sexy!"
He moved aside to let a couple of girls pass, giving them a lingering look. Both were in tight jeans and sweaters, their hair identical—long, curly, and loose. The one nearest him gave him a gorgeous smile.
He followed her with his eyes. She was perfect. God, how he loved the way she moved. He swallowed hard. Why hadn't he smiled back? A dialogue would have started. No words needed ... her warm interested glance ... his responsive friendly smile ... a nod of his head ... the wink of her butt. In little movements it would begin. Finally. At last. Saved. Redeemed. His life justified. Sex.
Seventeen, a high-school senior, nearly a man: he'd been ready for years and he'd never had sex. What was wrong with him? He loved girls. He couldn't stop thinking about them, watching, wanting, lusting. Twelve-year-old boys did it. What was wrong with him?
There was a wall that divided the world, and it wasn't the Chinese Wall, or the Iron Curtain, or even the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, though sometimes he thought it was most like that wall. The wall he was talking about divided childhood from adulthood. It was first-time sex, and the sex thereafter. It was a wall you didn't even know existed when you were little, but when you found out about it you wanted to know more and more about it. He knew there were more important things in life than sex, but right now he couldn't think what they were.
He looked around the cafeteria, leaning against the railing, smiling slightly as if he saw somebody or had thought of something interesting. He took his notebook from his hip pocket. "Steamy, hot, and noisy." Did that catch the essence of cafeteria bedlam? Maybe "the hot hungry mouths of Sherwood High" was better? He jotted them both down. The Writer at work, too busy for sex.
A girl sitting alone at a nearby table was looking at him. Was it sympathy he saw on her face? He looked around for Alec. His friend loved school lunches. Maybe that had something to do with Alec's success with girls? Marcus never ate school lunch, and he was a failure. Was there something about the breaded fishburgers? Did girls go crazy when they smelled corn dodgers on a guy's breath? Maybe it was something you'd never think of, like the watery green beans. Who knew what turned a girl on? He was probably ruining his chances by not eating this slop, doing himself grievous harm.
His obituary flashed through his mind. DEATH COMES TO A PROMISING YOUNG AUTHOR. He'd be discovered after he died. Some of his brief but brilliant writings would be published. And at his funeral, five hundred grieving girls in white would toss red roses on his coffin.
That girl was still looking at him. He stole a look back. There was something familiar about her, the way her hair stood out around her head like a bright wiry halo. She had a book propped open in front of her. Reading alone, sitting at a table surrounded by noisy barbarians—now that took guts.
Marcus was intrigued. Who was she? Did he know her? He should know her. New girl in school, of course, sitting alone, hiding behind a book: a familiar, even a classic situation. And here he was, the thoughtful, interested, literate senior, looking at her, trying to catch the title of her book. She was reading and spooning lemon-yellow Jello from a dish without looking. Up came the spoon. In a second she was going to have Jello in her nose, but at the last moment the spoon went straight into her mouth. Marcus admired her skill. Bravo!
The girl looked up. "Marcus?"
"Wendy?" he said at the same moment. It couldn't be! Wendy Barrett, the companion of his childhood. It was too much of a coincidence. He'd known Wendy all his life. Their mothers had been best friends. Wendy and he had played together when they were little. There was a photo of the two of them in their underpants, holding hands in a field of buttercups. Wendy and her mother had moved away several years ago, and he hadn't seen her since then. "Wendy?" he said again. She had gained weight, had shoulders and boobs, and looked solid in jeans and a shirt. He saw it all in a glance.
"Marcus?" she said. "Marcus, is that you, Marcus Rosenbloom?" She stood up and grabbed him around the neck. It was pure melodrama. Her eyes glistened; a yellow fleck of Jello quivered on her lip. The bell rang and they walked through the cafeteria and into the hall together. She kept looking at him, squeezing his hand and smiling emotionally.
"What are you doing here?" he said.
"I'm here in school, at Sherwood."
"I thought you were in Buffalo."
"I was. I moved back a week ago. I'm living here with my Aunt Ginny and Uncle Doug."
After that first moment of recognition he kept getting a blurred picture of Wendy, a double image, seeing the Wendy he had known superimposed on this new mature Wendy. The voice was unchanged, and the hair and the face too, but she was different. He remembered Wendy, but who was this Wendy? The old Wendy was always a little kooky. She dressed oddly and said things that nobody else said. What kind of person was she now? She wore an ankh, a symbol of life, on a silver chain around her neck.
"The last time I saw you there was something dead hanging on a string around your neck," he said.
"I believe it," Wendy said. "I would have recognized you anywhere, Marcus. Did you see me staring at you in the cafeteria? I couldn't be sure, but those blue eyes, Marcus, and those red juicy lips—" She laughed. "Who else could it be?"
Marcus walked Wendy to her class, and they agreed to meet after school.
He was late for Mr. Sweeny's honors course in Advanced Writing. It was a small class, only twelve handpicked students, who met in a conference room, the sort of course they'd be taking in college. They could smoke if they wanted to, or get up and walk around. They were being treated like adults. Phony as hell, but Marcus loved it. He dug around in his pockets for his nail clippers, then settled down next to Bev Kruger and started trimming his nails.
"Do you have to do that?" Bev gave him a pained look. Bev was plump and freckled, with smoky green eyes that turned cat yellow when she looked at him.
"Sorry." That was the usual extent of their conversation. Bev complained and he apologized. She was one of a dozen girls he would have liked to know better ... know bed-der ... much bed-der ... Those round arms. She was like a ripe, juicy Florida orange, like whipped cream and chocolate flecks. He could see the freckles through her blouse. Was she freckled all over, and would she unbutton her blouse and show him if he had the nerve to ask? His eyes blurred with wanting as he thought of the two of them together.
"What's going on?" he asked, playing the fool. "What's Sweeny saying? Did I miss anything? What's the assignment? Say, do you have an extra sheet of paper?" He rattled on like a ten-minute quiz. He wanted to know Bev better, but she was always annoyed with him. Even as she gave him a sheet of paper, he felt he'd done something wrong—sat too close, breathed, used up some of her personal air.
Why did he find her so appealing? She was female—what else—and sexy.
He leaned toward Bev. "I just saw Wendy Barrett. I haven't seen her in three years."
"A girl I used to know. She's here in Sherwood High." He looked at Bev with engaging utter sincerity. He was talking about a girl he was friends with. I'm safe, he was saying. No matter what you think, I'm really not a madman.
"Wendy Barrett?" Bev said. "I never heard of her."
"We grew up together." Another Mr. Clean remark.
"Mr. Rosenbloom, if you please," Mr. Sweeny said.
Marcus winced and pocketed his nail clippers. "Sorry, Mr. Sweeny."
Sweeny was a spare, nervous man with a reputation for being sharp-tongued. "Ladies and gentlemen, I asked to see a piece of your writing this week. If you will take the time to concentrate, you may remember this is a class in Advanced Writing. I asked to see a sketch, a character study. I have some of your work in hand. However, others! Mr. Rosenbloom?" "It's coming," Marcus said. "I left it home."
Bev flashed him a yellow-cat look. Marcus blushed. He always blushed when he lied. He hadn't done the assignment. He knew it, Bev knew it, and he was sure Sweeny knew it. Marcus could never tell what Sweeny thought of him. Did he think Marcus was a writer? Did Marcus think Marcus was a writer? He loved to write, to put things into words, he loved the idea of being a writer. Everyone said they were something. His friend Alec was an actor. Pfeff was an activist—he was going to make the world better. Gordy was probably going to be a professor. And Marcus was going to be a writer.
Was it true? Or was it all part of his act: playing the intellectual with the notebook, the heavy reading, and the pipe in his mouth? In tenth grade Mrs. Granenstein had read some of his poems to the class in her sexy, sandy voice. Did that make him a writer? Did a few things published in the school literary rag make him one? He was afraid he was a blowhard, self-inflating, a hot-air balloon. All talk and no action, like his sex life, all make-believe. He was still in kiddie land dreaming about the great things he was going to do. And what had he done? Nothing.
Mr. Sweeny pinned him down. "I know you have a big reputation as a writer to uphold. I'll expect something impressive."
Bev was looking at Marcus. He felt the whole class looking at him. "It will knock your eyes out, sir."CHAPTER 2
A girl was waiting for him. Marcus saw Wendy standing at the far end of the corridor. Too bad it wasn't Bev Kruger. He no longer recognized Wendy. So they'd known each other years ago. What did that mean now? They'd been kids then. What did they have in common now? They'd meet. She'd say, Marcus. He'd say, Wendy. Great conversation. "How's your mother?" "Fine, how's yours?" And then what?
"Marcus," she said, as he approached.
"Wendy." Great. Next she'd say, How's your mother?
"How's your mother?"
"Fine, how's yours." Rolling his eyes, he pushed open the door. This was going to be pure adolescent torment.
Outside, the wind struck them in the face. Marcus was jacketless. Rugged individualism. The wind found the holes in his jeans. Modest poverty. Wendy wore a boy's red plaid jacket, Bean boots, jeans. Was that her new costume, the new kookiness? Not very kooky. The old Wendy was a lot more interesting.
"You look like you're ready to go backpacking," he said.
"I'd love to. How about you?"
Enthusiastic type. "Me? I can take it or leave it."
"If you haven't done it, don't knock it. Nobody should talk till they've tried it."
Jumps to conclusions. "When I was fourteen," he said slowly, with satisfaction, "I spent a whole summer backpacking—living outdoors, canoeing through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada."
"Your mother let you?"
"Why shouldn't she?"
"You were only fourteen."
"She couldn't stand having me around. I used to dribble a basketball in the apartment and set off thermal explosions on the windowsill. I was a royal pain in the ass. My whole character has been retooled since then."
They crossed over toward Meadowbrook. There were still patches of snow on the ground, dirty mounds of it pushed to the edges of the parking lot. Marcus set a fast pace. Olympic style. He wasn't going to slow down for her; let her run and keep up. She did keep up! Show-off.
"You're taller," she said.
"You too." They were back to kindergarten talk.
"And thinner. Much thinner."
So she'd noticed. An observant type. The last of the fat had disappeared that summer in Algonquin. But once fat you never forget. "I lost five or six hundred pounds canoeing."
"Come on, Marcus, you were never that fat."
She says nice things too. "Your memory fails you."
"No, my memory is fine. I remember you very well. We always had fun. You were the only sane person I knew."
Sane? Nice? Was that what he was. "I should have been crazier."
"Why would you want to be crazy?" Wendy said.
Takes everything too seriously. "Did you ever know a writer who wasn't a little peculiar?"
"I don't know any writers."
"Now you do. I am a writer."
Shock and surprise. "What did you think I'd be?"
"A pharmacist. No, I'm joking. You look more the doctor type. I thought a writer needed a lot of imagination."
"Thanks a lot." Tactless twit.
"I shouldn't have said that, should I?"
"Say whatever you please." He dropped back so he was behind her and checked her out. All right. She was still a stupid snit.
She took his arm. "Don't tell me to say anything I want to. That's how I get into trouble. I don't know when to stop talking sometimes. Have you noticed?"
"No. Oh, no." Not you, Miss Leaky Faucet.
"I do talk a lot. Whatever I think of I say. That's indiscreet. Did I make you mad?"
"Mad? No, I never lose my cool."
"Because I said that about imagination? But really, I never thought you'd be a writer."
Drip, drip, drip.
"If after all these years we had a fight the first time we met, that would be depressing. Sherwood's been depressing enough."
"This high school," he said, "can be pretty hard to take if you're not used to it. It's a factory."
"Oh, I suppose so. Coming to a new school in my senior year—it's tough making friends."
What was he letting himself in for? Was that what she was fishing for? Was he going to be her friend, her guide through Sherwood Forest? Stout-hearted Marcus. Did he need it? He didn't. He had enough friends.
"If I sound like I'm whining," Wendy said, "I'm not. I know everything will work out."
Well put, Wendy, very well put. Keep a stiff upper lip and good things will come to you. But not good Marcus Rosenbloom.
A jogger in a gray sweat suit passed them in the road. "See that man?" Wendy said. "He reminds me of Steve, the man my mother is living with."
"Steve's not my stepfather. Please, not that. He's my mother's lover. We didn't get along from Day One. There's nothing I do he likes, and I don't like him either. He's a fanatic. You should see him, Marcus, out jogging every day, no matter what. Can you stand people who are so disciplined? He was in the army. Rise at precisely six A.M., in the bathroom for precisely twenty minutes, doing precisely what he's supposed to."
Yes, Marcus could imagine himself that way. Up at six, in the bathroom for precisely twenty minutes, then calisthenics for ten minutes, writing for thirty minutes, more exercise (keep the brain flooded with blood), more writing, more exercise. ... He'd love to follow a schedule like that, but he knew he could never stick to it for more than thirty seconds.
Wendy, once she started talking about Steve, grew more and more intense. "One day I said to Steve, 'Why don't you get Sweet Life'—that's what he calls her—'why don't you get Sweet Life out there jogging with you?' 'Why don't you get out there yourself,' he said. That's the way we are—cat and dog. I only said it because I thought my mother could use some exercise. She's got the same problem I have: too much weight below the waist. And she teaches all day and doesn't exercise. I don't know if you've noticed, Marcus, but I'm like two different people. I'm fine on top, but from the waist down I have problems. Am I saying too much?"
"No, no," he said. Thoughtful, Dr. Marcus. Keep on babbling. Miss Brooks.
"Maybe Steve was trying to tell me something, but I reacted. He says every time I open my mouth there's trouble, and he's probably right. I've always been that way. With my mother too. We fight over everything. You remember that, Marcus. We'd fight, but then we'd make up and cry on each other's shoulder. But with Steve it was like World War III."
"Is that why you left?"
Excerpted from I Love You, Stupid! by Harry Mazer. Copyright © 1981 Harry Mazer. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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