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Elroy's got one thing on his mind: girls. In an effort to get to second base, he offers to tutor the hot new girl in math, forms a band with his two best friend (okay, so he gets a face full of tomato for his efforts) and joins the wrestling team.
He's a little vague on the whole bases thing, but the jocks have a club dedicated to getting there with every girl they can. And now that he's a jock (sort of), maybe Elroy will find out for himself what it means to be a member of the Second Base Club.
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|Publisher:||Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)|
|File size:||666 KB|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Greg Trine is the author of the Melvin Beederman, Superhero books, which he creates with his illustrator sidekick, Rhode Montijo. He lives with his family in Southern California.
Greg Trine is the author of the Melvin Beederman, Superhero books, which he creates with his illustrator sidekick, Rhode Montijo. He is also the author of the young adult book, The Second Base Club. He lives with his family in his Southern California hideout.
Read an Excerpt
I know it's not polite to stare at a girl's chest, but she was wearing one of those tops that said "Hey, stare at my chest, and do it now!" So I did. After all, I'd been given an order — a nonverbal one, but, still, an order was an order.
After she passed by, I wrote something down, then turned to my good friend Vern Zuckman. We had just gotten off work at Perry's Pretzels and were now sitting on a bench at the far end of the food court at the mall, trying to make the last day of summer last.
"I gave her an 8.65," I told him. "I had her in the mid-nines until I saw her face."
Vern snorted. "You're crazy, Elroy. She was a 9.8 easy. Didn't you see —" He stopped and looked at me. "Wait, you looked at her face?"
That was the difference between Vern and me. I saw the whole package. He only saw parts. Two in particular.
"I want one," he said.
"Sorry, pal. They come in pairs."
"I mean I want a girlfriend."
That made two of us.
It's not like I was completely without experience. Over the summer I'd made out with Jenny Brockmire three times. Twice for about thirty seconds, but one kiss lasted more than four minutes. She broke up with me when she realized I was timing her. She opened her eyes and saw me staring at the clock on the wall above the deep-fryer.
"Four minutes and twenty-one seconds," I told her.
She was not at all amused.
It was a little tense after that, and I ended up quitting Denise's Donuts and moving down to the far end of the food court, on the other side of Mario's Pizza-by-the-Slice, to Perry's. As far as I knew, Vern hadn't had any make-out experiences, but we were both of the same mind as far as girls were concerned. Tenth grade was about to begin. We'd be driving before the year was out. Something told me there was romance in our futures. It was time to get serious.
I pulled off my clip-on bow tie, the required uniform at Perry's, and shoved it in my shirt pocket along with the little notepad where I'd scribbled the 8.65. Turns out she was the highlight of the day. The three previous girls were in the mid-sixes — mid-sevens for Vern. But, like I said, he didn't rate the whole package.
"Let's get out of here," I said.
Vern stood up and looked around, his tie and notebook already stowed. "Yeah, it's thinning out. See you tomorrow, Elroy."
"First day of school. Woo-hoo." I slapped him a high-five.
We went outside and got on our bikes and headed out. Vern waved at the corner, and I took off down Casitas Pass. I lived with my mother at the end of the road in a thirty-twofoot Airstream set in among the oaks. It wasn't part of a trailer park, just a lone trailer back in the canyon. So I lived in a trailer, not in a trailer park. I liked the distinction, for some reason.
It was a place some mountain man might call home, and I didn't feel I needed to hang my head about it. I saw deer and coyotes right outside the window on a daily basis. You don't get that in a trailer park.
I coasted off the pavement onto the dirt lot in front of the Airstream and brought the kickstand down as the bike came to a stop. Then I went inside. Mom was lying there in the living room, which was also my bedroom, with her legs flat against the floor and her arms pushing her torso up.
"No offense, Mom, but that's the worst push-up I've ever seen," I told her.
"It's yoga, dear."
Then she put her butt up in the air, with her hands and feet on the floor.
"Okay, that's the worst push-up I've ever seen."
"It's. Yoga. Dear."
Yoga or not, it was still a pretty rotten push-up, but I kept my mouth shut about it.
I wasn't at all nervous about tenth grade. I'd survived my freshman year mainly by sticking with large groups of other kids — safety-in-numbers kind of thing. Sure, some of the ninth-graders got beat up or had their heads flushed in the boys' bathrooms, but I was left alone through sheer luck. Like when there's a shipwreck and the sharks pick off the survivors on the fringe. I just never put myself on the fringe, and it worked. They never got to me.
And now, as a tenth-grader, I no longer had to worry about being the youngest and scrawniest. There was easier prey.
On the first day of school, I woke up early when my mom turned on the water in the shower. I lay there on the couch in the living/dining room and stared at the ceiling for a while before I got up and threw on some clothes. Actually, I didn't just throw them on. It was a carefully selected wardrobe. Jeans, white T-shirt, sneakers. Simple, but carefully selected. And I hoped some girl, in the mid-sevens or better, noticed.
When Mom wandered in wearing her Grinch bathrobe, I was already halfway through a piece of toast, and equally far into the morning paper.
"I made coffee," I said, pointing with a jagged piece of rye.
"Thanks." She poured a cup and joined me at the table.
"Remember, you'll be with your father this weekend," she said as she grabbed the funnies. "Let me know if he's working a real job."
I nodded. "Real job" to my mother meant working for someone else. It also meant getting a regular paycheck. My parents separated over this very issue. Mom said Dad had chronic entrepreneurism, meaning he had the heart to be self-employed, just not the brain. His latest business venture had failed, just like the previous three.
Which is why we eventually lost the house.
Which is why my parents aren't together.
Which is why I live at the end of Casitas Pass, along with a bunch of deer ... and a few coyotes.
But they had been separated for a year, and neither of them had said anything about making it permanent. I took this as a good sign. Things could change for the better. There was hope.
I finished my toast and looked up at my mom. She was the kind of lady who looked great even before she put herself together completely. And that's saying something, since I'm her kid talking.
"You working today?" I asked her.
She worked at a spa in Ojai, doing massage mostly. She also taught yoga — she can touch her toes and everything — and ran the front desk when they were in a pinch. She hadn't dated anyone since she and my dad split. I wasn't sure why. She had a look that I imagined most men would go for. Vern once rated her in the nines. I punched him for that comment. You don't rate your best friend's mom.
Then again, maybe she didn't date because of Dad. Another good sign.
"Gotta keep this palatial estate running." She stood up and poured herself a second cup. "Don't be late for school."
"Can I ask you something, Mom?"
I got to my feet and turned slowly, letting her see my carefully selected outfit. "Do you think I have some lady-killer in me?" "I'd say you're loaded with it."
"Or at least full of it?"
"Maybe. But in a good way."
I took off on my bike down Casitas Pass, leaving behind the orange groves and avocado trees. Once near the Highmont Ridge Mall, I kept an eye peeled for Vern. We had an understanding that we'd hook up at around the same time and place each morning and ride in together. He'd had his head flushed a few times as a freshman before I filled him in on my theory about keeping away from the fringe. Ever since then, he'd stuck to me like glue.
I glanced up and down the street, searching for him. He wasn't around, and after a while I continued on alone. I was at the rack locking my bike when he showed up.
"Why didn't you wait for me?" he asked, out of breath.
"You snooze, you lose."
"Needed a little extra beauty sleep, is all. That girl we saw at the mall yesterday might go to school here. I have to be prepared."
"She ignored us yesterday. It probably won't be much different today. We're sophomores, Vern, second to the bottom of the totem pole. Girls like that go for the varsity quarterback type." I was no quarterback, but I'd been told by a certain female that very morning that I had a fair amount of lady-killer in me. Of course, the female in question also happened to be my mother, but you have to trust your parents' opinions. It goes along with respecting your elders.
Vern locked his bike, and we headed to class. I didn't see him again until first break. We sat on one of the concrete planters in the quad, where we spent most of the previous year, far away from the fringe.
"I saw her," Vern said.
"The 9.8 from the mall."
"Don't you mean the 8.65?"
"Okay, I'll give you that. I looked at her face this time."
"You're learning," I said. "So what's her name?"
"Can't remember. I was too dazzled to think straight."
I told him that his mission, should he choose to accept it, was to find out her name and report back. He said he would, but as it turned out, Miss 8.65, whom I may have underrated, parked herself across the aisle from me in fourth-period geometry. I tried not to stare. It wasn't easy.
She caught me looking a few times, but at least I was looking at her face, not anywhere else. I think she appreciated it, because she smiled, which elevated her cuteness status even more.
The next day, Vern, who chose to accept his mission, reported that her name was Marisa Caldwell. Of course, I already knew this. Don't get me wrong, I was dazzled too. But I paid attention when Mrs. Dumar took roll.
Marisa. I wrote her name down on the inside cover of my geometry book, then in half a dozen places during fifth and six periods that first day, so I wouldn't forget. There wasn't much chance I would, but I wanted to be sure. I don't remember much about what went on in fifth and sixth periods. Did I have homework from those classes? If I did, the assignment was in one ear, out the other, and slowly making its way into outer space. Vern had said it best: dazzled.
I spent the week trying to work up the courage to talk to Marisa. So far, I could only stare. But at least I didn't stare at her chest — not when she would notice, anyway. I'd been a teenager for a few years now — I had highly developed check-out skills.
On Friday, I headed over to my dad's studio apartment, where I'd be for the weekend. He met me at the door and extended his hand. "Hey, Elroy." He'd been doing the handshake thing ever since I hit thirteen, thinking I was too mature to be hugged. This is just a theory, but do you ever outgrow the need for hugging? I'm not sure that you do.
I put on my grown-up face, though, and gave his hand a manly squeeze. "Hey."
Dad named me after a character from some ancient sixties cartoon called The Jetsons. Father George, daughter Judy, Jane his wife, and his boy Elroy. I'm not sure how I feel about being named after a cartoon character.
But, getting back to Dad's apartment. ... Like I said, it was a studio, everything in one room. He slept on a fold-out couch, which was in couch mode now, facing an enormous television, one of his first purchases after the split with Mom.
"How does pancakes for dinner sound?" he asked, opening the fridge.
Breakfast was my favorite meal. Pancakes for the next seven meals sounded good to me. While Dad mixed up the batter, I walked over and checked out his whiteboard, where he usually jotted down his latest business schemes. When I wanted to find out what was going on in my dad's head, I just read his whiteboard. It was pretty telling, usually.
But this time there were no business plans. No entrepreneurial schemes, half cocked or otherwise. The whiteboard simply had three items listed.
Get a haircut Get in shape Earn her respect
Dad saw me looking at it and erased it, then went back to his pancake batter and called over his shoulder. "So how's your mother doing?"
"Fine," I said.
Dad looked at me like he wanted some elaboration on the subject, so I added, "She's not dating anyone. That's a good sign."
"That is a good sign." He paused, then said, "Does she ever talk about me?" He waved the question away with a spatula. "Don't answer that. Let's eat."
A few minutes later, he flipped the pancakes onto plates and we sat down at the table. "Who says bachelors don't eat good."
Halfway through my second pancake, I put my fork down and looked across the table at my father. He used to box when he was in college and his nose was still slightly off kilter. He also had an old scar slicing through one eyebrow. But other than those few battle wounds, he was in pretty good shape for a guy in his forties. "You know, Dad, Mom doesn't want much. Just a normal life. A husband who works a normal job, gets paid whatever, and comes home."
He nodded. "I'm working on that. How is she?"
"You asked that already." I could tell he didn't want to discuss his past failures, so I let it go. "She says I have some lady-killer in me."
"That reminds me, Elroy. Did we ever discuss the birds and the bees?"
"I don't think so," I said. "What would you like to know?"
The birds and the bees was currently my favorite subject. All through dinner and later, as Dad laid out the Scrabble game, I couldn't stop thinking of Marisa Caldwell. Finally, I had to ask the question that had been banging around in my head since I first laid eyes on her. "Do you believe in love at first sight, Dad?"
Dad was arranging his letters and looked up. "Is that a hypothetical question?"
"Kind of." I mean, I did have a girl in mind, and I did feel something at first sight. Maybe it was just good ol' American horniness. Still, I was curious. Did love at first sight exist? Or did it just make for good storytelling?
"I believe in attraction at first sight." He laid down his letters, spelling GROUP on a double-word score. "Attraction at first sight happens all the time, which can grow into love. Generally, it's not love unless you know the person. That's the short answer, Elroy."
"What's the long answer?"
"The long answer is, it's complicated."
Actually, his long answer was shorter than his short answer. But I didn't say anything more. I had enough to go on. I wasn't in love with Marisa Caldwell — yet.
"So what's her name?"
"Huh?" I was busy fantasizing about Marisa and trying to come up with a word starting with "p." He wanted me to talk too?
"The girl's name," Dad said again.
"Marisa. But that's all I'm saying for now."
Dad didn't press for more information. He never did.
We got along fine over the weekend. He asked a lot about my mother, which was usual for him, but most of the time we just sat around watching manly movies and sports shows, playing Scrabble, and eating breakfast three times a day.
Back at school, I tried to keep myself from staring at Marisa Caldwell. She caught me looking a few times, but, like I said, I was looking in the right place, so I didn't have to blush. I blushed anyway. I think she just had that effect on guys. It couldn't be helped. She looked my way — I blushed.
I knew I'd have to speak to her eventually but didn't know what to say. Finally, near the end of the second week of school, I looked across the aisle and whispered, "Hey, Marisa, can I borrow a piece of paper?" In my head I kept chanting, Keep eye contact. Don't look anywhere else. ... Eye contact. ... Eye contact. My eyes obeyed, I think.
Marisa looked at me a long while before speaking. Then she said, "I take it that paper there is not in working order?" She gestured to my ring binder, where I had at least two hundred sheets of brand-new, unused paper. It was the beginning of the school year, for crying out loud. Who runs out of paper that fast?
I grabbed the top ring of the binder and gave it a fake tug while grimacing. "It's jammed. Won't open." Smooth.
When I turned back to her, she was holding a piece of paper across the aisle to me and smiling. I grabbed the paper, told her thanks, and got to work on the problems Mrs. Dumar had passed around. But Marisa's smile stayed with me, hovering over my page, right next to an isosceles triangle. I spent the rest of the period doodling, too distracted to tackle the Pythagorean theorem. At least I had broken the ice, I kept telling myself. I'd opened my mouth and spoken to Marisa Caldwell.
"You talked to her?" Vern unlocked his bike and looked at me with a combination of awe and disgust. "What happened to 'Girls like that go for the varsity quarterback type'?"
"Thought I'd aim high."
Vern said he wouldn't get in the way.
"That is so good of you," I said, and we both laughed. It wasn't like he was going to strike up a conversation with Marisa Caldwell anytime soon. But, in a way, I'd issued a challenge. I'd broken the ice with someone. Now it was his turn.
Excerpted from "The Second Base Club"
Copyright © 2010 Greg Trine.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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