Renaissance Online's second serial story, "Dear Dreadful Book" will appear over four months, concluding with the November 1999 issue.
SHARON E. SVENDSEN, an English teacher and writing instructor, is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine. She makes her home in Bremerton, Washington.
DEAR DREADFUL BOOK
I ate all the salad I could and had the rest of it put in a take-home box. Lawrence was so sweet-helping me with my chair and opening doors for me. We were still a little awkward with each other, but it was nice. When we got to the prom, everyone was surprised by Lard Lawrence. They all said how good he looked, and Lux said he even looked taller. The funny thing is, I think he did. I saw Sid and Rita right away, and that made me feel a little bad, but they didn't look very happy, and I actually felt kind of sorry for them, believe it or not. I was already having a pretty good time. Then the music started and I found out Lawrence can dance. I love to dance. No one ever wants to dance as much as I do, but Lawrence did. And he was good. Not embarrassing or dorky looking at all. I felt sorry for Trina with Oogy, who was trying to be mister acrobat on the dance floor. He shouldn't have been calling so much attention to himself. He had beer out in his car. He offered us some, but we said no. If they'd caught us drinking, we could have been thrown out. Trina had drunk some. You could smell it on her. She smelled like a tavern or something. It wasn't feminine. We had Cokes and some of the punch there at the prom. They picked Pamela Smythe and Gilbert Nordstrom as prom queen and king. Big surprise. They could pose in a department store as mannequins for prom queen and king.
It was nice dancing with Lawrence. He's nice and tall, but not too tall. When we danced the slow dances, he smelled kind of soapy and pleasant.
After the prom was over, we got in his car and he drove up to Lovers' Lookout and parked and I thought oh God, he's going to want to neck and I was feeling all uncomfortable because I really didn't want to neck with him but here he reaches into the back seat and gets out this little black suitcase kind of thing and I'm wondering what that is and he opens it and starts putting together his clarinet! So I'm thinking, well, this is weird and he doodles with the clarinet and stuff and finally he clears his throat and says, "I wrote this song for you." Then he plays me this beautiful song. After he plays it through once, he plays it again with variations. I just started to cry. He stops playing and hands me his clean, white handkerchief from his pocket and he says, "Don't you like it?" And I say, "It's beautiful. I like it a lot. It's just that I don't deserve such a beautiful song." And he says, "Sure you do." But I know I don't, and it makes me sad that he thinks I do. He says, "Shall I stop playing?" And I said, "No," because it was really beautiful, so he plays some more but I just keep crying kind of softly so finally he stops and takes his clarinet apart and puts it into the case and puts the case into the back seat. Then he says, "Do you want to go for a hamburger at Denny's or something?" And I was feeling kind of hungry but I also just felt so sad so I said, "I think you'd better take me home." And when we got here, he walked me to the door and I gave him back his handkerchief and he handed me my salad box. Then he leaned over and kissed me so sweetly and gently - the guy is breaking my heart. I mean, my heart goes out to him, but I know he wants me to be like his girlfriend and I know that won't work so I say to him, "Lardb-" before I even know what I'm saying. My fingers flew to my lips. God, I wanted to cut my tongue out! But he says, "I know people call me Lardbutt. It's okay. You can call me that if you want to." And I say, "No. I don't want to. I'm sorry." and he says, "That's okay." But it's not okay and we both know it's not. And I say, "Let's just be friends for now" ( I said "for now" so he wouldn't feel too bad) "but let's really be friends," I said, "I mean, let's not say we're going to just be friends and then not ever talk to each other again. Let's be friends. Let's hang out together and stuff. But let's not think about being boyfriend and girlfriend just yet." (I said "just yet" so he wouldn't just feel I was rejecting him, even though I sort of was.) And he says, "That's great. That's wonderful. That's more than I ever dreamed of." Then he kisses me on the cheek and heads for his car. I came inside and just sighed at the sadness of it all. But I'm going to be nice to him. I really am. I am going to be his friend.
Mom was all happy this morning. She says, "What a nice boy Lawrence is," and she goes on and on about how he called her before the prom to find out about what kind of corsage to get. And I say, kind of unenthusiastically, "Yeah. He's nice." And Mom says, "What's the matter?" And I say, "It's just that he likes me better than I like him and it makes me sad." And she looks at me with this kind of sweet, funny, hopeful look and says, "It does?" And the look she's giving me makes me all confused so I look at what she's cooking and I say, "You're fixing oatmeal for breakfast? Gross." So she kind of sighs and turns back to her pan and says, "You could pour the juice." So I pour the juice and I'm feeling all mixed up. I didn't want to turn Mom off, but I don't want her slobbering all about Lard- Lawrence. Lawrence. Lawrence. I've got to get used to calling him Lawrence. Anyway, I don't want Mom thinking that something's going to happen there.
In the afternoon, I called Lawrence. I told him Trina and Lux were coming over and why didn't he come over, too. I wanted him to know I was serious about us hanging out together. He said sure he'd be over soon. Trina and Lux were kind of surprised when he got here, but they were cool. Lawrence is so uncool, though, he breaks my heart. We were just sitting around talking about diets and Lawrence said he was on a seafood diet. I said, "A seafood diet. What's that like?" And he said, "When I see food, I eat." We laughed and he blushed. I knew he wasn't embarrassed and I knew that he'd meant to be funny, so I kept wondering: why did he blush? I thought about it quite a bit and I decided it was because he was just so pleased that we had laughed. I mean, instead of just expecting us to laugh, he didn't expect us to laugh and when we did laugh it made him happy. Poor Lawrence. I just wanted to tell him, "No, honey, you can't show your feelings like that - you can't show you care like that." But he does. He's this really sweet, sensitive guy. It just really makes me wish he had a nice girl to go with. How do people live who care so much? He must be dying all the time.
Lawrence walked me home from school today. He even wanted to carry my books, but I said, "Come on." I said to Lawrence, "Doesn't anyone call you Larry?" And he says, "I don't like the name Larry." And I said, "Why not?" And he said, "I just don't. That's all." So I said, "Well, I can't just keep calling you Lawrence." And he said, "Why not?" And I said, "It's just too formal. I need to call you something else." And he said, "Well, there's always Lardbutt." And I said, "Get real." Then I thought about it for a while and I said, "How about Larby?" (Rhymes with Arby.) And he said, "I guess that's all right." And I mean, I know it's still a little cruel because it has an echo of Lardbutt in it, but I think it's okay with both him and me. So now on, forever, I'm going to call him Larby. I like having my own name for him. It's like a piece of him I get to keep. That sweet part of him that he shows to me. Not that we're getting all lovey or anything, but I really do like him as a friend. I like being with him.
Mom has been ragging at me again to personally ask Aunt Lizzy to my graduation party. I told Larby about how I feel about having to invite Aunt Lizzy to my party, and I told him why. He just kind of shrugged and said, "Oh." I said, "What do you mean, 'Oh'?"" and he said, "They say that's just the way homosexuals are." And I said, "What do you mean, 'the way they are'?" and he said, "That's just the way they are. They didn't choose to be that way. If it's the way they are, we shouldn't hold it against them." I could see what he was saying. I had never thought of it that way. But I thought of two girls kissing each other, and it just made me kind of want to puke. By then, we were at my house. We sat down on the porch swing and I said, "Play your clarinet for me." It was obvious he had his clarinet with him. He smiled, got out his clarinet and put it together. I love to listen to him play. It awakens all kinds of feelings inside of me.
Trina is going to start working at McDonalds. I said, "Oh Trin." And she said, "Geez, Cindy, it's not like it's a big tragedy or something. It's a job. I'll have money to spend." I said, "But McDonalds." And she said, "I'm not exactly qualified to be a brain surgeon yet." She was a little miffed, so to make her feel better I said, "But I'll get so fat on Big Macs!" She laughed then and things were okay. But McDonalds. Ugh.