Laurilee’s legs are bare and faintly bluish beneath the pleats of her plaid jumper. She once told me that it is the same one she wore in Catholic grade school. A lot of guys would get a stiffy if a girl told them that. I’m one of those guys.
Laurilee and I crouch behind the Dumpster at the back entrance of Penn Square Mall. We lean against the concrete wall and smoke unfiltered Camels. I used to smoke Parliaments until I met Laurilee. I like the Camels. I like how the shreds of tobacco get stuck to the end of my tongue. I cock my head to the left and spit them out and it makes me feel like a man.
We keep an eye out for Terrance, the six-foot-four, pockmarked, probably undiagnosed-schizophrenic mall-security Nazi. By regulation, all employees are required to leave mall grounds when smoking, but we only have fifteen minutes and it’s cold. Laurilee has a scab across her knee. I want to run my fingertips around the jagged edges. I want to touch each of her flaws—the slightly stick-out ears, the bitten-down nails with chipped silver polish. I want to bury my face in her unwashed hair, the turquoise streaks fading at the temples. Instead, I pick at a zit on my cheek. It’s one of those you can’t see. Right under the skin. Those hurt the worst.
“Yesterday he was harassing these poor baby wanksters,” says Laurilee. I can hear her teeth chattering as she wraps her chapped lips around the end of her Camel. “They weren’t messing with anyone, just killing time by the fountain. They were probably twelve or something. He took them outside, made them take off their bandannas. ‘Gang wear,’ he told them. Ha. Twelve-year-old Okie Crips. Please.”
“Terrance must have been a crack baby,” I tell her. “Hey, you want my coat?” Nothing would make me happier. Laurilee wearing my coat, her smell seeping into the lining, wearing Laurilee for the rest of the day. Being inside Laurilee. I feel my dick stiffen. I cock my head, spit, and think about my grandmother naked. My grandmother has been dead for fifteen years, which makes this an even more effective mental exercise. Almost immediately, my boner goes away. Laurilee has pulled her legs to her chest and rests her cheek on one plaid knee.
“I like the cold. It wakes me up,” she says. I suck on my cigarette, imagining my lungs blackening and shriveling up with each inhalation. It makes me feel like I’m doing something that matters. I figure it’s the same reason some people cut themselves or puke up their food. At least you have control over something, even if it is your own annihilation. Besides, you never hear of sixteen-year-olds getting lung cancer. Cancer is for old people. Sixteen-year-olds get some rare, undiagnosable neurological disorder or leukemia. They lose all their hair and the whole football team shaves their heads in solidarity and then People magazine writes an article about it. I wonder, if I got an incurable disease, if the Make-A-Wish Foundation would get me a high-class whore so I won’t die a virgin. I look at Laurilee. Her turquoise streak matches the faded blue of the Dumpster.
“If you were about to die, and you could meet one famous person before you did, who would you pick?” I ask. Laurilee wrinkles her nose in concentration. Most girls would just roll their eyes and go, Ew, stop being so weird. Laurilee isn’t most girls.
“Living or dead?” she asks.
“Mythological or real?”
“Whatever you want. It’s a theoretical question.”
“Jesus,” she says with a big grin.
“Black Jesus for sure. Young, sexy black Jesus. Is that racist?”
“Nah, but you can’t pick Jesus. Too easy,” I tell her.
“I didn’t know theoretical questions had rules. How about Satan, then?”
“Your final answer?” I say, in my best Who Wants to Be a Millionaire voice.
“Wait!” she says, sitting up straight. “David Bowie. That’s who I’d pick. Circa Ziggy Stardust. When he was all pretty and, like, sexually ambiguous.” David Bowie is Laurilee’s new obsession. Before that, it was Kurt Cobain. Then everyone else at school discovered him, so she had to move on. Old-school tormented musicians are making a comeback. Even better if they died from a suicide or drug overdose. Laurilee figur
High Before Homeroom
At sixteen years old, Doug Schaffer knows two things for sure:
1. He is doomed to live in the shadow of his older brother, Trevor, a former high school football star who is stationed in Iraq.
2. Free-spirited Laurilee, the hot ear-piercing girl at the mall, only dates bad boys.
Cue Doug's foolproof plan to tarnish his own unremarkable reputation. The first step is to develop a drug addiction. His mom's too preoccupied with organizing care packages for Mothers Support Our Troops Northwest Oklahoma City Chapter to stop him. Besides, he just needs to get hooked on meth long enough to come back from rehab a totally different person. Someone people notice.
With the help of Trevor’s strung-out former high-school buddy, drug addict Doug has the confidence that loser Doug never mustered. He stays out all night, scores girls, and stands up for himself. Then Trevor unexpectedly returns home with a dark secret of his own, and everything Doug thought was true is shattered. Soon the brothers find a common ground they never knew they shared as they discover the price of pleasing others is the freedom to be yourself.
Losers, now you can get the bad-boy rep the girls find positively irresistible!
Read an Excerpt
Reading Group Guide
Doug Schaffer is ordinary. He is also hopelessly bright, hopelessly in love with a girl named Laurilee, and feeling hopeless about life. His father isn’t in his life, his mother is emotionally absent, and the love of his life has a thing for “bad boys.” To add to his angst is Trevor, his very popular, good-looking and adored older brother away in the military serving his country. Determined to fit in, get noticed and be like his hero Jack Kerouac in On the Road, Doug concocts a plan to get everything he’s ever wanted: Attention from his mother, attention from girls, but mostly especially attention from Laurilee. With great wit and punchy observations, author Maya Sloan takes us on the road with Doug to find what he’s always wanted.
1. Mediocrity is a theme in the novel. Discuss some of the places it comes up. Talk about the lengths people go to stand out. Talk about how scared people are to deviate.
2. From Amy to Angela, Doug& see more