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The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girlby Barry Lyga
FANBOY - Chapter ONE
I want to not ride the bus to school every day, but that would be a waste of a really big want—itll take care of itself eventually. Until then, I put up with it, like today.
So what do I want? I want a copy of Giant-Size X-Men #1 in Mint condition.
I would settle for Near Mint, I guess, which would definitely be cheaper, but Id really like to be able to say that my copy is pretty much perfect. On eBay, a Mint copy starts at at least eight hundred bucks, which is way more than I can afford, but maybe once I get my drivers license, I can get a job after school and put together the money. Sounds crazy, I know— some ancient comic book from the 1970s. But its important.
I also want a new computer. Multiprocessor, maxed-out memory slots, wireless everything . . . When my parents got divorced, my mom got custody of me, and I got custody of the old Pentium clone that used to sit in the den at our old house. Thanks to the very best in Microsoft/Intel engineering, it crashes every time you exhale too hard in its general vicinity. Its tough to accomplish the kinds of things I want to accomplish with that going on. I want Flash animation! Video editing! Heck, I just want to be able to use Photoshop or Illustrator for ten minutes without rebooting.
Thinking about a pristine Giant-Size X-Men #1 and a humming new computer usually gets me through the bus ride to school. Todays an exception. Today, I dont need to spin fantasies because a living, breathing fantasy has just gotten on board: Dina Jurgens, who manages to make climbing the steps to the bus look like something that crazy parents groups boycott.
Its a good day when a goddess gets on the school bus with you. In my two years suffering as this particular school bus stutters over potholes and gravel, winding its way through the back roads of Brookdale, Dina has only ridden a handful of times.
Shes a senior, two years older than I am, but she looks like she could have stepped off a runway somewhere: blond hair, bright green eyes, soft and puffy lips, and a body thats pure torture. There are plenty of hotties at South Brook High, but Dinas a cut above and beyond. Of all the things I hate about South Brook, the fact that shes graduating in a few months is at the top of the list. How am I supposed to go through junior and senior years without catching glimpses of her in the hall?
Dina checks out the seating situation, scanning the back seats, which are packed. The bus driver—a wheezing, leather-faced troll appropriately named Mr. Dull—closes the door and hits the gas, jerking Dina forward a little. She flips her hair out of her eyes, then rolls them at Mr. Dulls temerity. She heads for the first empty seat, which happens to be, well, next to me.
I try to play it cool, but lets be honest—thats tough to do in the presence of a goddess. I go with my first instinct, which is to try to dip my hand into my pocket for the safety totem I keep there. I always feel calmer when I touch it.
But its awkward getting a hand into your pocket when youre sitting down, doubly so when theres someone right next to you. My elbow brushes her side, and she looks at me like I planned it. Hey!” Sorry,” I mumble. I feel like I should explain that I wasnt trying to touch her, but shes already looking away.
What happened, Dina?” Sounds like Kayla Meyer. A junior, one who hasnt gotten a car yet. One who apparently ranks as Worthy on the Dina Jurgens Scale because her older brother is Steve Meyer, who I think dated Dinas older sister or something like that. I dont know. I dont really pay attention to stuff like that.
My car wouldnt start this morning.” Bummer.” Yeah, I told my dad that it has to be ready by the weekend because . . .” I tune it out and keep my head down so that no one will bother me. But being so close to Dina rattles me. I keep wanting to turn and stare, but even I know that thats not cool. So I settle for cutting my eyes left as often as I can. I get flashes of skirt and leg and the shadow of what could be a breast, but Im not sure and I dont want to risk looking for longer than, like, a tenth of a second. So its sort of like dumping the pieces of a puzzle out on the floor, looking at them, and then trying to put it all together in your head. With your eyes closed. So close! So far!
It goes like that for a little while, the bus jerking and bouncing along, making Dinas anatomy do very interesting things that shes apparently unaware of (and of which Im woefully underaware, given those quick glances). Dina talks with Kayla, the Usual Idiots yell and chatter, and Mr. Dulls beloved country station blares out of the radio.
At somee point, I realize that I probably look like an idiot, my head bent down, doing nothing (apparently), staring down at my feet. I pretend to look for sooooomething in my backpack, but theres just school stuff and comic books in there. And God knows I dont want to pull out a comic book while Dinas sitting next to me! I wish I had something—anything—else to read, something that didnt scream Geek!” at the top of its lungs and jump around in nerdly war paint. Like . . . I dont know . . . Hot Rod?
When we screech to a tooth-grinding halt at the school, a sudden brilliant stroke hits me. Dina is sitting next to me. On the aisle. Shell get up to leave and Ill get up behind her. Behind her. From here to the exit, Ill be right behind her, with an unobstructed view of The Back of Dina Jurgens. Not as splendid a sight as The Front, but not bad in its own right. Sweet.
So Dina gets up and I grab my backpack (watching her legs as I do so—wow), then get up and move to get behind her— And Mark Broderick pushes me back. Move it.” He doesnt even look at me as he does it. Hes a big senior with short bleached hair and a face like old hamburger. He dresses like Eminem, if Eminem weighed twenty pounds too much and couldnt keep the sweat stains from spreading out under his armpits. This is the weirdest part—he smells like boiling leather. Ive never been able to figure that part out.
Up until now, the only contact Ive ever had with him was smelling that unique aroma as he walked past me on the bus. But right now I watch him as he struts up to the door behind Dina. A flood of bigger, meaner, and/or tougher kids fills the aisle, and Im not about to step into that flood, so I just stand here and wait and watch Marks back and the buzzcut that clutches his scalp.
Now that Im standing, its easy to slip my hand into my pocket. As usual, I feel immediate calm when I touch the bullet that I keep there. I started carrying it about a year ago.
Everythings OK; Ive added Mark to The List.
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga. Copyright (c) 2006 by Barry Lyga. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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