Chapter 3 continues

The story so far: The women teachers show Allen their idea of a good time.

The ladies finished the pitcher of beer before he had drunk a glass. Gladys Laandsverk went up to the bar for a refill and spilled a little on the table. She wiped it up with her sleeve.

"Why didn't you talk to him?" Phyllis Clark asked.


"The guy in the baseball cap."

"He's not my type."

"Who's your type?"

"I wouldn't turn down Humphrey Bogart."

They all laughed. "Listen," Phyllis Clark said, "there's a really gorgeous guy in the school this year. A student, I mean, if you can believe it. He looks like a movie star, except he's a real man. You'd think he was 25 instead of 17. I think his name's Leo something or other. Stands head and shoulders above all the other guys. He's a man, if I ever saw one."

"Maybe you never saw one," Pauline screamed, as if it were very funny.

"He's probably a dummy," Patty said. "Probably keeps flunking study hall every year."

Allen protested. "He's in my second hour class. His name's Leo March. He's really very smart. I don't know where he comes from, but he's much more sophisticated than the other students. He's done much more reading than they have."

"Comic books?"

"Serious writers."

Pauline Lund guffawed.

"Is he on the basketball team?" Gladys asked.

"I don't think so," Allen said.

"If he's so big, why not?"

Allen said that Leo was probably more interested in other things. Like what, they wanted to know. Cars? Hunting? Girls? Allen suggested that, from what the young man had said in class, he appeared to be interested in books. And in writing.

For a moment nobody said anything. Then they laughed hilariously.

"It sounds like our new English teacher is a bit infatuated," Pauline said.

Allen managed to laugh too. "Not at all. I'm just happy to have him in my class."

"I'd be happy to have him in my class too. The guy's awesome. Just look at his eyes sometime."

"I'd be happy not to have anybody in my class."

"You said it, Phyllis. Every year I ask myself why I came back."

"Magnuson probably wonders the same thing."

"This Leo guy," Phyllis said, "I forgot to tell you — he's got the most marvelous little curve in his lip you ever saw."

Allen had noticed it too. "It's like a slice of lime in a margarita," he said, thinking he was being clever. Never in his life had he drunk a margarita, but he had read about them in short stories and novels.

They all looked at him blankly.

"Absolutely," Phyllis Clark said.

When Allen's glass was finally empty, Gladys Laandsverk lifted the pitcher toward him. "Have another brew," she said.

Allen shook his head. He got up and escaped to the men's room, taking his glass with him. When he came out he saw that Phyllis was still at the bar with a full pitcher, talking to the man in the baseball cap. He waited until she had returned to the others, then asked the bartender for a glass of 7-Up. He'd never drunk two glasses of beer back-to-back.

From what the ladies were saying when he returned to the booth, he gathered that the man in the baseball cap was the science teacher at a little town not far away. It appeared to disgust them. "Another teacher, for Christ's sake," Pauline said. "My God, don't we see enough of them every day? Men, I mean. Sorry, Allen." She slugged some more beer. "I mean, haven't they got anything better to do than take our jobs? Are the construction jobs all gone? Isn't there any more room in the Army? Aren't they needed someplace else, like at the North Pole?"

Allen raised his glass to her. "Here's to you," he said, good-naturedly.

"You bet."

"Have another brew," Gladys said.

He sat with them for another half hour, during which time all the men at the bar left, except the old man with the dirty beard. The bartender leaned on the bar and looked at them skeptically. He turned on a radio.

One by one, the women had to get up and go to the ladies' room. He waited, managing a little feeble conversation with the others in the meantime. When they went out to the car at last, Allen took a deep breath of fresh air and looked down Main Street, all the shops dark and silent, like stones in a cemetery. He asked Pauline if she wanted him to drive.

She shook her head decisively. "I handle the wheel myself, Buddy" she said. "Sit back and enjoy it."

Tomorrow: Chapter 3 continues.