Buddy Fenster: My First Date
My First Date
by Buddy Fenster
I haven’t gone out with too many girls. That’s kind of an embarrassing thing to admit when you’re a sophomore in high school and you’re sixteen years old and the State of Michigan has declared that you’re old enough to drive and have hair on your butt. It’s true, though. Once I was over at my Uncle Carl’s house and I was helping him put up the storm windows and I asked him about the girl thing. I went, “Uncle Carl, do you think I’m handsome enough to attract girls?” and Uncle Carl, who was up on a ladder, turned around and looked at me and I guess he must’ve remembered a pretty funny joke just then because he started laughing really hard and he got weak and lost control and his foot slipped off the rung and his chin slammed against the top of the ladder and he bit off the end of his tongue and then fell over backwards onto the asphalt driveway and hit his head and came down with a fracture of the cranium, which is near the skull. The paramedics came and bundled him into an ambulance and he never did answer my question, which I thought was pretty thoughtless.
Actually, I have gone out with a girl or two in my time. My first date happened last year when I was a freshman. But deep in my heart I feel that my real first date happened two years ago, when I was also a freshman. That was the time I went to a movie with Annabel Neely. But I suppose some tricky lawyer could convince people that my date with Annabel Neely wasn’t a real date at all, because we both went with a big bunch of our friends and didn’t really sit together. Plus, she’s my first cousin. And plus, we went to the movie on different nights. So I guess if you wanted to be nit-picky you could say it wasn’t a real date. Which means that my actual first date came a year later.
I might not have gone on that next date at all, except that some buddies of mine goaded me into it. We were roaring up and down the main street of Chrislip and having a great time that could only have been better if we’d had a car. I remember Chuckie Norton, who was my best friend but who isn’t anymore because we don’t like each other now, was there. So was Lloyd Grueber, looking very grown up because he was already grossly obese and losing his hair at fifteen. The rest of us always kind of took care of Lloyd. For instance, I once heard somebody on the Geraldo Riviera show say that fat kids often develop something called an “inferiority complex,” which is the Greek way of saying everyone’s better that you, and it causes them to feel not as good as other kids because they often do terrible at sports and make dorks of themselves while the normal kids do good. But we always protected Lloyd. Whenever he wanted to play sports with us we’d tell him that fat pigs weren’t allowed to play. That way he’d go on home and not embarrass himself on the field. I guess maybe I should have become one of those psychiatrist doctors who help people who need a little assistance to get over the rough spots in life, who are called psychopaths. Scott Frick was there too, cracking jokes like he always does. He’s hilarious. He’s a riot. I remember some of the jokes he was telling. Like he’d go, “Know why Billy Witte didn’t make the varsity basketball team last year? Because he’s so full of shit he can’t jump!” Then he’d go, “Know what the priest said when he got diarrhea? Holy shit!” Then he’d go, “Know why Pollocks never drown? Because shit floats!” He also told that last joke about Italians, Russians, Iranians, Libyans, sophomores, and French-Canadians, and it seemed like it seemed like it just got funnier each time he told it. Though I didn’t laugh too hard when he compared a French-Canadian to a piece of shit, because I happen to be one.
Anyway, the four of us were having a good time and then we started talking about dating girls. Scott and Chuckie began discussing what the ideal date would be like, and the discussion turned first into a screaming match, then into an all-out disagreement. Scott said that the ideal date would be a Tesla concert, with a string of firecrackers, a 110-decibel air-horn, and a bottle of Jack Daniels in your pocket on a Friday night, and Chuckie, who was much more conservative, argued that the ideal date would be a Tesla concert, with a string of firecrackers, a 110-decibel air-horn, and a bottle of Jack Daniels in your pocket on a Saturday night. Those guys went at it. Chuckie told Scott to button his lip or else he’d give him a knuckle sandwich. Scott told Chuckie he was going to hit him in the nose with the heel of his hand and drive his nosebone into his brains and kill him. Then Chuckie told Scott that if he killed him he’d go around telling everybody that Scott was a gay homosexual. Finally I decided to break things up, so I got tough and went, “Come on, you guys.” I guess that struck a sore spot with Scott, because he went, “Look who’s talking! Mr. Dateless Wonder!” That stopped the argument between Chuckie and Scott because they both realized there was someone fresh to be cruel to. I went, “What are you talking about? I’ve had millions of dates. Well, one anyway.” I reminded them about Annabel Neely and they all started to guffaw, which a laugh that has a mean spirit behind it. Then Scott went, “Girls wouldn’t cross the street to spit in your face,” and I went, “They would too!” and he went, “Yeah?” and I went, “Yeah!” and he went, “Yeah?” and I went, “Yeah!” and he went, “Yeah?” and I went, “Yeah!” and he went, “Yeah?” Well, it so happens that Scott is on the debating team and I knew I couldn’t match him point for point all night, so I told those guys I was going home and they could get stuffed for all I cared. Before I went Scott went, “Hey, no hard feelings, okay? We were just messing around.” He stuck out his hand and after a few seconds I shook it because I knew in my guts that those guys were my true buddies and that we were together through thick and thin and nothing like a little argument would ever break us apart. Then I went home and phoned Scott Frick’s mom and disguised my voice and told her he was selling dope to the elementary schoolers.
I tried to shrug off what those guys said about me never having any dates, but it really bothered me, because they were right. I laid in bed that night and thought about it and it made me pretty sad. But I didn’t cry though. And if you suggest that I did I’m liable to turn you into one sorry puppy. I’ve only cried once since I was a baby, and that was when the drummer for Def Leppard got in that car accident and contracted a sheared-off arm, and even then I wasn’t crying for him so much as I was crying for the world of music.
I did a lot of thinking about my dateless situation, and after about an hour I realized that the best way to get a date would be to ask a girl out. I did some more thinking about who I should ask, and all of a sudden there popped into my mind a single word: Shawn Waxler.
Shawn was a girl whose form I had been warm for for four years, ever since eighth grade. She was really “good-looking,” if you’ll excuse the teenage slang. Like most girls her age she had a face, but her face was prettier than the faces most girls have on the front of their heads. She had nice blond hair, blue eyes, legs and a butt. But the best thing about Shawn was her chests. Some guys call them vulgar names, such as “boobs” or “breasts,” but I always preferred to use the medical term, which is “hooters.” Shawn’s hooters weren’t real big, but they seemed to have a personality of their own. If her hooters were people they would be the Keatons on “Family Ties,” perky and playful, yet trustworthy and dependable and kind to the less fortunate. Most of the kids around school said she was stuck up, and they were probably right. But I think if I was a girl and I was as cute as Shawn I would be stuck up too. Not that I ever think about being a girl. And if you think I do, then you’ve never seen how manly and passionate I can be when I’m by myself.
I decided not to hesitate in my quest for Shawn Waxler. “Strike while the iron is hot,” as my mother used to say when she was trying to discipline me and do housework at the same time. I made up my mind to ask her out the next day.
We had sixth hour biology class together. We were all doing insect diagrams as part of an assignment, I remember, and Shawn was in the front row sketching grasshoppers and I was in the back row drawing flies. I was going to ask her right after class, which meant that all though class I was pretty nervous. I started getting cramps and feeling like maybe I had to go, which I didn’t, but I did cut the cheese once and it was S.B.D. (silent but deadly) and Ken Flanagan went, “Who died?”, and the teacher Mr. Griffin gave me a dirty look and went over and opened a window. Everybody cleared out pretty quick when the bell rang because they were happy class was over, and also because I’d smelled up the room but good. But Shawn lingered behind and made some last minute touch-ups on her bug pictures. I figured it was now or never, so even though I was still pretty ripe I approached her desk and went, “Hi.” She went, “Hi, yourself.” I was trembling all over in a kind of self-assured way, and I went, “I don’t suppose you’d want to go out with me Friday night.” She thought about it for a minute and then went, “Okay.”
Well, I couldn’t have been more surprised if Rowdy Roddy Piper had announced his retirement from the World Wrestling Federation. I just stood there not knowing what to say and staring at her hooters, which kind of jiggled impatiently underneath her sweater as if they had places to go and people to see. Finally I went, “Thank you,” and turned to leave. I was thinking how easy it was, how she probably didn’t even know I was the one responsible for the S.B.D., how I was going to escape with no embarrassment at all. But just then Alan Ward, who has an I.Q. of 140 and who thinks he’s really smart, stuck his head in the door and said really loud, “Rum in a bottle, beer in a keg, Fenster stinks like a rotten egg!” I went, “You g– d— a–hole!” I chased him all the way down to the cafeteria and would have put him in a world of serious hurt except that three of his buddies from the football team intercepted me and I decided that violence never solved anything.
The rest of the week went by in a blur and all of a sudden it was Friday. I told my sister I had a date and she kept making fun of me so I kicked her and bit her and pulled her hair until she stopped. I was tempted to punch her too but I don’t hit girls. Then I told my parents about the date, and my Dad said he was glad to see me showing some moxie. I checked the dictionary and told him thanks. Then my Mom said I’d better be careful so I didn’t get the girl in trouble. I kind of blushed and didn’t say anything, though later I imagined Shawn pale and frightened, wearing a big fraternity dress, standing in the welfare office waiting for her food stamps, and I got a boner.
My dad loaned me his suit, which is by far his favorite one because it’s the only one he has. He’s got it in his will that he wants to be cremated in that suit. I tried it on and the fit was perfect, even though it was way too small for me and whenever I held my arm straight the sleeve would go up almost to my elbow. But I didn’t care. I was going to be with Shawn and that’s all that mattered. I drank a bottle of Pepto-Bismol to keep my rear end from making any outhouse noises, then had my Dad drive me over to the Waxlers’.
They lived in a real nice house, which was in a real swank neighborhood, which I remembered because once I’d gone there dressed like a skeleton and asked for candy and they all gave me a popcorn ball and told me to get the hell out and come back on Halloween. My Dad looked at the house and made a whistling noise and went, “Find out what they paid for this shack, Bud-Man.” Then he told me not to get dirt on his death suit and let me out and drove away.
I rang the doorbell and Mr. Waxler answered it. Now I was raised to believe that all people are created equal. You know, just because my Dad’s a good bowler doesn’t mean we’re better than everybody else, and just because we’re Catholics doesn’t mean we’re better than creeps who belong to other religions. But I have to admit I felt pretty unequal when I met Mr. Waxler. He was really distinguished looking, dressed in golf pants, golf shirt, golf sweater, golf shoes, golf belt, and a golf tie. I could tell right away that he was a better person than my Dad. He went, “You must be Fenster,” and I went, “Yes sir,” and he shook my hand. He told me that Shawn wouldn’t be ready for awhile, so why don’t we go into the family room and get better acquainted? I would just as soon’ve gone out to the garage to wait for her, but I was anxious to make a good impression on her parents, so into the family room we went.
It was a real beaut. They had a big-screen TV that didn’t even have any Reynold’s Wrap on the antenna. There were also shiny new antiques, Persian rugs, and about fifty clocks hanging on the wall, along with Shawn’s Mom, who went, “You must be Buddy,” and I went “Yes ma’am,” and she told me to sit down. Then as I was getting comfy Mrs. Waxler went, “Don’t forget to say hello to Ginger.” I looked down and saw a little dog curled up on a pillow by her feet. At first I thought it was a Chihuahua, but then I realized it was a little brown sausage dog. My Dad calls them “Hitler Dogs,” but the proper medical term is “German Dachshund Dog.” Mrs. Waxler told me they’d had Ginger for five years and that she’d won all kinds of ribbons at dog shows and that she was her special baby. She also mentioned something about “pure bread,” though I didn’t really care what Ginger ate.
The Waxlers wanted to get to know me, which was understandable. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t the type who would take their daughter out on a date and do something maniacal such as ax-murder her or make her pay her own way. Mr. Waxler tried to carry on a conversation with me, but it felt more like a job interview. He went, “So Fenster, what’s your best subject in school?” and I said, “Wood shop.” Then he went, “What do you plan to do after you graduate?” and I went, “Party hardy.” He went, “No, I mean what do you plan to do with your life?” I thought I’d already answered the question, so I just sort of smiled and nodded the way people do when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to the door and try to steal their souls. Then Mr. Waxler went, “Do you like sports?” That’s when I told a little white lie to impress him. I went, “Yes sir, I’m a golfer.” But that wasn’t really a lie. One night some buddies and me snuck into Shepherd Hills Country Club and hacked up the tee areas with rakes and burned swear words into the greens with Ajax Cleanser, so I felt I knew something about the game. Mr. Waxler went, “Golf, eh? What’s your handicap?” and I went, “I don’t have any clubs,” and he went, “Are you trying to be smart, son?” and I went, “No sir, not consciously.” Then he gave me a long hard look, stood up, and went, “You talk to him, Pat,” to his wife, and walked out.
It looked like I’d gotten off on the wrong foot with Shawn’s Dad, but I was determined to do better with her Mom. We started talking about the weather, with seemed like a safe topic, and we both agreed that although it looked like rain here, there was a terrible drought out west that was ruining peoples’ livelihoods, so that was good. Then we ran out of weather stuff to talk about and Ginger and Mrs. Waxler just sat there looking at me. Then she ran over and started licking my knee and intercoursing with my leg. Mrs. Waxler and me managed to pry her off, but wrestling with Ginger just made me more nervous than I already was and my intestines started to rumble and just as Mrs. Waxler got Ginger off my leg I tooted my horn but good. And this time it was not silent. I turned beet red, and how! Mrs. Waxler was a polite person, and she pretended not to have noticed, but she would’ve had to have been a deaf-mute not to have heard that one. She tried to continue the conversation, but pretty soon her eyes began to water and her make-up started running and she said she had to step into the other room to catch up on some important breathing she’d been meaning to do. After she left I heard Mr. Waxler say to her, “Our girl sure brings home the winners, doesn’t she?”
This wasn’t going at all the way I’d planned. Hearing Mr. Waxler call me a winner made me feel kind of better, but I still wasn’t completely pleased. I’d pictured myself coming in and acting cool and sophisticated, and instead I’d offended Shawn’s Dad and smoked her Mom out of her own family room. But Buddy Fenster is no quitter. I made up my mind that I would apologize to them and try to start from scratch. I figured things could only get better. And besides, Mrs. Waxler and me were getting along pretty good when we were talking about weather tragedies. If I was going to impress one of them, it would probably have to be her. That was my best chance.
Then I killed Ginger.
I didn’t mean to. Here’s how it happened: The family room is “sunken,” which is to say that if someone was in there who wanted to apologize to someone outside the room they would have to go up three steps to reach the door. Ginger had gone over to lay on the middle step, and I didn’t see her, and besides I forgot the room was sunken at all, and I tripped on the bottom step and fell forward and planted my knees right in the middle of Ginger’s back. She went, “SQEEEEEEE!,” and stopped moving. I knew right away she was dead, but I didn’t realize how seriously until I saw she was no longer breathing. I went, “Ginger, Ginger!” and rocked her back and forth to try and wake her up, but she didn’t, and her back made an awful click click click noise every time I moved her.
When faced with a crisis situation, the average person’s mind will sometimes become razor sharp and he’ll know just how to react. But I’ve always prided myself on not being average. I didn’t know what to do. Should I just leave her there and hope they wouldn’t notice? Should I tell them? Should I make a break for it? Oh Lordy, what a mess. My heart must have been going at about seventy-five beats per minute.
I thought maybe it’d be good if I could hide Ginger, and I considered sticking her up the fireplace chimney, but that seemed like a weird and gruesome idea, and besides I couldn’t get her past the flue. Then I got a grip on myself. I asked myself the question I always ask myself when faced with a tough decision, which is, “What would Dee Snyder of the group Twisted Sister do if he was in my place?” And the answer came to me. Dee Snyder wouldn’t run away. And he wouldn’t tell the truth either. Dee Snyder would replace the Hitler Dog!
I put Ginger under my coat and slipped out the family room window and it was raining fit to beat heck. It’s only a mile to Paws’N Claws Pet Shop, but when the road’s all muddy it’s closer to two. And the walking was even more difficult because Ginger was hard to hang onto. She kept lolling around under my jacket like a big water-filled contraceptive, which I thought was pretty inconsiderate. By the time I got to Paws’N Claws I was cold and drenched and shivering. The owner, Mrs. Noonan, went “Hi” when she saw me because she’s a friend of the family. She went, “Can I help you?” I went, “I’d like a German Sausage Dog, please.” Then I took Ginger out from under my coat and flopped her belly-up on the counter next to the cash register. Mrs. Noonan sort of gasped and stumbled backward and banged her elbow against an anaconda’s cage, which had probably been loping freely through the jungles of Florida only a short time before. I went, “The sausage dog has to look just like this one, only alive.” Mrs. Noonan composed herself a little, through she was still pale, and went, “Well, we happen to have one in stock.” She went into the back room, and when she came out I was happy to see that the dog could’ve been Ginger’s twin if Ginger had been about twenty pounds heavier and six inches longer. But it was close enough for government work, as my mother’s brother used to day before he got sent to prison for tax fraud. I told Mrs. Noonan I’d take it and she told me it cost $200 and I told her to send the bill to my father.
I went out in the rain and headed back to the Waxlers’. This may be hard to believe, but carrying a live sausage dog is almost as difficult as carrying a dead one. The live ones are more active. They squirm all over the place. If carrying Ginger was like carrying a water-filled contraceptive, then carrying the live dog was like carrying a contraceptive that wanted to run and be free. Luckily, the live dog got tired of struggling and fell asleep after awhile.
In spite of everything I felt pretty good because it looked like things were going to work out. But I still had one problem: what to do with Ginger? I couldn’t bury her because I didn’t have a shovel. And there weren’t any deep woods around where I could dump her so nobody would find her. The trouble was that she was still in one piece, and if the Waxlers ever came across her body they’d be able to identify her and put two and two together and come up with four and take a close look at the other dog and realize it wasn’t Ginger after all.
Then I had what I consider a flash of genius. Ginger would have to get run over by a car. There was a billboard next to the road that advertised Chrislip’s radio station (which I hate because it plays sissy rock like Springsteen and the Rolling Stones) and I would hide behind it and when a car went by I would pitch Ginger in front of it. If I did it right the driver would never know he’d hit her, since she was pretty small. And after three or five other cars drove over her she wouldn’t resemble much of anything, let alone a dog that won ribbons and ate pure bread.
I waited behind the billboard and pretty soon I heard a car coming. Only it wasn’t just a car, it was a Bronco, which a boss machine that has quadri-trak and a fuel-injected engine. I felt really excited partly because my plan was going to work and partly because I was about to see an innocent animal get mashed, which is still pretty neat even if its already dead. If everything went okay, I’d be back in the Waxlers’ family room in half an hour and they’d be fawning over the counterfeit Ginger as if nothing had happened.
The Bronco got closer. At the last instant I grabbed Ginger by the back legs and gave her the heave-ho. My throw was perfect, and she landed with a splat right in front of the right front tire. The tire ran over her. Victory was mine.
I was kind of dumbfounded when I heard that sound, then I looked down and saw Ginger’s corpse next to me in the grass, right where I’d put it. Holy cow! I’d thrown the wrong dog! I don’t know if I said “Oh, no” out loud, but I sure thought it. I ran out to the road to see if maybe I could give the other dog CPR, but I couldn’t find its mouth. I guess the Bronco did a good job.
I sat on a log and put my head in my hands and felt really sad. But I did not cry. Then I decided the only thing to do was to go back to the Waxlers’ and face the music. I was kind of afraid of how they’d react. I’d gone to a lot of trouble of killing their dog, buying a replacement, and then killing that one too, but I wasn’t sure if they were they type of people who’d appreciate it.
I picked up Ginger and headed back. I walked very slow. Ginger was a lot easier to carry now that she was getting stiff. She felt like the stuffed trophy dogs that you see over peoples’ mantles in their rec rooms.
The walk back to their house this time seemed to go by really quick, but the walk from their driveway to their front door seemed to take forever. I felt the same way a condemned criminal feels when he’s walking up to the gallows to be electrocuted. I went to the door, took a deep breath, and rang the bell.
Mr. Waxler answered it. He looked at me all wet and muddy, then he looked down at Ginger, then he looked up at me again and his mouth dropped open.
I went, “I killed your dog. Is Shawn ready?”
Mr. Waxler didn’t hit me or anything. He just stood there looking surprized. Then Mrs. Waxler came to the door and went, “Who is it Drake?” Then she saw me and Ginger and collapsed against Drake and began shrieking “Oh, no! My baby, my baby!” Drake put his arms around her and went, “There, there, Pat. Try to calm down.” He went on talking to her, but it was weird, because in between sentences he’d look at me and mouthe real nasty things at me with his mouth. Like he went, “Don’t cry, honey. (You damn punk.) We’ll get you another dog. (I don’t ever want to see your pimply face again.) I’m sure she didn’t suffer much. (If I ever catch you on my property…) Little Ginger’s in heaven now. (…I’ll land your tail in juvenile hall.) There, there.”
I couldn’t blame him for talking to me that way, and I felt pretty sorry for them, but I gave them both the finger anyway and laid Ginger down on the front steps and walked away. I didn’t go straight home. Instead I went out on the road and sat down on the curb. I don’t know why. I guess I just wanted to rest and collect my thought. I remember when they said about every cloud having a silver lining, and I tried to figure out what the silver lining might be in this situation, because the whole thing seemed like a disaster, or maybe even a fiasco. Then I thought, well at Shawn agreed to go out with me in the first place, regardless of how things turned out. So at least there was that one ray of hope.
Just as I was about to go I heard someone go, “Hi.” I looked up and saw that it was Shawn. I went, “Sorry about your dog.” She shook her head and went, “I was never to crazy about her. She always piddled on my bedroom rug.” Then I went, “I suppose it’s too late for our date,” and she went, “There’s something you should know about that.” She went, “The only reason I said I’d go out with you was that I wanted to make somebody else jealous. It’s a guy on the track team, Doug Houghton, whom I’m secretly in love with.”
Well, so much for that one ray of hope. I was pretty disappointed, but I also felt pretty brave all of a sudden. I went, “Can I at least kiss you goodnight? I’ve been practicing on my basketball.”
Shawn could have been real mean and said something such as that she would rather kiss the cancerous janitor at the school. But she didn’t. She spared my feelings instead. She just sort of giggled and went, “Yeah, right, get real,” and went back into the house.
It was pitch black as I made my way back home. I was thinking about the bad points of the evening, which were that I’d offended Shawn’s dad, cut a stinkeroo in front of her mom, murdered their dog, charged a $200 dog to my dad and thrown it under a truck, discovered that Shawn didn’t like me after all, and gotten dirt all over my dad’s death suit. Then I thought about the good points, which were that I still had my health.
I was just about home when somebody walked up to me and went, “Hey, you’re Buddy Fenster, aren’t you?” Although it was too dark to see who it was, the voice sounded like one of my classmates and I went, “Yeah.” He went, “Is it true you went out with Shawn Waxler tonight?”
I probably should have told the truth and said it was all a big mistake, but I’d figured I’d already had enough humiliation for one day, so I went, “Yeah.” He went, “How was it?” I went, “Man, that’s one skirt who really knows how to show a guy a good time.” He went, “Really?” And I went, “No fake, Jake.”
Well, I guess I don’t have to tell you that it was Doug Houghton. He worked me over pretty good right there in the street, punching me in the face and ribs and also in my unmentionable parts, which are my groins. Now normally I’m one mean machine when it come to settling things with my fists, but Doug happened to know all these deadly Oriental fighting secrets, such as right crosses and left hooks and the old one-two, and he defeated me. So now not only did I not have the knowledge that Shawn liked me, I didn’t have my health either.
That was that. I went home and told my parents everything because I thought they’d act like parents on TV and be gentle and understanding and tell me that they knew I did my best and that everything was fine because we still had each other. And things did go pretty much like that, right up until they found out they’d be getting a bill for $200 from Paw ‘N Claws. Then my mom started crying and my dad threw his drink against the wall, which made my mom cry even harder because it dripped on the couch and Wild Irish Rose doesn’t come out. They called me a irresponsible goof ball and sent me to my room and I heard my dad say something about how he wished that abortion was retroactive, whatever that means.
I guess I should have felt awful, but I didn’t. Like most people, I’m an optometrist. I try to look on the bright side. For instance, who knows? If things had worked out between me and Shawn, I might have dropped out of school and married her, and then I wouldn’t have been able to fulfill my lifelong quest of going to college and becoming a veterinarian.