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Going Nowhere Faster
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- Trade Paperback $13.99 $18.99 CAD
- ebook $6.99 $8.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 1, 2008. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Copyright © 2007 by Sean Beaudoin
All rights reserved.
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Visit our Web site at www.HachetteBookGroup.com
First eBook Edition: September 2008
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Summary: Although his past accomplishments have convinced everyone else he is headed for college and greatness, seventeen-year-old Stan just wants to work at Happy Video, live in his parents' basement, write a movie script — and convince someone there really is a madman after him.
STRANGERS ON A very strange and long and boring TRAIN
My name's Stan, so right there I was more or less doomed from the beginning.
You don't think so? Try this: Close your eyes. Clear your mind. Get to a comfortable place. What does the name Stan remind you of? Football star? Lead singer? Private detective?
Nope. Stan is a Hollywood agent who represents anorexic twins and says "Ciao" into his cell phone all day. Stan is your fat uncle, the one who ruins Christmas every year never shutting up about his shoe box collection or his divorce or his acid reflux. At any rate, Stan is definitely not me, which is to say: a skinny, bored, not-worth-half-his-paycheck counter boy.
1. I work at Happy Video. (Is it really happy? Hard to tell.)
2. I wear a name tag that says: STAN — Head (also only) Clerk.
3. Do you even need a number three?
As I stacked returns, a woman walked to the counter.
"Do you carry anything with Barbra Streisand?"
"Sorry. Store policy."
She gave me a confused look and left. We actually do have some (way too many) Streisand movies, but they're all so awful I tend not to rent them. That may sound unfair, but I can tell you from experience that not a single person has ever returned Yentl with a smile on their face. Besides, I have other problems. Like how Chad Chilton wants to kill me. Why? He just does. On the last day of school he cornered me near the gym and said:
1. I WILL HURT YOU.
"I've never been good at multiple choice," I said, mostly because Mr. Camacho, the Spanish teacher, was coming down the hall. Chad Chilton almost laughed, but didn't. What he did instead was poke me in the chest, hard. "Have a good summer," he said, and then walked away.
I rubbed my sternum. I decided to breathe.
"Cómo está?" Mr. Camacho asked, with his big smile and his tan slacks and his Estrada chin.
"Totally bien," I answered, and then went to my next class. That was two months ago. Now it's the middle of August and I'm still more or less intact, so maybe I lucked out. Or maybe Chad Chilton forgot. I guess it depends how optimistic you (I) want to be (not very). Twice after work I've found my bike tires slashed. I've also found notes left in my parents' mailbox: BETTER WATCH YER ASS! And someone spray-painted STAN SMITH IS GONNAA GET IT on the sidewalk in front of Happy Video. Bad spelling is a clue even Sergeant Rick Steele couldn't miss.
"Hey, Stan!" Mr. Lawlor said, approaching the counter. "Any luck with college?"
Another problem, also sort of a minor obstacle, is that I have absolutely no chance of getting into any college, anytime, for any reason, under any circumstance, anywhere.
"No," I sighed. "No luck."
Mr. Lawlor owned a store down the street that sold (mostly didn't sell) wooden duck decoys and plastic ferns and other junk people were expected, for some reason, to put on their mantel. He slid his videos toward me, a romantic comedy on top, an action film in the middle, and, of course, something from the Adult section hidden beneath.
"Hey, that's too bad," he said, shifting weight, anxious for me to ring him up before a neighbor walked in and saw what was lurking below When Harry Met Sally. . . .
"Actually," I said, "I'm not going anywhere. I'm gonna stay in town and live in my parents' garage and write a movie script."
"Ha-ha," Mr. Lawlor laughed. "Smart kid like you?"
It had been a really long time since I'd won the Young Juniors' Chess Championship. My mother made me enter. The local papers took pictures of me in the world's ugliest and lamest suit and tie, and so people thought I was destined to Become Something. What that something might be was more or less negotiable, as long as it involved a bow tie, some chalk, superthick glasses, and lots of published articles in journals no one ever reads. What it definitely was not was my current handle as the Town's Laziest Register Monkey at the Town's Only Video Store.
"That'll be five ninety-eight, due back Wednesday."
Mr. Lawlor sweaty-palmed me a ten. I gave him change with my Blank-And-Nonjudgmental face (probably my only true clerking skill) and watched as he waddled out to his Volvo (Spanking Professor 6 safely in the trunk) before driving the hundred yards back to Lawlor's Duck and Fern Emporium.
Okay, I made that up. That's not the name of his store. It's just called Lawlor's. But the rest is true. I'm trying hard not to exaggerate so much. For some reason, I can't help myself. My therapist says I have trouble stifling my creativity.
Dr. Felder: "You have trouble stifling your creativity."
Me: "I have trouble stifling this costs sixty an hour."
(Picture me lying on a couch. Picture Dr. Felder taking notes. Picture me rolling my eyes.)
"I sense some hostility here, Stan."
"I'm not hostile," I said. "Chad Chilton's the one who wants to kill me."
"Yes, I've heard that before."
"You're too young to be paranoid."
"Have you ever noticed that the paranoid guy is the only one who ever makes it through the night in the old cabin?"
"What old cabin?"
"The one by the haunted lake in every horror movie."
"Let's change gears for a minute." Dr. Felder sighed. "How's it coming with the lists?"
You may have noticed by now that I make lists. I can't help it. Even when I was little I made them, like my parents would come home to find me writing on the wall in orange crayon:
1. Pnut butter
3. Coo ie
4. Ice cream
"It's coming great with the lists."
"Are you sure?"
(Cue rolling of eyes.) "Am I sure?"
"So tell me about rolling your eyes. What are we trying to say there?"
Anyway, the stifling creativity thing is a bunch of crap. Someone creative would've already finished their script with Bobby De Niro calling every ten minutes wanting to play the sensitive guy part. The truth is I'm a liar (serial exaggerator) and can't help it. But I'm trying to stop. I promise.
"Hey, guy!" said a freckle-face kid who leaned his BMX against the Classics section, knocking over a picture of Bette Davis. "You got The Terminator?"
(Bonus Question: Isn't renting a movie where Arnold the Austrian Meatball murders a hundred and forty-six people in the first ten minutes somehow worse than naked coeds?)
"No," I lied. It was clear Arnold wasn't going to do him any good.
"This place sucks, guy," he said.
"Tell me about it."
The kid rolled his bike out the door and did a wheelie across the parking lot. A gang of other kids caught up to him, and they tore away in a pack.
In the next four hours I had eight customers, rented out three videos, and fielded five questions about college. I tried to work on my script, writing down things like Guy goes into house. Cut to close-up. Door slams. Great. Now what? Zombie Lacrosse Team? Ninja Rabbi? Shy Girl That Learns How To Be Beautiful in Time For The Big Dance?
No, no, and . . . uh . . . no.
I gave up and just sat behind the register and watched In a Lonely Place, my favorite Bogart movie. It's about a lonely guy who drives too fast and picks up women and punches people who annoy him. Perfect. I also ate potato chips and bent staples into a long chain, which looked like either raccoon DNA or the world's ugliest necklace. I was trying to decide which when Keith walked in, three hundred and twenty pounds of former football hero.
He wore a ridiculous curly perm and a huge tan sweater that made him look like an offshore island.
He was also my boss. He was large and obviously boozy and more or less useless, but I loved him.
"What's goin' on?"
I showed him the staple necklace. I held it up to my neck and smiled like what's-his-name from Most Recent Boy Band, and in my mind girls screamed and flashbulbs went off and a white limo came roaring up at my side as a nine-foot chauffeur held the door and pushed away groupies and then whisked me over to IHOP for blintzes.
"Hey, that's beautiful," Keith said, grabbing the necklace out of my hand and tossing it into the garbage. "I'm deducting the cost of six hundred staples from your paycheck."
"I get paid ? I thought this was volunteer."
He laughed. He gave me a wink and then opened a deluxe pack of peanut butter cups from our cardboard movie concession stand (1.15 pounds, $5.95 plus tax) and gobbled them like an Escalade topping off with diesel. His throat bulged. His ears turned pink from lack of oxygen. A customer came to the door, peeked in, then left. Keith tossed the final candy in a high arc, mouth as wide as it would go (unbelievably, amazingly, ridiculously wide), and missed completely. The chocolate hit him in the center of the forehead and rolled under the desk.
"So how's business?"
"Slow," I said, handing over the evening's receipts. Millville had finally gotten cable (probably the last town in America) six months ago. Everyone was at home watching infomercials or old movies with Liz Taylor where all the characters walk around in bathrobes and slippers.
"You run the numbers?"
On my first day I'd made the mistake of helping Keith when his calculator wouldn't work. (It was a solar one. It was night. He was convinced it was broken.) "Hey, Stan! Get a pencil and times me one thousand three hundred forty-five by $2.99!"
I blinked and then told him $4021.55.
He stared woozily. "How'd you do that?"
I really didn't know. Math and breathing. Breathing and math. Has anyone ever made a good movie about long division?
"Okay, smart guy, try this . . ."
He threw other numbers at me, three then four then six digits, add, subtract, multiply. I did them in my head and told him the answers. I knew math prowess was something to hide, not show off, mostly because it usually led to being punched after class, but I guess I thought Keith might give me a raise. What he did, instead, was make me start doing the books. Since his two duties as manager consisted of (1) doing the books and (2) locking up at night, this gave him plenty of time to sneak out and drink beer.
"Yeah, I ran 'em."
Keith flexed his gigantic shoulders. "My own personal genius!"
FIVE THINGS KEITH WAS BIGGER THAN:
1. Industrial boiler
2. Fish barge
3. Smallish building
4. Fattish triceratops
5. Milk truck
"Leave me alone," I said.
"Einstein with acne!"
"The Michael Jordan of numbers!"
"Good idea!" he said, patting me on the shoulder and then slamming the door of the employee bathroom. An extended deluge followed. I envisioned Noah. I envisioned his ark.
"Much better," Keith said, when he finally emerged. "Now let's close this sucker down!"
I saluted and turned off the lights. He started to lower the steel gate, like he did every night, with one finger.
"Let me try."
I pulled. It wouldn't budge. I tugged and grunted. I winched and fulcrummed and levered. Finally, I just hung from the rusty bar and moved it, maybe half an inch.
"Wheaties," he advised, making a muscle.
"We're not allowed to have corporate cereal at home."
Keith winced. "No Puffs? No Pops or Smacks or Jacks or Loops?"
"Nope. No Loops."
He knew it wasn't a joke. My mother is six-three and vegan. She wears overalls and grows her own produce and has calloused hands and drinks gallons of carrot pulp. She's possibly the world's healthiest person. No one makes jokes about her.
"Time to run away," he advised.
"Good idea," I said, "but first I'll be needing a large raise. You know, to save up for a knapsack and a harmonica?"
Keith laughed, extra loud, like he always did when the word "raise" was used, and then got into his white Town Car (backseat full of concession candy) and peeled away. I laughed, quietly, like I always did when ending a shift at Happy Video, and then got on my white ten-speed and rolled out of the lot. Keith's headlights disappeared. I was alone. My parents' house was three miles away down a dark road, and Chad Chilton wanted to kill me.
So what else was new?
NAPOLEON taking his ten-speed off some sweet jumps STANAMITE
The humid air felt good on my face as I pedaled. The smell of skunk and poke-grass wafted by. Crickets sawed their legs together like a Russian orchestra, and there wasn't a car in sight. I crossed the yellow line, back and forth in wide arcs. There was a bolt of heat lightning, way off over the trees, a wha-CRACK that gave me goose bumps. It wasn't going to rain, it was just the sky letting me know it was there. Wha-CRACK! I stood on the pedals, hands raised. The ground whirred and plants whirred and it was like being in on a secret, alone in the middle of it all. I downshifted, trying for a wheelie and getting about an eighth of an inch off the ground. SWEET!
A pair of headlights crested the hill. They were way behind, and then I barely had time to take a breath before they were right behind me. An engine growled, LOUD, then louder, the car roaring past, too fast and too close as I skidded to the side of the road.
"Nice driving, GENIUS!" I yelled, the car already gone, over the hill in a wisp of exhaust. Top-notch insult, Stan. Way to crush them, verbally and emotionally. "Genius" was what Keith usually called me (obviously without having read any of my scripts). It's a word that tends to lurk. My mother never says anything ("genius"), and my father never says anything ("genius"), but I know they sometimes look at me strangely, not because I'm strange (even though I am) but because I just said something that probably should have come out of someone else's mouth. Someone older and smarter and less Stan-like. Which is amazing, since when I was in second grade I could barely write at all. My classmates all made it to advanced cursive, penning capital C 's and ornate T 's and generally making the teachers happy with their evident potential. My handwriting was so bad they thought I might have a tumor. First I was sent to the doctor. No tumor. So then they thought I might be Just Plain Dumb.
Administrator: "Does he drool?"
Teacher: "I don't think so."
Administrator: "Does he eat glue?"
Teacher: "Not that I've seen."
Administrator: "Does he frequently sniff his fingertips?"
Teacher: "Actually, now that you mention it . . ."
Administrator: "Let's test him."
So they showed me circles and squares and triangles and asked which didn't belong (duh, the Stan one). Or read analogies, like "Fish is to water as Stan is to . . ." (drowned?). Afterward, I was sure they were right and I was even dumber than your run-of-the-mill finger-sniffer, but the results came back and after a lot of hemming and hawing and calls to the state testing board and calls to my parents and possibly even an aborted call to the local news station, it turned out I had an eyecue of 165. Go figure.
I stood up on the pedals again, pumping away, working hard to make it to the top of the hill. Halfway there I noticed another pair of headlights. This time they weren't racing, just lingering on the horizon, keeping pace. They were round like the other car's. They were big like the other car's.
I pedaled faster.
So the teachers stopped caring about my handwriting or laughing out of turn or making fart sounds with my armpit, and pretty much left me alone. Actually, from that point on they seemed to fear me. My father said, "Most teachers top out in the eighty to one hundred range as far as intelligence quotient, and I think that's being generous, so naturally you're an anomaly." I was in second grade and knew what an anomaly was, so, of course, I went to my room and cried. Why would anyone fear me? I spent a majority of my time picking my nose or reading books about courageous Irish setters. It all seemed so unfair. At least for a couple of weeks, until I forgot all about it. I mean, how smart can you really be reading Dr. Seuss and playing kickball?
"Hey, guy, throw that here."
The road flattened and I picked up speed, leaning over the handlebars and shifting into low. My tires hummed. The headlights kept their distance.
The real problems began in sixth grade, when I was taken out of regular classes and placed in Assisted Learning, which meant spending all day in a room with Ms. Cobble (cognitive specialist), Ms. Vanderlink (clinical child psychologist), and seven other kids bussed in from around the state. There were beanbag chairs and orange walls and an always-on coffeemaker we dropped crayons and lint and nickels into. Ms. Cobble was round, had a head like a squash, and smelled like eau du Velveeta. Ms. Vanderlink was thin and wore black turtlenecks and pointy glasses and seemed, to the exclusion of almost everything else, preoccupied with removing lint from her clothing. We spent entire afternoons playing with clay (making enormous-breasted sculptures of Cobble and then crushing them) and drawing (sketching enormous-breasted Vanderlink tied to a tree and shot with arrows.) For some reason, we never got into trouble. "Discipline" was apparently equated with "creativity stifling." No matter what horror we concocted, Cobble continued to guzzle her tar-and-floater coffee and Vanderlink continued to remove nonexistent fluff from her shoulders. It was accepted, after all, on some unspoken level, that none of us would ever be considered normal.
"Hey, aren't you the kid from the egghead class?"
"No. Aren't you the egg from the kidhead class?"
"That doesn't even make sense."
"That make even sense doesn't."
Still, every one of my classmates has gone on to great success. Millie Crown, her nose an endless faucet and shirt a bottomless repository, went to Juilliard to study violin. Paul Stark, extraordinarily thin and with a penchant for torturing Goober, the class gerbil, won a language scholarship and moved to Indonesia to live with natives (who later crowned him Sun King). Even Kate Bellner, who would burst into tears if you even thought about looking at her sideways, now writes a column on the "Young Adult Beat" for The Washington Post.
Have I mentioned my name's Stan and I work in a video store?
I approached a long downward slope, pedaling madly before the steep incline that led to my parents' house. The bike whirred as I leaned over it, momentum and gravity and wind, a sixty-second mad rush that made me open my mouth and howl. For one second I actually outran myself, the shadow-on shadow of peeled Stan-ness dragging behind the back wheel. But then, of course, the second was over. My shadow caught up and my legs surrendered to the rise, slowing, a sudden raincoat of sweat and gravity and inertia that felt like every minute of every day and almost everything else.
Also, the headlights got a little closer. I tried to keep my sandals from slipping off the grips.
When the money finally ran out for the Assisted Learning program (the Play-Doh costs alone must have been staggering) and it was canceled by a unanimous vote of the school board, and Cobble and Vanderlink were sent packing, probably to teach poetry in a maximum security women's prison, and as a result, for the first time in years, I was sent to regular classes, I got beat up a lot.
Is that why, you may ask, poor Mr. 165 eye-cue, you get straight Ds?
It's actually an excellent question. One Dr. Felder really tries to "get at."
Dr. Felder: "How's school?"
Me: "Aside from every single second being just another opportunity for embarrassment and humiliation?"
Dr. Felder: "Yes, aside from that."
Me: "It sucks."
Dr. Felder: "Okay. Then let's talk about how 'sucks' feels."
Me: "That's a joke, right?"
The truth is, I just don't know. At some point, in class, I can't make my brain work. It freezes. Goes into sleep mode. Winters in Palm Springs. The teacher will ask, "Who knows the name of the estate Thomas Jefferson designed and built in Virginia?"
I do. It's called Monticello.
But when I open my mouth, "Monticello" never comes out. Nothing does. Or maybe something like "mayonnaise" or "moray eel" might, which is even worse. Then everyone laughs. They laugh, and I mentally attempt, like a dwarf star, to collapse in on myself due to my own incredible field of gravity.
I should probably mention, at this point, that I'm disabled.
I know, I know, it's totally not fair that I held that back for so long.
I guess I just didn't want your pity.
The truth of the matter is that I have a rare medical condition known as Mentasis Futilis.
- *"Written in a comically manic style, this narrative goes from one unlikely scenario to another. And, the reader goes right along with it because the story is both compelling and likeable...."—KLIATT (starred review)
"The book will appeal to many levels of readers...word of mouth will make it a favorite."
—VOYA (starred review)
- "A romantic opportunity won and lost plays out believably, as does the satisfying ending."—The Horn Book
"Fans of King Dork will find this a lighter and less demanding version of the same fare."
"Going Nowhere Faster is a charming and heart-felt who-dun-it that never fails to surprise."
—Ned Vizzini, author of Be More Chill
- On Sale
- Sep 1, 2008
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers