Read Boy Proof Online

Authors: Cecil Castellucci

Boy Proof

“Great, another stellar day,” I say.

I flick off my computer and head for school.

When I arrive, as per usual, I don’t acknowledge a single soul.

I don’t say, “Hello, Rue.”

“Hello, Martin.”

“Hello, Hasan.”

“Hello, Nelly.”

“Hello, Inez.”

“Hello, Katrina.”

“Hello, Damon.”

“Hello, Ignacio.”

And no one says hello to me all day. But I don’t care.

Last period, I book for Mrs. Perez’s AP English class, making it in just as the bell rings. There is something new today that I don’t like at all. A new kid is sitting next to me.

I slide into my seat, scanning him with my laser-sharp modified eyes. I notice a smell. It’s skunky, musky, boy sweat. For a second I think I like it. Then I decide it’s gross.

He stinks,
I think.
The new boy stinks.

I move away from him and then look at him sideways. Why did Mrs. Perez have to sit him next to me? It is so unfair.

I look at him again. His hair is black and slicked back into a small ponytail. There are flakes of dandruff on his black sweatshirt. He is wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt that says
Hellblazer.
That seems to be the coolest thing about him. I like that comic book.

I shift away from him.

He is working on his environmental poem, scratching away like a chicken. I can see by the crinkle in his brow that he is struggling with it. He’s probably not that smart.

“What are you looking at?” he whispers, turning to look at me.

He has nice eyes, the new kid, even though the rest of him is disgusting.

“I’m not looking. I’m smelling,” I say, putting on my best Egg impression. When I have to speak to strangers, I turn into her.

“Let’s make a rule,” I add. “If you sit here, you have to shower.”

By reading his face I can tell he expected something different to come out of my mouth. Instead of being shocked, his face cracks into a movie-star antihero smile.

“I just got off an airplane. I’ve got travel slime,” he explains.

He looks me over. His pretty eyes look me up and down, taking in my shaved head, my ring-covered ears, my colored-in eyebrows, my pale skin.

I make my most scary face. The one where I bulge my eyes out like I’m dead.

“Boo!” I spit at him.

“Whoa!” He puts his hands up in mock surrender and then goes back to working on his poem.

“Impressive, it took you thirty seconds to cringe. That’s the longest anyone’s gone ever.”

“Well, I’m a winner,” he says.

I look up at the clock. It’s two-twenty. I watch the second hand inch by the face. I concentrate on it and try to bend time like Egg does in
Terminal Earth.
No such luck. Time won’t move any faster for me.

I’ve been done with my poem for twenty minutes. I can slip out of school early. There’s a three-thirty showing of
Terminal Earth,
which is only the best movie ever made, starring Zach Cross as Uno and Saba Greer as Egg.

I grab my army bag and shove my seat into place with a bang and head out the back door of the classroom.

“See you later,” the new kid says as I push past him.

“Not likely,” I say.

And then he chuckles.

Asshole.

I shove the rest of a bagel in my mouth as I go to snag my perfect seat in the movie theater, fifth row from the front, exactly center screen. The theater is dilapidated, frayed at the edges, stale smelling. The curtain, once magnificent, looks like a sad garbage bag.

But I can see through the wear and tear of time. I can imagine the theater in its glory days, when it was new and bright. When there was a piano on that stage. When Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin had swank film premieres. When there were women in beaded dresses and beaded shoes. When men wore suits and hats were in fashion.

Sometimes, though, it’s harder to picture.

I heard from the concession-stand guy that the theater has been sold. That means no more two-dollar first-run movies by this time next year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, except that I wonder if they are going to reupholster the seats. I like the theater the way it is, all worn and frayed, hinting at its greater glory. They’ll ruin it by making it modern, by adding cup holders to the seats and some bacteria-resistant carpet. I wonder if they’re going to charge fourteen dollars and serve sushi. That would be annoying.

Terminal Earth,
my favorite movie, has three screenings left today, and I plan on staying for them all. They say the DVD isn’t going to come out until the summer. I hate having to wait for it. My “friend” on the
Terminal Earth
message board says she has a pirated copy of it but that it’s all shot from an angle and the time and date are burned into the bottom right-hand corner.

I can wait. I’m not that desperate.

I finish my homework before the lights come down — I can do my homework anywhere — and then the previews start.

Previews are like a little taste of candy. I give them my full attention. I’ve already seen all the movies they’re previewing because I see every single movie. I am always amazed at how much better the movie looks in its condensed form. It’s like the potential of the film is better then the full-length reality.

Terminal Earth
starts. I get that tingly excited feeling that I get every time I see it. I have seen it forty-two times already. I never get bored.

In honor of watching the movie today, I am wearing my best Egg outfit. Long white cloak, white pants, and white shirt. Hair freshly shaved to a buzzed perfection. Pale white skin. Colored eyebrows. Neutral lips. In the future there is no lipstick. Thank goodness for that. I’d be quite content with a world that doesn’t force women to wear makeup to be beautiful. I’m sure it would destroy my mom though.

“How can you leave the house without your face on?” Mom says over and over again.

“My face is on,” I have to say to her. “My plain, not beautiful, just normal, no-makeup-on face.”

“Ugh, you make yourself boy proof on purpose,” she always says.

And that’s what I am. Boy proof.

I have never been asked out. No boy has ever even flirted with me. I am invisible to the opposite sex.

Egg is not boy proof though. She has a scar on her face and she’s got a bullet mark on her arm and a burn on her back and Uno still loves her.

The second time the film plays I examine every single aspect of Zach Cross as Uno. I love his crooked smile. The way he swaggers. His monosyllabic lines. The glint in his eye. The way he furrows his brow. He is so handsome.

I’ve seen every film that he’s been in, but
Terminal Earth
is definitely the best.

I also examine the special effects, especially the makeup. I look for clues on how it was done. I look for flaws so I can learn. I am developing my effects eye.

The third time the film plays, I pay close attention again to the details of the story. There are going to be three films in all and I want to figure out any clues the filmmakers left in the first film. On the
Terminal Earth
message board there is a lot of speculation as to what’s coming next.

I have my own ideas. I keep most of them to myself.

I stay until the last credit of the film rolls and then sit for a bit to digest it all after the lights come on. The usher comes in with his broom and garbage can. I wonder how much he gets paid to pick up the trash. I wonder if he’s an aspiring actor, like the concession girl and the ticket-booth guy. Like everyone in Hollywood, except for me.

It’s eleven o’clock, and when I get outside it’s dark and a bit chilly. It might even rain by the time I get home. I walk briskly toward La Brea, past CBS Studio, past the Good Stuff natural supermarket, past the fancy restaurants and the Orthodox temples, then down La Brea to Third Street and over one short block to my house.

My Egg cloak doesn’t cut the wind. I might have to winterize it. I think my dad has some fabric in his workshop that he used for some monster’s hair that will work nicely as a lining. I’ll check it out tomorrow.

When I get home, Mom is in the living room with a mud mask on her face. She’s smoking a cigarette. A nasty habit. I cough to let her know it bothers me.

“You’re supposed to smoke outside,” I say.

“Well what am I supposed to do when I’m worried about where you are? I had to sit in here and watch the door. I’m sure I got two new lines on my forehead.”

I put my keys on the hall table and head to the kitchen to see what leftovers I can eat. She follows me.

“It’s not my fault you’re not twenty-two anymore,” I say.

She lets it slide.

Her mask is half dry. The dry parts are cracking as she speaks. The damp wet parts are like craters on a far-off planet. I laugh.

“Don’t laugh, Victoria,” she says. “What did I give you a cell phone for if you don’t take it with you to school?”

“They cause brain cancer, Mom. Do you want me to get brain cancer?”

“Victoria.
Please.
Everything causes cancer.”

“I would prefer if you call me Egg.”

She knows this. I tell her all the time.

“Egg is not your real name.”

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