So turns out I like to write. I don’t do it nearly enough so I’m far, far behind on my 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell tells me I need. Regardless below is Chapter one of what i hope will become a running series titled “The 9 Loves of Mallory English.” I wrote this for a creative writing final assignment, had a blast. I want to expand it into something longer and maybe even try to make into a screenplay. I can discuss why I love this character and this world more later. Suffice to say my major influences are “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Veronica Mars,” and Leslie Knope of “Parks and Recreation.” There is also a touch of “Scott Pilgrim (the comics and movie) in here as well.
Enjoy… I hope.
The 9 Loves of Mallory English
Chapter 1: The Mundane Admirations of David Bland
This is a true story; however some of the names, places, and facts have changed. In fact some of the very truths about this true story are incredibly false and that’s the way Mallory English prefers it. But please remember, regardless of what you have just read that this is indeed a true story about a young woman named Mallory English and the first of the 9 loves of her life.
Like many girls, and often some boys, Mallory English was quick to fall in lust with a bevy of androgynously handsome and erroneously hip celebrity types. There was the actor whose movies she was always too young to watch but did anyway. The singer whose loins gyrated so perfectly that she was simultaneously heartbroken and determined to change him once it came out that he was gay. She romanced romantic novelists and went gaga for gothic poets. For a time she even adored athletes from her local sports teams.
Mallory lusted and loved and lusted some more after each and everyone one of these public figures but inevitably their facade of perfection would be broken. The movie star would have a nervous breakdown. The singer as mentioned before would come out of the closet. The novelists and poets were long dead, and the athletes turned out to be phonies and dirt bags that cheated on their sports as much as they did on their wives.
None of them would become Mallory English’s first real love. That honor belonged to a boy named David Bland who, unbeknownst to him, stumbled into being the first love of Mallory English’s life. David screamed monotony through every facet of his being. He was just like any other boy or any of the other millions of boys who had ever existed at any point at any time ever in the existence of existence.
Once Mallory English visited an optometrist who told her she possessed perfect vision but she couldn’t have been blinder when it came to David Bland completely ignoring all the warning signs. The face she adored, the one that she thought was so handsome, was really roundly rectangular. His chin was on the precipice of multiplying and being joined with several smaller, baby chins. His nose was snubbed; his hair combed too far to one side and lactated under a gallon or so of gel. The worst part about David’s face glistened as if he had stuck his head inside a fryer while fries were cooking as an army of acne prepared to attack every clear pore on his body.
David possessed all these attributes yet he still felt like as generic as a video game avatar before a user was able to program it with distinctive traits. His teeth were too white to be real and so straight that once Mallory thought she saw them being used as a picket fence. His clothes could be classified as equally boring and stylish; for that time at least since acid wash jeans with excessively large holes in the knees are not the hallmarks of well-dressed men. Everything about David Bland was humdrum. Even his last name Bland matched the anonymity of his first name. Then again his name may not have actually been Bland. That could have just been what Mallory remembered it being. Mallory English’s dossier of facts about David Bland is a bit fuzzy with most of the important information being redacted courtesy of memory loss.
David Bland’s brand of boring never mattered to Mallory English. Not the Mallory English circa middle school, who’s My Little Pony Trapper Keeper held secret forbidden love messages to him that she scribbled for three years, some even in perfect iambic pentameter. Please allow me the pleasure of sharing one such letter now:
A stronger opening there never was.
I think you looked really cute today.
Like a master screenwriter, Mallory knew how to immediately entice her audience.
Do you have a girlfriend?
An apt and relevant question. Kudos Mallory.
If not, I think maybe we should go out.
Now some may say that young Mallory English was being too forward here but really those are the type of people we prefer not knowing.
I’m really smart, I like sports, and we could totally watch a basketball game or something together.
Very good Mallory, sell yourself and demonstrate a shared interest.
Whatever, doesn’t matter – I just think we’d have fun.
Playing it cool. Well done.
I know I would because I’d be with you.
Charming and disarming. This is gold. How could he not want her?
Let me know what you think.
Me thinks a connection is afoot.
Oh dear! Oh my stars and garters! Not the “L” word. She’s coming on too strong. This letter had potential but using “love” to a boy of any age is like setting their favorite G.I. Joe on fire.
Mallory English ©
She held onto those notes until they graduated grade school when they went on their separate ways and while the heart was a nice finishing touch it’s probably best that Mallory never gave David any of those letters.
Mallory’s love for David was anything but requited despite having over 9 classes together throughout grade school. David never noticed Mallory not that she was unnoticeable. Mallory often statuesquely hovered over many of the boys. She was not what one would call an “ugly duckling.” On the scale of preteen attractiveness Mallory English sat firmly on the “cute” side of the barometer leaning precariously towards “pretty.” But to a daft boy like David Bland she was a seat holder. The person they use at award shows when a big star had to get up to pee or to check their stock portfolio or fool around with their mistress. Mallory was also a brain, and brains were not considered for pre-teen mating; not in those days at least.
Whatever his reasons a dullard like David never took notice of Mallory English. Sure he knew she existed and once his pensive brain sent an electrical synaptic charge that said he “liked” her long strawberry-blonde hair. A notion he first recognized in 9th period gym class, but beyond that moment, he never really thought much of anything about Mallory. She was a being of no merit or purpose, the irony being that eventually the tables would be turned and he would become a non-entity to Mallory by the time he reached 19.
None of these reasons or the 999 others that she would think of later in life stopped Mallory English from falling truly, madly, deeply head over heels in love with David Bland. She debated for years sending him all her letters. It would have been a gesture meant to spice up their non-existent romance, giving her that elusive first kiss that she’d read about in young adult novels, watched on nighttime teen soap operas, or heard about from her girlfriends who all claimed to have done it but who were liars.
Mallory never made a move or even started a single simple conversation with David Bland throughout their time together at St. Mary’s Middle School. That changed however on the night of the eighth grade graduation dance. When all the boys wore freshly tailored suits that their parents purchased at local boutique. Each one was suppose to be fitted acutely to their growing masculine bodies but managed to still hang droopily off the shoulders giving the impression they were wearing their father’s coat with matching pants that were so baggy M.C. Hammer would cringe. The worst part was the colors these boys selected were akin to puke green and toilet bowl blue.
The girls in turn would raid the juniors department at a chic department store. Each one would pick a dress, usually black or red, short and skimpy, and impossibly high heels that caused many young ladies to walk like they needed to spend the night in the drunk tank. They’d file into the hair salons like worker bees canvassing for honey and finally they’d swab their faces as if they were Japanese Kabuki performers all in the name of the dance. It was the type of dance where the most popular kids would have their parents rent them a limousine even though they had a strict 10:30pm curfew. It was at this dance that Mallory English decided to go for it.
Mallory English was star shining brightly that evening. Her posture seemed straighter, her face glowed under a vague foundation even in the dark, and every step she took or move she made has a certainty behind it. She was peppered with compliments that with her father, Mathew English, who was required by law to say such things. Then there were her girlfriends who hid their insecurities behind fifty shades of pink lipstick as they lobbed backhanded compliments like, “Mallory, I never knew how pretty your legs were!” or “Mal, you should wear dresses more they make you look thin.”
Her friend’s parents seemed enamored with Mallory as well. They kept complimenting her baby blue dress which, unlike their own daughter’s gowns, showed the right amount of leg without being considered skimpy and sat perfectly on her shoulders promising not to reveal too much of her burgeoning chest. They also noted the accessories Mallory decided to wear.
“You’re necklace is positively popping,” mentioned Mrs. Muse, Melody Muse’s mother.
“Those earrings are divine,” added Angela Anchors’ adoring adoptive gay dad as he drove Mallory and her friends to the dance in his boxy minivan.
Mallory would blush at these compliments, grin at each parent, thank them for their kind words and then deflect their praise onto their own daughters by saying things like:
“Melody’s make up looks magnificent.”
“Angela’s arrival is like an angel’s ascension.”
Her words wrangled broad grins out of both parents and friends who for the rest of the night now found it harder to look Mallory in the eyes for the rest of the evening.
When the ladies arrived at the dance the compliments continued. Mr. Vanguard, her AP English teacher and the dance chaperone, said she was “the personification of perfect English,” when she walked into the spacious Auditorium that on this night was transformed from a musty basketball court into a musty tunnel of love. Teachers like Mr. Vanguard loved making puns with a student’s name whenever they could. Mallory assumed it was their way of proving they were cool but also still a teacher.
After a series of fruit punch shots and an hour of coma inducing geriatric dance tunes, several “popular” boys asked Mallory to dance. These young men all shared similar traits to a certain Mr. Bland, but had the courtesy of having several specifically defined traits that allowed them to stick out in Mallory’s memory.
“Donnie never noticed how awesome you were,” doted Donnie Davidson, whose ginger locks once caused a school nurse to douse water on his head as she screamed, “Fire!”
Plumpy Peter Porter purred, “How cute you are,” as if Mallory was a kitten that he just discovered playing with a ball of yarn.
“I always kind of liked you,” taunted Teddy Tenenbaum, the only Jewish boy in the Catholic school, as they danced then added, “but I never really knew how to tell you.” Mallory often repeated it to Ike after he became the 4th love of her life in college.
Mallory English was walking on air that night and she began to call herself Princess Ariel in honor of her favorite animated character as she two-stepped seamlessly from one silly boy to another. As they boogied Mallory strictly enforced a 9 inches separation policy at all times, a rule most of the men accepted but absolutely regretted. A lot of the kids in the class started to take notice of Mallory that night, stories were shared her impact well into their first semesters at high school and to her credit, Mallory was self-aware enough to feel “happy” about the experience. The type of happy you feel when you find out a pair of shoes you love has suddenly been marked clearance.
She politely kissed every boy on the cheek, even the ones whose hands dipped too far south and didn’t respect the 9-inch boundary she’d set. But Mallory English still had an empty feeling tying twisty knots in her stomach. Every time a new fellow approached she’d imagine he was David Bland coming to sweep her off her feet while riding a black unicorn stallion named Venkman, after Billy Murray’s character in Ghostbusters.
A romantic R & B song began to play as the night began to draw to its inevitable close. 7 seconds of its overture would pass, warming the listener’s ears with a deep rhythmic drum bass, a side of saxophone, and a few “mmmms” thrown in to make the lovers’ hearts skip a beat before a lyric was ever uttered. It was the type of song the indicated that this singer was sexy and going to tell you exactly how sexy he was in a matter of moments. The song wasn’t trying to be subtle with its use of innuendo and used the word “baby” liberally within its middle stanza.
“Alright my hip-hop all stars,” crooned the impossibly unhip DJ whose thick southern accent and black tuxedo made him almost as uncool as the fact that he was a forty-year old DJ at a middle school dance. “Last slow jam of the night!” Somebody stop him for his own good. “It’s ladies choice. Have fun, I’m DJ Danny Destiny,” he droned on well into the song’s first chorus of “Baby, baby, baby” leaving the ladies of St. Mary’s scrambling around the room in search of the perfect man to usher them from middle school girls to high school women.
“Egads!” Mallory’s brain exclaimed. “Ladies choice! This is my chance!” She continued to think while swirling her red plastic cup nervously in her right hand. “Ugh… Ariel, why do you keep saying egads in your head?” She ended her internal monologue a la Donnie Davidson.
Mallory mustered her courage and moved her bruised feet towards David Bland’s direction, ignoring the warning signs her calluses were providing inside her baby blue high heels. David was sitting across the gymnasium hunched over on the bleacher’s third row next to the men’s bathroom talking with two other boys, god knows what about; possibly sports or girls or the merits of loose-leaf paper.
“D-do you… uh… wanna dance?” Mallory stuttered meekly as her eyes shifted from Bland’s face to the basketball court. She quickly realized that part of her sentence was barely audible and worse not directed at anyone.
David and his two cronies turned their heads towards Mallory. His eyes locked onto hers for the first time in their shared history. David’s friends, a chubby fellow named George whose face was more oval than round and whose lips and nose reminded Mallory of a donkey and his very vertical counterpart Greg, who inexplicable decided to wear a coffee flavored leather jacket despite the 90 degree temperatures, both grilled Mallory as if she was some type of monolith that appeared from the universe’s ether. George’s tubby heart skipped a beat as he stared at Mallory’s legs. Greg’s beady brown eyes shot poison tipped daggers at Mallory’s face as he frowned and continued his one way conversation on the merits of toilet paper particularly the efficiency of two-ply.
“Yes,” David chortled, insipidly taking Mallory’s French-tipped hand allowing her to lead him on the dance floor, a smooth move on his part.
The couple steered themselves slowly clammy hand in clammy hand towards the center of the vast auditorium as the neon red Christmas lights hanging off the retractable basketball hoops flashed specks of red beams in Mallory’s eyes while giving the papier-mâché graduation decorations around the gym’s perimeter a demonic facade. They stopped directly on top of the St. Mary’s school logo at center court, covered in black sneaker scuffmarks. They started to dance awkwardly shifting their pelvises in the wrong direction at first as Mallory rested her dainty hands on David’s shoulders. In return he placed his gawky arms on her hips.
They swayed gently in an anti-poetic motion and soon the song that seemed so sexy and romantic started to feel as genetic as David would soon be. The beat would repeat endlessly. Each lyric seemed culled from a thesaurus refined strictly for the female anatomy. The singer’s voice became indistinguishable from several other popular vocal artists, both male and female. The entire dance took on that flavor, its themes and decorations would be repeated at least another 90 times from here to college, the only difference was the degree of sexual experience the attendees had. Hell everything about the whole night took on a nondescript persona as Mallory shifted her consciousness into another plain of existence. She dipped into the fourth-dimension and swore the dance’s spotlight was shining only on them illuminating their bodies with warm white light that also had the power of a thousand exploding suns.
Their prepubescent bodies swayed casually back and forth, finally settling into a comfortable rhythm. Mallory wondered how many people were watching them. Zero. How many girls envied her? Three. And how many boys now wanted her? Almost all of them. Mallory fought the urge to place her head on his shoulder a move she was sure he’d interpret accurately as a sign to gently tilt her head so he could plant his waxy lips on hers. She was starting to sweat furiously and worried that her deodorant would betray it’s promised “Secret” so she decided to compromise and instead of placing her head on him she simply laxed her 9-inch rule pulling David in to an intimate 7 inches.
“Damn, girl, you be pretty,” David whispered to Mallory as he helped himself to a whiff of her shampoo’s sweet ginger/apple cinnamon scent.
“Thanks?” Mallory coughed pleased to know he thought of her that way but not thrilled by the way he chose to express it.
“Yeah… Mmmm,” he seemed to be sizing her up as if she was a Big Mac.
“Um… everything okay, David?” she grunted as her hazelnut eyes scanned around the room wondering if anyone else noticed his word burps.
“Me?” he sniffled, his voice starting to crack. “Oh, yeah word. I’m good, baby.”
“Baby?” Mallory squeaked internally. “Egads! Did he just call me baby?” She had waited most of her adolescent life to hear David Bland call her baby. Wishing for it while staring at stars both falling and still, daydreaming about it as she signed the Magna Carta in History class, praying to Jesus and his lesser known cousin, Jebus, for it every first Friday when their religion class was forced to go to church. But now, hearing it come out of his too wide mouth through his chapped lips landing in her ears needlessly like the drops of sweat from his forehead, sickened Mallory English to the point of choking back vomit lest it land on his Payless penny loafers.
“That’s all boys and girls, I hope you made a memory,” DJ Danny D snipped in a low voice which was David’s cue to pull Mallory in close for a lackluster bear hug that only he could give.
“Always K.I.T.,” he sensually croaked into her ear along with spit. Maybe it was his choice of words, the way every orifice of his body acted like a geyser, or even the scent of dead homeless guy that his body betrayed because in that instant the gypsy curse David Bland held on Mallory’s heart was broken and she was now forever grateful to David Bland for setting her free.
Mallory released herself from his clutches, gave him a friendly tap on the shoulder while keeping her eyes fixated on an escape route and vowed never to keep in touch with David Bland. Mallory English reached a crossroads in her young adult life. She started to remember things about David, things her lovesick mind had failed to notice before. She remembered the armpit stains that soaked through his school shirts on both hot and cold days. How he would pronounce garlic on pizza day, always without the R.
“Can I have some ga-lick,” he’d crow as if the R was silent.
“How dare he forget the R?” Mallory chided him in her thoughts outside the school as she watched her now former classmates hugging each other and repeating that ridiculous refrain, “keep in touch,” like a fight song they were singing on their way to battle.
She began shaking her head furiously from side to side while tapping her bare foot on the pavement, her shoes given a reprieve for the night as they rested firmly against her stomach, while she simultaneously thought about and tried to forget about the boy she loved but never knew she didn’t actually know. She reflected on the one time David actually spoke to her, before the dance that is. She had remembered that moment quite vividly for years but ignored the indifference that she should have felt for it. They were in the 6th Grade on a field trip to the Math Museum.
At lunch David had two oranges in his rudimentary brown paper bag.
“Of course his bag was brown,” Mallory shook her head harder now using the best kind of sight, hindsight. “How utterly David Bland!”
The lunchroom at the Math Museum was dubbed “The House of π,” a classic pun used by nerdy mathematicians to prove their cleverness. Mallory sat right next to David, “like an X sits next to the Y in a quadratic equation,” she laughed to herself. She was close enough to smell his scent, not that he owned a remarkable enough fragrance to be remembered.
He peeled through one his oranges as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks and swallowed it whole barely allowing time for the citrus flavor to ferment the stale cafeteria air. He then took the other orange in his left hand and looked at it with disgust as he continued to chew the first one with his 900th bite.
“Orange?” he grunted holding the fruit up to Mallory’s face so she’d know he meant it for her and her alone. Orange seeds flew past her face.
Mallory hated oranges: the color, the fruit, everything about them including the word. But she loved David Bland and would have done anything he asked her, in strictly in a PG sense of course.
“Yes!” she gushed grabbing the fruit from his hands like a master criminal stealing a precious jewel. She never ate that orange. She slipped it into her Ninja Turtles backpack bringing it home with her so she could stare at it on her mahogany dresser next to a picture of her and her dad at Barbieworld, in front of her 5th grade most valuable player basketball trophy as she laid on her Saved by the Bell sheeted bed. She studied the words she’d written on it; her name and David’s name together, her name with David’s name, and her name as David’s name over and over again until they began to rot along with the orange.
Mallory English held onto that orange for a while, a little more than a while; an embarrassingly long time actually. In fact it was the night of the graduation dance, as she waited impatiently for her father that Mallory decided she would throw it away. She did, 7 days later, on the first day of summer vacation that coincided with the last day Mallory English ever thought about the first love of her life, David Bland… Or maybe it was Band, David Band. Oh well. Who can ever remember such trivial things?
Mallory English will return in “The 9 Loves of Mallory English: Chapter 2: ‘Steady’ Eddie.”