Dylan hurried the comic book into his binder. He'd bought it on Court Street at lunchtime and debated allowing it to be seen inside the school, a breach of general good sense. It was a lousy comic, though, stiff with fidelity to the movie, and Dylan had decided he wouldn't care anymore than he'd be surprised if it was taken away. This, a conversation with his homely double, wasn't the price he'd expected to pay. But Arthur Lomb seemed to sense the dent he'd made in Dylan's attention and pressed on.
He smirked again at the comic book where it had vanished into the binder.
Fuck you looking at? Dylan wanted to shriek at Arthur Lomb, before it was too late, before Dylan succumbed to his loneliness and allowed himself to meet Arthur, the other white boy.
"Not yet," Dylan said instead.
"Farrah Fawcett is a fox."
Dylan didn't answer. He couldn't know, and was only chagrined that he even knew what Arthur Lomb was talking about.
"Don't feel bad. I bought ten copies of Logan's Run #1." Arthur Lomb spoke in a hurried whisper, showing some awareness of his surroundings, but compelled to spill what he had, to force Dylan know to him. "You have to buy number ones, it's an investment. I've got ten of Eternals, ten of 2001, ten of Omega, ten of Ragman, ten of Kobra. And all those comics stink. You know the comics shop on Seventh Avenue? The buildings on that corner are all brand new because a plane crashed there, you heard about it? A 747 tried to crash-land in Prospect Park and missed, no kidding. Big disaster. Anyway, guy runs that shop is an a-hole. I stole a copy of Blue Beetle #1 from him once. It was pathetically easy. Blue Beetle is Charlton, you ever hear of Charlton Comics? Went out of business. Number one's a number one, doesn't matter. You know Fantastic Four #1 goes for four hundred dollars? The Blue Beetle might be an all-time record for the stupidest character ever. He was drawn by Ditko, guy who created Spider-Man. Ditko can't really draw, that's the weird thing. Makes everything look like a cartoon. Doesn't matter, it's a number one. Put it in plastic and put it on the shelf, that's what I say. You use plastic, don't you?"
"Of course," said Dylan resentfully.
He understood every word Arthur Lomb said. Worse, he felt his sensibility colonized by Arthur's, his future interests co-opted.
They were doomed to friendship.
From Chapter 8
Three weeks earlier, Dylan Ebdus had stood on the slate in front of Mingus Rude's stoop, waiting.
Women trudged little kids to kindergarten at the Y or moved alone up Nevins to the subway. Two gays from Pacific Street tugged leashed dachshunds, in another world. A bunch of black girls swept up from the projects to gather Marilla, who was in high school now, at Sarah J. Hale, down on Third Avenue. They shared a cigarette for breakfast, rumbled around the corner in a ball of smoke and laughter. All under the angled morning light, distant Jersey haze, merry solvent-factory stink getting you mildly high, the pillar of the Williamsburg Savings Bank clock tower organizing the sky, time different on its two visible faces but either way it was time to go, today the first day of school everywhere in the world, possibly. This day when summer ended was as hot as summer, even at eight in the morning.
Only one thing wrong with this picture, as the block cleared, the bus breathed past, a dog barked in a cycle like code. Dylan standing in long pants and with his backpack full of unruined binder pages and dumb pencils and hidden glasses and still-virgin El Marko. He felt like an apple skinned for inspection at the new school, already souring in the sun. Those dogs could tell and probably anybody else too, he stank of panic.
Excerpted from The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem Copyright© 2003 by Jonathan Lethem. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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