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Authors: Herman Wouk

City Boy (48 page)

BOOK: City Boy
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“Why, hello, Lucille,” he said with elaborate wonder, and stopped on the other side of her.

“Hello, Davey. Gee, what are you doing here?”

“Oh, I haven't been here for a few years. Just thought I'd like to see the old statue again.”

Herbie examined Davey and found him repulsively good-looking and tall.

“Well, what a surprise,” said Lucille. “This here is Herbie Bookbinder, an old friend of mine from my old school, P.S. 50, Herbie, this is Davey Carmichael. He lives on my block.”

The boys nodded at each other, Herbie sullenly, Davey with the pure joyous insolence that only exists in childhood by virtue of the advantage of an inch or two or a year or two.

“Where do you live, Herbie?” said the other boy, with a condescending emphasis on “Herbie” that the fat lad resented. Not being able to think of a crushing reply, he muttered, “Homer Avenue.”

“Oh,” said Davey with raised eyebrows. “The
Bronx. Hmm.—Well, see you later, Lucille.” He lounged away.

“Did you tell that big sap,” Herbie whispered fiercely to Lucille, “that you were coming here today?”

“Sure,” said the girl with tinkling innocence, “but I know he didn't come here 'cause of me.”

“How do you know?”

“Oh, he's way too old. Why, he's in Junior High School.”

The words were so many knives in Herbie's heart. All his claim to prowess lay in his dizzy scholastic height of 8B. The blond boy, whom he hated with red fury on the basis of a thirty-second conversation, had the advantage of him there, as in all the more obvious ways.

“O.K.,” he said bitterly. “Why dontcha go home with him? He lives right on your block. Cliff an' me'll have more fun without a girl taggin' along, anyway.”

“Herbie, why are you so crazy? I hardly ever spoke to Davey. I don't even know which is his house. Are you going to spoil all our fun again?”

The previous occasions implied by the word “again” were not specified. But Herbie was placed in the class of a surly brute with the simple word, and was silenced. These are devices that a little girl is incapable of learning or inventing. She knows them as a wasp knows how to build a nest.

Lucille, gazing dreamily out at the panorama, said, “Know what? I don't want to live in the Bronx when I'm big. I wanna live in Manhattan.”

“Where in Manhattan?”


The girl pointed a finger which in imagination clove downward through several miles of empty air and rested on the western bank of the bristling island.

“Riverside Drive, huh?” said Herbie.

“Yeah. Wouldn't that be swell?”

“Sure would. You could see the river all the time an' everything.”

Lucille bent a mischievous glance at him and said, “All right, then. It's settled. When we get married we live on Riverside Drive.”

Herbie looked wonderingly at her. Was she making fun of him? No, her eyes were soft and kind. She twined her fingers in his, and they stood side by side, gazing down at the city of their birth.

“Anything you say, Lucille,” Herbie answered. “We'll live on Riverside Drive.” He tried to match her joking tone, but the words came with difficulty. The blond lad from the West Bronx was leaning against the wall a few feet away, watching them. Herbie was uncomfortably aware of his presence.

And then, with a sting of despair, the fat boy noticed that Lucille's glance shifted briefly, it seemed flirtatiously, to his new rival, and back out the window again. It was the merest flicker. It could have been a mistake. It
a mistake, he desperately decided. She couldn't prove faithless again—not so soon! His vast toils and sufferings could not come to this miserable finish, a jilting even before school resumed. The world was simply not constructed so cruelly.

“Boy, oh boy, Lucille,” he said with brave gaiety, “won't we have fun this year! Don't worry, I'll come to see you once a week, at least. Maybe even twice a week!”

Cliff, from his bench, observed the whole scene. He shook his head. “Poor Herb!” he said sadly to himself. “It was all for nothin'. Elmer was right.”

But Herbie knew better, of course. His jealousy of the blond boy was a ridiculous error. There! Wasn't Lucille pressing his hand?

“Delightful.… A refreshing and thoroughly readable book.”

Marc Brandel.
New York Times Book Review


requently compared to Mark Twain's masterpieces about boyhood,
City Boy
spins a hilarious and often touching tale of an urban boy's adventures and misadventures on the street in school, in the countryside, always in pursuit of Lucille, a heartless redhead personifying all the girls who torment and fascinate pubescent lads of eleven.

To readers who associate Herman Wouk principally with the monumental epics on which his fame largely rests—novels such as
The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War,
War and Remembrance
—the continuous comic entertainment afforded by
City Boy
will no doubt be a delightful discovery.

“The adventures of Herbie Bookbinder in a Bronx school and a Berkshire summer camp give an inside view of what it is like to be a fat little boy with brains.”

Winnifred King Rugg,
Christian Science Monitor

“A hearty and invigorating tale.… There is gentle satire all through the book, and sometimes broad comedy.… Mr. Wouk was born in New York and obviously in much of
City Boy
he is writing from memory. It is an excellent memory, and combined with a mature sense of humor, builds a sharp, light-hearted picture of public school life in the Bronx [several decades] ago. Herbie, fat though he may be, is any boy, a half-sized man, riddled with longing, loneliness, appetite, dreams, and ideals.… Whoever makes his acquaintance will find no little of himself dwelling in Herbie.”

—Thomas Sugrue,
New York Herald Tribune

was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952 for
The Caine Mutiny,
his third novel. His other internationally acclaimed and best-selling novels include
Aurora Dawn; Marjorie Morningstar; Youngblood Hawke; Don't Stop the Carnival; The Winds of War; War and Remembrance; Inside, I Outside; The Hope; The Glory;
and, most recently,
A Hole in Texas.

BOOK: City Boy
9.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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