Read Campus Tramp Online

Authors: Lawrence Block

Campus Tramp

Campus Tramp

Lawrence Block
writing as Andrew Shaw

















THE GIRL HAD SOFT honey-blond hair that she wore in a long pony tail. Her pale green sweater hugged breasts that were alive with youth and full with a maturity that didn’t go with the little-girl face or the virginal innocence in her hazel eyes. The skirt that was tight on rounded hips and muscular thighs was a Black Watch plaid, with dark greens and blues predominating.

The girl was sitting on a train. The seat next to hers was unoccupied, and she was sprawled out so that she managed to take up both of the seats. Her head was close to the window, and if her eyes had been open she would have been able to look out on fields where corn had been recently harvested, fields where a few sheep or cows wandered peacefully. But the girl was deep in thought and her eyes were closed.

The girl’s name was Linda Shepard. The train’s name was the Ohio State Limited, a New York Central passenger train that went from New York to Cincinnati via Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Springfield and Dayton. The girl had boarded the train in Cleveland and she would leave it in Springfield to catch a Greyhound bus to Clifton.

There was, as far as she knew, only one reason in the world for a person to go to Clifton, Ohio. The town was the home of three thousand people who were born, went to school, worked, married, and finally died in Clifton. Some of them managed to get away from the town at some stage in their development, and she was fairly confident that anybody who left Clifton would be careful never to return.

But Clifton was also the site of Clifton College, an institution of learning which managed to add another 1500 souls to Clifton’s meagre population. The college, which seemed to Linda to be the only point in Clifton’s favor, was the reason for her presence on the Ohio State Limited.

She was excited. She was quite motionless in her seat and her eyes were closed, but she was excited nevertheless. She was about to enter Clifton College as a freshman, and she knew that she was going to enter a totally different world at the same time. Clifton was only a little over 200 miles from Cleveland, but it was going to be much farther away as far as she was concerned.

Linda was eighteen. Except for summers at camp and the class trip to Washington during Easter vacation of her senior year, she had spent all of those eighteen years in Cleveland, living with her mother and father in a moderate-sized brick house in Shaker Heights. When she went out on dates she went with boys she knew from school, generally boys she had known for most of her life. When she did things they were the things everybody else did. Her life in Cleveland was by no means dull, but the feeling persisted that it wasn’t entirely
life—she had no responsibility for herself, no choice in what she did or what role she played.

But college would be different. Not the academic part of it, not that. To tell the truth, she thought, she didn’t much care about books or classes. If all she had wanted was an education she could have done much better in her own home town at Western Reserve. No, education in the classroom was important, but there were other things that were a good deal more important.

Growing up.



Learning to be a woman.

She stretched in her seat and glanced out of the window.
Learning to be a woman.
She wondered what it was that would change a girl to a woman. Age? She was eighteen now, and that left her somewhere in the middle between Girl and Woman. She was old enough to marry but not old enough to vote. Old enough to drink hard liquor in New York but too young to drink anything stronger than 3.2 beer in Ohio.

Old enough, under the law, to let a man make love to her.

She closed her eyes again and a smile bloomed on her face, a gentle and secret smile, as if she knew something that nobody else in the entire world knew.
Old enough to make love
, she thought to herself, and she thought about making love and what it was and when it was wrong and when it was right and what a wild, strange, wonderful mystery it was.

Linda Shepard was a virgin.

This was hardly extraordinary. Howard and Norma Shepard would have been quite justifiably surprised and annoyed if their daughter hadn’t managed to get through Corry Senior High School with her maidenhead intact, and Linda herself took it for granted that she would graduate from high school with her virginity unimpaired. Nice girls from Shaker Heights simply didn’t have sexual intercourse during high school. It was as simple as that, and there had never been an occasion when it seemed either desirable or proper for Linda to change her status.

Well, she reflected, that wasn’t altogether true. There was a time when she came much closer to sex than she had expected—a rather pleasant time, all things considered. She had been dating Chuck Connor steadily, going out with him two or three times a week and seeing him in school almost every day. They went to movies and parties and dances, and they spent more and more time parked on a quiet lane in the blue Pontiac that Chuck borrowed from his father.

More time and more time.

They were both seniors. Chuck was taller than she was, a rangy boy with sandy hair and freckles on his face. He was a good athlete—captain of the basketball team that year and a major letter man in track. You couldn’t call him handsome, but he was extremely attractive and quite sure of himself socially.

He kissed her goodnight after their first date. Their goodnight kisses took longer as time went by, and it wasn’t long before they were kissing in the car in front of her house instead of on her front porch. And she enjoyed the kissing, with Chuck’s strong arms gentle around her and his mouth pressed to hers.

From the porch to the car. From in front of the house to a lane where no houses had been built and where passing cars were few and far between. From kissing to necking, from necking to heavier petting.

You had to stop somewhere. You were the girl, so you had to call the shots and tell Chuck when to stop, had to insist upon it and make sure he let go of you and put his hands on the wheel and turned his key in the ignition and drove you home. He expected it. He wanted it that way, because that was the way the pattern demanded it. That was the standard routine, with the boy going as far as he could and the girl making sure that he didn’t go too far.

The boy couldn’t stop of his own accord. If he did he lost face and seemed less a man for it, although Linda would have been willing to bet that there were times Chuck would have preferred to stop before they both got so excited that stopping was an effort and a frustration. But that was the pattern, and when you lived in Shaker Heights and went to Corry Senior High School you played things by the book and stuck close to the pattern.

It was a tough pattern to stick to. The people who figured out the pattern evidently didn’t take into consideration the fact that sometimes you didn’t want to stop, sometimes you were a girl who felt like a woman and who wanted to be treated like a woman and loved like a woman. But it was easier to keep the pattern than to break it.

Most of the time.

But one time was different from the others. She remembered it very clearly—it was the night of the senior prom, with exams coming up in a week or so and graduation only a few weeks in the future. They went to the prom together and danced almost every dance, and then she and Chuck went off with Sue Lewis and Jack Morgan and drank rye whiskey from a flask that Jack carried in the glove compartment of his car. She had never had straight liquor before—her drinking had been limited to a very occasional highball before dinner with her parents. The rye burned its way down her throat, but after the second gulp from the flask she didn’t mind the hot sensation in her throat any more. It was pleasant—warm and relaxing and buoyant.

She didn’t get drunk, just a little bit high. And then Sue and Jack went off in Jack’s car and she and Chuck were alone. Chuck’s hand found hers and led her to their car and they drove off into the night without saying a word. She sat close to him and rested her head on his shoulder, and he slipped one arm around her and guided the car easily with his left hand.

Their usual parking place was empty, the rest of the lane deserted. Chuck eased the Pontiac off the road and turned off the ignition. Then he doused the lights.

He turned to her.

She remembered it clearly, very clearly, every detail fresh and sharp in her mind. Her eyes were closed now and she went over what followed in her mind, picturing it and feeling it and living it again …

His arms went around her and her mouth came up to meet his. His lips were gentle at first, very gentle, and she liked the way the musky odor of his sweat mixed and mingled with his after-shave lotion. His lips bore down upon hers and her mouth opened. His tongue snuck between her lips, running over her lips and teeth, touching her tongue.

The kiss took a long time to end. Then he released her and looked deep into her eyes, his own eyes boring into hers. She knew what was on his mind—there could be only one thing, and it was a thing neither of them wanted to talk about. There was so little time, hardly any time at all before he would be off to work at a Canadian camp for the summer while she remained in the city. Then she would go to Clifton while he went east to M.I.T. Very little time, just a few weeks.

For a year now they had belonged to each other. For a year they had spent all their free time together, getting to know each other, starting to fall in love.

So little time left.

“Linda,” he said. That was all, just her name, but there was a huskiness in his voice that said all the things he couldn’t say.

He kissed her again. She pulled him close to her so that her breasts were warm and tight against his chest and this time it was her tongue that probed deep into his mouth, her tongue that sought his and sent little shivers of desire through both of them.

And this kiss lasted longer than the one before it. When they forced themselves apart they exchanged another deep, searching look and she could read his thoughts in his eyes. He wanted her, wanted her very much, wanted more than the kissing and touching and loving-by-inches that she had permitted him so far.

She wanted it, too.

When he kissed her a third time his hand found her breast and held it tenderly like a little boy holding a baby bird. She was wearing a frilly formal and she wished silently that she was wearing something else because the frills were too much of a barrier between her breast and his hand. She wished that she was wearing nothing, nothing at all, so that his hands could hold her and stroke her and love her and make her feel like a woman.


She looked at him.

“Honey, let’s get into the back seat.”

There were beads of sweat standing out on his forehead and she wondered if she was perspiring with desire herself. She looked at him, hungry but frightened.


“It’s roomier back there.”

“There’s enough room up front.”

He took a deep breath. Then he said: “Damn steering wheel keeps getting in my way. Come on, honey—let’s get in the back.”

Why not?
she thought. She nodded silently and he smiled. He got out of the car and walked around to open the door for her. It made her smile, the way he was such a gentleman even at a time like this, opening doors for her when both of them were so hot for each other they could have just as easily hopped over the seat to save time.

She got out of the car and let him open the back door for her. She climbed inside and he followed her and took her in his arms, his mouth clamping down on hers. She felt the blood rushing through her veins and she ached for him to kiss her, to touch her, to take her and possess her completely.

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