Read Campus Tramp Online

Authors: Lawrence Block

Campus Tramp (8 page)

“I know.”

“You’re a big girl now,” he said. “You have a right to make your own decisions and I’m not going to try to make them for you. As long as you know how things stand, what you do is your own business.”

“Okay.”

He finished his coffee. “I’m sick of this place,” he said. “Want to get some air?”

“What time is it?”

He craned his neck and looked at the clock on the wall. “4:28 on the button,” he said. “If the birds hadn’t headed south for the winter they’d be chirping in a minute and a half. It might interest you to know that the birds at Clifton invariably begin chirping at 4:29_ in the morning.”

“Always?”

“Always.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s when the sun begins to think about shining. But this is all conjecture, you see, because there are no birds around right now. But we could go for a walk.”

“We could,” she said.

“Let’s.”

She got up and waited while he paid their checks. On the way out she slipped her hand into his and an automatic smile came to her face as his fingers tightened around her palm. She wanted to lean over and give him a quick kiss but she didn’t, knowing that he didn’t like her to display her affection in public.

They headed south on the main street of town. The air was crisp and cool and her legs were free and easy as she walked.

“Know what I feel like doing?”

“What?” she asked.

“Drinking,” he said.

“Drinking?”

He nodded. “There’s a whole quart of wine back at the apartment. The two of us ought to be able to empty it in a fairly short amount of time. It’s not the world’s greatest wine—in fact it tastes a little like goat-urine.”

“How do you know what goat-urine tastes like?”

“It undoubtedly tastes like this wine. But there’s enough there to get the two of us stoned.”

“At this hour?”

“At any hour. It’s powerful wine.”

“I mean … it’s kind of a nutty time to drink.”

“It’s a nutty time to be awake, for that matter. C’mon—let’s go get drunk.”

She let him lead her off in the direction of his apartment. Then he remembered that the car was parked in front of the Landmine and they turned back to get it. She held his hand tightly as they walked along.

When they got to the car she sat next to him on the seat while he turned the key in the ignition and got the car started. She wondered dizzily what it would be like to drink wine while they watched the sun come up.

“Don—do you know what I’d like to do?”

“What?”

“I’d like to make love.”

“Believe it or not,” he said, “it’s possible to drink wine
and
make love. Not simultaneously, of course. It gets a little sloppy. First you drink the wine and then you make love. And then you drink more wine and then you make more love. And then you drink more wine and then you make more love, and—”

“What happens when you get tired?”

“Then you go to sleep,” he said. “But I’m not tired yet.”

“Neither am I,” she said happily. “The way I feel now I could do it forever.”

“Drink wine and make love?”

“Not both of them forever,” she said. “After awhile I’d get tired of drinking all that wine.”

The wine was as bad as he had said it was, if not worse, and although she had never partaken of the urine of a goat it seemed logical that what they were drinking wasn’t far removed from it in taste. But the wine accomplished its intended objective. While its effect on Don wasn’t noticeable, it got her higher than a space platform.

It was funny, she thought, the way the room was spinning so strangely. It was just a little after five in the morning and the sun wasn’t up yet, and that was one hell of an hour for the room to be spinning.

“Hell of an hour for room-spinning,” she warbled.

Don put down the bottle and kissed her.

“We should drink out of glasses,” she said after the kiss ended, which wasn’t right away.

“Why?”

“More civilized.”

“Who wants to be civilized? We’re pagans.”

“Pagans?”

“Mad foolish pagans waiting for the sun to come up so we can worship it in the proper manner. Put down the bottle and kiss me, pagan.”

She put down the bottle and kissed him. Her head was spinning like a top.

“Stand up, pagan.”

When she stood up she had to lean against him for support. She clutched him and her mouth reached up for his. Her tongue darted at once into his mouth and his arms went around her to hold her.

Her blood was pounding and she felt as though she was coming apart at the seams. The wine was having a definite effect on her and it was doing more than making her dizzy. Her whole body seemed to be alive, alive and demanding, and she wanted him with a desperate passion.

“Don—”

“Take off your clothes.”

He let go of her and with some effort she managed to remain on her feet. He was undressing quickly and deliberately, letting his clothes fall wherever they landed. He didn’t look at her while he undressed.

She began taking off her own clothing. It was great fun, she discovered, to take off a blouse and just throw it on the floor instead of hanging it up. It was even more fun to do the same thing with a skirt.

And with a bra.

And with panties.

“Don,” she said happily, “I’m naked.”

“So you are,” he agreed. “So am I.”

She looked at him from head to toe. “Yes,” she said. “I guess you are.”

He was about three feet away from her but he made no move toward her. His eyes caressed her as efficiently and as effectively as hands could have and under his gaze she began to grow hot and passionate, aching with desire for him.

“Oh, God,” she said. “Hurry up.”

He leaned over and picked up the wine bottle. “I’ll be damned,” he said. “There’s still some left. I thought we killed the bottle.”

“Who cares?” she demanded. “Forget the wine.”

“Can’t forget the wine.”

Her passion mounted and she rubbed her thighs together, impatient, wanting him.

“Lie down on the bed,” he ordered. “On your back.”

She did as he told her. He walked over to the side of the bed, the wine bottle in his hand.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to drink the wine,” he said gravely.

“Later—”

“I’m going to drink the wine in a new and improved fashion,” he said. “You shall be the glass.”

Before she could ask him what he meant by that he had tilted the bottle and the wine spilled onto her body. Most of it splashed on her breasts but some of it trickled down over her stomach and below. It was very cold and the sudden contact served only to excite her still more.

“You make a lovely wine glass,” he told her.

Then he was beside her on the bed. Now she saw what he meant about drinking the wine with her for the glass. His tongue began to lick up the wine from her body, starting just below her throat. The effect of the wine on her brain and his tongue on her smooth skin was enough to drive her wild from the first second, and when he reached her breasts it was more than she could bear.

Some wine had spilled lower.

On her stomach.

Below her stomach.

He didn’t miss a drop.

Then, when her passion was higher than it had ever been before, he took her quickly and savagely and exquisitely, tormenting her with the sheer beauty of his love, thrusting her higher and higher to the very pinnacle of love until she had to cry out at the moment of fulfillment.

Then her arms tightened around him and they slept like twin corpses.

She was happier than she had ever been, happier, she felt, than she had any right to be. When she was with Don nothing mattered, nothing seemed important. It wasn’t just their lovemaking, though that was something that seemed to be better every single time. It was everything that passed between them. Walking down the street, sitting over coffee, proofreading copy for him while he worked on the tiresome business of editing the paper—everything was equally exciting to her. It was as though she had stepped into a new and different world, the world Don lived in. It was a world of hard drinking and hard living and hard loving, a world where the moment was vitally important and tomorrow could watch out for itself.

She couldn’t help worrying about Don some of the time. He didn’t seem to have any plans, didn’t seem to know what he would be doing after he graduated. He didn’t have to worry about the army; a trick knee that he referred to as a million-dollar wound would keep him 4-F. But he didn’t plan on going to graduate school and he didn’t seem to have the slightest idea where he would go or how he would go about earning a living.

“Maybe I’ll grab a newspaper job,” he said once. “I was glancing through a copy of
E
&
P
—you know,
Editor and Publisher
—and there are jobs all over the damned place.”

But when she would try to get him to talk about a newspaper job he would shift the subject.

“Hell, who wants to write news-copy for a lifetime? Boring goddamned job, Linda. Maybe I’ll try free-lancing or something. Or publishing work—go to New York and hunt up some kind of editorial assistant work. That might not be bad.”

What it boiled down to, she knew, was that Don didn’t want to do much of anything. He refused to make plans for the future and he refused to worry about it, and this attitude didn’t make her any too happy.

For one thing, she had a feeling that whatever plans Don had didn’t include her. Time and time again she told him how much she loved him, and although he didn’t exactly dodge the issue she knew that he had never told her that he was in love with her. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t, but he didn’t say anything to her one way or the other.

It wasn’t hard for her to tell that he meant more to her than she meant to him. She tried to tell herself that this was natural—that she had never had a lover before while Don had had many women. But she couldn’t help feeling there was more to it than that.

And it scared her. If anything happened between the two of them, if suddenly he didn’t want her any more, she didn’t know what she would do. He was her whole life—nothing else mattered to her, and not only didn’t she see how she could live without him but she had trouble remembering how she had managed to live before the two of them were together. She couldn’t imagine sleeping without him sleeping at her side, couldn’t imagine living through an entire day without seeing him and talking to him. And she knew that this was dangerous.

But she worried less and less as time went by. She would live with him and love him, and in time he would come to need her as much as she needed him. She loved Don Gibbs and she was determined to wind up married to him.

But there was plenty of time for that.

For the time being she would wait. She would have him at the
Record
office, at the Landmine, and in bed. She would spend every minute with him.

And, eventually, she would marry him. She was sure of it.

CHAPTER SIX

THERE WERE TIMES WHEN LINDA hardly realized that she was going to college.

This was primarily due to the fact that she was hardly going to college. While she hadn’t stopped going to classes, the ones she attended were few and far between. She went whenever there was a test, after having stayed awake all night before the test cramming her mind full of the stuff she was supposed to have learned already. It was tough at first, cramming like mad all night and then staying awake the next day for the test. But she found a way to do it—coffee at first, to jolt her mind into an awake much coffee.

Then there was dexedrine. You just took one little pill and you were awake for hours—not high, but very definitely awake with no trouble at all, your mind keen and your body in fine shape. Of course she didn’t want to make a habit of dexedrine, but taking it once a week or so couldn’t hurt, and it certainly did make it easier to keep her eyes open and her mind on what she was doing.

The combination of cramming and dexedrine kept her up to par in her courses for the next two months. But she knew inside that she wasn’t getting all she should be getting out of her courses. She was missing the lectures, and what reading she was doing was confined to the more essential material. Reading somebody else’s lecture notes and skipping over the underlined material in somebody else’s textbook wasn’t any way to get an education. It might get her through exams but that was about all it would do for her.

Well, what did it matter? She didn’t much care about an education, and what Don was teaching her was a good deal more along the line of what she was anxious to learn. She knew that she was developing into a first-class bed partner, among other things, and the sort of conversation she had with Don and his friends was more broadening than the nonsense they filled you with in the classroom.

Almost all of the really interesting boys and girls at Clifton were friends of Don, or at least it seemed that way to her. The off-beat sort of kids who did things and read things and thought about things and talked about things were the kids Don hung around with, and now these were the people Linda was hanging around with. The other students at Clifton, the ones that didn’t count as far as she was concerned, called Don and his friends the Bohemian set. Perhaps the term fit in a vague and inconclusive sort of away, but Linda had never heard it used by any of the people included in the circle.

They dressed to please themselves, and some of the girls in the crowd were as likely as not to wear the same pair of blue jeans and the same shapeless sweater for a week running. The boys went longer between haircuts, most of them, and some of them had beards like Don had. The traditional Ivy League uniform of three-button suit and button-down collar was missing. Nobody wore blue blazers like Joe did and shined shoes were the exception rather than the rule.

But with these people, Linda knew, dress was informal to the point of sloppiness simply because it didn’t matter. They were too busy leading their own lives to concern themselves with the superficial things.

Some of them worked on the newspaper. Others painted or played the guitar or wrote poetry. Some of them didn’t do anything in particular—they just belonged to the group, spending their time sitting over coffee at the Landmine or lounging aimlessly for hours at a clip on the steps of the Union Building. They played chess and held perpetual conversations and got drunk as often as they possibly could.

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