The Adventures of Mark and Mary:
Mary Meets Mark
By Jake Lasprogato
Copyright 2016 Jake Lasprogato
Mary was helping with attendance in the school office during her first period. It was a quiet Friday morning and she was taking her time getting things done. As she was marking off names on the papers, the door to the office opened and a dark, disheveled looking young man slithered in. Mary recognized him from her chemistry class, but they had never spoke to each other, and neither of them said anything now. The young man took a seat outside the principal’s office and Mary quietly continued with her work.
After a moment, the door to the principal’s office opened and the principal, Mr. Arden, stepped out. He adjusted his tie, regarded Mary with a friendly smile and said, “Good morning, Miss Stark.”
“Good morning, Mr. Arden.” Mary replied in her soft, mousy tone.
“When you get a chance, could you please call Mrs. Arden and tell her I’ll be meeting some friends after work today.”
“Why don’t you do it yourself?” The young man spoke up from his seat behind Mr. Arden.
“Excuse me?” Mr. Arden said as he turned around and looked at the young man with wide furious eyes.
“I mean, if you’re going to fuck around behind your wife’s back you should at least call and lie to her yourself.”
Mr. Arden stood and glared at the young punk. He didn’t speak, but his face became redder with every passing second. The boy sat and looked up at him coolly. His large hazel eyes didn’t show a trace of either fear or regret. When Mr. Arden’s face had finally reached the deepest shade of crimson, he let out a roar like a boiler bursting under its own pressure. He grabbed the insolent boy by his arm and dragged him into his office, slamming the door shut behind them. Once the door was closed the secretary, Mrs. Morse, looked at Mary and said, “He’s a bad kid, Mary. If he ever tries to talk to you, just stay away.”
Mary didn’t hear any sound at all from Mr. Arden’s office for almost the whole period. She wondered to herself if, in his rage, Mr. Arden hadn’t eaten the mouthy student alive. “Almost time for you to move on, Mary.” Mrs. Morse said without looking up from her desk. Mary put her pen in the top drawer of her desk and gathered the attendance sheets in a neat pile. She was waiting for the bell to ring when Mr. Arden’s door opened and the young man stepped out. Mary happened to catch his gaze. He smiled at her and she saw a spark in his eye. Mary stayed at her desk a moment longer until the bell rang, then she went on to her next period.
Most days whenever the weather was nice, Mary liked to sit outside the school and read for a while before she went home. When Mary was reading, she always found herself in the story. The world around her no longer existed. She wasn’t concerned with anything that had happened during the day or anything that might happen later. Mary figured she blended in with the scenery anyway, so no one ever bothered her. Except for today.
As she was reading her little novel, she heard the sound of bike tires whizzing up close to her. Then a voice called out, “Hey.”
She looked up and brushed her long, dirty-blonde hair aside. She saw the young punk from the office riding circles around her. “Hello.” She replied.
“You remember me, right?” The young man asked as he stopped his bike and climbed off of it.
“Oh, I remember you.”
“We’re in the same chemistry class too, but I don’t think you ever noticed me.” He said as he sat down next to her.
When he sat down, Mary could smell cigarette smoke coming from him. She eyed him cautiously. She couldn’t quite decide how she felt about him. He was so utterly repulsive and yet undeniably charming.
“Your name is Mary, right?”
“Yes. And you are…”
“Nice to meet you, Mark. Judging by your behavior this morning I guess I’ll be seeing a lot of you.”
“I was just trying to help you out.”
“Yeah. You know there’s a difference between being somebody’s assistant and being their bitch. You can’t be too nice, Mary, or people are going to walk all over you.”
“Maybe so.” Mary agreed as she turned the page of her book. “But I also think that there is an appropriate time to speak up and an appropriate way to do it.”
“Fuck that!” Mark said. “If you wait for the right time to do things, you’re never going to get anything done.”
Mark pulled a cigarette from his shirt pocket and a heavy silver lighter from the front pocket of his blue jeans. He put the cigarette in his mouth, lit it and replaced the lighter in his pocket. He took a few puffs of his cigarette and stared off into space for a few moments. Mary looked back down at her book and continued reading. She was just about to lose herself in the story again when Mark asked, “What are you reading?”
“Oh just some old Italian novel I checked out of the public library.”
“Really? Do you speak Italian?”
“I understand enough to have a general idea of what’s going on. I have a thing for foreign movies so I’ve picked a few things up here and there.”
“I like foreign movies too. As a matter of fact, there’s a shitty little theater by my apartment that shows them every Friday night. Tonight it’s, Les Yeux Sans Visage. Want to come watch it with me?”
Mary closed her book and stared at Mark while she tried to come up with an answer.
“You don’t have to come if you’re in a hurry to get home.” Mark added.
“I’m never in a hurry to get home.” Mary answered.
“Good. Then it’s a date.” Mark said as he stood and picked his bike up off the ground. “Come on. You can ride on my handlebars.”
Mary didn’t respond. She continued to sit on the ground and stare up at Mark.
“Come on!” Mark said. “I’m not going to kill you.”
Mary stood up and stuffed her book into her purse. Mark helped her onto his bike. As they rode away down the street, Mark leaned forward and whispered in her ear, “At least not today.”
As they rode toward Mark’s apartment the streets became more and more shabby looking and there were fewer and fewer people, save for the occasional drifter or junkie. Mark rode his bike up in front of a tall decrepit old brick building. “This is where I live.” He told Mary. “We can hang here a while and walk down to the theater later.” Mary hopped down off the handlebars and let Mark walk ahead of her with his bike.
The foyer of the building was dimly lit and smelled like urine. Mary tried to hold her breath as she followed Mark to the stairs. The stairs weren’t much better though. On the first landing, between the first and second floors, Mary saw a haggard looking man backed into a corner fast asleep. She wrapped her arms tightly around herself and continued to follow closely behind Mark. They continued up to the third floor, exited the stairwell and started down the long narrow hallway. Most of the lights were out and there was just one sconce at the very end that flickered and buzzed. The walls were a pistachio green that had been darkened by grimy handprints and soot from the furnace. The floor was covered in ancient red carpet that still had the vague silhouette of a floral print on it. Mary could hear someone’s television playing at an excessive volume as well as a couple who were apparently having quite a time in their bedroom. They walked all the way down to the very last door on the left. Mark paused to unlock the door. As soon as he opened it, Mary hurried inside.
The atmosphere was distinctly different inside Mark’s apartment. It was lighter. It had tall ceilings and large windows. The walls were white, but they were mostly covered with brightly colored posters and loose photographs just pinned onto the plaster. There was a large watermark running down the outside wall on the right that was causing the paint to peel and showing layers of pink, green, yellow and blue, stained brown by the water. “If you look really close at the watermark, you can see Jesus.” Mark said.
“Really?” Mary asked as she walked over to the spot and examined it closely.
Mark put his bike aside and brought the rest of his things to his bedroom. He returned and rummaged through some cardboard boxes that were lined up under the window. He found a book in one that he took with him to a threadbare scrap of a Persian rug in the center of the room where he sat down and watched Mary for several more minutes before he finally asked, “Have you found him yet?”
“No.” Mary replied without taking her eyes off of the wall.
“Neither have I.” Mark said with a laugh.
Mary turned around and glared at Mark. “At least I got your mind off what a dump this place is for a little while.” He said with a grin. “Now come and make yourself comfortable. We still have a little time to kill before the show.”
Mary crossed the room and sat next to Mark. “I thought you might like this.” He said as he opened the book.
“What is it?” Mary asked as she leaned in close to see.
“It’s a collection of French magazines I found. ‘C’est La Mode’.”
“Wow.” Mary said as she brushed her hair over her shoulder and looked at the brightly colored images printed on the pages of the old magazines. “These are beautiful.”
“I know. Most of the time I get magazines to cut up and use in my art, but these are too pretty. I just use them to get ideas for costumes.”
Mark and Mary took their time looking through the big binder of magazines until it started getting dark and Mark stood up to switch on the bare bulb that hung down over the scrap of carpet. Mary looked up at him and asked, “Who do you live here with?”
“Just myself, a few rats and a few roaches.” Mark answered.
“You live here all by yourself? With nobody?”
Mary was startled as Mark’s expression became less inviting. He seemed to shrink back from the light and he growled, “I don’t need anybody.” He turned and walked away, down the hall to his bedroom. He returned with his wallet and keys. “We’d better get going.” He said as he walked toward the door. Mary stood up and hurried after him.
After the movie as they were leaving the theater, Mary turned to Mark and said, “Well thank you for the lovely afternoon, Mark. But I’d better get home.”
“Aww wait, Mary. It’s still early.”
“You might think it’s early, but if I get home any later my mom is going to have a shit hemorrhage.”
“So…I don’t feel like listening to her tonight.”
“Yeah right, Mary. I bet your mom gives you shit all the time no matter what you do.”
Mary didn’t say anything, but she started to smile.
“I’m right aren’t I?” Mark continued. “She’s probably all like, ‘Mary, you came in too late. Mary, you were up too early. Mary, why don’t you cut your hair? Mary, those boots are a little risqué.’”
“That’s a good impression for someone who’s never met her.” Mary said with a laugh.
“Well if she’s going to be pissed anyway them why don’t you just stay with me a little while. There’s a noodle place around the corner. We can get something to take back to my apartment.”
Mary thought for second. She really was enjoying herself. What was the sense in hurrying back? “Alright.” She said. And they walked off together.
Back at Mark’s apartment, Mary settled down in the middle of the living room with her bowl of noodles while Mark stacked some 78s on his record player. He turned it on, there was a crackle and then the intro to Gus Cannon’s “Walk Right In”.
“Sound familiar?” He asked as he sat down across from Mary.
Mary shook her head no and took a sip of her broth. Then something came over her and she said, “Wait a minute! I do recognize this song. There was another version I heard when I was a kid.”
“Yeah, but this one is way better.”
“Where did you find all those old records?”
“This crazy old house down the street. I think the lady that lived there died or something. She was old as hell. One day all her stuff was just out in the street so I picked through it. Turned out there were some great things in there.”
“Is that where you got all your photos from too?”
“A few of them. I actually shot a lot of those myself.”
“So you’re a photographer?”
“I’m a lot of things.” Mark replied smugly. “Do you want to see some of my work?”
“Sure.” Mary said.
Mark stood up and grabbed a box from under the window. He carried it back to Mary and knelt down beside her as he pulled out an envelope of photos. As he flipped through them, Mary saw a lot of portraits, a lot of nudes, mostly men, a few women, and some landscapes. In another envelope were pictures of dead plants, withered flowers and dead animals ranging from dogs to birds. “What do you think?” Mark asked.
“Well, you certainly don’t limit yourself.”
“You think I’m creepy, don’t you?” Mark said with a sort of half smile.
“No. I just think you’re really weird. But that’s why I like you.”
“Good.” Mark said. “Maybe you’ll come back and see next week’s movie with me too.”
“That would be great. I like having someone else who can talk about foreign films with me. Most people I know haven’t even heard of them.”
“What is it that you like about foreign films so much?”
“I don’t know exactly. They just seem to have an air about them. Maybe it’s the romance. I think I have a romantic nature myself.”
Mark smiled and said, “If it’s romance you’re looking for, you don’t need to see a movie!”
Mary laughed. “Right.”
“It’s true! I’m the greatest lover you’ll ever meet.”
“Uh-huh.” Mary grunted as she took the last gulp of her broth.
Mark spread his legs across Mary’s so he was sitting on her knees. “What are you doing?” She asked him.
“Seducing you.” He said.
“Okay. You can try.”
Mark shimmied up Mary’s thighs and laid her down on her back. He put his hands on her waist, ran his fingers up her sides, and leaned in very close as if he were going to kiss her, then paused and asked, “Are you getting hot yet?”
Mary smiled up at him for a moment, then said, “Not at all.” She pushed him off of her and sat up. “Don’t worry, though.” She consoled him. “You just aren’t my type.”
“Well, what is your type?”
“First of all, you would have to be straight.”
“What!? How did you know?”
“I saw the posters in your bedroom.”
Mary stood up and stretched. “Mark, I really think I’d better get going now.” She said as she looked around for her purse.
“Okay. At least let me walk you home.” He said as he walked Mary toward the door.
Mary’s parents’ house was on a quiet, middle class street. The house itself was unremarkable. “What do you think?” Mary asked as she walked up the front steps with Mark.
“So Bourgeois.” Mark said.
“Yeah, I think so too.” Mary said as she paused at the front door. “Thanks for the good time. I actually enjoyed myself for once.”
“Me too.” Mark said. “And you still want to do it again next week, right?”
At that moment, the front door swung open and Mary’s mother stepped out on the front porch. She was a hard looking woman with a sour expression wearing a plain green housedress. “So is this who you’ve been out all night with, Mary?” She demanded.
“Mom, this is my friend Mark. He’s been very nice to me and I think…”
“I don’t care what you think, Mary. I’ve been around longer than you have and I know that a boy is a boy no matter what they tell you. They’re all after the same thing, Mary. You’d better believe they are.”
“But Mom he’s…”
“He’s on his way away from here. I know that much. Goodbye Mike!” She shouted as she grabbed Mary by her wrist and pulled her inside, slamming the door shut behind her.
Mark could hear Mary laughing inside as her Mother laid into her, “Stop laughing, Mary! Go upstairs and wipe that crap off your face! And put some clothes on, you look like a damned tart!”
“Nice meeting you too.” Mark muttered to himself as he walked down the front path toward the sidewalk. “You crazy bitch.”
About The Author:
Jake Lasprogato is an artist based in Northern California. “The Adventures of Mark and Mary” is his first published series. He will be publishing new chapters frequently. He will also be releasing a second comical series “Living With Grace” in January 2016.
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One Friday morning in September of 1975, sixteen year old Mary Stark is helping out in her high school office when she crosses paths with a troublesome classmate. While the two appear to be polar opposites on the surface, they find enough common ground to strike up a friendship, and Mary's life is never quite the same afterward. This quirky series follows them on all of their subsequent exploits through high school and beyond.