Because of his rude manners, Wayne Arnold has always had trouble with women. He is known around high school as a bit of a gorilla. When it comes to Wayne, most eligible women would simply prefer to dream of matinee idols, or to bat painted eyes vainly at more winsome targets in the hallway. His episodes of anxiety over a luckless love life are always and instantly repressed, stuffed silent with a Twinkie or crushed under a dribbling basketball in the driveway. Most useful lessons have so far gone unlearned.

Poor Wayne had but one asset in the dating market -- extreme ineptitude which laid bare a core of sincerity -- although even this he was too ignorant to know the value of. It needed the shrewd eye of a lady, Ms. Clara Grybowzski, to broker love at last.

Thus, one unremarkable October afternoon in the gray schoolyard, before all the clocks had been set back but after the leaves had goldened and browned and rained down, Clara crinkle-crackled Wayneward, guts shivering with tension, head heavy with half-penned hello-theres. She ironed mahogany tresses and lime cardigan, he floppy mop and Jets jersey.

How do you do and Wayne with budding restraint offers mature rejoinder.

Nobody watching. Dad seen dinner be hell. Kevin seen might ruin rep. Still beat him at basketball no matter, bragging rights still mine. Real butthead, that guy.

"Can I take you out for a steak dinner? It would be my pleasure," most calculated impersonation of adulthood.

To be continued . . .