Charles Bukowski

the chemistry of things

I always thought Mary Lou was skinny and
not much to look at
while almost all the other guys
thought she was a
hot number.
maybe that’s why she hung around me
in Jr. High.
my indifference must have attracted

I was cool and mean in those days
and when the guys asked me,
“you banged Mary Lou yet?”
I answered them with the
truth: “she
bores me.”

there was this guy
he taught chemistry.
Mr. Humm. Humm wore a little bow
tie and a black coat, a
cheap wrinkled job, he was
supposed to have

and one day Mary Lou came to
and said Humm kept her
after class
and had taken her into the
closet and
kissed her and
fondled her
she was crying, “what will I

“forget it,” I told her,
“those chemicals have scrambled
his brain. we have an English teacher
who hikes her skirt up around her
hips every day and wants to go to bed with
every guy in class. we enjoy her but
ignore her.”

“why don’t you beat Mr. Humm up?”
she asked me.

“I could but they’d transfer me to
Stuart Hall.”

in Stuart Hall they beat the shit
out of you
and they ignored math, English,
music, they just stuck you into auto
where you fixed up old cars
which they resold at big

“I thought you cared for me,” said Mary
Lou, “don’t you realize he
kissed me, stuck his tongue down my
throat and had his hand up my

“well,” I said, “we saw Mrs. Lattimore’s
pussy the other day, in English.”
Mary Lou walked off
crying . . .

well, she told her
mother and Humm 
got his, he
had to
resign, poor son of a

after that the guys asked me,
“hey, what do you think of Humm
sticking his hand up your girl’s

“just another guy with no
taste,” I answered.

I was cool and mean
in those days and I went on to
high school, the same one
Mary Lou attended
where she secretly got
during her senior year
to a guy
I knew, a guy I
outdrank and beat the shit out of
a couple of

the guy thought he had
he wanted me to be
best man.
I told him, no thanks and lots of 

I never could see what
they saw in
Mary Lou.
and poor Humm: what a
lonely sick old

anyhow, then I went on to
city college
where the only molesting I
could see going on
was what they did to your