Davy Kimble didn’t have a friend in the world- until he discovered booze and Maxi…
Is it the late 1970s? Then it must be time for yet another social-problem novel about the dangers of (checks notes)… DRINKING!
But first can we talk about some blatant hucksterism on the part of the publisher? The back cover has a quote from Kirkus Reviews: “SHOCKING.”
Wow, all caps SHOCKING? Well the full quote from Kirkus’s (generally unfavorable) review reads: “As a cautionary tale, this is certainly shocking enough to get one’s attention.”
I’m saying it’s no The Late, Great Me.
The Plot: 15-year-old Davy Kimble is friendless, his older parents are largely absent (his father’s unnamed work takes him “on the road” five days a week, his mother is busy with college classes), and when they left him alone on the previous New Year’s Eve, he tried drinking for the first time.
As the book opens, he’s an established drunk, hiding scotch in his closet and in a cough syrup bottle in his bathroom; constantly hung-over, he fills his thermos with more booze before heading out to school, where he dozes through his classes.
When Mike, a popular classmate, discovers his secret stash of booze, he gets invited to hang out under the bleachers at lunch time with the gang, including his long-time crush Linda, and her BFF Maxi. He even gets invited to cruise Van Nuys boulevard with them on Wednesday night!
Unfortunately, the girls aren’t with him when he picks up Davy- it’s a total sausage party, but at least Mike, Paul and Cliff have a bottle of bourbon, and engage in some sub-American Graffiti level antics, including this excruciatingly detailed description of mooning a passing car, or “hanging a bare-ass”, as they call it in California:
“I’ll crack them a smile!”
Mike chuckled. “Right on!”
Davy had heard of hanging a bare-ass but he had never seen it done. He finished off his drink and watched. Paul rolled up the window, unbuckled his belt and let his pants down. Mike blasted the horn for the girls’ attention as Paul pulled down his shorts and pressed his buttocks against the window.
The B.A. was a huge success.
They celebrate with another drink, but the evening sours when Mike forces Davy to admit that he is a virgin, and they decide to remedy the situation. Much to Davy’s disappointment, the girl they have in mind is not Linda, but Maxi.
“She’s a sport… good old Maxi’s everybody’s pal,” said Mike.
Maxi seems less than thrilled when they deposit Davy on the doorstep of the camper that she lives in, avoiding her widowed, abusive, alcoholic father. Davy passes out, and when he awakens at some point in the early hours of the morning, Maxi is kind enough to drive him home.
Showing up drunk in the middle of the night (on a school night, no less!) is apparently the first tip-off Davy’s parents have about his drinking. His father is in the “A little drink never hurt anyone, jut so long as it’s kept under control” camp, while his mother wants to send him to a psychiatrist. Davy ends the conversation by vomiting.
Maxi has faired less-well, having been beaten up by her father after having seen her drive off with Davy in the middle of the night (Mike, incapable of not being gross, smirks at Davy that “You didn’t have to be so brutal” during their presumed sexual encounter); Davy feels bad about it, and seeks her out, eventually joining her at her hideout at a park in North Hollywood. Soon they become friends, and then boyfriend-girlfriend:
Sometimes they talked; Maxi told him about her father- how he worked at a snack bar in the bowling alley, how he had been drinking steadily for two years, ever since her mother died.
They also spend this time drinking, Davy eventually resorting to shoplifting liquor from the local drug store for a party Maxi is holding at her place when her father is out of town.
The party takes a cruel turn when drinking games turn into strip poker, and Linda surreptitiously deals Maxi the low hand; when she refuses to strip, Mike, Linda and the rest of the cool kids hold her down and rip off her clothes. Davy only steps in after the fact:
“They wouldn’t do a thing like that to Linda.”
Davy didn’t answer. She was right.
“They think I’m cheap; they hate me.”
“They don’t hate you. That’s their idea of fun.”
“Linda was the worst of them,” said Maxi. “And I thought she was my friend.”
Davy and Maxi’s drinking continues unabated, until they desperately try to get a gang of tough older guys to buy them a bottle of scotch “the cheapest they’ve got”. When they take the money and don’t make with the booze, Davy is brutally beaten up.
This time he has to fess up to his parents, and broaching going to AA, but his father refuses to let him “associate with a bunch of drunks”. His mother sends him to a shrink, but he refuses to treat Davy until he stops drinking.
He and Maxi make a promise to themselves to stop drinking, allowing for a full chapter of the horrors of DTs (Maxi has night terrors about bugs) and eventually seek out an AA “youth meeting”.
Maxi is all in after meeting Tina, an ex-drunk and current cheerleader:
Maxi took in everything she heard at the meetings. She read the AA book and all the literature she could get. She made Tina her guru and telephoned her several times a day, despite the warning to take her time finding a sponsor. She began to spout AA slogans and philosophy. She was on a kind of high.
Of course, this causes tension in her relationship with Davy, who’s still skeptical about AA and hasn’t stopped drinking. At a date at Vista Beach, they come across Mike, Linda et al having a bonfire, and Davy wants to join in. Maxi reluctantly agrees, and in due course they’re both drinking. Davy passes out as the evening wears on, only vaguely conscious of something terrible happening. He wakes up alone on the beach the next morning:
He tried to recall last night’s events. Why had the gang left him on the beach alone? Had something happened? What? Where was Maxi? Why should she leave him?
The answers are 1. Because you were too drunk to move when the cops showed up 2. Yes 3. TRAGEDY 4. TOTALLY DEAD 5. BECAUSE YOU ARE A BAD BOYFRIEND
When Davy stops at the snack bar to use the payphone he learns that a girl downed during a party the previous night (and that he’s in such rough shape the proprietor assumes he’s “probably strung out on something”). He hitches a ride home, where his parents are furious, and Davy doesn’t help the situation by having explosive diarrhea all over his father.
He runs away from home, first living in the park and bumming drinks off the local winos until they get sick of him, then begins panhandling. In a semi-lucid moment he blames Mike for Maxi’s death and sets out to beat him up (instead Mike smacks him around and then tries to run him over with his van); next he sets out for Maxi’s house, where her father is none too happy to see him.
Lurking around the local liquor store, another teen mistakes him for an adult and tries to get Davy to buy him some booze, which finally makes him return to AA, walking in the door and announcing….
Ladies And Gentlemen, We Have A Title Department:
“My name is Davy- I’m an alcoholic.”