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The Loser's Guide to Life and Love

A Novel

The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by A. E. Cannon
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Ordinary, boring Ed works a loser summer job at Reel Life Movies, where he doesn't even have his own name tag. He's stuck with "Sergio." Ed's only consolations are his two best friends. Shelving DVDs isn't so mind-numbingly dull with Scout cracking jokes, and after hours Ed hangs out with the superbrain, Quark. Life starts to look up when the girl of his dreams saunters into Reel Life. Ed knows he doesn't stand a chance . . . but maybe, just maybe Sergio does. All he has to do is pretend to be a smoldering Brazilian stud for the rest of his life. Simple, right? But . . . Ed's new dream girl has her own secrets, Scout wants to be more than Ed's best friend, and his buddy Quark wants Scout for himself.

Star-crossed crushes make for hilarious misunderstandings as Ed guides his life toward disaster in this fresh, contemporary twist on Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.

HarperCollins; June 2009
272 pages; ISBN 9780061919220
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: The Loser's Guide to Life and Love
Author: A. E. Cannon

Chapter One

Ed's Turn

"You look like a total dork, Ed," says my eight-year-old sister, the Lovely and Talented Maggie McIff, as I prepare to go to work at Reel Life Movies.

She has looked up from her unnaturally large pile of nude Barbie dolls long enough to make this encouraging observation, and as I catch a glimpse of myself in the entryway mirror, I have to agree (silently) that she is right. Let me make this quick director's note, however: Even if you were a movie star, you too would look like a dork if you were required to wear shiny wingtips, black tuxedo pants, a red cummerbund, a white frilly shirt, and snappy red bow tie to work. Reel Life employees are supposed to look like old-fashioned ushers at a place like Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, although most of our customers say we look like Chippendale dancers.

Just not as chiseled.

It also does not help that I have to wear a former Reel Life employee's name tag because my boss (that would be the incredibly intimidating Ali) hasn't made me a new one even though I've been working for three weeks now. The strange thing is that Ali is usually all over this kind of detail. Everybody knows he's the most organized and efficient manager in the whole entire history of the video and DVD rental industry.

Makes you wonder what's going on, doesn't it?

Anyway, my friend and fellow coworker Scout Arrington helped me land the job because she knows I love movies as much as she does. In fact, here's a confession: I want to make movies of my own one day.

Do not laugh.

It could happen. I could be the next Steven Spielberg. Somebody has to be.

Right now, however, I am just an ordinary, boring sixteen-year-old guy named Ed McIff with a name tag that says "Sergio."


Scout says "Sergio" sounds like the name of a romantic male lead in a daytime soap.

"Well, that would definitely make me the Anti-Sergio," I tell her, because (frankly) I am not the kind of guy women have fantasies about. For one thing, I'm short.

"Tom Cruise isn't that big of a guy," my mom always says. I love how she tries to avoid using the word "short."

"Yeah," I tell her in return, "but he compensates by being Tom Cruise." Not that anyone really wants to be Tom Cruise anymore now that he's a crazy couch jumper. But whatever.

I check the entryway mirror one more time. Yup. I'm still short.

"You usually look like a dork," the Lovely and Talented Maggie McIff adds for clarification purposes, "but tonight you look dorkier than usual because your hair is sticking up." She serenely braids beads into the hair of one of her bare-naked Barbie dolls.

"Thank you very much," I say. "Now how would YOU like it if I borrowed Quark's junior chemistry set and blew up all your Barbie dolls while you're asleep tonight?"

Quark (short for Quentin Andrews O'Rourke) is our next-door neighbor. We're exactly the same age—we were even born on the same day and used to have our birthday parties together when we were little—but that's where the resemblance ends. He's a brainiac who goes to a private high school for certified geniuses somewhere out in Sandy, a community south of Salt Lake City, where we live.

Quark is also a genius who happens to look exactly like Brad Pitt, in spite of the fact that he a) rarely combs his hair and b) gets mixed up when it comes to putting on matching clothes. He's freakishly tall, though, so I guess you could say he looks like Brad Pitt would if B. P. were suffering from some rare movie-star glandular disorder.

Quark, however, has absolutely no idea that he's good-looking, and he wouldn't care anyway, because Quark lives for the thrill of scientific investigation.

The Lovely and Talented's big eyes grow bigger.

"You wouldn't dare blow up my Barbies," she cries, gathering them up like a mother hen gathering up her chicks. Or however that cliché goes.

"Do not push me," I warn her, looking into the mirror one last time. "I'm one of those walking human time bombs"—speaking of clichés!—"ready to explode."

"It's almost six," Mom calls to me from the kitchen. "Time to be at work, Ed."

"I'm on my way," I shout back.

"See you later . . . Sergio," she trills at me. Then she bursts into gales of maniacal laughter, not unlike a mad scientist.

Is it just me, or do you also think this is unnatural behavior in a female parent? Isn't there a federal law on the books that says mothers are not allowed to laugh at vulnerable male children when they are required to wear stupid clothing to work?

There should be.

I open our ordinary, boring front door and let myself out into another ordinary, boring summer night.

On my way to work (I'm driving my mother's highly pathetic vintage Geo), I write the following script in my head, which is something I like to do when things get slow. I'm thinking this might make an interesting documentary for PBS. What's your opinion?