Alex Luft: 28 Steps to Acting Casual

marathonlitreview —  February 9, 2016 — Leave a comment


1. Have Dad review this plan.

2. Pending outcome of the review, memorize every step of this plan.

3. Circle the calendar for April 7. Write: “At 2:42 p.m., after the fifth period bell, ask out Amy Wilson.” Use a post-it note if the space on the calendar is too small to fill in the whole message. It is important to remind myself of the exact time and date.

4. Monitor Amy Wilson’s dating situation. Ask best friends about her, but not too often. Watch her in the cafeteria, but not too closely. Keep tabs on Jason Merzowski. Amy Wilson must remain single and un-asked-to-prom until 2:42 p.m. on April 7. If she does not, proceed to step 28.
ADDITION FROM DAD: He says I need to “lay groundwork” before the date in question. More explanation may be required.

5. Reconnoiter the premises. Amy Wilson leaves from her fifth period class and stops by her locker for approximately three minutes before going to the front of the school to wait under the Dogwood trees. This is where her father picks her up. Check the area for any possible tripping hazards, bad lighting or noxious odors. Remain vigilant.

6. Initiate a daily exercise regimen. This should include push-ups. Push-ups will make me buff. See Dad for further aid.

7. Attend to grooming needs. Hair should be shampooed and neatly combed. Tooth-brushing must be followed immediately by flossing. Antiperspirant is non-negotiable. Shaving facial hair must be done carefully and well ahead of the day in question, just in case of an embarrassing nick. Extra attention should be paid to trimming and cleaning nails. Also, the threat of acne is real.

8. Save up money to pay for prom. Work odd jobs (lawn-mowing, possibly fence-painting?) for extra cash. Dad has pledged $50 to the cause. Perhaps Gram and Gramps would also donate.

9. Make arrangements and acquire the necessary props. See sub-steps for specific instructions.
9a. Visit Carlson’s Floral. Order one-dozen roses to be picked up on the morning of April 7. Ask them if they can somehow        conceal the roses. Maybe they have some type of bag. Inquire about a return policy, just in case.
9b. Buy chocolates.
ADDITION FROM DAD: He says that a bag of M&Ms will not work. I should try from something in a heart-shaped box, if            possible.
9c. Visit the Teddy Bear Factory in the mall. Inform them that I want a bear that will ask Amy Wilson to prom. I am confident      they will be able to provide me with this.
9d. Visit the SportsPrintz store. Tell them I need one custom-made T-shirt. It must say, “Amy Wilson, will you go to prom          with me?”
9e. Purchase a large poster board, markers and glitter. As artistically as possible, create a sign that says “Amy Wilson, will        you go to prom with me?” Dad has indicated he cannot help with this.

10. Wake early on April 7. Shower and attend to grooming needs (see step 7). Apply cologne.
ADDITION FROM DAD: Not too much cologne.

11. Wear this outfit: lucky boxers, lucky socks, lucky jeans, customized T-shirt, sweater.

12. Pump myself up. Tell myself I’m great. Make handsome-devil faces in the mirror. Play best pump-up music. Do light aerobics to limber up.
ADDITION FROM DAD: He is oddly concerned about my pump-up music. He has suggested something called Kenny Loggins. Some song about danger.

13. Eat a well-rounded breakfast: cereal, milk, banana, orange juice.

14. Pack up necessary props. (See step 9 for details.)

15. Stop by the florist to retrieve roses. Check for quality and quantity. A baker’s dozen is 13, but a florist’s dozen is only 12.

16. Attend school.

17. At the end of fifth period, proceed with props (and concealed roses) to the Dogwood trees. Stand by. If Amy Wilson approaches, go to step 18. If Amy Wilson does not appear, go to step 27.

18. Strike up a conversation with Amy Wilson. For specifics, see sub-steps.
18a. Ask Amy Wilson about the weather. It is important to remain upbeat-and-optimistic if the weather is good, and irritated-        but-charming if the weather is bad. Examples: “It’s so good to be getting some sun today” or “Can you believe this rain?”
18b. Await her response.
18c. Ask Amy Wilson if she’s having a good day. If she is having a good day, proceed to step18d. If she is having a bad            day, see step 27.
18d. Indicate that I am having a good day, even if I’m not.
ADDITION FROM DAD: Subtly hint that I’m hoping the day will get better. He says this will get her “on my side.”
18e. Suggest a slightly more intimate topic of conversation. Maintain casual small talk for at least 45 seconds. See sub-sub-      steps for details.
18e-one: Ask her about a recent match between sports teams. If she is disinterested, move to step 18e-two.
18e-two: Ask her opinion about Mrs. Browning’s recent leave of absence. Suggest I am inclined to believe rumors that                Principal Clark fathered the baby. If she is disinterested, move to step 18e-three.
18e-three: Ask her about the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. If she is disinterested, move to step 18e-four.
18e-four: “Freestyle” based on available materials.
ADDITION FROM DAD: Be aware that this is not my strong suit.
18f. Ask Amy Wilson if she has secured a date to the prom. If I have correctly followed the plan, she will answer “no.” If             she answers yes, move to step 28.

19. Present Amy Wilson with the dozen roses. Ask her if she would like to go the prom with me. If she answers “yes,” proceed to step 24. If she answers “no,” proceed to step 20.

20. Present Amy Wilson with the box of chocolates. Ask her if she would like to go the prom with me. If she answers “yes,” proceed to step 24. If she answers “no,” proceed to step 21.

21. Present Amy Wilson with the customized bear. Invite her to squeeze its paw so that it will ask her to go to prom with me. In a joking manner, clarify that she would go to the prom with me and not the teddy bear. If she answers “yes,” proceed to step 24. If she answers “no,” proceed to step 22.
ADDITION FROM DAD: Tell her that she can bring the bear to prom if she wants. Laugh so she knows that this, too, is a joke.

22. Swiftly remove sweater to reveal customized T-shirt. If necessary, smooth it out so that Amy Wilson can read it. If she answers “yes,” proceed to step 24. If she answers “no,” proceed to step 23.

23. Hold up sign for all to see. Make sure Amy Wilson can clearly make out its question. If she answers “yes,” proceed to step 24. If she answers “no,” proceed to step 25.

24. Exchange phone numbers and email addresses with Amy Wilson. Promise to work out a detailed plan for prom night that includes dinner and more flowers. Hint at a limo ride, but do not promise anything. Assure her that I will rent a tuxedo soon and that it will match her dress. Explain that planning is one of my strengths. Disregard steps 27-28.

25. Thank Amy Wilson for her time and consideration. Move to next step.

26. Say goodbye to Amy Wilson. Walk away. Go anywhere that Amy Wilson isn’t. The plan has yielded a success. Ignore steps 27-28.

27. If I’ve reached this step, this was not a good day to ask Amy Wilson out to prom. Consider repeating steps 10-26, as needed, on a different date. Do not proceed to 28 until repeating earlier steps. Only proceed to step 28 if she has indicated “no” to step 23.

28. If I’ve reached this step, Amy Wilson does not want to go to prom with me. Or possibly she wants to go to prom with me somewhat but has a greater desire to go to prom with someone else (possibly Jason Merzowski).
ADDITION FROM DAD: This is Amy Wilson’s loss.


Alex Luft’s fiction has been published in Sequestrum, The Adirondack Review, Midwestern Gothic and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

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