Displaying items by tag: fiction
It was Friday, which meant the cafeteria reeked of fish sticks. There were a hundred of us, starving, cranky, and lined up like cons in a prison. Such is high school. Standing in that sweaty mob, I was trying to focus on what April was saying. But God, she made it hard sometimes.
“... And don’t forget, you still need to book the limo, find a crimson pocket square and necktie — NOT a bowtie, Logan — and order my calla lily corsage.”
Next, she’s gonna remind me to wear matching socks.
Sometimes I fantasized about breaking up with her, but I knew that would be social suicide. Rule number one at Dalton High: don’t piss off the Queen Bee.
“It’s over,” Logan said to the girl sitting across from him. Megan, Morgan… something like that. He never could keep track of their names.
“W-w-what?” she stammered as a tear slipped down her cheek. Logan sighed and forced himself not to roll his eyes. He’d noticed that tended to make them cry harder.
“It’s over,” he repeated with exaggerated enunciation as he stood up.
“I don’t understand,” she said to his retreating back. “I thought you loved me.” Then, she covered her face with her hands and sobbed.
Deciding he was far enough away to avoid being used as a human handkerchief, Logan allowed himself to roll his eyes. No matter how many times he went through this, he never got over how gullible girls could be. He’d only been with what’s-her-name for a month. How could she possibly believe he loved her? And yet she did, just like all the others. Maybe the entire gender was just defective.
“Hey, Logan,” Riley said, walking up.
Logan smiled at his best friend. Okay, so maybe not the whole gender, just most of it.
“Hey Ri,” he said.
She eyed him calculatingly. “So, whose heart did you break this time?”
Shannon finished brushing away the hair around her chair and smiled at the girl heading her way. The girl smiled shyly, without making eye contact, and stood awkwardly by the chair.
“Hi, Lily,” Shannon said brightly. “Take a seat.”
Lily obeyed, clutching her phone to her stomach as if she could force it to become another organ. She even flinched when Shannon started to put a cloak around her.
“You’ve never been here before, right?” Shannon asked.
Lily shook her head.
“Awesome. So what are we going to do today?”
“Um, I want this, please. The cut and color.”
She held up her phone for Shannon to inspect the picture.
“I have others, too,” Lily said, and scrolled through a series of virtually identical pictures.
Phillip squeezed the brakes of his bike and skidded to a halt outside the shop. Hanging in the window behind an assortment of dusty antiques was a mask made of black leather with bulbous glass eyes and a curving beak. An alien probably – perfect for the costume competition at his homecoming dance. The theme this year was outer space, and with something like this, he might actually win.
Chaining his bike to a railing, he went into the shop to find out how much it was. The place was small, but crammed with exotic looking goods – wooden furniture covered in elaborate carvings, leather-bound books with raised bands on their spines, taxidermy animals in glass cases. The light was dim and a faint smell of damp hung in the air.
Phillip moved along the aisles and spotted a counter at the back, where an old man in spectacles was reading a book. Dressed in a suit that was at least two sizes too big, he had a tangled grey beard and pointed ears. Being careful not to touch anything, Phillip moved towards him. His arrival seemed to have gone unnoticed, so he coughed politely.
The old man looked up from his book with a start. “Can I help you?”
“I’m interested in the alien mask in the window,” Phillip replied.
The old man opened his mouth to speak and then gave a loud sneeze. He wiped his nose with the end of his beard. “Sorry about that, I have a dust allergy.”
Phillip raised his eyebrows, around at the grimy surfaces around him. Could there be a worse place for someone with a dust allergy to work? “About the alien mask...”
“It’s a plague doctor mask, actually,” the man interrupted. “It once belonged to the commedia dell’arte in Italy. Have you heard of the commedia dell’arte? I can sell you a book about them if you’d like.”
His back to the sunshine, he shifted the weight of his backpack between both shoulders.
“Are your ears made of rubber or something, dork?”
He kept walking. I noticed the stares when he came by, then whispering. I turned in the opposite direction.
Busy. I’m busy…..
He was still there; I couldn’t deny it. I tried to pretend I couldn’t hear the taunts aimed at him. Somehow the fact that he was actually the one who couldn’t hear didn’t make what I was doing feel less like a crime. No, it made me feel more like a criminal for doing nothing to stop what was happening.
Busy. I’m busy….
"But, buddy, where did the forest go? How could trucks remove the timber so quickly? And all the dirt? At night?"
Devon, uncomfortable in the crowd of people, turned away from Poitr's sputtering and put his hands in his jean pockets. A dozen or more vehicles crowded the narrow gravel road, parked every which way. Reporters, forest service personnel, and police officers gestured and roamed in circles around the gaping pit.
"Don’t know. It all just, like, disappeared," he finally answered.
They stood on the edge of the former clear-cut, looking at what had been Majestic Grove. Dozens of immense firs, uncounted bushes, brambles, and salal were replaced by…nothing—an empty straight-edged crater, several acres in size. A fern, perched on the edge, let go and fell almost a hundred feet to the light brown loam at the bottom of the pit.
Poitr snapped his toothpick clean through and threw it on the ground. "Damn it, Devon, talk to me!"
What was he supposed to say? That aliens had zoomed in from outer space and taken it all? The truth was simply unbelievable.
He used the angle he'd thought up during the long, wet walk last night. "Look on the bright side, man. Whatever happened, Massive Pulp will be accused of stealing not only old growth timber but an entire forest ecosystem. It’ll tie them up in court for years." He waved a hand and was pleased to note that it was steady.
Madeleine stands on the doorstep, both hands balled into fists. The right, close to her side, clenching a coil of notes. The left poised three inches from the door. She turns her head down the street to the boy standing, waiting. The boy she might have told herself she loved, but who now seems like a malevolent stranger. He stares back at her. She takes a breath, tenses the muscles in her right arm in an effort to control the shaking, and knocks. Nothing. She knocks again. There are sounds of movement. A man’s voice. Footsteps, getting louder. A shadow across the peephole. Keys turned in locks, the door eased open, caught by a chain. Two eyes, cold and suspicious. Eyes she recognises.
‘What do you want, kid?’
A laugh, a dry, croaking laugh, and a muttering. ‘Fucking hell’. Then, more clearly:
‘You got money?’
The chain slides back. The door opens. The man, pale and mean-looking. He looks her up and down. When he sees the money he holds his hand out, expectantly. But Madeleine looks past him. She is waiting. There is movement, then, silhouetted by the sun streaming in through the back door, she appears. Sarah.
Alys stood nervously outside the pen where her cow was being judged. She was new to the town, new to FFA, and this was her first big contest. She’d worked a long time getting Lummie ready for the show and now all she could do was wait. But the three judges had been arguing in the pen for nearly an hour. If only her parents hadn’t had to work; nice as her Vo-Ag teacher Mr. Jameson was, she really wanted to hold Poppy’s hand right now.
“This is ridiculous,” Mr. Jameson said suddenly. “They aren’t even... Stay here. I’m going to talk to them.”
Alys peered anxiously through the bars as her teacher went into the pen with Lummie and the judges. Lummie looked placid, but then she always did; that and the coloring were reasons that Alys had chosen a Holstein for her project. Alys was proud of what she’d been able to do. Mr. Jameson was, too, once he got over the initial shock. But the judges seemed to think differently. Though they were whispering, Alys’ sharp ears let her hear what was being said. So far, she hadn’t liked it much.
“I still say that we should disqualify her!” Judge Parsons insisted. “Her entry is, is--undignified!”
“I don’t recall ‘dignity’ being one of the scoring categories,” Mr. Jameson said. The three judges scowled as he walked up to them.
“You shouldn’t be in here,” Mrs. Andrews said crisply. She was the President of the PTA and always scared Alys a little; she seemed to be looking down on the world through her half-moon glasses and not liking what she saw. “It is most irregular.”
“So is taking an hour to argue over whether or not you’ll even judge an entry,” he shot back. “What, exactly, are your objections to Lummie?”
“Melanie! Are you still in bed?”
Mom climbed the stairs to my bedroom. With each pounding step, I cringed, not knowing whether she’d barge into my room and drag me out of bed.
“Leave me alone!” I yelled, as I pulled the covers over my head, wishing I could tune her out completely.
“Get up! You missed the past two days of school - I’m not calling out for you again!”
Mom opened my bedroom door. “Get up right now! You are not missing another day, and I can’t be late to work again!”
Mom wasn’t going to let me be. I had to get up. She seemed relieved as I got out of bed.
“I need to get to work. Walk Alex to school,” she said, as she put on her navy blazer, and swept her brown hair behind her shoulders.
I pulled on some clothes, threw my books into my bag, and walked downstairs, not caring what my hair looked like or that I didn’t brush my teeth.
“C’mon Alex,” I said.
“I want to finish my breakfast,” he said, with a mouthful of cereal, milk dripping on his favorite Minion shirt.
“I don’t care, we need to get going, okay?”
Mom left for work and I walked Alex to school. If I couldn’t summon the energy to get myself to school, at the very least, I could do something for Alex.
She was a shadow. A field mouse. The fuzzy ball of lint you find in your pocket and flick to the wind without thinking. She was a modern-day Dodo bird.
But, most of all, she was different.
Not in a way that she dressed in Medieval robes on weekends or had six fingers on her right hand. No. Nothing like that. She was just weird. Strange. Peculiar. And any one of those on its own was a death sentence at Sherwood Junior High. Nobody talked about it, but everyone knew it.
Everyone except Sandra Sunavian. The weird one. The one who sat alone at lunch tables and danced by herself at school formals. The one who hid in the back of classrooms and scribbled in her sketchbook even as the spitballs whizzed past her ears. The one who could never be normal.
At least half the school knew her only as ‘Spooky Sandy’, and the other half was convinced she didn’t exist at all, like some kind of legend or tall tale. And it wasn’t as if anyone felt sorry for her, because she had brought it upon herself. Because a girl can only jump out of trash cans and make creepy faces at her classmates so many times before people start to think she’s a lunatic. It’s kind of, like, human nature.
And that’s not an exaggeration. Spooky Sandy really did have a problem. Or at least I thought she did until yesterday in Mr. Rowley’s class. See, she does this thing. This extreme, mind-boggling, and utterly bizarre thing.
She scares the heck out of people.