Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Secret Order, Chapter Nine - Feedback Appreciated

Chapter Nine
In Which Our Hero Is Embattled
“Miss Tate?” Mr. Little stops by my desk just as I collapse into the chair.  I am immediately speechless at the sight of my math teacher dressed in full greasepaint as a clown.  But not just any clown, the EXACT same clown hair and costume, down to the flipper for shoes and squirty flower tie-clip that I drew just yesterday.  The Adorable One is studying Mr. Little’s costume as well with his Adorable mouth slightly agape.  I’m starting to feel like this is TOO coincidental.
“Do you have anything for me?”  the Clown-culator prompts me.
Wait.  What was I supposed to bring?  The envelope.  The note home. I was supposed to have it signed and back today.  Quick!  I need a good excuse!  Nothing comes immediately to mind except an idea that makes me feel a little uncomfortable to use.  But I panicked in the face of Bozo the Math Teacher, and went with it.
“I’m really sorry, Mr. Little,” I stammer with just the right amount of tremble in my lip, “I gave it to my Mom last night, but she got really upset because of something my Dad told her, and I guess she forgot.” 
There.  That should get him off my back for at least a day so that I can sign the letter myself and get it returned.  I know, I know.  I shouldn’t be using my parents’ separation to cover up my messes.  The Justice League would be appalled. Especially Aqua-Man. Have you noticed what a goody two-flippers he is?
It’s partially true anyway – she really was upset.  After dinner, we watched Shrek, but after her second glass of wine, she was holding her tears in so we wouldn’t see her crying, so she excused herself to go to bed early. 
“Is everything alright at home, Miss Tate?” Mr. Little is immediately sympathetic, and I feel badly that I’m giving him the runaround.  At least I got most of last night’s homework done, so that’s something.  A peace offering, if you will. 
I wonder how much I can tell him without drawing any more attention to myself.  Right now, everyone is turned around talking to each other, getting out their homework, and a few of the really smart kids are already doing the bellwork problems on the board.  It doesn’t look like anyone is noticing.  I decide to feed him a little more of the truth – banking a little sympathy for the future can’t hurt.
“It’ll be alright.  My Dad’s not living with us right now and stuff.  But, anyway, I got most of last night’s homework done.  I didn’t understand number twenty-seven, but the rest is done.  Should I put it in the homework basket, Mr. Little?” 
I change the subject quickly because The Adorable One is sitting just a little too still in front of me to not be paying attention to my conversation.  He already thinks I’m lame and stinky, no reason to give him another reason to pity me.  Besides, it makes me a little sick to my stomach to hear myself say those words out loud.  It’s too close to admitting that they really are getting a divorce.  We don’t say the “D” word in my house – it’s just a “trial separation” right now.
“Well, Joey, if you need to go speak to Ms. Creighton, I’d be happy to send you down to see her.  In the meantime, I’ll take your homework right now.” 
Ms. Creighton is our school counselor.  She’s young, but she dresses like she’s 60, in these strangely colored pastel suits with skirts, clunky shoes, and polyester blouses. She also wears this perfume that you can smell from fifty feet away.  It’s super-sweet and makes me gag when I get too close to her.  And she really likes to get close.  She’s from the “a hug makes everyone feel better” school of counseling.  Her voice is one of those high-pitched, sweet-sounding Barbie doll voices.  You just know that in school, everyone hated her because she always knew the right answer and always made sure everyone knew it.  She reminds me of a clingy, rose-scented, Easter egg.
The very idea of spilling all my issues to Ms. Creighton while sitting on her big rose-covered sofa in her rose-scented office with the pink lampshades and tinkly flute music and embroidered throw pillows makes me shiver.  Whatever happens, it would be best to stay out of range of her hugs. 
“Thanks, Mr. Little, I’ll let you know if it gets that bad,” I reply before he can get the wrong idea and start writing me a pass right now to her office.  Yeah – it’s never going to get that bad, if I can help it.
He gives me a long, considering look, sucking his top lip into his mouth as he studies my innocent as a newborn kitten face.  Finally, he nods and moves along to get class started.   
 I sit back and get out my notebook to do the bellwork.  I do the problems quickly and then begin to doodle in the margins.  It’s Toefingers this time.  He’s smiling, holding a broom, and wearing a Santa Claus cap he’s making the weird “O” gesture and it’s giving off a sparkly glow. 
I should have expected it.
Someone to my right makes a fart sound.  Everyone giggles and Mr. Little swings around from what he’s writing on the board long enough to roll his eyes at us.  Madison’s had goes in the air, waving to get his attention. 
“Yes, Miss Gridley?” he asks, eyebrows raised.
“Something stinks in here, Mr. Little. Can we open a window?”  She smiles snidely and slides a sidelong look in my direction. 
Really?  Is that what it’s going to be like?  Really?
The Adorable Josh hunches over his math notebook like nothing is going on. Kristin closes her eyes and looks a little sick herself.  She shoots an exasperated but sympathetic look at me, and then shifts uncomfortably in her seat. 
“Madison, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  What smell?”  Mr. Little isn’t buying her act either.  Score one for Mr. Little.  Take her down, Clown-culator!
“I know I heard someone pass gas over there, and it really stinks now.  Can I just open the window?  It’s making me feel gross.” 
She points to my side of the room, and the Ashley raises her hand and adds, “I think it was somewhere close to where Joey’s sitting, Mr. Little.  I heard it too.”
Why?  Why does she have it in for me?  What did I ever do to her?
“Joey, are you feeling alright?  Do you need to excuse yourself?”  Mr. Little addresses me with as much dignity as the situation allows.  Jacob Keckner, behind me, scoots his desk back as far as he can without sitting in the next person’s lap, even though, up to this point, he was known as “Carpet Bomber” for the number of times he could fart in one class period. 
Isn’t that always the way?  If you’re a boy, everybody just laughs and thinks you’re being hilarious.  If you’re a girl, you’re instantly as popular as random underwear someone finds on the floor of a public place.
“It wasn’t me, Mr. Little.  I don’t know what Madison’s talking about.”  My voice is as steady as I can make it.  He sighs and shoots Madison a look before turning back to the equation he’s writing on the whiteboard.  While he’s still turned around, I shoot Madison a murderous glare.  She smiles innocently and goes back to writing down her math notes.  I’d flip her the bird, but with my luck, I’d get caught.
I try to concentrate on the board, narrow my focus again, so I don’t take in the whispers of my classmates.  This is grueling, this class period.  Only twenty more minutes until the bell rings and I can finally, finally call an end to this torture. 
But my living nightmare isn’t over, it’s just beginning.  Mr. Little calls for us to get in groups of four to solve the logic puzzle he’s handing out.  I sit in my desk, looking around for absolutely anyone who’ll ask me to be in their group.  No go.  Kristin, Madison, and Ashley are trying to get Josh to join their group, but he joins a group with Dalton, Jacob, and one of his soccer teammates, Mathew. 
By the time he’s confirmed that he’s joining their group, all the other groups have filled up.  The only group left for me to join is Madison’s. 
No way.  I’ll work by myself. 
Mr. Little looks over at me, seeing my dilemma, and I think that he’ll make me join their group.  Surprisingly, he says nothing, just nods his head at me silently in understanding.  A sigh of relief escapes me, and I resolve to do all my missing math homework tonight.   After a few minutes, it’s clear that I’m going to struggle without a little help.  I raise my hand and Mr. Little nods for me to come up to his desk. 
“I’m still not sure how to factor number seven.” I confide quietly.  He coaxes me through the process, and as I grab my paper to go back to my desk, I catch sight of a new photograph on his desk, adding to the trio of mini-Little’s pictures already there.  It was Mr. Little – dressed as a clown.
“Is this a new picture, Mr. Little?”  I inquire, gesturing to the clown pic.
“Good eye, Miss Tate.  That was just given to me as a gift by Mr. Bartkowiak. I’m in this very same costume.  It’s me at last year’s faculty Halloween party.” 
“Uh, yeah.  Great costume.”  I take my paper back to my seat and ponder the coincidence.  Huh.  I wonder if I’d seen the picture before I made that doodle.  I flip to the page in my notebook with the Clown Little doodle on it.  It really is identical to the photo.  It’s giving me the goosebumps.  I must have seen the picture somewhere before.
Close to the end of the class period, Madison crosses by my desk to put her group’s worksheets in the homework basket.  As she passes, she wrinkles her little rabbit nose at me and sniffs delicately.  Then, with a giggle, she gags a little and moves on before Mr. Little can notice what she’s doing.
She continues down the aisle before I can think of a single response.  I’m sure, twenty-four hours from now, I’ll have thought of the perfect comeback for that.  In the moment?  Nada. 
In my head, my pen is now protruding from her expensively sweatered back.  Instead, I spend the rest of class doodling a picture of Madison as a two-headed monster, scaly and slime-covered. It’s petty, I know, but it’s the only revenge I’m empowered to give out right now.  My day will come.  It just has to. 
I look at what I’ve drawn, and remember how The Clown-culator and The Fairy Godmother pictures might not be a coincidence.  With a tiny sigh of resignation, I scribble it out, not wanting to take the risk…or for anyone to spot my silent evil-ness and report back to the monster herself.
The bell rings and I’m dashing out the door with the rest of the class, struggling through the river of the hallways to get to my locker quickly and get out of this place.  As I approach my locker, the people on either side of my locker, quickly slam their lockers and move away.  There is still some whispering and pointing going on, but I’m ready to just chalk it up to experience and get the heck out of Dodge.
Of course, my locker is jammed again.  Of course.  I don’t have the patience or sanity left to wait for Toefingers to come and un-jam it for me now.  He shouldn’t have to – I just cleaned it today.  There shouldn’t be any reason for it to stick.  I try the combination one more time and give an almighty heave on the latch.  Something plastic snaps loudly and the locker door jumps open with a whoosh and slams against the next person’s locker. 
A choking, writhing, hissing cloud of white powder rushes at me from my open locker.  It smells vaguely like baby powder as it coats my hair, face, and clothing, and breathing is impossible in the dry mist of this substance.  The hissing grows a little fainter and bubbles out, and I can hear the raucous, shocked laughter of my fellow students ringing in my ears. 
A deodorant bomb. 
Deodorant Bomb: An ingenious invention using pressurized spray deodorant that the boys basketball and baseball players sometimes use against each other in the locker rooms.  
The now-empty aerosol deodorant can clangs gently on the inside of my locker, dangling from the string that held it hooked in there until my forcing of the latch broke the plastic nozzle off and the binder clip they duct-taped on it depressed the open tube to make it spray. 
How could it have even gotten in there? 
I begin to cough and try to wipe my stinging eyes before I open them.  Then, as the tears begin to spill over my eyelashes, I understand how it got there.  There’s only one person, besides me, who has my locker combination.  That’s when I really break down.  It’s too much; I don’t even care that everyone can see my tears and snot and red face.  I give a choking sob and heave and crumple like a used napkin to my knees in front of my locker. 
My humiliation is complete.  

No comments:

Post a Comment