The things we’ll do for love… (1/2004)
Entered in the Writers’ Journal Write to Win contest
(Story beginning with “The spitball whizzed…”)
The spitball whizzed past my ear, but the pie hit me smack in the face. Lemon meringue. Yuck! Now I was really mad, so I retaliated by squirting ketchup at Ronnie and heaving a tray full of Jell-O at Katherine. I managed to bloody Ronnie’s t-shirt, but missed Katherine altogether. Man she’s sneaky.
I hadn’t even finished chastising myself for missing Katherine when Becky came at me with a tray of mashed potatoes. Luckily, I saw her coming at the last second and managed to side-step most of it. Even still, my shoulder was covered with the gooey stuff.
It was at that moment that Principal Johnson walked into the cafeteria.
The people that saw her open the door stopped their attacks immediately. Slowly, others began to notice. The food smog lifted. Within ten seconds or so, everyone finally stopped dead in his or her tracks, various foodstuffs and liquids dripping from us all.
“What the –” Principal Johnson started. Then she regrouped and began again. “All right,” she boomed, “who started this?”
Nobody answered. Nobody moved.
“I am only going to ask one more time. Who started this?”
Again nobody answered. Not even me, and I was the culprit she was looking for.
Principal Johnson did her best to contain her rage, but wasn’t particularly successful. I could see her clench her fists and the ripple in her jaw that indicated she was gnashing her teeth.
“No one is leaving this cafeteria until it is spic-and-span, people. You understand? No one.” She spoke quickly into her ever-present walkie-talkie and then said to us, “The janitor will be here shortly with as many mops and sponges as he can find. When he gets here you will all – I repeat, all – begin cleaning this mess up immediately.”
“Uh, Principal Johnson,” a small freckled boy in the corner peeped, “I have band practice after lunch and Mrs. Avery told me –”
What dweebs, these freshmen.
Principal Johnson shot back immediately. “Tommy, I don’t care about your band practice right now. No exceptions, people. None.”
It was about this time that I started feeling guilty. I mean, it really wasn’t fair that Tommy Warchowski had to miss band practice just because he happened to be in the lunchroom when I decided to try to impress Jacqueline Thompson.
Oh, Jacqueline. My heart flutters just thinking about you. You’re so smart and funny and beautiful. And so popular. Every single guy wants to be with you, and every single girl wants to be your best friend.
What would a popular girl like you want with a quiet bookworm? Nothing, that’s what. Nothing. And that was me, a quiet bookworm, until I decided to change my fate. Carpe Diem. I decided to seize the day all right. And now I was about to take my place alongside you on popularity row, my darling Jacqueline.
“Uh, Principal Johnson. I have something to tell you,” I said.
“Go ahead, Samuel. What do you have to say?” It seemed as if she was counting on one of her straight “A” students to rat out whoever it was that started the food fight. Well she was right in a way.
“Principal Johnson,” I said, “I started the food fight.”
A few giggles escaped from around the room. I could feel Jacqueline’s eyes on me. I felt my body warm from her gaze.
“Quiet!” Principal Johnson hollered to the room.
I watched as she decided whether or not to believe me. This was my big chance to impress Jacqueline. Once Principal Johnson suspended me for starting what would be forever known as the epic spring food fight, I would be the most popular kid in school. I had visions of everyone asking me to sign their yearbooks and girls lining up around my locker waiting for me to ask them to the prom. Of course, as a sophomore, I’d have to wait several years for those things.
And then Principal Johnson crushed my dreams.
“Samuel, that’s enough trying to cover for someone. I’ll find out who was responsible in due time. In the mean time, keep quiet and stay out of trouble.”
But I don’t want to be quiet. I don’t want to stay out of trouble, I wanted to scream. But I couldn’t. I didn’t. Like always, I skulked back into line.
And that was that. Jacqueline turned away and never looked back. Just as my body tingled and glowed when she had been looking at me, now it sagged.
I stood there, moping. I withdrew into myself, saddened by what a pathetic member of the human race I was. I mean, I couldn’t even get caught starting a food fight!
But somehow, some way, I reached deep down into myself and pulled myself up. I don’t know where I got the inner strength, but I’m grateful for having found it. It took me several minutes to regain my composure, and to recommit myself to my plan. Oh, Jacqueline, you will be mine. You will be mine someday.
And so very slowly, very quietly, I reached down to the table to pick up a tray of peas and carrots. After positioning it properly in my hand, I flung it at Ronnie and Katherine. Direct hit! Even sneaky Katherine got a face full.
“Food fight!” I yelled for the second time that day.
And just before I got a pot full of gravy poured over my head and a plate of spaghetti pressed to my face, I notice Jacqueline look over at me once again.
She was smiling. And I was in heaven.