said, that day in the lunchroom. “Chips and dip.” Mary smirked.
“I’m giving up ice cream,” Greta said. They
both nodded, sympathetically.
Greta didn’t mean Breyer’s, or
Johnson’s. Her dad made his own ice
cream. Mary’s mouth watered, just thinking of it.
“How about you?” Noreen asked Mary.
“What’re you giving up for Lent?”
“Spaghetti,” she said.
“Mare!” Greta was horrified.
“You hate spaghetti!” Noreen said.
“My mom’s.” Wistfully, Mary thought of real spaghetti, like you got in a
“You should give up your favorite,”
Mean Ricky Kelly was on his way over to
their “dork” table. In her belly, Mary’s lunch felt like cement.
“So Zilenski hates spaghetti!” he said.
“So why’re you five hundred pounds?” he asked Mary, who shivered.
“Ignore him,” Greta whispered, trembling
Ricky grabbed his crotch. “Wanna eat this?”
Around them, kids snickered. “You
Stephen?” Noreen said.
Mary just looked at her. Brain that she
was, Noreen could be so dumb, sometimes.
Sister Stephen had no clue about stuff.
She didn’t teach from their books, or teach, period. Usually she just yelled
till her face was beet-red. “Get up to that board!” she screamed at their
class, and the cool kids howled with laughter.
Ricky was Sister’s favorite.
down!” she’d told Ricky, that morning. He never stopped laughing, even when she
roughly twisted his left cheek while smacking his right.
“How ‘bout it, Zilenski?”
Mary gritted her teeth. When she didn’t
answer, Ricky asked Greta, “How ‘bout you, Fornell?”
For years, he had tortured them: Noreen for
being a genius, Greta for being a basket case, but mostly Mary for being fat
and creepy and ‘cos her Pop drank. Once Pop had passed out, outside Lenny’s Bar.
Zilenski! Watch your Pop don’t get picked up with the trash.
If the teacher called on her, and Mary’s
answer was wrong, Ricky sang out, “Zilenski is a dumbbell!” If she answered
right, his “Wanna tutor me after school?” was followed by, “I’ll bring the
Next day was Ash Wednesday. Mary dreaded
what Ricky would say about the big, black cross Father Tom smeared on her
forehead. The cool kids always wiped off their ashes, but she was too scared to.
Why, she asked herself, am I scared of God? When He lets Ricky rule the school?
Was he God’s favorite, too?
When the bell rang, Ricky slunk back to
his own table.
They gathered up their garbage. Not one Devil
Dog wrapper on her tray, but to everybody, Mary was still a fat slob. She
wished school was over, so she could cry.
just not fair, she thought.
Back in their classroom, something big
Sister Joseph, the principal, was in
there, sobbing. The nicer kids were crying, too. It was like back in second
grade, when President Kennedy was shot.
Noreen heard first. “Sister Stephen . .
.” she said, “had a stroke!” The others gasped.
By 2 P.M. they had a sub, Mrs. Lane, who
had taught some in seventh grade. Really taught,
with books, peering over her bifocals at the cool kids, who to Mrs. Lane, were
“What page are you on?” she asked, today.
Before Sister Stephen’s body was even cold.
“Page of what?” Ricky said. But
Mrs. Lane asked tough history questions
that only Noreen knew. “Ugly bitch,” Ricky muttered. Mrs. Lane ignored
Mrs. Lane didn’t smile once, all
afternoon. Or mention Sister Stephen. Even the cool kids fidgeted in their
When she finally asked each kid to get
up and state their name, she skipped Ricky like his seat was empty.
“What about me?” he said.
Mary had dreaded her turn. But this was
worth it. She tried not to smile.
. . .
“When’s the funeral?” Ricky asked Mrs.
Lane later, but she made like she was deaf.
It was chilly but sunny out, when they
left school. For once, Mary didn’t feel like crying.
At Lenny’s bar, Pop was in his usual
spot, smelling like he’d gotten there real early. The bar itself smelled like kielbasa.
Mary’s favorite. “Wanna sammich?” Pop slurred,
as she sat next to him.
“Sure,” she said, without hesitation. She
took Pop’s arm, rested her head against him.
It was hours till supper.
And tomorrow she was giving up kielbasa for
Cindy is a
Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife & talks like Anybody’s from West
Side Story. She works out 5-6 days a week, so needs no excuse to drink or
do whatever the hell she wants She’s been published in the usual places, such
as Shotgun Honey, Hardboiled, A Twist of Noir, Megazine, Beat
to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter, Mysterical-E, and Twisted Sister.
She is the editor/art director of the ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s a
Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights activist.