A Halloween short by John Andreula
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
“It moved. I swear.”
Jorge poked his fork into the gray-brown mush on his tray.
“That’s just the gelatinous matter that the school board deemed best for our adolescent digestive tracts,” Jorge’s best bud Kwame quipped across the gray cafeteria table. “Besides, you poked it!”
“It wiggled before I did. I’m not eating this. I’d rather starve.”
The two boys peered across the lunchroom at the white aproned lunch lady, Delores Gertrudey. Ms. Gertrudey was seniorest of all the Eben F. Grady Middle School lunch ladies. She ladled another helping onto a frowning girl’s tray and returned Jorge’s scowl with an equally chilly glare.
Unable to resist any opportunity for snarky interjection, Kwame hollered, “Afternoon, Ms. Gertrudey. You look lovely as ever. I must say that hairnet really coordinates with your eyeglass chain.”
The lunch lady stared blankly over her cat eyes at the boys for another moment before returning her attention to the line of students disappointedly inspecting their offerings for midday sustenance.
Jorge forked the semi-solid matter on his tray again. “I have got to start getting up earlier to pack a lunch. . .” The slim fourteen year old sighed and slumped deep into the plastic bench.
Eyes still fixed on the lunch lady Kwame joked, “She’s totes into to me. How could she not be?” Then without taking a breath, “What you need to do is not stay up so late playing Madden, and maybe you won’t be such a whiney zombie during the day. Better eat up. You’re gonna need your strength for gym class. Schuster’s subbing again. . .”
Together they exhaled, “Dodgeball.”
Jorge stared at his primordial goop, plunging deeper into defeat. With widening eyes, “It moved again! That’s it, I’m suing! They’re trying to poison me!”
“Dude, it’s not poison. It’s probably worse-tasting than it looks–if that’s even possible–but Gertrudey and the school board are not trying to kill anyone.”
Changing the subject, Jorge complained, “I’m gonna cut gym class. The last thing I need is another dodgeball concussion.” A lightbulb turned on in his head. “I’ll fake a stomachache and go to the nurse’s office. “
Kwame raised an eyebrow and then smiled, “That sounds like a plan. I have a doctor’s note.” Kwame pulled out a square of official looking white paper. “Good old asthma.”
“You don’t have asthma.”
“I didn’t see a doctor either. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a note excusing me from physical torture.” Kwame pushed his thick plastic specs up the bridge of his nose.
Kwame shoved a sizable last bite of peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich into his mouth. Despite the food inside, he went on, “You want my applesauce or chocolate milk?”
“Do I look like I’m five?”
“Suit yourself.” Kwame peeled the tin lid off the plastic container of applesauce while finishing his mouthful of P.B.&J., and shot a mischievous smile at his homie. “Maybe Gertrudey is trying to poison you. Maybe she’s secretly a mass murderer and everyone who bought lunch today is going to die from eating her slop. At least anyone who ordered. . .what is that anyway?”
“Supposedly shepherd’s pie.”
“Ugh! Seriously? Looks more like brick mortar. Let me smell that.”
Jorge pulled some onto his fork and lifted it within inches of Kwame’s face.
Kwame inhaled a whiff. “Smells like cyanide for sure, maybe some arsenic and mercury.”
This finally picked Jorge up a bit. “I bet you a dollar you won’t take a bite and swallow it.”
Jorge moved the fork in front of Kwame around like an airplane and a voice boomed from the next table over. “Are we about to witness a Lady and the Tramp moment, fellas?” It was Reggie Michaels, the school’s resident too-old-middle school bully.
The bully looked around for confirmation from the surrounding few tables and was only met by a couple of nervous chuckles. “Whatever. . .,” Jorge muttered as he put the fork back into the goop on his tray.
“What was that, dork?”
Kwame interjected, “You’re just jealous no one wants to split their spaghetti with you, Reg.”
Reggie pursed his face and considered whether he would punch Kwame in the stomach then and there or if he would wait for gym. “You know what? I think it’s time to collect my lunch tax. You two turds haven’t paid in awhile. Gimme your food.”
Jorge and Kwame looked at each other and then back at the bully in disbelief. Reggie’s face was an incongruous mix of angry eyebrows and toothy smirk.
Jorge broke the silence, “All yours, big guy.” He slid his plastic lunch tray across the table toward Reggie looming over them. Reggie reached over and wrapped three sausage fingers around the suspended fork and brought the gray shepherd’s pie up to his lips. He put the bite into his mouth and chewed without hesitating, staring into Kwame and Jorge’s eyes.
The bully swallowed. “It tastes a lot better because it’s yours.” Reggie chuckled.
“Kinda weird, but okay,” Kwame replied, “Want some chocolate milk to wash it down?”
Reggie’s stomach let out an audible growl, and he waved the carton Kwame was holding away. The sound of Reggie’s belly brought looks from the next several tables of teens as it gurgled audibly again. The bully frowned and turned toward the cafeteria exit.
After a taking couple tenuous steps, the bully’s stomach growled again. Reggie leaned over and grabbed his side.
Reaching for the nearest lunch table but missing by a full foot, the bully toppled over. All two hundred plus pounds of Reggie fell toward the ground. The large boy’s head smacked the table, producing an heavy crack before the rest of him crumpled to the floor below.
Reggie’s left leg and fingertips twitched several times before his body fell limp in the thin aisle between the tables. Jorge, Kwame, and the rest of the seventh and eighth graders in the cafeteria sat in stunned silence, mouths open in disbelief. Finally, Kwame jested, “I guess Gertrudey was trying to kill you.”
Without taking his eyes from the still body of their nemesis laying on the floor Jorge added, “Lucky for the rest of us Reggie was the only one dumb enough to eat it.”