Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Tonight you'll be writing a narrative for homework. Who here knows what a narrative is?"

There's a full minute of dead silence, my classmates glancing at each other for the answers, before I bitterly mumble, not removing my forehead from it's crashed, "why me?" position on the desk, "A story."

"That's RIGHT! A story! For next class, I want a narrative paragraph on at least two hundred words."

And that was the whole explanation.

Because my brain hurt so badly from the day's lecture, I didn't think to ask-- does he want a story or a paragraph? Surely a good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end; most of the time, that constitutes at least three seperate paragraphs.

This isn't something my classmates will worry about-- a single paragraph on the women behind me's gall-bladder operation isn't something that would be prettied-up any by proper structure, and most of the front row doesn't even know what a paragraph is. But for me, it's the princple of the damn thing.

The reason he wanted a "narrative paragraph" is that the College English Syllabus doesn't consider the narrative format important enough to dedicate an essay to, not in Professor Elsewhere's class, at any rate. Still, pick one or the other, genius.

I may be wrong. There may be some instruction in the text book that he referenced about the time I was biting my own arm to distract myself from the pain of hearing him teach. But I'm not about to spend my time looking for it. Not time that could be spent clotting.


I skipped on Tuesday, when it was due, and have, tonight, resigned myself to the following sentiment, as I shared with Jeremey.

MidnightShaman7: Does it even have to be a story?
MidnightShaman7: Or just a narrative?
FieryGwenivere: I honestly don't think it matters.
FieryGwenivere: Professor Elsewhere is gonna be so tired of grading everyone else's drivel that he'll probably have an orgasm just reading a coherent sentence.
FieryGwenivere: Maybe (I'm having trouble writing it because) I just don't want to give him the satisfaction
MidnightShaman7: Good to know your ego has survived the falling out.
FieryGwenivere: It's not thinking I'm great, it's knowing they suck.

That dillemna somewhat behind me, I wrote the following. Who needs an A, anyway? He's enough of one for all of us.

---





I got here an hour ago and already I look at the door and have to will my feet not to run towards it. We're three crew members short today and the lines are long. No one tells you this growing up, and I'm pretty sure it's not in the bible, but if you're thinking fire and brimstone, you're wrong. Hell is all grills and frialators.

There were supposed to be eight of us through lunch. The store manager left early on the count of her lesbian lover getting test results back from some clinic, and the guy working the sandwich board walked out on us, I'm told nobody knows why. Another worker was a no-show altogether, and I walked in at 10:30 to the mixed reception of panic, urgency, and a mild relief that at least someone had come in, something had gone right. It's me and Leah, the cashiers, two different Josh's working three different stations in the back and Laura, the shift manager, running back and forth between us like a hamster in an aquarium, shouting "No tomatoes on that number two!" to the back and "Three Double Cheeses and a number six? Hello? HELLO?" towards the herd of customers, waving their bag of food angrily.

The five of us deal with the infinity of them as best we can, and I'm beginning to resign myself to this, even feel comfortable, when the others start dropping like flies. Josh number one is out at 11:30. Leah at 12. Josh number two is supposed to go at one, but he holds out till 1:15, and leaves during our day's first lull.

And then there were two.

At three o'clock, John is supposed to come in, and I joke to Laura that once he comes in and lunch has ended, things might return to relative normalcy. At 3:05, 3:10, 3:15 and still no sign of him, I start to realize that one should never tempt fate.

"John not showing up is everything we don't need to happen right now." I say to Laura, as I make a sundae and she pours a coffee. "You think we're being punished for something?"

"Yeah." She says. "I never should have told my sister she was adopted when we were little."

"And I never should have run down those orphans with my car." I agree.

It's 3:30 and we're both hoping against hope that John got caught in traffic and he'll make it through that door anytime. We manage through two more rushes, and I begin to silently repent.
They never tell you this, but this is hell. This is where you go if you don't listen to your parents and do your homework. Honor thy Mother and Math Tutor. This is where you go if you shrug off a book report, don't read the chapters assigned, don't apply to a back-up school. This is where you'll end up if you’re a good student turned bad, and listening to the word of God won't get you out of it. You've got to listen to your guidance counselor.

It's four o'clock and Laura's tried to reach John at home. No sign of him. Good riddance. Don't need him. Mary's due in an hour, and lunch is officially over. The lobby is empty and there's no reason for it to get busy anymore. No reason, barring some horrible twist of fate.

That's when I see him, the shape of him in the door, a black silhouette against the brightness of a world that I've come to accept may be something I’ll never experience again. In his hand, I see a piece of paper, the type of paper that a large group of people write their large list of requests on, so that the single person representing them won't leave anything out. The type of list that spells doom .

As he walks toward me, I tremble. The figure walks toward me with the terror-striking gait of an old western sheriff, and with each step I could swear I hear the jingle of his spurs. As he comes into the light, I see his face. He is terrifying. He is evil. He is nine years old.

He looks towards me, then down at the list, then back and me. Pull yourself together, I tell myself. He stares, confused, and I know he's never done this before. He'll stutter and backpedal. It'll take him ten minutes to get through the list of requests, and at the end he'll have forgotten to mention who wants sodas and who wants milkshakes. I feel like I'm going to crack, but I control myself. I swallow hard, and I give him that winning fast-food smile.

"Welcome to McDonald's, what can I do for you, young man?"

That's what comes out of my mouth, but he sees in my eyes what I'm really saying: Go ahead, Punk. Make my day.


---


On with it.

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