A Friendly Reminder

Monday. Back at school. Business as usual. Time, tide, wait for no man, etcetera.

Steven made sure he was late to math. He hid in the bathroom till the bell rang, his guts turning over in his stomach. When he got to class she was sitting on the far side of the room near the windows. All the adjacent desks were occupied. A small spasm of relief. He could sense her eyes on him as he took one of two available seats in the front row.

"Welcome, Mr. Morgan," his teacher said. He handed Steven his exam from the previous week, face down. "Very well done."

Steven slipped it into his folder without looking at the grade. Then he opened his notebook and began mindlessly copying down the numbers on the board.

Evelyn was waiting for him in the hallway after class. No getting around it. She smiled as he approached her, trying hard to dissemble his anguish, the ineffable pain, bordering on the metaphysical, that had disabled him for the last day and a half. The thing had indeed happened, confirmed today by Mark, unsolicited and with signature tactlessness, during second period history. "He said she gave terrible head," Mark explained, "and he could barely fit inside her." Steven wanted to die.

"What'd you get?" Evelyn asked him, exuding her usual vivacity.

"Ninety," he guessed. "You?"



"Yeah …"

A punishing silence. Evelyn, no longer smiling, still vivacious, rocked back and forth on her heels. She hadn't changed since Saturday; she was the same person. Steven was the one who was different and he despised himself for it. He looked to his right and saw his new friends, Brian and Shawn, convening in front of Mark's locker. Study hall next period. Steven was in it with them. Mark would wait for him before they commenced walking, was waiting for him now. He nodded at Steven and Steven nodded back, wondering what he'd done to deserve any of this.

"Gotta get going?" she asked at length.

"Yeah. Well. Not really.” He looked at the floor, the wall, back at the floor. "It's study hall. But yeah, I usually walk over with them."

"Ok …" She paused, put off by the exchange. "See you tomorrow?"

"See you tomorrow." And as he walked down the hall to meet his friends, it struck him that he'd have to answer for the state of his eyes.

Allergies, he'd tell them … they’re really fuckin bad this time a year.



Michael Howard

Michael Howard's essays and short stories have appeared in a wide variety of print and digital publications. His website is michaelwilliamhoward.com. He recommends B'Tselem.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 20:50