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Quinton likes Ramona but he is a real social cripple and usually gets stuck sitting next to Fat Susan during lunch. He eats his peanut-butter snackwich in grisly silence. 

Fat Susan likes Quinton. She thinks he’s real nice. His anemic good looks and backwoods stutter are endearing, she thinks,  but his maudlin second grade sentimentality is a bit irksome.

Dragomir has tummy flutters for Lorna. She smells of lilac and peppermint and it haunts him at night, particularly during homework time. He does a brilliant shuffle-footed pantomime of her funhouse walk.

Lorna reciprocates Dragomir’s clumsy advances by referring to him in public as ‘Bumpyface’ or ‘Porous Boris’. In the privacy of her own diary, however, he is known as ‘Prince Dragomir the Sweet of Heart’.

Dragomir is self-conscious about his premature case of bad skin. Nobody but Principal Harris knows that Dragomir is  two years older than the rest of them. Dragomir would curl up and die if word got out. That being said, his face is still prematurely bad. It makes the school nurse quail and Principal Harris bite his lower lip.

Archie wears a dribble-shunt. Some kids try to get him to say tongue twisters just so they can see his crazy apparatus go haywire. He has broken three shunts already, just this year, and his father is already up to his eyeballs in debt, pulling double shifts just to finance the first two. 

Lorna wears a thick orthopedic shoe on her left foot. That’s why Roy calls her ‘Frankenfoot’. Roy loves Lorna, too.

Dragomir and Roy often tussle over this. Roy thinks that Dragomir has the strength of a much older boy but he doesn’t take his conclusions to the next level. 

Dragomir claims that Roy’s daddy can’t read good, a fact supported, anecdotally, by Dragomir’s mother, who happens to work at a fast food drive-thru window. Roy steams up and socks Dragomir right in the nose. 

Those two are office-bound by noon. Principal Harris is not amused. He tells Dragomir that he knows his secret. Dragomir takes the hint. Principal Harris tells Roy that his father cannot read well at all, and that if he needs to hit someone he should hit his mother.

Bartleby thinks Lorna stole the tail to Emily’s stuffed pony.

Poor Buttercup is now without tail, protests Emily. She looks silly riding around the play-yard on a pony without a tail. People have been talking, saying that she rides donkeys and other mean things like “donkey-rider” and “ass-clown”. It puts Emily in a sure-enough stinky mood. 

Emily knows her pony really is a pony and exactly where her pony’s tail went. She plans to sneak off quietly into Lorna’s cubby, like the way her debutante sister enters a free clinic, and steal it back; yep, steal it back. 

Dexter calls Fat Susan fat because she is fat. The consensus is that she is also gross and that all her clothes smell like the kitchen curtains in a truck stop diner. Dexter’s dad came up with that one.

Fat Susan has a glandular problem that nobody knows about and it is exacerbated by her mother’s predilection for packing Susan bacon cups and roast-beef-eggwiches. Principal Harris suspects that one day her glands will seize up and kill her.

Winston has a cleft palate. Everyone’s parents have warned them not to make fun of Winston. His face is off-limits; however, the girls and boys are allowed to make fun of his father, who lost both balls last year while trying to help his brother-in-law shoe a horse. Everyone agrees that having a horse kick your balls off is way funnier than a kid with a broken-mirror smile. Some shrewd children use his father’s accident as an opportunity to implicitly make fun of Winston. They speak of the lengths that his father was willing to go through just to not have another Winston. Winston just stares at those meanies in hare-lipped incredulity. 

He longs for the day when he can grow a moustache. 

Ricardo thinks Imelda is a good dancer. Most people agree with Ricardo. Ricardo is the touchstone for what is and isn’t cool. Ricardo is the product of a one night stand. His father took his mother to the neighborhood "Orange Julius" one Friday night for an Orange Julius burger and small shake. This was a first date. She was not at all impressed with his courting methods; that is, not until she bit into her Orange Julius burger. It tasted, she said, like she had bitten into a rainbow. Then he took her up to his apartment and made an accidental Ricardo. 

"Who rents an apartment above an Orange Julius?" she mocked.

"I do," said his father. Ricardo never met the man. He and his mother still love Orange Julius burgers, though.

Benjamin disagrees, however, saying that Imelda dances like she is wearing one of Lorna’s blunder shoes at the end of a poorly set prosthetic limb. Benjamin’s mom says he is a better dancer because he has natural rhythm and also because he overheard that she and his daddy used the rhythm method before he was born and that’s why he’s such a good dancer. Benjamin also thinks he is so good because he practices a lot and is real awesome. He thinks having extra rhythm is his birth right. 

Principal Harris puts it to Benjamin’s mother most Thursdays. His prophylactic methods are much sounder than Benjamin’s or Ricardo’s daddy’s. In return, Principal Harris allows Benjamin to place second in the dancing category of the school talent show. Why not first? Because Imelda is real good and everyone knows it, that’s why.

Ephraim is a strange kid. He doesn’t like baseball and sometimes, if you are willing to give credence to anything that bimbo Lorna says, he gets sly playground boners.

Jim eats a lot, like Susan, but it is because he’s a growing boy his dad says. Principal Harris still considers him a truculent little fat-ass, but he thinks he just might have a serious future in rec-league football. Jim once poked a finger into the hollow of Susan’s elbow and produced a discarded lolli-pop stick.

Kids call Fat Susan ‘Sofa-Sue’ now because after Jim found that old lolli-stick, still damp, Susan checked the other arm and found a marble, not a regular one either, but a real cool marble. Quinton said it was a ‘shooter’.

Principal Harris observes all these misfits from his office window. He went to college. He has a pretty wife. He even gets to bang Benjamin’s mother with impunity, without even having to let Benjamin win first place. Sometimes he merely awards him a golden ‘participants’ ribbon. 

Principal Harris feels lucky to be a grown up. 

Staring through the slatted blinds, he thinks how awful kids are. Looking out across the school yard his reverie is interrupted by the reflection of his own moustache and he closes his eyes, breathing heavily through a bent nose. Sometimes he forgets why he grew it in the first place. Then the reason returns, reverberating among the echoes of the misfits and the bullies, bouncing off of school walls; that timeless cruelty pinching his own timeline, temporarily connecting his past and present.

[Forever after at]


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