My Short Story
I poke my tongue into the hole. Wiggle it back and forward, back and forward as sweet salty metal floods my mouth. My jaw muscles ache with oral gymnastics. Just can’t. Quite. Get it out.
I need it to be today. Can’t wait til tomorrow or it will be too late. But it won’t come, here, now, cross legged on the floor mouthing god-songs midst a hundred others, shiny shoed and freshly freckled.
It was 50 pence last time. Three comics and a 5p mix. Sherbert stinging the fresh wound. A tingle so delicious that I bite my lip to bleeding every Sunday morning now. Parables of pain and suffering wetting my appetite for flesh and fizz.
I can feel it loosening. Can draw air through the gap, bubbling through the blood and whistling like a nearly-closed car window. The same one I blame the bruises on.
Sometimes it is good to be known as clumsy. Short and clumsy, me.
Playtime. I crunch confidently, recklessly, into the apple I swapped my crisps for. Juicy pink fluid is flowing down my chin, and I am forcing my bite deeper and deeper, willing the fruit to take hold, to take control. There is no relief. A single strand refuses to relinquish.
Grinning at myself in the grubby tarnished mirror over the miniature sink I lose patience. I taste pencil shavings and the fluffy insides of my pockets on my finger tips, grasping at the tiny target on my lower jaw.
I twist through 180 degrees. It burns and I don’t care. I twist it back, aware of time ticking, of bodies in the corridor, of skip-steps back to classrooms. I count myself down, eyes closed like on the diving board over the big pool. I know I am brave. Brave enough. Braver than them. Pull.
The pain is up and gone so quick I have already forgotten it. The red spat into the sink so loud against my silence that I don’t want to wash it away. With butter fingers I take the tiny prize from my palm and wrap it in cheap yellow tissue. Shove it deep down in my pocket.
The first hand on my back could almost be an accident, but I know. I know. The second is more targeted, perfectly placed between shoulder blades and I stifle a cough and quicken my pace. The third comes at the doorway to the classroom, disguised so adeptly that the teacher shoots me a look. Be More Careful she stares at me. I don’t care. Tomorrow this will be over.
I have made catapults and slingshots. I have thrown snowballs and punches. I have dreamed of superpowers, studied comic strips and I know what works and what doesn’t. I have a plan.
This morning, hard earned, the 50p presses sharply inside my fist. Falls heavy on to the chemist counter. I tiptoe to take the bag slid across the counter. Be Careful he says. But it’s them who should be careful.