I’ll be your server today.
Can I start you off with some water?
We have a delicious vegetable appetizer, my favorite actually.
Are you cold because the air vent is blowing? Can I offer you a blanket?
Did you have a question? No, sorry, I thought I saw you look my way.
How are you doing? How about a nice red? On the house!
Let me comp your meal.
Here's a crisp $20. You can use it for whatever!
Can I get you a to-go bag?
Return to Sender
I just feel super horny when I see a classic style mailbox. It would be painted, propped up securely on bricks or a nice wooden post. It will have a beautiful red flag. But there's no way I can do it in public. At least not in my neighborhood with its bright streetlamps and noisy neighbors.
No, I'm not trying to steal your mail. I actually don't care whether it's full or completely empty. But I do want to open it. Then close it. Over and over and over.
So I send postcards. The addresses are always a little wrong. They come back to my mailbox, and that means it was opened and closed all without me doing it myself. It's amazing. Sometimes I go weeks without a postcard coming back. When one finally comes in, I squeal inside. I really do wait for the mail with bated breath!
Some might say I don't know for sure what kind of mailbox my postcards end up in like that was ever the point. Every mailbox has a physicality and gets mail from here to there. Yes, the mailbox itself is beautiful. But it's what's inside that counts.
Consolidation prizes don’t mean as much as a trophy. I didn’t want to win the school’s Creative Futures award, but the way people look at you-- Their eyes are kinder. The teachers won’t bat an eye unless you somehow squeeze into the conversation your trophy win and you can watch them grit their teeth before saying “Congrats Tanya”. But that brief moment where you hold their attention outside yourself, where they turn over thought and you can see it in the flesh; That is the real meaning in a trophy.
I opened my consolidation prize for the one useful object I thought would make all the difference. This pink eraser didn’t peel when impaled. It’s some artefact from a time where pink erasers didn’t smudge your paper. I had one at home that I poked and prodded when trying to solve for x, so I knew it was pretty good. Mr Brantley might not want a pink eraser impaled on his favorite story-item, but I had to try.
I liked Mr Brantley. Other students would describe Mr Brantley as ‘the mean one’ if we’re comparing him to odd cases like Mrs Fujimoto who made cupcakes for every holiday. He had a very strict attendance policy, which meant your whole body had to be fully inside the classroom by the end of a long bell sound, which is why everyone didn’t like him. Come to think of it, that’s the only example I can think of. He doesn’t go on tangents like Ms Coppler or spends most of his time on the phone like Coach Hart. Mr Brantley was by-the-book, which meant class was for classwork.
The recess bell sounded; two short sounds. I walked up to the teacher’s desk. If I had to pick a chance to stab the pink eraser into the broken ruler, it was now. Mr Brantley would spend the next minute erasing the chalkboard. As I pulled the ruler out of his Teach Life mug, I remembered the basic story to it. College days, his football team, and a lucky playbook. Somehow the ruler broke, the captain got hurt, he filled in, “and the rest is history”. That’s when everyone claps. The story is part of the ruler, and the ruler is part of the story, but you can still tell the story with a pink eraser stuck to the ruler, so I knew it would be okay.
A whiny sing-song voice asked, “What are you doing?” Shannon always had something to say.
“I’m just waiting around,” I said. I knew better than to say ‘nothing’. I’ve watched teachers whip their heads around so fast their glasses fell off over ‘nothing’.
“What do you need that ruuuler for?” Shannon was getting louder. I jammed the pink eraser into the sharp edge where the ruler broke. I rocked it back and forth until it seemed snug. I dropped it into Mr Brantley’s mug, which landed heavily on one side, which tipped the whole thing, which sent the mug and all the highlighter colors you could think of crashing on the floor.
Mr Bentley turned on his heels and Shannon left the room. Mr Bentley studied the broken mess. He looked up at me.
“Tanya, did you break my mug?”
Mr Bentley noticed the ruler with the pink eraser stuck to the end. “What the,” he said to himself. He picked up the ruler with the pink eraser. “Tanya, did you do this?”
“Yes. But, it’s because it was sharp.”
“Move around it.” Mr Bentley gestured a path around the mess. Then he pulled the pink eraser off the ruler.
“NO. LEAVE IT.”
Mr Bentley stared at me like I said it. It was loud for sure, but I didn’t recognize the voice.
“Tanya, did... you say... something?” Mr Bentley sounded so scared I wanted to laugh. “Was that... Shannon?” Shannon wasn’t even in the room! But I didn’t laugh. I couldn’t laugh. I tried to speak and could only hear myself breathe. I tried to look away from the ruler, but I couldn’t. I heard the voice again, and this time I was scared too.
“YOU WILL DIE UNLESS YOU PUT IT BACK TOGETHER.” Did this voice know the same things I knew? “LAST CHANCE”. I wish it would go away. Just go away.
“Go away.” I heard myself say. I cleared my throat a bit to test my control. All clear. I looked up at Mr Bentley. “That was weird.” Mr Bentley was a different color but I didn’t mention it.
“I fought for you to stay in school. Did you know that?” said Mr Bentley. Something in his eyes didn’t let me look away. “Your insipid, childish stunt--some voodoo nonsense; Didn’t even look like me. You scared the teachers; You scared everyone; You scared your parents! You know you just got a talking-to the first time? Well, we gave an earful to your parents as well. They’re on thin ice. And this, creepy, damage to my property,” he shook the ruler to make his point. “is the last straw. You didn’t even deserve this consolation prize.”
Mr Bentley grabbed the pink eraser and threw it on the ground in front of me, and it bounced behind the cubby holes. He walked past me into the hallway.
At that moment, I had a thought that I didn’t want to have. That, if I had won the trophy, I might have been able to hold Mr Bentley’s attention for a little longer, and he wouldn’t have died.
I watched Mr Bentley disappear into the stairwell. A whiny sing-song voice echoed “Gotcha!”. Then several low thumps and cracks. Then a scream. It was Shannon who screamed and who would, after returning to class in a month, gossip to everyone who would listen how the ruler was sticking out of Mr Bentley’s neck.
When I got home, I threw away my pink eraser, and all the new ones just to be safe. I never heard any more voices after that, and I think it’s because when I said ‘go away’, the voices went to Mr Bentley and died with him. On this, at least, Shannon and I agree.
The school ended up suspending us pending investigation, which I think it’s unfair. Shannon used my voice to do a bad thing. Every day is still a struggle with her. She uses my head and my body more and more and she never even says thank you.