Stories-Spring 2007-Pg 2

 
 

"John is six-foot-three inches of Lucky Charms. Magically Delicious. Part everyman. Part anyman." ...................................................................................

  HOW I BOINKED JOHN CUSACK       ******Editor's Pick!!!!

          by Gale Martin

I admit it. I have an unnatural thing for John Cusack. It could be his dark brown hair and hint of a widow's peak. Or that he plays guys named Lloyd and Myrl instead of Rocky and Rambo. Or how the right-hand side of his mouth curves downward when he smiles.

Once in a while, his Hollywood stylist—I would kill to be her—gives him a Dippity Do curl on his forehead when his character needs to look put together. Like his hitman in Grosse Pointe Blank, when his hair was so sexy, it was painful. As Necie who does my French tips said when he came on the screen, "Oh, kill mi dead, white boy. Ya beautiful."

Though he's never been named, "The Sexiest Man Alive" by People Magazine, lots of women besides me fantasize about boinking him. What does People know anyway? In 1996, they said the "The Sexiest Man Alive" was Mark Harmon. Who were they kidding?

John's a much bigger star than Mark Harmon. He has his own link on Wikipedia that lists his filmography, all the films he's done in chronological order. Forty-nine movies since 1983. Hear that, People?

John is six-foot three inches of Lucky Charms. "Magically delicious." Part everyman, part anyman. His hair is dark but his manner is light. He's intelligent but doesn't come off as an intellectual.

He's got an innocence about him that is never calculated, artless. Kind of like his screen technique. Great word, artless. I learned it from my film studies professor at the community college who was talking about Gary Oldman. But she might have been describing John Cusack.

I googled "John Cusack" and found a fan page to post a personal message.

When I learned that his first movie was called Class, I got an idea.

"I am a red-blooded American female in Hot Pursuit of Hollywood's most handsome men for the last twenty years with my discretionary dollars."

I learned that term from my film prof, too.

"Though the studios kept rolling out the pretty boys, they finally showed some Class when you made the A-list. Even though you're a big star—the biggest in my book— you seem like a guy who would help a girl out of a jam if you could....

"Here's my dilemma. A girl from high school invited me to a fancy garden party on her 'estate.' She married a contractor so she's rolling in it. All the farmland he's plowed under? You don't get Money for Nothing, as my mother always said....

"Anyhoo, I haven't seen my high school friends in fifteen years. Some of them treated me like I wasn't good enough for them because I didn't come from a hoity-toity family. Part of me wants to see everybody though I know full well I'm walking into The Garden of Good and Evil. I'm good, and they're evil. So here's my big question. Would you be my date for this party?....

"I know you're not married. My ex-husband, Kevin, is a house painter with a high-end clientele. He left me two years ago for this radiologist's wife from Nantucket. I swear. They did everything that rhymes with Nantucket until I got wise and told him to...I don't have to tell you how the limerick ends....

"I'm not asking you to get it on with me to avenge his High in-Fidelity (though you could always park your DearFoams under my bed). But you could correct a lot of wrongs if you'd be my date for this party....

"One more thing. My quasi-friend, Arianna, breeds Newfoundlands. They're running all over her place. So you Must Love Dogs. You can get back to me at
Tangie4Steelers@aol.com. Or call me on my cell at 918-779-4268. I've attached a picture of me I had taken at Glamour Shots so you can see I won't be one of the dogs at Arianna's party."

I prayed. I crossed myself. I clicked "submit." And I went to bed.

Two weeks later, I get a phone call.

"Hooty-hoo, Tangie. It's Arianna."

"Oh, yeah. About your party—,"

"I didn't get your R.S.V.P."

You're not going to either.

"Everyone's dying for you to come, Tang."

Everyone? Who was she kidding.

"My rosacea flares up in the summer. I'm not comfortable at these types of al fresco events. I look like a red beet after a couple of hours."

"You goof. My patio is completely covered by a retractable awning. I'm not taking no for an answer. So, I'll see you on the 24th."

Click.

Click this, Arianna. I ain't coming.

Ten minutes later the phone rings again.

"Is Tangie Giacometti there?"

"Speaking. If this is a sales call, whatever you're selling, I don't want any."

"What if I told you I'm not selling anything?"

"Whattya want?"

"I want to go to a garden party."

"Who the hell is this? Is that you, Dino?"

"No, It's John. Didn't you invite me to a garden party two weeks ago?"

Holy shit.

It had to be one of the idiots from work, playing a joke on old Tangie. These clowns always give me a headache.

"It's John Cusack? Right." I pulled the Excedrin bottle down from the kitchen cabinet.

"That's right."

"I gotta put you on speaker phone a sec. I gotta take my Excedrin."

"No problem. I'll be here."

I pushed the speaker button and replaced the receiver. Then I unscrewed the cap, dumped out a couple pills, and downed them with a Mike's Hard Lemonade.

"If you're John Cusack, What was the name and title of the character you played in City Hall?"

"I was...wait a minute. Kevin Calhoun. Deputy mayor."

"'What was the name of your character in The Player?"

"Trick question. I played myself."

Anybody could have read that on Wikipedia.

"Okay. When The Contract was released, how did it do?"

"They haven't released it. It's in post-production."

"You better not be jerking my chain. Or I'll get Uncle Gio on your tail. He's made... He can hurt people, for real."

"My plane's coming into Pittsburgh International on Saturday at 10 a.m. Can you pick me up...Tangerine?"

"How the hell did you know my full name? I had it legally changed before I met Kevin in 1990. Nobody knows me as Tangerine."

"I was at this fundraiser where I met Janet Reno, who now does private investigation. So I asked her to do a little digging for me. She told me your real name is Tangerine because you were conceived while your parents listened to 'Led Zeppelin III.'"

"Nobody knows that." I chugged the rest of my lemonade and cracked another.

"Nobody but me and Janet Reno."

"Mr. Cusack. It sounded like you, but it could have been an impersonator. I'm so sorry."

"John. Just call me John."

"I'll be there Saturday to pick you up. Wait. How will you know it's me?"

"I'm guessing you'll know what I look like."

"I might as well tell you. I drive a Yugo. Do I need to rent a mini-van for your handlers and your...stylist?"

"Just gonna be me, Tangie. I'm guessing you can do my hair if I it needs work. Janet told me you had your own salon. See you Saturday."

Oh. My. God. I'm going to get to touch the hair. Wait. I'm going to get to touch him. And if he gets playful, maybe there'll be a little boinkin' going on. Jesus Christ, there is a God.

Wait. Jesus Christ. John Cusack. They have the same initials—J.C.

Oh, God is good. God is great. God is freakin' omnipotent.

* * * * *

"New Found Land. That's gotta be it, right?" John asked, reading the sign in gold leaf posted at the top of the lane.

"That's it. She has so many acres a lowly mailbox with Wiesnewski painted on it doesn't cut it."

"Relax. Things are going to be different this time," John said, looking magically delicious in his trademark black—boots, jeans, t-shirt.

"These women are going to put the bite on you. I'd put the bite you, too, but not for the reasons they want to put the bite on you. They want another notch in their Atienne Aigner belts."

"You don't do forty-some movies without stockpiling some good lines. How about this one when they come onto me? 'I'm not married, I don't have any kids, and I'd blow your head off if someone paid me enough.'"

"You rock my Yugo, John Cusack," I said.

When I opened the garden gate, the she-wolves were milling about the statuaries and perennial borders, sipping mimosas, pushing the Newfies away from their three-quarter length Ferettis and Von Furstenbergs. I noticed none of them brought dates.

As Arianna walked toward me, John appeared at my side and put his arm around me.

"Tangie. It's been such a long time."

She gave me a limp embrace, her gaze super-glued to John's face.

"Who's your handsome friend?"

"Ari. John Cusack. John. This is my Arianna."

Arianna's crystal flute fell from her hand, shattering on the flagstone path.
In an instant, nine women flew towards us faster than startled centipedes, whirring like hummingbirds:

"Oh, my God. Is that?...He's with...Can you believe it?"

All these queen bees who excluded me from their birthday parties and sleepovers when we were growing up now wanted to be my best friend. I grabbed a drink and John and I fought off the swarm.

"So, John," Gidget purred, taking John by the arm, pulling him away.

Gidget had stunning hooters. No breast augmentation despite what people thought. I saw the real McCoys showering after gym class in tenth grade.

"What does a handsome guy like you do for fun?" she asked him.

"Sometimes Tangie and I go off-roading. Or we'll fly to Brazil for espresso," I heard him say.

Arianna's husband Rich drove up, carrying a set of golf clubs. I had an intense crush on him in high school. Back then he wouldn't even look in my direction. Once when I worked up the nerve to ask him for a picture, he slid me one in German class. It was signed, "To the ugliest girl I know."

After he stowed his clubs in the garage, he walked toward me.

"Tangie? Is that you?" he asked because stupid questions are his forte. "Ari said you were coming today."

"Yeah, Einstein. We've only known each other since kindergarten."

He's undressing me with his eyes. I don't blame him. In my sparkly tank top and black mini-skirt, I look damn cute. But I don't like it. I grabbed a mimosa from a sterling silver tray and downed it.

He smiled, placing his hand on the small of my back. "If you would've looked like this in high school, maybe you and me might have been an item." Then he slid his hand over my backside. One too many brewskis at the clubhouse.

I removed his paw from my butt. "Jesus, you got nerve. You're trying to put the bite on me with your wife over there."

Once a two-timing prick, always a two-timing prick, I'm thinking because he cheated on Arianna with Gidget though Ari never knew.

One mimosa left on the tray. Down the hatch.

He glanced over at Arianna who hung from one arm of John's. Guess who was on the other?

"Who's the boy-toy?" he said then tossed back a mimosa.

"That's my date."

"Your date?" He spit out his drink. "He looks like a movie star."

"Whaddya got doggy-doo on the brain? He is a movie star. That's John Cusack."

Arianna waved to Rich then headed into the kitchen with a pitcher. "C'mon, Tang. You know you want me." He slapped both hands on my behind and pulled me close so my leg brushed against his crotch. I smelled the beer on his breath. "Let's sneak into my cabana, you can have what you wanted all these years and die a happy woman."

"You're plastered," I pushed him away. "Besides, I don't boink other women's husbands."

John glanced at me, excused himself, and approached us faster than Yogi to a pic-a-nic basket.

"Everything all right, honey?"he asked, putting his arm around my shoulder.

"I was just telling Richie Rich here to get lost."

"Let me do it for you. I've got a snubnose .38 special under the cuff of my pants that's registered to John Ashworth, Rich-a-arino. If you disappear, nobody's going to go looking for you. So, lay off my girl."

Rich put his hands up in surrender and backed away toward the bar.

"Are you really packin'?" I asked.

"Work with me here. Don't you think that after forty-some movies—,"

"Forty-nine."

"Forty nine, that I should be able to lie convincingly?"

"You're doing great. I can tell...from their pheromones they think we're an item, you and me."

"You're picking up on their pheromones?"

"I'm really intuitive with smells. It comes from working with people's hair, ya know. You can smell it when people don't like the haircut you're giving them, so you keep them turned away from the mirror until you can fix it, and the smell goes away."

"Relax. They'll never know the real story between us. Don't let your pheromones betray you, okay?"

"No chance of that. I just chugged two frou-frou drinks. The only thing I smell like is cheap champagne."

Without invitation, Gidget sidled up to John, breasts a-bobbing. "Hey. I wasn't finished with you yet," she said, smiling broadly. She knows her boobs are the greatest man hook. No male can pull himself away from her tatas when she's ready to share them.

"It's like this, Gidget. Why should I settle for cheap sex with you when I can have true love with Tangie?"

Her face and her boobs drooped...visibly. She slunk over to a pack of girls and whispered to them, plotting her next move.

A pack of women descended on John. They're thinking a group effort was needed to steal him away from me.

"Sorry, girls," I said, wrapping my arms around his waist. "John's mine. And I'm not sharing," I looked up in his eyes, my pupils begging for humanitarian aid.

John lifted my face to his and gave me a long, tender kiss, dipping his tongue in and out of my mouth and across my lips, just long enough for everyone to observe.

"We have to go," he said. "I'm taking Tangie to meet my folks. We have to be in Illinois by dinnertime."

He took my hand in his, and we strolled to my car.

"You didn't have to kiss me," I said as we pulled out of Arianna's lane. "But I love that you did. I'll never forget how it felt."

"You're a pretty woman and a beautiful person. If nothing else, I hope you realize you deserve better friends than those."

"You're really something. I knew you were a good guy. I just knew it."

I knew our charade was coming to a close. I couldn't keep my eyes off him and almost ran a tractor off the road.

"Thanks for playing along with me, for helping me fend off those girls. You're perfect. Inside and out."

"If only America knew. I'm so average."

"'So how does an average guy like you become the number one lover-man in his particular postal district?'" I asked him because that was one of his lines from High Fidelity, one of my all-time favorites.

"I guess you're just going to have to pull off the road, behind those trees, so we can find out."

Kill mi dead, white boy.

I popped a button when he sang Peter Gabriel's, "In Your Eyes", in my ear.

And that's how I boinked John Cusack in the back seat of my Yugo one summer afternoon on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, while sticking it to those snippy girls from Hadley High School.

Summer love and sweet justice from the sexiest 6'3" package ever sprung from the loins of Evanston, Illinois.

Cusack an average guy? Not with those initials. I can say with confidence, he's 'magically delicious.'

Bio:Gale Martin is a former English teacher and has been published in Duck and Herring Company's Pocket Field Guide, The Giggle Water Review, Sirens Magazine, Alighted, Wet Ink Press and Flash-Flooding, winning two flash contests and two short story contests. Besides unrepentant blogging, she is also hard at work editing her second novel, one she cranked out for NaNoWriMo.

 
 
 
 
FRAYED WIRES
 
  by Desiree Goris
 
 
“She’s right, the main line was cut.” 
 
The officer came through the back door looking grim as he clutched strips of frayed wires. 
 
“I knew something must have happened for the cameras to not record anything.” 
 
The young bank manager still looked shaken.  Her eyes were puffy from crying and her hands trembled.
 
“I just never imagined something like this would happen to us.”  Her voice was shaky as she gazed at her staff.
 
The officer pulled out a blank report, “Well, ma’am, why don’t you tell us what happened.”
  
It should have been a typical Friday.  Mornings are always slow until lunchtime when the crowds appear to cash their paychecks before the weekend.  There are a few regulars on Fridays but otherwise it’s pretty quiet.  At least the day began as expected.  Carla, the senior teller, had arrived typically late that morning with luggage in tow. 
 
She explained, “I didn’t want to leave my bags in the car and have all my makeup melt in this Vegas heat.”
 
Sara laughed, “You have enough luggage for ten people!  I thought your cruise was only for a week.” 
 
Carla struggled to look sheepish as she glanced at her fellow teller.  “Well you never know what you might need!”
 
Diane, the branch manager, brushed her blond hair back as she came in behind Carla.  She had two bags over her shoulder and pulled another one behind her. 
 
“Carla we’re going to need everyone’s help getting all these bags back out to your car tonight.  They’re not heavy, there’s just so many of them!”
 
“Are you going to be able to fit all that in our break room?”  Sara looked a bit concerned at the thought of having to navigate through the suitcases and bags just to eat lunch. 
 
The assistant manager, Debi, appeared from the vault doing a quick double take as she saw Carla’s luggage.  “Whoa, I thought your trip to Mexico was only seven days.  Does this mean that you have room in one of those bags to sneak me on the boat with you?”
 
The ladies all laughed.  Carla headed to the break room to put her bags in there as Diane put the others in the vault so that the break room wouldn’t be too cramped.  They had opened the front doors promptly at 9:00am like usual and helped a few of their regulars.  In between customers Carla was describing her itinerary.
 
“I am picking up my husband right after work and then we are driving the five hours to California.  The cruise actually doesn’t depart from the dock at San Pedro until tomorrow evening at 6:00pm.  I can’t remember the last time we had enough extra money to go on vacation.”
 
Sara sighed, “I can’t remember the last time I had extra money for anything.  My truck payment alone takes almost one whole paycheck.  I don’t know where I would go if I even had some cash to spend.”
 
Debi piped in from her desk in the corner, “I know where I would go if money wasn’t an issue.  I would take the first plane out of here to Paris.  I could sit in a café somewhere drinking coffee and writing poetry.”
 
“Poetry?” Sara asked.  “I would be happy paying off my truck.  If I had any money leftover, I would get out of town and start driving north.  I could drive up to Toronto and learn how to ski.  Heck, if I had enough money I would head out and not look back.  No offense, Debi and Diane because I appreciate that you hired me here, but the pay is terrible.  We work with all this money and yet don’t get any of it.”
 
“Well,” Diane began. “Banking certainly doesn’t pay very much even for the managers.  My daughter and I could certainly use some extra cash.  If I could get my hands on some I would take her to Europe to see the world.  Hey Debi, maybe we could stop by and visit you in Paris?”
 
“Of course!”  Debi replied, “We could all have croissants together!  Speaking of lots of money, did you remember to order all that cash for Mr. Willcott?”
 
“You mean the $900,000?  Yeah, I ordered it back on Wednesday so the armored car service should be here any minute with it.”
 
The morning continued on with a few customers cashing checks and not much else in the way of excitement.  Business went on as usual and everyone settled in for a busy afternoon.  At first, no one saw them.  It had to have been around 2:00pm because lunches had just finished.  Diane was with Sara in the vault counting Mr. Willcott’s money since he was on his way in.  Carla was helping a customer and Debi was in the middle of giving her an approval in the computer system when she looked up and her heart jumped up into her throat.  Two men in masks were standing in the lobby.  One had a pistol in his hand, pointing it at them.  The other man was guarding the door with a shotgun.  It was the look in their eyes that was really terrifying.  One glared at Carla and Debi while the other scanned the bank.  The one on the left was a little bit taller maybe six feet tall and wearing a gray shirt and jeans.  He demanded to know who else was there.
 
Debi’s voice trembled, “Um, there are just four of us.  The manager and the other teller are in the back.”
 
He growled, “Get them out here.”
 
She walked a shaky few feet towards the vault and yelled back to Diane and Sara, “Get out of here , now!”  She was sure that they would hear the panic in her voice and she hoped they would think to hide at least some of the money they were counting. 
 
Diane’s head appeared around the corner of the doorway and she was about to say something when she saw Debi’s face.  She grabbed Sara and walked behind the counter to join them.  The man on the right was about five feet nine inches tall with a slender build.  He was in jeans as well but his shirt was black.
 
“No it wasn’t,” Sara interrupted, “His shirt was navy.”
 
“I’m the one telling the story and besides, it was black.”  Diane threw her a glance.  “Don’t you remember what we decided?”
 
Sara quickly fell silent and Diane continued.
 
The man in black pointed his rifle at Diane and told her to lock the front door.  She hurried to do as he had asked and then he said, “You and I are going to the vault.”
 
She replied, “I only have one set of keys.  Sara, you’ll have to come to the vault with us.”
 
While the three of them were in the vault, Carla and Debi unloaded the cash drawers.  The pistol followed their every move.  He had thrown them a black duffel bag, “I want this bag completely filled.  No funny money!”
 
They had never been so scared and their hands shook as they frantically packed in whatever they could find: cash, coin, receipts, and deposit tickets, whatever would make the bag look full.  They were too afraid of being shot to put in the bait money.  While they were cleaning out the teller drawers, Sara and Diane completely cleaned out the vault.  Everything was taken.  They even took the travelers checks and full heavy boxes of coin. 
 
“Ok, get down on the ground.  Don’t move!  I want to hear all of you start counting to one hundred.”
 
The women quickly fell to their knees and stretched out on the ground.  “One, two, three...” Mere seconds later they heard the latch click on the back door and they started shaking with relief.  Diane called the police immediately while Carla, Sara and Debi struggled to calm down.
 
“So officer, that’s exactly how it happened.  The two men appeared out of nowhere, took over the branch and took everything.”
 
The officer packaged up the frayed wires from the security cameras in an envelope and reviewed his notes.
 
“Well ladies, I think that will just about do it.  You should all go home.  If I have any more questions I’ll give you a call.  Don’t worry, we’ll find these guys.”
 
Diane escorted the officers out with a thank you and locked the door behind them.  She glanced at her loyal staff.  “Are you guys ready?”
 
Everyone exchanged relieved nods that it was all over and hurried to gather their belongings.  Each of them had their purse and carried at least one piece of luggage as they headed out the door.  Sara hurried to catch up with Carla.  She shoved in a couple hundreds that were sticking out of Carla’s purse and quickly zipped it up the last little bit.  “Your trip money was falling out,” she explained with a meaningful glance. Diane and Debi trailed behind, weighed down by the bags they carried.  They threw one last glance at each other before getting into their cars.  Debi threw up her hand, “Au revoir.”  Diane smiled as she started up her car; and away they all went.
 
 
 
 Bio:Desiree Goris has not yet robbed a bank, although during her 7 years working in banking she thought up many ways it could be done.  View more of her work at www.geocities.com/desireegoris
 

 

 
Butterflies and Toiletbowls 
       
     by  

     J.C. Lee

First, I must state that where a kindergartener sits on the noontime bus is no reflection of his or her social status. Social status suggests there is a pecking order, beginning with the coolest and ending with the lamest. Honestly, in a world where the most together person just licks the paste rather than eats it, such a hierarchy cannot exist. Personally, I do not think the word cool can apply to this particular age group, weird maybe, but not cool.

It is important to note this distinction about the world of the kindergartener in order to truly grasp the personage of Barry Kalopski (a connoisseur of paste and devoted class clown.) Barry Kalopski, the boy destined to be voted "most likely to serve extended prison time" in our high school yearbook, did not begin his academic career with the ultimate goal of becoming a juvenile delinquent, and eventual, burden on society.

He simply had a problem with sitting still, remaining silent and focusing for more than three minutes at a time (now a days he would be diagnosed with ADHD, prescribed Ritalin™ and taken to a therapist twice a week to discuss the frustrations and pressures he experienced as a color-blind five-year-old.) But Barry wasn’t living in such a sensitive decade (in fact, corporal punishment had only recently peetered out) and he was quickly labeled a troublemaker.

As aforementioned, no hierarchy concerning social status existed in this waist high world, so therefore Barry was not a victim of the labeling that comes with such a system. However, Barry was always getting yelled at; Barry was always being sent to stand out in the hall; Barry had to stay inside with Ms. Starr at recess; Barry, the only child with his own desk, had it pushed up against the teacher’s, so she could "keep an eye on him."

Mr. Kalopski was a social outcast, based almost entirely on the position of his seat and the class assumption that the teacher "didn’t like him." We all did our best to avoid the problem child, Barry Kalopski, for fear we might catch his badness and end up with a desk of our very own, right next to his. Though, it was class policy to steer clear of Barry, he never went unnoticed, due primarily to his raucous insistence that he not be ignored. Our class clown was always good for a laugh, a gasp, or at the very least, a loud bang. To say I liked Barry would be too generous; three-quarters toleration, and sometimes, amusement best categorizes my feelings towards him.

Barry began the day in a horrible mood. From the onset it was easy to tell that he wanted to be anywhere but stationed at his bad-boy desk in the front of the room. When Ms. Starr passed out the poorly copied dittos (marked at the top with the large purplish-blue letters capital and lowercase ‘J’in block-type), the sullen troublemaker folded his arms on his desk and put his head down. As the class, with oversized crayons of varying colors, attempted to recreate the new letter, Barry snatched a green crayon from his box and with fingers tightly wrapped around the wax stick began to heedlessly scribble all over his letter ditto. Ms. Starr showing only slight irritation simply excused him from the exercise by snapping the paper out from under Barry’s furiously moving crayon.

Of course, this did not deter our little mischief-maker, the flesh colored desk with its mock wood finish took to his scrawl as well as the teacher-provided paper. Ms. Starr retaliated by plucking the green graffiti stick from Barry’s hand, which eluded her grasp with the skill of an expert puck handler in the NHL. While this incident holds no humor, and was most likely deleted from my kindergarten retellings, it does establish Barry as being in a particularly foul and rebellious mood.

Ms. Starr, wary of any activity that required the use of paste (she was sure Barry had already consumed by November the amount deemed medically safe for a year), cutting (Barry handled scissors like a convict did a shiv) or writing implements of any kind (for reasons Barry had already demonstrated) decided that a class recitation of the alphabet followed by an exciting round of "shape and color" flashcards would be a safe exercise. Unfortunately, for the battle scarred Ms. Starr, Barry found this scenario to be of prime advantage to his mischief making. As we began to singsong our letters, he took it as his queue to start counting aloud. By the fourth round of 1-10 graduating a level of loudness with each pass, Ms. Starr motioned for us to be silent. Through gritted teeth she addressed Barry, "Mr. Kalopski, we are not counting right now. You are being disruptive."

Barry, pleased with his success, flashed a toothy smile then bowed his head in mock shame, "Yes, Ms. Starr."

"Are you going to behave yourself, now?"

"Yes, Ms. Starr."

"Do I need to send another note home to your mother, Barry?"

"Ye ? I mean ? no, Ms. Starr."

Ms. Starr appeared doubtful, but clearing her throat she changed the subject, "Class we are now going to draw our most favorite thing."

Becky Jenkins (future cheerleader and student body president) waved her hand excitedly, "What’s that Ms. Starr?"

Ms. Starr’s voice softened, "Well, I don’t know, Becky. That’s for you to decide."

Moments later we were all furiously scribbling our five-year-old renditions of rainbows, ponies, flowers, puppies, etcetera. Ms. Starr turned to the beaming Barry, who’s anxious hand made a grasping motion. With a reluctant sigh, and great amount of trepidation, Ms. Starr returned Barry’s crayons. Hungrily snatching the yellow and green box from the nervous woman’s hand, Barry popped the lid off before the cardboard container ever touched his desk. Eyes gleaming with a possessed fever, Barry protectively wrapped his left arm around his oat-colored drawing paper (no one would view his masterpiece until it had reached completion.) Hunched over his canvas, Barry set about his inspired task with all the intensity and fury of a future Jackson Pollack.

Just before milk-time Ms. Starr advised us to finish up. Barry, who had actually remained quiet and naughty-free for twenty minutes, scrambled to bring his creative endeavor to a satisfactory conclusion. He was still working when Ms. Starr began calling out for each student to present his or her drawing to the class. Bobby Andrews (our class’ first jock) held up a picture of himself simultaneously playing soccer, throwing a football and wearing a baseball mitt. Becky had drawn herself standing under a rainbow, hugging, what I assumed was, a puppy (though it most resembled a yellow lizard with big ears) while picking oversized flowers.

Sunshine Doherty (sweet as always) had drawn a picture of her family gathered outside her house, smiling under an equally happy sun. I really don’t remember what I drew, though most likely it had something to do with ponies, rainbows, puppies or what not (after all, the kindergarten artistic repertoire is decidedly limited.) At last our eyes turned to Barry, face gleaming with satisfaction, as he held up his drawing for all to see. Ms. Starr gasped in horror as her shocked hand absently covered her mouth. Fingers sliding over her chin, down her throat and finally resting on her chest, she stuttered, "Barry, that is extremely inappropriate."

As puzzled as the rest of us, Becky Jenkins spoke without raising her hand, "What’s wrong with Barry’s brown butterfly, Ms. Starr? I like butterflies, too." With that she began scrawling a purple one (identical to Barry’s) just above her puppy’s left ear.

Tilting my head to the side, I squinted at Barry’s drawing. I supposed it could be a butterfly, though the wings were too small, the wrong shape and incorrectly placed on its body. Even a five-year-old could tell it had no chance of actually flying anywhere. Before I could finish my assessment, Ms. Starr snatched the paper away from Barry, placed it face down on her desk and ordered Barry to put his head down.

That night we were all sent home with notes to our parents apologizing for Barry’s "inappropriate drawing." Unbeknownst to us, we had been exposed to child pornography (rudimentary though it was.) My mother delicately explained to me that, apparently, Barry Kalopski’s favorite thing was his own "pee-pee" (or pigeon as my best friend’s mother preferred to call it.) To me, it seemed an odd thing to be so fond of, but then again, three-quarters, so were flowers.

I have to believe that Ms. Starr was either a glutton for punishment or simply at the end of her frazzled rope. Pulling out the special scented markers (I always liked purple best because it, of course, smelled like synthetic grapes) she announced that we were going to continue drawing, after our milks were done and the tables were cleaned, but it could be anything we wanted. Everyone found this to be a particularly difficult assignment since most of us had already artistically exhausted ourselves on the last project. As I took a deep whiff of my purple marker, I found myself wondering, "Just how many pictures of rainbows and kittens does this woman need?"

Barry (for reasons I will never truly understand) received his own box of markers from Ms. Starr. It seemed to me like the fight had gone out of her as she handed Barry the carton of trouble without a glance. She offered him no words of caution or looks of warning. She simply gave the collection of markers to Barry and moved on.

I’ve never liked black licorice. This fact makes Barry’s next misbehavior all the more befuddling to me. As Ms. Starr sat composing her carefully worded letter to our parents, and we each grappled with the decision of what in the world to draw, Barry Kalopski’s marker escaped the confines of its two-dimensional prison and found liberation in a three-dimensional world. Barry, having temporarily accepted that furniture did not second as a drawing surface, selected a new vessel for his art - himself. Beginning with his nose, then branching out to his cheeks, chin and forehead, Barry Kalopski began coloring himself in.

For some premonitory reason, Ms. Starr lifted her gaze to Barry just as he had completed his transformation into the kindergarten version of Al Jolsen. Black faced, grinning, and stinking like anise, Barry clicked the lid on his marker and placed it back in the box.

In one fluent movement, Ms. Starr leapt from her seat, skirted around her desk and clutched Barry’s wrist (as gently as she could in such a state) shouting, "Barry, no!"

Raising his also blackened arm above his head, she escorted Barry out of the room (the class "oooed" as they went) and down the hall to the boy’s bathroom. Though Ms. Starr made a great effort at removing Barry’s manufactured ethnicity, in the end she did little more than fade it. Returning with Barry in tow, she paused at the door to our classroom. We could see through the cloudy Plexiglas window her commanding Barry to stand in the hall for the remainder of the morning. He responded with a muffled affirmative and Ms. Starr rejoined her class.

Though Ms. Starr may have been through with Barry, he was not through with her. Settling down onto our naptime mats, a tentative knock on the classroom door could be perceived. Ms. Starr’s jaw tightened at the sound of a tiny voice asking, "Is anybody home?"

"Please ignore him, children. Just lay down and take your nap."

But no one napped that day (or at least not for the first fifteen minutes) Barry would not allow it. If the constant pounding out of "Shave and Haircut" wasn’t enough to keep us awake, the continual choruses of, "Hello? Is anybody in there? Is anybody home?" were.

Oddly enough, at 11:30 Barry fell silent and we, Ms. Starr included, wrongly assumed that Barry had fallen asleep on the mat she had placed in the hallway for him. But this was not the case. Barry, not the least bit worn out, had become bored with drumming on the door, especially since it received no reaction, and had wandered back down to the boy’s bathroom.

Alone and free to explore, Barry began contemplating the use of toilet paper. I assume the question he ultimately asked himself was, "Just how much toilet paper will go down the hole at once?" because when the principal, Dr. McCool, found him he had stuffed the four toilets in the boy’s bathroom with several whole rolls and was repeatedly flushing. Water flowed over the black plastic seats as the boy with the matching black face splashed for joy at his magnum opus, the chaos he had created.

When the fire alarm bell rang, Ms. Starr organized us into a line, counted heads, and opened the door to the hallway. Dr. McCool, Barry’s hand in his, barred our path. Relinquishing his charge to her, he stated, "Ms. Starr, in the future I would hope you would keep a closer watch on your students."

Ms. Starr opened her mouth to respond, but realizing she had no words, offered no excuse. Taking her silence as acquiescence, he cleared his throat and drew himself up in a dignified manner, though his shoes and pant legs from the mid-shin down were sopping, "Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find Mr. Ennich. He has quite a mess to clean up." He paused in his squishing down the hall, "And the main lobby will be closed indefinitely, so please escort your students to the bus platform from the back exit of the school."

Grimacing at the ecstatic Barry, Ms. Starr replied feebly, "Yes, Dr. McCool."

Later that year, in early December, the teachers of our school district went on strike, but as far as I know Ms. Starr never walked the picket line, collected money from the strike fund or even returned to teaching when it was all over. I heard a rumor once that she went back to school to get her degree in forestry and now lives alone in a ranger tower. If this is true, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the mountains of Colorado sometimes echo with the name Barry Kalopski.

  
 Bio: J.C. Lee holds an A.A. in art and a B.A. in English Literature from Holy Family University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She is currently a graduate student at Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pennsylvania and will receive her M.F.A in Creative Writing in May 2007.