Rats

If you rub a mouse on the nose,
It will pee in your palm.
I poke the moist, fuzzy snout
Then set it on Marian’s backpack.
She hated me, deserved the dark
Droplet trickling down the monogrammed leather
Maybe her bag would discolor, orange to purple
Maybe it’d waft a sour smell, everyone thinking
Marian doesn’t shower, Marian has B.O.!
All the mice liked me
If I were the Pied Piper,
They’d prance faithfully after my panpipe
I put a satiny one in my pencil box
It was April Fool’s Day
Mrs. Chanda taught math next period
I waited until the class settled, and winked
My best friend giggled when
The mouse darted under the tables
Blurred toward Marion’s foot
She stood up and screamed
Perched atop her chair like
Dumbo balancing on a tight rope
I snickered and pointed
I hated Mrs. Chanda, too
We called her Fungus Fingers
Her nails were grimy, concrete gray
Like sticks of string cheese
Left to mold in the vegetable drawer
A chalk allergy, she claimed
Of course we knew better, whispers circled
Hooted at her daughter’s photograph
Fat and ugly, it chimed, greasy hair and glasses
Happy, I was having fun
In the grocery store, Kroger’s
My cousin Kevin, we ogled
Rainbow bins of gummi bears, bubble gum
Foil-wrapped hearts and stars
Let’s get some, he insisted,
Grandma will let us buy it
And shoveled a wad of chocolate into his pocket
Of course. nodding, the same I
Plunged my hand into the Hershey Kisses,
Tucked my reward inside my jacket and
Kept walking away, chin high.
Soon after, Grandma found out,
I don’t remember how she knew,
Just that we emptied our pockets out
Sneaky, sliding the sticky wrappers into
A trash can, before anyone could see.
My cheeks flushed red, I knew
Stealing was wrong.
Grandma dropped me home that day,
Mentioned nothing about the shopping trip
My mom hugged me, sent me inside
Maybe she thought I was too young
To tell between right and wrong,
I didn’t know the difference, really
Only knew the churning of a stomach choking vomit.

April 30, 2002

Much to my amusement, this piece went on to win a Columbia Scholastic Press award in the “humor” category.

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