A SHORT STORY BY ANDREA WROBEL
- EMILY KENDY
Pause for a second. My name is Samantha Able and I am currently choking on the little pink bit of eraser that used to be attached to my HB number 2 pencil. I liked the way the little pink prince squeaked against the edges of my teeth. Like it was shining my canines up real nice. In the precise moment the little jerk came loose I was fantasizing about scrubbing the two so white that people would think I was a vamp at first glance, just because they’d stand out more than the others. I could hear the squeaking in my head and wondered if it was as loud to anybody else. No one seemed interested. I was almost invisible. But I guess I got a little too into it. Squeak, squeak, squeak. It’s good to have goals. Squeak, squeak, I did, trying to see if anyone would turn around. Is the lecture that boring? Maybe they’re all asleep. Squeak, squeak. Like a symphony of a dollar store quartet. That’s probably where Aunt Nancy got these HBs from. Are they even real? I checked. They’re real. Aunt Nancy only ever shops at Value Plus (damn those discounts) and No Dollar Taller (and damn this little pink prince now wedged in my throat so stubbornly I might actually die).
I might actually die.
Let me paint the rest of the picture for you.
I am choking on a little pink eraser in the large lecture hall in the east wing of Saint Anthony Bessette College and I am here not because I am a part of this class but because Abigail told me our plan to sabotage Claire Jenson would be in full effect and I wanted to see it pan out. And I am not only proud that I snuck into the class and am here sitting three rows behind Claire Jensen, in plain sight of her long dark fish-tailed braid, but that I would actually be here, in the flesh, to see it all go down. Unfortunately, my biggest excitement isn’t the stupid plan anymore. It’s whether or not my face is turning purple and, more accurately, which shade of purple it was at now, and how quiet I could continue to be while I slowly but surely died a very unholy death.
My name is Samantha Able, I scribbled on my paper. No one would know who I was because I wasn’t supposed to be there, so I thought I should help them identify my body. Everyone will get up to leave and I’ll be slumped in my seat, eyes wide (because I read they don’t shut on their own), plum complexion, and wholly dead. The teacher will call out, ‘Scuse me! Class is ended! and I’ll either fall limp into the aisle and begin rolling down the steps like a slinky because I am dead or I won’t move at all which might actually be worse.
Oh geez. I lied a little just now. I told myself I wouldn’t use Aunt Nancy as an excuse anymore and I tried to brush over that last slip up there but I’ve got to face the truth. Especially if I’m about to die. Truth is there is no Aunt Nancy. Well, there is. There was. She’s moved on, just as I’m doing now (the dying part). But the truth is I can’t look at myself in the mirror without seeing her face! I am morphing into the woman! That wide-eyed old bag used to give me eye shadow from No Dollar Taller so I could get in to the PG-13 movies at Smuggler’s Alley. She used to rummage junk stores just so I could fit in. I hated it. So you could see why I’d hesitate to admit I found myself poking around a dollar store for school supplies so I could pretend I go to college.
Who am I kidding? I stick out like a sore thumb. Whatever happened to taking notes into a notebook? With paper. From trees. And with pencils. This must have happened before. Someone died from choking on a damn eraser and now no one uses the things. I wonder what happened to that sorry soul. ‘I’ll see you soon!’ I thought as I tried to swallow again but couldn’t.
My name is Samantha Able, I wrote again in haste. Damn. Idiot can’t think clearly. Already wrote that. Flip the pencil, erase, TEAR. Idiot! Choking idiot! I’m going to die an idiot! My entire page tore as I tried to erase the second declaration of my identity because the eraser was in my throat and not on the end of my pencil as it should be and the silver metal attachment does nothing but destroy. We all know that! But unbeknownst to me, at the sound of the tear, a few students turned to look at the spectacle I’d become. They didn’t ask if I needed help or if I wanted to live though – I’d like to point that out. My face was probably a perfect shade of plum and no one thought the wiser. Kids these days. They’re so god damn stupid.
Now my page is torn, I’m finding it hard to breathe, I’m the perfect shade of plum, and I notice that the kid I saw Abigail talking to outside Loose Juice earlier just sat behind Claire Jenson. The plan has commenced and I might not live to see it’s beautiful and satisfying corollary. I will be dead. I am almost positive I will be dead by then.
But it was nice that Abigail jumped aboard this wild ride. Shocked me, anyway. This whole plan was her idea, actually. Think I mentioned that. She almost lost her hat when I finally told her what Claire did to Rolf. I hesitated telling her ‘cause it’s crazy for me to suck someone like Abigail, so naively busy with her little friends and her plastic phone, into this whole Claire Jenson thing. But Rolf is technically her dog. She doesn’t do a goddamn thing for him but if we’re going to count cards, he’s technically her dog. And if I die, Rolf will technically and most definitely be her dog.
Rolf and I are so screwed.
But Abigail has one thing going for her and it’s this plan.
I can assure you that, despite my ramblings on, only a few mere moments have passed. The explanations in my brain accelerate at paces even I cannot keep up with so although seems I should be dead by now, I, in fact, still have plenty more time to pass over thoughts inside my mind. How lucky we all are. The mind is curious that way, isn’t it. I am dying and I can’t even declare my own identity. See? How we are ever able to get things down with letters and words is beyond me. Perhaps I should help the 6 o’clock journalist writing the story about my death by giving her something interesting to say about me. She might have trouble with words keeping up with thoughts, too.
Lactose intolerant, I write.
Ice cream okay.
Eyes change colour. Weather dependent.
Right breast bigger. Right foot the same as breast. Bigger than left, I mean. Foot not a breast. Dropped on left side as baby? (Look into this.)
Straight edge. Sometimes. No. I cross this out. That’s a lie. Why am I lying so much? Do I want to be remembered as a liar? Let’s go with…
Better. This is a good start. I will come off nice and conscious but not prudish because of the ice cream comment. It says: I am aware but I still take chances. The stuff about my body will make me seem magical and then a bit off-kilter. If I plant the idea that I was dropped as a child it will create sympathy and, when they excavate my house and find all my diaries, it will help the common folk understand my brilliance. Me being dropped doesn’t even have to be true. You just plant the idea and they all go with it. People are such mules. I am doing everything right. This is going to be the most controlled and unusual death since the one at the Thompson where that man jumped from the window while sipping a double espresso because he thought it would make him more “grounded.” Perhaps I should feed them the premise for my death as well. People need to be so coddled these days. And I could make it funny. Funny is always nice.
Samantha Able died choking on the pink eraser of an improperly bonded HB number 2 pencil (this directs the blame), however proudly, in an attempt to expunge the world around her from the demonizing personalities that haunted her daily.
Is that too much? I know the news is written at a sixth grade level but it never hurts to educate the masses. The be all and end all here is that Claire Jenson, specifically, gets expunged. Erased… Ironically. But what valiant hero ever names names? I don’t need to name the demonizing personality I refer to. I must go out on top. I must –
Damn. God righteous damn. The teacher has spotted me. And the classroom has emptied. I scan the exits for signs of Claire. Or that kid Abigail spoke to.
The teacher is talking to me and she is saying exactly what I thought she’d say. ‘Scuse me, ‘scuse me.
She’s going on. Perhaps I should listen.
“Ma’am? Are you lost?”
While my head was down scribbling my obituary and other things about Claire Jenson’s horribly ugly fish tail braid I didn’t even see her leave. And everyone else leave. And so now I am here with the teacher asking me why I’m still here, if I’m lost, if I belong here. (I inferred that.) And I’m wondering, yes, why am I still here? Have I not yet died? Have I not yet become a dark violet shade of night sky? Am I not drinking champagne with the greats? Could I really be sitting here still in this chair in the hall in this class I don’t even belong to?
In a now much more obvious moment of my un-belonging to this class I speak up.
“I came with Claire.”
Why did I say that? I will now be an accessory to whatever happens in whatever Abigail’s plan is. I have just directly and openly declared a connection between myself to the most troubling part of my life.
“Claire?” the teacher pauses. “Oh, Claire Jenson, the mid
dle-aged woman, yes.”
It was in this moment that I realize I have swallowed the eraser. The teacher declares Claire not a person or student or being but a middle-aged woman and I must be her friend. I’m also a middle-aged woman, so I must be her friend. Because all middle-aged women are friends. And all middle-aged women go to college together. This goes straight to my stomach, this anger, and it gurgles, which means I have intestinal blockage and abdominal pain to look forward to. Out of anger and eraser. Maybe even death if I’m allergic to rubber. And irritation. How are you ever sure what you’re really allergic to? How are you ever sure of anything? Rolf is in the car. I should take him for a pee. I’m sure of that. But this moment may mark the beginning of the end for me. And Claire Jenson has gone off somewhere, probably crying over the damage Abigail’s plan has done, and I may not live to see the benefits that will have on my life. Because I ate an eraser.
My name is Samantha Able and I’m screwed. I might actually die. A middle-aged woman in a college classroom and I don’t even go to college. But I accept it.
“If we go down, we go down together, Claire Jenson.”
But the teacher has gone. And so has Claire. And the only thing I hold close to me now is my hand to my stomach because I am no longer choking, but surely dying. I am dying from eraser poisoning. But this buys me time.
I reach into my pocket and pull out a map of the college. Red dotted lines tell me where Claire should be headed. Looks like I’ll pass Loose Juice on the way. Abigail said she’d meet me there after. I can tell her about the new timeline. I might live long enough to see the end of Claire. I might. But Rolf is in the car. I should go take him for a pee first. God knows Abigail hasn’t done it. ∎