The following is an excerpt from my unpublished/unfinished novel TUTTI, Chapter 4: “Bastard Mounds”.
Mary Beth stopped dead in her tracks and watched the tan, blond jock who made that comment as he walked past her.
?How?s it going, Zit-Tits?? said his friend, following closely behind.
?Word up, Tit-Zits!? yelled a third.
Embee stood with her mouth agape. Her face (as much of it that was not obscured by red splotches) turned ghostly pale.
?You mother fuckers!? Nicky turned and yelled after them. ?You come back and say that, you dumb ass fucking jocks!?
Turning to Mary Beth, she put her arm across her shoulder and said, ?Forget them.?
But Embee couldn?t. ?Zit-Tits?, or alternately ?Tit-Zits?, was a nickname that Mary Beth had unwillingly acquired during the previous semester. In a rare fit of enthusiasm for her surroundings she had joined the drill team ? in effect a group of forty girls who wore sparkly outfits and did dance routines during halftime at the football games. It wasn?t nearly as cool as being on the cheerleading squad, but it seemed like it might be fun; and better yet, it was open to anyone. The end result was that you had a squad with thirty or so semi-popular girls, with a few errant fat girls with higher self-confidence than usual thrown in, and a selection of funny-looking misfits like Mary Beth. And she did have a lot of fun, for the first few weeks of the semester, at least; even though Nicky teased her mercilessly, she felt she had made a few friends and that her self-esteem had improved by leaps and bounds.
And so it was that she found herself in the girls? locker room on an evening one Friday in October, changing into her sparkly outfit in preparation for that night?s halftime extravaganza. Although many of the girls had absolutely no problem hanging out in the locker room half-naked in front of each other, Mary Beth was far too timid to take off her clothes in front of so many people. Even their coach was in there, a middle-aged lady, twenty nine or something, and she wasn?t changing but she was trying to get everyone pumped up for their big performance.
Mary Beth opted to change inside a toilet stall. Unfortunately, she wasn?t the only timid one, because all the stalls in the girls? locker room were already occupied. But she noticed that the locker room was much bigger than she had originally thought, so she continued turning corners and walking past banks of lockers until she?d found a spot that was suitably isolated from everyone, a room that had concrete walls and was recessed somewhat into the ground. She took off her pants and draped them over a nearby chair. She unbuttoned her shirt, took it off, and draped it over the chair as well. Standing in her underwear, she contemplated a time, at some point in the future, when she would actually start wearing a bra. She was not optimistic, for, as her mother told her, ?Large doesn?t run in this family.?
The room itself was full of all sorts of old, unused chairs and tables, and contained dozens upon dozens of cardboard boxes, their contents an utter mystery. Just then, she saw it: a tiny, emaciated little kitty was poking its way behind the boxes. At least, it looked like a kitty. Mary Beth forgot herself and approached it.
?Kitty?? she intoned. ?Kitty kitty??
The cat looked up, met her gaze, and dashed into the maze of boxes. Mary Beth followed quickly behind it.
?Here, kitty. Come here, kitty.? She was sure she could somehow trap it.
Suddenly, loud voices began to pour into the room. Mary Beth stood behind the boxes, in shock, and the noise increased as people filed into the room from what seemed like three directions at once. The cat quickly scampered off.
Some of the voices were close enough to her that she could pick them out.
?All right, everybody, crouch down.?
?Turn on the radio!?
?Do you think they?ll cancel the game??
Mary Beth huddled in the corner in a complete panic. She began to desperately claw at her forehead, trying to think of a way to arrange things that would retroactively eliminate her current situation.
A particularly strong, distinctive male voice boomed above the others. ?Okay, everyone, what we need to do is take attendance, make sure everyone is accounted for. We don?t want anybody outside in that.?
?Is the game cancelled, Coach?? asked a slightly-higher pitched male voice.
?Yes,? the strong voice continued, ?the other team has notified us that there?s no way in hell ? excuse me, heck ? that they are driving their bus here through the tornado.?
?A tornado?? muttered Mary Beth to herself. She looked around. Well, the room did seem like an adequate tornado shelter. She huddled even more tightly and attempted not to cry.
Within moments, three different people were calling attendance ? two male voices, one female. Mary Beth knew the female voice was her coach; she figured the other two were probably an assistant football coach and the director of the marching band. Her eyes glazed over when she realized how many people were there with her in the room, which was not all that large.
Eventually, her coach came to her name. Embee did not answer. She sat, tight-lipped, hoping no one would see her, no one would find her.
?Mary Beth?? the coach repeated. ?Anyone seen Mary Beth??
?I saw her earlier,? someone said. ?I know she?s here.?
?Isn?t that what she was wearing earlier?? someone else said, obviously pointing to the clothes she had left draped over the chair. Mary Beth hoped and prayed that no one spotted her empty drill team uniform, or things would be very highly suspicious indeed. Fortunately, for the moment, it was being unwittingly sat upon by a clueless sousaphone player, who, while not as big as, say, Joel, was large enough and encumbered enough in his own uniform that he did not notice the terrible mess of sequins and taffeta underneath his bottom.
?Margaret, run back through the locker room, see if you can find her.?
?All right,? said someone who was apparently Margaret.
The coach continued on with her list. Everyone was accounted for except Mary Beth, who continued to huddle and began to squeeze her lips together so tightly that they began to crack and bleed underneath her teeth.
?She?s not in there, I looked everywhere,? Margaret stated, out of breath as she ran back down into the room.
?Well, shit,? said her coach. ?Crap. Excuse me, crap.?
Two football players volunteered to conduct a wider search. ?What does she look like, again?? one of them asked.
?Um,? said the coach. ?Margaret??
?She?s got straight, light brown hair, she?s really skinny, with kind of a complexion problem.? Mary Beth frowned as she heard a few giggles from the crowd. She also wondered who the heck Margaret was and why she knew so much about what Mary Beth looked like. ?And she should be in one of our uniforms, so you can?t miss her,? Margaret continued.
?All right, we?ll be right back,? said the other player.
Then again, thought Mary Beth, it was kind of nice to have people looking for her like that, especially football players, who would sooner spit on her than speak to her on any normal day. As she began to consider the possibility of being rescued from a storm by a handsome football player, the cat made a sudden, unexpected reappearance, darting out between two of the boxes, this time in pursuit of a tiny grey dot which moved quickly across the floor.
Mary Beth screamed.
She couldn?t remember exactly how many people came rushing back to check on her after she screamed; she just remembered that there were hordes, and that all of them were back there before she had a chance to attempt to conceal her naked upper torso; so her memory was that hordes of people got a free show. Which would not have been quite as traumatizing, had some faceless entity a couple rows in not yelled, ?She?s got zit-tits!? She wasn?t sure whether he meant that her tits were the size of zits, which was an exaggeration but not inaccurate, or that her tits were covered in zits, which was unfortunately right on the money; and the rest of the crowd seemed to be initially confused about this at first, but promptly forgot about their confusion when a chant began ? because everyone loves a good rhyme.
?ZIT! TITS! ZIT! TITS! ZIT! TITS!?
Daily Hey Magic Number: 7