Continued from: Earworm: Part 10 — Sound Advice
Hope sat in math class, in her usual seat, in her usual way—her cheek leaning on her hand, elbow leaning on the desk. Her black hair, out of its customary ponytail, cascaded down her shoulders and back, hanging, draping over her hand and cheek and arm and elbow. She wanted to close her eyes, just for a minute, just a quick nap. Thoughts of a dream tickled her memory, but the images of it hung just out of reach.
The sun streaked through the classroom windows. The clock buzzed on the wall. Someone watched her. She flinched, straightening in her seat, looking around the room.
A few scattered students settled into their seats. Hope glanced out the classroom’s doorway. In the hall, students rushed to their first period class. All rushing it seemed, except for Jimmy Ringwald, Paul Drake, and Bobby Connors. The three boys leaning against a row of lockers, rolling their eyes and cupping their hands into different cup sizes as they discussed with great animation the unparalleled-life-sustaining-magnificence of the female breast, halleluiah. Jimmy Ringwald would occasionally fix his gaze on Hope, his eyes darting away when she caught him. Hope figured it could have been one of these bozos that scribbled about her great tits on the desktop. In the hall, the boys spotted something coming their way, something that was obviously in possession of breasts. Then Debbie Roderick and her substantial bustline whisked past the boys and into Ms. Bradford’s classroom.
“Hey, Hope,” Debbie said, nestling into the seat next to Hope.
“Hi, Deb,” Hope said, watching the breast-worshipers outside the room nod approval for Debbie’s “rack.” Jimmy was watching Hope again, this time not averting his eyes. Jim, Paul, Bobby—Tom, Dick, Harry—they were the same kid. Mass-produced. Typical, middleclass, uninteresting physically or mentally, only knowing how to start conversations about car chases and professional wrestling. And of course tits and ass. Jimmy’s ogling eyes glimmered with the prospect that maybe, just maybe, Hope wanted him, that she would forget all about Sean Hamill or Joel Fitch and go out with Jimmy Ringwald instead. Hope couldn’t help herself, she winked at him and seductively pouted her lips. Then she turned her attention to Debbie.
She heard Jimmy’s ecstatic voice coming from the hall, “Did you guys see that? Hey. Hey. Hope just winked at me. Why are you making that face? I swear it.”
“How’re you doing, Deb?” Hope said.
“I’m fine.” Debbie said. She was frantically scratching numbers and symbols onto a piece of notebook paper. “I’ve got to get this done. Did you do the homework?”
“Yeah. It wasn’t that hard,” Hope said. She left Debbie alone with her homework and resumed her cheek-propping as the noise of the hallway continued, minutes counting down to the bell, students headed to class—some going fast, some walking slow, some in a rush, some in a stall, and the three breast-worshipers not moving at all.
“Look, here comes that new kid,” Jimmy said to his comrades. Hope turned to see William Knight walking toward the room, and the memories of her dream deluged into her mind. She remembered her and this boy flying above the clouds. And as William stepped into the room, and Hope looked into his eyes, it felt as if he was someone she’d known all her life. His eyes found hers, and for a moment, he looked like a spooked owl, staring. Then Jimmy’s voice came from behind him, “Hey, what’s up, homo?”
William turned and looked back at Jimmy. Paul and Bobby stifled goofy chortles. “What?” William said to Jimmy.
“I said, ‘what’s up, Homer,’” Jimmy said. “I thought that was your name.”
William’s eyes narrowed. “It’s William,” he said. “William Knight.”
William started toward his desk when Jimmy called from the hall, “You’re a fag.”
“What?” William said.
“I said, ‘don’t forget to salute the flag,’” Jimmy said. “You should be sure to do that every morning. Do you have a problem with that, Homer?”
“Um, no,” William said.
Jimmy’s friends broke into laughter. Jimmy basked in the attention like a matador accepting roses from a crowd. He looked in at Hope, his smile devouring his face. Hope regarded Jimmy’s smiling. Then she looked at William, remembering holding his hand and streaking triumphantly through the sky. But now he looked lost and faded.
“I know you’re new here,” Hope said to William, “but you’ll have to excuse Jimmy. He was born with no dick.”
“Ow,” Jimmy’s friends said.
Jimmy’s eyes filled with an unsure expression. Did Hope Ferretti just tattoo him as dickless? His face contorted, and he retreated to the other popularity cannibals for consoling.
Hope looked at William, their eyes locking again for a moment, but he dropped his gaze to the floor as Ms. Bradford lumbered in through the door and the bell rang. He started back toward his seat when Hope called, “Hey.”
William turned to face her.
“Don’t let those idiots get to you,” she said.
He managed a smile and then darted to his seat.
Hope organized her things for class. She glanced over her shoulder at him. He caught her gaze again, but averted his eyes when Ms. Bradford started calling attendance.
Continued in: Earworm: Part 12 — The Treasure Chest