Earworm: Part 4 — A Crab in the Sand

EarwormContinued from: Earworm: Part 3 — The Earworm 

It was first period. The students of Hope’s math class waited for Ms. Bradford, who had a knack for arriving perfectly synchronized with the late bell.

William Knight.

There was that name again, clicking in Hope’s mind like a person keying a ham radio’s handset. But why did the name nag her as if she was supposed to recognize it. As if she was supposed to remember something?

A few straggling students arrived, and when the bell rang, Ms. Bradford lumbered into the room like a giant, white rhino—a short, wide relic with gray-streaked hair and bulging eyes that seemed capable of rotating independent of one another like the eyes of a chameleon. Students of an ancient alumni class had dubbed her the “Bradasaurus,” and like all folklore, the name passed from generation to generation by older siblings saying, Oh, I see you got the Bradasaurus this year. The woman dropped a stack of books and papers on the desk with a thud, and after regarding the class with her rotating eyes, she plopped into her seat. The springs of the chair screaming for mercy. Then, seemingly keeping one eye on the class and one eye on the stack of papers, she fished out the attendance list. Without any acknowledgement of the students seated before her, she wheezed the name, “Katie Adams.”

“Heee-re,” Katie sang in response.

“John Doherty,” Ms. Bradford said. She paused for the answer. None came. “John Doherty,” Ms. Bradford repeated with more bass resonating in her voice. One of her eyes glared at John, who was busy mouthing something to his neighbor.

John’s neighbor cleared his throat, gesturing with his eyebrows toward the Bradasaurus. John turned with a stunned look on his face. “Yeah?”

“Are you here, John?”

“Uh…”

“Shouldn’t be a question you need to think about.”

“Yeah.”

“Good,” Ms. Bradford said, making an attempt at a smile. After a few more names, Ms. Bradford said, “Hope Ferretti.”

Hope was about to answer when she noticed, scrawled on the wood surface of the desk in smudged pencil wisps, the words: Hope Feretey’s got great tits!

“Hope Ferretti?” Ms. Bradford repeated.

“Um, yeah, I’m here.”

“Wonderful. I’m so proud that you all are mastering roll call. With a little more practice, I believe you will all have the knack of answering when your name is called.”

Hope shook her head as she erased the smudged sentiment regarding her tits. She supposed it could have been any of the testosterone overdosed males of the eleventh grade that had written it. Or she figured it could have been Melody Belum—whose very public coming-out, when she snuck onto the school’s intercom and proclaimed, “I’m a proud lesbian,” brought raucous cheers from the student body—but Hope figured Melody would have at least spelled Ferretti correctly. Hope had all but erased her name from the desktop when Ms. Bradford said, “William Knight.”

Hope stopped erasing and looked at Ms. Bradford, as if confirming the woman had spoken.

The response came from over Hope’s shoulder. Someone saying, “Here.”

Hope’s head snapped back. In the back corner of the room, scrunched down like a crab trying to bury itself in sand, was the new kid. His dark eyes met her gaze for a moment. The kid flinched, looking as if wanting to bury himself a little more. And a strange, convulsive chill raced up Hope’s spine. It was a nondescript feeling of vague association, but association to what, she wasn’t quite sure.

Continued in: Earworm: Part 5 — About Time 

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