Revenge Chronicle: Nothing BUTT tacks
(Merry Christmas to ME!)
Revenge Risk Rating: Medium
Revenge Date: December 13th, 2011
Dumbest revenge ever! Duct tape and tacks. Ridiculous! But it worked! I think I may be on to something here. Maybe I’ll become a private revenge artist, a type of equalizing justicer. (I made that word up, journal). Yes, that’s it, an equalizer against the boneheads of the world.... (excerpt only a sample)
“Are you sure you don’t want to go with us to the store?” she asked Marula, who powered off the television then grabbed the book off the table next to her.
After another shift of positions, this one now a full pretzel, the same way they used to sit during elementary story time at Maman’s library in Botswana, Marula answered. “No, I am fine. Really, I am. Go with dad and explore. And meet someone.”
“I don’t want to explore and meet “someone” without you.” Tessa arose from the stool, where she had been waiting for their father to get off the phone so they could leave and made her way across the wide living room.
“Now, don’t make me feel guilty…again,” Marula chimed, tilting her head back against the chair to look up at Tessa.
Tessa peered down at her sister from over the back of the chair. Marula’s facial features looked back at her, only upside down. “I would never do such a thing!” she faked a gasp and then kissed her sister on the top of the head. Marula’s lush, golden hair tickled against her lips and chin.
Marula made a “sheesh,” sound and closed her eyes. A broad, sleepy smile cracked across her lips, and she reached above her head and hugged Tessa’s head as if it weren’t attached to her body and was just a floating, ball-like orb.
Speaking from inside the squished head hug, Tessa said, “Okay, but don’t forget that I asked, especially when you tell me later how you wished you’d romped around town with dad and me instead of hanging with the old ladies.”
“Hey!” their mother’s voice called from across the large, open room where she was snapping a puzzle piece into place. “I beg to differ on that “old lady” comment. I am a strapping, young forty…ish something that hiked Kilimanjaro last year.”
“Oh please, you didn’t even want to use the long drop toilets on the mountain,” their dad said with a wink at Tessa as he came into the room, his grey jacket in one hand and snapping his phone to his belt clip with the other.
“Well, who would want to use the bathroom in a wooden box surrounding a deep hole?” Tessa’s grandmother said patting the top of their mother’s hand. Mikael sat on the other side of a small, square table also searching through puzzle pieces. “And I bet those huts were cold inside.”
Tessa’s mother shuttered at the memory. “They were! And my butt swaying over a hole in the ground was enough to make my pee change its mind and stay inside my body.”
Everyone let out a laugh that echoed off the tall ceilings like a surround sound stereo.
Todd, their father, took long strides across the room and kissed Mikael. “I’m still proud of you,” he said.
Mikael responded with a smile then grabbed the front of his jacket and pulled him back to her for another, longer, kiss.
When their lips met the third time, both Tessa and Marula rolled their eyes and made gagging sounds.
“Alright, you two love birds break it up,” Gram said with a chuckle. “Todd, you need to go before the stores close.”
With matching smiles, Tessa’s parents held each other eyes. They appeared to be exchanging a secret telepathy.
Todd finally said with a quiet voice, as if Mikael was his only audience, “We’ll be back in a little bit.”
“Okay, Love,” she said letting go of the hold she had on his jacket.
Before heading out, Todd kissed their grandmother on the cheek and then kissed Marula on the top of the head.
Tessa glanced back at Marula as she closed the front door, sealing in the image of her sister, the book open, her legs still crossed, her hair now hanging long over her face. A little brighter, she thought, but still not the same.
“You do know this nation has a blood pressure problem, right?” the girl said, sitting down in the empty booth on the other side of Benji’s table. She reached over and took a fry off his plate, dipped it into his ketchup, and ate it as if it was food she had ordered.
“Hey!” he said, crumpling his napkin into a ball and resisting the urge to pound the table and make a scene. Pizza is the famous staple at Maria's Corner Café in Depot Town, but today Benji came straight from school for two things: cheese fries and a slice of apple pie.
“I saved a year of your life eating that fry. You should thank me.” The stranger smiled, took another fry, sloshed it through the ketchup again and ate, mumbling, “Two years now.”
The girl’s hair was the color of tree bark and set high on her head in a ponytail puff of curls that fumbled and fought against each other to be set free. She wore big silver hoop earrings but no makeup that he could tell. A flash image of the gypsy street performers he sometimes sees out on Main Street—guitars in hand and singing for the people passing by—went through his mind.
“How exactly are you saving my life?” He glared at her, feeling a mix of offense and intrigue. There was a faint dimple on her chin that disappeared when her smile faded.
“Well, I was over there,” she pointed to the end of the long cafeteria counter, over where pies sit in a tall, spinning glass case, “and I noticed you pick up the ketchup, squirt it in several circles, mouth the count of exactly how many circles you made, and proceed to shake the salt, not over your fries, but over your circle-counted ketchup. I'm betting you're unusual, and possibly rushing yourself toward an early high-blood-pressure induced death so I thought I would lend my help and try to save you.”
“Three years,” she declared, her smile shining triumphantly while reaching for another fry, this one drooping under the weight of mozzarella and bacon bits. She put her other hand under her mouth in order to keep it from toppling onto the table. “Plus, I am new here and my goal is to introduce myself to someone today.” She shoved the whole glob into her mouth. Chewing fast, she wiped her hand on a napkin and extended it across the table. “Hi, I'm Contessa, Contessa Knightly.”
Cautiously, questioningly he extended his hand and shook hers. “Benji.”
“Short for Benjamin, right? You did count those circles, didn't you?”
His face warmed as if caught on hidden camera doing something personal and embarrassing. Tilting his whole head down toward the plate of fries, he proceeded to separate the area she touched, pushing it to the outer rim.
“Well, did you?” She seized another fry, this one from the fringes of the plate as if he separated them for her to share.
Stiffening his back, he met her eyes head on and slowly nodded his head.
She helped herself to a fry and a stray bacon bit piece. “There's four years.”
“If you are counting one fry per year of my life saved then shouldn't I be near death? You know, for all the times I've already eaten here, with salt in my ketchup. If that's how you are counting.”
She smiled so big and genuine it made his stomach do a peculiar flip flop. Her teeth were absurdly straight and white, and he bizarrely imagined she must have a great dental plan and is past the braces phase of her life.
“I can always pick the strange ones, no matter where I go. It's a type of art.” She crinkled her nose. “Wait, I'm not insulting you, am I? I mean “strange” as a compliment, not an insult. I'm saying you’re unique but in a good way.”
After taking a gulp of his soda, he pushed the plate over to her. “I'm not insulted,” he said.
She accepted the offering with a wink of her eye. “Good. I would hate to start a friendship with an insult. I save the insults for later.” She shoved three fries into her mouth at one time. Minus the ketchup.
“Later on,” he thought, thoroughly confused. There would be no later.
“Well, I hate to not be insulted and run but...,” He opened his wallet and tossed a ten dollar bill on the table, forgoing the slice of pie.
She picked up the money and held it in the air for him to take back, “I got this,” she said. “Even though I did save some of your life.” She swallowed, smiled again, and then lined her teeth with a fry.
It was the oddest fry smile he had ever seen. And the first.
“Okay then, take care,” he said, putting his wallet back.
She scooped up what remained of his drink and took a hurried gulp. Apparently sharing germs wasn’t a caution of hers. “Oh no. You are supposed to say ‘See you tomorrow. I'll text you so I can help you find your way around the school.' Since I'm new and all.”
From inside the neck of her shirt, she produced a little silver pen. Definitely gypsy, he thought as she pulled his hand down to the table and began to write on his palm.
“Here are my digits, Shawty,” she said, though the way she enunciated it made the syllables grind against her teeth. It was the way a parent sounds when they try to speak with young slang. She sounded just as ridiculous.
She scrawled seven numbers across his hand. It tickled, but he didn't pull away.
Having no idea how to respond to her “digits,” or “Shawty,” comment he shrugged, said, “Okay,” then grabbed his backpack off the booth and made his way through the weave of sporadic red tables—safely passing the guys he’d been listening in on—and left.
The girl waved at him through the window as he got into his car.
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