Cherrie and Maggie


So. I’ve been trying to count the lumps of plaster on the ceiling. And I’ve come to a conclusion: nothing makes a bed more uncomfortable.
I remember being young and trapped in here before. That was before I had a tv or computer of my own, but my father had brought in the old tv from the basement and set it up on my dresser. So that was at the foot of my bed and I at least had Oprah Winfrey and Classic Concentration to keep my mind occupied.
Now, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to entertain myself. For the most part, I can do that. I can usually leave the room and go wander the house or the yard or the street. I’ve even been as daring as to go to the mall, although I sometimes see people from school that I’d rather avoid.
Of course, there’s the melodrama, again.

“Do you have a geometry set?”
Georgie’s voice was quiet from the other side of the door. “Mom said to ask if you have one.”
“If I have what?”
“A geometry set.”
He said nothing for a moment and then knocked on the door. “What do you want?” I called out from the bed. I didn’t want to lose count, so I was careful not to move my eyes.
I heard the door knob rattle as he tried to turn it, but I had it locked. “Do you have a geometry set?”
“Go away!”

“Mr. Roberts is the volleyball coach this year. Miss Wong is pregnant, you know. You could see it in there by the end of last year. Right through her shirt.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you doing volleyball this year? I wasn’t going to because of basketball but I think I can do both.”
I took a bite of my sandwich. The meat looked grey.
“I was going to join cross-country.”
“Really? Oh, you’d be so good at it!”
“What? Oh, uh, no. I’m kidding, you idiot.”

The second week of school and it rains every day. I don’t have money for the bus and I don’t have an umbrella. The words in my binders are starting to run. Running words. I wonder where they’ll go? Probably just to the bottom of the backpack.
“Isn’t it nice?”
“The rain? It’s so warm! It’s like being in the shower.”
“I’d prefer being dry.” Why is she walking with me?
“It’s easy enough to get dry. Being wet is nothing.”
I closed my mouth and tried to walk a little faster. She kept pace easily, though. I should be able to get away from her and her short legs but she seems to have no shortage of energy.
“Were you going to join debate this year? You were so funny last year!” She laughed girlishly.
I’ve always wanted to say a girl laughed girlishly.
“Oh, you know, the whole nuclear disarmament thing. You argued they should be kept in case the Vatican tries to take over the world.” She laughed again.
“That was a serious argument, you know.”
“Oh, haha!” Her laugh was less girlish. “Right. Like that could happen.”
“It’s happened before.”

There are more than one thousand, two hundred lumps of plaster on my ceiling.
“Do you have a geometry set?” My door was open and he was standing just in the hall.
“I don’t know.”
He wasn’t moving. I stared back at him. Maybe he’ll disappear if I look hard enough.
“What do you want?”
“Are you coming downstairs?”
“What for?”
He shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

In the morning, she was waiting on the sidewalk when I left the house. Georgie was right behind me coming out and stopped when he saw her. “Oh, hi Georgie!”
“Hi, Maggie.”
“Who’s your teacher this year?”
“Mrs. Nadia Hester.”
“How old are you, Maggie?” Georgie asked.
“That’s funny!” she said loudly. My ears folded over in response. “Today is my birthday. I’m fifteen.”
“What?” I heard myself say. “You mean you were fourteen yesterday?”
“Of course. If today’s my-”
“How can you be two full years younger than me?”
“Uh. I don’t know?”
“Happy birthday,” said Georgie. Then he walked away.

I’m getting tired of looking at the same things all the time. I know it’s a world full of wonders and all that but even wonders get boring after a while. There are only so many angles. I think maybe my math teacher would disagree but my feet are only ever just plodding on the ground. Everything looks the same after a while.
There are over 3650 lumps of plaster on my ceiling. I don’t think I’ll count any higher.
There are over 600 tiny holes in half of a ceiling tile. That should be how I count these things. I should divide the space into some much smaller fraction and then multiply my count out. Or maybe I should not do it at all.
The new boy is sitting in front of me. His hair is longer than mine. His ponytail gives a little flick when he bobs his head down to write in his notebook. I suddenly find myself pushing the ponytail from side to side gently with the eraser end of my pencil.
He sits very still for a moment and then glances over his shoulder at me. I quickly shove the end of the pencil in my mouth and try to look like I’m watching the teacher.

“You should definitely try this. It’s super.”
“I don’t like carrots.”
“The dressing! Oh, it’s so good!”
“But I don’t like salad.”
“I’m serious. I can have this every day.”
“I don’t like pepper, either.”

Some people take the bus home, the actual school bus. I don’t know where they could live, because it takes me twenty minutes to walk home and there’s no big yellow bus available for me. If I don’t want to walk, I need to get a city bus with all the creepy weirdoes.
“Do you know what I really like?”
“You like most things, don’t you?”
She stopped walking. I stopped, too. She kicked at the concrete of the sidewalk and looked at her shadow.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she said.
I took a couple of steps and then turned to see she was still standing in the same spot. She suddenly looked very small and I once again wondered how she could be so much younger than me and in the same class.
‘What is it?”
“Nothing. You go on. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I stepped up to her and bent to look at her face. She wasn’t crying or anything.
“Aren’t we walking home together?”

Based on a little bit of math that I think I may have got wrong, I have determined there are seven-hundred and fifty-two million blobs of plaster on my ceiling.
“Mom says you have a geometry set.” He was standing in my doorway again.
“Get out of the way, I need to use the bathroom.” I pushed him aside and stepped into the hall. I really wanted a shower.
“What did Maggie get for her birthday?”
“What? Uh, I don’t know.”
“Where is the geometry set?”
“Goddamn it, will you give up?”
He shrugged his shoulders and walked past me and back down the stairs.


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