I'm on vacation this week and doing very little, which is nice but also a little discouraging considering I had an ambitious slate of worthwhile activities planned. Oh well. Here's a little short story I wrote recently. I'm going to call it fiction, even though a lot of it is true. Names have been changed, details embellished, and other elements plain made up because I can't remember the truth. I can't settle on a title, but for now I'm calling it "Generic Doritios."
P.S. Look out for a bad word in the first paragraph.
P.P.S. I changed my comments settings so now anyone can leave a comment if they wish.
Mike Perket picked his nose. This, obviously, was why we called him “Pick It.” His name also had something to do with it. You don’t have to be very clever to get “Pick It” from “Perket,” which suited us fine because we weren’t very clever. I wonder if Mike Perket’s name also had something to do with the nose-picking itself. Maybe the name, which you must admit sounds a lot like “Pick It,” planted a seed in his brain early on, like that mental defect that causes people to scream words like “scrotum” and “tits” at the tops of their lungs during solemn occasions. If this is true, then the entire Perket clan would be degenerate pickers. And Mike Perket, doubly afflicted with a troublesome name and a destructive home life, wouldn’t be accountable for his disgusting actions. But I doubt this is true. One, what does “Pick It” really mean anyway? The “it” could refer to anything capable of being picked, be it a favorite color, a zit or the fat kid nobody wants for the lunch hour touch football game. Two, verifying Mike Perket’s tragic home life would require going to his home, and the cost surely outweighed the benefit there.
Mike Perket’s steadfast devotion to picking his nose was something to behold. Mrs. Kanker had to put Scotch tape on the ends of his fingers to give them squared tips and, it was theorized, make it impossible to jam them into his beak. But Mrs. Kanker underestimated Mike Perket. All it took was a little extra push to get the plastic-coated index finger up there, and a hearty pull to get it and whatever was attached back out. The process could not have been enjoyable, as Mike Perket’s nose was red and sore after so many breakings and enterings. Looking back, I wonder why he didn’t just remove the tape. I guess Mike Perket simply could not help himself. And this, obviously, was why we called him “Pick It.”
Mike Perket’s lack of self-control limited his opportunities for social interaction with the other second graders, but it was the nickname that really alienated him. Nobody wanted to sit next to “Pick It” in Mrs. Kanker’s class. After he picked his nose, Mike Perket flung whatever he found at his neighbor. So he was always on the move. Mike Perket would pick his nose, fling its contents at the kid sitting next to him and be promptly moved to a different seat after the kid complained. It was like the Catholic Church with pedophile priests. As of yet, Mike Perket had not been my problem. And this is why I never actually saw him pick his nose. I saw his taped fingers one day groping the gym class water fountain, and there was the nickname, which was enough to make me dread Mrs. Kanker’s inevitable decision to park Mike Perket next to me. It was odd, my dread, because I also picked my nose. But I did it when people weren’t looking. I would look left, look right, look left again, and then slowly bring my right index finger to my nose. From there I moved quickly, penetrating to locate the blockage and removing it with a single digging motion. There the blockage would sit on the end of my finger, transfixing me, making me grimace. I then would wipe it under a chair or a table. I admit this only because I took no pleasure in it. The thing that separated me from Mike Perket was that I picked my nose out of necessity. If I had access to a tissue or hanky, I used it.
I felt superior to Mike Perket. But my superiority was measured in inches, not feet. If everybody detested “Pick It,” few liked me, known alternately as “Balloon Head” or “Basketball Head” because I had a large head (rather than, say, an empty head or perfectly round head). I was very sensitive about the size of my head. I was sensitive in general, but my head in particular was a sore spot. I cried, often, over nothing at all. I could not help it, which only encouraged them to call me “Balloon Head” or “Basketball Head.” I also had a weak stomach and threw up a lot. One time I threw up on the playground after sniffing a bag of generic Doritos my mom packed with lunch. Our family bought generic Doritos because they were cheaper than regular Doritos. You’re just paying for the bag and the commercials, my mom said. Besides, Doritos were Doritos, just like pickles were pickles even when they weren’t Vlasic, and soap was soap even when it wasn’t Dove. Except generic soap smelled like urinal cakes, and generic pickles tasted like they had been lift in the refrigerator with the lid off for six months. And generic Doritos didn’t taste like real Doritos. They didn’t smell like them at least. Real Doritos didn’t make me throw up at first sniff.
One day Mrs. Kanker parked Mike Perket and his taped-up fingers next to me. He was pale, with delicate cheeks each dotted with a spot of red, though the red in his cheeks looked almost pink next to his sore nostrils. I could see his fingers all gnarled and stubby through the tape, the nails all but chewed off. His hair was a light blondish brown, and he kept his green eyes down. He made me uneasy. It wasn’t a question of if but when the booger flinging would start. I found myself wishing that it would happen now, so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore and Mike Perket could be moved somewhere else. But he did not pick or fling anything that day. I flinched when he moved to pick up his pencil for the penmanship lesson. We were on the letter S, an important one considering my name, but I could not concentrate. I looked around the room to find a pair of eyes I could connect with. I wanted to nod at somebody, and be recognized for the silent misery I was enduring. But I did not connect. The class was focused on Mrs. Kanker and the misshapen curly-cues they made on their penmanship papers. Mike Perket, too, did his lesson, even though there were no Ss in his name.
I felt bad for Mike Perket. Why did people have to make fun of him? I picked my nose, and I bet the other kids did, too. They just never got caught. How could they make fun of somebody for something they did themselves? How could they live with the hypocrisy? And, seriously, why make fun of the size of my head? What’s wrong with having a larger-than-normal head? And what can I do about it anyway? Ben Klempke once told me the dinosaurs had big heads, and that meant people with big heads have small brains. But what is Ben Klempke doing now? How big was his head? I mean, it’s not like I still care about this or anything, it’s just all so silly.
Ben Klempke works the graveyard shift at Festival Foods stocking cans of beef stew and wiping down the meat department, just so you know.
After class, I went up to Mrs. Kanker and told her Mike Perket picked his nose and flung one of his boogers at me. The next day she moved him to a different seat and I don’t remember what happened to him after that.