Tales from the Cafeteria

“… and that’s how she solved the mystery! Pretty brilliant, right Lori?” Tracy said about the #54 Nancy Drew Mystery. She took a bite of her tuna sandwich and chewed while she nodded.

“Hey, Mabee, they called your table for hot lunch,” I heard a voice behind me say.

I looked straight at Lisa, often a life threatening manuever, but she had been doing this for two weeks! I rolled my eyes and turned away. I knew that she had put her weight on one leg and had cocked her hip so her tight jeans would show off her butt and her short shirt would ride up and expose her belly.

I gritted my teeth so I would not say the word that best described her. Then I took a deep breath. “Sherlock Holmes is smarter,” I said to Tracy. “Hercule Piorot is astounding, and Miss Marple, well, there’s just no words for her!” I had long ago read through all the Nancy Drew Mysteries in any nearby library. I had moved on to bigger and better mysteries and had just discovered my dad’s Alistair MacClean collection. My stomach rumbled.

My long hair was flicked over my face from behind. “Lori, you’d better get in line to buy lunch,” Lisa taunted. “Mabee you’ll have enough time to eat it!”

Lisa and her crony Janet laughed as they walked out of the lunch room with a bathroom pass. They loved making fun of my last name. Thing is, that didn’t bother me. They never came up with anything clever, and so I was relieved to see them go. My empty stomach folded in on itself and made noises like a small mammal dying.

I stood in line and waited for my turn to choose my items from behind the glass. I pointed because the thousand year old server, bearing a strong resemblance to Gollum, was deaf. She didn’t think she was.

I held out my oversized 1960’s indestructable sectioned tray. Did I mention it was green? Plop went the spaghetti. Splurp went the sauce on top and the meatballs rolled. I was an experienced hot-luncher, and I tilted the tray and kept all three on the tray.

Squish. I didn’t look down. Some novice had lost their meatball and I definitely did not want to see it on my shoe. I picked up a slice of garlic bread and paused to sprinkle parmesan cheese, in the green bottle of course, on the pile. The school system spared no expense.

Ah, dessert. Chocolate chip cookie, or chocolate chip cookie? I carefully perched the cookie on the rim of the tray to avoid the sauce. Well, mostly to avoid the grease from the sauce that was already pooling. The interesting thing about these trays, they had about ten sections, none of which was big enough for anything. The spaghetti spanned about four, and the grease always managed to span all ten.

“On top of spaghetti…” I began. I heard a groan from behind and saw Todd.

“You’re such a dexter,” he said.

“Takes one to know one,” I said and grinned. He grinned back.

“How was that Heinlein?”

“I grok, man.” I grabbed three milks – because, who drinks one micro-carton of milk?

“I still like Have Spacesuit, Will Travel better.”

“It’s cool, but Stranger is far more groovy.”

“I grok.”

We laughed as we walked out of the serving area. Our school had a strange set-up for lunch. If you bought your lunch, you went into this lovely little glass room that looked like a hospital cafeteria from the movies. Stainless steel serving carts and glass nose-guards, complete with Gollum the server. At the exit you paid Marge, in cash, for your lunch. I suppose that’s standard enough, except for Gollum.

However, once you exited, you were out in the hall. Just you and your ability to balance the milk cartons (which will end up with sauce on the bottom no matter what), the entree, the side, and the desert (who doesn’t get desert?). You walk down the hall like a circus act and to the entrance of the lunch room and back to your table. I have seen even the most experienced hot-luncher lose it all. And that’s it for the day. It’s gone and you starve.

Todd was more careful than I was, and man was I hungry! I thought my stomach was going to swallow me whole! I walked at a quicker pace than usual and left him behind. I was balancing extraordinarily well when I looked up and saw Lisa and Janet. Only my ravening stomach stomach kept me from tipping everything onto the floor.

“Hey Mabbee. I bet you have some left over lunch money.”

“Don’t you have to pee?”

“What?”

I sidled to the left. Lisa stepped in front of me. I back up and stepped on Janet’s toe.

“Hey…” she said slowly, as if not sure I’d actually hurt her.

I sidled right and Lisa was there with me. I was flanked by the wall and Janet and Lisa was staring down at me.

Hmm.

“Give it up.”

My stomach groaned and Lisa guffawed. “Such a lady!”

“I don’t have money and I’m hungry. Go away.”

“Hey Janet,” she said leaning toward Janet, “you know what that means?”

She flipped my tray up and spaghetti flew all over the ever-lovin’ world and she calmly walked down the hall, her butt sashaying.

“You lovely dear,” I said, only I didn’t say ‘lovely dear’.

She stopped, turned and looked at me.

“You heard, you wonderful girl,” and no, I didn’t say ‘wonderful girl’.

“What are you gonna do about it?” she said with a smile, all confidence in her tight jeans.

“Maaargh!” I yelled and hurled that ten pound green tray like a frisbee right at her head. Lucky for her, she was able to duck.

I charged her and tackled her and put my knees on her abdomen and pummeled her face. I was lifted and dragged down the hall, leaving a greasy trail of spaghetti sauce in my wake.

“Grrrah!” I screamed and focused on the principal. “Mmmph?” I said.

“Good Lord, Lori! What the hel..eck happened? I have never seen you like this!”

I saw the school nurse helping Lisa up and leading her off to the infirmary.

“She tried to steal my lunch money. And I was hungry.”

As the principal escorted me to the office, he mumbled something about straws and camels.


1085 words

Today’s prompt is to write about an argument.

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