When she was in middle school, she had the worst luck a girl could have in her formative years. For one thing, her parents were complete freaks and had not participated in socially amalgamating her to any degree at all. In fact they had just gone on with their lives as if she didnít exist at all, and she was forced to take it upon herself to figure out how to take care of little things like what clothes to wear, daily hygiene, social interaction. And it seemed to Angela that absolutely everything she did was completely wrong.

It did not help that at the age of twelve, she was almost spherical in shape. When the other girls of her class were shooting up like weeds, she shot out sideways to the point where she could literally turn on her side and roll to class. This special talent that she had did not go unnoticed, however, and was soon known as The Torso, mainly because it did not look like she had any arms or legs, only hands and feet barely poking out of her oversized middle.

As she went from class to class, large crowds of students would laugh and point, amazed to see a living three hundred pound pre-teen. Angela would only close her eyes and fight back the tears, propelling herself along in a blind fury and inevitably running over smaller children that could not get out of her way. From time to time, she did notice a few girls turning their eyes away from the spectacle that was herself, and she considered them her secret friends, grateful that there at least existed in the world some seemingly kind souls who would not join in their classmates' cruel revelry.

One day, as she was squeezing her way out the door of her Social Studies class, she heard a small voice from behind. With a grunt she ejected herself into the corridor and turned around. It was Kathy, the girl who sat behind her in class. Actually, everyone in the class sat behind her; Angela was forced to sit on the floor in the front of the class because she was too big to fit in any of the desks.

Kathy got as close as she could without bumping Angelaís middle and whispered, "Hey, I really want to talk to you. Can we meet by the gym after school?"

Angela was astonished by Kathyís kind voice and tried to remember if Kathy had been one of the ones who had taunted her in the past. Thinking of all those faces in the hallways and in the schoolyard, mouths open wide and faces bright red from laughing so hard at her expense, Angelaís eyes started to tear up even then. "Su-sure," she said. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No, silly," said Kathy. "I want us to be friends. I hate it when people are so mean to you. I know you canít help it that youíre so round. See you later." Kathy waved goodbye and headed down the hall to her next class.

Angela didnít know what to think. Out of nowhere she had been given a magical, miraculous gift. A tiny spark of joy that -- in just those few moments -- had somehow lit her whole heart and head with hope.

Just then Bob, one of the biggest of the school bullies, came along. "What you crying for, Torse? Aintícha used up all your tears yet?" He continued on past, but just before he was out of armsí length, he put out his hand and shoved her as hard as he could. As Angela fell backwards into a helpless cockroach-type state, she could see Bob and his tag-alongs running down the hall, laughing.

She was stuck. Normally when travelling from place to place she had enough momentum to right herself and get back on her feet, but just lying on her back all she could hope to do was flail her stubby airborne arms and legs around to no effect. After a few minutes of useless wriggling (all the while enduring the shouts and giggles of students walking past her) she became still and just started to cry. Soon she could hear the tardy bell ring for the next class and she wondered why someone didnít rescue her. It became very quiet in the hallway, the only sound being her sniffles and, as if off in the distance, her own beating heart.

She had calmed down a bit, and after a bit of inspiration, tried flexing first one buttock and then the other. In this fashion she was able to get a slight rocking movement going that slowly gained momentum as the seconds passed. Finally she was able to shift the weight of her body so that she could touch the floor with her right foot. When she was able to also reach the floor with her right hand she pushed off with all her might and, with great effort, was able to wobble herself upright.

In front of her stood Mrs. Campton, the Science teacher. Everyone in school knew from the look of her that Mrs. Campton was secretly a real witch, and there was no doubt that if this had been 16th century Salem she would surely have been burned at the stake long ago. Unfortunately, this was twentieth century Texas, so Mrs. Campton was alive and well and at this moment making a face that surely had the power to kill flowers.

"Enjoying yourself, young lady? What are you doing out of class?"

"I-Iím sorry, Mrs. Campton, it was just that I fell down, and..."

The teacher was not amused. "Iíve had just about enough of your disturbances, Angela Walsh. I think itís time you had a talk with Principal Richardson. And I fully expect to see you in study hall today after school. Donít be late if you know whatís good for you." She suddenly smacked her lips, as if she had just ingested a tasty small rodent. Then she turned and clopped back to her classroom, Angela noticing that Mrs. Camptonís clumsy land legs definitely gave away the womanís need for her primary form of transportation: a broom.

Later, from the window of Mrs. Camptonís Detention Center, Angela could see her would-be friend across the school grounds, patiently sitting next to the entrance of the gym. After a few minutes, Kathy started to look around, and then a few minutes after that she stood up. Once on her feet, she remained in the same spot a while, sometimes getting up on her toes to try to see if Angela was on her way from some far corner of the school. Then the tiny figure shifted around a bit more, seemed to make a shrugging motion and started walking home.

Chapter 12

 

Chapter 11 was first written November 20, 2001

It was last edited December 10, 2001