Daily Prompt: Careless Whisper, by Krista on March 8, 2014 It happens: sometimes that filter in our head bursts and we say too much of what we’re thinking and someone gets hurt. Tell us about a time you or someone you know said something that they immediately regretted.
She was beautiful. White oval face framed by black hair. Her eyes were blue. She was petite but voluptuous and she was in the 11th grade. My poor little brother was making his second pass through third. He would never have seen Jackie Botsford if he had passed third grade the first time, but when he didn’t, our parents put us in private school and we had to ride a school bus every morning. The bus stopped and picked up Jackie Botsford and that was it for my brother.
He did everything he knew to get her attention. He smashed vitamin pills so their stench filled the bus. He shook Coke bottles then sprayed the bus’ ceiling. He made lots of noise. He tried sitting behind her. She never looked his way, though I’m sure she knew he was there. Ed, the bus driver, was constantly calling him out and threatening to throw him off the bus. It’s not like Kirk wasn’t cute. He was really cute. He was not a fat kid, just a solid kid. He was a green-eyed, freckled tow-head with a cute smile, a pug nose and a sweet soul — all this and an inexorable behavior problem. He had also categorically refused to learn to read.
Kirk asked me how he could get Jackie Botsford to love him. I said, “Quit acting stupid. Maybe buy her a present.”
“Yeah. Maybe wait a month and get her a present.” I was much wiser. I was a wise sixth grader.
Saturday, my brother and I rode our bikes “downtown” and ran errands for our mom. I didn’t know it, but Kirk bought Jackie Botsford a present. I can imagine he walked up and down the aisles of the drugstore looking for something “girly” and he found something pink in a pretty bottle. I didn’t even KNOW about this until he presented a small, gift-wrapped package to Jackie Botsford Monday on the bus.
“Kirk? Why?” she blushed. “Thank you.”
“Open it!” my brother was very excited.
Jackie carefully, with her perfectly manicured and tapered fingers untied the bow and removed the paper.
She threw it at my brother. She began to cry. “I don’t want it! How could you! Stay away from me!”
My brother stood there bewildered, his face turning from red to purple. Tears started to form and he came back to where I sat in the middle of the bus.
“What did I do?”
“Let me see the bottle, Kirk.” He handed it to me. It was pretty. It was pink and it was deodorant.
“I thought she’d like it,” he said, trying not to cry. “It’s pink.”
He began to cry.
I went up to where Jackie Botsford was sitting and said, “Don’t you understand anything?
He’s a little boy and he has a big crush on you. He can’t read.”
“Go away. You were probably in on it. Well, it isn’t funny.”
“It wasn’t meant to be funny. He meant to give you a present.”
“Go away. Since you and your brother started school, I’ve hated every minute of this bus ride. You ruin everything.”
Jackie Botsford was WRONG. “He’s just a little boy!”
“He’s a horrible little boy.”
“BITCH!” I yelled. The bus was silent. In 1962, there was nothing funny about that word.
The next morning I woke up with a fever and swollen glands. The glands swelled and swelled and transformed themselves into the mumps. I spent a long time in bed, in pain. Part of me believed that the mumps were punishment for calling Jackie Botsford a bitch. Park of me believed that if I hadn’t been coming down with mumps, I never would have uttered that word on the school bus. Still, I was ashamed of myself. When I was able to go back to school, I dreaded seeing Jackie Botsford again, but it had to come. I resolved that I would apologize.
“Jackie, I’m sorry I called you a bitch. I was getting the mumps or I wouldn’t have done that. I think I was already sick.”
“It’s OK, Martha. I wasn’t fair. You were right. Kirk is just a little boy. I shouldn’t let a little boy hurt my feelings.”
We were never friends (she was too far above me, in the angelic realms of high school) but she started being nice to my brother and he quit acting up on the bus and I learned that if I start behaving way out of control and not in harmony with myself, I’m probably coming down with something.
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