At 12:57 pm on a frigid Tuesday afternoon, Kyle dropped his worn backpack on the green-checkered carpet. Everyone in the library looked up from his or her work to glare at the disruption. Kyle blushed, pulled the wooden chair back from the table, and plopped down. Sighing, he rested his elbow on the table and buried his cheek in his palm. He huffed. As he drummed his fingers on his khaki pants, he glared at his backpack sitting at his feet. He rolled his eyes, then bent down to snatch the bag. He threw it on the table and ripped it open. His eyes narrowed as he rustled through it. He tugged a ripped violet folder and a clear pencil case out of the pack. He pulled the bag off of the table. Flinging the folder open, he yanked out a sheet of lined paper. Kyle grabbed a chipped #2 pencil with his right hand and furiously tapped its eraser against the table. Running his left hand through his hair, he scanned the room. His eyes stopped on a girl sitting across from him. She lazily scrolled through Instagram, right leg crossed over her left leg, right foot shaking. Kyle hastily recorded every movement she made for 10 minutes. Suddenly, the girl flipped her hair and looked over at Kyle, who picked up the paper and buried his face in it. When she returned her focus to her phone, he peeked over the top of the paper, and then rested it back on the table. Again, he documented her every move. 5 minutes later, she stood up, pushed her chair in, and walked out the library door. He sighed and scrawled “Five Fingers” at the top of his paper. He slid the paper into his folder and flipped it closed. Slumping over the table, he put his head down. “’Try not to be creepy,’ Ms. Haymale said,” he whispered. “I swear to God, that girl must have thought I was stalking her.” While Kyle’s head was down, the girl re-entered the library and sat down at her table. She sank her chin into her left palm and rested her elbow on the table. A faint smile stretched across her face as she gazed at the boy sitting across from her. She stared for 2 minutes before the boy lifted his head off of the table. Blushing, she whipped her head away from him. “My God,” she muttered. “I am such a creep.”
A beam of afternoon sunlight leaked through the grimy window, casting a golden angelic glow over the crumpled, scuffed-up Sondheim sheet music littering the footprint-covered floor. Melody sat cross-legged in one of the choir room’s ordinary blue plastic chairs, watching the clock as it murdered the time she so desperately needed, a history book spread across her lap. A cold breeze swept over the ground, awakening the dust that coated the furniture, causing it to dance wildly in the spotlight for a fleeting moment before getting the vaudeville hook. In the background, she heard her friends chattering away; but the clock demanded her attention. She wanted to listen to Randi tell his insane stories, wanted to laugh crazily with Javier, wanted to take part in the frivolous felicity that was passing by her, but her enemy robbed her of that joy.
Melody knew she shouldn’t be in the choir room again, but she couldn’t bring herself to miss out on the merriment. Images of failed tests and bleeding papers floated through her brain, faintly calling for help. Distress bubbled inside of her as she forced herself to look down at a picture of Andrew Jackson giving his inaugural address. The soundwaves from Javier’s booming laugh blurred her vision, shaking her eyes; but she restrained herself from looking across at the joyful scene unfolding in front of her. She smelled the green tea that Quinn drank every afternoon in order to “keep her voice silky smooth.” The smell engulfed her in a green haze, in which she could see her friends lounging in their usual places on the royal blue couch- Javier at one end, tears of joy streaming from his twinkling dark chocolate eyes; Quinn at the other, intense smile accentuating her well-defined cheekbones; and Randi sprawled across the two of them, ludicrous tales spewing from his gigantic pink lips. Beaming, she reached out to the image, wanting to insert herself into it; but just like that, it faded away, and she was left staring into the cold eyes of Jackson once again. She viciously added bite marks to her already shredded pencil, each laceration adding to her stress level. She could hear her purple macerated planner from inside her florid backpack, taunting her with unfinished tasks, as if she were a cat gazing at a ball of yarn dangling just out of reach. The assignments sat in her mind like a cinderblock, restricting her from letting loose, reminding her that she could define freedom, but not experience it.
“OMG, listen!” Randi yelled over the boisterous cackles that filled the air. “Midnight madness, guys. It was a time! Mel, you’re gonna wanna hear this one for sure.” She grimaced as Randi’s voiced drowned out her desperate desire to engage. Gazing helplessly back at the clock, she begged the blood red hand not to move any further, feeling the worry building in her chest each time it ignored her pleas. Another eruption of resounding laughter caused her chest to tighten. The sunlight that had once radiated through the room disappeared, playing hide-and-seek behind the grey clouds that floated past. Going against her own instincts, she glanced over at the babbling group. Instantly, they enveloped her, pulling her into the vortex of distraction.
As Melody sank deeper into the realm of irresponsibility, she begged herself to leave them, to finish her work, to be sensible; but just like the murderous clock, she ignored her own desperate pleas. After all, why do today what you can do tomorrow?
Shoulders: Too Sexy for School
December 5th, 2016
BRAINTREE, MA- Students of The Sylvanus Academy in Braintree, MA are up in arms about their new dress code, which was introduced to the handbook this past weekend. This new rule prohibits students and faculty alike from wearing any sort of clothing that shows shoulders: from the handbook at the Academy “All tops must have a full back and cover the waistband of a student’s skirt, pants, or shorts. Tops are expected to cover the shoulders.” When we spoke to Headmaster Ted Bear, he said that the inspiration for the new rule came from a recent scientific report released by Dr. Scapula of the Department of Umerology at Yale.
Scapula reports that, “With the help of my colleague Reverend Dr. Shul Ders, we have come to the conclusion that the obstruction of shoulders in school systems has a significant number of benefits to the learning environment.” Reverend Dr. Ders comments “The shoulder provides a catalyst site for protein synthesis; however, there exists no mitosis checkpoints than can occlude the synthesis from producing an excess of chemicals. By covering shoulders, students prevent the release of these chemicals, which has shown to produce amazing results.” Some of the benefits include:
- A .0001% increase in overall intelligence of freshman* (based on PSAT scores)
- Boys are no longer entranced by the beauty of the upper arm, and can now fully focus on their studies.*
- Tensions between teachers/admins and students disappear, making it easier for teachers to educate the students without distraction.
Students have varied responses to their new dress code. One female freshman, wishing to remain anonymous in order to protect her Algebra II grade, remarks, “I don’t think I should have to hide my shoulders when my Math teacher wears dresses shorter than I do!”
“Although the shoulders at school have been tamed, my grade’s have actually gotten significantly worse, as most nights, instead of doing homework I stay up late crafting shoulder memes to send in my group chats and potential submissions to smack high. I find myself wondering what the girls in my class are hiding underneath their sleeves,” says a male junior from Cambridge, MA.
There are claims that school should only be a place of learning, but students are confused, stating “If I’m just supposed to learn here, why are they looking at my body in the first place? Obviously boys aren’t the only ones looking at my shoulders.”
There have even been comments from the faculty at The Academy. The Upper School Director, Smighley Thompson, tells us, that “Until we find a way to remove the shoulder completely, this is the next best thing. As long as the data keeps showing positive results reflected in our students, we will continue to enforce this rule.” Chemistry professor Shmari Fhalili informs us that “Covering girl’s shoulders further prevents the release and dispersion of a hormone called hyperhidrosis through the process of diaphoresis. This chemical is also known to increase testosterone in males”
Although there are many opinions circulating, the general consensus of the Academy is reflected in this male student’s forlorn response: “I miss shoulders…”
*give or take .0001%
*however, reports show an increased number of male students in detention for calling girls “too conservative”
Aria stands behind the black velvet curtain, cradling her right hand against her torso. She rubs her bandaged pinky finger between her thumb and forefinger of her left hand. Grimacing, she taps her right foot on the varnished mahogany stage. She gazes at her white stiletto as it keeps a steady beat. Click, two, three, four.
The announcer’s voice blared through the loudspeaker. “And now, please welcome our first contestant, Aria Blanchard!” The curtain drags across the stage, revealing Aria to the audience. She straightens her back. Extending her hand to the crowd, she gives a tight-lipped smile. She tilts her head back slightly as the audience applauds. The lights soften. She turns to face the 1966 Steinway posed center stage and glides towards it.
Her fingers on her left hand scamper across the lid as she strides alongside the piano. Her right arm hangs by her side. Aria heaves the hood up with her left hand. She tries to balance it on her elbow, but the hood slips. She jumps back as it crashes down. The audience gasps. She turns to the crowd, giving a small wave. “It’s okay!” she yells. “I just wanted to see if you guys were awake.” The audience chuckles.
Aria turns back to the piano and sighs. Frowning, she puts both hands on the hood. She whimpers as she pushes the lid upwards. She props it onto the skinny wooden pole, leaving behind her wet fingerprints. Holding her right hand to her chest, she struts towards the pleather-topped piano bench. She lowers herself into the seat, pulling it a fraction of an inch closer to the keyboard. She grounds her left foot on the stage. Flexing her right foot, she balances it above the silver pedal. Her eyes flutter shut as she breathes in and out.
Aria picks up the worn blue book of Rachmaninoff etudes sitting on the corner platform of the piano. She flips it open to Etude 7, Opus 39, and rests it on the music stand. As she scans the fresh fingerings, she balls her left hand into a fist and cracks her knuckles. She balls her right fist, and cracks each knuckle but the pinky.
Relaxing her shoulders, she lets her arms hang loose. She tilts her head to one side, then the other, cracking her neck. She sets her hands on top of the keys, fingers curved and strong. She looks down at her right pinky finger jutting out from the rest. Closing her eyes, she takes a deep breath. As she inhales, she straightens her back. She lifts her hands off of the keys. Slamming the pedal down with her right foot, she plunges her body forward. She channels her weight into her fingers, crashing into the first B flat chord. She hisses as the hammer strikes the string. Picking up her hands, she moves to the next set of keys. Aria slams her hands down into the D flat chord. Crack.