Read Runt Online

Authors: Nora Raleigh Baskin

Runt (5 page)

Maggie: k next!

Zoe: uh oh.. i c sum possible competition.

Zoe: Perf hair.. perf skin.. u kno 1 of those grls

Maggie: pretends she doesn't kno shes pretty type?

Zoe: ya exactly! Shes a little chubby tho.. bet she will get fat in high school haha

Maggie: lol


Maggie: wut!?!

Zoe: major HOTTIE just wlkd in!!!

Maggie: How hott!?!

Zoe: outta 10?? ummm def 11!!

Maggie: ow! ow! go tlk 2 him grl!

Maggie: hello?

Maggie: r u tlkng 2 him!?!

Zoe: Im here n noooo I cant!

Maggie: wut? y not?

Zoe: b/cuz of this gigantic pimple taking over my face!

Maggie: OMG grl stop! I bet u cant even c it!

Zoe: OMG Mag! Yes u can!! u r the 1 who pointed it out 2 me, member???

Maggie: Zoe I was jk!

Maggie: Now stop bein a big baby n go tlk 2 him!!!

Zoe: Nope. Not happening. I luk like Natasha!!

Maggie: who the heck is Natasha?

Zoe: u kno.. Freida's sister.. wutshername?

Maggie: OOoh Nadine hahaha ya dum dum!

Maggie: haha jk

Zoe: ya w/e Nadine Natasha..

Zoe: u kno how she tries 2 cover it all up w/ makeup but by the end of the day her face just looks lyke a melting pizza hahaha gross!

Maggie: hahaha ya def a cake face lol

Maggie: hey I g2g grl! Luvs u! xoxo

Zoe: kk my name just got called newayz

Zoe: t2ul grl, <3 ya 2! xoxo


I told my mom what
Elizabeth Moon said in Lan guage Arts today and she said that trash is always trash. She said money can't buy you class. And I said, But Elizabeth Moon doesn't have money, she's poor, her mom takes dogs into their house for a job. And my mother said, Well see, that's exactly what I mean, and she then told Angelica to make me chicken nuggets for dinner and she went in to her office to prepare for her conference call to China.

Except that it wasn't really what Elizabeth said about her own poem being better than everyone else's that was bothering me, it was what happened in the cafeteria right afterward. And anyway, Stewart thought it was funny. And Zoe. So did Ethan, and Matthew and everyone else
except for you, which you would have, if you had any sense of humor left. Anyway, we were just kidding.

“Miss Maggie?”

My bedroom door was shut. Remember when you used to sleep over all the time, like every weekend? And we would stay up and draw under the covers in our sketch pads with that huge flashlight? And we made up that name to call ourselves, “Magda”, because “Freiggie” just didn't sound right.

“You food is ready.”

See, even Angelica can't call it dinner.

“Did my dad call?” I shouted back at the door.

“Not yet, Miss Maggie. Now hurry and can come down to eat. The nuggens—”


are not good when they are cold.”

They're not so good hot either, but I didn't say that. Instead I asked Angelica if I could eat in my room. She said that was okay, probably because that way she doesn't have to look at me and feel bad about herself for being just a housekeeper and having no life.

Seriously, nobody likes you the way you are now. You used to be a lot more fun.

Remember, Freida? Remember we were both walkers in fourth grade before middle school and remember how we got to swing on the swings when everybody had already left to catch their bus? And even with all those empty swings we both sat together in the same seat?

“We are like those human beings in social studies class,” you said.

We pumped our legs up and stretched them up into the air until the toes of our sneakers were visible against the blue of the sky.

“Oh, yeah!” I shouted. “Before the head God-guy got mad and split them apart.”

“Jealous,” you told me. “He was jealous because the humans were so powerful.”

“Zeus.” I remembered his name. We were having a test on Greek mythology the next day.

“Humans had four legs and four arms and ran across the ground like a wheel faster than the gods could run.”

We each held on to one side of the swing and wrapped our other arms around each other, leaning forward into the backswing and back against the rushing wind and up into the sky again.

“But we found each other,” I said. “And now nothing can stop us.”

“We are so powerful.”

The dirt under the swing, where countless feet had run before us, was dug into a narrow groove, with tufts of grass on either side. The ground sped into a blur of green and brown the higher and faster we got. Four legs, four arms, four feet, four hands, two heads, two bellies, two laughing girls.

There was no one else in the world but us.

Just last week, my mom asked me why we weren't friends anymore and I had to tell her something, so I said it was because you had turned in a major traitor in middle school, which is kind of true if you think about it.


I don't
like her
that way, but Maggie is really pretty and she practically begged me to help her. She wanted me to take a picture of Elizabeth Moon. I can't imagine Maggie has honorable intentions, but like I said, she practically begged me. And she's really pretty.

The truth is I may even want to be a photographer one day.

This is already my second digital camera, but over the summer I took black and white photography at the Arts Center in town. It was completely different. You have no idea what your picture is going to look like until you get into the darkroom, and even then you can mess the whole thing up in the developing process. But when you
are in the little room, in the dark, and an image starts to appear on this blank piece of paper in the chemicals, and you think,
Wow, that's a great shot
, it's really cool.

“You working on the paper, Ethan?”

We don't even have a school paper. You would think the assistant principal would know that.

“Uh, yes sir, I am,” I said. I lowered my camera and waited until he walked away.

You can do some things to a photographic image in the darkroom with the light exposure and the enlarger but nothing like you can with a digital picture in Photoshop. In digital you can fix everything and anything. Change anything from color to shape to location. It hardly matters what you took a picture of in the first place. It's like you can turn anything into something else if you want to and you know how.

It's all perception.

“What are you up, to E-man?” It's Stewart. He's on the travel basketball team with me. He thinks he's better than everyone else too, but he probably is.

“Nothing,” I said.

“Then what's with the camera?”

We were all headed into the field house to learn the
school song. The idea is by the time we get to high school everyone knows it, but that never happens. We had to walk outside to get to the field house and the trees were hung in maroon and gold, our school colors. The colors of the T-shirts we were all wearing too.

“I'm taking pictures, what does it look like?”

Stewart jumped in front of me and stopped dead. I nearly banged into him.

“Take one of me, E-man.” he said.

“Fine. Do something interesting.”

I clearly shouldn't have said that.

Hordes of kids were passing us on each side, a blur of maroon and yellow. It took Stewart no time at all to find his target since pretty much one out of every two kids that passed by was of some lower strata than he was, at least according to the hierarchy of middle school.

But right now, there seemed to be no life past getting rid of Stewart and getting Maggie the photo she wanted.

“Okay, whoa. How about this?” Stewart had grabbed one of the boys in the hall and urged him to the floor. “C'mon, Dexter, just get down on your hands and knees so I can stand on you.”

“No way, Stewart,” the boy answered. He pushed
back and seemed temporarily freed but unable to get by and continue on.

Stewart gave the boy another friendly push, this time in my direction. “It's for a picture, jerk-off. Just do it. You ready with your camera, E-man?”

The boy looked over and caught my eye. I didn't know his name but I knew it probably wasn't Dexter. It definitely wasn't
. The boy was pretty big, taller than either me or Stewart, but not heavier. Stewart had no trouble holding him still.

“Whatcha waiting for, E-man?”

Stewart hopped up onto the boy's back, his arms outstretched, which gave me a fraction of a second to snap a wide angle, 33 mm, 15 aperture exposure.
The Decisive Moment
. That's what my photography teacher had taught us. It would be a great shot: victory on Stewart's face and the grimace of defeat on the boy's. Stewart would love it. Probably post it on person2person.

“Leave him alone,” I said. “I gotta go.” I tried to step aside.

And there was a long moment, long like a movie in slow motion. Stewart looked at the boy, and then back to me. The boy. Me.

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