Not Cow Tipping, Calf Smacking – Short Story
Katie Haskins was chubby. Ok, she was straight up fat. I marveled at the thickness of her calves and how they smacked against each other when she walked. I wondered if she purposely walked bow-legged just to get around. This was before the internet when kids actually played outside, when moms still had to contend with grass stains.
“Fatkid” was in no way a blanket term to be spread over the student body like glaze on a doughnut. No, this dubious title of grossness was generally reserved for one male and one female calorie collector. Katie held the female crown in Ms. Cook’s 2nd grade class, only she didn’t pick her nose and eat it, or wear clothes two sizes too small so her butt crack hung out. She didn’t do what Tony, the class fat-boy did, to ensure his title wasn’t in jeopardy. She did just the opposite.
She was always smiling, always appeared to be in good spirits, talking to the other kids, and actually carrying on conversations with adults, as if the world were perfect and there was nothing to do but bask in its glow of happiness. I suspected this was a front, a put-on, that she went home after school, locked herself in her room, and stood in front of the full-length mirror soaking handfuls of gut in salty tears of shame. Nobody was that nice, they just weren’t. Now I was no Ken doll myself. I had my own problems, namely buck teeth with a gap so wide you could drive a truck through. I wondered how much wood I could chuck, if I could
chuck wood. They stuck out so far I could hardly keep them in my mouth.
And my hair, it was a kinky mess of curls that no matter how much gel or time I put into it, would never lay in the bowl formation like the other guys’. Not even a part would cooperate with my gravity-defying puff. But I didn’t go around with the sweet and innocent act like I could veil my maladies in kindness.
I hated Katie for being fake, for overcompensating, and if by the miniscule chance this wasn’t an act, and she actually was that nice – I hated her even more. Deal with the hand you’ve been dealt and suffer, that’s what I was learning in Sunday school.
But I couldn’t deal with those calves. In the winter, I feared the friction from her pants rubbing together would start a fire. When the weather warmed up, and shorts revealed those swollen meat sticks, I was shocked they weren’t bruised from hitting each other all day long. But she kept on killing them with kindness, and I kept my loathing to myself. Until one day, she must have forgotten her lines for the sweet girl act. I don’t know how it came about exactly. I may have been pushing my teeth back in my mouth with the heel of my palm, or plunging my tongue in and out of my gap to see if last night’s prayers had been answered. Or, if she had been teased by an older kid, and needed to pass along the hurt before it stuck to her ribs. All I know is, next to the lockers outside
Ms. Cook’s classroom, beneath the construction paper collages, she cocked her hand in her hip, coiled her head and out of nowhere spat, “Why are your teeth so far apart?” My insides instantly burned, paralyzed with humiliation. I wanted to pounce on her, stuff her love handles in her mouth to shut her up. How dare she say that? My eyes got warm and I feared tears would come before any action. I was frozen, panicking, searching for a voice that wouldn’t come…
When suddenly the dam broke, and out poured the question that I had kept myself from asking a million times.
“Why are your legs so fat?”
I watched her instantly wither, the gall drain out of her. She sniffled, choked back a tear, and ran away calf smacking
down the hall.