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author:  Margie Culbertson

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The Horrible, Dramatic, Wonderful, and
Trivial Case of Harper Jones


Katy Lucas

"I ain't never saw nothing like it. I surely ain't ," said Ginger the custodian, tilting her head to the side, as she scratched at her stringy hair in puzzlement.

"Yes, well, we've all agreed it's very strange." My assistant principal, Mrs. Hope, said as she glanced at Ginger. As she spoke she clearly wondered how a custodian was to be of assistance. "I think what we need to focus on is getting her out."

"Well, how in the Sam hill did she get in?" My thoughts ran along similar lines as I miserably stared at the small crowd accumulating around me. Why, I wondered, with increasing agony, did this type of thing always, always have to happen to me?

"Honey, are you alright?" I recognized a teacher, Mrs. Finnegan, peering anxiously at me around the shoulder of my P.E. coach, Ms. Click. Oh God. Please God, let me just disappear.

"We'll get you out Jones, don't worry. You're gonna pull through this." Coach Click tried unsuccessfully to cover her expression with the ‘Go Get "Em" attitude coaches were usually so accomplished at. I was, however, painfully aware that no Go Get "Em attitude, no matter how strong, could remedy my predicament.

Now I'm sure by now you're breathless with anticipation, fiercely gripping at the edge of your chair, as the trepidation washes over you, grinding your teeth as you wait, shivers wracking your spine, for an answer, for an absolution. Is this how it will end for Harper Jones? Oh, the suspense! However, I am afraid my "predicament," so to speak, was not half so glamorous as you may think. I was hopelessly, helplessly, and humiliatingly… stuck in a toilet.

The one lucky thing about the situation was the fact my pants were still on, a minor truth I would thank God for later, after my blazing anger at Him over the fact that He had allowed me to get stuck in a toilet in the first place had faded.

How on earth did she get stuck there you may ask? Ask after your painful and agonizing anticipation has faded to either amusement or incredulity at what an extremely odd beginning this story had taken. The answer just about sums up my horrible, luckless life. Teenage drama queen? I think not.

My day had been going well. I had managed to trip a mere four times, actually fall only two and, so far, had only one bruise. For me, this was practically miraculous. But, as is my inevitable truth, and likely my divine destiny, trouble found me. On this particular day, it happened at lunch. Already known as the school klutz — after hardly a week at my at my new school, mind you — I was trying my damndest to turn a new leaf.

I could picture it clearly in my mind's eye, see myself strolling down the hall, walking in a straight line. Perhaps one day … jaws dropping as I passed. My hair would be smooth and straight and beautifully blonde, not a red ball of curly fluff. I would be tanned, not practically albino. I would have curves in all the right places, as opposed to being as flat as a board, back and front. I mean, I was fifteen for God's Sake! Couldn't He at least have paused for like two seconds from all that prayer answering and miracle granting to grant me some curves! So, as I was walking to lunch with my head full of fantasies, trying unsuccessfully to master the walking maneuver, the horriblest (fine, most horrible) thing that had ever happened to me…happened.

I went through the lunch line.

All right, so that's not the most horrific thing imaginable, but it led up to it. I often wonder how my life would have been different if I had abstained from going through the lunch line on that fateful day. But no use wistfully regretting. Get to the point you're doubtlessly thinking. Fine, fine. I feel compelled to remind you that great storytelling takes time.

Anyway, back to the lunch line. My stomach was grumbling embarrassingly loud. It often amazed me that I could eat so much and stay so bony. The lunch lady scowled as she scooped a plateful of green muck onto my tray. Casserole perhaps? I smiled and thanked her, preferring politeness as a general rule. Her face softened a bit as she nodded, the corners of her mouth tilting up slightly. I wondered if, after years of doubtless financial trouble and experience with putting up with ungrateful, impolite teenagers had robbed her memory of things such as smiling.

I selected my side dishes, mashed potatoes and limp green beans, grabbed the last carton of chocolate milk, and quickly paid the woman at the register. After I made it successfully through the line I faced the most nerve–wracking part of many teenager's days. Standing alone unsure of where to sit.

I carefully scanned the tables in the packed cafeteria, looking for someone tolerant. My unearthly klutziness (and I swear I do not over exaggerate) did not usually help me make friends all that quickly. I finally settled on a group of slightly nerdy looking adolescents sitting towards the back of the cafeteria. They were mostly slight and unsure, all with a varying range of skin problems, and all staring down at their plates, a good indication that they weren't all that well acquainted. I approached slowly, my heart thumping as I wondered if even the nerds would reject me. I fleetingly considered dining in the bathroom. How bad could it be?

"Hi. Is this seat taken?" Nerd #1 looked up, surprised.

"No." He said simply. He had heavy acne, braces a startling shade of orange and metallic, a black shirt with "dungeons and dragons" boldly printed in large red letters, and bowling shoes.

"Well…can I sit here then?"

"Go for it." A boy from across the table spoke. He looked slightly less nerdy than the rest of them. His skin was relatively clear, save the few zits that were bound to appear on any normal teenager sooner or later. His hair was a sandy blonde, accompanied by pretty blue eyes, and instead of flashy, blinding braces he wore a clear retainer. I tagged him as the type that had a rough start in high school, but then grew up to be very handsome and successful, leaving all he beautiful cheerleader types who had rejected him in painful regret. "Name's Michael. And don't mind Nick there," He gestured to the heavily–zitted dungeons and dragons boy "He's pretty much anti–social." I didn't know whether it was appropriate to laugh, not wanting to hurt Nick's feelings.

"Thanks." I said, pulling out the chair. Of course, as I sat, I fumbled the tray, causing the chocolate milk to fly off my plate, skid across the table, and lodge itself in the middle of Michael's plate, which sported green muck similar to my own.

"Oh my gosh! I'm so, so sorry." I said, cringing as I prepared for the nasty glare doubtlessly headed my way. "Can I help you … somehow? No, I'd better not. I'd probably just make more of a mess. I'm really, really sorry. Things like this just happen to me. Honestly, I can't go an hour without something like this happening to me. Seriously, I'm not even kidding, things like this always happen to me," Stop rambling. "I wish I knew why, but they always just do. But like I said, I'm so sorry. Really, I'm very, very sorry. I hardly know you and I've already ruined your lunch. Things like this always ha –"

"You can stop apologizing." He said, and to my intense relief, a smile spread across his face. And to my intense surprise, my heart fluttered, and I felt the familiar sensation of hurtling down a roller coaster. This guy wasn't even my type. Well, sure, the guys I liked were never exactly my type, but they were all the same type. Tall, muscular, insanely handsome, star of the basketball team, etc. Guys that never looked at me twice, except to sneer at my clumsiness. This guy was the opposite. Taller than me, I could tell, but not tall. Cute, but not near insanely handsome. More on the slight side than muscular, and judging from the "warts not sports" t–shirt he wore, not athletic.

"It's fine." He continued. "Really don't worry about it. Sit." He gingerly picked up the milk carton and wiped it off, reaching to hand it to me. His hand grazed mine and my heart fluttered again. "You should still be able to drink it. What's your name?"

"Drink it, yes." I replied stupidly, inducing another smile from Michael. What was this I had said about him not being insanely handsome? Ridiculous.

"Your name?" He asked again.

"Oh yes, Harper. Nice to meet you. I'd try to shake your hand, but I'm sure something awful would happen." He smiled again. Beautiful, beautiful boy.

And now we've finally reached the point of horror, if you remember. I took a bite of the green muck, smearing some on my chin. It was surprisingly good, I thought as I reached for a napkin. I took another bite, dropping some on my shirt. Only then did I detect a slight hint of the food I never, ever wanted to taste.

"Whafisthish?" I said, through a mouthful of the food.

"Pardon?" I spit it out in my napkin, knowing how gross it was but terrified to swallow.

"What is this?" I repeated, my voice shaky. Michael eyed me curiously.

"Seafood salad." He said. "They serve it every Thursday." Oh no.

"Is there any shrimp in this?" I asked, the heat flooding my face.

"Sure. It's the crappy kind though." Oh no. "Hey, are you okay?" I clutched at my throat. I could already feel it closing. How humiliating. I could picture my face. Hives would be rising by now. Big, grotesque, hideous hives all over my face. Then my face would swell. The tears were rising. Why? Why did this happen to me? Why, of all the people God could have made allergic to shrimp, did he have to choose me?

"Oh my God." Michael cocked his head and peered at me in what I knew was pure disgust. "Let me take you to the nurse."

"No." I choked. "It'll go down in a minute. I'll be right back." I got up and dashed to the bathroom. I could feel my ears itching, hear the sound of my wheezing as though I was screaming it. My allergy wasn't deadly, and it would, in fact, go down soon, but that didn't at all lessen my sheer mortification. Michael would never, ever look at me the same again. And I hadn't even known him for five minutes.

I went into a stall and closed the door, sitting on the toilet and putting my head in my hands. This was horrible. This was unimaginably atrocious. This was the worst day of my life.

And then the lid gave out.

Now, I had always been under the impression that the rim of the toilet should be smaller than the circumference of an adult human's bottom. Not in this case.

As I plummeted into the deep, dark abyss of the commode I wondered if, in all of human history, a living person had had as bad of a day as me. A blur of obscenities passed through my mind as the tears overwhelmed me, and I gave myself over to deep, chest wracking sobs. What kind of person got stuck in a toilet? Did that even happen? Perhaps I was just dreaming it all. I pinched myself, only to bring on more tears at the stinging pain. All right, so out goes the dream theory. What on earth was I going to do now?

It had been Ginger who discovered me first. And the rest was history.

They got me out, despite my agonized conviction that I would be stuck in the toilet forever, die there, and assume a persona similar to Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter books, the combined efforts of Ginger, Mrs. Click, Mrs. Hope, Mrs. Finnegan. Eventually a female officer from the Fire Department freed me in the end. But when I thought about what would happen to me when news got out of my unfortunate incident, I would have gladly chosen the "tragic–death–and–Moaning–Myrtle" scenario.

My reputation would be ruined, scorched and battered beyond all recognition. People would point at me and laugh wherever I went. It was already bad enough being known as the helplessly clumsy, ridiculously unlucky girl on campus. But this was much, much worse. Getting stuck in a toilet, actually stuck in a toilet, (not to mention doing so while having a face that resembled a retarded blowfish) ranked up there with having your pants pulled down in front of the entire student body while giving a speech–the awful fate of a senior the previous spring.

"Honestly, Harper, it's really not that big of a deal. And no you can't transfer schools. Absolutely not." My mother sat down on the foot of my bed, a slightly exasperated expression on her face. "I really doubt that any of those women who know about it are going to go and post pictures around campus.

"Things get out, Mom." I said from underneath the pillow I had thrust over my face in frustration. "You don't understand."

"Well you're not missing school tomorrow." She said. "You've missed enough already."

"Mom! You can't seriously be thinking about making me go?"

"Harper, you can't miss school just because –"

"Just because I got stuck in a toilet?"

"That too. But I was going to say that you couldn't miss school just because you think that someone's going to make fun of you. Remember that time that you got that piece of glue stuck up your nose last year and had to be taken to the emergency room?"

"Mom. You're not helping."

"You were just positive that every person on campus was going to know about it and make fun of you. You just knew, without a doubt, that your reputation was absolutely ruined. And did a single person mention anything about it to you the next day?"

"My art teacher did," I said defensively.

"That's called concern, not spite. Look, I'm sure no one is even going to know about it. Now get some sleep." She got up and hit the lights, blowing a kiss to me as she went.

"How am I supposed to get any sleep with the prospect of my imminent demise looming over my head?" I shouted after her.

"Go to sleep, Harper." Eventually, after a few hours of agonized twisting and turning, I did fall asleep. And all too soon I woke up.

My eyes opened to what I knew would be the last social day of my life. With a groan, I beat my alarm clock until it's annoying screeching subsided and rolled out of bed.

"Harper, you awake?" My mom's voice drifted up the stairs.

"Mmmbllllshhhhhf." I said groggily.


"I'm up!" I ran a hand through my hair as my mouth erupted into a huge, jaw–cracking yawn. With a sigh (which caused another enormous yawning fit) I made my way to the bathroom.

I hadn't slept well. Deep circles rimmed my eyes and my face looked even paler than usual. Knowing you're about to meet you're societal demise can do that to a person.

"Cheer up, babe." My mom tossed a plate of eggs, toast and bacon in front of me. "I made you breakfast."

I pushed the plate away. "Please, Mom. You can't honestly expect me to eat." She pursed her lips and placed her hands on her hips, looking absolutely alarming with our shared shade of red hair in morning disarray, and her pink bathrobe clashing magnificently to boot. "Actually, me giving up half an hour of sleep to make you a ‘cheer up" breakfast kind of does make me expect for you to eat it."

"Fine." I forced a mouthful into my mouth, found the food irresistibly delicious, and managed to polish the whole thing off in less than a minute. Mom stood over me with a smug smile. "I don't know how you stay so skinny." She said as she piled another helping on my plate.

We drove to school in silence, my mom offering occasional input.

"A little less on the brakes. Good. Try to accelerate a little smoother next time."

"It's not that easy for me to concentrate right now!" I said, as I pulled to a particularly nasty stop in front of a red light. "I told you I didn't want to drive." My mother surveyed me coolly, as she clutched at the dashboard with white knuckles.

"I promise you that at one point or another in you life, Harper dear, you are going to have to drive while in a situation much more worrisome than your ‘societal demise.""

"Doubt it," I grumbled.

"You have to learn somehow. You turn sixteen in two weeks and you don't even know how to parallel park yet."

"Mom, no one knows how to parallel park!"

"This is good practice. And you need all the practice you can get." I gave a nasty glare to the windshield as I pressed the gas, ensuing a frightened "Not so fast, Harper!" from my mother.

"Okay," she said, as we pulled into the parking lot. "Brakes, Harper, Brakes! Brakes, Brakes, Brakes! BRAKE HARPER!"

"I'm doing it, Mother!"



"JUST HIT THE DAMN BRAKE!" I screeched into the front of my school with a loud I eeeeeeeeeeeeeek, which caused several people standing on the front steps to stop and stare. I felt my face flood with color. My mom was sitting in a similar position, fanning her face frantically with her hand.

"Don't ever pull into a parking lot that fast!" She panted. "We could have been killed!"

"I'm sure screaming at a student driver isn't too high up there on the safety list, Mother."

She breathed in a few deep breaths in an out of her nose, biding patience. "Okay. Okay, fine. I'm sorry for yelling at you."

"Thank you." I said coldly.

"You really need to listen to me, though. That was the agreement, remember?"

"Yes, I remember. There's a line behind us. I better go." I got out and slammed the door, pulling my bag out from the back seat. I felt my mom get in behind me.

"Harper!" She called after me. The bell had just rung, and I was trying to blend in with the crowd of students that were swarming up the steps to the school.

"What?" I forced myself to turn and face her.

"You're going to do fine today, hon." I sighed. "Thanks Mom. But you really don't know that much about life."

Despite my certainty of my imminent demise, no one spared me more than the usual amused glance when I tripped over my own shoe and slid across the floor in first period. No one said anything to me at all, which stung with its usual bitter sweetness. I couldn't , try as I might, detect any odd whispers or gossip. Luckily, miraculously, no one seemed to know anything about the toilet incident at all! I could hardly believe it.

But my troubles were far from over. Happy as I was about the whole toilet thing staying on the down low, I was still a teenage girl. And it is a well–known fact that we can never be completely happy about anything. So I quickly found something else to make me utterly miserable. Michael. The nerdy hottie that I was irrevocably in love with, if you don't recall.

How could I ever face him again? What if, every time he saw me, he thought of me with a face swollen and puffed up beyond all recognition? I would have to love him from afar. As lunch approached I would have gladly eaten in the bathroom, if it weren't for the fact that I didn't trust bathrooms at all anymore.

I was one of the last sophomores to shuffle into the cafeteria. I walked slowly to the lunch line, walked even more slowly through it, and barely remembered to smile at Harriet, the haggard old lunch lady who always checked me out. I didn't really trust cafeteria food either anymore, but I was starving, so I settle for a plain bowl of fruit, a bologna sandwich, and some chocolate milk.

"This doesn't happen to have any shrimp in it, does it?" I joked feebly, holding up the bologna sandwich.

"Of course it doesn't." Harriet replied solemnly. I sighed and shuffled out. I felt the heat flood my face as I stood facing the mass of students, most of them seemingly seated and happy.

"Hey. Harper, isn't it?" I spun around, nearly dropping my tray in the process. Michael stood behind me, perfectly composed and at ease, leaning casually against the wall with his hands in his pockets.

"Y–yeah. You remembered."

"You're not very forgettable."

I blushed. That's one bad thing about pale redheads for you … their blushes are always so damn obvious. He smiled. "I'm glad to see you got that allergy taken care of. I was looking around for you after lunch, but you kinda just disappeared."

"I was looking around for you after lunch … " I thought my heart would burst with pure, uninhibited joy. What was I supposed to say to that? " … Oh yeah. Sorry about that. I got stuck in a toilet. " I don't think so. I could always take the honest route. "I love you." Wouldn't really be that over the top, would it? SAY SOMETHING!

"Well…the nurse gave me some Benadryl and my mom came to pick me up." My mom came to pick me up?!?!?! You can do better than that, Harper!

Michael smiled. "Well we didn't really get to do that much talking yesterday. Do you want to sit with us again?"

"Yeah!" Too enthusiastic. "I mean…sure, I guess."

The rest of the day went absolutely, positively, unimaginably perfect. I sat by Michael, feeling like the queen of the world. I joked with Nick and a few other members of what I dubbed "The Nerd Clan", all of whom were surprisingly pleasant and kind. Michael even wiped the crumbs off my face when I accidentally fell into the contents of my bologna sandwich. My life was wonderful. My life was fabulously perfect. My life was going better than it had ever, ever gone. I, Harper Jones, was blissfully happy sitting next to the man of my dreams. Later, as I wiped the milk I had spilled off of the table, a goofy little smile on my face, I thought of the words my mother had said to me earlier that morning.

"You're going to do fine, hon." Maybe mothers know just a little bit more about life than I thought.

©Katy Lucas

Katy is a somewhat–average teenager who currently resides in the lovely little town of Granbury, TX. She lives with her mother and father, and is currently enrolled in Granbury High School as a sophomore. She tends to stay fairly busy with school, but loves the blissful feeling of being lazy too. Her two older siblings, a brother and sister, are both away establishing their brilliance at college.

Her hobbies include:   writing (a passion of hers that stretches back long before she can remember), reading extensively, spending time with her fabulous family and friends, and spending time online at her favorite sites. She also has a passion for cinema. Katy loves Chinese, Italian, and German food, and absolutely, totally loathes peas. She's a bit superstitious, and her sign is Saggitarius.

She's currently working on getting her driver's license (stay off the roads!)

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©Margie Culbertson

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