47 comments

Drama

(This story is for beloved Thom Brodkin)


Of course Missy was making a scene at the registration table. 

Thirty five years had not blunted Missy’s expectations that her very presence should cause red carpets to unroll and doves to be uncaged. Over her carefully coiffed blonde head read a welcome banner: “Class of ‘85 - Still Alive.” Black and gold balloons attempted to make the musty gym more festive, but offered an oddly funereal pallor. 

“Well, just check again. I’m sure the registration forms were filled out.”

“Missy, you aren’t on the list. It’s $25,” we said.

“My husband assured me he sent everything in on time. He’ll be here any minute. You remember Todd—”

Yep. We remembered Todd. Todd the Rod. The only student in our grade that was prettier and more shallow than Missy. Except that while Missy kept her knees tightly locked together, Todd ran through the lot of her fellow cheerleaders and—rumor had it—a few of the young substitute teachers, one or two lunch ladies, and possibly the PTA president herself.

After all, it was the Eighties.

“Todd will be by later to handle everything. I’ll just fill out this nametag.” Missy grabbed a purple Sharpie marker and wrote her name in large curling letters. She still dotted the “i” in her name with a little heart. She peeled off the backing of the nametag and fully slapped MISSY on her left tit.

“Okay, Missy. Have fun.”

Missy and Todd had never come to the previous high school reunions. We'd heard they’d moved up north. We'd heard she had quite a career that left no time for family, trips home, or old acquaintances. Strange, though, as Missy had been so involved in high school, in the local church youth group, in the community. But, like all small towns, more people decide to leave than stay. Gets worse every year. Those who do stay cleave unto each other especially tight. 

We watched Missy expertly sashay into the small throng of middle aged people, her chin tilted upward to give her slightly crepey neck a more swan-like appearance. Her high waisted pencil skirt showed off a still-narrow waist and impressive calves, capped off by impossibly high heels. Our bunions hurt just watching her click around in shoes so orthopedically unsound.

The rest of us had accepted our fifth decade of life, happily shoveling potato salad and chocolate coconut sheet cake into our wide, laughing mouths, our ample bottoms overhanging cold metal folding chairs. We sat in semicircles, separated by genders. Our husbands talked of sports teams and politics and fart jokes. We older mothers talked about children graduating from college trying to “adult,” we whispered words like “cancer” and “biopsy,” and we laughed at our horrible hairstyles, horrible music, and the horrible choices of our youth. 

After all, it was the Eighties.

But we all watched Missy from the corner of our eyes. 

Missy widely circulated as people quickly fragmented, leaving Missy a lone gazelle among wildebeests. She saw one or two of her old friends who reluctantly stood and let Missy air kiss them. Like a game of musical chairs though, her form grew more and more solitary as friend groups found each other and intimately clustered. 

Missy put on her most coquettish smile and walked slowly by the men. There was no pull tab for her entry. The men looked sheepish, offered her a small nod, and then resumed their conversation about the new highway exit ramp and the new chicken place that opened up near the hospital. 

Her particular group of high school beauties had left town long ago for bigger lives in bigger cities. With each passing rotation around the gymnasium, we watched Missy’s chin droop, her eyes looking at the doorway expectantly. She looked at her iPhone. She put it away. She walked to the refreshment table. Poured a cup of punch. Tasted it. Threw it out. Crossed her arms. Tapped her long lacquered nails. Pretended to read the championship plaques on the wall. She pulled her iPhone out again and looked at it.

There was nothing here for her.  

We looked at each other, we minor players in high school, the quiet girls in the middle of the schoolroom who said little but saw everything. Wordlessly, we moved en masse over to Missy, full of strange compassion for this aging beauty from days long past.

“Is Todd on his way?”

She seemed startled.

“Uh, no. Todd isn’t coming,” she smiled broadly. Her expensive dental work was breathtaking, her mouth still as lush and young as when she called out cheers on the football field. Her lips were undoubtedly emblazoned with some new plum color with a French name we probably couldn’t pronounce, preferring the small black tubes of Chapstick to keep our own lips soft.

“Oh, I guess we’ll see him another time.”

“Absolutely.” She continued to smile, a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “He was really hoping to see you all again.”

Todd the Rod would be hard pressed to remember any of our names, we thought. 

“So, are you visiting for a while?”

“I’m home for the duration,” she said flatly, dazed, as if standing in her old high school gymnasium was not at all what she expected. She looked around, distractedly, attempting to find her bearings. Everything both familiar and not. 

“If we can be of any help—” we offered.

“Thanks, but I’m good. I’m—We’re really good. I’m just back in town for a little while,” she added and quickly turned her head. We collectively envied her thick blonde hair, obviously cared for with biotin supplements and hot oil treatments. Our hair was generally brown and frizzy, clogging up the shower drain more and more as it disconcertingly thinned. 

Missy had finally had enough. With a final look around the room, much smaller now than she remembered, she took decisively long strides to the exit, not saying goodbye to anyone before departing. She quietly pushed open the door to the parking lot and disappeared into the night. 

We watched her leave, odd waves of nostalgia trailing in her wake. But her presence wasn’t missed. 

In the closing moments of the reunion, there were dishes to clear, tables to fold, Tupperware to return, and balloons to pop. Someone took down the “Class of ‘85 - Still Alive” and rolled it up for next year.


September 27, 2020 01:09

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47 comments

Bob Ivey
15:04 Oct 04, 2020

Deidra, your descriptions in this story are great. I was confused about Todd. Early in the story Missy said that Todd was coming and later she said that he wasn't. I've never read a story before with a group POV or a group as the MC but it seemed to work. I'll have to try it someday. At the end of the story you wrote "Missy had finally had enough." Seems like a bit of head hopping here. How would the group know that she'd had enough? Other than that I liked the story. Keep writing.

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15:26 Oct 04, 2020

Thanks, Bob! Todd apparently is as flakey as his shallow wife, unreliable now as back in the day. You're right. I should have written: "Missy appeared to have finally had enough," as the hive mind was speculating.

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Marissa Tuazon
00:14 Oct 04, 2020

A very awesome write Deidra. Bravo!👏👏👏

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00:16 Oct 04, 2020

Thanks for the free dopamine hit, MT. Appreciate the good cheer :)

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Marissa Tuazon
00:37 Oct 04, 2020

You are welcome! Stay safe DL.😊

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Doubra Akika
10:36 Oct 03, 2020

I loved this so much D&D. Missy's personality is something else. Her character was so well-constructed. The perspective you used was so spectacular! The repetition of after all, it was the eighties was also really amazing. Your story was so hilarious and somewhat light-hearted. I love how everyone had somewhat accepted where they are now, but not Missy. Your stories are honestly always so wonderful. As always I'm glad I read this!

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15:09 Oct 03, 2020

D&D forever. You always bring me great joy. Thanks :)

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15:10 Oct 03, 2020

You have a permanent shout out on my bio :)

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Bianka Nova
21:47 Sep 29, 2020

I think I like the silly apocalyptical story better. The premise of this one was a bit of a cliché 🙃 The execution though - WOW! Especially (I know I'm not the only one to say so) the first-person plural POV. It's true that for 1/3 of the story I wasn't sure if this was the case or if it was a non-binary person, but that's just me influenced by the fact that I've just finished reading Girl, Woman, Other. 😁 Favorite quote: "Our bunions hurt just watching her click around in shoes so orthopedically unsound."

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22:04 Sep 29, 2020

C'mon. We keep it real here at Reedsy... I know what you liked about the apocalypse story. Naughty.

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22:06 Sep 29, 2020

The WE is the amorphous cluster of likeminded females. Like a rugby scrum. Hive mind. You must be under 25 to think otherwise about pronouns, haha. My own children have presented me with some very grammatically incorrect pronouns, so I just call them First child, Second child, Third child. We are going to QR codes soon.

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Bianka Nova
22:48 Sep 29, 2020

That's why it was so brilliant. I am actually not sure if I've seen it before. I also see that your funny mode is still on. I think you should capitalize on that. By the way, I just got curious - do you have stories on here inspired by your kids? 😉

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22:52 Sep 29, 2020

“No One Really Explains” & “Can’t Get Enough of What You Don’t Need” contain all my parenting advice.

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Bianka Nova
23:28 Sep 29, 2020

Thanks! I'll check them out tomorrow 'cause I'm off to bed! Good night! (whenever that comes for you 😉)

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Phil Manders
11:29 Sep 29, 2020

Hi. Could you stop moving the goalposts please. You just wrote a story from a group perspective. . .come on! I can’t keep up. Stick to the first person please it’s easier for me to (attempt to) copy you😁. Bravo as always. (Did I just say bravo? What’s happening to me?)

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14:18 Sep 29, 2020

I'm writing in your name for President on November 3. President Manders :)

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Elle Clark
20:52 Sep 28, 2020

Ahh this is such a classic Deidra feel story! I’m not thrilled with the amount of innuendos but I guess I got my fill of them in the last story. So to speak. Your characters, as always, are so well constructed. The first person plural viewpoint (I think? Jonathan, what do you reckon?) gives the reader a really focused lens that immediately others Missy, which is of course how she feels. I read your comment about people not being othered until adulthood and I think you’re right about the character building aspect of that. Or at least,...

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00:03 Sep 29, 2020

Who couldn't use more . . . character development? Or peen. Either one, really. I am ambivalent to both Missy and the "We" because I understand/can't stand both sides. Missy is a mess. Shallow people are so surprised when their bullshit doesn't work anymore. But I get her. On some level. Don't get me wrong. I utterly despise her. But as an introvert who hates most people, I only vaguely understand the appeal of "making friends" or putzing around with likeminded souls, talking about the minutiae of life. I just can't physically st...

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Elle Clark
06:03 Sep 29, 2020

I’ve heard of the Myers Briggs test but have never gotten round to taking it. I may well give it a gander later on if I get time though. I imagine that it’ll tell me that I am mostly an introvert but I do like the occasional night out (though I’ve not been on one in a very long time as, aside from covid and spending most of last year pregnant, my husband is very introverted and a night dancing is his idea of utter hell). I also have a cluster of very close friends but I’m not great with acquaintances. I don’t really get small talk as unless ...

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06:25 Sep 29, 2020

Yes on loud, hilarious, statement clothing, ribald jokes. All true. Ooooooo You are eerie with the soothsaying. Introverts need to recharge alone — it’s how one gets his or her energy that determines extroversion or not. Extroverts need people. Introverts need seclusion. You’ll like the Myers Briggs. It’s free prognostication!

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Elle Clark
20:55 Sep 29, 2020

I took it! I’m apparently an ISFJ-A. A defender type. Who knew? You’re right though; I did enjoy the read!

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22:01 Sep 29, 2020

Nice to meet you, Defender. Architect here: INTJ. So you are Batgirl, and I'm the person who designed the BatCave?? When you teach archetypes to your students, this is a good tie in. Pseudo-science at its best :)

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Katina Foster
20:20 Sep 27, 2020

I love the title, but I also want it to be: "After all, it was the Eighties." I like how you contrast the "we" with Missy. "We" are comfortable and content with life's journey and our flaws, while Missy obviously isn't. (I love the detail of the heart over the i in Missy.) It's funny and lighthearted (Todd the Rod) while also having a heartbreaking quality to it. Like Missy is wanting connection but unable to accept it when it's offered. I feel for Missy, and can't help but wonder what's going on in her life to make her so lonely and c...

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20:32 Sep 27, 2020

Just fixed the "we'd" (which sounds illegal.) Good catch. Missy has had the misfortune of being beautiful her whole life. (It's like the saying goes: Did you have a happy childhood or are you funny?) In my experience, to not be "the other" and to not experience being "invisible" is to not have the opportunity to learn compassion, empathy, patience. Really to develop any depth, it's good to be othered at some point in your life. Late bloomers do really well in the long run. I see the "beautiful ones" peak in high school and watch them sore...

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Katina Foster
00:24 Sep 28, 2020

Bless her heart (I hear that's how you're supposed to react to that kind of misfortune in the south). Does Florida count as the south? I totally agree with your assessment. I guess I've never thought it through - like what it would be like to make it to adulthood without experience and then be "othered" at such a late stage. Although, maybe it explains that couple with guns in St. Louis who freaked out when protesters walked down their street...

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09:28 Sep 28, 2020

Florida doesn’t count as any cardinal direction. It just is. Like brain-eating amoebas in drinking water.

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09:30 Sep 28, 2020

I spent too much time in St. Louis at robotics competitions. Totally Fall of Rome vibe.

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:53 Sep 27, 2020

I had no idea American’s knew about wildebeests! Amazing. We call a gazelle a gemsbok, by the way, and they’re very nice to eat. In case you were curious.🐂🦌 Another classic Deidra story. You really excel in capturing the human side of things. Your observations are so accurate, and that’s where the humor comes from. This could’ve been said for any one of your previous stories, and it’s just as valid here. What do you call this perspective – first-person collective? It’s unique and works so well, giving the group a single voice and clearly...

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15:27 Sep 27, 2020

Fun fact: I am a wildebeest. I have no idea what POV I used. It just seemed appropriate for the occasion. I think a lot of people my age are realizing that chasing a career at the expense of family and friendships was a lifelong bad move. Lots of single, lonely successful 50-year-olds wondering what happened to their lives. I can't tell you how many of these type of men marry 30-year-olds and are mistaken for "grandpa" at the playground. So, it's a cautionary tale on some level. Thank God my husband is a good man. I really lucked out sin...

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Shreya S
05:41 Sep 27, 2020

I love this story! The ‘we’, of course, was fantastic in its use clubbing together all the people who used to be quiet in their school days. I think it’s amazing how you used their view to narrate the whole things about Missy, the lonely gazelle, and Todd and the rest of the guys- because it’s usually those people who notice all these kind of things. I loved how they moved towards her at the end, to offer some compassion! But of course Missy just left soon later, which sticks with her personality. The descriptions were amazing too!

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15:31 Sep 27, 2020

Shreya, you are adorable. Thanks for the moral support. We lonely writers need the dopamine burst every so often. I appreciate your taking time to read and comment. All the best :)

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A. K. Wilson
21:45 Oct 03, 2020

Awe i loved this it really though it has an ending leaves a reader wanting to know more

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22:28 Oct 03, 2020

I'm going to hope that's a good thing? :)

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A. K. Wilson
22:31 Oct 03, 2020

Absolutely! :) it was really really good

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Lani Lane
01:45 Sep 27, 2020

Hi, Deidra! This was FANTASTIC. Love the plural "we" you used throughout the story, decisively partnering the reader with the narrator(s) and othering Missy. You had a lot of wonderful descriptions here. I particularly enjoyed this sentence: The rest of us had accepted our fifth decade of life, happily shoveling potato salad and chocolate coconut sheet cake into our wide, laughing mouths, our ample bottoms overhanging cold metal folding chairs. What a visual! I want to make my comments on stories more productive, especially on stories ...

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15:37 Sep 27, 2020

Lailani, your comments give me life. Thanks for the high quality feedback as well. I'll need to go in and make those changes, but I have to grade 65 horrible 11th grade essays on Gender Criticism. (Oh, it's less exciting than it sounds...) Your name is lovely. Is it Hawaiian? Mine is Irish and means "sorrow." (Thanks Mom!)

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Lani Lane
21:21 Sep 27, 2020

Of course!! That's so cool--thank you for all you do as a teacher! I can't imagine how tough it must be to teach right now. My name is Hawaiin! It means "heavenly flower." I live in the US but I'm actually Samoan and was born in New Zealand. :) I LOVE your name, don't be shocked if you see it in a story haha! :)

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00:07 Sep 29, 2020

Deidra - Goddess of Death?

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Lani Lane
03:38 Sep 29, 2020

I love it!! :D

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Keerththan 😀
16:25 Oct 15, 2020

I love the ending! This was a wonderful story and I saw the fact that its for Thom Brodkin. I bet he would have enjoyed it because I enjoyed it so much. Wonderful story. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story? Thanks!

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Jonathan Blaauw
18:07 Oct 03, 2020

Deidra, you're being naughty now. I said new comment, as in, not in that mess we had going there! If I couldn't find the first time you posted the link, how would posting it there again help? 🤣🤣🤣 If you could post it again, in reply to this comment, it would be far more accessible and I would be very much grateful. After all this, it better not be a fart video. And knowing you, that's exactly what you'll put, won't you?

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18:10 Oct 03, 2020

Ag shame. http://rhetoric.byu.edu/

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Jonathan Blaauw
18:11 Oct 03, 2020

Baie dankie!

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18:31 Oct 03, 2020

Geen probleem nie jy pragtige man Did I call you a jelly doughnut? https://laughlines.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/ich-bin-ein-jelly-doughnut/ Not a fart video. Maybe.

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Black Rose
13:25 Feb 13, 2021

Great job!

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