Death By Sharpie

Submitted into Contest #127 in response to: Write a story about a problem with no good solutions.... view prompt

52 comments

Coming of Age Middle School American

Lori Greene was needlessly cruel and we were afraid of her. 

“Please don’t slice and dice other students with your sharp tongue, Lori,” scolded Ms. Attaway, our 7th grade drama teacher. “Everyone deserves your respect.”

When Ryan Wiggins laughed at her rebuke, Lori Greene decided to cancel him on the spot. 

“You’re a pervert, Ryan,” she loudly announced to the class. “I’ve seen what’s on your camera roll, and you are a creeper.” The entire first period class, except for Ms. Attaway and Ryan, burst out into laughter. 

Of course Lori Greene hadn’t been anywhere near Ryan Wiggins’ iPhone to see what pictures he had secreted there, but being middle schoolers, all of our camera rolls were highly suspect. Ryan turned bright red and didn’t say another word for the rest of the semester. 

Being impossibly beautiful didn’t help Lori Greene’s overweening narcissism or increase her tolerance of others. While the rest of us had no clue how to coif our frizzy tresses, Lori Greene quickly mastered the flat iron, turning her dark hair into smooth waves that perfectly framed her face. While the rest of us drowned in a sea of acne, her peaches-and-cream complexion glowed all the more luminously. While the rest of us crossed our arms over our stubbornly flat chests, Lori Greene wore tight t-shirts to show off how well she’d successfully navigated puberty. 

In the amoral abyss that is middle school, Lori Greene was popular simply because she was pretty. No one in our grade held any illusion that she was particularly intelligent or kind or good. We curried her favor and idolized her because—in some magical way—perhaps her popularity might transfer onto us. It was a risk worth taking, even if Lori Greene was as charming as an injured honey badger.

“Okay, everyone. Settle down. I have the scripts for our next in-class performance. Form into groups of five,” Ms. Attaway instructed, shuffling papers while the class looked at its collective self in silent horror. 

Even though she was my favorite teacher, I immediately questioned Ms. Attaway’s pedagogy. Asking self-conscious adolescents to form themselves into groups is Darwinian at its worst. Nothing reveals one’s place in the social order like attempting to join a temporary tribe.

The boys melted into the walls, wondering for the millionth time why they picked drama as an elective. The girls milled about like war orphans, hoping someone would offer them shelter from the embarrassment of not being wanted. 

“Lori! Lori! Lori!” called Sandy Brooker from across the room, scurrying over like the jabbering sycophant she was. “Omigod Lori, who should we get in our group?”

“I don’t care,” Lori Greene said, looking around, a smear of disgust on her pretty mouth.

“Dawn? Let’s get Dawn!” Sandy Brooker waved frantically. “Dawn! Dawn! Dawn!”

I blithely watched Sandy scuttle away to greet the delighted Dawn.

“What about you?” Lori Greene turned to me. 

“What about me,” I replied, a little on edge, wondering what her angle was. Lori Greene had never talked to me before.

“You got a group?” 

“I guess I do now,” I said, puzzled at the cosmic turn of events. How did I get invited into the popular group? Dawn and Sandy rejoined us. Before I could luxuriate in my inexplicable rise in social status, a smiling Ms. Attaway appeared, with one of our peers in tow.

“Excuse me ladies, do you have room in your group for Melanie?”

Melanie? I groaned inwardly. This was my one chance to climb up the popularity totem pole. The presence of Melanie in our group threatened my good fortune.

Lori, Dawn, and Sandy sat down, stone silent. Ms. Attaway continued to smile. I reluctantly nodded and Melanie joined our group. 

Melanie lived in my neighborhood. I had known her since preschool, and she was nice but—odd. Just pure wackadoo. In kindergarten, we called Melanie the “Booger-Miner” for obvious reasons. In 2nd grade, Melanie wore a ponytail and trotted like a horse on the asphalt playground. In 4th grade, Melanie licked the frosting out of her Oreos and threw the chocolate cookies away. That’s when I quit talking to her. 

 “All right everyone!” Ms. Attaway clapped her hands. “Now collectively decide who in your group will play the hero, the villain, the damsel in distress, the train conductor, or the bystander. I will give you five minutes!” She set the timer and started to write something on the whiteboard in squeaky dry erase markers. 

Lori Greene looked at each of us, taking inventory. “I am the hero. Sandy is the train conductor. Dawn is the bystander. And you are the damsel in distress.”

I’m the damsel in distress? I was heartily pleased with her decision. Sandy and Dawn giggled. 

“What about me?” asked Melanie. 

“You are the villain,” Lori Greene decided. 

“Oh,” Melanie replied, looking down at her untied shoes. Casting the odd but effervescent Melanie as the villain seemed wrong. 

“I'll be the villain,” I suggested. “Melanie can be the damsel in distress.”

“No. Melanie is the villain." Lori Greene seemed angry and I felt chastened. 

“It’s all right,” Melanie grinned good-naturedly. “I’ll be the villain. I think it will be fun!” 

Lori Greene rummaged in her purse. She quickly pulled out a Sharpie, a thick black permanent marker. “As the villain, we are going to draw you a big twirly mustache.” 

“A mustache? Oh,” Melanie said, her eyes big at what that implied.

Our drama class was 1st period. Melanie suffered enough throughout the school day as it was. I couldn’t imagine how she’d survive six more class periods with a large hand drawn mustache on her plain face. The teasing. The bullying. There were no good options for her.

Could she really tell Lori Greene no? 

Lori Greene took her black marker and began to draw a thick curling mustache on Melanie’s face. Melanie bit her lower lip. When it was done, Lori Greene leaned back to appraise her handiwork with unfettered glee.

“There!” Lori said, holding up a small hand mirror for Melanie to see. Permanent black marker covered Melanie's face from side to side. 

Melanie’s lower lip quivered.

And at that moment, I hated Lori Greene with all the loathing in my teenage girl’s heart. 

“Now it’s my turn,” I said, grabbing the Sharpie and taking the hand mirror from Melanie. “I’m going to be a damsel in distress about missing her electrolysis appointment.”

While I drew a big thick mustache on my own face, Sandy and Dawn predictably giggled.

But more importantly, Melanie and I laughed. 


January 05, 2022 19:12

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52 comments

Ellen Oh
18:56 Jan 13, 2022

Great story! I love how Lori Greene was taken down by an act of kindness rather than some kind of revenge. Middle school is hell. Cheers to you!

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Deidra Lovegren
19:01 Jan 13, 2022

My favorite MLK quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And Middle School is pure, unadulterated hell. Cheers that we are through that (and our kids)

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Calm Shark
23:58 Jan 05, 2022

This was very good Deidra! A well-writen story, I was delighted to read it. It had good characters and a plot.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:50 Jan 06, 2022

Thanks, Mr. Shark.

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Calm Shark
23:29 Jan 06, 2022

No problem:)

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Jon Casper
23:14 Jan 05, 2022

Chuckled at "amoral abyss." Then I laughed out loud at "Booger-Miner." In my elementary school we had a "Doo-Doo Boy." I wonder whatever happened to him. Ah, middle school. Back when we thought we knew everything. To borrow from Bob Dylan: I'm younger than that now. (Thank goodness.) Solid story -- love the ending.

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Deidra Lovegren
00:05 Jan 06, 2022

Maybe he's "Doo-Doo Man" these days? Ah, the scatological nicknames. They never get old. Anyway...I'm sure he did very well, learning how to be resilient by overcoming aversity at such an impressionable age. Thanks for the read. Like the new pic.

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Susannah Meghans
05:22 Mar 16, 2022

I like how she was brave standing up for herself & her friend against bullying.

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Deidra Lovegren
13:57 Mar 16, 2022

Bullies always back down. I hope our world leaders remember that these days.

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Leo Fall
03:41 Mar 07, 2022

This is adorable. I really like the ending. Wonderful job once more!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:13 Mar 07, 2022

HOORAY :) Thanks for the dopamine burst.

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Francis Daisy
11:57 Jan 07, 2022

Who throws out the chocolate cookie part? That is just utter nonsense. The cookie part is the best part. That's just complete ridiculousness. Love how the bully was taken down in the end. I always appreciate when the bully is taken down a few pegs. Well done!

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Deidra Lovegren
17:45 Jan 10, 2022

I hear you on the cookie situation, but if you have to choose between the delicious Oreo filling and the cookie, I think we know the answer. Hooray for underdogs. We are worth rooting for :)

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Francis Daisy
21:26 Jan 10, 2022

Exactly!

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09:42 Jan 07, 2022

Hi Deidra! Not sure how I've failed to comment on one of your wonderful stories so far. This was so charming and real, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Everyone has known a Lori Greene at some point! Thank you for brightening my evening. :)

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Deidra Lovegren
17:44 Jan 10, 2022

I appreciate the read -- woo hoo!

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Scout Tahoe
02:15 Jan 07, 2022

Oh, I love this. It was short and warmed my heart because my middle school experience was nothing close to the kindness that the MC showed towards Melanie. I don't have any critiques--your writing is always smooth as honey. To Jon C: I had "cooties" and "The Fart Master." ;)

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Deidra Lovegren
03:56 Jan 07, 2022

I wish I had the moral integrity of the MC in 7th grade. I read an article recently about how reading fiction can actually teach compassion. That never occurred to me before, even though I've taught "To Kill a Mockingbird" and seen 9th graders' eyes open up. In middle school, I knew lots of Lori Greene's. I knew just one Melanie. She was awesome :)

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Scout Tahoe
04:06 Jan 07, 2022

I know a Melanie to this day. We still keep in touch. I'm so glad drew that Sharpie mustache. Gawd, so many Lori's...

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Deidra Lovegren
04:10 Jan 07, 2022

Lori's all over TikTok. Like 87% Lori's.

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Scout Tahoe
04:24 Jan 07, 2022

Love that TikTok reference - I read your last story which is hilarious. I never subscribed to social media myself but jeez it's everywhere! Your story is so true.

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Scout Tahoe
20:16 Jan 08, 2022

Where is "The Play's The Thing"? It's, like, my favorite story of yours!

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Deidra Lovegren
20:21 Jan 08, 2022

That story won me $500 — so I took it down as it’s officially published! 🏆#53 - "The Play's the Thing" (now published here: https://sites.google.com/view/deidralovegren/comedy . . . along with an audio recording: https://rotarystratford.com/SitePage/short-story-contest)

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Dorsa S.
18:50 Jan 06, 2022

the memories of middle school are resurfacing all at once! this was a very interesting story, and the ending was wholesome. i vividly remember this one person that resembled a "lori greene," so i must say that this story is undoubtedly accurate. great job again, deidra, and happy 2022. :)

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Deidra Lovegren
19:07 Jan 06, 2022

Thanks, Dorsa. In the world of Lori Greenes, may we all be Melanies. :)

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15:20 Jan 06, 2022

Congratulations on winning the Rotary Club of Stratford’s SHORT STORY CONTEST 2021 !!! Well done! Blessings

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Deidra Lovegren
16:41 Jan 06, 2022

Canadians (and Rotarians) ROCK WOO HOO

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Phil Manders
12:36 Jan 06, 2022

Happy new year Deidra! I think we all recognise something in this story. Great job as always.👍🏽

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Deidra Lovegren
16:43 Jan 06, 2022

PHIL PHIL PHIL Always wonderful to see you in the comment threads. I'm not sure where this middle school memory came from (since I've long since burned them all), but surely some demon needed exorcising. All the best to you and your wonderful family and your lovely writing. I hope 2022 is better to all of us. :)

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Beth Connor
01:17 Jan 06, 2022

You have such an amazing gift at portraying that terrifying world we call middle school. Loved it as always. I have missed your writing and spending time on Reedsy!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:49 Jan 06, 2022

Wonderful Beth Connor -- you amazing person, happy new year! I hope you are finding all the time you need in 2022 for your endless creative pursuits. Philosophically, I'm not sure how much more we evolve past middle school. Every time I'm forced to go to a faculty meeting (or really any gathering), I'm like: "Yep, Lori Greene." "Yes, that's a Melanie" Yin/Yang Light/Dark Moon/Sun Lori Greene/Melanie -- Dualism makes the world go round.

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Nora K.
19:53 Jan 05, 2022

Death by Sharpie. I get it now. This is the best. Middle school isn't middle school without a Lori Greene in it. Demanding, excessive, unfairly gorgeous, so on, so forth. Spot-on. Loved this. Great job. Woohoo!

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Deidra Lovegren
21:32 Jan 05, 2022

Lori Greene's are everywhere. Thankfully, lots of Melanie's are too. :)

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Kathleen March
03:32 Jan 15, 2022

‘The girls milled about like war orphans‘ - great image. I loved this story. Unexpected-yet-expected comeuppance. Real mastery of dialogue and internal narration.

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Del Gibson
21:23 Jan 12, 2022

Very well written story, comical with a sense of impending doom, that thankfully did not eventuate! I love the description of the girls, the drama is well done and overall a fantastic story. Well done !

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Bruce Friedman
18:17 Jan 12, 2022

Great story as always, Deidra. For some reason (and it was a long time ago), I missed all of the Lori's in junior high school. My favorite quote from your story: Asking self-conscious adolescents to form themselves into groups is Darwinian at its worst. Nothing reveals one’s place in the social order like attempting to join a temporary tribe.

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Kate Winchester
01:00 Jan 12, 2022

Your story is well written and your characterization of middle school was spot on. I love how you made a seemingly bad decision end up being good. Great job!

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Dhwani Jain
14:27 Jan 11, 2022

Hey! I have completed the task and written a story using a lot of emojis!!! It was tough, but I did it!!! Please review it here: https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/wygto5/

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Suma Jayachandar
08:37 Jan 09, 2022

This is my absolute fav of yours after 'The Play's the Thing'. 😊

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Deidra Lovegren
17:46 Jan 10, 2022

That is high praise! "The Play's the Thing" just won a contest, so I pulled it from Reedsy and it's now published on a Canadian site (see my bio.) It's also been done for a podcast and a youtube reading (both approved and not approved, so WTH.) Hamlet and KFC was lightning in a bottle. Fun to write :)

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Suma Jayachandar
01:54 Jan 11, 2022

Yay! Congratulations!!

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