The Wave Maker
“Come here and tell my friends what you did to me!” The girl with the frizzy hair plants her feet squarely in the middle of the sidewalk and crosses her arms. She has no intention of moving aside to let Mari pass…
Mari had been anticipating and dreading this confrontation all day long. Even Miss Spencer in 3rd hour Social Studies had noticed her unusual lack of interest in the lesson.
“Can anyone tell me which President brought this country through the Great Depression and into the midst of World War II? Yes? No? Did anyone read their assignment for today? Oh, Mari, not even you?”
Mari felt her throat constrict as she tried to answer but couldn’t. She could feel Frizzy Hair’s eyes boring into her and heard several muffled giggles coming from the back of the classroom. It wasn’t that the girl with the frizzy hair had a lot of friends. But the ones she did have were the kind who already had a reputation, even in seventh grade.
Mari’s friend Jodie called this particular gang the Roller Derby Queens. They pushed their way to the front of the lunch line when the lunch monitor wasn’t looking. In science lab, the class right before lunch, they grabbed the newest microscopes or hogged the box of slides until five minutes before the bell rang. Mr. Newton was always busy grading papers or talking to another teacher just outside the door. If you were one of the Outsiders (not a Derby Queen), you had to beg Mr. Newton for a few extra minutes after class to finish up the day’s assignment. Of course, that meant less time for lunch, which also meant less time for Mr. Newton’s lunch hour. He frowned at Mari a lot that year even though her grade was one of the highest in class, and she was one of the few students who didn’t cheat on their tests.
Now Mari felt like it was O.K. Corral time, and she was without backup from Doc Holliday. Jodie’s grandmother had died, and her family had to leave town before the end of school. Mari wasn’t even sure what the fuss was about. Frizzy Hair had been caught red-handed last week with some of Mari’s mom’s jewelry. Mari’s mom had come home from the salon on Friday afternoon to find the two girls watching something on TV. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until a couple of hours later when Mari’s family was getting dressed for her cousin’s high school graduation ceremony. Frizzy had already gone home by then, and Mari heard a yell coming from her mom and dad’s room.
“Mari! Where’s the pearl necklace your grandma gave me? My diamond pin? My ruby earrings? Mari! Were you and your friend playing dress-up? Where are they?”
Mari had no idea what her mother was talking about. She replayed the events of the afternoon in her mind: Frizzy Hair asked if she could walk home with Mari and copy Mari’s notes from English class on Wednesday. Frizzy had come in late to school that morning and missed most of the first hour. She knew that Mari was the top student in English, and there was a major test coming up on Monday, the last one of the year. Frizzy was almost failing the class and couldn’t afford to flunk this test. She told Mari that her dad would beat the crap out of her if she had to make up the class in summer school. He was planning to send Frizzy to summer camp so he and his new girlfriend could travel to
Mari was a little dazed that Frizzy would actually speak to her let alone ask a favor. But she was also a little wary of this sudden change in Frizzy’s behavior. After all, Mari was an Outsider. She had only lived in this town for the past year. Her dad was not rich, her mom stayed at home, and they only had one family car. Their house was small, and she had to share a bedroom with her little sister. Frizzy’s house was in one of those fancy subdivisions just outside the city limits, and Frizzy’s dad drove a Porsche. Frizzy didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and her mom lived in
. Frizzy’s dad’s girlfriend had fake boobs. Mari did feel a little sorry for Frizzy. She couldn’t imagine not having her mom around or her dad acting like a teenager. California
But where is the missing jewelry? Mari had only left Frizzy alone for about 15 minutes while she took a shower. Her mom had told her that morning that she needed to start getting ready before anyone else got home. It always took her longer than anyone else in the family to get ready for something. She liked to take her time in the bathroom in front of the mirror. Maybe she had left Frizzy alone for half an hour. She couldn’t remember.
Mari’s mom had dialed Frizzy’s home phone number before Mari could stop her. How could she accuse Frizzy of something like stealing? She heard her mom speaking to someone. Yes, they would be right over to speak with Frizzy’s father. Mari heard her mom say she hoped it was all just a misunderstanding. That Frizzy had only intended to “borrow” the jewelry. You know how kids are. What with all the stuff on TV these days, it’s no wonder they have trouble telling the difference between reality and make-believe.
Then they were standing at Frizzy’s front door, waiting for a chance to speak while Frizzy’s dad towered over them. The senator got red in the face and almost spilled his drink. He was talking fast and waving his arms around. No respect from kids these days. He works hard to put food on the table and a roof over that girl’s head. Yes, here’s your jewelry. Mona found it in her book bag. You haven’t called the police? Oh, good. At least we see eye to eye on that. No, he wouldn’t be too harsh on the girl, though there would be consequences…
Now it’s time for the consequences. Mari hopes it won’t hurt too much. She closes her eyes and waits for Frizzy and her friends to begin the beating. At least this school year is over. Maybe next one will be better. She falls to the ground and curls up in a ball. They’re taunting her, telling her to get up and fight. She won’t so they start kicking. It’ll all be over soon, she tells herself as she loses consciousness…
* * * * * * * * * * *
Two men walk side-by-side on the beach. Last night’s storm and the morning tide have deposited heaps of seaweed and broken shells on the sand. They poke through the debris with their walking sticks and stoop down a few times to pick up something that’s still intact.
“It’s a shame about that kid Mari. My wife just retired from the school district and told me the whole story.”
“Yeah, I heard they might pull the plug on her. She’s been in a coma for almost a year now. Dad’s insurance won’t pay anymore. What’s wrong with kids these days? Time was a little fistfight solved any differences, and you made up the next day.”
“I know what you mean. Even me and my old lady get into it now and then, but we’re right as rain the next day. It all blows over if you don’t make waves.”
“Yeah, that dad whose kid started the fight is up for reelection. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mari’s family ends up with a big fat check in the mail. Heck, who wouldn’t keep quiet if someone offered you a few million? Especially since the kid is in such bad shape, and there’s no chance she’ll ever wake up.”
“Shame, though. I heard she was a bright kid. Her cousin was valedictorian. Whole family is hard-working. Maybe with all that money they’re probably going to get they can take it easy. Buy a condo on the beach. Lots of ‘em are up for sale, real cheap too. Did I tell you my niece is a realtor? She told me about a steal on a foreclosure the other day. I just might add it to my holdings. Not that I need it or anything. But it’s hard to pass up a good deal. Always has been for me, and now we’re set. Life is good. No worries!”
The two men walk as far as the last house on the beach and turn around where the high-rise hotels and condominiums begin to dominate the shoreline.