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Orange Musk

Janet Kuypers

part one: the fourth grade

    I don’t know why I did it.

    Maybe it was because I was the one always picked on. They called me fat when I was in kindergarten. They called me a teacher’s pet because I did my homework and school was easy for me. I was made fun of because I was smart and I’m sorry if the bullies didn’t understand long division, but their deficiencies didn’t mean the girls in the neighborhood had to give me skinned elbows and bloody knees.

    As I said, I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I was always the one that was picked on. And when a new kid comes to your school —

    And who likes the idea of a new kid anyway? I mean, why take your chances on someone new when you’re battling the relentless cliques you’ve created at the ripe old age of nine?


    For some reason I don’t want to think that I’m the one who instigated it, it might have been another girl, but I think your memory loses some of the details after you’ve felt the high of the hunt, and hey, it was so long ago, maybe I’m subconsciously trying to forget.

    But that can’t be it, no, it can’t be, because I can remember so many other little details of how we tormented the new kid. You see, his name was Blake Gajewski.

    Guy-ev-ski. G a, j e w, s k i.

    Now, I didn’t know how to spell his name when we were little (at least not when I first met him) — I don’t remember making fun of his last name, but as a nine year old, I thought his first name was a little odd.


    You know, it had to be someone else who started picking on him, because one time at recess when Blake Guy-ev-ski had the ball out near the mock basketball court

    (a ball the size of a basketball, but was a solid mauve-red that made you think of the planet Mars)...

    Well, I remember someone said we should take the ball and attack him.

    So, like the little lemming I was, I joined Jenny (and I’m sure there was another girl there, but I can’t for the life of me remember who she was), and I don’t remember who knocked the planet Mars away from him —

    (but getting the ball wasn’t the point)

    But I was a tall girl, so I may have assisted in knocking him down before we all pinned him down.

    (As I said, the details are a little fuzzy when it happened so long ago...)

    But us girls had Blake Guy-ev-ski pinned down and someone finally said, “What do we do with him?”

    And we all froze there for a moment, we didn’t know what to do, we’re not the bullies, this is new to us, and it wasn’t like we were going to hurt him or anything, so I wracked my brain and said,

    “I’ve got some orange lip balm.”

    That’s when we all thought it was a stunning idea to smear this otherwise clear orange-scented lip balm all over his face and shirt.

    And I don’t know, I guess the recess bell rang, so into class we went, and the funny thing was that because the first letters of our last names were close together in the alphabet, he happened to sit next to me for our next class.

    Erin sat on the other side of him, and before class started, I distinctly remember her saying to him,

    “Blake... Is that a new cologne you’re wearing?

    A musk?

    I like it.”

    And I was biting both of my lips to not say a word,

    And not burst out into hysterics.

part two: the sixth grade

    As I said, I was picked on, I was the teacher’s pet, and for some reason one teacher really liked me, Mrs. Fleming. This old lady (with the bouffant white hair that made you think that she frightened her bat siblings when she left the house daily to teach), she read sections from classic Tarzan novels to us weekly, she told us how she remember past lives and reincarnation and...

    And the one thing the grade school let her do was put on a play, to show off the classic Hawaiian culture of the king and queen of Hawaii, along with their court.

    And yes, because this woman liked me, she expected me to be the queen of Hawaii, and that can sound obnoxious and yes it was... But twenty-five other kids had to be in the “play” too, it was a deal to just sit there like a queen and do nothing while the “princesses” had to kneel on the stage and their “guards” had to stand behind them on stage, and then the commoners had to do dances with sticks to please the king and queen.

    So yeah, I had to be in their stupid play, and yeah, I was the queen of Hawaii. But even though I had to wear this goofy get-up, after I walked up onto the stage all I had to do was sit there in a chair for the rest of the play.

    It might sound retarded (and it was), but being the teacher’s pet had it’s perks when, at a rehearsal, I saw my friend Gina was a “princess” kneeling there, and Blake,

    That’s Blake Guy-ev-ski to you,

    Blake was a “guard”, standing behind her.

    As the queen in this little rehearsal I noticed Blake standing toward the edge of this elevated stage, so I looked at princess Gina and mouthed the words “lean back,” while leaning my shoulders back.

    She looked behind her shoulder then at me, furrowing her eyebrows quizzically, asking for confirmation.

    I confirmed.

    (God, this godfather-like bullying really does give quite a rush.)

    So, she waited for the right moment, and when the timing was just right, she leaned back, and Blake


    fell three feet to the gymnasium floor.

part three: dénouement

    As I said, I don’t know why I did it.

    All I do know, is that I don’t think I really hurt him. I don’t think he’s tormented with the despair many feel who are bullied. So, as harmless in hindsight this probably was, Blake, I have to admit... Those were some great times.

Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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