Where, may you ask have I been? I have been teaching and mothering and that is about my whole life. I decided I needed to post again because spammers are making more money off of my blog than I am. Also, I am currently teaching a high school creative writing class (which I dearly love). I wrote a short short story for them and so I actually have something to post. Here is my short story.
Leon “Hurley” Malone was popular in his unpopularity. He had been Hurley since the 8th grade when Jamison Potter had cornered him in social studies.
“You smell so bad, you make me want to hurl,” said Jamison, he placed his meaty palm on his stomach and made retching sounds for emphasis. “Your name should be Hurley. Ya like your name, Hurley?”
The other students laughed derisively while Ms. Shumway battled with the pull down maps bolted to the wall above the white board. So Hurley became Hurley and since I was the teacher’s aide in Mrs. Boswell’s English class and saw his name “Leon” on the roles, I think I was the only one who remembered Hurley had a given name. He was even Hurley to his teachers.
Mine and Hurley’s lockers were situated near each other down the same hall for most of high school. I was, by no means popular, but I could blend. If I watched my shoes while walking down the hall, I could generally avoid eye contact and conversations with my peers. Hurley tried, but he could never get lost in the wash of the crowd. On any given day, I could hear the treble of female voices. “Eww! Nasty! Hurley touched me. Go rub your slime on someone else.” Or the lower cadences of male voices, “Hey, Hurley. Did you forget to brush this morning?” Inevitably, this would be followed by the slam of Hurley’s slender body as it was thrown into the nearest wall.
One day, while grading papers for Mrs. Boswell, my eyes ran across an entry in Hurley’s English notebook. "I can’t write about my friends. I don’t have any." I knew it was true, but actually reading it made me feel so sorry for him. Even so, I never considered offering any camaraderie or even so much as a vague smile.
Hurley and I had one, brief personal encounter. I was just finishing up my usual lunch: a peanut butter and jam sandwich smuggled into the library, daily. I was gradually making my way through an old set of World Book Encyclopedias. I had reached “M” and was just reading up on marmosets.
I heard a sound behind me. Thinking it was the librarian, I stuffed the rest of my sandwich into my mouth. I was surprised to see Hurley standing over me. It was then that the smell hit. It was not the typical B.O. but something both sweet and rotten.
“They all say I small bad.” He said. “Even the teachers complain to my mom. I don’t smell anything. Do you think I stink?”
I forced myself to swallow the one, last dry bite. I hoped my face wasn’t as hot as it felt. The words that came to mind were, “Yes, you reek of death!” But I couldn’t make my mouth form those words. All I could do was shake my head slowly side to side. I suppose I could have tried to help him at that point, but I was too slow, too faltering.
“I thought so,” he said, relieved. “I do shower, you know,” and he walked hurriedly out the back door.
Yes, Hurley stank. Over time, even his locker seemed to emanate an odor. At first, it was subtle, almost imaginary as if all of our unkind remarks had turned into an olfactory presence that clung to the hall where Hurley deposited his books. Rumors had started; at first, they stemmed from the smell. They were whispered and giggled, and passed in notes. They started blank and meaningless as white noise. “No running water. . glandular problems.”. Gradually, they took more notable shape and ranged into the absurd. On the periphery myself, I only caught fragments, “mom and dad. . . half brother and sister.” “Family of Satanists. . .”
The stories reached a roar until Hurley was more high school folklore than real person. Hurley’s increasing absences didn’t help the situation. In Coach Openshaw’s biology class, Jamison was passing around a comic strip he had just drawn. It was called, “Hurley the Human Corpse.” It showed Hurley, in caricature, walking by a potted plant that drooped and withered in the next frame as he walked by. Next it showed, in similar sequence, a tank of dead fish. . . a cafeteria of dead students. . .
“Ha! Ha! Ha” Mr Openshaw roared, “Have you all seen this?” He displayed Jamison’s artwork to the class.
Hurley came to school less and less. Even so, the funk surrounding his locker grew as did the rumors. Eventually Hurley’s attendance dwindled until the stories and the stench were all that remained. When walking by his locker, girls would theatrically cover their noses with their hands and boys would dare each other to take a whiff.
Somebody finally decided to take action and alert the faculty. Coach Openshaw lumbered down the hall followed by Jamison who pointed in the direction of Hurley’s old locker. Mr. Openshaw tried the combination lock, but when it did not give, he forced it open, bending the latch. The locker sat there open and rank. It was empty save for a plastic sandwich bag. Coach picked up the bag which contained a moldering human thumb, black and putrid.
4 months ago