Flash fiction: Served by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story that involves worms. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series.

Served

By Val Muller

It was June 2—exactly two days of school left after today. Marsha had been a menace all year. It was time for Lisa to take matters into her own hands. Mom and Dad had were so old school. “Just punch her once, just once,” Dad had said. Even mom had agreed. “You’ll get in trouble once, but she’ll leave you alone forever.”

Maybe in their day, but nowadays, fighting was serious. Students plummeted in teachers’ opinions after a fight. Privileges were lost. Unwritten penalties were assigned. In the great unfairness of life, psychological and emotional torture happened on a daily basis, but physical torture was met with quick reproach.

No, a fight would not solve this problem. At least not that kind of a fight.

But this kind, Lisa’s kind of fight…

Her mother opened the opportunity in the most perfect way during their weekly trip to the grocery store that evening. “Honey, what do you want to pack for your lunch the last two days of the school year? Something special you’d like?”

Lisa nodded. She already had the idea, and this was her opportunity.

“Spaghetti with meatballs,” she said without a pause.

“For lunch? You’d have to eat it cold,” Mom said.

“That’s okay. I like cold spaghetti—with lots of sauce.”

Mom shrugged.

“Can we get the really thick kind, actually? Linguini, maybe?”

Mom shrugged. “Sure, honey. You do know what you want, I guess.”

Lisa packed her lunch early that Sunday, put it in the fridge with extra care. Got on the bus with a spring in her step.

And just as she thought, Marsha was there on the bus, waiting to torment her. “What’re you so happy about, Leeeeeesa?” she taunted.

All year it had been one thing or another. Her hair ties. Her pencil. Her mermaid bottle of hand sanitizer. Her first-place art contest entry. Of all the things Marsha had taken from Lisa that year, it was her confidence and peace of mind that seems the most unfair to lose.

The adults were all useless. Her parents’ advice to blatantly use force was just as bad as the grownups at school, who seemed to want Lisa to be a perpetual snitch.

“The adults can handle it, but they need to know it’s happening in the first place,” the teachers always said. The adults always spoke in such friendly ways, like they didn’t know what secretly happened to snitches on the playground, on buses, and in the halls.

But this plan—it was snitch-proof. In theory, Lisa wasn’t doing anything wrong. And in theory, Marsha would be so embarrassed by what was going to happen, and so guilty because of how it happened in the first place, that she wouldn’t snitch. Or if she did, she would incriminate herself.

Either way, Lisa would achieve her goal—walk into summer knowing that the next year would be free from bullying.

It happened just as Lisa imagined. Entering the bus, Lisa admitted to Marsha the reason for her smile was her lunch. She talked it up, describing the luscious noodles, the sweet and tangy sauce, the delectable meatballs. The tears were real when Marsha took the lunch from Lisa, promising to eat it in the cafeteria while Lisa watched. These were pent-up tears from months of bullying, but they served Lisa now, empowered Marsha. At lunch, when Lisa went hungry, she repressed a smile when Marsha said, “This spaghetti is so good. Tell your mom to pack me more for tomorrow, will ya?”

Lisa spent a long time playing outside that night. Monday, June 5. It was the perfect summer evening. She got so dirty digging in the mud that Mom insisted she needed a bath.

“My goodness,” Mom said. “I don’t remember the last time you got so dirty. What were you doing out there?”

Lisa smiled. “Looking for worms.”

Lisa woke extra early on June 6 for the last day of school. She snuck out back with her spaghetti lunch, bringing it to the bucket of worms she’d caught the night before. She put so much sauce on her pasta that the worms blended right in.

At lunch, Lisa waited until Marsha had eaten all but a few bites.

“How is it?” Lisa asked, surprised at the confident sound of her own voice. Marsha didn’t answer. Lisa’s confidence threw her off balance, so Lisa said, “I added something special.”

Marsha looked down. Lisa smiled. One of the worms squirmed just enough. Marsha knew. Next to her, Brandon knew. And Camden. And Ellie. They all knew. Marsha wretched and threw up all over the table.

“Kids!” the lunch attendant admonished as she ushered them away from the soiled table. “You should have some compassion. It’s unkind to laugh at someone who’s sick, especially on the last day of school, when she’ll have to be sent home before the class party.”

As the rest of the class hurried to cupcakes and prizes, Lisa watched Marsha slump down the hall to wait for her mother to pick her up. Maybe Marsha was the same height, but her stature had shrunk since that morning, and Lisa had a feeling that Marsha wouldn’t be taking down any more kids the following year.

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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