by Michelle Reynolds
Around 12:16 pm, Jimmy pressed his greasy fat fingers against the glass barrier, leaving a smear in their wake as he pointed at the steaming mess of food that laid on the other side. Without having to see, the lunch lady already knew who the vermin was.
“Oy! Get your fingers off my glass Jimmy.” The lunch lady screeched as she pointed a stern finger at him. The finger she pointed with had a red wart at the tip, swollen with greenish pus and ready to burst. When Jimmy didn’t stop touching the glass, the lunch lady grabbed her rusted spatula and with a hard swing, smacked Jimmy’s knuckles. Over his groans, she yelled, “How many times do I gotta tell ya you stinkin twat!”
“Like I’d want to eat your grubby food anyway.” Jimmy said, contorting his pig like face into a tight sneer as he watched the maggots slowly crawl through the greying mashed potatoes, watching them burrow deep.
“That’s it. Get out!” the lunch lady shouted, wiping the running snot from her nose with her wrist before yanking off her stained apron.
Jimmy’s beady eyes widened as he saw the lunch lady run around the cafeteria counter, hiking up her long skirt in one hand, her bare feet smacking the crumb covered floor as she chased after him with her spatula, brandishing it like a sword. Howling with laughter, Jimmy high fived his fellow football mates waiting behind him in line before running for the exit. Stopping in the doorway, Jimmy turned around and shouted, “You old witch!”
The lunch lady frowned as she saw Jimmy dash out of the cafeteria, once again out of her claws. Oh how she hated Jimmy, with his cocky grin, his shiny letterman jacket, his overly slicked back hair. Every day he did the same thing, cut the cafeteria line and touch her clean glass with his dirty fingers. Every day he would mock her food, call it disgusting but yet everyday he shoved piles of it into his endless cavern of a mouth. The lunch lady grumbled as she stomped her way back to the counter to continue her shift, praying for the day that Jimmy would finally be out of her life.
It was around 3:02 pm when the lunch lady started preparing snacks for the after school activities. Swatting away the flies that constantly flew around her dirty neck, she managed to crush one in her sweaty hand. Tilting her hand, she watched the tiny body fall out of her palm and onto the counter with a soft tink. Glancing around and seeing the cost was clear, the lunch lady slid the fly with her finger into the salad bin. Then reaching for the tongs, she quickly stirred the fly around with the salad leaves, hoping it could pass for an olive or bean when she heard a muffled rummaging sound.
Someone was in her kitchen.
The lunch lady switched out her tongs for a knife and ever so slowly crept towards the sound. It seemed to be coming from behind the pantry door. Taking a deep breath, she wrapped her hand around the cold handle and braced herself. In a blink, the lunch lady yanked open the door, her knife poised to attack. In the flickering light of the pantry she saw Jimmy hunched over in the corner, trying to steal energy drinks by jamming them in his sports bag.
The lunch lady looked around to make sure they were alone. She gripped the knife harder.
⃰ ⃰ ⃰
The next day the lunch lady was not standing behind the cafeteria counter. Instead, a student stood in her place, passing out bowls of chunky meat soup to the fellow students.
“Hey Jimmy. Where’s the lunch lady today?” Kerry asked as she took a bowl.
Jimmy shrugged, “Heard she called in sick and when I saw they were short staffed I offered to help.”
“You’re so kind.” Kerry giggled as Jimmy winked at her. “I’ll save you a seat.” She said flirtatiously before wandering over to her usual table.
Before even sitting down, Sharon called out to Karen, “You gotta try this soup, it’s delicious!” Sharon practically moaned before lifting another big spoonful of chunky brown soup to her lips, taking a loud slurp.
“Jimmy said he made it himself.” One of the football players who sat next to Sharon said, loudly chewing around a forkful of meat from his own soup.
“It smells awful.” Kerry remarked as she got a whiff, the foul smell seeming to curl in her throat, gagging her. She wondered how anybody could eat it as she eyed the burnt white chunks floating in Sharon’s soup when Sharon suddenly let out a shrilling scream that echoed off the moldy walls.
The cafeteria turned dead silent as everybody turned towards their table. Sharon’s hands violently shook as she tried to cover her quivering mouth, her face instantly paling at the sight.
In Kerry’s bowl of soup laid the chopped tip of a finger, an angry red wart on the side of it.
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal, and The BG News. He has also worked as a professional writer and editor in the medical publishing industry for several years. For the last 15 years Richard has also taught literature and writing at the secondary and post-secondary levels. He works much of the time with at-risk students.