• Picture Imperfect
    I'd only done soft-mods before. I've opened up dozens of PCs, Xboxes and PSPs, but opening up the PS2, removing the "do not remove this sticker," and holding a soldering iron over the fine circutry of the machine, I positively felt like a surgeon. I started to set my modchip by the memory I knew held the PlayStation's BIOS. Soon, I'd be able to...I pushed my lip-length blonde bangs back behind my ear. A surgeon shouldn't have bangs. It joined the rest of my hair, barely touching my shoulders.
    I lowered the soldering iron again...made contact with the power pin that would supply my modchip with power.
    My intent gaze detected the smoke before my hand spasmed. My arm jerked, the soldering iron went flying.
    "EEK!" I clutched my right hand - just the worst pins and needles feeling, and pressed it under my arm. It started to throb. It'd happened before, I'd be ok. The soldering iron looked unplugged but no worse for wear...couldn't say that about the PlaySation. I quickly unplugged it, grateful it didn't burst into flame.
    Another $50 second-hand PlayStation ruined. I looked around to make sure no responsible adults were watching.
    I padded down across the velvety carpet of the family room - not that the family ever used it (yeah, I know velvety carpet and solder is a bad idea). After about three steps before I came to the door to the kitchen, I couldn't take it anymore. I threw the expensive door open, giving a nice big SLAM that echoed through the hallways. I tore over to the freezer with its pretty wooden handle and door, probably leaving a nice scratch or dent as I opened it. I grabbed an ice pack with my non-spastic left hand and put it on my right hand, the one I shoked....SOOOO COLD! I pulled it away from there too and pressed it in between my legs...it didn't hurt so bad, but the tears had already started flowing.
    Why was I such a Sallie? Or more precisely, such an Alice? I must have looked so pathetic there with a hand between my legs, getting a little bit of blood on my jeans, and whimpering, rocking back and forth on an elegant high wood chair...
    Lucas, a little brother walking around, his nose in a DS (how can a kid possibly like those things???), looked at me blankly, and without offering a comfort, proceeded to the "family" room.
    Mom walked in, high heels audible, through the front door - I heard her first and tried to calm down but I really don't wanna move my hand. She comes in with an armload of groceries. "Alice, help me carry these in."
    "But, Mom..."
    "Don't 'But moooooomy' me. Help bring in your own food, you know you always end up eating half of it anyway."
    I'm not fat. I'm thin. I burn it off quicker than I eat it. But come on, i'm 14, I'm supposed to be hungry ALL THE TIME right? (maybe that was boys...)
    "Mom, seriously, my han-"
    "Seriously, help me with the groceries."
    I gave her a wide-eyed look and got up, moving my hand. I tried to bend my fingers, it still burned. I gave a little whimper
    I went. Went to the back of the shining white gas-guzzling SUV (for a four-person family) and put some bags around my wrist, took others in my left hand. It looked fairly normal and I managed to get by, avoiding my mother for a while - walking right past her and looking right past her too. I was still a little teary, but that's okay.
    After the groceries were in I went to look in the mirror. My eyes were teary and very, very pale like always - you can barely tell they're brown. But now they're kinda red...I wiped them with a pinkish sweatshirt sleeve and went up to my room, in my red socks. Didn't want Mom to notice I still existed by making any noise with my shoes. I flopped down on my bed, softer than anything I'd like to sleep on, and let it absorb me while I closed my eyes. I wanted to play Tekken and take out some emotion on Kunumitsu, but I didn't want to be reminded of my epic failiure just yet, and my hand still hurt. I wrapped it in a blanket, hugged my Teddy, and closed my eyes just for a second.
    "Alice..." somebody called. I didn't pay much attention.

    Picture Imperfect (Chapter two)
    For once in about a billion years, I actually woke up before my alarm. Not that I was actually awake...I laid in bed and stared bleary-eyed at the annoying big red numbers on my clock until about 5:30. Crying yourself to sleep at 7:00 PM will do this to you. I stared at the ceiling and hugged Teddy a little. It wasn't till 5:51 I could actually muster the energy to get out of bed - mostly because I couldn't stand the taste of my own breath anymore. I turned off my alarm in advance and trudged to my expansive closet, eyes barely open. I flicked the closet light on and stared at the closet wall until I'd decided what I wanted to wear today. I went back to my alarm clock and actually turned it on so I could hear what the weather was going to be like - nice and sunny, that made me smile - and picked out lots of red. I liked red. Red flip-flops, red blouse. I grabbed my light blue jean shorts too, because you can't wear ALL one color, everybody knows that.
    I was still in my nightgown and my mouth still tasted like slime so I strolled down to the bathroom and brushed my teeth and turned the shower on nice and hot. Today was going to be a good day, I decided.
    I emerged from the shower, still combing warm, damp blonde hair. Just barely touching my shoulders...just barely getting them wet. It's okay, they'd dry soon. A warm Friday in October, with clear blue skies and big fluffy clouds, even Mom was in a good mood. I smiled as she stood behind me and ran my favorite comb through my hair and tucked my bangs behind my ears and put in a bright red hair clip for me like when I was a little girl. Simple, but I'd been missing the little-girl pleasure. All them little girl pleasures go away around 13. Such a tragedy.
    "Thanks Mom," I murmured (it was too early to talk) and stood up, hearing my ankles and knees pop as I did. I cracked my knuckles too. Mom shook her head and Lucas, the weenie, he actually screwed up his face and said "EWW!"
    I think it runs in our family.
    The bus ride to school really was nice. It's October but it was one of those "Indian Summer" days and I grew up all my life here so it's really not too cold until November starts anyway...
    So the bus was almost warm and toasty, and I could sit with anybody I wanted to. We were a month into 8th grade and everybody seemed to like me, like me (blech), or was nice enough to make new friends with me. I sat in between Tricia and Marie today.
    Tricia is one of them really smart people with glasses who almost never wears her hair down and snorts when she laughs, but she's been my friend since Kindergarten and she's really nice and tries to make friends with anyone.
    Marie is someone I just met, she's really sweet and kind but even shyer than I am. She's pretty too but she really doesn't seem to think so, or she's really modest. She dresses that way too. And it's very nice of her. I think we are going to be best friends.
    And I noticed Melissa sitting behind us. Melissa is fake-pretty. She has the makeup, the clothes, the haircut, the dye but it's all so fake it's ugly. Just like them supermodels. Yuck. I think that tells you enough about her personality too. Somewhat ironically, she hates Tricia. Since 6th grade. I'm not even half as sweet or nice as Marie and I'm sort of mean to her. Marie is too nice to tell me not to but I wish she would.
    "Don't you just hate Algebra?" Tricia said as we went over a bone-jarring bump. I couldn't imagine her having trouble with alegebra. Marie nodded and smiled in sympathy.
    "Yeah, I guess so. It's not much fun. Really abstract."
    "Marie, you're a singer and an artist and a poet, isn't that a little abstract?" I wondered aloud.
    "Yeah, but it's way less abstract than 5x2z3-10xyz+87.45abx...all times three!"
    I laughed. "I guess you're right."
    Tricia laughed too. "We can start a protest against algebra..."
    I shook my head. "Why?"
    "Because everybody hates it!"
    "What, that's not true!" I giggled. This was pretty absurd.
    "I've got the nerd vibe," Tricia said athouritively. "And I think algebra is vile. I am the commander of nerds..." she put her hands on her hips. "And I say algebra sucks. Nobody likes algebra!"
    I rolled my eyes and wondered if I should keep talking. Naturally, I did.
    "You know that's not true."
    "No, I don't...I am the queen of nerds. I'm gonna outlaw algebra..."
    "That would be like outlawing computers," Marie said pointedly.
    "Okay, I need to work on my algebra homework," I said with a laugh, just as we hit another bump. Sounded kinda funny. "And besides, I like algebra."
    Tricia and Marie stared, dumbfounded.
    Ironically, algebra is first period. I raised my hand a lot but talked quietly. Hmm. Not sure what that's all about.
    I joked loudly with friends in the hallway. All girls. They kept teasing me but I seriously don't want a boyfriend. Eighth grade boys are really icky. At least the ones that would ask you out. My locker is on the opposite wall of the hallway from the boy's locker room and the things that they say are just vile. Much worse than algebra. Eww.
    Charley asked me out today at lunch. He sat next to me at the end of the table and started touching my hair.. I smiled at him shyly, then shoved him off the end of my table, poured my chocolate pudding on him, and told him to go...I probably shouldn't write it down.
    Charley is such a pervert. He asked me out again. Said he liked girls who were good kisses and then he tried to give me a hug. I grabbed that gross kissy face of his with one hand and shoved it into a locker. His loss. I think I'm gonna be seeing the guidance counselor tomorrow. They all say i'm too emotional.
    That sounded like a pretty bad school day. But It was. Most days aren't like that. Charley tries to touch everyone...grr.
    My hand didn't hurt too bad like yesterday. I didn't do too great but I managed to beat Kunumitsu this time. It's a lot more fun when it's a challenge, gets a lot of emotion out. After a few more matches (Tekken gets repetitive) I turned off the PSone and plugged in my XBOX (I just modified the hard drive in this one. No solder required...)
    I took the controller with the squishy handles and started up the NES emulator (I still don't have an actual NES, but the XBOX is just as good). I loaded Super Mario Bros. and smiled to myself. The old game was funny and addicting and simple. You could always play it and it never got old like all of the new games. I became lost in the Mushroom Kindgdom, unaware of time and space, unaware of my thumbs working the buttons. I became Mario, running back and forth in my safe, happy two-dimensional world. If I lost, I could always start over.
    If Mario screwed up, if Mario wasted his life, if Mario jumped off a cliff, he could start over as many times as he wanted to.

    Picture Imperfect (Chapter Three)
    It was a nice Saturday evening. My bed was the kind that I never could fall asleep on, but once you were asleep, and you woke up, it’s just impossible to get out of.
    Today it was only 8:00 but I didn’t, couldn’t really, wake up bleary and bad-breathed. I couldn’t be a bleary dreary demon-girl when I woke up at 1:00 PM just today. I had to be a good girl today, fresh from the start!
    Because, today, my favorite people in the world is coming to visit.
    I threw off my covers with spirit - then jumped out of bed and re-made it with care.
    I leaped over to my closet in a single bound, thudding on the floor (probably waking a parent).
    I had to look nice today. I’m not sure if I ever look nice. I shoved Charley’s face into a locker. He deserved it though. Not gonna tell anyone about that one.
    OK. Looking nice. Wow, I was already hyper enough. Nice. Nice. Hmm...I shoved at least three-fourths of my closet to one side. I pulled out a white blouse and a brown skirt coming maybe halfway down my shins. I had to look very nice...not that they cared, but Mom and Dad sure did. Had to be nice...being nice was harder than looking nice.
    I ran to the shower. Lucas was in the say, but I just jumped almost over his head. He ducked, just like anybody with half a bit of sanity would.
    “Alice! Dooon that!"
    I spent longer in the bathroom than I thought any Alice could. Made every hair perfect. Didn’t put on any makeup, but I made sure I looked my best. I came out completely dry, including my hair, and smiled brightly at my family - a surprise to Mom and a rolleyes from Dad. I sat at our table and waited for Dad to set the pan of bacon on the table - it’s better to leave the bacon in the pan - that way it just keeps sizzling. Mom popped waffles out of the waffle maker. This was a big breakfast, for a big day.
    I seriously had more syrup than milk.
    That’s where “Drown it in syrup” comes from.
    We worked like mad to clean the kitchen. Mad. I mean...I was washing the dishes and drying them at the same time.
    Try it.
    “Lucas...would you please put these dishes away?"
    “I don’t know where they go!
    “You’ve only lived here for eleven years how is it you don't know where the forks go?"
    “NO! I dunno! Now tell me, where do they go?"
    I opened the fork drawer just to his left, and demonstrated how to drop a fork noisily into its spot. Luke took a dry fork from the sink and gently slid it into place.
    “Well, look at that. You’re already twice as good at it as I am! No wonder it's your job!"
    Lucas made a face at me, but he kept putting away his forks.
    “You two stop fighting,” Mom called over her shoulder. Not smart, since she was standing on a chair trying to put away a waffle iron on the high shelf. “We don’t want to ruin the-"
    Lucas looked up from his forks wth solemn eyes. “Yes, Mommy."
    I gave Mom half a smile. "Sure."
    Dad decided to stay neutral again. He busily threw a Styrofoam bacon box into the trash can, slowly lowering the lid. I snickered and he probably couldn’t image why.
    How does he get by as a mathematician?
    I pulled the plug on the sink and wiped my hands on the ornate towel, a barn woven into the material. I had always liked the barn towel.
    The clear, satisfying sound of a heavy iron knocker, magnified through a heavy wood door, made our heads a little clearer too. We forgot everything. We assumed our positions...I stood back and folded my hands in front of my skirt, Lucas sat on the couch, Mom and Dad, dressed formally casual, strolled to the door and opened it slowly, adult smiles pasted on their faces. Pasted maybe...because they wanted to break out in silly grins. I could do the Mona Lisa smile but only for so long.
    The elderly couple walked through the opening with real silly grins and I liked them a lot better. Mom and Dad took turns embracing them. I almost started twitching when Lucas ran up to give them hugs. Standing in the kitchen doorway, staring at my favorite person in the world...I just couldn’t keep it in.
    My poised, collected aura shattered right then and there. I ran up to the frail old lady and gave her the tightest hug I dared. She smiled at me, I smiled back. When the hug-pressure was too much for her, I separated and almost tackled the man - not quite, of course. That would have really ruined the scene.
    I kissed his cheek and let him stroke my hair and felt his tight embrace. I truly loved this man, he was my favorite person in the world.
    “Hi, Grandpa,” I murmured. I finally got to see Grandpa. It had just be
    He returned my kiss on the cheek. It always tickled, he had whiskers.
    “Hello, dearest Alice,” he said in his deep grandpa voice, just a whisper in my ear. A whisper only I could hear, just for me.
    “I missed you, Grandpa."
    The magic, tender moments faded in what had to be less than a minute, but just a few seconds of that was enough to last me all day. Grandpa sat right next to me on the couch. Lucas was on the loveseat with Grandma - haha - Mom and Dad were in their chairs.
    "How ya been lately, Grandpa?"
    "Oh, same old same old. Same as last year, really. My knees hurt less this year, though."
    "That's good to hear."
    "Don't I know it?"
    I laughed. "Yeah, I guess you do.
    "How about you, Alice? Do you have a boyfriend yet?"
    I had to laugh harder. Grandpa always told me not to pay any attention to boys till I was like 17. So far, it had worked pretty well.
    "No, I don't have a boyfriend. I'm being a good girl."
    That got some strange looks from Mom and Dad, but I was used to those anyway.
    "Really? You're getting awfully pretty."
    I giggled. "Why, thank you Grandpa."
    It was a truly wonderful night. The whole family got along, and Grandma and Grandpa were so sweet and amazing, just like they always are! I'm so glad they're going to be here for a whole week!
    They asked how Mom's work is going, and if Dad's business has picked up yet. Mom's job is a normal job. So boring, in fact, she never mentions it. I'm not even sure if I remember what it is. I'm pretty sure she's one of those "Data entry" people.
    Dad's more fun, he writes "scripts" of computers. A low-level programmer...I don't have the heart to tell him I'm just as good. I'm not sure what the job is really called.
    Grandma's retired, of course. Grandpa still owns his barbershop. He's pretty popular and he still goes in on every Monday and Friday and works, just because he likes too. The thought makes me smile. Grandpa is the only one who's ever cut my hair. With his monthly visits, he'll give me a haircut when I need one (and sometimes when I don't).
    Anyway, it was about 11:00 at night. I stared at the ceiling, and Grandpa fell asleep a few hours ago, but I could still think back to being a little girl and feeling him gently cover me with the blanket. I smiled, closed my eyes, and...and...

    Picture Imperfect (Chapter 4)

    I woke up to clear blue skies and a lovely warming sun shining through my window. A beautiful day, just like it's supposed to be. On the first day of a stay from Grandpa. I had gotten up at 6:45, which I decided was a godly hour, and picked out light jeans and a nice yellow T-shirt with daisies on it. Yellow was a nice color for that day.
    Once I was done with all the morning cleansing rituals, I practially flew down the stairs (three steps at a time). There was no bacon or even Froot Loops for breakfast but I was perfectly content with a big bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats and a glass of pink lemonade. The best breakfast food of all is spaghetti, but we didn't have any left over.
    Mom was nice now, of course. She couldn’t be mean to me in front of Grandpa because I knew that Grandpa loved me more than her and he’d be mad if she wasn’t the best mom she could be.
    I was ready for school at about the time Grandpa got up. I poured his cereal and helped him with his crossword puzzles. I'd been "helping" him with them ever since I was two, but now I was getting pretty good at them. The newspaper had a new one every day. The hardest one was "Barometers" simply because it's not a word that's ever on the top of your head.
    I found Marie on the bus again. Tricia was sitting in the back with some other girls that day. I told her all about Grandpa and she gave me huge smiles but I could tell in her deep green eyes I was getting to her. I asked her if something was wrong, but she kept saying "nothing" until she got misty-eyed and told me both of her grandpas had died when she was just seven years old.
    "I don't know if I could make it through life without mine," I told her. "That must be so hard."
    She wiped her tears before they ever spilled. "Life is. But you know what, that's okay. One grandpa was one of those crabby old grandpas that no one really likes...the other one though..."
    I hugged her as best I could in the bus seat and pushed her hair out of her eyes and she gave me a little smile.
    The bus stopped noisily and another flood of kids rushed on board. In the back of the line, there was one kid lagging behind everyone else. I'd seen him around, but I couldn't remember who he was. He was tall, and a little chunky. He was dressed in all dark colors - dark blue jeans, a plain black hoodie. Medium length dark brown hair. I never would have noticed him if he hadn't sat next to Marie. Just another boring, plain-looking, fake-emo guy. But I didn't feel right with this guy sitting next to her. I was gonna shove him off the edge of the seat with my foot. He got the hint and stood up. Eyes downcast, he walked down the isle, but by now there were no more empty seats. I switched spots with Marie.
    "What was that all about?" she whispered. She obviously hadn't been bothered. By him, I mean.
    "I dunno. I just didn't like him sitting next to you."
    "Alice! You've known me like a month!"
    "That's enough, isn't it?"
    "That's not what I mean, Alice. You're judging him by just looking at him."
    "And look what he looks like."
    "He looks fine!"
    "Listen...I know. Don't judge a person by what they look like. Look - that doesn't work. What people look like is how they are."
    "That's not true either! You know how I look!"
    "You look beautiful. And that's how you are."
    Marie sat and considered that. "Give the boy a chance. He's in my home room, he's pretty nice."
    "What's his name?"
    "No idea."
    I laughed. Wow. Marie was very nice and fair and sweet. And of course, she was right. Marie knew what was what. I sure wish I could know like her.
    "I'm really pretty?"
    "Yeah." I didn't bother asking about myself. I knew I was marginally attractive. Barely pretty enough. And ya know what, that's how I was too.
    I shook off my thoughts. The boy came back to our seat and stared miserably at the spot to my left. Marie was now by the window, looking concerned. For who, I couldn't imagine.
    "Hey, I'm sorry. I am. Sit with us."
    He sat and smiled crookedly. "Thanks, Alice." he snapped.
    "I really am sorry."
    Marie smiled at him, and of course that smile made all the difference. The beautiful smile that wasn't supposed to be beautiful - just smiling to smile.
    "Alright, alright, it's okay."
    "Hey, how do you know my name?"
    He actually laughed. Quietly. "Everyone knows you."
    I smiled nicely at him. "Thanks."
    "You're welcome...I guess."
    After all that, It didn't feel right to ask him what his name was. Fortunately, we were sitting right over the wheel, and when we hit a pothole, I grabbed his backpack to keep it from falling. A Social Stuides book fell out. Mack Gregor was scribbled semi-neatly on the cover. Mack. Interesting name. Not like Alice. Well, Alice used to be common. But everyone except my parents got bored with it a hundred years or so and I’m stuck with a plain-jane name.
    I picked up his Soc. book, which had fallen right next to my pink flip-flops. I had painted my toenails yellow for no particular reason. Now I was just glad my toes hadn't been crushed.
    I handed the boy his book. "Here ya go, Mack." Calling someone Mack was easy - it would work even if it wasn't a person's name. I wondered if he resented that.
    "Mhm." He shoved his book back into his ratty old backpack. Mine was new and dark red. His was interesting - you could open any zipper and access all the pockets at once because all the dividers had been ripped from their seams.
    "Sweet backpack."
    I sighed and leaned back against my seat. After maybe five minutes of failed attempts at conversation with Marie and the Mack kid, I pulled out my PSP.
    My PSP is my baby. It was once a normal black PSP-3000. But now it was glossy red, and the buttons were a nice silver. Very pretty.
    "You modded it." That was Mack. He looked at it with admiration.
    "Too bad you can't have custom firmware on those new ones."
    I smiled. This kid was cool. "Sure you can. I used ChickHEN to run the custom firmware installer."
    He smiled back. "Genius. What firmware?"
    "5.02 GEN. Works just as well as M33 but some extra features."
    Mack pulled a dark blue PSP-2000 (the older model) from his black backpack. He turned it over, the back was white. The buttons on the front were too.
    "Very cool," I commented. Marie rolled her eyes, but met mine for a second to do the I told you so look. She doesn't pull that one out a whole lot.
    "5.00 M33," he said matter-of-factly. I nodded respectfully. Who knew this kid could be a hacker?
    "Got Tekken 5?" I asked. I liked Tekken 2 better...but that was an old PlayStation game.
    Mack grinned. He started up Tekken 5 without inserting a game disk - I saw the Rising Star Organized Piracy logo flash onscreen before the game started rolling. I slid in my original UMD. I bought it at Wal-Mart. With money.
    I was going to say somthing about it - but then we started playing. And he was almost as good as I was.
    Mack disappeared into the river of kids filing into the school. I stayed by Marie until we had to go seperate ways to get to our homerooms. That break was halfway through the school, by the lunchroom.
    "You okay?"
    She nodded and smiled a little.
    "You were right, you know."
    "Of course."
    "I made a new friend because of you today."
    "Marie, are you okay?"
    "Sure. I'm fine."
    "You're not okay, Marie. You're awesome."
    My friend slowed the pace and shook her head slowly. Her chocolate-brown hair moved along with it. How could this girl not think she was awesome?
    "I'm not so sure about that."
    I stopped and grabbed her shoulder tightly. I felt a bony shoulder under the thin white hoodie and thick brown hair. "Hey. Hey. You're great. You’re kind and sweet and-"
    A balding teacher in a plaid shirt waved at us from around the corner. "Hurry up, Mary. You'll be late for primetime."
    I chuckled. "Mary?"
    "Marie is Mary with an IE. Even if you say it differently," she said flatly. I had to let her go to class. I didn't want to be late either.
    “A squared plus B squared equals C squared. Here, 9 squared and 7 squared - 81 and 49 - don’t add up to C, or 11, squared - 121.”
    The teacher frowned at the class. “But shouldn’t A squared plus B squared equals C squared work for any triangle?”
    I was already standing at the board, but I raised my hand anyway. He laughed.
    “Yes, Alice.”
    “If A squared and B squared aren’t C squared, then our figure isn’t a right triangle.”
    “Very good, Alice, you can take a seat now.”
    I thanked Mr. Curtis with a smile and plopped into my seat in the second row, staring on the whiteboard I had just covered with the pythagoream theorem. Tricia sat to my left - she looked at me and rolled her eyes.
    “Maybe you should teach,” she whispered. I rolled my eyes back. “C’mon. You do this in science and it-“
    ”-And heath.”
    “Yeah, gross. And Marie does it in Language Arts. And art. And that skinny Bartholomew dude does it in Soc.”
    “Alright, jeez, it was a joke.”
    “Teacher’s talking. Shh!”
    Tricia gave me another friendly eyeroll, but she paid attention again. It didn’t seem all that hard, just some review of pre-algebra concepts before we got into the heavy stuff. Mr. Curtis was on to sines, cosines, and tangents.
    “Yes, Charley.”
    Charley the freak. I turned around to see Charley, in the back row, raising his hand and grinning exuberantly.
    “THE TANGENT IS THE LENGTH OF THE FURTHEST SIDE FROM THE ANGLE...over...uhhh.....over the HYPOTENUSE!” He waved his raised hand as if illustrating his point.
    Mr. Curtis, and the rest of the class, looked freaked. I would use a words like “taken aback,” “bewildered,” or even “dumbfounded.” But no, they were freaked. Charley Mitchell hadn’t raised his hand all year. Usually, when he was called on, he said “I dunno” and that was it.
    The bell rang and I ran to the hallway. I stood by the door and yanked Charley aside before Tricia could tell me I was being pigheaded.
    “Mitchell, what are you smoking and where can I get some?”
    “WEED!” He cried, and banged his fist into an old locker with a Master key lock on it. “Property of Washington Middle School” was stamped on the front. He pulled a key from his pocket and flung it open. Like...three whole cans of pot were in this tiny locker! And a bunch of stuff was rolled up too...
    “Five bucks a JOINT!” he shouted. Spittle flew into my face. I stood frozen for what seemed like forever. It couldn’t have been more than five seconds. Hands trembling, heart pumping - I hadn’t been scared stiff in years. This guy was a real freak, a real crook, not some weenie I could shove into a locker and slam the door shut on. Maybe he was - but he was real. I had too keep away from real guys, I had to stay away.
    “Alice, dear, you said you went straight. Don’t look so scared, I’m not gonna hurtcha...” he brogut his face closer and I just fell over. I had tried to step back, but I couldn’t, my knees wouldn’t bend...
    It was hard to wipe his spit off my face with shaking arms, but I did. I got up with the help of a strange passerby and walked away slowly, holding back hot, angry tears.