Fiction

The Trouble with Tami

A Short Story

(This means I made it up, Craig)

Rumor had it that Tami Winslow drank Drano when she was a young child. The acid ate through her mouth and upper lip giving her the look and voice of a soft-spoken hare-lip. She wasn’t a friend of mine – we ran in different circles, but she was somewhat of a freakish attraction in our first year of junior high school, to be whispered about and discussed behind her back.

Tami was in my English class and sat in the last seat in my row. As I passed back the less-than-remarkable graded papers, I couldn’t help but notice the sad and pathetic fact that she always dotted the “i” in her name with a little heart. I wasn’t cruel to her as some of the other children were, but I pitied Tami for her handicap, her home in the trailer-park and her tacky clothes from K-Mart.

Tami and I also shared 5th period gym class and the masochistic charms of one Miss Kotel, obviously nicknamed, Miss Kotex. Everyone hated Miss Kotex as she never failed to go to great lengths to embarrass the teenage girls that were her charge. It wasn’t uncommon to find some scorned young lady had taken out her revenge and written obscenities involving Miss Kotex on the crumbling walls of our basement locker room. This was the case one morning when I rounded the corner behind the showers and discovered Tami Winslow writing her opinion of the hateful teacher with a black marker. Apparently, Miss Kotex had humiliated Tami by referencing her scarred mouth during calisthenics and had provoked the timid girl into action that was not usually in her nature.

“Don’t tell” she pleaded in her soft lisp. I shook my head and hurried out of the locker room and up the stairs to the gym.

What I did next is a mystery to this very day and haunts me during the times I feel the need to self-flagellate in my adult life. I did tell Miss Kotex of Tami’s stunt, though ironically I had done the same the week before. Tami and her mother were called into the principal’s office and “appropriate actions” were taken. Tami was made an example for any student wishing to deface the walls of our dilapidated locker room walls.

We all watched for weeks as she was forced, during 5th period gym, to paint the entire wall of the graffiti-filled locker room. The vulgar slogans of the disenchanted slowly disappeared beneath the strokes of the gray paint, including the one Tami had written, “Miss Kotex has penis envy.” Tami painted the whole wall with the exception of one small heart. The heart that dotted the eye in her “penis” had defiantly been left untouched.