The Girl at the Window
by Tony Noland
Tommy Arken was in no position to curse anyone, not with Mr. Holsopple in such a bad mood and looking right at him. After making them run ten laps around the gym, that fat, smelly old man had them doing wind sprint relay races. Holsopple had already yelled at Tommy once, called him a lazy pantywaist in front of the whole class. Tommy would have cursed him with two hundred fifty-six, the square of a square of a square, but Holsopple kept looking over at him. He had no choice but to keep his head down and run. He would curse his classmates later, the ones who had laughed, anyway.
With a lunge, he handed his orange plastic baton to Danny Rickman, who took off back towards the other side of the gym. Tommy stood with the other boys on his team, breathing hard. He would join in the yelling when he caught his breath. His side hurt and he was swallowing lots of spit. He darned near threw up with all the running, yet another reason to put a curse on Holsopple.
Holding his side, Tommy stared hard at Holsopple, focusing on him for nine heartbeats, a small curse. If he'd gone for sixteen or twenty five, Holsopple would have noticed and probably yelled at him again. He didn't want to risk accidentally blessing the fat jerk by having to stop on a prime number before he'd reached a square.
He looked away after delivering his curse and saw a girl at one of the windows on the east wall. Up until this year, the boys and girls had all done gym together; now, in fifth grade, for some reason the girls all had gym with Ms. Willot and the boys were all with Holsopple. Tommy squinted at the girl, but he couldn't tell who it was because she was backlit through the windows, hidden in her own shadow. What was she doing? Just watching the boys do gym class?
As he looked at her, she shifted position. Her half-turn allowed the sunlight to frame her, and he recognized Sally Worrel's smooth face and dark eyebrows. Their eyes met and for a moment, she just gazed in at him. Then, peering through the glass, her small, pink mouth spread into a smile. Without realizing what he was doing, Tommy straightened up and smiled back.
"ARKEN!" Tommy jumped as Holsopple's bellowed snarl resounded over the boys' cheering. "Quit preening for your girlfriend! Thirty laps, Arken, move! Now, lover boy, move it!" The entire class went silent, then erupted in laughter and catcalls.
His face burning, Tommy saw Sally disappear from the window. Amid the jeering and whistles, he turned to start running his laps, his eyes on the gym floor in front of him. He fixed an image of Holsopple in his mind, concentrating as hard as he could. He started counting to two hundred fifty-six, hoping a mental image was enough to make the curse stick.
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