The weak, abused milk carton slides in front of me. However, inside the small quivering box isn't Moo Moo's Chocolate Milk. I already know what lies in front of me, but I refuse to set my gaze upon the interior of the carton, as to spare my appetite.
I am sitting at a round table. The school cafeteria is buzzing with activity around me but the handful of pre teen boys sitting around the table wear scowls upon their young, plump faces.
Pressured by the harsh faces of my peers, I reluctantly lower my head towards the gift they have oh so generously given me.
Inside the carton is a world of its own- a complete and utter mess. Every food imaginable makes an appearance in this smelly combination of my friends' lunches. Swirls of tomato soup chase after soggy goldfish. An unknown liquid seeps down through the mess of cheese, licorice, and Leo's mom's homemade meatloaf. Anchovies, onions, and bacon bits remain simple bystanders as they float along the edge of the mixture, perplexed by the never-ending battle between fish sticks and ketchup clumps.
As the boys who watch and savor my fearful expressions grow impatient, they begin to chant. "Drink it! Drink it! Drink it!"
I sit, frozen with intimidation and a bit of nausea.
Directly across from me sits a teenage boy with a round face and bright red cheeks. His nose is scrunched, brow furrowed, mouth squeezed shut, and eyes burning with fierce hatred. Patrick is the scariest of the children.
"You lost the bet, Wilson! You better drink it up or you'll pay! " he growls.
The bet. I deserve every bit of this punishment for being so foolish as to make a bet with the biggest and meanest of all the seventh grade bullies at this school.
It all started on a snowy winter day. I forgot my jacket at home, and was forced to walk across the parking lot in nothing but a thin cotton tshirt. Enduring the freezing and biting cold was torture until I was approached by a rather pretty girl named Fiona. She was appalled at my ability to stand the weather and seemed rather impressed, which obviously led me to keep my jacket at home permanently.
I became known, and I was no longer the average kid of average height who gets average grades and is average looking. I was Wilson the Winter Warrior.
But just as I started to taste a lick of popularity, Patrick had to come and put an end to it all, like a toddler ripping a flower out of the ground that had just barely begun to bloom.
He screamed to all the students that could hear him, "This scrawny kid is no more special than any of us. He's just an idiot who can't afford a jacket."
"I can afford a jacket!" I exclaimed, "and you're just mad that you can't withstand the cold like I can."
"Oh really?" Patrick taunted.
"Want to bet?" I said, staring him down.
At this point a crowd had gathered, each student's jaw scraping the snow covered ground in awe at the sight of someone standing up to Patrick.
"Why, yes! " my opponent said with a cracked and twisted smile.
The bet was then placed. We walked over to a snow pile across the parking lot. On top of the mound of fresh ice was a shovel.
"You first." Patrick spat.
I then took the shovel and placed a large shovel sized lump of snow directly into my pants. I then gripped the wooden handle and passed it to Patrick.
We continued until we each had three scoops of snow into our trousers.
Then we waited.
I gritted my teeth and tried not to think about the burning cold snow dripping down my already numb and shivering legs. I also tried to avoid the attentive pack of peers, most of them holding a camera. Patrick kept his dead stare locked on me.
The feeling quickly turned from medium discomfort to brutal pain, and I could feel my body trembling. With no control over my legs, I staggered to the side, shuddered one last time, and smashed to the ground like Uncle Phil after Thanksgiving dinner.
As I lay on the asphalt in defeat, I knew the price I had to pay. I had to drink the most disgusting potion Patrick's gang could create.
I am drawn back to reality by chants and grunts.
"Drink it, Wilson!" Patrick shouts, red with fury and itching to see me suffer.
I lift the carton and bring it close to my lips. Then I leap forward and splatter Patrick's brew all over his shirt! As I sprint out of the cafeteria, chuckling, I hear Patrick's furious howls, along with the laughing of every child in that lunch room.