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Terrible, Terrible Me This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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You’re a bad seed. A bad egg. You bad, bad apple, you. People can be pretty creative when telling you you’re naughty, especially if said naughty sayings involve food. I’m partial to the apple, so let’s go with that. If I were an apple, I’d be red. A mealy apple, with its skin all bruised russet, the worst gone to smudges of blue-brown. When you bite those ones, even the white flesh is brown, and it tastes like compost heap. You would never want to eat apple-me.

I haven’t always known I’m a terrible person. Not always.

It’s Snow Day at Jupiter First Preschool. Not real snow, of course; they truck in a cartful of shaved ice and dump it out on the Florida-hot asphalt. “Go—play,” the instructor tells us, and I remember this last part humming in my ears, reverberating like the words of God, “but do not throw snow at anyone. Or else.” Right. Rightrightright. Whatever. I feel the cold only in the handful of snow I squeeze in one fist, needles of ice shooting into my veins. Strangely, my fingers feel wet. I’m standing there, amidst the melting ice, passing clumps of it between my dripping hands, when I see him. The way I remember it, everyone else’s faces fuzz away, or I’m short enough only hips fill my periphery. The sun halos his hair. I know what I have to do.

Allow me to interrupt this story by saying that I was a touch obsessed with Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I wanted to be one. I flailed in the swimming pool, trying to fuse my legs together to swim like Ariel and all her wonderful, swimming friends. Right. So, as I feel the ice melting in my cupped palms and see the boy’s face framed in rays of light, the singing begins. Ursula, the sea witch, singing one of her malicious and bone-deep evil songs in my head. My lips move with the words. I step forward. All of the teacher’s words about snow-throwing flit around in my head, smashed to bits by the sea-witch. The snow is in my hands. The boy in my range. I chuck the snow.

I don’t really remember what happened after that. It hit him, right in the eyes. He cried. I was punished. Sorry—so sorry, but it can’t be helped. I’m terrible, after all.

Jump forward. I’m nine, at my best friend’s house, holding a plastic blue shovel in my hands. We’re standing on her dirt road, rough with stones and shards of rock that jab our feet. And we’re digging. In the road.

Even at nine, I know this to be a pointless task. I just cannot figure why we’ve been commanded to dig holes in the road.

“Tell me again why we’re doing this?”

“Be-cause,” she says, glaring over her hole three times deeper than mine, “Mom said to.”

“Oh, right.” No. Wrong. Holes, I decide, are a waste of my time. “Andie.”

She doesn’t like to be interrupted in the middle of her digging. “What?”

“We’re not going to dig a hole in the road.”

“We have to,” she said. “Mom said.”

“Why don’t we dig flowers instead? Then we can put them in our hair.” Our plastic shovels sound so sweet, carving out soft, dark earth instead of parched road. We dig up all her mother’s flowerbeds, which, I learn later, are quite expensive. And braid them in our hair. Sorry—so sorry.

Flash forward. Twelve years old this time. We’re driving a friend’s golf cart, or, rather, I am. The first time I’ve been allowed to drive it, and she’s sitting in the front seat next to me. We’re nearing the end of the road. “Okay, Katie, start turning.” The end comes nearer. Beyond, a great ditch, ferns peeking up from its edges, dark green with promise. I smile. Push harder on the gas.

“Katie—turn.”

I don’t turn.

We went straight into that ditch. She cried. A nice man with a potbelly and sweat stains on his shirt had to pull over and tow the golf cart out. Sorry—so sorry.

Years have gone by. I’m seventeen, turning eighteen. I haven’t yet kicked a puppy or poisoned anyone’s water supply, but people are catching on.

Today, someone said, “You’re a terrible person, Katie.”

Don’t I know it.



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Khadra said...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 9:46 pm
love this story read mine
 
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