The Strawberry Milk Act This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Halfway through lunch and, as always, the cafeteria was bustling. Students, gathered around the circular tables, stuffed food into their mouths and filled the room with chatter. I heard none of it, intent on watching Christie’s purple head bob to the table in front of us, milk carton in hand. She was met with giggles, barely subdued cheers, and permanent grins. Now there was nothing left save the wide hallway between her and Buck, the enemy, the criminal, who sat at the lunch detention table, treacherously close to authority, calmly eating his mid-day meal. I must have been conspicuous as a winter cardinal as she stood and crossed the hallway. My heart pounded in my chest as I choked on my delighted laughter. Beside me, Nathan crossed his arms over the table and sank his head into them, unable to watch any longer. The rest of us stared, unblinking, with train wreck fascination. After all, I’d been rooting for this since the plan was proposed, and worried for so long the perfect revenge would never take place

The whole affair officially began a few weeks before, during a parking lot game of gym class kickball, a horrid sport if there ever was one. It seemed every boy in the class played the game as if life depended on winning, except of course Nathan. I’m still not clear on what occurred as he ran through the outfield to catch the ball; no one is. I wasn’t there, and Nathan’s recollection of the event is faulty. All that can be said for sure is Nathan ended up on the asphalt with a bloodied knee after a collision. Buck paraded past him, joking about how Nathan had fallen down, and using that familiar homophobic slur that had been synonymous with Nathan since he’d first shown his face in the middle school.

Nathan had from day one committed the crime of being different, that greatest of offenses. He was bright enough to surpass the entire class in grades, and wore his hair long enough to be mistaken for a girl from behind. His only friends at the time were girls; he had no interest in sports, and passively accepted the bullying and taunts he endured. Only twice had any of the antagonists met with punishment for the bullying; and Nathan refused to stick up for himself, infuriating me to no end.

The parking lot incident would have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for Christie, Nathan’s new girlfriend, who’d started hanging out with us a month or so before, after our original crowd had disbanded. She was the kind of kid who people swiftly learned not to mess with. In the year she’d been attending our school we knew her for her punk goth style of dressing and her willingness to loudly share her opinions. For her, this latest incident was the last straw and in her own suitably unique way, she was going to get revenge, strawberry flavored.

I don’t know how the idea came about, whether it was just vengeful afternoon daydreaming or was sparked by some outside source. Christie’s plan was to pour a carton of the school cafeteria’s strawberry milk on Buck’s head. All of us who heard of her intentions thought this was a fine idea, all save Nathan. Whether it was a pacifistic notion, the dislike of having other students assaulted on his behalf, or unwillingness to see his girlfriend punished I’ll never know. I witnessed, however, his railing against the vengeance whenever the matter was approached, no matter how I insisted the plan was genius. Only a fool would sip strawberry milk at our table.

This act of revenge was far from impulsive. Christie planned out every detail, from getting a table near Buck’s on the chosen day, to asking her mom what punishment she would receive if she carried out the plan. After about a week Christie selected a day to do the deed and we arrived at school buzzed with excitement and anticipation, but through a combination of Nathan’s pleading and the threat of consequences, the day was uneventful. The strawberry milk went in the trash. A week or so passed where I despaired the plan would never take place, until just a few days before summer, when Christie decided she was going to try again.

She arrived at our table with a tray full of her normal lunch, accessorized with a carton of the now-fabled strawberry milk and a smaller container of apple juice. Both cartons were opened as she took a seat and the juice was added to the milk without a word. I grinned and Nathan groaned. The air was filled with fingernail-chewing apprehension as I waited. Would she do it or would she chicken out again? I’m surprised no administrators noticed something was amiss, but then two tables of full of laughing school girls (and one nervous boy) was nothing rare. We watched with despair as Buck was led to the lunch detention table for some unknown crime. Any hope of making this look like an accident was gone. If Christie was still going to do this, it would be in full view of everyone.

She moved, quick as you like, to the table beside us. I still didn’t believe she would carry it out, still sure the milk would end up in the trash like before. As she rose from her chair and marched proudly across the hallway, it still didn’t quite sink in. I watched the scene unfold before my eyes, all in the course a few seconds, as she stood behind Buck and tipped the fermented contents of the carton overtop him. It splashed over the floor, faintly pink colored, and I pitied the janitor who would have to deal with this mess. From the distance I couldn’t see how much of it had landed on Buck’s head, but I could see his surprise. A woman, skinny and stern, immerged from the nearby office and animatedly scolded our Christie. Meanwhile, I was silently cheering and laughing, delighted at this perfect justice. I thought if anyone glanced at us we could be accused as accomplices but nobody noticed. The woman was waving her hands at Christie, who watched stone-faced and proud. I could just imagine the woman in a prim voice. “You are not to pour milk on other students.” Where was she all the times Buck, and plenty of others for that matter, had taunted Nathan with words, or had left him bleeding on the tarmac with only their insults as acknowledgement.

Christie was sentenced to one day of In School Suspension, served on the last day of school due to a brief, out of state trip. One of Christie’s friends reported Buck stank something awful in art class, and the deed had been well done. The next year, the bullying had more or less faded away, due to what I liked to call ‘the strawberry milk act of 7th grade year.’ The principal confessed to Christie’s mother that he’d “been wanting to dump milk on that kid’s head all year.” Two years on, Christie is still praised for her deed, and Nathan still benefits from the effects.

Was it worth it then? On the surface, of course it was. Christie’s deed, heralded as heroic, went largely unpunished. But morally? Were we right, we who said Buck had done much worse to Nathan, or was he right in wanting to let the matter go unnoticed? I was convinced for so long that Christie was in the right, but now I know the answer. It’s all in how you look at it.





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Express-- This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 29, 2011 at 7:55 pm
This was so well written, neatly and impressively. I have personal experience with friends of mine who have been made fun of and taunted, many times with homophobic slurs. I wish I or one of my friends had had the bravery to do what Christie did. Good job [:
 
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