13. The Quack

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13. The Quack
Freshman Year

“Stupid Barbie bitches,” Nora spat as she stalked off. I struggled to keep up with her. “Bobble-headed trolls…makeup by DuPont. Snotty, snobby, slutty, skinny…” she stuttered and stopped. She’d been waiting for the bus with me before being accosted by two slimmer, more popular girls.

“Hey, it’s all right. Don’t worry about them. What they think of you doesn’t matter. You’re great.”

“I want to punch each of them in the throat. Line them up, Jacob, so I can start punching throats.”

“I’ll go grab one,” I joked, turning back to the school. “I’ll hold her arms while you get throat-punching.”

Eye roll. “How do you handle it?”

Nora got teased a lot. Being overweight wasn’t easy. I didn’t mind her weight, though; she was great. The fact most of the school judged us based on our appearance was one of the common threads tying us together.

We locked eyes. “You know how,” I said.

“Don’t start on that Eureka crap again.” She stretched her hands out across tight shorts, pulling them down further on her thighs.

“Maybe Eureka would do you some good.”

“What are you saying, Jacob? I needto change somehow?”

My brain crashed while trying to formulate a response. Hourglasses spun in my eyes; she drew me dangerously close to pointing out her obesity.

After twenty seconds of processing: “I like you exactly how you are. I always have, you’re awesome. If you were just like every one of those other girls in there,” I motioned toward the high school, “I wouldn’t even want to talk to you. And what would you do without me?”

“I’d have one less person to worry about. Jesus, did you even start Ms. Lachey’s report? You know it’s like 40% of your grade, right?”

I began backpedaling away from her, toward the bus stop where my ride would be arriving. “Let’s not focus on the vast multitude of things wrong with me. I’m too easy of a target. You’re damn near perfect, Nora—you’re smart, you’re funny. So you don’t look the same as everyone else, what’s the difference? Unless you really want to change, of course…”

I secretly hoped she would. I’d come to see Nora as a proud person, but also someone with severe body-image issues. She seemed to hate the Nora in the mirror.

“I know,” she said. “And that’s sweet, it is. Sometimes I wonder what I’m missing. The friends, the parties, all that stuff. Being popular…but could you imagine my fat ass with a boyfriend?” She asked, snorting at herself. “I’d probably crush him.” In fact, I’d given some thought to Nora having a boyfriend—some serious thought. I didn’t know if our relationship was headed in that direction, but I was open to exploring that territory. However, Nora never seemed to consider me a possibility.

The growling of a diesel engine cued the end of our conversation. “I’ve got stupid Mr. Aschen today, so I’ll call you later tonight, all right?”

Nora nodded, smiling.

My legs swung back and forth under the chair. I stared idly at paintings of beaches, lakes, birds, and other calming crap. What sort of artist was so goddamn boring, they’d spend dozens of hours working on pictures of ducks at rest in a pond?

What does this piece mean to you? The critic would ask the artist, hand on chin, ready to be impressed.

I like ducks, the artist would answer. They go ‘quack.’

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