Twelve: Spill the Milk

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"Sometimes my mind wanders to a happy place where I'm allowed to punch people in the throat. And there are cute puppies and free cake."
~Anonymous

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I sit in peace at the cafeteria. Strangely, the layout is just like the one at Chestnut Ridge High, and I immediately get to a spot in the corner.

I have four chocolate milk cartons in front of me and a pile of bread sticks. Who can go wrong with a breadstick?

But when I take a bite, I realize that you can definitely go wrong...especially when the bread is sickeningly sweet with a moldy garlic flavor added to it.

But at least I have the chocolate milk.

I peel open the first one and take a long drink. Sweet and chocolatey with just the right amount of carbohydrates to tranquilize a full-grown rhinoceros. Just like I remember.

I exhale deeply and massage my temples.

I can't go back to Miss Rudy's class, that's for sure.

And what is wrong with those women, anyway? Does the bleach in their hair sink all the way down to their brains?

Because honestly...what sane person has a school celebration every time National Pet a Cat Day comes around?

I'd spent the afternoon sitting in the corner of Finn's classroom, watching as two groups of kids came in as I filled up little plastic condiment containers with paint.

He seemed like a strange guy...but in a good way. There's a difference between the good kind of strange and the bad kind of strange. Because the bottom line is that we're all strange. Some people just forget that it isn't always a terrible thing.

"There she is!"

The voice makes me jump and spill chocolate milk down my chin.

I wipe it away with the back of my hand and look up to see a small herd of people—Barb, Hayden and Janet.

"We've been looking for you!" Barb says.

"You really held your own in front of Karen, honey," Janet assures me, taking out a bottle of hang sanitizer and squirting someinto her hand before offering it to everyone else.

Without my invitation, they all sit down around me like a flock of hungry pigeons.

"...thanks," I say slowly, opening another carton of chocolate milk.

"So how are your kids enjoying their first day at Percival?" Barb asks.

"When my wife dropped off our boys on their first day, one of them puked all over her shoes," Hayden says. He's still holding his ex-wife's Kate Spade purse. He looks sad when he says, "But that was before the divorce."

"First of all, they're my nieces," I correct, and then shrug. "And I don't know how they are. Haven't seen them."

"Haven't seen them?" Janet echoes.

I raise my eyebrows, genuinely confused. "No? I mean, they're in school."

"Exactly!" Barb insists. "That's why we're in the PTO! To check up on our kids and see how they're doing."

"You mean spy on them?"

"No, no, of course not!" Janet says. She takes out a package of Clorox wipes and begins absentmindedly scrubbing down the table. "We all know the school system's broken. Most parents don't know what goes on behind these walls, except what their kids tell them, which is never much." She leans forward, like she's whispering a secret. "But us?  We know what they're learning, if they're getting bullied, and what the teachers do in their free time."

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