Flumes Vol. 5: Issue 1, Summer 2020 - Page 18

The Other Cheek

By Andrew MacQuarrie

It was sticky, which wasn’t what Sara was expecting.

She squinted through mint-green Esprit frames at the gooey-white paste she’d picked out of her hair. By then the laughter had already started.

“Sara got crapped on by a bird!”

“Nice hair gel, Sara!”

“Sara’s a shithead! Like literally!”

Sara glared at the pack of birds retreating over the south end of the school, then turned to face her tormenters: her classmates, her churchmates, her neighbors and cousins and family friends who she’d known since birth, who’d been using her as the butt of their jokes for nearly as long. Any other day she would’ve brushed it off, just like she was taught. Boys will be boys. Birds will be birds. Matthew 6:25. Matthew 6:26 too, for that matter. But that day, after the week she’d had with her sick parakeet and her sore teeth from the new braces and her daddy refusing to let her quit the swim team even though there was nothing in the world she hated more than swimming, Sara just wasn’t having it.

She looked back up into the sky, the pack of birds little more than specks in the distance, then squeezed her bony little hands into fists.

Sara ran a finger through the space in her bent mint-green Esprit frames where the lens used to be, her other hand holding an ice pack against her swollen eye. Her parents were there, in the principal’s office. They’d been in there for close to an hour. She tried to listen to what they were saying, but their voices were too quiet. That didn’t make her feel any better, though. It probably meant she was in even worse trouble than she’d thought.

She stood when the door finally opened, just like she was taught.

“Thank you, Mr. Donahue. Have a blessed day.”

The principal wished Sara’s parents the same as they walked past her without muttering a word. Dutifully, she bowed her head and followed them out to the nearly empty parking lot.

It was a quiet car ride home. The throbbing around Sara’s eye had subsided, but that only meant the ache in her teeth was even sharper. She stared out the window, hoping to delay whatever punishment was coming for as long as she could. There was a pack of birds on the power line. She wondered if any of them was the one who’d pooped in her hair and ruined her day. She thought about all the things she would’ve said to that to another creature, not even a stupid good-for-nothing bird.