"Hey, Stoopid! Bet you don't know who stole your lunch!"
"Look at her run! Ha-ha! Just wait till tomorrow. We'll be waiting!"
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names..."
"What a stoopid kid! You don't know nothin'. You don't even know your middle name. You don't know nuthin' about nuthin'. That's how stoopid you are."
"I don't know about that little Jones girl. No matter what I do, she just sits there and stares. It's like getting a song out of a stone, except stones echo. She doesn't even do that. And her homework is remarkable. If I didn't know better, I'd think she copied it; but there's nothing wrong with her mind. Give her a sheet of paper and five minutes later, it's filled. What's wrong with that girl?"
Filling her coffee cup, Mrs Grodman sat down on the battered sofa with a whoosh, leaving the cushions gasping for breath.
"She never says a word in class." She glanced at the bored teachers flipping through the discarded newspapers, sipping the scalding coffee. The bell rang.
"Five minutes and time to head back to the OK Corral" growled Barkley. "The only way to get a snail out of its shell is to step on it and crack it." The lonesome cowboy dusted himself off and sauntered toward the door. "We're not here to be junior psychologists; we're just here to teach—and we don't get paid for even doing that."
"Hey UglyFace, you do your homework yesterday? You gonna talk today? You gotta do your own work, ya know. God doesn't like copycats and cheaters. You're too ugly to have a brain. When you were born, your mother farted in a toilet—and you came out—plop! And don't we all know turds don't talk. See we know you're a turd, 'cause you don't talk. Parrots talk. But you ain't even that. Parrots got pretty feathers and all you got is your ugly MoleHoleFace and hairy legs."
"Yeah, where'd you get such ugly hairy legs. Even my tarantula is prettier. I bet Jake's dog's got less hair on his legs. And he's not even a hairless Chihuahua!" Like a pro boxer, Marek lunged to punch. Derek struck his foot out. She tripped, ducking the blow against her face. Eyes burning, she didn't cry. Never cry in front of anyone. Never. Never. Never.
Marek crowded in. Derek cut in front of her, making grimaces. Walking backward, he stepped on her toes whenever she took a step forward. Incensed by her silence, he swung at her jaw, snapping her head. She flew backwards.
Stunned, they stared at the motionless body on the sidewalk.
"Hey, Get up!" Marek kicked her ribs like a prostrate dog. "You'll be late. Then what will you do? Oh-boy, you'll get it then, if you're late."
Katka didn't move. "C'mon, let's go. Leave old HoleintheHead there. It don't matter nohow. She don't never say nothin'." Derek kicked her viciously. "She's too stoopid to call the cops. She's nothin' but a 'fraidy cat."
"You think she'll tell?"
"Hell no, she won't remember nuthin."
Marek stared at the girl. "Nuh, can't leave her here in the middle of everywhere. We'd better ditch her where nobody will find her."
"What about the dumpster over there?" Marek pointed across the vacant lot strewn with old auto parts and dead refrigerators.
"You think she's dead?"
"Dunno. Don't care. Just don't want her waking up and hollering where everybody can find her."
"Marek, you see Katka today?"
"Nope. She's got the flu. Maybe it's that other thing, you know. Can never tell with girls."
"Anybody else missing from class today?" Mrs. Grodman marked the attendance sheet and turned to her open book. Marek groaned, "A rose is a rose is my toes is my nose"
"Marek, " said Mrs Grodman brightly, "What do you think Shakespeare meant when he said, "A rose by any other name is still a rose?"
Marek froze. Derek hissed, "She's got a new bionic ear. Watch out!"
"Well, what do you think he meant? Do you just buy anything at the store?"
Marek stared at the board.
"What do you look for when you shop?" Mrs Grodman prompted.
"Boy, you're stoopid," hissed Derek. "You're not even a parrot."
Marek's face burned. So this was how it felt. Was he really stupid?