Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Ow! (01/07/10)
TITLE: Relatively Speaking
By Thomas Booher
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Jack clambered out of bed and faced the window. The sheer whiteness that filled the icy panes told him snow had fallen during the night. And that was why he was now entering the school cafeteria with his stomach rumbling. He had to clear the front porch and sidewalk leaving no time for even a piece of toast.
The aromas of macaroni and cheese assaulted his nose with tantalizingly painful force. The lunch line was short, and Jack made it through in less than five minutes. He pulled a chair out at a table whose occupants were just getting up to leave.
“Hey, Jack, what’s up?” It was Sharon, a friend from church. Except for the bus ride to and from school they only bumped into each other a few times a day.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
Sharon smiled. She didn’t say one way or another how things were going, but by the look of it, she was in a cheerful mood. That was typical. Jack had to admit she was, well, pretty nice. He kind of liked her but didn’t think she thought of him differently than anybody else in the church’s youth group. He was not one to stand out. But that didn’t bother him; she didn’t show much interest in any other guy either, even the ones whose personalities were a thousand times more potent than his. She was just a really neat, really serious Christian girl, which was the biggest appeal of all.
As Sharon turned away another sat down at the table opposite Jack. It was someone from the math class he just had. Jack didn’t know the guy and just happened to catch the name, George Mason, scrawled on the spiral notebook that lay on his tray next to the two pieces of spice cake and carton of chocolate milk. George was watching Sharon, his eyes taking in what was an obviously attractive feminine figure.
Jack’s appetite suddenly dissipated. A flare of jealous anger caused him to grit his teeth, and it seemed forever before his tablemate tore his eyes away and sat down. Jack sat down, too, and irritably picked up his fork. A quick glance at George revealed a lingering, faint smile that had an unwholesome tinge to it.
“You thought that was nice?”
George’s eyes shifted upward and fell on Jack.
“You talking to me?”
“Yeah, I mean, you seemed to like what you saw there a second ago,” Jack said, gesturing with his fork in Sharon’s direction.
George chuckled, “Yeah, I’d like to...”
“Like to what?” Jack said leaning forward in a way that made George’s smile fade a little.
George blinked. “Ohhh, yeah, I get it, you know her. Sorry, you know how it is...”
“Yeah, I know her,” Jack said hesitatingly, “but it’s not like that.”
“Well, then, it doesn’t matter then... does it?” George picked up his napkin and placed it on the other side of his tray.
“What doesn’t matter?” Jack asked, still leaning forward.
“Well, you know, it’s just natural, man. Can’t blame a guy for that, right?”
“It may be natural, but that doesn’t make it right.”
George’s mouth parted just a bit as though to say something but nothing came out for a full three seconds. “Uhm, are you... uh... religious. I mean, you know, you think I did something wrong?”
George sniffed, “Hey man, last time I checked I don’t have to think the way you do. After all, what’s true for you may not be true for me.”
Jack brought his fork prong-end down on the back of George’s hand.
“Ow! What the... Why did you do that?” George spat.
“Well, like you said, we can believe whatever we want, it doesn’t matter. Just because you think inflicting pain on someone else is wrong doesn’t mean I have to believe the same thing.”
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