Evelyn Bauer liked to pick her nose. And if it were only that, it might have been okay. Because a lot of the other kids liked to pick their noses, too. What kid doesn't, in some secret moment, have the urge to put her fingers in and see what she might find? But Evelyn also liked to play with her boogers. And, perhaps if they'd been honest, most of the other kids in the class would have been okay with that, too. But what ten year old child, after all, is honest? Sure, they all liked to play with their boogers. Squish them between two fingers, see how far they would stretch, stick them to the bottoms of their desks. Evelyn, however, seemed to enjoy it too much, and she did it without shame. By the age of eight, almost every child in the world has learned at least some small measure of shame. If nothing else, when caught with a finger up the nose, the most obnoxious child will pretend to have had an itch. If caught squeezing one of the little things between the pages of a book, what child wouldn't know to play stupid, to toss the book under the desk, above all to deny, deny, deny? What child would be so stupid as to smile, hold the thing up for you to share, brag at its size, its color, its texture? No child. Except for Evelyn.
What was worse, she ate them. Molly Gerwin, who sat directly beside Evelyn, saw her do so one day in the middle of a particularly boring math lesson. The truth was, Evelyn didn't so much enjoy the taste of boogers, didn't so much want to eat them as she wanted to eat everything. Her chubby belly stretched the confines of even her "husky" sized pants. It had been touch and go since the beginning of the semester for Evelyn, ever since she stood in front of the class and told everyone that her favorite animal was a snake, and her favorite color was white, but the booger-eating incident was the end of any hopes for friendship and acceptance she might have had. Even Andrew Yardley, the glue eater, couldn't countenance that kind of behavior.
"I heard that her mother taught her to eat boogers," he told Toby Knightly, brazenly licking a sticky rivulet of glue from his number two pencil.
"Why would she do that?" Toby asked, but he didn't have to.
"Because they're too poor to afford any other food," he said. That Toby Knightly had to ask how Andrew Yardley knew this just showed how green the boy, who had just moved from Minneapolis when his father got a job at the General Motors plant, truly was. "She's a blue card, stupid. Get with it."
And it was true that Evelyn's mother had signed her up for the free school lunch program. A single woman whose husband had left her, she worked two jobs to support herself, her daughter, and the aging mother she put up in a small rest home on the other side of town. Annabelle Bauer's story would have been perfect for inclusion in a politician's stump speech, if only some happy spin could be put on it, a reference to perseverance, maybe, or the old saw about bootstraps. If only Annabelle could afford boots. She could hardly afford to keep the heat on and the pantry full. So, after swallowing her scant supply of pride, and forcing her daughter to swallow yet another of her famous mayonnaise and iceberg sandwiches, Annabelle filled out the paperwork that entitled Evelyn to a bright blue card, the color of which, glaringly obvious among the other students' yellow cards, was used to enforce the strict social stratification of the elementary school as much as it was used to provide needy children with free daily helpings of Salisbury steak, canned green beans, and half-stale dinner rolls. In two years, the administration at Forest View Elementary School would begin printing all lunch cards on yellow stock, in response to complaints from several parents about bullying. But they were too late to save Evelyn ... To read the remainder of Matt Sailor's story, purchase a copy of the 2012 edition.edition.
Matt Sailor is Editor-in-Chief of New South, Georgia State University's journal of art and literature. He is currently pursuing his MFA in fiction, also at Georgia State.