A Story Of Cacophony, Soap, and Insects

She slid her lunch tray across the metal rails, careful to avoid eye contact.  Instead, she studied the fruit choices:  sliced mandarin oranges or strawberries.  Strawberries were her favorite, but she chose oranges because she’d be teased if strawberry seeds stuck between her teeth.

High school cafeteria, freshman year – it was always the same.

The cacophony of plastic trays on tables, dropped forks and raucous chatter gave her a false sense of anonymity.  She paid the cashier; a plump woman wearing a hairnet and a frown, and then searched for an empty table.

Four steps and it happened – again.  She slipped in a puddle of chocolate milk.  A hush fell over the cafeteria.  Covered in a mess of chocolate milk and mandarin orange syrup, she felt the heat of two hundred gazes.

Humiliated, she ran away.  The first three doors she tried were locked.  Hysteria rose inside as their laughter threatened to unleash her dammed tears.  The fourth door swung open and she ran, dizzy and disoriented, to the bathroom.  Her eyes wouldn’t focus through the blur of tears, but she pumped several squirts of pink liquid soap into her palm and rubbed it on her shirt anyway.  The soap’s Band Aid smell gagged her.

She heard voices.

She knew the giggles outside belonged to Tiffany, and the seven girls who swarmed around her like insects after a storm.  She knew they would gawk at her and giggle, then point and whisper.  After a minute of scrutiny, Tiffany would turn on her heel and leave, and the others would lift their chins and follow their queen, dragging part of her soul with them.

When misery threatened to tighten its noose around her neck, she awakened.  She always did.

She reached for the half glass of water and two pills kept on her bedside table.  She swallowed the pills knowing deep down that they couldn’t exorcise her demons.  But at 2:37 AM, she’d settle for prescribed drug-induced peace.


This is my second (and final) entry in the weekend challenge.  I don’t think I have a brain left to develop another idea 🙂

Here are the rules For this week’s Trifextra:

The challenge is to write a response that is between 33 and 333 words long and uses the words listed below.  Use the words however you wish, but make sure that all three appear in your response.  Oh, and they must appear in order.  Good luck!

  1. cacophony
  2. soap
  3. insects

26 thoughts on “A Story Of Cacophony, Soap, and Insects

  1. MOV April 7, 2012 / 5:54 PM

    ok, I don’t usually do this, but I am going to offer a critique (take it or leave it). I think you piece should end right here:

    “dragging part of her soul with them.”

    I am RIGHT THERE with your character, RIGHT THERE, and you do not need to be so brutal and push her over the edge. In my opinion, I think it is wise to leave a tiny bit of mystery for the readers, without bludgeoning them over the head.

    Please do not be offended, it is a WONDERFUL piece, just a bit of constructive criticism.


    • jannatwrites April 7, 2012 / 6:41 PM

      I appreciate the critique, MOV. I am not offended at all. I had hoped the last part would clarify that she was experiencing a recurring nightmare of a past event and still hadn’t managed to deal with it. That being said, I’ll definitely look at it from a different perspective (without that clarification) so I can see where you’re coming from 🙂

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      • Sparks In Shadow April 7, 2012 / 10:37 PM

        I appreciated the part that let me know it was a recurring dream, an example of how bullying often leaves that kind of legacy. It just felt to me that there weren’t enough words left to make a smooth (or more effective) transition.

        Transitions are one of my problems. Sometimes I get them so wrong that it hurts.

        • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 12:13 AM

          Thanks for sharing your viewpoint, Sparks In Shadow! I did cut this down quite a bit, but I didn’t see a transistion problem. (That in no way means I don’t think there is one…it just means I can’t see it :))

  2. nrhatch April 7, 2012 / 6:52 PM

    HS flashbacks are the stuff of dreams . . . and recurring nightmares. Well done.

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 12:06 AM

      For me, elementary school was much worse, but childhood memories can be harsh at times. Thanks for reading, Nancy!

  3. Ruby Manchanda April 7, 2012 / 7:55 PM

    Thank god it was a nightmare. Very potent and very effective.

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 12:06 AM

      Thanks for taking the time to read, Ruby!

  4. SusanWritesPrecise April 7, 2012 / 8:18 PM

    Powerful and nicely crafted. I was right there with you! Nice job!

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 12:07 AM

      Thanks, Susan! I appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts.

  5. Cipriano April 7, 2012 / 11:39 PM

    Nice work.
    I get it and feel the despair.

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 12:14 AM

      Thanks for stopping by to read it, Cipriano. I appreciate it!

  6. booguloo April 8, 2012 / 8:30 AM

    The humiliation and teasing would be quite the nightmare. At least she had a away to get some sleep.

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 8:45 PM

      Yes, good thing for the pills, Booguloo 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Debbie April 8, 2012 / 9:02 AM

    This is a powerful entry, Janna, and I’m afraid we’ve all experienced the “agony” of our formative school years. One teeny, tiny suggestion — it kind of unnerved me to read your description of the lunch lady “wearing a hairnet with her face chiseled into a frown.” Perhaps it’s a punctuation issue or a misplaced modifier, but at first read, it appears it’s the hairnet’s face wearing the frown. See what I’m saying? Take it or leave it; I never mean to offend!

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 8:48 PM

      Hehehe. I could see how it could read ‘wrong’. I wonder how I can read and edit a story 500 times and still not catch the silly stuff! I changed the sentence to read: “She paid the cashier; a plump woman wearing a hairnet and a frown…” I think it’s clearer that way. Thanks for the suggestion. Not offended at all, Debbie!

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 8:49 PM

      Thanks, Widdershins. I’ve read others that were better, but I did the best I could!

  8. pattyabr April 8, 2012 / 4:25 PM

    I’m glad it was a dream but it was very real. Nice job.

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 8:51 PM

      Thank you, Patty. I appreciate you stopping by to read it 🙂

  9. Dana April 8, 2012 / 9:09 PM

    Wow. Very, very powerfully written, Janna. The vivid memories of taunting and humiiation in high school haunt many a dream for a lot of people, I think.

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 9:36 PM

      Thanks, Dana. I appreciate you taking the time to read it and share your impression of the story!

      • Dana April 8, 2012 / 10:35 PM

        Grrr… something happened to the comment I was TRYING to post. Stupid computer or stupid operator? 😕 First, I meant humiliation… ugh. And there was supposed to be a second paragraph saying that your last two paragraphs showed excellent transition from her nightmare/memory to her present.

        • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 11:23 PM

          Oh, I read ‘humiliation’ 🙂 I’m wondering if there’s something going on with WordPress tonight. Three comments I made went to ‘page cannot be displayed’ and I had to retype them. I thought it was just me, but maybe not!

          Thanks for the comment on the last two paragraphs…reaction to them has been mixed – certainly interesting to hear why they work or didn’t work for the reader. Thanks for taking the time to add to your other comment, Dana!

  10. pattisj April 8, 2012 / 11:01 PM

    Nice, Janna. I think many of us can identify with that scenario.

    • jannatwrites April 8, 2012 / 11:24 PM

      Thanks, Patti. Oddly enough, high school was the least burdensome for me. Now elementary school on the other hand…. 😆

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