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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Story of Sophie and Sam, Arthur Levine

The Story of Sophie and Sam in One Thousand Four Hundred and Thirty Three Words (Over Twenty in Italics!)

Once upon a time there was this girl named Sophie.

That’s a pretty tired way to begin, but it’s too late to do anything abut it now.

Nobody liked Sophie. Not her Mom. Not her brother. Not the kids in her school. Especially not her teachers. Nobody.

Why? Who knows? She smelled all right. Better than all right. She smelled nice. Didn’t pick her nose in front of anybody. Combed her hair. It probably had something to do with her attitude. That’s what people usually say when they don’t like somebody. It’s on account of her attitude.

It’s okay, though, because Sophie didn’t like any of them either. On account of their attitudes.

Well, that’s not exactly true. There was this one boy in Speech, Sam. Sophie did like Sam. In fact, Sophie liked Sam a lot. Why? There was just something about him.

Sam didn’t like Sophie, but he didn’t not like Sophie either. You could say that when it came to Sophie, Sam didn’t have much of an opinion one way or the other. Sam wouldn’t care if you said that. In fact, he’d probably agree with you.

(You could also say that this whole thing is starting to get too cute. Like everything else, except maybe money and sex, a little cute goes a long way!)

People didn’t care much for Sam either. He smelled okay, but not as good as Sophie. So if you asked them why they didn’t care for Sam, they would probably say he smelled okay but they didn’t like his attitude.

(There’s a sentence or two missing here, but nothing important, just some extra words to help make the story flow better. If they turn up, I’ll add them later.)

Sophie was on her way to American History where they were about to finish a chapter on The Tariff of 1828, collect the homework and have a pop quiz, when she heard the screams and a noise that might have been firecrackers, which you probably know as well as I do, wasn’t firecrackers at all, but gunshots, and Sophie was so confused by, what some hack writer might call, this sudden turn of events, that she ran into the Boy’s Lavatory by mistake.

Meanwhile, coincidently enough, more than enough, actually, there was Sam was in a stall right there in the very same Boys Lavatory, smoking a Lucky Strike. When he heard the screams and the noises that might have been firecrackers, he flushed his half-finished Lucky Strike and left the stall to see what all the fuss was about.

 Sophie ran right into him. You could even say, right smack into him, and she grabbed Sam and held on, which I guess is what people do when they run right smack into somebody, or anyway that’s what Sophie did.

Like everybody else, Sam thought Sophie smelled very nice. He thought she smelled like herbal shampoo and hotel soap and some kind of flowers. He didn’t know much about flowers so he couldn’t tell you exactly what kind.

That might have been why he held on to her holding on to him. Or it could have been that’s just what people do when somebody else holds on to them. Anyhow that’s what Sam did


They closed the school for the rest of the week. That was fine with Sophie. She hadn’t done her homework about the Tariff of 1828 and got an F on the pop quiz. If, later on in life, her boss were to ask Sophie about the Tariff of 1828, she’d be in deep trouble.

Sam didn’t care one way or the other about school on account of he didn’t go very often, so whether they closed the school or not it was all the same to him.

When school started again it was just like before.

Well, not exactly.

All the entrances were locked except for the main one in front of the school. Also they had a cop in the front hall checking backpacks and acting like he would if he were writing traffic tickets, confrontational, but not too confrontational, which is pretty much how they probably taught him to act in cop school.

He had all the usual cop stuff, a Glock, a billy club or baton, as they like to call it, something that looked like some kind of ray gun that might have been a taser (or maybe it really was a ray gun, who knows that kind of cop stuff they have these days?) and so on.

In addition to the cop, there were new rules. Lots and lots of new rules. Rules about lockers. Rules about backpacks. Rules about leaving the building.

(There was another part to this here a minute ago. I wonder what happened to it?)

The very next assignment in Speech was, fittingly enough, a eulogy.

First up was Regina Chen.

“No longer will we hear the purposeful patter of our dear friends’ footsteps echoing among these hallowed halls of learning…”

Next was David Shapiro.

“They may be taken from us, but they will forever remain in our hearts…”

When it was finally Sam’s turn, he began, “We grieved in silence, my stepfather and I, watching the clouds of smoke rise from the transmission under the hood of his beloved classic 1979 Firebird Trans Am. Never again would we feel the exhilaration coming off the line from zero to sixty in six and change…”

The bell rang before he could finish.

Well, obviously, the teacher expected everybody to use this assignment to express their grief about the recent tragedy, and not about a blown transmission in their stepfather’s classic 1979 Firebird.

Everybody was supposed to act like they felt bad about the loss of their five classmates, their Health and Hygiene teacher Mr. Wally, and old Mr. Bullock, the Vice-Principal. Not to mention all the wounded. That’s what everybody was supposed to do. And that’s what everybody did do, until it was Sam’s turn.

Everybody knows that whenever somebody doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, it confuses things. That makes people nervous. People don’t like other people who confuse things and make them, the people (not the other people and obviously not the things), nervous. I know I don’t.

Sam thought the rest of the class and the teacher were acting like people who felt bad. That it was just an act. Sam believed that the class and the teacher were just glad it was five other students, some other teacher and the Vice-Principal (not to mention all the wounded), instead of them.

Maybe not. Maybe he was wrong. Okay, maybe only about half wrong. Maybe the class and the teacher really did feel bad some; my guess is it was only about forty-five percent.

Sam and Sophie, on the other hand, really did feel bad some. After all, it’s always sad when horrible stuff happens to people who really don’t deserve it.

But they hardly knew any of the five students and only one or two or maybe four at the most, of the wounded. And they didn’t know any of them very well either.

And there had been some disgusting rumors going around for a long time about Mr. Wally.

And old Bullock the Vice-Principal was a sadistic bully.

I suppose as far as Mr. Wally and Dr. Bullock go, it’s like they say, “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred in their bones.”

(Once again there seems to be something missing here. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will turn up later.)

It would be kind of a nice ending to this story if Sophie and Sam lived happily ever after, but for some reason, I don’t think they did. They just don’t seem like the types. I think the best we can hope for is to have them live happily, but not ever after. Just for maybe about a year, six months and maybe five or six days.

Maybe right up to a few months after the baby arrives. Or until Sam’s drinking gets worse. Or when the bad storm hits one winter and Sam is out of work and they can’t scrape up the money for heat and have to move in with Sophie’s folks on account of the baby.

So I guess the best I can do is end this story in the same tired way it began:


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