BY MICHAEL B. TAGER
Welcome to Spec Script, where author Michael B. Tager delves into the unexplored from your (or his) favorite television shows.
Monday, 8:30 am; Bayside Coffee
Lisa Turtle is late to school. This is not the first time she’s been late to school and she suspects it won’t be the last. But she now has her non-fat latte in hand and the windows of her new car are down, the wind blowing her face free of wrinkles; she’s too young for stress, far too beautiful. She’s alive and and she’s happy about that.
Lisa puts her car into second gear, her non-fat latte held tight in her non-shifting hand. She’s careful to spill nothing on her new skirt, bought the day before in the mall with her father’s credit card. The skirt has polka dots and comes to mid-thigh. It complements her skin. She will not allow the non-fat latte to go rogue. “Burn moi? I don’t think so.”
She sips the non-fat latte and replaces it in the cup holder of her not-a-Porsche. When she’d asked for it, her father had given her that look that said she might be daddy’s little girl, but that she shouldn’t wish above her station. He had lots of faces. Instead of a cherry-red Porsche, she had a burnt-umber Volvo. Maybe she deserved it.
“Oh shut UP,” she said, pinching her thigh to get away from her mind’s wanderings behind her and hit the gas. If she is late, which she will be, she’ll tell her teachers about her trials and tribulations. Her teachers will understand, as they always will.
Monday, 9:02 am; Bayside High Front Office
The student parking lot is full, and she parks in a guest space. She isn’t supposed to park there, so she heads to the office to explain. “I chose the road less traveled,” she practices, “so you can’t expect me to know where I wound up!”
In the office, the blue-haired woman standing behind the desk shakes her head. She says that she just has to tell Mr. Belding and Mr. Belding will decide her punishment. The old woman squints and points a withered finger at Lisa’s non-fat latte. Make sure you finish that coffee before you see him.
“It’s not a coffee,” Lisa explains, wishing she’d straightened her hair today so she can make eye contact without continuously brushing her bangs away. Sometimes the curls obscure, headband or no. And she’s got a cute headband. Leopard print. “It’s a non-fat latte.”
Non-fat latte or no, finish it now or throw it out. The woman sniffs, her nose crinkling as she looks down her wide nose. Lisa imagines what the woman sees: her low-cut blouse, tight mini-skirt, trim ankles. “You like my boots?” Lisa asks?
The woman rolls her eyes. In my day, women didn’t dress like hussies. Mr. Belding will see you now.
Monday, 9:54 am; Bayside High Principal’s Office
Lisa sits in an uncomfortable vinyl chair. Mr. Belding faces her, his suit stained in the armpits, his comb-over swathed on his forehead. He stinks of nervousness and alcohol. Lisa knows about the alcohol-stink. She’s been to college parties, been pawed at by drunk college boys. Ones that won’t quite take no for an answer. She’s gotten adept at pushing them away while laughing.
Mr. Belding coughs. Why on earth has Lisa been so rude? Didn’t Lisa know that students couldn’t park in guest spots? Didn’t Lisa know that outside coffee was forbidden?
Mr. Belding stands and paces, his eyes skittering across her. She scoots low, takes off her jacket and lays it across her knees.
Lisa, he says. Lisa. He sits on the edge of his desk, his legs spread, his crotch facing her. His stink intensifies. She breathes shallowly. Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, what are we going to do with you? His eyes roam and his fingers, resting on his upper thigh, taps a harmony.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she says. “Do we need to do anything with me?”
Mr. Belding leans forward on the solid mahogany. His eye contact is fierce. He blinks, his sockets sinking into pale flesh and he tilts his head one way, then another.
Lisa tries not to let herself be unnerved. At least he’s looking in her eyes though, instead of—nope, his eyes dip to her chest. “Mr. Belding?”
Mr. Belding shakes his head and laughs. No, you’re a good kid, aren’t you Lisa? You’re a good, beautiful girl. Aren’t you?
Before answering, Lisa thinks about her friend Zach and the time he stole from the lunch lady, the time he taped two teachers in the back seat of a Buick, the time he’d blackmailed Mr. Belding himself. She wonders what it had been like for him? Did he get these kinds of comments? She doubted it. “I’m stay out of trouble, if that’s what you mean.”
Mr. Belding chortles and his sweaty palm touches her knee. Oh, you are funny aren’t you? Mr. Belding rubs his red eyes. I’m going to forget about the parking spot and the coffee—
She takes his sweaty wrist and gently pushes it off her knee. “—it was a non-fat latte—"
—and you’ll continue to be a good little girl, won’t you?
“Um. I don’t know what to say.”
Belding stays seated for another moment and then, as if realizing where he is, he stands abruptly and swoops back behind his desk. Papers find their way into his hands and he shuffles them. I have many things to do now, Lisa, so if you would?
Monday 11:55 Max’s Diner
The diner is packed. Her friends surround her, except for Jesse who is off studying. Zach holds court, his golden hair reflecting florescent light. Why couldn’t Helen Keller drive?
He waits a beat and says, Because she was a woman. The laughter is immediate from Slater and Screech and, Lisa is surprised to see, Kelly.
Zach takes a breath. Guys. What’s the difference between a fat girl and a moped? He squints. No wait. How is a fat girl like a moped?
Lisa says, “C’mon. Can we cool it with the women jokes?.” She squirms in the plastic booth. She wishes the magician-proprietor would come by. He has wisdom. But she hasn’t seen him—Max—in years.
Kelly says not to worry about jokes. She wears her cheerleading outfit, her skin tawny.
Screech says they’re all friends. His shirt looks like green and purple vomited on it.
Slater says that even Jessie doesn’t mind women jokes, that she’s the first to make them. Like he can tell Mexican jokes.
“Yeah, you’re Mexican so you can tell them. And Jessie’s a woman, so she can tell them. It’s not the same.” Lisa isn’t sure how this isn’t obvious.
Screech and Jessie and Slater insist. Screech and Jessie and Slater say not to be so uptight. Screech and Jessie and Slater tell her to lighten up. Lighten up. Lighten up.
“Fine, go ahead Zach.”
Zach’s smirk says everything. They’re fun to ride, but you don’t want your friends to see you mounting one. And they all laugh.
Monday 1:37 pm Bayside High, Multipurpose classroom
Lisa sits in the back of science class. The teacher begins to write on the chalkboard. A formula. Lisa squints and notices something. Her temper at a low ebb, a vein throbbing in her forehead, she raises her hand. When the teacher turns, he calls on her. Yes?
“I think there’s seomthing wrong in that formula.”
“Well, I know I don’t look the type—I’m too beautiful—,” she points at her flawless cheekbones, “but I think you put the wrong notation down? You maybe meant Platinum (pt) and you put Paladium (pd)?”
The teacher puts his hand under his chin, makes a show of looking around. Does anyone else agree with Ms. Turtle? No? He looks back to Lisa. No one else seems to think so.
“Well no disrespect, sir, but I think—,”
Oh, you’re thinking now? he asks. The class laughs and in the front row, Lisa’s old friend Nicole turns and laughs. Back in Miss Bliss’s class, they’d been besties. That had been some time ago. They were near-strangers now.
The teacher pretends to ponder. You said it yourself, didn’t you? How you’re not the type, huh? He points at her designer bag. Maybe you should stick to your name brands. Don’t you remember?
Lisa sighs and flashes back, a soft fudging around the edges of her vision, until everything blurs and the past is in the forefront. It’s the first day of science class and she takes the front row seat. She is a good student. The teacher, before he starts, sits behind his desk, his eyes glazed. Lisa notices that he’s staring in her vicinity. She follows his line of sight, realizes that her legs are just a mite apart at the knees. She stands and rushes to the back of the room. The teacher flushes red and begins the lesson. Once, their eyes meet and Lisa refuses to look away.
The flashback ends with a clearing of blur and she smiles her most winningest smile. She channels her inner white girl, “I don’t forget anything.” She smiles away the ice, adds to the list.
Monday 4:50 pm; Bayside High hallway
Lisa in front of her locker. Lisa leaning her head against cool metal. Lisa wondering what it would be like to be at an HBCU, not because she doesn’t like white people—her friends are white—but just because it might be nice to not have to worry all the time.
Lisa opening the locker. Lisa taking out her books. Lisa sensing someone near her. Lisa feeling hot breath on her neck. Lisa hearing, I like black pussy, and squealing when a rough hand grabs her crotch.
Lisa twirling, her hand striking, rings drawing blood. Lisa striking again and again. Moose, the lug, falling backward, screaming, help me, the bitch is crazy.
Lisa seeing no one rush to her aid. Lisa running away from silence. Lisa adding to the list again, the list getting longer, out of control.
Monday 9:30 pm; Turtle Residence
She’s told her parents. They give each other a meaningful look. Her daddy wears a sweater like Bill Cosby. Her mother’s lips are very red. They ask, did you do anything to provoke it? You know we have a very important meeting coming up. You know you can’t dress that way.
“I suddenly have a headache.” She excuses herself. She sits in her canopy bed, staring out the window.
Tuesday, 9:00 am; Bayside Coffee
Lisa stands in line. She orders a non-fat latte. She takes a sip. It is good. The checkout boy says Lisa’s super hot for a black girl. “Can I get your number?” Lisa grits her teeth, smiles, shakes her head no and takes back the small tip left on the counter.
Michael B Tager is a Baltimore-based writer and editor. More of his work can be found at michaelbtager.com. Likes include garden gnomes, cats, tacos and Prince.