The Long and Short of It - Rhonda Roberts

The Long and the Short of It

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This week’s story is from Rhonda Roberts.

The Long and the Short of It

It was typical of Teena Magee’s life that she, being the tallest girl in eighth grade, had been given one of the lowest lockers in the school. It also figured that Abe Steadman, the shortest boy in eighth grade, had been given one of the top lockers in the school. Right next to hers.

Several times a day Teena had to endure the snickers of passing students watching her squat down to peer into the back of her locker. And the jokes they cracked while watching Abe stretch up on his tiptoes to reach into his were just as bad. Teena couldn’t stand listening to them harassing Abe. I know why they make fun of me, but he’s cute, smart and funny – why can’t they look past his height and see what a great guy he is?

“Mutt and Jeff!” She must have heard it a thousand times. That, or “kibbles and bits!” Ha ha. Very funny. Let’s see how funny my fist looks as it goes through your mouth and comes out the back of your head! Teena hated them all for being so mean, but she knew it would make things worse if she said anything.

She tried to talk to her mom about it once, but it didn’t help at all.

“Be proud of your height,” her mother smiled up at her. “I’d love to be as tall as you. I always have to ask for help reaching things. It’s embarrassing, and frustrating.”

“Yeah, but people a foot shorter than you don’t call you ‘Teeny Magee’.”

Her mom laughed.

Abe had it as bad, but it didn’t seem to bother him at all. “Shorty!” “Stub!” “Shrimp!” Catcalls aimed at Abe ricocheted down the hall and shot from the back of the classroom, but Abe just grinned and waved good-naturedly at the taunting.

It drove Teena crazy. I hate it when they talk to him like that. I know exactly how it feels to be treated that way. He should punch them out, but he just smiles. How can he stand it? Why doesn’t it bother him like it bothers me?

She tried her best to keep her distance from Abe, to save them both the embarrassment. She avoided her locker as much as she could, but staggering around with all her books loading down her backpack or balanced precariously in her arms made it worse. “Hey, I didn’t know they use giraffes as pack mules!” When all the kids cracked up with laughter, the boy who thought that one up strutted around for days and called her “Teeny Giraffe” every chance he got.

Once Teena started avoiding Abe, she suddenly saw him everywhere. She either passed him in the halls between classes or noticed him walking near her. And he was always smiling.

It got to the point where she nearly hated him, too. He’s making it worse! If he tried harder to keep his distance, they’d have less chance to make fun of us.

At the end of a particularly bad Friday, Teena knelt in front of her locker, trying to make herself as small as she could while gathering books and papers she needed to take home for the weekend. When Abe came up to his locker, she ducked her head down, hoping her long brown hair would hide her face from view. As luck would have it, a nuisance of football players jostled their way down the hall and stuttered to a stop in front of them.

“Well, if it isn’t Shawn Bradley and Earl Boykins!” one of the boys sneered, and the others hooted with laughter.

Teena’s face burned with helpless fury, but Abe just turned around and grinned. “Actually, Mugsy Bogues is the shortest NBA basketball player, and two inches shorter than Boykins.”

The hecklers paused uncertainly for a moment. Abe’s grin widened. “And I’m two inches shorter than Mugsy!”

The boys shouted with laughter, shoved and tousled Abe with what for them passed as affection, and noisily stampeded away.

Teena crouched in front of her locker, shaking with rage. “Why didn’t you get mad? How can you just keep taking it every single day? Why don’t you ask for a different locker?”

“I did,” Abe said.

Teena stared up at him. It took several tries before she could speak. “Wouldn’t they give you one?”

Abe smiled. “They did give it to me. I asked to be moved to a locker close to you. This one was available. I thought it was perfect.”

For a moment, Teena thought she’d gone deaf. The words he had spoken so softly drowned out all the hallway shouts and clatter. She looked down at the floor, heart pounding. “But why?”

Abe leaned down until his lips were by her ear. “‘The ripest peach is highest on the tree’,” he whispered.

Teena felt him tug a lock of her hair. She caught her breath and smiled. When she looked up, he was gone.

Rhonda Roberts
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