Authors: e. E. Charlton-Trujillo
This was the beginning. Angie bit the end of her thumbnail awaiting the result. She had — unwittingly — found a rival. A rival was the last thing she needed halfway into her rerun of freshman year.
That was when Fat Angie challenged Stacy Ann Sloan on the basketball court. Stacy Ann
Fat Angie across the face. An entire gym class of girls laughed, cheering on the queen of sting, Stacy Ann Sloan, aka the rising star (vixen in disguise) of William Anders High. No one
challenged her on the basketball court, even if they were playing volleyball.
“Say something now, you freak,” Stacy Ann said to Fat Angie. “You’re crazier than your G.I. Joe sister.”
Fat Angie did not like confrontation.
Fat Angie did not like Stacy Ann.
Fat Angie especially did not like confrontation with Stacy Ann.
But Stacy Ann crossed a line when she said Angie’s sister was . . . Fat Angie snapped up and yanked Stacy Ann’s Farrah Fawcett (original cast member of the 1970s TV show
) retro hair with vicious intent. And before anyone could say, “Damn . . .”
Stacy Ann, and to everyone’s surprise, knocked her to the floor.
and the gym went a hush.
The moment could easily be categorized as un-believable. Had it not been absolutely, unequivocably true.
Fat Angie held up her red, pulsating hand for verification. This was an event she needed proved because the action was too large even for her to believe. She gulped. Her sweaty palm shook and her amazement faded fast because Fat Angie, a mortal among the teen crowd, realized that retaliating on Stacy Ann Sloan meant:
Fat Angie had become keen on the term. First because of her older sister’s fascination with troubles foreign and less domestic. Then later when her parents engaged in war over her and her adopted older brother, Wang, and over who got Lester, the aging family dog, during the divorce. Lester hated his name.
Fat Angie told her therapist,
“Lester hates his name. He won’t respond to it.”
The therapist made a note:
Projects feelings of animosity on family dog.
“Show us your crazy pose, Fat Angie,” said a mean girl, her camera phone popping off a mock photo shoot.
Fat Angie did not like photo shoots.
Fat Angie did not like any of the girls in her gym class.
She particularly did not like the mean girl, and she began to sweat and shake.
“This is gonna jet on the net,” said a busty girl, moving in with her cell in video mode.
Before the girl could get her juicy close-up, Stacy Ann had returned for Round 2.
Stacy Ann countered Fat Angie’s slap with a fierce-naughty punch. Fat Angie held her pudgy arms low, boxer-like, to protect her ribs. Fat Angie, though once an avid viewer of kung fu movies with Wang and their sister, failed to remember Rule #1 in the art of hand-to-hand combat: regardless of the circumstance, always protect one’s
Popped in the face, Fat Angie toppled to the basketball court floor and landed face-first.
“Check out her underwear,” said one of the girls.
Fat Angie had had the same underwear since eighth grade — the elastic
to its edges. She hated her underwear. It came eight to a pack for $6.99 at Wal-Mart and her stomach hung over it. The girls in gym loved that fact. Almost as much as the fact that she was the only girl in their school who had ever had a nervous breakdown. Fat Angie’s therapist had explained it quite slowly and with unnecessary precision. Angie was neither slow nor nervous. She felt the diagnosis was inaccurate and meant only for insurance billing purposes. Her mother had argued at great length with Angie’s therapist about the importance of an accurate diagnosis for her group health provider.
Disappointed in her opponent’s lack of effort to fight back, Stacy Ann towered over Fat Angie.
“You really are wacko, Fatso,” said Stacy Ann.
Fat Angie would agree. People were obese for all sorts of reasons. She’d tell anyone that. If she trusted someone to share such thoughts.
The gym teacher, Coach Linda Laden, who had been otherwise occupied in the equipment room, broke through the circle of ogling girls.
“Who started this?” Coach Laden asked.
“Fat Angie,” said a voice in the back.
“Fat Angie,” chimed another girl.
“She pulled my hair, Coach Laden,” said Stacy Ann.
Coach Laden stared at an aggressive clump at the top of Stacy Ann’s silky, perfectly highlighted hair.
“Angie?” said Coach Laden, in her most sensitive but disappointed voice.
Clearly, Laden had a soft spot for Angie. A woman known to be hard as a ten-inch rusty spike had hoped for greater things for Angie, the way she had for Angie’s older sister. To see the girl defeated and so unattractively fitted in a two-sizes-too-small
T-shirt was nearly more than the coach could bear.
“Angie?” Coach Laden asked again, now squatting to her level.
The girls whispered. Laughed. Angie sat there, her not-so-loved love handles sweat soaked from edge to wide edge of her stomach.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Fat Angie said to Coach Laden.
Coach Laden helped her to her feet. Angie’s sneakers, with the sides overturned, slipped and there was yet another burst of laughter from the gaggle.
“Wall sits!” Coach Laden said. “Everyone. Now.”
The girls groaned and made for the gymnasium walls. Stacy Ann, however, stood firmly in place, arms crossed, hip angled to one side.
“Coach, she started it,” Stacy Ann said. “Everybody knows she’s crazy.”
Coach Laden leaned in and said, “No matter what, you
Stacy Ann muttered profanities under her breath as Coach Laden walked across the basketball court with Fat Angie.
Fat Angie decided that it must be common after a battle with the meanest, prettiest crank-ho of the school to withdraw quietly into the downstairs girls’ locker room. Coach Laden sat with Fat Angie and told the tales of her youth and how she had overcome adversity to become the woman that she was. Fat Angie watched the silver whistle dangle from Coach Laden’s chest as she leaned forward, placed a kind hand on Angie’s knee, and said a variation of what so many had said since Angie had come home from the institution: “You can’t let yourself get drawn into that kind of situation. You’re too smart and have too much going for you. Do you believe that?”
Angie had become an expert at the art of the rhetorical question. She simply had to acknowledge it with an answer that concurred with the adult’s expectation: nod and/or say yes.
“Come upstairs when you’re ready,” Coach Laden said.
With the coach now out of the locker room, Fat Angie undressed, pulling her sweaty yellow T-shirt off, the words
along the front stretched every which way possible. A cocky, bicep-bulging hornet stared back at her. It had been her sister’s shirt. The shirt her sister had worn beneath her basketball jersey on game day for good luck. Not that a girl with her academic and athletic prowess had ever had to rely on such a thing as luck.
The shock waves of her sister snubbing scholarship offers to save the world from the tyranny of terrorism, after seeing a
special on the war in Iraq, reverberated throughout the state and beyond. Fat Angie’s sister had become a household name, much like Tide. No one could believe that she had joined the air force on her eighteenth birthday and lied to her parents and, most notably, to Fat Angie until a week before leaving for boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
Fat Angie’s sister was skinny. The
T-shirt barely fit Fat Angie, but she wore it every day to gym.
Wearing that shirt was the one thing about her miserable, predictable life that she did not hate. Because Fat Angie’s school day consisted of one or more of the following from her classmates:
They pantsed her.
They egged her.
They rolled her down a hill at lunch.
They mooed at her.
They spit on her food.
They spit on her.
They spit spitballs at her.
They yelled obscenities.
They stole her pens, pencils, and/or highlighters.
They erased her name from school-sponsored events.
They repeatedly lied about her to the press.