There is a school in a far-away land where nobody may sit with the
cheerleaders. Some unwritten law dictates that they must sit by
themselves at the Lunch Table of Perfection. Daintily they nibble
only salad (no dressing), carefully lifting their shining forks
with perfectly manicured hands. They sip only spring water brought
from home, not milk, for milk is icky, fit only for the lower
classes. The rest of the cafeteria swirls around them in the
lunchtime rush, but they sit indifferently in the center of their
universe, discussing whatever it is that popular students discuss,
with the sneer on their lips that all popular students wear.
But on the morning of a bright autumn day, a certain Cindi Carter
chose an outfit which exactly matched the outfit chosen by the
cheerleader Angelique on that same morning. Now, Angelique could
have forgiven this had Cindi's outfit been stained, or worn with
old shoes, as befitted the trailer scum that the cheerleaders knew
Cindi to be. Then they could have enjoyed a laugh at poor Cindi,
who bought her clothes second-hand. But Cindi's outfit came
perfectly pressed, with brand-new shoes. Shoes the same style as
Angelique's, in fact.
The whispering started as Cindi took her place in the lunch line,
giving the cheerleaders a perfect view of her outfit. Angelique
endured the torture of Cindi's wardrobe for five whole minutes, and
worse: Derrick, her boyfriend, that impossibly handsome and popular
quarterback, stood in line behind Cindi, shamelessly admiring the
same skinny jeans, the same appliqu�d top that the sales clerk had
assured her only two days ago was the absolute latest. Angelique's
eyes glowed with rage, her pretty little face suddenly hideous.
Cindi walked past the Lunch Table of Perfection with her trashy
little lunch tray, and Angelique hissed, "Who do you think you
Cindi looked at her outfit. Did she show a certain satisfaction? "I
think I'm Cindi Carter. Who do you think you are?"
A tittering arose from the table behind Angelique, and she shelved
her reply, instead decided to donate this outfit that she must have
chosen in moment of insanity. But it troubled her, the thought of
somebody like Cindy being able to afford such a thing. She could
not have afforded it.
Shoplifting? She suddenly smiled. Yes, that was the answer. Or it
would be. When Angelique was done with little Cindy Carter, she
would never be able to show her face in this school again.
And then she got a shock. For Derrick was following Cindy to her
table! "Derrick!" she ordered. "Come sit with me."
Derrick looked back at her with indifference. "That's okay, Gel."
Angelique stared, dumbstruck. Derrick had never dared speak to her
that way. She spun to face Carolina. "Would you believe it?"
Carolina inspected a lettuce leaf. "She must have stolen that
outfit before security could kick her out. Don't worry about
Derrick. He'll come around. He knows he's got a good thing with
"Make sure the whole school knows she's a shoplifter. Text
everybody," yawned Jasmine.
Angelique pulled out her cell phone and got to work.
The next day, people whispered it around the school: Cindi Carter
is a shoplifter. The tales expanded throughout the week: Cindi
Carter shoplifts all the time! A criminal mastermind, right here in
the school! But Cindi kept right on wearing fashionable outfits, so
fashionable that the cheerleaders could not even keep up. She joked
and chatted with people as she always had. To the shoplifting story
she only laughed, "Oh, you've heard Angelique's jungle drums too?
She's such a cat." But nobody knew where Cindi got the money to buy
her fancy duds. To those who tried to ask in a round-about way, she
only replied, "Well, things have gotten better lately." And it was
true. The Carters had moved out of the trailer park into a
And then Derrick broke up with Angelique, and started dating Cindi
Carter! Badly shaken, Angelique went back to her cell phone. She
had to come up with something a bit snappier.
So she began to text: Cindi Carter practices witchcraft! She
sacrifices a gerbil on every full moon! Somebody told their
parents, and the ASPCA was informed. The police came to Cindi's
house. Not finding any sacrificed gerbils, they left, but finally
Angelique had something concrete to say: The police came to Cindi's
house! What did they find? We'll never know. Her dad paid off the
Cindi never denied that her father bribed a police officer to cover
up her cruelty to gerbils. She kept right on chatting with her
friends and dating Derrick. To the gerbil reports, she only replied
that she had a pet gerbil named Fred, in very good health; she
invited people to come over, meet Fred, and swim in the Carters'
new pool, since the weather was still so pleasant.
So people came over to meet Fred and stayed to play in the pool.
Nobody saw an altar, but Angelique kept the gerbil story going by
saying that the altar was hidden in the woods behind Cindi's house,
and she had gerbils, one after another, all named Fred. Nobody
could tell one gerbil from another. Each Fred was doomed.
And then Derrick took action.
In the center of the cafeteria, during the height of lunch hour,
Derrick presented Angelique with a large stuffed mouse. The mouse
carried a balloon with the words: GERBIL TALES. The news got out
that Cindi's dad made his money designing websites.
And a new text message began to circulate. Angelique was a
This story is lovingly dedicated to those little snots who
infested my school 20-odd years ago. If they are reading this,
they know who they are, and I have this to say to them: The
reason you had your own lunch table was that you were so
'popular' that nobody wanted to be near you. Nobody.