by Carol S. Lashof
(GEORGIA appears to be an ordinary fourteen or fifteen-year-old girl. She is sitting on a chair, talking to someone standing in front of her. She often looks away from her listener, down at her hands and her body. She is wearing jeans and a loose-fitting jacket with long sleeves that she pulls down over her hands.)
Hi, how are you?
Me? I’m not sure. I feel okay now—but something weird happened to me in school today. Like nothing that’s ever happened to me before …
I don’t know if you can help me. Um.
(Pause. Fidgets. Then in a rush.)
But maybe I should explain first about the book we’ve been reading in English—it’s this weird story about a guy who turns into some kind of a gross bug thing. Like a cockroach? Or, or, a dung beetle. Which is a bug that eats shi—I mean, crap. But you probably knew that already, huh? I mean, even if you don’t learn about insects in vet school—or do you?
But, still, you’re probably, like, an expert on all kinds of animals, right? Not only regular dogs and cats, but other weird creatures.
Oh. Oh, no. I’m not here about a pet tarantula or whatever. And I know I didn’t have an appointment, and I haven’t seen you since last summer—when my cat got cancer and you had to put him to sleep. And you were so nice. And probably this is your lunch hour or something, so … what I mean is, thank you. For making time for me.
Anyway. I was saying. We’ve been reading this story about this guy Gregor who turns into a bug. And the bug he turns into is huge and ugly and definitely not something you’d want crawling around your bedroom.
Well, I wouldn’t, anyway.
Then. This morning. The teacher pairs everybody up with a partner to make lists of questions to talk about in class discussion. And I’m hella pumped because I’m paired with this guy Robert who I’ve liked forever.
Now, Robert is something you would want crawling around your bedroom.
Well, if you were a teenage girl, you would.
So I’m trying to sound smart to impress Robert but not like stuck up or anything? You know what I mean? And I say, “In the story, when Gregor’s father throws an apple at him—do you think it’s significant that it’s an apple?” I’m thinking, you know, about the garden of Eden and everything. And Robert, he for sure sees what I’m getting at because he says, “If you offered me an apple, I would totally bite it.”
And I’m thinking, yeah! He likes me! And I’m also thinking, I bet he thinks that’s a pretty smart question. Because he’s a good student too, like me. And then he says, “You know what I think?” And I say “What?”
And he says, “I think tight sweaters were invented for girls like you.”
And that kinda stops my train of thought about the insect-guy right there. Like, dead in its tracks. I mean, I want to be thinking about good discussion questions—because that’s the kind of student I am. Usually. The kind teachers count on to do the work, even when everybody else is goofing off. Do you know what I mean?
But what I’m actually thinking is about how good I look in that sweater, and how it’s soft like cats’ fur, so it kinda makes people wanna touch me when I’m wearing it—Hey, is it true that cats are so silky because they eat raw meat? I read that somewhere.
Really? It is. That’s so gross. I’m not sure I wanted to know that.
And I was totally not sure I wanted Robert to know I knew how hot I looked in the sweater I was wearing. And I definitely didn’t want him to think I was wearing it because of him, even though, yeah, I guess I was.
And so I’m chasing these thoughts around and around in my head like a cat chasing a mouse, and—
(GEORGIA covers her mouth.)
(GEORGIA’S voice is taking on a feline quality in spite of her efforts to speak like a person.)
Ummmm. Errrr. Anyhowwlll— Anyhow. I’m trrrying to think of what’s the rrright thing to say to Rrrroberrt. Robert. When ssssuddenly he ssstarrrts sstaring at me really hard. Sstrraight at the middle of my face. I think CRAP! I must have some humongous zit on my nose or something. The way he’s looking at me. Horrified. Meowr!
(GEORGIA makes a terrific effort to control her voice.)
So I reach up automatically to cover my face, to hide what I think must be the grossest, ugliest, hugest zit ever, and I feel … whiskers. Long stiff cat whiskers. And I’m thinking—what if this isn’t going to stop with whiskers? What if I’m turrrning into a for rrrreeall cat, with furrr and claws and a tail and everrrrrything, rright in the middle of the classrrrroom—meow—in the middle of Monday—meow—morning?
And I couldn’t stay in the classroom turning into a cat, could I? So I grabbed my jacket off the back of my chair and pulled it on and ran out of the room.
And then I stood in the hallway, just breathing for a minute, and pretty soon, I started to feel a little bit better, a little bit more like myself, you know? But still pretty weird. So I thought about going to see the school nurse, but I didn’t think she’d know how to deal, you know? And then I thought of you.
So can you help me?
Help me … be me, I guess.
END OF MONOLOGUE