I happen to have an irrational fear of the idea of abortion. Just makes me shiver. It’ll never actually impede me in any way, I’m sure- but still, it’s there. The weird thing is, I’m pro-choice. This is why I hate being stuck doing nothing for so long. My mind starts to wander places I’d rather it not.
I’m sitting in an uncomfortable wood chair now, wondering what it was I did wrong. I don’t remember doing much of anything to begin with recently, much less something that breaks the rules. But if that’s the case, why the severity? Never heard an announcement like that before. Nearly gave me a heart attack. Hell, the thing’s still pounding inside my chest, even now. Surely there must be some misunderstanding or slip-up. Who knows? Maybe the fat guy framed me for drug possession, or Crew wanted back at me for wasting a few minutes of his time last semester. Could be anything, really. I’m sure it’s nothing.
It’s definitely nothing.
Two cops walk in from the outside door, the same one I came in through. I don’t recognize them. These aren’t school police.
“We’re here, sir.” They say to someone who isn’t me, speaking loud enough so he can hear, wherever he is. “You’re safe to open the door.”
The Headmaster himself, Marco Mikalas, nicknamed “Dean of Pizza” walks in.
He’s not dressed in his funny pizza suit he wears in the commercials today. He’s dressed all in darks and his grey hair is slicked back. You don’t normally see this guy outside of royally screwing up. I guess whatever misunderstanding there is, it’s pretty grave.
“Come into my office.” He beckons coldly, looking at me with disgust.
As soon as I stand up to enter, the pigs behind me push me in. They sit me down in a yellow plastic chair and Mikalas sits behind his smooth mahogany desk, his tall chair setting him a foot above me even though I’m the taller one by a longshot.
The music in my head is dying as the cops move to the back and stand at the ready, just beside the door. I hardly have time to take in all the posters and advertisements posted to the white, itchy walls before the Headmaster gives me my first riddle.
“Do you know what you’ve done?”
He looks dead serious. I hope it’s not a trick question. I shake my head before remembering how to talk.
“Let me rephrase…” he starts to rise in volume, the final syllables of his speech reaching a spear point of aggression. “Will you admit to what you’ve done?”
So it was a trick question. I should have known. I always find myself in the worst situations. I don’t know whether or not god really hates me, but I can say for sure the man leering in front of me does. I’ve never been looked at this way. In all the ugly mugs I’ve seen stare down at me, there’s always been at least some hint of wanting to understand. His has no such consideration.
“I really… don’t know what I did.” I tell him truthfully.
“Sir.” I add.
He’s sweating. No, fuming. His old wrinkly lips are placed together in a vise grip.
“You really just want to hear me say it…”
I honestly don’t. I don’t want to know what he thinks I did. I don’t want to know what I did. He breathes out one final time before he composes himself enough to fill me in.
“Your negligence has led to the death of one of our student’s children. An infant, three months old. His name was Calvin. You killed him.”
“ARE YOU TRYING TO APOLOGIZE?!” Bits of spittle flick onto my face.
“N-no, sir, I mean- I don’t- I don’t understand the situation- what- what did you just say?”
“You murdered a baby, you sick bastard. What’s there not to understand? Accept your actions.”
“I didn’t… I don’t know about any babies.”
“Oh? I guess that figures. You’re so stupid you didn’t even do this on purpose, did you? That about aligns with everything we know about you. Here, then- take a look at your handiwork.”
Before I can even think to look away, he flashes me a picture of a burnt, roasted chicken on his phone. Then I realize it’s a human child.
The cops restrain me before I can throw up. They pull my chin to the ceiling so that I swallow it back down. The taste about resembles the exact feelings inside me at the moment. God, get me out of here. Just let me wake up. I don’t like this dream.
“How… how did this… happen..?” It hasn’t hit me yet, and I know it wasn’t me who did it, but I can already tell I might start crying soon. I try to stay intelligible for as long as I can.
“He crawled into the ovens on his own. Given, the reason they were on was your fault.”
“Crawled into the… you mean the pizza ovens? Oh, god… that’s horrible…”
“Save it. Now what do you expect to happen, now that you’ve-“
“Wait.” I say, kicking myself for interrupting him on accident bit eager to defend myself by any means necessary. “Uh- wait, the pizza ovens? how is that my fault? Aren’t they always on?”
“They wouldn’t be. But your insatiable gluttony has led them having to essentially 24/7. Ordering a pizza every single time you turned in an assignment… what, were you reselling them yourself? What need could you possibly have for that amount of food?”
“But I… never ate… I never ate any…”
“You never what? Speak up, son, you’re already at the gallows here.”
“But I never ate any! I never wanted any pizzas! You make them every time someone finishes an assignment, that’s not my fault!”
He has to hold himself back from punching me. I don’t know why. I can’t imagine the cops would stop him.
“You- you don’t order a pizza after every worksheet, nobody does that!”
“What- but, but that’s how it works, isn’t it? You put in your paper, the robot says “have a nice day” or whatever, and- and- your pizza gets delivered! That’s not my fault!” I notice I’m hyperventilating. I tell myself I’ll try to calm down. What a ridiculous idea.
“Nobody orders a pizza when they don’t want one!” He yells, sending more ancient spit my way. “Tell me- did you not see the button, right there- that lets you decline the order?!”
Time freezes. My memory shatters.
I can barely recall it… that tiny red thing below the screen… that was… a button? Yeah… I guess it was. Now that I think about it, I saw people pressing it all the time. I never asked why they did that… wait. Is that why… only I have so many uneaten pizzas? Is that why that guy laughed at me earlier? Is that why… is that why… oh, oh my god… so much makes sense now. Nobody else had this problem. I just didn’t get the memo. Of course they don’t force you to eat a pizza every time. Why would they do that? I’m not sure how I ever believed that… god, what was I thinking? This is all just a mistake. This is all a mistake. I’m not responsible for this. I have to explain to him.
“I didn’t know…” I try to argue, but I hadn’t realized I was crying until just now. “I didn’t know you could do that.”
He shakes his head.
“If you’re really that stupid, you deserve what’s coming to you. Every last bit.”
I’ve felt this before… this awful feeling.
“Just use the broom.” Mom said to me like she always would. She was so good at giving instructions. She was like, the only person that made sense to me. “You can sweep up all the cobwebs in the boards from down here, and if it gets hard, you can go grab the ladder from inside, I think I put it in a closet somewhere. Now, I’ll be in the den with my friends, so if you need any help, just ask, okay?”
“Okay.” I said, thinking that was everything. We were out on the porch, doing some cleaning over the summer. We had a roofed-in porch, and it was messy because he hadn’t used it much before. It felt so simple. I was more than ready to do the job.
“Just be careful, I think there might be a bird’s nest in there somewhere. It’s been awhile since we cleaned it. Ladder could help with that.”
“Oh, okay.” I told her. I was pretty much calm then. Nothing like now. It was supposed to be a sweet kind of day. A day where I got to be good at something. A day I got to help someone.
“I’ll be inside! Call me if you need anything!” She restated, waving as she went out of view, going up the stairs inside. I was nervous about seeing her friends, so I decided I wouldn’t get the ladder.
It wasn’t that long before it happened really. I think I brushed off the first few wood beams above me, and then I pushed it down by accident. The second I touched it with the broom I knew. That’s the nest, soft and twiggy. I wasn’t scared when it fell over. But my heart fell when I heard the sounds that followed.
crack crack splat.
It was something I didn’t think god intended me to see. They weren’t ready yet. Some were further along than others. The broken red eggshells littered the cold floor as they all looked up at me accusingly. The biggest one’s belly was split open. The pink ribbons sticking out from its wound were instantly recognizable from every time I’d seen something die in a movie. The inside parts of the creature were outside now, just like the baby bird itself. I didn’t say anything or scream or cry. I didn’t want to touch them, so I used the backside of the broom to move them all together. I think I used either a rock or a brick. I prayed they wouldn’t feel it. I tried to make them go away as fast as possible as I pressed once, a single time, as hard as I could against the ground.
Didn’t look to see what they turned into. I only caught glimpses of the paste as I ran the killing implement along with their remains over to the nearby lake. I threw everything in there, along with my guilt. Above all else, I didn’t want mom to know what had happened.
I ran inside to wash my hands and the broom. There I saw it- the ladder wasn’t even in the path of my mom and her friends. If I wanted it, I could’ve gotten it. And if I had, this might not have happened.
I worked in silence for another few minutes. Then mom came out.
“How’s it going?”
“Good, I think I’m almost done.”
“You get that nest?”
“Oh.” I threw out, casually muttering. “Yeah.”
“Ah, good. Did it have anything in it?”
I was using the internet that night.
Do birds have feelings
Do birds feel loss
Do birds experience emotions
I kept thinking about that mother bird for some reason. Surely there was one. She just wasn’t there to protect them at that moment. For the record, unfortunately, birds do have feelings, as far as we know.
That night was when it all got to me. I was crying and screaming in a shower where nobody would hear. The one thing I couldn’t stop asking myself was this:
Why did this have to happen?
I didn’t get why I had to live the life where that happened. If id just gone and got the ladder… If I just hadn’t worked that day to begin with, I wouldn’t have that trauma. Instead, it’s something I’ll have to carry for the rest of my life.
And by the looks of it, this will be too.
“You hear me? You deserve this. Everything that’s gonna happen to you.”
“I… what’s gonna happen to me?”
“You’re responsible for a death. Whatever it is, it won’t be good. Needless to say, you’re already expelled. You aren’t considered one of my students anymore.”
So not only is my sanity on the chopping block… but my future- my dreams, too. Figures… I really am an unlucky piece of shit. If only I wasn’t so stupid…
“I’ll ask again…” he prods. “What do you have to say for yourself?
“Why… do you want to know?” Suddenly, it all feels off to me. More than it already did, I mean.
“Don’t I deserve an explanation? How does it feel to be killer?”
“You just wanna know… my suffering? What I’m feeling?”
“That’s right. It’s the least you can do.”
“But I’m not… responsible.”
My chair falls to the ground as I slam my hands on his desk. The pigs restrain me, but it doesn’t stop me from yelling.
“MY FAULT? FUCK THAT! HOW WAS A BABY UP THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE? ISN’T IT THE PARENTS’ FAULT?”
“Don’t you use that tone with me, young man!”
“WAIT- WHAT ABOUT THE STAFF, HUH? THEY TURNED THE OVENS ON!”
“Try and shift the blame all the like, it’s your responsibility for the orders!”
“WHAT ABOUT THE DESIGNER OF THE BUILDING? ISN’T THE, THE MECHANIC, OR- ARCHITECT TO BLAME FOR THE OVENS BEING SO EASY TO CRAWL INTO? BY A BABY, FOR GOD’S SAKE!” I helplessly struggle against the police holding me down.
“They don’t have any part in this to begin with, you murderer!”
“ISN’T IT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PIZZA SYSTEM ANYWAY? YOU’RE THE ONE WHO SAID IT, YEAH? IN THE COMMERCIALS! YOU GET A FREE PIZZA FOR EVERY ASSIGNMENT YOU COMPLETE! THAT WAS YOUR GUARANTEE, AND IT’S YOUR FAULT THAT IT WENT WRONG!”
“SILENCE!” He orders as the cops finally manage to push me to the floor. But on the way down, my chin smacks against the top of the desk. For awhile, everything goes black. Then, I hear Headmaster Mikalas’ infuriating voice once again.
“Let her in.” He orders. “See what she thinks of all this.”
“Everything her son’s done.”