The Daily Post. Prompt, “Green”
“Give her these.” Toby said, pushing a small baggie of green candies across the cafeteria table to Mike. “Green M&M’s drive girls crazy.” he explained knowingly. Toby was wise in such things, Mike knew, as he had an older brother. He had a beard (uneven and sparse, but a beard nonetheless) and his own Trans Am. Rumor had it, he had even had sex, twice, with his cheerleader girlfriend. Toby’s brother was the epitome of cool.
Mike studied the baggie, holding it in front of his face, twisting it this way and that. There appeared to be nothing special about its contents. Eight green peanut M&Ms rested at the bottom of the clear plastic. They smelled of chocolate and salt. They gave no hint of magical powers or sexual prowess that would make Amanda helpless to his charms. But Toby had heard from his brother, who had heard from a guy, who knew a girl that totally had sex, a lot of sex, after eating a handful of green M&Ms.
The data was solid, the resources reliable. Toby was giving Mike the keys to the kingdom. The sixth grade Christmas Dance was going to be nothing short of magical.
Toby was Mike’s best friend, further proof of reliability. Toby would not steer him wrong. They had known each other for years, since the first day of Kindergarten, and had formed a bond stronger and longer lasting than many of the awkward and short lived relationships of many of their peers. They had once considered becoming blood brothers, but after an hour of hemming and hawing over the point of Mike’s father’s pocket knife against the plump flesh of their palms, they decided that word was bond, and strong enough.
Amanda came into their lives that past fall. She was in the hallway, attempting unsuccessfully to open her locker. Mike and Toby stood at a respectable distance, watching her from the corners of their eyes. She was tall for her age, had long blonde locks, pale skin, and, despite her current difficulties, exuded a confidence that immediately attracted the most popular of the girls to her aid. They flocked, giggled and chirped, and opened the locker with minimal difficulty. Within a minute, Amanda was assimilated into collective.
Toby and Mike had never had it so easy. They watched in awe. It was National Geographic in the junior high hallway of Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Mike fell in love almost immediately; if the hair, the smile, the eyes, and the swell of breasts wasn’t enough, her ease and natural abilities to draw others to her sealed the deal.
Clearly Amada was out of his league, as he and Toby were a clique all their own. They were not bullied, but they were not placed upon the pedestals of popularity, either. They were ignored, which was arguably the lowest form of social status. But he was young and dumb and had raging hormones. Mike would not be stopped.
Mike could never talk to Amanda directly. Toby gave no opinions, one way or the other. When Mike spoke of Toby, he became tight lipped but listened, as friends should. Toby had no interests in girls, that he spoke of, only comic books and hair metal.
“Make her a mix tape.” Toby offered once. “Give it to her, or slip it in her locker.” Mike’s eyes went wide. It was a brilliant idea. How else could he express his feelings to his one true love but through the musical stylings of rock gods who, in their own rights, were the masters of love, lust, and everything in between?
Toby borrowed his brother’s large boom box, state of the art with AM/FM radio, dual cassette decks, and CD player on top. They barricaded themselves in Mike’s room; this was serious business, and could not be interrupted.
Music was not Mike’s thing. Their bonding point was comic books, but he, unlike Toby, was a reader. If he wasn’t with Toby (and sometimes, when he was), his nose was in a book. Fantasy and Sci-Fi were his genres of choice, but if it was well written and had a well rounded villain, he would never turn his nose to it. And so it was he enlisted Toby’s help in expressing to Amanda his undying love and devotion.
Toby had fantastic ideas, as he had done this before on several occasions. Making a good mix tape was an art; expressing your words through others with an appropriate ebb and flow of rhythm and style. He began hard and suggestive, Pour Some Sugar on Me and moved into ballads full of heart and emotion, Sweet Child o’ Mine and Every Rose has its Thorn, then back out into the hard rocking and hip thrusting, Cherry Pie.
In the end, it was a plastic and tape package dripping in love and sex of juvenile boy sensibilities.
It was perfect.
Mike did not have the intestinal fortitude to hand it to her in person. Instead, he got Toby to talk to a girl who knew Amanda and had three classes with her. The plan was simple; he would give Toby the tape, who would give it to Amanda’s friend, who would give it to Amanda, and say it’s from Mike. It was direct, there could be no confusions or he said, she saids.
She received the tape. Mike had no idea if she listened to it, though he imagined she did, over and over, and whispered his name. She thanked him, in between third and forth hour. His heart pounded in his throat, his balls receded into his stomach, he eeked out a high pitched “you’re welcome” and then walked away, quickly and with his head down. It was not graceful, but it opened a dialogue.
They began talking in the hallway. Briefly, at first, in short, stunted sentences full of weirdness and self-conscious awareness. It improved as the weeks continued, and by Halloween Mike could talk to Amanda without turning dark red and apologizing profusely for no apparent reason.
Toby always hung back and watched, did not involve himself, but continued to help Mike with two more mix tapes. He was good at what he did. Amanda always professed to love them, and upon receiving the third tape, gave Mike a kiss on the cheek. As she walked away to Science, Mike gave Toby a high five. Toby was stoic.
“Good for you, man.” he said, and walked away Mike was too obliviously ecstatic to notice anything but the warm, wet spot on his cheek.
Mike gradually distanced himself from Toby. The Saturdays they had spent for a childhood eternity reading comic books in Toby’s basement were replaced with dates to the mall, where Mike and Amanda wandered aimlessly, hand in hand. Toby went with them, once, but quickly felt the third wheel. There was something else, something more, but Toby was tight lipped. Far be it from him to ruin his friend’s happiness.
And so it went. Time passed, leaves turned burning oranges and reds and fell to the ground. Days cooled, eventually froze. Snow fell at the beginning of December, making mall dates harder to achieve. Mike and Toby’s comic book Saturdays resumed, but Mike was sullen and distant.
There was, however, a silver lining. The Christmas Dance, the first of a series of school dances that were in store for their educational careers.
The anticipation for the dance increased as more and more hand-drawn, glitter smeared posters appeared on the hallway walls and adorned the cafeteria. Mike, of course, had a date. Toby did not.
And so it was, day of the dance, Toby passed Mike a baggie of green M&Ms, and promised a future of French kissing and heavy petting.
Mike was ecstatic. Toby, less so.
The dance began the Friday night before Holiday Vacation. Chairs had been lined on both sides of the gymnasium, and though it was not specified by picture or signs, boys and girls segregated themselves to either side in clumps and gaggles. The center of the gym was empty, a Demilitarized Zone of flashing lights and hanging streamers. Occasionally a boy or girl would wander to the center, dance self-consciously and, soon enough, retreat back to their respective side.
After failing to draw a crowd with Funky Cold Medina and I Like Big Butts (risqué, for the time and age group, but a top ten nonetheless), the DJ slowed it down. Sweet Child o’ Mine began, Slash’s riffs echoed off the high ceilings, and Amanda, well versed with the song, brought Mike to the dance floor and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. He placed his hands delicately, as if she might bruise or retract like a frightened deer, and he danced, with a girl, for the fist time in his life.
Toby watched. Other couples followed suit. He barely saw Mike the remainder of the night.
The dance continued, the atmosphere relaxed, more kids danced. When they weren’t dancing, Mike and Amanda sat next to each other, hand in hand, leaning into each other to talk over the noise, to see each other in the dark. Toby sat a seat away, chin in his hand, bored and distant.
Too soon, the DJ announced the last three songs, and that they would be for couples only. Mike knew if he was going to make his move, it would need to be now. In the dark of the gymnasium, he pulled the baggie from his pressed slacks, dug inside a pulled out a single green peanut M&M. He offered it to Amanda, and she smiled, kissed him on the cheek, and popped it in her mouth. She chewed, and sighing deliciously from the chocolate, then stopped.
Her fingers dug into Mike’s back. Her eyes widened. She choked, and coughed, and spattered Mike’s face with specks of chocolate, peanut, and green candy shell. Her face turned an alarmingly shade of red. Her fingers flew to her throat, her knees buckled, she fell to the ground.
Mike stared, unmoving, confused, horrified. One by one, students around them, noticing the unfolding drama, ceased to dance, backed away, and began screaming and calling for help. Soon Mike stood, Amanda at his feet, in a wide empty circle of panic and alarm. He couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. All Amanda could do was gurgle sickeningly.
Several teachers and the school nurse, all dressed abnormally nice for a junior high gymnasium, soon flooded the circle and pushed Mike aside. The music stopped. Overhead fluorescents snapped alive, blinding room and eliciting alarming groans. The nurse gave hurried instructions to Mr. Collins, the art teacher, and Jerry the janitor. The next several minutes were a cacophony of adults rushing to and fro. Jerry was on the phone, Mr. Collins returned with what appeared to be a needle. The principal and a few other teachers ushered the students from the gymnasium to the adjoining hallway.
The Christmas Dance was over.
An ambulance arrived and three paramedics rushed past the line of alarmed students in the hallway. Mike watched in horror. Toby just watched. Parents were alerted to come early, and Toby’s father was due to pick the both of them up, as he lived the closest.
As they waited, the paramedics emerged from the gymnasium with Amanda in tow, strapped to a stretcher. Her face was still unnaturally ruddy, but her eyes were no longer bulging. Her hair was a disheveled mess. She looked tired, defeated. Her dress was dusty from gymnasium grime, and her legs were wet.
She was rolled unceremoniously past the gawking sixth grade students, like a horrible and perverse prom queen celebration. Her head was turned to the side, and as she passed Mike their eyes met. He didn’t move. Couldn’t move. Her eyes darted downward in avoidance. She rolled on.
Mike watched her go. Other students glanced at him uncertainly. Some even moved away, distanced themselves, lest he throw them into poisonous convulsions as well. He felt it, in his chest, in his stomach; he was becoming a pariah.
Toby’s hand landed reassuringly on his shoulder. It was familiar and comforting. It squeezed, patted, and withdrew. “Other fish in the sea, that’s what my brother always says.” her advised, “Maybe my dad will let you stay over. Just got some new X-Men. X-Men fucking rule.”
There was nothing else Mike could do. X-Men, indeed, did fucking rule.