Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Nine

“Martin Luther King, Jr.,” read the boy at the head of the room. Although class had been in session for ten minutes; his audience yawned, fidgeted, dozed, or daydreamed.

Equally glassy-eyed, Wil blinked. Her eyes fixed on the white board behind the boy –Lucas? Most of her thoughts were miles away.

Lucas took the top paper of the pile he gripped and stuffed it, crinkling, to the back. He sighed and continued in a monotone, “Martin Luther King, Jr., original name Michael King, Jr., born January 15, 1929, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.—died April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee…”

Wil’s head drooped. She longed for her book, nestled back home in her covers without her. She frowned in thought. No, she wished to be with her book in her bed.

“…Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968…”

In the pause he took to breathe, Mrs. Riles piped up. In unison, she and Lucas recited, “His leadership was fundamental to that movement’s success in ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the United States…”

Their impromptu act awakened a few students. A few tittered, realizing what Mrs. R. was doing. The laughter, more than his teacher’s synchronized recital, caused Lucas to stop and look up. Mrs. R.’s expression when he did so caused him to swallow. Hard.

“Mr. Hampton.”

“Miss -Mrs. Riles?” he stuttered. His peers watched, now alert.

His interrogator and their mutual instructor appeared amused, like a python enjoying a joke. “Would you like to tell me how I was able to read your report, word-for-word, from my phone?”

The snake’s victim shook his head and dropped his eyes to his pages; which, in turn, he dropped to rest against his legs. One sneakered foot brushed the other, and back.

“I think you’d better sit down. We can talk some more about this after class.”

Lucas nodded and shuffled back to his seat.

“Right,” Mrs. R. said in a brighter tone. “So… who’s next?”


Continued from Ninety-Eight.
Keep reading to One Hundred.

All text about Martin Luther King, jr. obviously and intentionally swiped from The Encyclopedia Britannica.


©2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Five

It hadn’t been such a boring class after all, Wil reminisced. She crossed one foot back over the other and tried not to share that idea with the other members of her Chemistry group. They probably weren’t in the mood. She snuck a glance to her right and left, taking in their various poses of irritation and boredom.

She wished for something to do besides wait for her turn with only a motivational poster and her classmates to stare at. She should have grabbed the note from Hope, maybe, during their hasty escape to the office. None of them had thought to do much besides run, given the damage. If only Carl weren’t such a clumsy jerk, she thought.

Almost simultaneously, she and the others glared at the door to the nurse’s office. It was a closet, really, since they lacked an official nurse or sick room. Only in today’s case of potential chemical burning had their secretary, Mrs. Bird, demonstrated concern or permission to use some of the school’s precious medical supplies. Wil hoped the first aid kit was still in date, considered who was at fault, and rescinded that hope -at least for the bandages used on Carl.

She sighed. The girl who had gotten their experiment supplies rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah. What a jackass.”

Bobby and Wil snorted, and Wil saw a slight smile on the boy’s face whose name she did not know. He’d been right next to Carl when Carl had spilled their supplies, and was therefore third in line to be seen.

“Shouldn’t we get an ambulance or something?” Bobby asked. He eyed the supplies girl, who was awkwardly cradling her arm in the office’s usual method of first aid: a wet towel.

The girl shrugged.

“I’ve never been burned at school,” Wil offered. She thought. “Did anyone bring a phone?” She knew it wasn’t likely, since anyone who owned one had to keep it in his locker or risk its removal.

The boy who’d been near Carl turned to the right and left, then down the short hall to the closed supplies door. They could still hear Carl yelping and complaining. Phrases like, “I’ve got conditioning to get to, you know…” drifted down the hall, followed by Mrs. Bird’s impatient, “If you’d hold still, this bandage would stay…”

“I’ve got one,” he affirmed. “Can you take it?” he asked the girl seated to his right.

“Ha!” she answered, screwing up her face. “Even if I wanted to, lover boy, my hands are as damaged as yours.” She held up her towel-draped hands to demonstrate; he responded in kind.

“I’ll do it,” Wil grumbled. Laughing as he angled to accentuate the appropriate side pocket, she slipped it free.

“Hurry,” Bobby urged.

Wil activated the screen. “What’s your passkey?”

“Twenty-three, thirty-two.”

“Nice,” Bobby commented.

Wil didn’t understand what was “nice” about a bunch of numbers, but put them in and pulled up a search. After only a half-minute’s read, she said, “Eurgh!”

“What?” the two hand burn victims asked. Bobby leaned over her left shoulder to see.

Just then, the supplies door opened. Wil stashed the phone in her pocket and looked up to see a mummy-like Carl Hurn exiting. He wore a glare as well, but it was not as impressive as the scowl worn by the woman just behind him.

“Mrs. Bird?” Wil ventured. “I think Carl needs to go to the hospital.”

Mrs. Bird stood all 5’2″ of her frame a little straighter. She peered around Carl. “Oh?” she sniffed. “And why do you think that, Ms. Winters?”

“Well,” Wil gulped, “I …remembered a story I …um.. that Dr. L -Dr. Lombard told us recently about a guy with chemical burns..” She tried not to look at her classmates as she blushed. They knew she was lying about her source, of course, but even Mrs. Bird wanted to hear the story.

The secretary’s expression became impatient in her morbid curiosity. “Well?”

Wil shifted. “Um, well …I re- I mean, Dr. Lombard said- that the guy’s -erm- well, that the guy had chemicals spilled in his lap like Carl did; and that, because the guy didn’t change and rinse off and go to a hospital right away, that he didn’t have any …private parts when they finally did cut off his pants…”

To which Wil and three of her classmates witnessed the fastest de-pantsing a person with bandaged hands has ever completed.


Continued from Eighty-Four.
Keep reading to Eighty-Six.

Out with the Wash

Our clothes washer died last month. We were surprised to see it go so soon. It was our new washer; our fancy one with a glass-domed front and a song at the end of its cycle.

It didn’t go quietly. Of course, that’s how we learned it was planning to perish. “Loud spinning” on webwashermd told us the bearings were shot.

“Can you save her?” I asked the repairman, my eyes tearing up.

“I’m afraid it’ll be cheaper to buy a new machine,” he drawled. The old toothpick held between his teeth moved somewhat as he tried to shape his cowboy features into one of sympathy.

“I’m sorry, Girl,” I told our faithful appliance. I patted the sci-fi door.

A few hundred computer searches later, we finally settled on a replacement. The options were tempting: two-in-one machines, cycle-sensing, vibrant color options, and consumer report favorites.

In the end, we picked a mid-grade model of the top load variety. I figured: if the fanciest model wasn’t able to grab my clothes, wash them, dry them, and fold and put away; I wasn’t going to spend a dime for more than basic clothes-bathing.

The purchasing session timed out midway, which may have been an omen. It may have been the old one’s electrical interference in protest. It may have been our spotty connection, frequently occurring between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily.

I gave The Internet a good hour to figure things out, then tried again. The order went through and immediately, stalkingly told us by electronic mail that the purchase was done.

After a week of scrubbing our clothing on the washing board of our nearby creek (conveniently inside a couple of neighbor’s houses), the delivery truck arrived.

I sunk to my knees in gratitude, ready to kiss the unshaven faces of our deliverymen. They could not have known the first-world issues I’d been facing all week, or that I was wearing pants that had not been cleaned during that entire interim.

“So, you bought a washer and dryer, right?” Deliveryman One asked. He stood near two boxes, each with our last name inscribed in a diagonal up the side.

“No,” I said, confused. “Just a washer.” We looked more closely. The boxes were identical.

Apparently, I was so grateful for washing machines, I had ordered two.

A few phone calls later, and we hoped everything was worked out. Our old washer was dragged, dripping, away. She left behind a few marks on the floor where her feet had agitated, two old hoses from whence she drank, and the mold of a decade that only a front loader can accrue.

Our new machine, meanwhile, was separated forever from its twin. Installed upstairs near a strange dryer, it opened its transparent lid in a final farewell wave.

We never saw the other washer again. Perhaps he was adopted by a nice family nearby, raised near hot water sources, and enjoys having his drum cleaned monthly by an attentive old lady with no other projects pressing on her time.

I’ll miss him, but he’s probably happier where he is now.

As to our old machine, may she mildew in peace. Perhaps her parts will live on, thanks to generous junkyard donor programs. Thanks for the songs, Old Girl.