Moody was a pretty tall kid for a sixth grader. She had long stick legs and clown-like feet. Her skirt always hung long in the front and short in the back so that when she walked, the back of her skirt would flip up and down and up and down because her butt was so big. Well, what she really had was a sway back, technically speaking. She also had splotchy skin and hair that was never fixed in any certain style; it just sort of stood where it could.
Moody's real name was Marilyn Foster but most of the kids called her "Moody with the Crooked Booty." In fact, her mood seemed to determine whether or not I made it home from school in one piece. Deep down I think Moody was a lot like me and Betty, an "outsie". At Emerson Elementary you had to be "in" to fit in the crowd.
You had to wear your hair the same way all the girls did, you had to dress the same way but not better than the queen of the school, and if you looked better than any of the "ins" you had better take a quick route to instant ugliness. Well, me and Betty just didn't fit in that crowd so we became loners. But Moody just had to find a way to fit in.
One day when Moody was being one of us for a few moments she decided to change her mood and be sweet. Hmmmm. I thought that was kind of strange for her, since she was such a witch, but being my unsuspecting naïve self, I went along with her game.
She came over to the water fountain where me and Betty were sipping water and sort of hanging around. Her skirt was flipping and she was grinning at us like she was our friend. Me and Betty sort of prepared ourselves for the worst as we saw her coming.
"Hi, you guys!"
"Hi, Moody," I said tentatively.
"Whatchu guys doin', getting' ready to play kickball?"
"No. We're just talking."
Betty hadn't said a single word. She just stood there with her mouth hanging down to her chest and her eyes bugged out. She seemed a bit nervous, too. Moody got friendlier by the minute and started asking a whole bunch of questions. I felt like everything was ok but at the same time I knew it was too good to be true.
"Are you scarda anybody?" Moody asked.
"Would you hit somebody back if they hit you?"
"It depends," I said.
"Would you fight Peggy Haynes or Sheila Love?"
Peggy Haynes was the queen of the school because she could bully everybody better than anybody else and Sheila was the princess of the school who took over the bullying when Peggy was absent. I went on telling Moody that I was not afraid of Sheila or Peggy and that if anybody hit me for no reason I would not fight them but if they started pounding on me I would try to protect myself the best way I knew how. That seemed to make her happy, hearing me say all that stuff.
Moody took off toward the playground and me and Betty walked a few steps over to the bathroom. I went into one of the peachy, skin-colored stalls. Me and Betty were talking about Moody and how she must have been up to something when all of a sudden I heard someone yell, "Where is she!?"
"In there," Betty said quickly. I could hear lots of shuffling and lots of voices but I was too scared to know what was going on. Then somebody pounded on the door, blam, blam, blam.
"Come outta there!"
Oh, shoot, that's Sheila's voice, I thought nervously to myself. I reached for the toilet paper but there was none. That made me even more nervous. I yelled back at them to wait, trying to stall for time, but then I thought they would come over the top of the stall. So, with heart pounding, I took a deep swallow, pulled up my beltless baggy pants, unlatched the door, and faced the music.
When I opened that door and saw the queen and the princess with a grinning, monkey-looking Moody, along with about twenty anxious spectators, I finally put two and two together.
"Sheila blurted, "I heard you said you could whup me!"
"I did not!"
"Yes you did!" Moody shouted. "YOU said you wuzn't afraid of Peggy and Sheila and you would kick their butts if they messed with you!"
"Did I say that, Betty?"
Betty shrugged her shoulders, implying that she wanted to stay out of it. Sheila stormed over to the tub-like sink where Betty was standing and demanded as if she was her mother, "Tell the truth, Betty! Did she say that?"
I looked at Betty and saw that she was scared stiff. Part of me wanted her to say something and the other part knew that she didn't want to get beat up.
"All I said was that I wuzn't afraid of anybody," I said in a half-frightened, half-stern way. I walked over to the sink, trying to seem unnervous, and washed my hands. Just then the queen finally spoke.
"Well, if I find out you said anything I'm gonna kick your butt. You cain't fight no way."
"They lyin'!" Moody shouted. "She said she could whup your butt any time! Sheila's too!"
Moody had a looking-to-start-some-trouble tone in her voice. That's when Peggy and Sheila seemed to lose their interest. They looked at each other as if to say, let's go finish our four-square game, and led the spectators single file out of the bathroom.
Moody stood there with her hair pointing straight to heaven and mad as hell. "I'm gonna kick your butt after school, you watch." Moody turned and stormed out with her skirt flipping and her mood determining whether or not I made it home safely.