I know what’s going to happen. It happens every time. Soccer-player Susan and ballerina Tina go first, say “one child’s ticket, please.” They hand over their dollar, easy-peasy, and off they go to the snack bar to buy popcorn. I go last because we have to line up smallest to biggest, my friends say, but I know it’s because I’m a problem.
Slouching, which I’m not allowed to do at home, I put my dollar on the counter and stare at my flip-flops. I don’t want to look at the ticket seller’s teenager face again. He seems sour, most teenagers do, and I just want him to hand me a ticket.
“Where’s the rest? It’s two-fifty for thirteen and over.”
“I’m ten, like them.” I point to my friends across the lobby. Their backs are turned.
He shakes his head. “You’re bigger than me. I’m getting the manager.”
I mean to talk normal but whisper instead, “My mom says I’m tall for my age.”
The line’s loading up behind me, I can hear it. He leans into my face and says, “Liar,” then flicks my ticket across the counter. I pick it up off the floor.
It’s true, really, not that I’m a liar but that I’m stupid-tall and have baby-fat so I’m sure to have another growth spurt any minute. I do not want another growth spurt. I’m already taller than my teacher and my older sister and most of the moms in my neighborhood. Kenny Elliott calls me “jolly green” but I always plug my ears so I don’t hear the rest.
In the theater, I sit at the end of the row next to Tina. I pull down my rainbow stripe shirt, it’s my favorite, even though the violet stripe on the bottom barely covers my belly roll. Tina’s shirt falls down her front like it’s on a hanger. I’ve seen her in a bathing suit so I have proof she’s got a stomach, one that sinks in under ribs you can actually see. She stuffs in handfuls of popcorn and drops a bunch. It falls straight onto the sticky floor. Susan reaches right into the bag, but Tina doesn’t offer me one piece. I suck my belly in so tight it’s hard to breathe.
The cartoon before the main movie comes on—an old-fashioned “Jack and the Beanstalk,” different from the ones I’ve read. Like usual, Jack and his mom are poor, and he trades a cow for beans, but here’s the surprise. When he climbs up the beanstalk, the lady who lives there gives him food and milk. She’s nice. After the snack, Jack steals a bag of gold, then a golden egg, then a magic harp. The harp calls out to the lady’s husband, a giant, “Help! A boy is stealing me!” The giant does the usual fee-fi-fo-fum thing, but doesn’t hurt Jack. He does chase Jack to get the frightened harp back. Before he can, Jack chops the beanstalk at the bottom and the giant falls and dies. Dies!
The kids in the theater whoop when the giant’s body whumps to the ground, his arm squished under him. With all the noise, nobody heard me scream.
My face fills with hot. Those kids, even Susan and Tina, cheer that nasty Jack and pick on the giant just for being huge. He can’t help how big he is. Neither can I.
I wipe my eyes with my hand because I used my only Kleenex when I got the ticket. Tina’s skinny arm takes up the whole armrest between us while mine is smushed, and for once I ask her to share. She waits a sec, then scoots over. I’m always thinking I’m extra, that I take up too much space. But it’s nice to spread out. I lean back and feel like a queen on a throne.
After the movie, I step into the aisle and keep going. Why should Tina and Susan always go first? I squint when I get into the bright lobby after all that dark. The teenager’s at the ticket counter and I walk right over. I look down at him and give him the meanest face I’ve got.
I hardly slouch at all.
Marcy Dilworth is a recovering finance professional finally pursuing her love of writing. Her fiction is forthcoming or published in Typehouse Literary Magazine, Janus Literary, Blink Ink, and elsewhere. She lives in Virginia with her husband where they serve their precocious rescue pup, Kirby. On Twitter, @MarcyDilworth.