Kathy and the Wonderful, Beautiful, Happy, Very Good Day
Molly was supposed to pick me up for school this morning. Last night she changed her plans. But she didn’t tell me. I was twenty minutes late for first period. I had to inconvenience my dad, which made him grumpy. It wasn’t my fault, but when he mumbled something about responsibility, I knew he thought it was.
I brought the bibliography for my group report in English, but Jason didn’t write the conclusion. So all six of us got a D, even those of us who had done what we were supposed to. It is 25 percent of our grade. It wasn’t my fault. It was Jason’s. But Mr. Warner wouldn’t listen.
At lunch, I was just telling Molly she forgot me this morning when Susan tripped and spilled chocolate milk on me in the cafeteria. It wasn’t my fault. But Molly still laughed. My sweater is probably ruined. I had to wear it the rest of the day and to the speech team meeting after school. I could smell it on me, and it was sticky. It made me a bit nauseous. I felt dumpier than usual.
Mrs. French told me I have to try improv this year. We’re already strong in debate. I don’t like improv. I like to be prepared.You can’t prepare for improv. To get us warmed up she had us play charades. I hate charades. She made me go first. I hate going first. She announced to the group that the theme was music and then whispered in my ear the impossible word wrap. How could I get that across? Nothing was working today.
I took a deep breath and pictured the scene. Mrs. French started the egg timer. I forgot about looking stupid. I focused and threw myself into communicating without words. I played air guitar and mouthed singing into an air microphone. All the kids were yelling out “band” and “rock.” Somebody yelled “Brittany Spears” but I kept going. I acted like I was turning dials on a control panel. I pretended to be holding headphones to my head, bobbed my head, stood up, gave a thumbs up to the imaginary musicians and starting pack ing up. They caught right on. They yelled out “recording session,” “radio,” and “studio.” I gestured for them to keep guessing.
Someone yelled, “It is a wrap.” I jumped up and said,“Yes!” just as the buzzer went off.
Then Mrs. French forever confirmed my geekiness. She said, “It was supposed to be rap music. Like hip hop and stuff.”
The room burst into laughter. I was so nervous that I had made it harder than it was. Rap music would have been easy, but I was mad to have play charades and for some reason I was thinking “It’s a wrap.”
So I made a fool of myself. Again. In typical Kathy fashion, I stood there in my brown-stained sweater, pantomiming my heart out, with no clue as to what was happening around me. The entire speech team thinks I am an idiot. It wasn’t my fault. But I have to agree, I am an idiot.
I got home just as they were clearing the dishes from the table after dinner. “Hi, Kathy,” Mom said. “Dad and I have a dance lesson tonight so we had to eat early. I saved you a plate.”
“What is it?” I asked as I dropped my book bag to the floor.
“Beef stroganoff,” “I hate beef stroganoff.” I said, falling into the chair. Dad came in to the kitchen, tying his tie. “Too bad,” he said. “Your mother made it, and you’re going to eat it. What do you think this is? A restaurant?” I sat down in front of the stroganoff and twirled it around on my fork, angry at everything. “There’s a frozen pizza in the freezer,” Mom said as she walked out. I stuck with the stroganoff. It was tasteless and cold. I doubt anything would have tasted good. I ate a little but threw most of it away.
I was still hungry as I threw myself down on the couch in front of the television. Dad had left the news on. It was Tuesday, August 30, the day after Hurricane Katrina had torn through New Orleans. The reporter was speculating about how bad inflation might get and how this might affect us. “Perfect,” I thought. “Just as I get my license we can’t afford to drive.” Then they showed the city under water and talked about the people trapped in their attics without food or water. I sat up and leaned closer. I saw a hand sticking out of the water. I wanted to turn the TV off, but I couldn’t. The mayor of New Orleans came on and complained about how the government had failed him while the reporter was talking about the futile evacuation order from before the storm. The camera panned over the city’s school buses all lined up in the water. They hadn’t taken a single person out. I thought about the beef stroganoff in the garbage as I mindlessly watched the screen change to a commercial.
Then I realized that I hadn’t prayed all day. I had complained and wished things were better, but I’d never asked God to make it better. I hadn’t thanked Him for all the good stuff I had either. It was my fault. It was my own most grievous fault. I hadn’t quite cried because of all of the stuff that happened at school, but I’d come close. Now I realized it really was over spilled milk. I sat on the couch, put my head in my hands, and prayed for forgiveness. I prayed also for New Orleans, for those who had fled their homes, and for those pointing fingers. And I thanked God for the safe and peaceful day that I had had and for Christ’s promises to me in my Baptism. I even thanked Him for beef stroganoff.