CHAPTER FOUR - Chutzpah?
English class ended when the bell rang for first lunch. Luann, Bernice and Delta joined the throngs in the crowded, noisy hallway.
“How about that performance of Tiffany’s?” asked Delta.
Bernice shook her head. “Can you believe that girl? I suppose you have to admire her chutzpah, though.” Bernice liked to use words like ‘chutzpah.’ “I could never do what she did.”
“None of us could. And you know why?” asked Luann.
“Because the only splits we can do are at the ends of our hair,” said Bernice.
“Because none of us have her glamorous looks. You gotta be a babe to pull off what she did.”
“Excuse me. I’m a babe,” said Delta.
“I’m not,” admitted Bernice. “But I make up for it with my winning personality.”
“You guys, you know what I’m talking about,” said Luann. “It’s that thing again about good-looking people having the edge, scoring the perks, being able to get away with whatever they want. Imagine me on my knees, whispering “Please” to Mr. Fogarty. He would’ve laughed in my face and sent me packing to the principal. Or what if that squinty girl we saw on the bus tried to get up there and cheer us to spell FOGARTY? We’d have sat there in stunned silence.”
Delta said, “Here’s my locker. Lemme grab my lunch.” Delta didn’t trust cafeteria food so she always brought her own sandwich, usually some kind of a sprout thing.
Bernice leaned against the wall while they waited for Delta. “I guess you’re right, Luann. But that’s life. You can’t go around all annoyed by it. There will always be pretty people and plain people.
You accept your place and work with what you have.”
“Well, thank you Bernice for that useless, depressing advice,” said Luann.
Delta closed her locker and said, “You both have the wrong attitude. But it’s too noisy to talk in the hall. Let’s go get a table before they’re all gone.”
When the girls got to the cafeteria it was already jammed. They found a table with three empty chairs near the boys restroom. Not an ideal spot, but in a public school there were no ideal spots. Luann and Bernice went through the food line and chose from the day’s menu of “pasta with savory sauce, wholesome muffin, delicious fruit cup and sugar-free sugar cookie.”
They rejoined Delta and as they began to eat, a roar of laughter came from a nearby table. It was the Jock Table, where the cheerleaders and ball players gathered -- and Tiffany was holding court.
From her body language, it was obvious she was recreating scenes from her recent triumphant performance in Mr. Fogarty’s class. Now she was doing the “prayer” scene to appreciative hoots and laughter.
And there, amid the hooting masses, was Aaron Hill.
Luann couldn’t believe her eyes. Aaron Hill, looking gorgeous as always, was standing there, hooting, smiling, watching Tiffany...
ADORING Tiffany?! Luann’s throat clenched around a swallow of pasta. Aaron wasn’t even one of the jock crowd. Yet there he was, a gawking member of the Tiffany Drool Club. “Luann?” said Delta. “You ok?”
“Aaron Hill!” Luann croaked.
“Gee,” said Bernice through a mouthful of muffin, “There’s a name we rarely hear.”
“LOOK at him,” squeaked Luann. “Someone call the janitor to hose him down!”
The girls watched as Tiffany went into her big finish: the jump, the flash of underpants, the splits. Her audience clapped and hooted their approval.
“Oh, yuk!” said Bernice. “I can barely stand to walk on this floor, let alone do splits.”
“What is he DOING?” said Luann as Aaron helped Tiffany to her feet and the two of them chatted and smiled. “I can’t believe he’s so shallow! Does he actually think she’s cute with her cheesy display?” Luann made her voice a nasally whine. “Gimme an F!”
“Well,” said Bernice, “you’re the one who’s been saying ‘attractive people get all the goodies.’ Looks like two of the most attractive ones have discovered each other’s goodies.”
Luann slumped back in her chair. “Well, there you go. I can’t fight it. The good-looking people always win. They rule the world.”
“So if you can’t change it, accept it,” stated Bernice.
Delta said, “Okay, that reminds me what I was going to say in the hall.”
Luann and Bernice looked at Delta. You could count on her to have a thoughtful take on things.
“You both have this all wrong,” said Delta. “Success isn’t about looks. Yeah, nice looking people have a slight edge in first impressions, but what really counts is attitude and confidence. That’s what makes Tiffany so attractive. The only difference between us and Tiffany is that she has more -- what was that word you used, Bern’?”
“No, the fun sounding one.”
“Yeah. Courage and confidence, right?”
“More like bold audacity. It's Yiddish. My great-grandma taught me that.”
“And it’s all you need in life,” said Delta as she took a bite of her sprout sandwich.
“Oh! Is that all?” said Luann. “Well, thank you for that, Delta.
I’ll just run to Wal-Mart this afternoon and get a Jumbo Pak of Chutzpah. Let’s see... wonder if I should get the Regular or the Long Lasting...” Luann saw Tiffany and Aaron walk away together and disappear into the crowd. She slumped in her chair and folded her arms. “Extra Strength.”
Delta laughed. “In a way, you can buy chutzpah. New makeup, a hot outfit, a fresh hairstyle -- stuff like that can give you a real attitude boost. It’s all about self perception. People see you the way you see yourself.”
“Today I see myself as a pathetic loser with eye bags,” said Luann.
“Yup, that’s pretty much how we see you, too,” said Bernice.
Delta put down her sandwich. “Ok, look, let’s make a plan. This weekend, we’ll hit the mall. We’ll find ourselves some awesome chutzpah and come back to the end of school with a kick-butt attitude. Whadda you say, Luann?”
“As long as I can kick Tiffany’s butt.”
“Absolutely. Of course, you’ll have to wait in line,” said Delta.
She looked at Bernice. “You with us?”
Bernice shrugged. “I guess. I just hope the awesome chutzpah is on sale because I don’t have much money.”
Delta smiled. “Bern, with your winning personality, you won’t need much.”
Luann was always up for a day at the mall. But Delta’s words sounded as corny as an article from one of the teen magazines that littered Luann’s bedroom: “Rev Up Your Life With Hot New Lip Colors!!” “New ‘DO, New YOU!” “Sizzling Styles To Drive Him Wild!!”
From across the cafeteria a “HeeHeeHee” rang out.
Luann felt another lump form in her throat. It was going to take a lot more than a Yiddish word to compete with Tiffany Farrell.
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