Bipsy has Mr. Sam for social science.
Mr. Sam has an afro that sticks out over his head like an umbrella. Bipsy is a cheerleader and hates Mr. Sam. She writes Things to do on her worksheet and makes all the circles into peace signs. Peace signs are in this year.
“Copy these notes!” Mr. Sam turns on an overhead projector and a million words appear squished on the wall.
“Gosh,” says Bipsy.
Mr. Sam slams an iron pointer to his desk when a student says something dumb or stupid or gay. He also preaches at the Church of Christ in God, and his congregation rents a room in the City Center to hear God’s word through Mr. Sam. He teaches them the value of pork and the truth in their hands. “Why, I even mix chicken salsa with my hands,” he preaches. And his congregation smiles and nods and they praise him.
Bipsy loves cheerleading. Her short green and gold skirt slaps the back of her thighs when she walks. And when they build pyramids at games, she is lifted in the splits until she feels like tearing in two. Bipsy gasps. Mr. Sam is looking at her notes and there is nothing but peace signs.
The iron pointer has been coming in handy for about two semesters. One day his class called it phallic, something they had learned in civics. Mr. Sam had laughed at this, big hiccups from his gut. That was the day he had locked his student aid out in the hall with no pass.
At the bell, Bipsy jumps up from her seat. Mr. Sam stops her and says, “Bipsy, I want you to make a melting pot for next week.” Bipsy puts this in her mind where she hopes it will be lost. Besides, she has cheer practice from now until State, which will be the biggest moment in her life.
“Sorry,” she says to the squad who have decided without her to sell Jim Morrison candles to earn sweater money.
Mr. Sam leaves before the faculty meeting finishes. He has an undone sermon to give tonight He wants to say something about children, how we always lose them, and how we’ve got to find them again. Maybe he’ll talk about love.
“Ready? Okay!” The squad swings into their first cheer. Bipsy concentrates on keeping her arms straight as she watches Jocelyn, cheer captain, move in front of her. She sucks in as she steps on the bent back. Somehow she rises, both big feet in a cheerleader’s grip, each elbow locked in its hinges. It’s times like this when Bipsy feels free.
At the center, with the sermon in his head, Mr. Sam finds the door locked. A hand-lettered sign on the doorknob reads: “We would rather you don’t come back. We have found someone better than you. God bless.” Returning to his car, he sees a member of his congregation, a junior politician with a basketball head, who says, “You be dead, Mr. Sam.”
Mr. Sam stops. “No, Basketball,” he says. “I am alive.”
The girls are trying a new kind of pyramid. They saw it on a game show. Bipsy must make her body go into a W. Sideways, she trusts Jocelyn’s head and neck. She imagines it snapping like pinky fingers. Her body does not want this. She is three cheerleaders up and frightened. Nails dig into a collarbone. “D-H-S!” she screams, and then falls.
“Gosh!” says Bipsy.
The girls hang over her. “Are you okay?” they say.
Bipsy has had enough of this. “I’m calling my mom,” she says.
The girls sit picking at pompoms. “But Bipsy,” they say, “you have a car.”
“Oh, yeah,” she remembers.
Bits of carnival chocolate fall into his lap as he eats. Mr. Sam stops too late at the sign. He has hit something blond. He doesn’t want to know. He backs up and guns forward, driving until two more donuts are gone. He snakes through streets until he is back at the school. His car stalls and is silent. Why? Saabs don’t die.
Bipsy got a Bug for her birthday. She read that Bugs can kill you. Bipsy doesn’t want to die a virgin.
Mr. Sam lifts the car hood. The innards look tangled and complicated. The last hitcher he gave a ride even had to fix his flat. A little Bug pulls up and shudders. It is Bipsy and the cheer captain.
“Mr. Sam,” Bipsy says.
Jocelyn leans out around Bipsy with a pompom on her head. “What’s shakin’, Mr. Sam?”
Mr. Sam wipes his hands and smiles, tight-lipped. “Nothing, girls. Car trouble.”
“Bipsy’s got boy trouble,” Jocelyn says while smoothing her green plastic hair. “Bad trouble.”
Bipsy sighs. “You are so dumb.”
Jocelyn is braiding a pompom ponytail over her left eye. Bipsy stares at her key chain—a pink plastic cow. The udder has been bitten off. She hasn’t noticed this before.
“Go on home, girls,” he says.
Bipsy looks up. “Okay,” she says. She pauses. She doesn’t want to leave. “Bye.”
As the girls drive off, Bipsy is smiling while Jocelyn makes a blowfish on the window. They watch Mr. Sam get smaller in the rearview mirror; he puts his hands to his face.
“Weirdo,” says Jocelyn.
“What?” Bipsy feels kind of sick. The pink cow swings, hitting the cigarette lighter at a left turn.
“I said, he’s freaky—Mr. Sam.”
Jocelyn looks at Bipsy. “Wow, you really bit it bad during our pyramid. You’re all spaced,” she says.
“Yeah,” Bipsy nods.
They stop at the sign and Jocelyn screams. A boy with bright blond hair seems dead in the ditch, pink ice cream oozing from a squished cone. “Oh my gosh, I think I know that guy,” says Jocelyn.
The girls get out and kneel by the boy. Bipsy listens for a heartbeat, while Jocelyn smoothes his forehead. The boy opens his eyes. “Dude,” he whispers from a bloody mouth.
Jocelyn leans forward. “What did he say?”
Bipsy, still bent to his chest, looks up. “He said ‘Dude.’ ” They gently lift him from the ditch dribbling blood and ice cream. The boy moans and resists them. “My cone,” he says. “I need my cone.”
Mr. Sam gets a jump from the track coach. He drives to the radio station and turns on his stereo. Parked, he watches the d.j. mouth the words he hears in his car. The unsaid sermon twists and soaks in his brain.
Bipsy throws her pompoms to Jocelyn, who puts them under the boy’s bruised head. “What happened?” they ask him.
The boy licks his fingers and sinks into the poms. “Some dude hit me.”
“Did you see him?”
“Wow!” says Jocelyn, big-eyed. “Who was it? We’ll call the cops.”
The boy closes his eyes and smiles. “Head with a big afro.”
While a record is playing, the d.j. goes outside and tells Mr. Sam he is making him nervous.
Mr. Sam apologizes. He turns on the ignition and drives backwards into a purple Pontiac. “Damn!” says Mr. Sam.
The owner, a pretty girl with a new perm, gets out and looks confused. She walks to Mr. Sam’s window, her brow wrinkled. “Shall I call the police,” she says, “or what?”
Bipsy stays with the blond boy, while Jocelyn finds a pay phone and dials emergency.
“It was a hit and run!” she tells the operator.
A police car arrives as Mr. Sam surveys the Pontiac’s damage.
“What happened?” the policeman asks.
“Just a scrape,” says Mr. Sam.
Worried and crying, the pretty girl puts her hands to her hips. “It’s brand new,” she says.
The boy takes a bite of shattered cone. “Don’t I know you?” he asks Bipsy. He leans up from the pompoms, his head cocked.
“You’re a cheerleader, aren’t you?” He swallows and falls back smiling. “You think you’re big crud.”
Bipsy bites her lip.
Jocelyn runs back jubilant. “The cops are on their way,” she says.
The policeman calls in Mr. Sam’s license number. “We have a problem,” he tells Mr. Sam. “Come with me, please.” Mr. Sam locks his car, leaving the girl crying and caressing her purple dent.
Bipsy and Jocelyn continue to kneel by the boy, ignoring his cheap cheerleader taunts. “What a jerk,” they whisper.
The police car comes and stops behind the Bug. The boy licks the last sticky pink from his fingers.
“Finally,” says Jocelyn.
Mr. Sam stares from the back seat.
The boy sits up and points. “That’s the dude, I think.”
“Gosh,” says Bipsy.
The policeman and Mr. Sam get out and stand by the car. “Will someone tell me what happened?”
Groaning, the boy touches his lip. “I’m hurt pretty bad.”
Bipsy looks away as Jocelyn stands and flips her hair. “We think that man, Mr. Sam, hit this kid,” she tells the policeman.
“Is that true, Mr. Sam?”
Mr. Sam is silent. He looks at his watch. Pork children pound high chairs and dance in his head. He imagines driving in a flat black car with no gas, winding through forests, disappearing in a dull horizon. The blond boy coughs blood and grins.