Don't Spoil Your Lunch by R. Schlaack

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SUMMARY: An elementary school teacher is taken at her word.

Jenny Atwater knew her words had done it. Children have a way of taking things literally.

It was lunch time at Sibley Elementary, and study hall was quiet and deserted save for one student in the front row. Miss Atwater couldn't take her eyes off him. The little boy had a lunch, but it was not a healthy lunch. There was a sandwich in a bag, a ham sandwich, but also a larger bag full of candy suckers and Tootsie Rolls and taffy and all the sugary, brightly-colored engines of decay the young were so addicted to.

She watched him from her desk as he swabbed the inside of his cheeks with cherry and grape-flavored lollipops, and she shuddered as a string of red drool escaped the corners of his thin lips. She scrawled the last "F" on the paper in front of her and marched over to where he was sitting.

He was tiny, incredibly thin, with an oversized head and little hair. He had huge eyes that were almost all pupil, like a cartoon, dull and staring as an insect's. The eyes flicked over in Jenny's direction as she approached.

"Young man," she said, as politely but as sternly as she could, "I don't think you should be eating all that candy. You have a lunch there; I suggest you eat it. In this study hall, I want every student to eat a healthy meal..."

She had to stop talking because she was afraid her own lunch would be making a second appearance. The child's enormous eyes were glistening and he was smiling, purposely showing her the brittle yellow remains of his teeth. Red-tinted saliva frothed at the corners of his mouth. He was making a slow chuckle with his throat, like the children in the wheelchairs down the hall.

"Young man," she said, but this time she faltered, and paused, and then she gathered what feeble response as she had. What could she say? "You shouldn't eat candy at meal time..."

He kept on smiling, his fly-eyes staring moronically. His gums were black and flaccid, and his breath was a rancid breeze.

Her defenses crumbled. She felt so helpless. Her last argument - she would remember this as long as she lived - slipped out as, "...You'll spoil your lunch..."

And then her hair stood on end, for at that moment he opened his mouth and laughed, forced her back with that black and fetid hole. He grabbed his sandwich in one clawlike fist, squeezed it so the ham and mustard ruptured from between his fingers. With whatever decaying power he possessed he spoiled it, spoiled his lunch - just as Miss Atwater said he would - spoiled it so that it shriveled into a black and reeking sponge. There were suddenly flies everywhere, buzzing hideously around the boy.

He puckered his smiling lips and slurped it off his bony fist. Black veins stood out on his bulging forehead. His skin seemed to tighten, to harden, his hair standing up; his joints twitched with segmented glee. With a parting laugh he flopped out of his chair and scurried across the carpet on all four limbs.

Jenny let out a shriek, backed up against her desk. The creature's arms and legs squiggled horribly as he squeezed under the door and was gone.

Miss Jenny Atwater retired that year. She never visited the school, and never told a single soul about her experience. And if she ever saw a child with a bag of candy, spoiling his lunch, she made sure to steer clear and never, ever comment on the subject.