"Priscilla and the Wimps" by Richard Peck
Listen there was a time when you couldn't even go to the rest room around this school without a pass. And I'm not talking about those little pink tickets made out by some teacher. I'm talking about a pass that cost anywhere up to a buck, sold by Monk Clutter.
Not that mightly Monk ever touched money, not in public. The gang he ran, which ran the school for him, was his collection agency. They were Klutter's Kobras, a name spelled out in nailheads on six well-known black plastic windbreakers.
Monk's threads were more...subtle. A pile-lined suede battle jacket with lizard-skin flaps over tailored Levi's and a pair of ostrich-skin boots, brassed-toed and suitable for kicking people around. One of his Kobras did nothing all day but walk a halp step behind Monk, carrying a fitted bag with Monk's gym shoes, a roll of rest-room passes, a cash-box, and a switchblade that Monk gave himself manicures with at Lunch over at the Kobra's table.
Speaking of Lunch, there were a few cases of advanced malnutrition among the newer kids. The ones who were a little slow in handing over a cut of their lunch money and were therefore barred from the cafeteria. Monk ran a tight ship.
I admit it. I'm five foot five, and when the Kobras slithered by, with or without Monk, I shrank. And I admit this, too: I paid up on a regular basis. And I might add: so would you.
The school was old Monk's Garden of Eden. Unfortuneately for him, there was a serpent in it. The reasonMonk didn't recognise trouble when it was staring him in the face is that the serpent in the Kobras' Eden was a girl.
Practically every guy in school could show you his scars. Fang marks from Kobras, you might say. And they were all highly visible in the shower room: lumps, lacerations, blue bruises, you name it. But girls usually get off with a warning.
Except there was one girl named Priscilla Roseberry. Picture a girl named Priscilla Roseberry, and you'll be light years off. Priscilla was, hands down, the largest student in our particular institution of learning. I'm not talking big. Even beautiful, in a bionic way. Priscilla wasn't inclined toward organized crime. Otherwise, she could have put together a gang that would tur Klutter's Kobras into garter snakes.
Priscilla was basically a loner except she had one friend. A little guy named Melvin Detweiler. You talk about the Odd Couple. Melvin's one of the smallest guys above midget status ever seen. A really nice guy, but, you know, little. They even had lockers next to each other, in the same bank as mine. I don't know what they had going. I'm not saying this was a romance. After all, people deserve their privacy.
Priscilla was sort of above everything, if you'll pardon a pun. And very calm, as only the very big can be. If there was anybody who didn't notice Klutter's Kobras, it was Priscilla.
Until one winter day after school when we were all grabbing our coats out of our lockers. And hurrying, since Klutter's Kobras made sweeps of the halls for after-school shakedowns
Anyway, up to Melvin's locker swaggers on of the Kobras. Never mind his name. Gang members don't need names. They've got group identity. He reaches down and grabs little Melvin by the neck and slams his head against his locker door. The sound of skull against steel rippled all the way down the locker row, speeding the crowds on their way.
"Okay, let's see your pass," snarls the Kobra.
"A pass for what this time?" Melvin asks, probably still dazed.
"Let's call it a pass for very short people," says the Kobra, " a dwarf tax." He wheezes a little Kobra chuckle at his own wittiness. And already he's reaching for Melvin's wallet with the hand that isn't circling Melvin's windpipe. All this time, of course, Melvin and the Kobra are standingin Priscilla's big shadow.
She's taking her time shoving her books into her locker and pulling of a very large-size coat. Then, quicker than the eye, she brings the side of her enormous hand down in a chop that breaks the Kobra's hold on Melvin's throat. You could here a pin drop in that hallway. Nobody's ever laid a finger on a Kobra, let alone a hand the size of Priscilla's. Then Priscilla, who hardly ever says anything to anybody except to Melvin, says to the Kobra, "Who's your leader, wimp?"
This practically blows the Kobra away. First he's chopped by a girl, and now she's acting like she doesn't know Monk Klutter, the Head Honcho of the World. He's so amazed, he tells her, "Monk Klutter."
"Never heard of him," Priscilla mentions. :Send him to see me." The Kobra just backs away from her like the whole situation is too big for him, which it is.
Pretty soon Monk himself slides up. He jerks his head once, and his Kobras slither off down the hall. He's going to handle this interesting case personally. "Who is it around here doesn't know Monk Klutter?'
He's standing inches from Priscilla, but since he'd have to look up at her, he doesn't. " Never heard of him," says Priscilla.
Monk's not happy with this answer, but by now he's spotted Melvin, who's grown smaller in spite of himself. Monk breaks his own rule by reaching for Melvin with his own hands. "Kid," he says, "you're going to have to educate your girl friend."
His hands never quite make it to Melvin. In a move of pure poetry Priscilla has Monk in a hammerlock. His neck's popping like gunfire, and his heart's bowed under the immense weight of her forearm. His suede jacket's peeling back, showing pile.
Priscilla's behing him in another easy motion. And with a single mighty thrust forward, frog-marches Monk into her own locker. It's incredible. His ostrich-skin boots click once in the air. And suddenly he's gone, neatly wedged into the locker, a perfect fit. Priscilla bangs the door shut, twirls the lock, and strolls out of school. Melvin goes with her, of course, trotting along below her shoulder. The last stragglers leave quietly.
Well this is where fate, an even bigger force than Priscill, steps in. It snows all that night, a blizzard. The whole town ices up. And school closes for a week.
Peck, Richard, "Priscilla and the Wimps." Sixteen: Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults. Ed, Donald R Gallo. New York: Dell PUblishing Company, Inc., 1984.