Geography Before Lunch

I entered Mrs. Wycoff’s 7th grade class when I was 12 years old. In there we got to sit at desks that were all in one, chair and desk tied together by a metal base. It was the kind they made Kirk Bailey sit in, in his second time around in 5th grade because he wouldn’t quit tilting his chair back, even when he fell over backwards.Now I had a desk just like him. And Mrs. Wycoff’s schedule decreed that the last subject before lunch was geography. I liked geography almost as much as I liked lunch. But I sometimes got so hungry my stomach would growl.I hadn’t noticed my stomach growling in 6th grade, or any of the grades that went before. Not even in 4th grade when Kirk was in 5th grade for the first time. A lot of things changed when I turned 12. Suddenly I was self- conscience in ways I had never been before.My Mom read a magazine article about using egg whites to cleanse your face. I had a few pimples breaking out on my chin and she insisted on giving my chin an awful scrubbing with her egg white solution the weekend before school started. Afterwards my chin felt cleaner than ever before, but my skin was all red and irritated. Soon I had some sort of scab all across my chin that wouldn’t go away.So for the first few days of 7th grade I sat in my all-in-one-chair and desk with my hand propped over my chin just in case Mary Dellinger was looking at me. Mary was the prettiest girl in our class and had always been nice to me. One day she didn’t have her geography book with her. Mrs. Wycoff told her to move her all in one desk and chair next to mine and share with me. Mary stood up and looked at me and pronounced in her pretty girl voice, “Eww!” Her friend, Beverly, two rows away, snickered.Mrs. Wycoff scolded her and Mary with a stern look. I pretended not to notice and slid my geography book over so Mary could see with my left hand while I hid my red chin with my right. I didn’t dare look at Mary. She pushed her desk over next to mine, but didn’t bother to look at my book.We were learning about the countries of Europe. Mrs. Wycoff asked Gary Corey to start reading aloud about Turkey and I kept looking at the map seeing Hungary and Greece. The thought of Turkey, Hungary and Greece made me hungry and my stomach growled. It was almost lunch time. I wanted to look at the world map and see if there were other countries that sounded like food but I didn’t dare move the book just in case Mary looked at it. I figured Africa must have a food-sounding country.I wondered if there was a country like Fried Chicken or Cheeseburger. I remembered from the year before that South America had a Chile. I noticed Germany had a city called Hamburg and another called Frankfurter, then my stomach growled again. Mary giggled and looked at her friend two rows over. Her shiny brown hair smelled like strawberries which sounded like a good dessert, if they didn’t have chocolate cake. The clock behind Mrs. Wycoff’s desk seemed to be moving awful slow.I knew my Grandpa had grown up in Corn, Oklahoma, and when we visited him, we drove through Sweetwater. I liked corn, and Sweetwater reminded me of iced tea. There was a little town my Grandmother talked about called Buttermilk. I didn’t care for buttermilk myself but I knew my Dad loved it.Mary rolled her eyes and sighed when I fumbled with my left hand trying to turn to the next page in my geography book. She reached over and flipped the page for us, then looked me in the eye. I smiled weakly at her, with my hand over my chin and much to my surprise she smiled back.After that I could sense her relax just a little as she actually started reading along in the book. She rested her hand on the book, ready to turn the page for us again when my stomach gurgled. She looked at me this time when she giggled. Mrs. Wycoff’s eyebrows went up but she didn’t say anything.At the end of the page there were the dreaded study questions. Mrs. Wycoff assigned us to write out the answers to the odd numbered ones for the remainder of the class. I sighed and Mary raised her hand. “Mrs. Wycoff?”“Yes, Mary?”“Since Paul and I have to share a book, can we share writing out the answers?” Mary asked our teacher, much to my astonishment.Mrs. Wycoff’s eyes sparkled for a minute as I looked at her. “No, Mary.” She said. “Do your own work.”Mary shrugged her shoulders and then whispered to me. “Well, I tried. Are you hungry or something?”“Yes!” I whispered back as I fished my notebook out from under several layers of papers and books inside my desk.“Can I borrow a sheet of paper?” Mary whispered again.I tore one off and gave it to her. We sat reading together, writing together. All of a sudden the bell rang and it was lunch time.We had fish sticks and apple sauce. I never found any countries with names like that. Mary soon went back to laughing at me acting popular while I went back to being unpopular.And to this day, when I hear about Europe, I get hungry.