THE COLD INSIDE
by AL BRUNO III
December 5, 1994
Christmas posters and garland decorated the cafeteria. Someone had already defaced one of them, drawing a cartoon arrow through the baby Jesus' head. Tristam almost had to admire the audacity of it. “Did I ever tell you guys that my grandfather killed himself?”
Warren smirked, “This before or after he saw you?”
“Holy shit man!” Rich punched the heavy-set boy on the arm, “That was low even for you.”
The popular kids' table was in turmoil, no one was sitting in their usual spot. That usually meant trouble. Monique was sitting at the end of the first table, as far away from Evan as she could. Tristam couldn’t stop glancing her way.
Adelphos asked, “What happened with your grandfather?”
“He cut his own throat.”
“Bullshit.” Warren snorted.
“No really.” Tristam said, he'd never known the man and he enjoyed telling the gruesome little tale, “He went to work and on his way back home he went to this old abandoned building in Troy and cut his own throat.”
“Again, bullshit.” Warren had already finished eating, all he'd had was a granola bar and some fruit.
“At least that's the story my Dad tells me.”
Warren was about to speak again when Rich talked over him, “Christmas must be a bummer at your place.”
Tristam shrugged, “By the way I'm sorry I got grounded again and missed the game.”
“No biggie.” Greg said, “We're still getting the new campaign under way. They spent half the session getting into trouble at the inn.”
Yusuf banged his fist on the table, “Stupid gnome pickpockets.”
“Besides Drew couldn't make it either.” Warren got up to throw away his lunch bag. He walked to the far end of the cafeteria, braving the jeers of the other kids just so he could check out Solana.
Tristam asked Drew “Did you get in trouble for the snowball fight?”
Drew spoke without looking up from her macaroni and cheese, “No.”
Yusuf clapped Tristam on the shoulder, “I am sorry that you got in trouble for helping us.”
“And I am sorry I got my tallywacker covered with snow,” Rich added.
Greg adjusted his glasses, “Tallywacker?”
“Well it was worth it.” Tristam looked over to see Kenny Wurman and Bobby Hilton waggling their tongues at them.
Warren jerked his thumb towards them, “You expect us to believe you’d rather be here than with the beautiful people?”
Tristam said, “You can believe whatever the Hell you like.”
“The Dean.” Adelphos asked, “Did he give you his Keep a low profile speech?”
“And he tries to act all like he's doing you a favor by giving you detention.”
Rich finished his sandwich and pulled a container of pudding from his lunch bag, “I much prefer his Your parents spend good money to send you here why are you wasting it and our time? speech.”
Yusuf laughed “How about the one where he says There is a time and a place for exploring yourself but not on school grounds?”
Everyone at the table froze.
Yusuf blushed “He gave that one to Warren.”
Adelphos leaned back in his chair, “You're kidding right?”
Warren said, “I was in kindergarten.”
Drew had her arms crossed over her chest, “I wish we were still in kindergarten.”
The whistling and jeers coming from the front table were getting louder. Evan was pawing at Yvonne. She moaned his name theatrically over and over again until one of the lunchroom attendants approached with fire in their eyes. Tristam thought aloud, “Sometimes I think we still are in kindergarten.”