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stanley.lieber's picture

1460 words by Stanley Lieber

I tear a sheet from my notebook. After some fidgeting I manage to produce a cigarette. I lean back against the stone wall of the building, my rat-tail poking into the scruff of my neck. It's rather uncomfortable. There is a commotion from somewhere, over near the basketball courts. After a brief period of silence, the school bell cuts in. I curse, sub-audibly, taking my place in line. I'm careful not to crumple the cigarette as I conceal it within my sleeve.

Recess is over.

I'm antsy. I shift my weight from one leg to the other. This jostling brings to mind Franky Willard, made to stand with both feet planted inside a single tile on the floor. Punishment for having spoken out of turn. Franky complained that because of his great size, he would surely topple over if he were not permitted to sway from side to side. The teacher was incredulous and denied his request -- comfort be damned. No, Franky would have to stand firmly within the square, maintaining his posture for the duration of the class. At the time, I too had regarded Franky's claim as spurious. Does an office building need to sway from side to side? It seemed ridiculous. A man should be able to stand still.

Today, I'll admit, I'm of a mind to view Franky's situation differently. Perhaps more sympathetically. Standing still in this line is impossible. Despite myself, I've begun to sway from side to side. Fuck it, Franky was right all along.

At the moment no one is watching me. I disregard protocol and resume my cigarette. Smoke slinks from its tip, a string of ten-dimensional nothingness. Or so I choose to perceive.

The boy in front of me rotates his head to an obtuse azimuth, asks to bum a cig. I am more than happy to oblige. From my pocket I produce two slender folds of paper, offering one to my companion. He's still in possession of the lighter I made for him, so we're all set. Good to go. From time to time, I'm happy to supply free product, as a short demonstration will often spark demand. When one's business is illicit, establishing the perception of good-natured magnanimity is wise. Happy customers are quiet customers.

And quiet is a baseline necessity for my mission.


Just as fresh cigarette taste is making itself apparent, our teacher pokes her head around the corner. She notices us stragglers, lately of the back of the line. She's displeased to note that we're still here, leaning up against the wall, each man enjoying his own smoke. She approaches quickly and starts to bend our ears. That's when she realizes who I am. Quite comically, this halts her scolding in mid-sentence. She redirects the other boys to the classroom, then turns back to me, a stupid look on her face. Once we're alone she pulls me by my rat-tail into a deserted corridor. The contact is exhilarating.

I'm going to score. This woman has been shooting me looks all semester. A couple of times she's caught me adjusting my visor, straining to catch a peek through her blouse. Instead of voicing an objection she usually just smiles. It's crossed my mind that she may even fancy my attempts to look down her shirt. Consider: she's the only one of our first grade teachers who will wear shorts in summer, in spite of the strict dress code. To my knowledge, no one has ever asked her to stop. I turn these thoughts over in my mind, one after the other, as I consider my immediate future.

She tightens her grip on my shoulder.

I brace for a kiss.

Instead, she snatches the cigarette from my lips and sends it careening over her shoulder, skittering down the corridor. Well, that wasn't quite what I expected. I think to myself it's convenient this corner of the building is devoid of traffic. Could she have planned our confrontation days, even weeks, in advance? Have things really reached this level, already? Gradually, the woman is drawing my attention to infinite new dimensions, threading my string through myriad vortices in a blunt satire of our tessellating material realm. She's the teacher? I'm fit to burst.


She parts her lips as if to speak. Softly, softly.

This must be it.

"So. You believe that folding pieces of paper into the shape of cigarettes, then selling them to your classmates is a good way to make friends, Thomas?"

The tenderness I sensed only moments ago is now vanished. She's trying her best to be stern. I can't say why, but that excites me.

"It seems to be working fine," I offer, straining, barely containing myself. "I have plenty of friends."

"I've seen you outside, pretending to smoke, for weeks now. The students here look up to you, and I'm disappointed in how you've chosen to repay that trust. I want you to t hink of how you're influencing them, Thomas."

"I'm not coercing anyone."

I correct, gently, so as not to shatter the gossamer fragility of the moment.

"I'm simply providing a service. There is a demand, and I'm only too happy to fill it. Surely you realize, this sort of equitable transaction is the very basis of our free market economy, which ensures the continuity --"

She kisses me.


I break free.

"-- the very continuance of our society."

She isn't impressed.

From my jacket, I produce an obviously brand new piece of equipment. My timing is careful, and the object fairly leaps from its place of concealment. She is somewhat startled, tries to mask her reaction, but the sudden adoration evident in her eyes will not be suppressed. Does she know what this is, then, after all? Removing her hand slowly from my own, I raise the object to my chest (her waist) and finger the switch that brings it to life. She jumps as a holographic image grows out of my palm. I have to adjust my visor again before it becomes visible to me.

So, is Prince Rogers Nelson: Not exactly an imposing figure, but in relation to his framing, here, in my hand, that hardly matters. Intelligence indicates that my teacher is quite taken with this historical personage. By all rights, he was a fine composer, but some say he actually considered himself to be the physical reincarnation of the Pharaoh Ahkanaten. There was a small controversy, at some point, when he decided to found his own country.


The unexpected appearance of this little man seems to be doing the trick with my teacher. As Prince begins to vibrate, I direct him beneath her skirt.

"Just lay back," says Prince.

She does as he says.

While she is momentarily stunned, distracted, I remove the remaining contraband from my pockets, depositing several paper cigarettes onto the window ledge behind me. Shortly thereafter, the spring breeze carries them away, gliding them ever downwards, towards the unnaturally green summer synthgrass of the courtyard. The evidence thus disposed of, I snap closed my gadget and gaze deeply into the teacher's eyes, finishing her off manually.

She's some time in coming, but once sated, her body goes slack. At last, I place my hand on her exquisite breast.

To my great surprise, she objects. Recoils. I have ventured too far. She smiles awkwardly and pushes me away, leans her head out of the window to see what I've been up to while she was writhing on the holographic Prince. Her face shoots completely full of blood. The view, of course, is unremarkable, but that's not what she's looking at. She sees the cigarettes, scattered about the courtyard, and deduces they must belong to me. She begins to lecture me that even paper cigarettes, which are not real at all, still set a negative example for the other students. They glorify the act of real smoking. I should really know better than to engage in this sort of thing while at school. Commerce restricted zone, and so on, and so forth. She is scrupulous to avoid any mention of her orgasm, or of my hand touching her breast, though I sense that both are very much on her mind.

Overall, it's a lackluster brow-beating. I consider the possible ramifications to my mission and decide that her appraisal of my behavior is irrelevant. At twelve years old, infiltrating the first grade has been a cakewalk. If this doesn't boost my GPA I don't know what will. I swear I'm ready to graduate CU/FARLEY. Let's hope the Chief sees it the same way.

I acknowledge her statements as I dig into my hand into my pants to scratch my groin.

I reach out to hold her hand as we return to the classroom.

I use the same hand.


To be continued...



Now, that's what I call a sentence!

Gradually, the woman is drawing my attention to infinite new dimensions, threading my string through myriad vortices in a blunt satire of our tessellating material realm.
Terrific! This is the sort of sentence one reads and reads again just for the quality of the English. Well, I do, anyway!

What kind of degenerate are

What kind of degenerate are you sir? I'll tell you, a damn entertaining one!

This story had me laughing constantly and simultaneously intrigued at the many different paths this narrator might travel. Looking forward to the next installment...

stanley.lieber's picture

Thanks very much!

Thanks very much!

Would I be far wrong to

Would I be far wrong to think this kid has a bright and lucrative future ahead of him in the Lieber universe?

stanley.lieber's picture

Possibly. Thomas does end up

Possibly. Thomas does end up leveraging his spook skills in the private sector.

Very entertaining, i found

Very entertaining, i found myself amused the whole way through, it captured me.

stanley.lieber's picture

Thanks, I look forward to

Thanks, I look forward to checking out some of your stories.