Fourth Grade Blue

F IVE BUCKS SHE'S FAT." "Five bucks she's fat and ugly ." "No, no, no. This is it. Ugly is
By John P. Thompson


"Five bucks she's fat and ugly."

"No, no, no. This is it. Ugly is a moot point."

"What?" The car swerved under the force of Dave's objection.

"Shut up Dave, keep your eyes on the road. We know she'll be ugly, but...we do have a tiny bit of faith in your inflated opinion of your personal charisma. Sooo...the fatness factor stays undecided. Five bucks she's fat."

Dave hit the brakes. Adam's head hit the headrest. Dave was unhappy with our attitude towards his quest. The quest, the quest, what was the quest? College degeneracy with a time warp twist, boy meets blind date, meets his past, meets his maker. No, not his maker, but a girl. A mystery girl, a girl who had for Dave the body, mind, and allure of a fourth grade flame, but the voice of a Smith coed. No, not coed, couldn't be a coed in an all girl's school.

That was it--an all girl's school, an educational, institutional chastity belt who's key was a phone call from fourth grade. A call from the past, a call from a girl, and Dave was on his way. Naturally, we were with him.

"C'mon, Dave. Why would you call someone you hadn't seen since fourth grade for a cross country blind date? Desperation, Dave, desperation."

Trapped in the driver's seat, on his way to an invitation to humiliation with us as his safety net companions, Dave's pretense of self-defense just wasn't working. The fact that he'd invited us along was proof of his uncertainty about fourth grade love.

Myself, I believe in it. I've been searching for a girl named Cappi Copeland since I moved from Dallas at the age of ten, and I was secretly sure that Cappi would be waiting there in Smith along with Dave's ex-Iowan classmate. In fact I was sure that Dave's date was Cappi. Sure, maybe she changed her name and forgot that she'd ever known me, but under my magic gaze the mists would part, Dave would step aside, and Cappi would step into my arms, lithe and beautiful. Nevertheless, I couldn't take chances, couldn't reveal my hopes--had to let Dave be harrassed.

"Five bucks baby." Adam was gloating; she's got to be fat, only fat girls call fourth grade lovers, only lonely, sweaty, sexually confused consumers of Harlequins, bon bons, and small teddy-bears and poodles track down, call up, and invite up the fourth grade boy from next door. It was a certainty that floated in our rental car with malignant intensity, putting Dave on the defensive and the speedometer at 55. Suddenly Dave wasn't in a hurry to get there.

But my hopes soared. Maybe that was why Cappi hadn't called me. She was still beautiful, still svelte, still smelled like rasberry tootsie pops and Sprite, still loved me, and didn't want to frighten me in the way that we were frightening Dave. I admired her intelligence. How clever, I thought, to pretend she was somebody that Dave knew, to let Dave suffer insults, let Dave wonder what monstrosity was lurking at the other end of the line to swallow him up in its beasty claws. Dave could fret, Dave could drive, and Dave would step aside when Cappi threw off her Iowa mask and revealed herself in all her glory.

Meanwhile, we were still driving and Dave was still arguing, still believing. "Hey, guys, any woman who rides horses can't be fat." He was trying to convince himself that our vicious judgmental attack was not only inappropriate, but, mind you, also wrong. Girls from Iowa ride horses, ergo they are svelte. His logic was skewed, but I didn't care. It was love, love, love.

Then, there it was: "East Hampton--Next Exit." My heart thumped; would it be true? Would Cappi be there? Or was I wrong? Maybe it really was the girl Dave had once known, maybe I was the hapless victim of my own nostalgic fantasies. Or was Dave the victim?--maybe Adam's brutal sexual slurs were thorougly accurate, and Dave's virility was about to be trampled by an Iowan heavyweight with a five dollar halo floating above her pimply head. We would soon know.

Walking through campus, chewing on mints, we anxiously eyed the horizon, fighting off fears that it was an enormous hoax, that we were about to be trapped, mobbed and burned by ferocious hordes of Smith women too long victimized by male invaders. "No!" we would scream, as they tied us to the stake, "No! We're not marauders. We are but simple voyagers to the innocent days of fourth grade past. Avast, ye scurvy broads, we bring not lechery and disease, but valentines and tootsie-roll pops." Well, maybe we wouldn't say that, but it was a hell of a scenario. Meanwhile, the little Animal House devil was dancing before our minds, urging us on towards the dorm.

Then, there on the terrace, dimly visible behind a cloudy glass door, was a skirted figure. I frantically began adding years to my mental picture of Cappi, praying for a match. But beside me, Dave's face was lighting up. The door opened, and the two Iowan's smiled at each other. A thick wholesome glow suffused the terrace as they shook hands, sparkles flashing from their corn polished teeth, drowning out Adam's smirk and my vision of Cappi. She wasn't Cappi and she wasn't fat. I had been betrayed, Adam had lost five dollars, Dave was stuck with shaking hands, and fourth grade love was a bust.