I walk into the third grade doors, expecting my friends to meet me there, ready to scream, and laugh with me, just coming
back from Gym, a place of promise and destruction, things could always be a little rowdy. Instead, I am greeted by a
different group of girls, glaring at me beady-eyed and angry. They stare me down for a few seconds, then flip their long,
beautiful hair back and ignoring me. I didn’t know that I had angered them, I had thought they were my friends too. But
they were willing to turn their backs on me when I didn’t provide them with enough Cupcake erasers that I had gotten as
a present. I was nothing more than a slave willing to work her way up the social food chain. I stared enviously at them as
they talk and laugh together, quickly glancing at me every few seconds just to make sure their servant girl didn’t stand
within the proximity of their play space. They ran to a different spot, they all look as graceful as gazelles. But they are not
gazelles; they are Pumas and they are the best. The “Juicy” written on their pants in pink torments me with its shiny
lettering and designer label, I just stand there in my Land’s End Mary-Jane’s and my huge, ugly red dress that my mother
said was so pretty, and I watch as they move, as their pants cling to them, showing their skinny little bodies. 3 pounds, 4
pounds, 5 pounds, 20. These are the Pumas. A species only little girls know.
I hear them, dancing on the desks, and a puma cub screams, “I hate my legs, they are so weird and ugly that’s why I
don’t eat. Food is so gross. Puma, you have beautiful long legs.” Puma knows. At home, Puma dances through the glass
door. I wish I was Puma. But Puma doesn’t eat meat, only red snow. “Lineup everyone, it’s time to go.” I look at my body
because I don’t know which way. Out of the classroom skrieking and crying with pain and embarrassment? Which way
will I go? But they don’t know, Puma blinds them with her white toothy smile. But I still continue to stare at her golden
mane, strong and sleek. Not too thick, like me. She has control, not like me, so weak. She is so pretty and smart, what am
I standing in comparison to her? A frog, a sheep, the stepsisters, with my mousy brown hair, who could guess I’m
I pretend to wait for my friends, and glance out the window as I draw the beautiful teeny, tiny, princesses. They rule
over us, so pretty, tiny bodies, tiny lips, shiny with makeup and sounds so whiney. And Puma sees me and smirks. Why
don’t they like me? I know, I know, I am not like them, so thin and mean, and my eyes will never have that blue-eyed
sheen. They huddle around, ignoring me, ignoring the girl who isn’t pretty. I am awakened from my dream and then the
fear comes back, I hear my name, and the Puma attacks.
And I bring my short, stubby legs to the door, ready for Science class to begin. And I hear her, she calls me, “Why
did you just look at me, stupid cow, you must respect Puma! I’ll show you how! That is so mean. Puma Cubs, did you
see, did you see?” Trembling, I say, “I didn’t though, beautiful Puma, I was looking at your mane, I love your mane… I
didn’t mean it. I’m sorry.” I know I am doomed, a stupid response is fitting for a stupid girl. And now her cubs growl.
“You know it doesn’t have to be this way, you could run, far far away, and never come back, never again, not again till the
end of the day. Go away. Play with the frog children, they’ll let you stay!” And the evil Lioness growls.
“Is there a problem here, little cats, was the fat, dumb sow, being a brat?” The Puma shrieks the hyenas cackle, they
all laugh, even the goat, who I thought wouldn’t dare eat meat, kicked away the dirt, and became a beast. They tore at the
sow, till she was skin and bone, just like the Puma, beautiful, powerful, and in control. They tore at her limbs, and she
became angry, and she knew she was no longer afraid of the gleaming white teeth. “Are you going to apologize now little
sheep, or go up to Science, and weep, weep, weep?” And here eyes turn black, her teeth yellow, she is fake. She is fake.
She is a frog too! But then she is lovely again. She gives me a smile and shoves past me. Pumas can change into frogs, I
will to change. And I do weep, and the tears clean me, and I rub away my ugly frog skin in the third grade bathroom.
They are tears of joy. I will rub away from here, and I will buy the makeup, I will buy the clothes, I will go home, and
become those girls I want to know.
No, no, no. They say I’m not their friend. I’m fried, just like the food I eat. And I go into the lunchroom and eat and
eat and eat. But, I will weep now, Puma, because weakness heals the wandering foreigner; weakness will shine on her and
make her anew. A free girl, free of the bonds that tie her to that confused, awkward child she hated; weakness created the
strong women. They were the pretty ones.
But no. I am still skin and bone now, why did I let you make me one of your own? I listened to you, because I
thought you knew, I will weep though, because I didn’t know, my pretty thoughts would flicker, dance, and vanish out of
my head like a ghost. And I wish I could walk away, huff and puff like I used to at the end of the day. Those shiny blue
eyes are nothing but blue skies that told me blank, black lies. I hate the cold, its too cold, why so cold? I am too cold as I
walk home. I wore almost nothing. I wore the Juicy. And it clings to me, and still they see I am no Puma. I will never be
that dazzling. And I feel ashamed as I walk home, because my dress was so warm, a bright red, not like rust. Not like
blood, not like the tasteless lunch meat you never eat. But as I come to school the next day, I see you Puma, you’re ugly
now, you’re hair isn’t shiny, but your clothes are still pretty. Your eyes are icy, glazed over with rusty, icy blood,
yellowing like the dead girls whose hearts you ate. They loved you too Puma, why did you let them go, they just wanted
to be like you. And I wonder as I see you, confident and evil on the school steps, why I believed you, why I would ever
become one of those people. Goodbye, goodbye, I’m going home, you might never see me again, I’ll be like a ghost.
Because Puma, you may smell of sugar and spice, but not every girl is so sweet and nice.
Cupcakes, cupcakes where did they go? I want them back, I won’t eat the red snow.
Kate Goodman, Age 13, Grade 7, Rodeph Sholom, Silver Key