The School Cafeteria

The bell rang twice.

Rick Beverly checked his watch. It was already 11:40, time for the 6th graders’ lunch break. He had not seen the morning go by; Monday was always a busy day. Being lunch supervisor was not as easy as it seemed. Rick sighed, grabbed his set of keys, his phone and slowly got up.

The kids were already pouring into the brightly lit, over-air-conditioned cafeteria. All sizes, all skin tones, one uniform. Dark blue. They laughed, pushed each other, talking loudly.

“No running in the cafeteria, guys!  You know the rules.”

They ignored him. They always did. Rick shook his head. Those kids have no respect for authority anymore.

He spotted that new kid near the side door. He couldn’t remember his name. The kid wore the same, dark blue uniform, but he was different. Taller than average, a bit chubby, olive skin tone. The foreigner. He seemed lost, the cafeteria tray in one hand, his phone in the other. Nobody talked to him, clusters of giggling girls went past him, paying him no attention. The boys ignored him or made faces behind his back.

“Hi Mr. Beverly!”

“Oh, hi Jason, how are you today?”

“Not bad, you?”

“Pretty good, thanks.”

Jason was a good kid. A good student too, from Macon, Georgia. Good family. Rick knew Jason’s parents and grandparents. They lived in a beautiful mansion by the lake. They had money; they went to church every Sunday. Sure, there were rumors of heavy drinking and affairs, but hey, they were law-abiding citizens and paid their taxes…so not much to complain about.

Rick’s attention went back to the kid. Now, he was a potential problem. Nobody knew much about him. Still standing at the same spot, looking back and forth from his phone to his food. He typed something on his phone, shook his head.

Rick knew immediately something was off. He used to be a police officer, before the incident, before he was discharged. But he was still good at profiling. That kid, the foreigner, was planning something. And Rick took his lunch supervisor duties very seriously. Safety first. He  pulled at his collar; it’s getting hot in here. He slowly took his phone out of his pocket. The kid was still staring at the food.

“John?”

“Yeah Rick, what’s up?”

“Can you come over to the cafeteria? We might have a situation here.”

“Ok, be there in two.”

Rick felt better when John Petersen, the security guard, was around. John knew how to handle difficult students. He was good at communicating. The kids respected him. And he had a black belt in karate. Rick wished he had a belt, any color, in karate.

The noise in the cafeteria was now deafening. The clatter of trays and plates, the kids screaming and laughing. Not Rick’s favorite time of the day. He struggled more and more with noise. And it was getting hotter. Maybe the a/c didn’t work, he would have to check. He couldn’t wait to be back in his office and resume the paperwork. He had a huge backlog.

“Hey Rick, what’s the situation?”  

“Check out the kid over there, by the side door…”

“The foreign kid?”

Rick nodded, eyes on the kid. Both men observed him in silence. But nothing happened, so Rick shifted legs, pulled at his collar, shifted legs again. After a few minutes, the kid placed the tray on a nearby table and glanced around. Rick pleadingly looked at John. John nodded and walked towards the kid.

“Hey, you! Can I help you?”

The boy stood there, glaring at the security guard. He didn’t say a word.

“You’ve been standing here forever, just staring at your food and your phone, so I was wondering…”

“…”

“Do you need help?”

“…”

“Do you understand what I say?”

The kid had glassy eyes and a weird expression on his face. He lifted his phone towards John’s face and with his left hand reached for his pocket.

“Don’t move!” John screamed. The cafeteria went silent. The students stopped talking, staring at John and the foreigner. There was a situation. Well, are you surprised? Their lips whispered.   

The kid was now sweating and stammering, his eyes getting glassier and his skin paler:

“Let me…let me show you, Sir…”

His hand reached for his pocket again. John was quick to react. He jumped on the kid, bent his arm and took him down. John’s knee, locked against the kid’s shoulder, kept him immobilized.  

Rick ran over. He was relieved John had acted fast. Some students were filming, soon it would be all over social media. Most went back to chatting and eating. John patted the kid’s pockets. He pulled out a card, that read ‘Medical Alert, Insulin Dependent.’

“Shit.” John released the kid, who slowly sat up on the tiled cafeteria floor.

“What?” asked Rick, as he picked up the kid’s phone on the floor.

“The kid is diabetic, Rick! That’s the fucking situation!”

“Care to explain what this was all about, with your phone?” Rick asked the kid, less forcefully than he wished.

“I was just checking the…the app.”

“What app?”

“A… glucose reading app. To track my blood sugar.”


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