Kathleen Winter

There’s always someone lower on the ladder, wherever you are.

Derek Matthews has to be the ugliest boy in the class but I like him. I’ve liked every boy except Barry Pumphrey now. Barry Pumphrey likes me. He tried to kiss me on our step but I said I could see the roof rack on Dad’s car coming down Mountbatten Drive. Barry calls me Roof Rack now.

None of the boys I like like me. My status isn’t as low as Dwayne Morrison’s but I’m not far up the ladder. My parents don’t have any idea about the ladder. They are totally wrapped up in keeping the household going and are not interested in me unless they need me to peel potatoes, or it’s time to pay for my books, or I’ve hogged the Ritz crackers in my room. My mother bugs me while my father picks his teeth with the end of a plastic straw he cuts specially. He looks thoughtful but my mother says his mind is blank. I ignore the ladder most of the time. My best friend Denise—this is amazing—has entered the Miss Teen Lundrigan Mills pageant, but I’ll get to that later.

How can you ignore the fact that you are almost as low down as Dwayne Morrison? He is low down not for any reason, but because of the atmosphere around him. He moves slowly, he’s big and has pale skin. He’s no more stupid or ugly than anyone else. Nowhere near as ugly as Derek Matthews, who a lot of girls like besides me. Dwayne Morrison doesn’t have as many pimples as lots of other people, and his father’s not the undertaker like Clive Skaines’ father. Clive Skaines is low on the ladder too, but Dwayne is the lowest of the low. If you touch him, if you even graze his books in the hall, you have to wipe his germs on someone and shout, “Morrison’s germs!” Nobody ever calls him just Dwayne. They always call him Dwayne Morrison, like it’s important to completely identify him and separate him from every other human. Anyway I’m pretty close to him in status. I could let it bother me more but then I’d become emotionally disturbed and have to go to the guidance counsellor, and I don’t see myself that way. Mr. Plumtree doesn’t either. He stopped me in the hall one day after World Problems class and told me I didn’t realize it but when I got out of here I’d be beautiful; I already was but it was too early for most people to see it. He isn’t a child molesting creep, by the way. He’s just someone who I guess knows about the ladder and decided to give one of the bottom dwellers a private pep talk.

A few boys have come to my house looking for me. Snoopy is one. Snoopy arrived in our school out of jail. He passed me notes, “Meet me at Duffs Store after school,” which I ignored until he showed up at my place. My father

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