Small Humiliations: Part X / by Courtney Mehlhaff

When my sister was in her teens, she and a friend decided to hit the library one afternoon. On their way, they stopped to buy some snacks. This was especially daring, since there was no food or drink allowed in the building, but being the rebels they were, they decided to risk it. 

They settled in at a table and felt like downright villains as they snuck clandestine treats from their backpacks while reading. It was a small town ... you took your thrills where you could find them. I'm still shocked and amazed at a friend of mine who once stuck a piece of used chewing gum between the pages of a book. Shocked because she'd dare to do it, and amazed because nobody hauled her away in handcuffs. She left that library unshackled and continues to walk among us a free woman to this day.

Anyway, my sister's friend had chosen for one of her treats a pack of candy cigarettes, and sometime between The Babysitter's Club and the latest Sweet Valley High volume, she decided to bust those bad boys out. Still trying to be secretive, she slipped her hand into her bag, located the small box, brought a thin stick quickly to her lips and bit into it with a satisfying crunch.

A pause, then a horrified whisper.

"Meghan! . . . . . I just ate chalk!"

What's the lesson here? Maybe that cigarettes are bad in all forms. Or maybe that you shouldn't break the rules. Or maybe that you should just look before you bite, lest you ingest your own school supplies. Take your pick, America.