Charm and Consequence (Novella) - By Stephanie Wardrop

Thank you to everyone who read SNARK AND CIRCUMSTANCE. And to Kevin Renshaw and Caroline Cranos, who have long been high bidders in my heart.

Charm and Consequence

Snark and Circumstance #2

Stephanie Wardrop

Hypocrites and a Hit and Run

The hypocrisy at Longbourne High School is reaching toxic levels today. My article about ethical reasons to go vegan came out in the alternative paper this morning, and everyone is acting like there is something wrong with me because I’m the only one at this school who doesn’t think it’s just not a meal if some animal wasn’t tortured before landing on my plate.

In homeroom, Blair Whittaker stops by my desk and asks, “Um, Georgia, does a carrot feel pain when you pull it out of the ground?” then laughs at his prodigious wit all the way to his own seat.

In Spanish class, Caleb Colter meets me in the doorway and follows me to my seat, demanding to know if I have ever actually spent any time with a chicken. “They’ll peck your eyes out,” he warns me as he blocks my way to my seat.

“I don’t blame them,” I mutter as Senora Baldwin tells him to “sientense, por favor.” I take my seat, relieved to be drilled on the past perfect tense for once, but before I can open my book to the right page, I notice some girls leaning over to scrutinize my shoes. I look at them with a raised eyebrow.

One points at my ballet flats and whisper-gasps the word: “Leather?”

“No,” I mouth back. “Synthetic.” She wrinkles her nose like I’d just passed gas. I don’t know which she would find more offensive—the fact that no animals were harmed in the making of my footwear or that I bought said footwear at Payless.

Next period in bio class, Darryl Milken, a human block of cement, snorts as Miss Grogan writes something on the board. “Your article was such bullshit propaganda. How do you know eating meat is bad for you?”

“You seem to be all the proof I need, Darryl,” I say before I can stop myself. “I mean, do you really want to ingest any more synthetic growth hormones—or are you trying to get big enough to become your own zip code?”

A couple of kids gasp, then laugh, but before I can say anything else, Miss Grogan starts talking and I hear Darryl mutter, “Bitch” under his breath.

Why are people so hostile? At my editor/friend Dave’s suggestion, I even took out all the really hardcore “slaughterhouses are like Auschwitz for the animals” stuff from the article, but so many people are still insulted by the simple suggestion that stuffing your face with dead flesh might show a lack of compassion. Others are just indifferent, like the members of the Science Club who are in the cafeteria when I get there, taping up really tacky-looking posters urging people to Save the Rainforest and chowing down on whatever mystery meat the lunch ladies have slapped on trays today. I’m fairly sure they would eat the coatimundis and marmosets they’re ostensibly trying to save if the hairnet brigade had served them on buns today.

I have to get out of there. I tell Dave and Gary and Shondra that I need some fresh air, and when I get outside, I feel instantly better. This is my second New England fall, and I have to admit that the shades of russet and orange and red and yellow exploding all over town in mid-autumn are pretty spectacular. Some days there’s a snap to the air that makes just breathing in feel like you’ve taken a bite of a crisp, juicy apple. I sit under a skinny sapling held up by two taut wires, then hear my name being called. I look up to see my big sister, Tori, getting out of a car with her boyfriend. Trey is wholesome and athletic in an all-American way; he’d make the perfect pitchman for Teen Prozac if there was such a thing. But I like him anyway.

“Hey, you two,” I say as they approach. Trey’s family just moved to Longbourne this summer, and Tori just met him about a week ago, but already they look like they belong together, a matched set of winsome blue-eyed blondes. “What were you doing?”

“I left my physics notes at home so Trey drove me to pick them up,” Tori explains.

“Great day for a picnic!” Trey enthuses and I offer him my bag of tortilla chips for the effort. I see Michael Endicott get out of his car