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Micro Fiction Contest 2018

Third Place


Bad Reputation

Amy Burton


I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation. They’ve been writing shit about me on bathroom walls since I was in the fourth-grade. 

Hailey Collins is a lesbian.

I discovered it scrawled in blue ballpoint pen inside the middle bathroom stall after I left Mrs. Kearney’s class to pee. 

I didn’t tell Mrs. Kearney—because snitches get stitches. Instead, I became a fourth-grade spy. I trusted no one. I scrutinized my classmates at recess on the four-square courts, smiling in their pastel, puffy coats as they tossed maroon balls back and forth. I studied them with suspicion as they swung into the sky on the clanking playground equipment, their blond, double French braids floating on the breeze. 

Hailey Collins is a lesbian.

Which crooked, two-faced slut had written those words? What had I done to deserve this? Was it because I wouldn’t let David Hoss kiss me during that game of “Smear the Queer?” He had crusty green snot in his nose! He called me a square and we broke up that afternoon. Then he started going with Heather Meacham, and she had a mustache. As far as I was concerned, they were meant for each other. But had he told her I wouldn’t kiss him? 

Maybe it’s because I played “vampires” with Kelly Bird? We turned off all the lights in her rec-room and chased each other around the hide-a-bed. If she caught me, or I her, we would suck on each other’s necks. It was thrilling. But did that make me a lesbian?

One day during silent reading, Heather Meacham told Mrs. Kearney she needed to use the bathroom. Mrs. Kearney gave her the hall pass and she put it in her pocket—with a ballpoint pen—and left the classroom. 

A minute later I doubled over on my desk and began to moan. I held my tummy with both hands, cried out, “I think I’m going to barf!” and fled to the restroom with Mrs. Kearney’s blessing. 

Once inside, I could see Heather’s moon boots under the middle bathroom stall door. I tiptoed into the stall next to hers and climbed onto the toilet. Pressing my cheek against the cool beige-painted partition, I slid my face to the top of the stall and peered over with one eye. Heather was seated on the toilet, drawing a blue heart on her hand as she defecated. She looked up at me and my one eye locked with her two. In recognition, she glanced down to the writing on the stall:

Hailey Collins is a lesbian.

She screamed.

I slipped off the commode and smacked my head on the metal toilet paper dispenser. The school nurse gave me an icepack to use as I sat in the principal’s office a few minutes later.

Looking back, I’d have written “TRUTH” on that middle bathroom stall in purple, grape-scented marker. But it was 1983, and I was too young to know—or give a damn. 



Amy Burton was born and raised in Anchorage, AK and moved to Idaho in 1987. She has bounced around the Pacific Northwest ever since. She has a BFA in theater from the University of Idaho and is currently pursuing an associates in creative writing from the College of Western Idaho.