1. Penny Putrid For President

    by Brion Salazar

    Nothing was going to stop Penny Putrid from becoming the student dead-body President this year. She was in eighth grade at Lovecraft Middle School and the only thing that stood in her way was Violent Violet - voted the most monstrous girl in all of Monstropolis; eleven years running.

    "Why do you want to be President anyway?" asked Derek Deadly, Penny’s best friend since kindergarten. "It’s so lame."

    "It’s not lame!" Penny replied as she opened her locker. "Besides, I’m just tired of Violet always winning. Four years and she hasn’t done a single thing to help this school. The only reason anyone votes for her is they’re afraid not to."

    "Help the school? What’s wrong with it?" Derek asked, looking up at the ceiling as if it might suddenly crash down on their heads.

    "Derek, you have got to be kidding me" slamming her locker door, "just look around. There are so many problems at this school. I don’t know where to begin."

    "Really?" asked Derek, now looking under his left foot. "Well what would you do if you were President?"


    Just then, Violet Violet was walking down the hall and heard Derek’s question. “President?” she thought. “What idiot thinks they have a chance against me?” Curious, Violet ducked around the corner so she could hear Penny’s answer. She hadn’t been voted President four years in a row by playing fair. If Penny was going to be foolish enough to run against her, then Violet was going to make sure she didn’t stand a chance.

    "First," replied Penny unaware of Violet’s eavesdropping "I would fix the Graveyard. There are never enough snakes or spiders to go around, all the nooses on the swing set are frayed, and the zombies are so old they don’t even smell like rotting corpses any more."

    "Nothing like the scent of the dead on a hot summer’s day," Derek agreed.

    "What about the cafeteria?" Penny asked. "Maggots-and-cheese three times a week? How about a little variety?"

    "Well, I could go for some spaghetti and eye-balls, or a beast-loaf sandwich." Derek rubbed his stomach.

    "Then there is the science lab," Penny wasn’t done yet. "How do they expect us to become Mad Scientists? There’s only one brain for every four students!"

    "Yeah! Brains for everybody!" Derek yelled.

    "Now do you see?" Penny asked Derek.

    "I do," Derek agreed, "Violent Violet has to go. Penny For President! Penny for President!" he yelled to everyone in the hall.

    "Haha." Penny laughed as she tugged at Derek’s sweater. "Come on Derek, let’s go before we’re late for class."

    The two friends walked to their classroom happily plotting Penny’s plan of attack. As they passed Violent Violet, she spun around and pretended to be deep in a conversation with Glen Ghoulie who happened to be standing next to her, trying to remember the combination to his locker.

    "So did you hear what Terry Terrible did the other day?" Violet asked an unsuspecting Glen.

    "Uh, what?" Glen stammered. He was confused and a little frightened. Violet had never actually spoken to him before unless you count the time in gym class when she put a flame-tongued lizard in his shorts and called him "Hot Pants".

    "Are you talking to me?"

    Violet could see, out of her third eye, that Derek and Penny had walked away without suspecting a thing.

    "Oh shut up you dweeb," she said while quickly forgetting that Glen existed. "I have work to do."

    #

    The next day when Penny arrived at school, she noticed a large group of students gathered in the graveyard. “What’s going on?” Derek asked walking up beside her.

    "I’m not sure," Penny replied "let’s go take a look."

    As they got closer they could hear Violent Violet’s voice ringing above the crowd, “When I am elected President, this is the sort of excellance you can expect.”

    Violet was standing on top of the slime pool slide, yelling into a microphone. The crowd was cheering in approval.

    "When you vote for Violet, you vote for victory!" she screamed to more cheers. "Look around at what voting for Violet means to Lovecraft."

    Penny was astonished. The slime pool was full of new slime. There were spiders and snakes and even leeches everywhere she looked. The swing-set had brand new nooses. From the smell in the air she could tell the grounds were teeming with fresh corpses. Everything was perfect. Penny could not believe it.

    "Wow, will you look at this place?" Derek said with a huge smile on his face. "This is awesome."

    "No," Penny spun around so fast at Derek that her tail slapped Glen Ghoulie in the face,  "I won’t let her get away with this. I’m not going to let her win again."

    "Yeah, but look. Now you don’t have t—"

    "I don’t know how she did this," Penny cut Derek off, "but there is no way I am letting her get away with stealing my ideas."

    She stormed out of the Graveyard leaving Derek facing Glen who was rubbing his cheek.

    "Hey Glen. What’s up?" Derek said then turn and followed after Penny.

    #

    Derek did not meet up with Penny until lunch. Penny was already sitting at their table, and she looked very upset.

    "Check it out." Derek pushed his lunch under Penny’s nose, "Beast-loaf sandwiches with gator-tots."

    Penny didn’t say a word. She simply glared at the tray of food then at Derek.

    "Penny, what’s the matter with you? Don’t you like beast-loaf?" he asked.

    Just then, a familiar voice chimed in over the loudspeakers.

    "Attention Lovecraft middle school. It’s your favorite Presidential candidate again. I hope you are all enjoying the special treat I arranged for you today."

    "Rotten, no good, idea stealing…" Penny hissed through clenched teeth.

    "That’s right my fellow Lovecraftians, I just wanted to show you a sample of the delicious and nutritious meals I will make sure we all get when you elect me President."

    "If it’s the last thing I do," Penny spit the words out like a bad taste.

    "So enjoy your beast-loaf and remember - a vote for Violet is a vote for victory." Violet finished in her most pleasant of voices.

    "Whoops." Derek slowly pulled the tray of food away from Penny’s face which had turned a really interesting shade of red. Or was it purple?

    "She did it again!" Penny screamed as she slapped the tray of food out of Derek’s hands and ran out of the cafeteria. The beast-loaf and gravy flew across the room and landed directly on Glen Ghoulie’s head.

    "Hey!" Glen shouted as he looked around the room.

    "Sorry Glen." Derek said with an apologetic shrug of his shoulders.

    #

    The last class of the day for both Penny and Derek was Science Lab. It was Penny’s favorite subject and as she approached the classroom, Penny could feel her mood improving with every step.
     
    "Don’t go in there." Derek pleaded with her as he burst out of the classroom.

    "What? Don’t be silly."

    "No, seriously Penny. I’m begging you. Do not, go in there". Derek put a hand on her shoulder.

    Penny looked down at his hand. Then at Derek. Then at the classroom door.

    "No." she said, only half wanting to know the truth. She slapped Derek’s hand away and bolted for the Science Lab.

    As she burst in the room, her heart skipped a beat. On every table, in front of every student was a brand spanking new, pink and slimy, fresh from the hea -  brain. And on each of them was attached a note that read: “Courtesy of Violent Violet. A vote for me is a vote for victory.”

    "NOOOOOOO!" Penny screamed as she ran into the room. She grabbed the first brain she could get her hands on, threw it on the floor, and stomped on it with every ounce of her body.

    "I hate you. I hate you. I hate you!" she yelled with each stomp.

    When she was done there was nothing left but a puddle of pink slime. When Penny looked up and saw a room full of shocked faces staring back at her.

    "What did I ever do to you?" Glen asked, looking down at the puddle of goo that used to be his brain.

    Penny’s eyes filled with tears as she ran away.

    #
     

    By the time Derek caught up with her, Penny had made it to the woods halfway between school and home. Her eyes were pink and puffy from crying and crusty white lines ran down her face. She sat, quietly sobbing, beneath the shadow of an old gray oak tree.

    "You okay?" Derek asked, already knowing the answer.

    "Yeah." Penny sniffled. "Sorry for taking off like that."

    "It’s cool. I know you were upset." Derek sat down next to his friend. "I wish there was something I could do."

    "Got any truth serum? Or better yet, a poison apple?" Penny joked.

    "Aw come on, it’s not that bad."

    "Not that bad?" Penny stood up. "She stole my ideas Derek. Those were mine."

    "I know they were. And they were great ideas." Derek tried to calm her.

    "They were great ideas. She stole them and now everyone thinks they were her great ideas, and she’ll probably get elected President. Again". Penny sat back down, defeated.

    "Yeah." Derek said, putting his arm around her.

    "Now no one will know they were mine."

    They sat there quietly for a while, neither one knowing what else there was to say.

    Derek broke the long silence first. “Was that the point?” he asked.

    "What?" Penny sniffled and rubbed her nose on her sleeve.

    "Was that why you wanted to be President?" Derek stood up and looked down at his friend. "So people would know how smart you were?"

    "I — I wanted to help," Penny stammered.

    "Did you?" Derek challenged her. "Did you come up with all those great ideas because you wanted to help, or was it because you wanted to win?"

    "What are you saying?" Penny asked.

    "Wasn’t the point of this to help the school? Isn’t that what you said? You wanted to be President so that you could make the school a better place for all students?"

    "Yes. I wanted to help. I wanted to make things better."

    "Then you’ve already won." Derek said and put out his hands to help his friend up.

    "They may have been your ideas but isn’t it more important that they were accomplished, than who gets the credit for them?"

    "I guess." Penny agreed while Derek helped her up. She didn’t sound convinced.

    "We still got all that great stuff, right?" Derek asked.

    "Yeah, right" Penny agreed, a little more sure this time.

    "No matter whose ideas they were, or who did all the work; I say either way it’s a victory."

    Penny paused for a moment and thought about it. Derek was right of course. If Penny truly just wanted to make the school a better place, then her mission was accomplished. It didn’t matter if Violet did it, or someone else did. In the end, things are better and that’s all that really matters. She smiled at Derek.

    "Okay. You win," Penny said and then softly punched Derek in the shoulder. "I guess I forgot why I was going to run in the first place, huh?"

    "A little bit." Derek nudged Penny in the ribs.

    "Well, I’ll agree with you on one condition."

    "What’s that?"

    "Don’t use that word again." Penny pleaded.

    "Huh?" Derek asked.

    "I’ve had about all the ‘victory’ that I can stand for one day."

    #

    The next day, Penny and Derek arrived at school prepared for the inevitable tidal wave of questions, finger-pointing, and hushed comments.

    "Let’s get his over with." Penny said as she grabbed Derek’s arm and headed into the school.

    "Don’t worry Penny, in two or three hundred years, nobody will even remember what happened, " Derek replied " Except maybe Glen Ghoulie!"

    "Haha," laughed Penny, "Oh Glen. I should really apologize to him. His poor brain really paid the price."

    "Well here’s your chance." said Derek, pointing to Glen who was standing at his locker, trying once again to remember the combination.

    Penny tapped him on the shoulder, “Umm, Glen?”

    "Hey Penny." Glen smiled at her.

    "Well, Glen, I just wanted to say that I was —"

    "So what do you think?" Glen interrupted her.

    Penny wasn’t sure how to answer that. “Well, it’s just that I was having a really bad day and I had no right to take it out on you,” she pushed on.

    "It’s pretty cool huh?" Glen insisted.

    Penny was confused. What was Glen going on about? “Umm, I guess so.” she agreed without understanding.

    "You’ve seen the ballot, right?" Glen asked.

    "What are you talking about?" She asked, giving up trying to ignore how strange Glen was behaving.

    Glen reached in his backpack and pulled out a sheet of paper. “The ballot. Principal Shelly had them reprinted this morning.” Glen said, handing it to her.

    It said:
    OFFICIAL BALLOT - LOVECRAFT MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT COUNCIL
    Please only vote for one candidate per position.
    POSITION   CANDIDATE(S)
    PRESIDENT:       ( ) Penny Putrid
    VICE PRESIDENT:  ( ) Carl Creepy   ( ) Lilly Lesions
    TREASURER:       ( ) Patty         ( ) Arthur Awful

    It hit her about halfway through the candidates for Treasurer. There was only one name on the ballot for President. Her name.

    "I don’t understand. What does this mean?" Penny asked Glen.

    "It means that you are the only candidate for Student Council President, Penny." Glen smiled at her.

    "But how?" she muttered. Her mind wasn’t working correctly. This had to be some sort of mistake.

    "Violet was disqualified and after finding out what happened, the Principal felt that you deserved the only nomination." Glen said, as if it was obvious.

    "But how did she…" Penny looked up at Glen, searching for some reasonable explanation.

    "I told her Penny." Glen said with a thin smile. "I was standing next to Violet when she overheard you and Derek talking about all the great things you wanted to do for the school."

    Penny couldn’t believe what Glen was saying.

    "After Violet did all that stuff, I realized that she had stolen those ideas from you, just so she made sure you wouldn’t be able to beat her." Glen confessed. "I tried to get Violet to admit it, but she wouldn’t listen. So I went to the Principal and told her what happened."

    Penny was in shock. She stood there, not knowing what to say. Glen did this for her. Big, goofy, quiet, sweet, amazing Glen.

    "I just thought it was the right thing to do." he said, trying to break the uncomfortable silence.

    Penny wrapped her arms around him and squeezed as hard as she could. “Thank you Glen.”

    "It’s cool. No big deal," Glenn croaked as Penny’s python like hug choked the air from his body. "You’re going to make a great President, Penny." he squeaked.

    With tears in her eyes, Penny continued to hug Glenn until the class bell rang.

    The following week, Penny was elected President of the Student council. She worked hard all year and accomplished many goals. With Derek by her side and even Glen helping out from time to time, Penny became one of the most memorable President’s in Lovecraft Middle School history.

    The End.

    A short children’s story I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It was intended as a lesson for my daughter. She did not find it as enlightening as I had hoped. I think she called me a jerk after reading it. Although, I do believe my point was made. Hope you enjoy it.

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