Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, but she had lousy posture so her back was in immense pain. Exasperated with the world, she sat alone and was pretty sure there was a splinter in her thigh. This wall isn’t even made of wood, she thought to herself. She hopped off the aluminum wall and went over to watch the other kids play in the sandbox.
Humpty’s parents – Cameron and Nicole – were not happy people. They thought it would be quite entertaining to name their daughter Humpty despite their last name being Dumpty. “It would be hilarious,” Nicole Dumpty said while giving birth. Cameron Dumpty was holding her hand while using his free hand to gather skittles for his mouth. The doctor was trying hard to concentrate and insisted Nicole should stop talking and focus on her breathing. “But just imagine,” said Nicole with a big grin. She had the pain tolerance of a brick wall.
Humpty did not inherit those pain tolerance genes. She received genes that made her irritable to any noise, made her back hunch over, and made her left leg three whole inches longer than her right.
Humpty Dumpty had a horrible childhood, and it wasn’t even over. She was a nine-year-old girl filled with rage.
“Why the hell did you name me Humpty,” she asked one time.
“Don’t say hell in this household,” replied Nicole.
“I need a five-letter word that rhymes with Triscuit,” said Cameron.
Humpty would often take long walks just to get out of the house. Admiring the falling leaves of the swaying oak trees, this was her chance to blow off some steam. Her friend Amber said this was abnormal behavior for a nine-year-old. Humpty told her to “screw off” and hasn’t heard from her since.
Humpty watched the boys build sandcastles at recess. If I kick them over, they’re gonna cry, she thought.
"Why are you smiling at us,” asked one of the boys. He was oblivious to the gum someone put in his hair.
"I have more power than you know,” said Humpty.
The boy didn’t reply to that. He had an unbelievable amount of sand in his butt.
Humpty went back to the aluminum wall to eat a snack she had stolen from a nearby deli. It was a bunch of salami in a plastic container, but she thought it was pepperoni.
Humpty enjoyed sitting on the wall during recess because she had a view of every stupid event taking place. Two girls on the seesaw calling each other fat. The swing set boys seeing how far they could spit. Ronald Jernigan dry humping the slide because he hit puberty in preschool. Nobody knew what to do with that kid.
Humpty sat up in her room one night when the Deli manager called her mother. Nicole threw open Humpty’s door despite the sign that said, “I’m writing a suicide note, don’t come in.”
Nicole stomped her foot, which was a peculiar habit she developed over the years. She used to be a dancer.
“You’re always stomping,” said Humpty without looking up from her pocket dictionary.
“The Deli man called.”
“Who’s the Deli man?”
“YOU KNOW WHO THE DELI MAN IS.” The last time Nicole yelled like that was when nobody showed up at her wedding.
Humpty got up and started making her bed. She always made her bed when she needed to think. But Nicole was persistent. She wasn’t going to leave the room solely because she was proud of her daughter for making her bed. Nicole was still angry. That rage gene had to come from somewhere.
“I didn’t raise you to steal salamis.”
“It was pepperoni.”
“Deli Man said salami.”
They argued about that detail for seven minutes. By minute six, Cameron zoomed into the room.
“We’re out of salami,” he said casually.
“Well, that’s because a salami thief is living under our roof.”
When she heard this, Humpty looked up to see that the ceiling was leaking. Some sort of liquid was dousing her lonesome pillow. Humpty had a satin pillowcase so that sleeping wouldn’t mess up her hair, but she didn’t own a hairbrush, so her hair was always tangled anyway.
“I’m banishing you,” said Nicole.
“I’m going to buy salami,” said Cameron.
Cameron stumbled out of the room. Nicole explained that Humpty would be banished from her bedroom and would move to the living room because “that’s what it’s for.”
After moving her bed into the living room, Humpty lay down. Her bed was 1 foot by 1 foot, so it was not an arduous move. Both legs hung off her bed every night, especially the one that is three inches longer. Humpty didn’t mind her legs hanging off her bed. She was too focused on minding everything else.
Amber knocked on the door. It startled Humpty so much that she had a great fall.
Humpty threw herself back onto her feet and stared into the peephole, hoping she would watch Amber have a heart attack right then and there. She loved watching things through that tiny window. One night, she set up a projector outside and watched the movie Pollyanna through the peephole.
Nicole had fallen asleep out of pure exhaustion, and she lay on the floor in Humpty’s room. She couldn’t hear Amber’s knocking. She couldn’t hear much at all, really. She was a deep sleeper and deaf in her left ear.
Getting impatient, Amber attempted to open the door in case it was unlocked. Amber and Humpty were both surprised to see the door open. Neither one knew what to do in a situation like this.
Amber asked if Humpty wanted to come over to her house and make whipped cream on the rocks. This was a tempting offer for Humpty, but a girl filled with rage doesn’t give in to temptation easily.
“I don’t want your rocks,” said Humpty. “You haven’t talked to me in 2 weeks.”
“You told me to screw off,” said Amber. “So I did and now I’m back.”
Cameron drove up to the driveway and walked to the door with eight grocery bags filled with salami. He also got a pack of trail mix. He was thinking about going on a hike.
“Hey you cool kids,” he said with confidence.
They stared at him. There was a rumble in Humpty’s stomach that sounded like a blender trying to mash peanut butter and honey. She should have stolen more salami.
“Welp. It’s nap time.” Cameron was nervous around his daughter sometimes. He felt uncomfortable around all women including his wife. He tried to say vagina one time and fainted.
“I am grieving, and I want a friend to cry on,” said Amber.
“A friend’s shoulder,” said Humpty.
“You want a friend’s shoulder to cry on.”
“I don’t need more shoulders. I have two.”
“Okay.” But Humpty wasn’t okay. She was never okay.
It took great restraint to stop herself from slugging Amber in the jaw. She was so not okay.
She started talking quickly in Spanish to distract her from the fact that she was not okay. It reminded her of the time when she was just eight years old and failed a Spanish test.
“You will never be Hispanic,” said Señor Joe.
“Maybe because I’m not Hispanic,” replied Humpty.
“I want to stay friends because your parents are rich, so I think one day you might take me on a vacation.” Amber’s mouth remained open after she said this, and she started to drool a little.
“My parents aren’t rich. We can barely afford salami.” Amber could feel the truth of this statement and realized the Dumptys were not rich at all. Who knows where she heard that rumor.
Amber lingered a moment because the sun was in the position to make exciting shadow puppets on the concrete driveway. She had a faint memory of Humpty and her making shadow puppets with eggs they had stolen from the deli. Amber had a smile that turned into a frown when she remembered how Humpty would crack the eggs on her head and then complain about being hungry. Amber no longer wanted Humpty as a friend. She decided she was putting too much effort into this friendship and wished she spent more time kayaking or learning to knit.
Amber walked away.
Humpty let out a sigh of relief. She had bronchitis, so the sigh sounded more like a vacuum cleaner sucking up popcorn.
“I wish I could be more honest,” said Humpty to a mosquito on her arm. “I wish I could say: Amber, I don’t like you. I don’t like anyone. Everyone is annoying, and I want to be alone. I don’t want to catch up and talk about how 1st-grade summer camp was. I know how it was. It was the best summer of your life. You were in love with Jude, but he didn’t want to kiss you because he said you smelled like stale cashews, and that made you cry. No one cares. Don’t talk to me. Don’t anyone talk to me.”
The mosquito flew away.
Humpty Dumpty walked back to her wall and threw an egg at it. The yolk splattered and drooled down slowly.
“I wish I could say that.”
"Say this three times fast: Sheila’s a whore, Sheila’s a whore, Sheila’s a whore."
That’s what I said.
I said it three times.
I said it fast.
Sheila didn’t deserve those crude remarks. In fact, she was the most loyal companion I ever had. She knows I’m just jealous of her career writing tongue twisters. She sells seashells by the seashore was her first big break. I never liked that one personally, but that’s the one most people still talk about. There are not enough homophones in that one. And the premise is dry. I’ve never been even slightly interested in beach life. I’ve gone a few times, and I always get sunburnt. And I definitely don’t collect seashells. I thought they were called sand shells anyways.
So we were fighting, and I said my tongue twister three times fast, and she got quiet all of a sudden. She looked me dead in the eyes, but that look was like a living dragon breathing fire down my neck. When she stares at me in silence with that look of a warrior, I know I’ve done something wrong. When I do something right, she high-fives me and buys me candy.
We were arguing about the jingle her dishwasher makes. I said it sounds like a Christmas song; Sheila said it sounds like the ice cream truck. Whenever we get into arguments of these sorts, we remain calm. This afternoon was different. I probably lost my temper because it was an abnormally humid day, and the humidity effortlessly moved inside the apartment. More likely it was due to my extreme jealousy.
She ended her silence by telling me she was ashamed, not that I called her a whore, but that I used a short tongue twister that must be said three times fast. She always hated those: Which witch is which, six sticky skeletons, fresh fried fish.
“You’re a hack,” she told me. She thought the three times fast tongue twisters were cheap and easy to come up with. Her colleague became famous before Sheila because of those, so I think she might be jealous, too. She secretly tried to publish a three times fast tongue twister under a pseudonym, but she had no success. Her tongue twister was “squiggly squiggles” and her editor told her there were “too many squiggles, not enough umpf.”
After the fight, Sheila left me. I’m not sure why. The jealousy had something to do with it perhaps. She mentioned one time how she would rather be with anybody else, but I’m pretty sure she was sleep talking.
I started going through the things she left behind. There was a big blue binder of old writings in the attic. Scribbles on notebooks. Large cardboard cutouts that said things like I saw a kitten eating chicken in the kitchen. That one was from her diary but would have made her a great deal of cash I’m sure. The previous diary entry read I’m deeply depressed, and I’m starting to think my job is meaningless.
Sheila and I had been together two full days, so I needed some time to sulk. I’m sure she’s doing well. I’m sure I’ll be okay, too. You get a job, find someone to complain about it, then find someone else who listens better. I guess that’s life.
©2022 Jake Schick