Why Kristen Misses Push & Turn
By Kwame Ivery

The bottle of pills wouldn’t open. No matter how hard Kristen pressed and tried to twist off the top. The bottle of pills wouldn’t open. Knowing she was doing it right but thinking maybe she was doing it wrong, she looked more closely at the instruction imprinted on the bottle’s white top. And she wasn’t prepared for what she saw. Instead of the usual “PUSH & TURN” the instruction read “SMACK YOUR 5TH GRADE TEACHER”.

Kristen called the pharmacist and asked him if it was a joke.

“No,” the pharmacist said. “The only way to open it is by smacking your fifth-grade teacher.”

“What happened to ‘Push & Turn’?” Kristen asked.

“There were some complaints about it,” the pharmacist said. “So the instruction was changed to ‘Smack Your Fifth-Grade Teacher’. People think it’s easier and they like it more.”

“Well, I don’t like it,” Kristen said.

“Really?” The pharmacist sounded very surprised. “You’re the first one to complain about it.”

Kristen hung up and tried to remember who her fifth-grade teacher was. Miss Chambers. Yeah, that was her name. She hadn’t thought about Miss Chambers since her last day of fifth grade 22 years ago. She tried to remember if Miss Chambers had been nice or not, and she remembered that Miss Chambers had been not only nice but very patient too, with a comforting smile; certainly not someone Kristen wanted to smack. But Kristen really needed this medication, so she decided to search for Miss Chambers so she could smack her.

Facebook led to an email address which led to an actual address. Miss Chambers, now 81-years-old, was living in a retirement home in Oregon. By the time Kristen finished the four-day drive she was so weak and in such dire need for the medication that it took every muscle in her body to make her smile when she greeted Miss Chambers. Miss Chambers looked pretty much the same, only grayer and more wrinkled. She hugged Kristen and touched her face and said, “Oh yes, I remember you now! You’re still just as beautiful as you were all those years ago!”

By now about half a dozen of Miss Chambers’ fellow elderly residents had gathered around as Miss Chambers put her frail hand on Kristen’s arm and introduced her to them. “Girls, this is Kristen Gazarri—I was her fifth-grade teacher and she was one of my favorite students. She was one of the sweetest, prettiest, smartest kids I’d ever had the pleasure of teaching…!”

As Miss Chambers talked, Kristen waited for an opening where she could smack her but an opening like that didn’t quite present itself. She took a deep breath and interrupted Miss Chambers: “And I can honestly say Miss Chambers here was the best teacher I ever had. They sure don’t make ‘em like this woman anymore.” And when she said “like this woman anymore” she lightly tapped Miss Chambers’ face with the tips of her fingers, hoping that it qualified as a smack.

Miss Chambers and the other elderly residents laughed. “You’re right, Susan,” one of Miss Chambers’ elderly friends said, “she’s so sweet and beautiful.”

As Miss Chambers and friends continued to gush over her Kristen said, “Could you-all excuse me for a minute? I’ll be right back.”

Kristen rushed to the restroom, took out the bottle of pills and tried to twist off the cap but the cap still wouldn’t budge. Apparently the smack she’d given Miss Chambers wasn’t smacky enough. Kristen started to panic. Her condition was making her weaker and weaker by the second. She really, really needed this medication.

Her face glazed with sweat, Kristen forced a smile and re-joined Miss Chambers and Miss Chambers’ friends in the lounge. They all sat down, with Kristen sitting right next to Miss Chambers. As Miss Chambers fondly told her enraptured friends about a daffodil that Kristen had made for her in Arts & Crafts, Kristen closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then opened her eyes, turned to Miss Chambers, drew back her hand as far as it could go, and, with all the strength she could muster—and even more than that—she hauled off and smacked Miss Chambers in the face so hard that Miss Chambers’ eyeglasses and dentures flew 14 feet across the room.

Palming her face, Miss Chambers gave Kristen a shocked, confused, toothless gape. Meanwhile Miss Chambers’ six elderly female friends tackled Kristen, threw her to the floor and proceeded to kick her, stomp her, spit on her, and throw a coffee table on her.

When the beating was over Kristen pulled herself from the floor. Through broken teeth she told the still-stunned Miss Chambers, “Nice seeing you again, and sorry.” Then she staggered out of the retirement home.

In her car Kristen yanked out the bottle of pills and twisted the top, which cooperatively popped right off. She quickly downed her usual dosage then headed back home.

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I was born in Bronx, NY and was raised in New Jersey. I have an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts.

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