An Icky Valentine's Day
The bus pulled up and soon all the students were sitting in the classroom, listening to their teachers.
“There are actually three Saint Valentines, all of whom are said to have been martyred on February
Icky’s hand shot in the air. Her teacher pressed her lips together and seemed to take a calming inhale before forcing out a stiff, “Yes, Isadora?”
“Did any of them die from poisoning?” Icky asked flatly.
The teacher raised her eyebrows in slight surprise. The question was certainly odd, but not nearly as odd as some of the things Icky came up with. “Hm, that’s actually an interesting question,” the teacher responded. “You see, not much is known of any of the three Valentines, so we don’t know exactly how or why it is that they died. As a matter of fact, it’s because of this questionable history that the feast of Saint Valentine was removed from the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar in
Icky dug in her pocket and pulled out a fistful of small brown pellets. She held them up and opened up her fist so the class could see the tiny ridged cylinders lying flat on her pudgy palm. “Crinoid fossils,” she announced and left the random statement at that.
Ah yes, this was more in line with Icky’s eccentric style.
“They look more like rat turds,” Kevin murmured under his breath and Danny snickered.
“Also known as St. Cuthbert’s beads, also thought to protect from poisoning,” Icky continued, staring forward at her teacher.
Her teacher smiled that patient smile of hers—the one that had gotten Icky assigned to her classroom in the first place—and said, “Thank you, Ic-…sadora. Well, class, it’s now time to go to the library, but we’ll be passing out Valentines before lunch, so why don’t you get them out of your backpacks and put them on your desk.”
Icky dutifully went to her backpack and pulled out her paper shopping bag. In it were the puppy and kitten Valentines from the previous year, and taped to each was a loosely wrapped roll of Smarties. She set the bag very purposefully next to her desk, which was directly in front of Danny’s, and left it wide open.
The students lined up and went as a group to the library, but were free to drift back to the classroom once they’d selected their books for quiet reading time. Icky lingered in the library for a long while, even though the book she’d be reading that day wasn’t one you could find in an elementary school library.
Icky eventually returned to the classroom and went to her desk to retrieve her book. When she did, she looked down into her bag of Valentines and saw that several of the Smarties candies had been removed. At least half of them. She looked back at Danny’s desk and saw telltale cellophane wrappers crumpled underneath. Without any reaction whatsoever to the theft, Icky picked up her book and went to a corner of the classroom to sit on the floor and read.
It wasn’t long before Danny exhausted his miniscule attention span and his eyes wandered the classroom, looking for something new to entertain him. Icky was usually a good place to start, and today he hit the mother lode. In front of her unkempt head was an almost life-sized image of Saddam Hussein’s face, positioned so that it appeared to sit on her shoulders. Across Hussein’s forehead were the words: The Man and His Methods.
Such books weren’t generally encouraged at the school, but arguing with Icky about her reading material and consequently going head to head with her permissive father were exercises in futility, and so long as Icky’s book kept her quiet for forty-five minutes a day, her teacher allowed it.
Danny elbowed Kevin in the ribs. “Looks like we’ve got an evil Icktator in our classroom, heh, heh.” He maneuvered closer to Icky and wadded up a piece of paper and threw it over the top of her book so that it bonked her in the forehead. She lowered the book so that her impassive eyes peered over the edge at him. “Interesting book?” he sneered.
“Yes,” she answered and began to raise the book again.
“Did you get to the part yet where they caught him living in a rat hole and they beheaded him?” Danny pressed on in a nasty whisper.
Icky lowered the book further this time and whispered a considerably longer response. “No. I’m at the part where he poisons his colleagues with thallium sulphate. It was his poison of choice, because it’s slow acting; the symptoms often don’t kick in until the next day, so nothing can be proven.
"At first it feels like the flu, but then, before the doctors can figure out what’s going on, all of the victims’ hair falls out, and then they are wracked with hideous joint and flesh pain. The patients lie screaming and thrashing, but there’s nothing anyone can do to help, because they don’t know what’s happening. Eventually, the victims will suffer paralysis and respiratory failure.
"They’ll try to get a gasp of breath, but their lungs won’t function, so they slowly suffocate, lying in a bed surrounded by loved ones who can do nothing but watch them suffer and die.”
Danny and Kevin sat gape-mouthed at the coldness with which Icky delivered the analysis. But then she smiled and a sparkle danced across her typically doleful eyes.
“The best part is—thallium sulphate is completely water soluble, like salt, but it’s colorless, odorless and virtually tasteless, so it can be mixed into any drink, and the victims have no idea they’ve ingested anything malicious until it’s far too late. By the time anyone suspects poisoning, the nervous system is well on its way to shutting down.”
Danny gulped, trying to restore moisture to his mouth, and then whispered hoarsely, “You’re a freak, Ickadora Rat-Poop Karp,” before he and his friend scootched across the floor again, away from Icky.
Quiet reading time ended and the students had a math lesson, and then they passed out the Valentines—with much excitement by most of the other children, but much apathy on Icky’s part. It stung a little when she thought back to the previous year, how foolish she’d been with her childhood notions of improving the world through silly cards. She was wiser now. Now she understood that nothing good could come of Valentines.
By the time this exercise was completed, it was time for lunch, and the boxes of pink and red cards would wait to be opened that afternoon at the classroom party. At lunch, Icky sat at the end of the table all alone, as usual. She got up to throw away her trash, and paused along the way when she reached the section of the long table where Danny and his friends sat. Danny was taking a huge gulp from his juice bag.
“Is that Lemon Breeze flavor?” Icky asked.
Danny wrinkled his face and mumbled irritably with his teeth still clutching the straw. “I dunno.”
Icky shrugged and moved on, but when she returned, she stopped again and let out a small giggle.
“What is your problem?” Danny grunted.
“I could’ve sworn you brought Island Punch today. Are you sure your drinks weren’t switched?”
“What do you care?”
“Yes, I guess that would be difficult to prove.” Icky shrugged again and returned to her seat.
But through the corner of her eye, she saw Danny turn his juice bag around in his hand and look at it with confusion. His friends had moved on to their banal discussion, but Danny continued to stare at the bag, his expression becoming more disturbed as he seemed to slowly put together the pieces of an intricate puzzle. A little bit later, he wrapped his arm around his stomach and hunched over, as if he had cramps. His skin looked a little green when he shot a menacing glance down the table at Icky.
The students were dismissed to recess and it was only a matter of minutes before Icky found herself with her face pressed up against the cold metal pole of playground equipment.
“Give me the anti-poison beads, Ickbert!” Danny demanded. “I know you didn’t poison me, but I’m going to take those beads just in case.”
Icky didn’t move or say a thing.
“Fine, I’ll get them myself,” Danny said and shoved his hand under Icky’s woolen coat and into the front pocket of her pants. It was then that she screamed.
The lunch lady was there in a flash. “Daniel Eldridge! Get your hands off of her!”
Danny stepped back and shouted, “I didn’t do anything! She started it!”
“Save it for the principal, Eldridge.”
To be continued
Link to Part Three
Link to Part Three