I tangled logic in sailor's knots. If, according to Murphy's Law, I started to hope I wouldn't be picked, I would in fact be picked. Yet, then again, if luck's on my side while I hope to be picked, I will be picked. And raising my hand is like looping me into the noose. But if I can't act like I don't want to be called and I can't act like I want to be called, what do I act like? What, damn it, what?

It's certainly ironic that I have to fear a man wearing a Cookie Monster tie. Mr. Gibbs himself kind of looks like Cookie Monster, if you think about it. Crazed look in his eyes, knotty finger stubs, insane black hole for a mouth, supports child obesity. It fits and I'm feeling like a helpless chocolate chip tumbling into his jaws.

I become melodramatic when I'm freakin' nervous, okay?

Besides, I can't even lie to myself all Bob Marley and go, "Don't worry 'bout a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be allriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight."

Because frankly, I don't believe in Bobs.

Shit, I can't do this.

Claire was all soda pop bubbles beside me, and I wanted her to burst.

"I am psyched! Finally, we get to sing in front of everyone! It's about time, don't you think? I mean, I know its Chorus, but I thought at least once and a while there would be solos!" She twittered happily like a dew-brained bird while I waited for the snake. I wanted to tell her not to bounce for a girl so booby but Tracey cut in.

"I was kind of hoping that there wouldn't be any solo stuff….I mean I'm not that great of a singer….."She admitted with her voice of rubbing balloons.

"Oh, don't say that, you're soooo good!" Claire insisted, patting Tracey's denim knee, "Besides, he's not grading you on how well you sing or whatever, just if you hit the notes, have the right form, or something. "

"Or something." I hissed, ripping the skin around my thumbnail.

"I guess you're right," Tracey smiled with water and sugar, "Mr. Gibbs is a really easy grader…..and I think he likes me."

For a snack. What a nice oatmeal cookie you'd make, he must be thinking, smacking his rubbery lips together. Yum.

Claire's eye twitched. Mr. Gibbs can only like HER of course.

"Of course, he likes you! I think he likes me too, he already gave me a warning about this test last Friday when I was helping him clean his whiteboards…I'm his Clarinet, he said."

Twitch. Twitchytwitch. God damn, if this girl didn't share her Cosmic Brownie sprinkles I would not be sitting here. I'd rather sit close to the door, or the window that's always open. Even close to the piano bench is preferable. Denver always brings in different bobble heads. I wish he didn't choose his Joker bobble head for today. It's already prepared a bloody smile for when I fail.

I can't seem to get over the idea of failing in front of the Joker. And Mr. Beautiful Hands.

Mr. Gibbs clapped his mighty Zeus hands once. Twice. Thrice. He smiled, cherub cheeks stretching. I moaned.

"Today's the day, my victims, I mean students. Your major test for the semester…."Mr. Gibbs drawled off and, on cue, Denver's last two fingers began to teeter-totter as the Jaws theme song creeped into the room like a fog.

Da dum. Da dum. Dadum. Dadumdadum.

"Now, you know the drill. Three people will come up to the front of the class. One soprano, one alto, and one tenor. I'll pick a song, and you three will sing together in front of the class. At one point of the song, you'll each have to sing a line or two on your own. Sounds good?" Mr. Gibbs asked, sickly cheery, and everyone echoed, "Sounds good, Mr. G." back.

"None of you should be nervous to get up here and sing. This is a no judgment space. No criticism from the peanut gallery will be allowed. Safety circle, see this?" Mr. Gibbs laughed as he spun an invisible circle in the air with his finger.

"No one here is a perfect singer, and after every performance, we'll all clap our hardest, right?"

Sounds good, Mr. G.

I'm surprised Mr. Gibbs didn't have to scream over the roar of the piano. That's all I can hear, Denver's fingers so rapidly stepping I'm surprised fire wasn't sparking.

"Hmmm…..Now who should I choose to go first? C'mon, any volunteers?" cooed the Cookie Monster.

Immediately, I switched into possum mode. Play dead and forget my screwed logic.

"Okay, how about it, Ryan? And Claire and Jason?" He chirped while Denver's hands thundered down against the black and white, positively beating the poor thing.

I didn't care. Talk about anti-climatic. I breathed, happily deflating. Thank you Universe.

Claire trotted to the front of the class like a pony to a carrot and after their dreadful performance of Forever Young, I nearly whistled.

Until I remembered.

That I could be next.


And I can't do this.

Safety Circle, my roasted ass.

And then began a vicious cycle.

"Mary, Tyler! Rohan? Yes, you. You're up!"

Spat at Queen's feet with Somebody to Love.

Oh god. Not. Now. Please.

"Willis! Ben! Tori, too, dear. Surprise me."

Trampled Imagine into trash while John Lennon flips them off, Liverpool style, beyond the grave.

I grin at this while ducking behind my backpack.

"Max! Greer! Travis! Go on now."

Eventually, I began to relax. Half the class waltzed on up, my ears cried, and then more strangers were called. I doubt Mr. Gibbs even knows I'm in his class. Besides from attendance, has he ever even said my name? I never volunteer, I never look him in the eye, I never freakin' sing and I'm not about to sing now….

I began to feel fiercely confident. Why was I even worrying? I'm practically invisible in this class. Trey's head is so big; I bet they can't even see me behind him. I drifted off, winking back at the Joker, accidently catching Denver's eye, and then enjoying it.

Tapping his hammy chin, Mr. Gibbs wondered aloud, "Hmm. Let me see…who haven't we called yet? Still a few people, am I right? Toby, you haven't gone yet, you can go up for the tenors. Candace, I see you hiding, represent your fellow altos! And now we need a soprano…who is left? Who's left?"

I heard my name before he said it, red blooming on each cheek.

"Lacey. Yes! Can't forget about you, though you're awfully quiet. Come up here, dear."

Ahh, but of course. I don't know if Murphy ever mentioned it, but it's always when you feel the most safe when the sword turns towards you.

My nerves seemed to freeze. I forgot how to get my brain to move my legs. They were spiraling.

Tracey turned to give me a dopey, go-and-get-em smile while Claire shook my shoulder.

So slow my bones must've been creaking, I edged out of my chair as if I had just been awaken from years of rust.

"Don't be shy, dear. No judgment, remember?"Mr. Gibbs grinned softly, petting his prey before the pounce.

I thumped down the levels like a hundred-year-old man wearing lead boots. I didn't have to look to see the eyes eating me away.

Candace slid aside to make room for me beside the piano. I couldn't look at Denver, I couldn't. I imagined he was sneering, identical to the Joker, both bobbing like menaces.

"You three ready?" Mr. Gibbs asked, shuffling through a manila folder. "You guys are going to sing a classic. Some Stand By Me anyone?"

Jesus, not this song. As if this moment had to be anymore awful. It had been my Dad's ringtone for two years until he finally destroyed his phone in the wash.

Candace gulped next to me, strangling strands of her cappuccino-colored hair as she passed the sheet music.

Ancient Mayan symbols looked more familiar than the dizzying lines and beady-eyed notes. Since when were there numbers in music? My brain was churning overdrive, and at first I couldn't even find the lyrics. This will not be like last time, you idiot. You absolute idiot.

Just concentrate and sing a bit. No one cares. Everyone else was bad, maybe worse than you'll be.

You don't have to be a spaz, you were eleven then. Eleven. You are older now. Better.

My internal pep talk was interrupted by the steady sounds streaming from Denver's piano.

It's too loud, I wanted to point out, way too loud.

"When the night is cold…and land is dark…." Toby droned, heavy-voiced as if someone was sitting on him.

We're singing now? When did this happen?

"And the moon is the only light you see…" That was Candace now, voice breaking in her nervousness.

There were shapes then there were colors, all spinning in a tye-dye swirl, losing me.

"No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid. Just as long as you…. stand by me."

Together they went, a miserable pair, as they eyed me strangely, wondering why I didn't join in.

I swallowed, taking down my vocal chords, my mouth.

"And darling, daaarling, stand by me. Now, stand by me. Stand by me," They continued higher now, pointedly looking at me. Candace even nudged me with her chicken arms. I wanted to bite her.

"It's your turn now, Lacey!" Mr. Gibbs reminded uneasily from his clipboard. Claire eyes spelled out alarm while indistinct faces turned to each other, whispering. Whispering about me.
Whatever you do, don't look at Denver. Spare yourself.

I couldn't control my sweaty knees from buckling, knocking forward, begging my legs to run. My heart entered emergency mode, going at a marathon pace.

"When the sky…"I squeaked, as quietly as a prayer, "that we look up on….I mean, look upon…"

Nails attacked my sleeves, my face painted red.

Worse. Much worse. I can't do this, everyone I know, there's Denver, Mr. Beautiful hands, I can't do this. Like before, just like before. I can't breathe.

"Lacey? Are you alright?" Someone asked blurrily, a voice above water.

My stomach whirled, sick like a punch, and instinctively I keeled over. Black dots like fat flies fogged my vision. Everything was turning, my head a top. Soon the black was all I could see.

And right then, I guess, is when I collapsed. At least that's what they told me.

Like a shot deer, Max relived in awe to me later.

Like you were dead, said Claire with a gasp. Like you just got hit by a wave, or someone KO-ed you to the ground. Like you were drunk, stumbling to the floor to vomit.

Like you fainted, Tracey admitted with a shrug. But she never really had an imagination.