180 - sweet
haron's father was upset. His daughter had never been a star pupil, and she did fall in and out of trouble occasionally. A formal demerit was more troubling, however. He was especially irked by the fact that she didn't tell him about it when he picked her up from school. He found out via a message left on the family's answering machine when they got home.
"Sharon, could you come down to the kitchen, please?" he yelled upstairs. He tried to use a stern but neutral voice. He didn't want to let on that he knew. He heard the pitter-patter of footsteps traveling from her bedroom, down the stairs, and finally toward him in the kitchen.
"What is it, dad?" she asked. She looked innocent, but she always looked that way. He wondered if she was really adept at manipulating the perception of adults, or if she really was as she appeared.
"Is there anything that happened at school today that you want to tell me about?" he suggested. Sharon furrowed her brow trying to think of what her father was asking about. Her actions were so cliched that he was now almost certain that this was all an act. Almost.
"No? What?" she asked.
"There's no point in trying to hide it, young lady. I already know. I just want to hear you say it, so come clean," he entreated.
"But, dad! I don't know what you're talking about! Really!" Sharon insisted.
"Something about a demerit?" he hinted, clearly annoyed at his daughter's inability to be forthright. Still, his words did not inspire a sudden remembrance. Sharon thought about her day for a few more moments, trying to match her memory with what her father said.
Her face finally lit up. "Oh, that! I forgot!" she said, boasting, not of the demerit but of remembering it.
"You forgot?" he asked. "That's not something to take lightly, Sharon. You know that if you get two more, you're expelled from school forever, right?"
She nodded in understanding, the gleeful expression wiped off her face. She didn't speak a word, which irritated her father even more. "You're just lucky that your mother is in Dallas right now. She'd be very upset, more than I am."
He spoke the truth. His wife constantly brought up concern over something being truly wrong with their daughter. He had always argued that she was simply a little absentminded, but it was nothing serious.
"So, what happened?" he finally had to ask.
"It wasn't my fault, dad. It was the kangaroo," Sharon sheepishly explained.
Had he misheard her? "The kangaroo? What kangaroo?" he asked.
"You know, the one Grandma Lois gave me when she came back from Australia," Sharon reminded him.
"The stuffed toy?" he asked with an exasperated laugh. "How did a toy kangaroo get you in trouble?"
"Well," his daughter began, "I don't know, really. I was looking at it during class. I know I probably shouldn't take it out in class, but it's so cute. I wanted to keep looking at it, and I just kept staring and staring. Then, suddenly, I stopped, and everything was already done. The teacher was yelling at me."
The look on her father's face was full of disbelief. "Let me see this kangaroo," he said, and she ran off to her room to retrieve it. How had she concocted such an excuse? Perhaps his wife was right.
Sharon reappeared and presented the stuffed kangaroo for her father's inspection. He locked eyes with the toy.