I sat in the teachers’ lounge of Montgomery Elementary School enjoying my hot cup of a disastrous coffee. It tasted like what I imagined tar mixed with gravel would be. We needed to dethrone the school secretary, Mrs. Kramer, and lobby Dunkin Donuts to build a store in the school. Good coffee and tasty donuts every morning would make teaching more bearable. Especially when I had to deal with evil-spawn children on a daily basis.

I’ve been teaching at the school since graduating college and had been upgraded this year to first grade instead of kindergarten. Okay, it wasn’t that much of an upgrade, but I didn’t think I could handle teaching fifth grade, considering my math skills ended with simple addition and subtraction. And that was usually with the help of a calculator.

My name, Moxie Summers, meant determined or vigor. And I was determined… determined to drink something better than the battery acid Mrs. Kramer called coffee.

“Hey, Triple Titties. What’s up?” my best friend and co-worker Renee said as she entered the teachers’ lounge.

“Don’t be hating on the girls.” I motioned to my chest. “You’re just jealous because God didn’t bestow unto you the greatness of plump breasts, even though you have Miss America good looks.”

“Moxie, your breasts aren’t plump; they take up and entire football field.”

“Perfect. Better for guys to put their balls onto.” I laughed and took another sip of coffee.

Okay, so maybe my name should have meant bigmouthed and crass instead.

Yes, my breasts were big, but they balanced out my size sixteen frame. I thought Renee secretly admired my long red hair and the junk in my trunk. I loved my best friend, but if you blew air on her she’d tip over. However, Renee’s long brown hair, green eyes, and stick thin body weren’t exactly a deterrent for keeping men at bay. Renee and I met my first day teaching, and we quickly became best friends. I was the only child, and Renee was the closest thing I had to a sister. What other person would pretend to be your lesbian lover just to ward off nasty guys who were trying to hit on you? Renee was also a good yin to my yang as we balanced out each other’s personalities.

“And I wonder on a daily basis how Miles puts up with you.” She snickered while pouring herself a cup of crap coffee.

“The beautiful Adonis has no complaints when this Jewish princess rides him like a stallion.”

Renee rolled her eyes and joined me at the table. “It’s because you give him great head.”

“Well, there’s that, too,” I smirked.

“I give the man a lot of credit. After emptying the contents of your stomach on him and asking him about hairy testicles, he still wanted to cuddle up to your Pound Puppy.”

Renee loved that I could conjure up different names for the female genitalia. Pound Puppy, cooch canoe, triangle of heaven, and my favorite, putang.

“Excuse me, but the tall hunk of Miles meat couldn’t resist my charm. Plus, I have a complete weakness for brown-haired, blue-eyed guys. It was meant to be that I upchucked on him. I was marking my territory.”

I did have a heavy thing for dark hair and light eyes. I dated a couple of blonds in my time and freaked out when I saw the lack of pubes they had going on down south. I lost it when I dated a fellow red head. I mean my drapes matched the color of my rug, but on a guy it just seemed wrong.

“I thought peeing on something was meant to mark your territory.” Renee smiled.

“Listen, bitch, it was only the one time and the guy was about to run off with my new bike. I had to protect my property. Not to mention the fact I desperately had to piss, and it saved me from going up to my apartment.”

Renee took a sip of coffee and winced. “But your bike smelled like piss for weeks afterward. Who took a shit in the coffee maker this morning?”

“Mrs. Kramer and her fantastic barista skills.” I gave her a thumbs-up in jest.

“Does she not understand teachers need a healthy dose of caffeine if they are expected to deal with insubordinate students?”

“Put it on the list of gripes for the staff meeting.”

“Right,” Renee scoffed. “Like we’re allowed to say anything at those meetings. Not with the hoochie bitch Amber leading the meeting.”

“It’s like we have our own personal Stalin running the meetings.”

Amber was my elementary school arch nemesis. Scratch that. She was my life nemesis. The bleach blond, orange spray tan, hoebag tried to scheme and plot her way into breaking Miles and me up earlier this year. She used my insecurity about my weight to conspire her way into Miles’s bed. It didn’t work, and I am convinced the bleach she used on her hair must have seeped into her brain and destroyed the few brain cells she had left.

My phone buzzed on the table, and I checked the caller ID. It was Ryan, my other best friend. Ryan and I became tight after I’d shamelessly hit on him at a New Year’s Eve party. I was smashed and could have blamed it on the alcohol, but I took a chance only to find out he preferred large sausages. Another beautiful man unobtainable to females because he played for the other team. It was a sad day for women everywhere.

“Hey, salami sucker.”

“Hey, beautiful Moxie girl.

Ryan and I had a thing about insulting each other during our greeting. It was a sign of love rather than of malice. His voice had a sickening sweet tone he used only when it benefited him the most.

“What do you want?” I asked with an edge to my voice.

“What? Can’t a guy compliment a beautiful lady?”

“Maybe if I had a big beautiful penis, then yes, I would believe you. But since I’m not a gay man, I would say the compliment means you want something, so spill.”

“You know me too well.” He sighed.

“It’s a good thing your boyfriend, and I put up with your shit, or you’d be left to die in a Michael Kors dressing room.”

“That’s not necessarily a bad way to go. Although, it would be in the Top Shop dressing room, not Kors. Listen, I’ve got these tickets for a weekend getaway, and I wanted to invite you, Renee, and your respected loved ones to join Tom and me.”

“Amazing! Where to?”

“It’s a weekend at Sullivan Manor just over into the Wisconsin border. They do a mystery whodunit weekend over Halloween. We all get characters to play, and we have to solve a murder mystery.

I rolled my eyes at Renee as she scooted in closer so she could listen to Ryan’s end of the conversation. “A murder mystery… so it’s all right if I kill you for including me in this stupid idea.”

“Come on, it’ll be fun! We’ll get new identities for the weekend and be all sleuthy.” Ryan whined like a two-year-old when he didn’t get his way.

“Is sleuthy even a word?”

“Probably not. But I need a break from the TV station, and so does my co-worker aka your boyfriend. Plus, it will give Tom the opportunity to bitch about someone else’s cleaning habits.”

“I’ll chat with Renee and get back to you. What’s the theme of the mystery?”

“Murder at a High School Reunion.”

“Ryan, I hated high school the first time around. Why the hell would I want to relive it?”

“Just because you were the antisocial Goth girl in high school doesn’t mean you have to be one at the party.”

“I wasn’t Goth! I just wore a lot of black. It was slimming.” And with that I ended the call, making sure to press the end button with extra oomph.

I wish I could forever erase my time in high school. Memories of braces, perms, and Tommy Sullivan trying to get to second base behind the bleachers clouded my mind. I had been excited a boy was into me. Until I found out Steven Sanders bet him ten bucks and a Twinkie to touch my boobs. If he were smart, he would have asked for the Ding Dongs and the Twinkies.

Renee looked at me with curious eyes.

“Ryan wants us to go to one of those murder mystery parties for Halloween.”

“I’ve always wanted to do one of those!” she said with a squeal.

It reminded me of an Orca whale and a feral cat, and I groaned.

“I guess it’s a whole weekend event at Sullivan’s Mansion in Wisconsin.”

“Oh, I hear it’s totally haunted.”

“I don’t think it’s haunted, but I’m still scared the shit of it. It’s Wisconsin for God’s sake.”

“Why is Wisconsin scary?”

“A state that has too many cows means someone has to slaughter them all, which means there are ghost cows mooing in the fields.”

Renee stared at me for a moment. “Did you talk to your therapist today?”

I flipped her off just before our principal, Mrs. James, came into the room.

“Good morning, girls. Where’s the coffee?”

“Mrs. James, since I think you’re the coolest principal out there, I’ll save you from drinking the sludge they consider coffee.”

“Mrs. Kramer made it again, didn’t she?” She sighed.

Both Renee and I nodded.

“Damn,” Mrs. James hissed. “The woman can organize files like no other, but when it comes to making coffee it’s like she dug up a dead body and ground it into a pot. Are both of you ready for the school Halloween party?”

I was not a fan of Halloween parties. I think it’s because I was traumatized by Rachael McCoy’s Halloween party in the third grade. She made everyone play this game where we had to stick our hands in bags that were labeled things like “brains” and “eyeballs,” when it was just food. I was caught eating the “intestines,” which were licorice rope. The other kids made fun of me for days after.

“Yeah, about that, Mrs. James. I feel like I’m coming down with typhoid fever. I might have to take a sick day.” I moaned and put my hand on my forehead for emphasis.

“Moxie, if you were on your death bed, I would still get you for the Halloween party even if I had to tape your body upright to a pole,” she said.

“But Mrs. James—” I whined.

“Moxie it’s the party or you’re on bus duty all winter.”

“Morning or afternoon shift?”

“Both.”

“You don’t play fair, Mrs. James, but”—I pointed my finger at her—“you’re a worthy opponent.”

“See you ladies later. I need to see about getting Starbucks delivered,” she said, walking out the door.

“See…” I turned back to Renee. “Even our fearless leader needs quality caffeine.”

“Again, good luck bringing that up in the staff meeting,” Renee said.

“I’m not afraid.” I stood and gathered my things. “Amber is like a monkey. I’m sure she’s used to shit being thrown at her.”