We had to give valentines to all the kids, even the ones we didn't like. Somebody in the family said store-bought ones were tacky, so I ended up staying up far past bedtime cutting out construction-paper hearts. Pasting heart-shaped doilies on them. Fingers worn completely sore by the scissors. Stuck together with glue.
No namby-pamby glue sticks when I was a kid. We used Elmer's. Man's glue. Named after a man. Or a steer. Grins at you from the bottle. "Hi, I'm Elmer the steer. They boiled me to make this glue."
So you used Elmer's manly glue to stick together valentines for the other boys in the class. Kind of strange. Do boys give the other boys valentines now? I suppose they've done away with the whole thing in school, just like Halloween. Offensive to fundamentalists to give out valentines, or maybe because of Billy's self-esteem.
Rules of the worst self-esteem-destroying activity: Valentine dodge-ball. The class lines up. Two kids, by popularity vote, choose sides. Valentines are distributed. On either side of the gym the kids aim red rubber playground balls at the heads of the kinds on the other side. You get to take all the valentines of the kids you hit. At the end, the kids with the most valentines get to leave for recess first.
So. You try to make the valentines for the boys boy-like. Happy Valentine's day, you big galoot! Put a truck on there, or some helicopters shooting aliens. Meanwhile, you also have to give them to the girls. Eesh. Maybe it's a good thing the fundamentalists have gotten rid of it. Witchcraft connections? No. It's because the little fat kid with the wings and the arrows is naked. If my kid sees a fat, naked baby with wings and arrows, he's going to ask me questions. And the last thing I want is a kid who asks questions.
Lisa's boyfriend gave her a cat heart in a jar for Valentine's Day. She pretended she liked it. Thought it was a good joke. None of the mushy romantic crap. But secretly she wanted the mushy romantic crap.
Ellen said it was important to get boys to do mushy romantic things and then say no. Thanks for the flowers. Bye. I have to wash my hair. I have to polish my cat. I have a lot of homework. I'll just give these to my mom. She loves flowers. Bye!
Lisa kept the cat heart on top of the refrigerator. First as a joke. Then to remind herself what a dork Jared was. Her mother moved it every week. Said, "Lisa, could you keep this someplace else?" The joke became to sneak the jar back up there and see how long her mom would go before she noticed.
Then Eric knocked the jar off one day when he opened the fridge. He pushed all the pieces underneath and didn't say anything about it. Turned out the thing hadn't been in formaldehyde or anything. Just sitting in water where Jared had stuck it at the end of anatomy class. For a week or more no one could figure out what the smell was. They thought one of Eric's gerbils had escaped again, had crawled into the heating duct and died like the last time.
Eventually the smell went away. It was ten years before the new people moving in to the house pulled out the refrigerator and found the little dried-up thing. They threw it in the trash, but all night long they heard a little pit-pat, pit-pat. And their boy thought he saw a pale cat wandering the halls. But the next day the garbagemen came, and the pale cat never came back.