All day long Weird Mary liked to chew and chew on that twig. Christie figured that’s why everyone called her Weird Mary. Christie didn’t know why Mary was weird–her parents were normal and so was her sister–but Christie wondered if watching Weird Mary from the shadows like she did every day made her weird too. But even if it made her weird, she couldn’t stop. Something about the twig, the endless gnawing and gnashing, fascinated her. When Weird Mary wasn’t chewing on the twig, it stuck out the back of her pants at an angle, a slick-wet stick that reminded Christie of a flagpole, only there was no flag.
Christie always watched Weird Mary from behind the old oak in front of the school because nobody talked to her or played with her, not even the teachers who usually took pity and played with kids like her. Even though she dreamed about it in secret Christie couldn’t work up the courage to go talk to Weird Mary herself, not really, so she kept her distance and watched. Weird Mary always sat alone in the middle of the playground on the swing set, the swing set that all the fifth-graders liked to use last year but didn’t use anymore. Even though she was in the middle of everything all the kids left Weird Mary alone. Christie could draw a circle as big as the school bus around the swing set that Weird Mary sat on while she chewed and chewed.
But one day it all changed. Christie was the first kid at school that day so she was the first to see her. Weird Mary was dangling from the old oak tree, a rope tied around her neck. Christie looked up at the blue-faced girl as she swung and swung. Soon teachers and kids and parents gathered around in a great big circle and, for the first time ever, everyone was talking about Weird Mary. The whole thing made Christie feel funny inside, so she broke off a twig–a small one–and hid it in her pocket to chew later.