Tommy’s feet barely touched the ground when he returned from his fifth grade class trip. He looked like he was floating along instead of walking like he usually did, casually lumbering like a lost kid window shopping for toys. His gait was so distracting, it took me awhile to notice the impossibly wide-eyed, spacey look on his face. What happened to these kids on their visit to a lakeside camp?
I started my investigation cautiously, “Tommy did you have a good time on your trip?”
His words came out in a wierd mix of excited and dopey tones that went up and down in a sing-song cadence. “Yeeeaaaah. They had games outside.” He stopped talking and stared out the window behind me, his jaw going slack.
I continued with what I thought was another typical, boring question to ease into the details of their trip, “What did you do for lunch?”
“We ate in the cafeteria. I liked their fruit punch.”
“That’s nice. What did you like about the fruit punch, Tommy?”
This time his voice changed to the sound of a freight train speeding down a long, straight section of tracks. “We could pour it right from the machine so we drank as much as we wanted. I had five cups. Then, we had a contest over who could eat the most sugar packets. I put mine in the fruit punch.”
I stifled an urge to curse out loud now that I knew why Tommy seemed so weird. Those kids had a little too much freedom in the cafeteria. Clenching my jaw and readjusting my poker face, I asked, “And how many packets did you put in your fruit punch, Tommy?”
“I only got ten.” Only ten, mixed with multiple cups of sugar-laden fruit punch. It was going to be an interesting afternoon while this sugar worked its way through his body.
“How many packets of sugar did the winner eat?”
“My friend won with 14.” I gulped and started to feel sorry for that poor boy’s mother. She was also going to have an interesting afternoon.