By Chris Picone, 2016.

A familiar tingling raced its way up Jack’s naval cavity, tickling every hair along the way. His head tilted backward and his eyes squinted involuntarily as they started watering. His nose twitched and he quickly pressed his hand to his face, pushing the cartilage up slightly in a vain attempt to stifle the sensation. But there was nothing he could do to stop it. Resolving himself to the situation, he bent down and pulled a handkerchief from the backpack stashed under his chair.

As he bent down his eyes caught Simon’s, who was leaning against the far wall of the room and apparently watching him intently with an amused expression on his face. That bastard knew exactly what was ha-CHOO! Shit. Jack’s hand was holding the handkerchief, but it never made it to his face. He looked at the back of his hand in disgust as snot and spittle slimed its way down his wrist. Worse, he had been trying to hold it back for so long that the sneeze had built up so much pressure that his body had violently tried to expel it from both ends. His nose hurt from the explosion, and so did his arse. It felt like something had just been yanked out of him, without any consideration toward how he might feel about it, and made a tearing sound on the way out like someone ripping a sheet of paper end to end – loud enough that it was easily heard over the sneeze.

The room around him erupted in laughter. Simon was doubled over and wiping tears of joyous laughter from his eyes. The teacher sat on his stool stoically at the front of the room next to the telly, gritting his teeth and pretending that not only was this not the thousandth time he had seen Babakiueria, but that he was completely absorbed by it.

Well, there was nothing to be done about it now. Jack wiped the snot off his arm as well as the bit of spray on the back of the seat in front of him, then dabbed his nose and folded the handkerchief neatly. The laughter had mostly died down now. Jack bent over to shove the handkerchief back in the front pouch of his backpack, along with the two-week-old sandwich and whatever else was in there. He had been meaning to clean it out but couldn’t bring himself to put his hands in with that glad-wrapped ball of decaying liquid that had once been a jam sandwich.

His eyes widened with horror as he rolled back into his seat. The hard plastic pushed his underwear onto his skin, and he felt the one thing nobody ever wanted to feel. The stuff school boy nightmares were made of: A wet patch. He tried to convince himself it was just sweat. He looked around to see if people were still laughing at him. A few still chuckled, but not many. It didn’t smell. Did it?