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A Girl, a Nun, and a Principal Walk into a Cafeteria by Sara Dobbie

Sounds like a joke, right? Girl walks into the cafeteria, the seniors by the door laugh at her. It’s out-of-uniform day, so everyone is dressed up. The captain of the girl’s volleyball team coughs, covers her mouth and says “SLUT!” Girl thinks how ironic, because she’s only been kissed once by a guy she thought she liked because he listened to the same bands as her, but when he jammed his tongue into her mouth under a traffic light near the mall, she shoved him away, and when he called her the next day she made her mom tell him she was out of the country.

Anyway, the Nun says, maybe if you stop dressing like that, they’ll leave you alone? Girl looks down at her black skirt, her thick tights, her combat boots. The nun, who’s not a nun anymore but a chaplain, because she renounced her vows to marry a man who isn’t Jesus, says maybe we should have a talk with the principal. Girl winces while the principal pats her on the head and says just try harder to fit in. Girl doesn’t dislike him but thinks he’s either naïve or stupid. He doesn’t understand that Girl can’t fit in and doesn’t want to.

Nobody knows that next semester Girl will drop out of school, lose her virginity, and run away from home, not necessarily in that order. That people will ask what happened and say she used to be so smart. They don’t know someday a therapist will tell Girl that she couldn’t make friends with other girls because of the patriarchy, because girls are pitted against each other, and don’t even know it. Or maybe it’s because she was repressed; it was the 90’s after all and everybody was still sucking it up and playing it cool and if you got hurt it built your character.

So here’s the punchline, instead of marching over to the cluster of malicious girls and hurling her plate of french fries at them, Girl promises to try to fit in. Then she eats alone in the corner while the principal chats with the malicious girls about volleyball, and the chaplain fluffs her freshly tinted hair and clicks around on her red high-heel shoes.


Sara Dobbie is a Canadian writer from Southern Ontario. Her work has appeared in New World Writing, Bending Genres, Ellipsis Zine, Trampset, and elsewhere. Her stories have been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions and the Pushcart Prize. Her debut fiction collection is forthcoming from ELJ Editions in 2022. Follow her on Twitter at @sbdobbie and on Instagram at @sbdobwrites.

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