Backspace Zero

A Short Story

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She reminded me of one of those army generals, the type that has ancient ideas on how things work, operating in an echo chamber. It was kind of surprising she hadn’t incorporated push-ups into our typing class. Miss Müller was a second generation German-American who treated typing class as if it was the single most important skill known to mankind. I shuffled into our weekly class once again, it took place every Wednesday. She had this weird thing where we all had to turn on our desktop computers in order, one by one as we did roll call. We had to do it in order, with a pause between each student, pronouncing our first and last name perfectly. This particular day, she wore a black skirt and a tight-fitting black blouse, exposing just a hint of cleavage. I never said she wasn’t attractive though, she had long blond hair, always worn in a ponytail and always straight, as straight as straights gets.

“All right kids, let’s get things started, we are testing your words per minute this week, Miss Müller said. “I want to see everyone make progress this time.”

We filled our seats, I could sense a nervous energy in the air.

“Roll call, let’s quiet down so we can start.”

Miss Müller began systematically calling out names, almost in a robotic way. Although human, the exact way she said each name and the amount of pause between each student always seemed to be identical. I was up to 83 words per minute, which according to my friends, was impressive. Two seats down sat Becky, she could out type most of us with one hand. We positioned ourselves at the optimal angle and seat height, fingers on the appropriate keys. We were expected to type using all ten fingers.

“All right everyone, we are going to type a number of passages from one of my favorite novels, Huckleberry Fin,” Miss Müller said. “Remember, do not use the backspace key, every error means starting over. It is a lesson, not only about typing, but also about life. One that you will appreciate when you are older.”

The group let out a loud groaning noise, almost in unison. We all knew the rules and had known them for months, yet we still acted surprised that we could not use the backspace key. In an age where a cell phone is literally glued to our hands, this seemed impossible, like placing a large red button in the room and telling us not to press it. Miss Müller had this innate ability to hear the sound of the pressing of the backspace key, almost like it sent her an electronic shock or signal whenever someone pressed it. Determined to not get in trouble again, I began moving my fingers across the keyboard, they worked together seamlessly to complete a number of passages. I nearly completed the 500-word test when I pressed it, without meaning to. I pressed the backspace key. The undisturbed flow was interrupted by this unfortunate event.

“Stop,” Miss Müller said as she stomped over to where I was sitting. “Back away from the computer right now and explain yourself.”

“I — I didn’t mean to, it just happened.”

“Go to the office right now, you are kicked out of my class, I will not stand for this,” Miss Müller said with a cold stare while both her hands were placed firmly on her hips.

“Fine,” I said as my cheeks began to redden.

I left the class after deciding it was not worth getting angry over, another episode began brewing in my stomach. My parents had spent too much for therapy for me to go and ruin it over the backspace key. I trudged over to the office to await my punishment and began imagining having to explain to my parents why I had been suspended. It would not go down well. The principal gave me a one-day suspension for “failing to adhere to class rules”. He made it seem like I had committed an actual crime, one against humanity. I made my way through those grey barrens halls with colorless lockers and posters for upcoming events, blood drives and other charity events, with my bag, flung over my shoulder, weightless with no need for books. As the warm outside air hit me in the face, I decided Miss Müller was going down and I knew just the person for the job.

I spend the next few hours hanging around the track just outside our school. Various sports activities were being held there by different classes, each showcasing girls at different stages of development in short shorts and shirts, occasionally flashing small hints of cleavage or a quarter of a butt cheek. Although I appreciated what was on display, my aim was to kill some time until school was over so that I could talk to Craig about these unfortunate events. I spotted him while he walked, with great confidence, towards his 94’ Camaro.

“Yo, Craig!,” I said. “I have another adventure for us to go on and I need your investigative mind.”

“Ohh man, I am always down for one of your famous adventures,” Craig said. “Did you see Megan’s legs today in that skirt?”

“I can always count on you, bro,” I said. “Best legs at Northridge High.”

“I swear I’m going to marry her one day, or at least her legs,” Craig said.

We drove over to the library in Craig’s Camaro, challenging a number of cars to mini drag races at red lights. He had a strong desire to prove that his car was the fastest in town. I had never seen him lose. It was rather odd going to the library, as neither of us hadn’t opened a book in quite some time unless the interviews in Playboy magazine counted. We spent the next few hours trying to dig up information about Miss Müller, hoping for something embarrassing. You would expect that this process consisted of focused and determined hard work behind the computer, but rather it turned into a frenzy of watching random comedy videos about babies and cats and sometimes looking up her name on various search engines. Before I almost forgot why we were these in the first place, Craig found an interesting lead.

“Miss Müller is a stripper,” Craig said with a lit up face like a kid in a candy store.

“No way, it can’t be her,” I said. “That is just too good to be true.”

“Look, she’s the main act at Vagtastic Voyage.”

We burst out laughing, disturbing most of the serious researchers around us. Before the library staff realized we were frauds and threw us out, we bolted out of the doors, giggling the entire way. We knew what we had to do. Infiltrate the strip club, snap a few embarrassing pictures of her and show them to the entire school. One problem, which we realized quickly, was our age. We were a year shy of strip club entrance age.

“Don’t worry about getting in, I have some money stashed away that we could use to bribe one of the doormen in the back,” Craig said with the confidence of a young man who had it all under control.

His confidence was enough for the both of us. Craig’s parents were loaded so I did not feel any guilt in allowing Craig to take care of the admission to the club. We decided that tomorrow would be the day, our day of glory and retaliation. I laid in the made up bed at Craig’s that night, thinking of breasts and what they would look like in real life. The only ones I had seen were on the internet and the millisecond hints of those from the girls at school. Not only was I taking important steps in getting back at Miss Müller, but I was taking a small but crucial step in the journey to becoming a man. Sleep evaded me for hours, I felt nervous even just laying in bed.

We headed towards a local corner shop the next day, it was a faded yellow color with a red logo that was missing two letters. I helped Craig pick out cigarettes that made him look older. Craig looked exactly like a seventeen-year-old should look and not a day older or younger. We decided on Camels, because of James Dean. I decided to stay over at Craig’s for a few days while the dust settled and my parents cooled down. They would be receiving the news of my suspension anytime now.

We raced back to Craig’s house to chill and pass the time, we figured night time was the easiest time to get into the strip club. The night turned into smoking weed, playing video games, bragging about what girls we had kissed and we tried on clothes that belonged to Craig’s father. He was GI who was killed in the war, but his clothes fit both of us perfectly. About an hour before leaving to go on a mission of our own, we drank some scotch, hidden away in the house. Craig suggested we needed the confidence and admitted he had never seen a real pair of breasts before either. The drive to the strip club was uneventful, we passed many decrepit houses as we headed to the west part of town. As we approached the establishment, I realized this was most likely the least popular of the two strip clubs in our small city. The parking lot had just three cars in it. As we approached the club, my nerves began to take over to the point where I began sweating profusely. It took all I had to compose myself as we approached the bouncer, who looked surprised.

“Hello gentleman, come on in.”

No struggle, no bribes, no problems. The entrance was dimly lit and we enter through red curtains, old and covered with gold tapestry. The inside smelled exactly as I imagined, of body odor, sex and makeup. At the height of its popularity, this club would have been great but it appears that time has long passed. The three large podiums had been reduced to one. Two podiums lied there, covered by cloth and collecting dust. I wondered what happened to the strippers who once danced there, did they also wither? We proceeded to the bar and each ordered a coke. The bartender seemed suspicious and asked if we would like a whiskey instead. She was in her 40s with the body of a 20-year-old and boobs aggressively peaking out of her silky red outfit.

“We can’t drink yet, a coke is fine,” I said.

“In here you can baby, there are no rules,” the bartender said. “This is where all your sins and desires are imagined.”

I hesitated and Craig ordered us both a whiskey.

“This your first time?”, the bartender said. “My name is Misty.”

“Of course it is,” said Craig. “Third time and our names are Steve and Jack.”

“Veterans it seems,” Misty said. “Well, enjoy yourselves and do stay for the main act.”

“Thank you,” I said. “We fully intend to.”

The next show began and featured a woman wearing ponytails and reenacting one of Britney Spear’s early music videos, the one where she’s a school girl. I realized stripping looks a lot more glamorous on TV or perhaps in high-quality strip clubs. Although the production value was lacking, the strippers were beautiful fully grown and curvy women. The girls at school had nothing on these women. I scoffed at the idea that I got excited watching the girls run around the track during PE just a day ago. Perhaps I could become a regular here, they would call me by just my first name and I would order the usual form the bar. Whiskey with no ice. Various women got onto the stage as the time passed. Their performance was seen by about eight of us. There was a man in a suit who tipped with twenty dollar bills and an older man who barely tipped at all. It seemed that the ladies loved both the same, or it was all part of the act. There was a certain sense of sadness in the eyes of the strippers as if that money was everything to them. We enjoyed the show in silence, positioned just behind most of the regulars, as we approached the final performance, which felt like it was the sole reason this club was still open.

She moved in a way that made me forget about all the nonsense in typing class. Hell, it made me forget about the women who came just before her and all the girls in school. All those times I could have easily fixed the sentence by using the backspace key. I wished there was a backspace key on life and we were back at Craig’s house getting ready so I could witness her entering the stage for the first time once more. We were committed to the plan to snap a picture of her in her most vulnerable state. The original plan to do it while she was on stage would never work, the crowd was too small, our movements too conspicuous.

“Craig?” I said. “I can’t get a picture, you need to get a lap dance from her and take the picture.”

“Ye-, yea, after this dance.”

Craig seemed even more mesmerized than I did, his face barely hinted towards any sign of obedience. Her performance lasted for about twenty-five minutes and we were introduced to dance moves and movements on that pole which seemed alien to us. She tamed that pole like some great snake frozen in time, unable to pounce. It was hard to believe that she had been hiding that perfect body all that time beneath dress code clothing fit for a conservative teacher. By the time her routine was over, most of the men in the room had stood up and gave her a standing ovation. The stage was covered in green. George Washington’s, Abraham Lincoln’s and even a few Benjamin Franklin’s laid upside down and right-side up all over the stage. Miss Müller walked to the front where the rich man was sitting, jumped upon his shoulders with both legs and constricted him, making his neck a temporary pole. The small crowd reacted with a great cheer. We remained unnoticed and completely frozen in the moment.

The following week, school resumed as normal. My parents had scolded me and my dad threatened to send me to military school if I acted up again. I was glad to go back to Miss Müller’s typing class and ready to ignore the backspace key forever. Craig and I decided that fateful night in the strip club that it simply was not worth it. Revenge was best served cold, but that night in the strip club made up for everything. We went back many more times that summer and I got up to 153 words per minute. Miss Müller said it was a miracle. She was the miracle.

The End


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