All Stories, General Fiction

The Year of 13 by Lisa Shimotakahara

When I was twelve I was cute. When I was thirteen I was ugly.

Acne whacked me. The cute me. The twelve me. It happened overnight. It happened so fast that inside I was still twelve. Still wide-eyed and twelve. Still wide-eyed and twelve and oh-so-underprepared.

My friends (friends!) called me Silly Putty. Me, with my shiny, bulbous, pink-colored face. Grinning like jackals, they called me Silly Putty.

How did this happen? Overnight! How did the canyon open? The open canyon. From twelve to thirteen. From cute at twelve to thirteen, bulbous.

Every morning, Silly Putty got up. Silly Putty went to school. Silly Putty braced. 

Braced for the coming Silly Putty snicker. 

I spackled on baby powder. One, two, six layers of powder. The sheen on my face would be less sheenier. For, oh, maybe ten minutes. Then the oil would rise up. Like grease in a gravy boat, rising up. 

I went to see Dr. Shepherd. 

“You have severe acne,” he said. 

Oh really? Oh really? What gave it away??

He wrote on his pad. Tore off the sheet. Placed it in my hand. I held it like a promise.

“These are strong meds,” he said.


“With possible side effects.”

(Bring it!)

Turning to my mother, all serious.

“She may get nosebleeds.”

(Bring it!)

“If this happens, call the office right away.”

Call? No way. I inhaled each pill, swallowing faith. Each pill as fat as half a caterpillar. Go, caterpillar, go. After two weeks, the cysts felt less cysty. Under my searching fingertips, smaller. Then smaller to smallest. Then smallest to gone. Okay, not all gone. But even so, I had, for the first time,


A guy stopped by my locker. Andy stopped by my locker. His skin was poreless. Andy with no pores was leaning against my locker. And he was talking. Talking about someone named George.

“Nobody calls him George,” he was saying. “We call him FAF. Fat As Fuck.” Andy made a snorty snort. He said, “I shit you not. FAF’s even fatter now than he was five minutes ago.”

A snort, this time from me.

“I know,” I said. “And he smells. He smells cuz he’s fat.”

“I know. You can smell his fat,” Andy said.

“The sweat gets trapped,” I said.

“Trapped?” Andy asked. “Trapped where?”

“Inside his folds. His folds of fat.”

Andy doubled over, hooting.

“The sweat can’t evaporate,” I said.

“It’s trapped!” he said.

“Totally trapped!” I said. “It ferments. Ferments like sauerkraut.”

“He’s fermented!” Andy said.


I’d run out of baby powder. After school, I went to the drugstore and bought some more. A big thing of baby powder.

The next day, I waited, I waited. I waited till Andy and Barry and Tiff and Zoe were at my locker. I waited till FAF waddled by. I grabbed the baby powder from my locker, the big thing of baby powder.

“Hey FAF,” I said.

He looked up with a face that said uh oh.

I tossed him the baby powder. I said, “Here, catch!”

He caught the big thing of powder. He looked at me, puzzled. And Andy and Barry and Tiff and Zoe looked at me, puzzled.

“Sprinkle the powder!” I said. God, I was thrilled. “Sprinkle it under your man boobs!”

Oh how we cackled!

And just like that, I was in. Inside the first ring. Inside the first ring of cool.

Lisa Shimotakahara

Image by lindahicks from Pixabay  – Empty high school corridor with a row of lockers with yellow doors

22 thoughts on “The Year of 13 by Lisa Shimotakahara”

  1. Lisa
    From the brilliant opening sentence on you nailed this world as I remember it. Kids who have something “awful” about them are relieved when someone else has it worse and takes the heat off them. Truthful writing not a wish it was sort of thing.


    1. Irene, thank you so much for reading the story and for your appreciation of the “awful” truth about one’s high school experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Irene, I have responded to your thoughtful commentary, but for some reason, it’s not showing up here in the “Thoughts” section. To reiterate, I truly appreciate your comment that the story “nailed it” for you. It means a lot to know that the piece has resonate

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Doug, I like your rhetorical question: Are there any ex-teens that don’t remember? You speak the truth on behalf of so many people.


    2. You pose such a perceptive rhetorical question. I don’t know anyone who was spared the harsh reality of high school. What is “right” or perfect in such an environment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. David, so true about “cool” and “cruel.” How easily teens can flip between the two. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A very true and real life story of how it really is (or at least ‘was’) at school. Short, sharp and to the point, but a genuine insight into growing up that is all too honest and real.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul, I’m glad you felt that the story tapped into something honest and real. As an acne sufferer, it was all too real for me. Thank your for your observation.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really captures the cruelty of our teenage years and reminds me that this ability to be inhumane is always lurking throughout our lives. Thhe writing is economical and has a great rhythm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pandora, thank you for taking the time read and leave a comment on the story. You’re so right when you say that inhumanity is always lurking, even beyond our teenage years.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Lisa,
    I think all the comments have hit the nail on the head.
    You have captured the cruelty and transferred cruelty brilliantly.
    All the very best.


    1. “Transferred cruelty” is a great way to encapsulate what I hoped would ring true for the reader. Thank you for that phrase. ps. Is your name Hugh or Gwen?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So well written Lisa!
    Takes me back to those more awkward years of teenage life. Trying to figure ourselves out, changing and growing! This reminds me of my first year in Canada. Barely a woman, not quite a child – a changing teenager at that! My English was non-existent and I still can feel those harsh words directed from those more educated within the english language. I wish I can find them now and recite my growth to each of them – in english!
    Keep on writing – your words make beautiful stories.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Im they communicated Portuguese, was born in the beautiful islands of the Azores 🇵🇹
        Sent from my iPhone


      2. Tina, you had to overcome a lot of obstacles as a teenager. Much more than most people. I’m so glad you were able to relate to the story.


  6. Cool story, the way it’s structured like a teen girl phone call or maybe a play. Funny in a mean teen way. The ruthless acne years. Pills and baby powder. FAFs and man boobs. The pills worked for her condition. But not for her empathy.

    Liked by 1 person

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