"Helga, I heard you got into another fight this week." Dr. Bliss said looking up from her notes. Helga laid on the couch playing paddle ball.
"Yeah, so what?" She scoffed never looking away from her game. "Harold made fun of my pigtails so I slugged him."
"Helga, you seem to have been getting into many fights lately. Is there anything different at home?" The doctor asked looking over at her patient.
Helga let out a weary sigh. "Nope, just the same old crap."
"And your school?" Dr. Bliss ventured.
"Same thing there."
"What about Arnold?" the doctor asked finally.
Helga dropped the paddle from her hand in shock. "Arnold?" She asked. "Why would you bring him up?"
Dr. Bliss smiled kindly at Helga. "Well, it seems that the root of some of your anger is your unrequited love for Arnold. Is there anything different there? Remember, you can tell me."
"Ok Doc, get a load of this." Helga said getting up and beginning to pace the floor. "Last week I'm in the lunch line behind Arnold and there's one pudding left as usual. It looks like he's about to tell me to take the last pudding when Lila shows up yapping about how she 'Oh so much' wanted pudding today. So, Arnold takes it and gives it her. That's when Harold comes along making some lame crack about my hair."
"And that's when you hit him?"
"Yup, right in the nose. The big tub of lard went down in one punch, you should have seen it." She said with laughter in her voice.
"Helga, it seems you've forgotten how to handle you anger healthily." The doctor said concerned.
Helga gave an annoyed scowl. "So, what's your point?"
"I have an idea about how you can get your anger out without hitting someone." Dr. Bliss said confidently.
"Without hitting someone?" Helga asked. "Like how?"
Dr. Bliss stood up and walked over to Helga's spot on the sofa. "Remember when you said you write poems to get your feelings out about Arnold? Maybe you should write poems to get your other feelings out."
"Anger poems huh?" Helga said thoughtfully. "I guess I could give it a shot."
"Good." Dr. Bliss said looking at the clock. "Alright, that's all the time we have today, Helga."
"Yup.' The doctor said with a smile. "I'll see you next week, Helga."
Helga hopped off the couch and headed toward the door. "See ya, Doc."
Sitting in the back of Mr. Simmons' class, Helga thought about what Dr. Bliss was talking about. She mostly wrote love poems about Arnold, and that kept her feelings somewhat in check. Maybe writing poems about other topics wasn't such a dumb idea.
Suddenly feeling inspired, Helga took out her lucky purple pen and started writing. It was surprisingly easier than she thought to write even without her muse (Well, not entirely. She still added a line or too about her love.) She let the words pour out of her. For a moment, she was off in her own little word where her word could fly free without the slightest inter-
Hearing the football-headed voice shocked Helga out of her creative trance. Quickly, she slapped a hand over her poem and turned to Arnold wearing her usual scowl. "What is it football head?"
"I was just trying to tell you the bell rang." Arnold said plainly.
"I know the bell rang." Helga snapped. "Do you think I'm deaf?"
Arnold shrugged. "I just thought you didn't hear it."
"I did hear it Arnold-o. Now move so I can get up from my desk."
"Alright, Helga." Arnold said taking a step back. "What ever you say."
The girl just scowled, sloppily collected her things and skulked away. She was so distracted by her embarrassed by the interruption that she didn't notice the poem fall to the floor of the hall behind her.
"I don't know what's up with her." Arnold said to Gerald as the two walked into the hall.
"Arnold, you need to face it." Gerald said in his cool voice. "Helga's just mean. She always was mean, she always is mean, and she always will be mean."
"I don't know Gerald." Arnold sighed, opening his locker. "People aren't just one way."
Gerald groaned and leaned against the lockers. "Here it comes, the 'everybody has some good in them' speech"
"I don't give that speech too much do I?" Arnold closed his locker and the two boys started down the halls. Arnold stopped when he saw a piece of paper on the floor. "Hmm…what's this?" He asked himself.
"Beats me." Gerald sighed as he peaked over his best friend's shoulder.
"The Mask…" Arnold started before silently reading the purple letters. "It's a poem Gerald and…it's really good."
"Just looks like a bunch of words to me." He replied with shrug.
Arnold rolled his eyes and reread the poem. "Just read it Gerald."
He shoved the paper in his friend's face. Gerald took it and grumbled something before reading. "The Mask, by anonymous..."
"To yourself, Gerald."
He went on reading with Arnold anxiously breathing down his neck. "Hey Arnold, is this a poem about Jim Carry or something?"
"No, Gerald." Arnold said grabbing the paper back. "It's about a person who hides their soft, kind center behind a tough façade. I wonder who wrote it."
"Mmmm….Harold?" Gerald guessed half-jokingly. "He does have a gooey center."
Arnold studied the poem some more. "No, it's written in purple. I doubt any guy in our class would use a purple pen."
"What about Eugene?"
Arnold shrugged. "Maybe Eugene, but this can't be his. Remember, he switched to pencils after that pen explosion sent him to the emergency room the other week."
"Ok them, I give up." Gerald sighed. "Just throw it away and let's go shoot some hoops."
"I can't just throw it away." He replied, stuffing the paper in his back pack. "It's someone's personal property. We have to return it."
"What ever you say, buddy." Gerald replied, knowing there was no way to talk his friend out of it. "What type of girl we looking for?"
"Well…" Arnold began thoughtfully. "Someone smart and creative; someone with a deep, poetic soul."
"Deep poetic…" Gerald trailed off. "Are you trying to make me puke?"
Arnold rolled his eyes and the two began to walk off. As they walked, he inspected the poem a bit more. "Something about this poem seems familiar, like I know the author."
"Maybe it's one of the girls in our class." Gerald concluded, bouncing a basketball as he walked.
"Well, then let's make a mental list." Arnold suggested. "First, this person has neat handwriting. Which girls in our class have neat handwriting?"
"Neat handwriting?" Gerald exclaimed. "Arnold, that could be any of them."
"Ok, who have we seen using purple pen?"
Gerald thought for a moment before answering. "Rhonda has all those colorful pens she likes."
Arnold shrugged. "I've seen her use pink, but not purple. What else?"
Gerald peaked over Arnold's shoulder. "Well, who do we know who wears this 'mask' they're talking about?"
"Well, I can think of a few people…" Arnold said, but he didn't say who. One person stuck out in his mind but there was no way this belonged to her. She was meanest, rudest girl in school. She made spitballs during English class and always looked annoyed when Mr. Simmons read those Anonymous poems in class. But then, she did have this kinder, gentler side that he'd occasionally seen. Could it be possible that the same girl who could easily punch out any boy in their class also be capable of writing beautiful poetry?
"Uh, Arnold?" Gerald asked, snapping his best friend out of his daze. "You got that look on your face again. You know the one that means you're daydreaming?"
Was there a day dream? He did vaguely recall something about him and Helga sipping coffee at a poetry slam. Aw well…
"Maybe we'll figure out who this is at school tomorrow." Arnold said stuffing the poem in his backpack.
Gerald smiled and started spinning his basket ball on his fingers. "Cool, but until then, let's shoot some hoops."
That night, Arnold went to bed thinking about the poem. Was it possible that Helga of all people could write it? He pondered this until he slipped into slumber and also into a weird dream.
Arnold took two cups of coffee from the waiter at the counter and took them over to the seating area. Lounging on a floor cushion, dress in a black sweater, pants, and beret (with a pink bow on top of course), was Helga G. Pataki. Arnold, dressed in his own black attire, except for his blue cap, sat down on the cushion next to her and handed her a cup of coffee.
Helga accepted with a smile. "Thanks football-head." She still used his nickname, but this time it was said with a touch of affection.
"You're welcome Helga." He smiled back.
They both took a sip of coffee before spitting it out violently. "God what do they put in this stuff?" Helga exclaimed. "It tastes like stewed gym socks."
"It is pretty bad." Arnold said, nodding in agreement.
They both laughed and turned their attention to the guy reciting on stage. Arnold found himself stealing glances at the girl next to him as she watched the poet with great interest. "So uh, you think he's any good?" Arnold asked shyly.
Helga responded with a shrug of the shoulders. "Eh, he's ok. I mean his metaphors are pretty good but his connection to his poem just doesn't seem to be there. I mean, where's the passion?"
"You know what, you should go up and do one of you're poems." Arnold suggested. "You're way better than most of the people who go up there."
"Are you sure?" she asked looking kind of nervous.
Arnold stood up and held a hand out to her. "Yeah, I think you'd be great."
Helga smiled and took his hand. He led her up to the stage. When she looked down nervously from the stage, he gave her a reassuring smile. She smiled back. He waited anxiously for her to start her poem. She opened her mouth to begin.
"Hey Arnold! Hey Arnold! Hey Arnold!"
Arnold snapped awake, rather annoyed that his alarm clock never seemed to let him finish a dream.
The next day at school, Arnold couldn't stop thinking about the possibility of Helga writing the poem. He kept glancing at her during class, to which she would always respond with a scowl.
Mr. Simmons looked like he was about to make an announcement, so Arnold turned his attention back to his teacher. "Class I would like to make a special mention of a student who got a perfect score on last week's poetry test." Mr. Simmons said holding up a copy of the aforementioned test that had a big star sticker on it. "Congratulations Helga. Your understanding of poetry is truly special. This is going on the bulletin board."
Arnold looked back at an embarrassed-looking Helga. Not noticing his glance, Helga took out a purple pen and began to scribble in her notebook. She had a small, dreamy smile on her face, which was quickly replaced by a scowl when she realized he was staring.
Arnold quickly turned away and looked straight ahead, but his suspicions still remained on Helga. She had a purple pen? And she aced the poetry test? Was that enough proof?
The bell rang, bringing him out of his thoughts. Helga stormed to the front. Arnold leaned out of his seat to catch a glimpse of the paper on the top of her stack of books. He couldn't read it, but clearly saw 5 stanzas written in purple.
It could no longer be denied, he had his mystery author.
"Mom, someone's at the door!" Helga screamed from her room where she was doing her homework. The doorbell continued to ring, accompanied by the occasional knock. "Mom! Miriam!"
Finally, Helga got up grumbling and stomped down the stairs. She peaked in the living room to see her mom asleep behind the couch…again. Helga rolled her eyes and went to open the door. A football-headed boy stood on the other side. "Arnold!" She was so surprised she slammed the door in his face and turned around clutching her locket. After he knocked again, she stuffed her locket back in her shirt and opened the door again. "I mean, what do you want football head?"
"I think I found something that belongs to you." He said handing her a piece of paper.
She swiped it away and read the first few lines. Her poem! Why did he have it? "What makes you think this sappy gobblety-gook is mine?" She asked with a scowl.
"Well, it's written in neat handwriting which I know you have. And then there's the purple ink which I saw you using in class today. And when you walked past me to day you clearly had a poem on the stack of books. And…"
"Ok, ok Sherlock, geez!" Helga burst, cutting him off. "So I have a purple pen and might have been carrying a poem. Big deal! If you really think this is mine then I'll hold onto it, just quit with the 3rd degree!"
"Wait Helga, I this really isn't yours then you should give it back." Arnold said holding out his hand. "I found it so I should return it to whoever wrote it."
Helga looked at his outstretched hand nervously. If kept the poem he'd know she wrote it but if she gave it back, it could fall into the wrong hands. That poem belonged stuffed in the back her closet with the rest of her sappy stuff where it would be safe!
"Well, Helga?" Arnold said, still reaching for the poem.
"Fine!" She finally screamed. "It's my poem! I wrote it! Happy now?" Arnold just looked back at her stunned while she continued to ramble. "So now you know football-head! Now you know that even though I'm the toughest kind in school, even though I walk around scowling and spitting, even though I push people around and could beat up almost anyone in school, I still have this soft, sappy center that likes to daydream and write poetry! There it is football head! I hope you're pleased with you're detective work! Now go, go ahead and tell everyone Helga G. Pataki is a pathetic sap."
Arnold couldn't help but smile. "I don't think you're a sap, Helga."
"You don't?" She asked surprised.
"No, I think it's cool." He answered.
"Cool?" She asked, hating herself for sounding like a parrot.
"Yeah." Arnold said nodding. "I really liked you're poem, and it doesn't make you a pathetic sap. It means you're smart and creative. And, you're poem confirms what I thought all along."
Helga blinked in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"Your poem is about someone who has a good heart but hides behind a tough exterior. That's what I always thought you were really like." He said with a smile.
"Well, don't get used to it, Bucko." Helga replied with a scowl. "It's not like I'm gonna start acting all nice because you read a poem. And if you ever tell anyone this, I'll have to kill you."
Arnold nodded with a knowing smile. "Right, Helga. Well, I should get going. See ya at school." Arnold turned to go. He went down a few steps before casting a smile over his shoulder. "Oh, and Helga?
"What, football-head?" She asked scowling.
"I really liked your poem and if you have any more, I'd love to read them."
Her mind immediately flew to the volumes of poetry she'd written about him; like he was ever going to see those. "I don't know, this poem might be a one-time thing, you know. I was just trying it out, so don't get your hopes up."
Arnold nodded but he had a knowing look in his eyes. "Right Helga, whatever you say."