"One of the Girls"
This story is based partly on the premise of the episode "The List," but takes place after the events of that episode. It contains the OC Charlie Pierzynski (see 'The Charlie Arc' for background).
Part 1. The Other List
Charlie May Pierzynski, Fourth Grader and Amateur Ukulele Player, stands on the stage in the auditorium for the fourth grade talent show. Dressed in a cowboy hat, a plaid shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots, she strums her ukulele, closes her eyes, and (in a childish voice with a slightly Western accent) she starts to sing the classic western song, "Home on the Range."
"Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam! Where the deer and the antelope play! Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day! Home, home on the range! Where the deer and the antelope play! Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day!"
Charlie grins and bows the audience-the fourth grade class-claps politely.
Mr. Garrison walks onto the stage and picks up the microphone. "Thank you, Charlotte. That was very nice." He then ushers her off the stage.
Charlie happily walks off the stage and sits next to the boys, smiling expectantly.
"Good job, Charlie," says Kyle politely.
Charlie beams. "Thanks!"
Cartman smirks and rolls his eyes. "Yeah, you rocked that ukulele."
Mr. Garrison clears his throat into the microphone before continuing. "Next we have Clyde, who will be… Wait a minute." Mr. Garrison sighs and looks over at Clyde. "Clyde, remember when I said that burping the ABCs doesn't count as a talent?"
Clyde, who had been walking up toward the stage, stops and looks disappointed. "Aw, crud."
Back in the classroom, the girls are gathered in a cluster. Charlie sits at her desk, doodles a picture of an airplane, and listens as they compliment each other on their talent show acts.
"I just loved your lyrical dance number, Bebe," Red gushes. "You're so talented!"
Bebe smiles. "Thanks! And Wendy, your singing was amazing. I just love Celine Dion!"
Charlie glances up and chimes in from her desk. "Yeah, good job, Wendy. You have a very nice singing voice."
The girls stop talking and look over at her. A few of them exchange looks.
"Um, thanks, Charlie," says Wendy. "So do you."
A few of the girls giggle, and Wendy glares at them. Charlie diverts her attention back to her drawing, and the girls resume their conversation as the tension dissipates.
"It's finished! The List is finally finished!"
The students of South Park Elementary are interrupted from their lunches by the overly-enthusiastic shrieks of Bebe and Lola. The girls squirm excitedly at the cafeteria doors as the entire school turns and stares at them. Most of the students look surprised, annoyed, or even apathetic. But the fourth grade girls respond differently.
"What? Where is it?" gasps Wendy, standing up. The other girls from Mr. Garrison's class also spring to their feet.
"It's in the girl's room by the computer lab," squeals Lola.
The girls giggle and begin to rush out of the cafeteria. As the group walks past the boys' table, Red whispers to Heidi, "I'm so nervous to see who the prettiest girl in the grade is!"
Charlie, who is poking at her food, glances up and watches the other girls leave the cafeteria. She is sitting at the boys' table next to Kyle and across from Butters, but at the very end, almost ready to fall off of the bench. She stares at the now-empty doorway. Meanwhile, the boys all seem to be engaged in their own conversation.
"You're such a retard, Cartman," Kyle sighs, exasperated. "Nuking North Korea is the dumbest thing we could do after nuking China or Iran."
"Jesus Christ, Kyle. You're such a pussy," Cartman sniggers. "I mean, just think about it: a nation, cut off from the rest of the world, mourning the return of the Great Leader to his Palace in the Sky. That Kim Jong-un kid who's in charge now… Honestly, how old is he? Twenty? Twenty-five?" Cartman takes a swig of chocolate milk as the rest of the boys wait for him to keep speaking. Kyle, annoyed, rolls his eyes. Cartman sighs deeply, wipes his mouth, and continues. "So anyway, all we'd have to do is wait until after his bedtime. Then we're fly over Pyongyang and drop a fucking H-bomb on the place! It'll be so fucking awesome!"
"You're such a fucking retard, Cartman," Kyle snaps. "Do you even think before you talk?"
"I actually think Cartman's idea sounds kind of cool," pipes Clyde, taking a bite out of a sandwich.
Charlie, who had been distracted with her own thoughts up to this point, nudges Kyle with her elbow.
"Hey, Kyle?" she asks.
"Do you remember that list the girls made awhile ago? Where they ranked all the boys from cutest to ugliest?"
Kyle doesn't look thrilled to be reminded of that event, but he shrugs and says, "Well, yeah, I remember. It was rigged because the girls wanted shoes."
Charlie rubs her hands together uncomfortably. "Didn't they decide to stop making lists after that?"
"Not permanently," says Stan, who sits on the other side of Kyle. "I'm pretty sure Wendy told me they were just going on hiatus for a few weeks until Bebe got out of juvie."
"Oh," Charlie says.
"Why do you-? Oh, right," says Kyle, glancing over at the cafeteria doors where the announcement had been made just minutes before. "What are they doing now? They'd better not be ranking the boys again."
Charlie shrugs and half-smiles. "It sounded like they were ranking the girls this time."
"You mean from prettiest to ugliest?" Kyle asks.
"I think so." She looks at the doorway to the cafeteria.
"Charlie, having witnessed first-hand the havoc that this kind of list can wreak, I've got to recommend that you just try to avoid it. It doesn't matter what your ranking is; it'll end up screwing with your head."
"You're just telling her that 'cause you know she'll be somewhere near the bottom, Kyle," Craig, who is sitting nearby, says stoically before he continues eating his sandwich. Charlie and Kyle both glare at him.
When the boys (and Charlie) return to the classroom after lunch, the girls are already there. Some of them—Lola, Red, and Bebe, for example—look gleeful, while Heidi Turner and Tammy Nelson look somewhat more somber. Annie Faulk, meanwhile, has her head down on her desk and appears to be holding back tears. Sally tries to cheer her up.
"Don't worry about it, Annie," Sally says, patting her back. "Remember how the boys' list was all mixed up? The same thing might have happened again this time."
"Don't be ridiculous, Sally," Annie snaps. "Now that Wendy's in charge, the list making is completely transparent. If something was going on, we'd know. You know that as well as I do. That list is completely true." Annie sniffles. "I can never show my face in school again."
Charlie listens to this conversation from a few desks down, and she was more tempted than ever to peek at the forbidden fruit of the List. She raises her hand as Mr. Garrison tries to get the class settled.
"Mr. Garrison?" she asks. "Could I use the bathroom?"
Mr. Garrison sighs. "Make it quick, Charlie."
She hops out of her desk and hurries to the bathroom by the computer lab. She glances around a bit before she spots a piece of paper taped to the wall at the end of the row of stalls. She apprehensively approaches it. Gulping, she scans down the list.
She finally reaches her own name, the "i" dotted with a heart, in the very bottom position. She stares at it for a few seconds. The glances down at her hands, then looks up at the List again. It still has her name at the very bottom. She rubs her left arm with her right hand for several seconds as she continues to look at the List.
Finally, she walks over to the sinks and examines at her reflection in the mirror. After five or ten seconds, she looks down, sniffles, and heads dejectedly back to class.
When Charlie enters the classroom, she can tell from the looks on the girls' faces that they had expected her to discover her ranking, and that they all know where she stands on the List. Embarrassed, Charlie shuffles to her seat as quickly as she can. In addition to the girls, Kyle, whose desk is across from hers, appears to suspect that she looked at the List.
"I told you not to look at it," he whispers as she sits down and rests her head on her arms. Charlie turns her head so she's looking the other way. "What'd it say?"
Charlie sighs deeply at turns her head again so she's facing him. Careful to avoid eye contact, she whispers, "Nothing."
"Okay, kids, let's all get settled down," Mr. Garrison says. "Okay. Now, I've got a few quick announcements. First off, don't forget about your math test on Wednesday. Second, I'm supposed to remind you all about the school's Martin Luther King Day dance this Friday. All students are encouraged to attend, and it's being organized by our one and only Token Black."
Token looks surprised. "Me? I didn't sign up to organize it. I'm not even on student council."
Mr. Garrison rolls his eyes and laughs. "Well, obviously you're organizing it, silly. It's the Martin Luther King Day dance, for Christ's sake. With you in charge, I'm sure it will be the hippest, funkiest event this school has ever hosted."
Token stares at Mr. Garrison, but doesn't argue any further.
As Mr. Garrison continues to speak, Sally and Millie whisper to each other. Kyle, who sits near them, appears to be listening to their conversation.
"Looks like someone just figured out she was last on the List," whispers Sally, smiling slightly and jabbing a thumb in Charlie's direction.
"Well, somebody had to be last," replies Millie. "And look at her. She fits the bill, alright."
Kyle looks annoyed as the two girls giggle. Then he glances at Charlie again. She is slumped in her desk, looking and hunching her shoulders up as if to hide her face. Kyle appears to feel sorry for her. Then, as if a light bulb has gone off, he seems to come up with an idea.
After school that day, Kyle visits the Marsh house. He goes upstairs to Stan's room. The door is open. Kyle knocks lightly to let Stan know that he's there. Stan, who was sitting and reading at his desk, looks up and faces him.
"What's up?" Stan asks.
Kyle, looking slightly uncomfortable, asks, "Do you think it'd be, you know, really weird if I asked Charlie to go to the dance?" Stan looks over at him with an expression of mixed confusion and disgust. Kyle doesn't notice, and he continues. "I mean, it wouldn't be, like, asking her out or anything. Just, you know, to go to this one dance thing. I mean, she seemed really upset today, and I thought maybe it would cheer her up."
Stan looks at Kyle with a baffled expression. "Yes, I think it'd be weird."
"Why?" asks Kyle, apparently not anticipating this answer.
Stan sighs. "Come on, Kyle. Think about it. I mean, she's sort of like my sister, for one thing. And she's kind of our friend, which would make it really weird. If you really want to go to the dumb dance with somebody, you should just ask someone else. I mean, no offense to Charlie or anything, but honestly, dude: you could probably do better."
"What do mean?" Kyle says somewhat defensively. "What's wrong with her?"
"I mean, look," Stan says. He holds a hand up at head level. "You've got the kids like Bebe and Bridan Gueermo." He lowers his hand to shoulder-level. "And then you've got the kids like you and me and Kenny." He lowers his hand to around chest-height. "And then you've got the kids like Tweek and Kevin Stoley." Finally, he lowers his hand to just above the ground. "And then you have Pip, and Butters, and Charlie. It's just the way it goes."
"Aw, come on," Kyle argues. "Charlie isn't as uncool as Pip and Butters."
Stan shakes his head in disagreement. "Maybe if she was a boy she'd be on a different level, but she's a girl. And the fact of the matter is that I talked to Wendy, and Charlie's been voted the least popular and the ugliest girl in the grade. End of story."
Kyle frowns, looks at the wall, and crosses his arms. "That's stupid. Charlie isn't ugly, and there's absolutely no reason for her to be unpopular. She's really cool."
Stan stares at him dubiously with an eyebrow raised. "You like Charlie? Seriously? Our Charlie?"
Kyle hesitates for a moment before he rebuts. "I didn't say that. And you're the one who's saying there's something wrong with her."
Stan rolls his eyes. "Well, I'm saying that there's anything wrong with her, per se—just that she's kind of weird, and that there are hotter girls who would probably be happy to go to the dumb dance thing with you."
Kyle looks at Stan with a mixture of annoyance and disappointment, but he doesn't say anything. Stan sighs and decides to tread a bit lighter: "Look, dude, do whatever you want. Just don't involve me, because I don't want to be there when it starts to get weird."
Charlie stands on a stool in front of the bathroom mirror. She stares at her reflection stoically for several seconds. Then she proceeds to change her expression a number of times: she tries grinning, smiling seductively, pouting, smirking, sticking her tongue out, and making a kissing face before she gets frustrated and groans at her reflection. At last, she just looks depressed.
"I'm never going to look like Lola and Bebe," she sighs.
Then she spots Mrs. Marsh's bag of makeup in the medicine cabinet. Glancing apprehensively at the door, Charlie hops off of the stool, gets the bag of makeup, and returns to the sink. After several minutes of trying to apply lipstick, blush, mascara, and eye shadow, Charlie looks more like a circus clown than a model. She is finally fed up with herself.
"God damn this hideous face!" she snaps. "Why can't I be pretty?"