Females at Santa Cruz High School were divided into distinct categories: “babe” or “dog.” They had been since fifth grade, when boys started to notice who was getting tits and who looked like Farrah Fawcett.

By the fifth grade, Rosie Goldstein knew she would never be a babe.

She declared it a relief. God forbid any of those boys should like her; her parents would platz. She was too young to acknowledge that what hurt most was all her friends were. Babes—all those Jills and Julies with their long, straight, blonde hair. Rosie’s was russet and curly, a fact noted but not given importance—so Rosie thought—in third grade. By ninth grade, they all had perfect boobs to go with the blonde hair, and bikini-worthy butts when Rosie didn’t even have a waist. Not in fifth grade, when they took their measurements for home ec. and Rosie’s stomach registered two inches larger than her chest; and not by ninth, when Clark Edgars pushed her from behind in the hallway between geometry and French II and sneered, “Goldstein, you dog.”

Rosie Goldstein lived for stories where the fat girl went away for the summer and came back va-voom. But Rosie Goldstein wasn’t even fat.

Rosie Goldstein was a dog.

Rosie felt a rough rumble in her throat. At the same time, she heard a deep growl, but didn’t put the two together until she saw fear leaking from the corners of Clark’s surfer blue eyes. She growled again, almost able to acknowledge that her rage went deeper than Clark. But Clark would do. Then Rosie Goldstein—vegetarian from the third grade for political reasons—Rosie Goldstein chomped his head off.

He staggered in the hall like a decapitated chicken. Rosie lunged, sank her teeth, and shook him like a slipper. Jills screamed. Julies fled, splotches of red clashing with the delicate pastels of their Gloria Vanderbelt tops. “Oh my Go-od!”

Rosie loped playfully after them, dropping what was left of Clark to nip at their neat butts and pretty ankles. She chased them past Mr. Enrique’s English class and down the main staircase. At the door to Mr. Hurdy’s Social Studies, Rosie paused, arrested by the scent of salt water clinging to a boy’s skin.

Tommy Ray sat alone in the gray-white classroom. He glanced up from his Sports Illustrated to take in the huge, russet hound panting in the hallway. “Whoa.”

Rosie remembered the times Tommy had teased her from the fringes of Clark Edgars’ crowd, but also the times he hadn’t. And Rosie Goldstein padded on all fours to Tommy Ray, rested her triangular head in his confused lap, and whimpered slightly when he scratched gently behind her ears. Which was all she had wanted, all along.

Tomorrow: Part Two. Same dog-time, same dog-channel.