I Know A Secret
This is a new fiction blog. I know it's another one, but Blogspot lets me have as many of these as I like, so it begins again....and who knows where it will lead. This blog is dedicated to the good folks on The Chronicle of Higher Education's Job Seeking Forum. You are the best. To return to the Unfettered Soul click here. To return to the main front page click here.
I've decided to set up a solo blog rather than a role play because I want to make sure this character has a real first class home. She was an attempt on two role plays. I created her in my head and held her out as a reward to write her up when I returned from a job interview a couple of weeks ago. The board on which she was going to star, died. I created her a second time a few days ago to go here, but Invisionfree is having trouble with the server that houses the board. Seeing a character who wants to be born and can't seem to get born has to be a sign of some kind so here is the place and now is the time. Let the tale begin.
Well this blog will need a new introduction soon. It has a nice decorative scheme and it also has a backfile for older posts.Chapter 15 -- Super Electric Weenie
"Everybody, stay in their room!" bellowed Uncle Bill whose booming voice roused me from groggy sleep. The clock radio on the night table said 6:00am. &quto;It's happened," I thought and I missed it. I bolted out of bed and opened the door of my room. "Uncle Bill ssays we have to stay in bed," Leilanni informed me. "Fuck Uncle bill," I thought.
Then I saw it. There was no hole in the fake wall that sealed off our end of the corridor in the Dorchester. Instead, there was a red headed man in an embroidered white shirt sitting on a tall stool, sitting guard. Tapati never had a chace or else she got caught before she could make the first cut. I stepped out i nto the hall.
"Go back to bed," said the guard. I ignored him and knocked on Ymi and Tapati's door. "Come in," I heard Yumi's voice. I opened the door to see lights on and Tapati lying on her back like a coorpse. I wondered how to ask her what had happened.
"I'm sorry," I told her.
"My guide says patience, remember," she answered me.
I turned to whisper in Tapati's brown ear. "How close did you get?" I asked.
"I've been in bed the whole time," Tapati answered.
"You didn't even try?" I whispered again.
"There's a medical emergency tonight," she said.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Just then Uncle Bill appeared in Yumi and Tapati's doorway. I had to go back to my room now. We were not only under lockdown but also a medical emergency. "Who got sick?" I asked.
"Taylor tried to kill herself," said Leilanni. Don't ask me how she knew this. I could see a light shining from under the connecting door. "Don't open that" Leilanni begged me. I slowly opened the connecting door. That was how I saw Taylor sitting on the end of one of the beds with her arm bandaged and her nightie stained with bright red blood.
"Taylor is a dumb fuck," Mandi explained from her seat on the other bed.
"You're the dumb fuck," Taylor replied. "You don't care if you're trapped in this goddmamned prison forever. It may look nice, but it's just a prison."
I glanced at Taylor's wrist which was not bandaged. On it was a red bracelet. It hit me slowly. Taylor had tried to cut the surgicly implanted jammer out of her arm. "Life sure sucks doesn't it," I said to Taylor and Mandi and any one else.
"Only if you're an idiot," Mandi answered. "Taylor was going to leave her rabbit."
"You would have taken care of it," said Taylor.
"Your'e a stupid spoiled twrip, you know that Taylor," Mandi commented.
"And you're so stupid you have shit for brains. The stuff in the bottom of the bunny cage has more intelligence than you," Taylor answered.
"Well you never lived on a farm," said Taylor.
"And you have?" Mandi asked.
"Fuck yes, and we had sheep and cows. You know what they do with cows when they get tired of them and sheep when they are big enough....Up they go right into the turck and you know where that truck takes them. It's a wone way ride. I'm no fucking sheep!" Taylor raised her bandaged arm. She must have cut hrself badly; for I could see blood coming through the bandages.
I was a bit sick of Taylor and Mandi's fighting so I left them to fight withou an audience. I found Leilanni fiddling with the remote control. All the television brought in this morning was static. It was still dark outside. It looked as if it had rained. I crawled back under the covers taht wasere still a bit warm and dozed off until I again heard pounding at my door.
This time I leaped out of bed and cried "What is it?" Aunt Jodie boomed back that there would be a meeting in her room at 8:30am. It was now 8:20am and the sun had dawned behind grey clouds. I got dressed and straggled in to the meeting late. Taylor sat numbly on the floor cradling her bandaged arm. Tapati had a sweater over her saalwar khameez. The two dogs howled. Aunt Jodie explained that we would be on lockdown in the area behind the fake wall until after the first of the year. We would not go down into the rest of the hotel to eat. We would no longer be allowed outside at all. I listened and looked at Taylor who looked away from me.
Aunt Jodie then handed out slips of paper. We got three at a time. On each slip we were to fill out what we wanted for breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner for a specific day. We could have anything our hearts desired. "Like the condemned man's last meal" I thought as I stared at the cards. I thought of the dinner that Harva's mom made her daughter, Phedre, and me back in New Jersey. What was going on in New Jersey this night; for it was still night there? Aunt Jodie said she'd want our first menu slip in an hour. She dismissed us and I staggered back to my room. Leilanni toyed with her menu slip. I made up my mind to ask Uncle Bill and Aunt Jodie if it would be possible to still write to my parents and receive mail from them. Being the daughter of employees of this whole ugly scheme had its advantages. I could still stay in touch with Harva and Phedre. I realized I needed to feel very grateful. I also had menus to fill out.
# posted by ZOIDRubashov @ 1/27/2006 10:11:00 PM
Chapter 14 -- Great Group Spirit
Replacing Zhenya with Ware, was good for me in so many ways it was not funny. First now that I had what most people, except those with surgical jammers implanted in their arms, had I could think straight about what I wanted. Ware was helpful in this but mostly it was my doing.
I started thinking: "What does Koru Senecoff want?" The answer was easy. First, I wanted to finish my education, at least to get through high school. If I stayed stoneless and went to the boarding school some time after the big day on the twenty-sixth, I would be fine. Sometimes it is nice to have a goal you can reach by doing what you are told. Second, I wanted to stay in contact with my friends. That meant we would need a backup system of communication should the internet either go down or be disrupted, and anything could happen after Boxing Day.
Then I was also oddly grateful to my parents for sending me to England. I had been angry about being sent away because I missed my friends, but I was now going to be able to back to school, while my friends would have to scramble for whatever home schooling parents would provide. I also realized I hadn't written my parents all week.
That was why I told Tapati we were hitting the cybercafe in Earl's Court first thing after breakfast Wednesday morning. She went along with it and sat silently on a chair while I did my emails. It was not until I was at the ATM and then on my way to the tube station with Tapati to realize she had never once sent an email to her mom or even bought a postcard for her. "How come you don't write your parents?" I asked Tapati as we rode on the tube towards Camden station where there was a market and a zoo. I did not have the heart to go ice skating though now that we both meditated, I could watch Tapati as I circled the rink and we'd probably go back to the gardens to have at least one skating session tomorrow. Today was the zoo and shopping and just roaming around to eat and bring back snacks.
If Tapati wanted something different, she'd have to speak up. Her passivity got me some times. It wasn't really passivity. Tapati was through with a world that was going to crumble in a matter of days. Tapati was ready for the new. She talked about it some times when I prodded her. Today though she only answered: "Why should I write my mother?"
"Because she needs to know you arrived safely," I said which was a dumb cliche of an answer. "She knows," groaned Tapati. "The counselors would tell her if it were different," Tapati took me literally. "Yes, but don't you have something to say to your mom. I mean there's going to be no school after the twenty-sixth, no more Madeira but there will be school for us," This was my rationale. I didn't think it was Tapati's except she didn't impress me as a slacker.
"This is prison for me," Tapati burst out. "Don't you get it? No you don't," she sighed.
I got it. "There on moratorium until the twenty-sixth," I told Tapati. "Who?" she asked. "The living people who run this whole new world business. If you get a stone today it will be worthless and once we hit the twenty-sixth, they'll lock us behind that electrified barrier that is a fake wall and surround us with jammers and they'll only let us out when there is a safe way to get us to the school and there will be jammers and barriers there." I did not find that comforting but thought of it as a necessary evil, a price to be paid for what really mattered.
Tapati said nothing. "My guide tells me to be patient. He says I'll find a way out," she said softly as our train pulled in to Embankment station where we had to transfer. I was thinking of things my dad had taught me. I thought of what he had showed me a few weeks ago, the illusion machine to be used for buses and indoor transitions. The door was an illusion field strung on some kind of membrane with a wooden door hanging in it. It was not solid but it was not just an image either. To walk through it without the swipe card, meant one would probably have to cut the fence and to cut an electrified fence with metal..."Yikes!" I thought. Of course there was a way around the problem.
I did not say anything to Tapati as we toured the zoo. It waas well into th eafternoon when we got to the markets and I had to ask several times before we got good directions to a hardware store that was the right kind of a hardware store. In the end we rode the tube several stops to the electrical supply place and Tapati spent more than she thought was right for a pair of thick rubbarized gloves and a large sturdy pair of sheers. The old man in the hardware store somewhere in the London suburbs looked somewhat surprised when I asked him where I could find some needle point supplies.
"We have very different hobbies," I explained. The man did not know but a woman in an off license did and we hiked over a wintery hillside to a shopping center and then went to a cafe to eat those very good British sandwiches. Tapati did not think them so good. "You should have been born here," she said toying with her chicken salad. I ate my usual smoked salmon with the works which they call salad in Britain.
I bought tons of needlepoint supplies, so many that I asked Tapati to kick in the rest of her funds. We were nearly broke, but I told Tapati not to use any ATM's in this part of London. "They can trace your purchases and we don't want them to know you were here," I explained. We had our tube passes and we rode all the way back to King's Cross to cover our tracks and find an ATM.
Tapati asked for dinner at the hotel, but I said "No." We'd eat out in the Docklands tonight and then head toward the Monument station and pick up more snacks. I wanted us burdened down with tons of stuff tonight. Since I shopped for one thing or another fairly regularly, it was doubtful that Aunt Jodie or Uncle Bill would inspect my packages.
We had a lovely dinner in the Docklands or at least I enjoyed the fish. Tapati again ate chicken. She was addicted to the stuff. She said the food gave her a headache. We got in forty minutes past curfew which was not good. Uncle Bill asked us what we bought and I showed him the food and the needlepoint supplies. He said I was thinking ahead and that was good. There would be several days of lockdown after the twenty-sixth.
I figured as much, and the thought did not alarm me. I had taken care of my parents and thanked them as I should. I had taken care of my friends. Both Phedre and Harva knew to give any mail for me to my parents who would forward it via Fern and the other coworkers who swarmed all over the workshop. I had taken care of business. I had even repaid Tapati.
Once Yumi had gone over to visit Claudette and Carla and closed the connecting door, I gave her the shears and gloves I had smuggled in buried under the needle point supplies. "Shit," sighed Tapati. "Your guide is right," was all I said back. The walls in the Dorchester after all had ears.
You can ask me if you like why I didn't feel guilty about helping Tapati. You can ask why I did not worry about her parents, well actually her mother. Her father probably knew all about where she was and what she was up to and in to these days. I am not sure even now except I felt a need to pay off my debt. Tapati was not Phedre or Harva but I felt somehow more complete once I had a sponsor or guide of my own. That deserved pay back.
And did I worry, that others would escape through the hole Tapati made? I thought it might be a great idea. After all, these were not my friends' younger siblings. My own younger siblings were naturally blessed. Also rescuing people was a thankless task. I thought of Chaim who put a piece of ski pole through Phedre's cheek.
Thursday was the day for ice skating in the afternoon which meant a short run to the cybercafe in the morning. I wished that Tapati would bid her mother farewell even in a fairly cryptic email but she was Tapati. She was no different than before I gave her the tools she'd need to escape. She meditated while I circled the rink thinking of how soon all of this would be gone. That started to make me very sad.
I thought of Phedre and Harva on vacation, both knowing there would probably be no school to which to return. Harva had started collecting used books when she went shopping with Phedre's parents. Phedre too had started putting together a somewhat academic collection. Phedre in her emails said this made her mother laugh. I wondered if it was nervous laughter. Phedre's parents had to know something was going on. Everyone around me had to be sensing it even in London.
Thursday afternoon we went to the Tate Modern. Tapati asked me if I wanted to meditate and we found an isolated padded bench so I could have some time with Ware. I was not sure I would miss him come the twenty-sixth. I just had the feeling I would see him again soon enough.
We had dinner that night in a large cafe where Tapati could eat roast chicken and I could get a Middle Eastern plate. After dinner we hit the cyber cafe one more time before walking back through Hyde Park. "What do you do live there?" asked Tapati as we emerged into the night. We had half an hour until curfew and would make it in plenty of time. "After Monday all that communication is going to shut down," I said. &qout;You'll miss it," complained Tapati. "I know," I told her.
Friday, I got us lost on the tube for the first time since our stay in London began. It was in the afternoon after a morning at the British museum. We found ourselves heading for Edgeware. I suggested we just stay on the train and see what happened. I felt tired or maybe it was the tiredness of knowing that there were only three days left, two if one didn't count Christmas which fell on a Sunday.
That was how we found the synagogue. It must have been an orthodox one because men and women sat on different sides. Tapati and I sat next to each other and shared a prayer book that had an English translation. I realized that even though I had been born Jewish and both my parents were Jews, I had never sat in a synagogue before. Well the service was boring and it was in another language and the prayers were repetitive and....The memory hit me like a sock to the stomach. It was a different synagogue. I sat next to a different mother. I was younger because in that life, as Libba, I never lived to be fourteen.
A few snowflakes danced in the darkening sky as I stood on the synagogue steps. A man with a thick black beard wanted to invite me to his home for shabbos dinner. I checked my watch. I told him I had to be back at the Dorchester in two hours. He said they did not serve kosher food at the Dorchester. I did not tell the gentleman that pork and Chinese vegetables was one of my favorite restaurant meals.
We went to the man's house and stayed long enough for bread, some kind of chicken soup with Chinese noodles and boiled vegetables and boiled chicken on the side, home made gefitle fish which Tapati wouldn't touch and salad. Poor Tapati, she ended up eating snacks for supper. The jammers over my bed could not keep out the memories that were roiling up inside me. I couldn't make sense of all of them as I lay in bed and Friday became Saturday.
The cybercafe was unusually crowded Christmas Eve day. I had to wait to get a machine and wish Phedre, Harva, and my parents and siblings a happy holiday. That done, I told Tapati it was time to ride the Eye. We waited close to an hour to ride the giant ferris wheel and when we did ride it, most of the view we saw of London was grey "You have your own way of saying goodbye don't you?" Tapati asked me as we rode the tube to where we would get dinner. I liked Gabby's Delli or wanted to try it. Vegetarian food had no appeal to Tapati whom I learned had fairly narrow tastes. I found a sandwhich shop where she could get what she needed and we brought our take away back to the Dorchester, arriving back early.
I dreamed of skiing that night. I dreamed that my whole family and all the younger siblings and Harva's and Phedre's families were all taking the big blue chair lift to the top of the old Vernon Valley side of Mountain Creek. I dreamed I was much younger and got pulled under a chairlift. "How many times had that happened?" I wondered as I awoke in the darkened room. It had happened a lot. The memory left me sad. Was I finally homesick?
Christmas Day we all ate dinner in the hotel. Most of the rest of the world was closed but not Hyde Park. This was my last freedom and my last walk. Tapati stayed behind this time. I did not care. I missed her but not all that much. The ATM's worked but the cyber cafe was closed. In a week I learned how to use the currency. Now there was not much it would buy. I found an open take away and bought a Pepsi. I sat on a bench in Hyde Park drinking it. I thought of skiing and school and ice skating and Harva's family and I hoped Chaim hadn't returned and that Ligeia, Phedre's little sister, wouldn't disappear tomorrow.
There were DVD's to watch Christmas night in Aunt Jodie's room and I sat crowded around the set. Uncle Bill thanked me for keeping the snack area well stocked. He said I had great group spirit. I checked my watch. When midnight came nothing happened, but of course it didn't. The revolution was based out of Washington, DC most likely, and that was five hours behind London time. I glanced at Tapati who sat watching the DVD quietly.
I glanced at Uncle Bill and Aunt Jodie who sat unflinchingly and quietly content before the large screen TV. I thought of Fern who admired my squid and took me out to buy yarn and who told me I would like England. I thought of Kimba who smoked cigarettes outside my father's workshop. I thought of the conversations going on across thin walls. Well they'd all get theirs tomorrow, those who thought they could disrupt everyone's life but their own and their children's. I pictured our little protected nest emptying out like a bathtub with the drain open. The thought pleased me. Of course without a stone, I would have no where to go so I'd get stuck and take the blame, but it was too late to worry about that now.
# posted by ZOIDRubashov @ 1/15/2006 01:40:00 AM
Chapter 13 -- Down for the Count
I decided before breakfast the next morning that Tapati was blowing billows of hot air. My reasoning went something like this: First, I was doing fine without a stone and since my ambition was to stay stoneless, things were fine as they were. Second, there was no point in having good relations with a spirit guide if I was not going to get a stone. Third, to start dreaming again, I would have to fall asleep in the day time in a public place outside the hotel. That was a fantastic way to get your bag stolen and important papers stolen and to end up without stone and with a red bracelet to boot.
Tapati insisted on breakfasting with the rest of the group in the Promenade Tuesday morning. The place had a big menu and a buffet with both English and I guess Continental European treats plus eggs cooked to order and plenty of hot tea. I settled on beans and wheat toast. The toast was cold but the beans were warm. Tapati ate a pastry. She sat across from me at a table she shared with Mandi and Taylor who were talking about shopping and sending postcards home. Poor girls, I thought. The cards would never arrive. The mails were going to collapse in a week and if it took more than a week to send anything home, that was it.
Tapati and I took our leave of Uncle Bill and Aunt Jodie and the rest of the bunch around 9am and headed around and through Hyde Park again. It was threatening rain, and there was a chill in the air. It reminded me of spring conditions for skiing back home in New Jersey. We hit the ATM's and went into the Earl's Court tube station for the ride that would take us to Kew Gardens which was nearly all the way to Richmond. London, I was beginning to learn was one very sprawling city.
"Well are you going to try it today?" asked Tapati brightly as the train rocked me like the train that goes all over the world. Is there really such a thing, I wondered. "No," I wanted to cut Tapati off now and the moment I said "no" I regretted it. I rather liked Tapati or maybe I just wanted to like her. I was not sure. I still am not sure.
Tapati said nothing and I did not give my explanation about the uselessness of stones, red bracelets etc... Most of the outdoor exhibits at the gardens were half dead. That is what happens when you visit a garden in winter. The greenhouses were like steam baths, at least the tropical ones like the Princess of Wales conservatory. We found an ice rink in the temperate house but Tapati did not skate and I had left my skates in my hotel room. I made a note that I wanted to come back for skating. I decided that I would definitely do that if Tapati got on my nerves. She wasn't on them at the moment.
I was glad to get out into the fresh air again. We visited the rhododendron, winter, and finally bamboo gardens. Yes, you can grow bamboo outside in London. Tapati asked me if I liked biology. I said I liked biological illustration. "Biology gives me inspiration for my art," I explained. "You're an artist?" Tapati asked me. "I do fabric art, needle point, sewing, knitting, crocheting. My father wanted me to learn something I could do with my hands." Tapati did not reply. Was she thinking of her own dead father?
We walked a few blocks from Kew Gardens looking for something to eat. It was near lunch time. We stopped at Pret a Manger where Tapati ordered a soup and salad of some kind. She ate chicken and avacado salad. I thought Hindus were supposed to be vegetarians, but Jews aren't supposed to eat pork either and Tapati had eaten that last night too come to think of it. I had a smoked salmon sandwich and Pepsi bought from another store. I wanted a Dr. Pepper but maybe they did not sell it in England. We ate silently. Maybe Tapati liked the gardens. Maybe she didn't.
The mall at the Docklands bored her to tears and the train ride out there did not do much for her either even though I thought the Docklands Light Railway was totally spiffy, a queen among trains. I enjoyed walking among the buildings by the edge of the river. I hadn't grown up near water, and the novelty was terrific. At some point Tapati complained she was tired. She said she was glad the rain had held off as we made our way to some benches near an apartment complex.
"Don't go to sleep on me," I warned Tapati half playfully. I stared out at the water of one of the canals that is part of the Thames. London is really a harbor on a river. I pondered that and thought of all the ships coming in and out with people and freight and the longshoreman or whatever they call them in England who worked the docks and the men running the stores that served the dock hands and women hanging up clothing to dry between tenement buildings in alleys and my mother scrubbing the floor in advance of shabbos.
I must hvae been very young. I remembered standing in the living room or parlor watching her. There was a huge tiled stove in the living room. It kept the apartment overheated. Everyone was afraid my new baby brother would catch cold. I could not even remember my baby brother's name.
Then a male voice said "Shimon." I recognized the voice even before I saw the face attached to it. Zhenya had not seen me in weeks. He sat on his haunches in a clearing of greyish brown dirt over which huge tropical trees towered. I did not mind seeing those trees in Kew Gardens, but I minded them now. "I'm not your daughter any more," I told Zhenya angrily. All the while I wondered how to wake up. If I woke up all this would be over with, but the way back felt way too far and besides, I needed to have it out. I know that is a lame excuse, but it is the only excuse I have.
"I sponsored you," Zhenya answered. "I sponsored you in this life," Was he pleading? "Then quit," I told him. "I want a new sponsor. Cut me loose," I said. "Are you sure that is what you want?" Zhenya asked.
I said that of course I was sure and there was a flash of hot white light and the light turned red and smelled sweat and something else...blood...and I heard blows. It took me a long time to realize I stood at the edge of a boxing ring. I was just below the ropes looking up at the fighters, small fast men who were pounding one another bloody. It was an old fight, in an old run down ring. The canvas had old blood stains on it and now new bloodstains. Both men fighting were black. One wore green satin trunks. One wore white trunks. The one in green trunks was taking a terrible beating but he refused to go down. I watched one round after another and then, the fighter in the white trunks, made the fateful blow. The man in the green trunks fell to the canvas with a terrible thud.
All I could think was brain damage. "They still want to outlaw prize fighting," said a mmale with a smooth Southern accent. I sat on a leather hassock. A small black man reclined in a leather easy chair. I could see his nose was slightly out of joint. I thought of Phedre who will always bear a scar due to the ski pole Chaim put through her cheek. "Who are you?" I asked.
"Ware's the name I go by," the gentleman said.
"Are you supposed to be my sponsor?" I asked.
"Maybe. I dunno," Ware got up off the chair. I was in some kind of apartment in a very urban place. I could see water towers on the roofs of tall buildings and beyond the building a river or ocean. I could just make out the silver water.
"You know who you are right?" Ware asked. It was a strange question. My name was Koru Sennecoff. I was fourteen years old and the daughter of a brilliant and wealthy engineer and a clinical psychologist. My parents were talented, bright, and unconventional. They were good at making a living. My little brother and sister were blesed. Their guides/sponsors/what have you refused to give them stones. I was not blessed and I was about to end up with both a guide and a stone.
"Let's try that again," said Ware. "I think you know..." "All right," I said. "My parents named me Libba. Different parents. I was born in 1925 in Riga, Latvia. Some people there spoke Russian so there were Cyrillic letters on the buildings. My parents spoke three languages and they also read and wrote Hebrew. My father was a school teacher. Sometimes he did not get paid. My mother used to barter on the black market. We ate a lot of potatoes. I had hand me down dresses from my cousins and sometimes a new coat so I'd look presentable to the world. We'd go to visit the department stores and see the toys in December. Always there was a toy town, an aerodrome, a farm with animals and there were dolls dressed more beautifully than any real life baby. Real life babies wore their father's old shirts cut down to make dresses." I stopped. There was no end to my memories.
"Do you know what happened to that city and to your family?" asked Ware. I knew. I knew enough history to know that one. "World War II," I said. "I hope my parents in that life escaped the Nazis."
"Good you have a grip on things. You are an American now and so am I," said Ware. "I think I will give you a gift to seal our relationship." He smiled, but I shook my head. "If you give me a stone, they lock me in the hotel and herd me around with a bunch of snobby private school kids."
"Oh really," said Ware. I explained the whole situation right down to the jammers. "You're going to have to get someone to teach you to meditate," commented Ware. "It's not safe to sleep in public, not in London."
I thanked Ware and I woke up. "How long was I asleep for?" I asked Tapati even as I looked at my watch. The whole thing had lasted half an hour. It was getting on towards 4pm. Tapati said she had something to do and asked if I would watch her purse. Turnabout after all was fair play. I sat on a far bench and watched while Tapati meditated or slept. I found out later she meditated. Conscious trances were better. There was more control. She explained this to me on the tube ride back towards Earl's Court.
I needed to send emails home. I intended to tell Harva all about Ware. I also wanted to pay Tapati back somehow. I felt better than I had in weeks. "I got Zhenya to cut me loose," I told her as we emerged from the cyber cafe.
"Congratulations," she said. "I've got a new sponsor. His name is Ware. He was a lightweight boxer who got killed in the ring. He's from a big city somewhere," I let it all come tumbling out, here far away from Uncle Bill and Aunt Jodie where it was safe, though of course Zhenya just might talk to them. Don't ask me how but he had talked to Kimba and Fern back in the United States.
Tapati gave me a quizzical look. I said I owed her one big time and asked her what she wanted to do. She asked me if I still wanted to spend all week wandering around London. I told her that there was not reason not to have a good time. Tapati stared at the ground. "You can teach me to meditate," I let her know.
"Why?" asked Tapati. "Ware asked me to ask you," I answered. "Hmmmm," Tapati wondered aloud. We picked a random tube stop and went for Indian food that night. We came home full and tired. I picked up two more Pepsis at an off license and spent an evening doing needle point and drinking soda. Leilanni spent her evening tucked into her Ipod. Niether of us had much to say. Leilanni had not stuck up for herself enough with her sponsor to avoid getting a stone and I had no sympathy for her. Both Phedre and Harva had refused their stones too. I was now in the same sorority as them. Leilanni was one of the unlucky ones. In the end it was every girl to her own dreams or maybe every girl for herself since dreams and visions are private things. Well, almost, considering that Zhenya did have a big mouth.
# posted by ZOIDRubashov @ 1/11/2006 05:59:00 PM
Chapter 12 -- Tapati
I opened the door to Yumi, Carla, Claudette, and Tapati's room to find a wall where before there was open hall. Now I knew what the hamering was, escept there was a door in the wall and the wall was wallpapered with the same floral print as thest of the hall and it was even as old looking as the wallpaper on the walls. If I had not been fairly observant and walking around, I would think that wall had always been there but it was not up twenty minutes ago and there was no way any one could do all the work of putting it together in twenty minutes. I remembered my father a couple of weeks ago showing Phedre and me, the car window illusion he had created. "That's not real!" I shouted and I walked toward the wall with the door.
I heard a door open behind me but did not turn around. I curled my hand into a fist and sent it flying towards the wall. It hurt to put my fist through it but it went, all the way up to the elbow. I pulled it out again and it still stung and tingled. There were reddish patches on my wrist and knuckles but no blisters. "The barrier may not be a woood and plaster wall," explained Aunt Jodie, "but it's electrified. Interesting huh."
"Yeah, real interesting," I thought. "Your card will give you access any time between eight am and eight pm, " Aunt Jodie said and she asked me to try the card swipe. I wondered what would happen if I let any red braceleted kids out. I didn't do it and now I regret that. Meanwhile, I could see that Tapati was watching me. She had opened her room door and just stood there staring with the weirdest and most beamused look in her pretty brown eyes.
"Well I know how my card works," I told her and headed back to my own room. I found my parka and my ski hat and my purse complete with tube pass, ATM card, and the guide book which had the map in it. I already knew where I was going. By the time I reemeged, Tapati was back in her doorway. She had a wool tweeed coat over her saalwar khameez and her scarf was tied tightly over her mussy black hair.
When I went through the door, she followed me. We rode down on the elevator together saying notthing. When I went through teh lobby and out into the streets, she followed me. When I checked the map, she asked: "Koru, do you know where you're going?" "No, but I've got a map," I answered. "Do you know this city?" I asked her. She said she had been here a coule of times with her parents, but they were mainly passing through on their way to Mumbai.
We started walking. Tapati insisted on following me and then walking with me. We followed the perimeter of Hyde park and eventually entered the park which was still green under the moist grey British sky. We came out of the park and continued left and then turned a corner that led past a Marks and Spence. and into a neighborhood of tightly packed white and brick apartment buildings and stores on the first floors.
The cybercafe was located not far from the Earl's Court tube station, a huge sooty building shaped like an oversized barn with grimey windows. There wer no lines though I thought four pounds for an hour's internet time fairly steep. I managed to get a machine. Tapati just sat on a chair behind me as I emailed Phedre and Harva to let them know I had arrived safely.
I wrote: "Most of the kids whom I am with went to private schools. Most are locked in the hotel and have red bracelets on their wrists. My bracelet is yellow and I can move around in the day time as much as I choose. I am not sure why I want to move, but I do. I guess I like being a tourist. I know my mind should be elsewhere. They, our minders for want of a better word, have put up a barrier at the end of our end of the hall. It looks like it has always been there but it some kind of thin electrical fence. I can put my fist through it. I know, because that is what I did. I did not get in trouble. It hurt a lot and it is a lot easier to use my swipe card to get in and out. That is all I have to say for now. I am glad I don't know any one in this city, so if there are people missing, I won't see it. Maybe that is why I want to roam around. I want to pretend that everything is still normal."
"You are fairly instrospective aren't you?" Tapati asked me as we walked toward the Earl's Court tube station. I stopped to look at the tube map. I wanted to walk around the big famous old palace near the Tower of London. I almost got us on the wrong platform but once we were on the right train, it was an interesting ride. The subway rocked like a giant underground tunnel full of people from all over the world. I tried to imagine a train that went everywhere and connected the whole world. It was a comforting thought except it just a little too close to real. Maybe there would be such a thing after they threw the stones on the twenty-sixth. Maybe such a thing existed all ready.
"I have two friends and we talk all about this shit," I told Tapati.
"What shit?" she inquired.
"The fact that the world is coming to an end. They're doing it with the stones and don't ask me who they are. Their name is not supposed to mean anything," I quoted Harva there. Thankyou Harva.
"Your friends are wrong," said Tapati in a very earnest voice. "The world is not ending. We are getting a better one. Don't you want that?"
"No," I told Tapati. "I'm not through with this one yet."
"You don't have a choice," Tapati answered. "It's for the good of all humanity."
I gave Tapati the last word and made her get off down in the City. We walked across a bridge filled with suited people and got in line to see the Crown Jewels and the Tower, but two nights wtihout much sleep plus jet lag had taken their toll. I felt woozey and nauseous. I broke out of the line. "Where are we going?" aked Tapati who sounded obviously distressed. "To find a convenience store," I growled. "They don't have them here in London," Tapati counseled me. "The fuck they don't," I growled back.
Once gain, I had Tapati at my heels as I made my way through an office district that was all grey buildings without a single Fast Track, Spectrrum, or Nice and Easy in siight. I just kept going until I saw what I needed. It was a restaurant and bar. That was fine. There was no lne to see the hostess who turned out to be a young man, so I guess he was a host. "Excuse me," I said " is there a supermarket or convenience store in this neighborhood?" I asked. The gentleman gave us directiosn and we were off.
Within three blocks, the neighborhood turned residential and there were docks behind the buildings with yachts and houseboats attached to them. We followed the quai and found a Tescos which is an English supermarket. I bought Tapati a bottled water while I got two Pepsis. There were no cherry Pepsis so regular had to do. I popped the first can and took the first swigs of sugary caffeinated goodness. I also dug some Aleve out of my purse and swallowed two of them for good measure. "You're going to rot your stomach," Tapati told me. "Nah," I told her. "I'm going to feel good."
I led Tapati back toward the Tower of London and we got our tour which ended in the late afternoon. I decided we should go for dinner. Tapati thought we should return to our hotel, but I said there was no need. We had hit the ATM's near Earl's Court, and so we had money. The guidebook suggested good places to eat near the Leicester tube station, and I suggested we needed to blow this pricey section of a very pricey city. Besides the currency made my head spin. I was going to have to learn to use it and not feel scaird. I was not going to let Tapati know what rough shape I was in, but she already knew.
We rode to Leicester and found a pretty good looking Chinese place. We found a table near the rear and spent all that wonderful time studying the menus, at least I did. Tapati asked me to order for her. Had she been that passive at Madeira? I did not want to know. We got pork and Chinese vegetables and a mixed spicey vegetable dish and lots of rice and tea. We ended up back on the tube with leftovers, my one can of Pepsi and two hours to kill before my curfew.
"We're not going home yet?" asked Tapati. "Home is nine hours away by plane," I reminded her. "You don't know where home is!" Tapti raised her voice for the first time all afternoon. "You're right," I answered, "but there's not much I can do about that at this late date is there?" Tapati, I thought, "You are no match for either Harva or Phedre."
We rode back towards the City and the Tower. We followed the streets back into the resdiential neighborhood again. By now restaurants along the quai had strings of lights on, white ones and red and green ones for Christmas. We made our way to the Tescos again and Tapati asked me what I wanted. I bought sevreal pounds of apples and a box of clementines that Tapati offered to carry. Our hotel had left a few weird looking chocolates in our rooms, but no snacks. Besides a lot of the girls were imprisoned behind the barrier and could not reach the snack machines. We walked home from Earl's Court Station up the streets and then through Hyde Park. The doorman smiled at us as we reentered the Dorchester.
My watch said 7:50pm. I made it in five minutes shy of curfew. Uncle Bill greeted me. He asked Tapati what she had bought. "I didn't buy anything," explained Tapati. "Koru bought all this," she said with disdain. Uncle Bill inspected our packages. "Lots of fruit," he commented. "I brought back snacks for everyone. Most kids here can't even get to the soda and snack machines," I said. I did not know England but I did know motels. Of course there were no snack machines in the Dorchester, but the kids with red braceletes could not get out to local small grocery stores and off licenses as the British called them either.
There was a small table under the window at the end of our hall. Uncle Bill suggested I put he apples and clementines on that table. along with a sign advertising free snacks. I took an apple from the bag and headed into my room. I caught Tapati in the hall one last time. "I'm going to the Royal Botanical Gardens tomorrow and then either to the Zoo or to the Docklands in the afaternoon. You are welcome to come with me," I said.
Tapati did not answer. She stared past me as if I were a lesser mortal. "Look," I tried a more conciliatory tone. "I can lend you my guide book. You can find your own way around theen and do whatever it is you want...."
"I all ready have one of those books," said Tapati. " OK," I said. "Then why didn't you use it and why don't you pick out where we go tomorrow if you still want to go with me. You don't have to you know."
"You need someone to look after you," Tapati explained.
"The Hell I do," I snapped. "Look did Uncle Bill and Aunt Jodie put you up to this? Did they order you to follow me around?"
"No," Tapati answered.
"Then who did?" I had had it. "My....guardians....soul mates, I don't have a good word for it in English. I have no interest in this world. It's a dying world. It's going to be dead in a week."
"There'll be chaos for the half of the people who are left behind,&quout; I told Tapati. "That won't be us of course. We got protected."
"It's part of the plan," Tapati added. Tapati motioned me into the room sh sshared with Yumi who was visiting with Claudette and Carla on the other side of the connecting door which was closed.
"It's a suckie plan."
"No," said Tapati in a tone that was gentle and I thought condescending.
" OK, Tapati, tell me why you like this plan that sucks super electric weenie. Tell me why you think the world ending is a good idea, and tell me so I can understand it."
"All right," said Tapati. "My father died two years ago," she began. "We were all lost then, my mother, my two brothers and I. Family wanted mom to go back to India. She refused. She made a good living as a physician and she is a very physical person and she liked California. She knew how it was for widows even in modern families back in Mumbai. I am a spiritual person. I missed my father. I saw things in dreams. I think a lot of people have. Some people pay no attention. I paid attention. Of course last year, my mother sent me off to Madeira.
"That really sucked super electric weenie. Being among all those rich snobs made my dreams worse. I say I am a simple person but dreams make everyone's life complicated. My life was very complicated. It was a double life. It was also a Hindu life and not an American one. In October I started dressing Indian. It helped a little bit. I know that sounded crazy. I told the counselor at Maderia that I did not want to be mistaken for something I was not. That got them off my case. My guardians are holding the stone for me until I am ready and until it is my time. I have to be patient. I don't mind. Do you understand?"
"Did you get to see your father in your dreams?" I asked. I remembered Harva's "vision work" and that she had not seen the kid who sat in front of her and who died in a house fire the same year that Tapati had lost her own father. "No," Tapati answered. "I saw friends of his instead. They say he is all righ tand I've sent him several messages. You won't laugh at me for this weill you?"
"I have friends who do this kind of thing ," I said "and I've had a few dreams myself. I came into this world trailing clouds of thick black smoke. The place I want to back to and the place I come from by choice is not where my spiritual guardian, guide, whatever he calls himself, I just call him Zhenya lives. I won't let Zhenya give me a stone. I have no stone. I wanted to face the end with my two best friends, but my parents have me here in England hiding behind jammers and barriers so I can't dream so it's all stopped anyway. I'm also not the little kid who klived in Eastern Europe and who died in the 1930's either. I grew up in the rural United States and that has changed me. Well that's my story in my own words."
I fully expected Tapati to "feel sorry for me," because quite frankly I think she did. Instead she asked: "Aren't you scaird?" I said that truthfully I was not. "Your guide will come for you, your true guide. You can't just be left out to wander around like you are now." Tapati leaned against the wall. She looked tired and greyish.
"If I don't just wander around this week, I end up with a red bracelet and get imprisoned in this hotel," I told Tapati.
"You can ask your guide to hold your stone, but you do not even know hyour true guide." She sighed. "You poor thing...so," she changed tone. "We do the gardens tomorrow and then the Docklands and then the zoo and then what..."
"How about that big ferris wheel, the London Eye" I suggested. "And when does it end and where?" Tapati asked.
"On Boxing Day everything goes crazy,"I reminded Tapati. "Some time after that we go up to school. We'll be behind barriers and safe and sound to ship home to our parents who are also protected."
"And is that what you were born on this earth for?" asked Tapati.
"I was born to pick up where I left off. I tried and now it's just not going to work. Shit happened."
"And you think I'm the passive one!" Tapati snorted.
"What can I do?"
"Ask your false guide to cut you loose so you can find your true guide," Tapati replied.
I pointed at the ceiling. "Zhenya can't reach me here and neither can your guides."
"there are ways," explained Tapati.
"What ways?" I asked.
"We make sure you make your curfew back," Tapati hissed. "After you are away at school, you'll be surrounded by jammers nearly all of the time. You won't have the chance you have now."
"I'm not sure I'm not fine as I am. I mean, I'm alive and have it pretty good except for missing my friends."
"You're talking like my mother. You can do better than that," Tapati complained. "Don't you think you deserve better?"
Spirituality had always been Harva's department back in New Jersey but this wasn't New Jersey any mmore. I truely had never cared about changing the situation other than getting rid of it and simply saying no to Zhenya and maybe finding that old city in Europe beause a piece of me was still homesick in the worst way or at least was now. "I want to think about all this," I told Tapati. "I have a few days," I added.
"OK," she answered. "When you're ready, let me know and I'll show you what to do," she said. That was all. I decided that what I needed was sleep but first another Pepsi and then an apple and then some needlepint and reading. I lay in th darkness under the black jammer after lights out and thought about Tapati's words. I also wondered if I would even like the foster parent I had had growing up after I died the last time around. I was a different person this life, similar but still different enough. Was I simply better off without guide or stone?
# posted by ZOIDRubashov @ 1/08/2006 11:05:00 PM
Chapter 11 -- Green, Yellow, and Red
Uncle Bill sat on his bed. His lap top was out as was a shoe box filled with what looked sort of like hospital bracelets except these were red, yellow, and green. "Well Koru," he said to me. "How do you like London?"
"It's confusing," I answered. "You're honest," he responded. "Do big European cities live up to your expectations?"
"I don't know what you mean," I said.
"Yes you do. You dream of a city in Eastern Europe. You do not know the country but you have a rough idea of where it might be. You lived and died there in the 1930's and have been searching for that place ever since." Uncle Bill sighed.
I wanted to bolt out of the room but I stood rooted to one spot. "How do you know this?" I asked.
"Zhenya has a very big mouth," said Uncle Bill. "Then we can both agree that you are partially sentient and for right now fully immune. Yours of course is NOT the best way to be fully immune but it is effective. How long it stays effective though is any one's guess. It needs to stay effective through the next week and a half."
I calculated the days. "That's two days past Boxing Day," I said remembering what Fern had called December twenty-sixth. Uncle Bill nodded. "We can provide different protection after the twenty-sixth but before then we need you to be a bit extra careful. Now in this lifetime, Koru, you've not had much experience with large cities have you?"
It was a funny way to put it, but the answer was that I hadn't. I remembered one or two visits to Manhattan and St. Louis, Washington, DC, Cleveland and Cincinnati, but I'd never been in a big city without my parents before.
"OK, Koru walk across the room," Uncle Bill said. I walked past his bed expecting something to happen. Uncle Bill shook his head. "Pickpockets, cut purses, thieves, are your greatest danger in a city like this," Uncle Bill explained. "Koru, your purse is not even closed. Always keep it closed. Now put the strap over the opposite shoulder. That makes it much harder to steal. Now when you ride the Tube, that's the subway in this city, you need to try to find a seat that faces forward or backward. If you can't find one, hug your purse and put yoru packages between your feet. When you use a restroom, never put your purse on the floor. Someone can reach into the stall and grab it. Put your packages between your feet while you use the toilet. This also prevents them from being taken. If you are trying on clothing in a store, take your purse in and out of the dressing room with you. I would give you a yellow bracelet even if you had permanent protection,&quiot; said Uncle Bill with disgust.
"It's not my fault," I blurted out. "No it's not," answered Uncle Bill "except for your dispute with Zhenya of course. That is one hundred percent of your making."
"Haven't you guys ever heard of privacy?" I asked. "I know what it is," said Uncle Bill. "Zhenya doesn't. He should have transferred you to another foster family sixty years ago," complained Uncle Bill. "He didn't and now I've got his mess on my hands.
"So here is the deal, Koru. It's the only deal in town. You keep your purse. I'm going to give you money, a card, a guidebook and a one week tube pass. Keep all those things and you keep your yellow bracelet. You do not have to travel this city yoked to a stranger who doesn't share your tastes. You can be out all day. I don't care how far you travel or where you go. I don't care what you do though I may ask you about it from time to time. Lose your purse, papers, money, or tube card before the ten days are out and the bracelet becomes red. That means you can only go with the group and you'll be spending most of your time at the hotel. Got that...."
I nodded. "If you run out of money, your ID card acts as an ATM card. Memorize your PIN and don't tell it to any one. I think you know how to work an ATM machine. There are lots of ATM's in London and the card works in just about all of them.
"Because you are considered a partial immune, you have a curfew, Koru. Realistically it is going to be 8pm. If you come in half an hour to an hour late, I am not going to make a federal case of it. The reason for that curfew is so that you don't fall asleep in any public place. We both know why that would be disasterous."
"My purse would be stolen," I replied. Uncle Bill gave me wry smile, shook his head, and put a yellow bracelet with my name on it on my wrist. It said "KORU SENECOFF -- (T)FULL IMMUNITY" The "T" was for temporary.
I returned to my room grateful the meeting was over and equally grateful for the guidebook. The advice Uncle Bill gave me had started to sound scarey. They sent Leilanni to Uncle Bill next. We must have been going in alphabetical order. She returned in tears as I was reading her guidebook. "Fucking facist bastards!" she wailed and showed me her blood red bracelet. "Well I'll show them!" she howled as she made her hand into a fist and opened her palm to reveal an irridescent gun metal grey stone that seemed to glow and pulsate with a life of its own. "Special huh..." she boasted. "I've never seen another one like it."
"I don't have a stone yet," I told her.
"Did they do the operation on you?" Leilanni asked.
"What operation?" I asked. "You don't know?" asked Leilanni. "They did it to those two," Leilanni pointed toward the connecting door. "Mandi, Taylor, Koru doesn't know about the operation. Show Koru your scars!"
Mandi walked slowly into the room and pulled up the sleeve of her hoodie. Just below her left elbow was a jagged bump shapled like a diamond in a pack of playing cards. It looked faintly greyish throgh Mandi's pale skin. "My dad made me get it done," she sighed. "It keeps the bad dreams from reaching you and means you don't get a stone," she said this sadly. "They put one of the implants in Taylor too. Do you have one?"
"No," I told Mandi. "Your bracelet is yellow though," she marveled. "It's called temporary full immunity," I answered.
"How'd you get that?" she asked.
"I refuse to take a stone from the person who offers it in my dreams. I don't like him. He's not my real..." I don't have a word for it so I stop. "Spiritual guardian," Leilanni rattled off the term. "That's not what I call it," I snapped back. "Then what do you call it?" asked Leilanni. "I don't know, but it's not that. I don't have the whole picture. Sometimes I get memories mixed up with what I think I'd like now. It all gets very embarassing but I don't have a stone and won't take one so if they can protect me when I'm asleep, I'm fine when I'm awake," I explained and hoped it was clear. It made sense in an odd sort of way.
"Still waters run deep," sighed Leilanni. "I had a grandmother who used to always say that." Just then there was a knock at the door and it was Mandi's turn to meet with Uncle Bill. She came back twenty minutes later wearing a green bracelet. Taylor, her roommate who also had an implant did equally well. A green bracelet meant that a kid could go and come as she pleased. I edged out into the hall. I wanted to see who had a green bracelet, a red bracelet, or a yellow one.
I tried remembering how many bracelets were in the box. I hadn't seen that many yellow ones. I knocked on the door to the room across the hall and a boy answered. He wore a green bracelet. He said his name was Aaron. He was Asian and from New York City and had gone to an entrance examination high school that he said he would miss now that he was stuck in England. I asked why he had a green bracelet and he told me he was "blessed." His guardian would not give him a stone which left him feeling rather sad and left out at times.
The other boy in the room was named Marcos and he was from Florida. He had small perfect white teeth and he had been the musician who won the contest. His bracelet was red. I felt awkward asking him anything. "I should have got out while I could," Marcos lamented and he showed me his stone. It was white and carved in alabaster like an angel. He said it was a gift from his dead little sister. Marcos made me feel sad and awkward.
Errol, the third boy in the room, was tall and gangly and had tiny white teeth. He had a yellow bracelet. He said he had not yet gotten his stone. He felt bad about that now. "We always feel bad about lost opportunities," he said aloud. "Ain't that the fucking truth!" echoed Marcos. I did not answer because I was glad that I had not taken a stone from Zhenya and now it looked like I never would.
The room next to mine belonged to Uncle Bill and Aunt Jodie, so I tried the far room or the one next to the boys' two rooms. Darcy poked out her face. Her eyes were red rimmed from crying. "They're making prisoners out of us!" she screamed. "Hey how come you only have a yellow bracelet. Your Enoch Senecoff's fucking daughter?" she asked. "I've had the dreams but no stone and no implant. That makes me a temporary full immune," I rattled off my new status. "Fucking shit. Your dad didn't even protect his own kid. Well my cluless parents didn't protect me until I was stupid enough to tell them..." Darcie's stone was a lovely pink gem.
Darcie's roommate was the very tall model, Grace. She too wore a red bracelet and had a stone as did her smaller companion Hanna who shared the room on the other side of the door with Emma who had white tips on her hair. "I should have got out while the getting was good but like a retard I stuck around," Emma bitched. "Shit, Koru's only got a yellow bracelet." "Koru's partially blessed," sing songed Darcie with disgust.
I tried the room next to the one I shared with Mandi, Taylor, and Leilanni on the side closer to the elevators and the girl with the rock star for a father answered the door. She looked tired despite her pretty dark brown curls. "You know my mother got called last week. I should have arranged to go with her," she told me showing me a blood red bracelet. "If you could arrange your own calling, you should be able to arrange other things," I said aloud. The curly haired girl whose name was Carla just shook her head and sighed. "Claudette," Carla spoke of her roommate "got a stone too so they're also keeping her a prisoner," Carla explained. Claudette lay curled in a ball. She was a black girl with very dark brown skin. I could see the bit or red plastic against her choclate colored wrist. "Why'd you get on the fucking plane?" I wanted to ask but
I had done the same thing. I only had my yellow bracelete because I was lucky. Of course I really wasn't lucky. I had a problem in my past that had bled into my present and left me more confused and stupid than any other girl on this hall. Yumi, who lived on the other side of this room's connecting door poked her face in and glanced around. Yumi was Japanese and a diplomat's daughter. She talked about missing her family and her old school buddies from Madeira and then I saw her red bracelet. "How many of your old school buddies got called at a shopping mall or on a ski trip?" I wondered. "They just took Tapati for her meeting," said Yumi to Carla. "Let's see if we go four for four," groaned Claudette from her bed.
Out in the hall I heard hammering. I wondered about the noise. "You don't expect them to have security here without enforcing it," complained Claudette as she rolled over on to her back. "And who's to say it would have been any better if we had fled before all this shit?" she asked no one. "It's all from memories," I tried to explain. "You don't know what you are going to find when you get there," I said. I was glad I did not have a stone right now.
I knew enough about where I did not want to go and London at least in part was mine for the next few days. I felt relieved. I wanted to go back to my room and read the guide book. It said where the cybercafes were and how much they cost. I needed to get in touch with Phedre and Harva in the worst way. They were my real friends.
That was what I was thinking when Tapati made her entrance with her left wrist held high. She wore a somewhat wrinkled electric blue salwaar khameez and coordinating light blue pants. She held up her light brown wrist as the scarf she wore slid from her jet black hair that needed a wash. On her wrist was an emerald green bracelet. "Going out to the pub to get wasted?" asked Claudette. "You know they don't card here."
Tapati pretended not to hear my question. She stared past Carla and Claudette as if they did not exist. Only Yumi met her eyes. "Congratulations," said Yumi softly. "Thankyou," said Tapati as she breezed through the connecting door and then she turned to look at me. "Should I congratulate you too?" she said in softly accented English. "What for?" I asked. "You can go out and that is what you want isn't it?" she asked.
# posted by ZOIDRubashov @ 1/07/2006 08:52:00 PM
Chapter 10 -- DC to Dorchester
The jet taxied down the runway. The big golden retriever that was blocking the middle of the aisle woofed and then yelped. A girl in a white mini skirt and pink camisole under a hoodie grabbed the dog by her rhinestone collar which only made things worse. From their crates the two cats yowled. Next to me a girl with white tips on the ends of her jet black hair and tight black jeans with a big studded belt huddled inside her I-pod. Another girl with silvery hair stared past me and the yelping dog into nowhere.
I turned toward the windows and watched Washington, DC which mercifully was not home anyway recede into a tiny toy town and field of lights and then we were above the clouds and it was night and I took out my needle point and started to put in the big white rows of the background around my squid. I used to drive my dad nuts with my needle points because I still have no set way of working on them. Sometimes I start in one area. Sometimes I start in another. Sometimes I alternate. Either way it all gets done. Crochet and of course sewing are more systematic.
I did not need system that night flying over the Atlantic. I did not want to think of what I had lost and was losing. I told myself that I had pretty much lost everything. There is great consolation in hitting bottom you know.
After a time, the yelping dog in the middle of the aisle settled down and went to sleep. The dog snored. "Hey what are you doing?" a voice startled me. It came from the girl who owned the big sloppy dog. "Needlepoint project," I said. "I don't know any one who does needle point," said the girl who owned the dog. "I thought only old ladies did needle point."
"Well you just met someone who isn't old who does it," I corrected her. "Shit, Darcie," commented the girl with white tips on her hair. "Leave the poor girl alone."
"Since when the fuck did you care?" Darcie asked. "Since you started acting like an asshole. It was bad enough putting up with you at Madeira."
"Madeira sucked big weenie," complained Darcie. "At least where we're going there's boys."
"What's so special about boys?" I asked.
"Madeira is all girls and it sucked," said the girl with white tips. "Where'd you go to school?"
"Vernon High School," I said hoping that was OK.
"What kind of school is that?" white tips continued the interrogation.
"High school....public high school," that should have been understood. I saw white tips sniff and I thought I might have smelled bad. "Any one on this plane went to public high school?" asked white tips.
There was silence and then a thin Asian boy raised his hands along with a girl in a white Fair Isle sweater destroyed jeans, an interesting combination. "Well that's three of you," said white tips who obviously could count.
"Well I was always too busy for school," said an olive skinned boy with pearly white teeth. "How can you go to school when you're touring?"
"Being on the road sucks," I thought. I remembered it. I felt like telling the boy to get off the road. There was something familiar about his face. "I wish they could have gotten us out of there sooner," said a very tall girl with straight auburn hair and huge green eyes. I had seen her somewhere before too. "I kept beggging my agent. I kept saying the world is freaking out. I'm not getting any more shoots. Who's going to be left to read magazines. I mean you can't be a model without an audience."
"My dad's on tour in Europe," sighed a girl with short black curls and a pale peach camisole. "I don't know why I couldn't have gone over with him last week," she complained. I did not want to ask what this girl's dad did for a living. I thought now I recognized the boy from watching TV at Harva's parents' house. He was some kind of teen rock singer who'd won a contest. I guess I admired his ambition. I tried to tell myself that I was the only ordinary kid on the plane. I was one of the few who'd been to public school. Anyway the kids were going after a girl in Indian dress with a matching scarf, very long tunic, and long silk pants. They were asking her if she planned to run away when they hit London.
I wondered if these kids all knew each other. Of course I wasn't ordinary. All I had to do was look at the jammers in the ceiling of the cabin to know that. I was Enoch Senecoff's daughter.
"Look we made the last plane out," said the very tall girl who had worked as a model. "Doesn't that mean anything? At least we're out," she said. A smaller and very thin girl with sandy hair nodded. She was fooling with her hair the way I did needlepoint. "I left my two best friends behind!" I wanted to scream. I looked out the window, but remembered it was night. I went back to my needle point.
I don't know when I fell asleep. I dreamed I was ice skating on Lake Five with Phedre and Harva. Harva had on a new bright red parka and a pink scarf that flew out behind her. The ice was nice and thick and it held. Harva's father stood talking to the father of the little boy who fell through the ice. I awoke in a cold sweat. I thought I would be sick. I took some soda from the self serve galley and sipped the coke. "You're lucky to be able to drink coke with sugar in it," said the big model. "Diet soda doesn't taste right to me," I answered. She stared past me.
I did not care if the soda kept me awake. I did not feel like sleeping. I did not feel like crying for my lost friends. I knew there would come a time when I would cry rivers for them. I knew for sure they were lost. I took out my needle point again and worked on it and tried to ignore the other passengers most of whom were half asleep.
Then the plane began to land. It was still dark out wherever we were, but I could see air port lights through the window and city lights. For all I knew, we could have turned around and gone back to Washington again. I decided we had and that the whole flight had been a cruel joke, but there was no jet way with the red and white tent at the bottom of the stairs to the tarmac. Instead there was a bus on which someone in their audacity had painted a pale flesh colored hand holding a small silvery stone shaped like a lima bean.
"Coworkers," I said in disgust.
"What?" White Tips asked me.
"The people who run the thing with the stones. They're my dad's coworkers so that's what I call them." This seemed like a great explanation, but I knew it sucked. Maybe it was a euphemism.
"She's Enoch Senecoff's daughter," said the girl with silver hair. "So how was the farm in New Jersey?" she asked.
"I wish I were still there," I spat back.
Somehow we all got on the bus. No, we were not in Washington, DC but in a big flat sprawly city of old apartment houses of different sizes and the cars drove on the left side of the road. I noticed that and it felt disorienting. It was still not light as we drove past buildings and traffic lights. Everything felt like a normal city waking up, but this city was as doomed as anywhere else.
I knew the boarding school could not be here, and indded it wasn't. Instead after many twists and turns of which I could not keep track in what was a huge city (bigger than Washington but I have since learned I only knew the touristy parts of Washington) we came to the Dorchester Hotel. We milled around in the lobby while two coworkers, one male and one a female in a light yellow embroidered gauze dress tried to get us checked in.
The male was tall and black and could have been a football player. Those big shoulders would have been wasted on anything else. The woman was chosen for her maternal appearance that put Fern back in Vernon, New Jersey to shame. She had breasts as round s two fresh baked loaves of bread and golden hair streaked with frizzy grey and a face like a pink egg. She said her name was Jodie and the male coworker's name was Bill. Aunt Jodie and Uncle Bill were in charge, so Uncle Bill said as we sat huddled and draped over velvet couches in what was a very impressive lobby. It should have impressed me but I was weary tired and exile makes everything that is beautiful ugly. Uncle Bill said his and Aunt Jodie's word was law. We were to get upstairs and start unpacking. When we were unpacked we were to meet with Uncle Bill in his room for a briefing. I always thought it was a debriefing but I was not going to argue.
"We're in the belly of the beast," said white tips.
"I've been in the belly of the beast for three weeks!" I suddenly shouted back. I watched Aunt Jodie raise her eyebrows and smile indulgently. I somehow did not give Aunt Jodie the finger. Do the words "gesture of futility" come to mind? I went up on the elevator to the ninth floor. Our rooms which were connecting doubles were all in a row at the end of the hall.
I roomed with the girl with silver hair who had no pets. Across the way was the girl with the Fair Isle sweater who also had a rabbit in a crate. Her roomate was one of the cat people and had cute dark brown pony tails and incredible silver eyes. She was the daughter of a famous Hollywood director and she had lived abroad for several years. Her name as Mandi. The girl with the Fair Isle sweater came from North Dakota and was a Senator's daughter. She had gone to the public schools back in her home state because they were "good and safe." Her name was Taylor. My roommate's name was Leilanni and she said it was a dumb name. She was from California but had gone to Putney until the place nearly shut down. It probably wouldn't be open in the spring so it was time for this boarding school. Leilanni said she thought the whole idea of being sent away was stupid.
I glanced over the doorway of our room and along the ceiling. The black butter dish shaped jammer sat over the beds. There was one for each girl. "We're here because nobody trusts us not to get taken," I said. The girl with silver hair did not answer. "You want to stay?" she finally asked. "Who would take care of my cat if I left?" asked Taylor through the open connecting door. Just then Aunt Jodie poked her head in the front door of our room. "Unpack and do it lively. Bill is waiting for each of you," she ordered. "Yeah sure," Leilanni groaned.
I stared out the window. It was starting to get light on a grey day in a huge and strange city. I thought of the city of my dreams. It wasn't grey like this, but then again I had seen it through different eyes. I had grown up mainly in the country or on the grounds of other people's estates. I was not the person I was when I died in that other life. Memory could play very cruel jokes on people. I realized now it had played one on me.
# posted by ZOIDRubashov @ 1/04/2006 09:19:00 PM
Chapter 9 -- Squid
By early evening all my stuff was packed except for one duffle bag that would come with me on the plane. True to his word, my dad took Phedre and me up to Harva's house in Highland Lakes. We broke the news to Harva together. "Holy shit you lucky duck!" was all she could say.
I did not feel one bit lucky. School would have been impossible without Phedre and when Harva got here, it would have been impossible without her. We three of us needed each other more than we needed our families. "You're losing me," I told Harva. "You're getting out of here," she replied.
Harva's parents thought they should take us out for one last dinner together. No one mentioned Chaim. I realized this as we cruised into the Food Emporium parking lot near the bottom of Break Neck Road. We were going to the Italian buffet place, but it was closed. Harva's parents stood wringing their hands on the sidewalk. They debated one or two other restaurants and then told us to go in the Food Emporium and pick out whatever we wanted for dinner and Harva's mother would cook it.
I remember clearing the dining table at Harva's. Harva's father had just camped out at it and Harva and her mom must have eaten sitting on the couch or back in the bedrooms or at the cluttered counter between the kitchen and the living room/dining room area. Phedre wiped the table down with a rag while Harva's mother watched the pan of lentil soup that was our first course. There was carrot salad, potato salad, bread pudding for dessert and the main course was a choice of sandwich. I was having sardines in lemon. Phedre had pickled herring. There was a jar of gefilte fish and there was salmon salad which Harva liked best for some reason.
What did we talk about as we ate this condemned woman's last meal you wonder. Mostly we talked of school. There was not much school left. We talked about snow and skiing and books we'd read. It was all small talk and that was very weird, but Harva's parents were out so spiritual subjects were off limits.
Harva's parents offered to rent us videos, but I said I wasn't interested. We retreated to Harva's room where we could talk more confidentially. I realized then that my father had not given me the address of the boarding school in England. I said I would write as soon as I knew it. I of course could email to my web based mail as soon as I could get to a cybercafe. We all agreed that would be the best plan of action.
I asked about Chaim. Harva said her parents were suffering from no sense of closure. Phedre said nothing needed to be closed. Chaim was still alive. He was out there, with half a million other souls. He'd be back. Harva shook her head. Phedre said that the university where both her parents taught had canceled finals due to so many students either having gone missing or having family members and friends who had. I thought of the closed restaurant.
"Didn't your mom home school you when you were little?" asked Harva suddenly.
"Before I was sven she did," I said. It wasn't that bad but I liked real school better. Even with all the bumps and warts and the social garbage getting up in the morning and having a place to which to go was a good thing.
"I don't think my parents are in any shape to home school me," said Harva.
"My parents may be unemployed in January. Maybe they could teach us together," Phedre suggested. I realized I was no longer part of the "we."
It was not fair. "Home schooling is going to suck," Phedre observed.
"Goes without saying," answered Harva. "As long as my parents don't mess with my journal, I'm going to let them be as crazy as they want."
"The whole world is going to go crazy," I replied.
"Look who's prophesying," commented Harva.
My dad came to get me about one in the morning. Phedre, Harva, and I were all talked out. Phedre's parents were waiting for her. They did not want her out and up all night. They were worried whether she had taken her medications. I went into the workshop. I was not ready to sleep. I had some spare needlepoint canvas lying around and needed a project to take to England. I rummaged through the workshop closet and found the opaque projector and set it up and plugged it in. I got a board to which I had long ago stapled what was left of a white bed sheet and started securely pinning my canvas to the board.
The woman in the plaid wool dress, one of my dad's coworkers, watched me. There were two male coworkers manning the "Control Center's" screens. They looked bored. "What are you making?" asked plaid dress. "A design for needle point," I answered. Most of the kit designs were horrible and I had already done the drawing for this design. I just needed to stick it in the opaque projector and then shine the image on the canvas. Then I could take markers and draw it on the canvas by following the projected image. "I've never seen any body do that before for needle point," said plaid dress. "My dad taught me the technique," I replied. "Otherwise, I'd just copy by hand. This is more accurate." "Your parents have been very good to you," commented plaid dress. I did not answer.
Plaid dress asked me where I was going to get the yarn to make my creation. I told her I would buy it in England. "They have yarn there," I reminded her. "Yes, but the exchange rate is a killerr. Everything there is in pounds and that's a dollar and a half to the pound. It's not cheap."
"So what do you want me to do about it? It's my parents who are sending me away!"
"Let's you and I go and get some yarn," said Plaid Dress.
"Where are we going at three in the morning? Besides I've got to finish this drawing."
"Oh take your time, Koru," Plaid Dress told me. "Wal-Mart in Franklin is open twenty-four hours."
I kept drawing. At a quarter to four the squid was finished. I packed it and Plaid Dress she was going out on an errand and taking me with her. We walkd into a starless night that glowed charcoal black due to light interference. The snow was frozen in hard heeps that had gone mushy during the day for several days in a row. I helped Plaid Dress scrape off her small black car. We rode in silence. Plaid Dress had a CD of jazz that felt far away and sad. We passed the closed ski area and drove past Franklin's deserted downtown. Plaid Dress said her name was Fern which sounded sweet and old fashioned. She said her mother whom I suspected was dead liked to crochet.
We walked across the nearly deserted Wal-Mart parking lot. I bought six balls of assorted colored yarn, mostly blues, greens, and lavenders. Fern said the yarn was her treat. Then we got into her car again and drove to Lafayette where the Pathmark stayed open all night. "Go get a few boxes of that flavored tea you drink and the herbal stuff. They don't do the flavored tea in Britain," Fern advised me. This too was her treat. I guess she had a guilty conscience.
Then she asked me if I was hungry. It was a quarter to six. We could get breakfast at the Pancacke House near the ski area on the way back. I told Fern I was not in the mood to eat. "You'll like it a lot in England," she told me. I stared out the window.
"What's with you anyway?" she asked.
I said nothing. I thought back about Phedre rescuing the little girl and then a week earlier to Chaim and to the week before that when she had dove under the ice. Phedre was sleeping now so I couldn't say goodbye.
When my mom got up she found me drinking tea in the kitchen. She asked me if I had slept at all. I told her I hadn't. I'd come in the house to take a shower and do my hair and now I was waiting for my hair to dry. I did not tell her about the trip to Wal-Mart. By 8:30am dad came into the kitchen. He asked me what I wanted for breakfast. I told him I already had had the condemned woman's last meal last night.
Still, I suggested boiled eggs on toast with mayonaise. He fixed a pile of sliced egg sandwiches, some with olives, and some without. The extras were for the trip later that morning. Yes, there is a euphemism for you. Dad said you couldn't always count on restaurants being open. He aid it as if it were normal and just one of life's inconveinences. "I bet the people in the mall will lose their jobs too and the ones who work at the ski area," I added.
"Probably so, but we'll take good care of them," dad answered. I took a long swig of peppermint tea. In the end I went back to the workshop and rested on the bare mattress of my bed. My coat lay over me like a blanket. Mir, Hillel, and both my parents were all traveling with me to Washington so there were no awkward goodbyes except for the last visit to Phedre's. That was a half hour before we left. She still had her pajamas on. We hugged and cried and by the time I got into the truck with my family, I felt all ragged and raw.
I noticed that in the front of the cab of the truck, sticking out from where the glove comopartment should have been was a black plastic device the shape of a butter dish. That was a jammer. I could sleep without dreams if I wanted to. I let my eyes drift closed as the hills of Northwestern New Jersey slipped away and we came down on to the crowded industrial flat lands. Dad cursed at the traffic on the New Jersey turnpike. I woke up again and watched all the cars and trucks still going places. There were going to be a lot of stones to toss and memory boards as long as my arms all stretched out before all this was done. December twenty-sixth would be the day. It would be Boxing Day in England accoridng to Fern. I wondered what it would be like at boarding school.
I counted the exits and watched the traffic in silence. Normally I did not like the road but now it felt like the last shred of normalcy. Then I slept again and this time I dreamed I was walking along the shores of Lake Five with Phedre and Harva and there was a big hole in the ice. All three of us ran through the pricker bushes and dead trees to the water's edge to investigate. A crowd of adults stood crying. Coworkers tried to calm them. Holes in the ice happened. Those who fell through would resurface. No one was ever really gone.
I awoke feeling stiff sore, and sick. It was three thirty pm and we were approaching Ronand Reagan Airport just outside of Washington DC in Virginia. I remembered the big mansion in northern Virginia, the last mansion I stayed in. I watched as the roadways became full of cream colored cement bridges and twelve lanes wide. We traveled toward Reston and got off at the right exit. My dad was so used to the road we hardly ever got lost in my family.
The airport looked lovely and futuristic. Oddly enough we did not stop at the main terminal building. International flights normally leave from Dulles not Ronald Reagan. We traveled across seas of empty parking lot to the rear part of the airport, passed hangars and small properller air craft to a small building with a few glass windows and a jetway that terminated in a red and white striped tent. We swung around to the far side of the building where security guaards in dark grey uniforms stood wearing helmets polished to an absurd silvery brightness.
My dad saluted them and gave them a goofy grin and then he showed some kind of ID. We all got to go into the little terminal building which was oddly enough quite nice. It was paneled in walnut and had thick carpeting and a big fake maple burl table. There was even a fake fireplace with a nice hot set of gas logs keeping the place warm. A woman behind the counter offered to get me lunch, but my family had brought its own food. I settled for a coke. There were kids and parents sitting in tight sad knots. A few kids had come alone. One or two had dogs with them. There was also at least one cat in a crate. I could hear it mewing piteously.
Several of the kids had dyed their hair funky colors. One wore very expensive designer jeans. Another had on a mini skirt and carried a designer purse. "You feeling OK?" my mother asked me. I tried to eat and stare out the window at the grey sky. "It's a good things planes fly above the clouds I told her." We did not say much. There was not much any of us could say in what still felt like a public place. A couple of men came over to meet my dad. My dad had done work for them and with them in the past. One asked why they had waited so long to send me to England and what my dad planned to do with the other children.
"We don't have to do anything with Hillel and Mir," my mother answered. "They're blessed." The man who was pink headed and half bald with grizzly light grey hair sucked on his lips shook his head and scanned my two siblings. "I remember you," the man said in a faint Southern drawl. "You stayed in my house...it would be half a life time ago."
"That was the mansion in Virginia," I recalled in a dazed and tired voice.
"You gave the poor cook fits," laughed the man from Virginia.
"I loved your house," I blurted out before I could stop myself.
"It's a beautiful mansion. You may be able to come home on vacation and visit. My wife and I would love to have...your whole family."
I wondered if there will be anything left to come back to on vacation. I wondered if the old man knew. I knew I don't have the time or the authority to explain. I was too tired anyway. I was glad when the sky finally turned jewel blue and they made us board the aircraft. My mom and dad hugged me one last time and then we headed out to the jet way that was under the red and white tent and across the tarmac and up a small ladder into what would have been a small jet except that it held the fifteen or so of us comfortably. It had huge reclinging seats and several couches set around tables. There was an onboard galley with snacks. There was plenty of cold soda and hot water for tea.
I thought of the tea and yarn that Fern had bought me, enigmatic Fern and Kimba and all the rest of those kind coworkers doing their jobs. Would Phedre really have smashed those computers in a fit of righteous rage? Had we really been so afraid of being grounded? Would any of it have made any difference? Near the ceiling of the plane, I noticed black plastic devices that looked like butter dishes. These were the jammers my father had manufactured. We could all sleep our way across the Atlantic without dreams.
# posted by ZOIDRubashov @ 1/02/2006 11:37:00 AM