School seemed to drag on and on this year. I'm not sure why. One day there was a disturbance in the cafeteria and Zenobia and I couldn't get back into the building until classes were over. Zapata said we were lucky to have missed it.
"It was awful. It was so boring I started smoking right there in the cafeteria, since I just didn't care at all. I hate this place."
"We'll be finished with all this next week," Zenobia said. Then Zapata looked upset.
"I forgot to tell you. Do you know what that bastard Eldritch did? We're supposed to be in the same college at Trent, and yesterday he tells me that he got into residence, too, and he's in Catherine Parr Traill! I applied to Champlain College on the understanding that he would be there too! Now I'm stuck living in the ass-end of Peterborough when he's downtown!"
"I don't have a boyfriend at my university," I started to say, but Zapata cut me off.
"You're in downtown Toronto. I'll be in Peterborough!" The conversation wasn't going anywhere at that point, so Zapata stamped off to the parking lot to smoke. Zenobia and I walked out to her car and compared notes on summer jobs. I was back at the library, and she was working at the Chapters at the mall.
"You're lucky," she said. "You only have to shelve a tonne of Harry Potter books. I have to sell the damn things. I'll be at the store until 2:00 AM the night they get released."
"Who do you think gets killed in this one?" I asked.
"Hmm. Harry, Voldemort, a hell of a lot of owls, the entire third form...the list could go on." Since she had to spend so much of the summer here, I was suprised that Zenobia had decided to get coffee at the Starbucks at the Chapters at the mall.
When we had our coffee and sat down, Zenobia asked, "Whatever happened with you not going to Duncan's birthday party? You started to tell the story, but then you stopped and started telling me and Zapata what kind of bookcases you were getting from Ikea to take to U of T."
"Sorry. There's something in the air here that breaks up perfectly interesting stories," I said. I started to explain what happened when I missed Duncan's birthday.
I had meant to go, since things had gotten a lot less tense between us. He seemed to be spending a lot of time with Eva, which was probably a good thing. On the afternoon of the party I was watching Bleak House
downstairs when Arne came in.
"I need you to come to Toronto with me. Wilco's busy with that stupid play you got him involved in. He keeps practicing his marks instead of driving." Wilco had graduated from being my driver for A Midsummer Night's Dream
while I played Puck to taking over the role of Puck himself (with me as his offstage voice). The role change came after one too many rehearsals with the director screaming at me to "be light, like a bunny" while I was in the motorized wheelchair. It was better being a voice actor than being onstage. Anyway, Wilco was enjoying himself and even got a job in a local theatre group for summer stock. They promised to do papier-mache scenery to scale for him.
I had no idea why Arne needed to go to Toronto right then, and told him so. Ordinarily I wouldn't balk at a trip to the city, but I was wary of going anywhere with Arne. Arne claimed the trip to be entirely above-board, as he had to get equipment for the telethon he was involved in.
"Telethon? I thought Jerry Lewis did that around Labour Day."
"No, no. It's a telethon here, for special needs students or something. I think they need a new bus. Whatever, they're going to have bands and magic, and two stages, and I'm booked on both. We're going to The Magic Box in Etobicoke, and I need you so I can get the student discount." So we drove to Toronto in the T-bird. The Magic Box was in the middle of nowhere, and we couldn't find parking anywhere near it. We ended up leaving the car three blocks away from the shop in front of a house that had been converted into apartments. The back of it was scorched and there were soot-covered children's toys all over the front yard. The T-bird was an improvement.
Arne spent at least two hours picking out equipment. Fortunately I found some books to read through while he tested the linking ring sets. Then Arne had to convince the clerk that all the magic crap on the counter was really for me.
"Honestly, she wants to work her way through school with illusions. It's better than going on the pole," Arne said. Finally the clerk rang everything through and we left the store. We loaded up the car without incident. Then Arne said the fateful words,
"Hey, want a beer? I know this place where they won't card you." I followed that with the fateful words "why not?"
Arne drove downtown and parked near the bus station. "It's a block or two north," he said. We walked by a run-down hotel and a condemned doughnut shop and then ended up at a Victorian house labelled "Blackstone's." "This is it," Arne said. We went in.
It was open mic night. There were men in tuxes sitting waiting for their chance to go up and "illusion" (as Arne put it). He was right, they didn't card me, mostly because they were too busy searching him for lighter fluid. I settled in on a worn velvet banquette and watched the crowd. After a while I noticed that Arne had disappeared. That wasn't good--I didn't have enough cash to get the bus back home, and I had to get to Duncan's party. I got up and went towards the bar, but stopped when I heard a voice from behind the service area.
"Don't do anything sudden. Just act normal," Arne said.
"Where the hell are you? I have to get back to Milborough. I have things to go to, you moron," I said.
"They're here," Arne said.
"Who's here?" This was getting silly.
"The enforcers. You know, the guys I got into trouble with in Niagara Falls. There's a whole team of magician enforcers here, since some idiot announced that he's going to reveal the deadly karaoke spin illusion tonight." Why me, I wondered. Arne explained that we'd have to stay at the bar until at least 10, when the enforcers would go off to another venue looking for loose-lipped magicians. Arne at least promised to get me dinner and to call my parents to explain where I was, but this didn't get me any closer to Duncan's party.
"So," I concluded to Zenobia, "you probably had more fun than I did since I had to watch 15 magicians do the same hankerchief trick over and over again, while my uncle hid in the draught beer lines."