Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ideas of order

Charles Wallace wants me to go help him measure changes in the space-time continuum over at Duncan's house. I'd rather not. Duncan has been emailing him with odder and odder theories about sink holes, hellmouths, and vortices. My parents have been talking to Duncan's parents a lot, too, but I think it's about the house. My father has power of attorney for the Andersons, and it looks like the house will get sold pretty quickly.

That all happened this morning. This afternoon, my mother got home earlier from the office and then called my father, who got home earlier from his office. Then we went out to dinner, and my mother said she had an announcement.
"Geordie over at the med school has been pestering me all summer to start earlier at the university, and today he called and said there's grant funding for me to start earlier, and a house..."
"A house? Why would a university have a house?" Charles Wallace was being a pain.
"I think Geordie's found the house, with some connection he's got. Anyway, we're moving to Toronto by the end of the month." My brother and I sat stunned. I thought I was getting away from my family, and now they'd be in Toronto before classes started. Charles Wallace was also quiet for a bit.
"Mom, now I have to start all over again with a new set of bullies."
"Maybe not," my father said. "I've called some people over at the University of Toronto Schools. You can sit the exam for the fall next week, and who knows--maybe you'll finally be the bully." This was even worse. My brother would just be on the next block from me. My parents were really excited about getting out of Milborough, and even though all of this meant my brother would be just next door to me at university, I was getting kind of excited about it too. And maybe we'd finally lose Arne.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Half life, remembered

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."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Shadows have offended

When I got back from the play rehearsal on Friday, I ran into Arne in the kitchen.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"Staying here," he said. He was overloading the blender with carrots.
"What happened? I thought Ivar fixed the building," I said.
"He did. Then this week, when I was watching Girls With Low Self Esteem on SpikeCanada, Wilco got all upset, and started staring at this tree near the corner of the building. I think he was trying to warn me that it was rotten. Anyway, the tree crashed, my roof's damaged, and we're here. You've got better cable." Wilco hopped by right then, and I think he smirked, but you can't be sure with rabbits.
I walked into the living room and saw my brother doing something with my father's laptop.
"What are you doing to Dad's laptop?"
Charles Wallace looked up. "I'm circumventing The Beaver's vote-counting protocols so Mom can vote for Brian Mulroney as Worst Canadian as many times as she wants."
"Good. When's she's finished I'll vote for the head of the English department." I had just come from another afternoon of being told to be less tall. The play director was talking about trying something with wheels for me to be onstage. It didn't sound like it would work, but Jeremy said he'd give it a try.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

In the bleak midvernal

I keep on trying to get out, but they keep pulling me back in. Last week my marking job was terminated. I was too tough on the grade 9s, apparently. I had more spare time, at least, so I could research summer jobs. I wasn't sure if I would still be at the public library, since I was starting university in the fall. Then yesterday, when I was helping Zenobia pick out a laptop to take to Waterloo, the head of the English department came up behind us in the library.
"Miss Larson," he said portentiously. I started.
"Oh, what now," I asked. "Did Steve Harper say I broke the gestetner again, because it's not true."
"No, the duplicating equipment is fine. But we do need a favour again." When did Al Pacino become head of my high school English department, I thought.
"Yes?" Zenobia was trying not to laugh at the tutoring table.
"We're having some problems with the drama club's Shakespeare production..." I had a bad feeling about what was coming next.
"Do I have to act again?"
"Yes. Half the cast finished their community service on Monday, so we're down quite a few roles. Here's your script." He handed me a bulky envelope. I opened it and pulled out a badly-gestetnered script.
"You want me to play Puck?! What the hell?!"
"I know, it's a stretch, but none of the other problem students can handle so large a role."
"I'm five foot ten, and female. How the hell am I supposed to be convincing as a fairy, who happens to be male?" This was not looking good at all.
"I'm sure the director will think of something." This was worse than Arne's "Lunenberg Lobster" illusion. "This will all be worth your while, Miss Larson."
"It better be. I'm so glad this is my last year here." The department head said something about the library job, and left. Zenobia starting giggling once he was out the library door.
"I know, I know. Beat me, whip me, make me act Shakespeare. How come the math department doesn't do this shit to you?"
"I'm just waiting to see how you'll look as a tiny, tiny man. I think you're taller than everyone they've got in that production."
"You could at least pretend to feel sorry for me, Zenobia." She kept on giggling, even on her way out to have a cigarette.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Anyone may blame me who likes

The stupid therapist my parents sent me to has suggested that I go back to my online writing since putting things into narrative form is good, and helps define and shape experience and fears. Well, that was the way he put it. I haven't been writing since I've been busy. I've had papers to mark, but I'm not really supposed to be doing that.
Last week, when I was at the Learning Resources Centre table with Zenobia, the English teacher who's stuck with the Drama Club this year came up and said he had an offer I couldn't refuse.
"Or what? I get a horse's head in my locker?"
"Very funny, young lady. The principal said you were the student with the highest English average in the school. I need you to do some work for the department."
"What kind of work?" This sounded weird. Zenobia excused her current tutoring subject and started to listen in.
"This year's drama club production has turned out to be a lot more time-consuming than we all thought. I'm spending a considerable amount of overtime making sure nothing catches on fire like last year."
"Nothing caught on fire. It was a malfunctioning fog machine," I said.
"Whatever. The end result is, I have two classes worth of grade 9 students who need to be graded, and you're the only person around to do it," he said.
"You do realize I'm not a teacher, and I don't even have a high school diploma, let alone a B.A.," I said.
"Oh, I know. Other school districts have done this, so I think it's all right." I paused for a minute.
"Other school districts on television, you mean. This doesn't sound very legal," I said. The English teacher drew himself up and glared at me.
"Ms. Larson, you can mark the grade 9 students, or you can be the tallest Peaseblossom any production of A Midsummer's Night Dream has ever featured. The choice is yours." It wasn't really a choice, so I agreed to mark papers. Zenobia said she was lucky that the math department didn't do any theatre. We talked about how things were with our therapists, and how Zapata really should be seeing one. She had been depressed ever since Jeremy Jones started dating again.
"He can't do that!" she shrieked. Zenobia reminded her that Jeremy was a free agent and that Zapata already had a boyfriend. "It's not fair. You two get to see Jeremy all the time when you tutor him, and I don't." Variations of this went on every week or so.
My brother was sulking again, but this time because Duncan's online posts were getting boring. Arne had given Charles Wallace a talk about girls and art, which was his awkward but kind of nice way of explaining that I did the right thing in breaking up with Duncan. Arne told Charles Wallace that I had released Duncan to follow his music, and Duncan should appreciate that. Of course, Arne put it that I realized I was boring and just holding Duncan back. Now Charles Wallace just fumes when he reads Duncan going on about Eva Abuya's family.
"I could do that, but I don't feel like it," he said, "Anyone can do a 419. It's easy."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Far from the madding crowd

I knew last Friday that Arne had returned, but not any details. My mother and father left for Florida soon afterward. Charles Wallace wasn't speaking to me, or at least wasn't speaking directly. He stuck to reading aloud from Duncan's posts on April's blog.
"I get the point. He's having a great time, made even greater by the fact that I'm not there," I said. Duncan was being really nasty at this point in his posts. Wilco got agitated and ran to the front door right then. "What's wrong, Wilco," I asked. Charles Wallace opened the door and Arne strode in. "Oh, that's what's wrong."
"Hey, sorry, I've got to stay with you guys for a few days," Arne said.
"Why now? I'm miserable, he's a pest, only Wilco's perfectly bearable," I said.
"Hey, your life may be in the shit, but I'm really in trouble. Ivar's closed the building for construction, rewiring, health code violations, you name it, it's happened to the Three Kronen. Oh, there's no karaoke this week, so you're out $15 bucks or however much he was giving you."
"What?"
"Some moron shoved a plastic doll in the Three Kronen's septic system, which set off the water sprinkler system, which shorted out the wiring, which started a fire, which burned out the kitchen, which happens to be right under my apartment. So it's either here or the car, and it's cold outside." There wasn't much to say at that point. I went to help Arne get his Maritimes souvenirs out of the car and into the basement.
"What did you do, buy every plastic lobster in Nova Scotia?"
"I need them for an illusion I've been working on. I need a place to practise it, preferably a closed business with a big parking lot."

Let be the finale of seem

My mother and father got back from Florida last night. At least they enjoyed themselves. As they were pulling into the driveway, Arne ran in at the back door.
"I'm not here, you don't know me, and don't mention the Dairy Queen," he said, and ran into the basement. About a minute or so later, my father asked why Arne's car was parked in the Stewarts' driveway.
Charles Wallace and I were watching Labyrinto de los novios with Wilco in the living room.
"Sandra, why are you and your brother watching something in Spanish?" my mother asked.
"Oh, no reason," I said. Wilco was happier with this episode than he was with the last one. There were still shards from the vase scattered in front of the television from that one. Luckily my mother didn't see them. She told us to make sure Wilco didn't go to sleep on the couch and went upstairs to unpack. After Labyrinto de los novios I changed the channel to CP24. The lead story was about a flash fire hitting a Dairy Queen in a southern Ontario suburb.
"Do you think..." Charles Wallace started.
"That this has something to do with Arne? Of course," I said. But why burn a Dairy Queen during the off-season?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Something must break

Time crawls when you’re not having fun. I noticed this during March Break in Florida two years ago, and it’s happening now. It’s been a long week. School drags, since March break is about to start. My mother and father are going to Florida for Spring training, and whatever my mother does whenever my father is watching baseball games that don’t count and making endless notes about them. They leave on Sunday morning, and I’m left with Charles Wallace for the week.
Charles Wallace, for his part, has been reading aloud from April’s blog for me. I gather from his interpretive readings that I’m not supposed to be reading the blog firsthand.
“I’m not reading this, you’re reading it to me. What does Duncan have to complain about?” I said to my brother.
“You broke up with him. You’ve made him listen to that weird music with the whining guitar in it—he kept singing about walking after midnight, and having the lovesick blues, and that he’ll have to go.”
“Country. Damn.”
Zapata maneuvered Jeremy into giving her tickets for a show this week. We all went, since Zapata out-maneuvered herself and Jeremy came up with more comps. Then she kind of got him to go to 300 tonight, but Eldritch decided to go too so Zenobia and I went along. Zapata really got into the Persian soldier killing. She kept poking me and saying, “Look, he’s got purple lips! He’s got to go!”
“Shut up, Zapata,” Eldritch said. “I can’t hear the movie.”
“I’m supporting my friends, so live with it,” Zapata said.
I felt really worn out after the movie, but I had to go do karaoke at the Three Kronen. Zenobia, Zapata, Eldritch, and Jeremy came along. It was the same as usual: a lot of people doing inappropriate Abba songs, and Wilco getting giddy on carrot shooters. At the end of the evening Duncan turned up. Luckily Zenobia was in the washroom right then, and Zapata and Eldritch were doing the evening’s one non-Swedish song. As Zapata sang, “I Got You Babe,” Duncan started to argue with Jeremy. I was at the bar with Wilco. Jeremy was getting angry, Duncan was angry, and I had to hold Wilco back from doing his newest form of self-defense. Jeremy and Duncan went over to the broken cigarette machine, and Ivar came over to talk to me once they started arguing really loudly.
“I feel really bad about this, since you’re a nice girl, but I have to let you go. I can’t have this drama happening every week with karaoke—it scares the regulars." Right then Duncan yelled, "Stay away from my ex-girlfriend," and slipped on a beer puddle. Ivar sighed. "Your uncle had something, I’m not sure what…” Right then a voice behind us said,
“Magic, perhaps?” I smelled the distinctive odor of lighter fluid. Arne was back.