Sunday, December 14, 2008
Fall's End Part IV (Part III under Oct.08, Part II Under Sept 08 and Part I Under Jan 08)
At the far end of the cafeteria a row of large windows ran a raving-fire-green of hard afternoon sunlight. Students charged into the cafeteria across the milky white floor like passing a cloud of vapor. Faculty huddled at either end of the cafeteria and sheep-herded the students to the sunflower-orange tables. Without any forgiveness they folded their arms and went face-to-face. Their eyes turned a mantra, of seeking refuge and within a covetous dialogue they rocked away from each other like sea-bobbing buoys. And the children roosted electricly on the lengths of the picnic-style tables looking like they were burned into the sun-filled green.
The thinner, much younger huddle of faculty was smartly dressed under the far clock. They had set off a charge of laughter so abrupt that, as I walked past, I metamorphosed into the coy child I once was. I averted my eyes, marble-ricocheted an arc into the mulling cafeteria frenzy. A hot pang inside my head felt like it singed the skin of my scalp and in the middle of the milky floor I guided myself to the end of the lunch line.
Students quickly added to the line behind me and curled like coral reef. Looking back at them, along with the sea-bobbing faculty, I became nauseated. The shorter the line got the more the hunger pulled inside my gut. But it passed quickly when I took a hot tray from the tall dripping stacks inside the doorway. However in my close examination I found that the fossilized remnants of mashed potatoes were spackled into the corners of the tray. In several areas they were simply Mesozoic and began to turn my stomach even more. I set the tray sadly askew with the other soiled trays like a deck of trick cards and selected another. It’s unnatural shade of putrid green I gladly slid along the glossy countertop.
Behind the glassed-in cases four hair-netted luncheoneers portioned out food, clinking and scraping stainless containers like a tin set of drums. The first lunch man’s eyes squinted down his bulbous nose. His softly accentuated under bite indicated perhaps he had forgotten his teeth and by way of ice-cream scooper he stiffly dolled out a lump of mashed potatoes. The dry heap stuck to my green tray and did not lose its grainy cue-ball shape. The following lunch lady shuffled a steaming pan of suran-covered entrée’s that under the glass looked like melted cheese. She ripped open the plastic and clipped-in a round diskette of compressed meat with enormously long tongs. When her straight smile erupted into a coughing laugh it bounced her heavy bosom and her tiny eyes, in the divided magnification of hot-pink rimmed glasses, became lost in her tight squints.
“With or without—” she said after the laugh and waited a second, “sauce or none, honey,” she said and her impatience pinged the large spoon to the side of the metal container.
“With please—” I said and the ladle of watery brown liquid spilled to the diskette in the main course compartment of the tray.
I sidestepped in line, gliding my tray down with the other students to the next post where a swash of green beans was sloppily spooned-in. They came submerged in a delicate split of soggy drab, looking as if they had been canned in formaldehyde. The final lunch lady smiled down at the tray with the beans sliding towards her. She was younger than the other three and, one hand on her hip, she curtly turned a loose load of applesauce, form-fitting its resin to the small corner square.
“Misses Morcom—” a small boy behind me in line called out. The second lunch lady had just clipped in the diskette of stiff meat to his tray and the boy keenly watched the whole process. He inched up close to the glass case with his eyes level to his tray while the meat landed, crumb-bursting.
“—Misses Morcom,” the young boy pleaded again for her attention but she ignored him resplendently, “My dad said,” the boy continued, “that I need meat—extra meat, because my shirts are loose.”
The lunch lady exhaled incredulously. Her sigh turned her head away from the boy, rolled her in three sections; one at her head, next her shoulders and then her waist, bringing my attention back to the dizzy sea-bobbing milk of the cafeteria floor. She heaved her chest and then looked in the opposite direction. Then, begrudgingly, she let the hissing air from her chest and neatly set another diskette flush on top of the other. When the boy thanked her she smugly rolled her eyes and her grey pupils swam throughout the two half fishbowls of her glasses lenses. Accepting her weakness she winked sideways at the boy and then shook her head in disbelief.
Calls took the children springing from the mouth of the kitchen. In front of the register there was a stack of plastic milk crates and the beads of condensation collectively leaked onto the floor. I paid for my lunch and took one small carton, its weight slight in my hand and crossed to an empty orange table at the far end of the cafeteria.
Here from behind my tray I confronted the green hill of just cut grass. The neighboring diary farm’s pillars of milk stilted up the ash lucid sky and the fields beyond were in a delicate haze of autumn. I was at ease alone and facing the outside world and I looked down to give the diskette a concerned squint before testing it with my fork. I carefully lifted a small wedge to my mouth when the table rumbled and, without too much grace, a young student set herself down cross-cornered the orange formica. In her hastiness the milk carton jumped completely from her tray and onto its side. Her eyes brightened, they were stunned at the tumbled carton, a surprised guile as if she believed the carton of milk had just passed out cold and she was brave enough to begin resuscitation.
I recognized her as the heroic student who fell frontwards in the first gym class that morning. She had not combed her short hair since, it was riddled with cowlicks and she looked wild and clammy. After arranging herself with one leg up onto the bench she slouched over sadly and I went back to my meal. I was about to take a bite when the table rumbled again as the student stomped her elbow next to her tray and, very primitively, she took the fork with her other hand and raised it into the air. I was chewing a mouthful, studying the young student’s sad eyes and the Hitchcockian knife-hold when, in one circuitous stitch, she jousted the flat meat patty and swooped it up above her head. I parted the mouth folds of my milk carton and pulled them open. The short-haired girl remained unmoved with the jousted meat in the air. The most quizzical look surfaced in her face then. One lazy ripple embossed in her forehead, she lowered her eyelids and fluttered them at me. Then she tipped her fork and jettisoned the stiff disk to the floor. I turned to the dairy farm and looked hard at the silos, waiting for the sweating condensation to drip down them but they were too far away. I absently reached for my milk carton, lifted it to my mouth and took the entire carton of milk in one sitting. A drop ran down my chin like mercury as I set the empty container onto the table.
“Are you going to drink that milk?” I asked her as she straddled the bench and leaned long away from her untouched lunch.
“I don’t believe in milk, do you?” she asked, “You do know that cows are a religious item to some people, like in India and junk—”
“It’s probably because they’ve got several stomachs—” I said.
“I don’t believe in that either,” she said with an insouciant roll of her eyes.
“It’s true,” I continued, “they’re ruminants for one thing. They can digest grass. That is, they take cellulose and turn it into protein—”
“If it’s cows milk, I don’t believe in it—”
“Well that’s not the best part. Do you know that farmers—you can believe this one or not at all, but it is the absolute truth—and I’ll tell you anyway. The farmers manage, somehow—you can use your imagination—they have the suspicious ability to leave magnets in their stomachs. Inside the cows. I think they have three—I’m not sure. Well, cows can have got some pretty disgustingly horrible eating habits, as I am sure you are aware. But it’s so that when they, say, eat up a handful of nails and such, the magnets organize them into an assembled order. You know. For obvious reasons.”
“Well”, the short-haired girl said blandly.” She sat upright.
“You’re the bomb, I think,” the student said. The statement collapsed her in her own unbelief, “I still don’t have any faith in it,” she continued from the collapse, “Nope. At—All,” she said sitting straight up and accentuated both words sharply staccato, delivering them by her hand jabbing for each word.
“But if I did, that would be all the more reason,” she arched her back in a stretch that lowered her eyebrows and forced out a loud guffaw. As she was recovering and in a half-yawn she took her index finger and thumb of the same hand and she made the shape of an “L”. She brought the ghost up to the side of her temple, closed her left eye and the soft damp line of her dark eyelashes took my photograph. The clucking of her tongue from the side of her mouth was the shutter.
The bell rang out then. She scattered her up from the table and sprinted off into the hallway. In her absence her tray was left untouched and the compressed meat abandoned on the cafeteria floor. I reached over and scooted her milk across the table towards me leaving a smeared trail of water. I finished it in one swallow.
* * *
There was a trace of something so dear and forgetful in the muddle of the gymnasium floor. Within the smears of dogeball and the ineffable streaks of sneaker skids the basketball, remarkably, appeared to be sitting in the exact spot it had been as I first noticed it. I searched the ceiling for one laughing angel but the scoreboard only stood with its lovely neat rows of dusty light bulbs, the indifference of their dull white finish awaiting the warmth of some electric charge. In the pure thought of eggs the insides of me stood up and I made for the basketball.
But one good and sharp step was all I was able to make before the gymnasium doors rattled ajar and I froze like a thief with the basketball in my hands. It looked at first as though there were two boys wrestling each other into the room, trying to turn each other inside out. But as the figuration budded further it became clear that the two were actually one; one boy struggling his arms around the glinting rims of a highly polished tuba.
The boy was large for his age and his hair was bronze, short but heavy. One tussled body cantilevered from the other, mirroring across the threshold of the gymnasium. It was a besieging argument that was misleading; somehow the shiny instrument said one thing and the boy the other. However opposing, the single set of legs they shared held the ground flat and square. The boy stomped out a small circle to butt the door open and the god of golden snakes sucked the entire rows of ceiling lights through the metal conduit of its brass tentacles.
The doors kicked shut behind the boy like wild ponies, pushing the two inside. He gave a skillful tug to tighten his soft arms around the metal-brain of the tuba and then made his way across the gymnasium floor. His breath-holding wobble reached him center court where; desperately, he cocked his head sideways. But such poise, his chunky white sneakers cow-hocked to the patient face of the Chief, a slight throat wheeze and, under the weight of his metal twin, the pallor of his marshmellow cheeks went rosy. Here on the face of the Indian Chief the boy stood slumping, proud and alone until abruptly he lurched the god up into his arms and the large mouth of the tuba combed a celestial measure in its path. Every visible light whirled inside that vacuumous opening while the boy, without even a lift to the eyebrows, pivoted on one foot to a direct-right and paraded himself across court half-ways. When he met the bleachers it was without hesitation that the boy stepped up and thundered him straight to the top plank. Here he gave a slow but eager shuffle-turn, a rabbit in a box trap, caught with a carrot and a pressed nose. One-hundred-and-eighty degrees and underneath the residue of his heavy perspiration and his shortbreath panting the boy finally rested. He sat attentively recital-poised despite the effort to muffle his lilts of wheezing.
It was all I could do to take a few cautious steps and quiet my refuge behind the camera. Slightly bent I stood a treetop tiger with my fingers ready-wrapped to the side-handle of the tripod. I lifted my chin to make for something to say, though I don’t know what it would have been. Our silent length soiled the interlude and I was certain that whatever noise would have come out would have been nothing close to music—my twin was a dark and grave camera, its noises were the strict mechanical eating sounds of grass. Its continual digestion was deceiving while its unlying posture did not at all give in to interpretation.
This is when the doors suddenly parted with such violence it was as though a piano had fallen through heaven above. When I looked for its anguished ebony and ivory keys on gymnasium floor I found instead a steady stream of young musicians. Each child forced the double doors wide, a swing that graciously batted around the very next musician who entered. It was a demonstrated war of the true love of what art and life did to you. It beat you up and it devastated you and the cacophony was considerably on the cusp of disaster. Surviving the bites of the clamoring doors, the musicians crossed through the lemon light of the gymnasium holding on to their bright instruments with such careless delight. Following the bravado of the fearless tuba player every musician visited the face of the Indian Chief by the soft pads of their sneakers and the Chief’s nose took the smears with grudging affection. Then they all marched into the bleachers and their roaring stomps shuffled them into a slanting order of metal-clicking that pianissimo-ed the dissonance an unquiet close. It was hard to watch and it was impossible not to.
I resolved once again to express myself from behind the camera. A single shout, a, “How Grand,” or an emphatic, “Bravo,” anything to solidify a connection, just one uttered syllable would have slivered me into the world. But once again it was the half-breath I took that was on perfect queue as the double doors center-left of the gymnasium and opposite the band erupted a steady flow of PE class.
Children marbled across the empty wood floor, girls and then the boys. An ocean was made of half court where white scalloped shorts outlined in the lightest blue matched the robin’s egg t-shirts they wore. Their jumping and bobbing enraged a white-capped water, a welling up of a storm to destroy what it must until there was a melodious interruption, a sweet voice that took a knife and spread some icing over the humps.
“OK. Ready—” the voice rang out. It was an authoritative yet less dogmatic female song and there was no indication from where it had been directed. And though the vacuous room had lost its acrid edge the command remained sugary thin.
“One-two-three, one-two-three, ready-two-three, band-two-three—” the voice called out.
The tuba player struck up the first notes to exact the rhythm of the instructor’s waltz. One measure of grunting had been completed from the gaseous squid before the band jarred into derelict structure. I had to concentrate to pick out the melody because it was always falling. And falling fast the composition suddenly gut-wrenched into a vague but sympathetic rendition of the Blue Danube. By the thick rope of the tuba player’s steady bumping the children arranged themselves into small bouquet-sets, boy-girl, boy-girl.
Echoed hints from the instructor caused sudden jostles and eruptions of quickened steps, as the children attempted a lighter dance than was theirs. It brought me from the studio as I pictured the whole gymnasium swooning dandelion seeds. The awkward space between each couple was a tested fact that one might fly away from the other and never need to return. The floor teemed in this precarious spin and if you had a birds-eye view I was sure you would have witnessed bursting bloom—their bumbledance taking you from bud to full ignited open.
This is where I found the instructor. During my celestial thoughts she was sewing a gleeful syncopation throughout the two-by-two’s. In her counter movement you could have easily mistaken her for one of the children. Her height, her petite frame, she blended like effervescence into the soda of the room. And if it were not for her red baseball cap with a bright white star that she wore, I would have never have found her.
“Wonderful. Yes, wonderful,” the instructor called and swayed her arms to the compositions slow and attractive slight off-ness, “Feel the rhythm, James—that’s right. One-two-three, one-two-three—” her long fingers were open to such uncertain music while she took ribbon runs across the dance floor like barn swallows. It was as if the music so gently plucked her into their quirky story. The startling white star of her red darting bill pin-wheeled her alongside the waltzing couples. Her carefree dance alighted her from one to another, a clumsy appeal where she adjusted them and then sprightly released, whipping her ponytail a calliope.
A few circles had been completed when the dance instructor bumped her way to the outer rim of the corps de waltz. She passed hurriedly by; my face turned and our eyes grazed, such blue exaggerated. Her ponytail lightly brushed my nose and when her dancing toes entangled in the wires of the main lighting rig, her arms whirled in the air. After she stomped out of the slippery snakes she stumbled backward into the studio. She careened and with such lucky aerobatic alacrity set herself square onto the sitting box. There was a calming moment where she caught herself, just a short intake of her breath before the box tipped backwards and she flailed her arms to gather in her balance.
When she was finally still the dance instructor poised herself, reached her arms out in a giant grand finale and the entire dance troupe halted their seaward cycle to erupt a ferocious applause. It brought the dance instructor, her arms still splayed open in gliding flight, to a low and graceful bow.
I was clapping just as vehemently as the children except that an unabashed smile mustered over my face. Which was suddenly wiped clear as out of the peripheral of my eye I noticed the main lighting rig take a slow timber-fall. I leaped then, but I just remember sliding on my knees and a metal hotness in the floorboards, my skin, my heart. The applause sank to utter silence in that cool slide as I heroically caught the lamp but shuttered in anticipation of the explosion pop. I was half thinking the recoil would shoot me into the hallway on my knees as a lightening Budda when the dance instructor, her arms still out spread in the vaudevillian-finale, simply directed them toward me on the floor. The clapping commenced a modulation higher.
“All right, all right. Enough,” the gym instructor clapped her hands twice, “Back to work, now. One-two-three—band-two-three. Lift your head, Linda. Jason, watch those hands,” the low voices of laughter liquefied under the winding up of the band. The spirits of the children it seemed were justified within the clamorous swaying of this sparsely slow interlude.
“I’m a mess,” the young instructor said to me. She tilted her head down and the brim of her ball cap stood a horizon to the tops of her eyes. I hadn’t moved from the floor. I was folded in my prayer with the giant silver egg cradled to the hollow of my chest and the dance instructor, looking as if she was about to sneeze, burst out laughing. Her gesture was a calamity gesture, an explosion, handfuls over handfuls of daisies.
“I’m so sorry—” the instructor said, her coy recovery in the cherry of her pursing lips. To shake off the laughter she jumped her tightly bound arms out in front of her and fanned her fingers into feathers. Surreptitiously she shrugged her shoulders up and nimbly twisted her spine from gipsy sway to demure alignment.
I stood slowly and wobbled the big silver egg back into place. But in my release it was some other fable, the light stand teetered away like the dandelion seeds. I probably should have just let it go because its collapse would have left us no other reason. But I could not help myself. I quick-fisted the stand. I held it firm and tightened its tension screw at the base. In my caution I glanced back to the trick-timber while walking to camera post. And instead of it’s collapse the amusement rolled from red-capped instructor, a hilarity that erupted from every part of her smallness. Her lily hands went from covering her mouth to shaking them again into feathers. The blur made me stumble behind the camera. I accidentally kicked the corner of the tripod, jumping from one auspicious precipice to another. The tips of equilibrium, every single fulcrum weighted any direction like treading a basketball in a backyard pool.
“I’m so sorry, I’m so awful,” the instructor said out from her rolling laughter. She padded herself clear and then said, “Oh, wait, would you mind holding one moment—I’m not ready—”
The children’s disastrous waltz teetered away from the backdrop in swirls. She peeked over at them. Though I hadn’t even begun to adjust the camera she averted her eyes beneath the red brim of her ball cap. Then she snapped to her pose and uncradled her thin wisps of corn silk hair to her shoulders. You could almost smell turning bronze in the air, honey and apples when she struggled-fixed the strands through her fingers. Even the crooked smile that dipped from her lips tasted pie.
I had to divert myself into the viewfinder because my eyes were limejuice-squinted. I had a sad sort of happiness that made me bite my bottom lip. It was easy for me to hide here except that under the closeness of lens magnification the luminosity of her skin stunned me. The thousand fine candles of beeswax I pictured alighting her from within burned me so transparently. I was afraid to look up.
I pulled the lens from its sharp focus to a gauze blur and rounded the barrel lens back to the crispness of her big eyes, a color so violent and mysterious as a capsizing sea. I took a picture. In my open stare the scene fleetingly jogged away. Her quivering afterimage, the fine honey of her hair, her luminous skin and those two lapis lazuli mysteries burned into memory.
“Oh, one more, please. I was not ready,” the teacher pleaded sifting her hips until she was aligned once again, “I forgot I had my silly whistle on,” she said.
The silver whistle was tied around her neck with red shoelace. She fastidiously unlassoed it until it caught up in her hair. She quickly picked at the snarl as her skinny legs fawn-fumbled. Suddenly the whistle snagged the front of her small white t-shirt. It pulled up to reveal her navel, her reedy stomach and then jumped up over her white cotton sports bra that flattened out her chest. She pushed the t-shirt down to an inking flush of her neck, an apple you could have taken a crisp shine to.
“I am so sorry,” she said. The words parted evasively from her tangley hair that had enclosed around her face. An imploring spill, she let it be known that it was not sabotage. Her lips curled as she lifted her chin.
My face felt hot looking at her messed up hair. Where it had just touched the tips of her cheekbones it was crimson running into the rivers of her boney shoulders in the stretch of her collar. I don’t know what came over me then but I moved from behind the camera to kneel in front of the gym teacher. I fanned her hair through the backs of my hands while her body heated a husking embrace of snow. Her eyes had widened to my gained confidence and the staid corrugation knitted up in my brow. I could smell her skin, of clean sweat and dove soap. She followed me closely with those open eyes, testing but on a perilous slope of laughter.
“I feel like a little girl,” she said trying to sit perfectly still.
It was a dreamlike diorama. And not unreal but more heightened, more concentrated in ecstatic life. I walked back to survey the order of the picture and then ducked in cover of the viewfinder because everything had changed. I refocused twice and followed out of the cameras gaze to lay my temple at the dark metal of the lens. To compare our eyes I took the photograph. The pulsing arrest of the flashbulb whitened out like a gust of wind. My eyes were wide open and the two different brains, one; its metal, glass and precision, the other; my own, the conduit of smooth chambers, just as dark and continuous yet the mystified riddle still was not justified.
With cutting accuracy the music was sliced from the gymnasium. It happened so perfectly I though it may have been my own device. The young teacher stood from the box and she pulled her red ball cap on, tugged it comically to the lovely shape of her head. In such quietude she took one decisive step, placed her dancing toes in the entanglement of what seemed to be nothing at all but her own two feet. She stumbled hard and lurched foreword, padded the ground and delivered her in my arms. At falls end she pressed up flat to my chest. I had to grab her tightly and the impact released a sharp blue jay chirp from the squeeze of her throat. The whistle charged the band into a chug of staggering melodious energy.
“Shall we?” the gym teacher said. Her thin folded up arms bundled my tie into a ribbon and when she tilted her head sideways her thin hair ran a river down.
The red-capped instructor took my hand and placed it on her waist. She pressed it there as if saying here on this small bone will be forever drifting you and I asunder. The process leaned us towards the slow pinning of the couple’s concentric circles. There would be no beginning or ending, this song readily admitted. Except that in it’s offering a rich promise glinted a fortuitous direction but never let you know if its destination would be clear enough to travel. And it was comforting to go nowhere just as the components of the musical score didn’t need to fit each other and rather they lightly overlapped so that some parts were faultless and at the same time the concert fell straight through. Its brokenness bought us all together. Had it not been for the brevity of the fearless tuba player dragging his stumping phrases the roaming piece, our drifting, could have all but disappeared.
The gym teacher pantomimed a lift to my gait. And I did so. I took her suggestion as if I were getting my own portrait taken. My posture straightened and the sudden embarrassment rushed to my face as I imagined I was a light bulb against the blue of the whirligig dancers. My heart, my heat and my ungainly side-stepping were black bolts of lightening within the exposed legs of the children. The both of us became a sure part of every visionary mechanics to this performance. Together our wind-turns were the instrument that produced the passing giggles from each twirling couple. I was losing myself. I was really letting myself gather in the dance. And at the same time the musical interlude also began to bunch up to a momentous end. I was overjoyed, almost penetrating my bottom lip. A miniature crescendo gained velocity and then violently came to a halt.
At that moment I found myself pleasurably frozen in the lean embrace of the gym teacher’s athletic arms. I looked down to see if I would find her as sad as I was, that the dance had ended, that there was a wonder, where to go from this point. And here’s where she surprised me. When our eyes met they suddenly gained a devilish tinge. She pressed herself against me, a cue I was sure had meant to engage in a passionate kiss. Then she leaned me back and dipped me over awkwardly to the ferocious clapping of the dance troupe. I was looking upside-down at them. In my bridging posture, across the courts I watched them as if we were all under water. While panning upside down I then discovered that a perfect line of third grade students was waiting along side the photographic studio. They too were clapping but their teacher was not. Instead she rocked in the doorway a steel pendulum, engulfed in the dismal green hallway tiles.
“That was just wonderful, Mrs. Foxtrot,” the teacher yelled bluntly through her cupped hands while rocking away pensively.
“Now, if you don’t mind,” she added as she crossed her arms into a solid concrete ridge, “I believe we are running a little late?” she said, uncrossed her arms and pointed up at the clock, “I do believe we have the dance floor now? Mrs. Foxtrot?”
“Sorry Rose,” Mrs. Foxtrot said her voice rising sweetly but ended in an obstinate jelly. Taciturnly she funneled her class into the double doors, divided once again, girls and the boys.
“We were just—getting down,” Mrs. Foxtrot turned back and added absently.
“You don’t have to be sorry, dear,” the third-grade teacher demonstrated in a voice of fog, each word sluggish and opaquely unsympathetic.
I had hurried over to the studio straightening my tie and pushing my shirt hems into the front of my pants.
“Now take mine first—dear,” the teacher said to me as I got there. She averted her eyes and ended the plea sweetly, “And hurry on before my hair moves about,” she said smoothing her legs down and the polyester zipped against her rings.
“Absolutely,” I said.
The orchestra began the abandon and thundered down the wooden planked bleachers. My rising tone, one I hoped would be stern, came out much different under duress. I was weakened by the silence; the tender space around us was left vulnerable. Even the parting band, there was a need to tote away their instruments quickly. To sequester them to the dark secret rooms so that their unfaltering, pivotal awakenings would be boxed up and swallowed whole like Jonah.
“Don’t make me look too old,” the third-grade teacher muted. In her irascible tone I framed up the photograph and focused. I understood she didn’t want to be rude and I was hopeful it was not directed towards me. More it was a natural resentment to everything in her wrongful world like taking a heavy roller to a plastic molded contour map.
“—And do not make me look too fat,” she added so that the quick inward laugh she made enraged her justification. It was an attempt to iron-out the situation that buckled before us. Though her rigid, lined-up class of third grade students did not dare laugh.
The laughable, the miracle of the musical interlude had vanished along with the band and the dancers. But there was one searing and sweetly divine solo that saved us all. It called right then from the open clamshell of Mrs. Foxtrot’s hands:
“Say pickles—” she yelled.
It echoed across the basketball court and dripped from the lemon walls. And then she too disappeared into the two draining doors.