Thursday Afternoon: He’s OUT!

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Bash returned a minute later. Trix seemed to wake from a trance, and she woke up agitated.

“He is OUT. OUT.”

She started pacing the room.

“Days or nights. A simple question. He lied to me. He LIED.”

She was like a caged tiger being taunted by the smell of meat in the air. Trace stepped forward but didn’t try to touch her.

“Kids lie. I know it hurts, but try not to take it so personally.”

“It is personal! And it’s not just personal. He put this whole place at risk, right when…” Her words ground into a growl. “Get him in here. Now.”

“No, Trix. Not until you cool down.”

“Then I will find him.”

She strode from the room. No one moved to stop her, but we all followed.

Trix let herself use more force than necessary to throw open the door to the bunkers. I caught a glimpse of fifteen upturned faces showing surprise, fear, curiosity, excitement, confusion, before the door ricocheted closed behind her. When we entered a few seconds later, she was still towering over the room like a menace.

“Where’s Lizard?” she barked. There was no mistaking her anger.

The boys were uneasy. They knew instinctively how to respond to this kind of rage in authority – their faces closed into masks of dull unknowingness before she’d even named her target. She saw it, too. She sunk to the floor, knees by her ears. This, more than her angry stance, got the boys’ attention. Several ran over to kneel beside her.

“Are you okay?”

“No. Not really. But that’s okay. What do I mean by that?”

“Um…maybe you’re going to be okay…later?” tried Lit.

“Yes, mostly. I need to ask you something and I need the truth.”

“What?”

“Did Latchkey sleep here?”

The boys’ eyes all scattered. Jez spoke for them, his voice too careful to pass.

“He never slept in the bunkers, Trix.”

Trix looked up sharply and Jez shrank back. His left eye twitched involuntarily and his chin was shaking. His hands were up around his neck. This was a boy who expected violence. Trix’s face broke into sadness. She reached out her arms, and that scrawny, grown-up tall boy came in for a cuddle like a preschooler.

“Jez, Jez, where did he sleep?” she crooned, rocking him slightly back and forth. Jez didn’t look up. He didn’t answer.

All the boys were slinking away, but no one had yet dared make for the door. Trace was standing by the kitchen, Bash by the exit, and without noticing, I myself was stationed where we’d come in. I wondered if I was the only accidental guard. I hoped they didn’t expect me to actually try to stop someone from leaving. At the last exit, Static stood watching, enthralled and amused. Trix and Jez showed up briefly on the projection wall, as if to underscore his role.

Trix released Jez and stood. She surveyed the boys with a look that was close to disgust, but mingled with understanding. Her voice sounded tired, irritable, resigned.

“Where is Lizard? Paul. Step up.”

“Lizard’s downstairs in the workshop.”

“Thank you.” She turned and walked toward me. I realized she didn’t even see me – I was below her line of vision. I had to step aside or she would have ploughed me over.

We trailed behind her like a gaggle of jesters in a play, an audience on the stage. Down a narrow back set of stairs I’d not yet seen, we came into the workshop from behind, where I hadn’t registered even seeing a door before. It looked like a different place from that angle, a doppleganger workshop. In the far corner, back to the room, Jamie worked at a computer with large headphones obscuring his ears. He didn’t even know we were there. At the centre work table, Lizard seemed to be helping two boys with something that involved soldering. I’d picked up the smell in the stairwell, but once through the door, acridity filled my nostrils and turned my stomach.

“Lizard!” Trix was not spending time on preliminaries. He knew we were there, but hadn’t yet looked up. He deliberately took his time, straightening slowly and taking an even pace to meet her on the other side of the table.

“What’s up, Trix?” He was guarded.

“Did Latchkey sleep here?”

Lizard’s eyes darted to Jamie, who still hadn’t registered our presence, before settling back on her eyes. He seemed to stand a little taller. I felt he was accepting a challenge, or becoming a champion. He answered clearly.

“Yes.”

“Get your things.”

He blinked at her. It was as though he saw her clearly for the first time and she wasn’t quite what he expected.

“Really. You’re kicking me out? Just like that.”

“You broke the rules. You lied to me. Now Children’s Services is nosing around. You put the show and this whole place in jeopardy. Do you think you should stay?”

“Do I think I should stay? When you don’t ask me one question before pronouncing judgment?” His nostrils flared a dry laugh. “No, ma’am, I don’t think I should stay.”

He turned on his heel and walked from the room, his back straight, no glance to the left or right. He didn’t even say goodbye to the boys he’d been working with. I felt that he was holding himself together by will, and wanted to be away before he lost control.

Trix looked as though she’d been slapped. She raised her hands and rubbed her eyes with the balls, growling and moaning quietly in her throat. I watched her stretch her face into a grotesque mask, tilting her head and rolling it slowly from one side to the other. Mesmerizing. Eyes closed, Trix slowly folded herself in half from the waist, laying her right cheek on the outside of her left calf, hugging her legs with a loving embrace. She moved her face to the other side, then slowly unfolded, continuing so that her arms stretched for the sky and she rose on her toes. She opened her mouth and I expected a roar, but she just held that pose a few moments, then let it go. She looked over at the two boys at the table.

“Let it be known, boys, that we cannot tolerate lying and sneaking in this house. Deception will rot our foundations out from under us. You are the messengers. Go.” The boys sat, awestruck. “I said, GO!” she bellowed, impatience winning over her self-mastery. I felt a rush of enjoyment in the midst of the turmoil. I loved seeing her beyond her control. I felt like I knew her so much more in this moment than at any time before. Her raw power, when she failed to tame it, magnetized my nerves. The boys took off at full speed.

Between her shout and the shuffle, Jamie finally noticed what was happening behind him.

“What’s going on?” he asked, but Trix was already striding from the room. Trace and Bash rushed to follow, but this time, I stayed put.

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