Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unseen (part 11)


Mum wasn't done with me yet. I suppose she felt it wouldn't be a thorough grounding unless I learned my lesson several times over. The next day she sent me over to the Putnams' house to help Mrs. Putnam deliver several new pairs of shoes to their owners. Most were for the children who had outgrown their old pairs. (Shoes didn't wear out for years in Corey. I remember my first trip outside with my mother, when I was five or six years old; she spent nearly the whole trip firmly repeating the silent reminder: Feet on the ground, sweetheart. I wasn't used to walking long distances, and I came back to Corey with sore, blistered feet.) The day after that I carded wool and stirred dyebaths for Rose Felton. The next day it was milking goats at the Phillipses' farm. Then, for one endless afternoon, I was sent to babysit the Hibbard twins while their parents ran an errand outside.

The Hibbard boys had just reached their terrible twos, and they were SO naughty. They hit each other and flung their snacks on the floor, they threw my bag out the window and colored pictures on the kitchen ceiling, they drew glasses from the cupboard by magic but ended up dropping half a dozen of them on the stone floor, they got into a screaming contest, and when I grabbed them both to put them in a time out, they bit me and flew away. I was tempted to give them both a good spanking; I was certain Mr. and Mrs. Hibbard would have given me carte blanche if they could have seen what the boys were doing. Instead I read them the riot act and put them down for a nap, even though I knew they were getting a little old for nap time. Miraculously, they fussed for all of five minutes before actually settling down to sleep. I guess all that naughtiness had worn them out.

While they were asleep, I practiced looking into their minds, although it wasn't entirely fair of me to do it. Little children can't look into an adult's mind, nor can they usually send messages; it's an ability that only comes with maturity and practice. I was nearly fifteen, almost old enough to be responsible and prepared to learn the finer arts of the mind -- sending and receiving silent messages, looking into others' minds, shading my own thoughts. I was especially looking forward to learning how to shade my mind, as I wanted a bit more privacy from Mum. In any case, I'd been surreptitiously eavesdropping on unshaded minds here and there for more than a year, and was getting pretty good at it.

The twins had, as I had expected, very similar but not completely identical minds. They were simple structures that appeared round and brightly colored like beach balls in my mind's eye, and they were full of mischief and happiness. Both were dreaming -- one of a tropical island covered with little pink frogs, the other of a seven-foot dog named Yarpy. I smiled. Kids had such funny thoughts. I wondered if I'd had the same kinds of dreams when I was two. I wondered if I'd been as naughty as the twins. I sincerely hoped not.

Despite Mum's best efforts to keep me focused on the Conscient and the need to serve others, my thoughts often strayed outside to Keefe and to his magnificent cathedral of a mind. I wondered how a mind like that was formed -- was it all due to his own experiences and his extensive reading, or was he simply born with the innate ability to make complex connections to ideas? For all that we had the knack for magic, why didn't anyone in Corey seem to have Keefe's sort of mind? I certainly hadn't found any sign of it in the few adults whose unguarded minds I'd seen. In any case, I wanted to see things as Keefe saw them, to go exploring with him in the vaulted spaces and quiet alcoves of his head, to follow all the strands of the glorious web of knowledge barely hidden behind his eyes.

Did he ever think about me? And if he did, what would that be like?

One of the Hibbard twins stirred and murmured in his sleep. I turned my mind back toward his, and only then did I notice something odd. At one edge of his mind, right in the middle of a bright cluster of memories of family and friends, there was something like a clear, uneven splotch. It was small, tightly enclosed by the colorful thoughts of Mum and Dad all around it. Something about it reminded me of a scar.

Curious, I peered at the mind of the other twin and discovered a very similar small mental scar in just the same spot. Odd. Well, they were twins. Maybe it was something congenital. Or maybe it had to do with some kind of shared mental trauma. Yet I was certain the Hibbards didn't do anything cruel to their kids.

The hinges of the front door squeaked, and at the sound both boys were instantly awake and out of their beds with a cry of "Daddeee!" So much for naps. I followed them down the hall and into the front room, where they had bowled over their dad and were squealing with laughter as he tickled them. Their mum stood in the front hall, shaking her head and smiling.

"Thank you so much for your service," she said to me. "I know they're a handful."

I tried to be polite, but I'm sure my exhausted posture gave me away.

"Here," she added. "I brought you a little something, just to say thanks." She reached into her bag and brought out a flat tin. I opened it to find a full set of colored pencils. She must have picked them up in a store outside; we didn't have the means to make such things in Corey.

I was struck dumb. I ran my fingers over the perfectly smooth cylinders of the pencils, all different colors. They were beautiful. "I -- oh -- I don't know what to say. These are --"

But words were insufficient, so I impulsively hugged Mrs. Hibbard, and she chuckled. "Oh, enjoy," she said. "I know you'll find a use for them."

On my way home I saw Corey brand-new, imagining what I'd draw in my commonplace-book with the new pencils. I would pick out the shades of color in the massive trunk of the Founder Oak in the town square. I would draw the silvery sheen of the lake at night. I'd draw Mr. Herrick's foundry and the ivy growing up the shaded side of the Conant house. I would draw Fay Ingersoll's chair and my mum's sewing machine. I would draw Janie pouting, just to make her laugh. And maybe I would find the right color to draw Keefe Godwin's eyes, and just a hint of what was behind them.



MarieC said...


LDahl said...

Nice treat for me so early in the morning, hot tea and a chapter of your writing to start the day.

Soozcat said...

Now is where we start getting into it. I have to figure out exactly how I want to get to the end of this... gahhh.