Happy Veterans Day! Or, Remembrance Day!
Just over a third of the month gone…and just under a fifth of my story written: made of fail. This past weekend was consumed by locusts, but I’ve been able to eke out a bit here and there between day-job, wife, kids…the whole catastrophe. I still like where the story is headed…if I really think I know where the story is headed. I’ve surprised myself before.
Below the fold is a snippet from Lily’s day-job as Assistant Director at St. Edwards Home for Children. Of course, Ai shows up to rattle some cages.
Lily walked out of her building towards the dining hall. Some yells and calls from behind the dorm told her some of the kids were likely playing soccer. She just hoped they’d finished their homework, first. She made a mental note to check on that at dinner.
Up three steps, then into the dining hall, she noted that the place settings were already out. Maggie sat at one of the six tables, knitting, apparently. She waved as Lily came in. Walking towards the kitchen, she noted Karl hunched over his tablet, reading.
“’Evening, Karl,” Lily said in passing. He mumbled in reply, then: “What the heck…!”
“Hey, you! Uhh…Karl!” Lily was surprised to hear Ai’s voice. “Turn me around so I can see Lily!”
Lily turned to see Karl having pushed his chair away from the table, looking at his tablet in shock. He looked up at Lily.
“M…Miss Barrett?” He stuttered. “Do you know what’s going on…?”
“I think I do. May I?” As she gestured at the tablet. Karl nodded. Lily picked it up.
“There you are!” Ai beamed. “I wanted to tell you something and you forgot to turn your phone back on, so-“ Lily cut her off.
“Ai. Here, where I live, we don’t just take other’s things. If you had to reach me, you could have asked Karl if you send on a message.” Ai’s face fell as she tried to look contrite. Lily again wondered if she’d pre-programmed images like that, or if she just did it on the fly.
“I’m sorry,” AI said. “I’ll be older now.” Lily tapped the screen where Ai’s nose was.
“Better. We’ll talk after work.” She handed the device back to Karl. “Sorry about that.”
The fifteen year old took it back. “No problem, I…huh, she’s still here?”
“Hi, Karl! I’m Ai, Lily’s friend! Good to meet you!” She hold up what looks like file folders and papers. “Wow, you’ve lots of stuff here…books, notes…hey, poems! Did you write this? ‘The Woman I Lo—‘” With a cry, Karl held down the power tab as he fled the room.
Lily shook her head. Karl was one of the quieter ones; but also one of her best karate students. If Ai wanted to meddle in his life, he’d better get ready for some changes…. Before she forgot again, she turned her phone back on.
In the kitchen was Emily again, assisted by Ken. He was prepping salads while she stood guard over the oven.
“What tonight?” Lily asked.
“Meatloaf,” Emily replied softly. “I’m trying to think of ways to stretch out the meat you got for us as long as possible.” Lily touched her shoulder.
“Thank you, Emily,” she said. “We all appreciate how hard you work for us!”
This was punctuated by a loud, “Wha-hoo! Let’s eat!”
Essaying a rare smile, Emily said, “All of you? Even Erick?”
Lily smiled back. “Well…most of us!” She made her way back to the dining hall. By this point, most of the kids had arrived. Karl was back as well, but when she caught his eye, he turned bright red and looked away. I wonder what that’s about?
“Erick!” She called. “If you’ve that much energy then go help them bring the food in!”
“Awww…!” The lanky pre-teen started to protest, then caught the fire in Lily’s eye. He went. It’d not been long after she’d started living and working there that the kids realized her standing order of “You don’t work; you don’t eat” was not an idle threat.
Some minutes later, food out and all sitting, they began: “Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts…” Lily spoke along with the others, but with her eyes down. It’s not as if I don’t believe; I do. There’s just been so much that makes me doubt….
“Itadakimasu!” About half the children cried out. What had been a tradition in Lily’s family she’d accidentally started doing at St. Edwards. Erick, of course, had been the first to copy her, out of mockery. Lily had neither encouraged nor forbad it, so it slowly spread. Traditions are odd things, she thought, eating.
Dark now, Lily checked the doors of the kitchen and dining room before walking over to the front gate. Crime was negligible these days, but that didn’t mean you got stupid. Attacking or stealing from an orphanage would lead to a quick hanging here, but there were always crazies. But, Lily, like Mr. and Mrs. Fitzhugh, never went about unarmed. True to its frontier heritage, people took seriously that ‘an armed society is a polite society.’
She closed and locked the office’s front door, then proceeded upstairs. No messages, so she went into her bedroom and flopped onto her small bed. Something of a roller coaster of a day, she thought. Roller coasters. These kids don’t know what those are outside of pictures and videos. I wonder when the economy will’ve recovered enough to… a chime from her phone.
Still in the dark she pulled it out of her pants pocket. Ai, of course. ‘What a great day! Let’s another one tomorrow! Where’s the world going?’ At Ai’s question, Lily’s breath caught. The refrain of a song her mother and father used to sing. In Japan, and even before, in Ohio. Could Ai know that? But if not, then what did she mean by it?
Lily changed clothes for bed and brushed her teeth. In her mind’s eye, she thought back to her childhood, before things all went so wrong. Sure, they were better now…but the intervening years…. She plugged her phone in to charge overnight, and sent a reply to her friend: ‘Wont somebody tell me? Are we all one?’ Let her puzzle that one out.