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At Liberty

Misty chuckled at me and winked. Leaving the board and walking over to where Sam, Claire and Sherriel were standing or perched. I felt deflated and confused. ‘ Words that I knew that I have used for many years, were suddenly meaning and used in a different way, in an intolerant, stupid way. ‘
I looked around at all the crossed arms, closed confused faces, the pause which made me feel like I had cracked a popular vase. I shrugged .
” I thought it would help to remind ourselves of the field we are talking about hence, the general subject of Chemistry. I circled Chemistry and wrote Solutions, compounds and Results, just as an aid. ” I whined to Sherriel and Claire. ” I thought I was helping in setting up for the discussion”. I spread my hands at Sam.
I was rambling and defending against those looks that I was getting from all the people in the room.
I’m sure that my face was pathetic.
” I didn’t know that everyone would react this way. What was the big deal?” I put my markers away in my bag, still confused and getting angry over such a small thing. “That I wrote out the outline on the board?” I waved at the board, putting my hands on my hips, I had a thin line of a mouth. ” Really, people” ,I sighed. “Of all the problems going on in the world and they are going to pick a fight over an outline ? ”
Sam and Sherriel exchanged those glances . Sherriel came over and grinned. ” Well, you made THEM confused! Good Job!”
Sam cocked his head and stared at me. ” You are moving cloudy fast, aren’t you?” He rubbed a spot behind his ear, looking down, he smiled at me, like a big brother correcting a little sister .
” I thought we were here to discuss the topics and the general ideas BEFORE we decided exactly who we were going to ask to speak.?” Michael pointed at Megan and the guy with the jazzy headband, “Weren’t they going to present the information so that we could put the pieces in order. But you” He shook his head, his furrow creased. “You! I don’t understand!” He turned away, dismissing me as if I was a three year old with whom he was bored. He looked over at Meghan who was shuffling through papers in a stack, frustration etched in her whole body.

The racket that was made as Joshua hit the top of the large cans he was moving, caught all of us mid sentence.
He moved a chair and attempted to stand on it. “Angie, What are these chairs,? I told you last time. !” He snapped at the girl with the notecards at the sorting table, who jumped at the bark.
I didn’t know who this loudmouth was , but not one deserved to speak to a team member in hostile tone like that. I stood on my chair , ” hey you, blowhard. Where is your work? Her team has been here since long before the rest of us arrived. Who gives you the bloody right to come in here and yell like that? ”

Joshua turn and look at me in shock. ” I am the coordinator . Professor Fields assigned me. Who are you to say ANYTHING? ”
Daisy moved closer to the boys in the back, near the door. Members of my table stood up and Misty helped me stepped down and replaced the chair. Everyone else stared at me or Joshua with anger, and confusion. Angie’s group were worried and were looking at anything except what we going on in front of them.
Sam and Michael put their hands on my shoulders I squared my shoulders ,lifted my face and said in my best protestor yell.
“Aren’t I at Liberty, to speak out when someone has been mistreated?”
There was not a breath or sound in the arching cavern.
Sherriel caught my elbow and whispered. “not another word, kapuchick ”

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Accepted Norms

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I looked out the library window. The sky was bright with a pale white sunshine. With its dark,fluttering leaves dotting the sky, it matched the students. Things had settled down. There were no people sitting around, angrily ,spitefully, yelling at other people . The calm was welcomed but you could sense the submerged opinions . After the address from Mr. Joffrey, of all people, the temper of the grounds cooled.

Last night, we started to plan on how to start on the project’s write up. The others were sketching or digging through cards and packets. There were plenty of people, so I went to the large board in the front and starting writing the outline. I wrote Subjects on the left and Topics on the right. The topics had not been decided upon, hence tonight’s meeting. Under subject, I wrote Chemistry, circled it in fluorescent blue ink and arched branches of Solutions, Compounds and Results, pyramid style. Claire held her clipboard and began sketching while looking at the board. She and I were late arrivals who had worked in the Library, catching up.
The guy with red curly hair pulled in place with a jazzy headband, looked up from the lay out and smiled . Angie was the girl I had talked to about the project when I first arrived. She and the others were making the packets that would be given out. He poked her and both stared at me.
Frowning, she looked at him, ” What is going on? I thought we were working on the titles first and then the topics.?” The guy with the headband they all seemed to prefer, nodded as he moved the cards into piles.
“Yes, that is what we are doing, using the large tables to get everything together. Angie pointed at the board. Claire and the guy looked at what I was writing. “Why is that group ignoring what we are doing?”

I stared back at Angie and the research group. “I was getting ready for the discussion, I thought this would be a way where everyone could see, you know,” as I changed the color of the pen – I stopped as everyone looked up, Angie and her guy was angry ]. (‘why?’ I thought ).
Sam looked at the board with the subject on the left side and the lines descending from it. He frowned and scratched his lip. ” I thought we were settling on the Titles and the topics before we decided on the subjects.” The guy with the headbanded red hair nodded. ” They is exactly what we are doing. I got the cards laid out. We just need to discuss”- his eyebrows furrowed together. – “Why?” He pointed to the board and squinted as they looked at the cards comparing what I had written.
“I was organizing points for the discussion.” My marker pen pointed to the diagram, proudly. ” I just thought writing it out would be a good map to shake out the ideas,” feeling like I had made a good contribution. Sam arched his eyebrow, and I turned to watch the reactions of everybody in the room. The expressions made me feel like I was one of the solution slides on the side table.
Meghan, stepped away from the slides she was preparing, wiping her hands off, stood in front of the board. She stood back and back some more. Looking at the cards on the table and at the board, ‘I had seen that expression last week, numerous times.’ Meghan was a ponderer, always careful about what she said. She read what was on the board and smiled in the manner of a cat observing an odd fluffy bird.
” You have an odd way of organization. I will tell you, but I supposed that there are more than one way to do everything? ” She smiled and tilted her head, still the far away look in her eyes, the gears were turning.

So what do you want?

” You seemed to be so concerned with Talk and free to be saying what your own interpretations of anything. Free to yell, condemn anybody and yet not KNOW anything. So tell me what do you THINK, FEEL, OR DEMAND of YOUR DECIDERS?! You did so LAST NIGHT!! SO MUCH SO THAT COMMON SENSE LEFT.”
Jason called out. “They need to protect us, our homes, our work. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether there is going to be a loud, dangerous group yelling and hurting people or a group of armed military types, not answerable to any of us SENT from some faraway man.”
“So you want someone to keep you safe and make the decisions about everything?” The professor wrote the answer on the old blackboard.

Pink shook her fluorescent pigtails. ” NO! not control everything !”
Mike, a bearded suit guy, from the professional circle, shook his head at Pink. “Wait, The problem areas are complicated, THICK, hard! You have to be careful or affairs will get worse!”
“Not so!” The red shirted guys yelled out. “I want someone to make sure people WE DON’T NEED, DON’T STAY!’ We have too many needs and too many people” They were high-five-ing each other and glaring at the girls.
Violet and Daisy moved their seats father back against the wall . Their amber and green eyes shone in the shadow of the cabinet.
Misty, one of the white haired girls, glared at the Red shirted guys, “Speaking of which, let’s start with you!” She started forward.
I caught her and said in Dad’s teacher voice. “What is needed is for someone to listen to many sides, gather information, ask for smart help, research and THEN EXPLAIN the Middle way and WHY to all of us.”

Before the two group of guys on either side of me or the girls started in on each other. Our old study partner said in a his old studious voice.
“Always the same, every time.” He wandered among us and frowned. “His way, her way, their interpretation, your interpretation!” He looked weary and tired. Frowning, he looked down at the papers on the floor by the suits, “Do you want a person who does the research, listens to people, understand and follow the rules. A person who seeks help from educated people and then can explain the options to the rest of us? Who can decide what and why.”

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He rubbed his chin and looking at the Blue jean posse who were trying to sneak out. He called out.
“Do you want a single one person who decides what is to be and that is that! No discussion or disagreements allowed.”
A person who says, “I am the only person who can make this country. Don’t listen to those other guys. They don’t know. and besides I don’t obey the rules or the laws. I HAVE THE AUTHORITY! . Just Trust and LISTEN TO ME!”
The red shirts straighten up and ceased their whispering. He continued “A person who can say, ‘I can send out my squads of enforcers who only answer to me to your town, or area for any reason. Otherwise, if you don’t do what I say then my legal guys can tackle you with a treason charge. WHENEVER you disagree with me concerning anything is an ATTACK ON THIS GOVERNMENT!”

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Everyone stared at the professor and the three groups mesmerized in anger with each other, froze. The blue jean posse sank into the chairs just in front of them. Mike looked up and Misty stared at him. “What a choice and not much time?” He mumbled, shaking. She cleared her throat and repeated what he said. Everyone looked at the blackboard. Silence.

Random Interpretations

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“What is the difference between a random group of people just sitting and a group of people sitting and talking to each other?”
The Black Gentleman wrote the question and smiled, but his eyes narrowed in an uncomfortable manner, like we were all in a very large bear trap .
He could see our confused, uncertain faces as he turned and numbered the sentences. Several glances passed among us, from group to group, while waiting for someone else to break the silence.
‘One of my history study group was writing a second, more descriptive set of sentences. I couldn’t get used to the fact that HE was a professor of some reputation.
The black gentleman turned and stared at the white girls group.
“The first group is full of single, narrow-minded, uncaring, insular, and totally selfish girls.”
He wrote brackets around “sitting”. Pink’s face darkened, turning her nose red. Tipping her head slightly sideways, she sketched a figure and handed it over to the Misty.
“The second group is a united, concerned community who is committed to taking care of the people who live around them.”
He wrote a star beside the sentence and smiled at the Blue jean posse. I caught grins out of the corner of my eye, the blue jean posse was grinning, slapping backs and fist bumping as they moved their chairs away from the Athletes.
I reread the second set of sentences. The only difference? was the talking? . I was confused and irritated . ‘How dare he say that about Pink and the girls? He knew them and the blue jean guys from last night!’
The professionals frowned as they leaned towards each other, jabbering and flying through papers and books. The wall of blue was closing off. They generally did their confab when class was over.
The black gentleman called out “Am I right?”
There were many tilted heads and askanced shrugs . I looked around at everyone. There were many people ignoring him and no body was answering. I crept my hand up as one of the Athletes called out. “one group is talking to each other.”
“There isn’t enough information given, to make that judgement!” Gerald stated from the Confab circle . “all that-” He pointed at the board, “says is two groups are present, one is talking and one is not.”
The Black Gentleman underlined to top two sentences. “These sentences? ”
He thumped his notebook on the table in front of us. “It is my authority to say what I want IT to say.” He propped his foot on the chest . One of the bearded suits spoke up.
“I don’t see how you came up with the interpretations that you did? There isn’t any proof to say how you condemn one and advanced the other?”
The suits were all nodding, with their hands knotted on their notebooks.
The Black Gentleman stood up on the chest! and bellowed !
“What does that matter?!”
WHETHER THERE ARE ANY FACTS SUPPORTING ? !”

Questions unknown

A few minutes before class was starting, we wandered into where we were told to meet. It was a strange place. An area leftover during the construction of the rooms on this floor. There were unmatched chairs from all over. I recognized chairs from my history class. There were some writing chairs from the labs and chairs from the libraries. The red shirted guys sat in the chairs which were missing pieces and balanced themselves semi-gracefully.

The black gentleman dropped his case on a chest stashed under a chalk board. ‘ Honestly, I don’t remember seeing a board like it .’ I leaned over to see the old frame, which didn’t seem that stable, wincing as he clipped it.
“We are starting- ” He paused, looking up from his writing as chairs were scooted noisily around, papers and bags shifted. He looked at the blue jeans posse, as they continued their conversing.
“Instead”- The white haired girls , dressed in white with bold blue flowers, joined in. ” of the examples in the text.” He leaned back against the board and rolled his eyes, the counting had mentally begun. A lot of sh-shing was given to the people not paying attention.
” We are starting the topic called Community and Values.” He raised his voice and cut off the loud corrections from the assembly. He puckered his lips at the small groups chittering.
“Instead!-” his voice screeching as the chalk scratched across the slate surface, silencing everyone as the looked for the sound. ” of the examples and topics given in your guides.-”
He leaned forward on a near desk and moved it backwards, into the other desks, causing several gasps.
“I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT THE LAST FEW DAYS!” he growled.

‘I have never seen him as a dangerous wizard, but that is what he seemed to me.
Many people drew in their breaths, the setting now seemed to make more sense, out of bounds, away from the public spaces. Eyes looked in all areas of the old, dusty, haunted room and bodies slid. Pink was looking over at an athletic guy with a shiner and knuckled sized bruises along his chin. I was looking at two of the loud red-shirted guys from last night. They were bent over a paper between them. Nobody was talking. The expressions on most faces were of uncertainty–fear? Indifference ? or was that a self defense mask?

Changing ?

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The black gentleman caught the arm of the suited guy near him as he lunged forward. Shaking his head at him, the black gentleman pushed his way forward toward where Diamond could be heard. Barely making a wave, people looked at him and then parted. The black gentleman stepped up and called out.
” Is this what you are calling for?” His booming voice trembled. ” You yelled and damaged and yet I do not hear any workable ideas or plans! ”
‘I have never heard him sound so strong. He always seemed so quiet and always just listening.’ Now we all listened .
” WE WANT WHAT WE ARE DUE! ” yelled one guy on the other side, all dressed in red, he threw a stick to his friends up front. Several of the blue jean posse from around the rock, called out . “We want reparations for what has happened.” waving the stick covered in red goo and tossed it at Diamond.
The Ombre athletes called out. ” It is worse and getting more worse still. The attacks are increasing almost as if the Braggards KNOW that will NOT be stopped by Uppers government!”
The Black Gentleman looked up at the sky before calling out. “That is still being researched.”
Diamond called out . ” Yes, attacks are worse. YES, THEY ARE WRONG!!” He pointed the stick at the Reds. “How is creating chaos and fear, giving us security? or Peace or –?”
” NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Only becoming worse. We are tired of being afraid!” came voices from the group in front of me, they had been jostling each other and rattling bags in which metal clanked. Looking like Hollywood cowboys in their red and black cowboy shirts, orange, blue or purple bandanas tied in a motley of ways with crisp, dark blue jeans, I chuckled thinking how fake they looked.
The Black Gentleman yelled above them . ” How does creating disarray protect anyone? How does destroying jobs and places around you? STOP the Braggards?”
Diamond waved the stick covered in a red goo. ” You are acting in the same manner as the Braggards are always warning all people. ” The Black Gentleman turned, waving a white stick, ” Why are You! ” pointing at the guys all dressed in Red.”traveling from place to place, creating riots and destruction?” The Red group on the other side, shuffled, jostled, looking at each other, then shook their rattling bottles.

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Reason for change.

Diamond’s tears fell and sparkled on his beard.
The walkway light shining crookedly across him. I am not sure how long I would have been able to stand on the rock, it’s not that big. The looks of the people crowded around me were angry, restlessness. Diamond looked up and his eyes bore into the crowd around me.
“Of course, I want to have them punished!! I want to make them admit what happened!!” He leaned forward and landed in the group of Athletes as he shouted. ” WHEN I WAS YOUNG, THEY MADE A MISTAKE. ” His face was the worst pain I have ever seen. ” THERE WERE FEW SURVIVORS, WE KNOW THAT. I WAS ONE OF THEM. ”

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THE BRAGGARDS RAMMED THROUGH ANYONE AND ANYTHING ! He disappeared but I could hear him and see the tip of his head. ” THE POTSHARDS ARE STILL SAYING THAT IT WAS A MISTAKE, NO ONE WAS REALLY HURT!.” His voice was so hurt, deeply wailing.
“WE SAW WHAT HAPPENED” He rose up and his arms were tight around his chest, the sparkles coloring the faces around him.

A lanky brown man shouted out “The kids were invisible then, weren’t seen then! and We’re more INVISIBLE NOW.!” His voice was strained and hard to understand but ALL around him raised their arms. THE ROARS and Howls vibrated around the area. “AGGRIEVE!!!! CONDEMN!!” the sounds accompanied by several ringing crashes.
I yelled out. “They are IRRESPONSIBLE IDIOTS, BASTARDS!! BRAGGARDS!! They ARE WRONG!”

One of the raggedy group that was stared down earlier, cupped his hands around his mask and called out “Hey, You SAID THAT WE DIDN’T HAAVE TO WAIT ON HELP, WE COULD TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES. !!” The red faced, droopy guy, in pants that were sliding, tossed a paper cone. Diamond wiped his eyes and caught it. ‘Pretty good reflexes.’ I thought.
“You are RIGHT!-” His breath was harsh. “to be HURT! WHAT HAPPENED IS REPULSIVE, !!” Diamond used the cone to amplify his sore voice.
The buzz of a hundreds different voices talking to each other drowned out what the droopy guy yelled back.

Cat calls

Diamond looked at the crowds. He looked out and saw kids, eyes shining like a moon on a bright night. They were angry and confused and so hopeful. He caught sight of Pink and the girls, they were waving bandanas and scarves like they were at a gathering. He frowned at her and then his eyes narrowed at the energized people. Anger, dripping from hats, signs and bracelets appeared on the people packed together. If one person falls, they may all crash. He observed and shifted his stance but people were distracted by all the rustling and the cacophony of discordant voices.
“You KNOW ME! ” He yelled, stomped his foot and regained his balance.
I want CHANGE!!!!!” HIS VOICE CRACKED and he had to cough.

A player in Ombre exercise pants and a hazy, orange stretchy jacket called out, shouting over groups of girls in front.
“CHANGE!! CHANGE WOULD BE NICE, IF IT DIDN’T MAKE OUR LIVES WORSE.” He elbowed his way forward . ” I have heard you say that we can be patient and talk and- get aid and all KINDS OF HELP!” The player propped his foot on the bottom crag of the rock. ” You have always said, We don’t need anyone to care of us. We are to work on our places . Learn to work together and MAKE THE LAND WORK FOR US.!” He placed his hands on his kidneys and leaned back, looking up at Diamond. ” We did it. We made settled places . WE! ”
A plump sandy haired guy, yelled out ” I tried it and when I did I was hurting for a tlong time.” A chuckle rippled through the crowd , He obviously had not exercised or taking care of anything.

Another voice called into the discussion. ” There are places that are so harmful that I can NOT walk into those areas. My neighbor ,just down from us. Her husband and son were killed separately. The interrupters just appear. No body stops them because there is no ACCESS!.
A high pitched girl’s voice screeched out. Several women around her, clasps her . A stern ,thin office woman called. ” We can’t get the chemicals to stop it and keep us.” Her hands cupped to her mouth resounded around.
A shocked, light skinned, broad woman with the scarf wrapped around her and tears shining on her cheeks. ” Peace is not around us anymore. Pax tish NO!. Kidlet trampled and places are darkined.”
The Athlete in the sunset orange and ombre sports gear, looked up and inquired ” So DO WE DO WHAT, THE PROMISERS SAY TO DO, IN ORDER TO GET WHAT THEY PROMISED?” DIAMOND drew in a extended breath. He shook his head so slightly, I wasn’t sure I saw it. I had a hard time telling what he was thinking or what he would do?

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Diamond Cut

Suddenly, I was the one getting tapped. Diamond was suddenly standing there all in ashen gray. From his scarf on his head to his dusty, grimy, gray laced shoes. He had several days growth on his face .
“It has to- stop! It just has to stop!” His hands were read and scrapped and his eyes were charcoal black and swollen. “There was a tight, withdrawn skin over his cheeks and chin. “We can’t lose anymore, we just CAN’T!”
“Alright, I know.” I crooned sympathetically. But his eye zeroed on me. “ok, so I DON’T KNOW!” I frowned at the sneer, accusing me. “Hey, I didn’t do anything. I have been here!” I held up my hands to the sky. He looked around at the crowd and after he made his way towards the rock, bounced up on it.
People were gathering in tighter and tighter, poking at each other, some laughing and some looking like the storm clouds gaining depth and height the more people wedged in.

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“For uncounted years, we have been patient, we have tried to follow whatever was asked for us. What ever rules and requests we were told to follow. While promises were made and kept – some partially and some were done.”
The guffaws sounded, the laughter, very mean and deep waved from his left. Diamond stretched his neck and stared at a group to his left and in the crowd. I couldn’t make out but the crowd was stilled. The sounds ceased. He raised both his hands as the shh’s grew louder in a wall all around me. He shook his hand at the circle and his left fist came to rest in the open palm of his right hand. There was a shuffling of feet and glances at the sky or the buildings but eyes went back forward.
“BE SMART! YES! PROMISES HAVE BEEN MADE THAT WERE DONE” His shoulders slumped forward and his head bowed forwards as he stretched his spine. “We HAVE BENEFITTED! YES!” His hands went out and his palms were shown to everyone in front of him .
He then linked his palms on top of his head. “BUT LOOKED NOW!! SAME THING! SAME THING !!” as BEFORE!” His yell was more like a cat yowling. Many in the crowd howled like a pack of wolves, it was all around me. I spun around when I recognize the voices. There were Sam, Sherriel, Cathie, and the black Gentleman. They were howling like wolves with their necks stretched and their voices loud, low and scary. Jamie certainly knew how to capture a crowd. I shook my head.’ He certainly didn’t act like any Jamie I have ever known. No, He was Diamond!’ “What the F**ck had happened?” ‘What was I supposed to do or guess?’ My shoulders drew in and I felt very different.

Too Much this time.

There was the group , it was hard to tell who was complaining and who was watching. There were people in reds, the blue jean casuals and the business -like professional dress. The loudest and most hostile voice, I realized I knew. I had lunch with her and other members of our History group at the end of a complicated lecture, yesterday. She was her half snarly self, but nothing unusual .
Now, Pink was standing on the rock, Her pink hair pulled in a puff on the top of her head, making me smile because it so didn’t go with her voice.
” We know how actions are done in the Place of Talk”. She held up her fingers . ” Keep calm, be stable. Talk! Walk the fingers,” she said as she walked one hand on the top of the knuckles . “Diamond is right!!” she sneered pulling some hair out of a corner of her mouth. She caught Diamond’s eye. He frowned at her . She stared out and called out. “This is what happens when Government get too caught up in itself. When They are too busy trying to win their battles and don’t want to “grow up” and learn to play on a joint team. Then the no nothings bring their dislike and then the elements, grow and grow.” She swung her hands around in a whirlwind of arms and legs. “There are no Guiders” She shouted to the sky. Looking out all over the crowd and shaking her head. She cupped her hands.
“The Rulemakers, the merchants get everything they want to make THEIR lives easier.” The answers were shouted out. Most of which was lost in the din. Where was Diamond or the Black Gentleman? Diamond was the megaphone, usually?

I moved closer to where I could see, but it didn’t help. Pink was gone and a girl with a flushed red face stood up . ” I couldn’t believe what was happening. ” she started. Her forehead was caught in furrows . The trucks had room ” She looked out over the blob of people. Her eyes were lost in another back place.
“It was a beautiful day, we were taking a break from doing the placework”. Her jacket was tangled, and dark. She had bandages on her hands and leg. “and there wasn’t other traffic. Mr. Stammen was pulling up the plants, you know to help the other plants get better.” She smiled and looked at the plants around the pathways.
“He came last week and help us plant a garden. She smiled and looked down at the ground and then at the floral mural not, 30 feet way. ” There was NO – ” she stopped and stomp her feet . Pulling up as far as her shoulders and chin could go. ” for them to go through the plow. No reason for the Braggards to chase him and hold him down. They are cruel bullies. “There was no ” she swallowed, breathed. “–for them to get out and -” she shut her eyes and winced at a sound in the back. ” hit all the people who were trying to help . We- we kids were just standing -away. and -and kids went down. ” -her tears were streaming down and the pain on her face, I have never seen . ” No reason, We weren’t –” Her face was clouded over with far-away pain, that was too close, to all of us. She hunched over and batted at her tears. Sam helped her down and held on to her.