Math test

Still not knowing anything about him, except that he was apparently a friend of Joy’s, he laid out some bills. I have never seen such crumpled , dirty and stained bills. I licked my lips wishing that I could get my tea from the other side of the room.
“So, let’s see.” He gathered some coins from the pile and handed them to me. “Put the coinshe in number order. ” I placed the large ones first and proceeded down to the smallest. He smiled and jotted down a note in a notebook. ” Place the coinshe in a set of similars. ”
I fingered the small, silver coins and then the different coins. I didn’t seem to have any pennies. There seemed to be nickels, dimes, half dollars and dollars coins. I fingered the edges of the coins, I didn’t see any names or numbers on the coins. I put the coins in groups by size and the large coins with the bills. Joy’s friend , Mr. test administrator, was looking across the room at the hallway entrance. ” This shouldn’t take too long.? I want enough coinage to buy coffee and a pie.” He looked down at my medium coins and the bill I had put out. I didn’t have pennies or quarters, unsure of my choice, I pulled the bill back.
I looked at the money on the table. I picked up 2 large coins, remembering that Marie had given the food truck vendor two such coins. I put two out and then withdrew one, just like she had done. It didn’t seem right. I have no more idea how much the price was for coffee and pie than I had for lunch. I put out 3 coins and 7 smaller ones. He seemed puzzled and he picked up the two large coins from the pile and placed them on a blank card. In a teacher’s voice as smooth as silk and cold as ice, he asked . “Lunch is 37 coinshe . How much are you going to give me? ”
How to do 37? when I have no pennies. I puzzled and my hand scratched the back of my neck,, I stretched my neck and caught sight of the pillow in the desk chair.propped up against the drawers. The inner math voice said’ No use stalling, I was just guessing anyway.’ I measured out three of the rough edged medium ones and a large one ( hoping that I had put out 3 dimes, a nickel) It was the best I could do. I sat up, from the slump and knew as soon as he looked down, I was wrong. He spread the money out in rows and boxes.
I stared at the notes, he had laid down.

” Marie’s girl doesn’t know number identification, having difficulty with basic coinshe joining and subtracting. Don’t know how intelligent she is.
Education is minimal, like all education in the outer areas. What does Marie expect? ” I looked up at him, in his gray suit and purple scarf. He met my gaze. ” I don’t know where you lived or what is acceptable for your area, but you have a lot of work to learn if you are going to do anything here!” He glanced at his watch and then at the door. I cocked my eyebrow( involuntarily response) , my teeth locked together.
” What are you talking about? What is this? You certainly are not tutoring me.” I poked at the paper and mixed up his boxes .” I have never claimed to be great at Arithmetic , but I do quite well out on my own.” I stood up and met his dark face. His sharp creases in his jacket and pants, the folded down cuffs on his pale blue sleeves, he reeked of upper class snobbery . My eyebrows closed together and my voice was just cold and crisp.
” You may think that you and your kind are the smartest, well dressed, most endowed and entitled Blue bloods in the world.” I shook my hand, ” My part of the world is just as smart, kinder and just as good as any of you. We have ideals and we know what is important and how EVERYONE deserves chances to be equal to ANYONE else. ” I drew in a deep breath, what my friends call getting my irish temper up.
” We don’t believe that the notion of superiority is breed into us, like you blue blood high society snobs!” I drew another breathe, standing squared off for the blowback . His eyes were wide open and his eyebrows were lifted, he drew back and his lips were so tight that you could see his teeth grinding. Marie and Joy walked in behind him. Marie picked up the paper on the table. Joy’s expression was pure anger and boiling . Glaring at me, she put her arm around her friend and squeezed him. He looked down at Joy, his voice scared sounding. ” She called me a – a Blue Blood! What right has she to say that!” ” I know, you were trying to help her. I don’t know !” Joy tilted her head at Marie and tears filled her eyes. Marie picked up the coins and put them in stacks before moving them to one side of the table. She looked exhausted and sad.
Picking up my hand and slipping her arm around my waist. ” Why would you say ? What happened ? ”

Stepping off the grid

I was out in the garden, there were so many weeds. Mom had always said that plants were crowded out and if you wanted your bushes or planted to be healthy, then you needed to give them room to get plenty of sun and food. I wasn’t sure how much sun they were getting. As my eyes refocused back to earth, the tall man with the cinnamon hair ,who had sounded so sharp in the kitchen and the hallway several days back, was now walking towards me.
Coming down the pathway, looking completely out of place, he looked down at me. Frowning and scrunching up his nose as if the whole of native plant life smelled unpleasant. “Joy and Marie seem to think that I could be of help to you. They didn’t know” – he stepped on a whole tuff of dandelions, “I don’t do well with transplants.” He walked back towards the side door.
I wiped my nose with the back of my hand. “With what?” I left my piles of pulled up weeds and seeds on the gravel . A flock of birds were punctuating the air with their calls. I looked for them but I didn’t’ see them.
The humid air was getting heavy and dirty. The sky looked light gray and pale purple. I stood up with my gloves in my hand. I wanted to go in anyway. The tea should still be on the side table.

Entering the darkness of the room, he stopped and did a slow survey of the room. “I always thought the room was logically laid out.” He circled the couch, sidestepping the work/coffee table.
” I don’t understand the attraction of it. It’s too far away and too small, but if I want to find people then they seem to be here.” He sat on the couch, depositing his box, he stretched out his legs.
” I was told that you were out walking in the median on your own.” The way he said it, I thought I was being accused of skipping out on curfew!. The hair on my neck itched. ‘blast it all, I hadn’t done anything wrong’ the thought slowed my response. Joy’s friend? or?
“Excuse me, I don’t recall your name..” I spread out my fingers and held up my hands. ” I was out walking, the grounds are so wide and friendly. Who ever works on them, does a terrific job” This is the tactic I had used for defusing a difficult person. ‘ I had wanted to turn in a compliment for the grounds, anyway’ I thought to myself.

” I understand that you had a talk with Peters ” He looked up at me and went silent as a statute. I met his gaze with a stony one of my own. “I went walking out on the center grounds. Since most of my friends were tied up with their proj-responsibiities, I wanted a break from my work. I guess I needed some change of scenery.” I crossed in front of him and sat down on the center of the couch.( at least, it wasn’t MY couch ) . He rummaged through his box, without responding to anything I said. He pulled out a bag and dumped the coins on the table top. Wincing I hope that the coins didn’t scratch up or damage the table top. There were some that I recognize from coffees and some that appeared very old. I looked at the man and waited.
He drew in a sigh. ” I suppose that it wouldn’t hurt to review coinage. I have heard that the small growing communities trade with other things besides coinage.” He rubbed his nose and glanced over the mess. ” Let’s start with frequent ones. Pick out a quarta and a deci, everyone knows those, I supposed that is why we all have so much of the things .” He rolled his eyes skyward and his chin rocked back and forth. I pulled out a quarter and a dime. I was tempted to put the coins in order to hurry this along. “He was not accommodating ,the guy with the ponytail, I just wanted to buy something to eat and a drink. I asked a couple of simple questions” I commented, trying to explain the problem was the guy, NOT my math skills! Joy’s friend look over all the coins and then at me.
” You probably would do far better to listen FIRST!” He looked over the table top and added “pay attention to what coins are and how to use them. Instead of taking up someone’s time trying to keep you from making trouble. ” He pulled out some papers, some mini boxes and a timer.



I




Adults engaged

People were milling around, not going specific doors, much more like discussing and forgetting to move. I walk down the halls and through the sunlight on the floors . I wanted something to drink and maybe one of those bowls of noodles and candy? Everyone was tied up with projects and papers etc.
There was nobody around in the garden wing, so I decided to take off walking. The pathways were bordered and trimmed to nubs. I didn’t know where I was or where the paths went, but I figured I wouldn’t learn if I didn’t try. Grey and red stone buildings rose in a rectangle around some English gardens, pristine in their cultured correctiveness. Walking around made me feel more like my adult self, I had been several places but always with the kids in the research center. Now, I was on my own. I saw a small shed with a wrinkled top, inside was a guy . It looked like he was running a food truck so I trucked over there, hungrier with each step.

There were baskets with green pricky balls and oranges , along with paper sacks , sandwiches I guessed. I didn’t see any menu or food descriptions.
Peering up over the counter, ” What kind of sandwiches do you have? ” The guy turned around and frowned, staring, he chewed something.
“Shalamie, hampton, chester, mumble,mumble” he intoned. Frowning,
“What in the world are in those?” I asked when he didn’t identify any of the bags. The guy rolled his eyes and looked around me. I shrugged and pointed at a nearby sack. I couldn’t figure out the drink list. ” what kind of drinks?” He squinted at me and pointed behind him on the shelf. I spied a label and hoping that I was guessing right, I pointed at a bottle .
The pouch,Marie had given me, was around my neck. I pulled it off and handed the guy(short, skinny, with a penciled in mustache, a baggy suit, and hair curled back) some coins. I picked up my sack, drink and some chips and turned .
The guy lurched over the counter and caught my sleeve. Shaking his ponytail, he pointed at the coins, flashing 5 fingers . I pulled out more money and dropped it. He growled and tightened his hold. We were having a power contest. All I had wanted was lunch and he was selling it. what was his problem! I thought. He shook me and cursed me. I was growling back .

” Peters! Dowch much?” Marie dug out four heavy coins. As the clanking echoed, she saw what was on the ledge. Pursing her lips she handed him 2 coins. The guy shrugged and turned back to the inside of the shed, still talking to himself.
I felt like crying, so much for my adult life management. ” I was just hungry and everyone else was busy. What was that all about? He could have just asked me. I wasn’t being difficult and yet he was”- I puzzled and sat down. “hostile. “
Marie drew in a sigh. ” He didn’t understand you and no, you weren’t asking anything others hadn’t asked.” She smiled and swung her own ponytail. ” don’t worry about it. it’s all solved.” I picked up my drink, my sandwich and my chips. I drooped hunkering down in the chair. ” I’m sorry. You’re always having to bail me out. ” I sipped my drink , it wasn’t sweet and cool but sharp and fizzy. Damn. Why can’t I find —?

Lingua

There was a clanking on the counter, followed by curses. A towel flew past the doorway , Joy craned her head around the door frame. Missy and Taylor were in the kitchenette just off the offices. ” Tosh keen durinke -” Missy nodding and took the dishes out of the dryer . ” Meng disk-
Joy grinned , of course it would be those two. ” Good Morning ? ”
Missy looked at Taylor ,a challenge given.
” Ney, quay-” He put a pot down in the box underneath. ” I wish you wouldn’t do that!” ” Tawhat?” from the squat position, his face deepening.
” I wasn’t aware that it was now illegal , to have a private conversation. Despite what Mr. Joffery demanded in the last group session. Privacy is still a free expression, ?” Joy peered at him and then at Missy
“I know , Privacy is good, but you use it to the tad degree. I don’t LIKE being isolated in a room. You think you are controlling , but you are still staying on the outside.” Joy grabbed a cup and squatted down to him. ” You still want to know all that is going on! But YOU do not WANT to join in. Is that not true? ” Taylor stood up and walked away, leaving Joy to get up on her own.
” I understand that your guest created quite an acorn , yesterday. I don’t know if that is good or bad. ” Missy took the cup from Joy and offered an elbow.”
“She apparently spoke and included all the students in a two-way conversation ” Joy smiled . ” She turned the division in a few minutes. ” Can either one of you do THAT?! ”
Taylor looked at her. ” I certainly don’t like it. We don’t know a twit about her. Where is she from? Why does she not just go home? She is not a stray cat.although she seems to not have ever seen one. She could be very bad and we wouldn’t know it. ” Missy hung the wet cloths on the line “You know, I heard that she spoke easily ,calmly and voluntarily stood up without any fear at all.
She shocked a lot of the students. They are not used to having strangers just get up and speak. She spoke their language and ignores the deliberate history .” Missy wiped her hands and reached for a stack ” I haven’t heard her talk, but apparently she speaks better than anyone. She not being a native.”
Joy put the tea bag in her cup and filled it with water . “She knew how the students wanted to be heard and she was interested enough and wanted to learn about them.” She wriggled out a plate and put her fruit bread on it. “There are too many separations and trying to keep everyone apart isn’t logical and isn’t warranted. We need someone who can talk to several parts of us ,even if we give up some identity.”
Missy shouldered her bag and picked up her drink. ” Bye? that’s right?”
Joy picked her cup and some bread ” you still think a common language is a bad decision? ” Taylor sat down beside the cabinet he had been repairing. ” Denying my background isn’t giving me a stable place. or keeping my area’s history from being killed a long death. ” He spoke slowly and precisely as if talking to an animal. It saddened her.
“Do you think that everyone else can’t be given their history and we , as a united people can’t make a history together?”

Air meeting air

I picked up the cage and the cat shuffled sideways into the side of the cage. I winced but pushed the cage onto a wide, dark oaken table ,carved with lion heads on the feet and in the middle of the structure. There were lots of green coats and lots of blue sweaters creating a sea of smelly, dusty, warm arms and legs. A couple of girls were making faces at each other and the guys had their arms around the girls, listening apparently to the talk . I wriggled my arms through the arms and bodies , wedging myself in and out. What is the world? Several people were looking up and many were looking around in a tense, skittish way. I looked around but all I could see were red socks, red jackets and dust floated in the sunlight.
The guy- what was his name?- turned and looked down. An angry glare was focused on a blond ,joking ,teenager standing with his books close to him . The professor- ? walked over to the teenager and away from the speakers platform. I walked towards him, then changed my mind. ” Good afternoon , I hope that ya’ll have had a good day and that tonight will be fun and relaxing. ” I shouted.

All of a sudden everyone was silent and looking at me. Several heads cocked sideways which would have been comical , except for their expressions. ” I don’t know who you are , but this is off limits to just anyone. ” The heads were bobbing up and down and murmuring abounded. ” I am sorry, but I don’t understand. What is going on and why is there so much anger? ” The girl who had been making faces yelled out. “
WE worked hard to get here and now someone is trying to take away what we have. We were told we could have the place and that there would be peace and security. ” The agreements sounded clear and vibrated off the metal plaques hanging on the wall, some adding their clanging as they bounced.
I had walked down the halls and the short pathway in and there wasn’t anything around. The wind seemed to be mild compared to the air inside. One of the red shirts look at me and shouted , ” Who are you? and why are YOU here? I haven’t seen you around. ”
The way he said it ,made me feel angry. ” I live here! I work here. I was told that ya’ll were upset over here. So what is going on? “
A voice called out. ” She is the one who Professor said wanted to prevent Calico from being here. ” All eyes frowned. ” what do you have against us being here?” I shrugged, smiled and called out. I don’t have a thing against Calico . She was just visiting a bit .” I glanced over at the table but she was gone.
” I don’t have a problem with you being here. I think it rather nice having people around interested in learning. I like to research ,find facts that have been lost or look over. It’s fun to find a story or document that gives a glance into another part of a history.
I pointed at the girl in red to my left ” What do you like to look up? What is your favorite source? ” The girls jerked up and grinned with the frown still on their forehead. “I like to find out about what people wear and why? What is their reason ? ” Another guy called out and said ” Why do people separate themselves and keep their stuff to just who is in their little group? ” The discussion took off from there and the exchange of thoughts, views and puzzled questions floated across the room. Calico just watched as all the bubbles of anger popped and dissolved into a platonic exchange of ideas, puzzles and solutions tossed up.

The Barker

Amy sipped her lemonade and ruefully smiled. ” I thought it was going to be a loud, vibrant meat fest. The researchers -” Marie shook her curls with a sour expression . ” look, that is what they do. It’s why they are here. ” Wiping her chin which dripped with lemonade drizzling down, she picked up the notepad off the floor. She started by saying that everyone was in the meeting hall, no easy task.
The room was crowded and shifting , the batteries were on high. Everyone looked around like the savior was arriving. The curtains moved ominously on their tracks, so many tosses and tugs added squeaks to the noise levels.
Cyrus grinned like a new proud papa with his coat partially off his shoulder and his hand running through his hair. He step up and bellowed over the din. ” I know that we all are tired , but we cannot let the sanctity of the grounds be overran with strangers who we have no idea what kind of trouble they are mixing into the respectable atmosphere of this special place. ” The buildings , the plants and all in here need to be protected” . He looked around the room and spread his arms. ” Fellow learners we are here in order to learn how to keep what is so special and to learn how to take away all that threatens our cities and our not so stable peace. ”

I walked into the large cream colored room with paintings on the walls and all the decor very tall and very heavy. There were light colored plaques and thick round carousels , full of documents . Still, the room was so full of heavy cabinets – and there was an anger in the very air.
It was so curious. What was the purpose of all this -this activity? I walked to a side wall and edged closer. Wait, I know that voice , that was the man. Where was his cat? I wanted to apologize for his misunderstanding. I looked down, not far from the line people- there she was . The cat was on the floor. If one of the line people stepped sideways, she would be knocked over. Where were all the people who cared for her?

Limbo

Following Lunch on the patio, red lettuce with a creamy sweet mousse and a crunchy root( like a purple carrot) , Marie twirled her spoon in the glass. She had been thoughtful and distant, her dark,and pale waves catching the light making it hard to tell her hair color.

I dabbed at the chocolate crumbs on my plate, so yummy. I don’t know what you call it but it was just like the chocolate dream layered dessert my Mom used to make . So GOOD!! I drank some juice and folded my napkin. I am never sure where you put the napkin when you’re finished with it. I held it in my hand and then crumbled it up on top of my plate.

Marie dropped her spoon onto of her plate, shocking me into a jump, bumping my knee and almost knocking the flower vase over. Marie grabbed for the vase,righted it and carefully looked at the leaves of the two stems in the vase . She was shocked herself and I surmised that she was embarrassed at her manner,too. “Goodness, I was in a fog, !” Marie reached for her salad plate and began nibbling. She always interested me , because she also her salad last with her coffee. Oh well, I tended not to eat the salad at all. The sad expression was still in her eyes. I thought it was from the changing light of afternoon. ” I gather you know the -um – headmaster. ? ” I was nursing a carrot dipped in peanut butter.

“He is not a headmaster, heaven forbid the time when he is in charge. ” She raised her eyes skyward. There are people who like his style of leadership , I am NOT one of them. I have known him for years . He knows just enough to get by, She was stabbing at a piece of parnip and loading green tomatoes onto her fork. “some students and researchers really like his way of doing things”. She picked up her lunch plate and walked it over to the tray set up in the corner . She grinned ,her eyes shining . ” Ok, Joy and I have been talking and you need your own private room. She said that you have not gone exploring . Is this right? Regardless, of his Lordship, you are not going to get into trouble learning about the Council house. ” My eyes widened and started watering. I grabbed my hands in a tight squeeze. ” My own room?” The teardrops darkened the sleeve of my nightshirt. ” Well, I know you have your workroom , but you need a place to take a bath and store your stuff that is more secure than the garden sunroom. ” She was cheerful and her brow lifted puzzled.

, ” You need a place to get away from casual visitors, especially with all the meetings and research starting up in the season. She was looking at the door inside I picked up the rest of the dishes and walked over to the tray” but I am only here temporarily- I am going home soon. ” I was very cold, the afternoon was getting chillier. I started into my sanctuary- albeit temporary! Marie put her arm around my shoulder. ” We should have given you a room sooner. No one does well in Limbo! Not even those who are transistory in their crafts. Let’s get you settled and then I could need another viewpoint . You certainly can help for a bit, couldn’t you?” We sat on the bench against the wall ” So, do you like upstairs, dark room to sleep in or big, sunny and crowded.? We have both ,upstairs and down. ” I like dark to sleep in but I also like sunny ,comfortable uncrowded room. ” I smiled at the number of times that my sister and I argued over whose room was more cluttered and crowded AND WHO was going to be lectured first from Mom and Grandmother!

Lies in Limbo

The brown ,graying hair of the gentleman who came in was quite different from the “professor”. He was fairly tall ,with a thick folder of folders(?) tucked under his arm. The sleeve of the woven coat was folded around the folder, causing a tight vice around his elbow, making his hand red. He put down the briefcase with a loud bam on the edge table . ” What kind of ruckus or joke did you think you were pulling ? It’s hard enough keeping discipline and security without you disrupting the sessions. I don’t like the students here anyway! This is NOT a boarding school!! What Claire thought she was accomplishing by allowing access . It is STUPID!! ( at least I think that was what he was saying, I was having a lot of trouble with his accent. )

“What are you talking about? No one has been over in the conference hall , certainly not little bit and I . We have been HERE! ” Marie was standing just behind me and I couldn’t get to the couch. A room of my own sounded perfect now, with a thick deadbolt and strong hinges.!

” Cyrus is apologizing to everyone in the conference for his absence , because a council staffer stole his cat and was locking her away for being on the premises . He had to plea for her release, because she was accused of destroying property and the staff wanted to turn her over to Security for disposal! ” He came to the doorway and motioned for us to come in. I followed him into my room. His posture was tense and his demeanor was boiling , grounding him to blocking access to the interior of the room.
I looked at him and was angry! I could be just boiling and just as rooted in rug next to the sofa end table just inside the door. I have had enough . ” What? Who does He think He is ? The cat wander onto the patio and came in through the open patio door. She was just looking around . Mr. Cyrus came in and found her , I hadn’t restrained her or called anyone! ” Marie came in and stood with me. ” He was yelling at her about being in here. He was off on one of his power trips like he does when he is flustered by a student. ” Marie looked at the gentleman ” I thought Claire understood , that she was responsible for any trouble HE caused. ”

The folders were sliding and it was all I could do not to yank them away from him and put them on the table or couch or– To my relief, He dropped them on the “game” table and switched on the lamp. ” He has told everyone who would listen . There is going to be dissent and you are going to be asked a lot of questions. ” Marie slid down to the chair and grasped the table edge. ” She is our guest. This is our home. He doesn’t live here and he doesn’t want to have any responsibility except when he doesn’t like something.” The shadow crossed the far window and the room darkened. ” What can we do?”