It was good to be back on my feet. My torso felt the after-effects of Brink’s pummeling, and I had a slight taste of algae on my palate, but all-in-all, I felt buoyant for a Monday.
I walked up the stairs to my mom’s school.
“Well, look at that, a real zombie.”
“Missed you at school today,” I said to Brink.
“Figured if I’m going to jump ship and attend your mom’s school, today is as good a day to start.”
Brink hands and face showed signs of the painting she’d done. She wore a red bandana and went barefoot. Most of her facial bruising had disappeared.
“Is Carrie going to attend?”
“Don’t think so. She’s not convinced your mom will pull it off. She watches your continuing daffy performance and doubts your mom will do much with kids not her own. Plus, she finds office work at the high school stimulating. Plus, I want to create some distance between you and her. I don’t trust the way you look at her. No offense.”
“None taken. But you do, I mean, think my mom can pull it off?”
“If you don’t know by now, I’m your best friend.”
“What about Carrie?”
“You think I like you that way? Gosh Stark, just because you came back from the dead doesn’t make you that special.”
“You hit me hard.”
“I should have hit you harder.”
“I didn’t know you were certified to save lives.”
“Yeah, well, all in a day’s work…”
“After Frank, I owe you big time.”
“Don’t get squishy on me Stark.”
“All done thanking you.”
“Good. I got work to do.” Brink walked off, bucket in hand.
Carrie might not be attending mom’s school, but plenty others would, and many were familiar Dead Club faces. Today’s signup deadline was mom’s last chance to convince the state that she had enough students for school. I took my seat, straightened my pile of registration forms and waited for a parent to introduce him or herself.
I quickly ran out of forms.
Mom checked on me periodically, but her commitment was to saying all the things a parent who, with pen in hand and ready to sign over his or her daughter or son, needed to hear. So compulsively into her effort, she lacked the ability to see that she would far exceed the numbers of students needed to open her school. And she could thank Club Dead for that.
“That is one-hundred twenty-one,” Emma said.
“Good number,” Screen said.
“She needed eighty-eight,” I said.
“Eight is a bad number.”
“The school cannot house this many students,” Emma said.
“Another problem for mom to solve. She’ll be in heaven.”
“Frank didn’t sign up.”
“I asked him not to.”
“I couldn’t see him every day, knowing that I owed him for saving me.”
“That is hardly Frank’s way.”
“It’s best if we part,” I said. “I can’t take his googly eyes.”
Tuttle and Tallie walked by, one on each end of a rectangular table, twisting it to fit through the narrow hall towards some space now official designated as a classroom.
“Mom has a lot of free labor,” I said.
“These kids do not know what they have bargained for.”
“An alternate education?”
“And you Screen, what are your plans? Going to join the great Stark venture?”
“With no parent at home to teach you?”
“On-line education is sufficient.”
“But mom figured a way for him to sign up as a student so he can join the jazz band,” Emma said.
“And she nets tax dollars.”
“She must pay the bills.”
Mom’s school wouldn’t open for months but today the atmosphere clicked with positive energy. Quite a contrast. A week ago a darkness loomed. Letters to the editor, a parent revolt at the play, Club Dead meets the police on a lake. It all could have worked out differently.
Oh, and I was alive.
“Emma, by the way, did you have anything to do with the lights at the play?”
“Just figured that out?”
“Well, I was distracted. Remember, I died.”
“Oh, you were somewhere else as soon as the play was over. I never thought you would fall under the sway of the stage. What did happen to your ’Give-me-my-privacy’ obsession?”
“You did pull the plug! Emma, that is positively criminal. Talk about a leopard changing its spots.”
“You think I thought it up? That was all Screen.”
“I’m just surprised none of you thought it up. Your mom needed some help. I supplied it.”
We didn’t say anything for a few minutes.
“I’m tired of death,” I said.
They didn’t respond.
“Do you feel better Screen, you know, now that you held your mom’s memorial.”
Screen walked off.
“What did I say?”
“Screen believes that he will never feel as you say ’better’. It is not just his mom. He is simply wired a certain way. Words like ’better’ do not register with him.”
“And you like him?”
“For now. He is restless. I think home-school is a euphemism, though we do watch MOOC’s together. I would not be surprised to see him move along in the near future.”
That quieted us both. We nodded politely to parents exiting.
“Do you think mom’s school will make it?”
“I doubted she could find eighty-eight students.”
Emma walked off to find Screen.
So many ends. Tenth grade, my time with Mrs. Stone, Frank, Blissfield High School and Club Dead. Ends were supposed to produce an epiphany. I didn’t have one. I looked for meaning after my encounters with death, mine and my Uncle Grant’s. None came. I just felt lousy and confused. I didn’t feel like I did, but that didn’t mean that I was no longer confused. I didn’t feel lousy. What I saying?
Beginnings abound. For one thing, I had a nose ring. For another thing, I was alive. Yes, I had previously been alive but not much aware that I was. If I had been aware, long ago that happened.
I noticed colors more. As spring unfolded the sky and trees of Blissfield lite up. So much blue and green. Excellent colors. I didn’t go much beyond that. If it was cloudy, I still saw blue, only a different hue.
I was trying to not say much. Uncle Grant used to tell me that he wanted to cultivate silence. I didn’t know what he meant. I don’t now. I don’t want to talk. I understand Carrie better. I wondered if she thought of me.
I liked listening to people. I thought about Uncle Grant’s favorite word ’emanation,’ not with any new insights.
There was nothing dull about life at this moment. It reminded me of when I was real young. Elementary school days. They didn’t last. I didn’t know how long this would last.
Many Club Dead friends will go to mom’s school with me. Many will stay at Blissfield High. I got through something. I wonder, would they?
My nose was inflamed, infected from my piercing. I touched the red spot. I was not helping it heal. Mom hadn’t noticed it. Dad urged me to apply medication to it. Brink asked me why I picked my nose. Emma said that in time it would look right. My clogged nose changed my voice.
I shuffled the registration forms into a neat pile. The day neared its end. I stood. I stepped out onto the landing. Parents walked away with their children. I moved aside for them. They looked pleased, relieved, that something might happen tomorrow, different from what they knew before. Maybe mom was trying to save all young people.
Across the street stood the Masonic Temple, a large granite building long vacant. Other buildings extended along Main Street. Beyond, the sun fell, lighting up the sky with orange and purple. They were fine colors too. They could now be my new favorites. How could I so easily abandon blue?
I had it! I would share my time with the things I liked. Blue for the day and orange and purple for the evening. And I couldn’t forget black. I would always have a soft spot for black. I sat on the steps and decided I would wait for black to come. I had the time.