26.6.12

Chapter 6: An Igloo Made Of Sand

See previous posts for Chapters 1-5 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."



“So how’s this going to work? I just sit here and talk? Sounds like I do all the work. What’m I going to talk about, huh?”



“Well, your life. I’ll ask you a series of questions. We’ll probably have to meet here several times--”



“Who said I’d be up for that?”



“Uh...you seemed interested before.”



“...”



“I am interested...”



Sheila lifted her eyes toward the ceiling.



“You any good as a writer? I mean, you seem good.”



“Okay, well, thank you.”



The lecture room was cream from top to bottom, with no windows and a white board hanging on the wall, black and red markers perched on its sill. Maxine had left them for the moment, having feigned she had other important business to attend to. Harold was either less smelly, or those around him had adapted. It was probably the latter. Yet, the door was ajar.



“So – where were you born, Harold?”



“Aaahh! Hee hee.” Jingle-jangle.



“Maxine?”



“Back so soon. Who’s that little gentleman?”



“Gentleman – oh, I don’t know about that.” Maxine put her hand on the little boy’s shaved head. Thanks to her son Jerome they’d made quite the entrance.



“How are ya’ll doing in here. Say...I’ve gotta go back upstairs...Jerome -- this is...Sheila, and that there is Harold. He lives on the streets.”



Jerome raised his eyebrows. “You’re gonna leave me here.”



“Yes, I want you to work on your homework.”



“Hello, Jerome.”



“Wait – what?” Sheila shook her head with a bit of incredulity. “You’re going to leave him with us? Why in the --”



“I trust you. He’ll be okay in here with you. No trouble, right baby.”



Jerome stuck out his lower lip and then giggled. “Hee hee! No trouble. Why can’t I go with you.”



“I’m at work. You’ll be fine here with these people. Sheila’s going to be here while you do your homework, okay?”



“Okay...” Sheila and Jerome both said okay simultaneously, yet in different ways.



Harold’s forehead was wrinkled.



“Maxie,” he said. “You’re leavin’ your son here with us? Maxie, you gotta--”



“Maxie?? Nobody calls me Maxie. Max, yeah. But Maxie?”



“You gotta take care of your son.”



“Come on, Harold. Harold, he got of school early. I’ve gotta work here.”



“Okay, okay – enough.” Sheila was tired of the scuffle about Jerome in front of Jerome. She gave in, somewhat baffled at Maxine’s sudden trust.



Maxine had since unfurled her braid and twiddled it with her fingers.



“Okay, he’s fine down here. Yes, Jerome – it’s our pleasure. You can hang out here with us.”



“Okay.”



Sheila’s manner was inherently open and friendly, and having sensed that, Jerome was inclined to stay.



“But he smells.”



“Ah-heh heh.” Harold coughed uncomfortably. “Yes, son, it’s been a while since I’ve had a shower.”



“You should get one.” Jerome grinned.



It was tough to get upset with this kid.



“Alrighty. I need to head upstairs. Ya’ll have fun. I’ll be back in an hour, then we’ll head home, Jerome.”



Maxine was satisfied that she created a healthy situation for her child and jingle-jangled out the door.



“Shower...yeah. I do need one.” Harold gazed over the table surface as if it were a desert plane of infinite beige.



“So, what homework do you have Jerome?”



Jerome hoisted his bright blue backpack onto the table.



THUNK.



“Math,” he said.



“Ugh, math,” Harold weighed in.



“Hee hee. It’s not too bad. I kind of like it.”



He unzipped the backpack and spread out pencils and papers as if he were preparing for a massive undertaking, or just stalling. The adults resumed their adult talk and Jerome caught sight of the white board.



“Okay – back to my first question: Where were you born?”



“In the desert.”



“No, seriously. Where were you born?”



“Seriously, Arizona. In the desert.”

“Of all the—how in the world did you get out here on the east coast?”



“That’s what all this is about, right – the interview. You’re gon’ have to be patient, let me tell my tale.”



“Oh, so now you have a tale to tell.”



“Well, we’ll see now won’t we?”



“Okay, Arizona--”



“Phoenix! Hee hee. The capital of Arizona is Phoenix.”



“Very good, Jerome. Good memory.”



Sheila sighed.



“Smart boy,” said Harold with a half smile. It could have been that his heart was in defrost mode already.



Jerome had taken to the whiteboard and was drawing a delightfully abstract village. He began to add a cactus to the landscape, because he’d been listening keenly to Harold and Sheila’s conversation.



“Roberta. Roberta’s the name.”



“Your mother.”



“No,no,no – the town. The township of Roberta.”



“Oh...” Too bad, she thought, that the mother can’t have the same name as the town. Hm. Well, why not? It’s my book, she thought. Unless, of course, the truth turns out to be more interesting.



In Harold’s mind the truth was pliable. We’re writing a book here, he thought, and it’d better be goddamn interesting. Like a ladder to the stars.



“Okay – Roberta, Arizona. I’ll have to look that one up.”



I’m going to have to fill in a lot of blanks here, she thought. Then Jerome chimed in.



“The desert? Did you have enough water? What kind of house did you have? Was it like an igloo made of sand?”



Jerome began drawing the dwelling on the board.



“Wow.”



An igloo made of sand... Harold checked in with himself to make sure he wasn’t drunk. No, he thought, I haven’t had a drink today. Wow.



Harold was in fact sober and had taken a flight of fancy.