Tuesday, January 30, 2018

11. Someone William Knew


The young interpreter was walking along a forest path with his friend, the young canoeing instructor. Sunlight penetrating the broad-leafed canopy cast a dappled pattern on the ground.

The young canoeing instructor asked, “You know who would be good for you?  Alison Aintree would be good.”

Alison Aintree was a swimming instructor.  She was athletic and pretty.

The young interpreter said, “I’m not interested in Alison Aintree.”

The young canoeing instructor said, “What’s wrong with Alison?”

The young interpreter said, “Nothing. I’m just not interested.  I already have a girlfriend, as you
know.”

They came to a jewel-weed shrub, and the young interpreter started pinching the seed pods to make them pop.  He liked how the pods curled up after exploding.

The young canoeing instructor also popped some pods.  While searching for the riper ones, he said, “Sure, you have a girlfriend back in the city, but no one here.  This is a different world, and it’s understood — you’re allowed.”

“Why don’t you go out with Alison Aintree?” the young interpreter asked the young canoeing instructor.

“Because I’m presently going out with Mary McDougall,” said the young canoeing instructor.  Mary McDougall was short, with short blonde hair.  She was the arts and crafts instructor.  The young canoeing instructor was standing with a circle of light on his right shoulder.  Behind his field of vision a monarch butterfly was hovering, wanting to land on that circle.  The young canoeing instructor said, “But you know who I really want to go out with?”

The young interpreter knew.  The young canoeing instructor really wanted to go out with Nicki Cole, who was tall and dark-skinned, and had extremely long hair.  Nicki Cole was the riding instructor. The young interpreter said, “You really want to go out with Nicki Cole.”

“I do indeed,” said the young canoeing instructor.  The monarch butterfly landed on his shoulder, but he didn’t notice.  When he moved his hand in talking, it flew off, but looped back, wanting to be in the circle of light.

The young interpreter said, “Don’t forget to dump Mary McDougall first.”  The young canoeing instructor had a history of starting new relationships before ending previous ones.  The young interpreter said, “And be sensitive about it.  Mary McDougall is a nice person.”

The young canoeing instructor said, “Dumping Mary McDougall is not the problem.  The problem is getting Nicki Cole interested in me.”

The young interpreter said, “I’ll show you how to get Nicki Cole interested in you, if you promise not to be mean to Mary McDougall.”

The young canoeing instructor said, “Okay, I promise.”

The young interpreter said, “Take Nicki Cole into the woods, exactly where we are now, and do this.”  The young interpreter placed his hand on the young canoeing instructor’s breast bone, and gently pushed him backward, out of the circle of light.  He then took the young canoeing instructor’s right hand, and lifted it to the spot where his shoulder had been, the circle of light.  The monarch butterfly landed on the palm of his hand.  It folded and unfolded its wings.

The young interpreter turned to continue walking, but the young canoeing instructor stood still, having learned from his friend a powerful trick.



*   *   *



William should have gone straight home from the hospital, but there was something about being struck by lightning for the third time that made him want to find someone who knew him who would spare some time, and provide quiet, reassuring company.  Alan was nowhere to be found.  He had left a message on William’s machine saying he hoped he was okay but that he would be busy for a couple of days and unavailable.  No matter — it wasn’t Alan that William sought.  Alan was neither quiet nor reassuring.  He took a cab to Central Area Office to hang out with Tom.

As he walked in, Colleen, the administrative assistant, stood up behind the counter and said, “William.  God, how are you?  Shouldn’t you be at home?”

“Probably,” he said.  “But I’m okay.”

Down the hall, someone spoke up.  “Oh there you are.”

William looked to the right.  “Or I was.”

Ed Daddle was approaching, wearing what appeared to be flamenco pants.  For some reason he had started growing a postage stamp-sized patch of facial hair directly below his lower lip.  It looked like a tab of Velcro.

“Hey Sparky,” Ed said, drawing near.  William knew from experience that when you’ve been hit by lightning, unimaginative or obnoxious people called you “Sparky.”  Ed, who among other things was known for not understanding the concept of personal space, was now too near, even for by his standards.  He took a close, squinting look at William’s bandaged ear and neck, and, clearly disgusted, backed away.  He said, “I need to talk to you.”  He wheeled around, beckoned toward his office down the hall, and marched ahead.  

William leaned over the counter and confided to Colleen, “Ed’s going to give me helpful advice on personal grooming.  Especially facial hair.”

“Ask him for wardrobe tips too,” she said, “especially pants.” 
                                                 
William dropped into a chair opposite Ed’s desk.  On the wall behind was an Alan Lennox print of a porcupine reaching from one branch to another in a worried way.  Ed saw what William was looking at and said, “I asked your friend to sign it and he refused. Has he always been an ass?”

“He has,” said William.

Ed told William he was to be off work for a month or so until they would need him for the lake canoeing programs.  He asked if William had filled out the Workman’s Compensation Board forms at the hospital.  William told him that he hadn’t been working when he was hit, that he was fine anyway, and that at the hospital he had been unconscious.

“I’ve never been unconscious,” said Ed. 

William said, “You might want to give it a try.”

Ed said, “See, I’ve been looking at these forms.”  With his index finger he tapped the WCB forms fanned on his desk.  “The part I can’t figure out is how to explain how the accident might have been prevented.”

William was puzzled.  Was Ed sitting there in his tight pants with his unsigned Alan Lennox print behind his head asking him how he could have prevented himself from being struck by lightning from a clear blue sky?  William did something that came easily to a thrice-struck person.  He stared at Ed blankly.  To William’s amazement, and upping the ante, Ed stared back blankly.  It was nurture versus nature.  William then understood something about Ed.  When it came to imagining or explaining anything, Ed had an empty head.  He was a schemer and a scammer and a hopeless hoper of something better in his life, but when put to the test of creative thinking, his EEG went flatline.  Bzzzzzzzz.  A bored drone bee was doing listless loop-de-loops inside Ed’s head.  The floor of Ed’s brain-pan was scatted with withered globs, the shrinking glop within a half-assedly carved pumpkin.  Ed’s cranium was a small, domed, man-made space with nothing painted on the ceiling and nothing streaming across the digital notice-board at either end.  Ed’s skull had been used for decades as a storage space for creaky, discarded, office furniture, and that’s what it smelled like. 

“Well?” Ed said.

William said, “I don’t know how to avoid being struck by lightning from a blue sky.  Are you implying it’s my fault?"

Ed back-pedaled and became condescending, saying, "You’ve had a trauma that probably no one could have predicted...although isn’t this the third time this has happened to you?  Isn’t that statistically impossible?"

"Based on what?" William asked.                                           

"On statistics."

"Whose statistics? What statistics?"

"The general ones," he said.

"What are you talking about?" William asked.  "You’re poking at a soft lumpy thing in the dark with a stick."  Then William played games with his double vision, which may have actually worsened a bit thanks to the latest zap—doubled objects now seemed even farther apart. He got Ed’s two faces lined up, side-by-side, and then, by slowly tilting his head left and right could make Ed’s faces ride up and down on each other, like Captain Queeg’s ball bearings. There would have been a squealing sound were Ed not greasy.          

Ed’s face soured and he turned to Alan’s porcupine.  With exaggerated, ingenuous concern he said, “For everyone’s safety and for liability reasons it would be best to keep you on the bench, as it were. What would happen if you were struck again while leading a group of preschoolers through the woods?"  He glanced over his shoulder at William, a hint of a smirk.

There was a tree-puller leaned up against the wall in the corner of the room.   Ed would never use a tree-puller.  He lived in his car and his little office.  Why would Ed Daddle have a tree-puller?  Because it was a big orange heavy thing with rubberized jaws?  William doubted Ed even knew what it was.  You could show him how it was used by burying him up to his neck in soil and then pulling his head off with it.  William wondered how that would be arranged.  You would have to fool him, which probably was possible.  Being buried up to your neck in soil is good for muscle tone, Flamenco-pants, helps attract the ladies.

“Well?” he asked.

“Well what?”  Oh, right.  Ed had asked what would happen if William were struck by lightning while leading a group of preschoolers through the woods, a likely occurrence.  William had a better question, which he asked himself: Why would a man his age be leading a group of preschoolers through the woods?  That might be a fine job for Stacey or Tracy, but William by now should have been earning a living in a slightly more dignified manner.  Fast food franchise mascot, for example.

Ed knew this too, and also knew that William disliked leading pre-school groups.  William suspected that Ed’s smirk was a suggestion that William quit, that William quietly disappear, so that *poof* another space would appear in the roster, a cute little space for a cute little woman, about five-foot-three.  William was little more than a speed bump in Ed’s travels through a sometimes chaotic and unpredictable world that should, everything going according to plan, be a snug, happy place for Ed.  Ed, the scheming dunce.  How did he manage? 

"You’re an enigma, Ed," William said.

"A what?"

"An enigma."

"What? That’s like, a heart attack, right?  What’s that supposed to mean?"

"No. That would be angina."

"What’s enigma?" he said

"You mean an imigma?"  William didn’t know why he said that.  Ed’s open face was such a lob.

"I’m not an imigma!" he said. 

William stared at the heads.  They stared back.

"I’m leaving now," William said.

"Tell me what an imigma is."

William went down the hall to Tom’s office to relate this one.  Tom laughed, although not as much as William had expected.  Tom usually delighted in examples of Ed’s incompetence that didn’t directly affect someone else, but this time, after only a brief chuckle, his face turned serious.  He said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t at the front desk to keep Ed away from you.”

“That’s okay,” William said.  “You didn’t know I was coming in.”

“Yes I did.”

“You did?”

“I made a request that you come.”  He pointed to the ceiling.

William looked at the ceiling, seeing white tiles and nothing else.

“I used my powers.”

“You sent up a Bat Signal?”

“You can call it that.”

“Oh,” said William.  He had not come to hang out with a friend who would help him feel less rattled after all.  He had been summoned, Glinda’s doing, a request bounced off the floorboards of his preferred magical sky being.  Most people relied on telephones and answering machines to contact William.  Tom went straight to the top, requesting Divine intervention within William’s skull, which, now that William thought about it, was almost the same thing as being struck by lightning.  His head had apparently become a snow globe on some a supernatural mantelpiece, which would also explain why his brain hurt.

Tom said, “I’ve been mulling this over since we were at the cannery and I think I have to tell you about your friend, something maybe you don’t know."

"Alan?"

"Alan Lennox.  I don’t know how you found him, but he’s a special one." 

William laughed. 

Tom scowled .

What?  Why?  William said, "I’ve known Alan since we were 18 years old.  He’s an interesting personality and now of course he’s famous, but he’s not special.  I can give you examples of when he acted kind of un-special."

Tom asked, "Are you comfy?"  William had just sat down on the spinny chair in front of Tom’s computer.  Tom was sitting in the other chair at his desk by the window, arms crossed in stern professor mode.

“Comfortable enough,” William said, but now puzzled.  What was this about?

"That’s good to hear, because I’m afraid this is going to be like being hit by lightning again."   Tom’s face remained serious.  William became worried.  Was he really being laid off until mid-summer canoeing?  He couldn’t afford that.  He reached down to hold the chair’s cushion with both hands.
               
Tom started by asking William again, “Who is Hannah Imamura?” 

This time the answer popped straight into his head.  “She’s a biologist who studies snapping turtles,” he said.  “Why?”

“While you were lying in the hospital bed, and on way in from Belcarra in Alan’s car, you were repeating names.  Most of it seemed to be an endless list of sea animal names, including their Latin names, which as usual was quite impressive, but also, a number of times, interspersed, you said, ‘Hannah Imamura,’ and you said it like a question.”

William felt a bit embarrassed.  He must have been revealing something of his feelings for his former colleague, the captivating Hannah Imamura, but what exactly and why now he didn’t know.

Tom said, “I’m going to tell you what Alan Lennox told me at the Fraser River Cannery after he got angry and stormed out onto the wharf.”

A horrible thought hit William.  No way was Tom going to tell William this.  There must be hundreds or thousands of Japanese-Canadians named Hannah.  Hannah sounds like Hana, which is a Japanese word for flower.  It flows nicely with last names that end in vowels.  In William’s high school graduating class alone they had Hannah Kishi and Hannah Okano.  His childhood friend Wayne Mori had an older sister Hannah.  “Stop,” William said.  “It’s not my friend Hannah.”

Tom said, “I was surprised to learn you didn’t know about it.  It was in the news.  It was on the arts and culture programs.”  He kept talking as William watched the walls of the room closing in, the white ceiling tiles sagging low.

“A year ago, Alan was finishing up some things in Toronto, the last few days of a show, and then was going to fly out to meet his wife.  They were going to live here.  Alan had told her to find a place with a view of the mountains.  Money was no object, or not too much of an object.  Alan had loads of money saved up and, with the current show on, was due for another significant influx.  She had already found a place in Kitsilano that she was sure he would love, northern exposure, high ceiling, English Bay, mountains, mountains, mountains.  While waiting for him to arrive she was spending time with an old friend who was the manager of a daycare.”

William interrupted.  “You’re going to tell me that his Hannah died.  I know about that, that she was killed in an accident.  I don’t want to hear any more about it.”  It was not his Hannah Imamura — not possible.



“Not quite.  I’m going to read something to you.  Move aside.”  He motioned for William to roll aside so Tom could roll his in front of the computer.  He clicked through his bookmarks and found a page.  He said, “This is a column by Marcia Davies, from the Sun archives, April 9, last year.”  He scrolled down to mid-column.  “Someone who lived in the False Creek area of Vancouver desired a hot-tub, a very handsome, heavy hot-tub, with redwood boards nailed vertically on the sides, bare copper piping beneath, visible to all as the tub rode with a twin, inverted on a flatbed trailer, rumbling through town, held down with broad canvas straps, side-to-side.  Two people in the same part of town had ordered hot-tubs.  All was well along the flat, poky stretch of Broadway, but after the driver turned right onto Willow, the rig went nuts, like a mad elephant, and barreled downhill.  Its brakes failed and it swerved onto Seventh Avenue.  The trailer jumped the curb.  A canvas strap broke and the second hot tub flew off.  It landed squarely on a young woman named Hannah Hiroe Imamura, who had been holding hands with a four-year old named Alexa.  Hannah died.  Alexa was injured slightly, but not by the hot tub.  Hannah Imamura’s last act was to push Alexa from danger and save her life.  More, in saving Alexa, Hannah also sacrificed the life of her own child, for Hannah Imamura was three months pregnant.”

Tom and William sat looking at each other, Tom trying to tell William, William trying not to listen.

“William?”

"No way,” William said.  “That can’t be true.  Hannah Imamura?  Alan’s Hannah was Hannah Imamura?"

“I’m sorry,” Tom said. 

“What?  This is bullshit.  It’s not the same Hannah Imamura.  My Hannah Imamura would never marry Alan.”  This seemed an unassailable truth.  She was too serious and directed, too decent for him, and he was not her type – at all. 

Tom continued reading, “Alan found out about it the night of the day it happened.  He was late home from the gallery, a little drunk.  The light on his answering machine was flashing.  Hannah!  Light of his life.  But it was a stern, male voice that asked him to call a certain Vancouver number, a member of the VPD.  Hannah was dead.”

The reality of the words was starting to stick.  William jumped to his feet. "Hannah Imamura was killed by a falling hot-tub?  Hannah’s dead?  Hannah Imamura!  She’s from Toronto.  She was a graduate student at Guelph.  She studies turtles!  She’s my friend!  I know her!"  It was as if reciting as many pertinent details in rapid succession could negate the harrowing fact that she had been killed.

"I know you knew her," Tom said.  "Alan knows you knew her too.  Now please let me finish.  This is important.” 

William had to leave, to think, to breathe.  “Tom, I gotta go,” William said, and he ran from Tom’s room, from Central Area Office, across the road and down the hill to the metal steps of the Cariboo Dam.  There, out of breath, William paused and clung to the railing to keep from collapsing.  He sat on the bottom step.  Its steel meshwork was painful.  Hand over hand he pulled himself to the top of the dam, where he stopped in the middle.  He looked downstream at the exposed rocks and the dark water churning away.

Of all humans on earth, how could Hannah have been so taken — destroyed by a trivial luxury item?  When you have left a world you knew, it wasn’t fair for it to change in an ugly, pointless way.  The people you cared about ought always to be there in case you ever decided to return.      

He spread his hands shoulder-width to steady himself.  His insides tightened in a knot of pain. William threw up, which was a surprise, because he hadn’t eaten.  Whatever fell from his mouth hit the water and was carried away.  He stayed frozen that way, propped on the railing, staring at the rapids, feeling completely lost.                    

Joggers came clumping up the steps and stopped beside William to admire the view either way.  William was wearing his uniform and feared they would speak to him, ask a question about turtles or beavers or herons.  He closed his eyes.  Maybe they would see his bandages and wouldn’t want to bother the wounded parks worker.  Maybe they didn’t even look at him.  Their footfalls on their way back off the damn released something, and William folded and sat cross-legged on the concrete.  He dropped his head and cried his eyes out for a few minutes.
                                               
When he returned, Tom was typing on his computer.  He looked up.

"Hannah Imamura was very beautiful," William said.  

“Tell me more,” Tom said.  “Come, sit.”  He pointed at the other chair.

William sat.  “She was very nice,” he said, “and she liked to laugh.  Whenever I had a meal with her, she ordered chamomile tea.”  Then William shook his head because it sounded as if he was describing someone’s grandmother.

Tom waited a minute or more before getting on with what he wanted to say.  He said, "William, you’ve told me, more than once, that you’ve given up on love and I believe you, at least that you think you have.”

This was true.  A number of times William had told Tom he had given up on love.  Once a month or so, William would go over to Tom and his partner Ross’s apartment and they would drink too much wine and discuss a broad range of topics, which was fun because both Tom and Ross were witty and well-read.  Now and then the conversation landed on the topic of why William was still single.  He had maintained that there was no mystery there, that many people were single from time to time. You have a partner and you think you’re in love, but then you run out of steam.  Love doesn’t last.  It has a short shelf life.  It up and dies.  Once William likened love to vacuuming.  He said that sooner or later you forget how short the cord is and it comes unplugged — to which Ross said, “I’m writing that one down.”

Tom continued, “But, Mr. Doesn’t-Believe-in-Love, here’s the thing – why I felt it necessary to tell you painful news.  You need to rethink things or maybe stop thinking some things because it seems something powerful is happening, with Alan, with Hannah, and with you, and we should maybe keep it going.”  He flicked his hands as if encouraging something to roll faster.  He was about to lay on some of his fuzzy feel-good woo, but William was okay with that.  Would that only a tiny fraction of Tom’s ideas about love and life be true.  William rarely challenged him.

Tom said, “Alan hasn’t allowed himself to believe that Hannah is dead.  At the cannery he told me he’s here to find her, that she’s displaced somehow, but he knows she’s here.  This would seem to be the desperate self-delusion of a man in pain, and beyond feeling awful for him what could you do?”

It was a rhetorical question, William hoped.

“You would reason with him,” said Tom.  “That is what you, William, and many others would do.”

“Right,” William said.

“And many have,” said Tom, “but to no positive result.  It makes him angrier.”

“I see,” William said.

Tom said, “She’s displaced.  That’s as far as he allows.  It’s been over a year since he lost her, but he’s not giving up.”

“Well, he is stubborn,” William said.

“I would have said obsessed,” said Tom.  “Why did the picture of the Japanese Canadians upset him so much?”

William shrugged.  “I don’t know.  It didn’t make sense to me.”                                                               

Tom answered, “Not because of the injustice itself.  He’s tormented by the idea of all those displaced people, of how their lives were yanked away from them and they were separated from each other, often men from women, in some cases forever.  Many died in those horrible camps.  They’re all Hannah and Alan to him.”

“Did he tell you this?”

“Not in so many words but it’s what he meant, what he feels.  He married into a Japanese Canadian family and knows of their sorrow.  Now he lives it.”

“He thinks I’m displaced too,” William said.

“That’s interesting,” said Tom.  “But let me finish.  The situation has become complex.  Your lightning bolt.”

“My most recent one,” said William.

“It came out of a blue sky.  You didn’t know Hannah Imamura had been killed.  You didn’t know she was Alan’s wife.  How is it you were saying her name after you’d just been struck by a freak bolt of lightning, standing close by Alan?”

“I have no idea,” said William.

Tom rubbed his thighs.  He pursed his lips.  He had an idea.  He said, “I want to try something. Close your eyes.”  He stood, stepped behind William, and lightly cupped his hands on his shoulders.  William flinched. 

“Sorry,” Tom said, letting go.  “It helps me sense your energy flow.  May I touch you?”

William nodded, gritting his teeth.

“You have to relax.  Shake out your arms and take three deep breaths, in and out.”

He did his best.  “Okay,” he said.  “Relaxed.”

Tom gently repositioned his hands and William tried to ignore them.  Tom said, “Now, don’t allow yourself to think of reasons why things can’t happen.  Take off your moldy old, rationalist scientist hat and toss it away.  Think openly and positively.  Think only of beautiful things.  Think about plants and animals, the things you have always loved and always will, all those glorious little creatures that are the reason you are who you are.

His term, ‘glorious little creatures,’ made William imagine a Pacific water shrew.  William was watching a water-logged insectivore sulking next to a ditch, sniffling.  It wasn’t very glorious.  He wasn’t any good at these exercises.

Tom continued, “Now think about Belcarra Park, about what was happening just before the lightning.  What was there that was special, different from the other times you’ve been there, that was beautiful, what non-scientists might describe as spiritual?”

William told him that just before the lightning he was making an ass of himself in front of his co-workers.

“I heard about that.”

“Sorry,” William said.

“That can’t be the answer.  It has to be something positive.  Was there anything you saw or heard, so beautiful your heart missed a beat?  A ray of light?  Someone’s smile?  The laughter of children?”

“Other than the lightning, it was just another Belcarra mudflat program,” William said.  “Except Alan was there.”

Tom’s fingers started drumming on William’s shoulders.  He was parsing it out, freaking William out.  “Maybe something Alan was doing,” he said.

“He was about to take my picture,” William said, but then his mind skipped back — “Alan clutching the little girl.”  There she was.  Her hands were moving and her eyes were blinking and William could see her pink tongue and her white teeth as she was talking.

"What little girl?  And why are you hugging yourself like that?" Tom asked, first curious, and then, sensing a breakthrough, jiggling William’s shoulders, forgetting one was burned.

"No-no," William said, bending over to free himself.

"What is it, William?" Tom whispered.

"I think I saw her."                                                                                                        

"Umm, can you explain?" he asked, uncertainly but with enthusiasm.

"Let me lie down," William said.  Tom moved the chairs aside to make a space in the middle of the little room, and William lowered himself into it.  He lay with his arms over his eyes, and breathed.  “Wait,” William said.  It was like being 17, sick-drunk for the first time, wanting not to throw up.

Tom knelt beside him and for several minutes they didn’t speak.  William was trying to find the tape of Belcarra, but couldn’t get the whole thing straight.  Hannah Imamura had been in there somewhere.  It was like when you dream of someone dead who was once close to you, like a grandparent or other relative, and in the dream it’s just them doing something normal, something everyday, off to the side, so that you’re not really paying much attention, and you’re not surprised that they’re there.  What had she been saying?  William couldn’t remember.  A slide show commenced in his mind, a replay of the life he had seen at Belcarra that day prior to the lightning — but with a notable addition....




It started with a sea weed:
.
Eel grass, Zostera marina;

and then it kept going...

Acorn Barnacle, Balanus balanoides... Sea Lettuce Enteromorpha fenestrata...  Rock weed, Fucus gardneri... Dungeness crab, Cancer magister... Bering Hermit Crab, Pagurus beringanus... Sitka Periwinkle, Littorina sitkana... Japanese little-neck clam, Venerupis philippinarum... River Otter, Lutra canadensis... Native Littleneck, Protothaca staminea...  Softshell clam, Mya arenaria... Bent-nosed clam, Macoma nasuta... Butter clam, Saxidomus giganteus... Manila clam, Tapes philippinarum... Heart cockle, Clinocardium nuttallii... Geoduck, Panope abrupta... Soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria... Pacific Oyster, Crassostrea gigas ... Native oyster, Ostrea lurida... Spiny Scallop, Chlamys hastata... Rock Scallop, Crassadoma gigantea... Blue mussel, Mytilus edulis... Eelgrass Isopod, Idotea resecata... Mud Shrimp, Upogebia pugettensis,... Ghost Shrimp, Callianassa californiensis... Purple Shore Crab... Hemigrapsus nudus... Bull kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana... Red ftlineRock Crab, Cancer productus... Grainyhand Hermit Crab... Pagurus granosimanus...  Penpoint Gunnel, Apodichthys flavidus... Tidepool Sculpin, Oligocottus maculosus... Moon Jelly, Aurelia aurita... Northern Clingfish, Gobiesox maeandricus... Sea lemon...  Anisodoris nobilis... Ochre Sea Star, Pisaster ochraceus... Mottled Sea Star, Evasterias troschelii... Giant Pacific Sea scallop, Pectin caurinus... Sunflower Star, Pycnopodia helianthoides... Harbour Seal, Phoca vitulina...Hannah Imamura! Hannah Imamura?

Hannah was sitting on a barnacle-covered rock under the pier, beneath the purple starfish, near where Alan had been holding the little girl, not wanting to hand her back to her helper.  She signaled to William with her hand and she spoke, but William couldn’t understand.
               
William unfolded his arms and opened his eyes.  Tom was leaning close, too close, and William startled.

He backed off.  “Anything?”

William said to Tom in a way he intended to be calm and analytical, but also nice for him and his take on things, “Although it makes no sense in a conventional way, it might be possible that I saw Hannah, in some sense.  I don’t know what she said, but I think she spoke to me.”

Tom pinned his shoulders to the carpet, which hurt like hell.  “Real love will not die!” he exclaimed.

This was a lot for William to deal with, having just understood, sort of, the mis-matched marriage of Alan and Hannah, having just understood, sort of, that Hannah Imamura, whom William had always been rather fond of, was dead, yet able to materialize as a somewhat communicative entity during lightning strike milliseconds.  The main thing was that, as anyone who knew William well knew, he didn’t much like being hugged.  That also held for being painfully pinned to the floor.  High school wrestling kicked in, a mandatory sport William despised, but nonetheless some of the old wiring remained.  Rolling onto his side he wrenched Tom off , which sent him into a bookcase.  Tom quickly retreated, realizing his over-reaction, but then, before William fully sat up, lunged to place a hand on his upper arm and push down in a firm but sort of gentle way back onto his side on the carpet.  William gave up.

Tom leaned and spoke softly into his ear, "Maybe you’re the special one.  That finally explains why I hired you."

"I might be an imigma, but at least I’m not one of you," said Ed Daddle to the two of them almost spooning on the carpet.  He was standing in the door, holding a large red dictionary.  He opened it and slapped it shut again to emphasize a point, and then harumphed back to his office.

Tom withdrew his hand, amused, not embarrassed.

William didn’t move.  Hannah remained a snapshot in his mind like the single sticking image in a dream. “Do you know where Alan is now?” he asked.  “He told me he couldn’t drive me today, that he had other things to tend to.”

“My guess is he’s visiting Seventh and Willow, or maybe Belcarra Park, trying to be struck by lightning.”                         

“Did he hear me say her name?” 

Tom nodded, “Yes.  According to Fooj, you said it in Alan’s car and at the hospital before they took you into an examination room.  It clearly bothered him.  He kept asking you why you were saying her name, and was very agitated.  He asked a doctor when you would snap out of it and was irritated when he didn’t get an answer.  As they wheeled you off, he called you a prick for not waking up.”   
                                               
“He called a burned lightning victim a prick?”

“He would seem to have a lot of anger,” said Tom.                        

“I have another question,” William said.  “Why did he tell you the story of Hannah and not me?  He hardly knew you, and I’m his old friend.”

“I already knew the story of Hannah.  I read the papers.  I let him know I knew it and that I was so sad for his loss.  That opened the door.  Plus, you’re a science boy.  He doesn’t expect you to be any more open-minded than others who have attempted to reason with him.  And, of course, you straight boys always save your most difficult secrets for us homos.” 

William lay there wondering why that might be so. 

Tom said, “Time to get up.” 

As William did, Fooj knocked on the doorframe.  Monique was with him. “Why were you on the carpet?” she asked.

“I was resting,” William said.

“Your eyes are red.”

“Tree pollen.”

Fooj studied William, and smiling, said, “We went to the hospital to see you, but they said you’d already checked yourself out.”
                                                                                                               
“Of course,” William said.  “I’m getting used to being hit by lightning.  It’s no biggie, except for the burns, but they give you nice pills for that.”  He patted the Percodans in his pocket.

Fooj handed William a yellow plastic bag.  It contained two cards in unsealed envelopes and two small but expensive-looking teddy bears.  “Uh, thanks,” William said, “but one of each would have been sufficient.”  He pulled out one of the cards, a thank you card, unsigned.

“They are not for you,” said Monique.  “They’re from you.”

They looked at William expectantly, but he didn’t get it.  Fooj explained, “They’re for you to give to Stacey and Tracy.  They were pretty freaked by what happened, but did everything they could to help you.  They pulled the burning Orca head off you and started giving you CPR, even though you hadn’t stopped breathing and still had a pulse.”

William plopped back down on the spinny chair.  Tom reached to hold it steady.  He hadn’t thought about that aspect of the incident.  He had been unpleasant to Stacey and Tracy, was mocking their program, and then, because they were standing close to a human lightning rod, the world exploded around them. “Thank you, Fooj,” William said, which was always easy for him to say.

“That’s a start,” said Monique.

“Which one did mouth-to-mouth?” William asked.

“Why is that important?” asked Monique.

“Stacey,” said Fooj.

Tom laughed.  “Because she’s Ed’s new favorite.  I must tell him.”

Next



                                                                

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