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³Yes,´ said the second²grizzled and beer-bellied from age. ³Yes, that he was. And a good bit more. Probably the most kindhearted soul I¶ve known.´ ³And will ever know, probably,´ said the first, but not darkly. It was true.
OFFICER OHLAN: You listen to me now, kid. What¶s your name? [Elaina, have that on the record.] BOY: Trevor, sir. OHLAN: Trevor, for a smart kid you¶ve done some stupid things. JAMESON [unknown given nm/rank]: How do you know he¶s smart in the first place then? OHLAN: Are you joking? [inaudible] For twelve he¶s a [expletive] smart kid. JAMESON: I know, but the rules were clearly explained to each block leader who in turn explained it to each block² OHLAN: And he had the brains to break the rules for a [expletive] two years. JAMESON: Trevor, who put you up to this? TREVOR: No one, sir. JAMESON: No one²if I¶m a rat¶s [inaudible]. OHLAN: I¶m telling you it¶s brains. Trevor, do you know exactly what we can do? TREVOR: Yes, sir. JAMESON: What? OHLAN: Shut up, J. He doesn¶t need to repeat it. The transcript is going to review board, remember?
JAMESON: Review board [inaudible]. I want to hear it from the kid. Go on, Trevor. What can we do? TREVOR: I...uh...I don¶t know, sir. [inaudible] [non-verbal] OHLAN: Jameson. Be a professional. We want him in one piece for the trial. JAMESON: Trevor, are you ready to sign the written confession? TREVOR: No, sir. OHLAN: Kid, you can get yourself out of this business if you just tell us where they got off to. That¶s all we need to know. We¶re not interested in punishing folks like you. Where did they get to? TREVOR: I can¶t tell you that, sir. JAMESON: I think it¶s time to try more severe methods. Take Trevor out of the room, please. [Subject is removed from room.] [end]
The first one was a girl who looked like his sister, maybe six, maybe seven. She looked like a rag doll slumped lifelessly in her mother¶s arms, and only when the mother stepped into the light and kissed the thin girl on the forehead, she stirred listlessly and awoke looking upwards at her mother with faint recognition. ³She¶ll die if she doesn¶t²´ the mother said with cuttingly harsh hopelessness as she looked up at Trevor¶s parents and they stared back at her with distant glassy eyes that Trevor did not recognize, and they said robotically with one voice,
³No. Absolutely not. Against the rules²´ And in those six words Trevor felt the sting of rejection for a moment almost as though he had been the forsaken child. It was when he saw her walk out, head bowed, that he said he had to tend to the chickens in a moment, and as he had so often done to escape the wartime announcements that came on at night, Trevor slipped out unnoticed through the door and into the pale white snow. It was by the locked chicken coop that he found them, mother bent protectively over the tiny child. It was strange, he thought, that directly behind them was a fluttering poster, and though faded, it was recognizable²it was a caricature, the ugly face of the enemy, and he looked back down at the mother and child and thought the poster was not a good match at all. When they saw him they rose slowly, frightened, but he put up his hands as if to show, he did not have weapons, and he unlocked the chicken coop with chattering teeth more from fear than cold. He shooed the chickens back into their cages. The mother stared at him, uncomprehending, stooped underneath the doorway of the chicken coop. ³They make a lot of noise at night,´ Trevor said carefully, ³but it¶s warmer in here because there¶s mud chinks between the wood to keep the wind out. I¶ll just go get you some food and a blanket.´ He did not have time to see the mother¶s face before he turned and ran out of the small wood shed, but he knew that it would be something like relief, maybe, or perhaps a tiny bit of joy²or was that too much? He snuck up the stairs unnoticed, but coming back down²brown wool blankets balled up in his hand, a few pieces of bread in the other²he was accosted by his older sister. ³What do you think you¶re doing?´ she asked suspiciously. ³Nothing²uh, just bringing this to Mom,´ Trevor said quickly.
She arched her eyebrow but said nothing, then said something very confusing, very softly² ³They can¶t ask me if I don¶t know,´ and crossing herself piously, she walked slowly up the stairs. Trevor¶s heart raced. With the bread crammed in his pocket and the blanket in his hand, Trevor awkwardly put on his winter coat. It would be big enough for the two to share, he reasoned, and running furtively out of the house, dashed back to the chicken coop. The mother took the bread hungrily, but the child only looked at it listlessly and stared up at the ceiling. Trevor wordlessly handed his coat to the woman and she wrapped it around herself and the child. The blankets she folded around them, so that they sat up against the wooden wall tightly swaddled, chickens starting at them distrustfully. ³My little sister comes to get the hens¶ eggs at 8 in the morning,´ he said urgently. ³She can¶t find you here, otherwise she¶ll blab about it and my parents will find out. Before she gets here, I¶ll come down and take you to a place I know in the forest. I¶ll bring more food.´ The mother stared at him with something like pity and a smile, and she whispered as he was about to leave, ³What¶s your name?´ ³Trevor,´ he said shyly. ³You have a good heart,´ she said, and Trevor shook his head, embarrassed to receive praise. As he turned away, the little girl tapped him on the ankle²the nearest part of his body²and she said in that weary yet youthfully exuberant voice belonging only to six- or seven-year-olds, ³I¶m Lucca!´ and Trevor grinned, like he hadn¶t EVER at school or really even at home, with all the wartime announcements on, and then he wondered silently whether Lucca was really, truly who they meant when they said ³the face of the enemy.´
December 27th The orphans managed to get to Gatton-en-Brie, I¶m pretty sure of that; the day Papa was at town for finance things I decided they were well enough to be moved; and so we did. I did, I guess I should say, but they were the ones moving; I just gave them the green light. I think Anacosta knows what¶s going on. I think she really wised up to it the first time, is it one²no, almost two years ago now. I¶ve had to answer awkward questions since from Mama and Papa, especially now with the block leader being so stingy with rations. Questions that are difficult to answer²where has the food been going, why is there only half a loaf of bread left²and they¶ve gotten much harder to answer, the more people that come. I guess it might have been a bit much when I took half a loaf of bread. But it was so important for the twins²the eightyear-olds²to get proper nutrition and it¶s been hard, foraging at this time of year²in the spring, easier, but not now. Anacosta covered for me about the bread. I don¶t know why. But I only hope I haven¶t dragged her into this. Because today our block leader looked straight at me when he re-emphasized the importance of ³not hiding so-called refugees from the peninsula; they were our enemies, they are our enemies, and our enemies they will remain.´ I guess he thought it probably sounded all cute and rhetorical and stuff, but it was really nasty. I don¶t like our block leader. He¶s never met Lucca or Pinta or Tansy. He doesn¶t know that ³our enemies´ get cold in the wintertime just like us, or they want a roof over their heads and a place to sleep just like us, or they love their children as much as he does (well, loves his own children I suppose). Or does he know and just not care? Is this just a big strategy²starving and killing and keeping out? I prefer to think that he just doesn¶t know. It means he could be convinced.
Sooner than seems possible, it¶ll be a new year all over again. I¶ll try to sneak some of Anacosta¶s famous brandy cake to the folks, they need it and the good cheer more than I do. I¶ll just have to watch for the right time to do it. I¶ve been getting a bit jumpy now. I could have sworn I saw eyes tracking me but then I realized it was just an owl. I think. I don¶t think anyone could know what is going on, right? But somehow all I can think of is the way the block leader looked at me earlier...and his pale, scary owlish eyes.
Someone left the telly on, as people were bound to do, and the voice of an overly excited television host wafted over the speakers like the cloying scent of brownies from an oven. ³You must have been so tired!´ she exclaimed, dabbing her eye. ³I can¶t imagine...forty kilometers, just like that...´ The show host was a tall blonde woman, in a white suit dress and black peep-toe heels. She looked obscenely posh standing next to her guest, who was dressed plainly; a light blue summer dress, perhaps a size too big. The interviewee had the appearance of someone who had gone through hard times; her cheeks were slightly gaunter than most, and her arms²though not bony²were thin. ³I was extraordinarily exhausted,´ she said tremulously, ³but it was my mother that was really the warrior through all this²she carried me, through the snow and unfamiliar roads, to try to find someone. Anyone. Those were strange times, you know,´ said the guest gravely. ³Even good people didn¶t necessarily have the courage to do the right thing.´ ³Even Trevor¶s parents, is that right?´ ³Yes. Yes, I remember²they said µAbsolutely not¶ to my mother. Trevor¶s mother especially²she said it the loudest. But I can¶t judge them too badly. Now that I¶m a mother myself after all, I suppose I understand...your children are precious, you don¶t want to put them in danger for their actions. But that was what made Trevor so incredible²the fact that he didn¶t care about danger. He didn¶t
even think about it.´ She started to tear up. ³He just saw a mother and child that needed someplace to sleep and some food to eat.´ ³Do you think he saved your life?´ ³I know he did,´ said the interviewee, and one long tear ran down her face. ³I know he did.´ The show host woman looked happy with such a perfect wrap, and said in a half-whisper to the interviewee, ³Thank you so much,´ while clasping the woman¶s hand. ³We¶re going to take a break now. You just heard three incredible stories of survival and hope from three incredible women; Marya Tetching, Bea Mallory, and Lucca Garnet. This is N15. We¶ll be back in a moment.´
³And do you remember what he said to us?´ asked the thin man. ³Yes,´ said the thickset one. ³Of course.´ ³We asked him why...´ ³Why did you do it? ³Who put you up to it?´ groaned the thin man, running his hand through his graying hair regretfully. ³Oh yes, I remember that.´ ³We asked, µdo you know what could happen¶...?´ ³Did he know what could happen?´ ³I don¶t know.´ They paused. ³He was a smart kid,´ Jameson said awkwardly, as if to finally agree with what Ohlan had said all those years ago. ³He knew what could happen,´ Ohlan said decidedly. ³I think he knew.´ ³Then why did he do it?´ exclaimed Jameson.
³Don¶t you remember what he said, Jameson?´ Ohlan asked violently. He turned to look the thin man in the eye. ³Don¶t you remember? He said, in twenty years they won¶t be asking why...´ ³They¶ll be asking why not.´ Ohlan and Jameson were quiet, for it did not take a pithy statement or a single sound to express a simple, unsaid fact; it was twenty years later, and Trevor had been right. ³Smart kid,´ Ohlan said grudgingly. The two men were standing on a concrete ledge. It was a concrete ledge that had once been a jail, a jail that had once overlooked a city. The city that had once been gray with smoke from munitions factories and gas refining for tanks. The color had come in the garish posters glued onto apartment block walls. But somewhere, on the outskirts, toward the countryside, there had been a chicken coop and a cold winter night and a mother and her child, and another child who had said²twenty years ahead²why not?
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