Tommyʼs pen had retraced the lines of the heart on the top of his wooden
desk so many times that the ball point was at least a sixteenth of an inch below sea
level. The original un-abused surface being the sea. The heart contained his intials
alone. He had no love to give. How to love in a world so boring. His brain was in that
line. His whole existence, by times, dwelled on that graffitied birch slab. Noises went on
around him but he didnʼt hear them. If his eyes shifted a little, an accident he tried to
avoid, they would settle on red and grey speckled linoleum, burnished with the traffic of
size five sock feet shuffling and sliding upon that pattern challenged surface. A huge
chessboard. SUCH a boring game. His older brothers played it. When they werenʼt
beating him up. Or fighting with his parents and playing horrible loud music. A song
came into his head. “So happy togeetheaah, how is the weeatheaah?” Music used to be
so much better when he was young. Ah those golden days of driving in his fathers
station wagon, the radio playing civilized songs, his mother humming along as they
skirted brand spanking new suburbs on the endlessly flat expanses outside Etobicoke.
Before the MOVE. Before the destruction of his LIFE.
The pen could build to a smooth and silky slide in the heartlines if he was careful
making the corners. The corners had started quite sharp, at the bottom and in the dent.
But he had carefully, over time with great patience, smoothed those corners so that he
could maintain speed as the pen tip rounded the horn. Sometimes he had to use a
pencil, when the “entity” took his pen on accusations of defacement. The pencil had a
completely different response in the track. It widened the groove and sped along like a
rider in one of those crazy lying down toboggans heʼd seen in the olympics. And it made
a lovely shiny surface, but it also made black lead dust which got on his fingers which
got him in trouble when he got home at lunch time. How long til lunch? He ever so
slowly, with greatest trepidation and the practiced skill of a warrior, raised his eyes,
being ever so careful not to let his gaze fall on anything between sea level and sky. He
knew what horrors he would encounter should his eyes dally. Pictures drawn by the
others. Oh, what fallow plots of artistic failure the others created. The drabness, the
failure of crayons on lined paper. The reliance on parent prescribed reality. The ocean
that lay near had made the others brains soggy. The only way for his eyes to get where
they were going without encountering the assaults that lay in wait for them was to latch
onto a mortar line between the painted bricks and follow it, never veering. Over five
bricks, up two over three the other way, up six, over five again and then STOP! A picture
rail, and lime green faded paint. Above, a long line of letters, in cursive, capitals and
common. They had to be jumped. He closed his eyes, held his breath and moved his
eyeballs. Opening his lids ever so slowly, focus gained on a round face. He could see
heʼd made it. Where were the hands? he opened a little more. The red arm raced
around, the black hands...OH MY GOD! Ten oʼclock! His eyes fell, taking in letters
drawings, chalkboard and people. They landed on the desk top with a thud. They lay
there, wounded. Noises made their way to his ears. He felt the cool of the slab on his
cheek. The noise became clearer. Uh oh.
“Mr Moore, are you with us? Or have you been sleeping?"
He raised his head. All eyes were upon him. Titters and whispers. The entity was
standing a mere three desks away. Her dress was a crazy chartreuse green, heavily
woven, like a dimpled carpet. Her shoes were pointy pumps and the hair could be seen
beneath her stalkings. He felt like retching. He heard the terrible music of the Planet
Vulcan as he looked upon her.
“Where are your books, sir?”
She held her pointer in her hand. Her weapon of choice. She was making her
way toward him. Oh, what would Maxwell Smart do? His hands reached below sea level
where his books were kept. His fingers explored the trigger of a gun. Too strong a
response. The coils of a scribbler. Might need that. Oooh. Whats that? Yuck. Did
someone pick there nose and stick it under his desk? Aaarrgh. The horror.
“Have you done your homework?”
The pointerʼs yellow plastic end was laying upon his desk top, right in the center
of the heart, lending query to the question. Emphasizing the ask.
“Uh, yeeaah...I mean yes. Itʼs here.”
Fingers probed further, scared and tremulous after the last encounter. Whatʼs this
smooth cold surface?
“Well if you did your homework, you should know the answer to the question.
What great event took place here in Halifax in December 1917, fifty four years ago
“He wonʼt know. Heʼs a Toronto boy. All he knows is how to wear fruit pants.”
“Thatʼs enough of that talk, Mr Nugent.” She had a bemused look in her eye as
she said this. She hated him for being from Ontario as much as everyone else.
Malcom Dicky, sitting behind him, a full six inches taller than any other kid in his
“You better get this, T.O. boy, or its lights out for you at recess.”
Oh yeees, it's the can of pop he took from the fridge this morning and shook up
all the way to school. He was going to make a fire in the woods on the way home and
put it in and see what happened. Now his hand was on it.
“WHAT is THAT? Mr. Moore, you are NOT to keep lunch supplies in your desk!
Dicky was leaning in close for a look as The Entity reached towards him to take it
Two Aisles away, he saw Suzy Shea, her pig tails shining in the flourescent glow.
She was smiling at him. She understood. Her love could have saved him. His lip curled ever so slightly in her direction
as his thumb tugged on the metal tab, seconds before the Entityʼs hand reached the
can. He angled his body to avoid impact. He pulled. The tab lifted. For a brief second
there was a fizz and then he saw black. Lights out fifteen minutes before recess