Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Mall of Mâvarin, Part One

Art by SherlockOops! I forgot to post this here on Saturday night!

This is the beginning of a new serial. I'm hoping that when we reach the point at which I originally got stuck a couple of years ago, the weekly schedule will help me keep on going. If it doesn't, well, I'll try something else, I guess!

A reminder: the next part of Joshua Wander's story is available by email only, to a limited number of readers. Please email me if you want to be on that list.

Part One: Slip of the Brain

By the time Carl and Catherine Salazar finished their morning chores, they had missed the bus again; so their Uncle Jamie took them to school in the Saturn. Carl spent the ten minute drive in the back seat, working on the last page of his homework. Cathy, of course, had finished her homework. She spent the time looking out the window at the gray streets of Dewitt, at cookie cutter houses and boring businesses, and dirty snow choked with fallen leaves.

“Does either of you have anything after school today?” Uncle Jamie asked as they pulled onto Edinger Drive.

“I’ve got an article due for the paper, but I shouldn’t have to stay after to get it done,” Cathy said.

“And I have nothing until basketball season starts, if I even make the team,” Carl said. “Can we go to Shoppingtown?”

Uncle Jamie looked both annoyed and amused. “On a weekday? Is there something you need from the mall that can’t wait until Saturday?”

“Well, no,” Carl admitted. “But we got most of our chores done already today, and we need to shop for each other’s birthday. Please, Uncle Jamie?”

“How will you get there?” Uncle Jamie asked. He pulled into the school driveway, coming to a stop in the student parking lot.

“You can drop us off, or we can take the bus,” Cathy said. It hadn’t been her idea to go to the mall, but if Carl managed to get permission, she would take advantage of the opportunity.

Uncle Jamie nodded as he put the Saturn in park. “All right,” he said. “I’ll bring the carriage around later this afternoon.”

Cathy was startled, not just by Uncle Jamie’s strange choice of words but by a change in the man’s voice. For a moment he sounded more deferential than parental. But Carl laughed. “The carriage?” he asked. “You’ve never called it that before.”

“Yes, the royal carriage. What else would I drive you in, Your Majesty?”

Cathy stared at her guardian. There was no hint on his face that he was joking.

“Well, you could just take us in this car,” Carl said.

Uncle Jamie looked deeply confused. He looked around wildly, tried to rise from the driver’s seat, failed because of the seat belt, twisted around to look at the twins, and finally turned back to stare at the dashboard, his hands gripping the steering wheel like a sailor in a hurricane. “This…car?” He shuddered. “Oh, this car.” He said this last sentence casually, as if whatever panic had gripped him a moment before had never happened. “All right. I’ll pick you up after school. But only for an hour. Then it’s home to finish your chores and do your schoolwork.”

“Okay, fine. Thanks,” Carl said. He climbed out of the Saturn. Cathy did the same. Then she turned back to look at her guardian. “Are you all right, Uncle Jamie?”

“Of course I’m all right,” Uncle Jamie said irritably. “I’ll see you later, Cathma—Cathy.” He shook his head, and pulled away in the Saturn before Cathy could say another word.

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