Home > Gossamer(14)

Author: Lois Lowry

"You're digressing," Most Ancient said, in a kindly way.

"Sorry. You're right." Thin Elderly chuckled, wondering if he was becoming as bad as Most Ancient. Old age did that to you.

"When did she touch the dog? Did you know she was going to? Did she have your permission?"

"Yes, she had asked permission and I had thought it over carefully and told her that she could. I knew it was against the rules. But this seemed a special situation. So we waited until the woman was asleep again, and the dog, of course, had never stirred at all. Then I went to bestow on the woman, and Littlest fluttered over and touched the dog. I finished my bestowal quickly. You probably remember, Most Ancient, how smoothly those good bestowals go, how quickly?"

Most Ancient nodded. "Yes. Very pleasurable."

"So I was able to watch while she touched the dog. It was truly exquisite, Most Ancient. She was smiling. You know how tiny she is. And still close to transparent, though she's starting to fill out. She fluttered here and there above the dog, reaching down; she seemed to concentrate on the neck area—"

"Why there, I wonder?"

"She explained later. It's where the boy most often strokes and scratches the dog. So there were many fragments there of affection and companionship. Those were the fragments she wanted."

"She has a keen sense for it, doesn't she?"

Thin Elderly nodded. "She does indeed. And to think: touching a living creature! I'd never seen it done before! She went about it as if it came naturally to her, and her touch was so—"


Thin Elderly smiled. "Exactly."

"I believe we'll not make a fuss about the rule. It seems clear that she broke it for good reason, and of course with permission from you.

"The bestowal went well? Calmed the boy?"

"Oh, yes, immediately. She gave him a dream of the dog and he actually smiled in his sleep."

"Well, then," Most Ancient said, "we'll sleep now, too, Thin Elderly, you and I. It's been a long night's work, and we're both getting old." He added his usual little joke. "Sweet dreams."


The young woman glanced at the clock on the wall of the school office. Ten more minutes till she could take a break. Then she'd have to walk all the way out to her car and sit there to have a cigarette.

Last job she had, they could smoke out behind the kitchen. The waitresses all gathered there on breaks. Schools were different, though. She knew that. Of course they wouldn't want young kids seeing people indulging in bad habits. She hated that she'd smoked so much in front of John. Not as bad as what Duane did, though, she thought. Getting drunk all the time. Right in front of his own kid.

She sighed and looked back at the computer screen. It was pretty easy, the work. Good thing she'd taken that course. Duane hadn't wanted her to. He said she got good money in tips at the restaurant; what was she trying to do, turn into some kind of businesswoman or something? She was too dumb for that. Airhead, he called her.

But she had hung in there, had taken the course mornings, had traded her breakfast shifts with one of the other waitresses. Hadn't missed a class. And once she got the hang of it, the computer stuff was easy. It was all organized and made sense. There was a satisfying feeling to it, the way everything had a place and she could find it by clicking a few keys. It was mysterious to her, though, how it worked, how all of that information—there were three hundred kids in the school, and all of their files stored here—could be pulled forward by the touch of her fingers.

If only life were that easy!

"How's it going? You've been here, what? A week? Any problems?" A cheerful voice interrupted her daydreaming.

"It's going good. I'm getting the hang of it." The assistant principal, with his bright patterned necktie, was beside her desk, looking down at her with a smile. She'd forgotten his name. Walking through the office, he had stopped to see how she was doing. Nice of him. They were all nice here. She wouldn't tell him about the problem finding a place to smoke. For sure! He wouldn't have much sympathy for that.

"When school starts next week, it'll be a little crazy for a while," he told her with a chuckle. "A little noisy."

"Yes, sir. I won't mind."

"I wanted to thank you," he said.

"Thank me?" She looked at him nervously. Would he thank her for coming in this week, but now, after school starts Monday, they wouldn't need her anymore? Her heart sank. She needed this job. The hours were just right. John could be here, and she would see him during the day and know he was okay.

But no, he wasn't giving her notice. "The woman who called about enrolling her little girl?" he was saying. "I can't think of her name."

"It was Mrs. Merryman. And her little girl is Caroline."

"That's it. She told me you did such a good job with the school records from wherever it was—"

"Michigan," she reminded him.

"Yes. Thank you for that. That poor woman was so upset when she thought the records had been lost."

She laughed. It had been easy, solving that problem. And had felt good, soothing the distraught woman.

"Well." He turned to leave. Someone from the front counter handed him a paper to sign. "Glad to have you with us."

"Thank you," she said shyly, and looked back at her computer. Soon, she thought, her son's name would be in there. The building would be noisy with children, and he could be one of them. "Hey, John!" she'd hear, in the hall, a kid calling to her boy, and the two would laugh at some joke, and there would be kids' artwork hanging on the walls, and one picture would have his signature: JOHN. She'd be so proud, then.

She just needed to get him back. That was the important, the urgent, thing. And she was making a start now. The apartment was cleaned up, sort of. She had a job. The assistant principal liked her, she could tell. And other people did. The principal's secretary had brought her a cup of coffee. The custodian said, "Good morning, Sunshine," to her every morning. One of the library assistants had asked where she got her shoes.

She could make friends, maybe. Duane had never let her have friends. The last time she'd had friends, she realized, was high school. After that it was just Duane, who wouldn't let her do anything but work, who wouldn't even let her drive.

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