Thursday, January 17, 2008

jamie and eric-17-and now the staircase

Eric decided it wasn’t worth it. He knew exactly what that paper said. Eric failed.

The lights in the masters building, in most buildings actually, were triggered by motion detectors at intervals along the wall. And as Eric descended the landings blinked into life. This creepy unset feeling distracted Eric from the serene dusky glow mixing with the crisp electric light. All of these time he had been trying to convey how little he was capable of, how the expectations on him were unrealistic. Sure Jamie was good at everything. That meant nothing about Eric. But he wanted it to be true. He wanted to be brilliant. And not useless.

Eric slowed his pace to a stop and sat on the step behind him, frustrated and destroyed. The landing window showed the side of another building and some tree branches. He could open the window here, maybe. Climb down a tree branch to the ground that way. Avoid the people he would pass otherwise.

* * *

“You can’t seriously still be angry after, what has it been? Five months?” Bridgett spoke in just under yelling tones at Dahlia. Dahlia had joined the table were Jamie and Bridgett were researching their respective topics.

“No, Bridgett I haven’t been actively angry at Eric for five months. But he’s been an asshole” Jamie flinched a little at the word, “ever since he got home from the hospital. I was all worried about him and excited to have him back in the house, but every time I tried to talk to him it was ‘uh yeah,’ ‘I guess,’ ‘dunno,’ and sometimes I would get a ‘that sounds neat.’ So yeah I was angry.”

“And you hold that grudge now five months later?” Bridgett had a book open in front of her, but hadn’t looked at it in some time.

“Well maybe a little, but it’s not like I completely gave up on him. He does something every other day that pisses me off.” Jamie flinched again.

Jamie was in the middle of the two girls, and as the conversation had become more lively had sunk into his own book. Continuing to try to read the article, he made a little annoyed sound. Flipped the page back to remember what the article was talking about. Flipped forward again.

“You know that you look for things to be irritated about.” Dahlia started to object, but Bridgett stopped her with a hand motion. “You do it because he hasn’t apologized and you think you’re right and justify your continued not talking to him by finding ways to blame them.”

“So what do you want me to do Bridgett! Apologize to him. Just forget what an ass he’s been and continues to be all this time!”

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

jamie and eric-16-hallway describtion

Eric was slow to leave. The dismissal was curt after the hours of examination. He shuffled out of Master Damien’s cluttered office into the diming evening light still washing into the hallway. Master Damien lived in a quiet wing of the masters’ building where all the masters were older and didn’t take on apprentices. The silence was audible as the scritching of pens, typing of keys, a few coughs. The hallway reflected the old grandeur as well. Technically, Eric thought looking up from the envelope in his hands, this hallway had the same basic decoration as any other hallway. Bright white walls, warm yellow lights, light wooden floors. Well this wing had a oriental carpet running down its length. At that table with flowers at the end of the hall wasn’t in the wing that Eric lived it. Bright yellow lilies with curling petals. They looked real, Eric could see pollen on the table below them.

Eric could open the envelope with his pocket knife. And use an iron to reseal it. Eric tapped the temptation in his hand. With a sense of dread, Eric contemplated how much trouble he would get in as he headed down the long hallway to the stairwell. If he was caught. Shuffling sounds, setting a mug down, someone was mumbling to themselves beyond their door. Eric felt uncomfortable with the distinctness of the sounds, as if he was impeding on their privacy. The stairwell was cooler, but refrained from the utilitarian concrete used everywhere in dorm housing. The masters got wooden stairs. Wooden stairs that creaked as Eric stormed down them to his own floor.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

jamie and eric-15-testing ends

“Uh… it’s how people do magic, right?” Eric hadn’t been sure what to expect. The concept of energy was so basic in society that Eric wasn’t sure who wouldn’t know it.

“Where does it come from?” Master Damien neither reassured nor chided him, but remained perfectly calm.

Eric shifted in his chair, “From people. People always just make energy.” Master Damien’s face was blank. Eric dropped his eyes to the table. “Inside of them. Like you make blood… From food I guess.”

“What is the relationship between the magic energy and life energy?”

Eric didn’t like tests. “Uh…” Eric rubbed his head. “ I don’t know.” It couldn’t be good to miss a question so soon.

Master Damien produced a sheet of paper from his pocket and scribbled something down. “They are the same.” He informed Eric. And the questions went on.

* * *

Eric was staring at the brown paper bag. He hadn’t found the moment to ask if it was okay to eat his sandwich. Or whatever was in the bag. Food. Master Damien was giving him time to think about the question, but Eric hadn’t listened. He hadn’t even been able to guess the answers for the last ten minutes? Twenty minutes? In Eric’s mind it could’ve been an hour. In that time Master Damien had retrieved a notepad from his desk to continue scribbling down notes. His expression was still blank, however.

Eric chanced it, “Can I eat my lunch?” This seemed to unsettle Master Damien. Clearly not what he was expecting.

“Yes.” He made a note on the paper, which Eric thought was odd.

It was a sandwich! Eric unwrapped it greedily. He was so hungry that he didn’t notice the flavor until he was halfway finished. Grilled cheese with fresh tomatoes. Not horribly filling, but his favorite.

Master Damien looked timid in his next question, “Has the.. the need to eat affected your ability to.. answer my questions?” He almost looked hopeful. Eric shook his head, his mouth full.

Master Damien collected the booklet from in front of Eric. There was another sandwich. Ham and cheese and some other stuff this time. He was flipping through the pages they hadn’t gone through yet, about a fourth of the book.

Eric couldn’t imagine going through all of the questions. The sun was threatening dusk already. Normal people probably answered faster, Eric mused. The second sandwich was the last item in the bag, but Eric felt much better. He watched Master Damien flipping through pages. While there was plenty of sunlight outside still, the office had only one window, which was partly blocked by a bookcase. Eric contemplated turning the light on.

Finally Master Damien looked up at Eric, “I had been hoping that I could jog your memory with the subsequent questions. I have seen your grades, your portfolio. You were an excellent student.” Master Damien ripped out the pages from his notepad and made a neat stack with the first loose page. He folded them neatly in thirds and brought them over to his desk. From the densely packed materials he retrieved an envelope, wax, and his metal seal. The papers were then sealed inside the envelope. “And you will be again one day.” Master Damien said returning to the student desk. He handed Eric the envelop. Hearing about his past made Eric feel uneasy and he took the envelope gingerly. “This is for your Master Brown. You are excused.”

Eric was slow to leave.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

jamie and eric-14-test one begins

* * *

Master Brown continued to drag Eric along despite his clear willingness to keep pace with her. He stumbled over the threshold of the door because of the odd angle his body was forced to walk at through the narrow space.

“Ah good, you’re here John. This is Eric.” Master Brown signaled towards Eric. Handing him the lunch sack as a afterthought. “I really appreciate you doing this John.”

“Non-sense, Joan, we both know that I’m the only Master capable of administering all of the magical exams. In fact it will be fun for me. It has been a long time since someone required me to solve such a categorical problem.” Master Damien turned his attention to Eric, and gestured to the nearby desk as he said, “Have a seat, Eric.”

Master Brown gave a nervous little laugh. “Just don’t spend too much of your time on this categorical problem.”

“Of course not.” Master Damien said distractedly. He had already moved back to a main desk covered in papers and was shuffling through the layers. Master Brown looked somewhat concerned, but left nevertheless mumbling something about her own work.

“Ah, yes.” Master Damien retrieved a booklet from the pile after several minutes. Eric had been about to open his sack lunch. “I used to do this quite a lot,” Master Damien turned to Eric, sliding the booklet in front of him on the student desk. The title read, Preliminary Student Assessment of Magically Competence. “before they came up with those standardized tests. Actually I wrote the book that defined the underlying structure of those tests. So really,” Master Damien smiled, “I put myself out of a job. Now please open your booklet to the first page. As per Master Brown’s request we will begin with the beginning.”

The spiral binding of the book cracked as he opened it. The page was titled, Section One: Stabilizing Energy. Questions followed.

“Although I’ve found that almost without exception people intuitively stabilize their energy. Master Brown did mention a traumatic incident in your recent past though.” It wasn’t a question. Eric found himself exceedingly grateful, surprisingly. “Each section is split into two parts: theory and practice. For theory we will work though these questions and you will answer verbally. As needed I will bring out objects for practice and will evaluate your performance with aid of these fine glasses,” Master Damien patted his breast pocket. “which allow me to see the form you magic takes. Fine invention. Now, what is energy?” Master Damien, sitting across the desk him Eric, ask calmly.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

jamie and eric-13-weeding flower beds

Eric set off at a light jog, knowing he was going to be late otherwise. In his panic, Jamie had actually looked up for once. Thinking about it, Eric realized that Jamie’s eyes were inky dark. The realization felt like a slap in the face. Dahlia had light green eyes and Master Brown had hazel eyes. His mother had washed out grey eyes. Had Eric seen Jamie’s eyes before? He must have.

The early morning air was nippy as he left the masters’ building, but the sun would pour down summer warmth on him once it rose above the tree line. Eric continued jogging to stay warm. Seeing Jamie’s eyes brought back a memory. A memory of Jamie crying.

Glossy ink black eyes rimmed with red stared at the floor. They were waiting for Master Brown to return home for the evening and Jamie clutched his failed test in a balled fist. Eric sat on the couch next to him feeling guilty, and anxious as well. He wanted Jamie to absolve his responsibility in the issue.

“I hate it when you cry” Eric stated hotly.

“I’m sorry” Jamie replied softly. His voice was steady now that he was past the main fits of anguish. Eric returned his gaze to the floor as well.

He remembered that Jamie had failed because he had barely spent enough time to finish his homework every day, let alone double check it or study. Eric had been impatient with Jamie, wanting to leave their quarters to explore the school grounds. He had never let Jamie study. Thinking about it made him feel guilty again. Eric turned the thought away, but the feeling lingered as Mr. Gransley gave out work assignments. Eric got weeding the flower beds around the main entrance and along the pathway to the administration building.

Eric grimaced a little. He knew there was an expectation of excellence concerning the most visible parts of campus. Remember what they said last time: don’t step in the flower bed, pull out the roots.. of the weeds, and water everything.

Rita was working in the flower beds too. He felt like she was watching him as he worked. She did inspect his work periodically. The day continued with that uneasy feeling. Eric forgot about the test Master Brown mentioned that morning, and chose to walk out to the stream on the south edge of campus. He needed a dip after a day in the hot sun.

When he finally made his way back home, Master Brown was pacing impatiently in the living room. He was vaguely aware of her form as she strode past him grabbing his arm. Eric didn’t see if anyone else was home.

“We have to rush a little. I know Master Damien won’t mind the wait, but it’s impolite to waste his time. I packed you a sandwich in case you were hungry. I wanted to do the written tests first, but Master Damien didn’t have a lot of openings. He’s just going to walk you through abridged versions of year-end magic competency tests. It might take a while.” She glanced at her watch. “Hopefully it won’t go too long. I’ll save you before dinner ends.”

Monday, January 7, 2008

jamie and eric-12-Jamie speaks up

Master Brown tried to ask the boys about their plans for the day, but Eric was too tired to articulate his words and Jamie’s answers discouraged further dialog. Master Brown tapped on the table, not ready to give up. Eric didn’t like the uncomfortableness, and couldn’t help but feel responsible for it. As if Jamie’s hunched shoulders accused him.

“Jamie.” Master Brown spoke up cheerfully, “Eric is taking a series of standardized tests this week. On Friday I want to run the Hippo-Gilford test.” Jamie dropped his spoon.

“What? No.” Jamie’s shocked retort was audible, loud actually. Eric found himself staring in amazement at Jamie.

Master Brown looked indignant, “Jamie what do you mean?” She was giving him a second chance. Surely the good child must have a logically reason for such an emotional response.

Jamie swallowed, thinking. It was that same ‘think of a lie’ look that Eric employed so often.

Eric was baffled, “What’s the Hippo-Gilford test anyways?” he directed his question to Master Brown, who frowned back.

“Well it tests the extent to which you share energy with your bonded and your ability to meld magical skills. Jamie, are you too busy?” It was classic. The teacher making excuses for the student.

“Uh… Well,” Eric could see the wheels turning in Jamie’s head. It made him angry. “It’s just I have a deadline coming up with the paper, and I wanted to spend time with Bridgett. I mean I could, but could we push it back maybe?” His voice dwindled away. Master Brown seemed to except the explanation. Seemed to calm down as her world settled back into its familiar order. Eric felt more annoyed. “Like a month maybe?”

“Sure Jamie. That’s not a problem at all.”

Eric stirred his oatmeal glaring at the center of the table. There was something behind Jamie’s fear. Well if nothing else it was the first time that Eric had seen Jamie express emotion since… he got back from the hospital. What was it about this test that evoked such a response in Jamie…

Eric’s oatmeal was cold and congealed in his mouth, and he swallowed quickly chocking himself a bit. With a swig of orange juice Eric decided to cut breakfast short. Mumbling goodbyes Eric was out the door.

“Don’t drag your feet coming home, I have a test planned….” Master Brown called after him, letting the comment drop as he left the room. Pausing outside the door, Eric heard Master Brown complain about his dirty dish. Eric grimaced. He had already had that discussion with her.