Chapter Books

Timmy hears things that no one else hears. Is he going crazy or is there something out there? If something is out there why doesn't anyone else hear it?

All work herein is Copyrighted and may not be distributed or published without the prior consent of the author. Copyright 2006, 2007. Kim Bentz. All rights reserved.

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Kim Bentz, Writer and Photographer, living in Viriginia (Washington, D.C. metro area). Graduate of Colorado Springs Christian School, Student at American Military University. Government contractor by day. 

Kim lives with her husband of 30+ years, nearly 2000 books, a great collection of jazz records, and thousands of photographs taken all over.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Chapter Twenty-Four

“Until he said it, I only suspected it vas true. I tried not to hope for this.” The Professor clapped his hands in delight and danced a small jig, right there in the doorway between the kitchen and the rest of the house. He could not contain his excitement and grabbed Mrs. Tucker and whirled her around, dancing to a tune no one else heard.

In spite of herself, Mrs. Tucker smiled over his shoulder at her husband, who gave a shrug and began grinning at the man’s exuberance. Moments later the professor released her with a formal bow and a flourish.

Mr. Tucker chuckled. “I don’t know what this is all about, but it looks like you’re happy about it.”

“Oh yes. Mr. Tucker. Your boy is a Lister!”

“But what’s a Lister?”

“Oh, how silly of me, of course you don’t know.” The Professor removed his jacket, loosened his tie and began pacing.

The Tuckers each took a kitchen chair and sat at the table, looking up at him expectantly.

“Vell, how could you know? There’s probably less than twenty people alive who know vhat a Lister is. I only know because of Valter.” His eyes were sparkling.

“Valter, come here and tell these folks vhat a Lister is.”

Walter came and explained.

“Listers were heard of first in the Middle Ages, though there is some evidence that they existed before that. Lister is an old English word for listener. Listers hear the universe singing. Everything has their own song. Things like the stars, the planets, rivers, mountains, and seas have steady songs, almost like the rhythm or the base of a grand symphony. Other things like plants, animals, and humans have songs that are much more varied. What a Lister does is listens to the universe.”

The Tuckers listened intently, but were still puzzled. At their expression, Walter stopped his explanation to take a different approach.

“Listers usually begin hearing unexplained sounds when they are 10 or 11 years old. Usually it is an astronomical body, a star, a black hole, or a comet, but then they begin to hear other things. They are rapidly surrounded by the music and can think of little else. It they aren’t helped they withdraw or are sometimes treated for insanity.

The thing to remember is that they aren’t crazy, what they hear is real, even if none of you can hear it. Timmy is dealing about as well as he can, but I understand he was hospitalized recently during a bad storm.”

The Tuckers nodded.

“If Timmy doesn’t learn to shut out the music when he needs to, he may die. We can help him, but he will need to come with us.”

“Why is this good news?” Mr. Tucker spoke for them both.

“Ve have been looking for a younger Lister for years!” the professor exclaimed. “Do you know vhat this means?”

Both Tuckers shook their heads.

“He can hear the stars sing! He can hear the planets! The seasons change! I never believed in magic or mysteries until I heard Lister music. It is vonderful! It is the essence of the universe, the song of time, of creation, of loss, of life, of joy, of sorrow.” He paused to take a breath.

“Listers tell us vhen things are going wrong, they can varn us early of bad things happening here on earth. More importantly, their music brings us hope and joy. They are a proof that there is more to this universe than meets the eye. Science has only begun to recognize some of the things Listers have known for centuries.” His eyes were sparkling.

“It sounds very…strange…and…well, dangerous.” Mrs. Tucker said.

“It is. It is.” The professor did not seem at all alarmed.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chapter Twenty-Three

At the sound of another joining in humming the song, Timmy brightened considerably. Finally someone else knew the music! He followed the man without hesitation to the bench, where they sat, singing out wordlessly the melodies and harmonies that surrounded them.

As the stranger sang out the low thrumming, Timmy sang the trills, the capriccio of birds in flight, winging their way from branch to branch in a warm beam of sunlight. Then they switched, and Timmy sang the part he had heard most recently. He sang it, not as he heard it, but miles above that, within the human vocal range. It was a pure note, steady and strong, with no variance of pitch, volume or of tone, which his young voice could not truly manage. The stranger sang what could have been harmonies or melodies, depending on what else was singing at the same time. Each musical phrase stood on its own, and yet was perfectly in tune with the rest.

How long they sang, neither of them could know. They sang until their voices could no longer maintain pitch and they began to sound raspy.

Timmy was so excited that he actually registered the man with him for the first time. He took in his visual appearance, the scent of the soap the man used, the light in his eyes and the glow on his face. He felt as if he truly knew this man, and this was so exciting that for the first time, the music did not overwhelm him and he was fully present.

“Who are you?” he asked in wonder.

“Walter. But we’ve already met.” With a grin and a nod back at the house he reminded Timmy of their introduction.

Embarrassed, Timmy ducked his head, “yeah, well…”

“It’s okay, Timmy. I understand.” The voice was gentle.

Looking up, Timmy knew it was true.

“So what is it? What is the music? Why can’t anyone hear it?” Those and dozen of other questions pushed their way out of Timmy’s brain, stumbling over themselves on his tongue, giving no room and no time for an answer.

“Timmy. Whoa. Wait a minute.” Walter held up his hand, laughing. Timmy quieted.

“We are hearing the song of the universe. It is the stars, the planets, the mountains, the trees, the wind, the water, the storms and every living thing. Each thing has a part in the song, even the smallest ant, though their song is small and so brief you may miss it.”

“Do you hear that?” he hummed the part he was talking about. Timmy nodded. The music was carrying him away again and he was struggling to stay part of the conversation.

“That is the song of this oak tree as it readies itself for spring.”

The musical firmaments were surrounding him again, and he could see his new friend’s lips moving but struggled to catch part of it. “…hear…birdsong and…learn…become…”

Walter quit speaking, realizing as he looked at the boy that he was no longer able to hear him. Quietly he began to hum the oak tree’s song. Timmy hummed along, absently.

Getting to his feet, he pulled Timmy up and led him back into the house.

The unspoken question was on the Professor's expectant face. He answered it quickly. “Yes. He is a Lister.”

Chapter Twenty-Two

Mrs. Tucker anxiously rearranged the candlesticks on the coffee table for the twelfth time, standing back to check the overall impression of the room. Nervous as a young filly, she trotted across the room to adjust this picture, fluff that pillow, and turn the lampshade just so. She couldn’t remember a time when she had been this nervous. Mr. Tucker had given up trying to calm her and had gone into the barn to tinker with the tractor they had rescued from the side of the road. Both had their own ways of handling their anxious thoughts.

Timmy had been scrubbed and tucked into his best pants, a dress shirt and even been forced into a tie. Even his overwhelming distraction did not keep him from fussing about the tie, which now hung loosened and askew from beneath his starched collar.

Now that the deed was done, Timmy had slipped back into reverie. He had heard a new note this morning, deeper than any he had heard before. He had taken to creating his own notation paper so that he could accurately chart where on the scale the music actually played. He had charted this at 32 octaves below middle C. It was a thrill, but one he could not share with anyone. While he thought about that, an intense loneliness grew in his chest. It had been there ever since he first heard the music, and had grown stronger and stronger each time he heard something he could not talk to anyone about. Now this.

The note itself was lonely, though it did not sound lonely so much as alone—solitary.

His mother opened his bedroom door. “They’re here,” is all she said, but he followed her to the living room where his father sat with two strangers.

“Timmy, this is Professor Visvaldis and he brought along…” his father hesitated, waiting for the introduction.

“This is Valter. Valter was one of my students, and a remarkably talented one.” The man in the black suit and goatee pointed to his much less formally dressed friend. Walter appeared to be about thirty with a slightly vague expression, and a haircut that looked like he simply hacked off locks of hair whenever they got in his way.

Timmy looked at them, aware that he should do something, but the music was gathering in intensity and he was having trouble registering what they were saying. He looked at his mother. Shake hands, she mouthed silently.

Oh, that’s right. He reached out his hand absently, distracted by a trill outside the window behind them. His eyes strayed to the world beyond the window, sliding off their faces with scarcely a hint of notice.

He began to hum along.

His parents squirmed in their seats, his mother wringing her hands in her lap.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized to both men.

“Do not vorry about it.” The professor responded.

Walter’s eyes were glued on Timmy. His face was alight with pleasure and he began to hum along. The professor clapped with delight. “Oh this is vonderful! Just vhat I hoped for!”

“Valter?” he interrupted.

The humming stopped. “Yes?”

“Vhy don’t you take the boy outside vhile I talk to his parents, yes?”

Without another word, Walter reached for Timmy’s shoulder and guided him out the door. He never even glanced back.

Eric stood in his room, looking down as Timmy was guided to a bench down by the old oak tree. He watched as he sat with the stranger with the odd hair and felt fury growing inside of him. Timmy was talking; actually talking to this man. Wait. They were singing one of those odd wordless songs Timmy had been obsessed with of late. Timmy’s face was lit up with a smile that mirrored that on the stranger’s face.

It had been weeks since his brother had been normal; weeks since they had talked or played; weeks since he had any idea what his brother was thinking. He had tried to get his brother back, and here a stranger was getting more response than he was.

Whirling from the window, he stomped out the door, down the stairs and out the back door, grabbing a couple of the forbidden cookies on the way. (“Don’t touch those, they’re for our guests!” his mother had warned him earlier in the day.) The door slammed behind him with a satisfying explosion of sound.

He ran past the barn, past the paddock, past the field where his father grew vegetables for the family, past the line of fruit trees that edged the wheat fields, down to the spring fed pond where they swam in summer and skated in winter. On the edge he sat, breathing hard, having run off some of his fury. His fists were clenched, white-knuckled and shaking.

As his fury dissipated and his breathing became more normal, deep feelings of loss and pain filled him. He began to cry as he hadn’t since his grandfather had died. It felt as if everything had changed. He didn’t know Timmy anymore, who looked through him or past him as if he wasn’t there. His parents were so concerned about Timmy that they would scarcely have known he existed any more. The wretchedness of his loneliness filled him, ‘til he was aware of nothing but that wretchedness.

And so he sat, clothed in gloom until the emotions so drained him he had not the strength to grasp them anymore, and slowly became aware of his surroundings again. Well, actually he became aware of the fact that he hadn’t worn a coat and the snow he was sitting on had melted and his pants were wet. He was freezing, shivering in the chill air, and more than a mile from home.

He tried to run, but he had burned off most of his energy getting to the pond, so he ran-walked back to the house, arriving in the midst of what appeared to be a celebration. No one even seemed to notice his arrival, though they were gathered around the table, eating cookies and drinking coffee. Timmy and his new friend were not there.

Sadly, he climbed the stairs, hung his wet pants over the back of the chair in his room, pulled on dry pants and lay down on the bed, pulling the covers over him, back to the door. He was hungry, but the cookies he had grabbed were crushed in the pocket of his pants.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chapter Twenty-One

Timmy’s world narrowed and expanded at the same time. It narrowed to the music and the sounds, but the music and the sounds were expanding every day in a myriad of ways. Each day he was aware of new notes, and new singers, though he could not really place them.

There were melodies that seemed to speak of snow and of water, moving slowly beneath thick coats of ice. There was deep resonance that seemed to speak of stars and timeless flame, thrum that was a song of mountains, trills that spoke of the momentary lives of small animals, a joy that was trees, and the new growth of grass, bulbs preparing to flower, and so much more. It was overwhelming and incredibly wonderful. There was joy and sorrow, hope and despair, brokenness and healing, and long, long memories in the music. There were notes so deep he could not play them, and so high he did not know how to score them. It was more than he could know and yet he wondered if the music running through his head didn’t make more sense than anything else he had ever known.

They were very big thoughts for an eleven year old boy, and he quickly quit his wondering, and went back to writing down the music he heard, often changing octaves up or down to write the melodies in tones other people could hear and instruments could play.

After taking care of the chickens one morning he came in and wrote down the notes he heard in the chicken’s clucking and scratching. It was an amusing little tune that made his parents laugh.

School was becoming a bigger and bigger problem for him. The other kids were cruel, but he didn’t care about them anymore. That bothered him a bit, as he could remember enjoying playing with them, and he remembered when school was interesting and fun. He wished that he could go back, but he was surrounded and invaded by sound.

Timmy was aware in a way he had never known before. He was aware of the sun on his face, could feel it’s warmth in each and every pore. The wind whispered secrets in his ears in a language he could not understand but found delightful. Everywhere he went he heard the song of winter and of spring. It was a song of ages, and in the midst of this song he had a hard time listening to the melodies of today, for suddenly the daily conversations, daily chores and school all were just fragments of a huge song and nearly impossible to focus on in the midst of the grand symphony.

His mother could grasp his attention, but it was such work to concentrate on just the sound of her voice, for it wasn’t the effort of listening to her, but the effort of not listening to everything else.

When he was little his mother had been part of a state choir, just one of 300 voices. He remembered sitting about 10 rows from the front in the auditorium at the convention center near the capitol straining to hear his mother in the midst of all those voices. He could see her lips moving, but he never was sure whether he could pick out her voice from all the others. Everything felt like that. He could see people talking and things happening, but unless he concentrated with everything in him he could not pick out their voices. It was madness and it was joy.

Chapter Twenty

“Mr. and Mrs. Tucker.” He had a European accent they could not quite place.

“Yes?” They turned to face him. He had a long, pointy aristocratic face with a very neatly trimmed goatee and wire rimmed glasses.

“I am Andres Visvaldis, from Julliard. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He stuck out his hand very formally and with a slight bow.

“Nice to meet you, Professor Visvaldis. I’m Will Tucker and this is my wife, Emily.”

“Please. Call me Andres. May I walk with you?” Without waiting for a response, he began walking up the aisle. They kept pace.

“What can we do for you?”

“Ah, Emily. It is what I may be able to do for you.” He sounded rather smug or certain of himself.

“What do you mean?”

Professor Visvaldis turned to answer Will. “You are confused about your boy, yes?”

“Well, yes.”

“And you are vondering vhat is happening and vhat to do, yes?”

“Yes.”

“This is what I am here for. Glenda called me and told me of your concerns and faxed me your son’s music.”

“Glenda?” Mr. Tucker asked.

“Mrs. Clark.” Mrs. Tucker answered.

“Will. Emily. Can ve go have a cup of coffee and talk?”

They glanced at each other and shrugged.
They met a few minutes later at the diner on Main Street, ordered their coffee and a large cinnamon bun to share.

“Listen.” They leaned toward the man with the strange light in his eyes. “ I think I know vhat is happening here. I have seen this once before, and hearing the music makes me almost certain I am correct. I can’t really explain just now, but vould you mind letting me meet your son and bring a friend vith me? I think I could arrange this in two or three veeks.”

They looked at each other, each giving the other a small nod.

“Okay, Professor.” Not knowing what else to do, they drank their coffee, ate their cinnamon bun and made strained small talk, although their guest seemed perfectly comfortable.

As they were exchanging phone numbers, Mrs. Clark reached out and put her hand on the professor’s arm. “Can’t you tell us anything?”

He halted a moment. “I vish I could. I do not know that I could really explain it properly, but my friend can, if the boy is in the same situation as my friend. This is vhy I vant to bring him vith me. He vill know for certain, and if it is not that…well, ve vill vant to discuss his further musical training in any case, yes?”

Their drive back to the farm was mostly silent as each puzzled over unimagined possibilities for their boy.

Nearing the drive, Mrs. Tucker turned to her husband. “If this guy from Julliard knows what’s happening to Timmy then he’s not going crazy or something, right?”

“I guess not.”

“Well. Then I’m relieved.” With that, she smiled and gazed out the window absently.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chapter Nineteen

The day of the recital came, and Timmy could not contain his excitement. He sat at the breakfast table with his recorder clutched in his hand. He carefully laid it down next to his plate as if he was afraid to let it out of his sight, and between bites would put down his fork and reach out a finger or two to stroke the instrument.

His parents exchanged puzzled glances but did their best to keep up their usual morning banter. As soon as breakfast was done, Timmy grasped his recorder firmly in his hand, moving it from one hand to the other only long enough to shrug into his coat to head for the barn.

Recorder in hand, he went to the barn. Once inside, he looked into the rafters as if seeing a vision or hearing voices.

“Timmy,” his father called Timmy back to his chores with a warning tone.

Timmy turned with a smile on his face, and went to do his chores. His first task was to feed the chickens. He placed their food out, then pulled out his recorder and began to play. The chickens did not respond, but Timmy didn’t notice, using musical rests to check their nests for eggs, which he carefully placed in his pockets.

“Timmy.” His father called out in warning. “Let’s get a move on.”

He went through his chores in the same distracted, half aware mode, leaving his father to make up for the work he did not get done.

When the time was up, his father sighed, gathered the eggs from Timmy and sent him into the house to gather his things for school.

Even in the school bus the recorder never left his hand.

Sheet music was not needed, for he had only written the song he heard in his head.

The morning went slowly by, but all Timmy could think about was the music, and at 10:30 a.m. precisely, Mrs. Clark arrived to walk the class to the auditorium to prepare for the recital.

Parents and guests were already gathering in the hall when the class was ushered past them into the auditorium and onto the stage for final preparations and one final rehearsal.

Timmy’s eyes shone feverishly bright, as he stared at the back of the velvet curtain. The music was swelling in his head. He was aware of what was happening around him, but only as a backdrop to the music filling him, surrounding him. The music found its way into his bloodstream, playing a strange rhythm to the beat of his heart. It found its way into the tingling nerves at the tips of his fingers and toes. He heard it in the rustle of musical scores and the scraping of chairs, in the tap, tap, tap of ladies heels and the scuffle of men’s loafers as they walked to their seats. He heard it in the tap, tap, tap of Mrs. Clark’s baton on her music stand as she called the student’s attention. It was in the whoosh of the thick velvet curtain as it was opened in front of him revealing a seated audience.

He looked at his parent’s and smiled. Beamed actually, and were it not for the unnaturally brightness of his eyes and the flush upon his cheeks they would have thought he was the same boy he had always been as he grinned and gave them a short little wave.

There were two classes of fifth graders, and first the other class played their selection, then his class played “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”, and before you knew it, it was time for Timmy to play.

He was so excited he did not notice the nervous look which passed between Mrs. Clark and his mother. He did not notice the man in black, sitting in the second row sit up straighter, with an air of anticipation.

He pulled his recorder to his lips and played. He played the notes on the pages before him with whispering softness in one section and joyous abandon in another. He skipped up and down the musical scale, keeping time to the music only he heard, elsewhere. The musical accompaniment in his ears was rich and full; each day he heard more and more, as if new players had come to join the symphony. Somehow he knew that these players had been playing all along, but that he had been unable to hear them before.

He trilled and they twittered, he scaled and they played a deep strong rhythm. And though their music continued, his portion was done for the moment, so he set aside his recorder in triumph, and with a flourish, set it on the stand before him before taking the bow that Mrs. Clark was gesturing for him to do.

For several minutes he had been unaware of her, of the room, of the audience, even of his instrument. He played because he could not do otherwise, and now that he was done, he sank into his seat, exhausted.

There was a stunned silence. First one clap, then another, and soon the whole room erupted in applause. It was a nervous applause, as if people could not register what they had heard. Most of them, expecting a simple fifth grade concert complete with squeaks and squeals, and off note hear and there, were merely disbelieving.

Mrs. Clark came and had the children all stand and bow, and a second round of applause broke out. This one was a little easier. This was the expected thing. Parents came to school proud of their children but anticipating an often painful listening experience and prepared to clap politely as a way of saying “we love you” rather than “encore, please”. They looked at their own children, playing as children were expected and were a little disappointed that their child was not a prodigy, but mostly they were relieved that their children were not freaks.

The Tuckers held their heads up, proud and baffled, pleased and worried at the same time.
The crowd slowly filtered out, everyone in a hurry to get back to their jobs or their farms, but the man in black stood to the side, trying to figure out who the Tuckers could be.

They were among the last to leave, but he spotted them waving to Timmy and approached them.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Chapter Eighteen

Mrs. Tucker placed the tote bag on the table and pulled from it’s depths a stack of music paper, which she nervously shoved in front of Mrs. Clark.

“What’s all this?”

“This is what Timmy has been doing ever since you gave him the notation paper.”

Mrs. Clark thumbed through the stack, first nervously, then with interest and amazement.

“He did all this in a week?” She asked in astonishment.

“Oh, this is just a portion. It’s all he does anymore. It doesn’t seem normal…” she broke off hesitantly.

Mrs. Clark’s face was now lit with excitement.

“Can I keep these for today? I’d like to play them and see what they sound like.”

Mrs. Tucker reached for the papers. “Timmy doesn’t know I took them, so I should probably get them back before he knows they are gone.” A hand grasped hers, keeping her from taking the music.

Then a gentle subdued voice, Mrs. Clark asked, “Can I make a copy of all of this?”

Mrs. Tucker drew back her hand. “Do you have any idea what’s happening to Timmy?”

“No, I don’t. I’ve been a bit…” she hesitated, “…disturbed by his behavior lately, but this may be an explanation, or at least part.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, as I understand it, most child composers began earlier than Timmy, but perhaps he has simply come to it late. Perhaps he is a musical genius.”

A tear rolled down Mrs. Tucker’s cheek. “I hope that’s all it is. He’s so distracted and strange.”

Mrs. Clark carefully imposed professionalism had melted to reveal a warm human beneath.

“I’m sure you’re worried. I’ve been concerned myself, to be honest, but I haven’t been sure how to approach you about this.”

“I have a friend who teaches at Julliard. Would you mind if I showed these to him and get another opinion?”

“That would be okay.”

Mrs. Clark patted Mrs. Tucker’s hand. “I’m sure it will all be fine.”

Neither one of them was really convinced of that, but as adults often do, they pretended to believe it.

Chapter Seventeen

The entire family went home, back to their farmhouse, back to chores, back to milking, back to peaceful days and dark starry nights. Everything was the same, but there was an uneasy feeling in Timmy’s parents and in his brother that Timmy’s restored health wasn’t enough. Everything was the same except for Timmy.

Timmy tapped his fingers and moved his feet to rhythms they could not follow, and hummed tunes they had never heard. He would get up to go do his chores, but once outside the door he would wander off with a far-off expression on his face. He wasn’t deliberately careless, but his distraction was so profound that his parents exchanged worried glances over his head and he didn’t seem to be aware that his mother had begun taking the boys to the bus stop and waiting there until they got on the bus.

His teacher began reporting strange behaviors, and kids began avoiding Timmy. Eric saw it and was embarrassed and angry. Why couldn’t his brother just be normal? Why did he have to be so weird?

Mrs. Clark was more frustrated than anyone. It wasn’t that Timmy wasn’t cooperative, he seemed more delighted than anyone with recorder class. He played the music with passion and invention, adding notes that weren’t written on the music. It was really astonishing the notes and harmonies Timmy coaxed out of the cheap instrument. She would have enjoyed it but for the strangeness and the way it disturbed the other children and, well, her if she was willing to admit it.

There is no way he should have been able to have the tone, the purity or been able to play with such dexterity and precision. It simply disturbed her. He was beginning to seem autistic, yet the symptoms had come on too late for that. Similarly savant tendencies usually revealed themselves far earlier than this. She began to dread going into that classroom. The happy clowning, endearing kid had been replaced by a happy dreamy completely distracted kid. The suddenness of the transformation was unsettling.

To keep order in the classroom she decided to give Timmy a solo in the recital, and to allow him to play whatever he wanted to play.

“Can I make up my own song?” he asked eagerly.

She thought for a moment, unsure why the idea was so alarming. “Well, okay, but you have to write it down in advance. I’ve got notation paper which I will give you after class and explain how to use it.”

That night and in every spare minute, it seemed that Timmy would gaze off into the clouds, or stare at the hills, or the trees. Sometimes he would lay down, ear to the ground and then get up and rush to put notes on paper. It disturbed the peace of the family, yet seeing him so caught up in it, his parents were reluctant to put a halt to this new endeavor, and provided him with the tools he needed, more notation paper, dark pencils, a metronome, to help with the timing, and simply stared at the pile of pages accumulating around their living room.

Timmy’s mother was particularly concerned and as soon as the boys got on the bus one Monday morning, she pulled out onto the main road leading to the highway. Beating the bus to school, she parked and went in the office.

“I need to see Mrs. Clark.” She said, setting her large tote bag on the counter.

“Well, Mrs. Tucker, so nice to see you.” The Taylor’s oldest daughter called out from her desk at the wall furthest from the counter. She had only recently gotten her certificate from the business school in Dulanth, and was desperately trying to appear more grown up and mature than she was.

She picked up her handset. “Mrs. Clark? Mrs. Tucker is here to see you.” Pause. “Un huh. Timmy’s mother.” She listened for another moment. “Okay. Bye.”

She looked up, “If you will have a seat, she’ll be right down.”

Nervously, Timmy’s mother sat on the edge of the old turquoise vinyl chairs edging the waiting area, her tote bag clutched on her lap.

“Mrs. Tucker?” a studied professional smile was on Mrs. Clark’s face.

Rising, “Please call me Emily. Is there somewhere we can talk?”

“This way.” Mrs. Clark briskly passed through the swinging half door separating the public and private portions of the front office and down a side hallway to a small room furnished with old bulky metal chairs and table. Dingy paint and dingier floors indicated years of use, particularly by the door and at the front of the table.

With a jerky hand movement, she indicated the chair on the left while she sat at the head of the table. They sat for a moment saying nothing, looking at each other and waiting for the other to speak.

“You wanted to see me?” Mrs. Clark asked, quickly checking her watch for the time.