Nine days in. Today’s prompt was about a character’s desire. No idea came to me, so I picked another character from my work-in-progress and explored his childhood.
I can’t help but wonder what I’m going to do with this manuscript when it is done. It won’t be done for a while yet, but if I have a super power, it is the power to put the cart before the horse.
In any event, here’s something for day nine. Thanks for reading. And if you’re also writing, keep writing. Don’t give up!
Ten-year-old Marcel refused to return the smiles of the adults. They wanted him to believe them, but they hadn’t offered near enough. He sank lower into the chair.
“Your test score really was remarkable, young man,” the taller adult said. “Your parents would be proud.”
“If they weren’t dead,” Marcel replied. The adults had introduced themselves, but he couldn’t remember their names. He hadn’t even tried.
The shorter one stuttered. “And you have our sincere condolences.”
“Five years late.” Marcel put his energy to keeping a steady expression.
“But, young man,” said the tall one. “You’ve done a great deal with your time. And let’s be honest.” He swept an arm through the air toward the door and the playground beyond. “You must be bored here.”
The short one nodded vigorously. “How many of these other children can even read?” he asked.
“They could if they had teachers,” Marcel answered.
“Yes, well…” the short one reddened. “Resources are allotted based on future returns.”
“And that’s why we’re here,” the other one added. “If you’re interested in teachers and seeing what you can really do, then you see the wisdom of coming with us.”
“I have friends here.”
The tall one glanced over at the file in the short one’s hands. “Do you?” he asked.
Marcel pressed his lips together as hard as he could.
“Did one of these friends,” the tall one continued, “help you build your radio telescope?”
Marcel shrugged. He tightened his grip on the armrests. These adults wouldn’t understand. They wore uniforms and were sent to talk to stupid children. If they were important, if they mattered, they’d have real jobs doing real things.
The tall one came closer. “You’ve had no training at all, yet you built a radio telescope. All by yourself. In this place.”
Thinking of his radio telescope almost made Marcel crack a smile. There was nothing like figuring out how to put things together, to stand back and see something he’d made himself. It’s all he’d do if he weren’t stuck in the dorm too many hours of every day. The playground was only marginally better, but at least he sometimes found bits of metal and wire in the dirt. The director complained about the old junkyard the orphanage was built on, but that was the one thing Marcel loved about his latest home. It was the best orphanage he’d been assigned to so far.
“Your dad had a workshop, didn’t he?” the short one asked. “He rebuilt engines in his spare time.”
“Don’t you talk about my dad.” He squeezed his eyes shut. He thought about his radio telescope, about the whirring sound it made when he’d switched it on, about the feeling of something being his. He opened his eyes and focused on the tall one’s uniform, the shiny button at the collar. Anything to not think about the last time he saw his parents. His hands twitched. He needed to stay busy. He needed to do something.
The tall one waved the short one back. “You come with us, we’ll teach you. You’ll build much better things than radio telescopes. You’ll see the universe.”
The universe. Marcel wasn’t sure he wanted to see the universe. He wanted to stay busy. He wanted to forget his parents. He didn’t want stupid grownups telling him what to do.
The tall one lowered his voice. “You’re wasted here.”
The short one cleared his throat and nodded at the clock.
The tall one offered his hand. “We’d like it if you wanted to come with us.”
Making the three of them jump, the doors burst open. Two children, a boy and girl, bounded in the room. “You done yet?” the girl shouted.
“We need one more for the game,” the boy said. “We got to have even teams.”
The girl looked at the men in uniform. “Sorry, sirs. But you’re done with him, am I right?”
“What’s his punishment?” the boy asked.
“Punishment?” asked the shorter adult.
The children nodded. “We told him,” said the girl. “We told him not to be messing with that junk. Didn’t have permission, did he?”
The boy looked back over his shoulder at the playground and back to the adults. “Knew he was in for it. He don’t ever listen to sense. Always digging the dirt.”
“Like a street kid,” the girl said.
“And lording it over everybody like he’s doing something important.” The boy kept on nodding.
“But we need him for the game,” the girl reminded them. “Not fair for one team to have more than the other.”
“And we gotta play fair. Even if he can’t kick for a damn,” the boy added.
The girl gasped. “Bicky, you know you can’t talk like that.”
Bicky rolled his eyes. “Shut up, Fabia.”
The men in uniform looked at Marcel. The tall one gestured at the door to the playground. “Well?”
Marcel pushed himself up from the chair. It wheezed as the cushion expanded back into shape.
“Yeah, well?” Fabia asked.
“Well,” Marcel said. “I can’t play because I’m going away.”
“Going away?” the children said in unison. “For how long?” Fabia asked.
But neither Marcel nor the two men answered. Instead they left through the other doors, the doors to the corridor and the director’s office and to places the children hadn’t imagined.
“Wow,” said Fabia. “He must be in big trouble. Really big.”
Bicky agreed. “He had it coming.”
“What do you think they’ll do to him?”
“Who cares?” he said. “But we better go smash that thing he made. I bet it’ll get us all in trouble if we don’t.”
Her eyes brightened. “You’re right!”
The two of them dashed up to the dormitory. Marcel’s contraption was still under his bed, a mess of junk scavenged from the playground and trash bins. It buzzed and whirred. The children kicked it. They picked it up and pitched it to the ground. Pieces flew off in every direction. The children laughed and the thing went silent.
Grinning and feeling better than they had in days, the children skipped back downstairs. The other children, tired of waiting, had moved on to another game. Soon, they forgot about the weird invention, and by bedtime, they’d forgotten about Marcel.
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