Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chapters 6 and 7

Sorry about cramming these all in together like this, but things are really crazy here with Thanksgiving and ML having an accident and totaling her car.  :-(

Two chapters, VERY FIRST DRAFTY!

Chapter 6: A Child in the Forest

            Rune was glad that Dr. McHaggerty had prepared her for the film.  He’d taken her to see two other films at Manlius during her senior year.  They had been foreign films with subtitles, but very well made.  This one was imperfect.  But for Rune, it was riveting.  For some reason that she couldn’t understand, she identified with each the three main characters.  The movie began with a close-up of the child’s face.  He was a boy about ten years old, with blond hair, blue eyes, apple round-rosy red cheeks.  He was mildly autistic, but not a head-banger. He spoke only rarely.  He was in a special education class with a teacher who looked like she was a young student herself. The boy’s name was Adam. 
             The teacher’s name was Eva.  Miss Willoughby.  There were only six children in the class.  There were scenes in the classroom of Miss Willoughby reading Little House on the Prairie to the children and asking them questions.  Adam seemed unable to understand, comprehend, or answer.  He stared out the window at the water.  The camera zoomed to the window and out, showing a line of posts in the water, each with a cormorant at the top, wings spread, drying its feathers.  Adam’s eyes were riveted on the cormorants, except when another bird flew by. 
            The other children attended Miss Willoughby and her reading and questions. They obviously had various difficulties understanding and answering, but they were engaged and interested. Adam continued to stare out the window, his expressing unchanging even when Miss Willoughby directly spoke to him or asked him a question.  Even if she cupped his face gently in her hands, Adam started out the window past her face.
            A scene showed the school psychologist speaking with Miss Willoughby, saying not to expect much from Adam, that he may be brain damaged in addition to being autistic.  Her face was serious and sympathetic.
            Dr. McHaggerty slipped his arm over the back of Rune’s chair.  He had done this the other times he had taken her to the movies, and Rune ignored it.  The scene had shifted in the movie to the six kids disembarking from a miniature school bus under the careful guidance of Miss Willoughby. 
                The camera followed the six children and their teacher into the nature center where they were told a naturalist would join them soon.  They paraded into the nature store and were looking around when a naturalist, dressed all in green, came into the store.
                "Where is the teacher?" she asked.  The students laughed and pointed at Miss Willoughby, who was barely taller than they were, a small slight woman with a young face.
                Dr. McHaggerty's arm dropped from the back of the chair to rest lightly on Rune's shoulders.  It distracted her from the movie, and she missed what the naturalist was saying to the teacher.  She decided to ignore the arm, but it made her uncomfortable.  McHaggerty was such an incredibly kind and interesting man, and she thought so highly of him, but he was making her nervous.
                In the next scene, the naturalist had the children feeling the bark of a beech tree. The camera zoomed in on Adam's face.  He was engaged.  Rune thought of her experiences with school groups as a naturalist.  She did a six-week project at Beaver Lake Nature Center, in Baldwinsville under Dr. Anson Weston.  After training for three weeks, she'd led school groups for three weeks.  She'd have loved to have gotten a job there, at Beaver Lake.  But all the jobs were taken and there were so many other well-trained adults, to say nothing of students, who wanted the nonexistent job. 
                The naturalist, whose name Rune had missed, spoke to Adam, telling him the name of the tree and that it had edible nuts.  Miss Willoughby whispered to the Naturalist that Adam wasn't very bright.  The naturalist searched the ground for beechnuts, and collected several.  She gave each of the kids a prickly little nut, and showed them how to open it.  Adam got his open first.  The naturalist then showed him how to open the little pyramid-shaped nut husks inside, and told him he could eat the tiny nut meats. 
                She told the group that squirrels, bears, deer and other animals depended on beechnut and other nuts, called "mast," for food and that the number of babies the animals had depended on the size of the nut harvest.  She watched the faces of the children, and when a few of them lost interest in what she was telling them, she moved on. 
                "Miss Moore, Miss Moore," one of the girls in the class said, tugging on the naturalist's green skirt.  Okay, Rune thought, the Naturalist is Miss Moore.  She was tall and slender with long brown braids and looked like a stumpy, like one of them.  Except for that doofy uniform, of course, that was really out there.
                As the movie progressed, Adam became more and more engaged in things Miss Moore was showing them.  Miss Willoughby was entranced too.  She began asking more questions, and so did Adam.  His questions were intelligent and articulate, and one couldn't help but remember what Miss Willoughby had said about him.  Harumph! thought Rune. 
                At that moment, McHaggerty's hand curled around Rune's shoulder and squeezed.  That was okay, sort of, but it lingered there.  After a few minutes of wondering what to do, Rune sat forward.  When the arm followed her forward, she got up and went off as if to go the bathroom. But rather than going to the bathroom, since she didn’t' have to go and didn't want to miss the movie, she sat a few rows farther back for what seemed like a reasonable bathroom time and returned to her seat.
                McHaggerty had his hands in his lap and kept them there for a while, and then, making a big show of stretching, he gently put his arm on the back of her seat again.  She moved forward on the seat so that the arm could not "accidentally" "fall" onto her shoulder.  She was worrying about what he was doing.  He had done similar stuff two years ago, but somehow it had seemed more innocent then.  For some reason, he was skeeving her out tonight.
                Rune had just started enjoying the movie again, with Adam behaving less and less like an autistic child, and more and more like a little genius, when McHaggerty laid a hand on her knee.  Rune got up and moved two seats away.  The theater was NOT crowded.
                In the movie, Nicole Moore takes the kids and Miss Willoughby camping on the nature Center grounds.  They write and illustrate their own field guides and books.  The same kids labeled special ed. were blossoming into lively joyous children. 
                McHaggerty moved over next to Rune.  He kept his hands and arms in his lap, but now just his presence was giving her the creeps. 
                The movie showed the kids exploring sculptures of animals made of metal, growing wildcats and cougars, deer and caribou and moose.  Then it showed the kids making their own animals out of clay.  They were inside an open-sided pavilion and it was raining outside. Adam was using a field guide and some other references to design a cormorant with its wings outstretched to dry.  He used sticks to hold the heavy wet clay feather, which he shaped one by one with a butter knife and a pencil.  The finished bird looked amazingly real for the work of a ten-year-old boy.
                The movie showed a scene in the old classroom.  It was winter and Adam was staring out the window watching the snow fall.  Miss Willowby showed a side of their tents pitched on a hill in the woods with the bay below.  She called Adam's name, and he turned from the window and smiled.  "I like nature," he said, "I like the beech trees and the cabbage butterflies. And I like herons and cormorants.  He took his drawings from his desk and held them up, one by one."  Wonderful drawings of plants and animals.
                There was a flashback to Miss Willoughby talking to the psychiatrist, who was telling her not to get her hopes up about Adam, and to Miss Willoughby telling Miss Moore that Adam was a hopeless cae.  Then a scene of Adam skipping through the forest with binoculars, stopping to look at woodpeckers and nut hatches, a scene of him leading a group of children up over snowy hills with his rosy cheeks all aglow and the movie ended. 
                Rune and Dr. McHaggerty sat and watched the credits.  They were interested in knowing more about the movie, its makers and shakers.
                Then they went back to the Library for an after movie snack of sushi and Saki, and talked about the movie.  Rune was excited about it, just as McHaggerty expected, and he smiled indulgently as she talked about the high points and low points, about the filming, about the nature center, the teacher and the naturalist.
                "I wish I could help people like that.  Nicole Moore didn't teach Adam to love nature: he already loved nature.  But she brought out the best in him and helped him find what he wanted and become more himself.  I think she also really helped Eva Willoughby learn to love nature and become a better teacher.  And of course, she helped the other kids learn to love nature too.
                "It was a great movie, thanks for taking me to see it.  I hope I'll be like Nicole Moore some time, when I grow up."
                "You're already a lot like Nicole Moore," Dr. McHaggerty said, taking her hand, squeezing it, and releasing it.
                When they got to her house, Rune thanked Dr. McHaggerty again and he leaned to give her a kiss.  Rune turned her head away and the kiss landed on the side of he mouth and on her cheek.  She ran inside and watched out the window as he drove away.  Then she wiped her mouth and cheek with her hand and wiped her hand on her pants.

Chapter 7:  Two visits from Jody

            Rune sat in her office working on her homework for Dr. () on her computer.  She had the word program up and was writing a project proposal.  On another screen, which she flipped out of sight whenever she heard footsteps, was her research on the Cornell poisoning incident 13 years ago.  Whenever she needed a break from her ()-research, instead of checking her email or facebook, she looked at her growing list of links to and information about the incident.  She also had collected links to poisonous mushrooms and therapies for mushroom poisoning.  While she was at it, she added links to Psilocybin mushrooms, thinking of a projects course related to her research with Dr. Ned Tedeschki.  She could still add this as a projects course and get credit for all this good research she was doing, and surely she could find a way to link it all to her overall objectives.
            On her desk, she had a cup of mint tea, which she sipped from time to time, and whenever it got low, she warmed it up in the Entomology microwave.
            At one point, feeling the need to stretch her legs, Rune got up and took the top off the terrarium of giant Malagasi hissing cockroaches, took out one of the largest specimens, and stroked it gently, listening to it hiss and feeling the little sharp spikes of its feet pinch her fingers.  The graduate student who had this office before her was an entomology student, which was appropriate, since this was the entomology floor, and had raised hissing cockroaches as pets.  He hadn't taken them with him when he left.  Dr. McHaggerty, when he installed her in the entomology floor office, had said she could turn the cockroaches in to Dr. Simeone if she didn't want them in there, but Rune liked them and kind of enjoyed the horror of most of her friends when they came to visit and she took out one of huge cockroaches and petted it lovingly.  She tossed in some monkey chow and got to back to work.
            Later, she checked the message-board on her door.  Several people had left her notes, and there were also a few folded ones in the basket she left for longer notes.  (Save this for when a real novel-related message needs to be left.)
            Rune was researching ways of presenting nature to children.  Her current paper was on the topic of teaching children about trees.  Much of the research was about setting goals, meeting syllabus requirements, imparting information and testing knowledge gained.  Rune wanted to see more about awakening a sense of wonder, of love for nature, the earth and the outdoors.
            She was feeling annoyed at the whole attitude of the teaching community and wondered if she was going into the right field.  She got up and stomped angrily around the room thinking bad thoughts about the education system and finally noticed that her Vibram soles were leaving clops of dirt on her recently mopped floor.  The janitor was a paragon of patience, but Rune didn't want to be the one to try him, so she went into Larry's office looking for a broom and dustpan.  Larry was sitting at one of his computer screens and got up to greet her.  She gave him a hug, and over his shoulder noticed a screen that looked like her list of links to events surrounding the poisoning of the four Cornell professors thirteen years ago.
            Rune tightened her hug and gave Larry a kiss on the cheek.  For a moment, she laughed to herself, wondering if he found her kiss as upsetting as she found McHaggerty's.  "Ahem!" she said, loudly, in his left ear, which was next to her mouth.  He jumped, and then twitched as he seemed to realize what she was looking at.
            "Yes, that is your computer screen up on mine.  I was doing some routine maintenance and, as you know or should know, I have access to everyone's computers.  I download new programs, install anti-virus software, clean out people's deleted mail, and perform other routine tasks.   I don't normally make a habit of spying on people, I just now happened upon this, and I must say, I'm a little . . . um . . . disappointed and um . . . worried."
            Rune still had her arms around him.  She hugged him, and without letting go entirely, holding him now by the shoulders, she leaned back to look into his face.
            "Larry, you told me to stop asking questions.  I'm not asking questions any more," Except a few to Dr. McHaggerty, she thought to herself.
            "I told you, Rune," Larry said, "to drop it.  Leave it. Forget it."  And saying that, he leaned back toward her and planted an unexpected but prim and sober kiss right on her lips.  Rune kissed him back.  She felt utterly safe kissing him.
            "Larry, I love you," she said.
            "I love you, too," he said, and they both laughed, an easy relaxed laugh.  Rune thought of McHaggerty and wished she felt that way with him.  She took the broom and dustpan into her office and cleaned the floor, brought back the broom and went back to work.  Larry went by a few minutes later pushing a cart of equipment.  Rune didn't bother looking to see what equipment it was.  She was reading an article about (that guy who has kids grokking nature--Campbell?) and for the first time since she started work that morning, she smiled.
            No one had stopped by to invite her to the early lunch the TA's had to eat in order to be ready for the ride to the field trip on the green bus.  She got out a can of sardines and an apple from her emergency food stash drawers, scarfed down a quick lunch, and returned to reading about Joseph Bharat Cornell. She downloaded his book, Sharing Nature with Children, and plunged into reading it, with an occasional eye on the clock.
            Sometime later, she heard footsteps and looked up to see Dr. McHaggerty amble in with Jody on his arm.  Jody looked half-crocked.  She was smiling stupidly with her eyes slitted, reeling around, and leaning leaning on McHaggerty.  McHaggerty seemed slightly tipsy himself, which seemed strange, since the field trip was due to collect at the buses in about twenty minutes.
            "We thought we'd stop in and see you," McHaggerty said, his voice slightly slurred.  "We've been having such a good time, and we thought it was a real shame you were so straight-laced.  "Too bad you probably wouldn't want to join us," he said, smiling crookedly.  Then, taking Jody firmly by the arm, he steered her back out of the room.
            Rune returned to her reading, feeling discomfited.  Then she got up, washed her hands, and sat back down again.  She read for ten more minutes, without seeing anything she was reading, and got up and went down to the waiting buses.  McHaggerty was not there.  He'd sent word to go ahead without him, he's be along.  Rune wanted to wash her hands again.
            Rune sat with Bart, and after they'd been riding about ten minutes, talking about essentially nothing, she blurted out what she had just seen.
            "Those two are getting it on," Bart said.  "They were last year, too, while you were gone."
            "Jody was with me."
            "Only during the summer; she was here all school year."
            "Oh yeah.  That's right, the Mexico thing was during the summer, I forgot. I wasn't thinking."
            "It's a little bit icky," Rune said with disgust.  "My Dad was nine years older than my Mom.  But McHaggerty's married and Elizabeth's really nice and he's . . . what, twenty three years older than she is?  It's gross, I'm sorry."
            "I know," Bart said, "We all thought so last year."
            "Everyone knew?"
            "They weren't very discreet about it--it's almost as if they were each showing the other off like some prize."
            "Gross," Rune repeated.  "I can't believe that Jody would want to screw someone that much older than she is--she's so pretty--she could have anyone."
            "McHaggerty has status.  Everyone knows that.  Girls like that."
            "I don't," Rune said, with disgust.
            Then, lowering her voice even farther, she told Bart about her research about the mushroom poisonings of the Cornell professors and about how Larry Thompson had it up on his screen in his workroom.  "He said it was an accident, that he wasn't spying on me, but I'm not sure if I believe him."
            "You like Larry."
            "I like him a lot.  I also like Dr McHaggerty.  This is all so confusing and upsetting.  I don't know what to think."  She paused a long moment, and then added, "Bart, he made a pass at me last night.  I'm sort of afraid of him now."
            "What do you mean, he made a pass at you?"
            Run told him about dinner and the movies and the arm and the kiss.
            "I wonder if you should tell someone," Bart said.
            "I'm telling you."
            "No, I mean, like a Dean of students or a counselor or something."
            "I don't want to get him in trouble."
            "Maybe he needs to be gotten in trouble."

            After the field trip, Rune was sitting in her office with her head in her hands feeling a little depressed, when she heard footsteps and looked up.  It was Jody, alone, looking both more alert and somewhat sheepish.
            “You probably think I am a complete loser!” She exclaimed.
“What do you mean?”
            “Because I’m screwing McHaggerty.  He seduced me, but I admit, I sort of allowed it it—it seemed exciting at the time, last year.  Now it’s just—well—gross.  I feel ashamed and embarrassed, but I don’t know how to get out of it.”
            “Jody, he’s been coming on to me.”
            “I know, he old me.”
            “He told you?”
            “He wants to do a ménage a trios.”
            “And do you want to?”
            “I don’t want to do anything with him, but I don’t know how to extricate myself.  He got me my job, for one thing.”
            “I do not envy you.  I have no answers.  I’d say, just say no, but that’s very hard for me, and I can’t give you advice that I can’t follow myself.”

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