July 2016 We have been out of high school for six years. The four of us are doing well, and I can manage the pain. But, I can feel the connection with the Orb is stronger. It is looking for me. Someone opened the box. Mark and I have walked up the overgrown footpath to where the four of us hid the box six years ago. Oh, no, no, no. Jamie, what have you done? I knew you could not be trusted. I should not have listened to Mark, and he was wrong about you. He was wrong about everything.
Where are you, Jamie? You never understood what it was or its power. Jamie, did you sell it for drug money? No, you had kicked the habit and turned your life around. Maybe Randall knows. Randall vowed to be the last. Randall loved you, but he hated Mark. You enjoyed making them fight. Jamie, what have you done? Stop. Think. Max, you can figure this out. Jamie must be close. She doesn’t know how to use it. Did Jamie learn to use it? Did Mark teach Jamie to use it? No, Mark doesn’t know how to use it.
Mark didn’t believe it worked. Randall. Randall must have taught her to use it. Randall knew the key to open the box before the timer expired. Yes! Randall. He must have given Jamie the secret to opening the box. No, Randall would not speak to Jamie after she left him for Mark. But Jamie left Mark too. Jamie, what have you done? Look at the rust. The box has been open for a long while. Where is the rainwater? No water in the box. When was the last time it rained? Jamie, why did you leave the box open? Did water damage it? No, I found it water. Water can’t hurt it. Jamie, what have you done?
“Max. Hey Max! Earth to Max. Where did you go? Did you hear my question?” “Sorry, Mark. The box triggered another episode. The episodes feel real.” “Max, I am here for you, buddy. Let’s continue the walk. Is that okay?” “Sure, let’s walk.” I will find Jamie and make her put it back. Jamie, what have you done? “Ouch! Damn it! Max, that hurts. You need to remember I am here too. Right here! Right here, in the real world.”
“Sorry, Mark. You know the Dream Time is real for me. I was searching for Jamie and the device.” “Yeah, well, it stings being close when you go wherever it is you go. Did you find Jamie or the device?”
“Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.” Ray Bradbury
She is always flirting and thinks we don’t notice. I liked her better before. I feel sorry for her. The gang, my friends, are sitting on the concrete abutment that was, a hundred years ago, a waterwheel mount. Now, there is no waterwheel and no mill. The gravel road which led to the mill is badly overgrown. A narrow footpath remains. Hello, I’m Max. Me, Mark, Randall, and Jamie spend almost every afternoon together. Either at the old mill or Mark’s house playing Xbox. This afternoon, in July, is no different. The sun is warm, and the millpond water cold.
Mark and I always sit on the right of the massive, rusted tight bearing that once held the waterwheel’s axle. Randall and Jamie sit on the left of the mount where the concrete is smoothest. Max, Mark, Randall, and Jamie. Always in the same order. We could sit on the lower pond's other side, closer to the water, but we like the warm concrete. The water is always cold. The water flows from the upper lake, through a pipe, before cascading over a short rocky waterfall and into the lower pond. The lake water once turned the waterwheel. The pond was, once, the waterwheel’s outflow. Year-round, the water from the lake is too cold for a long swim.
Jamie is always the first to jump into the water. Mark said it is because girls don’t feel the cold like boys. I know better. Mark always says stupid stuff. Jamie is first because she likes showing off her wet bikini. Jamie is always adjusting her bikini top when stepping out of the water. Mark and Randall always look at her when she climbs above the water. Her mother’s influence is bad for Jamie. She doesn’t mind them staring at her. Mark still has something to say. “Why don’t you like to swim?” “Mark, I like to swim.” “Why do you come with us every day? You never spend time in the water.” “I don’t know. I like hanging out.”
Mark always knows when I am thinking. He knows it annoys me when he interrupts me. He does it because he can. I think Mark is lonely. Mark says he is going to be the captain of the High School hockey team. Go, Knights! Mark does barely enough schoolwork to be eligible to play hockey. He probably will be captain. Everyone needs a goal. In September, we will enter grade eight. High school is in one year and college in five years. I have no goals.
Randall never stops talking about what he is going to do after college. We have not started grade eight, and Randall is already planning a life as a scientist after college. Mark will be captain of the high school hockey team. Randall will be voted most likely to succeed. Jamie. Jamie is a girl looking for a way out. Never interested in school, sports, music, or video games, Jamie goes along to get along. She is beautiful, thin, with mouse blonde hair. Jamie likes to read. I love watching her when she is reading. Mark, Randall, and I are Jamie’s only genuine friends.
Last year, Jamie made the cheerleader squad. She quit after two weeks. She told us she stopped because it took too much time, and her mother couldn’t drive her to practice. We know better. Jamie quit the cheer squad because the other girls made fun of her for preferring books to their constant talk about boys. Jamie always flirts with Mark and Randall. Mostly Randall. I think being on the cheer squad was terrible for Jamie. The girls made her feel unwelcome. She does not need those stuck-up shrews. She is flirting again, but I can fix it.
“Hey Randall, we have Miss Cartwright for English. She teaches grade eight advanced English.” “No way, Max. Maybe Jamie will get advanced English, but we are going to get Mister Scott. He teaches regular English.” “My sister had him, and she said it was an easy class but a lot of reading.” “I saw the class schedules. Jamie, you and I are in Miss Cartwright’s fourth period, right before lunch.” “Max, you are full of crap. The assignments are not due until next week.”
“I was in the office this morning. I saw the assignments on Misses Gratti’s desk.” “No way! Crap. This year is going to suck.” Mark is worried because he is not in our class and we won’t be able to help him as much. I hope Miss Cartwright’s lessons are hard. I think I might be a writer someday. Randall worries and complains but always gets an ‘A.’ Randall’s mom would die if Randall came home with a ‘B.’ Jamie will get an ‘A.’ She always gets ‘A’s. Miss Cartwright will learn Jamie has read all the assignments, is bored, and will give Jamie individual reading assignments.
Mark will struggle, but I will help him pass his English class. I always help him pass his classes. Randall is always flirting with Jamie now. Jamie says she had to switch to a bikini because the other swimsuits don’t fit. We know better. She is showing off. Mark is always watching Randall flirt with Jamie. Mark is jealous of Randall. Jamie climbed out of the water, arrived at the top of the abutment, and reached for her towel. I can see the goosebumps, from the cold, on her arms. Before she can grab the towel, Randall pulls her towel away. She puts her hands on her hips and stands, dripping wet, glaring at Randall. Mark and Randall stare at the small, iridescent blue bikini
Jamie reached across Randall to grab the towel. Randall pushed back, trying to push Jamie into the water. Jamie grabbed Randall’s wrist for balance, but both of them and their towels, fell off the abutment, landing in the cold water. Jamie rises from the water roaring with laughter. Randall had his sneakers on and wants to be mad, but Jamie has her legs wrapped around his waist. Mark watched the whole thing. Mark always watches Randall flirt with Jamie but will never say anything. “You know Mark, tons of girls want to hang-out with the future captain of the hockey team.” “Screw you, Max.”
Mark pushes me off the abutment and into the water. I barely miss landing on Randall and Jamie. Acting like I meant to jump, I start diving down, looking for polished stones. I hear Mark when I pop up for air. “Max, why do you need more rocks?” “I like the way some of them shine after the tumbling water has polished them. They sparkle in the sun.” “Yeah, right. Nerd.”