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Ever since I’ve been old enough to kick off on a condor with my own two chicken feet, I’ve been drilled to mind my own business.
Mind your own business, the first of the American Ten Commandments.
It’s not one I subscribe to, even though in our community, not minding my own business means more than social suicide; it’s a crime when we ascend above ground.
For thousands of years we deeems have kept away from the creatures running over our heads with their five-toed feet. So if anyone in my community gets wind of the risky job I’m on these days, I’m practically a goner. But that doesn’t stop me from shadowing a certain teenage fivetoe.
There’s also a totally different occupational hazard involved in this position I’ve created for myself, one I’m suffering from right now: this job occasionally makes school seem relatively stimulating. Yawn. I’ve played too many Angry Condor games to count since Starra got involved in some fantasy book a couple of hours ago and lost contact with the real world. Even if I knew how to become visible to the fivetoe eye and suddenly revealed myself, I bet she wouldn’t notice me, the cute teen perched on her windowsill.
Time simply refuses to advance, and I have to resort to counting the spider eggs cocooned in their nest on a nearby tree branch. A sudden sigh interrupts my lame occupation. There’s a starry look in the big eyes, and I notice the novel is slipping out of Starra’s dreamy grip. This is my window of opportunity! I finger the starchy edge of the book jacket and coax the book forward.
Thud. The book falls to the floor, and the movement seems to bring Starra back to her senses. At last she grabs a hoodie and sets out, probably for one of her night excursions on the Vista Del Mar Path. Are we running or biking tonight?
Running it is. I jog behind her, finding the excursion by the shoreline an improvement to watching her read. At least we are moving.
She runs for half an hour, at a speed faster than the sea turtle pace usual for fivetoes. Then she slows to a stop at a jagged rock, half-submerged in the ocean. I groan quietly and contemplate leaving. From experience, I know she’ll climb to the top of her rock and dream away. I start backing off, but when I’m some fifty feet away, I look back. Starra makes a pretty picture there, her silhouette perched high on the rock. Her long legs are tucked under her, and her head hangs back as she keeps her gaze on the stars above. If only she would let loose the heavy dark mane of hair she always twists up at the back of her neck, she would truly look like a mermaid risen from the sea.
Something pulls me back to her. I can’t explain it, but I have a feeling trouble is lurking nearby, waiting to snatch her in its net.
My chicken feet make an about face and follow Starra home as she takes the shorter route through town.
Rushing by the shadows harboring in Little Florence Square’s imposing arches, I remember how, as a kid, I believed the images were ghosts. An impulsive urge to feed my old fear makes me scan the deserted café court. Do I see a littering of beer bottles in the corner? Weird. It looks out of place here, like a scene supplanted from the mainland.
A shadow shifts! Before my brain has time to process the image, I yelp. The shadow jumps out of a corner right in front of me!
“Luc?” My fright gives away to surprise. Ever since he left for college a couple of years ago, I’ve hardly seen the son of my mother’s friend around the island.
“Whadya want?” the tottering image fumes. The stench of alcohol overwhelms my senses. It doesn’t take too much brain power to figure out he’s been drinking in the privacy of the square’s nooks, away from critical eyes.
“Luc, are you okay? Should I call for help?”
The square’s lamplights strike Luc’s face with an ethereal glow. His bloodshot eyes seem to look right through me. There’s no sign of recognition, which makes me realize just how badly he’s stoned.
“Ya gonna t-t-tell Aunt Clara, huh?” Even in his current pathetic state, Clara Brick is on his mind? Well, she does have a history of watching him like a hawk. His mother, Madame Brick, had often discussed the phenomenon with Maman, insisting that her sister-in-law was attempting to build a case against Luc in the hope his grandfather would disinherit him, leaving Clara as sole heiress.
Luc’s body sways clumsily as he moves in on me. Instinctively, I move several steps back, but for each step I take, he takes one toward me, and I retreat further, till my back is pressed against the stone wall. His mouth opens wide as he bellows, “I’m gonna make sh-sure you don’ tell nobody nuthin!”
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