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I remember that. There were lots of things about that area and time. There was a tree, indigenous to that area, and its scent, perhaps some flower from it, would get wafted through the streets and fields towards the school building. This scent arrived at the bus stops and the parking lot. I never smelt it anywhere else, and years later when someone drove me through that area, though everything was torn down, I still noticed it. There was even a church close by, and they left the doors open in the summer during the masses. Right there, at the liturgy of the word or later, at the liturgy of the Eucharist, the smell, a beautiful exotic aroma as if borne on some southern island from a book, would come, having navigated and negotiated the area, and  would be brought right into the pews by an invisible breeze.

The school was brown brick, but it felt gray. Someone might even say it was gray. It was as if, and I don’t know if this is a projection, but it was as if the place had already had its heyday, its climax, and was then a bit sad if not outright melancholic. It always rained around there. Now the portables, – they were a gray affair. Cheap, thin aluminum or metal sheeting and builder’s carpet. That’s what portables are though, so you can’t really ask for more. I used to go to class there and pretend to listen, but more so just to stare out the windows and wonder how I got there. Some of the books they gave us to read I liked, but, for the most part, not if someone told me to read them. I had to store my hockey bag in the book room, in the mornings, and that is where the English programs kept the books. They gave you a key, and you went there, with the understanding that you needed to put your equipment somewhere. Then you gave them the key back. Simple. I used to steal a couple books here and there and put them in my bag next to my helmet or my gloves or shin pads and whatnot. I think that is how I discovered Of Mice and Men, and a few good short story anthologies.

Outside the portables was Agatha. She was a bit of a fixture. People called her Agatha but it was really Agatta. She didn’t talk to people much, so it wasn’t a big deal. She sat there and smoked these really long thin cigarettes. Agatta stared into space a lot though. But unlike me, she seemed focused on something. I don’t know what. I should have asked her. I used to stand there sometimes and smoke also. She wasn’t like the others. She was without drama. It was like she knew something other people didn’t, some secret that you can’t really express in words. Or, it was like she had once seen something that other people had not seen, and since she had seen it, would never be quite the same. What’s more, she didn’t seem eager to tell people what she knew. She just sat there with blonde hair and brown eyes staring into the football fields and blowing smoke into the air. Sometimes she would even come to class. That day when they arrived was one day she did come to class, because I remember a look she shot over to me.

It was a couple. They were new. A dark-haired guy and a blonde girl. But the girl looked like a woman and the boy looked like a man. Yet, there they were in full school uniforms. They said they were a couple, and lived together. I can’t remember where they came from, but it was a Northern town or something.

Tell us more, the teacher said.

Then the girl-woman told the class: I am interested in reading and writing. I have a love for literature. I have studied Aristotle’s Poetics and found them to be very interesting.

I thought then, What the fuck is an Aristotle’s Poetics? It seemed rehearsed. Contrived. It was then that Agatta shot me a glance that said something like, it’s not certain who this girl is, but it is certain that whoever she is, she is full of shit.

The days went by. Then a few weeks. It was an autumn semester. Rain. Grayness. Some uneasy downtrodden yet paradoxically quick and upbeat energy of adolescence carried people through the afternoons.

And nicotine.

The couple didn’t say much. For someone so interested in books and literature, and Aristotle’s Poetics, – the girl didn’t speak. Now, Agatta didn’t speak much either, but Agatta hadn’t feigned interest in anything.

I told the group. The group your mother warns you about- that group- I told them- as I was on speaking terms with nearly everybody. Those two you see around. Blondie there and the guy, the couple that just arrived out of thin air, those are cops.

I was met with silence. Not judgmental silence or affirmative silence. Just silence. So I continued. They are gonna bust everyone they can somehow, just watch.

About two weeks later it happened. It was a blitz. Five police cars drove right up on the lawns, – behind the main building, and they grabbed certain people that were out there. About ten or fifteen people. There were arrests, drugs found, and some other kinds of trouble. Everyone was surprised; because nothing like that had happened that we had seen. The next afternoon, in the cheap gray portables, everyone carried on.

But the couple was not there. And they weren’t there the next day or the day after that. They had gone.

Aristotle’s Poetics my ass, I thought.

The semester dragged on. More rain came, a predicable guest. I stared out the windows and pretended to listen when I was called on it. I continued to steal books, but the ones I didn’t like I returned. I walked outside the portable steps and sat for a moment sometimes beside Agatta. What did you think of those two? I asked her a once. She smiled her secular-gnostic smile. That was her answer. See ya later, I told her, and I headed off in the direction of the fields. I walked and walked. There was no hockey that day so I didn’t have a bag. I couldn’t see much for the fog that had arrived. I couldn’t see much at all. I could smell the trees though, the trees that gave the scent of the area. It was like a sign that I could never read.

Or maybe it was a message in itself.

Things come and go, come and go, come and go, but something remains under it all.



***Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer. Current work appears at Fiction International from San Diego State University and from CV2, The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing. Barbeito also regularly contributes photography to Sick Lit Magazine and this is his second publication in Sick Lit Magazine.***


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