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Then There Were Three (part 24)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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The following morning got off to a bad start with the taking of yet more rectal swabs for analysis to determine the presence of the typhoid bacteria. There were protests and even tears but Joe eventually bowed, literally, to the inevitable.

Meanwhile, in Hope, Worms was actually sitting up in bed and feeling a lot better, much to the delight of Finny, Casper and Onetooth. Not so much, however, to the ears of nurse Maisie. But she put up with it, at least until the point where the cannula for the saline drip was nearly ripped from Worms’ hand by Onetooth climbing over him. Very soon after that, all three found themselves being pushed out of the door with orders to;

“Take these swabs over to Doc. Troy and then go and damn well explore or something… And don’t come back until lunch time!”

Holding the five sealed tubes at arm’s length, Finny, followed a step or two behind by the two boys. Both of whom were finding Finny having to carry the ‘poo sticks’ annoyingly funny as crossed the road to Doctor Troy’s small laboratory.

At the doctor’s invitation, they gathered around to watch as the samples were prepared and smeared onto slides. A process that produced a variety of exaggerated faces of disgust. However, curiosity overcame revulsion and each of them took a turn to peer through the lenses of the microscope.

For each child, Tukiko showed them first their own sample, and then the one that came from Worms and pointed out the ‘hairy’ ovoids that were the bacteria responsible for making their friend sick.

“There are a lot less bacteria present in today’s sample.” She told them. “This is because the medicine we are giving him are killing the bacteria. They are the good guy bacteria and they attack the bad guy typhoid army.”

“How do you know the good guy bactathingies will win?” Finny asked.

“Because they are stronger than the bad guys and we keep on sending reinforcements every four hours when we inject them into that tube in Worms’ arm.”

This was the discussion that kept the three orphans occupied as they walked down the road towards the town hall. Then they played for a while, climbing onto and then balancing along the fancy balustrade of the little stage thing at the back of the town hall. Until, that was, they were chased off by one of the people inside who was trying to work.

Eventually, their noses led them in the direction of the farms and the cornfields that were the main source of income for the town. Here they were again chased away, this time by furious farmhands who were shouting something about dangerous rabbits.

It was while they were laughing together over the ‘killer bunny rabbits’ that all three orphans were distracted by, singing?

Finny looked around. Behind them was an old church and Finny knew that in the olden times people used to sing to a magic man who lived in the sky. At first she thought that this was where the singing was coming from. But Casper grabbed her arm and pointed to the big new building across the road. Sure enough, it was here where the rising voices of children singing originated. Looking around to make sure nobody was nearby to chase them off yet again, Finny led the boys through the gate of the surrounding fence and closer towards the noise.

They walked close to the wall until they came to a window behind which the singing was loudest. Finny held out her arms and the boys bunked her up high enough so she could see over the sill. Inside was a room with lots of kids, each one sitting at a little table, and a young woman standing at the front pointing at some words chalked on the black wall.

“Hello lamppost, what’cha knowing?

 I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’

Ain’t you got no rhymes for me?

Doo-ait-n-doo doo, felling groovy

Ba da-da da-da da-da, felling groovy”

Finny watched with her jaw open. The kids were swaying in time to the music and they were all smiling at each other as they sang the words of the weird song.

The strength in the arms of Casper and Onetooth started to give out so Finny dropped down. They squatted down under the window, while above them the singing continued.

Outside the School

“I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep…”

“What’s happening?” Casper whispered.

Finny looked at him.

“Why are you whispering?”

“Um, well…”

“Nevermind. They’re just singing. They’re all sitting at these little tables and…”

“It’s a school.”

Finny and Casper both looked at Onetooth.

“I snuck into the one in New Flagg, the one where the rich kids go. They’ve got all these rooms where they put the kids and make them do work. Like Joe does, but they all sit at these little tables. Then they found me and kicked me out.” He thought for a moment. “It smelled of cabbages.”

Finny had heard of schools. She was about to ask Onetooth if they had to make bullets when they were startled by a voice from the road.

“And why aren’t you three inside?”

It was a man. One of the biggest men Finny had ever seen. He had a flat haircut like she had seen on some enforcers, but her eyes were immediately drawn to the badge on his enormous chest. Copper.

The policeman, or whoever he was, was now coming through the gate. Finny, Casper and Onetooth climbed slowly to their feet. Even at their age, they knew not to make any sudden moves near coppers, not if you didn’t want to be shot dead.

“Playing hooky are we?”

Finny didn’t know that game, but from the sound of the man’s voice she inferred that it wasn’t a game they should have been playing.

“Erm. No. We was just listening to the singing.”

The policeman stopped and put his hands on his hips.

“Shouldn’t you be inside joining in instead of outside listening?”

Finny got it. He thought they were inmates or workers or whatever.

“Um. It’s our first day.” It sounded more like a question than she meant it to, but it had the desired effect.

“Oh. Refugees are you?”

Casper snorted a loud;

“No! I’m not a fugee!”

Finny punched him.

“He always says that. Yes. Yes we are fugees… I mean refugees.” She smiled up at him, putting all her nine years of accumulated guile into it.

The constable pursed his lips and looked at them.

“Hmmm. Okay. Well, my name is Sergeant Sweetly. How about we all go and meet your headteacher together.” He was already shepherding the three juveniles towards the front door of the school as he spoke.

Casper and Onetooth looked to their leader. Finny just shrugged, and so they allowed themselves to be steered through the double doors and into the school building.

Ytte Skovland, former Leutnant in the Prussian Army. Now, thousands of miles and hundreds of years away, the head mistress of a brand-new school, in a tiny town, in what had once been the United States of America, looked over bridged fingertips at the three children sitting swinging their legs in front of her desk.

“Thank you Sergeant Sweetly. I’ll take it from here.”

Sweetly smiled and gave a single nod.

“As you wish Miss S. Don’t know who they are, but they sure ain’t refugees. Whatever else you do with ‘em, you might consider washing their mouths out with soap and water.”

Ytte returned his smile.

“Thank you, Sergeant.” It was as much a dismissal as an acknowledgement.

After the constable had left. Ytte turned her attention to the children.

“If you three were, indeed, refugees then you certainly wouldn’t refer to yourself with such a scornful term. And if you were residents of Hope Springs then, even as young as you are, you would have learned better than to do so. So, you are neither. Who are you then?”

Finny knew that the word ‘fugee’ was not exactly a nice way to describe refugees, they all knew. But, that was the word everyone in New Flagstaff used. It was the word they had grown up with. Not here in Hope, though, apparently.

The Sergeant’s hint about washing their mouths out with soap had not gone unnoticed. They had all glanced at each other when he said it. Before Miss Maisy had arrived, such a punishment was a common occurrence, as Finny herself could testify.

Time to come clean she decided.

“We’re from New Flagstaff. Our friend Worms was brought here and has got the typhoid so we’ve had to stay here as well in case we’ve got it as well.”

Ytte went pale, and it had nothing to do with the little girl’s bad grammar.

Typhoid in her time was to be feared like the black death of old. She understood that modern medicine could do wonderful things, but still, it quickened her pulse to realise that the three children sitting only a desk width away from her might have the disease.

It was Casper who noticed the affect Finny words had had.

“We haven’t got it though. We were tested this morning.”

“We looked at our poo through a telescope thing.” Onetooth added, for clarity.

Ytte nodded. The panic retreated.

Finny thought she should add to the conversation. After all, she was the leader.

“Nurse Maisie said we should go exploring. Then we heard singing coming from a room so we came to look. That’s when we got caught by the copper.”

Now Ytte smiled again

“Ah, yes. Meike encourages the younger children to sing. She would be your teacher, if you were pupils here.” She stood up and opened her office door. “As it is, you will only be here for a short time, yes?”

The kids took the hint and trooped out past the young head teacher. Ytte followed them to the main door.

“It has been a pleasure meeting you, children.” She opened the door. “Tell me, which school do you attend in New Flagstaff?”

Finny led her troops out into the sunshine.

“We don’t go to school. We work inna factory. We make bullets for Joe Spivey.”

Images of child workers from her own time flashed through Ytte’s mind. She had hoped things had changed, apparently not.

“Do not your parents object to this?”

By now they were halfway down the path to the gate.

“Oh, we ain’t got no parents. We live at the orphanage an’ we mostly all work for Joe.”

Ytte swallowed, this was even worse.

“Well, I hope he pays you well.” She called.

At the gate, Finny turned around.

“Nah. We don’t get paid.” Finny waved, the others joining in, then they all turned on their heels and ran off, chasing each other all the way back to the town hall.”

Behind them, still in the doorway to her school, Ytte Skovlund watched them disappear into the distance before realising that her mouth hung open. When she closed it, her lips formed a thin, tight line.

Comments

Ytte Skovlund's picture

Oh dear...  Oh dear oh dear oh dear, Joe.  Another 'bloody woman' on your case....     (stifles her mouth to stop the chuckling) 

Canni Belle's picture

((Can't wait to see where this leads .. Joe vs upcoming child labor laws?))

One minute your calm, the next your shooting someone in the face, then your doing your chickendance. If that is not chaos I dont know what is - Aiid

Joe Spivey's picture

((Just as New Flagstaff laws have no jurisdiction in Hope, Hope has no influence over the legal loopholes in NF... Well, at least for now.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

Fortunately Joe's nose has no protection, legal or otherwise

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Hyle Troy's picture

Nice pic, School is not on stilts, but I forgive that  :D

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Joe Spivey's picture

Yeah, I went with what I had. If you can describe the building then I can create a better match... I hope :)

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.



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