By Lance Valentino
Miss Talbot was not in a very good mood last night. I sat next to Bob at our weekly meeting, pointing discreetly to the other members and telling him a little about them. I thought it proper to give the boy a head’s up. He nodded, but he’d contradict me as well as agree with me, sometimes saying, “Dr. Xayyachack told me…,” or “No, I talked to her yesterday….”
Poor kid. He’s convinced everyone’s the nicest, most wonderful person he’s ever met. I saw him give Sarah a hug yesterday. It wasn’t the sort of hug men usually give women — it was a friendly thing, like a man would give a pal he’s not seen since high school. He didn’t even know Sarah. He did know enough not to try it on Katrina, though.
Miss Talbot started the meeting promptly, without any introductions or small talk.
“We are installing entry doors to the two main wings, and the front doors will always be locked,” she said. “From now on, all the women will be in one wing, and all the men in another. The wing doors will be locked also. Interaction can take place elsewhere in the house. There’s plenty of space.”
I looked to X. He nodded slowly at Miss Talbot’s words. I thought he looked a little sad.
“Is there a reason for this?” Katrina asked. Her room was next to mine. “I do not like the idea of moving simply because you say so.”
“It’s proper precautions.”
“There’re a lot of weirdoes out there,” Sarah said quickly. Then she shut her mouth as if trapping other words within. Miss Talbot looked at her, but Sarah looked across the room, at a blank spot on the wall.
“Sarah took a lot of phone calls the last two weeks about that poem,” Miss Talbot said, still looking at Sarah. “Eighty percent of Americans say they want to write a book. We don’t need that 80% hanging around here, bugging us. Plus, the Lem Institute doesn’t permit co-ed dorms, so we will follow their example.”
“I am not a student,” Katrina said.
“No, you are not. Still, if you want to be a part of this project, you will move next to Sarah, Katrina.”
Sarah nearly jumped out of her chair. Katrina looked at her and smiled slightly. I’m convinced there’s something suspicious about Sarah. Miss Talbot will regret hiring her, I guarantee.
“Also, we have a new member who will be joining us.”
Bob wiggled in his seat. I think he wanted to stand and accept applause.
“He will arrive at the end of the month,” Miss Talbot continued. It is strange that we can use a word like “deflated” to describe a person, but Bob appeared half his previous size after Miss Talbot’s words.
“Where did you find him? Here?” Katrina said here with a peculiar disdain that meant she spoke of the Lem Institute.
“No… Stuart Lem is sending him to us.”
Katrina answered darkly. “I see.”
“Miss Talbot,” I said, standing. The room was very quiet. Everyone was staring at me. Old memories started coming back, but I pushed them away. “Shouldn’t we introduce Robert Brown?”
“The Third,” he muttered.
Miss Talbot’s face underwent such a transformation I believe no one could doubt her horror at forgetting Bob. She apologized profusely and introduced him glowingly, inviting X to say a few words on Bob’s personality and academics. By the end, Bob was quite red. It made me smile, looking at him.
The meeting did not last much longer. Miss Talbot berated us in her usual way, not so much saying we could do better as implying it, and dismissed us, though she pulled Bob aside and talked with him.