Liv Enters the Maze
The Meeting Place: EIGHTEEN
Liv had been home from her first day of school for a little over an hour when she woke to the smell of cabbage and onions and from a dream that ended in a question. One that hung in the air.
Groggy, she pulled her bag onto the bed and fished for her notebook, the same one she had written in just yesterday at the cemetery when she came upon the gravestone of a young man named Karl “Bird” Newton. Without hesitating, she found the next blank page and scribbled the word DREAM in the top margin. Then she wrote this:
Kid sits at a table, head hidden inside a dark jacket, which is zipped up tight, hiding every bit of hair. The material (polyester?) pulls taut as Kid extends a hand to grasp a piece of paper from above and outside the frame (from a teacher?). Within seconds, Kid balls it into an apple-sized crumple then saunters, jacket still above his? her? head to the trash can in the corner and tosses it in. Eyes still covered, Kid walks back to the table without tripping. The presence appears along the edge of the scene and a grown-up voice speaks loud and clear:“What did you just do?”
Leaning onto her side, Liv kicked the door closed with a stretch of her right leg. Dave was playing something funky she hadn’t heard before, and she wasn’t in the mood to be distracted. She thought back over the afternoon, replaying what she remembered.
She had breezed through her afternoon classes and power-walked across the student parking lot to the edge of the highway that paralleled her walk home for an uncomfortable three blocks, blocks unmarked by anything but brown grasses, an occasional beer bottle, potato chip wrapper, fast food soda cup, random flyers — all making the stroll downright tacky. Don’t be a litterbug, she recited. Liv had adopted a few solid values from her own gut feelings, and not to litter was one of them. She didn’t cheat at school or at board games either.
One more visit to the cemetery before she had to report to Ms. Hart about whether she could help with the Heritage Project. Mainly, she needed to clean up the mess she had left, Grandy’s china plate smashed near one of the largest headstones there. Liv wasn’t the most talented at seeing the consequences of her behaviors. Honestly, she hadn’t been given much chance to make choices that meant anything in her life up to now. Now she had to deal with the unexpected development of a community event at the same place where she had let off some steam and destroyed a piece of family history for the hell of it. She had gotten better about thinking before she spoke, but her impetuous nature kept tripping her up when it came to acting out her frustrations when she felt powerless and invisible.
What did you just do? she asked herself as she recounted the details, as if the dream was testing her memory for the truth.
She had walked through the open gate, her bag flopping against her hip, her eyes lowered to warn of fallen limbs on the loose gravel that formed the central walkway into the radiating arrangement of death markers. The big oak let in the late afternoon light, and she felt a Maxfield Parrish vibe in the air. But only for a second. Because once she was sure she was standing on solid ground, she looked up to see the very confused librarian a few feet away. In one hand Liv saw that she held a large tin bucket and in the other the largest piece of the china plate Liv had shattered the day before.
Quicker on her feet than she gave herself credit for, Liv covered her tracks with a line that seemed to come to her like a gift from Grandy. “I thought you might be here, Ms. Hart. Do you have a minute?”
Three hard raps on her bedroom door interrupted her reflection. “Hey, sis, you have to hear this!” Dave flew in and pounced on her bed like an excited puppy.
“Get off my bed, Mr. Music,” Liv demanded. He was the one who had made the “no bed sitting” rule, and he better learn to walk that talk.
Dave popped up like a jack-in-the-box. “My record club albums came today. This is some seriously good shit. We can get through Side One before dinner. Put down that dang notebook and get your groove on, man. You’ll never believe this sound!”
Liv knew better than to stifle Dave when he wanted to share his new music discovery. What else would keep them talking? So Liv slipped her notebook under the bedspread and followed Dave for a date with Weather Report. What her dream had to do with the cemetery and Ms. Hart would have to wait.