Plato Street (continued 14)

By the time Christmas came, we were knee deep in mutiny and I moved the bat from under my bed to right next to me where I slept. I started to think Dr. Livesey wasn’t so bad after all, and I grieved anew for Pearl.

Just as the crocuses started poking their heads through the melting snow, Ashley moved in with Julie and, shortly after that, Bud left town for someplace in Arkansas.  That was fine with me. One less person meant more food for the rest of us.

“But why do you think it was so important for Jim to strike the Jolly Roger?” Sally repeated with some exasperation. She was talking to Sweet Beat.

“It’s their colors,” he said at last.

“Right, Kevin. Their colors, as you say, tell who’s in charge. They tell where their loyalty lies. But beyond that . . .”

“Beyond that it tells their future!” interrupted Sniff exultantly.

If astonishment could be described, that moment was an apt description. Sniff had had an original thought. We all looked at her in wonder. Sniff, herself, was so overcome with surprise she started crying. Then Sally started chuckling until the whole room was laughing right along with her, even Sweet Beat.

After we’d wiped our eyes, though, he said, “I just think Hawkins was crazy to give the wheel to Hands.”

“What else could he have done?” Sally asked.

It wasn’t a question, though; like maybe she’d given Hawkins’ decision a lot more thought than she let on. She got up from her chair and started clearing the snack table.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *      *      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

By the time the church choir down the street was practicing the Hallelujah Chorus, Ben Gunn had led them to the treasure, that traitor, Long John Silver, had cut out with some of the stash, and Jim Hawkins had said all he had to say.

We all stayed later than usual that last night. It didn’t seem quite right to stop meeting every Thursday, and someone said as much. Sally just nodded. We all waited for her to say something; to say we would start another book, for instance. She didn’t. She just started clearing the snack table alongside her boy, calling ‘good night’ to us over her shoulder.

We all just stood there looking at her as if that would change things. No one moved. No one said anything.

“The book club, as you will recall, was for the cold, winter months.”

No one answered.

“It’s officially spring now,” she persisted.

The house creaked.

“Bulbs are sprouting, soon the grass will be green instead of brown.”

She looked at all of us for a minute. Then, with a slight smile, she shook her head.

That shake of her head, that short laugh tinged with a sigh said either that she didn’t understand us or that we didn’t understand her. I guess I’ll never know for certain.

There was nothing else to do then. We started leaving by ones and twos and threes.  Before I left I kissed her on the cheek.

“Thank you kindly,” I said. I meant every word.

Then, as had become my habit, I was the last man out.

to be continued . . .

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