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Chapter 15: Where Are the Twins?
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to Seven Stars School
Friday, January 3, 7:50 A.M.
"Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom."
"You're kidding me! We just left the house five minutes ago. Are you sick?" Karen Marlow pressed her lips together in exasperation and waited for an answer from her young daughter.
"No, I'm not sick. But I have to do number one real bad and this cold seat makes it worser, too."
Aint no such word as worser, Kellie," her twin brother offered. "Miss Black said so. Boy, what a baby. Can't even take a little trip to school without stopping to do her wee-wee!"
"You shut up, big mouth! Mommy, tell Kevin to shut up." Tears had started to roll down Kellie's freckled cheeks and Karen did hate to see the twins start their school day on such a note of controversy.
"Kellie, didn't you go before you left the house?"
"I couldn't, Mommy. When I first got up, Daddy was in the upstairs bathroom. And after breakfast, Kevin was hogging up the one downstairs. And then I guess I forgot. Please stop, Mommy. I don't think I can wait till we get to school."
Up ahead Karen saw a cleared area beside the road where the PennDOT trucks got their loads of cinders. There was no one around at the time and she pulled off there.
"Listen, Kellie, I'm going to pull up beside that cinder pile. When I stop, open your door and open the back door, too. then you can squat down between the two doors and have some privacy."
little girl did as she was told, taking off her coat first so it wouldn't get
wet. When she dropped her diminutive Lee jeans and exposed her tiny buns, Karen
winced sympathetically at the thought of the frigid January wind which was whistling
around the car.
Kevin may have opposed the unscheduled pit stop initially but he had no reservations about watching the entire operation with mischievous interest.
"Ha, ha Kellie! I see the moo-oon," he chanted.
"Mom-eee!" Kellie wailed.
"Stop it, Kevin!" Karen snapped and turned his head toward her. Crazy kids, she thought with an inward smile. They've taken a bath together every day for six years and now it's suddenly modesty time.
When Kellie was finished, she hopped in the car and quickly pulled on her coat. During the mercy mission, Karen had turned the Buick's heater up full blast and she watched her daughter hold out red hands toward the dash vent. "Feel better now, Doll?"
"Lots. Thanks for stopping, Mommy." Kellie looked at her mother with such a sweet smile of relief and gratitude that Karen instantly forgave the minor inconvenience.
"Okay, we're on our way then," said Karen cheerfully as she dropped the can into DRIVE and pulled back on the road. "Have you to school in no time."
Kellie smiled again but Kevin, miffed by his earlier rebuke, started stonily out the window and pushed his lower lip into a typical 6-year-old pout.
Karen parked the Buick behind the school and unlocked the playground entrance with her master key. Once inside, she hurried to her office and picked up the hex key to tie down the panic bars on the front doors and thereby unlock them. She knew some principals forced early arrivers to wait out in the cold until the warning bell rang. However, Karen realized that not all the children dressed as warmly as hers did and the first bus arrived before eight, more than 20 minutes before the warning bell rang.
When she got back to the office, Martha Metz was placing a cup of fresh coffee on her desk.
"Good morning, Martha, and thanks for the coffee. Cold mornings like this make me feel like a second cup by the time I get to school."
"Goot morning, Mrs. Marlow. You're velcome for the coffee. it does taste goot on a cold morning, still. Anysing you vant me to do before the kits come in?"
"Just one thing. Run down to the first grade room and make sure Miss Black's in. I don't want the twins messing around in her room before she gets there."
"She's already here. Came in chust ven I dit."
"Oh, good. Well, I guess I won't see you till lunch time, then. I have three classroom observations to do and that'll pretty much shoot the morning. The teachers' names and the times are on your desk. Page me if you need me."
"I vill, Mrs. Marlow. Have a nize morning."
Karen's morning was more necessary than nice as she did formal observations on three of her newer teachers who hadn't achieved tenure yet. She spent at least forty minutes in each room evaluating instructional technique, examining teacher-made materials, reviewing homework assignments, and checking lesson plans. All three teachers were doing reasonably adequate jobs and showed promise of developing into excellent teachers.
In the third room, Karen was startled by the 11:50 bell in her perusal of a lesson plan book. Quickly she gathered up her things and headed for the door, stopping a moment to leave a smiling word of encouragement with the young and nervous teacher.
Karen liked to stand in the cafeteria line with the children and chat about things of interest to them. Her students were perfectly at ease with their principal, sharing trivial incidents of their school day which were often amusing and sometimes revealing. Just another fringe benefit generated by working in a relatively small country school.
in light conversation with a pig-tailed fifth grader in front of her, Karen heard
a duet of "Hello, Mrs. Marlow" coming from her left. Turning, she saw
Kevin and Kellie smiling and waving from one of the lower tables reserved for
the primary children. Karen made a practice of treating her twins as regular students
in front of the other children. Now, she smiled and waved back with their secret
fingers-crossed signal which meant, "I love you!" Satisfied, they resumed
their giggling with the rest of the first graders at the table.
"Care if I sneak in here, Mrs. Marlow? I hate to vayst so much time standing in line, still."
The principal smiled again as her secretary eased her bulk into the line in front of her. "Anyone who works as hard as you do deserves a chance to do a little line leeching. Everything all right in the office?"
"Everysing's chust fine," said Martha, her little white bonnet bobbing in affirmation. "Nossing but the regular bunch of exchoose slips and stuff like that."
The cafeteria line seemed to be moving exceptionally slowly and Karen looked at the white-faced clock on the west wall. Almost noon. At that moment, An itch developed on her left shoulder blade and Karen reached back to scratch it. Without warning, her entire body became locked in a vise of marble.
Hours later while discussing the scene with Dan and Mark, Karen would be unable to remember anything about a strange light or heavenly music. She was acutely aware, however, of what was happening in the primary section of the cafeteria.
A strange shimmering effect was flowing down over each child, almost as though her vision was being distorted by heat waves. Kevin and Kellie were right in the center of the portion of the room she was able to see and their images were also distorted by the shimmering.
As she looked beyond the low tables to where the other children were eating, Karen noticed that several older students scattered here and there around the cafeteria were shimmering, also.
What in the world is happening? her mind demanded.
Quickly she looked back to the twins' table but they were gone! In fact, all the smaller children were gone. In their places there appeared to be full-grown creatures of unworldly beauty and grace, each wearing a soft robe of blue or pink.
Am I losing my mind? Is this some sort of monstrous mass hypnosis? Are we being attacked by an interplanetary foe of enormous power and inventiveness? Karen's frenzied mind rasped the questions but there were no answers.
A slight movement at her right caused her to turn her eyes in that direction. One of the pink-robed creatures was moving from her side and gliding gracefully toward where Kevin and Kellie had been sitting at their lunch table. Karen remembered that Martha Metz, her Dutchified Mennonite secretary, had been standing to her right when she first reached back to scratch her shoulder. Looking down at the spot where Martha had been standing, she was astounded to see nothing but a pile of clothing, the things Martha had worn to work that day. The pile included a heavily boned and laced corset as well as a little white bonnet so Karen knew the things had to be Martha's.
The creature who had just left her side was now embracing two of the others--one male and one female--near where the twins had been sitting. Can those two over there be Kevin and Kellie and what-used-to-be-Martha is hugging them? But that's impossible! those three people--if they are people--are all the same age and look enough alike to be cousins. Things like that just don't happen! At least not outside Steven Spielberg movies.
But where are the twins? Kevin! Kellie! Where are you? I want my babies! I want my babies! Please, someone, give me back my babie-e-e-e-s! The mother's anguished screams of appeal reverberated down through the corridors of time but there was no one to listen. No one to help. No compassionate ear to heed her plea.
Then there was a flurry of activity in the center of the room as the robed personages converged in a melee of high-fiving, backslapping, and clapping. The scene was not unlike the infield of Yankee Stadium after the final game of the World Series. In what seemed like a moment, though, they all came to attention and faced the east wall as if in response to some silent signal.
Karen strained her eyes in an effort to identify the two creatures with newly-glorified bodies who might have been her Kevin and Kellie. With their similar garb and physique, it was so hard to tell. There . . . that must be them, the two in the front, on this side. Kevin! Kellie! Over here. I'm over here!
The sense of expectancy among the members of the glorious group conveyed eminent departure and Karen's mind called again, even more frantically. Kellie! Kevin! Over here, I'm over here in the cafeteria line. Can't you hear me? At that instant, the two heavenly personages she thought might have been her children turned their heads and looked in her direction. Then, the entire group started to move upward in the angle of flight.
Just before the former Kevin and Kellie Marlow passed from sight through the painted concrete blocks of the east wall of the cafeteria, Karen thought she saw them flash a finger-crossed wave.
But she wasn't sure.
Suddenly her knees buckled and she sank sobbing to the tile floor. She never flinched when a full tray of coffee mugs crashed to the floor on the other side of the counter.
Through a red haze Karen Marlow saw that the wall clock's sweep second hand was on the downslope and moving at its customary leisurely but constant pace.
was ten seconds after twelve.
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