A New Planet [Some Real Life Experiences]

“Look, look,, the planet I made is Nomean People! Nomean!” The girl with long glossy dark hair and infectious smile giggled and showed me the little square she’d drawn on a piece of red construction paper. Our theme that day was space and the solar system, and as one of the activities we had the children invent their own planet, which could be any shape, color, or size they wanted.

One girl made two planets, both in the shape of rainbows, which she cut out and stuck on Popsicle sticks. She wrote her name in large, crooked letters on the back of both planets, but refused to talk whenever we tried to ask her questions. She pursed her lips and raised her chin as if she wanted to say something but was being kept silent by some unseen force. But that was okay; she was having fun and had understood the concept of what we were trying to do.

One of the boys, usually quite rowdy and impatient with the activities we give, made his planet out of black and yellow play-dough-like stuff that we’d brought with us. He told us that everything on his planet was black – the people, the buildings, the sidewalks, the sky, the trees, the food. He found the concept cheerful, though.

Others drew planets that looked somewhat like Earth, or else mashed up all sorts of colors together. They loved inventing, creating something of their own that they could take home and tell their families about.

The girl with the Nomean People planet repeated its name to any of us “big people” who was standing near her. She must have desperately wanted her planet to exist in reality.

Foundling

A baby lay on the wide rim of the fountain in the middle of the town square. It was sleeping quite peacefully, wrapped in tattered green blankets. It was impossible to tell its sex by looking at it, since the only visible part was its face, which was still a little scrunched and red. The baby couldn’t have been more then a day or two old, and Maude Leary was astonished that it was sleeping in such a precarious position, on such a cool evening.

Maude was a sweeper. She walked around town with an old-fashioned broom made with nice long bristles tied well with a metal wire, and swept the leaves from the middle of the sidewalk to the edges. She did this all day, every day, from five in the morning until five in the afternoon. She’d gotten the job when she was seventeen, and even with all the changes that had been made in town hall over the last few years, no one had had the heart to fire her, even though she was the only employee of her kind. Maude was sixty-three now, but she looked quite the same as she had when she’d boldly walked into the now defunct old town hall and requested a job. She was, perhaps, more lined than she’d been at seventeen, but she still had the same sandy hair, the same spattering of freckles over her nose and cheeks, and the same wiry figure. She still wore overalls day in and day out, with a different colored t-shirt for every day of the week.

Today was a Tuesday, so she was wearing her purple t-shirt. Because of the cool weather, she had a scarf wrapped around her neck, too. Her hip was cocked to one side as she leaned on the familiar broom and watched the baby sleep on. “Well, I’ll be,” she murmured to herself. The town square was empty in the quiet before everyone got out of work and rushed on home, and a bird was cheeping absentmindedly in the nearby tree, doing its duty to the setting sun.

Quite suddenly, the baby opened its eyes. Its eyes roved this way and that until it found Maude’s kind, slightly mischievous, face. Her wide eyes met the baby’s and in a moment they seemed to understand each other perfectly. Maude took three steps and closed the gap between them. She saw now that there was a note pinned to the green cloth the silent baby was wrapped in. In big, slightly shaky, letters, it said: I NEED A HOME. Maude clucked her tongue, a habit she’d copied from her mother years ago. “Whoever left you here is a beast,” she informed the baby. A little hiccup came out of the tiny, pink lips. “You can chastise me all you want for it, but I still say they’re a beast,” Maude answered.

The big bell in the church began to toll the hour. Maude picked the baby up. “Our shift is over, little one,” she told the baby firmly. “Let’s go and have some milk, hm?” As the office building spewed out men and women in suits and the church bell continued to ring, Maude stumped off home.

1. Mr. and Mrs. Adams [5]

Mr. Adams walked briskly up to Acorn, walking around the building so he could enter from the front instead of walk through the dank halls that led upstairs from the parking lot. When the semester was underway, he didn’t mind going through the back door; there were often students standing around it and smoking and usually he’d know a couple and would exchange pleasantries as well as a covert and rare cigarette with them.

Even so, it was always nice to enter from the main entrance to Acorn – the impressive double doors were thrown open, and all the carvings and metalwork on them was visible to those who passed. The doors had been donated to the university when a rich family who lived on the outskirts of Hartscreek had decided to tear down the private chapel they had on their property and build a large pool to replace it. Mr. Adams was always curious as to who put the idea in those people’s heads to give the university the doors instead of trashing them. Whoever it was, Mr. Adams was thankful. The doors seemed to him to be just right for the kind of building that Acorn was; imposing, ivy climbing up the walls and a couple of gargoyles leering from the eaves.

His office was on the top floor. He joked with his wife that he didn’t join her morning walks because he had enough exercise just climbing the stairs up and down from his office all day long. The building had an elevator, but it was only used by the cleaning staff and any students or faculty with disabilities. Everyone else was expected to walk. Mr. Adams supposed that one day his knees would pain him enough that he wouldn’t feel guilty applying to get a key for it, but meanwhile he took the stairs two at a time up to his office, hardly puffing at all.

When he got up to the third floor, he walked down the hallway and entered the last door on the left. His name was there on a little plaque, and as he unlocked the door for the first time since summer term ended, he breathed in the slightly musty air and felt right at home. He’d had this room ever since he’d been given tenure, and over the years it had become a sort of embodiment of his tastes. Two walls were lined with bookshelves, crammed with what he called the tools of his trade – everything from books by his favorite authors to literary magazines to anthologies. His desk held the old computer (which he never used) that the university provided him with as well as two cupfuls of pens and a stack of notepads and notebooks almost toppling over. There were also framed pictures of Mrs. Adams, Susan, and a family photo of Susan, Marty and Claire.

Mr. Adams sat down at the desk, laying his briefcase, which held his laptop, daily planner and another bulk of notebooks and pens. He sighed and took the picture of his daughter and her family and gazed at it.

“Marty,” he murmured to himself. “When are we going to hear from you again, my boy? And when can I see my little Claire again?”

Shaking himself, he put the photo back down and pulled out his laptop, ready to get to work on the various syllabi he had yet to complete.

A Town

It was a beautiful little town. No wonder, really, since it was the richest one in the state. Still, if you could forget about all the money that must have exchanged pockets in order to make the town look the way it did, you might just fall in love with it.

The best way to describe it would be old-town America. There are no high-rises; the tallest building in town is the bell-tower of the church, still tolling the hour to this day. There are just two main streets, really, both filled with quaint buildings, all low to the ground. Around Christmas-time, all the windows and doors are decorated with wreaths and big, red ribbons. The shops are varied, supplying the residents with everything they could want – from specialized yoga clothing to vintage fur coats; from good quality generic groceries to specialized health-foods; from magazines and sweets to books and toys; from sushi to Italian to Mexican to baked goods to good, old diner fare.

The town’s small train-station is quaint, no doubt about it. Standing on the platform, you can easily imagine an old steam-engine pulling into the station while men in suits and bowler hats and women in dresses in muted hews get ready to board it to go into the big city a few stops down the line. You can imagine parents sending their child off to the big city’s university in a train like that, with a steamer trunk loaded and a handkerchief waving goodbye out a window. Even today, the platform seems to contain ghosts of those people from other decades.

The town is beautiful, almost like a real life Disneyland.