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Authors: Brooke Davis

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BOOK: Lost & Found
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agatha pantha

: Agatha wakes. Looks at her watch. Is that the time? The real time? Or Train Time? She begins conducting her Age Tests regardless.

7:38: She tries to use the window as a mirror, to stare in disbelief at her face, but her eyes keep focusing beyond the glass and on the landscape outside. The blue of the night is slowly making way for the warmth of the morning light; it’s not night but it’s not yet morning, and the air looks like it’s made of honey.
Does this happen every morning?
Agatha says.

7:40: She can’t stop looking at the honey light.
What important thing am I doing every morning that I miss this?

7:42: She can feel Karl’s body through the wall. Can hear him snoring out in the hallway. She lay in her bed last night, listening to him through the door but trying not to, holding her hands up to her ears but only halfheartedly, and she thought about him sitting next to her, his hand on the top of Millie’s
head, the way he held coffee cups, the way he sat with his legs crossed, always. Jiggling his top foot. And she thought about touching him, and being touched by him, and the thought was not unpleasant.

When had she last been kissed?

And then she thought about his question, if she had loved her husband, and she didn’t think she knew.

They’re talking me into it
, she whispers, clutching at her throat.

Karl looks at me in a way Ron never did
, she says.

7:55: She lies in bed and feels that she does not deserve anything good.

7:57: She opens the door. Karl is standing there, his fist raised like he’s about to knock on the door.

, he says.

, she says.

I was—
Karl says, just as Agatha says,
Are you—

They both shake their heads shyly.
You go
, Karl says.

No, you
, Agatha says.

A voice comes over the loudspeaker.
You’re all going to die. It’s okay.

Karl and Agatha look at each other.
, they say together.

And then Derek walks down the hallway toward them.
. He points at Karl.
And you
. He points at Agatha. His face is in her face. She can smell his breath. Toothpaste and coffee.
Are. In.
He puts his face right up to Karl’s.
Very. Big. Trouble.
He looks at the mannequin.
You, too, FYI.

8:06: Agatha sits in a chair in Derek’s office. The chair is similar to the ones she has at home. It’s brown and creaks when she moves in it. She watches Derek pace the room from one wall to the other. It’s a tiny space, so he can only take two steps and then has to stop to turn around. He breathes hard through his nose. His notepad flaps around his neck as he walks.

8:07: Agatha tries to think of names for the chair. She has her hands folded in her lap. Karl is seated next to her. He puts a tentative hand on her hands. Agatha bats him away. He yelps. She doesn’t look at him. The Chair of Dislike.

, Derek says, and walks two steps. His hands are in fists by his side. He turns around.
. Two steps, turns around. His steps are fast, purposeful, but contained, as if he’s trying to get to a bus that’s rounding the corner but doesn’t want to let on that he’s rushing.
Fraternizing with sex dolls
. Two steps, turns around. Nods toward the plastic man Karl calls Manny. Faces them with his arms crossed.
This is the Indian Pacific train. Not
Big Brother.

Calm down, man
, Karl says. Derek stops midstep, closes his eyes, and shouts,
I am calm
. He breathes deep and massages his temples.
We’re just living
, Karl says.
should try it
. Derek says,
Don’t YOLO me. MY house, remember?
Derek grabs the edge of the desk with both hands.

8:08.46: There is one small moment when Agatha feels something for Derek. Where she recognizes hurt in another human being. But it doesn’t last long.

8:09: Derek sits on the desk and crosses his legs.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Derek asks. Agatha shakes her head,
. She assumes Karl does the same, but she still won’t look at him.

Derek pulls a phone out of his pocket. Agatha can see a thin film of sweat on his upper lip. She grimaces. The beads of sweat reveal something of himself and it seems weak to Agatha. She squirms at the betrayal of his body, at his inability to control emotion and body temperature. Chair of Disgust.

Derek thrusts the phone in front of them both. Agatha and Karl both move forward to look at the screen. It’s a photo of the young flannelette-wearing drunk in Kalgoorlie. There, on the arm:
Karl The Touch Typist Wuz ’Ere

, Karl says.

Agatha hits him on the arm.

Karl rubs his arm and doesn’t look at her.

FYI, it’s the mayor of Kalgoorlie’s son
, Derek says, looking at them with the kind of hateful glee usually reserved for cannibals lording over hard-won prey.
, Karl says.
He’s a big man, the mayor of Kalgoorlie
, Derek says. Agatha hits Karl on the arm again.
, Karl says.
And, BTW, they’ve matched the tag to the Warwickvale nursing home and the department store nearby
Derek says.
, Karl says.
Ring any bells, Karl “the Touch Typist”?
Derek says Karl’s name and title using his fingers to indicate air quotes.
I’m sure I’m not the only Karl the Touch Typist in the world
, Karl says.
I’m sure you are
, Derek says.
Well, aren’t you about to shit yourself with happiness, Derek?
Karl asks.
I certainly am not
, Derek says.

BTW, there’s this
. Derek shows them a picture on his phone of Karl’s face with
across the bottom of it. Karl grins.
Karl says.
Think this is funny, do you?
Derek says.
, Karl says, swallowing his grin.
I’ll say again
, Derek says.
Anything you’d like to share? If you cooperate, the penalty might not be as severe.

8:10.35: As Karl shakes his head
, Agatha can feel something bubbling inside of her. It’s been bubbling inside of her for too long and she needs to stop it, so she answers the question with something that will stop the feeling, she can’t betray a feeling, she doesn’t want the sweat on her upper lip to show, so she says,
This man kidnapped me.

8:11: Karl turns to look at Agatha, but she doesn’t catch his eye. She looks at her knees as if they’re interesting. They are, a little bit.
New Kninkle?
she thinks, scratching at her left knee through her stockings. The door bursts open. The blond Indian Pacific woman walks in holding Millie’s hand.
, Karl says.
Thank God
. Agatha thinks,
Millie. Thank God
, but she doesn’t say it. The woman says,
She’s okay. She was with my boy
. Millie climbs onto Karl’s lap. Agatha glances down at her interesting
knees again.
Go easy, Derek
, the woman says from the doorway.
She’s only a child, remember
. Derek watches her close the door behind her.
Oh, up your jumper, Mel
, he says after a few moments. He looks at Millie.
The devil child, more like it
. Millie leans her back into Karl’s chest.

, Derek says, reading from the screen of his phone.
Assault. Robbery
. Agatha says,
Karl says,
as if the point could be argued.

Derek puts his phone back in his pocket.
And now kidnapping. Nail in the coffin, wouldn’t you say? Who’s LOLing now?
Karl asks,
What am I doing?
Millie asks,
Karl says,
No one’s kidnapping anyone
. Agatha says,
Except for you!
Karl says,
Agatha, I know you’re mad at me, but—
Agatha says,
Sir! Kindly cease with the familiarities!
holding up her hand to him.
That man on your phone there?
Karl says.
Agatha hit him on the head with a plastic leg. Just so you know.

You’re going to hell
, Millie says.
What did you say?
Derek asks.
Dad said parking inspectors go to hell
, Millie says.
Your father’s dead
, Agatha says.
I know that
, Millie says.

, Derek says quietly, pointing at Agatha.
The yelling one. Don’t lie to me now. If you do, you’re going wherever he’s going. And he’s not going anywhere pleasant
. Agatha braces herself.
Have you, or have you not, been abducted by this man?
He gestures toward Karl.

8:15.28: Agatha can feel the little girl’s eyes on her. She looks across at Millie. She’s looking back at Agatha, calmly. A
child. A little girl. Agatha’s suddenly sitting at the dinner table with her husband.
I don’t want children
, she said. And his face, the gravity of it, the way it pulled down at her words, and her regret, the feeling in her body, later.

8:15.52: Chair of Deception.

I have
, she says, looking directly at Derek.

millie bird

e’re not that invisible, I guess
, Millie says. Millie and Karl have been locked in Derek’s office and Derek has taken Agatha away.

, Karl says.
We’re not.

What’s going to happen?

He kisses Millie on the forehead.
I don’t know, Just Millie.

Why’s Agatha mad at you?
she asks.

She’s a woman.

Am I a woman?


But I’m not mad at you.

Thank you.

Are you mad at me?

Of course not.

It’s my fault.


Are we going to find my mum?

Of course.

Do you mean that?

But before Karl can answer, the door is unlocked and Jeremy pokes his head inside.
Psst. Captain Funeral
, he says, checking the hallway behind him and then sliding inside. He stands with his hands on his hips.
Hello, sir,
he says to Karl, shaking his hand.
I’m Captain Everything, sir.
He looks at Millie.
Captain Everything is here.
He’s drawn a black mask around his eyes and a mustache on his upper lip. He wears an Indian Pacific cloth napkin around his neck as a small cape.

What are you doing?
Millie asks.

You’re in trouble. I’ve come to rescue you.

Karl says,
who is this boy?

I’m Captain Everything, sir,
Jeremy says.
I told you. They’re talking about you.

Karl asks.

All the train people. The police are coming to meet you at Kirk Station.

Millie and Karl look at each other.

Derek was like, I’m calling the bleeping police! And
, Jeremy jumps a few feet to the left,
my mum was like, You should wait, Derek, and then
, he jumps back,
Derek was like, I’m bleeping doing it, Melissa, you bleeping try to stop me, and she did bleeping try to stop him, but he did it anyway, and Mum called him a bleeping face, and I was camouflaged so they didn’t see me, so I
stole the key to this room, and even if they did see me, I would have karate-kicked my way through them—
he does a kick in the air and chops with his hands—
because I can do all sorts of things like that.

What’s that on your face?
Millie says.

He touches it with his fingertips and grins.
My disguise.

I like your spirit, young man
, Karl says.
And your mustache.

Jeremy looks at them both with a grave face.
You have to leave right now.

Are you serious?
Karl asks.

I’ve never been more serious, sir.

Jeremy goes first. He looks out the door, right, then left, and turns back to wave them on. Karl goes next, holding Manny around the waist so that his chin rests on Karl’s shoulder. Then Millie. Manny stares over Karl’s shoulder at her as they walk through the carriages.
It’s okay
, she mouths at him. She looks at Manny’s plastic hair and her head detaches itself. Dad’s hair when they are at the beach and Millie says,
Your hair looks like a pineapple
, Dad’s hair on the tiles at the hairdresser’s, Dad’s hair in the morning, Dad’s hair Dad’s hair Dad’s hair, and her stomach pulls, and her head reattaches itself, and they pass the farting baby, the angry man, the peaceful grandma, the girl who gets to have a mum. Millie holds the backpack on her front and feels the cape against her back, hanging there without moving, like the skin of a dead animal.

Jeremy leads them to a door that opens outside to the very
back of the train. The wind makes her cape alive again and it jumps around behind her, as if it’s trying to get the best view, excited to be there, in the wind and fresh air. They look out at the desert. Millie has never seen so much sky.

What about Agatha?
Millie asks.

Who cares?
Karl says.

It’s not kind,
Millie says.

She’s not kind.

Jeremy puts water bottles and muesli bars in Millie’s bag.

Just go that way.
He points, gazing up at Millie.

This is amazing,
Karl says, holding Manny up.
See that, Manny? This is Australia.

Here’s a map,
Jeremy says.
Mum helped me draw it when I told her I wanted to show everyone at school what I did for the holidays. And here’s a compass. There’s a pub here—The Great Australian Pub.
He points to a position on the map.
You can stay there for the night.
He looks behind him, then back at Millie.
Mum and I stay there when we’re visiting Dad. Just follow the road south and you won’t miss it.

Where did you get all this stuff?
Millie asks.

I’m Captain Everything.

Are you sure about this?
Millie asks, feeling her own cape whipping about behind her.

Jeremy stands and looks Millie square in the face. His pen mustache twitches a little.
Yes, Captain Funeral.

I feel like I’m in a movie
, Karl says.
Will they make a movie
about my life, Millie? Do you think Paul Newman could play me? Or that Branson Spike fellow?

Millie looks over the edge of the train. The ground is running fast beneath them.
How are we going to get off?

Yeah, Captain Everything, how are we going to get off?
Karl asks.

Jeremy starts to say something, but Karl interjects.
Don’t worry, Millie
, Karl says.
Manny and I’ll jump off, then run to catch up with the train, then you jump off. I’ll catch you, I promise.

But sir
, Jeremy says.
There’s a—

Karl puts a hand over Jeremy’s mouth.
You’ve done enough for us, Captain Everything
. He takes a deep breath. He tucks Manny sideways under his suspenders so that his hands are free.
You believe in me, don’t you, Millie?
Millie doesn’t answer, so Karl takes that as some sort of an agreement and says,
I am going to do this. I am a very cool person
. He grips the railings, preparing for a run-up.
I am going to do this, I am going to do this—

And the train comes to a very, very slow halt.

Karl releases his hold on the railings. He turns to Jeremy.

This is Roald Station
, Jeremy says, looking up at Karl.
We have to pick up and drop off mail here. It always stops for a few minutes. Sorry, sir.

Karl sighs and mutters to himself. There’s a ladder off the back of the train, and Karl climbs down it. He does a jump off
the bottom rung, and winces as he lands. Millie backs down the ladder. When she gets to halfway, she stops. Jeremy’s looking down at her. She clambers back up the ladder.

What are you doing?
Jeremy says.
You’ve gotta go. I order you, as another captain, to get off the train. I’m pulling rank. Get off the tr—

Millie grabs him by the shoulders and kisses him on his fake mustache. His cheeks burn a fierce red, like her hair, like the earth out here.
Please tell Agatha where we are,
she says, and climbs back down the ladder.

Karl and Millie stand together on the train track. Millie salutes Jeremy.
Thank you, Captain Everything
, she says.

Good luck
, he says, a lopsided grin on his face.

Millie stands on the track until the train starts up again and slowly moves farther and farther away.
I’ll never forget you, Captain Funeral!
Jeremy yells, and Millie watches the train until it disappears, and there is no sound but the sizzling of the sun on her skin.

Karl hugs Manny to his chest.
Look at it all.
He sweeps his free hand through the air.
This is Australia. You know? Real Australia.

Millie starts to walk in the direction that Jeremy pointed.
C’mon, Karl
, she says.

Look at this sky. Look at this dirt.
Karl kicks it with his foot and it flies everywhere.
Look at this scrub. There could be dead bodies buried in every square inch of this place and we wouldn’t
know. The British exploded practice bombs out here, and no one even knew. Bombs, Millie. Back home I can’t even scratch my behind without my neighbors wondering what sort of bum disease I have. But out here no one knows what I’m doing.
He holds Manny up over his head.
Did you hear that, Universe?
he says. He stops, takes a big breath, and screams at the top of his lungs,

Millie is not listening. All she hears is the sound of her feet hitting the ground as she walks. Each footstep like this: Mum, Dad, Mum, Dad, Mum, Dad, Mum, Dad.

Karl is meters behind her, staring up at the sky, turning around in circles like Millie sometimes does when she wants to make herself dizzy. She is annoyed at him. They don’t have time for this.
We need to hurry
, she calls behind her.

BOOK: Lost & Found
5.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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