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Authors: Brooke Davis

Lost & Found (23 page)

BOOK: Lost & Found
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karl the touch typist

M
illie’s on the floor, coughing. She looks up at Karl and he feels his heart rip to shreds. Is there anything worse than seeing fear in a child’s eyes? Manny is on fire, ON FIRE, and the bartender hoses him down, and it’s out. There’s another little girl—where the hell did she come from? Why are there so many little girls all of a sudden?—and she holds some matches, but Karl’s brain doesn’t make the connection yet, and he kneels down next to Millie, she coughs and cries, and he puts a hand on her cheek, and then looks over at the little girl and says,
What did you do?
He knows he’s not supposed to shout at little girls, especially ones he doesn’t know, but it just happens, and she starts to cry too, but he doesn’t care, and then one of the men says,
Wait a minute, mate, don’t you yell at my daughter
, and Karl knows the
mate
is being used ironically in this instance, and he wants to use it back in this way—has he ever used it in this way? Has he ever used it at all? So he stands up
and walks over to the man, and Karl is taller than him, that’s got to be something, doesn’t it? And he says,
Well, mate—
he puts the extra emphasis on
mate
, and it feels amazing out of his mouth, he will be doing it again, if he lives through this—and then he says,
if your daughter wasn’t such a criminal, then I wouldn’t have to.

And Scotty or Jonesy or Crusher or whatever, the man he was drinking and laughing with moments ago, has his hands around Karl’s neck, and Karl pulls at the hands and chokes, but manages to lift a wobbly knee into the man’s stomach. The man doubles over and a barstool clatters to the ground and Karl puts his hands to his own neck—he never knew what it felt like to be strangled, and he is grateful for the experience—he says,
Sorry, mate.
ScottyJonesyCrusher looks up at him, and growls at him—growls at him? Yes, he definitely growls—and lunges at Karl, and Karl somehow guesses the right way to move, and they stumble gracelessly around the pub and Karl feels as if he dodges every lunge, hurdles chairs and small children, uses tables as shields, but really, if he’s honest with himself, ScottyJonesyCrusher is a bit on the chubby side so he’s easy to outrun. Then, in what Karl can only call a moment of distraction—surely every Great Man has one?—he forgets to dodge, and ScottyJonesyCrusherFatty grabs his shirt and pulls Karl into him, and they slap each other a bit, elbows clunking, palms flailing as if they’re both trying to dig their way out of being buried alive.

A white foam squirts from above them somewhere, it covers them both, and they peel themselves away from each other, cough and splutter, cough and splutter. Karl reels backward and wipes the foam out of his eyes with his hands. The cut on his palm has reopened during the scuffle. Blood weeps from it and Karl feels a little woozy but then he looks up, and, through the film of foam and red dirt and sweat, there is Agatha Pantha. Hair wild and unkempt, breathing heavily, holding a fire extinguisher with the raw animalism of someone in a ruthless war, presenting the extinguisher to them both as if it were the bloodied head of someone they knew, someone on their side, as if they were next.

She looks so goddamn incredible that Karl cannot look away.

What have you done?
Agatha demands.

And with everything that’s been going on, he’s forgotten about Millie, how could he forget about Millie? He points to the other little girl, cowering under a table in the far corner and still crying, and says,
Ask her.
Millie’s still lying on the ground against the bar, her tiny body, her tiny body, and he thinks of Evie, her tiny body,
I will always be here, Evie
, but ScottyJonesyCrusherFatty says,
Now, wait a minute, mate
, and runs at Karl again, crouching down, grabbing him around the waist and pushing him into a wall. Agatha puts the fire extinguisher on them again. With as much poise as he can muster, Karl stands, wipes his face clean with his sleeve, and says,
I’m not your mate, mate.

Oh, shut up!
Agatha yells.
Everybody shut up! You!
She points at the bartender.
Get me some cold water!
The bartender blinks at her.
Well?

The bartender hops on the spot, fumbles behind the bar, and hands her two large bottles of water.

Take them
, Agatha says to Karl, so he does what she says, giving the bartender a tight smile.

Agatha grunts as she leans down and hoists Millie up over her shoulder.
Everything hurts
, Millie says between coughs.

I know
, Agatha says, walking toward the entrance of the pub. Karl shuffles ahead of them and pushes the door open with his side. Agatha doesn’t look at him as she passes him by.

Karl follows her out into the parking lot and stops when she opens a car door.
Whose is this?

Agatha doesn’t seem to hear him, or if she does, she ignores him. She lays Millie on the backseat and turns to Karl.
Water
, she says flatly, holding out her hand and snapping her fingers. Karl hands her a bottle and she snatches at it. He watches through the driver’s-side window as Agatha presses the bottle to Millie’s lips.
Drink, Millie
, she says.
It’ll make you feel much better
.

Millie takes the water, sips at it, and closes her eyes.

Karl remembers the fear in her eyes and feels a surge of protectiveness.
You’ll be okay, Just Millie.

Agatha closes the car door and starts hitting Karl.

Hey
, Karl says, shielding himself.

You should have been watching her!

You can talk.

Agatha picks up a branch from the ground and comes at him, branch raised, ready to strike.

Hey
, Karl says, hiding behind a tree.
Just hang on. You need to stop. Stop right now. You are HORRIBLE. Do you hear me? You are the rudest person I’ve ever met. I bet your husband died on purpose.

Karl is shocked at himself.
Shit. Shit shit shit shit. Agatha. I didn’t mean it like that, it came out wrong—

Agatha begins to yell. Not words, just sound; it seems to start deep in her belly and she screams it. Karl puts his hands over his ears because it’s so loud, but there’s nothing to echo off, so it just gets swallowed up and fades out into the sky.

Agatha stamps her way over to Karl. She stands in front of him, close. He can feel her breath on his neck. They stand there, looking at each other, square in the face. Karl has no idea what she is going to do, he shakes with the thought; she is always mad, but he’s never seen her like this, he does not know what she is capable of. She throws the branch over his head, and she grabs the back of his neck with both hands, and he almost screams, but she covers his lips with her lips, and she kisses him.

It’s not a long kiss. It’s short and harsh and dry, but it’s still a kiss. Agatha jerks her head back and crosses her arms, glaring at him. Karl stares at her, mouth wide open.

So!
Agatha yells. She turns on her heel and stomps back to the car.

Agatha drives them down a long dirt road. Karl watches the dirt spread out behind them as if the car is pushing out rocket clouds, propelling itself along the ground. He twists in his seat and looks back at Millie. She’s sound asleep, lying on her side, with Manny’s newly melted arm around her waist.

The world is too difficult for Millie, and he doesn’t know how to tell her this. He wants to strap her to his back and show her beautiful things. He wants to stroll next to her while she walks on the tops of brick walls, and he wants to point out how there is music to everything if you just close your eyes and watch the notes in your brain. He wants her to know how satisfying it is to put a book that you’ve just read back on the shelf, and words, he wants to show her beautiful words, how much beauty there can be on a page. And he wants to show her everything good, and he never, ever wants her to see anything bad.

He turns back to face the front.
Where did you get the car?
he asks.

Agatha doesn’t answer.

He pushes the door lock up, down, up, down. He thinks about The Kiss. It is the sexiest thing that has ever happened to him. Beer and dirt and fighting and a woman grabbing his neck and kissing him on the lips, in front of everybody. And the way she holds the steering wheel, like she is HOLDING IT, like someone who knows how to HOLD THINGS, and the way
she watches the road with those steely eyes, as though she is ready for anything, a kangaroo or a snake or Armageddon. And the way she doesn’t squeal when she hits rabbits, and the way she does up her buttons right to her neck, like no one, not ever, is getting in there.

Agatha looks over at him and he winks at her.

What’s wrong with your eye?

Nothing
, Karl says. He stares out the window, feeling the gentle rumble of the car against his legs.
There’s really nothing out here, is there?
He presses his face against the window.

Agatha doesn’t answer straightaway. Keeps her eyes on the road and her hands tight on the steering wheel. But then:
Everything’s out here
, she replies.

millie bird

W
hen Millie wakes, the car has stopped and it’s dark and the doors are opening and closing.

She’ll be

SLAM

We’ll just

Not more than

SLAM

Okay?

Karl opens the back door and puts a towel over Millie’s legs.

Are we in Melbourne?
Millie says.

No, Millie
, Karl says.

Karl hugs her and it feels like her dad is hugging her and she whispers,
Did I dream him?
, and Karl says,
Who?
, and Millie says,
Did I make him up?
, because she’s sure she did, but Karl
says,
No, Millie
, and then,
We’ll be right back, Just Millie
, and he closes the door and it’s so dark and she says,
Am I dead?
But there’s no answer because they’re gone already and everyone’s always leaving and her question just hangs in the dark in front of her, like a skeleton in a horror house, and she sits up and watches them walk away, and then she hugs Manny into her and squeezes her eyes shut.

agatha & karl

M
orning(ish) Agatha Standard Time: The sun is coming up. That moment when it’s not night and it’s not day. Agatha’s not missing it this morning. They hear the ocean smashing into the cliffs. They stand in the shrubs, a few hundred meters away from the car, facing each other.

Karl puts a hand on Agatha’s cheek. The feeling is not unpleasant.
Your cheek is so soft!
he yells suddenly.

Agatha smiles.
Your hand feels nice!
she yells back.

I’m going to put my other hand on your other cheek!
Karl yells.

I’d like that!

Karl moves in closer, and holds Agatha’s face in his hands. He can’t really see her, because it’s still dark and his eyes are terrible, but he can feel the heat of her and he loves her skin on his hands.
You smell good!
he yells.

She yells back,
I think you should take off your shirt!

He steps back and undoes the buttons on his shirt.
You should take off your jacket!
he yells, throwing his shirt to the side.

Agatha undoes the buttons on her jacket and drops it on top of his shirt.
Skinny arms!
she yells at him.

Yes!
he says, looking down at them. He looks back up at her.
Smooth neck!

Undershirt!
she yells.

He pulls his undershirt up over his head and throws it to the side with the other clothes. His hair is spiky on top of his head.
Blouse!

I can see your ribs!
she yells as she unbuttons her blouse.
Shoes!

I can see your bra strap!
he yells while stooping down and untying his shoelaces.
Shoes!

Relatively inoffensive chest! Socks!

I want to rub your feet! Stockings!

I’d like to put my head on your chest! Trousers!

Strong calves! Skirt!

And then they’re both standing in their underwear. They look shocked to see each other. The light warms up around them. They’re both becoming more than blurry silhouettes to each other.

Karl stands in front of Agatha, wearing nothing but his boxer shorts. He is so skinny, hair growing across his chest in fits and bursts. Skin droops from his arms, around his nipples,
and around his elbows in sad U-shapes, like someone is pinching them downward. She moves toward him, until she’s so close she can see the hairs on his chest shifting and moving with every breath she exhales.

Agatha lets Karl look at her. She is all clumps and bulges and rolls, and there’s just so much flesh there that he wants to push his face into all of it. She wears a bra that means business, one that you could probably attach to trucks to tow them out of trouble if you were in a bind. Her stomach bulges out over her slip, and there’s fat sneaking out the sides of her bra.

With a bit of difficulty, she sits on the ground, her legs out in front of her. Karl, with a similar amount of difficulty, does the same. They lean in toward each other, their faces hovering, so close. They both notice more wrinkles on the other’s face. Agatha notices more ear hair than she first thought. Karl notices a hair growing out of Agatha’s chin. They close their eyes, and kiss.

And then they do IT, because even old people call it IT.

It’s not classy, or something you’d want to see close-ups of. Nothing works the way it should, and they get red dirt up their noses and have to take a break to clear them, and Agatha keeps her bra on because it has been a big day of new things and you’ve got to stop somewhere, and they have to work out which parts of their bodies still work, and those that don’t; they have to spend a long time working each other out.
Is this okay?
Karl says, and
Is this okay?
Agatha says, and it is too slow, and too
fast, and they never get it quite right, it is not good, but it is warm and thrilling, in its way, and Karl makes as many Very Old Man noises as he pleases, and Agatha is quiet for the first time in a very long time, and Karl says,
Aren’t we lucky to have hands?
, because he just loves the feeling of grabbing her stomach, and Agatha nods, because she loves the feeling of being grabbed, and Karl sits up suddenly, the typewriter letters from Evie falling into place in his mind, and says,
GO FOR IT,
and Agatha says,
I AM
, and Karl says,
No, I mean that’s what—
and he almost says Evie’s name, and wouldn’t that be a big mistake, so he lies down and says,
Forget it
, and Agatha seems to. As the sun rises and warms and yellows, they know they should be playing mah-jongg and sitting in chairs and making tea and writing letters to grandchildren, they should not be having sex in the desert, but they are, and it makes them feel like movie stars, because surely only movie stars do things like have sex on a cliff as the sun rises, and Karl thinks,
I could play me in a movie, I am better than Paul Newman, he is dead and I’m alive, I’M ALIVE
, and their skin, it feels amazing against the fresh air, there is beauty in the entitlement they feel, they have lived long and deserve this moment, and everything flaps and flies and wobbles and jiggles and sags, and it’s like flying, sort of, and Agatha can’t stop holding her arms up to feel the air on them, it is such a true feeling, and Karl can’t stop looking at her, and they look each other in the eye for a long time, and Agatha has never felt this good in her body before, she has
never felt like it was right to be in it, and she does not speak, she cannot speak.

And later, after they’ve done IT, they sit against each other, feeling the cold dirt on their skin, holding each other up, watching the sun prepare to start a new day. Agatha says,
I loved him, you know
.
Ron.

I know
, Karl replies, as he writes,
Karl And Agatha Wuz ’Ere
in the dirt around them.

BOOK: Lost & Found
2.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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