Chapter 6 – February 4H

Rune had a tennis ball he’d retrieved from the far end of the cafeteria, while The Bird held a sock given to her by Coach Dan. Rune held the ball with his fingertips up to The Bird.

The Bird asked Rune if he wanted to go first. “Sure.” Rune shrugged. “I don’t care.” The Bird replied that she could go first, if that’s — “I said I don’t care, just take the ball already.” The Bird asked him why he sounded so upset. “I’m not upset.” Rune’s eyes flared. “I just wanna get this dumb drill over with.” Sensing Rune was about to throw the ball at her, The Bird took it from his fingers.

Following the instructions of her coach, The Bird began the drill, holding the ball in her right hand while spinning the sock in front with her left. She took a step back, but stopped when she saw Rune’s hands on his hip.

“You’re doing it backwards.” The Bird replied that she was left-handed, it was easier for her to work the sock with her left. It’s like fencing a lefty, she said.

Rune shook his head, his greasy red hair quivering from the motion. “Whatever. It’s a stupid drill, anyway.”

Unable to heed the cautionary voice that told her that further questioning would do more harm than good, The Bird asked why he thought that way. Rune waved a dismissive hand in the direction of Coach Dan, after first glancing over and seeing he wasn’t looking in their direction. “He spent all that time making fun of me for what I said about looking at the arm, look at the shoulder instead, and then he has us do a drill where we never look at the shoulder!”

The Bird suggested that he was missing the point, that the drill was about using your peripheral vision.

“Like I said, whatever.” Rune squatted down into on-guard position with an air of resignation, as if he were being pushed down by an invisible giant hand.

Chapter 5 – January 10D

The Bird opened her eyes. Hamlet was approaching her mother, which she suddenly realized was more accurate than saying that Hamlet was approaching Gertrude because her mother was no longer in her Gertrude costume. She was dressed as Save-Anna, wearing the Bride of Frankenstein wig and horn-rimmed glasses from her television commercials, looking ready to inform Hamlet that he could save 10% on all purchases over $100 each Wednesday this month at his local Shop-N-Save.

“Now mother, what’s the matter?” Hamlet did not appear to notice that he was now speaking with Save-Anna.

“Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended,” replied Save-Anna/Gertrude/The Bird’s mother.

The Bird sensed something else was wrong. Their voices, sounded different. Cleaner? Then she realized — she wasn’t hearing them over the auditorium’s loudspeakers.

“What’s the matter now?” The Bird could see the perspiration on Hamlet’s face, that shouldn’t be possible, she was sitting in the back row of the auditorium, with Mr. Jacobs and her friends on the Bark Bay High School fencing team — they had sat there during this dress rehearsal so they could discuss the play without interfering with the performance.

“Have you forgot me?” And as her mother followed Hamlet’s pacing about the stage, her eyes caught her daughter’s, and widened in surprised recognition. She can see me? From so far away

The Bird looked down. She wasn’t sitting in her auditorium seat, she wasn’t sitting next to Annie. She was in an armchair, on the stage.

“You are the Queen, your husband’s brother’s wife, and, were it not so, you are my mother.” Hamlet rushed past The Bird without even a glance in her direction. She looked back at her mother, who blinked, regaining her composure. “Nay, then I’ll set those to you that can speak.”

Her mother’s head was tilted to her right, projecting her voice toward the audience. The Bird looked in that direction, hoping to locate her friends —

But there was no fourth wall. Or actually, there was — an interior wall. In Queen Gertrude’s chamber. Of Elsinore Castle.