(Interesting and unusual pseudonyms used - because it's fun.)
Halfway to the Visitor’s Center I passed a little old lady and asked her if she was the one I was supposed to talk to.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “You’re probably lookin’ for Agatha, she’s inside.”
My thoughts on other things, my unconscious who-is-this-person-and-how-should-I-act-around-them feelers were reaching out. I immediately, from her soft-spoken country accent, labeled her as a sweet (if somewhat absent-minded) old woman. She walked beside me up the stairs and we stepped inside the Visitor’s Center. Like the farmhouse and school, this building had been built in the 1800’s and it was immediately evident. The rooms are small and square, the walls of plaster, the doors surrounded by thick wooden frames. A ragged rug lies on the floor, old-fashioned chairs and an ancient piano are the only pieces of furniture.
Again, I tried to decide who I was dealing with. Obviously, I didn’t have to worry too much about being professional – she wasn’t exactly intimidating. She was just somebody from “round here”, and I could deal with that. If she’d been a Yankee….
After introducing me to the other , (Sinead, her name was) Agatha led me through the door into her “office,” a cramped room stuffed with two desks, three or four swivel chairs, miscellaneous furniture and a distinctive old books smell. That came from the enormous bookshelf against one wall, packed with historical tomes, both biographies and actual old books. Agatha motioned that I sit, and I did, sitting across from her at the desk. She opened a notebook and started jotting something down, probably a few last-minute thoughts on how she’d hide my body. Yeah, I’ve been reading too many murder mysteries.
“Just down the road,” I said, “five, six miles. Up Neo-Mayberry way.”
“We don’t git many volunteers,” she said. “When are you going back to school?”
I slipped into auto-mode, explaining that I’m home-schooled, and very carefully examining her reaction. She didn’t seem perturbed – good sign.
By the time we were finished, it was near lunchtime, and while my head was full, my stomach was feeling rather empty, so we sat down to lunch. Sinead had come back in – she’d been cleaning the porch while we talked. I was about to learn that my swift assumptions weren’t quite as accurate as I’d supposed. After talking for a while, Sinead mentioned an interest in geography.
“She’s been all over,” Agatha put in.
“Really?” I asked, harboring a rather absurd hope of
. “Where?” England
Sinead smiled shyly and then thought back. “Well, I’ve been all over the States.”
“We were in Isrul for a while. I keep seein’ things on the news all a time today about Isrul,” she said. “Then we went through
up to Syria .” Damascus
Wow. She actually knew the names of these far-away foreign places.
It suddenly occurred to me that I, the worldly young teenager, had never even left the country, much less entered military zones in the most explosive (literally) political situation on Earth.
“I saw in the news the other day, how there’d been bombing and killing, and I wondered how many of them kids were still alive, y’know.”
I sat entranced. Of course, ever since my great-uncle (whose father was born during the Civil War, by the way and is described by my mother as “country as cornbread”) Jeffro told me that he knew Japanese, Spanish and a little Korean and had worked in a nuclear facility in Japan, I should have lost my capacity for surprise.
“Yeah, they do,” she said.
I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I stared at her, but she didn’t notice, and started talking about the crazy traffic. “They drive on the wrong side of the road,” she pointed out.
I laughed. “Well, I suppose they’d say the same thing about us.”
She spoke a little of
, and then moved on into England Europe, where they drove properly, apparently. She said that though everyone spoke their own languages, they could usually find somebody to speak English to them. Except in . France
“They could, they just wouldn’t,” she said. “We were only there for one night…”