born careful

“They caught up with you,” Drin says woodenly.

The little girl tosses tangled hair out of her eyes, a gesture Drin does not recognize, a gesture that feels like it must be habit for her, the girl herself. Dance’s word rings in his ears: mudang.

Emma, he thinks, might know what Dance is talking about.

Emma; and Wojohowitz—General Wojohowitz—called her Watson.

“Damn right, they caught up with me, son,” says the General. “Not too many moons after Watson here did the thing she does so well, and you and your little posse disappeared. Hope you’ve been keeping your big mitts off the ‘Phone, like we talked about before I died.”

Drin takes a startled step backward.

“The ‘Phone’s bad?”

“Of course the ‘Phone’s bad, son. How do you think they put me down?”

“He’s been very careful,” Dance says suddenly, mildly, in a tone Drin is not quite sure he’s ever heard before.

Well, Dance is reasoning with a ghost, he thinks.

“Lieutenant Navarre was born careful, soldier,” says the General. “But something out there trumped his ‘careful,’ so my recommendation,” and this voice is coming out of the little girl, this sound like steel wool riding over scratched and abraded metal, “my recommendation, Corpsman, is that you sit this goddamned conversation out.” The General laughs again; the sound is immediately interrupted by a sharp, barking cough. “Listen up, son. The dead do not customarily take time out to advise the living. Follow me?”

staring girl, photo by Sibylle Bergemann
photo by Sibylle Bergemann

Dance, subdued and none too steady on his feet, just nods.

The little girl’s mouth opens on harsh consonants, almost coughing them out, a lighter higher voice overlaid atop that of the General.

Dance wobbles, clutches with a yelp at his middle, and falls to his knees.

Emma’s mouth opens.

“Who,” she says, voice rising, “the hell are you?”

“Why, Watson,” says the little girl, “you’ve hurt my feelings.”

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  1. nagasvoice

    Oh maaan this is cool.
    There’s *all* kinds of wiring in this here fuse box. I’m getting dizzy with all the different jazzy wire coating colors, wacky stripes and spirals and checkerboards and things going on.

    Lieutenent Navarre, now that’s a very cool reference.
    Corpsman, huh? Basic level medical army position. Grunt.
    And of course I’m waiting eagerly to hear what the General has to say to Emma/Watson. I love the tie-in to the HP smartass witch who’s always putting her hand up in class.
    For that mater, now I want to know what he said to Jian!!
    And what relation is Callie to Emberley, and …and…
    pant pant pant…

  2. greenjudy

    Children these days simply do not enunciate.

    Wish I knew what a Fire Rat was. Don’t think it’s a mod; think it’s a metaphor. Or a nickname for some particularly tough brigadiers from the revolutionary war in China.

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