Chapter 21, "Crazy Freaking Emotions and Feelings"
I've heard some plans in my day, quite a few, actually, and I have to tell you, most of them are lame. Lame like a person who can't walk anywhere because their legs are so crappy they have to crawl along the floor using their arms. Lame like some dude who thinks that Kenny G is still the best dude who every produced music. Lame like something dumb.
But this plan? The plan that everyone had planned entirely without my input? The plan that would hopefully save my life and get Lou's animals back and stuff? It wasn't bad. Even despite them not asking me for my opinion. I probably would have added more sprinkles. But I guess you can't have everything.
"Frig," Christopher said to me in confidence once the plan had been planned and everyone had calmed down a little, "I don't think it's a good idea for everyone to calm down."
I balked and chagrined a little, setting my cup of juice down on the table in her living room, for we were in her living room. "Really? Why?"
She blew a strand of crazy red hair out of her face. "Because. If my calculations are correct, the Tallybonkers are going to strike within the next twenty-four hours."
My heart did a swoopy thing. I punched myself in the chest to make it stop, but it only worked a little. "Are you sure?"
"I'm mostly sure," she nodded. "Klaxie and I have been going over and over and over it, and Candy's been yammering about dad's cooking being stinky. I'm not sure if that's her predicting badness or the fact that he burned the quiche. Or maybe a little bit of both. Either way, I think you should sleep with me tonight instead of Xlormp."
"That seems a rather illogical conclusion," I stated, and Christopher rolled her eyes.
"No, see, if things go bad, I'll be right there to protect you!"
"But if I'm there and Xlormp's there, then he'll be right there to protect me."
She scoffed, "Oh, please. When has he ever saved your life?"
"He did that one time! With the airplane at school that one day!"
"Oh, yeah," Christopher muttered profusely, clearly upset that she'd been wrong.
I watched the door open and Lou came into the room. He waved awkwardly while simultaneously trying to shut the door behind him, but he misjudged the distance and stumbled a little.
"Hey, Christopher, you mind if I have a few minutes alone with Frig?"
I felt feelings erupting all over my body. I wanted to yell at them to cut that out, but I considered perhaps that might make me look crazy, which would have been okay if I wasn't trying to not look crazy in front of Lou.
"I guess so," Christopher sputtered, a hint of dismay in her dulcet voice. She expertly maneuvered her way out the door, leaving me alone with Lou, as he'd previously requested.
Lou grinned sheepishly at me as he made his way to sit in the chair across from me. His butt sank into the fluffy yellow material, and he let out a nervous chuckle. "Haberdash always had kind of crazy taste in furniture," he mentioned offhandedly.
I nodded. I had no idea what to say. I had been all bitter and pissed that I couldn't talk to Lou earlier, and now here he was, all to myself, for me to ask whatever I wanted, and all I could do was stare very intently at my hands. They were hand-shaped, like normal, and yet I couldn't look away from them.
"Uh, Frig, this must all be very weird for you," Lou said.
More nodding from me.
"I want to say something very deep and profound and meaningful right now, but I can't think of anything. I've never been good with words, just research."
I looked up at him. He scratched his nose.
"Um. I did want to say that having you stay with me these past few years has meant a lot to me. I, uh, I never had a daughter, but I always wanted one. And I'd been pretty lonely, because a lot of people I used to associate with sort of...drifted away. I guess that was around the time the Tallybonkers hit." His eyes did the flashy thing again.
I managed to find my voice. "Could you tell? I mean, that your brain had been eaten?"
He shook his head. "No. Well, I mean, sort of. It feels like..." he held up his hands, as if they might be able to explain better than his words. "It feels like you're saying the same things, and doing the same things, but people aren't reacting the same way. No one's listening anymore. And I couldn't figure out how to get them to listen."
"Did you know you were a hobo?"
He laughed, his shoulders moving with the sound. "I still am a hobo, Frig."
I felt confusion. I noted this in my mental Feelings log. "Were you a hobo before you lost your mind?"
"Nah, I picked it up because I figured it was better than people sending me to the loony bin. The hobos were the only ones that bothered having conversations with me after it happened."
"Were you sad?"
He shrugged. "Sometimes."
I was out of things to ask. Well, that's not entirely true. I wanted to ask if he knew that the Sploobers wouldn't last forever. That he would sink back into that confusion, that place where no one listened. But I think I didn't really want to know the answer. If he didn't know, I didn't want him to know. And anyway, he'd have one person, at the very least, who would listen.
He'd have me.
I climbed off of the couch and made my way to him. I leaned over, wrapping my arms around him in a tight hug. Something tugged at my stomach again. More tears? But these felt different than before. Dang it, these stupid feelings were complicated.
Lou hugged me back, and I felt the warmth of his own tears landing on my shoulder. "I'm not dooming you to that," he said. "Your brain is staying in its own head, where it belongs."
"I know," I replied. "Your plan is pretty great."
He pulled me away, holding onto my shoulders, arms extended, so that he could better examine my face. "You're one-hundred percent clear on what you'll have to do?" he asked.
I looked up into his eyes, trying not to think about the time when I would look into them and not see this clarity, this understanding. I nodded. "One-hundred percent."
Chapters of Old!
I'm late, I'm late, for a very important chapter! I'm really sorry, you guys. I'm making a personal goal to get chapters up much earlier (and at a more consistent time) for the duration of the book. I feel pretty crappy about making you wait so long. Thank you so much, everyone, for being patient with me and sticking with the story, even with the erratic chapter postings.