Work

Tuesday 15 October, 2013:

Tired, after two days of school. For a Tuesday, it’s not so bad though. At breaks, I just kick it with Slade. Couple of times I look at his glossy, ringlety rat’s tail and think: Gonna miss you. Oh my gosh, gonna miss you alright. My best friend, at MC.

Ezekiel comes in as well; same as yesterday. He’s a good kid. I don’t know what he wants, really. To know he’s not alone, I guess. Same as the rest of us.

 

Wednesday 16 October:

I don’t even open the edits doc last night. Hop into bed at 9:30 instead, and fall to sleep just like that: bang.

That’s ok, until 3 am, when I wake up with some kind of pain in my heart that I just can’t shake. Oh, I try to go back to sleep. But nothing I try works. In the end, I give up and weep. Cry my stupid eyes out, until my nose runs and my pillow is all wet with tears. And I cry for Tau. “I can’t believe you forgot about me,” I sob. “Me.” Futile as it is, I know. But there’s an amount of disbelief, and something like indignity in my heart, that makes me keep right on sorrowing and sobbing. To think that maybe I’m just another person after all. Ha, it’s so ridiculous, but it’s the truth.

There’s no way I can sleep; by 4 I know it. I get up, make a cup of tea and bring it back to bed, where I remain. It’s a bit cold, but I don’t turn on the heater – the wall plug needs fixing. It’s been making a buzzy noise, and giving out sparks. Yesterday I mailed the property manager.

And ohhhh fuck it, it’s Wednesday, suckiest day of the school week. Honestly, you’d think I could get a little bit of sleep before the frickin staff PD

 

I get up at 7, take a shower and leave for work. Stop on the way to get gas and a coffee, but I can feel that sparky tired feeling jamming my brain, and I have to consciously pull up my thoughts and turn them into routine words and actions. Even the standard electronic transaction seems difficult, and as for putting air in the tyres – I almost give up on that task’s complexities.

But I make it to school. Drink my coffee, head to the staff PD, and kind of let my brain jam a bit more, listening to Karys go on and on about ‘Where are we now?’ and ‘Where to from here?’

I last the day, somehow. And later, the total relief of coming home. It’s warm, and I’m tired, and I can just crash on the couch for a couple hours, TV on, cuppa tea…

 

Thursday 17 October:

Ezekiel… there’s stuff going on with that one, I reckon. Don’t know what, yet. Today, when he jumps out of the car, there’s a phone on the seat. So I toot the horn; he comes running back, and I pass it over. “Thanks Miss – it must have fallen out of my pocket,” he tells me. “Lifesaver!” he adds, with what appears to be the most genuine relief.

Later on, La-Verne asks if I’ve found a phone in the car – she thinks she might have left hers there when we went for coffee.

Ohyup, and Ezekiel just acted as natural as the day over the whole thing. No hesitation in his eyes, just pocketed it. And I totally believed him!

It’s just a old phone – La-Verne isn’t too worried about it at all. But all the same, if I’m honest – it shocks me a little. Not the acquisition of the phone itself (it was hardly even theft: technically I offered it to him). And I’m not that hung up on property, anyway. But straight out looking me in the eye and lying about it. Tau and Slade, the meanest thieves (of their own admission, too) would have told me the truth on that one. They’d never take anything from me without checking first. They’d have tried for the phone for sure – but it would have been this way: ‘It ain’t mine, Miss – but you should let us have it.’

 

Friday 18 October:

Feeling dismally unmotivated, even about my own stuff. Of course about school, too – but that just goes without saying.

There are a couple of developments. First up I tell Slade about Ezekiel and the phone, this morning before school. He is immediately outraged on my behalf.

“Knew he was a sketchy cunt,” he mutters. “Fuckin sketchy lil kieeent…” And then, “Can I jab him for you Miss?” he suggests, helpfully.

I shake my head at once. “It’s alright. Don’t start any trouble. Miss Poirier said it was just her old phone.”

“But that shit ain’t on,” he insists. “You just don’t do shit like that to people who look out for you. I’d never do that to you, Miss.”

“I know you wouldn’t,” I say. “That’s what I thought, soon as I found out: Slade would never have done that.”

“I wouldn’t,” he says. “I would have told you straight away – it’s not mine, Miss. And then I would have asked – can I have it?”

We both crack up laughing, at that. “Yeah, you would,” I agree. “All the boys I know would have been straight up about it.”

“Mmm…” ruminates Slade, and then, “Aww Miss, you should let us jab him for you though.”

“Nah, leave it,” I reiterate.

 

However, just as I’m starting off 9 Social, Slade appears at my door and beckons me over with a happy swoop of his arm. “We did it, Miss!” he confesses, grinning gnomishly. “Me and the bro Cruz. We saw him outside his first class, and we stepped him out. He sacked it.”

“Oh my gosh…” is what I say. I feel grateful and worried and alarmed all at the same time.

“Don’t worry Miss, we didn’t fuck him over or anything. We didn’t even touch him, we just stepped him out in front of his boys.” He demonstrates, drawing himself up and looming over the imaginary figure of Ezekiel. “We were like… where’s our fuckin phone? You better give that phone back – and fuckin sort it out with Miss. And don’t mess with the bro’s,” he adds, for good measure.

“Well, thanks… I guess, yeah, thanks for that, Slade,” I sigh. Because I know it was a kind act, in its way. “And what did he say?”

“First he tried to deny it. But then he admitted it. And he left it at home… but  he said he’ll bring it tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow’s Saturday,” I say.

“Aw shit, that’s right, the little fuck, I’ll go see him, tell him to go home and get it now.”

“Nah, nah, don’t do that. He’s probably scared enough as it is. I’ll try taking him home at break, kay?”

“Ohh… kay,” Slade agrees, with just a touch of disappointment. I don’t think either of us are all that sure we’ll see Ezekiel at break, after what has just transpired.

 

And then, at break, Ezekiel does turn up. He looks scared shitless, to be honest, after being stepped out by the year 13’s. He comes to the door, hesitates, and then walks in kind of bravely.

“I’m really sorry…”  he begins, and then, “I made a mistake.”

“Mmm,”  I say, non-comittally.

He goes on, “I thought it was mine, but mine was in my bag…”

“Yup,” I tell him, with slight impatience. “I’m not sure I believe that, but whatever the story, the main thing is I need the phone back.”

“It’s at home,” he replies.

“Well I can’t imagine why it’s at home, Ezekiel,” I say. “I mean, if you know it isn’t yours, why wouldn’t you just bring it to school and give it back to me?”

“I’m sorry,” he says, his eyes not quite sure where to look. “It’s… it’s my fault.  I’m really sorry.”

“Look…” I sigh. “It’s not the phone itself that’s the problem. It’s not worth any money, that’s not it. It’s just… the boys I know don’t do that stuff. You don’t steal stuff off people you know, huh? That’s why Slade came to see you – he was just trying to look out for me.”

Ezekiel’s head is down, and his eyes are looking at the floor. “I… know,” he murmurs. “I’m really sorry, Miss.”

“Yup,” is all I say. I feel sorry for him, but still pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. He’s certainly contrite – but I suspect this is more about getting snapped. I don’t know, and I can’t really be doing with investigating any further, just now.

 

So I just say, “Ookay,” and then, “Cool, just bring it back on Monday, Ezekiel. With the sim.”

“I… that’s the thing… the sim. It… got broken.”

“What?” I say. “How could it get broken?”

“My little sister…” he begins.

I just feel annoyed, now, at the thought of another excuse. “Ezekiel,” I tell him. “I don’t know what the real story is, and I guess I’ll never know. But it’s Miss Poirier’s phone – and she wants the sim back, it’s got all her contacts on it. So it’s a hassle for everyone now, do you get that?”

He nods, saying nothing. But his eyes flicker to mine, then away again quickly.

I look at the clock, break time is rapidly coming to an end and I need a coffee.

“Kay,” I say, more abruptly than I intend to.  “I need to go do some stuff now, Ezekiel. “You better go have some break time out there, c’mon.”

 

Ezekiel’s shoulders tremble, and I see his eyes have gone shiny. Even then, I can’t figure out whether this is all part of an act. So I just look at him, almost ready to shoo him out.  But he bends his head and I see tears trickle down his cheeks. He wipes them away and more drip out.

It gives me an ache in my heart, to see him cry. “Ezekiel?” I say, way more gently this time. “It’s ok, it’s not the biggest drama in the world, you know.”

“It’s my fault, though,” he sniffs. “I’m sorry – and now I’ve got you into trouble as well, Miss. I didn’t wanna do that.”

“I’m not in trouble,” I tell him. “It’s only a little hassle, that’s all. Not a big deal, no need to cry about it.

“But I did a bad thing…” And he lowers his head and the tears run down his face.

“It wasn’t that bad…” I say, trying to make him smile. Then I just go over and put my arm round his shoulder, and stand there with him. “It’s ok… really. You just live and learn, huh?”

He nods, still sniffing.

 

Ross comes in, sees Ezekiel and mouths, “Oops… sorry. Shall I go?”

“Algood, just give us a couple of minutes,” I tell him, and he nods and goes out again.

“I didn’t mean to do bad stuff again,” Ezekiel cries, quietly. “I didn’t wanna do anymore bad things, and I don’t wanna get sent away…”

“Sent away?” I ask him. “Why would you get sent away?”

“Cos if I’m not really good, for the rest of my life – my whole life – I might have to leave my family. Cos our family’s, um… it’s managed by CYFS,” he chokes out at me. “And that’s what nearly happened this other time.”

“What other time?” I say. “What do you mean, Ezekiel?”

“Well… I did something else really bad, at my old school. And Miss Kirk knows, because CYFS sorted it out that I could come here, but I had to see Mr Arlon, and…  if I’m not good for ever and ever I think I’ll have to leave and go to Hamilton,” he explains, bemusing me considerably with this blend of apparent fact (William Arlon is the Director of Guidance) and obvious inaccuracy.

“Hamilton…” I repeat.

“There’s a CYFS care place there,” he says, in misery. “For kids who can’t stay with their family. They were gonna send me there before.”

“Ohh,” I say, seeing things a little bit more clearly – and at the same time, realizing the account is not exactly accurate, partly because it’s from a child’s level of understanding of the whole process.

 

So then I say to him, “Heey, Ezekiel, I bet you whatever you did, it wasn’t that bad at all. Honest to who.”

“It was.”

“Was it… stealing?” I ask him

He nods.

“And Miss Kirk knows?”

More nods.

“Well… it doesn’t sound that bad to me,” I say, truthfully. “If it was real bad, she wouldn’t have let you come here. And you know what else?”

“What?” Ezekiel asks. I can tell he’s listening.

“Well, CYFS don’t send kids away cos they’re bad, you know. They send them away to keep them safe, sometimes. It’s never easy, I know that. But it happens.”

“My family’s got problems,” Ezekiel tells me. “With me doing bad stuff, and being out on the streets, and not doing what I’m supposed to do. And there’s… family violence as well.”

“Well, you’re not shocking me,” I say, matter of factly. “Ezekiel, you’re not, truly. It happens, I know that.”

He nods again, saying, “Miss? I don’t wanna leave my family, or leave this school and go away.”

“Course you don’t,” I say. “But that’s not going to happen just cos of one little phone, you know that?”

 

He looks so relieved at these words that something else dawns on me. “Hey, Ezekiel,” I say. “Did you think I was gonna tell people… like Miss Kirk, or Mr Arlon?”

“Yes,” he says. “Aren’t you going to, Miss?”

“No, of course I’m not…” I begin, and then break off, saying, “Oh man, Ezekiel, I should have said that right from the start. Did you really think…?”

In answer, he just nods, letting a few more unhappy tears trickle out.

“Ohh, God no – not at all!” I exclaim, putting my arm back around his shoulders at once. “I’m not like that, Ezekiel. That isn’t my style at all. I won’t tell them about the phone.”

He looks at me in surprise.

“You don’t really know me that well, huh,” I say gently. “But I promise you I’m not lying. I told Slade… cos I trust him. But I’m not gonna say a word about it to any of the teachers. Promise.”

I can see he believes me, though he is still surprised.

 

I see Ross still hovering around outside, so I say to Ezekiel, “Oh, I better go and let Mr in, he’s got to set up for tutor.”

After that, the bell goes, so I walk Ezekiel to his tutor. Then at lunch, we go for a little ride to get the (snapped) sim, but not the phone (it’s a long story, and I’m not entirely sure of its verifiability, yet – but apparently I’ll get the phone on Monday).

I don’t (and won’t) tell the school about the phone – just as I said. But I feel like I should ask Chloe (definitely not Marjorie or Karys) if she’s in the loop with any of this other stuff. So  I just go have a quiet word with her. I don’t even mention CYFS – I just ask her if she knows anything much about Ezekiel.

 

“No…” is her first response. She wrinkles her nose, thinking about it.

“Are you sure? Cos he mentioned William, and… “

“Oh!” she says, remembering something. “Yes, there was something about CYFS, and then William saw him… they don’t share anything about cases though, you know – so that’s all I know.”

“So, he was telling the truth…” I say, thoughtfully. “I like Ezekiel, but I’m sure he makes up a bit of stuff, too. It’s just that… this sounded like it had something more to it. I mean, how else would he even know who Mr Arlon was?”

“Exactly,” says Chloe. She looks at me, saying, “I’m not surprised he came to you, out of all his teachers.”

“Hah,” I agree. “Yeah, I was thinking about that, too. My radar’s being picking up ‘Ezekiel’ signals for ages.”

“You and your radar…” says Chloe, with something close to affection. Cos there’s some degree of understanding between me and Chloe. Yeah, the tutor programme sucks, but I think Chloe’s a good woman. Anyway, all the tutor directives come directly from Marjorie; can’t hold that against Chloe.

 

At the end of the school day, I tell the wistful-looking Ezekiel to take care and have a good weekend.

“I could… bring the phone round to your house,” he suggests, kind of hopefully.

“Just bring it Monday, don’t even worry about it,” I say, thinking it’s better to let things lie for the time being.” It’s all sorted, and there’s no dramas.”

He nods, and I look at his still uncertain face, and give him a little pat on the shoulder. To be honest, I’m not sure that the truth’s been told, even now. But I can’t be cruel, and I’m not going to be.

 

I write this stuff down, and then realize I haven’t worked on the edits at all. But that’s ok – because this is more important, that’s what I think. It’s the most important thing I have to write, some days. And that’s ‘work’, you know? Really and truly, I feel like work’s been done, today.

 

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