The first thing I did was drag Shawn to his room. It was a lot cleaner than mine, but I spent more time at my desk than anywhere else, so that was all right. He had a bookcase, and I felt guilty for all the times I'd accused him of not being able to read. He was heavy, and he'd lost his socks as I'd dragged him in, so getting him into his bed was going to pose something of a Gordian knot. And there I was without a sword or any other obvious cheat.
For a second I considered sitting on the desk chair or leaning against the wall to catch my breath, but then Shawn let out a sleepy sigh and the warm booze-stinked breath gave me every reason to drop him instead. But I just held my own not-boozey breath and trudged toward the bed. If I tripped and fell on it, I'd kill myself. I could just bite my own tongue and have it over with
except I didn't have any kids yet. Damn. And there was no quick way to secure that quickly either. Damn damn.
Due to the grace of something, I didn't trip, so the issue didn't arise. I dumped Shawn on his bed and slumped at the foot of it, glaring at nothing. I was angry again, at everything. The worst of it was that I couldn't have a great big war of a row with Shawn now or ever. For one, he was sleeping, but for the rest, he thought I was 'okay'. He also apparently thought I was attractive, which was just stupid.
Maybe it was the green hair. But no, that was idiotic. I got up and lurched around for a mirror, even though what I really wanted was a stiff drink. Shawn didn't keep a mirror in his room. Neither did I, so that was a point for him, perhaps.
I stopped in front of the bookcase and blinked. A point? To what end? In what game? And for that matter, how many points, if any, did he have already? God, I shouldn't have said that. Give him a shot, of all the idiotic, brainless
Why did he have a shabby copy of The Haunted Man? It looked like he'd read it a lot. I took it out and thumbed through the first few pages, annoyed that I could read them.
It was too thick, though. I closed it, then tried to open it much nearer the end. I couldn't. Then I had to grin. A book that was only half false. Clever.
I put it back without opening it again. Whatever was being hidden in that thing was not for me, and I had already gotten one secret I really didn't want.
"What else are you hiding, though?" I asked the bookcase. There were all sorts of things on it, and not just books. There was an almost orderly line of green plastic soldiers along the top, only some of which seemed deliberately placed. Among the books on a lower shelf was something by Anne Rice that was so never-opened that it was still wrapped in plastic, a dissertation about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a mess of comic books, and
He had a few of my books. Not the entire set, just three of them. Officially, only the Estonian translations had proper titles for each of the books in my mom's 'series', but the originals and the Russian translations went by an esoteric coloring system. Shawn had the red, blue, and orange books, and the blank spines suggested that they were not the Estonian editions.
My fingers itched to take them and try to figure this out, but then the phone rang. I swore, then retreated to my room. There was no way I would answer the phone now, but if it woke Shawn, I was not going to be found standing in front of his bookcase.
I sat on the floor by my bed and tapped my fingers on the carpet. The red book. That was when I was seven, the year Uncle Zoltán had lived with us. Not the best year in my life, but it was a funny book. Of course, it was from my mother's point of view, which made it okay. The light blue book was the year after that, with the disastrous birthday party and the stupid neighborhood wedding. Why everyone thought it was so endearing, I couldn't tell. I'd been tied to a chair with a jump-rope. And I'd shaved my head afterwards.
there was no orange book. Green for my first year, then yellow, purple, white, dark blue, grey, brown, red, and light blue. The gold and silver books were never printed in any language but Magyar, the years I was nine and ten, the last two years before my mother died. And then dad wouldn't let them be translated.
I dragged my pillow off my bed to yell into it. It didn't help much. Why did Shawn have my books anyway? I'd left all of my copies at home, and there were no commercial English translations. My first editions were in my room, on a shelf, I could see them perfectly in my mind's eye. Autographed by my mother, me, and the cat.
I got up and lurched back into Shawn's room with all the stealthy grace of a dead skunk. He was still asleep, hugging his pillow, so close to falling off the mattress that I had to push him back towards the middle. Unfortunately, that made me feel bad about sneaking in to begin with, and that was not helpful. I swallowed a surprisingly bad taste and headed for the bookcase.
Given the way reality was treating, me, I took out the orange book first. The cover made my heart sink. It was the sort of photograph-inspired painting Uncle Zoltán had done for the other books, the real ones. I turned to the front page.
After a moment, I realized my eyes were shut. Feeling stupid, but justified, I peeked.
Brave Bandi's Adventures: A Guide.
"What?" I pressed my lips together before I could ask myself a long question. This wasn't quite as wrong as I'd suspected, but it was still not right. I closed the book to look at the cover again.
Under more careful scrutiny, I realized that it wasn't familiar. Not really. This was because it wasn't from an actual photographnot a single one, anyway. It was a collage of at least seven. One was disturbingly recent, only a year or two old. This one was relegated to an almost unnoticeable corner, which made me wonder.
It didn't make me wonder anything specific, which was too bad.
But it wasn't actually Uncle Zoltán's work, I should have seen that straightaway. I sighed to get myself breathing in the right patterns, then opened the book again. It wasn't very long, just a brief biography of my mother, then me up to the time I left for Ibaia
and then a sort of comparison, Bandi vs. András, so to say. I didn't come out looking too appealing, although that was probably not the intent of the writer.
That was the strangest part of the whole thing, though. My dad was no writerhe was too much of a details person, couldn't get the balance right. Whenever he tried, he always ended up sounding like Robert Frost or a newspaper reporter. He hadn't even translated it into the second half of the book, which was just the same thing in Magyar.
The author's name was Bill Usher
Random, and thoroughly out of nowhere. I didn't like it.
I put the book back on its shelf and hesitated before taking the light blue book. "Translated into English by Bill Usher." Who was this guy?
It wasn't a bad translation, although as a writer, he obviously wasn't a patch on my mom. Lots of things got lost, and I was tempted to write the publisher to complain. I should have been the one to translate these, if anyone was allowed to, which they weren't.
The phone rang again, but this time I got up to answer it. "Hello?"
"Are you alright? You sound healthy, are you?"
A smile was yanked out of me with the force of a supernova. "Dad? Is that you?"
"Of course it is, I've been trying to call you every spare minute!"
Twice today, within a short amount of time, and who knew how much yesterday. He probably wasn't exaggerating. "Thanks, but
I'm okay, really."
"People who are 'okay' do not end up in hospital."
He really did have an accent. But I didn't, I knew I
"Usually people who leave hospitals are okay, though." Crap. I did have an accent. It was faint, but it was there, seasoning my speech like ammonia in a cocktail.
"Your doctor called me," Dad was saying, "and I got the feeling she couldn't find her nose with both hands. What's really wrong?"
I miss you, I thought. That was what was wrong. I wanted to go home, and I never wanted to go home. I could have written a very badly-rhymed song about how much I did not want to go home. And I still had the awful feeling of homesickness to contend with.
The all-too-familiar feeling of aimless anger had settled back in my spleen, though, so all I said was, "Dad, did my books get translated?"
A wicked feeling of satisfaction nearly curled my face into an imitation of orange slices. "I found a few English translations today."
Dad swore and I felt better than I'd felt in years. He was too pissed even to be a normal sort of angry. Someone was going to burn in hell very shortly. "Which books." The inflection was all wrong for a question.
"The red and light blue onesand one mom didn't write."
"Bandy, your mother already wrote English translations, they're in the vault."
" That was why they'd never been translated. Dad hadn't even read them. Those were for me, to make sure I never forgot that I came from two different cultures. Two different worlds. "Whoever translated these didn't know much about mom, but he wrote some kind of guide book."
Dad was silent for a moment, then urged me to continue.
"He wrote about mom, but he got things wrong, and he didn't know much." He'd actually seemed to know more about me, but I didn't want to say so.
"Who wrote it?" This was not said in English.
So I didn't answer in English. "The books all said 'by Bill Usher' or 'translated by Bill Usher'
except it doesn't sound like a real name to me."
"Certainly not an expected sort."
The room spun a little, which reminded me that I was actually supposed to be ill. And my doctor really could find her nose with both hands, even with a mirror, so I looked around for the medicine she'd given me.
"I'll take care of this, Bandy. Don't worry, alright?"
This was the best day ever. Never mind how it had started, it got a medal for this. "I won't." I wanted to thank him or something, but he wouldn't know what to do with it. It was like when hugging had first gotten awkward. It sounded right in my head, until it came time to come out and do it. Or say it, as the situation dictated.
In the end, we both just said goodbye and hung up, with extra caution to take care and rest for me from Dad. After I set the phone back on the cradle, I leaned against the wall and stared at the one opposite me.
Medicine. Right. Best to take it before I fell asleep again and had to take the day's medal back.