“Hey Bowie, check this out!”
I was staring at the ceiling for pretty much no reason, but I looked at him when he called my attention.
“I drew us!”
He really is good at drawing.
“Which one is me?”
“Don’t play dumb, obviously the one without a monocle. Not to mention a buzzcut.”
He doesn’t respond warmly to my jokes, but I keep telling them anyway. It’s just fun.
“It looks like they both have buzzcuts to me. But I think I see the monocle now. I thought it was just a really big eye at first.”
He has to be the only kid in the world who wears one of those things.
He started erasing parts of his drawing to make changes. He acts like he doesn’t believe my false criticism, but then immediately goes to change his perfect artwork.
“Did you see something like that on TV?”
“Yeah, on yesterday’s episode of Painting Twins, Gale made a painting of himself with his best friend.”
“What was the best friend's name again?”
“What a lame name. All of the characters in the shows on my TV have much cooler names. Like Major and Cannon.”
“Those names are okay, I guess.”
He thinks Pembroke is better?
“I wonder why our TVs are so different,” he mutters.
“They just have what we like. You like your art shows, and I like my war and military shows. I’d probably die of boredom if I had to use your TV.”
“It’s not that bad.” He makes the finishing touches to his artwork, then shows it to me again. “How is it now? Better?”
To be honest, it was better before, but if I say anything he’ll just change it again and make it even worse.
“Yeah, it’s good.”
“Perfect!” He pumps his fist and writes his name on the drawing.
“Why do you have to write your name on it like that? Everybody knows it’s yours. None of the other kids can draw as good as you.”
“I have to put my signature on my artwork. That’s what all of the artists on TV do.”
“You think your military shows are so good, but you’ve never even watched anything else before. You can’t call my art shows boring without having ever watched any, you know.”
“I could say the same to you, couldn’t I?”
“Well, I guess that’s true..." Lou pauses for a moment before he continues speaking. "You know what, why don’t I just come to your room and watch the shows on your TV? Then I could really say for sure whose are better!”
“You know we’re not allowed to go to each other’s rooms,” I remind.
I don’t know exactly why, but that is the rule. The only times I get to see him are during Recess 1, Lunch, and Recess 2. We all spend the rest of our time in our rooms either watching TV, taking tests, or just messing around.
"I know that! We'll just have to do it without getting caught," he says, practically yelling. Saying something like that as loud as he did is like asking to get caught.
I looked around at all of the grown-ups who were watching over us. It doesn't look like they heard anything. They're just walking around as stiffly as they always do.
"Okay, fine. As soon as Recess is over I'll take you to my room; but you have to be sneaky, okay?"
"Yup! Sneaky! Got it!" He hasn't lowered his voice at all.
"The first step to being sneaky is not yelling, you psycho! You're going to get us caught before we even start."
"Oh, yeah, got it. Sneaky..." He whispers that time.
As soon as the loud buzzer signals the end of Recess 1, all of the kids started leaving to go to their individual rooms.
He was following close behind me, but whispering too quietly to even hear what he was saying. I’ll have to ask him to repeat it all once we get to my room.
Some of the kids we walk by shoot us suspicious glances, but I’m sure they don’t really suspect anything. We could just be walking in the same direction while standing really close to each other. At least that's what they should be thinking.
“Let go of my hand,” I tell him.
“I’m starting to get kind of nervous. Maybe this isn’t a very good idea, after all.”
It’s way too late to turn back now. His room was in the complete opposite direction. To go back he’d have to pass through the Recess Area again.
I practically drag him the rest of the way, and swiftly close my door behind us.
“You’re such a wimp,” I tell him.
“We made it! Nobody caught us! I told you this would work if we were sneaky!” I’m just going to ignore that.
I turn on the TV and sit on my chair. Since there’s only one, he sits on the floor next to me.
“You know, since I’m a guest-”
“No, you can’t sit on my chair.”
“Oh, okay.” He adjusts his monocle and turns his attention to the television screen.
He probably doesn’t really understand what’s going on, since it’s his first time watching and this is episode 143.
“That guy with the hat is Major, and that one is Cannon. The little ugly fat one is named Pembroke.”
He still can’t take a joke.
“Yeah, yeah. Right now they’re planning a siege on one of the enemy’s most important bases.”
“Are they going to do it? Take the base, I mean.”
“I haven’t watched this episode yet either, Mr. Monocle. But with Major calling the shots, they’re pretty much guaranteed success.”
After that exchange, Lou goes completely silent. We both watch the show, saying nothing to each other. It looks like he really is getting into it. Not a surprise when all he’s watched before was that art stuff.
“You know, Gale, Pembroke - any of my characters really - they wouldn’t stand a chance in this world.”
“What exactly do you mean?”
“I mean they’d probably end up as Prisoners of War, or something. Just like that ugly fat guy did.”
He’s not wrong, but it’s not like him to just say that my shows are better than his.
“You are like Major, Bowie. But I’m more like Gale from Painting Twins, or the little ugly fat guy here.”
“Hey, what are you-”
“Now I get why you think my art shows would be boring. You probably would find them boring, if I’m being honest.”
I’ve only ever seen him with a smile on his face. This down expression just doesn’t look right on him.
“I don’t know whether I’d like your shows without having seen them before, though.”
I said that to try and cheer him up, but it’s like I was talking to a wall. A wall with a sad poster on it.
“If you’re Major, then who’s Cannon? And somebody has to be General too, right? But you'd be better off without an Emmie. She’s just annoying, and a bad person.”
What is he even talking about? How am I supposed to respond? There has to be a right thing to say, but I just can’t think of it. He’s comparing me to Major, but Major always knows the best quotable response, perfectly fit for the situation.
Before I get a chance to come up with anything that would suffice, there iss a knock at my door.
“Get under my bed,” I tell him.
He makes a dash for my bed and baseball-slides right under. Once I'm sure he can’t be spotted, I get up and open the door. There’s a grown-up, standing all tall, looking down at me.
“Is there another one in your room?”
None of the grown-ups wear nametags. Only us kids have to. I always thought it would make sense for the grown-ups to have them too, so we would know what to call them, but now isn’t the time for that.
“Huh? There’s nobody else in my room.”
“Yes there is,” the woman says. “You know, lying is against the rules… Bowie.”
I look down at my nametag, then back up at her empty smiling face. There’s plenty of space behind me, but I feel like I’ve been backed into a corner. What would Major do? What would Cannon do? If only I could ask General for advice. What am I even saying? General doesn't exist! I have to get it together!
Suddenly, he comes out from under my bed.
“It’s me! I’m here! I’m sorry for breaking the rules!”
What is he doing?!
The woman walks over me like I'm an obstacle, crouches down in front of him, and grabs him by his light brown hair. She stares at his nametag for a full second before speaking.
“Lou… you are in big trouble. It is against the rules to go into another's room. You know that, but did it anyway. Now you must come with me for behavior correction.”
She stands up and aggressively drags him out of the room, like he's some kind of animal. He was screaming, crying; but she didn’t react at all.
I’m saying that about her, but I didn’t do anything either. I just stood there, frozen. Just like Major in episode 1.
I pick up Lou’s fallen monocle from the ground and just stare at it. I shouldn’t have let him come to my room. I should’ve just told him no from the very start. I was an idiot to think just being sneaky would make breaking the rules work out. Not yelling didn’t make a difference.
I put the slightly cracked piece of eyewear in my pocket and close the door to my bedroom.
We know better now. We won’t try and break the rules ever again. Once lunch comes, I’ll be sure to remind him of that. I doubt he’ll need me to, though. That behavior fixing… whatever the lady called it will probably make it so he’s the one reminding me.
I know we were separated only a minute ago, but I just want to see Lou again.