#saturdayscenes #samanthascenes I worked on Thursday's Children, my young adult dystopian novel this week. Here's a bit of what I wrote. Poor Malcolm is having a bit of a crisis.
Malcolm climbed into the car, tossing his bag into the back seat. Coach took off before he had even finished fastening his seatbelt. “You’ve got to be smarter than this,” he said, turning a hard left out of the parking lot and gunning the engine to stay ahead of the pickup truck that loomed too close in the rearview mirror. “This is no time to fall apart. There’s too much at stake.”
Trees seemed to blur into a sheet of green alongside the road. Malcolm couldn’t think of anything to say, so he stayed quiet. Coach took a sudden right turn onto a dirt road, throwing Malcolm against the door. He scrambled for the hand-hold. He had barely righted himself when Coach threw the SUV into park, got out of the car and started walking.
Malcolm hurried to follow him. It was an awkward slow speed chase for a few minutes, down a wooded path to a wide creek. Tackett didn’t look back to see if Malcolm followed, but just walked at a steady clip, faster than his usual gait. Malcolm wondered if the man’s limp was real either.
He lost track of Tackett when the path took a bend, but spotted him squatting beside the creek, looking down into the water. He crossed the remaining terrain in a few strides and sat down on the ground next to the man he’d always thought was his enemy, waiting.
“I get that this is confusing for you.”
Malcolm laughed. “You think?”
Coach shot him a withering look. “We couldn’t just tell you. You were just a kid. We couldn’t be sure you could keep the secret.”
Malcolm opened his mouth to argue, but Coach put up a hand. “Every kid thinks they’re special, but the EBC is no joke. If they took you in and you knew the whole story? They’d get it out of you.”
Hot tears gathered in Malcolm’s eyes and he looked up at the sky willing them to absorb back into their ducts and not embarrass him by falling onto his cheeks in front of Coach Tackett. “So, I was just an errand boy?”
Coach sighed loudly. “You were always more than that. You were—you are our future.”
“Sheila didn’t lie to you. She just didn’t tell you everything she knew. We had to protect you, protect the mission.”
Malcolm stood and walked downstream, watching the water bubble over the creek rocks on its way to the river and eventually to the sea. He wondered if this creek connected with the ones in the mountain pass, if Jason might, even now, be walking alongside this same water.
He’d felt so powerful and sure when he’d sent Jason out there, ready to take the bulls by the horns. Knowing one of the bulls was fighting for the same side he was left him deflated. He hadn’t been getting away with anything, stealing documents for Sheila and ferreting them out of the Center. Tackett hadn’t been trying to stop him. It undercut everything he’d done in the past few years, left him sinking in the quicksand of doubt just when he needed to climb the next peak.
Hurling a rock into the stream, Malcolm turned to walk back to where he’d left the man he’d always believed was his enemy. The riverbank was empty, but Tackett was sitting at the top of the hill, on a wide tree stump. Malcolm trudged over and sat beside him.
“Feel better?” Tackett asked.
Malcolm shrugged. “I guess.”
“Don’t call me son. I’ve always hated it.” If it was time to be honest, then he might as well stop all the games.
Tackett looked surprised and thoughtful. “All right. This doesn’t change anything. Not in the scheme of things.”
“What? This changes everything.”
Tackett shook his head. “No. Your job is still the same. Pass information. Stay one step ahead. Don’t get caught.”
“You don’t get it, Coach. If you’ve been protecting me all this time, then nothing I’ve done counts. I didn’t actually do it.”
Tackett laughed. “You think that’s what’s going on? Jesus Christ, boy. I didn’t know you were the mole until last night. Sheila called me only because she didn’t know how else to save you from your own bullheadedness.”
Malcolm’s skepticism must have shown because Tackett tried again.
“Seriously. It was brilliant thinking on her part, using you to steal documents. I already trusted you enough to let you work in my office. If you ever got caught, I’d have had plenty of room to be shocked and dismayed at the betrayal by a boy I’d known nearly all his life. Beautiful. Nobody can weave a web like Sheila.”
Malcolm considered it. He wanted to believe Tackett, but the very fact that he wanted to believe it triggered doubt. So many confusing emotions were bubbling in his guts that he began to feel like he might throw up. “Gah!” He threw up his hands and shouted at the sky. A flock of dark birds ejected from the tree leaning over the river, their cries angry and threatening.
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