Adam Panflick stared into the darkness. He could hear the drone of Maldbar's voice in the background. But it was fading fast, as his own thoughts began to take hold.
's last class on
Friday in the last week of March, 1947. Parousia
Adam needed to get out. He itched. He was dead bored. Throughout his capacious 10-year-old mind, there echoed a steady chant:
Out of this building! Out now! Out now! I can't take this! Out now! Out now!
The location of Adam's desk encouraged his habitual distraction. It stood by a window. Through the window lay freedom.
The desk itself was made of sturdy wood with a top that raised. Underneath lay a welter of notebooks, pencils and pens, a jar of ink, Tootsie Roll wrappers, gnawed pencils and pieces of erasers that had fallen victim to Adam's tendency to chew and pick at everything. In the rubble lay a handsome leather bound volume.
Looking out, Adam could barely see the athletic field a floor below.
A scene from a week ago rankled. "How could I be called out standing on third base just because the kid who was coaching gave me a pat on the back? What kind of rule is that? Maldbar an umpire? What spite!"
The umpire in question was the very same Zoran P. Maldbar who now stood a just few feet from Adam. He was Parousia's sixth grade homeroom teacher, also known as The Tweaker due to his habit of seizing the hair of inattentive students and yanking hard while saying such things as "This'll teach you" in a hostile monotone.
Adam was among the most tweaked of all.
Two notorious bullies in the sixth grade were never tweaked. And all but a few of the twenty-five remaining class members avoided tweaks by appearing to heed every word Maldbar spoke.
Adam was a half-hearted heeder and now he was entirely lost in window-gazing and attendant thoughts.
He thought of the strange man he met the previous Saturday in
Times Square. Being legally underage, Adam depended
on willing adults to help him get into the movies. The man had been willing.
"Should I have given him our phone number?" Panflick wondered. "What if he calls? What if someone besides me answers the phone?"
Adam had ventured out alone in
since he was five. He walked a lot. He knew the buses and subways. He had
little trouble achieving independence because his parents had full lives of
their own. Their ideas about bringing up children were affirmed by Dr.
Benjamin Spock. Give them independence. Treat them as adults. No
heavy discipline. Adam called his mother and father by their first names,
Mildred and Melchezedek. Words like mom and dad were never spoken.