The Ten Weeks, 4 January, When You’re the President’s Kid, You’ve Got Privileges

The cafeteria of the Point Collina school was a cut above those of any other school in the Republic of Verecunda, which reflected the fact that everything else about the school was the same way. In theory it was a “private” school, but it received some money from the Republic, which made it affordable for exceptional students. The cafeteria spanned the building, on one side having large windows that gave a view of the street below and the other that opened up to the athletic fields. Separating these two views were a series of parallel long tables where the students took in whatever lunch the kitchen took a notion to fixing for them.
In the corner closest to the exit from the cafeteria line and on the side of the athletic fields, Denise Kendall “held court” during lunch with about a half dozen of her friends, male and female alike, the first day back from Yule vacation. Daughter of the President of the Republic, she presided over her court—and the student body that surrounded it in the cafeteria—with an authority that sometimes made her father envious. The only thing average about her was her height. Her wavy, medium brown hair, wrapped into a ponytail that never quite hung straight, sat atop a well-tanned, husky, athletic physique that was the base for her position as the Republic’s—and possibly the Island’s—foremost Upper Division girl tennis player, ruling that court as she ruled the one facing her at lunch.
Most of the people surrounding her were on the Upper Division tennis teams. To her left was Marguerite van Bokhoven, whom everybody at school called “Vannie.” She was almost Denise’s alter ego, with fairer complexion and slighter build than her imperious friend. Her wide green eyes reminded some people of the shallow waters of the Cresca Sound, but her face reflected an uncertainty that drew her to stick with Denise for stability.
Across from Denise was Pete Alter. Although Point Collina still had rules for maximum hair length, Pete chose to push his long wavy brown hair to the limit, as it rested on his collar. Already at noon he had a five o’clock shadow, and although his back was to most of the cafeteria he spent a lot of time turning around to check out who was there.
Diagonally across the room were two Fourth Formers who spent a lot of time together but were opposites from their appearance onwards. One was Cathy Arnold, a petite, miniskirted blonde with the rather strange combination of one grey eye and one green one. Her family went back to the beginnings of the Republic, but her informal demeanour did not betray that to the casual observer. The other was Terry Marlowe, whose straight, jet black hair went straight down to her waist. Her facial features, along with her hair, reflected her Sino-Italian background, especially the Chinese part. A scion of the Gerland family, she wore slacks and a shocking pink top, as opposed to the more muted colours of her friend. Terry’s use of bold colours was her preference but unnecessary to draw attention. At 181 centimetres, she was the tallest girl in the school, and that included the Fifth and Sixth Formers, and even sitting she looked down at her friend.
“I still can’t believe that Denise dumped Jack the way she did,” Terry said to Cathy, referring to her brother.
“She sure did,” Cathy replied mournfully. “We got back from our Christmas trip to Serelia, we went to the yacht club, found her with Petey boy over there. You could tell they were already steady. Jack went up to them but Denise blew him off. No goodbye, no ‘Dear John’ letter, nothing. I think that her and Pete went to the club knowing we ate there on Friday night, just to make the point.”
“But. . .why?” Terry pressed.
“I dunno. Maybe it’s because Pete was elected captain of the boys’ tennis team. It looks so cute when the two captains are going steady,” Cathy said sarcastically.
“Maybe it’s political,” Terry observed. “Maybe her dad’s about ready to put the hurts on your family.”
“You’re too paranoid about that,” Cathy retorted. “Face it, Jack and Denise are ‘kissing cousins,’ as they used to say. We’re related somewhere back there.”
“More than kissing,” Terry wryly observed.
“Don’t be smart,” Cathy came back. “Just because you don’t. . .”
“I’m sorry,” Terry apologised. “So what about this trip to Serelia?”
“Oh, yeah, that,” Cathy remembered. “It was weird. Really different.”
“You actually spent Christmas up there?”
“Yeah, we did.”
“My father had a client with some kind of legal problem up there. Mother was tired of the same old thing at Christmas, and Trey was going to his girlfriend’s home on Long Island, so we just decided on the spur of the moment to head to the East Island.”
“So what’s it like? Mother won’t let me go.”
“Primitive,” Cathy replied. “We stayed at this inn in Serelia, right near the Palace and the Cathedral. Bathroom was down the hall—good thing we were the only people there, but we made our own line anyway. But it’s right on the beach, I got to sunbathe. The Serelians kept staring at me, like I was a creature from another planet.”
“They probably hadn’t seen a bikini like yours.”
“Very funny,” Cathy came back. “But you’re probably right.”
“So what about this legal matter?” Terry asked curiously.
“It was a joke,” Cathy answered. “We got there on Wednesday before Christmas. They made us cool our heels until after Winter Court started on Monday. We’d still be there, but my father has connections in the church—Grandpa helped start the Church of Serelia—and as soon as they were past their Christmas liturgies, they arranged a special audience with the King. They brought us all in, we did our little bow, Dad went back into a meeting with the King, we waited about half an hour, he came out, the matter was settled, and that was it. We came home and Jack found out Denise had pulled a switch on him.”
“I’ve heard the Cathedral up there is beautiful,” Terry said.
“It is,” Cathy agreed. “In some ways, the best part of the trip. It takes your breath away the first time you walk in. But going to church there—it seemed like we made every service, there wasn’t anything else to do—is like a time machine. Old prayer book, old music, everything’s old. . .but there was one point where I really wished you were with me.”
“When was that?”
“It was after Morning Prayer on Sunday,” Cathy continued. “We were standing in the narthex while Dad was trying to figure out something with Bishop Tanger. This guy came up to me and starting talking to me about my family—my grandfather, everything he did for the Church of Serelia, all of my relatives. It was really weird. He was a walking encyclopaedia about my family. He just went on and on.”
“What did he look like?” Terry asked, intrigued.
“He was tall—God, he was an inch taller than you, and skinny, like you. His hair was a shade darker than mine. Kind of a nerd, but kind of cute, too. I think he’s a Fifth Former.”
“Two and a half centimetres taller, Cathy,” Terry reminded her friend.
“Sorry,” Cathy said, only half-apologetically.
“Just trying to keep you out of trouble.”
“How do you keep up with that?”
“Working for Daddy,” Terry answered. “A lot of the stuff he brings in is in metric—weight, size, all of that. So I had to learn. So what’s his name?”
“Let me see. . .oh, yeah, Lewis. Julian Lewis.” Cathy looked at Terry intensely. “You two would make a cute couple—if you could get him down here.”
“Probably not my type,” Terry sighed despondently at the thought of the geographical separation.
“So how was your Christmas?” Cathy asked, abruptly changing the subject.
“About the same,” Terry replied laconically.
“Still fighting with your mother?” Cathy asked.
“Yeah,” Terry answered. “Daddy did manage to take me to Midnight and Sunday Mass. And Mother and I argued over the same old thing.”
“She needs to get off your case about that,” Cathy said. “It’s your body. If I can go along with you, so can she. Look, why don’t you tell her that I do it enough for both of us?”
Terry giggled at the suggestion. “You’re the best. I wish that would work. But she’s worried about her reputation in the CPL.”
They would have continued but the dismissal of court in the corner caught their attention.
“What’s she coming over here for?” Cathy asked, realising that Denise was coming in their direction.
“I dunno,” Terry answered. “Hope it’s not to rub it in about Jack.”
“You and me both,” Cathy agreed. The closer she got, the more evident it was that Denise was focused on Terry, not Cathy.
“Frenchie’s off the team for the season,” Denise announced to Terry. “You know she got real sick. You’re going with me to the Beran Invitational this Saturday.”
“But. . .I’m only sixth on the ladder,” Terry protested.
“Fifth,” Denise corrected her. “I don’t care. You’re still going. And if you get up there and screw up like you’re famous for, your half-breed ass is grassed.”
“Who else is playing?” Cathy asked while Terry winced from the racial slur.
“It’s their tournament, so they choose,” Denise answered. “Two schools from Verecunda and two from Aloxa. It’s to show off their new tennis court at Beran-Williamstown Comprehensive, although I hate to see what their idea of a new tennis court is. Aloxa Royal is the other school of theirs. I just learned all of this late last week.”
“So isn’t there one more Verecundan school?” Cathy asked.
“Close, it’s Uranan. They picked Hallett, which means that I’ll probably play that Bible-thumping Goldilocks for the championship.” She turned to Terry and said, “But you’ll have your hands full. See you at practice.” She began to walk away, but turned back to Terry and warned, “You better be careful who you hang out with. It could be hazardous to your health, if you know what I mean.”
“Be seeing you,” Terry said cheerily as Denise turned and walked away. Cathy fumed like she was about to explode when Terry softly sang, “Love like a man. . .”
Cathy started giggling, and Terry broke down with her. “You’re wicked. That black hair of yours becomes you today,” Cathy finally managed to come out with.
“It’s the truth,” Terry simply replied.
“Speaking of the tennis team, where is ‘Frenchie,’ as she calls her?” Cathy asked.
“Saw her walk into the building this morning,” Terry informed her friend. “She looks really pale. Isn’t moving too fast, either.”
“I haven’t seen her here the whole lunch break. . .come to think of it, I’ve hardly seen her at lunch this whole year.”
“I think she has lunch with Madame Seignet a lot. I’ve heard”—she looked around to make sure no one else was in earshot, then leaned over to Cathy—“that they drink wine when they close the door to Seignet’s room”
“Talk about teacher’s pet!” Cathy exclaimed.
“Maybe she deserves it,” Terry observed.
“What do you mean?”
“Madeleine does a lot of work teaching the little primary school kids French. I think they do planning while eating. Gets credit for it too. Besides, Daddy told me that Monsieur des Cieux told him she almost died from that encephalitis. Guess they’re still glad to have her around. . .well, I guess we better get back to class. I’ve got a long week ahead of me.”
“So does Jack,” Cathy said. “He’s supposed to make the trip too.”

The Ten Weeks, Meet the Characters Through Their Music

The Ten Weeks revolves around an interesting set of characters, to say the least. Long before the time of streaming and mp3, they had their music too, but they had different ways of playing it–8-track, the emerging cassette, and of course the best of the bunch, the enduring medium of vinyl.

BSR turntable. Probably the most popular turntable of the Ten Weeks era, they were fitted into thousands of consoles, “portables” and the occasional stand-alone turntable. This one had a magnetic cartridge; most of them sported ceramic cartridges, which were cheap but hard on the vinyl, which is why so many used records from the era sound so bad.

So let’s “drop the needle” and sort through what they were listening to, “grooving” to (literally) and expressing what was at the bottom of their souls. In some cases, you can even fill up your iPod, iPhone or mp3 player with it and experience what they did. Some of the links are to videos of concerts of the era or later ones, so you can see it as well as hear it.

Denise Kendall

“The only thing average about her was her height. Her wavy, medium brown hair, wrapped into a ponytail that never quite hung straight, sat atop a well-tanned, husky, athletic physique…” (p. 43)
Denise was one of those people who had to be in absolute control of her situation. When you read what happens when she wasn’t, you’ll find out why.

The Music Denise Lived:

Love Like a Man
Ten Years After, Cricklewood Green

“‘Be seeing you,’ Terry said cheerily as Denise turned and walked away. Cathy fumed like she was about to explode when Terry softly sang, ‘Love like a man. . .’ Cathy started giggling, and Terry broke down with her. ‘You’re wicked…'” (p. 47)

The Music Denise Liked:

Pressed Rack and Warthog”
Cream, Wheels of Fire

“‘All of these twits…they’re all short timers. Like Pressed Rat and Warthog, they’ll never come back. Trust me.'” (p. 228)

Marguerite "Vannie"<br />van Bokhoven

“She was almost Denise’s alter ego, with fairer complexion and slighter build than her imperious friend. Her wide green eyes reminded some people of the shallow waters of the Cresca Sound, but her face reflected an uncertainty that drew her to stick with Denise for stability.” (p. 43)

The Music Vannie Liked:

You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Rolling Stones, Let it Bleed

“‘Looks like she’s got a new boyfriend,’ Vannie said to Denise.
‘Not a chance,’ Denise replied. ‘She’s won’t give him what he wants.’
You can’t always get what you want, Vannie mused, singing to herself very softly.” (p. 104)

Jack Arnold

“Jack’s hair and skin colouring were very much like his sister’s, reflecting both genetics and spending a lot of time in the sun. His hair was very full and shaggy, parted on one side and just barely touching his collar, with the ample sideburns that were the order of the day.” (p. 49)

The Music Jack Liked:

Sometime in Winter
Blood, Sweat and Tears

“By this time the stereo was playing ‘Sometime in Winter,’ a mellow lament of lost love. The Island was a place which redefined winter for many of those who came there, but tonight it was cold enough to awake both ancestral memories and present, passionless fact…Finally, he carefully replaced the joint in the cigarette holder, closed it and shoved it into his pocket. ‘I’m going to get her,’ he said. ‘I’m going to get her.'” (p. 119)

“Madeleine’s shoulder-length dirty blond hair and clear blue eyes made her a near replica of her Norman mother.” (p. 13)

The Music Madeleine Lived:

“Un aveugle à Jéricho (A Blind Man at Jericho)
Les Reflets, De l’abondance du coeur, la bouche parle (For what fills the heart will rise to the lips.)

“She reached into her purse and, after some riffling about, extracted a metal tube of aloe vera which she carried for her dry skin…She put her purse down, took the top off of the tube and set it aside also, got up, and walked over to Carol. For her part (blind) Carol sat contentedly and in silence, following with her ears Madeleine’s movement around the room.” (p. 88)

Carla Stanley

“A Sixth Former like Madeleine, Carla was almost the perfect ‘Aryan’ in appearance: bleached wavy blonde hair flowing down her back, blue eyes and fair complexion complemented by broad shoulders and a slender figure.” (p.28)

The Music Carla Lived:

“Pass it On”
One Way, The Alethians and the Right Angle with David Pope

“Carla could barely catch her breath. The statement she had been looking for was suddenly out, and she was totally unprepared for it. She felt that, if she said the wrong thing in response, she would hurt her friend, so she said nothing.” (p. 144)

Julian Lewis

“‘He was tall…he was an inch taller than you, and skinny, like you. His hair was a shade darker than mine. Kind of a nerd, but kind of cute, too.'” (p. 46)

The Music Julian Liked:

Brother James Air

Julian, a proper Anglican, makes more of an appearance in At the Inlet.

Terry Marlowe

“…whose…jet black hair went straight down to her waist. Her facial features, along with her hair, reflected her Sino-Italian background, especially the Chinese part…Terry’s use of bold colours was her preference but unnecessary to draw attention. At 181 centimetres, she was the tallest girl in the school…” (p. 44)

The Music Terry Liked:

“May I?”
Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, Shooting at the Moon

“She was taking the scene in while trying to put the day behind her when she heard a voice. ‘May I sit and stare at you for awhile? I’d like the company of your smile.’ She looked up. It was Jack.” (p. 65)

Catherine<br />(Cat) Arnold

“…a petite, miniskirted blonde with the rather strange combination of one grey eye and one green one.” (p. 44)

The Music Cat Lived:

One Bad Apple
Osmond Brothers

“‘Cat’s a teeny bopper,’ Jack observed.” (p. 66)

Alicia Decker

“Petite with long, straight auburn hair and a plastic hair bow, she eyed the young guard from head to toe.” (p. 173)

Click here to view what Alicia saw from the roof of the guest house, and the music that went with it.


The Ten Weeks, A Note About School Terminology

Although the Island had a wide variety of school systems, their terminology for grades and divisions was fairly consistent from country to country.
As is the case with schools in the U.S., Island schools had twelve regular graded divisions. The first six made up “primary’ school and the last six “secondary” schools, corresponding to U.S. grades 1-6 and 7-12 respectively. Only Verecunda had compulsory kindergarten at the time of The Ten Weeks. Islanders referred to their primary grades in the same way as U.S. public schools, but for the secondary schools they referred to the grades as “forms,” as is customary in many preparatory schools. Thus U.S. seventh grade was “Form I,” eighth “Form II,” and so on through twelfth, “Form VI.”
Secondary schools were further divided into Lower and Upper Division, Lower Division having Forms I-III and Upper Division Forms IV-VI. This division, however, was mostly applied to athletic teams and competition.
The reality was that most Island schools were “comprehensive,” namely that they contained both primary grades and secondary forms in one school. There were exceptions, such as the Cathedral of St. Thomas School in Serelia (a primary school.) It wasn’t until well after The Ten Weeks when schools were split up, and then only in Verecunda.

The Ten Weeks, 25 December, See the Blazing Yule Before Us

It took Madeleine longer than usual to get ready, but that was the beauty of Midnight Mass—no celebration of the sacred mysteries afforded the faithful more time to prepare during the day. As midnight approached, they made their way from the Evan Point area they lived in across Central Avenue to the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Even though Yule was now the rule in Verecunda, the municipal government continued to decorate for the season, although they stuck with Santas, candy canes and snowmen, the last of which Pierre always found odd in a sub-tropical place like this. Madeleine’s insistence upon going to confession had one important benefit: they were able to secure a parking place close to the entrance of the cathedral, which was especially useful to Madeleine in her current state.
The Sacred Heart Cathedral was the oldest Catholic church of any kind on the Island; the original structure dated back to the 1870’s, and the Cathedral was preparing for its centennial. It was rather small for a cathedral, and although quaint it had none of the architectural beauty of St. Sebastian’s over on Point Collina, which Lucian Gerland built in part to make up for the Cathedral’s shortcomings. Nevertheless the Cathedral had one unique adjacent feature: the Island’s only completely Catholic cemetery, which was the final resting place for many Catholics who came and laboured in a land which always looked at Roman Catholicism as an aberration in the general scheme of things.
Madeleine found the transition from deft handling of a tennis racquet to handling a cane easier on her physically than her pride, but going to the Cathedral meant that she saw few of her Catholic schoolmates, most of whom went to St. Sebastian’s. She managed to genuflect upon entry with her family and then made her way towards the confessional boxes, which had a reasonably short line. Behind her was Raymond, who knew he needed forgiveness—from God and his family—more than his sister did.
This evening she insisted upon wearing a veil on her head in the old Catholic tradition, even though this had been discarded by most of the women in the Cathedral. As she stood waiting for her turn in the box, Pierre turned to Yveline and said, “She looks just like you did when you were young and going to Mass.”
“Her dress is considerably shorter than mine was,” Yveline noted.
“Young men do have some advantages these days,” Pierre said. Her illness had obviously not dimmed her focus on outfit coordination, with her white dress and matching stockings and shoes which exuded a message somewhere between the angelic and the sensual. The way she carried herself, accentuated by the cane, tended to shift the scene towards the angelic.
The cane did help steady her through the entry, exit and kneeling of the confessional box, as it had on the steps that led into the Cathedral. She emerged shortly, followed even more shortly by Raymond (“He must have given the executive version,” Pierre dryly noted later.) They returned to their pews towards the back to join their parents, where they prayed as they waited for Mass to begin.
The Cathedral’s conduct of the Mass was about as eclectic of a business as Madeleine’s outfit. The Novus Ordo Missae had been introduced into the diocese earlier that year, and priest and lay person alike were settling into it. The Cathedral’s music was still traditional, unlike St. Sebastian’s which set forth as much of the new music from the mainland as it could get through customs. The Cathedral was at its best at Midnight Mass, but one got the impression that the exhortations of Vatican II for congregational participation in the liturgy had a long way to go to realisation.
That impression was driven home with the people’s hearty response to Bishop Santini’s announcement that the Mass was ended. But the usual stampede for the door was braked by the conflagration outside. The des Cieux were a little slower than usual thanks to Madeleine’s condition, but they managed to make their way around the edge of the crowd which had filled the narthex and spilled out into the street and ended up at the curb on First Avenue.
The focus of everyone’s attention was the large trash fire that was burning in the middle of the street. Obviously the subject of great care of its makers, it burned white and hot in the cool Christmas Eve night which had turned to Christmas Day.
The des Cieux ended up standing next to Father Moore, who attempted to compensate his short visit to Madeleine as she lay ill by standing next to her family admiring the bonfire before them.
“What is this? Why is there a fire in the street?” Moore asked.
“It is a Yule Fire,” Madeleine replied without emotion. “They have set it to remind us of what they want this holiday to be.”
“Yule Fire. . .isn’t it supposed to be a ‘Yule Log?’” Moore came back.
“It is the best this place can manage,” Pierre observed.
“Shouldn’t we call the police?” Moore asked.
“Why? This is not a hidden event. They know what is going on. They just don’t want to come,” Pierre stated.
“But that is their job,” Father Moore came back.
“Their job is to stay out of the CPL’s way,” Pierre said.
“The CPL is behind this?” Moore asked, surprised.
“You and Bishop Santini are slow learners,” Pierre sighed. With that the des Cieux turned away to find their car. As the fire started to go down, others did likewise to find that their cars were either stolen or vandalised. Now the frantic calls to the police began, and they duly arrived to go through the motions of taking the information so at least their insurance company would do something.
The 2CV was unharmed. “Papa, why do you think that they left our 2CV unhurt?” Madeleine asked as they puttered home.
“Maybe they didn’t think it was a car,” Raymond quipped.

The Ten Weeks, 24 December, So Do I Go to Confession?

Christmas Eve at the des Cieux residence started off with breakfast. The presence of all four members of the family was a sign that normality was returning. Madeleine was the last to come to the table. Still moving slowly, she eased herself into her seat and said grace as the rest of the family followed along. After this they started into the usual delicious feast that Yveline set before them.
“Is it possible for me to go to confession this evening before Midnight Mass?” Madeleine asked, breaking the rather trivial conversation that preceded it.
“You only went a couple of weeks ago,” Yveline observed. “You have been ill much of the time since. How is it possible for you to have committed mortal sin during that time?”
“I don’t know. . .I feel I need to,” Madeleine replied vaguely.
“It is her Baptist friend,” Raymond chimed in. “They have spent a lot of time together. Baptists believe that, once you have been ‘saved,’ to use their expression, that your state of grace cannot change, that you will go to heaven. It is far better than the opinions probables of the reverends pères jesuites. There is no telling what kind of influence she has been.”
“He is too proud of his term paper on Les Provinciales,” Madeleine sourly observed.
“Much too proud,” Yveline added. “All we have heard about since he has been home are Mohatra contracts and how you can defend your honour in a duel.”
“He has already tried the latter,” Pierre said. “I found out that he turned his aerosol deodorant into a flame thrower. But his aim wasn’t so good, and he singed the curtains in his dormitory room. He spent more time at detention than he has admitted.”
“Serves him right,” Madeleine added, giving her younger brother an imperious look. Raymond looked sheepish at this revelation; once again, his father’s connections had pierced his adolescent secrecy.
“I think that it is reasonable to say that Carla is much the janseniste. Were it otherwise, she would not be having the problems with the school that she has had.”
“Papa is right,” Madeleine agreed. “We played tennis the weekend after she was forbidden to stand for Student Council. She played rather poorly, then broke down in tears. It was very sad for her.”
“And she is a very faithful friend too,” Yveline observed. “I was shocked when she refused to leave Madeleine in the hospital. She has been very helpful to us.”
“So what about confession?” Madeleine interrupted.
“Are you able to go to Midnight Mass?” Yveline asked. “You are still very weak.”
“I must go,” Madeleine replied.
“Then you must use my grandfather’s cane,” Pierre insisted. “You are not steady enough on your feet, especially getting around the Cathedral. If you agree, we can go early for confession. Perhaps Raymond will feel the need for absolution after his semester at Alemara Academy.”
“Maybe,” Raymond said. “But why go early for confession? You do not commit mortal sin unless you arrive at Mass after the elevation of the host.”
Madeleine rolled her eyes in disgust. “Very well, Papa, I will use the cane. But, before I confess, I may use it for more than steadying my feet. My forehand was doing well before my illness.”
Raymond resumed his breakfast in silence.

The Ten Weeks, 23 December, What Women Are Expected To Do

Winter on the Island was always called “the dry season,” but this year was dryer than usual, and around 3ºC warmer too. As the morning progressed and the temperature passed through 18ºC, another very nice day was in the making at the Stanley Farm and Supply Store.
The store was located about halfway between Hallett and North Hallett, in the north of Uranus. As one drove up from the coast towards Hallett and, if one dared, towards Beran, the store came up along the left, across the road from the canal which was only separated from the road by about twenty metres. The store itself was a little below road level. A nondescript concrete block building, the store front was almost completely open when the roll-up doors were raised, revealing the smaller equipment and things that didn’t need to be out in the rain. The tractor lot was off to the side, and there was more equipment, supplies, feed and seed out in the back. Every square centimetre of the property was occupied by something, including the junk in the far back, and the property itself butted up against one of the farms it serviced, in this case owned by Carla’s uncle.
The Stanleys were blessed in that the year-round planting and harvest schedule of Uranan farming made for year-round business. But as Christmas was only two days away and most of the farmers were in a festive mood, most of the Stanleys’ sales and repairs were on an “emergency” basis.
Pete Stanley was leaning on the main counter, which was on the right side of the store as viewed from the road. Next to him was John Agelasos, his main “right-hand man” who was frequently the salesman that Pete wasn’t. The open roll-up doors on the front afforded as much breeze through the place as one could expect, especially when the back door was left up. This was supplemented by the spotty ceiling fans and, in very hot weather, by a floor fan or two. In an attempt to supplement Verecunda’s limited radio offerings, Pete had an 8-track player mounted on a high shelf, its speakers sharing the shelf. Country and Gospel music alternated, and even at this time of year the polyester suit boys’ muffled refrain echoed across the store, softly reverberating against the concrete block walls in such a way as to obscure the good news they had to offer.
Things were slow until a somewhat battered Ford Cortina pulled up in front of the counter. The Cortina has Uranan state licence plates on it and “Hallett Regional Comprehensive School” crudely stencilled on the two front doors of the car. A thin man who really didn’t look like he belonged at a feed and seed store got out and walked up to the counter.
“Colin Dirksen,” Pete addressed the visitor. “How may we help you today?”
“Is Carla here?” Dirksen asked.
“She’s out making deliveries,” Pete informed him. “She should be back shortly.”
“Thank you,” Dirksen replied. He started to wander about the store, killing time while waiting for her. He was the school’s guidance counsellor, a relatively new position at Hallett Comprehensive.
He didn’t have to wait long; about ten minutes later everyone heard a Ford pick-up truck make a stiff left turn and, braking against the loose gravel in the parking lot, come to a stop just in front of one of the roll-up doors. Dirksen wasn’t far from the counter and came back towards it as the truck door opened and the engine stopped. Carla emerged from the truck, which had the company logo on the doors and showed signs of many miles. She was dressed in jeans and a Western shirt. She closed the door to the truck with a satisfying thud, slung her long blonde mane behind her head and down her back, and walked up towards the counter, stopping at a suitable distance from both Dirksen and her father.
“Mr. Dirksen,” she said, obviously surprised. “I thought you’d be on Christmas vacation.”
“Yule vacation,” he corrected her. “You know our new law. Don’t you remember this from our last school assembly?”
“Oh, yeah, I do,” Carla unhappily recalled.
“So what brings you here?” Pete asked.
“Well, I just stopped by to invite Carla to a new organisation we are having at our school. For some reason, we didn’t work out all of the details before the last bell, so I’m going round to students I feel have potential. Carla always has been one of our outstanding students, so she was at the top of my list.”
“We’ve always been proud of her,” Pete chimed in.
“So what organisation is this?” Carla asked, still suspicious.
“It’s a Life Identification Society,” Dirksen replied. “Other schools have been very successful with them. Our organisational meeting is on Tuesday, January 5. I very much hope that you can come.”
“Well. . .identification isn’t my problem. Everybody in the school knows the kind of person I am. That’s why I wasn’t allowed to stand for Student Council this year.”
“I am unimpressed with your self-pity,” Dirksen came back. “You know the school rules require that any member of the Student Council must take a cooperative attitude towards the school administration and its policies. If you haven’t forgotten, your attitude was anything but cooperative last year. We indulged you far too long. Besides, the purpose of the Life Identification Society isn’t to enable us to assume an identity, but to come out of our shell and find our real self.”
“Well, I’ve never been a wallflower,” Carla observed.
“Shows such as you put on last year are just that. We’re talking about what you really are.” He looked at Carla from head to toe and back again several times. “It is obvious that you are well gifted for such a pursuit.”
Carla stood and thought for a bit. She looked at her father, who didn’t signal anything back with his expression.
“I’m not interested,” she firmly replied, trying to get her point across without losing her temper, which was obvious by the redness that was coming up in her face. “I know girls in other schools who are in them. I know what they do. I don’t do those kinds of things. I won’t join, period, paragraph.”
Dirksen was obviously not totally prepared for Carla reaction. It was his turn to think.
“Suit yourself,” he said, trying to regain the upper hand. “You’re not dating Annette Connolly’s son any more, are you?”
“I broke up with him right after school started,” Carla informed him.
“Pity. . .surely someone like you would not leave that part of your life empty, now?”
“Between school, tennis and work, I really don’t have much time for dating. I’m trying to get ready to go away to university next year.”
“Oh yes. . .since you brought that up, are you still going to that religious college on the mainland?”
“Yeah,” she answered.
“I still find that disappointing,” Dirksen said. “You are a very bright girl. Your academic performance has only been matched by your exploits on the tennis court, which has brought a great deal of pride to HRCS. I cannot understand why you would want to throw all that away in an environment where your only future would be raising some fundamentalist stud’s six or so children.” He stopped and thought for a second. “You know that your graduation is a necessary prerequisite to going to a school even like this, don’t you?”
“There are other ways of fulfilling that requirement,” she responded, anticipating the threat.
“I find it hard to believe that even they would want to take a school leaver—voluntary or otherwise—into their institution,” Dirksen came back. “Well, if you ever change your mind, let me know—you have two weeks until the meeting.” He turned to walk away, then turned back towards Pete. “You know, I always found it odd that you, with the traditional attitudes towards women that are so prevalent around here, that you work Carla the way you do.”
“A Stanley is never afraid of hard work,” Pete answered. “All of my children have worked in the business. It’s good for them and good for the family.”
“How do you think she got in shape to play tennis the way she does?” John interjected.
“How indeed,” Dirksen came back. “Well, good day and Happy Yule.” With that he walked out to the Cortina, got in and left while the rest stood and watched him.
“That was very impertinent of you, young lady,” Pete scolded Carla. “You should show more respect to an official of your school than that, even if you don’t agree with him. You’d still be on Student Council if you had last year.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she replied. She wanted to say more but knew better.
“I need to go over our receivables with your mother in the office,” Pete said. “You’ve got work to do.”
“Yes, sir,” she dutifully replied. He turned to go to the office. It had the only air conditioning in the place in the form of a window unit. Much of the year it was the place to be, but now the air conditioning served mostly as a dehumidifier. He went back and closed the door, leaving Carla and John up front.
John looked around and then back at Carla. “You did the right thing, kid,” he said. “I’ve got a niece down at Dillman-Arnold who’s in one of those. I hate to talk like this in front of you, but it turned her into a complete slut. If it were my kid he was talking to, I’d have belted him in the mouth.”
“He just doesn’t understand,” Carla replied. “I just want to explode, but Mother says not to, it’s not the Christian thing to do, and it probably wouldn’t do any good. But I can’t understand why he’s making it so hard for me to be the Christian he raised me to be.”
“Don’t take it personal,” John advised. “He means well. Like you say, he just doesn’t understand.”
“You’re right,” Carla reluctantly agreed. “I’ll take the truck around back and start straightening things up before we close for Christmas.”
“I’ll come help you when I can break loose from here,” John promised. Carla turned and walked back towards the truck. John looked at her and said to himself, “That kid’s got everything. . .everything.”

The Ten Weeks, 21 December, The Doctors Have Done All They Can Do

Monday brought an endless battery of medical tests to Madeleine’s life, convincing her and her mother that getting to the diagnosis was worse than than the disease itself. Finally at 1630, the doctor decided to release Madeleine, convinced that they had little additional to contribute, and satisfied that the des Cieux could give her sufficient care at home to allow her release. Armed with a long list of orders and prescriptions, Pierre and Yveline wheeled Madeleine out of the hospital, gingerly loaded her into her own Citröen Dyane, and brought her back to that little piece of France that they called home.

The Ten Weeks, 20 December, Arguing With the Bishop

Without Carla, the des Cieux had to take up the slack of supplementing what the hospital could do for her. Pierre brought in a small shortwave radio and they were able to listen to broadcasts from back home, dispensing with the non-functional television. The family took times about going home to rest, to get more things for a stronger and more demanding Madeleine, and to attend Mass at the Cathedral. Pierre went to the 1100 Mass, and wasn’t in a very pious mood as he greeted his bishop, Anthony Santini, as he was leaving.
Santini looked like more like a Cardinal than the bishop of a very small diocese whose presence was illegal in most of the Island. In his early fifties, with his wire-rimmed glasses perched on his large nose, Santini had only been bishop for a year and a half. Like most Catholic Bishops of Verecunda the past forty years, Santini had been elevated with Lucian Gerland’s blessing, as if the man had la regale that had slipped out of the hands of the crowned heads of Europe. But Santini also prided himself in his good relationship with the current government, a useful if short-sighted expedient in Allan Kendall’s Verecunda.
“I understand from Raymond that your daughter is doing better,” Santini proclaimed to Pierre.
“If Father Moore had made more than one fleeting visit, you would know this for yourself,” Pierre replied sourly.
“You make many demands on mother church you should not,” Santini scolded back. “The Secretary of State—excuse me, the Foreign Minister—just revoked the visas of my two Irish priests. I am short handed.”
“So why don’t you send at least one of them to Collina and bring Father Becker over?”
“Vatican II notwithstanding, it is not the role of the laity to dictate assignment of priests. Besides, I may have to send Avalon back to his native land if he keeps kicking against the goads on the subject of abortion and the many other things he does to antagonise the government.”
“I regret to inform you that we have had better ecclesiastical representation from Madeleine’s Baptist friends than from ‘mother church,’” Pierre retorted.
“Your Baptist friends are in more serious trouble than we are,” Santini came back. “Sects such as they are at the top of the government’s list of bad elements, as they should be, ecumenical considerations notwithstanding.”
“And whom do you think they will visit when they are finished with them?” Pierre asked.
“You are very impertinent, my son,” Santini replied irritatedly. “The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Good day,” and with that he turned and walked away. But he did actually visit Madeleine early that evening.

The Ten Weeks, 19 December, A Miracle, Even With a Baptist

Pierre and Yveline were still asleep when the phone rang about 1000.
“Allo!” he said, not fully aware as to what country he was in.
“Mr. des Cieux?” the girl’s voice came back.
“Yes, it is.”
“It’s Carla. Madeleine is awake. Her fever has broken. She’s awake, soaking wet and hungry.” There was a long silence over the phone. “Are you OK?”
“I’m fine. I’ll be there soon. Thank you.” He placed the black handset back on the cradle.
“What is it?” Yveline asked him.
“Carla just informed me that Madeleine’s fever has broken and she’s awake.”
Yveline looked at Pierre in shock, then turned, bounded from the bed, and yelled, “Raymond! Raymond! Get up! Madeleine’s awake!”
“I’m awake, Maman,” Raymond answered from the other room. Yveline turned her efforts towards Pierre, but even in his state he needed little encouragement. It wasn’t long before the three got to the hospital and burst into Madeleine’s room.
“Papa, Maman,” Madeleine weakly whispered as she, then he enveloped her with their arms. Yveline was sobbing as she held her handkerchief in one hand and Madeleine’s hand in another.
“When did this happen?” Pierre asked Carla as he gained his wits about him.
“I’m not sure,” Carla said. “I woke up about nine thirty and heard her moaning. I got the nurses to check her out and her fever’s gone. They called the doctor but he’s not here yet, it may take a while since it’s Saturday.”
“Well it might,” Pierre mused. He looked over as Yveline pulled one of her famous croissants out of her bag for Madeleine. “She thinks of everything.” He looked back at Carla, who was eyeing it longingly. “I hope you followed your normal custom and brought enough for two young ladies.”
Yveline stopped and looked at Pierre and Carla. “Oh, yes,” she said, handing one to Carla.
“Thank you,” Carla said.
“She usually brings enough with her for our entire office when she comes to visit,” Pierre observed while she took care of her men as well. He then turned back to his wife. “Since Miss Stanley has sacrificed so much in watching over our daughter, perhaps our hospitality should extend beyond this.”
“This was very good,” Carla observed while finishing her croissant.
“I was thinking about that small café about two blocks from here, near the Theatre of the Muses,” Pierre said.
“My parents are supposed to come by here about eleven,” Carla said.
“Call then and ask them to join us,” Pierre replied. “I never miss an opportunity to ‘wine and dine’ my customers, as you say in English. For you and your parents, I must stick with the dining, which is a pity, since I do not know how else to repay you for what you have done for Madeleine.”
“She needed me,” Carla said flatly. “I couldn’t do anything else.” They all hugged Madeleine very gingerly, and left her with Yveline.
It wasn’t very long before the doctor on call that weekend came in. He put his best poker face on when he realised the unexpected turn of events and called the nurse in. Patiently alternating between checking her vital signs and looking at her chart, he finally turned to Yveline.
“Her recovery is quite remarkable, but she is still very weak. She must remain hospitalised until we can run the full battery of tests and ascertain that what we are seeing is her actual trend.”
“So why has her recovery been so rapid?” Yveline asked.
“It’s hard to say,” the doctor replied. “Encephalitis can take many different courses. Obviously she must have a very strong constitution.”
“She comes from strong people,” Yveline explained. “My father was gassed during la Grande Guerre; Pierre’s went through Verdun. He himself fought with Leclerc to take our country back from the Germans; that’s how we met. During the invasion, he found me in our farmhouse.”
“That’s very interesting,” the doctor opined. “But diseases such as this can bring down even the strongest among us.” He scribbled on her chart and, nurse in tow, left the room.
Pierre returned about 1200 with Raymond, Carla and her parents. The Stanleys had brought Yveline some food as well.
“I guess I need to get back home,” Carla said. “We’re supposed to be having relatives in from the mainland. And I’m supposed to be in my church’s Christmas program.”
“So what are you playing?” Raymond asked curiously.
“One of the angels that announces the birth of Jesus,”Carla replied.
“You’ve already been that,” Madeleine said weakly. “Thank you so much.” The girls hugged to the extent they could and cried for the rest, and Yveline did the same with Carla and her mother. The men shook hands and the Stanleys left for the other end of the country.

The Ten Weeks, 18 December, At Death’s Door in the Midst of Lead Paint

Raymond was the early bird the next morning; he had arranged an early morning tennis match with Deidre, so her mother came and got him before Pierre had the chance to arouse himself with East Island coffee, closer to what he was used to than the more American brew the Verecundans drank. Arthur came a little later and brought him to the shop, eventually Raymond joined them, they returned to port and they were on their way back to Verecunda, very satisfied with Pierre’s intermediate stop.
The sun was just setting over Verecunda Bay when the ferry pulled into its wharf in front of the customs house. Even before they had a chance to step on the gangway and go ashore, Luke Allen, Pierre’s warehouse manager and a burly man with some Island native blood in him, greeted them in his usual straightforward manner. Luke wasn’t much for a sunny disposition but even before he helped Pierre and Raymond get their luggage off of the boat he delivered news as only he could.
“Madeleine’s in the hospital, Boss,” Luke informed Pierre.
“Hospital? For what? Why wasn’t I called, at least in Alemara?”
“She only went in this afternoon—felt a little woozy yesterday, went out of her head this morning, collapsed just before lunch. ”
“So what is the doctor’s idea of what is wrong with her?” Pierre asked, agitated.
Luke thought for a minute. “You’ll have to ask him, Boss—I’m not really sure. It’s serious, though.”
“Very well,” Pierre sighed. With that they disembarked. Luke did his usual magic getting Pierre, Raymond and their luggage into Pierre’s old Citröen 2CV—another of Pierre’s “trademarks”—and with Luke driving they puttered off to the hospital.
The Verecunda Municipal Hospital was an imposing building between Gerland Street and the university. It’s main virtue was that it was the only facility of its kind on the Island. People came from everywhere to be greeted by inadequate hall lighting shining on the green walls, resplendent in their lead-based enamel paint. While admiring this, doctors, nurses, patients and visitors alike were able to walk on well waxed, beige asbestos floor tile.
The main entrance lobby was decorated to match the rest of the establishment. Pierre and Raymond were only cheered by seeing Yveline des Cieux in the lobby waiting for them. They threw their arms around each other as they had not in a long time.
“So what has happened?” Raymond asked.
“She has encephalitis,” Yveline gravely reported. “It is a serious case. The doctor will be by in about half an hour. Let’s go.”
“Indeed,” Pierre agreed, and they headed to the elevator. As it rose up to Madeleine’s floor, it beeped and flashed as it passed the intermediate ones, echoing Madeleine’s own heartbeat and struggle for life. Pierre hoped that Madeleine’s own inner rhythm was quicker, because the elevator was interminably slow as it crawled upward past each floor. Finally they arrived at her level, burst from the elevator in uncharacteristically rapid fashion and made their way to her room, not far from the nurse’s station.
Pierre stopped dead in his tracks at the door—not for Madeleine, but for Pete and Alice Stanley, standing up to greet them. A couple in their early forties who still echoed in looks and demeanour the fact that they were high school—or Upper Division, as the Islanders would put it—sweethearts, they owned the feed and seed store that supplied upper Uranus along with Vidamera, Alemara and sometimes Aloxa. They were also tractor and farm equipment dealers as well, which meant that they purchased tyres from Pierre from time to time.
“It is very kind of you to visit,” Pierre said, not sure what else to say.
“It is her doing,” Pete answered, pointing to his daughter Carla awakening from a nap on her cot. A Sixth Former like Madeleine, Carla was almost the perfect “Aryan” in appearance: bleached wavy blonde hair flowing down her back, blue eyes and fair complexion complemented by broad shoulders and a slender figure. She roused herself and stood up, not well put together in the present situation.
“She insisted on coming and being with Madeleine,” Alice added. “She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Because of the crime that’s about, we came with her. My brother lives in town; we’ve made arrangements to stay with him while she’s here.”
Pierre removed his hat very slowly, as if in respect. “I have had many loyal customers over the years, but you have exceeded all of them.” From that he approached his daughter lying in the bed. Madeleine was wired with IV’s and monitors. She had a very pale look about her as she lay in the bed motionless. Raymond was right behind him; both were visibly shaken at the sight before them.
Pierre finally turned back to the Stanleys and Yveline. “My wife tells me it is encephalitis. But how?”
“We were playing tennis on Wednesday, up in Hallett,” Carla said. “We were both bit by mosquitoes. I guess her’s was the bad one.”
“But this time of year?” Pierre asked.
“Since they outlawed DDT, they’ve gotten worse,” Pete stated. “Even in a dry December like this one. We used to worry about the ones coming over the border. Now we’ve got to deal with our own.”
“So what are they doing about it?” Raymond asked.
“There isn’t much they can do,” Pierre gravely observed. “We must wait and see what happens.” He looked around. “How did she get this private room?”
“Pulled a few strings,” Pete admitted. “Makes it easier on Carla. They moved her out of intensive care because there wasn’t much more they could do there.”
“Surely you’re not going to stay all the time,” Pierre declared.
“I can’t leave her,” Carla said. “It takes forever to get anything around here. She needs me.”
“Since they set up national health care,” Pete came in, “things have gotten slower.”
“They lost quite a few doctors,” Alice added.
Pierre found himself lost in his thoughts at all that suddenly confronted him. He looked around to see the two flower arrangements that were in the room.
“I assume one of those is yours,” Pierre said, looking at Pete and pointing at the flowers.
“The other came from your people at the warehouse,” he replied.
“Has the priest come?” Pierre asked.
“About 16 hours,” Yveline said. “He came in, performed the last rites—or the unction of the sick, as they call it now—and left. That was all.”
Pierre stood in silence again. “The doctor’s supposed to be here shortly, isn’t he?” he finally asked.
“Supposed to,” Carla replied. “But they run slow too. If he’s here by eight, I’d be surprised. It took them three hours to figure out what was wrong with her to start with.”
“Why don’t we take the kids down to eat somewhere while you stay here for the doctor?” Pete asked after a very long silence.
“That’s a good idea,” Pierre agreed, “but I sense that I will be waiting for Godot.” With that the four of them left for the hospital’s cafeteria. Once again Raymond was the biggest winner, getting to sit with his sister’s friend, whom he thought pretty if two forms up from him. Carla didn’t feel like she was as much company as she was, a shell-shocked feeling unchanged by the cafeteria’s uninspiring cuisine. They returned about 1730 to find the des Cieux pretty much as they left them.
They didn’t have a chance to ask about the doctor, as he came in behind them. He officiously went through the diagnosis. The des Cieux learned nothing new: Madeleine had encephalitis, it was a serious, fast-acting case, there was little she could do, and the prognosis wasn’t very good. He bounded out of the room as quickly as he came in.
Pete could see that Pierre was beyond making decisions. “Why don’t we follow you home so you can get some rest and something to eat. There’s nothing you can do here, and there’s no reason you should have to endure Island hospital cafeteria food. Carla will let us know if anything changes.”
“It is the best thing, I suppose,” Pierre finally agreed. He leaned over and kissed Madeleine on the forehead, as did Yveline.
“Are you sure you will be all right?” Yveline asked Carla.
“I brought my things,” she said, pointing to her duffel bag in the corner. “I’ve got clothes hanging in the closet. I’ve done this before. I’ll be OK.”
“Very well,” Pierre agreed. The Stanleys hugged and kissed their daughter and everyone but Carla and Madeleine left.
“Your daughter is more than kind to do what she is doing,” Pierre told the Stanleys as they navigated their Ford estate car though the streets of Verecunda.
“She’s always been that way,” Alice said. “When her grandmother was dying, she stayed with her to the end.”
“She is very special,” Yveline added.
“We think so,” Alice replied.
“But how much can she do?” Pierre asked.
“May the Lord’s will be done!” Pete said as they turned into Pierre’s neighbourhood.
Back at the hospital, Carla tried to settle in for the evening. The room’s television’s picture tube was blown, so that wasn’t an option, and not much of one in any case since Verecunda had only one, state-owned TV channel. Nevertheless Carla ventured out to see if there was a waiting room where one was working, to pass some time and clear her mind. She found one only to discover they were in the middle of a Soviet film festival, so she turned her back on How the Steel was Tempered and returned to the room. She read her Bible for a bit but then closed it to pray.
She took Madeleine’s very warm, feverish hand and began to turn her heart and conversation towards God. As a Baptist, she had learned to pray prayers that were both spontaneous but well orchestrated at the same time. She started in on one of those but not too far into it she broke down in tears, pleading with God to save Madeleine’s life while crying into the bedsheet. She was so loud one of the nurses came down to see what was wrong. Carla regained enough of her composure to reassure the nurse somewhat, then she resumed prayer in a more conventional fashion. She soon found fatigue catching up with her, and it wasn’t long that she was fast asleep.