Screen hung at our house.
Mom and dad worked late, so I welcomed Screen’s company.
He didn’t get in the way. Emma, busy with either school work or cooking, did her thing. Not much at school interested Screen, so studying was out. But he eased into the kitchen without a pause.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Looks like a sauce.”
“It is,” he said.
“Why call is coulis?”
“That’s what it is. The French term originally referred to the released juices of cooked meats.”
“You talk like a Wikipedia entry.”
“It comes from the Latin cōlāticus. To strain.”
“So it’s blood?”
“Raspberries. Goes well with poached apples.”
Emma pulled a pan of five baked apples from the oven.
Screen stirred the bubbling sauce with a wooden spoon.
“Where did you learn to cook?”
“From my mom.”
“What does she do?”
The simmering coulis sounded like a cat lapping up milk from a dish.
“Want to join our club?”
“I wasn’t being rude to you the other day.”
“Yes, you were,” Emma said.
“I can speak for myself,” Screen said.
He said nothing more.
“Okay, maybe I was abrupt. You spoke with a directness that knocked me off guard.”
“What do you have to be guarded about?” Screen asked.
“Oh, I don’t know? How about fate?”
“Why do you speak to him like that? What has he done to you? He’s new. Show some manners Fab.”
“Her name is CJ.”
Emma arranged the three of apples on small plates.
“Emma, I speak to everyone like this. Some people like me.”
“Is this your way of competing?”
“About what? You think I’m jealous of you?”
“I had not thought of it that way. But maybe there is something to that.”
“I’m standing right here,” Screen said.
“No, actually, I was talking about death.”
“What, because he stuffs dead animals?”
“And his mother just died.”
“I wish you hadn’t said that,” Screen said.
“Fabian, you sit in the middle of that stage and all of your little deadheads sit around you. I can’t believe mom hasn’t put a stop to it.”
“Hold it! Two things. Number one: what are your implying about me being on that stage?”
“And number two?”
“I’ll get to that. Answer me number one.”
“I am not going to use simple psychology to describe what you are doing. You are smart enough to do that.”
“No, I am not smart enough Emma. You are the smart one. Now tell me. What do you see?”
Screen removed the pot from the heat and turned off the burner.
“Do you notice how you sit between two people, usually Dawn and Frank, and your arms are draped over their shoulders?”
“I didn’t know you watched me so closely. What’s so revealing about the way I sit on the stage?”
Screen and Emma stared at me.
“Oh. So, you think I have some martyr complex? That I suffer for my deadheads, as you call them. Well, I don’t”
“Martyrdom makes you feel good. I get it.”
I was not arguing too strongly.
“I’ll have to think about that some more. But now let’s get back to number two. What’s this about mom?”
“You will not like what I have to say.”
“Mom thinks you should be removed from school.”
“Not next September when her school opens?”
“She thinks the school is harming you.”
“I know she think that. That’s why she’s starting this new school. To save me. And you too.”
“Not in a general. She thinks your antics up on the stage have crossed a line.”
“How does she know? And they aren’t antics. Are you reporting to her about me?”
“She and the school are in contact.”
“Who calls whom?”
Screen poured the steaming coulis over the warm green apples.
“I’m being watched by a lot of people.”
“People in your condition must expect that.”
“I don’t like it.”
Emma placed a plate before each of us.
“You made two extra.”
“For mom and dad.”
Our forks slid through the tender apples.
“I’m going to finish the year at Blissfield.”
“Enjoying the Stark family, Screen?”
“You’re not so bad off,” he said. “At least you’re talking to each other.”
“But our mom’s going to convince you to join her school,” I said to Screen.
“Where I go to school is not important,” he said.
“You exude massive confidence,” I said.
“The coulis is good,” Emma said.
“The apples are too. I like nutmeg,” Screen said.
“So Screen, what is important?” I asked.
Emma looked at Screen.
“CJ,” Screen said, “I was wondering if your club could do something for me?”
“Your club is lethargic. You have no purpose. I’m offering you purpose. You want death. I got death.”
A line like that needed slow absorption. We ate our apples in silence. I went for a spoon. I scooped up my coulis. I laid out two other spoons, and Screen and Emma did the same with the coulis. Then we took spoonfuls of the leftover coulis from the pot. We ate it all, forgetting to leave some for mom and dad. They would still enjoy the apples. I’m sure they’ll say something like “Those kids!”