“There’s my favorite hobbit!” Paul signed as he picked up Will Graves and tossed him into the air and caught him, as one does with a young child.
“Stop!” Will yelled, flailing his arms, trying to balance himself in the air. The balding man turned bright red, yelling and protesting the treatment. He was by far the eldest and shortest statured of the new Residents. Paul had become fast friends with the nervous man, who could not be much taller than five feet. Paul found his own tall, sturdy frame enabled him to pick Will up with ease.
“Put me down!” Will howled in embarrassment. Paul set him down after a third toss and chuckled. Will’s scowling face dark red in exasperation, he straightened his uniform, patted down his thin comb over and hurried away with a recognizable limp.
“Always running off to his little home in the hills...” Paul signed, wistfully watching the retreating man.
“He’s probably going to argue with Olivia about pushing his name up the promotion list, Paul. That was pretty funny though.” Reid replied, laughing. The two men approached the large cargo elevator. Reid took off his necklace holding his Green Key, inserting it into the control panel. The light blinked, then stayed on. He heard the elevator begin to move with a start, slowly rising to Green Key level. The elevator strictly responds to the floor of the corresponding Key inserted.
“At least we’ve got a few clouds out today and expected for the weekend.” Reid signed, peering out to the cloud filled skies beyond the loading dock doors. “My parents are coming into Haven, and I’m going to spend the long weekend with them. It feels weird to see them after all this time… And I don’t know how many more times I’ll be able to see them before going into Yellow Key.”
Paul paused, struck by the thought of never again seeing his family. The prospect of going to Yellow Key with Reid was truly daunting. More than he had ever admitted to himself. He tried to lighten the mood with a quip, as the elevator’s door opened to reveal the stacks of boxes within, housing containers of Soil. Reid retrieved his key from the panel. The two busied themselves with rolling the boxes out on dollies and placing them into the parked trucks outside. Even with the clouds, the heat persisted, and sweating was inevitable. After the last box was stacked into the cargo truck, the two retired to the Dining Hall to recuperate.
“I think Olivia has been putting us on Dock duty on purpose… I can’t imagine why.” Paul signed, drinking some ice water.
“We have been out here a lot lately. Maybe I can mention it to her. She probably doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. I don’t think she could do anything in malice, really. Besides, she and Miles take turns making assignments. They’d have to get along long enough to coordinate against us.” Reid responded.
“They are such polar opposites. I can just imagine the resignation on Miles’ face when he found out his Waiter partner was replaced by Olivia. Even he can’t get her cheerfulness to cool off.”
Paul turned to leave the cooler and firmly hip checked Miles, rounding the corner. Miles’ grizzled scowl further creased. His glare questioned not only why they were away from their posts, but their very existence. They were running out of time to offload the trucks’ food and requisitioned supplies into the elevator for the Yellow Keys below.
Paul quickly signed, “You know what, Reid? You’re exactly right! I’m now going to redouble my efforts to keep this place going! I’m not about to be responsible for putting supply lines behind schedule!” They laughed sheepishly and hurried away.