What I was least warned about in life was not knowing. They told me all about pain, sorrow, and human weakness. But they hadn't fully explained to me how little I would know all of the time. I can deal with the other imperfections of the universe if I understand them. If you understand a problem, then you can solve it or know it is unsolvable. That is why my entire life I have sought to know, I have questioned, researched, and extrapolated. If I could only understand everything, then it would all be bearable.
But that all changed the day my understanding shattered.
I slowed my pedaling as I entered downtown. In the shadow of the buildings I could see people milling about, eating outside restaurants and apprenticing the early spring air. I stood up on my bike for better control and dodged around a couple walking their dogs. The restaurants, shops, and homes were all small and packed together. I took a deep breath of cold air, feeling the sun on my skin. I smiled and stopped, jumping off my bike. I had made this ride countless times, so it was second hand. My eyes were glazed over as I listened to a podcast and punched the crosswalk button more times than necessary.
"Wait, wait, wait, wait." I mouthed the same time the pole said it. "Walk sign is on the crosswalk." I mouthed again as it spoke. I walked across the crosswalk. 'I wonder how they decide when to give me the walk sign' I thought looking up and down the small road, which was quite full of stopped cars. I chewed the inside of my lip, I knew it wasn't just a timer, since it was very irregular, and sometimes I would press the button and go like it was waiting for me. But there had to be things detecting the number of cars. 'I wish I knew the algorithm they used. Should google that.' I thought, reaching the otherside.
I reached the other side, and jumped aboard my bike. I peered around for my friends. I was in the center of a small and quaint town, two rows of little buildings and shops on either side of me. But here in the center was a field of well cut grass known as the Green. On one end of the green was the columned brick library, with bushes and trees providing the building and area with shade.
I sped up, next to the green the sidewalk was flat and straight, so fun for going fast. I didn't see my friends among the people on the green. 'Makes sense,' I thought, 'I'm two minutes early and my friends have never been super punctiol'
I skidded to a halt at the bike rake and locked it to the rack.
"Hey, Clark." A deep voice said. I looked up. I hadn't noticed Kurt sitting on a bench in the shadow of a tree nearby. That's what listening to a podcast and thinking about road systems does to you
“How long have you been there” I asked with a smile, my anxious cloud of thoughts fading.
Kurt furrowed his brow, "'Bout an hour."
"You just sat there for an hour?" I asked
"Yup, just sat."
Kurt shrugged. "It’s nice out, and you can never have too much of a good spring day.” He said, standing up. Kurt was wearing a simple but slightly grease-stained pair of jeans and a red T-shirt with a sweatshirt tied around his large neck. Though I was taller than Kurt, he definitely had more oomph to him. Heavyset and muscular with a broad face and large nose, he looked like a giant teddy-bear.
I pulled out my headphones and turned off the podcast I hadn’t really been listening to since the crosswalk. “I guess,” I laughed, “Maybe I have no patience, but there is so much you could have been doing while just sitting there. We don’t have much time today… or any day, really, for that matter.”
Kurt smiled and shrugged again, “I dunno, it’s just nice to let your mind be quiet sometimes. And you can see some interesting things from ‘just sitting.’” Kurt stared out at the field. People were picnicking, reading in the shade, college students were working on laptops, two kids were passing a football-
“Catch it,” Kurt said. The kid, who looked about ten, had majorly overestimated his throw. The ball was flying towards the bushes to our left. I know how annoying it was to find things in those bushes, so I ran.
No one in the known universe has said anything positive about my sporting abilities. But, dang, I could run. Even so, my brain did quick work and I realized I wouldn't be able to grab it, the ball was already too low. I jumped into the air, diving for it. Miraculously, I caught the football in the middle of my chest. But then in that split second of midair suspension, I realized I was falling, and became very worried about how the impact of my quickly moving shoulder on the ground would feel. My stomach dropped as I did, and I gasped. I bounced off something and then I was on the ground. I sat up, looking between the football and myself. I had managed to hold on to it. I waited for the pain to strike me, but then I realized I was fine. I landed on a soft bush and roundish bush I hadn’t noticed in my haste. I stood up and wiped some leaves off, looking up to notice the two kids looking at me in awe. I smiled, now maybe someone will think I’m cool. “Great throw! directly into my hand!” I yelled, and I threw it back to him. I chuckled as the football flew in a very different direction to the one I had intended. Nevermind, not cool. I jogged back over to Kurt, who had watched the entire thing happen with a slight smile
“You’re terrible at football,” Kurt commented, shaking his head.
“I know,” I sighed as I sat down next to him, but then grinned. “One of the conveniences of being smart is that I can judge all of you sports players and still feel superior without having talent.” Kurt began to chuckle but was interrupted by someone yelling. “HEY!” We turned to the voice. Our only other friend, Nora, was jumping out from her mom’s minivan, quickly and excitedly. She was wearing a small backpack, jeans, a space unicorns T-shirt, and an extremely scuffed and stained pair of rainbow checkerboard van. “Y’all ready to solve a mystery? I have the coolest thing to show you!” Nora was small in stature and large in personality. This was shown by the fact she was running over, clapping and yelling. “Come on! Come on, let’s go! We only have all day! In the building!”
Me and Kurt exchanged a smile and followed her up the staircase and into the library. “What's going on Nora?” I asked, catching up with her as we entered the library. She looked around, surveying the colorful but tightly packed rows of shelves. Taking a deep breath of the smell books.
“Oh, so much. I found something in a book. I’ll explain more in a bit, first I have to ask Mrs. Prichard something.” She whispered, in strike contrast with all the yelling. The library was like a temple to Nora, it as she said it “Holds Portals to countless worlds and adventures all more fantastical then our own.”
Sitting at the front desk was Mrs. Prichard. An older librarian who was in charge of the teen libraries volunteers. Since we hung out around the library so much we had accidentally become volunteers.
We walked up to the desk, Nora in the lead. Mrs. Prichard looked up and smiled warmly, but a little less of it filled her eyes as normal.
“Oh, what are my favorite three adventures doing today?” She asked, her southern accent twinging the edges of her words.
“Welcome back.” Kurt said. Mrs. Prichard had been gone a couple of days dealing with ‘family matters.’
“Thank you, Kurt. How's your go-kart coming?”
“Coming,” Kurt said. Even though Kurt knew more about engines than I knew about basically anything, no amount of expertise could fix the pile of junk that was his go-kart.
“Well, I’m glad to hear you're making some progress. Bet with your determination it will be driving in no time. Clark, are you still reading those books on Latin I gave you?”
“Yes, you have somehow convinced me to begin learning a dead language.”
“Latins not any more dead than all of history is dead.” Mrs. Prichard said.
“So pretty dead then,” Kurt said. We all chuckled, more at each other's company than the joke.
Nora stepped forward before anyone could make any more small talk. “So, I finished sorting all the donated books last night.”
“That’s good,” Mrs. Prichard said. Her smile changed, though I could not tell exactly what had changed about it.
“Yeah, we really got quite the collection. But, when I was going through it I found a book that interested me and I started reading and… IJustCan’tStopSoCouldIKeepItToFinishPlease?” Nora said, finishing out at a speed to make an auctioneer jealous.
Mrs. Prichard seemed to weigh a couple of things in her head. “I don’t see why not, as long as you can return it to be cataloged soon.”
“Oh, of course! Thank you so much.” She grabbed both Kurt and my arms and began to drag us out. “Sorry, but we’ve got a busy day and we should go. Bye!”
“Bye hun.” Mrs. Prichard smiled knowingly as we slid out the door, giving a small wave.
Kurt and I were also used to Nora rushing us around for 'adventures,' in which 'time was of the essence' but what we didn't understand, was that today that time was truly running out.