Both Gil and I were Perfect Angels in science class the next few days. We didn’t give Mr. Gisborne the slightest excuse to look our way—or to lose his temper with us again. On Wednesday, he once again sent us to the library to work on our project. This time we decided we’d really talk about what we wanted to do.
“So have you got any ideas?” Gil asked me as soon as we sat at our table.
“A few,” I said. But, of course, I had more than a few. I had a basement full of sophisticated scientific equipment—computers, microscopes, anything a little scientist could possibly desire. But I would not tell Gil Bysshe anything about that. Not yet … not soon … probably not ever.
“Do you think you might let me know one or two of them?” asked Gil mildly. “Because my brain is on Empty.”
“Is that a permanent condition? Or something you’re experiencing just for today?”
“It’s probably permanent,” he said—a little sadly, I thought.
“Well, I don’t want to do something dumb,” I said, “something like the effects of various things on plants.”
Gil seemed to be thinking. “There are advantages,” he said, “to doing something dumb.”
“Oh? What advantages?”
“We wouldn’t have to work too hard on it.”
I smiled. “Good thinking, genius. Let’s figure out something that we won’t have to work on too much.”
We shook hands. His was as cold as his voice and eyes were warm.
And later … I was surprised, as I was remembering that handshake, that I liked it. The handshake. And the memory of it.
But near the end of class that day—a bigger, or at least different, surprise. Mr. Gisborne came over to our library table and just stared at us. One of life’s most uncomfortable feelings, isn’t it? Being stared at? By someone in authority? Especially when you know you’ve done something wrong and you’re trying to figure out if he knows it, too.
He finally spoke. “I talked with Mr. Tooke this morning.”
“Yes?” said Gil and I simultaneously.
“He said he remembered when you came in. He just couldn’t find any record of it.”
I desperately fought a blush I felt forming—some kindling starting to ignite.
He stared some more. The blush and I were fighting to a draw … so far.
“Accidents happen,” said Gil helpfully.
More stares. Then words: “He said he was going to leave the punishment up to me. For your behavior. Your attitude.”
I’d already learned that Mr. Gisborne was one of those teachers who got more angry the more he talked. So I interrupted: “I said I was sorry.”
But my tone was wrong. I knew it as the words were passing my teeth and heading out into the air. I didn’t mean for it to sound sarcastic. But it kind of did.
Mr. Gisborne lost the battle with his blush, his, of course, being a blush of anger. (And I don’t think he was really trying too hard to control it.)
“Detention!” he roared. “Tomorrow! After school!”
Gil said, with the innocence of a shy child, “Don’t you have football practice?”
“Detention!” he roared. “Tomorrow! Six a.m.!” And he wheeled to leave, probably before he lost total control and started punching us. I was puzzled, really, about his rage. What was it about us that set him off?
“Six in the morning,” Gil was saying. “Not my best time.”