“How did you guys get in here?” a voice bellowed at us, echoing around the empty cafeteria. It took a moment to determine the location of the source—though I knew the voice. Mr. Gisborne. Echoes confuse—unless you’re a bat. Which I’m not.
Echo. You know her stories, don’t you? The nymph who kept Hera, the wife of Zeus, occupied so he could have … relations … with some other nymphs? The nymph who fell in love with Narcissus, the vain youth so obsessed with his own reflection? While Narcissus stared at himself—and eventually died doing so—Echo stared at him until nothing remained but her voice? That’s the Roman story.
Earlier, the Greeks had a darker version. Pan—the Greek god of pastures, shepherds, and flocks—fell in love with Echo, who ignored him, then rejected his love. In a rage, Pan had some shepherds tear her apart and scatter her pieces about the earth. But her voice remained.
As I write this, I think about my ancestor, Victor Frankenstein, gathering pieces of human bodies, assembling them, giving life—and a voice—to a creature who’d never had one. What I’d give to know what that voice sounded like. I do know it wasn’t that grunting sound you hear in the old movies. Victor Frankenstein’s creature was intelligent—and extremely verbal. Read the book.
Gil spotted Mr. Gisborne before I did. I saw which way Gil was turned—toward the back of the building, where the teachers’ lounge was—and I turned to look the same way. Mr. Gisborne was jogging toward us. Gil shouted his way, “Mr. Leon let us in!”
Mr. Gisborne was quickly next to us. “You don’t need to call him ‘Mr.,’” he said. “He’s just a custodian.”
I was all set to say “And you’re just an idiot” when I remembered the fresh-mouth business I’d been warned about—the very business that had earned this early-morning detention for me. So I kept silent but loved thinking about what an idiot this teacher was. I must have smiled …
“You think this is funny?” barked Mr. Gisborne.
I assured him that is wasn’t. Looked as humble as I could.
“Well,” said Mr. Gisborne, “you need to get back to my classroom—on the double.” I glanced at him. He looked as if he’d spent the night in his clothes. His pants, sweater—wrinkled. His hair was unbrushed, his face unshaven and with red sleep-creases here and there. I wondered if he’d spent the night at school—or if he’d just overslept and had hurried over here so that we wouldn’t stand around waiting for our detention.
Once we arrived in his classroom, he gave us a bunch of busy work to do—straightening bookshelves, stapling some worksheets he was going to give his classes that day, washing his chalkboards … that sort of thing. Then he said, “I’m going down to the locker room for a while. I’d better find you working hard when I get back!” He gave us a look that I’m sure he thought was fierce, but I almost laughed. And then he was gone.
Gil and I divided up the chores and worked silently for a little while. Then Gil asked, “What do you think happened? With my watch? And the clock and all?”
I think I knew what had happened, but there was no way I was going to tell Gil, not yet—maybe not ever.
“Oh, your watch was probably just wrong to begin with,” I said lightly, hoping the lightness would let him know I wasn’t all that worried. Though, of course, I was.
Gil worked a little more. Then said, “Are you sure? I mean, it seems like a weird kind of coincidence.”
I tried a laugh that I hoped sounded authentic. “Nothing more complicated than a cheap watch and a school clock. I’d be surprised if they ever did work right.”
Gil’s half-laugh sounded no more genuine than mine. And I realized, right then, that Gil Bysshe knew I was lying.
Outside, the thunderstorm raged.