Thomas And Amani
Summer Reading Club Mystery
April 17 2015 © By Tekeyla Friday
It was so hot that Thomas was sure you could melt chewing gum, cola bottles, and perhaps an old man’s dentures on the sidewalk. If it hadn’t been for his skateboard, he was sure his shoes would be blacktop glue by now and he was surprised that the tires on parked cars weren’t puddles. He was glad that it was the end of June as school had one-day left and then freedom for two months of sweet, hot bliss! He and Amani would hang out in the cool air-conditioned movie theatre, ice cream shop down by the river and the mall.
Thomas jammed his picking finger up his nose, hooked a crusty booger, and flicked it to the road. He kicked the pavement, moving his skateboard faster as he turned towards the downhill incline on 6th Avenue N.E. He let out a raucous burst of gas as his stomach tightened in the moment of fear as his skateboard picked up momentum going downhill. His heart raced and he let out a loud whoop of excitement. Wind ripped at his hair, clothing and sensitive flesh around his eyes.
His thoughts drifted to Amani Banani who was the coolest girl in grade school with long, red hair, sparkling green eyes and a laugh that sounded like Prairie Chickadees. He was meeting Amani outside of the Swift Current Library on Herbert Street. He hoped that they weren’t going inside. He hated Amani’s surprise tours to the Art Gallery, Library, and Museum. Blah, was what he had to say about culture, history and worst of all reading! Amani loved that sort of thing. One may call her a brainchild. She was also the smartest girl at Fairview school.
A horn honked, nearly causing Thomas to jump off his skateboard, as he cut across the street towards the green tank that marked 6th Avenue N.E. He glared at the driver who appeared out of nowhere and kicked his skateboard faster. He hopped the sidewalk, his skateboard clickiety-clacked over the division lines between each slab of sidewalk as he continued. He turned on Herbert Street and stopped outside the R.C. Dahl Centre.
A puppy that was tied to the bench let out a happy yip as Thomas strolled up the grass towards the entrance. Amani sat on the strange slats of metal that posed as a sculpture done by an impressionist. Thomas thought it looked like a giant book standing on its pages with its spine in the air. She had an open book in her lap.
“Hey Amani, like let’s go before we miss the previews of Cutter’s Island,” Thomas yelled.
Amani glanced up, “We won’t miss the movie Thomas, it like doesn’t start until 3p.m. I got you to come early ‘cause I wanted to visit the library and sign up for the Summer Reading Club.”
Thomas groaned. Thankfully he was far enough away that Amani couldn’t hear him. He hated going into the Dahl Centre. It was full of books and smelled of learning. Yuck! Once school was over, Thomas didn’t want to use his brain for another 2 months!
He looked forward to the last ring of the school bell that meant the start of summer holidays. Thomas would turn twelve on July 1st. He didn’t like his birthdate either as he was the only guy in the city that had to share his birthday with the country’s birthday. Since it was one of the biggest national holidays, his parents always gone all out to celebrate it including giving Thomas his own birthday float so he could ride in the parade each year.
He guessed that it wouldn’t be so bad except that he had to sit underneath a giant baby picture of himself wrapped in a red and white blanket that resembled the Canadian flag. His grandmother, Erica had bought it in hopes that he and his mom would be out of the hospital in time to celebrate Canada Day but Thomas had been a week over his due date and it apparently was a pleasant shocking surprise that he arrived at 4:44p.m. on July 1st instead of June 25th. To make the picture look even more horrid, his scrunched up, wrinkly, pudgy baby-face had chunks of skin peeling away. Talk about ugly. His proud parents thought he was the cutest thing in this city…well next to his sister, Jessica Jane.
Jessica Jane Brown had been born four years later on Christmas Eve. She often complained that it wasn’t fair that Santa brought birthday presents as Christmas presents and Christmas presents as birthday presents. Often friends and family would give her the all-in-one special Birthday Christmas gifts. Because of this, Thomas’ parents decided that they would plan a trip to Jessica’s favorite amusement park in the States when she turned 10 which was another three years away, and she could have the party her heart desired. She was allowed to bring two friends to share it with and Thomas could bring one to keep him entertained.
“Come on Thomas, it won’t take but a minute to sign-up,” Amani said.
Thomas’ attention snapped back to the foreboding bricks and wide glass of the Dahl Centre. Colourful flowers dressed the flowerbed under the one wall giving the building a welcoming contrast but he still did not want to step foot in that place.
“It will be fun,” Amani said, grabbing Thomas’ hand and pulling him towards the glass door. “I hear they have a graphic novel program too. You could attend that program while I attend the other. Oh and the Art Gallery is running an Art Camp too. We are going to have so much fun this summer.”
A high-pitched toot escaped Thomas’ butt as he caught his pale, fearful expression in the reflection of the glass. He did not want to spend his summer here!
“Eeewww, Thomas, have you been drinking too much cola again? You know how gassy you get when you drink too much pop! Yuck!”
Amani pinched her nose with her free hand as she pressed the wheel chair accessible button with her foot, then pulled Thomas through the door. She did the same in the small entrance so the second door could open.
“Awww look at the love birds coming to visit the gallery,” Eugene Williams mocked on his way out. “Thomas and Amani sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…”
Thomas glared at the large, blonde haired blue-eyed boy. He and Amani simultaneously let go of one another’s hand. Both their cheeks were red as they passed by the singing Eugene.
“Eugene Williams, that is enough,” said a harsh voice.
A blonde woman, her arms full of books, hurried after him, scolding him for bullying others. Thomas figured that the woman must be his mother. She looked a lot like Marla, Eugene’s younger sister. Marla hung out with Jessica a lot.
Thomas and Amani took a right, past the Art Gallery’s front desk to the raucous of noisy voices at the library’s circulation desk. He let out another high-pitched toot that smelled like rotten eggs. Amani glanced at him, frowning then picked up her pace. He tried not to gag as he felt another bubble of gas working its way out of his bottom cheeks. He didn’t know what it was about libraries, art galleries, museums and other educational buildings that turned his stomach into a nervous orchestra of rotten notes but he declared that it must have resulted from some forgotten childhood trauma. When he asked his parents about some such event, they declared that when he was two, they had taken him to the Science Centre in Regina where he’d gotten lost after wandering away from an exhibit to find a washroom on his own. A security guard found him crying by a trash can and promptly help Thomas find his parents. Other than that, there wasn’t anything traumatic.
Amani was third in line when Thomas caught up to her. His bought of gas building in his stomach as fear made perspiration bead on his dark brown brows. His shaggy brown hair clung to the back of his neck. Thomas closed his eyes and imaged his favorite video game.
“It’s only a library, Thomas,” Amani whispered. “Honestly, you are the only person I know who is afraid of a library.”
Toot! Blurp! Phrrrp! Amani rolled her eyes as she plugged her nose. She dug in her pocket and pulled out a pair of skin coloured nose plugs that she inserted into her nostrils. Thomas took a deep breath, focusing on calming his stomach. Sounds of laughing children filled the easy section as parents played games and read books. This is a happy place, Thomas chanted in his head. This is a happy place.
“He still doesn’t like this place much does he?” Library Sue’s voice cut through his chant.
“Still as nervous as the first day I dragged him through the door,” Amani answered. “I don’t think there is a cure for library or read-a-phobia. That’s Thomas. I’m here to sign up for the Summer Reading Club.”
Thomas glared at Amani’s back. He didn’t have Library-phobias or reading-phobias. Educational buildings in general just gave him nervous gas. Library Sue winked at him, her purple eye-shadow glittering under the florescent lights. She popped pink gum, as she pulled out the registration binder and dropped it on the counter. She pushed her purple rhinestone, horn-rimmed glasses up on her small nose. Another purple earring glittered in her nostril.
She pulled a pen out from behind her ear. Thomas noticed that she had a few new piercings. Her hair had pink and purple streaks through its auburn colour though Thomas doubted that auburn was her natural colour. She wore a white shirt with a pink and purple striped tie. She was very stylish, Thomas thought, if only he was a little older, he could ask her out on a date. His check flamed. He glanced down at his tattered blue skateboard sneakers.
“So are both you and Thomas signing up for the Summer Reading Club?” Library Sue asked.
Amani replied, “Naw, just me. Thomas seems to be allergic to books. He gets bad gas everything he sees one.”
Both Amani and Library Sue laughed. Thomas cheeks burnt. His stomach protested. Please be a S not an SBD. He pleaded with his gassy intestines. A silent fart was much better than a silent but deadly fart. A few bubble wiggled their way out of his behind and up his back. He gave a sigh of relief.
“Maybe Thomas hasn’t made friends with the right type of books yet,” Library Sue said. “I’m running a graphic novel and comic book camp this year, are you interested Thomas?”
Library Sue running a graphic novel and comic book camp? Thomas was so all over that. He snapped his head up and nodded. Library Sue’s green eyes twinkled as a wide grin spread across her plum lips.
“I think Thomas would have to read some graphic novels, first,” Amani piped up.
Thomas glared at her.
“No problem. I have some really popular ones on display right now,” Library Sue said.
She strolled from out behind the counter and motioned for Thomas and Amani to follow her. Library Sue’s short skirt, pleated with pink and purple plaid was a stunning attraction accenting her long legs and swinging hips. Thomas was hooked. He would read an encyclopedia for her…well maybe not an encyclopedia as those were pretty boring. They followed Library Sue to the back of the facility where the Youth Section was. A display of varies styles and types of graphic novels were spread over a red tablecloth with a small sign under Plexiglas that read: Hot Summer Reads. Join our Graphic Novel and Comic Book Club this summer discuss the latest heroes and villains.
Thomas watched as Library Sue’s thin, long fingers drummed over some of the books. She selected, Iron Guy and the Alien Earth Invasion. She handed it to Thomas to review. His hand touched hers and his cheeks flamed again. He quickly glanced down and appeared interested in the cover.
“This is one of many graphic novels we will be discussing this summer, Thomas,” she said.
Thomas swallowed a lump in his throat. His palms felt sweaty and he wanted nothing more than to escape to the movie theatre. He nodded.
“I think he wants to be signed up,” Amani said. “We’ll take whatever you’re discussing in the graphic novel and comic book area. I’m sure Thomas wants to be part of the summer fun!”
After about three bags of books, Thomas and Amani left the library. Thomas’ heart was still pitter-pattering in his chest like a caged bird looking for an escape from a cat. He was going to be part of the summer reading club and stare for two months at Library Sue.
“Thomas, did you bring water?” Anami asked
His attention snapped back to the heat of the day as he and Amani trotted down Herbert Street to 1st N.E. They would take a left at Memorial Park and walk another two blocks to get to the theatre.
“Ah water? Uh, no. I don’t drink water. Why are you thirsty, Amani?” he replied.
“I’m not thirsty. But you should carry water or something to drink. You’re ears are fire engine red, Thomas! That’s a sure sign of heat stroke!”
His ears burnt more to a crispy coal colour and the heat washed over his face. How was he going to explain to Amani…a girl…that he, Thomas Jeramiah Brown had a crush on another girl…ah woman that was older than him. He cleared his throat.
“I’m fine, Amani. I don’t have heat stroke. I’m just a little warm, is all,” Thomas said as he looked at the cracks on the sidewalk.
Amani patted his shoulder. “Well, if you faint, I’ll call 911 as someone will have to lower your temperature as quick as possible and I don’t have my first aid yet.”
Thomas glanced at her with shock, then laughed. If only she knew what was ticking in his brain.
“So what are your parents planning for your twelfth birthday this year?” Amani changed the subject.
Thomas groaned. “Probably the same thing that they did last year, and the year before that and the year before that, make an extraordinary float for the Canada Day Parade and put my most ugliest baby picture on it that will hover over me like King Kong hovers over New York!”
Amani giggled. “It will be fun, though Thomas. Because of your float, I look forward to the parade every year.”
“Then maybe you should be on the float,” Thomas said. “I hate it! It’s so humiliating to be the Canada Day baby! I wish we didn’t celebrate birthdays at all.”
Amani was quiet for a moment. “Well, if it makes you feel better Thomas, I hate my birthday too but only because my dad isn’t there to celebrate it with me.”
Sweat oozed around Thomas’ neck. He imagined that it must be hard for Amani. Her father left when she was five and hadn’t taken an interest in her. From Thomas’ understanding, Amani’s father had even remarried and started a new family. He knew that her father frosted Amani to no end. Her mother had chosen not to remarry so it was just the two of them.
“Well, maybe we have to reinvent birthdays,” Thomas decided. “You know have an all night movie marathon or a video game challenge or something.”
Amani grinned and nodded her agreement. The theatre came into view and a long line-up circled down the street. Thomas and Amani stood at the back of the line. Amani pulled out one of her library books and began to read it. Thomas thought about sneaking out one of the graphic novels and sniffing the cover for remnants of Library Sue’s perfumed lotion. He knew Amani would tease the heck out of him. The books remained untouched in the bag.