#fridayflash: melt

Tim and Derek and Frannie are in detention hall today. The teachers caught Derek and Frannie beating up Tim, but Tim's here too because even after Mrs. McAllister broke it up, Tim flung himself at Frannie and started whaling on her. Mrs. McAllister said Frannie couldn't defend herself as well because she was wearing a dress and the boys had corduroys on, but she's also a head taller than either Tim or Derek, and stronger, too. So that's crap, and now they're all here in the hall with George. George is always in detention hall for something, because he's too dumb to know how school works.

And it's stupid anyhow, because Mrs. McAllister gave Derek and Frannie an extra half-hour tomorrow in detention hall for "picking on" Tim. Nobody was picking on anybody. Just Tim said that maybe this year they should come up with a story about going exploring in the woods behind the back field, and tell. Like they didn't know what had happened before, two autumns ago. And Derek and Frannie think it would be too hard to keep the story straight, and they didn't want Tim to tell. Then Tim said he'd do it himself and keep them out of it, but they still didn't think he'd keep the story straight, so the beating up part was just to show they really meant it.

Now Mr. O'Hare's got called out into the hallway. George is sitting half-asleep at his desk — sitting still until he's told to get up and go is the one thing at school he doesn't screw up. Tim's sitting behind Frannie and Derek, and he whispers to them, "Lotta snow this year. The drifts are six feet high. My dad says it's a record."

"SHHHH," says Frannie, but she only turns around halfway because they can still see Mr. O'Hare in the doorway, and that means he can see them too if he wants to.

"See," Tim whispers, "that means there's gonna be a lot of melt."

"You're going to get more detention time," Derek whispers back.

"A lot of melt. And that means that creek bank is going to overflow, and it'll erode out all the mud we dug up, and then...."

"Stop it," Frannie says, almost at a normal voice.

Mr. O'Hare takes one step back into the room and fixes them all with a look.

"Children," he says, sounding like he were giving an example for Public Speaking Day, "this is Detention Hall. That means No Speaking. This is not a Place to Socialise. You are Being Punished." They can all hear the capital letters on the words when he talks, and he says "punished" like it's "pun is shed."

Mr. O'Hare fixes them all another look, then he steps out in the hall again, and this time he takes a step or two from the door. Whatever it is, it must be important, because Mr. O'Hare never leaves detention hall.

Frannie makes a point of ignoring Tim, makes a point of banishing the memory of helping Derek dig the hole. They got as far as two feet deep, and big enough that Tim and Frannie could lie down curled up inside it and still not touch each other.

Then they pushed Ian's body in, shovelled the dirt over top, then threw dead leaves on it and jumped and ran over it until it sank a little, then shovelled more dirt and did the same again, until the claylike mud was packed down and the spot where the hole had been was level with the rest of the creek bank and plastered down with dead leaves.

Frannie banishes that, and banishes Derek grabbing Ian's asthma inhaler and not letting him have it back until he promises not to tell about Tim stealing the bag of cookies from the corner store... it's a lot to banish, and when Frannie's head is finally clear again Mr. O'Hare is thanking the person he's been talking to in the hallway, and he's doing it loudly, and Frannie finally sees who he's talking to and it's a cop in an OPP uniform.

Tim and Derek and Frannie sit absolutely still and quiet as Mr. O'Hare comes back into the room. Mr. O'Hare erases the date written on the top right corner of the blackboard and writes tomorrow's date in its place.

"That was Officer Keaton," he says. "He's going to come in next week and talk to you about safety. The melt is going to be big this year, and they're expecting some flooding. It'll be dangerous to play around ponds and streams."

George starts to laugh, a long, loping, honking laugh that you can hear bounce off the cinderblock walls, signifying nothing.

Mr. O'Hare looks up and fixes him a look, but the look is distracted by the clock at the back of the classroom.

"My apologies," he says. "I've kept you five minutes longer than necessary. Time to go home. Run along now, or you'll miss the late bus."

Frannie, Tim, and Derek bolt from the desks as if they've touched an electric fence with a blade of grass and sprint for the door. They don't speak until they turn the corner and check they're alone.

"We should tell," says Tim. "His mom's still all broken up about it."

"Say what you want," says Derek. "You were the one that caused it."

"How?" says Tim. "You took the medicine from him."

"Did not," says Derek. "You did."

"You did," says Frannie.

"You took it from him," Tim says to Derek. "I just held it."

"If you just found him, it doesn't matter," says Derek.

They watch the late bus meandering up the sideroad to the school. They can tell from the way it's moving that the driver is worried about black ice. On the other side of the school driveway, George lopes off home, ignoring the bus, ignoring the cold, only wearing a flannel shirt over a t-shirt and jeans, no mitts or hat.

"Do you think they'll find anything?" says Tim. "About us."

"Like on those TV shows? I dunno," says Derek.

"Mr. O'Hare's going to come out and talk to the bus driver," says Frannie. "He always does."

"Maybe I won't," says Tim.

The bus gets stuck in a pile of slush, weaves a little, then grinds up to the school entrance.