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“Waek uuhp, Tohmee. Waek uuhp.”
What was Uncle Reynard doing here? Wasn’t he back in Europe? Any second now he’d break into some Romani folksong, some proudful tune of the Hungarian Gypsy people as his hands snuck under the covers to tickle Tommy and Ro awake.
Tommy reached for Ro with his foot but Ro wasn’t on his side of the bed. He must already be awake. Probably had to pee. Ro always had to pee first thing in the morning. Tommy snuggled under the covers, searching for Ro’s warm spot, wanting to stretch into it, to draw comfort from it.
“Tohmee. Kuuhm ohn. Waek uuhp.”
Each word, each syllable, had a note, a tone, associated with it, as if each sound were a small piece of music complete in itself.
But that was Uncle Reynard, his voice breathy and mellow and with a touch of laughter even when he talked to himself.
“Ha. I still sing grandma and grandpa’s songs with this strong Gypsy heart,” and Uncle Reynard would thump his chest with his mutilated, three-fingered left hand. Poor Uncle Reynard. He always lost watches because he refused to wear them on his other arm, where a full hand would stop them from sliding off or flying away. He held up that mutilated hand like a badge of honor. “I don’t mind I lost this hand. You remember, Sam?” he would ask Poppa. “I never forget that. The SS man sits up in the back, we didn’t even know he was there, then tells us to jump and pushes us from the car. He tried to kill us, telling us to jump and pushing us like that, then the car goes and explodes right after we jump out.” Uncle Reynard and Papa were the only ones to escape The Camps when Hitler gathered the Families.
But he laughed about his hand and made fun of himself, his accent so strong it cut into Tommy’s consciousness like strong coffee on a cold, winter morn.
“Tohmee. Waek uuhp.”
Something gently shook his shoulder. A gentle, muffled shaking with each word.
Couldn’t be Uncle Reynard. He came in like rolling thunder, always hugging and kissing and jumping and tugging, always wanting Ro and Ceilly and Tommy to play. He would grab each boy by the belt, one in each hand, lift them to his face and brush his whiskers against them. “Which of you is the heavier today? “He’d shake them one at a time as if deciding. “Everything should balance, you two, you just don’t know it.”
Tommy rolled under the covers. Pumpkin pie. He could smell Mama’s pumpkin pie baking in the oven.
That wasn’t right. Mama never made pumpkin pie for breakfast. Not even for Uncle Reynard.
Sleep yielded to consciousness. Uncle Reynard’s accent resolved itself into Standard. “Tommy. Wake up. You are needed in the Neuroscaphe.”
The gentle shaking continued. Tommy opened his eyes. One of the Librarians stood next to his bed, the two blisters where its eyes should have been still pulsing their message as he moved. The gentle shaking came from the thermal pressure of the Librarian’s “speech” on Tommy’s skin, like knowing there is a candle by feeling a spot of warmth in a cold room.
Tommy sat up. The covers tucked themselves under him and onto the bed. The Community sensed his movement and adjusted itself to allow more light into the room. The Librarian’s head followed him a second later like a whale searching for its echo.
“Good morning, Reynard. You are Reynard, aren’t you?”
The blisters, dark and cold as the Librarian fell silent, heated and pulsed red again. “No. I am the one you call ‘Roland’ and ‘Ro’. Your brother’s name, was it not? Reynard, named for your uncle who will have died in five years, is waiting.”
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