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Come and Sleep

Surrounded by Idiots


     Thirty paces from the road, still hidden in green shadow, Brigid found her sneakers tucked away behind the stump where she’d left them, let out a sigh and became a teenager again. Her room was on the first floor of Haddam Hall, past the bathroom and a perpetually soggy stretch of green carpet. The only single in the dorm, it contained her clothes, her books, a pale blue comforter, and a half dozen pictures pinned to a cork board above the desk. The images included her mom and dad looking very American in Paris, her six-year-old self on a swing, and a scandal-plagued but handsome celebrity couple embracing on the deck of a yacht. 

Kicking her clothes toward her paunchy laundry bag, she checked the time and grabbed her robe and towel. In the squishy hall just outside her door, the payphone was ringing. Of course, it was her mother.

     “How’d you know I’d be here?” asked Brigid.

     “Where are you supposed to be?” 

     The voice was hers but a shade deeper.

     “Lifetime Fitness, but we got out early.”

     “Is that your sport? But you’re such a good runner.”

     “This is better. Altman lets us pick dandelions and goof around in the woods.” 

     “Who’d you goof around with?”

     “Is that your way of asking if I’ve made any friends?”


     “No one today, but there’s always someone really nice to hang with.”

     “You don’t sound very convincing.”

     “The woods and I get along. They help me stay calm. The library, too. Hey, I came up with this theory that way more boys than girls apply to places like this, so with boys they let in the smartest and sportiest—that’s why they’re all assholes—but with girls, they pretty much have to take whoever applies. That’s why I’m surrounded by idiots.”

     “That sounds pretty snobby.”

     “You keep sending me to prep schools. What do you expect?”

     “That you’d be a little less independent,” said her mother. “Maybe—never mind—are you sleeping better?”

     “No, and I need flip flops. I feel stupid wearing my shoes to the shower.”

Before her mom could answer, a vacuum cleaner roared around the corner. The girl pushing it wore braids and large white shorts. She was also wearing red mittens, a terrified expression and holding the machine as far from her body as possible. Brigid wondered why until the vacuum bumped the wall and a spark shot out from where the cord connected to the handle. The girl shrieked and Brigid held the phone to her chest. 

     “Do you mind?” 

The younger girl couldn’t hear a word she’d said, but after swatting the vacuum off with a woolen hand, she volunteered to do her dorm job later.

     “Mom,” said Brigid. “I’ve got twenty minutes before dinner.”

     “I’ll send flip flops. I also got you the new Annie Lamott. Just promise you’ll stay out of trouble.”

     “Look, I’m lazy when it comes to math, but I’ve sworn off fighting and there’s no one here I want to have fun with, I swear.”

     “So we won’t be getting any phone calls?”

     “Only to tell you how awesome I am,” said Brigid, and she thanked her mom for the book. The woman could be dense, but she knew her daughter. 

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