Sidestory - Wednesday, April 15, 1931

by Julie

Toby spent about two hours piecing Becky's glass flowers together, and at least it took his mind off his loneliness. He was sitting on the floor near the door, right by where the flowers had fallen, half-hoping Becky would come through, even though if she did return, she'd probably just appear somewhere, and, unless she'd calmed considerably, not anywhere near *him.* When the shards of glass had all been put into place, with a few extra flourishes added, Toby was left with his thoughts again, and he thought sleep might help him forget. He took off his shirt, shoes, and socks, and slipped into Becky's bed. He took her pillow--it still smelled of the soap Becky used and the shampoo he'd made her. He fell asleep, imagining she was beside him.

A voice woke Toby in the middle of the night, calling Becky. Before he could think, Toby was out of bed and opening the front door. Of course it wasn't Becky, but a cat who knocked him to the ground. It took them each a moment to figure out who the other was.


"You're not Becky." Daniel coughed, then sniffed, sounding scared, and younger than he was when Toby had first met him. "Where's Becky?"

"I don't know," Toby said. "I'm waiting for her too."

Daniel tried to growl, but it came out as a cough, and his little hoarse voice sounded pitiful. "I'm scared. I want Becky."

Toby stepped back a step, afraid of the germs. "We have to get you back to the doctor's."

"She's dead," Daniel whimpered. "I don't want to die."

"You're not going to die," Toby insisted, stepping back again.

"Becky said when we die we get reborn as something better, like a bigger cat or a rich kid." Daniel coughed again, and it sounded a little like he was choking. "I don't wanna forget who I am. I don't want to forget Becky." He coughed again. "I want to be me."

Toby said, "Come on. I'll take you back to the doctor's."

Daniel's eyes grew wet. "I don't want to be reborn! What if I die?"

"You're just a kid," Toby said softly. Daniel pushed the top of his head up against Toby's hand, and Toby instinctively scratched the cat, just like Becky would have. "You're not going to die...but when kids die they go right to heaven. Or Nirvana, or whatever good thing there is."

"Sara's not sick, is she?" Daniel asked hoarsely.

"No," Toby said. "She's fine."

"Good," Daniel said. He coughed again, terribly, and then licked his paw.

"Don't do that," Toby said. "Your spit is full of germs, and you'll make everyone who touches you sick. You'll make Becky sick when she comes back."

Daniel lowered his paw. "You're as bad as Mrs. Adamson."

Even Toby had heard the schoolchildren complain about her. But despite Daniel's protests, Toby got some hot water and soap and washed the cat's fur, hoping to kill the germs. Daniel tried to groom himself when Toby had finished, and then grimaced. "It tastes awful."

"Good," Toby said softly. "Sleep out there by the door, and you'll hear when Becky comes in. I'll take you back to the doctor's in the morning."

"I don't want to go back," Daniel meowed.

"We'll see," Toby said. "Now go to sleep, okay?"

Daniel just mewled when Toby left him, and when Toby yelled to make him stop, the cat tried to muffle his sobs, which sounded even worse. So Toby had to sit with Daniel until he fell asleep; he made a face mask for himself, hoping to keep healthy, though he knew full well that fabric wouldn't block germs, no matter how fine a weave he made it. Once Daniel's sniffles slowed to long, steady sniffs, Toby crept back into Becky's bed. He slept soundly all night, and woke late in the morning, with a bit of a headache and a sore throat. Daniel had curled up next to him, and it took Toby a couple minutes to wake him.

"I had a bad dream," Daniel said instantly. "Someone hurt someone, but I don't remember who. Sara had a dream that someone in a cloak killed the doctor, and in the morning the doctor was dead."

Toby coughed involuntarily. "What?"

Daniel recounted the story as best he could, and did a pretty good job, for not having seen the dream or the doctor's body. Toby grew congested just hearing it. He was struck with anger and terror. "Get out!" he said quickly. "You'll make me get sick!"

Daniel mrred pitifully, but Toby drove the cat out, commanding him to go back to the doctor.

"If you're sick, you should go too," Daniel said. "They have medicine there."

The thought of being locked up in a tiny house with three sick people, all their germs, and quite possibly a dead body, made Toby feel like he was already dying. "I won't go outside, and there's no medicine that'll fight the flu."

"You said I wasn't going to die," Daniel said softly. "Why are you scared?"

"I told you to get out!" Toby was about ready to slam the door on Daniel, who was still in the doorway.

"Why are you scared?" Daniel asked again.

"It probably doesn't kill cats at all," Toby said, "but you know what it did to the doctor! I'll probably die just like she did!"

"Oh," Daniel said. He coughed. "I'm glad Becky's not here, then."

"Go back to the doctor's!" Toby yelled. "Before you kill someone else!"

Daniel mewled sadly, clearly filled with guilt. Toby might have felt bad, except his throat chose that moment to tickle him, and he nearly doubled over coughing for a full minute. When he looked back up, Daniel was gone, and Toby was glad. He melted Becky's door shut with trembling hands and then got to work making soup and throwing knives, to ward off the flu and protect him. The effort winded him, and Toby was even more afraid. He hid in Becky's bed, under the blankets, as if they would somehow protect him, and fell into an uneasy and fitful sleep.

On to Friday, April 17, 1931 part 1 (AIM)

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