Mr Feigenbaum was known as Mr Faggotbum at Gradston High. That was because he wore a scarf and crossed his legs, and knew more about poetry and plays than the librarians, the teachers, and certainly any of the children’s own parents. Mr Feigenbaum had a wife and three children though, all grown up. One of them had died as an infant, her name was Marcie, like the Peanuts character. When Tammy entered the drama room Mr Feigenbaum was sitting in his chair facing the stage, smoking his pipe, circling his shoeless, red-socked foot slowly, absently round and round. Tammy watched him for a while at the door. The change of air had disturbed the room, there was a pulse that had rippled through and made the smoke, swollen dense and grey in the stage lights swim, but he hadn’t seemed to notice. The atmosphere was nicer in the drama room—outside the sun had already set, only a few students here or there lingered, used the library, waited detention out, and the usual chill had descended and made the lamplights seem a little bluer, a little more benumbing—but inside felt warm, and a kinetic kind of invisible energy contrasted strangely with the stillness of the room—in that stillness there was dancing, laughing, the chanting and shrill gibberish of their warm-up exercises, cartwheels just for fun, other games, jostling, sudden maniacal faces and characters they’d put on. It was like seeing the photograph of a particularly animate person, someone very fun, now silent, paralysed. Tammy closed the door and unslung her backpack, throwing it onto a seat. Mr Feigenbaum turned slowly, mid-thought with his pipe in his mouth. Tammy gave a weak smile, and Mr Feigenbaum’s face fell. He shook his head. When he stood and made his way slowly toward her, arms raised, pipe pointing off at an angle in his hand she felt like the accustomed deadness she carried with her was less like a shell, something protective and comforting, and more like a silk shawl she struggled to keep attached to her. Mr Feigenbaum’s unwavering face was dreadful, it reminded her of the seriousness of what had happened, the impossible barbarity, there was no less a transition of worlds—the embrace; warm tweed, deep smoke, tired breathing—was like the response to a question she had been asking herself since the funeral, though there really was no question, only a feeling of halfness—half thoughts, half feelings, half seeing the things around her. Now there was a communication, once again, of grief, and she felt as though she were firmly back in her body. Yes, it was real. Yes, it was real. Yes, it was real.
“I’m so very sorry,” he said.
“Has anyone come yet?”
“’Fraid not,” he said, pulling back and observing the tears in Tammy’s eyes. “No,” he echoed, heading back to his seat and pulling back the sleeve of his jacket he glanced, it seemed perfunctorily at his watch, “it’s not looking very hopeful.”
He settled back down and resumed smoking. Tammy surveyed the stage then made her way over, ascending the steps. She moved about without purpose, shuffling through scenes that came and went, merged, made now no sense, incomplete.
“Nay, I’ll conjure too. Romeo! humours! madman! passion! lover! Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh—” Pause. She looked in Mr Feigenbaum’s direction, not ashamed, frustrated. She felt she needed this.
“Speak,” Mr Feigenbaum drawled out slowly, deeply, not bothering to loose his jaw’s grip on the bit of his pipe.
“—speak but one time,” she rushed on, stirred by the fault, “and I am satisfied; cry but ‘Ay me!’, couple but ‘love’ and ‘dove’; speak to my gossip Venus one fair word. One nickname for her purblind son and heir, young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim when King Cophetua loved the beggard-maid. He heareth not, he stirreth not, he moveth not; the ape is dead, and I must conjure him. I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes, by her high forehead, and her scarlet lip, by her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh, and the demesnes that there adjacent lie, that in thy likeness thou appear to us.”
“And if he hear thee, thou wilt anger him.”
“This cannot anger him,” Tammy quipped, staring down at her teacher whose closed eyes meant he was listening to the words, feeling the cadence, examining the accent for any remnants of twang, weighing intent and interpretation, hers—her interpretation, “’twould anger him to raise a spirit in his mistress’ circle of some strange nature, letting it there stand till she had laid it, and conjur’d it down; that were some spite; my invocation is fair and honest, and in his mistress’ name I conjure only but to raise up him.”