Page 4 - Provocation
P. 4

Madeleine grips the industrial stapler in her cold palm.

Deep underground, the docks of the gallery and the library are connected. One giant concrete
whirlpool of industrial bins, demountable walls, and fallow pallets of props. It was her job to
supervise the incoming and outgoing pieces for the children’s exhibits in the State Library.

Her dream job.

She stalks carefully around ten foot high dinosaurs and puppet-sized proscenium arches. Pauses,
hunkering down behind a towering cage full of flattened boxes. Mould spore catches at the top of
her throat, tasting of mangrove funk. She forces a dry, silent swallow. Rests her eyes shut a
moment, delicate lids flickering back and forth in a waking REM state, processing her options.
Blinks as the oversized double doors swung open. Hydraulic hiss close.

Granger leaned back to adjust the air con unit, big as a single bed flipped on its side, tucked into
a recess at the base of the wide formal stairway. Every morning Madeleine walked up those stairs,
and every morning Granger leaned back, fiddling around with knobs that were set right the first
time when the building was finished five years ago.

Good morning, he says. Anonymous cadavers, the general public, walk past his long reception
counter where overseas students and family historians check their bags and tag their laptops
before being allowed entry into the library proper.

Good morning, they respond.

Madeleine used to say good morning. She used to greet him with the same warm optimism he’d
seen her greet everyone, everything.

Not anymore.

He leaned, and fiddled, and checked her out as she tapped a hasty drumroll up the stairs.

A high school girl, warm zebra-stripe skin, venetian blinds in spring sunshine.

Waiting.

Maddi sat up, nudged past her full leather duffel, and headed outside. Maybe if she moved faster,
time would get the hint, follow. She paced the small brick-tile courtyard of Moray Clinic, anxiety
thickening in her lungs, shoulder blades contracting towards her ears. Paused. Took three long
breaths, just like she’d been taught. Perched on the park bench by her door. She gently stroked
the cartilage between her nostrils, where once the tube had rubbed her raw. Six weeks as a
permanent resident. Then six months as an outpatient, with overnight stays once a week to learn
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