Saturday, September 26th [Second day of the Festival of Nations], early afternoon
Our booth on the green
When I came back to the booth, Hull was still there, and he’d been joined by Jack and Tika – Jack’s sister. I hadn’t met her, but Joel and I had seen her at the swimming test. She seemed even taller up-close. When I joined them behind the table, Jack said, “We had a real run on the candy during lunch – we pulled a lot of the extras out, but I think you’re going to sell out.”
“I’ve got an idea for something to keep people interested tomorrow if we run out,” I said. “If we can get an electric cord, I could bring my TV and video tape player in from home and put on some American movies. What do you think?”
“Isn’t that basically what our classroom is doing? Also, there’s no place for people to sit.”
“Those are movies people will have seen before,” I said. “I don’t think they import movies through the gate, so anything would be brand new.”
“I guess it’s worth a try. I can go check about the cord if that would help.”
“That’d be great, thanks Jack,” I said.
“Sure, I don’t mind. Before I go, have you met Tika?”
I hadn’t and after making our introductions, we chatted briefly about classes and our clubs. She was, as I’d guessed, on the swimming team. When she heard which club I was in, she asked, “Since you’re in fencing, you must know Galen.”
My first thought was, does everyone at this school know each other? “I know him a little from the club, yeah.”
“He’s in my homeroom. One of my friends from class does not get along with him at all,” she said.
“He seems like a nice guy at fencing,“ I said, and then I thought of his ‘this is like three couples’ line when we all got ice cream. “Maybe a little immature, but there are worse things than that.”
“Maybe that’s what bothers my friend. She’s quite serious at times.”
I shrugged, and before we could continue, Jack came back. He had a big thumbs up for me: the custodians would set up the cord for us that night. He and Tika headed out after that, and it was just Hull left with me at the booth. His meet and greet ran until two o’clock, and at the end of it he left.
I was expecting it to be quiet for a while – the lunch rush was over, and with Hull gone, the slow stream of adults wanting to talk to him wouldn’t be stopping by. Only a few minutes after he left, though, three girls stopped by. Gwen and Cory were accompanied by a third girl who I didn’t know.
She was about the same height as Gwen, with short black hair cut to frame her face. She had on a fitted vest and matching skirt that with a jacket could have straight from a bank or law office. She had a calm, confident air about her that complemented Gwen's bold, artistic style.
Gwen made the introductions. "Mark, this is our friend Diane Cho. She was student council president last year."
Diane gave me a polite smile. "It's nice to meet you. Gwen was saying you were from America?"
"Nice to meet you, too, and yes," I said, gesturing back at the booth. "We’re trying to represent the US here. Are you a college student now?"
Diane nodded. "Yes, I'm in my first year of law school."
It surprised me that law school here wasn’t a graduate program like it is in the US. We ended up chatting briefly about her studies, and then she had some questions about my world and how the US was getting involved here. The general ones I could answer, but plenty of them would have been better directed at Hull.
“He’ll be back for a couple of hours again tomorrow, if you’d like to speak to him,” I said.
She declined, as she had a school event tomorrow. Before they left, Gwen and Diane bought candy and some souvenirs. I was surprised that Cory did not follow them.
“Hey, Mark,” she said. Then, after a pause, “I guess you said Mr. Hull won’t be back until tomorrow?”
“Sorry, yeah. You only missed him by a few minutes. I think he was going to the administration building if you want to catch him.”
“No, that’s all right, I’ll come by tomorrow,” she said, and then she paused for a moment. “Umm, did Joel mention that I was interested in buying the spacecraft model there?”
“He did,” I said. “It makes a nice decoration for the booth, but we didn’t have any plan for it after the festival. You’re welcome to it afterwards.”
“How much did you want for it?”
I shook my head, “That’s not necessary. Hull said I should try to pass on what we can’t use, and it feels weird to both charge you and ask you to wait until after the festival.”
I nodded, and then said, “Why not? Call it ‘free to a good home.’”
She frowned and thought for a short while. “It still doesn’t seem right. You’re sure you won’t take anything for it?”
You try to do something nice for someone, and they make it harder, I thought, and after a moment, a better idea came to me. “This all came from the American government. If you want to pay somebody back for it, I know Hull is looking to know more about this world. You were going to talk to him tomorrow anyway, right?”
“I’m pretty sure what he’d want in return is information. He’ll probably ask you to write something, or maybe interview you. Does that sound OK?”
“I was going to talk to him anyway,” she said, followed by a faint sigh. “Fine.”
“Nice. I’m just glad someone thought it was cool. If you like space we’ve got some other posters from NASA, like that one,” I pointed my thumb back at the one of the Earth from space. “Want to have a look?”
“National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” and when she gave me a puzzled look, I went on, “The part of our government that runs the space program.”
“Ah, interesting. I need to catch up to Gwen, but I’ll look at the posters tomorrow when I talk to Mr. Hull.”
The next few hours were uneventful.