She’s outside kicking the wrought iron fence with her silver high tops when Robin walks up behind her.
“Good morning, mamselle. Did we wake up on the wrong side this morning or did that fence try to sneak up on you?”
Eleanor jumps and blushes. “Oh. No. I just like the way it sounds. See?” She kicks it again; the metal vibrates like an angry hornet.
“That reminds me of when I was a kid.” She wants to say that everything reminds him of when he was a kid but she also wants to hear the story. Robin takes her arm in the crook of his elbow like a proper gentleman. He smells of the same kind of deodorant that Lang uses. “I wasn’t allowed to hit my sisters, not even when they asked for it, not even if they begged me to, so instead I would go out back of our house and take a switch to a hackberry tree. Did you ever see a hackberry tree? I’ll find you one today. My Uncle Kenny used to call it a backscratcher tree, because of the bark.” He smiles and winks at her. “We could rub up against one and see if it actually works. We’ll give it a scientific test.” Sometimes he speaks with an exaggerated accent, as if he were only pretending to be southern. “One time our cat caught a mouse and my sister and I weighed it on a postage scale then watched it squeak and squirm for an hour or two until it finally croaked and we weighed it again. We wanted to know if the soul of a mouse could be measured, you see. It was all very scientific.”
She likes to hear him talk. The more stories he tells her, the more they have in common. If she plays it right she can sometimes keep him talking for more than an hour without stopping. While they play chess, he gets so caught up in the stories he’s telling he forgets to watch his king and when they went fishing, he scared all the fish away with his constant chatter. He tells her she has an old soul. He says she reminds him of a girl he played with when he was a kid.
The streetcar is creaking toward them as they cross to the median and fumble in their pockets for the fare. The driver helps Eleanor flatten the dollar and feed it into the slot, slide the quarter in behind. There are two seats together near the back.
Elle slides into the varnished wood seat by the window. “Could it be measured?”
“The soul of the mouse.”
A large portion of this chapter has been deleted.
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(If you could cut out any word, sentence, paragraph from this chapter, which one would it be?)