Don Quixote mock-up of a book cover picturing a windmill


Maggie and Amelia sip coffee at the big table in the Fyfield House common room when a bleary eyed Liz comes down. She wasn’t kidding when she said she wasn’t a partier.

Maggie’s make-up bag is open with pots of this and tubes of that scattered everywhere.  Amelia reads from a very thick paperback. Maggie looks up from applying mascara to give Liz a big smile.

“Look what the cat dragged in. Where were you ’til all hours last night Miss Lizzie?”

Liz pauses on her path to the kitchen long enough to say, “Star gazing,” flash a smile and continue on. In the kitchen she gets out a cup then starts a fruitless search of the fridge for milk.

There is milk.

Liz knows there is milk.

Because she bought a litre yesterday and hasn’t even opened it. But where is it? It is not here. It’s gone.

She feels herself tensing, then takes a deep breath and opens the cupboard where the disgusting powder cream substitute lives. Funny how that never runs out. She sighs and pours herself some coffee.

Liz can’t stomach black coffee at all but she sure needs coffee this morning. The gritty powdered cream she dislikes is better than nothing. Sighing, she adds it to her cup then takes the disgusting concoction back out to join the others.

As always, Amelia’s nose is in her book. Focusing on the title, Liz sits down and says with a smile, “Don Quicks-Oat? Sounds like a breakfast cereal.”

Maggie looks at Liz with a creased brow, then realizes Amelia is reading Don Quixote and Liz is talking about Amelia’s book. Amelia looks up, then she gets it too. Amelia and Maggie share a look and begin to smirk … then splutter … then howl.

Liz watches them. Irritated.

“What?” she says. Amelia and Maggie just laugh harder.

“What!?” Liz says again in frustration.

Amelia is laughing, hugging herself trying to draw breath. Maggie brushes the tears of laughter away and says “Don Quicks-Oat,” then doubles over again.

Liz purses her lips, and sits back watching them, shaking her head in annoyance. Any trace of her normally sunny disposition is gone.

She waits.

Finally they start calming down, getting under control.

Maggie grins at Liz and says, “Lizzie, you have just provided the laugh of the day.” Catching a glimpse of her raccoon eyes in the makeup mirror Maggie says, “Shit, I’m gonna have to start over.”

Liz narrows her eyes. “Wanna let me in on the joke Mary Margaret?” Venomous.

Maggie scowls. “There’s no call to get mean.”

Liz can’t believe it. The urge to slap Maggie is strong.

“Slow down,” says Amelia, realizing Liz is not a happy camper. “It’s funny. Truly. The name is Spanish. The book is Spanish. You pronounce it ‘Don Key-Ho-Tay’.”

Liz rolls her eyes, getting it. “The crazy old man and Sancho Panza all that? Man of La Mancha.”

Nodding, Amelia says “That’s the one, yeah. I know, I know, you’ve just never seen it written down. Part of what made it so funny is I remember the first time I saw it written. You’re not the first to sound it out English style.”

“Okay,” says Liz, “but tell me this. You’re an English major. Why study Don Quixote if it’s Spanish story?”

“It’s thought to be the first novel, and we’re studying the novel form. Before there were only epic poems and theater.”


“The musical is great, but the novel is the story Cervantes tells in the jail during the play.” Waving the thick book she grins. “There’s an awful lot more of it for one thing. The musical is about Cervantes being arrested for writing his seditious book ‘Don Quixote’ during the Spanish Inquisition.”

Maggie pipes up in perfect mimicry of the Monty Python faux Spanish accent, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” and the three girls crack up. Together this time.

When they’re quite done, Liz stirs her coffee and takes a sip. “My mom took me to see that show on Broadway when I was in high school. It was so great.”

“That sounds awesome. Wanna trade moms?” asks Maggie, “mine would never do anything like that.”

Smiling, Liz thinks maybe Maggie isn’t so bad.

“It was just us girls. It was fun taking the train to New York and then staying in a hotel. My Dad wouldn’t go to a musical to save his life, so he stayed home with the boys. And it was great. I was bawling my eyes out by the end.”

“Wow,” Amelia smiles, “I’d love to see it done live.”

“The music was beautiful but it rocked visually, too. The set was amazing, I mean it was a dungeon and all but it was like… um … grotty, but artistic. And the lighting was amazing.”

“Broadway.” Amelia says almost reverently. “That is so cool. The closest I’ve come is the Peter O’Toole movie.”

Maggie asks, “Who’s Peter O’Toole?”

“An old movie star … he played Orlando’s dad in Troy.”

“Okay, yeah. He was good as Quixote but his singing was dubbed. You know, the play is as fictional as the novel, the musical was a way to make points about the importance of free speech.”

Maggie asks, “Isn’t free speech always important?”

Amelia says, “I think so, yeah. But the original play was actually a TV broadcast back in the days of the McCarthy witch hunt the Americans had in the 1950’s. The play showed how nasty the Spanish Inquisition was, so they could imply that the McCarthy ‘Un-American’ crap was just as bad.”

Liz says, “Kinda like that Wikileaks business is now.”

“Oh yeah, lots of similarities, out of touch government, erosion of civil liberties, like that. The irony is that there’s no evidence Cervantes was ever jailed.”

“It’s still a good story,” adds Maggie.

“Absolutely,” smiles Liz, mostly restored to good humour, until she looks at her coffee and grimaces.

“You know, I swear I bought a litre of milk yesterday and now there isn’t any.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Maggie nods, “Mouse got a care package from her mom with weird sugar cube things she calls anise blocks.”

“Anise. Isn’t that some kind of funny smelling veggie?”

Maggie says, “That’s it, the one smells like licorice. Anise blocks are like licorice sugar cubes you put in warm milk.”

Liz says, “Well, I like licorice. But putting it in milk?”

“I can’t stand black licorice and that’s what it smelt like. But you know Mouse. Everybody had to try it and that was pretty much it for your milk.”

Liz rolls her eyes, thinks about a year of powdered cream.

“Guess you don’t like ouzo either,” says Amelia.

Maggie shudders. “No way. Disgusting stuff.”

Liz grimaces as she finishes her coffee. “Now I know why people buy those over priced mini fridges for their rooms.”

“If you decide to get one,” says Amelia, “you might want to make sure to get one that comes with a lock.”

Liz stares at her in surprise. “What, I can’t even trust my own roomie?”

Amelia laughs. “Yeah, you can trust me. But we’re neither of us very good about keeping the room locked. There wouldn’t be any point in having a private fridge without a locked door.”
“Nobody swipes my knickers, just my food.”

Amelia laughs. “Probably because you’re the only one who goes shopping on a regular basis. You’ve gotta realize that most of us are used to having magically filled fridges.”

“When you live alone you darned well know house elves don’t fill your cupboards at night. It’s annoying, not to mention hell on my budget,” says Liz.

“So,” says Maggie, pretending nonchalance as she peers over the top of her glasses at Liz. “What’s this star gazing deal? I haven’t heard about any stars being in town since they shot that Justin Bieber video last month.”

Amelia’s eyes widen. “Justin Bieber, you’ve gotta be kidding right? That boy looks like he’s twelve years old.”

“Yeah, but what can I say, I like his music. So sue me.”

“Wrong kind of stars,” explains Liz, pleased to know something Maggie doesn’t for once. “You know, ones in the sky. The Seven Sisters, Betelgeuse, Mars, the Big Dipper. Like that.”

Maggie looks aghast. “Its one thing to lay out under the stars in summer but at this time of year? Baby it’s cold outside.”

“Maybe that’s why God invented winter coats.”

“Meow,” says Maggie swiping her talons through the air..

“What was it like?” asks Amelia.

“Pretty cool actually.” Liz raises her eyebrows in Maggie’s direction, “although not in a temperature kind of way. Jake’s friend built his own telescope.”

Amelia says, “Mars is a planet, not a star, though.”

“Wait a minute, Jake?” Maggie turns to Liz. “You mean that little guy could pass for Justin Bieber’s younger brother? The one looks all of 14?”

“Yeah, Jake. He may look young but he’s an amazing photographer. Ferociously smart too.”

Maggie says, “You’re not … I mean …” rarely at a loss, Maggie stumbles, and Liz suddenly understands the question.

“No, we’re not dating if that’s what you’re getting at. We’re friends. If its any of your business, it wasn’t just me and Jake. There were other shutter bugs too, like Natasha and Boris.”

“Mmmm. Boris is pretty hot,” says Amelia.

“Way too many muscles for me.” says Maggie. “But I’d walk softly there ’cause Boris and Natasha are joined at the hip.”

“I took some pretty cool shots of Mars through that telescope. They actually came out better than I thought. Not as good as NASA shots, but still, how cool is getting to take my own Mars picture. Jakes’s friend Larry thinks the visibility is better this time of year. You should see his telescope, it’s huge. Almost as tall as I am. Larry told me the mirror alone cost hundreds of dollars.”

Maggie says, “Sounds like a mirror for Barbie.”

“Barbie? Like the doll?” asks Liz.

“No, like the pre-med student.”

“Barbie? There can’t possibly be a real live girl who actually goes by the name ‘Barbie’? In med school? No way.”

“In pre-med.” Maggie nods. “Can you believe it? She’s even blonde. Boobs out to here, perfect skin, teeth, big blue eyes. Kate saw her file. It’s not a nick-name, it’s her honest-to-god name. I ask you, what kind of parents would name their kid after a doll?”

“Luckily, not mine,” says Liz, “Never saw the point in those dolls myself.”

“Yeah, talk about weird shaped.” Amelia nods, “I mean forget the physics of how wide her bra straps would have to be just to hold those babies up. Have you looked at those feet? The damage to those poor little doll feet is as bad as Chinese foot binding thing. Barbie doll feet look like they are in major pain. Can you imaging having to walk on tiptoes forever?”

“Physics?” asks Liz. “What do you know about physics?”

Amelia nods. “I was a Physics major last year. Just I lost my way in the math, so I flunked out. Only choice was English.”

“That’s a big jump.” says Maggie.

“Not really. The plan was always to be a science fiction writer,” Amelia tells them. “You know, maybe Barbie’s mom is one of those crazed Barbie doll collectors you hear about.”

“But a blonde,” Liz snorts, “named Barbie. I mean, what kind of place IS this. I’d have shopped around for another school if I’d known what kind of students came here.”

Amelia says, “You can’t hardly hold it against her, Maggie. Her parents named her, and if she’s pre-med, she must be smart.”

Liz shudders. “I dunno, if my folks saddled me with a name like Barbie I’d have legally changed that sucker by now.”

“Yeah really. Me too. Or at the very least told everybody my name was something like ‘Moonbeam’ or ‘Peaches.’ You know something with a bit more credibility.”

Liz snickers. She especially likes ‘Moonbeam.’

“There’s a reasonable probability Barbie may not actually be pre-med smart,” says Maggie. “Nick thinks Barbie is in med school to shop for an MD, not become one.”

“You mean marry a doctor?” asks Liz. “For real?”

“God. I thought we stopped doing that generations ago,” grumbles Amelia. “Don’t you need good grades for pre-med?”

Maggie says, “not as good as you need to get into the U of G Veterinary College but still …”

“You need better marks to be a vet than a people doctor?”

“Absolutely. The smart ones become vets.” says Maggie.

“Bet you wouldn’t say that if Kate was here.” says Amelia.

“Of course I wouldn’t.” Maggie rolls her eyes. “I want to live, don’t I? Doesn’t mean it isn’t true though.”

Amelia says, “You have to be plenty smart and dedicated either way. More people want to be vets. After all, your patients are guinea pigs, bunny rabbits and puppy dogs. They don’t talk back. I bet malpractice premiums are lower for vets too.”

“I don’t know about that. You should have seen all the blood the first time I tried to give our cat a bath,” says Liz.

Amelia grins. “Well, cats…”

“I miss my cat.”

Maggie says, “I wouldn’t mind having a cat around, Lizzie.”

Liz rounds on Maggie and says, “For the last time, my name is not ‘Lizzie’, Mary Margaret.”

Maggie narrows her eyes. “Fine. Be that way. Liz it is.”

Liz nods. “While we’re clearing the air, what I do and where I go is my business, so I’d appreciate it if you would stop giving me the third degree all the time.”

“Third degree? That’s called ‘making conversation. Sometimes I get worried when people aren’t in when they ought to be. Last night I was up way late and you still weren’t back. Then I thought maybe you had a hot date. So shoot me, I was just asking. You don’t have to get your knickers in a twist.”

“I don’t meddle in your love life, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t stick your nose in mine.”

“I wasn’t meddling, girl, I was just hoping.”

Liz scoops up her cup, and stomps off to the kitchen.

Amelia shoots Maggie a look.

“What?” Maggie asks, defensive. “She’s mad at me for worrying about her?”

Amelia shakes her head, glancing pointedly at the clock. “Don’t you have a computer to fix, or a class or something?”

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