Auditor Faults University of Missouri System For Handling Of Leader's Exit, Bonus Pay

Former University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who resigned his post in 2015, was paid his full salary for months afterward, according to State Auditor Nicole Galloway.

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Jeff Roberson/AP

Bonuses paid to executives and administrators in the University of Missouri System “may violate the Missouri Constitution,” the state auditor says, in a new report that details hidden bonuses, “excessive” luxury vehicle allowances — and $100,000 in retention payments to a chancellor who resigned amid a furor, only to be rehired months later.

“Administrators appear to have forgotten that the system is a public institution, and that they are accountable to taxpayers, students and families,” Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said in presenting her report on the University of Missouri System and its Board of Curators.

That former chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, resigned his post at the flagship Columbia campus in 2015, on the same day University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe stepped down. While Wolfe was undone by his handling of racial incidents at the campus, Loftin resigned after nine deans from nine different departments called for his dismissal in a letter they sent to the school’s Board of Curators.

Despite the deans’ repudiation of Loftin’s leadership — they said he had created a “toxic environment through threat, fear and intimidation” — Loftin, who resigned in November of 2015, “continued to receive his full chancellor salary of $459,000 per year through April 30, 2016,” the auditor’s report states. The agreement that was approved when Loftin resigned had called for him to receive a salary at 75 percent of his chancellor pay.

Detailing what the auditor calls “financial mismanagement” of the former leader’s transition, Galloway says a new job was created for Loftin last May, paying him $344,250 per year as the Director of National Security Research. When he returned, Loftin also received a $35,000 annual stipend and a vehicle allowance of $15,560 — nearly $1,300 per month.

Noting that his base pay is 31 percent more than any other research administrator on campus, Galloway’s report says Loftin was granted “developmental leave” almost immediately upon taking the job, giving him the rest of the year “to travel the UM System and the country to ‘learn what we do'” — citing the offer letter for the job.

The auditor also found fault with the system’s payment of bonuses and vehicle allowances.

From the report:

“In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Board of Curators or System President approved approximately $1.2 million in incentive payments to top executives and administrators for their performance during the preceding years. Incentive payments were made without a formalized and clearly defined process of how the additional compensation was to be earned, giving the appearance of year-end bonuses, which are a violation of the Missouri Constitution.”

For the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years, the auditor says, the system paid some $407,000 in vehicle allowance payments to “an average of 15 top executive and administrative positions” — a system that, in the most recent fiscal year, meant those individuals were paid an average of around $1,240 a month.

Speaking of the wider ramifications of the university system’s financial stewardship, Galloway said, “Missouri families often take on significant debt, even after spending years saving their hard-earned dollars, to send their sons and daughters to college. System leaders must work to accept responsibility for their actions and to regain the public’s confidence.”

Tuition at the University of Missouri did not rise for most students last year, as part of a deal made with state leaders over an increase in funding. But with a new governor looking to cut the state’s higher education budget, some now say tuition hikes will result.

The official audit includes the university system’s response. It says in part, “Nothing in the System’s plan violates the state constitution or gives any reasonable appearance of doing so.” The system also refers to some of the laws cited by the state auditor as being written with either the general assembly or a municipality — not the university system — in mind.

The system defended its handling of bonus pay, stating that the criteria it uses to judge job performance are “quantifiable” or “otherwise objective.” To that, the auditor replied in a comment of her own, “Our review of the documentation determined the measurement criteria in place are almost entirely subjective.”

On the subject of vehicle allowances, the UM System said it provides the payments to executives “as one component of a compensation package,” adding that the allowances “are not excessive but instead are market driven” by pay rates at peer institutions.

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Auditor Faults University Of Missouri System For Handling Of Leader's Exit, Bonus Pay

Former University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who resigned his post in 2015, was paid his full salary for months afterward, according to State Auditor Nicole Galloway.

Jeff Roberson/AP

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Jeff Roberson/AP

Bonuses paid to executives and administrators in the University of Missouri System “may violate the Missouri Constitution,” the state auditor says in a new report that details hidden bonuses, “excessive” luxury vehicle allowances — and $100,000 in retention payments to a chancellor who resigned amid a furor, only to be rehired in a new post months later.

“Administrators appear to have forgotten that the system is a public institution, and that they are accountable to taxpayers, students and families,” Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said in presenting her report on the University of Missouri System and its Board of Curators.

That former chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, resigned his post at the flagship Columbia campus in 2015, on the same day University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe stepped down. While Wolfe was undone by his handling of racial incidents at the campus, Loftin resigned after nine deans from nine different departments called for his dismissal in a letter they sent to the school’s Board of Curators.

Despite the deans’ repudiation of Loftin’s leadership — they said he had created a “toxic environment through threat, fear and intimidation” — Loftin, who resigned in November of 2015, “continued to receive his full chancellor salary of $459,000 per year through April 30, 2016,” the auditor’s report states. The agreement that was approved when Loftin resigned had called for him to receive a salary at 75 percent of his chancellor pay.

Detailing what the auditor calls “financial mismanagement” of the former leader’s transition, Galloway says a new job was created for Loftin last May, paying him $344,250 per year as the Director of National Security Research. When he returned, Loftin also received a $35,000 annual stipend and a vehicle allowance of $15,560 — nearly $1,300 per month.

Noting that his base pay is 31 percent more than any other research administrator on campus, Galloway’s report says Loftin was granted “developmental leave” almost immediately upon taking the job, giving him the rest of the year “to travel the UM System and the country to ‘learn what we do'” — citing the offer letter for the job.

The auditor also found fault with the system’s payment of bonuses and vehicle allowances.

From the report:

“In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Board of Curators or System President approved approximately $1.2 million in incentive payments to top executives and administrators for their performance during the preceding years. Incentive payments were made without a formalized and clearly defined process of how the additional compensation was to be earned, giving the appearance of year-end bonuses, which are a violation of the Missouri Constitution.”

For the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years, the auditor says, the system paid some $407,000 in vehicle allowance payments to “an average of 15 top executive and administrative positions” — a system that, in the most recent fiscal year, meant those individuals were paid an average of around $1,240 a month.

Speaking of the wider ramifications of the university system’s financial stewardship, Galloway said, “Missouri families often take on significant debt, even after spending years saving their hard-earned dollars, to send their sons and daughters to college. System leaders must work to accept responsibility for their actions and to regain the public’s confidence.”

Tuition at the University of Missouri did not rise for most students last year, as part of a deal made with state leaders over an increase in funding. But with a new governor looking to cut the state’s higher education budget, some now say tuition hikes will result.

The official audit includes the university system’s response, which says in part: “Nothing in the System’s plan violates the state constitution or gives any reasonable appearance of doing so.” The system also refers to some of the laws cited by the state auditor as being written with either the general assembly or a municipality — not the university system — in mind.

The system defended its handling of bonus pay, stating that the criteria it uses to judge job performance are “quantifiable” or “otherwise objective.” To that, the auditor replied in a comment of her own, “Our review of the documentation determined the measurement criteria in place are almost entirely subjective.”

On the subject of vehicle allowances, the UM System said it provides the payments to executives “as one component of a compensation package,” adding that the allowances “are not excessive but instead are market driven” by pay rates at peer institutions.

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Turkey-Germany Relations At New Low After Erdogan Makes Nazi Comparison

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting in Istanbul on Sunday, the same day he said that German government practices are “no different than the Nazi ones of the past.”

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After Germany cancelled a political rally featuring a Turkish minister, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan likened the German government to the Nazis.

The comments mark a “new low in German-Turkish relations,” NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin. German officials condemned the inflammatory remarks but “stopped short of punitive actions against Ankara over the matter,” Soraya says. “That’s because Germany desperately needs Turkey’s help to keep asylum seekers from flooring into Europe.”

Germany is home to nearly 1.5 million Turks eligible to vote in Turkey’s upcoming referendum, according to Turkish media. The vote will decide whether to expand the powers of the president. Authorities in southwest Germany cited security reasons in cancelling the Turkish minister’s planned speech.

“Two other meetings between Turkish officials and Turkish citizens … went ahead anyway,” Soraya adds.

Erdogan railed against the cancellation on Sunday, saying the practices are “no different than the Nazi ones of the past,” according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.

He also appeared to threaten Germany if it tried to stop him from speaking in the country at some point in the future. “If you don’t let me in, or if you don’t let me speak, I will make the whole world rise up,” he said, according to Deutsche Welle.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement that there was no justification for the comments, saying such comparisons serve only to diminish the suffering of the Nazis’ victims.

Her spokesman Steffen Seibert said to the Turkish government: “Let us be open and let us talk to each other when necessary, but let us keep in mind the special importance of our close German-Turkish partnership and relationship.”

He added, “Let us keep a cool head.”

The EU struck a deal with Turkey last year aimed at stemming the flow of migrants and refugees into Europe.

Since then, some of Merkel’s critics have suggested that her reliance on Turkey has tempered her criticism of the country in the face of human rights abuses. An editorial today in Der Spiegel suggested that the refugee crisis “prevents honest dealings with Turkey.” It argued that Merkel is “sadly inhibited” and “mostly driven by fear” when it comes to Turkey.

Last month, German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, who is a correspondent for the newspaper Die Welt, was detained in Turkey “on charges of terror propaganda,” according to Anadolu. Yucel has written articles critical of the Turkish government, which has a record of cracking down on press freedoms.

“In an attempt to diffuse tensions, Merkel spoke with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on the phone on Saturday,” Deutsche Welle reports, “only for Erdogan to lash out at Berlin hours later.”

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Samantha Bee On Trump's Win: 'I Could Feel This Seismic Shift'

Samantha Bee doesn’t sit behind a desk on her TBS show Full Frontal. She says, “For me, it would’ve been a crutch.”

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Myles Aronowitz/TBS

Full Frontal host Samantha Bee makes no bones about the fact that she was caught off guard by Donald Trump’s victory on election night.

“We had a balloon drop planned. … We had balloons in our rafters, and we had to call it [off],” Bee tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “We were able to do a reset, but it was not an easy process by any means.”

For Bee and Jo Miller, the show’s co-creator, Trump’s win meant doubling down on their coverage of the White House, much to their chagrin. “There were so many other things we wanted to cover,” Bee says. “It was kind of this endless pool of stories we wanted to tell.”

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is a satire news show with a feminist point of view. It’s now in its second season on TBS. Among the post-election challenges that Bee and Miller face is finding a way to criticize Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway while also being sensitive to the misogyny many public women have to deal with.

“I know that [Conway has] gotten the same kind of personal, nasty, misogynist attacks that Sam has … and that’s wrong,” Miller says. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t say anything that could be construed by anybody as being looks-ist or sexist or a personal attack on her, instead of the way she lives her life and does her business.”

Bee and Miller will also be hosting an independent, televised roast of the president on April 29, at the same time as the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Bee says the special, called Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, will be a “celebration of free press … a chance for us to celebrate the people who have helped us lift our show.”


Interview Highlights

On the harassment Bee experienced on Twitter during election night

Bee: As the election results were becoming more clear, I checked into my Twitter feed and the tone of people’s @-mentions to me went into violence. Like, it is indescribable what happened. I felt like the whole world shifted in those few hours in a way that was — everything about it was so unexpected, but I could feel this seismic shift in the way that people were interacting with me. …

Miller: We took your phone away.

Bee: Everyone took my phone away because it put me into such a dark place for a couple of really bad days. … I could feel me personally being a target. .. It was vicious right out of the gate. And in that moment I kind of understood the way it was going to be from then on. And at that point everyone took away my Twitter because it was making me too depressed.

Miller: And it was like night and day when we took it away. It’s like, “Oh, Sam’s back!”

On what it was like to work in The Daily Show’s male-dominated writers’ room

Bee: I personally didn’t have a very gendered experience there. … I’m a hard worker and I’m a gold star-getter. I like to put my nose down and do the work. That’s how I felt about the experience. No one ever didn’t listen to my ideas there because I was female; people didn’t listen to my ideas because they were sometimes bad ideas.

Miller: In 2009, when Hallie Haglund and I were hired as writers, it was an all-male room at the time. There had been women there; there weren’t at the time. So we came into a very masculine environment.

Whenever you’re in a room with 16 guys, you get talked over. People pick up the thing you said five minutes ago and say it and then get heard. Jon was always the best about making eye contact with the person who was quiet or who had just gotten talked over and locking eyes with them and saying, “No wait, talk. You.” I really appreciated that. I think I was completely shy and scared for a while, and something flipped and I just started being a complete bitch with sharp elbows and talking over other people.

On why Bee doesn’t sit behind a desk like other late night hosts

Bee: Personally, as a viewer and as a consumer of late-night shows, I just didn’t want to see another one. I just didn’t want to see another desk. … When I sit behind things, I can’t move my body. It’s very constricting. It becomes like — well, for me it would’ve been a crutch. Believe me, I was very scared to not have a desk because I thought, Wouldn’t it be great to have something to hide behind? I need something that I can scoot behind. … But in the end I didn’t need it at all, and I’m so glad that we really don’t have anything for me to hide behind. It’s better that way.

On deciding on Bee’s look for the show (a blazer and sneakers)

Bee: It’s very similar to the uniform that I wear in daily life. I wear blazers in my life — I love them. I feel very protected in a blazer. It’s my uniform. When we were in the early days of doing test shows, I had it in my head that I had to wear a dress and high heels, I really did. I thought, OK, when you’re a woman and you’re on television you have to wear a dress and you have to wear high heels.

We did another test show and I was wearing high heels and the heels were such stilettos that the heels were poking through the floor of the set and it was terrible. … And actually a couple executives from TBS were there and they pulled me aside after and they were like, “You were so comfortable, you seemed to be having so much fun in rehearsal when you were wearing sneakers and a blazer, and then you put on your outfit for the show and you seem like you’re having a terrible time.” And they were right. I was having a terrible time because I was so physically uncomfortable. And they were like, “Why don’t you just do the show in the clothes you want to wear?” I was like, “You can do that? I think I will. Thank you!”

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Novel Explores Aftermath Of Child Abduction

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By Kate Hamer

Beth – Day 1

It will be like the day in the maze, I told myself. I’ll run round this field looking, scared witless, but we’ll find each other eventually.

The fog had grown cold and dense and I kept stumbling on empty plastic bottles and bumpy ground. ‘Carmel,’ I yelled at the top of my voice, ‘where are you?’

I kept yelling into the fog but it never answered. It just sucked up my voice into its blankness. I wanted more than anything to catch a glimpse of that red, like a poppy standing proud in a cornfield. But there was just a jumble of colour, made milky, as if looking through a wedding veil. I thought I’d go to the entrance and ask for help: an announcement on the tannoy. Or to the St John Ambulance in case she’d fallen over and was there right now having a plaster put on her knee while someone in uniform was saying, ‘All done. Now then, let’s find your mum.’

People were getting fed up and wanting to leave. The field was emptying, they were all at the entrance—a temporary arch made out of plywood with shapes cut into it to look like battlements—so I had to push past them. I knocked against the bodies without caring, muttering, ‘I’ve lost my little girl,’ over my shoulder to the ‘watch its.’ Several people asked if I was alright but I couldn’t stop to answer, I was too intent.

‘Carmel, where are you, where are you?’

The ticket offices next to the arch were empty, the organisers probably guessing that no one would arrive so late in the day, so I had to find my way back again, all the time shouting, ‘Carmel, Carmel,’ till my voice was hoarse.

I found my way back into the tent where I’d last seen her. It’s too soon, I told myself, it’s too soon to panic. Stop it. Stop it now.

The trestle table where she’d stood was half empty—many of the books sold. I’d had the idea of asking the man with the till if he’d seen her but there was nobody there now. The thought came to me that the remaining books left out like this could so easily be stolen.

‘Carmel,’ I called. ‘Where are you?’
A man put his hand on my arm. ‘What’s the matter, love?’ ‘My little girl. I can’t find her.’ I realised my eyes were wet and stopped for a moment this time.
‘Oh dear. Dear. You need to get to the main tent. They’ll help you. She’s probably waiting there for you.’ ‘Yes—thank you. Thank you. Where is it?’ ‘Ask one of the staff—they’ll tell you.’
 I rubbed at my eyes.

‘Don’t worry, love,’ he said. ‘You’ll find her. Mine were always getting lost when they were young.’

I took his advice and went outside to look for staff. He’s right, I thought. There must be an official tent or a place for lost children. But the fog was lacing the air so now it was hard to see the tents any more. Panic gripped my insides again. Even among so many other people I started to feel alone in some kind of new and terrible reality.

What if, what if . . . I never see her again? No. No, not that. I stumbled, then righted myself. Stop thinking it.
 I tried to yell again but my voice had disappeared into a squeak and a sudden tide of terror washed over me. I reached out and wordlessly gripped a woman’s bright red sleeve. ‘Hey, get off,’ she said. ‘Get off me.’ 
She shook me off and got swallowed up into the fog.

Then one of the men on stilts walked right past me, his stilts close enough to touch. I could feel my voice re-gathering inside my throat in a shout—‘Please, help me. Help.’ I didn’t care any more what I said or if I sounded mad and frantic.

The stilts paused and started to move on so I shouted again and they stopped and the next minute a young man with cornrows all over his scalp had jumped down and was standing right next to me.

‘Did you ask for help?’ His clothes were made of patchwork and underneath the multi-coloured jacket his shoulders were strong, like he was active all day. I remembered the man with the cloth cap in the maze and I felt relief. The stilts man was part of the day, of the organisation. He could tell me where I needed to go.

‘My little girl, I’ve lost her,’ I said. ‘Where did you see her last?’
 ‘In the place where they’re selling the books.’
 ‘I bet a lot of people are getting lost in this. It’s bad luck it should happen today when we’ve been planning it for so long. A sea mist is always the worst. It must have been the hot weather this morning that brought it on.’

It made me feel a bit better when he said he expected lots of people were getting lost and separated, like this was just a mishap that would be sorted out.

‘I’ll take you to the admin tent and they can put a tannoy call out. You two’ll be glad to get home when you find her.’ Then he was guiding me across the field with his stilts tucked under his arm.

Inside the tent the fog had crept in and lay low on the ground so it got kicked up into little clouds as we walked. There was a woman with bright dyed red hair—the kind of red not even meant to look real—walking up and down and speaking into a walkie-talkie and I noticed a flap of brown paper had got stuck to the heel of her boot. Across the squashed grass of the floor people were packing things away in boxes.

The man in patchwork steered me up towards the red-haired walkie-talkie woman.

‘This lady has lost her daughter,’ he said. He went away and came back with a fold-up chair for me to sit on. But I didn’t want to sit down.

She looked up with sharp blue eyes and reluctantly re-sheathed the walkie-talkie in a leather holder on her belt that looked like it was meant for carrying guns.

‘I expect she’s just got lost in the crowds. How long is it since you’ve seen her?’ Silver flickered from her tongue as she spoke from the piercing there. She sounded like this losing of a daughter was nothing more than a pernickety nuisance and could be sorted out with a snap of her fingers—meaning she could get on with something more important.

I looked at my watch and with a burning spurt of real sickness in my throat I realised it must have been just over an hour.

‘Ages, an hour and a half. At least.’ I wanted to exaggerate because I sensed she wasn’t taking it seriously enough, that she didn’t have a daughter and thought that kids just ran off all the time.

She was shifting a foot around and suddenly became conscious of the paper stuck to her heel. With a movement like a ballerina she forked a leg behind her, holding her foot with one hand and peeling off the paper with the other.

When she was done she said, ‘I can put out an announcement.’

‘Please. Could you? Her name’s Carmel and she’s wearing a red duffel coat.’

‘How old is she?’
‘She’s eight. Eight years old.’
 So she walked off to where a tannoy system was set up on a trestle table and the man with cornrows looked at me with kind big eyes and said, ‘Don’t worry too much. It’s got a bit chaotic because of the weather.’ I nodded at him dumbly.

I heard an electric gasp as the machine was switched on and then the woman’s voice booming from the outside.

‘Public announcement. Lost child. There’s a lost child. Name of Carmel. Red coat. Eight years old. If you find a lost child please bring them to the large tent at the back of the field. Lost child . . .’


Carmel

Mum’s voice turns sharp and cold like the fog. We cross the field to the biggest tent where they sell books. The fog comes in the tent with us like it really is smoke. There’s some thin rain too, the kind that gets you very wet, so everyone is coming inside. And I seem to be able to hear her better inside, exactly what her voice is saying: ‘Carmel, stay here. Stay so I can see you. I nearly lost sight of you then.’ When all I’ve been doing is stopping to look at books.

There’s tables piled high with them and she buys me a couple. While she’s paying I turn round and I’m facing the stomach of a man. I look up at his head and it’s the man from the tent and from the drawing again. He’s tall and old-fashioned in a way I can’t really explain. There’s nothing like a top hat or long hair or anything but he’s not quite the same as the other men around him, like he could have stepped out of olden times. He’s got on a white shirt very ironed and with no collar and a black rough suit. I smile up at him again but he’s gone.

I turn round back to Mum and she’s taking a plastic bag of books from the lady behind the stall.

But even inside she wants to hold my hand tight, tight every second. That’s OK at first but if I want to stop at a stall and hold a book it’s annoying.

‘Look.’ I point over. ‘Look over there.’ There’s puppets of knights and horses hanging up and jiggling about by themselves. I want to go right up to them and see how they work.

She doesn’t even hear and her hand’s feeling sweaty and slippery so I make mine stiff like a claw so it’ll be difficult to hold.

‘If you don’t hold my hand, we’ll have to go straight home.’ She’s sounding tired and cross and I’m really angry with her now for spoiling our lovely day. I try to nip the anger back in and explain.

‘It’s just that I want to look at books and I can’t because you won’t let me go.’

‘Well, we can stop holding hands when we get to a stall. How about that?’ She smiles a stiff little smile that’s not real.

I say, ‘Oh, alright then.’ I still feel cross with her because it’s not fun any more now I know she’s not enjoying it.

We come to a stall piled up high.

‘Let’s look at this one.’ I only say that because I want a rest from her.

I look at the books and they’re so babyish—Where’s Spot? and things like that. I don’t want to go back to being yanked about so I look very slowly and carefully. Spot with his bone, Spot’s day out. And the baby books make me feel even crosser but I carry on looking anyway, picking each one up.

‘Why d’you want to look at those, Carmel? They’re for little kids.’

‘I want to look at those fairy stories over there.’ I go moving up the table.

I turn over the pages of a fairy story book. The drawings aren’t that good but I look at each one anyway: the princess with her pea; Cinderella in rags; the wolf looking silly in a frilly red cloak. I move up to look at something else. People press around me and I’m being whacked on the back of my head with someone’s handbag.

I’m in such a bad mood now. It’s not often I feel like this and I don’t like it. It’s like everything’s wrong—especially me. Now I just want to be on my own. To go back to this morning in my room when the sky was blue and everything was lovely. Everyone has come into this tent now the storytelling has stopped for lunch and people want to buy something and get out of the rain. I’m getting so squashed I think the table is going to cut me in half.

Then I have an idea—to scrunch myself right down and walk like I saw a toad walk once, till I’m under the table. So I do—the tablecloth only comes halfway down but it feels free and safe and secret under there. I decide to look out for Mum’s boots that she’s got her jeans tucked into and then I’ll come out.

There’s a box of books and I take a peek into it and there’s piles of the book I used to read when I was little about a skeleton. I take one out and it’s not like when I was seeing Spot the dog. I don’t feel babyish, it’s like being back little again but I like the feeling it gives me this time. So I read Funnybones and look at the pictures. Sometimes I touch them too, I don’t know why.

When I get to the end I realise I might have been ages. But I’m not sure. Sometimes things happen so it feels like I’m not really there at all. It’s like the time the headmas- ter was talking about when I was sitting on the bench—looking at a tree blowing about—somehow my brain got slipped and in the world there was only me and the tree.

Then it slipped more and I was in a creepy dark tunnel where I’d been before but that day was the longest time it had happened for. Though I didn’t want to try and tell them about that.

And just now the same thing happened with Funnybones and there was the book and me but I didn’t go as far as the tunnel. I went back to being five for all that time and it had felt nice.

There’s less legs now so I crawl out. I’m a bit worried that I might have been a long time, I’m not sure. I look about and can’t see Mum.

I carry on picking up books. I don’t know what else to do. I should look for her, I decide. Maybe I’ll find her waiting for me at the end of the table but I get to the end and she’s not there. I stand there for a bit. Then I think, she must have got pushed back by the people and I try to look but I can’t find the back of where everyone’s standing. They just seem to melt into other people and it’s the opposite from earlier, I’m longing to see her now. My breath starts coming in and out quickly because I want to find her so much. I walk round the tent for a while. I go back to the same table where I lost her—twice, three times—and she’s still not there so I walk out of the tent and across the field.

Outside, I can hardly see the tops of the tents any more or the flags—just people coming out of the fog. And only if they’re close. All the sounds have gone thick and quiet like when I put my duvet over my head at home. I shove my hands deep into my pockets to try and stop me worrying and I think—our lovely day’s gone and we may as well go home now, back on the train. I stop, wondering what to do, and the people I can’t see, I can hear—muttering around me.

Then, stepping out of the fog right in front of me is the man from earlier with the round glasses. Because of the fog he comes out of nowhere, like a genie does.

Excerpted from the book THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT by Kate Hamer. Copyright © 2016 by Kate Hamer. Reprinted with permission of Melville House.

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