Both James and Brad sat in silence for a few minutes, looking at each other with confused looks. Several times Brad started to form questions, but the sounds never made it beyond his quivering lips.
James noticed his friend’s bewilderment and decided to comment on it. “Generating tons of questions, huh?”
“Oh, just a few!” Brad said with a teasing wave of his hand. “Give me a second.” He was now stalling for time.
He had never been one to be super articulate. In fact, he had barely managed to get through the social structure of high school, lunchtime being the worst part of the day. He had no friends to speak of, and James was only his friend because they grew up on the same street.
Finally, Brad collected his thoughts. “I don’t understand what is going on. There are just too many …” He trailed off, not being able to find the word he wanted to use.
James attempted to finish his thought. “Too many angles, clues.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Brad kept his head tilted down in mental deliberation, but his mind wandered, meandering through tons of facts, many of which he couldn’t even verbalize.
“It’s like we are piecing together a big jigsaw puzzle,” James explained, “and we don’t know what the final picture is.” Brad smiled at his friend’s cleverness. He had always enjoyed the superb explanations of James the Smart.
“And yet,” James continued, “we have several pieces. They don’t necessarily fit together yet, but I am beginning to see a rudimentary image. What I see doesn’t make sense yet, so I don’t want to confuse you anymore than you are right now.”
Brad nodded silent thanks as James said with his index finger pointing at Brad, “But we are no longer at a dead end.”
Yet another confused expression from Brad told James to resume explanations. “I see you have already forgotten the reason for Mr. Arnold’s letter … or at least misplaced the thought in the cobweb of your mind.”
That was the only cue Brad needed. “The note from Thomas!” Excitedly, he jumped up out of his chair, nearly knocking over the pizza box. James placed a finger at the tip of the box, preventing the contents from falling to the floor.
“You are exactly right!” James returned Brad’s enthusiasm with a dose of his own. He handed the note to his friend. Brad took it eagerly as he sat back down.
He looked at it for several seconds before asking the obvious question, “What does it mean?”
“I don’t know, and I am no expert, but it looks Latin to me.”
Brad gazed at the two words again. They looked familiar but not in a concrete sense. He didn’t think he had actually seen the words before, and he knew he definitely hadn’t seen them together as in this phrase.
But, he remembered that a lot of English words looked a lot like Latin words. The first word “circulus” looked more familiar than the second word “nubis.”
“How do you say it?” Brad asked.
“My guess would be,” James answered, “sir-Q-lus new-bis.”
“Circulus Nubis,” Brad repeated. “I wonder what it means.”
James leaned back in his chair, deep in thought. After only a moment or so, he leaned forward again, ready to give one of his amateur (yet usually correct) explanations.
“Well, circulus might remind you of an English word.” He paused to let that clue sink in. When it was obvious Brad would need more of a lead in, James said, “Not circus but ...”
“Circle?” Brad looked puzzled.
He had a sneaky suspicion that this conversation was leading somewhere, but he still couldn’t put his finger on it. “Okay, smart guy,” he eventually said, “what about nublius?”
James chuckled before he continued. “Well, I can’t think of an English equivalent. There probably isn’t one. But, thankfully for ostentatious reasons … ” Brad had to roll his eyes at the use of the word ostentatious.
“I am pretty proficient in one other language derived from Latin. I am glad I paid attention in Spanish class because I remember the Spanish word for ‘cloud’ is ‘nube.’ N-U-B-E.”
Brad made a purely scoffing sound and deliberately looked away from his friend. When he looked back at James, he said in a teasing way, “You would think of something like that.” Then, in a higher pitched mock: “N-U-B-E.” After repeating the last letter, he promptly started laughing.
And, all James had to say was: “Connections, my friend. Connections.”
Brad replaced his comical countenance with a friendly sneer. “So – circle cloud – what does that tell us?” He gestured quotation marks before and after the expression circle cloud.
James, who was finally out of ideas, shrugged his shoulders and tilted his head slightly to one side, raising his eyebrows. Much to his surprise, though, Brad had an idea about what to do next.
“Maybe we should plug the phrase Circulus Nubis into Google and see what comes up.”