5. The Children and What They Did
The coming dawn threw light between the closet door slats. I had fallen asleep ensconced in Louis’s art. The first thing my eyes focused on was one of his little “pomes”.
Lots of fake puppets, one Dolly that is real.
Lots of fake people who like to steal.
A big world someplace where I am not afraid.
Dolly and me will go there someday.
I moved carefully. My body had cramped up in the night and I didn’t want to wake anyone just yet. My plan was to head toward Dad’s workshop – or what was left of it. Ruins of a god who created monsters – my childhood happy place. The steel portion had survived the fire intact, but had not been touched. I knew there would not be much left, but I needed to recapture my memory of it. Closure is what some people call it. But to me it would be more like repair.
I had stuck a band aid on the hole in my memory where all things Dad and all things love had been blown to dust. From time to time, when I was in Geneva, all the little bits came together and chipped away at me. Sharp edges of remembered visions stuck together all wrong. Day long headaches and the inability to leave my apartment made me helpless.
The pills they gave me, Effexor, made me sleep too much. I was a surgical student and needed focus. I had suspended my residency at Clinique de Grangette. I was a solitary mess, folding in on myself, unable to move forward.
One morning, my hand mirror broke. As I was picking up the pieces, I caught a reflection of my face at an odd angle. I was suddenly Enid. I had her looks and her charming smile, and all of her brokenness underneath. I slammed the hand mirror on the floor repeatedly until all the glass was gone from the frame. I was Grimwalt’s Monster. I had to fix me.
Enid could gloss over and whitewash, add plastic parts, get injections. But I had my Dad’s honest drive to create and repair. I had to go back to Grimwalt Place after 15 years and set myself right with what we did.
What Louis and I did.
When I stripped it down, when I laid truth bare to the ugly, smooth skeleton underneath, it was my fault.
Our plan had four parts:
One: Tell Arthur what was going on – the whole truth about Ig and Mom and the possibility of an ugly baby and Catchers Keepers.
Two: Abscond with sharp tools from Dad’s workshop.
Three: Purposely get caught and put in the basement with tools and search for weaknesses to dig out.
Four: Option A) Manage to get Ig to chase us to Dad’s workshop for a confrontation with Arthur,
Option B) Kill Ig with the tools when he came to let us out of the basement.
Option C) Use the tools to dig out and stockpile items for our escape. (This would require several games of Catchers Keepers.)
Yes, it was extreme. We were five and seven and the concept of actually taking a life did not weigh on us properly. We were hopeful of a future – either with two parents who cared for us – or the two of us alone out in the big wide world. We were very determined children. We wanted Ig out for good. And Dad had be part of our intelligence for our own protection.
Enid could NOT know anything. Let her remain distracted. She could survive anything.
Part One: It was late October, the sky starting to darken. We made dinner for Enid and “Uncle” Ig. We served them spaghetti and offered wine. Cabernet Sauvignon because it had lots of tannins and tasted bitter. I picked up this nugget of information from Enid herself who mentioned it at nearly every party. It didn’t stop her from liking it at all. And the bitterness helped cover the crushed up sleeping pills I added to knock them out. I refilled their glasses most attentively.
“Why are you little creeps being so nice to Uncle Ig?” Ig slurred, his yellow teeth outlined in orange from the spaghetti sauce.
“We decided we like you.” Said Louis. Lying made him squirmy.
“We want Enid – Mom – to be happy.” I shrugged.
They were face down in their plates within 45 minutes. Ig rolled off his chair and onto the floor, smacking the back of his head on the foot of the dining table. He grunted and mumbled Big Bad Wolf style, “I’ll burn you little creeps down.”
I poked at Enid a couple times with the salad tongs. She was out and drooling.
Louis was reluctant to come with me to the workshop.
“You have to! I will be right next to you and Dad is there. You’re not safe if you stay here. You know that for a fact!”
He whimpered, but he went.
It was already dark, but I knew the path through the small grove. The lights were on and Dad was humming. We burst in, flushed with anxiety. I tried to be a grown up.
“Please. Arthur. We need to talk to you.”
“Okay. Spill it, my loves.” He continued working with his back to us.
“No. Put Gordy down and look at us. Please.”
He froze for a moment. I think he was afraid, as we were, that reality or the cozy ignorance of it could not go on any longer. He turned slowly, rubbed his hands together, and stared at the floor.
“Arthur. Dad. Things have gotten really bad for us. Ignatio – well he has been inappropriate with Enid.”
He did not look up. He nodded. “I knew it would go there. I’m not around to love her, you know. That woman needs a lot of…love…attention.”
“Dad! He locks us in the basement so they can-“
“Make an ugly baby!” yelled Louis.
Arthur jerked and looked up at us finally. We were pale, dirty and thin. Some of this was because we had been locked up a lot. Some of this was a bit of an effort on our part to look extra pathetic.
“Oh my loves! Come here!” He opened his arms out to us.
He hugged us and we felt safe. We squeezed Arthur as tight as we could, trying to wring every drop of potential love from him.
He was kind and a genius and magical to us, but he had let the world wash over him. He had let Hurricane Enid blow him around until he was barely tethered to a life of any kind.
I had come here angry and desperate and demanding. I had come to serve an ultimatum of protect us, or lose us forever. But I could barely demand anything else from Arthur. He was so fragile.
“Please, Dad. Please make him leave. Or send us away.” I spoke softly.
“I will speak to your mother tomorrow. I have never asked her to sacrifice anything, even for you. But Ignatio will have to go. If she leaves with him, then…” He looked at the floor again. Then he smiled. “Louis, my boy, you’ve never come out here before! Is it scary like you thought?”
Louis would not let go of Dad. “Not at all. Can I stay for a little?”
“Do you want me to stay too?”
“No, Dolly. I’m okay.”
“Go on, Dolly Daisy. Young puppet master apprentice Louis Grimwalt and I have some monsters to make!” Arthur winked at me.
I loved them. Louis was old enough to step into my shoes now.
I slipped a small pointed hammer in my pocket and left Louis there with Dad. I would go back to the house and move our small duffel bags to the basement. I stayed in Louis’s room that night waiting for him to come back.
The image I hang on to, after all these years, is Louis with his arm around Dad. And Dad beaming at this little man because he finally saw what I saw. Arthur finally discovered what a treasure Louis was.