18. The Keeper Gets Caught
I led him down through the woods, keeping off the path. Louis felt safer that way. Even though he was tall and seemingly strong, he constantly feared someone or something would hurt him. And as with my little brother, I would protect him.
I had left the window open to Louis’s room. I used my body as fulcrum, ladder and lever to get him through and inside. He lacked balance and dexterity. And he was heavy.
“We need to surprise them. That’s how we win.” I whispered.
Louis looked around and his mouth hung open. He ran his fingers over the blue striped wallpaper and touched the books on the shelf.
“I’ll read to you if you like.”
“I know reading. I remember reading. I read. Thank you.”
I was not his Svengali – not his teacher. Not his mother. Maybe not even related at all. We sat next to each other on the floor at the foot of the bed. He needed a shower. He needed food. And we need free reign of the house to make that happen.
After a while, I heard Enid’s car pull away. I knew that Ig was alone in the house. Or at least, he thought he was. Then the music started. Louis Prima’s 1959 “Just a Gigolo” bounced out from the speakers of Enid hi-fi stereo cabinet.
Oh yes, Ig thought he was alone.
I crept down the hall to the living room to see Ignatio in a pair of worn, saggy briefs printed with flamingos and black dress socks. He was not wearing anything else. There was certainly nowhere to hide his shame or any defensive weapon. He was bobbing about with his eyes closed, arms in partner dance position. I just watched him. This was the premier villain of my childhood, this animated bag of skin in his skivvies, still bragging to the world how his only useful skill was to satisfy the ladies.
Still, is his gangly flabby body, there was an odd grace about him. He was light on his feet and deliberate in his dance moves. When the chorus came, “I ain’t got nobody…” he dipped his imaginary partner with a flourish. I was struck by the economy of movement. Like when Arthur would pull the strings for the puppets. He said, only move exactly what you need to – what seems natural. It is all fake, but it has to look natural.
I stared hard at the back of Ig’s head, setting my intention that indeed, life would go on without him.
He spun to face me, off balance. His face grew red and contorted. “Creeping! Spying!”
He shook where he stood, about to cross the distance between us. The hairs on my arms stood up, waiting. Let him bring the fight to me.
He moved fast for an old man, but Louis was quicker. As Ig charged at me, Louis lunged forward and grabbed him by the shoulders. I had never seen Ig unguarded – the con man without an escape. He panicked and flailed, but Louis had size and strength.
I opened the basement door and Louis pushed Ig into the darkness.
“YOU CAN’T DO THIS!!!!” Ig shoved his foot in the door jamb.
“I can do this. This is my house.” I kicked him in his bony shin and slammed the door, locking the padlock latch at the top.
“You can’t! You little bitch creep! You can’t!” His rage was muted.
I could and I just did. And now Ignatio Ormonza could spend a little time in the oubliette of his own creation. He was not prepared for this – no food or water or trips to an actual toilet. Maybe the bucket was still down there. Or maybe just shadows and a creaky furnace dancing with orange demons.
I empathized with him. Caught off guard, in his underwear, surprised and defenseless. Trapped for what could be a long time in a place of shifting darkness. I knew exactly what he was feeling. Good.
Louis sank to the floor breathless.
“Are you okay? Louis?”
“Yes. Thank you.” I helped him up. “How about a shower? And then I’ll make some lunch.”
He pulled me in toward his body, wrapping his arms around me. My ear pressed into his heart just below the starburst scar. I heard his ragged breathing slow.
“I’m not afraid, Dolly.” he said softly.
Read from Chapter 1