This Is Creepy


Lately, I have been going through things I need to get rid of.  Some will be sold.  Others will be donated.  Still others will meet their fate at the hands of three hundred razor-sharp knives in the shredder.

I came across this picture yesterday.  I remembered it well but I hadn’t really looked at it in a long time.  It was headed for the shredder when all of a sudden, I thought “THIS IS CREEPY!”

Those are my son’s eyes and nose.  His daddy wore those mutton-chop sideburns for years after we were married and I always hated them.  Those ears are my son’s daddy’s ears.

When we were at Harvard, the only time we ever dressed up for Halloween, I dressed up as a cat (somebody mistook me for a Barbie doll.)  I guess they didn’t see the little felt ears I had on top of my head.  My son’s daddy dressed up as a pirate.  I gave him a scarf and a clip-on earring.  I remember telling him that he looked like a Gypsy, which you can barely see written on the left top side.

I remember drawing this.  The only thing I could find was a piece of cardboard.  At some point, I must have found a ball point pen and darkened the mustache, the eyebrows and a bit of his hair.  My grandmother asked me who that was.  I said “I don’t know.  Just somebody I thought up, I guess.”

Those eyes and that nose….I so clearly see my son.  Those sideburns, those ears, the scarf and the earring…I so clearly see my son’s daddy.

This picture was drawn 51 years ago.  How could I have possibly drawn a combination of my son and his father all those years ago?  I was only 16.

The Great Carnival Caretaker – Chapter Four

After my grandmother’s estate was settled, my life went back to normal and the first thing I wanted to do was go visit with Lucien.

I was excited as I pulled into the Shady Spot Rest Home.  After I went in, I walked by my grandmother’s room and gently touched the number 38 on the door.  That had been her room for almost five years.  There was a new resident there now and I wondered if maybe some of my grandmother’s spirit had been left behind.

Like I said, I’m a bit of a romantic about some things.

I walked to the sitting room, looking for Lucien.  The familiar spot where he sat day after day, looking out the window was vacant.  I was puzzled and walked toward the nurses’ station.

I saw Margaret and cheerfully said “hey Margaret.  Where’s Mr. Lucien?” Margaret put her hand on my arm and said “honey, Mr. Lucien died last night and they took him away this morning.”

As my eyes filled with tears, the only thing I could get out was “but he had stories to tell.  He had stories to tell.”

Margaret said “come with me.”  She took my hand and led me down the hall.  “This was Lucien’s room,” she said.

I just stood there for a minute, frozen like I had been hit with a blast of cold air.  The walls were covered with posters of Carnivals, Circuses and Big Top events.  Margaret handed me his scrapbook and said “I think he would want you to have this.”

I sat down on the side of his bed and started flipping through the pages.  It was full of copies of newspaper clippings.  The first one was about a man named Gilbert Hensley.  He had been killed when an elephant repeatedly stomped on him.  The date on the Kingsport, Tennessee newspaper was September 22nd, 1916.

The next clipping was about a woman named Mary Smithy, who had been arrested In Milwaukee, Wisconsin for lewd and lascivious behavior in the presence of children.  The date on the article was October 3rd, 1923.

On July 26th, 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska, a young man was killed when the car he was riding in on a roller coaster, disengaged and sent him flying into the nearby woods.  At the time of the article, his identity was unknown.

The next article was about a woman named Eva Gomez.  She was a trapeze artist who had plummeted to her death on August 10, 2003 at the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth, England.

To say I was confused would be an understatement.  Margaret came back into the room and said “do you understand now?”

I told her I didn’t understand anything because nothing made any sense.  “None of the names in these articles are the same as the names in Lucien’s stories.  Did he really go to all of these places?”

Margaret smiled a sad smile and said “no honey.”

I asked what she meant and said “are you saying that Lucien was never the caretaker for the carnival?”

Margaret shook her head and said “no.  He was the janitor here and he had been working here since he was a young man.  I guess you could say he was the caretaker of the Shady Spot Rest Home.”

I was almost crestfallen and for a split second, I was glad that I had never told my grandmother about him.

She looked out the window, much like Lucien had always done and said “as a boy, his dream was to ‘run away with the circus’ but he had to work to help his family pay the bills.”

“You should have seen him,” she said.  “He would pick up a chair and act like the sofa was a ferocious lion.  He’d say ‘stand back ladies.  I’ll protect you’.”

“He used to take one of the wheelchairs out and ride it down the hill as fast as it would go, pretending he was on a roller coaster.”  She giggled when she said “more than once, that old chair won and would pitch Lucien out.”  She shook her head and said “sometimes life plays dirty tricks on you.”

“When he was in his early forties, he was stricken with early onset Alzheimer’s and it invaded him with a vengeance.  When the diagnosis was first given, he knew that his dream would never be realized so I guess he started creating his own memories about a career with the carnival.”

“He continued to work here as long as he could function in some way.  He’d forget where the cleaning supplies were and when he found them, he couldn’t remember what they were for.  It was such a pitiful sight.”

“When his family passed away, he had nobody but us so we took him in and gave him a room.  The state took care of him financially and we took care of him physically.

“How long had he been here?”  I asked.  “I mean, I guess that he was in his mid-nineties, so he must have been here for a long time.”

Margaret looked surprised.  She said “oh no, dear.  He was sixty-four.  The disease that took his youth.”

She shook her head and said “sometimes he would fall or wander down the street and get lost.  One night he was hit by a car when he got loose.  That’s when he became wheel-chair bound.  We had to strap him in to keep him from trying to escape again.  His body wore the marks of running into things but everything else that should have failed, were just fine.  I had always heard that when that awful disease gets you, all the sickness goes to your brain and for some strange reason, the rest of your body is relatively healthy.  It’s almost like a form of what they call brain reorganization but it was ultimately unsuccessful, at least for Lucien.”

She walked around the room, touching each poster and said “several years back, he started ordering these and we helped him hang them on his walls.  Then he started collecting newspaper articles from the library and he’d carefully paste them into his scrapbook.  After a while, I’m not sure he really understood why he was getting them but he would read them and then put them away.”

She let out a sigh and said “so you see, his dream never came true in reality but what a wonderful world he created in fantasy.  All of those people became his family.  They had stories and their stories became his stories.”

She smiled as she said “and oh my.  He had stories to tell.”

 

শেষ
Śēṣa

The Great Carnival Caretaker – Chapter Three

I was becoming very fond of Mr. Lucien.  I was glad that he had someone who would listen to his stories…and he had stories to tell.  “Oh my.  He had stories to tell.”  I giggled every time I thought about those words.

I wondered what he might have been like in his younger days.  You know how you can look at some older women and tell that when they were young, they were great beauties?  It was like that with Mr. Lucien.  There was something about him that led me to believe he cut quite the figure in his youth.

Maybe it was his eyes or the dimple-like creases in his cheeks when he grinned.  Even without teeth, I was sure that he had at one time been rather fetching.

I couldn’t tell how tall he was.  He was confined to that wheelchair and due to his age or maybe a previous injury or illness, was hunched over quite a bit.  He had the famous horseshoe bald pattern and wore coke-bottle lens glasses, which he removed when he was telling his stories.  I thought he was a dear old man and oh my, how I loved hearing his stories.

He had never mentioned having a family and I didn’t want to pry and like I said, I figured he would tell me what he wanted me to know.  Maybe he considered his family to be all of those people who worked at the carnival.  Maybe that was why there was a detectable sadness in his voice so often.

Two days after my last visit with my grandmother, she passed away.  She died peacefully in her sleep and the nurses said she that she had died with a smile on her face.  My grandmother had been blessed with a wonderful life and she had lived it to the fullest.

I was sad of course, but I knew that she was ready to go and I think she knew it was almost her time.  She would often talk about “seeing” my grandfather in her dreams and smiled when she said “he says he’s waiting for me, so I tell him that I’ll be there shortly.”

I had never told her about my visits with Lucien and I’m not really sure why I didn’t.  Maybe I thought that somehow his stories were secret and meant only for me.  I’m prone to have romantic notions about things like that from time to time.

Lucien had never asked me why I was at the Shady Spot Nursing Home nor had he ever even asked my name.  He hadn’t asked if I had stories to tell. He had never asked me anything, other than “have I told you about ‘so-and-so’?”

My grandmother’s death wasn’t going to stop me from continuing to visit Lucien. although it would be a several weeks before I could return.

During that time, I thought about him often.  Late at night, after I had said goodnight to my grandmother and grandfather, his words came floating by like a gentle breeze:

“I have stories to tell.  Oh my.  I have stories to tell.”

 

To Be Continued__________

 

The Great Carnival Caretaker – Chapter Two

After I visited my grandmother the next day, I stopped by to see Lucien.  I walked up and said “good afternoon, Mr. Lucien.  How are you today?”

He looked at me and said “well hello there young lady.  I have stories to tell. Oh my.  I have stories to tell.”

I said “I know you do and I was hoping to hear a few more of them.  You told me about Hobbs and Maribel and Pete.”

He looked at me with wide eyes and said “Oh yes.  I have stories to tell.  Oh my.  I have stories to tell.”

He looked out of the window and it seemed as if he was trying to gather files from the recesses of his mind.  Suddenly he said, “did I tell you about the young Williams boy?”

I told him he hadn’t but I’d really like to hear about him.

He said “oh my.  Young Hiram Williams ran the roller coaster.  He had been obsessed with roller coasters since he was just a little freckle-faced tyke with the wildest hair I had ever seen.  I think his hair must have been licked by a cow at least fifteen times and he walked with a limp because he had been born with one leg shorter than the other.”  He chuckled and said “maybe that cow stepped on it.”

“Anyway, come rain, sleet, snow or a Hades-hot day, young Hiram was out there gazing at the roller coaster.  Sometimes he would run errands for neighbors and straight away, he would spend the money on a ride.  When he got old enough, he got a job running the roller coaster.  Oh my.  How he loved to run that roller coaster.”

Lucien again got that sad look on his face as he continued.  “One day when there was no one waiting in line to ride, young Hiram decided to take a spin.  Oh my, he was flying around on that roller coaster and it just kept going faster and faster.”

“I guess he had forgotten that somebody had to control the speed and also pull the lever to make it stop.  By the time the crowd heard his screams, it was too late.  He and the roller coaster cars went flying.  Oh my.  He was found might near a mile away, still strapped to one of the cars.”

I found myself echoing him when I said “oh my.  You have stories to tell.” He looked down and said “yes, I have stories to tell.”

His mood changed and his eyes almost twinkled when he sighed and said “Jasmine.”

“Jasmine?”  I asked.  “Jasmine,” he said.  He tilted his head and looked toward the sky as he said “she was a trapeze artist.  She wore this little white outfit and her hair was tied back with sparkly ribbons.  She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  She had porcelain skin and her hair was as black as coal.  Oh my.  Many a young man lost their hearts to her.”

That toothless grin came back as he went on.  “She would fly from one platform to the other, almost in slow motion.   To me, she looked like an angel flying high above all of us.”

I wryly smiled and said “was there a romance?”  Lucien looked down and said “no.  There was no romance.”

I asked what happened to her.  Lucien said “she got old but she wouldn’t quit flying.  One night she put on her costume, climbed to the top of the trapeze, spread her arms like wings and jumped.  I guess she wanted to go out in what they call ‘a blaze of glory’.”

I said “Lucien, your stories are so sad.”  He looked at me and said “yes.  My stories are sad but oh my, don’t you think life is sad?”

With that, he motioned for the nurse to come wheel him back to his room. Then he asked her to stop.  That familiar toothless smile reappeared as he looked at her and said “this is Margaret.  She’s my favorite nurse and she takes real good care of me.  Oh my.  Don’t you think she’s pretty?”

I smiled and nodded in agreement.  Margaret laughed and said “Mr. Lucien, you little devil you.  How you do run on, flirting with me like that.”

Lucien looked at me and said “I know all the pretty girls and oh my.  I have stories to tell.”

Lucien did indeed have stories to tell but he never spoke about himself.  He never really told me exactly what he did.  I wondered if I should ask but I thought that when he was ready, he would tell me his story.  After all, he had stories to tell.  Oh my, he had stories to tell.

 

To be continued___________

 

 

 

The Great Carnival Caretaker – Chapter One

His name was Lucien Sebastian Coltrain.  Every time I visited my grandmother at the Shady Spot Rest Home, I saw him sitting in front of the window, safely fastened in his wheelchair.  He would sit there for hours and hours, just looking.  Sometimes, his expression was almost like he was seeing something for the first time or maybe he thought he might be seeing it for the last time.

So many of the residents never had any visitors, at least not to my knowledge so I tried to make a little time for those special residents.  I hoped someone would do the same for my grandmother.

When it was time for my grandmother’s afternoon nap, I walked toward him.  He turned, looked at me and returned my smile with a big toothless grin.  His face and arms bore old age liver spots and purple skin tears that are so common when you’re old.  I wasn’t sure how old he was but he looked to be in his early to mid-nineties.

Before I could say anything, he said “I have stories to tell.  Oh my, do I have stories to tell.”

I introduced myself and told him that I would love to hear some of his stories.  “Oh my,” he said.  “Where do I begin?”

He looked out the window and said “well, I was what you’d call “The Caretaker of The Great Carnival.”

I had been to carnivals, and circuses and fairs and I thought I had the gist of what a caretaker did.  It was basically little more than a glorified janitor but I let him continue.  After all, what he did and what he saw were different stories.

As he continued, he chuckled and said “oh my.  There was this strange, diminutive little fellow named Hobbs who used to come around to look after the elephants.  He wasn’t a big talker unless he happened to be talking to Josie, who was his favorite elephant.  I never got a response from him when I spoke and when he looked at me, he looked like he was looking right through me.  Oh my.  I don’t think he liked me very much.”

I hoped he didn’t think I was being flip when I said “was Hobbs was the caretaker of the great elephants?”  He let out a hearty laugh and said “oh my.  Yes, I guess you could call him that.”  He became rather pensive and I asked if he was alright.

“I was just thinking,” he said.  “Oh my.  Poor old Hobbs fell under Josie one day and was crushed.  I remember thinking ‘not only did I never get to say goodbye, I never even got to say hello to him’.  Oh my.”

He continued and said “now, Maribel Odom is somebody you want to know about.  She was the tallest woman I had ever seen in my life.  She was always bedecked with layers and layers of necklaces, you know, sort of like the ones you get at the Mardi Gras.  She wore these long false eyelashes and I would guess that she had prettied up her face with at least a pound of make-up.  But, oh my.  She was a real sweetheart.”

“I could always count on seeing her strolling around like she was the queen of Sheba.  She would walk up to a crowd of people and start telling dirty jokes.  She didn’t care if anyone listened and she didn’t care if anyone was offended.  She just blurted them out.  I’ll tell you my favorite one, if you like.”

“Please do,” I said.

He smiled and said “it goes something like this.  A guy named Pete was in a bar, trying to drink his sorrow away after his girlfriend broke up with him.  He tried everything to get her to come back to him.  He even had her name tattooed on his private part but she wouldn’t come back so he took to the drink.”

He winked as he continued.  “He decided to go to the ‘let loose’ room to empty his ‘valve.’  While he was standing there, a tall dark gentleman walked in and whipped out his bit.  Pete glanced over his way and couldn’t help but notice the letters W and Y were tattooed on his bit.  ‘So,’ he said.  ‘You used to have a girlfriend named Wendy too’?  The tall dark gentlemen smiled and said ‘no man.  Mine says welcome to Jamaica.  Have a nice day’.  Oh my, Maribel could tell some jokes and her curse words could make sailors sound like amateurs.”

We both laughed out loud and he apologized if he had offended my sensitivities.  I told him that my sensitivities or lack of, might be akin to Maribel’s.  He looked at me, grinned and said “oh my.”

I had an idea that I was going to be hearing those words a lot as he continued to tell me his stories and I also had an idea that Lucien had a good sense of humor and was most likely smarter than anyone imagined.

He seemed to tire suddenly and begged forgiveness when he motioned for the nurse to come wheel him back to his room.  I asked him if I could come hear some more of his stories and he said “oh my, yes.  I have stories to tell.”  His voice trailed off as he was wheeled away but I heard him repeat, “oh my.  I have stories to tell.”

To be continued____________

The Equalizer – Chapter Sixteen

After I spit pizza all over the papers, I quickly wiped it away to reveal what I thought I saw but wasn’t sure.  After a second and third look, it was apparent that I was right.

I saw MY name.  “What the fuck?” I thought.  “Why is my name on that list?”

Beside my name was a deposit of one million dollars, every year for the last five years…the same account from which the check was drawn.  An asterisk denoted further information and referred me to the last page of that particular “sub-part.”

There it was.  I was to be given care, custody and control of Parker Patterson’s entire multi-billion dollar fortune, of course with caveats yet to be spelled out.

Harville had told me there would be demands and instructions and “most importantly,” a code of silence but I admit, I didn’t think it was going to be on a grand scale such as this.  What exactly was I expected to do in exchange for this fortune?

I started reading the last “sub-part.”  My new “specialty” was to be a Criminal Defense Attorney just like Parker.  I was to, as she had done and done so effectively, defend and exonerate the worst of the worst with whatever means were required and then arrange for their “protection.”

Parker had done a good job on that front.  All of the scumbags she had so skillfully defended had completely disappeared.  Many feared they would offend again, no matter where they had been relocated.  Statistically, a killer will kill again but Parker never seemed concerned.

As I continued reading, I was feeling sick to my stomach.  I jumped to my feet and said aloud “I can’t do this!  I won’t do this!”

But then I remembered.  Goddammit!  I had given my word.  I had given my fucking word.  Harville’s words again came back to haunt me.  “Great tragedy can befall a man who breaks his word.”

I decided that I would actually be okay with living in a concrete pillar next to Jimmy Hoffa.  It was better than completely deserting my honor and integrity.  That kind of underhandedness and contempt for the law, the law I had sworn to uphold was not in my nature.

I was fuming as I read the last part in the folder but the more I read, the more I calmed down and the more I came to understand Parker Carolina Patterson.

Everything was not as it seemed and it started coming together.  It started making sense.  Although not within the parameters of the law as I understood and practiced, Parker had sought and delivered justice and she had delivered swift and mighty justice to all.

I smiled as I realized exactly what she had done.  It was nothing that every one of us have most likely fantasized about at one time or another and I’m not limiting my conjecture to attorneys or law enforcement.

I re-examined the latitude and longitude coordinates noted.  They were skillfully portrayed on a map of sorts.  I sat back in my chair and sighed when I realized that the map was Harville’s property.  The count correlated exactly with the number of exonerated defendants.  “Hmm,” I thought.  No wonder they were never heard from again.”

That was the reason for the code of silence.  I now knew what happened to those “defendants.”  I knew how they “disappeared” and I knew where they were.  I don’t know who actually put them there, be it Parker or Harville or someone yet to be introduced to me but they were there and would remain nameless for all eternity, I expect.

I also didn’t know was why Parker chose me.  Maybe Harville recommended me or maybe she just decided on her own.  Either way, the torch has been passed to me and I had made a promise to carry it.

Some say she was a despicable woman.  Some hated her.  Some admired her.  Some, like Harville, loved her.

As for me?  I finally came to understand her.

When people asked me about her, I would just smile and say “God called in markers and she arranged the meetings.”  I didn’t care if they understood what I meant and I didn’t care what they thought.

A few months after my practice was up and running, I left my office and walked uptown.  I stopped in front of a store and took a deep breath as I opened the door.

A friendly girl asked “what can we help you with today?”

I smiled and said “I’d like to get a tattoo.”

She said “do you have anything in mind?”

“Just two words, I said.”

 

 

Nan Fen An.

 

The Equalizer – Chapter Fifteen

I was wondering if this was  some cruel joke and all I would find was a condensed version of “Understanding the Law for Dummies” but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I wiped my eyes and checked my pulse to see if my heart was still beating.

I was shaking my head as I looked at a check made out to me in the amount of FIVE million dollars.  Attached were very specific instructions that I was to open my own law firm.  An account had been established in my name and “funds” would be made available for expenses.  The amount would be known as soon as I set up a “password.”  What the hell?

Word balloons were floating over my head as I thought “what attorney doesn’t lust after having his or her own firm along with the funds for the practice?  No more groveling and putting up with incompetent clerks.  No more kissing asses to be made a senior partner.  No more being known as Mr. #2 or 3 or 4.”

Harville may have had to do that at one tine but he didn’t now.  He was what they used to call “shittin’ in high cotton and farting through silk.”  He had his maid and his butler and his chef and his chauffeur, not to mention the grand estate on ‘hundreds’ of acres of land.

Was I going to become him?  Did I want to?  I believe he had done well for the Patterson’s and I felt he had done the same for Parker.  Aside from my jealous, “pretend hatred” for him, I truthfully believed he was an honorable man but I had this gnawing feeling.  Had I unknowingly, as I said, sold my soul to the devil or I had just accepted a suicide mission?

I went through the folder, visiting each and every case Parker Patterson had won.  I recalled how twice, she had spanked me and made me look like an incompetent schoolboy.  I also remembered how much I despised her then.

I kept asking myself.  “Why me?  What could she have possibly seen in me that had made her choose me as her successor?”  We had barely exchanged ten words between us during all these years, so choosing me made no sense.

There were several “sub-parts” to the folder.  One part contained handwritten notes by Parker, which I found odd.  Why didn’t she use a computer?  Could it be that because once it’s out in cyberspace, it’s out there forever?  Was there something she didn’t want anyone to know?  So many questions.  I decided that I would scrutinize them later.

Another part contained the names of the defendants, whose freedom and “protection” had so skillfully been arranged.  I found it curious that their names were coupled with “latitude and longitude” coordinates.  No new identities, addresses or employment records were attached.  There weren’t even any pages where that information had been redacted.

“Hmm.  That’s strange, I thought.”  I knew about witness protection and I knew that it was kept secret from the general population but the arranging officers or departments were privy to that information and there was always a record somewhere.

The last part of the folder was a sort of “accounts payable” spreadsheet.  It went back twenty years and the first entry was a name that I didn’t recognize.  Underneath the name was “Jackson Alton Benson.”  For some reason, that name sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

I carefully followed the line across the top name and gasped when I saw the amount “paid.”  It was a cool one million dollars.

The next entry was also a name I didn’t recognize and the scenario was the same.  I halfheartedly scanned through the names and the last one caught my eye.

The name was a Mrs. Cumberbatch.  Underneath her name was “Bernard Copley.”  Even after twenty years, I knew that name well.  It was the case that first introduced me to the famous Parker Carolina Patterson.  It was the case “she won.”  It was the case that made me start despising her, not because she won but because she had humiliated me.  And it was because she had arranged protection for that horrible excuse for a human being.

The records indicated that Mrs. Cumberbatch was Evelyn Copley’s mother.  She had received one million dollars every year for the last twenty years.  Wow.  I was on to something here but I wasn’t exactly sure what.

A quick call to Harville went unanswered so after ordering a pie from the local Pizza Hut, I settled down to have another look at the papers.

I wasn’t prepared for what I was going to see.

 

To be continue_______________