Wednesday, March 30, 2011
When the door was closed behind Mr. Pennyworth it grew cool again in Vandemark Manor. The moist summer air was dispersed in the silent, cool hall, so dark I could barely see my hands in front of my face. The tall ceilings, blackened walls, and the sudden hush as the noise of traffic and people were sealed from the outside, made the whole proceeding seem like the closing of some especially heavy door.
I turned to race down the hall to inform Homer that we were free, but my head rudely butted a beam that I could normally easily clear. I rubbed the sore spot on my head with my palm. My shoes felt a little tighter. I knelt down and examined the old worn out loafers.
I loosened the laces, but that didn’t seem to help, so I untied them entirely. Still they pinched my feet, so I pulled the laces through. Running up the stairs in a fit of nervous tension one slid off and I stumbled to my knees. I suppose the wood had so rotted that it could no longer support my weight, for it indented the step.
When I stood up to take another step I rested my hand on the banister, the weight splintered the dowels. By the time I reached the upper landing I had left an inexplicable wake of broken wood. I became momentarily confused. In the throes of a B-monster movie style rampage I did not know where I was. I was lost in my own maze of beams, iron, car parts, broken furniture, newspaper stacked to the ceiling, bed frames, and flaying with my arms in front of me, chopping through obstacles like old faulty scissors, blinded by a will to control, I somehow was transported to the attic. I stood panting, excited, flushed…. then, in the next moment, an eerie calm descended on me, and I stood, stock still, straight, calm emotionless, like a golem that had just had the sacred words removed from under his tongue --- suddenly inert.
The attic was a wonderful place to end a rampage of this sort, since it contained not mere concrete junk, but ephemeral memories. It was the unlikely top-heavy anchor of the entire house, of my little fairy world.
I tried to stand up straight (I usually could) but hit a beam. I bent down. One of mother’s dresses, now quaintly out of fashion, hung loosely from a hanger on an old garment dolly. I took it with my hands. The fabric was not strong and easily came apart in my hands as if it had reverted to puff cotton. But it wasn’t the texture that I wanted to feel, or the sight that I wanted to satisfy, it was smell that I wanted. Gripping the dress in my paws I feverishly searched for the fragrance of peppermint.
My nose groped about the decaying garment for even the minutest patch of that wonderful distilment. Nothing but mold and dust and perhaps, and this may have been a mixing of memory and desire, the merest hint of after bath powder, sprinkled about the fragile armpits of the decaying garment.
The veil was removed from my eyes. I descended the attic stairs. I groped about in the dark. My orientation was returning. In the hall I passed the only mirror in the house that was still clean enough to provide a decent likeness.
It was a beautiful oblong, gilded affair in the Empire style, now reduced through age and neglect to a queer extended brown smudge on the wall. I stopped to look at myself. Perhaps I had not done this all-too-human exercise in three or four years. For a man that spent his time almost exclusively indoors, emerging only at night, my skin was a pleasingly uniform chestnut brown.
I pushed open Homer’s door. He was sitting at his little desk building a model of a Messerschmidth fighter. When he built models of this sort he would check with me periodically to see if he was constructing it properly. His tactile judgments were seldom wrong. It was arranging of the decals where he traditionally faltered. When I entered his room his bone white face turned toward me. His albino eyes, pink and rabbitty, were pointed in my direction but wandered aimlessly around that entire area of the door.
“Lang,” he said in his adolescent twang, “come and see if I mounted this darn engine right.”
I walked over. He seemed paler than usual, and his body slighter and squatter in the chair. He was struggling to get adjusted to his new work attitude without realizing the mechanism behind the change. I took the plane gently in my hands. My thumb and forefinger pinched two opposing holes in the fuselage and met in the hollow center.
“Ahhh shit,” I said.
“What Lang,” he asked breathlessly, “what happened?”
“I’m sorry Homer, looks like I busted it a little.”
“Awww,” he squealed, “let me see… is it fixable?” He took the plane gently in his small soft hands, as if he was examining a delicate hummingbird. He caressed the body, quickly finding the two holes.
“Lang, what were ya thinking? I can’t fix this, it’s a hole,” he whined.
“Maybe we can Gerry rig something,” I said huskily, taking the plane again. This time I snapped a wing off.
“Crap!” I said. Homer was silent. I handed him back the plane. After a moment of respectful silence, I backed away from him and said, “I’ll order you an identical one, Homer. I’m awfully sorry.
He fingered the plane all around its damaged surface. I could see the beginnings of yellow tears perched under his blank, vacant eyes, ready to flow down his sunken cheeks. When I turned to leave the room, I knocked my head against the door jamb