The October People. Chapter 18: One Picture is Worth a Thousand Doubts

Updated on November 5, 2018
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Mr. Vanek is a student of the Human Condition, and a Writer among other things.

DREAM JOURNAL: September 3, 2006

There was a woman who lived alone in the far north who had lost her fingers, part of her nose, and wounded and paralyzed her whole left leg. She dragged that leg, which seemed distorted. Her fingers were useless. She taught herself how to use them again by putting gloves and mittens on them.

To me, that seemed more like an illusion than actually healing them. She was intelligent, a scientist, but had no desire to be around people. It was as if she was a different species now.

Another segment involved hearing of a scientist who went up north alone and got into a fight with a bear somehow. I was confused as to whether he was killed or not. Some said he was, others said no; it was his father. There was a confusion over names.

He went off the cliff with the bear, which used him as a cushion from the fall. I remember people saying something like: “Nobody ever confronts and stands up to a bear, and gets into a fight with it!”

Someone read off a list of where the bear bit him; his head, face, nose, fingers…I can’t remember the rest of the list.

I saw the ‘Body Recovery Team’ that went up into the mountains to bring back his remains. I was puzzled, because in the procession there was at first one box-like coffin, but then it was followed by 3 others.

How come it took me 6 months to figure this out? What am I? A moron?”

It finally dawned on me. If I have those scars on me now, it stands to reason that those very same scars should show up in photos of me as a child, right?

Of course, they would.

Maybe I could even figure out when ‘it’ happened. If in the photos from one year there were no scars, but in a photo from the next year they appeared, I would know ‘it’ happened between the 2 shots.

But that’s where I ran into a problem. Even in Loony Lily’s albums there existed only a few tiny, blurry photos of me from before Long Island, and those were shot from a distance.

I didn’t know if I had any of myself from that far back in my own albums, but I started going through them anyway. As I did, a little photo fell out; a tiny, ‘wallet-sized’ one of me in the 3rd grade.

I had no idea I had this school picture, but as soon as I saw it, I remembered being given it as a ‘freebie’, because Loony Lily had refused to buy the photos that year too. She didn’t start buying school portraits of me until 6th grade. She didn’t even know I had gotten it.

I peered closely at it. There was something on the forehead, a dark diagonal line. There was also something red on the nose and under the right eye. The rest of the face looked oddly light.

I took the photo up to a local photography store and enlisted the help of a salesman to walk me through the operation of the kiosk that would enlarge and clarify the photo. Congenial and helpful, if unconcerned with my story, it turned out that he was a professional photographer who had been taking ‘school pictures’ since the 70’s.

When I asked about the odd lightness in the portrait overall, he speculated that the photographer had deliberately over-exposed the shot to try and minimize the visibility of the scarring. The even lighter areas on my cheeks and forehead were probably from the brushwork to try and remove the worst scars.

All of that ‘touching up’ made for an unsatisfactory portrait unfortunately, though he thought the photographer had done all that anyone could have with what he had to work with.

I paid up, thanked him and left.

I sat in the truck for a few moments before driving off and just stared at that enlarged color photo of an 8-year-old. I could see the broken teeth on either side of the incisors, the fresh cut on the lower lip, all the faint red scars across the nose, cheeks and forehead, and just above the collar part of the red slash from the tracheotomy. It looked like something had tried to claw this kid’s face off.

No wonder Lily refused to ever buy the full-size ones all those years: It would have put my scars ‘right in my face’, so to speak.

It was sobering for me to consider how this would have looked without a photographer’s brush. That would have been how all the rest of the world saw him then. Not as a cute little boy, a normal kid, but as one terribly scarred and set apart as a result; not like everyone else.

That finally would explain all those looks and stares I recalled. Maybe that was why, for years, whenever Babi saw me she’d plaintively utter “Jesus and Mary!” in Czech. Grandmothers do not normally greet their grandchildren that way.

I remembered now that as a kid I had the inexplicably persistent belief that I was somehow supposed to have a scarred face, but that I had been cheated out of it somehow. It was so stupid a thought that I had always pushed it away whenever it spoke.

The memories of that 3rd grade year came flooding back.

I had done well in 2nd grade, so I was moved up to the highest level 3rd grade class; Mrs. Tunn’s. From here, the fall of 1960, up to Christmas of ’61 was the happiest period of my childhood; because of school.

There were so many pretty girls in this class, and I had crushes on almost all of them. Among the boys I enjoyed a reputation as a “good fighta”, “a good drawa”, and was one of the “science guys”. In our baseball games at the nearby ballfields, I was always either a captain, or one of the first ones picked when we chose up sides.

Back in 1958, my school records indicated that tests showed I had developed astigmatism and myopia. At first, Dr. Wahlen, the Optometrist from Woodside, waited to see if it would clear up on its own. It didn’t. It worsened, though the amount of bright red in the whites of my eyes receded. The right eye cleared of blood first; the left retained a bloodshot look for years.

In this grade I began to wear glasses to see the blackboard. I had a problem with them from the start: I kept breaking them. It wasn’t that I tried to break them. What usually happened was that I’d get into a fight and forget they were in the eyeglass holder in my pants pocket. After the fight was over I’d belatedly remember, pull them out, and with a sinking heart realize I’d have to tell my mother I broke another pair. That always got me in more trouble with Lily for costing her more money.

Right after Thanksgiving, (which was my 2nd favorite holiday because of the big meal), the ‘Christmas Specials’ began to appear on television. I avidly waited for them. They were my most precious Christmas ‘tradition’: They transported me away to a warm, meaningful world of magic and of peace.

Christmas would become my religion. Not Christianity; Christmas. Not the Christmas we had in our house; the one I saw on television.

Even though I hadn’t believed in Santa Claus for over a year now, it was for me still a time when miracles really could happen, when people were nice to each other and loved one another, a time when everyone was welcomed and no one was left out or alone.

Al and Lily would never bring the ‘Christmas spirit’ into the house so I knew, without spelling it out to myself, that if Christmas was going to keep that magic I so loved, it was going to be up to me to keep it that way for me and my brothers. Each year I earnestly did all I could to make Christmas as special for my siblings as it was to me

And one week before Christmas I always put on elaborate ‘one-man’ plays for them based on “A Christmas Carol”.

Watching the 1952 film version of that Dickens classic always had an inscrutably powerful effect on me.

When the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’ showed Scrooge himself as a youngster left behind all alone while all the others went home to loving families, my heart groaned with a terrible ache.

And when his sister Nell then came and told him she had come to take him home, that Father was so much nicer than he used to be, and that he, Ebenezer, was never to be alone again, my heart ripped open painfully. My cheeks flooded with hot tears, and there was a terrible, hardball-sized lump in my throat, choking me.

Watching Bob Cratchitt and his family grieving over their dead little son, the crippled Tiny Tim, was almost too much to bear. But there was still more agony to come. After his delerious epiphany, the ‘new’ Scrooge hesitantly waits outside the door to his nephew Fred’s party, listening to the sounds of merriment, unsure if he’d be welcomed, the tormenting doubt written all over his face.

The gentle-faced maid encouraged him silently to go on in, and…everyone did welcome him. It pierced me like a terrible, sweet knife. I cried; I cried from the depths of my soul without knowing why, without knowing I was crying for myself. To this day, I cry just as hard, and as silently.

I had to hide those tears, of course: Boys don’t cry. Only “Sissy Mary”-s cry. With tremendous effort, I’d keep a stone face, and stealthily swipe away the stinging tears when I thought no one was looking.

Lily was no fool: She missed nothing. Though she never said a word nor showed any sign of seeing it; she did. She coldly stored it away as useful knowledge for use in future manipulations someday. It was no more to her than the discovery of a weak spot.

Babi and Dede didn’t come to visit us that year on Christmas Day with Rosa, Ralph, and Agnes; but I did get a big box of seashells.

On New Year’s Eve, Lily and Al went with the ‘gang’ to a dance sponsored by the local Fire Department. Grandma Alter was brought out from the City to babysit for us. She was the only one who was ever used to babysit for us, until I was 12 and took over. She only babysat a few times, but we always enjoyed it. We’d play ‘Bunko’ and ‘Old Maid’, and she let us stay up a little past our usual bedtimes.

But as soon as ‘Pro-Wrestling’ came on at 9:00pm, that was the end of playtime. She never missed wrestling; the wizened old woman was a true, blood-thirsty, devotee of the ‘sport’.

George was long ago asleep before it came on and Jakey was already nodding and ready to be put to bed. Then she invited me to sit down and enjoy the mayhem with her. Animatedly, she explained who was who, and which ones were the “Dirty-Fightas” in each match-up. Nobody liked “Dirty-Fightas”. I agreed; all us boys detested “Dirty-Fightas”too.

Haystack Calhoun
Haystack Calhoun

She gave me a run-down on the rules of tag-team matches, and I learned who Bruno Samartino, Haystack Calhoun, Coco Brazil, and the others were. She insisted those were real punches and kicks we were witnessing.

With a bit of a start, I realized she must have never been in a real fight or even seen one, because from personal experience I knew better. But I said nothing. It had been drilled into me: You never, ever, contradict or argue with an adult.

During a commercial, she sat back and regarded me contemplatively.

“Ya know? Maybe it is a cause a da ‘Caul’…But ya got da 9 lives of a cat.” She paused for a moment, and then added with a deadly earnestness:

“But cha better be careful. Ya already used up 4 of em.”

Wrestling came back on, and she said no more about it. And I asked no questions as usual. It stuck with me though, and I pondered it for a little while. I liked the idea of having 9 lives. The way she had said it made it sound like something special; she wasn’t trying to scare me. The 4 lost lives puzzled me though. How did I lose them?

Valentine’s Day hurt this year, a poignant, disappointing hurt. The etiquette in classroom Valentine’s Day card sending that the teachers all insisted on was that everyone got a card from everyone. They provided us each with enough small cards to send to all the children of the opposite sex in the class. That way no one had hurt feelings by being left out. However; you could send someone ‘special’ another, bigger, card on your own.

I loved so many of those girls in that class and I innocently daydreamed constantly about them loving me.

I had no money to buy any bigger cards, there was no such thing as an ‘allowance’ in our house, and Lily refused to waste money on something like that. That was bad enough; but I also did not get a single ‘special’ card.

It crushed me and made me feel different, set apart again. What I couldn’t know was that I probably was not seen as I saw myself. I had a blind spot: I didn’t ‘see’ my scars at all. To everyone else, they were my dominant distinguishing feature: “Little Scarface.

Unfortunately, it detracted considerably from the appearance of an otherwise reasonably handsome little fellow.

We got “Weekly Readers” every Wednesday in class. They were a soft propaganda vehicle disguised as a little newsmagazine of current political and international events. Each week they also included an inspirational story.

One week it was the story of Richard Bannister, the first runner to officially break the 4-minute mile. As a boy he was badly injured in a house fire and the doctors said he would never walk again. But he wouldn’t give up. He kept trying and against all odds he eventually could walk again, and then run. He kept pushing himself until he broke that record.

When I read that one phrase I froze and stopped breathing. The words leaped off the page at me, seeming a foot tall:

“DOCTORS SAID HE WOULD NEVER WALK AGAIN.”

My face and ears grew hot, I heard a roaring in my ears, something pulled painfully tight in my throat, and tears filled my eyes.

That’s what they said about me too.” a voice inside me seemed to say.

I looked around quickly, worried someone may have heard that crazy thought. I was confused, and didn’t understand why or how ‘I’ could think something like that. Some crazy part of me was insisting that it was true, and I’d been cheated out of it somehow.

Having 2 halves warring with each other like that split me right down the middle. The half that didn’t want to think something that wasn’t true won out: It couldn’t be true because I didn’t remember anything having happened to me.

I quickly and surreptiously swiped the tears away and turned the page.

The Drive-In movie that we went to see that summer was “The Fly”, starring Vincent Price. It was a good scary movie, though I found the scenes of the scientist in the white coat standing at a console somehow disturbing. But it was the ending that punched me in the stomach.

The little fly with the human’s arm and head had gotten wrapped in a spider’s web, and the spider, with those eyes, those horrible eyes, was creeping closer.

Help me! Help me!” the terrified little man screamed piteously, over and over.

The unblinking spider kept coming closer, and closer.

I was transfixed, unable to breathe, tensed like a stone in horror. I was watching the most terrifyingly evil thing possible: To be bound, helpless, while the thing that was going to sadistically kill you crept closer, and closer.

Those eyes, those eyes.

There was one final, hopeless, terror-filled scream;

Oh, NO!” just as the spider leaped upon him:

A scream that echoed off the desolating emptiness in me of what it is to despair of help ever coming.

If one photo was revealing, it stood to reason that if there were more I could actually implement my plan of narrowing down when ‘it’ happened.

That meant having to look in the ‘Baby Book’. It was a glorified scrapbook, a commercial product marketed at parents. I hadn’t seen the book now in about a decade. I didn’t really want to either. I didn’t think I’d really find anything of value in it, and frankly I didn’t like the way it felt.

All relics of my childhood evoked, not nostalgia, but a strange queasiness and an agitation. I had never asked myself why. Sometimes thinking about the past had given me the powerful but amorphous sense of something malevolent, hunting me, looming closer the more I kept it in mind; as if my thoughts let ‘it’ know where I was.

When I had finally got Lily to loan me those VCR tapes of their old 8mm home movies, I only watched a couple of them. I got up, shut it off, packed them all in a box, taped it securely shut, took it out of the house, and put the box in the barn with a large crucifix and a head of garlic on top of it.

I knew what I was doing was irrational, but that wasn’t important. It was critical that ‘it’ not get out.

In all the years since we left Woodside, with all those visits back there to see the Alters, I could never bring myself to go around the block and see the apartment building I grew up in. I wandered blocks in every other direction, but not there.

I never admitted it to myself, but I was scared of something.

I went upstairs and fished the Baby Book out from the back of the top bookshelf and opened it to those two pages with the 10 tiny, mounted black and white photos. Those old familiar feelings rose again as I scanned them. A picture of a child on a bicycle drew me. It was from the last year we lived in Woodside. I was 6.

I remembered it being taken now. I remembered feeling a strange, deep-seated sense then that I was much, much older than anyone else.

I bent to look closer and felt an electrical tingling cascade down my head, over my shoulders and down my arms. I snatched the book up and headed downstairs to find a magnifying glass. I looked at the picture again with it

. My hair felt like it was standing on end. There were lines, dark lines, all over the left side of the kid’s face.

Melissa!I shouted “C’mere! Ya gotta see this!”

I showed her the photo.

“Look close without the magnifying glass first….See on that kid’s cheek? Those black lines? Now look at it with the magnifying glass.”

“Oh, my God.” she breathed. “Oh, you poor baby!”

“Never mind that...See those 2 long lines that cut diagonally down across that kid’s cheek to his mouth and chin?...They match these 2 long, white scars right here.”

I pointed to my left cheek.

“But look at all the other ones. What a mess. And it’s not something on the film either. Here. Take a look at the next year’s photo…It’s not as good a photo, but you can still see that the kid there on the stoop has the same scars as the kid on the bike.”

Stop calling yourself that.”

“What?”

“That’s not a ‘kid’…That’s you.

When we began removing them so I could take them to be enlarged, we discovered writing underneath them. From what was written, it was evident that some photographs had been removed and others substituted to create a new arrangement.

“Remember the Witch asking you if you ever used a jeweler’s loupe to look closely at photos?” Melissa asked me. “Now we know why.”

“You mean she was worried I might find this?”

“Yes.”

“Makes sense.”

“You know, you must have made it real difficult for her by moving away. She would have wanted you to be under close observation, so she could ‘tweek’ you as needed.”

She gazed at the photos.

“You know…I’ve always felt she didn’t want you to marry me, because she wanted you to move back down there after your divorce, not stay up here.”

“I think you’re right. She leaned on me good. She never wanted me to leave the Island in the first place, but she didn’t want me around either, which puzzled the hell out of me. All I knew was that I was never going to live down there again, period.”

I looked into her eyes.

“I never could understand her attitude toward you, from even before she’d agreed to meet you. I mean, she never liked my ex either, but she hadn’t even met you. It couldn’t have been because she thought you broke up the marriage, because I didn’t even know you until after we had separated, and I told her that.”

“That wouldn’t have mattered to her. She’d make up any lie she needed to in order to make me look bad for her own reasons. The truth has nothing to do with it.”

“I’m really sorry I didn’t handle this better. You never had a shot with the ‘family’ right from the get go. She poisoned the well, and the others were only too happy to please ‘Mommy’…I’m sorry, Hon.”

“There was too much going on back then, and you had no idea what she was up. You were just trying to do what was right as you saw it. I love you.”

“I love you too. I mean it.”

“We’ve been through some tough times, but we made it. That’s all that matters. I don’t care about the ‘others’ anymore. I just want them to know what sort of monsters their ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ are.”

Every one of the photos I enlarged showed some evidence of damage to me, from the 2-month-old who looked burned, right up until I was 12.

It looked to me like with the move to the Island I stopped picking up new scarring. What I found particularly puzzling and intriguing were those patches of darkened, ‘cobwebbed’ skin on my temples. It’s there from the first photo on the Island up to the last clear one when I’m 12. And now they’re back again. It’s persistence through time is amazing.

August 30

Lily used the ‘Baby Book’ to create a false history for me. Innocent people don’t switch photos and create cover stories. It also has to mean that when she was creating it way back then, she knew I didn’t remember already and was likely to readily accept it as real.

September 1, 2006

It’s important for me to focus on ‘Blind Spots’ whenever I encounter them in my thinking, feeling, or remembering. Those are moments when my mind, ‘on its own’, slides away from a topic I’m concentrating on, to something else, or where I find I suddenly cannot think.

September 2

I’ve been reading A. Miller’s ‘Banished knowledge’. She advocates the method of the therapist, J. Konrad Stettbacher. According to him, the aim is to eventually confront your ‘internalized parents’ with your sufferings and what they did. The goal is to allow the ‘silenced child’ to speak and feel.

I saw that mutely accusing child in my dream; naked, dreadfully wounded and cold as death. He glared reproachfully at me, as if I was the one denying him the chance to live.

According to Miller, if someone was abused, they too will abuse, unless they had at least one instance in their life of a person who offered them something other than cruelty, someone who listened to them, who loved them.

When I read that, all I could see was Dede’s kind, blue eyes near mine, and saw the love in them. If she’s right, it’s due to Babi and Dede that I could be saved from being an abuser myself.

I swear before all I hold sacred: I never beat my children, nor molested them in any way, shape, manner, or form. I spanked Jackson twice, and never laid a hand on Erica.

But I’ve probably passed on some of my life’s ‘lessons’ to my own children. What I’m worried about is that I may have contaminated them with my views on the grimness, the hardness of life, and the toughness required to endure it.

September 3

I’ve got feelings that tell me something. But I’m not going there. The Witch did sexually abuse me. It had to do with bondage that started out as a ‘game’, but went nasty.

I don’t want to talk about it or think about it.

September 7

I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg of my repressed feelings yet. Yesterday, when Melissa suggested that they would still probably like to kill me, I felt myself swell, my feet grip the ground fiercely, and a rage roar up.

Have I finally found it? Is this the root cause of my habitual reaction to a threat? I’ve never run: I never run away, I run at it.

Is the last defense against terror an overwhelming, charging rage? When it comes on me I know nothing can defeat that anger. What happened to create this in me?

DREAM JOURNAL September 9 2006

I was in a small European town and saw what looked like a little village church. When I entered, I found myself in an old chicken coop, with broken windows, layers of dust and tall weeds.

Jake, who looked about 30, was in there doing something I couldn’t see because there was a ‘White Board’ between us, I think. He made some comment about me having certainly made a real hot time of it for all of them. By his attitude I could tell he felt superior to me, which made the anger rise.

“…And all for the money.” he said.

That focused me.

What money?” I demanded.

I knew he expected me to let it slide. He was used to me not ‘getting it’ or having to pretend not to. He looked startled.

“I said: What money?”

I wanted him to admit the truth for once. He started to stammer and mumbled something about Aunt Fay.

“Aunt Fay? What does she have to do with this?”

“Christ!” he blurted. “Dede’s whole story is in there.”

Then he said something to the effect that it was about everybody.

Al appeared in the doorway. He came over to me and fondly, almost tenderly, stroked the scars on my forehead.

“Ya took some knocks.” he said admiringly.

I smacked his hand away. He immediately dropped all pretenses and became his familiar hate-filled, snarling self.

“Ya don’t want nobody touchin ya, huh?! Ya neva did!” he mocked.

“You don’t neva touch me wit ya hands again!” I jumped to my feet, facing him. I was just a little child, but as I spoke I began to grow larger and larger.

“Touch me wit ya hands an I’ll kill ya. Ya not dealin wit a 5 year old anymore! Ya wanna try?! Come on! Come on! I’d love fa ya ta try it again! I gotta lotta scars from you, an I’m dyin fa ya ta try it again! Come on!”

As I spoke I advanced on him, continually growing until I was as tall as I am now. He kept backing up from me, stumbling, as we circled around and around the interior of the coop. At first, he was mad and red as hell as I taunted and challenged him. But his rage gave way to fear as I grew and he shrank back.

He said nothing more. Jake laughed derisively at him.

September 11

Called Jackson today. Wasn’t a good idea. He sounded like a stranger. He bluntly told me again he had no time to spend looking around for records for me. His doubt of what I was saying was obvious.

I tried to start over. I explained that when I first spoke to him about this in February I was in a state of shock, so I was sure I didn’t sound ‘all there’ to him. I began to relate a more reasoned, lucid explanation of what had transpired. When I got to the scars, he broke his silence.

“Well, you did work with all those chemicals in that factory…” he interrupted stiffly, proffering that as a way to explain them away.

Chemicals? Chemicals? How was that an explanation? He never even asked “What scars? Where did that come from?... Oh…Loony Lily...I remembered her telling some woman at Rosa’s wake that chemicals from the mill ruined my hands so I had to become a farmer. God only knows where she got that from.

But does that mean he’s been talking to her?

September 15

Called George yesterday. Sorry I did. I guess I really did want him to believe me. I hadn’t heard from him since June, when I told him I was remembering. Talked for a while. Actually, he did all the talking; keeping up a non-stop stream of an idle, condescending monologue that seemed designed to keep me from speaking. An edge of contempt lay just below the surface.

Depressing ‘conversation’, but I finally got it through this thick skull that he is no brother or friend at all. But I heard all about how his daughter and her friends are “cool cheerleadas, an nobody fucks wit em.”

Without asking, I was told about them all: How Kathy is finally happy and wants to marry Don, and Jake’s doing ”fabulously” well.

All of a sudden, he and George are going out drinking together. “Da one who neva left Shirley” was suddenly putting all their drinks on his card. Real tight now. Claims Jake says that the kids and the house are nothing but a money pit to him. Though George says he sees the “folks” a half an hour or so every day, Jake only sees them rarely, “…so he hasta stay ova night dere when he comes ta do dere finances.”

It all seemed so surreal. As he went on and on, all I could think of was how alien it all seemed, and how alone I was. I got my wish. I had no family. I felt like a different species.

He told me Lily had got a new pacemaker, and that “Poor Pop was drivin all around, back an forth...Yeah, yeah, I know, ya don’t care.” I hadn’t said a word. Then he asked his first and only question of me.

“How are da markets?”

“I haven’t been able to work.”

“Oh?’

“No. But at least we have plenty to eat…”

“Oh, okay, good.” he interrupted nonchalantly and resumed his one-sided conversation.

“He didn’t know I wasn’t doing the markets? They hadn’t told him? Did they tell him anything?”

“Did you know Al and Lily were up here in July?” There was a brief silence.

“Noooooo.”

“You sure? You didn’t know they were up here?”

“Noooooo.”

“Want to hear what happened?”

“Nooooooo.”

“You don’t want to hear what happened?”

“No.” he sneered. “Maybe someday, when I’m loaded.

He didn’t care. No interest. He went right on chattering about his life.

I suddenly realized I was back to doing it again: Being the ‘nice guy’, the ‘brother’, who tries to get along. I got off the phone feeling cold and hard, absolutely disgusted for debasing myself, trying to reach out again, to find a friend.

It’s over. Dead. Finished. Never again.

Melissa asked me how it went. I told her he didn’t want to listen.

She was outraged. This was the same one who always cried that no one listened to him? The same one whose older brother sat up half of Christmas night with him out of compassion? Unbeknownst to me as I sat on the deck lost in thought; she stormed for the phone and delivered a message to him in a fury.

BEEP:

“You should be ashamed of yourself!!”

SLAM!!

It didn’t go any better with my daughter. She surprised me by calling 2 days later. She’d moved to Arizona in November. Now she was coming back east to visit her mother for 2 weeks and if she were able to borrow a car, she wanted to stop over for an afternoon. She had a new boyfriend and she wanted him to meet me.

“I’d love to see you Erica, but I’m going to have to say no and ask you to hold off till a later time. A lot’s happened to me and it’d be unfair to you and your boyfriend because I probably wouldn’t be good company. I can’t play the pleasant oaf for you right now.”

“Why? What’s going on?”

I tried to fill her in on some of what I’d gone through since I’d last heard from her. But I’m afraid I once again sounded awkward and stumbling, probably because I desperately wanted her to listen to me. I told her I had talked with Jackson and had asked for his help but to no avail.

“He’s awfully busy.” she quickly defended him. “All he does is work”.

“So I heard. I got the message. He told me he’d gotten rid of one family and was just trying to figure out how to get rid of the other one.”

When I started to tell her some of what I’d remembered, I got a sinking feeling. All I heard was disbelief in her voice. But I tried to push on.

I said that Loony Lily had used a fake story about a tonsillectomy hemorrhage as a cover for my memory of an Emergency Room procedure.

“The problem with her story is; I still have my tonsils.”

“Well, they can grow back. In the school one of the kids there had that happen.”

“She also told me once I was going to the ‘Dentist’ to have my wisdom teeth out.”

“So?’

“At age four?”

“Okay. That’s a little weird.”

I told her about the enlarged photos and about George bringing up ‘child abuse’ out of nowhere. Neither that, nor hearing of Albert blurting out “What crimes?” seemed to sway her at all. All I heard was amused disbelief.

“I can’t believe Dede would do anything like that.” she flatly stated loyally.

I was growing more frustrated and beginning to sputter. I had felt sure I’d be believed because I don’t lie. I had never lied to them, about anything, ever.

I kept going. I told her I thought Al must have been disinherited or something, because Lily thought he’d been ‘robbed’ and Dede sold the Store, instead of Al taking it over.

“I thought Dede was a mailman.” she broke in.

What?”

That brought me up short, confusing me until I realized there was a mix-up over names. The Witch had insisted the grandchildren call them Babi and Dede too.

“No, no…Not your ‘Dede’, it’s my Dede I’m talking about. Your Dede was a mailman. His father, my Dede, had a store in…”

The smirking condescension in her voice was growing with my stumbling. I tried a different approach to make her see that her grandfather might not be who she thought he was.

“Think back to what you studied about ‘serial killers’. Isn’t that what everyone always said about them? That they always looked so harmless, so normal?”

“I’ll have to ask Mom if she thinks Dede’s a ‘serial killer’.” she said with a light-hearted laugh.

I could imagine the fun she and my ex-wife were going to have over this one.

Real dumb move on my part. Real dumb.

September 16

Tough couple of days. Three strikes: Jackson, George, Erica. The last 3 members of my family I thought might believe me. But they’d all made up their minds before I’d even spoke. How is that possible?

Thank God for Melissa.

Everyone is, of course, free to believe or disbelieve what I’m asserting. That is their right. But it means the end of any relationship if they don’t at least consider what I’m saying. If I make the leap of faith and try to share with someone something important that’s happened to me and they make it plain they neither believe me nor want to hear about it; what does that say about their opinion of me? That they didn’t even respect me enough to keep an open mind?

Why would I wish to continue such a ‘relationship’?

This is not merely a difference of opinions over rival sports teams or political parties. To disbelieve me means siding with and giving aid and comfort to my enemies; to pedophiles, sadistic psychotics. These ‘people’ tried to kill me.

Failing in that, they resorted to killing my, and Melissa’s, reputations; and in that they have succeeded.

“...Better to come back grinning,

Scrub the darkness off yourself, wisecrack with the ordinary seamen,

Unless, like a careless saint,

You can give your soul to God.

And then your flesh belongs to the furies.”

“Underworld”

George Garret

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