The October people. Chapter 24: "Ding, Dong..."

Updated on May 25, 2019
Fredrickvanek profile image

Mr. Vanek is a student of the Human Condition, and a Writer among other things.

“Heaven fixes no time for chastisement, but inflicts it when it is most proper.”

Benvenuto Cellini

May 15

BEEP:

Al: “Hi, Frank, dis is Dad an Mom. We’re jest callin ta wish ya a

happy birthday. We hope everything is well wit you an Melissa, an we

love an miss ya…”

Lily: “Happy birthday, Frank. Okay…”

Al: “Okay.”

Lily: “We love you.”

Al: “We love you.”

Lily: “An maybe one day…maybe. Awright. Okay. Bye.”

Back to square one. What happened to the ‘She’s Nearing Death’ scenario? Besides the phone call, I got the customary formulaic generic birthday card from her. Every year, the same exact words devoid of feeling: “Happy Birthday. May God grant you health and long life. We love you.” But this year, she cryptically added a postscript at the bottom: “Bad things happen to people who hate.”

What matters most to me about all this is that I learn, and not only the details of all that happened to me. Why did ‘The October People’ do what they did? How did they themselves become what they are?

I want to understand how all this had incubated or hibernated within me and then been triggered. I want to understand how and why this whole thing is unfolding as it is. What’s behind it?

Where I’m wrong, I want to learn why I was; how did I arrive at that erroneous state? It’s just as important to know where I’ve erred as it is to know where I’m right. It’s the truth that is paramount.

BEEP:

Erica: “Hi, Dad, hi Mel, it’s Erica. It has been forrrevvveeer since we talked so I thought I would give you a caaalllll, see how you guys are dooooing, what you’ve been up toooo. Ummmmm…I, I, I, I’m working 2 jobs now, so it’s hard to find the time on your time zone to call…Uh, so…If you wanna give me a call back, puhhhllleeeease, uh…we can catch up. Alright, I love you. Bye.”

June 6, 2007

There is apparently a part of me, not under ‘my’ control, that is absolutely terrified of something that happened to me. I’ve re-gained all the memories I could and am once again stalled out. Yet I’ve noticed that I have consistent bodily and emotional responses to certain situations depicted in some books or movies.

I’ve been deluding myself. I thought I might be able to regain the knowledge of what happened to me without having to re-live the experiences. I don’t think I can. If I want that knowledge back, I’m going to have to accept the price: I must re-live it. I must feel it.

I’m not looking forward to this. I suppose the logical point of attack is to catalog the situations that trigger those reactions in me and look for a common denominator. Then I’ll have to let myself go and sink into those feelings and see what happens. This must be done with respect for the forces down there. A descent into Hell is not to be taken lightly. And somehow, I know that’s what’s waiting for me: Hell.

June 9

Regarding Al: It is no longer safe for me to have any contact with him. All it would take is for him to use the wrong tone, say the wrong thing…I may not be able to get anyone other than Mel to believe me, but I know, my rage knows. And I cannot guarantee I can control that rage. Loony Lily is safe from me, no matter what she’s done. I cannot over-ride that internal commandment to never hit a woman.

Regarding the ‘siblings’: There is no relationship possible with those I believe have been up here sneaking around in the dark to commit crimes… short of retribution. And besides the issue of whether or not they’ve been up here at night: It’s how they’re not talking that shows me they’ve hewn to the Witch’s line: No one is to discuss this with me, it is to be left to her, or no one at all. “We all gotta think alike, we all gotta think the same.” she always used to say to them.

That makes so much more sense now.

As to how we earn our daily bread from here on out? Unknown. If I’m reading the signs right the economy is going to get worse, a lot worse, and soon. Everything points to the ‘Mother of all Bubbles’ being about to blow. The Fed inverted the yield curve 2 years ago and there’s been no contraction; that spells ‘Crash’.

Our style of farming would only be viable in a good, or at least stable, economy. That’s not in the cards.

I think I made a mistake in investing last season’s profit in building that larger chicken coop before all this ‘family crap’ blew up on me. It was a choice between that and a newer truck, but I figured that the truck would last another few years easy and with a larger coop we could sell more eggs.

Now it looks like I’m going to have to take the lay of the land again and try and find some other opportunity. No matter how bad things get, something, somewhere, always flourishes.

As to my children? Again; 2 days after a call from ‘The October People’, Erica calls, and suddenly wants to ‘catch up’. She’s up to something, Goddamn it.

Complete and utter silence from Jackson.

I had so wanted a real relationship with them. I thought I had one once. I loved those 2 with all my heart.

I think I’ve been made to carry the blame for the divorce in its entirety. At least, that’s the excuse I’m using for their behavior. It’s ironic, because it was their mother who insisted on the divorce when she was, as she put it, still young enough to get another husband. I had wanted to wait till the kids were older. I don’t think they even know that.

I suppose it’s partly my fault in that I never bad-mouthed her in front of them. That was misplaced ‘gallantry’ on my part; she felt no such compunction. And she went out of her way to make it unreasonably uncomfortable for me to be anywhere near her and the kids.

Both of them have never gotten past their childish attitude towards their ‘evil stepmother’, yet Melissa had tried so hard to be their friend and helper. Stepmothers have got to have the most thankless job in the world. They could be Mother Theresa and they still could never win. It’s a jealousy, a biological bias toward their birth mother which you’d think they’d have outgrown by now.

But I guess I’m the last person who should talk about people not seeing things clearly.

June 11

BEEP:

George: “Yeah. Uh, hiya Frank an Melissa. Uh, dis is George. Uh, jest callin, uh….Lessee…I don’t know what time it is, but it’s on…uh, Monday. I’m havin a, ya know, family, friends, an everybody ova on da 24th of June fooooooor Eliza’s Graduation, uh, slash, 18th birthday. So…I jest called, ya know, ta drop ya a line ta tell ya, we’re havin, uh, ya know, some, uh, a lotta people ova. Uh, if ya can make it, great. Okay? Awright. So it’s the 24th of June. So ya don’t have ta call back or anything, ya know? If you guys jest show up it’s cool, awright? Love you guys. Awright. Bye.”

June 12

BEEP:

Erica: “Hey, Dad and Melissa, it’s Errrrrrricaaaa again. Uh, thought I’d give you another trrrrrrry. It’s about 5:30 here, so it’s about 8:30 your time. I hope you guys are feeling (unintelligible)…tonight. I’ve got a few (unintelligible)…if then, give me a call. Um, uh, actually, I think maybe I (unintelligible)…might be here after 5:30. Uh, kiss kiss…(unintelligible)…Alright, love you, bye.”

Despite my distrust of her motives, I called her. There was no answer, nor a call-back in answer to my message.

I don’t know why I called. Maybe I just can’t let her go.

June 20

BEEP:

Al: “Hi, Frank an Melissa, dis is Dad. We’re lookin at da T.V., an we saw ya had a lotta big storms up dere. So we hope everything is awright witchu…Okay. We’d love ta hear from you. we love you. Okay. Bye-bye now.”

He sounded dejected, depressed, like he knew that wasn’t going to work, but had to go through the motions anyway. So, what did they do, drop the ‘Near Death’ scenario again? There’s no consistency to the emotional notes they try and hit. The only thing that’s constant and consistent is: Call her. Not him; her.

June 26

Melissa mentioned today that Albert must have hit me as hard as he could. I told her he unloaded on me; no let, no hindrance, no brake, no mercy. He went apeshit. As a little boy, I took shots few grown men have to experience.

The kicks hurt the worst. Not so much the impact as the scuffing of the flesh by the shoe: It burned. Mostly, I felt the punches as jarring thuds: THUMP THUMP THUMP. They weren’t that painful unless I caught them on the mouth, nose, or ears. I learned to cover my stomach and head early on.

It was much the same thing with being thrown around the room into walls and furniture; it wasn’t the pain at that point, it was the terror. The real pain began the next day: The dull aches, the cuts that stung, the blinding headaches, and the sharp ache of broken bones.

July 10

BEEP:

Kathy: “Hey, Frank, ya sista, Kathy. Jest wanted ta tell ya dat I love you.…Melissa, hello…I don’t know who’s gonna answer it, who’s gonna lissen ta dis, who’s gonna ERASE it, but I do hope ya know dat, uh, Mommy’s still not doin good. She’s down ta totally not walkin now, so, case ya wanna make ya peace wit God…Love ya, bye.”

Who’s going to erase this”? Why would she say something like that? She can’t believe Melissa’s erasing all their calls and hiding it from me. They can’t be that stupid. Can they? Is Melissa right? Are they all ‘Octards’? Good Christ.

July 15

These ‘Black Moods’ puzzle me. I don’t remember having them before all this started. Normally, my nature is sanguine.

At least I thought it was.

I think that what has made this surface is this ‘going deep inside’. Not unlike how re-living my memories of the abuse brought the ‘deep fear’ within me up to the surface. And with nothing to distract me, no outward goals to push on towards, those quiet, but powerful, influences from my past seem louder.

I see more vividly now how these deep stratum in my psyche can insidiously shape my outlook and moods. But it’s still repellent and insufferable that an attitude foisted on me as a result of those ‘creatures’, can affect how I feel, think, and act.

August 1

Melissa had jury duty tonight at 6 p.m. When she opened the truck’s door, she discovered wasps had built a nest in the hollow of the jamb because it had been so long since we’d driven anywhere.

They were in an awkward spot to get at. Without any bug spray, I had to squash them with a screwdriver one at a time. I wasn’t 100% sure I’d gotten all of them, but she had to go.

After she left, I did up a pipe and picked up my shotgun to patrol for rabbits. As I walked I felt there was ‘something’ coming. Something else told me to be ready. I was.

I greeted it by name, and pulled it forward into the light: “Separation Anxiety’. A strange internal dialog began.

Worm: “There goes a cop car! Mel had an accident! The wasps in the truck stung her and she crashed!”

Me: “Welcome. I knew you’d show up. There’s been no accident.”

Worm: “How do you know? There could have been!”

Me: “But there wasn’t. Let’s wait and find out who’s right and who’s wrong, shall we?”

Worm: “You’re gonna find out you’re wrong and it’ll be too late and you’ll be sorry!”

Me: “Hmmm. Very familiar. But I’ve grown weary of you now that I’ve learned of your presence in my life all these years.”

Worm: “Cops are gonna come and tell you! Cops are gonna come and bust you! You’re gonna trip with that shotgun and blow your head off! You’re gonna…”

Me: “Boring. I know you now. You’re not ‘me’. You’re a bizarre, disembodied ‘worm’ that got laid in me long ago. None of these things ever happens. Yet you always trot out these ‘What ifs’ and demand I give them credence. It’s disgusting. But now that I’ve got my hands on you, let’s examine you. Let’s find out something of where you’ve come from and why I’ve had to endure you all my life.”

Worm: (Silence. Just a visual image of a knot of flesh with tendrils groping blindly.)

Me: “The pattern never varies. Only when the one I care about is separated from me does the fear of what may happen to her kick in…Not a fear about what will happen to me.

So; I must either be worried about the fate about to befall Melissa…or I’m substituting my fear of what will happen to me when I’m abandoned, for a fear of what will happen to her. That’s convoluted. Still, I understand Psychology accepts substitution as a real phenomenon…Wait a minute....Why did I phrase it that way?

Why did I suddenly use the word ‘abandoned’? Where did that come from? Maybe I can’t admit to myself that I’m worried about something happening to me, so I present it as if I’m worried about her. It feels like real worry for her; but is it?

And why should I be worried about something happening to me? Is it a reaction from my childhood? Is that it? Not will bad things happen to me, but did bad things happen to me when I was left alone?”

Quiet voice: “Bad things did happen to you.”

A scene sprang up before my eyes. A City apartment. It’s not the one I remember us having before we moved to the Island. It’s a different one. Bright light from the sun streaming in. No blinds, curtains, or shades. It all has the feel of something deserted; empty and silent. A kitchen table and 4 chairs; chrome legs and trim. Seen from the viewpoint of about 2 feet off the ground and maybe 6 feet away. Faint, stale cigarette smell, like butts in an ashtray.

No sense of self, but a feeling of hunger is there. Not sharp pangs, but the dull hollowness that comes after several days with no food. Abandonment. A vacuum. No direction. No idea what will happen. Not fear; that word is too defined and focused. More like vague dread. Feeling like a ghost.

Me: “Interesting. Maybe that’s it. She abandoned me. I find I can now pull back that same precise image at will, without it varying at all. It’s a memory. Where has it been all these years?

But: Back to you, ‘worm’…Regardless of where you came from, it’s time for you to die. How does one kill a Witch?

Can you?

Doesn’t really matter. I understand now in a more objective way your nature. And I know how to destroy your influence. The only way to defeat you is not to cave in to you. When you throw up your horrible little scenarios as a ‘This could happen’ I will reply:’ And? So?’ You sputter and die off just like Loony Lily because she’s your source and energy.

This is indeed the Witch’s work, her legacy to me: The terrible deprivations, the torture, the terror and the psychological battering unceasing.... Its 7p.m.

Game over.”

8:00 p.m.

BEEP:

Kathy: “Yeah, Frank, it’s me. I’m in New York, at da hospital. Dad and Jake jest discussed DNR orders. Hope ya call. Bye.”

1:30 a.m.

BEEP:

George: “Yeah. Dis is George, duh, ya brotha. Mom died taday, so I jest wanted ta pass it on. Give me a call so I know dat ya got dis message, or whetha MELISSSSA got dis message an didn’t give it ta ya. So if I don’t get a call back from ya, I know ya didn’t get dis message, an I’m gonna come up dere, an I’m gonna make sure ya know what happened! Mom died. Okay? Mom really wanted ya ta f*ckin tawk ta her!...Ya know, its f*ckin-un-f*ckin-believable dat dis bullsh*t dat you guys f*ckin did!...

But if I find out, if you don’t call me back, I’m comin up dere, an I’m gonna find out what da f*ck da problem really is!...but I betta find out ya got dis call…Mom is dead! She died tonight! She wanted ta hear your voice…an dat’s all she wanted…An she loved chu! I don’t give a f*ck what ya bin twisted inta thinking!...By WHOEVA!...But I gotta tell ya Frank…ya Mom loved chu, an neva did a f*ckin ting ta ya! She was a nice f*ckin lady! So I betta hear sumthin back dat you heard dis message, otherwise I know dat Mellisssssa got da goddamm message…An if Mellissssssa inta-cep-tid dis message, I’m gonna be even more pissed, because right now I’m beyond pissed! But, Frank, ya betta f*ckin callback, or respond somehow…But you, or you, eh, probably, it probably won’t be good fa ya ta show ya f*ckin ass!

2:00 a.m.

BEEP:

Kathy: “Hey, Frank an Melissa, it’s me. I’m down here again. Mommy passed, I guess about an hour ago. We hope ya can be with us. Daddy sez he loves ya. Okay, bye.”

August 2, 2007

Outgoing tape message:

Frank: “To the bereaved: I respect your grief, and I have no intention of exacerbating your turmoil…However: This needs to be made clear. Threats, insults, slander, and manipulation are not the basis for a fruitful exchange between mature adults, and will not be responded to…I receive all messages. To suggest otherwise, and slander my wife is offensive in the extreme.

I am responsible for what I say and do; no one else…If you wish to leave a message…Choose your words carefully. You will be held as accountable for them, as I am for mine.

I have a long memory, and the truth is all I hold sacred.”

BEEP: (Hung up. No message left.)

BEEP: (Hung up. No message left.)

BEEP: (Hung up. No message left.)

BEEP:

Kathy: “Frank, it’s me. I jest wanted ta say, thank you so much fa

sharing da message with Jackson. We love you an hope we get ta see ya. Bye.”

BEEP:

Jacob: “Yeah. Hi, Frank, it’s Jake. I know ya got da message about Mom. Sorry fa you, an fa us. And, um, thank you fa passing da word on ta ya kids. I’ll tawk ta ya later. Bye.”

BEEP:

Erica: “Hi, Dad, it’s Erica. That’s quite a message. Um, call it a bad day? Um, I’m at work, but I’m taking a break. Call if you get a chance.”

I called her that evening. I was still seething over George’s call. I kept my voice level and told her what I had tersely told Jackson that morning: They were adults and they could decide for themselves what they’re going to do. I said that I felt compelled to advise them however not to attend. I told her Loony Lily had gotten some of them all worked up: They’d be looking for red meat and my children were close enough by blood to suffice.

She told me they didn’t intend on going, that she and Jackson were sending flowers.

Sending flowers! I thought, feeling the outraged blood pound in my temples.

“It’s just all so sad.”

What is?”

“Just…The whole thing. It’s just so sad.”

“So…Why did you call?”

“Why? Well, I figured you probably had mixed feelings about all this.’

“You might say that.”

“So how are you doing?” she gingerly asked.

“I feel like its Custer’s Last Stand, and I’m in the middle.”

“Oh, it’s all so sad.”

“You keep saying that. What is it that’s ‘so sad’?”

“Well, I mean…she was your Mom...So you’re probably upset…”

“To be perfectly honest; when I heard she was dead, the first thing that went through my mind was ‘Ding, Dong! The Witch is dead!”

“Oh, it’s so sad.”

“Do you remember what I told you they did to me when I was a boy?” I asked her sharply.

She began to hem and haw.

“Think. Thhhhiiinnnnk.

“You said they put you in the hospital.” She was reluctant to even say that little.

“That’s right. And she got them all worked up but good because I cut them off and would not back down. I‘m blamed for killing her.’

What!?”

“You heard me. I was told that if I didn’t call and she died it was going to be ‘on my head’.”

“Wait a minute! That’s not fair! She was already sick!”

“We’re not dealing with ‘fair’ people here.” How did she know Lilywas already’ sick?

We didn’t talk much longer.

She was very uncomfortable and I could feel my anger getting dangerously close to blowing. By unspoken agreement we made our exit lines, and ended that conversation.

“So it is with certain myths and dreams.

The songs of Orpheus were never the same

after he had seen hell. They roused

nothing but rage and madness; yet

after such vision and total loss,

who wouldn’t change his tune?”

“Underworld”

George Garret

Ding, Dong, the Wicked Witch is dead. From  "The Wizard of Oz."
Ding, Dong, the Wicked Witch is dead. From "The Wizard of Oz."

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