Charles Pendelton
      © 2008 Marty Langdon
Chapter 11

                        The Curator


As I reflected through the years, I came to realize there were more sad times
than there were happy times. The reason for this was that after a certain event
happened my brain short circuited, and I would be able to learn no more. Not that
there was anything more I needed to learn anyway. A cataclysmic event which
turned everything that was wonderful into something so dark and dreadful, that
I, to this very day find it difficult, if not unbearable to even bear mention of it.

After countless visits to my family doctor, I was referred to a psychiatrist. When he
failed to diagnose my illness, I was put on Ritalin. Even that didn't seem to work.
They should have just given me shock treatments and wiped the whole slate clean.



                  It finally got to the point, where I could no longer stay in that house.

               Just thinking about it again has my emotions in a whirl. Maybe if I had
             talked about what was bothering me, they could have saved me somehow.
         Actually, they couldn't have. I would have seen a life preserver being lobbed
        at my head, and I would have instinctively thrown up my defenses or ducked.

            Either way, I was going down and there would be
no way of saving me.



              So, I let myself drown in that river of despair and awoke in purgatory. . . 
                                                       A lifeless being.


As Pete went to the bathroom, I picked up the short story I finished writing and gave
it a quick going over. Time moved slower as my eyes panned over the scribbled text,
only I seemed to be able to interpret. Since I never mastered the art of writing, nor
could I write fluently, clearly, or with any type of precision, I would print the words
as fast as I could, thus forming my own unique script.


My mother said my handwriting resembled that of a doctor

when writing an unrecognizable prescription.

Leaves blew in the autumn breeze. They danced across the street in a swirling pattern and up
the fabric of Mr. Graff's pants. Cleaving like orphaned beggars from filthy alleys, they clawed
and scratched. "Down bastards," he ranted in his tirade while swinging his arm about vigorously.



Managing to make it up the old marble steps, he used his gold tipped walking stick as a means to
brace himself while he grappled for the museum keys. Like a rickety old dog with four failing legs,
he maintained his balance. Much like a man on a unicycle would at the top of a staircase with no room
for error. Once inside, he slammed the heavy wooden door and cursed the wind's fury with words
of steel. His life was a repetition of palindrome words and short phrases used solely to offend.
 


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There was no sunshine or laughter in Reginald Graff's world. Only thunder and lightning and wind.
He was not an evil man, but rather a very fastidious man. He was not shrouded in sinister cloak
looking for someone to abduct, but merely a man who wanted the world to adapt to his lifestyle.

He wanted the red carpet rolled out when he took his morning stroll. He wanted to be catered
to while he shouted and threw things across the room, and most of all, he wanted his every word
adhered to at any cost. His voice was raspy like a baritone sax caked with rust, and his personality
was always congealed in gloom. It didn't take him long to notice that his clothes were beginning to
wear. The gentle texture like polished silk had now become harsh and stiff, and it was most apparent
they were no longer new, but withered, worn and faded.

“What in Christ's Heaven,” he stammered.
“This is not possible. I say, this is not possible indeed.”


Suddenly there was the sound of singing coming from on high.
He looked up toward the Heavens with exasperation and saw an
angel flying over an old French village. An exquisitely detailed
painting he hardly recognized, but one that has adorned the
canopy ceiling since its creation over one hundred years ago.




Since he had not looked up at it in almost thirty years, the mind tends to forget certain
things,
but never things that irk one so. But the sound was not coming from the painted
ceiling. Instead,
it seemed to be moving north of the staircase and up.

“My lady,” he said, “you sing like a whore.

Leave here this instant or I'll smash you to bits.”

The girl sung even louder at the throwing of
words against
an empty background of paintings hung in perfect order.

“That's it,” he thought,
as he staggered up the stairs in his belligerence.

Suddenly, he was blasphemed by her words.


“Oh Mr. Graff, you wicked old spoon, you'll catch your death from falling.
Down palatial stairs, in a suit with two tears, you'll be enshrined in the tomb of the loony.”

“How dare you put my name in such a song, you little rat of the gutter?
When I catch you, I'll break your neck, and then you'll be sorry.”

When finally, he reached the last step, the singing stopped.

“Oh, you're going to stop now, when I was just beginning to appreciate it?
Please, sing for me some more.”

“Oh, Mr. Graff you old circus clown, can't you hear the crowd roaring?”

He lunged down the hallway and burst into the room where the music was coming from.
There sat a child of only nine years, dressed up in a beautiful gown, articulately woven by
her mother. He approached the young girl and put his hands around her neck ever so firmly.


                                                                              Pg 56
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The little girl then began to laugh.

“Laugh in the seconds you have sparkling, little witch.

This will teach you to have your choir in my museum.”

A museum it may very well have been, but aside from himself, the only one
who
was allowed entry into the gallery was Mr. James Eegen, the caretaker.
Several times a day, Mr. Eegen would enter carrying a warm tray of food,
and most of the time Mr. Graff would give him a look of disdain.


Yes, Mr. Eegen was a good man for he was patient, and he was kind.
Though, I wouldn't go as far as to call him friend.



He increased the tension of his grip until he felt his bones cracking,
but the harder he choked her, the more she continued to laugh.

“Stop, you're tickling me.
I can't catch my breath.”

Startled as the curator was, he kept his hands
tightly
clenched around the young girl's throat.


“You're not supposed to have any breath left in you, you. . . Little bitch.”


Tap, tap, tap was the knock on the fully opened door. Mr. Graff spun
around quickly
and almost toppled over. Mr. Eegen was standing
beside it, holding a small tray of
warm porridge and tea.

“Playing a game with Mary again are we, Graff?”

He then
waved to the little girl who smiled and waved back ever so politely.

“I am not playing
games with any child. What I am doing, in fact, is simply exercising
my right to rid
myself of this unruly beast, if I may be so bold as to call it that, who
refuses to
depart from this house. And in the future when you are to address me,
I would very much appreciate it, if you would call me, Mr. Graff!”


“Sorry sir.”

“Now kindly put that tray down and leave the premises at once.”

Every day without end for the past sixty-two years, Mr. Graff has been trying
to rid the museum of Mary's spirit, but with no such luck. She would torment
him by saying things like, “one day you will play with me. You'll be a boy again,
and you'll play with me.” And he would say things back to her like, “I'd burn
my own hands with fire, before I ever play with the likes of you.” (((and)))
“You had better leave this place of residence at once, you waifing wretch.”


By postulating a fury of unbridled energy toward a star only proved to
further aggravate his condition, for little Mary was an incorporeal being.
The cause of all his suffering.
The reason for his malaise and his sorrow.

“I'll see you downstairs, Mr. Graff, at your own leisure of course.”

“Of course,” said Mr. Graff impatiently.

“Goodbye for now, Mary.”

“See you la-ter Mr. Ee-gen,” replied Mary in her English brogue.

“Until then,” he said to Mary in the opposite direction before
shutting the door to that room firmly.

“And no more talking to this walking apparition either.”

“I'm no apparition," said Mary, who appeared
to be genuinely stunned by the harsh remark.

“You do not in any way belong here,” shouted Mr. Graff
while pointing a crooked, shaking finger at the sensitive child.

“Well, I've nowhere else to go.”

“That, little girl, or beast, or whatever you are is no fault of mine.
A thousand farthings to any soul would I, if only to preclude the existence
of this poltergeist who dampens my spirit,” shouted the weary man.


Mr. Graff then turned his back on the ghostly figure that has been haunting
the museum, since she passing in the fall of 1807. “Little Mary” as her
mother Adeline referred to her, was the posthumous child of Zachery
More. Zachery was a shipping clerk, who was murdered in a back
alley for a pocket full of Liberty cap half cents.




                                                                              Pg 57
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Not a day went by that Mary didn't think of her parents'. Between them, there was a difference
of over
twenty years, but that was never brought into question because of the love they shared.
Her mother was quite content churning butter and spinning yarns of wool, and yarns of tale
to ever contemplate employment, while her father worked until the day of his demise. The day
when poverty flew in, like a bird through an open window to devour all that it could, because
in those days if no one worked, all would starve.
Within a month, Adeline was destitute and within
a period of two months' time, the epitaphs had already been carved into a wooden plaque on
Maiden's Field. Though it was renamed Potter's Field shortly thereafter. The epitaph read,
No. 889 & No. 890. Within a year, the markings were gone.


Little Mary loved her mother dearly, but today it was her daddy she would be thinking of.
The day he took her to the mountains. A month before he was to be murdered. Of course,
it was all but a dream, for her father was taken from her a month before she was born.



In no way was Reginald going to open that door, for it was jammed, and simply would
not open. Almost as if the wood had absorbed too much water and was now expanding.
Tiny hairline cracks could be seen coming from around the door frame where most of the
pressure was being exerted. Within minutes, the eerie sound of wood crunching could
be heard as the old plaster began dropping and Mr. Graff quickly began to panic.

“The door is stuck Eegen, and I can't get out. I say the door is stuck shut sir. I need help
getting out of here.” He continued to pound his fists on the heavy wooden door, but Mr.
Eegen was long down the hall and well out of range to hear the curator's rantings.

“I guess we're stuck with each other,” said little Mary
who stood firmly beside the deteriorating aged figure.

He then sat on the floor facing the small window and looked up toward the sky.
Upon doing so, Reginald thought of when he was a child and how happy he was
until that fateful day. As he pondered his lost cause of a life, the stern Reginald
Graff slowly began weeping, until finally, he was asleep.


The Graff's took over the large house in the winter of 1813, when Reginald was only three.

His father was a prominent businessman, while his mother tended to all the chores and
motherly things mother's do, to make sure their children grow up to be responsible and well
off. Reginald never went to school, for his mother taught him in the comfort of their abode.



Her opinion on the matter was simple. “If I want my child to learn what an isosceles triangle
is, then I shall send him to school. If I want him to learn practicality, then I should teach him.”

Once his mother heard him talking to an imaginary friend named Mary. She tried earnestly
to tell him that Mary did not exist and to forget her, but Reginald simply would not. After a fair
amount of time elapsed, she felt a moral obligation to inform Professor Graff, who was undeniably
Reginald's father. Adeline felt she had been left no choice in the matter, and in her own mind, washed
her hands clean of the affair. God only knows what monsters were funneled into young Reginald's
head that night, but for almost two whole years he sobbed under the covers come evening. 



As he slept, he was plagued by nightmares of the surreal
and upon waking, his father's tyrannical rants.




“You wish to dine with the devil, do you,” he'd scream at his little boy, who only wanted
a friend. Yes, a tale of misfortune had indeed begun. Nathaniel then said calmly to his
beautiful wife, “do not worry yourself my dear, for this will soon pass.” Eventually it did.


                                                                              Pg 58
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In those days, Mary could not reveal herself to anyone but children, so no one
knew that Mary really did exist at all. She was Reginald's only friend. The first
and last friend he would ever have before
becoming a contemptuous beast of

a man who would lose both his heart and mind to tyranny.



The paintings on the wall and ceiling
disappeared along with the marble floor. All the furniture
became
transparent and even Mr. Eegen downstairs dissolved into the ether of time, as an old
man gave himself over to dream. Little Mary held
her hand on the elderly man's shoulder, and
she too dissolved into
the complex fabric of a withered old man's dream, where together as
children they laughed and sang and played. This went on for what
seemed like years.

At ten thirty Mr. Eegen left the house, locking
the door gently behind him.
“Goodnight Mary,” he said quietly to the wind as he strolled down the steps and into the street.

“Goodnight to you, Mr. Ee-gen,” whispered Mary from a window in a dream.

“Who is Mr. Eegen,” asked a young Reginald Graff?

“Just a friend,” said Mary politely, while running back to play. “He is just a friend.”

Happily, they consorted together while playing hide and seek and other children's games.


At approximately one forty in the morning the curator awakens. The moon shone brightly through
the window of the museum upon his face.
Reginald
gently opens the door and motions down the
wooden staircase to the entrance level turning out lights that had been left on. He exits the museum
and then stops. He reenters again and closes the door. “I forgot how wonderful it was, you know.
How wonderful we played together and yes, we shall be together one day child, but that day is not
now.” He then left, locking the door behind him. Little Mary smiled gracefully and granted the old
man’s wish. The final coup de grâce had come, and so with a wink and a wave she left the house
never to return. Before she did this however, she stood by the attic window and watched the merry
figure go about his way. A young lady whom he had never seen before smiled, and he smiled back.



The snow had begun to fall heavy under the peaceful glow
of an oil street lamp that Reginald had chosen to pause under.



A horse drawn carriage came clacking down the frozen street,
and that dirt was now harder than stone. Reginald waved to the
woman inside the carriage who recognized him. Immediately,
she threw the two red curtains closed.

“I love you too, dear
woman,” he shouted out in glee.

Inside, she spoke to her
companion in a startled tone.
“How daft, the man has gone mad.”


“Who,” said the gentleman she had been secretly courting?


“Reginald Graff, son of Nathaniel.”


                                                                              Pg 59
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So happy was Reginald to have her back again.
To remember everything this world taught him to forget.

“Finally,” he said, “I can see out of eyes unclouded by the vanity of my own self-loathing heart.
“At last, I can see past man's indiscretions to the table where mirth and love flow like wine.”



“Indeed, I am free from the burden of despair!”

As he spoke these very words, the little girl closed her eyes and vanished like a vapor into the cool
night air. A few people passed Reginald Graff on the street, and to them he kindly tipped his hat. They
nodded in agreement and smiled back, before going about their way. Tomorrow he will return to
his birth house, renewed in every sense of the word. He will tip his hat to strangers, and hold open
doors for women, and yes, he will talk to Mary, only this time she will not be able to answer him.


You do see the problem here.
A window has been opened that cannot be closed.

In his mind, he is dancing down the frozen lane while singing aloud a joyful hymn to the falling
snow. High and low will he search for Mary, but never will she be found, and he will talk to
shadows, for she is gone. And besides, how could she even know? As time moves forward,
he will accuse her of playing hide and seek with him as they have played before, and search
the whole day he shall. In every long closet and in every crawl space from the closed cupboard
on down to the hidden room in the old basement, but nowhere will she be seen. In life,
he bereaved her spirit continuously, but Mary wasn't made of flowers. She wasn't going to wilt
and fall over like some infested perennial in a searing drought. No, that was simply not her.


Mary was much stronger than that.

Eventually, his heart will wax grievous, to the point of sheer lachrymose in the most
sullen of tearful plays. Never could he have known; such sorrow begins tomorrow.
What misery of hardship and grief have been outlined within his every convivial step
on this cold winter's eve.

Like a thousand hungry termites to a weed entwined tree stump,

the dinner bell was sounding.

But for now, the year is 1885 and Reginald is happy.
Happy for the first time, since time can remember.
Home. The wind has stopped and he is going home.

If you should look very closely at the sign near the stone wall.
The sign that has been there since the beginning,
you can almost see where the paint first started peeling.
Where the wind did its real damage.

No longer does it
read, “Welcome to Graff Mansion.”

Mister Graff, if I may be so bold as to address you sir, performs
every function as do you and I, without ever leaving the comfort
of his deteriorating room. Just look at the sign that's peeling. . .



                                                              “Welcome to Lakeview Asylum”
                                                        Pink Floyd - Jugband Blues  
                                            
                                                                  Pg 60
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Inkpop reviews for chapter 1
1

Mcrae by Nature - This was a very amazing piece. Your characters in the piece evoke
such a strong sense of pity and care from the reader. I thouroughly enjoyed reading this
piece immensely. Thank you for inviting me to read. Carrie L McRae


Reviews for chapter 1
1

Joan Rosenberg - The best way to tell which author is good and which author is not so
good is how convincing your storyline is. With you it feels like you went back in time to bring
the story to me and for this reason alone I would say you are an excellent writer! Keep it flowing

Susan Cantrell - I really enjoyed this chapter. It was different than chapter 6
and certainly chapter 9. Really nice work.

Margaret Weatherly - I am not much of a reader, but I do know it is improper to
begin a sentence using the words and or but. Even though I am impressed with your
style of writing, it is still incorrect usage. The strange part is, you put them both on
one page! Page 60. Care to explain to this Okie?

Charles Pendelton - Actually madam, as a matter of fact, I would.
John Grisham » The Chamber » Page 138. . . (((I rest my case)))


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PG 55) Gernsback Isolator from Science and Invention Magazine - http://tinyurl.com/k25y47p

PG 55) Secret between fall leaves by Sandro del Prete - http://tinyurl.com/n3zd5f7

PG 55) Relief from Depression by Stuart Briers -
http://www.stuartbriers.com/

PG 56)
Painted ceiling of the Marble Hall of the Melk Abbey, Austria - http://tinyurl.com/n4qqjcz

PG 57) Interior view of The Metropolitan of Art when in 14th Street
by Frank Waller - http://tinyurl.com/kn8cp62

PG 57) 1793 Liberty Cap half Cent
- Front - http://tinyurl.com/k94r2t5

PG 57) 1793 Liberty Cap half Cent
- Reverse - http://tinyurl.com/lm56ayv

PG 58) The cauld blast
by J. H. S. Mann - http://tinyurl.com/knporoh

PG 58) Muzeum sztuki w Lodzi
by Sebastian Smarowski -
http://tinyurl.com/khux5ox

PG 58) The Sleeper
by Judson Huss - http://tinyurl.com/kn32xb5

PG 58) Nightmare
by Paul Bielaczyc - http://tinyurl.com/mzuj2jz

PG 59) Ghost girl
by Mark Ryden - http://www.markryden.com/

PG 59) Vintage Christmas
by Maud Humphrey Bogart - http://tinyurl.com/m38a876

PG 59) Street lighting and lamps in Tudor Times by Peter Jackson - http://tinyurl.com/l36wx2w

PG 60) Oddment 68 by Leah Palmer Preiss - http://www.leahpalmerpreiss.com/

PG 60) Abandoned Insane Asylum
formally known as Trenton Psychiatric Hospital - http://tinyurl.com/kddvvtn