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    Ice Cream Memories Ebook Ice Cream Memories Ebook Document Transcript

    • Teresa Perrin The Ice Cream Memories of Charlotte Rowe
    • Published in 2009 by Stiltjack Copyright © Teresa Perrin 2007 The author asserts the moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Free to download in .pdf and .prc formats from stiltjack.co.uk. Cover image © Teresa Perrin.
    • To Mrs. Jones, Sister John-Marie, Mrs. Cramer, and all my teachers.
    • Contents Prologue Chapter 1: Family History Chapter 2: Spiritism Chapter 3: Nanette Chapter 4: The Séance for Norma Parker Chapter 5: The Reappearance of Charles Rowe Chapter 6: The Move Chapter 7: Anita, A Case Study Chapter 8: Excerpt from Charlotte‟s Diary Chapter 9: Montague & the Mirror Chapter 10: Augustine Emory Chapter 11: Ice Cream Chapter 12: Nanette Chapter 13: Melissa Chapter 14: Excerpt from the Writings of Professor Charles Rowe Chapter 15: Paul Archer Chapter 16: Prelude to a Wedding Chapter 17: Dinner Conversation Chapter 18: A Wedding Chapter 19: The Baby Chapter 20: Crib Death Chapter 21: Lessons in Spiritism Chapter 22: A Funeral Chapter 23: Uninvited Guest
    • Contents Chapter 24: The Séance for John Peacock Chapter 25: A Ghost Chapter 26: Recuperation Chapter 27: Family History Chapter 28: A Death Chapter 29: Accusations Chapter 30: Dream Analysis Chapter 31: Murder Chapter 32: Murder, Murder, Murder Chapter 33: Montague Dreams Chapter 34: Magdalene, Mother Chapter 35: Professor Rowe Visits the Afterlife Chapter 36: Melissa Peacock Chapter 37: The Life and Times of Charlotte Rowe Epilogue
    • Prologue T HE small, old lady lay in the small, old bed. She was sunken into the soft mattress, surrounded by pillows and encompassed by a thick, fluffy quilt. She looked thin and white, as if she had already faded away, been completely swallowed up by the soft whiteness that surrounded her. She looked at Sid, and she blinked three times. “I am one hundred and eight years old,” she said. Sid nodded. It was a lie. Charlotte Rowe was born in June of 1910, ninety-five years ago. Sid paused, looked down at his notes. Before he could choose his words, she told him: “You are here to discuss my Gift.”
    • 2 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes.” Sid shifted. “I‟m writing a thesis, about the history of Spiritualism in Redlands.” “Spiritualism,” she said. “Spiritual, regarding the connection with the inner soul. It‟s a name that packages the mystic for mass consumption, links the world of the Beyond with the personal experience of Grace.” She shifted and turned her head to the side. “We didn‟t call it Spiritualism.” “Spiritism,” he said. “It is not a subject to be taken lightly. It is… a dangerous subject.” “I don‟t take it lightly.” “Spiritism. Delving with spirits.” “I‟m hoping you‟ll let me record our conversation,” Sid said, taking the tape recorder out of his pocket. She looked at the machine and smiled. “Not at all. It‟s so important to be accurate, isn‟t it?” “Could you tell me about when you first discovered your gift?” “I am very tired. I wanted to meet you, to get a look at you.” She closed her eyes. “Oh… you couldn‟t… just a few questions?” She opened her eyes and asked suddenly, “Do you go to church on Sundays?” “Well, no,” Sid said, uncomfortably. “I——” “Good,” she said. “Come to see me again on Sunday.” She closed her eyes again.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 3 Sid sat for a moment in silence before gathering his papers and shutting off the tape recorder. As he turned to leave, he thought he saw something — an impression of fluttering — out of the corner of his eye. The movement came from the mirror, but when he turned, there was nothing. Sid stepped out into the heat. It was stifling, arid. His car was ten degrees hotter, and he rolled down the windows and blasted the air, cringing against touching the steering wheel. As he drove back through Redlands, his disappointment amplified. Redlands: a normal, modern, suburban town. Only a subtle decay marked the transition to the urban jungle to the west. At the easternmost edge of the massive metropolitan Southern California sprawl, Redlands lay at the beginning of the desert, and the transition to the east was marked by a different sort of decay, a gradual sloughing off of civilization and bounty, until all that was left were the plants and animals adapted to deprivation. Surrounded by impoverished city to the west and impoverished desert to the east, Redlands existed as a minor oasis. Today, the oasis seemed a mirage, barren in the heat. The great orange groves that marked Redlands‟ history were now shrunken, crammed into not- as-yet-built patches of land. Likewise, the quaint
    • 4 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES old buildings of downtown were cramped by a dank, heavy, enclosed mall, by coldly utilitarian strip malls, by poverty-symptomatic check cashing businesses. The great old Victorian mansions that were the peak of style in Redlands‟ early years stood in hidden corners amid modern growth. Bits of the past — “historic” Redlands — were like discarded snake skins, husks that carried the shape of the past but were now dead. They were too intertwined in the Starbucks, fast food drive-thrus, discount stores. The present had sapped all of the life out of the past. Sid had always imagined that the land of orange groves would be lush, filled with orange glistening balls under deep green leaves. But under all the asphalt, Redlands was desert, or near enough to desert. The orange groves, what was left of them, seemed sparse and dry, unable to counter the natural heat and barrenness. Sid‟s room was at the top floor of an old house, and instead of heading to the sweltering room, he parked the car and walked into one of Redlands‟ bars. He ordered his first martini and sat staring at the olive floating in the clear, cool liquid. “Hey,” said a girl, sitting down next to him. Sid drank down his martini in a gulp. “How‟s it going?”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 5 “Great, great.” “Me, too. Bloody Mary, please.” She smiled at him. “I used to be afraid to order them, you know. I figured when I got too drunk, I‟d order three in a row, and then, you know what.” Sid laughed. “So, what do you do?” she asked. “I‟m a student,” he said. “U of R?” “No, I‟m in Redlands doing research. Spiritualism.” “Spooky.” “Not so far.” “Don‟t underestimate Deadlands.” Deadlands, dead of nightlife, dead because of the lifeless desert underneath it, dead because of the ghosts that wandered the relics of its past. “Have you been to the graveyard? Plot 666. I used to think it was a joke, until one night I went out there with my friends. You know, we were a little drunk, but not very. I mean, we‟d had some beers. And we were out there, having like a picnic. That‟s when I saw her, in the distance, kind of hazy against one of the tombstones…” “Mm-hmm.” Sid drank down his second martini. Haunted Redlands, ghosts in the mansions, ghosts on the roadways, ghosts lurking in the cracks of the city as it sprouted up to cover its past. Cold spots. Apparitions.
    • 6 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Unexplained noises. “Another martini, please.” Sid awoke to the sound of his fan, burring in the window, hoping to capture some of the morning air before the hard heat descended. It already smelled of heat, rising up from the asphalt. Somewhere in the middle of the evening, Sid had lost track of himself and started dropping memories around. He had them last night, but this morning they seemed to have escaped him. He knew there were some people he met: faces, hands, and colors were impressed in his brain, but no names. He pulled himself out of bed and put on some dark glasses. Sunday. One more day to try again. He failed to escape the landlady‟s disapproving glance as he grabbed a glass of orange juice on his way out of the house. Sid‟s head was throbbing, but he set off toward the south side of town, where the roads became meandering and confused as they moved up into the hills. Orange Blossom Road was at the very base of the hills, on the east end of town, and although you needed to wind through a series of small, curving drives to get to it, once you reached Orange Blossom, it stretched out straight to the east through an orange orchard.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 7 Once you passed the “no outlet” sign that marked the beginning of the road, there was nothing to see but orange trees, lined up with geometric precision, so that there could be no confusion between this manmade forest and a wild one. Until he first drove down this road, Sid hadn‟t realized that there were still any orchards that size. Another pocket of history, hidden away. Driving through it was eerie and unsettling. The orchard was neither natural, nor was it the comfortable bustle of civilization. Isolated but systematic, strange but familiar — in other words, uncanny. Sid followed Orange Blossom Road to its conclusion. At the end of the road, he passed through the open wrought iron gates that stood freely on either side of the road. The road continued on, narrower and less well-kept, up a slight hill and through more trees. The orange orchard ended and was replaced by oak trees, hiding the house until Sid was almost on top of it. The house itself was not Victorian in style, breaking the tradition of most other old houses in Redlands. It was actually older, constructed of stone. Built in the 1800s, its origin somewhat lost in history, Sid believed it was referred to in obscure records from the Estancia of the Mission
    • 8 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES San Gabriel‟s Rancho San Bernardino, dating 1823. The writer of the notes was unknown — certainly not Carlos Garcia (the majordomo of the time), and there was some doubt about the authenticity of the records. But the text was intriguing: The stranger went off to the east, although we warned him against that place. The natives know the unclean territory there. He insisted to build his blasphemous temple of stone, with a tower but not to God, and hinted that followers would join him. The original, of course, was in Spanish, and Sid could find no records of a cult or colony, and no legends from the local Native American tribes to account for the entry (neither the “stranger” nor the “unclean territory”). It was just a scrap, but he couldn‟t help identifying this “blasphemous temple” with the old rough-hewn stone structure that Miriam Rowe insisted had an “aura of spiritual power, a stronger presence than any other mystical place I have visited.” The house was rambling and gray, peppered with windows. The first story wound around the hilltop, and sections of it had fallen to ruin, leaving what looked like a low stone fence around areas that once were rooms. The outlying edges were decayed and falling down, but the central portion
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 9 stood. The tower was there, a three-story structure topped by a belfry. There was no bell, just an empty space where a bell was clearly intended and may have once been. Possibly, the bell tower was never finished, and no bell ever rung there. The Rowes had kept a telescope in the tower, where Professor and Madame Rowe looked up into the stars for calculations both scientific and metaphysical. There was no sign of a telescope now, only birds‟ nests. On his first visit, Sid had seen a flutter of activity there. Now, he looked up and saw the outline of a face, someone peeking over the railing. When he took off his sunglasses and squinted against the glaring sun, it was gone. But he was certain he‟d seen it. The door was opened for Sid by Nanette Goddard, caretaker to the house and caregiver to Charlotte Rowe. He had written to her, arranging his visit, and he had built up a picture of her in his mind, an older woman, but still good-looking, thin and slightly weathered, with light hair and darkened skin wrinkled by laughter and sun. Someone who smoked cigarettes in a non-vulgar way, who drank red wine. Perhaps it was just his image of a Frenchwoman. Nanette was younger than he had thought and overweight — not obese, but round. Her face
    • 10 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES was round to match her figure, and she looked as if she would have a tendency to giggle, but didn‟t. Her voice, though, was everything Sid might imagine a Frenchwoman‟s voice to be, surprisingly deep and soft and heavily accented. Nanette‟s eyes brightened when she saw him. “Miss Rowe has been very anxious to see you again,” she said. “She doesn‟t get many visitors, of course.” She brought Sid in to the sitting room with the large fireplace. “Wait here while I check on her.” The Rowes did extensive work on the interior of the house, making it into a home that would be acceptable to Miriam Rowe, née Silver, of the wealthy Chicago Silver family. Though it wasn‟t luxurious, even by the standards of the 1920s, it certainly seemed comfortable enough. From the outside, it looked cold, slightly prison -like. Inside, the stone of the walls was plastered, painted, and wallpapered, although a bit stained and peeling. There were wood moldings and trim, and the only hint of stone was the large fireplace in the main sitting room. There were few pieces of heirloom furniture, and the cheap utilitarian substitutes looked out of place. Sid wandered around the room while he waited, absorbing the atmosphere. He felt unusually calm in that room. He expected knick-knacks, antique photographs, and strange objects, but the room
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 11 was oddly sparse. It had the air of a room whose contents had been given up over time, in favor of survival. When Nanette returned, Sid was standing in front of the empty fireplace, staring thoughtfully at the black ashes. “Come up,” she said simply, and she led Sid up the curving staircase of the bell tower. “Why would Miss Rowe want a bedroom up all of these stairs?” Sid asked. “The room was the nursery when she was a child. It is sentimental.” The narrow stone staircase ended in a crescent- shaped entryway. Nanette and Sid passed through a door into a round room directly below the bell tower, and there was Charlotte Rowe, lying in her childhood twin bed surrounded by fluffy blankets and pillows. There were no real furnishings in the room except the bed and, across from it, the huge and elaborately framed mirror. Sid caught himself staring at Charlotte‟s image instead of looking at the woman herself, and he turned his head toward the bed. Nanette left, and Sid sat down, starting up his tape recorder. “Feeling better today, I hope,” he said, lamely. “Better, I suppose,” she said. “I am never well.” “I thought I saw you in the bell tower. It‟s
    • 12 ICE CREAM MEMORIES right above this room, isn‟t it?” “The bell tower?” Charlotte paused. “Oh, that‟s her.” She went silent, staring into the mirror. Sid didn‟t like to ask who “her” was. He doubted Nanette had come rushing down the stairs from the top of the tower. Perhaps Charlotte was up to her old mediumistic trickery, fashioning apparitions in the tower. Sid shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Charlotte turned to him, and her eyes were sharp and bright. “I suppose,” she said, “I‟ll have to tell you everything.” Sid didn‟t show up at school when the fall semester started. Instead, his roommate Martin received a tape, a manuscript, and a note. The tape was hours of static, with what sounded like it could be muted, murmured conversation in the background. Repeated, in a lower register, like a drum beat, was what sounded like a voice saying, “I scream.” Then, there was the note: Tuesday, September 13, 2005 Marty, Take this manuscript and guard it with your life. Try to verify any aspects possible and check authenticity. Sid
    • Chapter One: Family History D ARKNESS is what I see. In his eyes. I mean, the Serpent. That is — in the beginning. Which is as good a place to start as any. The Serpent looks at me, and he is wrapped around the tree branch, not tightly, just rather devil-may-care almost flirtatiously wrapped around the tree branch, his tongue darting at the air. “Take the fruit,” he says. “The fruit of knowledge.” What am I thinking? About banishment, damnation, the meaning and power of God? Or, perhaps, about the loving nature of a forgiving, all powerful God who has planned for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Because beyond
    • 14 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES the barrier in the world of souls, all is happiness and light. No. I am looking into the darkness of the serpent‟s eyes, and I can smell the fruit, that fresh, clean, sweet smell. And I feel hunger. Pure hunger. The crispness, the coolness of the fruit on a hot summer day. Nothing is more pure and inescapable than that. When you‟re hungry, and you‟re offered a piece of fruit, you take it. And it‟s sweet, the first luscious bite, and the juice that streams down your chin. There can‟t be any bad consequences to that, can there? A simple, unthinking, naive girl, just a babe, in a garden, eating a fruit. After all, I have no fear of a kind God. I have no knowledge of good and evil. Yet. And it‟s delicious. Then I wake up from the dream. But perhaps that is a little too far back to start, after all. Miriam Silver was an ardent believer. At nine, she became an Adventist, and to her parents‟ horror, she refused to eat flesh. That is what she called it: “flesh”. She earnestly plead with her parents to give up tobacco, tea, coffee and meat, so that they wouldn‟t ruin their health and die and leave her an orphan. After two months of this behavior, she had a vision from God. He told her that He would
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 15 protect her and her family from the evils of eating meat, but expressly forbade, for the faithful, the eating of carrots except when baked with butter and brown sugar. Though this divine intervention was welcomed with relief by the Silver household, the episode was an indicator of the things to come. Miriam took up popular movements as they came across her notice: suffrage, temperance, American Holiness evangelism, populism, self- sufficiency. She also took up various and sundry cures and patent medicines: Orange Wine Stomach Bitters, Wonderful Little Liver Pills, Laudanum, French Arsenic Complexion Wafers, Cod Liver Oil, Castor Oil, Olive Oil. There were Amazing Cures for All Your Ills, including — but certainly not limited to — thinness of the blood, nerves, weariness, diabetes, skin lacking in firmness, dissatisfaction, asthma, insomnia and exhaustion. Each cure seemed better than the last, promising a bounty of health and wellness, and Miriam begged her family to try these miracle elixirs. Increasingly, as time went on, Miriam developed her own unique patchwork of beliefs, advice and medicinal wisdom. Through visions from God, experimentation with various concoctions and the teachings of sundry fanatics, she cobbled
    • 16 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES together Errant Mysticism, “a mystic journey that travels outside the bounds of the limits of our minds, that truly passes beyond human understanding.” In 1908, Miriam Silver met Charles Rowe, a practitioner in the young field of psychoanalysis. Miriam had left her family‟s Chicago home after receiving a vision encouraging her to an evangelical mission in New York. She lived on an allowance from her father, acquiring a small shop with an apartment above. From this shop, she distributed pamphlets, peddled medicinal cures and meddled in mysterious services which were not recorded. Although mystic folk medicine has a long and twisted history of spectacular success, Miriam was never successful. She fervently argued the dangers of cigarettes and cigars, demonstrating the proper way to smoke with a pipe to the glory and goodness of God. Unfortunately, her pipe-smoking method, which had come to her in a dream, was strange looking, awkward and embarrassing in public. She joyously advised on God‟s preferences for baking special cakes, which were invariably flat and rather soggy. She proselytized on the benefits of her own patent elixir, which though high in alcohol content, tasted strongly of garlic. Miriam became, in equal measures, more
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 17 depressed and fanatical as she failed to gain a following among the forlorn. She began exhibiting hysterical symptoms, which she attributed to God‟s visitations on her. She became unable to turn her head to the left and was compelled to touch the shop doorknob once every ten minutes. When one morning she awoke with the impression that her right hand was a great balloon, and was thereafter unable to lift or carry anything with it, she determined that this could not possibly be construed as a gift from God and contacted a psychoanalyst. As a patient on Charles Rowe‟s sofa, she struggled to untangle the complicated mesh of her unconscious mind. Miriam Silver was, by far, Professor Rowe‟s most fascinating patient, and he became convinced that this earnest and beautiful girl was indeed gifted with visions from God. “These visions,” he told her, “are interpreted through the disguising mechanisms of the mind. The Mind of God is so beyond the mind of man that His Word is treated as an ill-repressed memory, and dream-like, comes to you represented symbolically, as messages about carrots or cigars.” Professor Rowe disagreed fundamentally with the Freudian emphasis on sexuality, and particularly the formulating influence of infantile
    • 18 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES sexuality, that oxymoronic concept. In Miriam Silver, he saw the promise of a revelation in understanding not only the human mind, but in a greater scope, the fundamental nature of the universe. “Is it not true,” he wrote, “that the prophetic nature of dreams is well-documented throughout the world, and in ancient cultures? Dr. Freud dismisses these prophetic qualities in favor of degrading, animalistic explanations. There is no doubt that in the heritage of man, the spiritual is the essence that defines and controls all human behavior. The metaphysical pervades every culture and every aspect of life, but it defies human explanation. Why is this? Because the metaphysical comes to us garbled and distorted, in a code that must be broken. We have so many competing and various definitions of God and explanations of the universe that the mind becomes boggled. The ancient Greeks and Romans had their pantheons of mythic characters. The native African tribes have their strange masks depicting the preternatural element. The far eastern cultures have their own mythic traditions that defy western understanding. Even our blessed Christianity is broken and shattered into diverse sects. “We cannot understand the nature of God because it comes to us perverted through the
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 19 nature of our imperfect mind. Dr. Freud is greater than he can allow himself to believe, in that he has stumbled upon the keys that will allow us to solve this great mystery through the undeniable power of psychoanalysis.” In 1909, Dr. Sigmund Freud gave a series of five lectures on psychoanalysis at Clark University. Charles Rowe attended these lectures, bringing Miriam Silver with him. They registered at a Worchester, Massachusetts inn as Professor and Mrs. Charles Rowe, and explaining that she suffered from blinding headaches, Miriam spent the trip confined to their hotel room. Professor Rowe attended only the lectures by Freud and stood in the back of the lecture hall, with his head lowered and eyes closed, so that those around him thought he might be sleeping. At the end of the first lecture, the quiet and unobtrusive man was first to the exit, and rushed away across town to his hotel. He arrived and burst open the room door in a fervor. “Miriam,” he said. She lay on the bed in a silent posture, her arms crossed on her chest. When Professor Rowe burst in, she opened her eyes and languidly turned to him. “I can see,” she said. “I can see Dr. Freud in
    • 20 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES my mind‟s eye. He glows with a spiritual aura that he will never know!” Charles rushed to the bedside. “I can feel the power rushing through us, like an ocean let loose upon our souls.” “Yes, Charles, it is the power of God.” “It is everywhere around us.” “And in us.” The two fell together on the bed in a passion of ecstasy. Three months later, Charles Rowe and Miriam Silver were wed in New York by a justice of the peace, and in 1910 Miriam Rowe gave birth to a baby girl, six pounds and two ounces. She was named Charlotte Abigail Silver Rowe, and her overjoyed parents showered her with every affection. “We expect great things from you,” Miriam whispered to her newborn girl, when the baby was first laid in her arms. “Great things.” Soon little Charlotte grew into a vibrant toddler with silken blonde hair, cornflower blue eyes and a winning, constant smile. The small family was inseparable, and Professor Rowe saw his psychoanalytic patients in an office on the ground floor of their brownstone. Professor Rowe‟s science of psychoanalytic mysticism was the constant topic of conversation
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 21 in the household. Through his sessions with his patients and consultation with his helpmeet, he came to focus his practice on the aspect of memory. “What is this beautiful thing,” he would say, patting his small daughter on the head, “but a biological mechanism of memory: the memory of a moment of love, the memory of my physical and psychical person, the memory of your physical and psychical person, my dear. So that the memories in her mind are the memories of a memory, another level in this complex recording of the past on the present.” Though his small practice grew, finding new patients every month, he found no publisher for his lengthy and convoluted semi-mystical arguments. He spent long evenings composing an ever-lengthening volume documenting his case studies and extrapolating experiments in the supernatural that would allow mankind to converse with God. On May 22, 1915, Charles Rowe burst excitedly into the sitting room on the second floor of the brownstone, where his wife sat reading to their young child. “Miriam,” he said, “I have done it.” Charles had been spending long nights for the last several weeks in the brownstone‟s basement,
    • 22 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES which was set up as a workshop for both wood- working and mechanical tinkering. Charles Rowe had never been truly clever with his hands, but his father and brothers were all accomplished in these manly, mechanical skills, which were valued in his family beyond the more bookish qualities that Charles exuded. As a result, Charles admired the making of things and aspired to complement his intellectual exercises with practical machinery. When he pronounced his success in the sitting room, his wife looked up from the fable she was reading and smiled. “Of course, dear,” she said, “you will succeed at anything you put your mind to.” “This is beyond anything I could have hoped for!” “What is it, darling?” she asked. Charles had been incredibly secretive about his project, and his wife had not pried into his work. “It is what you and I have talked over, dreamed over, for years. It is the mechanism for talking with God.” Miriam stood up, almost dropping her child on its head. “Charles! Truly?” “Yes, yes. Come see it.” Miriam held the child to her breast. “Dear
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 23 Charlotte,” she said, “your father is the greatest man in the history of knowledge.” Charlotte, a quiet child by nature, smiled at her mother. “Well, come on,” said Charles, “the proof is in the pudding.” He led the way down the two flights of stairs to the basement workshop. Along the largest wall there was constructed a large scaffolding, from floor to ceiling and from end to end. It was three feet deep and composed of thin wooden timbers crisscrossing like an asymmetrical spider‟s web. Complicating the structure was a secondary crisscross of copper wire, moving along and among the beams. Sometimes the wires would follow the pattern of the wood, and then one wire at a random spot would break the pattern and streak off through its three-dimensional space at its own random-seeming angle. Among and between these two interweaving webs were small pockets, bulges of machinery that formed nodules, sometimes on wires, sometimes on wood. Some nodules contained lights or dials, and others seemed to be simply lumps of metal. Some were spherical, some square, and some completely irregular in shape. “Charles, it‟s amazing,” said Miriam. “Can you feel the energy emanating from it?” he asked.
    • 24 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes,” she said, holding Charlotte tightly. “A holy energy.” Charles walked over to the machinery and caressed it with his hand. “This is the moment that culminates my life work. Our life work.” “How does it work?” Miriam asked. “I will show you. No, wait. We need to document this occasion well. Go to the kitchen and get Mary and Bridgett.” Miriam rushed upstairs again and summoned the two maids, who were at work peeling potatoes. “But the potatoes cannot sit, they must go into the water,” said Bridgett, always a worried girl. “Damn the potatoes,” said Miriam. “Oh, forgive my language, but this is important.” The three women and one child descended the stairs again, to find Charles adjusting dials and buttons. “What will happen, my dear?” said Miriam. “I do not precisely know,” said Charles. “I cannot precisely tell you that, but you will see a dramatic result.” He turned to them. “On this day,” he said, “we make history.” Then he turned back to his great machine and flipped a switch on the wall within the structure. A low humming filled the room.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 25 Charles stopped to secure his goggles on his head and flipped a second switch. The humming was joined by a flickering of lights and a quiet click-click-click. “Now, here we are,” he said, “the last switch.” He glanced behind him and smiled at his family. Charlotte blinked at him. Charles turned and flipped the final switch. There was a crackle and a large clap, and the room filled with smoke. The lights and sounds stopped, and the three women began to cough. When the smoke cleared, Charles was gone. Miriam stepped forward wonderingly toward the machine. “Charles?” she said. She touched lightly a board in the matrix, and the whole thing came crashing down with a thunderous roar. Of course, I don‟t remember any of this. I don‟t know any of this. I am completely in the dark. My mother would tell me things about herself, about my father, about his work, about my birth. My birth was, she assured me, a miracle that brought together man‟s scientific knowledge, man‟s psychical powers, and God‟s love. From these mystic beginnings come my great gifts.
    • 26 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES I constructed in my mind a version of the truth about myself and my family, based on what I was told and what I observed. Much later, I started seeing it in my mirror. I saw my father working on his machine in the mirror, and it seemed to resonate with some childhood memory. The vision of my father‟s machine completed itself in my mind when I saw it in the mirror. That is what the mirror is like, a completion, a bringing into being, of something I already know in my own mind. It feels true. Then, of course, several years later I ran into Bridgett, the maid. I had only vague recollections of her, but I felt a stir of recognition immediately. She knew me. I asked her about the night my father disappeared. She said, “You are still young, but you are old enough to understand. You know what men are. Men leave, sometimes.” “What about men? What about the basement?” “The basement?” she asked. “Yes, the professor was always tinkering in the basement.” “Don‟t you remember going down to the basement, to look at the machine?” “I remember there was a great crash from down there. We all rushed down, and there was a heap of rubble.” “But my father?”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 27 “Yes, that was the day your father disappeared. I remember now, we went down, and there was a great heap of rubble, and your father wasn‟t there.” “You didn‟t see him disappear?” “How could I see him disappear?” I have two alternative explanations. To witness the supernatural goes against everything our brains are programmed to believe. Perhaps Bridgett merely blocked out the events of that night and constructed her own memory of what happened. Or, of course, it could all be a lie, invented by my mother, and perpetuated by me.
    • Chapter Two: Spiritism C HARLOTTE Rowe‟s first memory was of being shoved up against her mother‟s breast in a cloud of smoke. She could recall the odor in vivid detail when she closed her eyes. Sometimes it came to her in the middle of the day, for no reason, and for a moment she couldn‟t place what the smell was. She would be washing dishes, her hands up to the elbows in warm, sudsy water, like the most luxurious bath, and for a moment instead of the smell of soap and the slight underlying stink of spoiled food, her nostrils were filled with this smell, so strange and yet so familiar. She would breathe in automatically to gather
    • 30 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES more of the scent, not only to identify it, but because compulsively, she wanted to drink it in. Her nose would tickle and twitch with the feeling of particles mixed with the odor — a strong, sharp, metallic odor flavored with something sweet on the one hand, and something bitter underlying it. In these instances, the smell only lasted for a second or two before it faded away, leaving no trace in the ordinary air. Recurrences of the smell persisted for Charlotte throughout her lifetime, and as she lay on her death bed, she would turn her head to the left or to the right, hoping to capture a whiff of it. It was the smell that started everything. Not only that first child-like and hazy memory — although that started things too. It was after that first instance of the smell that the women began to come. In Charlotte‟s childhood memory, her mother was the prominent and ubiquitous figure. Charlotte‟s impression of her mother was of a large woman — bustling and busy. Her mother was the final repository of all knowledge. She knew what to wear, what to eat, how to pray and when to go to the bathroom. “I‟m raising you,” her mother told her once, “as a child of the Lord. Most people don‟t know what it means to achieve Grace, because achieving
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 31 Grace is a difficult thing and most people only want to achieve what is easy. When things are difficult, think to yourself, „I am working for the Lord‟s Grace,‟ and that will give you strength.” The women were always inferior to Charlotte‟s mother. They were old or young, tall or short, thin or fat, but all of them simpered and coddled and flitted around Charlotte‟s mother. When a woman came, they would all go down into the basement, where the dust-ridden rubble had been shoved aside to accommodate an elegant table and amazingly soft and comfortable chairs. That day, the woman was a tall one, tall and thin with large front teeth that made her look a bit like a horse. Charlotte held onto her mother‟s skirts as Mrs. Rowe answered the door. “Mrs. Rowe?” said the woman with the buck teeth. “I‟m Beulah Bellwether, as I‟m sure you can guess. A musical sounding name, my mother used to say. Although I‟m sure yours is so much more elegant. It‟s such a pleasure to meet you. You can‟t know what your kind support means to our community.” “I do the work of God,” said Mrs. Rowe. “Of course, of course.” “Now, Miss Bellwether, shall we begin?” Miss Bellwether nodded five times in rapid succession and looked around the sitting room.
    • 32 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Before she could speak, Mrs. Rowe continued: “Follow me.” Mrs. Rowe turned and started toward the basement stairs. Miss Bellwether‟s eye fell on Charlotte, and she favored the girl with a toothy smile. “Follow me,” said Charlotte, raising her eyebrows and turning on her heels to follow her mother. The three proceeded single-file down the narrow basement steps to the oasis of comfort erected there. Mrs. Rowe stood by the table and turned to face the others. Charlotte immediately sat in her favorite chair, a large armless creature upholstered in deep purple velvet. “I presume this is suitable, Miss Bellwether.” Beulah Bellwether looked around herself. On the floor along the longest wall were the ruins, mysteriously attractive rubble of metal, wire and wood. The other side of the room was filled with shelves and cabinets, disused and covered in dust, but still filled with bottles, jars, instruments, gadgets and tools of every description. A large table was shoved up against the cabinets to clear the center of the room for its newer furnishings. Miss Bellwether made a clicking noise and nodded very swiftly six times. “The emanations here are very strong,” she said, “very strong.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 33 “Sit,” said Mrs. Rowe. “Sit up straight, Charlotte.” Charlotte shot up rigid in her chair, and Miss Bellwether sat down rather heavily with a small sigh. She straightened her dress beneath her, and looked first at Mrs. Rowe and then at Charlotte. “We have had,” said Miss Bellwether, “truly amazing results with table turning.” Mrs. Rowe raised her eyebrows. “I asked you here because I heard praise of your mediumship.” “Oh, I know. But mediumship does take many forms, does it not? I mean, table turning is indeed a mediumistic venture. Not that I insist we try table turning in any way. But I do feel that we must be open to many different types of communication. I mean, the mediumistic trance is quite wonderful, quite spectacular, but also, you know, somewhat unreliable.” There was a silence following this pronouncement, as Miss Bellwether looked earnestly at Mrs. Rowe. Mrs. Rowe sighed a deep and dissatisfied sigh, and spoke coldly. “We may do table turning, if you feel it is likely to be effective. But I would first like to at least attempt contact in a trance, as I had heard that you were able to do.”
    • 34 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Well, of course, Mrs. Rowe,” said the medium. “Of course, I never meant to imply that we could not attempt a trance. And I have every hope that, with the grace of God, we will be successful.” There was another pause. “We must all join hands around the table, if you please, Mrs. Rowe.” She set her hands on the table. Charlotte took one, and Mrs. Rowe took the other. “Please close your eyes,” said Miss Bellwether. Charlotte closed her eyes. She could feel the cool, smooth hand of her mother gripping her right hand and the warm, doughy hand of Miss Bellwether gripping her left. Small purple globes floated across her eyelids, and the room, the world, felt far off, way outside the boundaries of her head. The room was hot, and she relaxed into the chair, now that her mother could no longer see her posture. They had held many of these séances. That was a French word, and it simply meant to sit. Not precisely. “To sit” was seoir. A séance was a sitting. Like sitting room. But they did not hold their séances in the sitting room, they held them in the basement. What was the French term for basement? She was quite good in French, and sure she could remember. Miss Bellwether droned on, but Charlotte
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 35 disregarded her. “We ask any spirits,” she was saying, “who dwell in this area, or in an adjacent plane, any who have information for these souls here gathered, to present themselves in our presence.” What a loud medium Miss Bellwether was. Usually they were silent for a while, until they fell into a trance. But this one went prattling on about planes and energy and souls. That‟s what it was! Sous-sol, basement. So these were not so much séances as sous-sols. „Pardon me, my dear, but I must be off — I am late for a sous- sol.‟ „Yes, Mrs. Robinson, the séance is so passé (present tense passer). You simply must attend one of our sous-sols.‟ Miss Bellwether had finally fallen into silence. She was now breathing rather heavily through her nose. Adenoids, perhaps. Charlotte attempted to read Miss Bellwether‟s thoughts by traveling, with her mind, through Beulah‟s hand, up her arm, and into her vibrating nose. Feeling nothing, she determined to read her mother‟s thoughts. She felt again the cool hand, so calm and detached and perfect. She traveled up the well-draped arm, through the veins that, if you pushed back the silk fabric of the dress, were visible on the surface of her arm as blue lines. She traveled through the neck, where a pulse-pulse-pulse
    • 36 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES beat strongly and regularly. She arrived inside the head, where she could feel the presence of the closed eyes in front of her. They were dark eyes, shark‟s eyes. There was complete and total silence, and a cold emptiness. Here everything dropped away. She was neither breathing nor suffocating. Her heart was not beating. Her mind was a blank. Everything around her was blank, empty, impossible. The world dropped away and revealed itself to be illusion. Into this total and complete absence, came the smell. Mrs. Rowe and Miss Bellwether held hands in silence, except for Miss Bellwether‟s notable stentorian breathing. Miriam Rowe did not have high hopes for this particular venture. Although some of her trusted friends had given the highest references for Miss Bellwether‟s mediumistic capabilities, Mrs. Rowe felt certain that these references were based on questionable séances held in controlled circumstances. Certain rather humiliating experiences had taught her to maintain a level of caution with mediums. At one point, Miss Bellwether‟s hand gripped Mrs. Rowe‟s hand strongly, and the audible breathing was interrupted by a gasp. It was
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 37 followed by nothing, however, so it must have been merely a hiccup or nauseated twinge. Mrs. Rowe was just beginning to feel that, perhaps, her rather callous distrust of this particular medium could be causing a lack of results, when a violent gust of wind whipped through the basement. Automatically, Miriam Rowe‟s eyes flew open, and she saw that Miss Bellwether‟s eyes had also flown open and were looking at her with a clear and distinct fright. How odd, thought Mrs. Rowe. Then the voice came from an unexpected quarter. “Charles?” Mrs. Rowe asked, wonderingly. It was Charlotte who was speaking, her eyes still closed, her face expressionless. She repeated: “The resistance of the mind to the Power of God is strong.” “Charles,” Mrs. Rowe said, “Charles,” and she turned to the voice, breaking her handhold with the now-forgotten Miss Bellwether. “Life is an imperfect way of recording the past. Everything we create is a hysterical symptom of the past traumas of Earth.” “Where are you, Charles? How can we get you back?” The girl continued to stare straight ahead and spoke with the older, masculine voice of her father:
    • 38 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Time is recorded on the brain, and living things are time machines, traveling backwards in their minds, as their flesh moves forward. Hysterical symptoms are the infringement of the past on the present, through our personal recording of history. The child lives in the womb, and the womb is a memory of the child. The amniotic sac holds the knowledge of the child just as your mind holds the knowledge of my self.” Charlotte‟s head turned toward her mother, who was staring at her with great horror. “I know how to create eternal life.” Then, all life and energy left her, and she fell to the table as if the bones were gone from her body. Miss Bellwether screamed. Mrs. Rowe rushed to Charlotte‟s side. “Charlotte,” she said. “Charles.” Things become confused. They are told and retold. Recalled and remembered, and then remembered again. The experience of traveling into my mother‟s mind is so vivid that I can close my eyes and be in that moment even now. I think I remember speaking in my father‟s voice. I have heard about it many times, and I have seen it in my mirror. In my mirror, my face even seems to take on the aspect of his face.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 39 Yet, even if I spoke in his voice, could it merely have been a reflection of the memories of him in my own mind? In my mother‟s mind? „Time is recorded on the brain.‟ My father was recorded on my brain. Could I not have been merely playing him back, like a recording? Or maybe it is just a story my mother believes. Or maybe I was mad and bored and decided to show off. I was sort of that kind of a child.
    • Chapter Three: Nanette C HARLOTTE awoke in her bed with a nasty headache. There was an icepack on her forehead, but it was not helping in any way. Her mother sat at the bedside, and when she saw Charlotte‟s eyes fly open, she was ready immediately with a spoon full of something that smelled quite nasty. “Charlotte? Here, take this. It will do you good.” “Did I faint?” Charlotte asked, after obediently swallowing the stuff, which left an oily residue on her tongue. “May I have some water?” “Of course,” said her mother, and went across the room to pour a glass from a pitcher, “and no. Don‟t you remember?”
    • 42 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “We were in the sous-sol.” Miriam Rowe looked critically at her daughter. “It is not polite to speak French, except with the French.” Her mother was never good at languages. “I‟m sorry, Mother. I don‟t know why, I just had the word ready in my head.” “You don‟t remember anything?” Charlotte shook her head. “What happened?” “The most wonderful and amazing thing,” Mrs. Rowe said. She handed her daughter the glass of water. “You are the most incredible medium.” “Medium?” Charlotte asked. “I knew when you were born that you were special. You were born of the ethereal plane. You were a child of the highest spiritual power. Now, your birthright is coming to fruition in light of the Grace you have worked so hard to attain.” “What happened?” asked Charlotte. “It is so exciting. We must bring your talents to the world. We must — but of course you need your rest at the moment. So try and get some sleep, and I will bring you some blood pills in a moment.” Charlotte looked away from her mother. “Que s‟est produit? De que ma mère parle-t-elle?” “Charlotte! What did I tell you?”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 43 Charlotte turned to her mother, and raised her eyebrows. “You told me it was only polite to speak French to the French.” “And since when do you disobey your mother?” “I am not disobeying!” “What language was that, if not French?” “I did not say I was not speaking French!” “Well? Is there a French person here? To what French person were you speaking?” Her mother was puffing up her chest and turning red in the face. Charlotte opened her eyes, with a surprised expression. “Why, to Nanette.” Mrs. Rowe stared at her daughter. “Nanette?” “Yes, Mother, of course. Who else would I be talking to?” “Who,” asked her mother, “is Nanette?” “Nanette. You know.” Charlotte searched for words. “What is wrong with you, Mother?” “Charlotte. Answer me carefully.” Mrs. Rowe dropped down beside Charlotte‟s bed again, kneeling by her daughter and caressing her forehead. “Is Nanette here with us now, darling?” “Of course, Mother. Nanette is always here.” “And she is French?”
    • 44 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Of course!” “Where is she, exactly?” Charlotte looked around the room. “Why she‟s here. Around. Sometimes all around the room, and sometimes right at my ear.” “Why have you never told me about her?” Charlotte looked puzzled. “Haven‟t I? She‟s always been here.” “This is wonderful, Charlotte. Simply wonderful. Can you talk to her right now?” “Of course I can.” “Ask her... Ask her if she is in contact with Charles.” “Oh. Umm. Parlez-vous avec Charles?” She turned to her mother. “Oui. Oh. I‟m sorry. I mean, yes.” Her mother was practically quivering now, sitting on the very edge of the bed, and nervously caressing Charlotte‟s head. “Can she ask him where he is?” “Okay, Mother. Nanette? Où est Charles?” “Well?” asked her mother. “She says...” “Speak, child. What does she say?” “Il est avec vous.” “He is... What?” “He is with you.” “What does that mean?”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 45 “I don‟t know!” “You must know!” “I don‟t know, Mother. I really don‟t know.” Mrs. Rowe realized that she was holding her daughter‟s shoulders in a white grip. She let go and looked around the room. “The problem is that the language of the spirits is translated through our own minds. And, on top of that, your spirit guide speaks French!” “Spirit guide?” “Yes, darling. Nanette is your guide, and she will give you information from beyond the fabric of our mortal universe.” “Oh,” said Charlotte. “This has all been quite trying,” said Miriam Rowe. She rose and wiped her hands on her skirt. “We must converse with Nanette at length, and find out about her. Well. I will bring up those blood pills. You will need your strength.” “No,” said Charlotte. “Do not disagree with me, child.” “It‟s not me, Mother. Nanette warns me strongly against blood pills.” “She does?” “Yes, she says that I must take them under no circumstances.” “Oh.”
    • 46 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “No man-made medicines must enter my systems, for they stifle mediumship.” “Oh. Of course, I should have recognized that. You have passed beyond the efficacy of medicines. Your body is now in a higher state. Yes. I see. I will bring you orange juice.” Well, you have to remember that I was just a child. I was young, and my mother was a self- centered woman. And blood pills tasted horrible. She always had a medicine at her fingertips, something syrupy or oily or bad tasting. Something to pep me up that would give me a stomach-ache. Something to cure my liver that would make my head spin. It was all awful. Damn my liver, damn my blood, I didn‟t want to take any pills or elixirs. On top of that, my mother was acting strange. She was paying attention to me. I was a bit fuzzy on the details, but she was hovering over me in a protective, mother-like way. This was strange, but good. It played with my mind. And then, I was rather proud of my French. I admit it, I made up Nanette on the spot. Or, I think I did. That‟s the trouble with things, they get confused. She‟s been with me so long. I see her in the mirror, and her story is always changing. Her life is one way, and then
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 47 another. And then, she comes to my bedside with a cup of tea, and she seems to be a normal, middle-aged French woman. “Nanette?” I ask. “Is it really you?” “Of course, it‟s me. Who else would be bringing you your tea?” “Do you remember when I was a child?” She laughs. “Sure, my dear. Don‟t you?” Perhaps I‟m mixing them up. I thought I just imagined her. After all, it got me some attention. And I was always proud of my French.
    • Chapter Four: The Séance for Norma Parker N ORMA Parker was a mousey woman, not old yet but certainly not young. She had lived in her mother‟s house all of her life. Her mother birthed eight children. The twins, John and Jacob, were her first born and died in infancy. Alan was the third born, oldest surviving, who had moved to Utah with a young wife years ago. Catharine, the fourth child, had felt a calling and had become a Christian missionary in parts unknown. Jeremy and Jason were another set of twins, the fifth and sixth children. They had quarreled irreconcilably, but both were lawyers living in Manhattan who had married on the same day women of the same age, hair color, and eye color. Margaret, the seventh child, had died
    • 50 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES moments out of the womb. Norma was the youngest of all of them, born when Jeremy and Jason were ten and her mother was already a middle-aged woman. Mrs. Mary Mae Parker was fond of saying that after Norma‟s birth she was never the same woman again. The labor of pregnancy, not to mention childbirth, so late in life was a burden to her, and she began complaining about it before she even knew she was pregnant. “Joe,” she said (Joe being her husband), “I just don‟t seem to feel well anymore. I swear, I am sick every day of my life these days!” She swore that she could tell the date of conception to a second, since for precisely 269 days, she felt sick, as well as tired and swollen and generally uncomfortable. The 270th and 271st days were spent in a sweating agony of labor, during which she openly cursed Joe and little Norman inside her (for she was certain this much trouble must be from a boy). When she lay back on her bed, exhausted and relieved, and was handed a little pink girl, Mary Mae did not feel sorrow for her mistake, since she had not recovered from her grudge against the small package. “Well, I suppose we‟ll have to call her Norma, then,” she said. The grudge, though silent, was undying, and
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 51 Norma spent most of her lifetime unconsciously aware that she must somehow make everything up to Mother. After recovering from her pregnancy, Mary Mae‟s health generally began to decline. She was confined to her bed, and from the age Norma could toddle, the child took on a role of caregiver and bedside attendant. Despite Mary Mae‟s growing irritability, Norma loved her mother with a deep and undying devotion. In her girlhood, games and studies could not distract her from Mary Mae‟s bedside. In young womanhood, no puppy love swept her off of her feet or out of her mother‟s house. Norma lived to comfort her mother, reading at her bedside, and fashioning needlework gifts for her pleasure. Inevitably, Mary Mae died, and Norma was left without occupation. She continued to live with her father, Joe, and keep the house in a mechanical way. Six months after her mother‟s death, odd things began to happen. It began with Norma awaking in the morning on the cold kitchen floor. “Sleepwalking,” said Joe. “N—no,” said Norma, “I couldn‟t possibly!” She began to lock her door at night, and found that it made no difference. She would awake on the kitchen floor. One morning, she found herself there amid a barrage of broken
    • 52 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES crockery. After that, the noises began. There were cracking sounds, rumblings, and crashes that Joe never seemed to hear. When Norma rushed to see what happened, she would find everything in place. My mother was a natural storyteller. She knew Norma through a friend of a friend, and she learned all about her life and her problems. Once she had obtained the invitation for us to visit Norma as spiritual advisors, she excitedly chattered about the Parkers for days on end. She would insert descriptive detail whenever the mood hit her, and run off on tangents of speculation. My mother built up characters in her own mind and colored a picture of Norma Parker‟s life that was cobbled together from everything she‟d heard, mortared with her powerful imagination. Resentfully, I listened to my mother‟s chatter. I did not want, particularly, to be a spiritualistic medium. I did not want to go to Norma‟s house. I figured that Norma was a sap, a martyr, a stupid woman. I was supposed to go sleep over at a girl‟s house, but my mother cancelled my plan in order to take me to Norma Parker‟s house. I hated Norma Parker. I hated my own stupid mother.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 53 I didn‟t realize how emotionally purging the visit to Norma Parker would be. Charlotte and Miriam Rowe came at Norma‟s request. Miriam made a great show of wandering about the house, discussing emanations, clairaudience and astral movement. Charlotte, rather moody and restless, followed along with a pouting expression on her face. The three settled on a small sofa in the sitting room. “What do you think?” asked Norma, anxiously. “Can you help me?” “It is difficult to say,” said Miriam with much consideration. “There are definitely presences here.” Charlotte kicked her heels strongly against the sofa. “Charlotte,” said Miriam, “do not kick the sofa!” “Go away, Mother!” Charlotte shouted. “Charlotte!” said her mother, turning red. Charlotte was staring blank-eyed in front of her. “Mother — Mother — Mother,” she repeated. Miriam registered Norma‟s intake of breath. “Your mother — she has passed on,” said Miriam. “It‟s your mother Charlotte must be sensing.”
    • 54 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Exorcise her! Get her out! Get rid of her!” shouted Charlotte. She fell off the sofa in hysterics. “Get her out! Get her out! Mother! Be gone Mother! Get out Mother! Mother must go! Mother must go!” Miriam fell to Charlotte‟s side, and Norma stood behind her, watching with wide eyes. “Is she—?” asked Norma. “Don‟t worry,” said Miriam. “It‟s the presence of the spirits. The spirit of your mother is here with you. She is hanging on, unable to let go.” Charlotte let out an ear-piercing scream and echoed, “Let go!” Miriam said, “We will need to help your mother pass on. This happens sometimes, when spirits are too attached to the material plane. She loves you so much.” Norma smiled a very gratified smile. Once Charlotte was calmed and settled in the kitchen with a bowl of fresh strawberries and cream, Miriam began unpacking her exorcism equipment. She had potions and concoctions of her own making, along with amulets, containers, and figurines. She spent hours writing and revising incantations, and worried over recipes for holy oils and incense. Miriam‟s rites and rituals were her special devotion, and working through them, the sitter always felt a true accomplishment.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 55 Meanwhile, Charlotte sat at the kitchen table, eating the strawberries and cream, feeling particularly calm and happy. The temper tantrum had purged her and soothed her. Her own anger at her mother subsided. Instead, her mind was taken with sweet strawberries. When Miriam and Charlotte left, Norma was drained, completely empty. “Remember,” Miriam said as her mantra of wisdom. “It is your duty to let your mother go. You must deny your daughterly feelings and force her away. Only this will allow her to pass on to the next spiritual plane.” The noises and somnambulism ceased, and Norma Parker became a most verbal proponent of Charlotte‟s amazing powers.
    • Chapter Five: The Reappearance of Charles Rowe P ROFESSOR Charles Ambrose Rowe awoke one day in strange and uncomfortable circumstance. His head hurt, and he was aware of being unshaven. His skin was sunburned, and he had the feeling of having been outside for quite a long time. He was aware of these things before he was aware of his surroundings. These, too, were harsh and strange. He lay on cold cobblestone in an alley that had a distinctly unpleasant smell. When he felt about his person, he found that he had no wallet, no money, and no pocket watch. The sky above him was dim and brown and the air was warm and humid. When he picked himself up off of the hard
    • 58 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES stone, he had aches and pains throughout his body. He felt like an old man. His hand traveled to his head, and he felt the silken locks of his hair sullied with something sticky. He wore no hat. He had no cape. It began to rain. He wandered out of the alley, to the main street, looking for something familiar. The street name was one he did not know. He attempted to hail a cab, but no cab would stop for him. As he stood at the edge of the street, the rain began to come down more heavily, until it was pouring and he stood, drenched and alone. He began to walk. I see this scene over and over in the mirror. I don‟t know why. It seems to have little importance, but it resonates. Don‟t you sometimes look around your life and wonder how you got to such a cold, hard place? When you do, isn‟t your first instinct to just go home? The real tale of the prodigal son is just that: when you have taken the road less traveled and found yourself in a dark alley in the rain with no wallet, you can just give up and go home. Charlotte and Miriam Rowe were sitting at breakfast. It had been three years since Charlotte‟s spiritual talents had been uncovered, and the
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 59 small family‟s circumstances had greatly improved. Although she did not like to mention it, in the first years of her husband‟s absence, Miriam had appealed to her father for assistance. This was, of course, no cause for shame. It was a family‟s responsibility to care for their loved ones in times of need. However, as time went on, her father and mother began to press her to return to Chicago. This would have been quite a sensible move. It was not wholly fitting, Miriam felt, for a woman and child to live alone, and keeping a separate household was an unnecessary extra expense. She was loath to leave the house, though. Her discomfort grew over time, as she strove (and usually failed) to reduce her household expenses. With the dramatic appearance of Charlotte‟s spirit guide, prospects instantly improved. Instead of being the sitter, she was elevated to the status of — well, not precisely of a sensitive, since her powers manifested only in visions and revelations and never upon her command — but of the Earthly equivalent of a control. While Nanette managed the supernatural side of the séance, Miriam managed the Earthly side. Charlotte functioned as a conduit between the two, their connecting link, often retaining no memory of her mediumistic episodes.
    • 60 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Although the true purpose of these sittings was, clearly, for the furtherance of the Grace of God and for the peace and joy of those who came, it was also, undeniably, a rather good source of income for a wife and mother who was unhappily left alone through awkward circumstances. Miriam spread jam thickly onto a piece of toast. It was good jam, and real butter too. Charlotte said, “We should have a roast beef for dinner.” Miriam looked up. “We have those good ducks sent over from the butcher.” “Father‟s favorite,” said Charlotte, “is roast beef.” This was not an entirely unique suggestion. Charlotte would occasionally mention that her father was quite fond of chocolates, or particularly felt like peach ice cream that day. Whatever, in fact, Charlotte happened to crave, she could acquire simply by noting that it was a favorite of father‟s. This had not happened in a while, though. Charlotte‟s father, as a topic of conversation or thought, had dwindled into the background in recent months. “Roast beef?” said Miriam. “I suppose that the ducks can be kept for another day. I should, perhaps, send Sheri down to the butcher‟s.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 61 “That sounds good,” said Charlotte, toying with her spoon in her three-minute egg. “Father will be pleased.” The doorbell rang, and Sheri bustled through the room on her way to the door. Miriam stopped her. “Sheri, you will please go to the butcher‟s and get a nice roast beef for tonight.” “Ma‟am?” “You understood me. A roast beef.” “But Angie has already begun preparing the ducks for tonight.” “Well, the ducks will need to wait. We will have roast beef tonight.” The doorbell rang again. “Well? Are you going to answer that? Remember, we are at breakfast and unable to entertain a visitor.” “Yes, ma‟am.” Sheri scooted off toward the door. “Finish your egg, Charlotte,” said Miriam. “You need your strength.” Sheri re-entered the room and stood by the table uncertainly. “Yes, Sheri?” said Mrs. Rowe. “There is a man at the door...” “I thought I made it clear that we would not be disturbed at our breakfast.”
    • 62 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes, ma‟am,” said Sheri, still uncertainly. “Well, what is it then?” “He is rather an impoverished-looking gentleman,” she said slowly. “We do not have either work or subscriptions for unemployed men,” Mrs. Rowe said sternly. “I know, but...” “But what? Let it out, Sheri. Don‟t just clamp your tongue on it.” “Well, he says he is Professor Rowe.” Miriam Rowe shot up from the table, knocking over a water glass. She rushed past Sheri and to the doorway. Charlotte said, “If I were you, I would get off to the butcher‟s.” Sheri blinked at the girl. Miriam Rowe reappeared at the doorway to the room, holding on her arm the tattered and distressed-looking man. She helped him to a chaise in the corner of the room, and kneeled at his side as he lay back. Miriam ran her hand gently over the man‟s drenched forehead, and then spun around with vicious energy. “Stupid girl,” she said to Sheri, “leaving him out in the rain like that. Don‟t just stand there! Get a towel. And run a bath. You can get Angie to go to the butcher‟s, and have the roast prepared as soon as possible. He will need good red meat!”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 63 Sheri started and mumbled and ran out of the room. Miriam turned back to her bedraggled husband. “Darling,” she said. He passed out on the chaise.
    • Chapter Six: The Move P ROFESSOR Rowe was not the same after his return. Miriam let him sleep all morning and early afternoon on the chaise in the breakfast room. She woke him to bathe and shave and change into clean clothes (still neatly hung and folded in the upstairs closets) before dinner. He performed these rituals in near silence, going through the familiar motions with the awkwardness of a child learning each for the first time. He devoured his roast beef and new potatoes hungrily and silently. After his plate was emptied, he retired upstairs and was not seen again until tea time the next day.
    • 66 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES As he came slowly down the stairs, Charlotte was consuming warm jelly doughnuts, and Miriam was picking at dry toast. “Charles,” said Miriam, as he stood in the doorway, staring at them. “How are you feeling?” She rose from the table and went to him. Almost simultaneously, Charles moved towards the table. He sat on a chair and looked down at the variety of breads and sweets. He set his hands on the table and took a moment to stare at them. “May I get you some tea, darling?” Miriam asked. “No,” said Charles in a voice that came from far away. He stared down at his hands on the table some more, and then raised his eye to stare at the two females. Miriam was gazing at him eagerly. Charlotte glanced at him as she took a bite of doughnut. Warm raspberry jam dribbled down her chin. “We are going to travel across the country,” he said. “We will travel on a train to California and settle in a country that God has designated, where it is warm and the sun shines. I will resume my work there.” “Yes,” said Miriam. “I see.” It‟s strange how the truly momentous occasions
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 67 in your life seem unimportant at the time. My clearest, most coherent memory of that day is the sugary-sweet flavor of raspberry.
    • Chapter Seven: Anita, A Case Study O NE night, as I lay under my bedcovers, my head resting on pillows, my eyes wide open, staring into space, my mind empty, a blank, feeling too tired to go to sleep, too tired to think about anything, I thought I saw a motion in the large mirror hanging across from my bed. I stared at the mirror, in the darkness. I tried to focus my sleepy eyes across the room at it. The mirror, like the void, stared back at me. This staring match lasted until I was sure I would begin to see the glimmer of the sun nearing the horizon. In fact, the mirror seemed to lighten and brighten as I stared at it. My eyes were nodding, and the mirror was winking at me.
    • 70 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Then, I began to see something in the mirror. I began to see my father. Professor Rowe sat on the leather wingback chair, his pen hovering over a notebook. Anita lay on the couch, her eyes closed. She was shaking her head. “I don‟t know, Doctor,” she said. “I just don‟t know.” “You do know,” he replied. “No!” “You must let go of your resistances. Your conscious mind is blocking your unconscious knowledge. You do know!” He stood up from his chair, restless, and began pacing the room. Anita put her fists in front of her eyes. “No!” she said. “I know nothing about it.” “You‟re making yourself sick!” shouted the doctor. “You‟re hurting yourself!” “I don‟t care!” she shouted. He whipped toward her. “You don‟t care? You don‟t care! Not you aren‟t, but you don‟t care! That‟s wonderful, Anita. That‟s a breakthrough!” Anita began to cry. “You‟re horrible!” Professor Rowe laughed. “Go back to it, again,” said Professor Rowe. “Go back to the beginning.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 71 “We have been over it and over it.” “Again. It‟s essential. Can‟t you see that we‟re on the verge?” Anita sat up on the couch. She removed her fists from her eyes, and placed them in her lap. Her hands did not unclench, and her fingernails bit into her palms. “I was walking down a long corridor,” she said. “Long and dark. It was unbearably hot, hot and humid, and I wanted to get out. It was suffocating. The corridor was long — and I rushed along it to get out.” She looked up at Professor Rowe, who nodded encouragingly. “My feet seemed to stick to the floor, though, and it was hard to make progress, hard to find my way through. I was just turning a corner in the corridor, when the— “ She paused. “Don‟t pause,” he said. “Don‟t think. Don‟t block the words from coming.” “I don‟t know how to describe it,” she said. “You do know how to describe it.” “This thing was coming — pummeling down the corridor toward me — I don‟t know, it was like a monster, or a machine. It filled the whole corridor, as if the corridor was its tunnel.” “Was the corridor the thing‟s tunnel?”
    • 72 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes,” she said softly. “Yes, its lair, its cave. I turned and ran from the thing, and it chased me back through the caverns, into the depths of its lair.” She let out a small sob. “How did you feel?” asked the doctor. “Afraid! Hopeless. I wanted out, wanted to escape.” “And it was keeping you in?” “It chased me into the very heart of the place, and then receded. Every time I started toward the exit, it would reappear, merciless, barreling down upon me, chasing me again into the depths. What does it mean, doctor? It‟s so frightening.” “There is no reason to be frightened, Anita,” said the psychoanalyst. He came and kneeled by her, placing his hands on her shoulders. “It is natural,” he said, “to be frightened. The human mind fears those things that are beyond it. You must try to step outside of the dream and view your fear as merely another element of the dream. And remember, everything in your dream is a representation of God and God‟s message. Step outside of your fear and think about the dream objectively. Put your fear outside of yourself. Your fear is part of the dream, nothing more. It is part of a message from God. From beyond the fear, from outside the dream, what do you feel?”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 73 She looked up at him. “I don‟t know...” He moved his hand from her shoulder, cupping her chin in the palm of his hand. “You do know,” he said, with incredible certainty. “Oh!” said Anita. Her breathing was fast. Her heart was beating. Her palms were sweating. Soon, she found herself in the arms of the handsome doctor.
    • Chapter Eight: Excerpt from Charlotte‟s Diary I thought that I hated my mother, but she is nothing. She doesn‟t even deserve hate. She doesn‟t even deserve pity. She is a woman of the past, the worst kind of subservient swine. She simpers. She actually simpers. It is my father that I hate. That horrible man. He comes sweeping back into our lives, and begins by making ultimatums, uprooting us from our home. Can you imagine? The sheer balls of that man. Yes, balls! That is what Mr. George says. “Balls!” I know what it means, too. It‟s a private part that men have. And everything about a man is a horrible swear word by default! That‟s what I say. All of my respect for my mother has gone with
    • 76 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES the return of my father. She is nothing and he is Satan. We are to start for the Coast next Tuesday. I believe with all my heart that he will burn in Hell for this. I have no misconceptions. I know the story that Mother tells about his disappearance, but what is it, actually, except her story? I fully expect that he simply ran off with another woman, and she was too much of a fool to suffer this kind of insult. I bet that in her secret heart, she would be much happier if he had turned up as a skeleton washed ashore on Long Island. A dead father can have all sorts of great character traits that a live father lacks. Here‟s another word I learned: bastard! The man is a bastard if anyone has the right to such a term. I am not meant for men. Men are the ill that plagues our world. All of the girls in my class are busy planning their weddings. They are fools. May they die in their wedding beds! That‟s what a wedding bed is — death! And I want to live! There is only one consolation for me: Nanette. She is not interested in men or boys, weddings or fashions. She does not care if the womanly long skirt will be shortened for the season! Nanette has been with me always, and she is my savior. I truly believe that without her, I would long ago have slit my wrists and watched, grateful, as the red blood seared hot bathwater
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 77 in rivulets of fire. Even now, sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and go down to the kitchen. I sit there, with a glass of warm milk that I do not intend to drink (but that is cover for me if someone should wake and find me there). I stare into the gas oven and imagine what it would be like to turn on the gas and extinguish the pilot light — so simple and such a womanly endeavor, to extinguish the light on a stove — and to stick my head inside that dark cavern, encrusted with the food that women are entrusted to prepare, the food that gives us life. Women are the givers of life: those that create, bear, and raise children; those that run the household, prepare the food, and give comfort and cure to the sick. What are men for? Doctors merely make comment on the natural healing of women. Politicians create problems to solve them; businessmen create monies in order to make them! They are one step removed from the truths of life. If it weren‟t for the need of sperm (yes, I know all kinds of medical terms that my parents would blush at!) we would not need men at all. Nor do I need men! I have no use for sperm, or pregnancy. I have Nanette and all of the truths that she teaches me through her inspiration. And particularly, I do not need my father, who asserts
    • 78 ICE CREAM MEMORIES his (unnecessary) masculinity through ordering us out of our home and across the coast. I would not be surprised to learn that this whole deter- mination is created through his desire to escape persecution for some ungodly crime committed during his absence. After all, aren‟t men the par- ticular criminals of society? Lizzy Borden is talked of so often on the playgrounds that one becomes sick of her name, but how many men have taken an axe or knife or gun to their loved ones, and yet escaped infamy? I could so easily take an axe to my father, and I bet that I would have the good sense not even to be suspected. All men should die at the hands of gentle womanhood, not even suspecting. The fools. I know what I shall really do, though. There is not even a need for a bloody axe. I will be a rich and famous medium, richer than any man, and more powerful too! After all, don‟t presidents and senators have loved ones who died? They will all listen to me, and I will become the most powerful person in the world.
    • Chapter Nine: Montague and the Mirror P ERHAPS I had better explain about the mirror. I don‟t know who I was when I was young. I remember that girl, and yet she is so foreign to me, so strange. She is wild and uncontained. Sometimes I think that the mirror changed me. Am I no longer me? Was she me? Was I invaded by a spirit, a consciousness on another plane? Did I look into the void of my own soul and somehow change it? Or did I simply grow up, grow old? The other member of the Rowe household was a shorthaired gray cat named Montague. The day of the family‟s arrival in their new home in Redlands, California, Montague was already in residence.
    • 80 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES The rough stone building situated in the middle of a vast orange grove was not at all what Charlotte had in mind regarding a place to live. It was really nothing but rubble. They rode out from the railway station in a ridiculous open carriage which insistently pointed out each rut and rock in the road. When they pulled up in front of the structure, Professor Rowe helped first Miriam and then Charlotte down from the carriage. Charlotte kicked a large stone. “This place,” said Miriam, breathing the air in deeply and glancing over at Charles Rowe. “This place has an atmosphere,” she said. Professor Rowe was gazing up at the stone building with a self-satisfied look, as if he had built the place himself. “If you look at the design of the place,” he said, “you can see the intricate knowledge in the details of the design. This place was built with a purpose.” “It is glorious,” sighed Miriam. “It‟s hot,” said Charlotte. “Now, Charlotte,” said Miriam. “Don‟t be so narrow-minded!” “Well, it is hot. Can I have an orange?” “No,” said Professor Rowe. “The oranges are not technically ours.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 81 “Who will know?” asked Charlotte. “Don‟t talk back to your father. Come, let us go look inside.” The family walked up to the front door of the tumble-down structure and into a dark, dank stone room. They all paused at the entrance and looked about in a bit of dismay. “Well,” said Miriam, “we will soon make this place just like home.” As Miriam strode into the room, the cat rushed down the stairwell, screeching. It darted under her feet. She screamed and jumped from foot to foot, losing her balance and landing on her bottom. Professor Rowe stooped to help his wife up. Her screeching had turned to a howl. “That cat!” she said. “That demon! Where did that creature come from?” The cat was weaving in and out between Charlotte‟s feet. Charlotte reached down and caressed its head. Miriam was pointing at the cat. “Get that cat out of here!” Charlotte looked at her mother. “This cat is my familiar,” she said. Miriam‟s arm fell down by degrees, until it rested at her side. “What?”
    • 82 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “He was sent to me by Nanette. His name is Montague.” “Oh.” Professor and Miriam Rowe stared at the cat. “He will not bother you, Mother,” said Charlotte and picked up the cat. Holding the cat in her arms, Charlotte looked around the room. “Yes, we will get along here quite well.” She took the cat and went up the stairs to the top room of the tower. That room became, with no discussion, Charlotte‟s room. The room was, surprisingly, furnished. It contained a big, soft bed, a chest of drawers, and an enormous mirror on the wall across from the bed. Charlotte let go of the cat and flung herself on the bed. She sunk into the deep, soft mattress. Montague jumped up atop the dresser and began carefully examining his own reflection in the mirror. “What are you doing over there?” asked Charlotte. “Come over to me. I have a piece of string.” Because he was a feline and therefore contrary by nature, Montague did not respond. “Come here,” said Charlotte again, petulantly. She sat up on the bed and slapped her palms down noisily.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 83 The cat in the mirror tilted its head to the side and meowed at her. She heard it. Charlotte blinked. Montague continued to stare into the mirror for a moment. Then he sat and commenced licking his paw. Charlotte looked at Montague and his mirror twin. Nothing odd happened. She was just lying back down on the bed when the cat in the mirror laid down two full seconds before the cat on the dresser. Charlotte walked over to the mirror and looked into it. She saw herself. Charlotte awoke the next morning crumpled on the floor with a splitting headache.
    • Chapter Ten: Augustine Emory O NE of the proudest moments of Miriam Rowe‟s life was when Augustine Emory came to observe. Augustine was a tall woman with a commanding presence. She walked into the house and sent an arch, controlling stare around the room. Her companion, a stout middle-aged woman, seemed almost absent by comparison. Miriam warranted only a glance from Augustine. Her gaze settled on Charlotte. “Well,” she said, standing over the child. “So this is the girl we have heard so much about. Stand up straight and look me in the eye.” Charlotte put her shoulders back and arched her eyebrows. Augustine put her hands on Charlotte‟s
    • 86 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES cheeks and tilted the girl‟s head up. The older woman‟s silver rings impressed themselves into Charlotte‟s cheeks. “Yes,” said Augustine. “Your aura is quite strong. Hmmm.” She turned the girl‟s head to the left and then to the right. “Oh!” she said, sounding quite surprised, and removed her hands from the girl. She fluttered her fingers in the air above Charlotte‟s right shoulder. “Strong ectoplasmic emanations,” she said. She turned around and, for the first time, faced her companion. “Can you see?” she asked. “I don‟t know,” said the other woman slowly. “I sense something—” “You are a sensitive, my dear, no matter how you fight it,” said Augustine. “You just need to let go and reach out.” “Oh, I know,” said the woman. “I‟m certain I saw something.” “You are a sensitive, my dear,” said Augustine again. “Yes, Mrs. Carlisle,” said Miriam to the woman. “That is Nanette. She is with Charlotte, always.” “Ah, the spirit guide,” said Augustine. “Well, if I am to observe, we shall need something to observe.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 87 The four females retired into a small parlor. As they entered, Professor Charles Rowe turned toward them. He stood in front of a fireplace, idly poking the smoldering logs. “Mrs. Carlisle,” he said, resting the poker against the fireplace. “I am so glad to see you. I truly believe that the path of the Lord is leading you to this venture.” “Yes,” said Mrs. Carlisle, rather breathlessly. Professor Rowe turned to Augustine. “And you, of course, are Augustine Emory.” “It‟s a pleasure to meet you, Professor Rowe,” Augustine remarked. “It is seldom that we meet a man of science who can truly keep an open mind.” “Science is nothing but an opening of the mind.” “Indeed,” said Augustine. “Will you participate in the séance?” “No,” he said. “I, like you, am an observer. Will you have a seat with me?” The two settled into a pair of wing-backed chairs in the corner of the room. Miriam turned off all lights but the low fire burning in the fireplace and ushered Mrs. Carlisle and Charlotte to seats at a small, round table. “Place your hands on the table,” said Miriam, and followed her own actions to her words.
    • 88 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Mrs. Carlisle, if you will close your eyes. I want you to concentrate on the problem that is foremost in your mind. Just let your mind drift through the problem, and visualize freely. You will see in your mind‟s eye visions of people who are important to you, visions of places and things. Do not stop to think about these visions. Just let them come to you, flow through you. Be at peace, be silent, be content. This is a safe place. This is a warm and comfortable place.” There was a lengthy silence, and then Charlotte let out a small groan, or perhaps it was a sigh. Miriam opened her eyes, and looked critically at her daughter. “You may open your eyes, Mrs. Carlisle.” Mrs. Carlisle opened her eyes and blinked in the firelight. “She is in a trance,” said Miriam. The girl‟s mouth opened and a low moan, more distinct, came out of it. “What does it mean?” asked Mrs. Carlisle. “Sometimes it takes her this way,” said Miriam. “There is trouble communicating, trouble coming through the barriers between the planes.” “Oh!” said Mrs. Carlisle. “We will try automatic writing,” said Miriam. “She is deep in a trance state. The difficulty is
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 89 bringing the communications she is experiencing into this world, for us to interpret.” “Oh, yes,” said Mrs. Carlisle. Miriam quietly transferred a nearby sheet of paper to the table, and placed it under Charlotte‟s hand. Charlotte was unresponsive, neither moving her head nor her hands as the paper slid underneath them. Miriam took her daughter‟s hand in her own, and placed a planchette in it, cupping the limp fingers around it. Charlotte allowed her hand to be manipulated. “Nanette,” said Miriam, “are you with us?” There was no response from the girl. “Nanette,” said Miriam again, “please let us know if you are here.” Slowly, achingly, Charlotte‟s hand began to move across the paper. This movement was accompanied by another low groan, as if her hand were a swollen and creaking door sliding with difficulty across the floor. The planchette made a large and wobbling circle on the paper. “Good,” said Miriam. “Good. Nanette, is that you?” The planchette moved again, this time with slightly more fluidity. It gathered strength as it began moving in circles, larger and larger, until they spiraled over
    • 90 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES the whole paper. Miriam quietly slipped a new sheet of paper underneath the moving pencil as the paper became covered. The instrument made two small loops and then stopped. “Nanette,” Miriam repeated, “is that you?” The planchette jumped, sputtered, and wrote: “Yes.” “Welcome, Nanette,” Miriam said. She turned to Mrs. Carlisle. “Do you have any questions that you wish to ask?” Before Mrs. Carlisle could answer, the planchette flew from Charlotte‟s hand and clattered noisily across the room. Charlotte let out a piercing scream. “Nanette! Nanette!” she called. “Nan—” She cut off and fell mute. When she spoke again, her voice was changed. “The little people follow you but you will never see them. How will you ever know for sure, if they are there?” “Who is that? Who are we speaking to?” asked Miriam. The voice droned on, not answering or responding. “They mean you no harm, they carry no hate, but they are not capable of love. They nip at your brains while you sleep and cause you to dream.” Mrs. Carlisle yelped. “Hush, my dear,” said Miriam. “We are interrupted by a confused spirit.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 91 “They‟re jolly and funny, laughing little children, with a mind toward pleasure and joy. They will trick you and tease you, and bite off your toes. They will trip you to watch you fall, and as you lie there, your back broken, they will laugh their deep and hearty laughter, rolling through their fat, fleshy tummies, filled with live meat they ate in their sleep. They never kill — but they feed off of you just the same.” “Nanette,” said Miriam. “Nanette, can you get through?” Mrs. Carlisle was pale and drawn. “They love life and hate pain, and they live forever — at least, so far. I don‟t know if they have womenfolk and raise children, but I cannot imagine them naked and making love. If they did, it would be silly and blasphemous, no passion, so depth. Perhaps only lust. I cannot imagine, either, them caring for children with their selfish ways.” Charlotte‟s father had taken out a notebook and was swiftly transcribing this message. “The little people live in the green blooming countryside, laughing their deep jolly laugh. You will never see them. No one sees them. They are spry and jolly and fast. They eat dreams and spit them out like chewing gum, choking up nightmares and morning dew. And they will eat you. But
    • 92 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES they bear you no malice, nor love, and they own no hate, nor souls.” She stopped speaking. “Nanette?” asked Miriam. “Are you with us?” “Oui,” said Charlotte, in another voice. “I am here.” “What was that?” asked Mrs. Carlisle. “I am sorry, it is a break. We are not here anymore. It is good. Ask what you will.” “I—,” began Mrs. Carlisle. “There is someone here to speak with you,” interrupted Charlotte. “Mary,” she said in another voice, low and difficult to discern. “Mary,” she repeated. “Mother? Oh, Mother, is that you?” asked Mrs. Carlisle. After Mrs. Carlisle had left, Augustine Emory asked to speak with Charlotte alone. Miriam Rowe looked uncomfortably at the woman and said, “I don‟t know.” Charles Rowe said, “Leave them be alone together, Miriam. What is going to happen?” “You do see my daughter‟s talents?” asked Miriam. “Oh, I do see her talents,” said Augustine. “And I would like to discuss them with her.” This calmed Miriam somewhat, and after a bit of hemming, the two parents left the room.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 93 “Well, sit down, Charlotte,” said Augustine. “Thank you,” said Charlotte, politely. The two sat for a moment without speaking. “You are a fraud,” said Charlotte. “Yes, dear, I know,” said Augustine, “That was quite a little show you put on for Mrs. Carlisle yourself.” “A show?” asked Charlotte. “Show?” mimicked Augustine. “Yes,” she said, “you are not really very difficult to see through. Today, it is me coming to see you. Tomorrow it will be a scientist, a skeptic. They are out there, more of them every day. The best thing I can say about your technique, of course, is that it is difficult to prove what you are doing. The worst is that it can all be so easily explained, and not everyone is as gullible as Mrs. Carlisle.” Augustine examined Charlotte‟s face critically as the girl absorbed this information. “I perceive,” said Augustine slowly, “that your parents — are true believers.” Charlotte nodded. “They are true believers.” “Good,” said Augustine. “That strengthens you. It lends you an aura of believability, their quality of sincerity. I see so many amateurs each year. They are all over the place, a dime a dozen, and most of them are strictly horrible. These amateurs are desperate to create something that
    • 94 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES cannot easily be explained away, so they spend their time elaborately generating ghostly raps and trumpets, in the most childish way possible. You, my dear, are a breath of fresh air.” “Thank you,” said Charlotte. “You don‟t talk much, do you?” asked Augustine. “Children should be seen and not heard.” At this, Augustine laughed. “We may arrange,” she said, “for you to be quite clearly heard. I do have a proposition for you, Charlotte. I will arrange to bring you under my tutelage. We will work together every day, and I will teach you the more sophisticated tricks of the trade.” “Why?” asked Charlotte. “Always astute,” said Augustine. “Always right to the point. Your parents will pay me, and it is a very safe and regular form of income. I am not a young woman, and you are security.” “I see,” said Charlotte. They were silent for a moment. “And I must admit,” said Augustine, “a certain desire to pass along my knowledge — not to let it die with me.” “Yes,” said Charlotte, and her face broke into a smile. “When can we begin?” That night, as the family sat around the dinner table, they discussed the situation.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 95 Miriam bubbled. “She was quite impressed. She could not help but perceive your raw, natural talents, Charlotte.” Charlotte shoveled pork chops and mashed potatoes into her mouth. “We have arranged for you to begin your training immediately. Augustine assures me that this will bring your talents to the next level and allow you to bridge the gap between our world and the spirit plane.” Professor Rowe spoke. “In addition to your training with Augustine,” he said, “you will begin studying with me.” Charlotte dropped her fork, and it clattered against her plate. She chewed and swallowed her mouth full of food. “Isn‟t that wonderful?” asked Miriam rhetorically. “I have the utmost respect for Augustine,” said Professor Rowe, “and what she can teach you, but I do not want to narrow your mind. Specialization is both a great boon and the greatest danger to science. I want to assure that your outlook is broad enough to help you cross over into new ground, into areas that are as yet unexplored, the new frontiers of the human mind.” Charlotte nodded slowly and picked up her fork.
    • 96 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Nanette,” she said, “thinks that is a good idea.” On some nights, the mirror was quiet, and on some nights it was noisy. At first, Charlotte thought that the things in the mirror were dreams, that she would lie in bed at night, fall asleep, and dream of things in the mirror. She did not remember falling asleep, but dreams could be that way. Sometimes she would remember what she saw with great clarity, almost unreal clarity, like something sharper than reality itself. Sometimes what she saw would remain obscure, mysterious, fleeting. Though in the beginning she woke with headaches, these subsided slowly over time. Slowly, the mirror came to be simply part of the rhythm of her life. Years and years later — a lifetime later — so much later that the world seemed like a different world — Charlotte read a book that she had picked up on a whim in a bookstore. She saw it when she was looking for a copy of a biography that someone had written about her. It was strange and amusing that someone had pretended to know about her life, would write a whole book about it, a whole book that purported to say the truth. Charlotte knew better than to write a book about the truth.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 97 When she got to the bookstore, though, she was distracted. Somehow, this other book spoke to her from the bookshelf, and she came away with it instead of the one she thought she had been searching for. From the first page, she began nodding her head to herself, saying “Yes,” and “Yes,” and “Yes.” It talked about strange loops — infinite loops that play back upon themselves, like a mirror reflected in a mirror. Strange, foreign loops that toy with themselves, interact with themselves, change themselves, become something different simply by being. “Yes,” she said, “yes, I know what a strange loop is.”
    • Chapter Eleven: Ice Cream O NE night, Charles I of England woke from a deep sleep with the feeling that someone was in his bed chambers. This feeling proved untrue; he was alone. He lay in his bed, as people do who wake in the night, and let his mind wander where it wished. He did not feel sleepy. He was wide awake. He was craving crème ice. Once aware of the craving, it grew. Trying to push it away was no use. In his mind, he damned the French and damned his own chef on top of them. There was something villainous in the dessert, in its lush seduction. Who would have thought that coldness was so appealing, so desirable? Sometimes he thought it was the cold he craved above the
    • 100 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES sweetness and the creaminess. Simple, harsh coldness that started in your mouth and attacked the back of your head, that sent chills through your throat and over your body. It was a pure sensual pleasure. There would be no crème ice. It took time to prepare and it was so difficult to store. He would request, and have, crème ice for his dessert — for every day‟s meals if he desired — but now, in the middle of the night, he would have none, not if he were king of all the world. Damn the French. One night, Charlotte woke from a deep sleep with the feeling that someone was in her bedroom. This was mostly untrue; only Montague was there. The cat, sensing her wakefulness, jumped up beside her and began to knead dough on her arm with his sharp little claws. Charlotte lay in bed, as people do who wake in the night, and let her mind wander. She did not feel sleepy. She was wide awake. She was craving ice cream. Unaware of the similarities of this experience to those of an English king nearly three hundred years previously, Charlotte lay in bed as the desire for ice cream began rushing over her in growing waves. There was no chef here to make ice cream, and there would be no ice cream for
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 101 dinner tomorrow. Charlotte looked at her cat, and the cat blinked his eyes with sheer bodily pleasure. “Get down,” said Charlotte and pushed the cat off of the bed. During the same night, Melissa Peacock woke. The night was silent, like every night buried in these orange groves. The night was empty and silent and hot. Melissa‟s back was aching, and the pressure of her distended stomach was a constant source of pain. She could feel the child moving around, kicking against the lining of her skin from inside. It was an unnatural feeling, this creature living and tossing inside her own body. She lay awake, wanting to turn on her side or her stomach but knowing that these were even more uncomfortable than her back. She missed lying on her stomach. She missed feeling cool air breathing over her back, her hair coiled at the nape of her neck, leaving skin exposed to the night breeze. The thought of the cool air sparked a feeling in her gut. It was as if someone had opened her up and inserted a rock into her, a small cold stone — a rock of ice, emanating coldness, sending veins of frozenness through her body, into her arms and legs, into her throat.
    • 102 ICE CREAM MEMORIES A craving grew in her. The visceral feeling of cold in her throat and mouth took on a sweet flavor, a cream-like texture. She wanted ice cream. She needed ice cream. There was no ice cream.
    • Chapter Twelve: Nanette I T‟S hard to put things in order, you know, to get them straight. It was all rather confused at first. Sometimes I think— It was like dreams, how they‟re fluid and changing. You look at one person and see their face. It‟s not really their face, you realize that later, but you know who they are in the dream. Now, I‟m so old. It‟s hard to remember, to keep straight what I saw and what I thought, and then what I remembered later on. The important thing is that everything I saw in the mirror is true. That‟s what stood out the whole time. Everything that I saw in the mirror was true. One day, I saw Nanette. I recognized her
    • 104 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES immediately, even though I thought I had just imagined her. There she was, her straggling blond hair falling down in front of her face, filled with stripes of gray-brown because it was so unwashed. It was long hair, long down past her waist, and she was covered with it as she sat in the middle of the blades of grass. They grew up past her shoulders, thick, strong, wild blades of grass, not like a lawn. They grew up over her, giving her cover. She blended in with the wilderness, her long sheathes of blond and gray hair among the gray-green and yellow-brown grasses, long as swords. She was eating something. She had something on the ground, and she was eating it in handfuls and fistfuls as she sat on the ground among the blades of grass. Nanette was born to a country family in France. They had an apple orchard and dairy farm in the region of Normandy. She was small, just a baby, but her first memories were of apples and cream, the tastes blending together, melding, combining. Rich, sweet, full cream and sour- sweet crisp apples. The flavor seemed inherent to Nanette, like mother‟s milk. Something happened, one day, when she was small. Perhaps it was a war. It‟s difficult to say.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 105 Everything is lost in time. The farm burned to the ground. All that was left of the house was charred wood, standing there, lost. The apple trees stood and grew, because they were apple trees, and what else was there for them to do? The cattle were taken away by other nearby farmers, put into their herds. Everyone supposed that Nanette was dead, like her family. She was only a baby, barely a child. There was a cow that wandered off into the woods, though, one that the farmers didn‟t catch. The dogs from the farm ran loose and wild. Their pack survived. They didn‟t need the farm or the people to make their way in the world. Nanette was used to being with the dogs. She spent days playing with them in the tall, green grass of the fields. She knew how to get milk out of the cow. She was a baby, but babies know how to eat. As she got older, she would bring milk to the dogs. She would gather apples from the trees. In turn, the dogs shared with her. She was part of their culture, part of their world. Nanette stayed out of the way of the people in the surrounding areas. The dogs avoided them, so she avoided them. She would stay in the underbrush and in the woods, where she was invisible. Nanette lived the life of a dog. She didn‟t
    • 106 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES know she was a person, and she didn‟t know that the other dogs thought differently from her. They did think differently, though. In some inherent way, she would never be quite like those around her. She would never even know it. She was sixteen when she first was seen by the boy. The boy‟s father was the new farmer of the apple orchard. He was building a new house on the foundation of the old one, and he had torn down the old barn, which had decayed. They were clearing out the brush that had grown up in the apple orchard and judging the viability of the trees that remained. The family was just a man, his wife, and the boy. The boy was also about sixteen, really a man already. He was a farmer, as his father was a farmer. He expected to work the farm. He would marry a wife, and she would come work the farm, too, baking pies and tarts with the apples that grew there with his mother. They would have children, who would grow up on the farm. The children would become farmers, or the wives of farmers. That is how life went, like the apple trees, which moved with calm regularity through the springtime filled with heavily perfumed blossoms; through the summer, when apples grew from small hard knobs to burgeoning balls; through the autumn, filled with succulence
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 107 as the apples grew full and fell to the ground, surrounded by leaves turning color for the season; through the winter when the apple branches grew barren and dead; and finally into spring again, as small buds turned to flower and leaf. He was in the early summer of his life, young and not yet ripe. One day, he was out in the apple orchard pruning off branches, when he saw her pass through the edge of his vision. She was quick, and he registered only a motion. He looked into the brush at the edge of the woods to see what it was. He didn‟t want anything coming around, eating his apples. He didn‟t see it, but— There was something there, he knew, just outside of his field of vision. Nanette hovered in the shadows. She was secure in her hiding. She sniffed the air in front of her. She could smell him, a scent of a human. Somehow, today, this human smelled different, familiar. It smelled similar to her own scent. Her scent was different from the smell of the dogs. She wore dog-scent on her every day, but it was a disguise, a mask, a surface scent over her natural scent. This smell, this smell of this boy, bothered her somehow. He walked over toward the line of the trees. Nanette held perfectly still in the shadows.
    • 108 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES He looked around, not seeing her at first. He was just about to turn and go back to the orchard, when he spotted her. Their eyes met. She knew that he saw her. She did not know that she was naked, her long hair not disguising her nakedness. She stared at him. “Salut,” he said. Startled, she turned and ran off, quick on her feet, graceful in her not-quite-human, not-quite- canine movement off into the forest. The next time he saw her, she did not hide. She was standing at the edge of the woods, watching him, moving gracefully to the left or to the right as he moved through the apple orchard. He watched her, but did not try to approach. She watched him, maintaining her cover in the woods, the feeling of security of the shadows and trees. They gradually got used to each other, being in the neighborhood of each other, being not too far away from each other. The boy never mentioned her to his father or his mother or anyone he knew. He didn‟t quite believe in her. She was not quite real, so far removed was she from his own reality. One day, he walked up to her. He had a hunk of bread his mother had baked fresh that day. The smell from the bread wafted up to his nose. He knew that she would covet the bread. He walked up to her as he would walk up to a
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 109 horse. He tore a piece of the bread out of his hand and held it out in front of him, held it up to her. She sniffed at the air. They shared the scent of fresh-baked, still-warm bread. Nanette was an animal. She was a sensualist. She attacked the bread with her mouth, not her hands, and swallowed it almost whole, like a dog. She brought out the animal nature in the boy. The two of them shared a purely physical passion there, in the woods, outside, where the wind and the grasses and the trees united around them. He was a man of the land, not far from nature. She existed even closer to nature; she was nature. Together, everything they did was natural. This union, this oddity, this strange force, in its complete animal naturalness was almost supernatural to the boy. It was madness, apart from and aside from the normalcy of everyday life and the wholesomeness of apples and cream. It stayed separate and uncanny. It stayed wild and secret. It stayed in the woods. I could always make things sound true, you know. I could always tell people whatever they wanted to hear, or whatever I wanted them to believe at the moment. Perhaps it was just because I believed it myself. Perhaps. I don‟t know.
    • Chapter Thirteen: Melissa I saw Nanette in the mirror over and over. I saw others — people that I knew, and strangers. I saw random snippets of life, a girl sitting on the stairs eating a sandwich, a man walking through a doorway, a leaf floating to the ground in slow motion. Out of the mess of images, my private nickelodeon, I began to discern someone — a woman, comely in a severe way and medium fair, seen at different times, at different places, at different ages, in different moods and modes. Her name was Melissa, Melissa Archer or Melissa Peacock, but always Melissa. John Peacock adored Melissa Archer. His first impression of her was of a pink girlish bow tied
    • 112 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES in her hair. She had a short figure, but not over slim, and a face that only looked young when you looked at it directly. But, out of the corner of your eye or in profile, you saw age and wisdom in that face. In the right clothes, with a little gray in her hair, she could be old, but she was not. She was young enough to wear a girlish bow. Her father had died, and John attributed this strange impression of age to sorrow. John went to Paul Archer‟s funeral because the whole town attended funerals. They gathered at Hillside and listened with reverence to the eternal words recited over the coffin. At funerals, John was usually bored. Death did not interest him. It was not poetic or even sad. Death happened every day. Death happened to everyone. You stood around at the funeral and looked at the people, the coffin, the headstones absorbing the day‟s heat. The smell of cut grass permeated the air. In the autumn, if the air was hot, the sickly sweet sour smell of rotting leaves would join the smell of the grass, one high sustained note overpowering the more modest melody. At Paul Archer‟s funeral, John Peacock caught himself staring at that one girlish bow. It stood in contrast to the muted clothes that made each person look just like the next person.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 113 The girl stood with her mother, a solid woman with deep lines on her face who did not scream or cry. The two women looked at each other, at the ground, and occasionally at the dark box. They were expressionless, but their lack of expression said volumes. After the ceremony — happily brief — was over, John stood in the line to say a few words to the family. He usually just left, but he felt the need to take a closer look at the girl with the bow. He could see it, bobbing in and out of the crowd of heads in front of him, appearing and disappearing, as he moved slowly closer. When the tall man in front of him finally moved off, John found himself face to face with the girl. For a moment, he was speechless. “Hello,” she said. “Hi,” said John. “I just wanted to tell you I‟m sorry about your father.” “Thank you,” she said and took his hand. Days later, John sat with Melissa on her mother‟s back porch in the cooling night time. Melissa wore no perfume, and no scents overrode the smell of her body. John buried his face in her throat. “You smell wonderful,” he said.
    • 114 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES He drank in the smell, musky and dull, of her skin. From the ages of one to seven, Melissa had a sister named Wisteria. The wisteria, her mother said, was a sign of happiness in love and family, and she had dreamed of wisteria before discovering her pregnancy. Wisteria was a pale pink child with blonde hair. Melissa‟s hair tried hard to be blonde but failed, producing a muddled off-brown color. Wisteria was a happy and laughing child that their father liked to bounce on his knee. Melissa was quiet and secluded, tending to disappear from her parents‟ notice. Melissa and Wisteria shared a bedroom. When they were alone together, Melissa would play a game where she would stick her arm down the side of the bed and tell Wisteria that she was stuck. She would beg her sister to pull her out. Wisteria had learned that Melissa was always faking. Melissa was stronger, and by creating resistance, she could easily prevent Wisteria from pulling her away from the bed. Melissa would beg and plead for Wisteria to help her, insisting that she was really stuck. Wisteria would always break down and try to help
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 115 Melissa, futilely pulling and tugging against her sister‟s arm until, bored, Melissa would let go and send the younger child tumbling off the bed. Then, Melissa would jump off the bed on top of the younger girl, pinning her arms and sitting on her chest. Wisteria would struggle helplessly against the force of her sister, unable to move or breathe, until finally, Melissa rolled off of her with a huff. “It‟s only a game!” she‟d say. “Stop being a cry-baby.” Wisteria was constantly reminded of her status as baby. One day when they were five and four, Melissa and Wisteria were playing Ring-around- the-Rosie with three neighbor children. Melissa was on one side of Wisteria and a small boy with messy brown hair was on the other. “Ring around the Rosie,” the children chanted. Decades later, it would be commonly but erroneously claimed that this children‟s rhyme dated from the 14th century and was a coded reference to the Black Death. The actual beginnings of the song are lost in the clouds of history, but if we could clear those clouds away, we would find that an anonymous fourteen-year- old girl first created it in her head in 1862. At least, that‟s what I saw in my mirror:
    • 116 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES A ring and a rose, oh! A basket and a posy, oh! John, a Jack! James, a Jim! Flowers for me, from him! At the time, she had a very serious crush on a boy named Jim Waters, and a less serious one on Jack Dooley. Later, she would marry Jim Waters and have twelve children. At some point this rhyme was adapted, with disguising variations, for use in the ring- games that they played at parties due to the religious bans on dancing. Children added the part about falling down to create an excuse to topple all over each other. Among dozens of versions and variations of the rhyme that were popular during the 1880s, one survived and grew stronger. “Pockets full of posies,” the children sang. During this particular singing of it, Melissa felt as black and ominous as a deadly plague. She had grabbed Wisteria‟s arm the previous day and twisted it in her hands, leaving her arm red and swollen. The girl had screamed and cried, and their father had come. It was unusual for a parent to come so quickly to these conflicts. Usually, Mother was in the kitchen and Father was out in the fields.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 117 Father had broken his belt, though, and had come in to his bedroom, next to the girls‟, to find a new one. He heard Wisteria‟s scream and came into the room. Melissa did not have time for her usual ploy, which was to pinch or twist her own arm, so that each girl had the same red mark and none could be punished. No tears or begging could convince Father this time. With his belt so handy, he took Melissa in hand and pulled her into his room. This was her first “whooping.” Her parents had never had reason to beat her. It was entirely Wisteria‟s fault, the cry-baby. “Ashes! Ashes!” There was a searing heat in Melissa‟s arm, the one that held her young sister‟s, a searing heat filled with malice. Disturbing images flashed through the girl‟s mind: dead bodies lying dead in the street, throwing off a stench of decay, covered in dirt and ash. A child named William Hunting did invent a rhyme during the 1300s about the Black Death. He and two playground cronies sang it daily, but their mothers scolded them about it. It did not survive the test of time. The rhyme was in Old English, but a rough translation reveals it to be straightforward: The dead are in the streets. The
    • 118 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES dead are in the town. The dead are everywhere, ‟cept underneath the ground. “All fall down!” Melissa fell hard in the opposite direction from her small sister. Instead of letting go of Wisteria‟s arm, she jerked and pulled, feeling a satisfying crack as the arm came toward her. Wisteria screamed and began to cry. People came running to the pile of children. Melissa was forgotten, and all eyes centered on Wisteria. They picked up the younger child in their arms, lavishing comfort on her, spiriting her away from the scene. Wisteria‟s dislocated arm was quickly remedied, but with a good deal of crying and fussing. During the summer when Melissa was seven and Wisteria was six, the sisters went swimming in a local pond. Wisteria carefully and shyly dipped her toes into the pool, wriggled them around, and screeched. “It‟s cold!” Melissa dived into the water, contrarily. “Come in!” said Melissa. Wisteria continued a slow and painful process of edging into the water. She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered, as she delicately slid her feet into the water‟s edge.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 119 Melissa swam to the far end of the pond and back. “Such a baby!” she said. The younger girl waded in up to her knees and bent down to touch the top of the water. Melissa began to paddle around her in circles, crouched on the bottom of the pond. “Come on in,” she said. “Don‟t be such a baby.” Wisteria closed her eyes and crouched down, until the water was up to her neck. Then, she pushed off into the deeper water and began to dog paddle around the pond. “Why don‟t you swim?” asked Melissa. “I am swimming!” “That‟s not swimming.” “It is too swimming.” “You have to get wet to swim,” said Melissa and dived down under the water. She swam under her sister‟s legs and tickled her feet as she went by. Emerging in the water on the other side of Wisteria, Melissa said: “What are you, a dog? Is that why you can only dog paddle?” The water dripped down her face, insinuating itself in her lips and in her eyes. The water was smooth, velvet. It made her feel mean. “Stop it!” said Wisteria. “What are you, afraid? Just afraid to get your face wet? No wonder you never wash!”
    • 120 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Melissa dived under the water again. She dived to the very bottom of the pond, and relaxing her lungs, she imagined that she could breathe underwater. She could stay down here, hovering just above the rocky bottom, examining the pebbles and weeds with delicate and loving care in a world that was all her own, a world that was of fishes and cold-blooded creatures. When she looked up, Melissa saw her sister‟s white legs dangling in the water, awkwardly splashing, disrupting the surface of the water, disrupting the smoothness of the world. Looking at those graceless legs and splashing arms, she suddenly needed to breathe. Melissa rose to the surface, took a breath, and dived down. This time she hovered just beneath her sister‟s body. She existed in a middle world between the disturbance at the surface of the water that was Wisteria and the rough wild world that was the bottom of the pond. Wisteria annoyed her. She reached up grabbed her sister‟s ankles with a solid jerk, tugging on them under the water. She swam toward the bottom of the pond, pulling the disrupting factor down with her, down to the bottom, down to the rocks and plants, down to the foreign world where she belonged. Then, Wisteria‟s smooth white legs slipped out of her
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 121 grasp and floated toward the top of the water again. When Melissa resurfaced, Wisteria was screaming. “Stop it! Do you want to get another whooping?” “What did you say?” asked Melissa. “What are you going to do, whoop me?” “I‟ll tell Dad!” “Cry-baby, tattle-tale, running to Papa because you‟re too scared to swim!” “I am not!” lied Wisteria. “Then put your head in the water.” “I don‟t want to.” “Yes you do!” said Melissa, and she grabbed her sister and pushed her head down into the water, dunking her, holding her under. Wisteria was struggling and squirming underneath the water, struggling and kicking pointlessly against nothing. Melissa let her go. Wisteria surfaced at the top of the water, gasping. Melissa laughed. Wisteria sputtered, her face red. “You will get whooped!” she said. “You‟ll get whooped until you can‟t sit down for a week!” Melissa laughed some more. “What are you going to tell them? That you got wet from swimming?”
    • 122 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Wisteria paddled to the shore, coughing pond water. “Oh, they‟ll believe me. They‟ll know what you are,” she said. Melissa followed her. “They‟ll believe that you‟re a cry-baby, always coming to cry to them about something. Melissa‟s bothering me! Melissa‟s looking at me funny! Melissa‟s touching me!” Wisteria pulled herself out of the water at the edge of the pond. Melissa crouched in the low water, still submerged up to her neck. “They‟ll believe me when I tell them how you tried to kill me.” Melissa laughed at her. “I did not try to kill you!” Wisteria stood shivering on the edge of the pond. She was shaking with anger, and fear, and cold, and righteousness, and everything else that might make a little girl shake. She looked small and white. The little girl picked up a heavy stone from the ground. “You did!” she said. “You tried to kill me. You hit me in the head with a rock!” Melissa was still laughing at her as Wisteria raised the stone over her own head. With all of her might, she smashed the rock against her own temple and fell back with a squelching sound into the muck at the edge of the pond.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 123 Melissa leapt out of the water to where Wisteria was. She stood over the girl, who was lying on her back, the wind knocked out of her. “They‟ll believe me now,” she said. “Aren‟t I bleeding?” She was bleeding, from a cut in her right temple. A droplet of red slithered down her forehead and onto her cheek. Wisteria pulled herself up on her hands. “They‟ll believe me,” she said, “and you won‟t be able to sit down for a week.” Melissa‟s face turned red and her cheeks burned. “You will not tell them!” she said. Now Wisteria laughed. “I will tell them. You‟ll get what you deserve.” Incredulous anger surged in Melissa. In her heart, she knew that she did not deserve to be punished. She did not deserve to have a horrible little sister. “You will not,” she said. Wisteria was looking at her, her chin in the air, mud in her hair, her eyes defiant, the small trickle of blood dripping even further down towards her chin. With a lurch forward, Melissa grabbed her sister. The world was black to her. There was no thought in her. She was only acting, responding
    • 124 ICE CREAM MEMORIES viscerally. Afterwards, she would remember it only as a kaleidoscope of color and the roaring white noise of water. Melissa grabbed Wisteria and propelled her into the deep water. The elder sister used all her strength to hold the younger. “You will not tell them those lies,” Melissa said, holding her sister‟s hair, holding her sister‟s head beneath the water. The next few minutes were filled with nothing but rage. When Melissa remembered them, she remembered only flashes of color and movement in front of her eyes, not whole scenes or objects, just dissociated colors and shapes and motions. When she finally let go of Wisteria, the girl did not move, but floated limply on the water. I must tell you that the things in the mirror were not always things that actually happened. They were true — yes — but sometimes they were dreams, or imaginings, or fantasies, or memories — the versions of truth that fill up all of the empty places in our own minds.
    • Chapter Fourteen: Excerpt from the Writings of Professor Charles Rowe I N the continuum of all sizes of all things, an ant is only slightly smaller than a giraffe. We look at things underneath a microscope and see the components that are a hundred times smaller than anything we can see with our naked eyes. The smallest things in the world we cannot see, merely because we do not have a good enough microscope. We look at the night sky, and we see only the vast space that is visible to us from our world. Thinking of the vastness of God, we see that our vision is so limited in scope that we are merely looking through a hole at the palm of the universe. Its true shape, its exquisite vastness, escapes us because we are the ants crawling — not on a giraffe, but across a mountain range.
    • 126 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES I am convinced that the secrets to the understanding that we seek lie in the difference between the very vast and the very small, and that in turn we are unable to see either because of the limitations of our human form. I have done several experiments with my gifted daughter, utilizing both her trance-states and hypnosis. In these states, I encourage her to make herself small, smaller than an ant, smaller than an atom. In her minute state, I ask her to communicate with the beings that she finds there and to bring back knowledge. Alternatively, I ask her to make herself large, to become bigger than the Earth and the sun, to become the size of the universe, to speak to the beings that she finds in this realm, and to bring back knowledge. As expected, the fascinating revelations are very difficult to interpret. I show you as an example a transcript of one of her visions, under the influence of being spiritually reduced in size to her smallest possible point: “I am on the edge of the void. The void is Not Being. Not Being is a lack of existence, and yet we exist in it. I am speaking to those in the Not Being. Within the Not Being, there are no boundaries, but one must cross the boundary to enter it. The Not Being sways with purposeful randomness. It is traveling. They are traveling.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 127 They do not go toward, nor away, nor around. They have no up or down or there or here, for they are all at once. They are not in their own minds, but occasionally they are in the minds of others. When they are not within others, they are nowhere. They have lost their selves, and they seek desperately to find them. Yet they do not know what they have lost, and they do not know that they seek to find their selves. The Not Being is vast, it is everywhere, it is everything. The Not Being does not exist. It is here and gone. They are all around me! They are nowhere! They can cast off the imperfect cloak of human communication and peer into the mind of another, all others, they know that everything is real because they are directly in the path of life. They break through this body that imprisons me. They meld with the mind. They are not alone. They are not. They are not. They are not.” For ten minutes, Charlotte would repeat only “They are not, they are not.” This, then, is a key concept. It is in the interpretation of this that we will find the keys to natural and physical understanding. The world is fragile, and everything that we think we know is false. We are terribly mistaken, although the truth peeks out at us in odd sentences and brief inspirations. One day we will
    • 128 ICE CREAM MEMORIES look back on this tragedy and see what fools we have been! What is the answer? What is the secret that lies waiting behind this curtain we call reality?
    • Chapter Fifteen: Paul Archer T HE morning sky was dark and heavy with clouds, but as the day wore on, the clouds retreated before a hot noon wind. The sky grew desolate. There was no sound but the rustling of leaves and the tick-tick-tick of her father‟s pocket watch. Tick-tick-tick. The tick- tick-tick was loud, obdurately loud, attacking her ear, echoing in her head as it pounded at her temples. Melissa Archer could feel the closeness of the desert and all of its harshness. Buzzards might be circling overhead. She could almost hear them calling to one another, gleefully. “A death! A death!” The second hand on the watch spiraled ever downward, moving toward the pit of hell, the pit
    • 130 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES of her stomach, the pit of fear. She could feel the moment coming nearer. She concentrated on the second hand, its damned steady movement. I can stop time, reverse it, with the power of my mind. She imagined it going slower, slower, stopping. But no. It marched on with the dignity and determination of a soldier marching again to battle. In only a few more moments, she would need to go inside and face a moment of truth. Melissa was older now, just past the cusp of womanhood. Her father lay inside the house, in his bed. He was a man of the outdoors, a man of action. He was a farmer, and every day found him out among the animals and the crops. This day he was in his bed, his face pale and drawn. He looked small and shriveled as he lay there, much different from the powerful, towering man that she knew. He looked, for the first time, old. Paul Archer was a man of few words. He left the running of the household and the raising of the children to his wife. He was a man. He did a man‟s work. He filled a man‟s role. He knew the secret of life: everything was perfectly simple and straightforward. Everyone went around and tried to make things complicated. This was a mistake.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 131 Complications were nothing but problems, and problems were something you wanted to avoid. You obeyed your parents. You went to school, even though you didn‟t like it. You grew up. You worked on your father‟s farm and learned your father‟s business. You picked a girl. You got married. You got your own farm. You had children. You worked the farm every day. You ate your meals, and gladly, even if your wife wasn‟t much of a cook. The weather and the crops and the animals were enough of a problem all by themselves. You dealt with them as best you could. When you came home at night, you sat in a chair, quietly, and relaxed. You enjoyed the feeling of exerting your muscles and strength. That‟s all a man needed. That‟s all there was to life, just living every day. In a house full of women, he saw problems being made. The children fought. His wife cried and had hysterics and wanted fancy clothes from catalogues. This was all extraneous to life. His wife didn‟t understand what needed to be done, that life was complicated enough with just cooking and cleaning and dressing the children. They made problems in him, as well, this woman and these daughters — no, this daughter. That‟s what women were. That‟s what girls were. They stirred you up, unsettled you, unbalanced life,
    • 132 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES caught you up in these things, these ideas, these feelings, this world of the female. More trouble than it was worth. Paul Archer bore this burden with occasional outbursts of anger. He was not a violent man, but he was a man of his body instead of his mind. If a child needed to be disciplined, a beating held more force than the spoken word. If his wife was irrational, his hand could quiet her sooner than his voice. These outbursts were not frequent, but regular. They were not excessive, but definite. He saw them as just and necessary discipline. His wife endured them as a matter of course, seeing her husband as a man and all of his actions as the natural actions of a man. His daughter responded to a whooping as most children. She cried. She accepted punishment. She altered her behavior to avoid it. Paul Archer believed that the punishment was effective and that his daughter was a better person for it. After a beating in her young girlhood, Melissa Archer would often escape the house, after dark, when her parents were asleep. She would let herself out through a bedroom window and walk calmly through the fields in the coolness of the night. She would picture herself, a vibrant blue image, walking coolly and emotionlessly through a
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 133 tunnel of flame. This was the rage, the pain inside of her. It burned her, but still she walked — coolly, calmly, emotionlessly. On these ramblings, Melissa was hypersensitive to the world around her. The worms in the ground were chewing on the dirt, and she could feel this underneath her feet. The new leaves on the orange trees were growing, and she could feel them reaching upward in the darkness with their light greenness, searching vainly for the coming sunlight. Water from a distant stream gushed and clattered over the ground and then was lost at the bottom of the pool where her sister had drowned. A leaf fluttered to the ground. Far away, there was the sound of wheels turning, a steady grating noise, like the sound of a passageway, long closed, sliding open. She would walk until near-dawn, when she could hear the squabbling of birds rising and falling as they woke, as a quarrel or the awareness of a predator traveled through the ranks of their flock. When she heard the birds rising, she knew that her father would soon be in the fields, and she took herself back to her room. On one of these rambles, longer and farther than usual, Melissa came across the tower. All of the sounds of the night time seemed silent there, and the rage inside of her came to a kind of
    • 134 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES peace. She walked through the rubble and explored the emptiness of the stone building. She climbed the steps that led upward, and at the top room, she climbed out of the window and pulled herself up into the empty bell tower. Sitting there, above the ground, she had an urgent temptation to throw herself off the tower, simply because no one would know why. They would search for her all day, and when they finally found her, her mother would go into hysterics. Her father would look at her limp body with the dumb, mouth-open expression that he had on the day that Wisteria died. What had happened? No one would ever know. Everyone would talk. Was it an accident? Had she slipped? Had she been playing? How had she gotten out here in the middle of the night? The only flaw in this irrational inspiration was that she would not be around to hear their chattering wonder. She sat in the bell tower for hours before crawling down again and returning to her bed. This was the first point of tangency, the first moment that my life was bound to Melissa‟s. Before this moment, she could have been a thousand miles away. We were bound by the tower. We were both drawn to it. We are both in
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 135 and of the tower. Its phallic, Babylonian stone edifice raises us up. Melissa, my sister, I‟m sorry. When Paul Archer began to fall ill, there was no explanation for it. The doctor looked at him with a concerned expression and asked after what he had eaten. “He has never had any stomach troubles before,” said his wife. “I‟ve always eaten what I‟m given, and no trouble about it,” said Paul. “He sleepwalks, sometimes,” said his wife. Paul looked at her, frowning. “I do not sleepwalk.” “Well, I never liked to tell you about it,” she said. “You wake me up when you bump into things.” “I never sleepwalked before,” he said. “How would you know? You don‟t wake up, just bumble around the house. I turn you around, and you come back to bed.” “Well,” said the doctor, “sleepwalking wouldn‟t have anything to do with this.” He gave them a bottle of some medicine to calm the man‟s stomach. “It‟s a gastric fever,” he said. “Don‟t give him any fancy food. Plain potatoes and bread and milk with his meals. Bed rest, and he should get better. Give me a call if he takes a turn.” Paul Archer did get better, with his wife and daughter waiting on his bedside. Running the
    • 136 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES farm was difficult, and money was tight. Magdalene Archer took pains to hide these problems from her daughter. Melissa Archer sat by her father‟s bed daily and gazed at her father with wide, amazed eyes. Paul found her devotion touching. In a week he was back in the fields. Paul Archer had three more attacks of gastric distress over the next six months. His doctor told him that he was growing older and more sensitive to foods and that we all had difficult crosses to bear. Paul Archer was no stranger to bearing crosses, and so he bore this one. His sleepwalking became more severe, though, and one night he found himself out on the front porch of his house, banging on the unlocked door, begging to be let in. Tick-tick-tick. Melissa‟s father‟s pocket watch ticked away in her hand, pulsing with time as it seeped away, drop by drop. Tick-tick-tick. This was Paul Archer‟s fifth attack of gastric fever, and Melissa had to face the facts. Each time he lay ill, she felt the pangs of guilt. Each time, she sat at his bedside, wondering at actions, how effects followed causes with eerie regularity and ease.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 137 Each time, she no longer wished that he would die. Each time, she felt power. She felt her own presence, stronger and larger than her father‟s presence. Each time, this same cycle happened. She would nurse him at his bedside, and he would recover. Once he recovered, his presence would again grow strong and overpowering. She would shrink down in importance. Her existence was threatened by his strength. If her father recovered, he would grow strong and large, and she would exist only in his shadow. It was a matter of learning from the past. Here, in the present, she did not wish that he would die. The present would not be true forever. The present flows into the future, and she had seen that future. She had to make a decision: whether to continue on with this never-ending cycle, or whether to hold fast to her determination and break away from the cycle today. Listening to the tick-tick-tick of the pocket watch, Melissa felt clear in her mind. Each time her father got sick, work got behind on the farm. Money stretched tighter and tighter. Her father‟s
    • 138 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES sicknesses were a downward spiral. If he died, though, there was the life insurance. The watch moved in cycles, ever forward, never stopping. The sun moved across the sky, in cycles, ever forward, never stopping. The orange grew round on the tree, and the ant crawled across it eternally, never ceasing. This was the fabric of the universe, this continuation. She was imbued with the power to break the cycle. This was her gift. She walked to the kitchen to get her father a bowl of bread in milk, with something special added. This dose would surely be enough, now that he was already ill in bed. She thought that she must look her best for his funeral. There were trees outside Melissa‟s window. Not orange trees, though those grew close to the house. These were tall oak trees, and in the winter they shed their leaves. The branches threw shadows on her ceiling, shadows with jagged edges and disconcerting, impossible patterns. The stark, moonlit patterns moved with the wind outside. Watching them, lying in bed, Melissa saw shapes hidden by the trees, moving steadily forward, toward the window. The more she watched, the more hypnotized she became by the changing patterns, an eerie kaleidoscope. She did not dare to rise from the
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 139 bed, to walk to the window, to gaze out and see that there was, in fact, nothing there. Lying in bed, chills began to walk up the back of her neck, on tip toe. Her head lay against the pillow, her body firm against the mattress. But she could feel something behind her, defying the solidity of the bed. She could swear it was in the room with her. Patterns on the ceiling continued to move methodically. If she closed her eyes, she could still see them. It was late at night. Her mother was asleep in her room. There was only the constant light from the moon coming in through the window, plastering the shadows on the ceiling. Other than the motion of the wind in the trees, she was alone. Everything was still, except the motion of the trees. A doll sat on the dresser across from her, staring at her, laughing at her. The chills continued to creep down her spine. She lay in bed, desperate for another human figure, another human voice. She got up from her bed, and walked through the room, finding nothing. She searched the closet, finding nothing. She turned all of the corners of her room with the fear that there was someone there, always behind her, always hovering over her ears. She
    • 140 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES expected at each second to feel the ghost of a breath on her neck. She closed the curtains and was engulfed in the mist of darkness, instead of the concrete motion of shadows. Looking at the curtain, she became convinced that behind it was a face, staring in at her, hovering in her window, and that any moment the curtains would be forced forward — that she would see the outline of a figure moving toward her underneath the curtain. She yanked the curtains open. There was nothing there. Minutes ticked away. The night ticked away. She could not bring herself to go wander through the darkness. She could not bring herself to lie in her bed. She could not stand still. She could not move. So the night passed with an agony. She consented to marry John Peacock to escape the agony of ever spending a night alone again. Maybe I should tell you a little bit about myself, about who I am. It‟s easier to talk about Melissa. I understand her. At least, I understand who I believe Melissa to be. I understand that Melissa relates to me, at least on some underlying, fundamental level. I, too, feel the burning of the tower, its quiet agony.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 141 I am so many things that I lose track of myself. My own father was not a simple man. He was a complicated man, a man who was never satisfied with what was given to him. He was a man who did not accept the common views of the world around him. He was a man who believed in things that were higher and better than our world. He was a man who searched for ever more complicated answers to ever more complicated questions. Yet, he was fundamentally a man who was ruled by his passions. Aren‟t we all ruled by passion? Passion is inherently human. It is the causer of action, the causer of motion. I can feel Melissa‟s passion, and Paul‟s passion, and my father‟s passion. I can feel my own passion, but I cannot forgive it.
    • Chapter Sixteen: Prelude to a Wedding M ELISSA‟S mother, whose husband‟s death had sunk her into a deep depression, was again filled with life. Magdalene Archer spent three months planning a wedding. She took her own wedding dress out of its storage box and altered it to fit her daughter. With great pains, she measured and pinned the silk cloth. She repaired the slight damage of time to the hem and the seam in the left sleeve. Once she was done with the simple tailoring, Magdalene became overcome with the desire to improve upon the dress. She added beading to the waistline, tapering it down to a point at the back. Unsatisfied with the tapering point, she began enhancing the back with embroidery. She
    • 144 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES developed a pattern of leaves and flowers, a bouquet, that flowed from the back of the waist down the skirt and out to the left and right in exotic sprays at the hem of the train. To balance the now intricate train, Magdalene embroidered the high collar of the dress, which spouted another bouquet, tapering to its resolution at the beaded waistline. Then, Magdalene began work on a new veil that comprised layer upon layer of embroidered lace bound by a beaded band that echoed the new waist. While she spent days and evenings sewing, she found time to arrange many details of days and times, flowers and horses, food and drink. “Mama,” Melissa said, “you don‟t need to make all this fuss.” As the center of a fuss, though, Melissa glowed. John Peacock came to see her every evening. He stared at her with doe eyes and sputtered his feelings at her in awkward, adolescent spurts. They held hands, and Melissa basked in John‟s admiration. Awaking early on her wedding day, Melissa could smell frying bacon from the kitchen. Her mother was cooking a wedding breakfast. Family and neighbors were waiting downstairs. She took her time over her morning toilet,
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 145 adjusting her hair and carefully choosing a morning dress to wear downstairs, knowing that soon she would need to re-dress, rearrange her hair, and prepare herself for a second stage of the day. When she appeared downstairs, her mother wiped floured hands on an apron and came to her. The guests had not arrived yet, but baked goods, bacon, and eggs were prepared ready for the morning. “Melissa, you‟re glowing.” Melissa smiled. “Mother!” “You‟re not nervous, are you?” “Not a bit!” “My dear,” said her mother, “come sit down.” Melissa sat in the best chair. “I‟m glad you‟re up early,” her mother continued. “I wanted to talk to you about your wedding night.” “Oh!” Melissa said, and blushed. “I know that it is truly impossible for a girl to be prepared for her wedding night,” said her mother, “but I wanted to know if… if you knew at all what to expect… if you had any questions that I can answer.” “I don‟t know,” said Melissa. “I… don‟t know what to ask.” “Do not worry about it at all,” said her mother. “The wedding is your day, and it is
    • 146 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES something that you will have forever. The wedding night is for the man, it is his time to fulfill his wishes. Let him lead you, succumb to him. Remember that he is giving you a life, that he is giving you children, a home, food, clothes — everything. This is your duty. Men know what to do, it is in their nature, and it is your nature to follow where he leads you.” “Will it be painful?” asked Melissa. “Only a little,” her mother said, “only at first. There is really no reason to worry or be concerned. It is natural. This is how God blesses us with children.” “Oh,” said Melissa. “I must see to the bacon,” said her mother, since smoke was beginning to rise off the stove. Melissa sat quietly. The conversation was, unintentionally perhaps, a lie. Melissa knew what men wanted, what men did on their wedding night. She knew about the secret violent places in men‟s souls. It was painful, always. Her mother was lying. She sat quietly. She hadn‟t made the connection between that thing and John Peacock‟s fumbling caresses. He was so like a child, so needy and gentle, that she could not quite associate him with that thing. She wanted to go up to bed, to feign illness, to put off this wedding day.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 147 She thought of the tower. The door opened, and a neighbor came in. Taking Melissa by both hands, she said: “My dear, you are so radiant. You are glowing. You are amazing!” Melissa stood and smiled and thanked her and was again drawn into the glory of the wedding day.
    • Chapter Seventeen: Dinner Conversation O NE evening, sitting around the dining room table, Miriam Rowe set her fork down and patted her mouth with her napkin. She said: “I have put up with this silence from you, Charles, for too long. I know that you do not want it spoken of, otherwise you would have spoken of it. But for all of our sakes, for Charlotte‟s education, for the continuation of your work, I beg you to tell us what happened and where did you go?” Charles Rowe also put down his fork. He lay his hands, palms down, flat on the table. He closed his eyes. “Miriam,” he began. “Miriam, I cannot tell you.” “Why?”
    • 150 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “I am not sure that I know where I was, how I came there, and how I came back.” “You are not sure?” “How can I be sure? My brain is merely a human mind! It interprets and generates. It believes that it sees, but it is so easily tricked!” “Tell us, then, what your brain records for you.” Professor Rowe paused. It was a long and pregnant pause. Charlotte continued gobbling her food. Her eyes, though, were riveted on her father. Montague chose this moment to let out a plaintive howl, and the three people looked sharply at the cat. Professor and Miriam Rowe transferred their gazes, questioningly, to Charlotte. Charlotte shrugged. Professor Rowe wiped his mouth on his napkin and cleared his throat. “It is awkward,” he said. “It is awkward.” He paused again. Then he spoke: “I remember very little of what happened, at first. I recall a feeling of vague uneasiness coursing through my body. My mind — my constant companion — was silent. I have no recollection of anything around me or outside of me or near me. There was a great feeling of nervousness, a well of vibration in my body, but no body, no mind, no reason. I became aware of
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 151 a deep connect with my ancestors — with my father, and his father. I say „I,‟ but there was no conception of a self. This feeling seemed to last interminably. I was not aware of its beginning, and I was not aware of its ending. When I think of it, it seems to be still happening. It seems to be a lifetime, coexisting with this fragile existence.” He paused, and sat motionless for a full minute before gathering himself together. “I awoke here,” he said, looking around the room. “In the bell tower. This place was empty, as it was when we first came here, but all of the structures were standing and new. I do not expect that this was real, you understand.” He gazed seriously into his wife‟s eyes. “I expect that this was a vision. The mind travels in an astral plane, but the body does not. I cannot understand what my body was or where it was. I seemed to be here, in this place, when it was new.” Miriam was nodding with rapt seriousness. “There was a man on the ground, planting seeds in the ground. He looked up into the bell tower, seeming to sense me. “„Ah, there you are,‟ he said. „I was wondering what was keeping you.‟ “„Yes,‟ I replied. „I am here.‟ “„Let‟s get you down from the tower,‟ he said. He brought a tall ladder and leaned it against the
    • 152 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES wall. „I built this ladder for this,‟ he said. “The man brought me inside, and introduced me to a younger man. „This is my son,‟ he said. „My son is eternally a child.‟ “I greeted the young man, and found that his mentality was not developed. He spoke and walked awkwardly, and his smile seemed sly and unnatural. “„My son,‟ said the man, „is not dangerous, but he is wrongly accused. Here is what happened. I had left the boy in the care of a man and a woman. This man was a man of your profession and had promised to cure my boy of his affliction, his mental weakness. He worked with children, along with this woman, his wife. They had a home where children stayed, and they were attempting to cure these children. Naturally, they had toys of all kinds, which the children would play with. These people had become reclusive, and they never left their institution. They spent every day among these children who were not normal, who had different types of mental disturbances, and instead of curing the children, this man and woman slowly began to be men- tally disturbed themselves. They began to think of themselves as children and act as children. One day, the man was mad at his wife for playing with some dolls. In a fit of anger, he took the
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 153 dolls from his wife. He lit them on fire and threw them into the children‟s rooms. The place was soon full of flames, and all of the children died, but my son. This man put the unburned dolls in my son‟s room and accused my son of starting the fire. No one believed my son, but I know that this story is true. We are hidden here in the desert, so that my son can be free. Meanwhile, I carry on work that would interest you.‟ “„Why am I here?‟ I asked. “„You are here because I brought you here. Your work is good, you‟re on the right path, but it is flawed. Come, let me show you what I have done.‟ “He brought me outside and led me through the empty landscape. These orange groves were not here then. He brought me to a small shack that had a cellar door in the floor. He opened the door, and we descended into a tunnel. The tunnel was long and wound through the ground. It was dank and moist, almost living, underneath the ground. We walked for an eternity, until we reached a red door. It was freshly painted with bright red paint. We walked through the door, and it opened into a room that was entirely filled with lights. They seemed disembodied, not electrical, not gas-lit. They inhabited the walls and air. “„What is this place?‟ I asked.
    • 154 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “„This is the brain,‟ he said. “After this, my memories become hazy and disconnected. I remember the color blue, and the words: „blue is the ink of the soul.‟ I remember that there was a storm that came out of nowhere, and there was a flash of lightning that hit an old oak tree, setting it on fire. It burned all night, sending up inky clouds of smoke. Then there are phrases that I remember: „a spatial isolation, an orbit through the soil,‟ and „a thousand rules of shape and form and time.‟ And the face of the mentally afflicted boy, looking at me. Then I was in the tower room, Charlotte‟s room, looking at myself in the mirror.” Professor Rowe‟s narration came to a halt. “And then what happened?” asked Miriam. “How did you get back? How did you get home?” “I don‟t know,” said the Professor. He looked at Montague. “I woke up one morning in a street in New York.” Montague blinked his eyes in a cat smile. “You see, don‟t you,” said Professor Rowe, “that my experiments were entirely worthless. I was pulled away by some other power, that much is clear. I brought back no cognitively knowable truths. I am here even poorer in knowledge than before.” He looked down at the table. “Excuse me,” he said, and rose from the dinner table.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 155 “Hmm,” said Charlotte, and took another bread roll from the table. “What are we having for dessert?”
    • Chapter Eighteen: A Wedding I N a room behind the chapel, Melissa gazed at herself in a long glass. Her mother, in attendance, tucked, pinned and did last-minute adjustments. Three giggling girls were present as bridesmaids, and they gossiped among themselves. A knock came on the door, and Magdalene called for the visitor to enter. It was a boy sent by the minister. “We are ready,” he said. “Oh, it is time,” said Magdalene. “You look beautiful.” Melissa pulled herself away from the mirror with an attitude of grace. “I am ready,” she said. In the church, an organist played. The ceremony
    • 158 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES was small but tasteful. The pews were filled with neighbors and family. The church was decorated with ribbons and flowers. Melissa walked to the rhythm of the organist, slowly down the church aisle. She was an ethereal figure, hidden behind the swaths of lace of her veil. She seemed to float under the smooth movement of the dress and train. No piece of skin, no hint of body appeared, only whites of varying textures moving together, flowing draperies that generated the form of a woman. Hidden from view, Melissa was the presence that commanded the attention of the congregation. She reached the front of the church and stood in front of the minister. From the pews, all that was visible was the back of her veil and the length of her train, her mother‟s careful embroidery lending richness and strength. John Peacock stood beside her. His head ached and his mouth felt sour because his friends had all come to his house the night before and brought liquor of every description. He shifted from one foot to another with nervous anticipation and guilt for being in church with the remnants of liquor still in his head. He resolved before God to never touch a drop again, so that he could be a good and sober
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 159 husband. He looked at the vision in white next to him. He looked at the preacher reciting words to him. He shifted from foot to foot. He placed the ring on his betrothed‟s gloved finger. He consented to his vows. She added her whisper of consent. Through this ceremony, she was now his for a lifetime. His path was set, his destiny charged, and he could see clearly through time to the rest of his life. Perhaps it was the effects of the liquor, but his head was swimming. The preacher gave his final words, his final blessings. John Peacock turned to the white veil, and the impossible figure turned to him. He pulled back the veil, and the ethereal became earthly. He kissed his bride. About ten months later, Melissa woke up in the night with severe pains in her stomach. The newborn child was silent, and her husband lay sleeping. She crawled out of her bed and made her way to the bathroom, and lying on the floor she discovered the curse that had been gone from her for nine months. She gathered towels and cleaned herself the best she could. Then, she lay on the floor wracked with pain. The red of blood was on the towels, bright and undeniable. Pain and anger
    • 160 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES mixed in her heart. She drifted in and out of sleep, kept awake by the pain, nauseated with pain, but half dreaming. Look there, the blood. Dirty, dirty. Ugly, slimy. Bottle it up inside of you. Flush it out, clean it away, wash it away. The pain comes from inside. Bottled up inside. Throttled to death, dirty, always dirty. They look inside you and they want to puke, with their cold, hard hands, icy, metal, cold. Blood is hot. They are cold. They hate the heat, the heat will melt them, the heat will kill them. Vomit, go on, vomit. They will never vomit because vomit is warm and disgusting and weak and human, like blood. Blood is the mark of Eve, blood is the mark of the woman. The ring around the bath is a stain on mankind. God there is so much blood. It will back up, it will drown me. The bath is filled with blood. Bloody Mary. Say the name three times in the mirror and she will come. Don‟t use up all of the towels, don‟t dirty them, but wipe it all away, wipe away the ocean. Revolting. Revolt. Revolution. Revolve. Come back around. It will come back around to you. Does it really come from inside of you? All of it is inside of you. That small, crying, red, wrinkled thing, grew inside of you, hidden away in folds of skin, in dead meat. Punishment for making Adam eat the apple. Red, rosy red, to remind you of the shiny
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 161 apple skin. The apple is knowledge. Knowledge is red. Knowledge is blood. The gleaming eyes and flitting tongue of the serpent. Are you sorry? I am not sorry. I ate the apple, I ate the apple. Just repent and the pain will go away. God, at least I can feel something. Double over. You‟re beautiful. You‟re beautiful. Just think that you‟re beautiful. A small stain. Don‟t look at it. You have to wash it away. Why? It‟s dirty. Why? Okay, God, I‟ll repent. Too late. Look, stop, just a moment. It‟s red, beautiful, bright, glowing, shining red. Next to the whitewashed wood. Whitewash. Wash it away. Wash it white. Clean out the dirt. Smut. Slut. Beautiful red, never looked at it, the shiny red. I am crazy, I am insane. Red power, red pain, red passion. Red, red, red. Wipe it away. It‟s dirty. Want to vomit. Father‟s vomit, coming up, spilling onto the bed. What a mess. Salt water, salt blood. White-wash prissy clean water washes the red primary dirty painful real beautiful blood. There‟s a stain. I don‟t think I can wash it away. I came to my senses. I lay on the floor in front of the mirror, and my mind was still streaming with these thoughts, dead thoughts, thoughts like streams of automatic writing. My voice was saying them inside of my head, echoing the fever of red blood. More, my stomach was cramped
    • 162 ICE CREAM MEMORIES and wracked with pain. I looked down and saw that my nightdress was stained red with blood. There was so much of it, as if I were murdered. I screamed, but I don‟t remember screaming. My mother and father came rushing into the room. When she saw me, though, she ushered him out hurriedly. “It‟s woman trouble,” she said. “Don‟t worry. No, go. Go back to bed.” She came to me and told me that everything was all right. Everything was not all right. My mind was spewing words of pain, words of anger, words of horror. They were red words, spurred by the sight of a bloodstain growing, expanding on the white of my nightdress. She raised me from the floor, cleaned me and gave me rags to absorb the blood. There was nothing to absorb the words from my mind. My temple was pounding. The truth was in my heart. Blood, bloody murder.
    • Chapter Nineteen: The Baby P ROFESSOR Rowe was conducting an experiment on Charlotte under hypnosis. In this instance, he asked her to expand her soul to fill, not merely the universe, but all possible space and non-space. Once she was relaxed, he asked her to speak. “In the end, there is darkness, and the darkness is good. You would not recognize this darkness. In what you know of dark, there is always the threat of light. It is there in minute presence. It is throughout the universe. The darkness that you know is not pure, it is not true. It has none of the coolness, the cleanness, the stresslessness of the darkness of the end. In the end, there is no conflict, no fear, no change.
    • 164 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES The push and pull of light and dark as it tears you apart is over. The battle is finished, the useless, senseless attack of light against overwhelming darkness has exhausted itself, and in the end there is only darkness, and the darkness is good. Perhaps the truth shall be difficult to ascertain. Perhaps it will be impossible. But somewhere is the truth, amorphous and immaterial. It slides from your grasp. It slips around inside your subconscious mind, tingling, tantalizing, teasing you with its nearness. Then it flies away, as quick as a dream. And it is gone.” Charlotte stopped speaking. During these sessions, she would sometimes lie speechless for hours. This time, it was merely minutes. “To kill and to die are one and the same. To be with one on his deathbed, to empathically, vicariously, experience death, is to die. To bring death is the power of death and life. In death there is life. Life is coming, a bright life. There will be a child born, near, very near. This child is fraught with meaning. This child has a gift. This gift is a gift of interpretation. The great interpreter will give meaning to all things, all things have meaning. Truth and lies are inseparable. Truth is meaning. Lies are meaning. You have already foreseen this child.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 165 You know of its coming, but you did not understand that you knew. In this child is what you seek. Seek this child.” Melissa became pregnant almost immediately after her wedding. John was overjoyed at the thought of impending fatherhood. He fussed over her and catered to her and stressed that she should not work too hard. He wanted her to rest, to eat well, to stay healthy for the sake of the child. Her mother, also, fussed over the pregnant woman. The expectation of a grandchild filled her woman‟s heart. She knitted presents for the coming child and kept house for the young couple, assuring that Melissa would not overstrain herself. Melissa enjoyed the first six months of pregnancy. She slept late in the mornings, which her mother thought was a good idea. “I never felt myself in the mornings when I was pregnant,” she said. “Let me bring you breakfast up here. You must keep your strength up. It is so important that you eat properly.” Unlike her mother, Melissa never experienced morning sickness. The changes in her body seemed subtle and unimportant. She did whatever she wanted, and her husband and mother waited on her each day.
    • 166 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Then, the growing child began to intrude itself upon her life. She began having difficulty lifting the weight strapped to her waist. She would lie in bed, not because she wanted to rest, but because her back ached when she stood. This made Melissa irritable. She became impatient and restless. She became trapped, weighed down by this squirming, wriggling creature in her stomach. It made its presence felt. For three months, her annoyance grew. On the day of the child‟s birth, Melissa woke in the early morning. She felt as if two hands were pushing down on her abdomen, powerful, ghostly muscles seeking to crush her. She cried out in her bed, and her husband woke. “What is it? What is it?” she was shouting. “What‟s wrong? What‟s wrong?” her husband joined in chorus. She screamed and then settled. The pain was easing, the hands moving away from her stomach. “Hands, invisible hands,” she said. “What hands?” “Pressing against me, pushing against me.” The door to their bedroom opened, and Melissa‟s mother came in, also awakened by the commotion. “What‟s happened?” she asked.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 167 “There were hands, pressing on my, pressing on my stomach, ghostly hands, invisible hands.” “Relax, my darling,” her mother said, and sat on the bed beside her. “It‟s come, the baby is coming.” John took his wife‟s hand, which was white and shaking, and pressed it between his palms. “Our baby,” he said. “I must get the doctor. Stay with her, Mama Magdalene, you‟ll know how to care for her.” “We don‟t need the doctor, yet,” said Magdalene. “It‟s liable to be quite a while, you know.” “We don‟t need a doctor?” shouted Melissa. “What about the pain?” “Lie quietly, Melissa, we will see you through it.” “Of course,” said John. “I don‟t know why I‟m such an idiot. I‟ve birthed hundreds of animals.” “I‟m not an animal!” Melissa interjected. “I‟m your wife!” “Hush, darling,” said Magdalene. “She‟s frightened.” “Of course I‟m frightened.” “You‟re okay. You will be okay. Get some water, John, and some towels. Can you take some water, dear?” “I don‟t want water.” “Okay, darling. When it gets to a more reasonable time of the morning, we‟ll go for the doctor. You‟ll keep just fine until then.”
    • 168 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Melissa lay back on the bed, her stomach weighing against her, the throbbing of pain still a residue in her memory. ”My God! The hands! Get them off of me! Get them off!” “Is she delirious?” “No, she is fine. How long has it been?” “Half an hour? Maybe more.” “Get it out of me! Out! Out!” “Hush, darling.” “We still have a wait, quite a wait. Don‟t worry, everything is fine.” “Get it out!” ”My God! Won‟t it stop!” “It‟s only been a few minutes.” “We‟re close now.” “I can‟t stand this room anymore!” “Go wait outside. Go care for the horses. A man needs to be busy at a time like this.” “Okay. I love you, darling.” “Get out! Go, why don‟t you! Get out!” She felt as if she would break. She felt as if the thing inside her was pushing out of her, right through her skin, distending her, breaking her. She could see herself bursting open, red and wet, raw beef.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 169 She screamed, sighed, panted. A wet towel was on her forehead. There was something in her hand, and Melissa squeezed it, crushed it. She had no strength, no effort, no resistance. Her body was moving without her, changing, reforming. The thing inside of her was shaping her to its will. She would soon lose all consciousness, all self. This was transformation. She fought, alternating between wanting to stop it completely and to push it out of herself, but she had no breath and no life left in her. It wore her out. It tore through her. “Push,” the doctor said. “Push.” She had nothing to push with. She had no control of her muscles. She ached as if she had run for days. Her body pushed without her will. The doctor praised her. Her mother said comforting nonsensical things. Parts of her were breaking, inside. Parts of her were sloughing off, leaving her. Parts of her were crushed and gasping, dying while still attached to her living body. This lasted forever. This lasted for eternity. Then, there was the sound of a baby crying. “Congratulations,” said the doctor. “You have a baby girl.” Her mother had left her side. Her mother had something in her arms. They were all hovering over it, washing it, tending it.
    • 170 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES It cried. They brought it to her, as an offering for her pain. It was small and wrinkled, and its face was distorted into an unpleasant grimace. She held it in her arms with a distaste that instinctively she hid. “I‟m exhausted,” she said. “Take it, mother.” The doctor left the room. Melissa handed the infant to a doting grandmother. “She is beautiful,” said the grandmother. The door opened, and John came in. “A girl!” he said. “Can I see her? Can I hold her?” He went to the baby, and again there was a small gathering around the child, all attention on the child, all attention on the infant. Melissa passed out. The day that the child was born, Charlotte was in her father‟s study, waiting on him to begin one of his many “experiments.” She was sitting on the soft, warm sofa, staring blankly at nothing in particular. Charlotte was tired and cranky. Her head was hurting her. Everything about her body and her existence seemed to ache unmanageably. As she stared, she tried to imagine Nanette in some other place on the other side of the world. She tried to put herself there, so far away. She tried to be
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 171 there, in a field, in a place with apples instead of oranges. And, mistily at a midway point to the wood paneled wall, she saw the wild girl sitting on the ground eating an apple. As Charlotte sat, waiting, waiting, Montague walked into the room. The cat walked across to where Nanette sat, munching on the apple, only a translucent projection. He looked up at her and meowed. Nanette stopped biting at the apple and looked down at where the cat stood, among the weeds. These cats, there were many of them on the farm. They were not usually friendly. One could bark at them to scare them off. They were liable to scratch one‟s nose. But this cat was not acting like most cats. This cat looked at her and half-closed its eyes. Then it spoke again. Nanette sniffed the air, to catch the scent of the cat, but it was elusive. She put her hand out to the cat‟s face, and the cat sniffed her hand delicately. It was not like a dog. It was much smaller, much less rough, much less excited. The cat rubbed up against her hand, and she stroked its fur. It was soft. There was something thrilling about the cat. She had never realized this before. Charlotte‟s father walked into the room, and
    • 172 ICE CREAM MEMORIES the vision disappeared. Charlotte continued to stare into space. “Charlotte,” he said. Then he said it again, more sharply, “Charlotte.” The cat ran out of the room. Slowly, Charlotte turned her head, looking at her father. “You were off in wild places for the moment,” he said. He brought out his dangling, glowing pendulum that would move her off into an alternative existence. ”What is your name?” asked the doctor. “What is your favorite name?” the voice countered. It was a soft voice, southern, that always seemed to be laughing at you. “It doesn‟t matter. I want your real name.” “I don‟t have a real name,” said the voice. “I have never met you before,” the doctor said. “This body,” the voice said, “this body was the body of a little girl. Now it is a woman‟s body. I am a woman — I can‟t exist in the body of a little girl. And you, my dear sir, are a man. It takes a man to see a woman. Am I right?” As he talked, she demonstrated the womanliness of the body, young still, youthful still, but the body now of a woman.
    • Chapter Twenty: Crib Death T HE sun was high in the sky when John Peacock awoke. He did not realize at first how late it was. He lay in bed with the feeling that he was somewhere else. He hadn‟t been getting enough sleep lately, with the newborn. She was quiet during the day, but she did not like the night time. She would cry, restless, and she could not be comforted except by walking her up and down, up and down. It was a trial to get her to sleep, and moments of slumber were few and far between for the parents. His thoughts drifted to his little angel as he lay, trying to identify what was so different and strange. They had not yet named the child. He called her his angel. Melissa toyed with one
    • 174 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES name and another, trying them on like gloves, feeling and exploring them on her tongue, and rejecting each in turn. He turned his head to watch his wife sleeping. She was perfectly still and relaxed, and her face looked like a child‟s face. She was just a babe herself, a delicate flower. The sun was falling on her cheek, creating an appealing shadow. He sat up and looked at the window. The sun was high in the sky. He picked up his pocket watch from the nightstand. Ten o‟clock. “Wake up,” his voice sounded hoarse and quiet. He shook his wife‟s shoulder. “Wake up.” His wife stirred and yawned and looked at him and smiled. “Hello,” she said. “It‟s ten o‟clock,” he said. “Ten o‟clock?” She sat up. “She‟s missed her feeding.” “She‟s so quiet,” he said. His wife swung her feet out of the bed. “I‟m scared,” she said. “Come with me. Come check on her.” John was also scared. The two got out of the bed and walked across the room to the open doorway. The floor was cold. The hallway opened up from their room, running the length of the house. On the right
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 175 side of the hall was a curtain that closed off the nursery. John was going to build a nursery door, but he had not gotten around to it yet. He felt a pang of remorse, having had nine months to build that door. The room was a converted storage cupboard, small, but big enough for a child‟s room. Melissa looked at John as they stood before the curtain. He reached out his hand. His fingers touched the soft, cool cloth. He tugged gently. The cloth moved with his hand, bending to his will, pulling aside. The cubby was still and quiet. “Angel?” said John. “Baby?” He stepped forward to the carved wooden crib, and for a relieved moment he thought that she was sleeping. She lay so quiet and so still. “No,” Melissa said, breaking the illusion. “No — my baby.” He turned from the motionless infant to his wife and saw the look of abject horror on her face for a split second before she collapsed into his arms in a dead faint.
    • Chapter Twenty-One: Lessons in Spiritism C HARLOTTE Rowe enjoyed her lessons with Augustine. She loved spending hours sitting in front of a mirror, staring at herself, watching for the slightest indication of movement or disruption of calm as she cracked a mechanism between her legs to make wooden raps or generated the sounds of chains rattling and dragging from the afterlife. This was real and actual. She was learning a skill, a set of abilities that were of her own doing, her own talent. Her twin in the mirror, as she watched herself, was a fascination for her. She was a magical being, a person who seemed older and wiser. She seemed, not a girl, but a grown woman, sitting regally, who could pull wires or make snaps
    • 178 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES without a visible twitch. She had acquired the poise and power of womanhood. The mirror at Augustine‟s looked only on Charlotte. It saw only Charlotte, as the center of everything. Her mirror- self could make a voice call from across the room without a motion of the lips or tongue or throat. She could generate spirit writing within a closed and hidden chalkboard in six different hands, masculine and feminine. She was a perfect being who controlled incontrovertible, understandable, explainable phenomena from an astral plane. Here, the mirror-Charlotte was master of all. Augustine also schooled her on the theories of Spiritism. Miriam Rowe had never had much patience for other people‟s theories, in that they formed settled schools of thought. She much preferred generating her own pearls of wisdom around whatever grain of sand happened to irritate her at the moment. People, Augustine explained, wanted your views to agree with those they read about in books and newspapers. Any disruption to the generally accepted schools of thought created doubts and discrepancies. Doubt was not the friend of the spirit medium. “It is important to understand,” said Augustine, “that spiritism combines religion and science. In doing so, it provides the ultimate truth. Science by itself is unsatisfying because it
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 179 is self-contained and not all-inclusive. It does not address the human soul, the ethics of human existence, the pulls of human desires, the human experience of the sublime. Religion is unsatisfying because it is unscientific. It defies the rational and therefore it is, at the core, unbelievable. We want to believe in religion, but we can‟t. We can believe in science, but we don‟t want to. Spiritism provides the ultimate compromise: a promise of life after death that is scientifically verifiable, that you can see and hear and experience in a concrete way.” Charlotte read books about the spirit and its progressive journey. She read about God, the universe, matter, time, energy, life, the soul and the limitations of the understanding of man. “We have answers for every question,” said Augustine. “There is no need for research into unknowns. The answers are all here, ready-made. You just need to accept them.” In this way, Charlotte‟s abilities advanced. One day, Augustine sat with Charlotte, working with a spirit cabinet to create spirit hands, faces, and luminous ectoplasm. “You know,” said Augustine in a reminiscent manner, “I want to tell you a story, to illuminate the workings of our profession.” She paused, but Charlotte in her normal
    • 180 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES manner did not respond or encourage. “I was young at the time,” Augustine continued, “not as young as you, but just beginning in life. I had begun giving séances to women in Omaha, where I had run away to as a girl. There was a woman who came to me one day. She wanted to speak with her dead father, who had passed away six months ago, leaving her with a great deal of money. She had fought bitterly with her father as a young girl, and the two had never been reconciled. She felt guilty at enjoying the father‟s wealth now, and she wanted to make peace with him. “So she came to see me. We worked together initially with table-turning. This is useful, because the people ask questions. You can tell a lot from the questions a person asks, and often the desired answers are quite clear. And there is always the danger of unfriendly or prankster spirits interfering, so that any time we go off track, the correction is easy to make. “In the table-turning sessions, I learned a bit about her troubles with her father. He was a controlling, domineering man, and she was willful. This is not an unusual circumstance. She wanted to marry an unsuitable young man, and in the end she ran off to marry him. The man turned out to be a fool and dishonest on top of it. She was now trapped in an unhappy marriage,
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 181 and she had lived in poverty due to her husband‟s unsavory habits. The inheritance from her father, which she had never expected to see, practically saved her. She was afraid, though, that her husband would squander it and that she would be back in the same situation. “This woman was looking for salvation in our sessions. You will find this quite often. Unhappy people come seeking happiness. She said that she wanted to reconcile with her father. The truth is that she was filled with regret for her choices in life. If she had stayed at home, in all likelihood she would have been miserable under her father‟s critical rule, and she would have always regretted the loss of her young love. “We moved on to trances, and I invoked spirit writings of several types and the appearance of her father‟s face and hands in a darkened room. Working on her, we brought forth a clear vision of her father‟s spirit, or rather the spirit that she hoped her father would be. “He had found peace and love in the afterlife. Instead of criticizing his daughter‟s choices, he could look down on the world from a new place and see that her path had been the only possible one. He assured her that, through her current path, with its sorrows and tribulations, she was achieving greater spiritual understanding,
    • 182 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES moving forward on a path. Her ultimate journey was beyond her current understanding. “Her father began giving her messages of hope from the other side, and he told her of the great revelations he‟d had about his own life and his own destiny. He apologized to her for any sorrow that he had caused her during his lifetime. He could see clearly that his vision had been clouded by a human veil. He also assured her that, although he regretted his treatment of her, he knew that her trials had made her a better, stronger soul, and that she was destined for a greater journey than his in the afterlife because of her spiritual preparation. “Even her pursuit of the spiritual through spiritism showed her great progress in a spiritual journey. As you can see, all spirits sound similar when they have passed over to the other side. Even the harshest, meanest soul, speaking from the afterworld, speaks of peace, love, and forgiveness. All messages are messages of hope and happiness. Any intrusive or disruptive spirit is not anyone that the sitter knows or could have known.” She paused and looked at Charlotte to assure that this lesson was received. Augustine nodded her head and continued: “Anyway, one evening we gathered together for a reading. We were working with automatic
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 183 writing, which is an excellent tool when you know a lot about your subject and want to speak at length from the afterlife, especially if you have specific information. You, of course, are very gifted at voices, and this allows you a lot of leeway in a mediumistic trance. Still, a voice is a tricky thing, and you never know how well a subject might remember someone‟s voice. You know well, of course, the signs of recognition a subject gives when you hit upon a good imitation, but in any case, I‟m not nearly as gifted at vocal impressions as you. Automatic writing can scrawl, and a scrawl can hide all kinds of problems. “Remember, when determining ways and means that there are two stages of the sitter. The first stage is an interested skepticism. This is the stage at which the person is interested in the phenomena but is still skeptical about it and needs to be convinced. These people are afraid of being tricked! They want proofs to show them that spirit communication is real. It is important, in dealing with these types of people, to use only the best, most convincing, types of spirit communication. Once a person has passed through this initial phase, they become a believer. A believer will never be unconvinced! Few people first come to a medium as believers, but my sitter was one of these.
    • 184 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “I was sunken deep into a trance state, and my sitter, who I will call Mary Jones for the sake of this discussion, Mrs. Jones was watching me eagerly and reciting prayers under her breath. I always encourage sitters to pray, because it removes any fear of dealing with the supernatural. There will always be a contingent that feels that delving into a spirit world is dangerous, that it opens you up to demonic and even satanic occurrences. Any impression of the hazards of spirit communication must be quelled, and the best way is through prayer. God watches over all of our sittings and sees that we are safe. Prayer also reinforces the Christianity of what we do. Never ask anyone to deny their religion. Only reinforce their own religion with new additions to it. They don‟t really know anything about their religion to begin with, you know, but they will hold dearly to the trappings of it. “Well, as I said, I was deep in a trance, with a pencil ready in my hand and papers in front of me awaiting the words of the spirits. Mrs. Jones watched and prayed, and we sat there in the dark for quite a while. A long wait does not inspire impatience, my dear, it sets a mood of anticipation. Never be overanxious to begin. “When the time felt right, my hand began to move across the paper. Message for my darling
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 185 daughter, it wrote. So happy to talk with you again today. Hoping to talk with you. “„Oh, Papa,‟ said Mrs. Jones. „Is everything well?‟ “It is always well here. There is only peace and joy and love, the greater as we move forward in our journeys. It surprises me always that there is a higher level of love, but I find one each day. “„I am so glad,‟ Mrs. Jones said, „that you are so happy.‟ “You are not so happy. “„No, that‟s true. I can‟t hide anything from you.‟ “All truths on your plane are opened to me. “„I wish, I wish I had listened to you when I was a girl!‟ “That is not for you to wish. You have gained great spiritual riches, the goodness of your spirit shines through to this plane. I can see you as a vision of light and I can watch over you, as your spirit reveals itself to me through the curtain that divides us. Your true self is the most beautiful of all, shines brighter, I watch you with such pride and am always with you. It is not just fatherly pride, but all here can see how advanced you are. The peace and love you will feel when you join us here will far exceed any of us here now. You have a special gift.
    • 186 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “„If only I could be there with you now!‟ “Soon, my dear, very soon, that is why I am so happy to speak with you today, because I know that we will soon join together in a more meaningful way than is possible in life or in this communication between places. “„What do you mean?‟ “You will know, you already know in your heart. I am only here to say that I look forward to your presence here with a glad heart. I offer my blessings, know that I am always at your side to give you strength. “„Am I to die?‟ “We all die, do we not? We enlightened know that death is merely a passageway that we pass through. I only tell you my joy in you, my daughter, and my pleasure in anticipating being with you again, seeing you leave earthly care behind and join me in a greater happiness than you know. My only message is, do not fear. Release all fear and understand that your journey is a journey of light. “Well, Mrs. Jones was greatly affected by these messages. We discussed at length what her father‟s meanings could be, and I pointed out to her that time on the spiritual plane and time on an earthly plane were very different, and that messages from the spirit world that depended on the word „soon‟ were very likely to mean
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 187 „sometime in the next fifty years.‟ Always leave yourself an out. That‟s the point. However clear your message might be, leave yourself an alternative interpretation in case your client is unreceptive. Besides, being yourself dubious of the message only makes the client more eager to believe in it, nine times out of ten. “„Yes,‟ Mrs. Jones said slowly. „I understand that time is a very different thing for those that have passed, and of course my dear father is anxious for us to be together again, as am I.‟ She paused and looked puzzled. „I wonder, perhaps...‟ She paused again, and I let her sit, turning things over in her mind. „Perhaps he had a specific thought in mind,‟ she said vaguely. She seemed rather distracted and paid me generously before leaving. “That was the last time I saw Mrs. Jones, since I saw a notice in the papers the next week that she had died from an overdose of sleeping medicines. The death was put down to accident, as Mrs. Jones had used this medicine for some time, and she was liable to forget whether she had taken it yet or not, particularly if worried. “I received, though, in the mail a letter Mrs. Jones had written me prior to her death. She said: My dear Augustine, I do want to thank you for all of your kindness and help in bringing me
    • 188 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES into communication with my dear departed father and helping me, through him, to understand so much about this world of ours and about my own self. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for your friendship and wisdom, and I am including a final gift to you, which although it is worldly, is I am sure the very least I can do to repay you for everything you have done for me. “I know that you believed that my father‟s message when last we spoke was a general one, and not truly indicating that death was near at hand for me, but I must tell you that it had a personal meaning far beyond what you could possibly know, for I have not intruded upon you much of my intimate thoughts and feelings and troubles. “I feel though, that I must make clear to you the value of your good work. The truth is that my husband has been growing worse and worse, and I cannot even divulge to you the depravity of his vices. Strong drink, which I know more than most deprives the soul as well as the body of its strength, is only the beginning for him, and I am afraid to say that he is truly beyond hope in this life. I can only pray that he will find a path toward wholesomeness of spirit that will lead him ultimately to peace! “But I am done with him. As you know, my dear, the concept of divorce or separation is
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 189 wholly unnatural to me, and your empathy with me on that topic is greatly appreciated. However, my patience has been stretched to beyond its limits, and I even sunk to the depths of considering such drastic action as breaking my marital vows by leaving him. Though he has hardly honored his own vows, this concept was still quite painful and undesirable to me. Having had several frightful rows with Mr. Jones in the past few weeks, I had rather without even thinking about it burst out to him that I would end it all through self- destruction and then I could be with my father, who was the only one who truly cared about me. Not, of course, including you, my dear. “Well, Mr. Jones is not only a scoffer, but he makes terrible aspersions about you and about my father, in his lifetime as well as his soul that has passed beyond! I‟m sure that the reason it is taboo to speak ill of the dead is that, once beyond this mortal plane, the dead can see their misdeeds, and repent, and move forward to higher causes — therefore who are we to speak ill of the repentant and forgiven? Well! He said some very cruel things, and I am afraid my tongue got away from me, and it was quite an unpleasant scene ending in my again saying that I would end my life, this time with more of my heart in it. To which Mr. Jones replied: „Why don‟t you, then, and get out of
    • 190 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES my hair.‟ His language is always coarse, even when he is sober. “This scene was rather sobering to me, as I had always firmly held that suicide was no recourse for dealing with life. My own instinct toward that unpleasant act surprised me, but as I considered it, I found that I had a deep compulsion to seriously fulfill that threat. I spoke to Mr. Jones of this, when he was sober and better mannered, but he failed to take my dilemma seriously, and his point of view seemed to be „good riddance‟ which tells you, I suppose, just what type of man I had the misfortune to marry. “It was not long after these events that father spoke so strangely in our sitting. He, who watches over me with such love, confirmed to me what I have been loath to recognize and admit to myself: that our conventional view of suicide is futile and unnatural, although I am sure it is necessary for those of us who have not achieved yet an enlightenment of spirit. However, I am assured that my spirit is ready to move forward from these planes and that the simple action of transferring myself to the location of those that love me cannot be wrong. If my loved ones were in Africa, and it took an unpleasant ocean voyage to transport me to them in a strange land, I would surely not cringe at this temporary inconvenience,
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 191 but look forward with joy to the end of my voyage. Such is it with my own plans: an unpleasant journey, perhaps, but gratefully shorter than a cross-Atlantic trip. I do hope that you understand and take my word that this is indeed the glorious work of God. “Bless you and your unearthly work, “Mary Jones.” Augustine paused again. Charlotte sat listening at attention. “You see that an interpretation is an interesting thing, and you never really know. I was not in any way sure that it would work, although I had heard of people taking that viewpoint about crossing over. “It was only a day before our session when Mr. Jones had come to my parlor, and introducing himself had put forward a rather extraordinary proposition. A divorce would rob him of his wife‟s money, you see, which was kept in trust for her, since her father did not approve of the marriage. However, if she were to die, he would inherit the trust and have access to the principal. He was, as she said, quite a cynical man, and his opinion of spiritism, quite an unfair opinion, gave him a level of comfort allowing him to approach me. “Although he was quite untrustworthy and terms were difficult to come to, we made an
    • 192 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES arrangement that was very satisfactory, including a certain quantity of money he was able to get his hands on up front. This was important since, not only was the man not at all trustworthy, but I was not at all sure that Mrs. Jones could indeed be persuaded to take her own life, no matter how vividly she trusted her poor deceased father. However, he must have known her inner workings better than I, having been privy to spontaneous outbursts in the heat of anger.” She gazed into the air, thoughtfully. “In any case, the point of my rather long-winded narrative is that you can never know where your best fortunes lie, and wherever there is money and an interested party, you can find ways and means to better your circumstances. I can tell you that, although one does not want to slaughter the goose that lays the golden eggs, I came out of the affair with far more cold, hard cash than I ever would have made in years of sittings with Mrs. Jones.” What is death? Is it a solution, an answer? Is it a blank nothingness? Is it easier than life? Could it possibly be harder? Yet, I cling to life, even in my old age. I cling to every last breath, every last painful breath, full of hurtful memories, full of the ghosts of all those who are dead.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 193 So many are dead. They are all dead and gone. Dead, but not gone. Their life after death is not a torture to their immortal souls. It is a torture to mine.
    • Chapter Twenty-Two: A Funeral T HE mourning parents stood by the gravesite. John Peacock had an uncomfortable feeling of repeating the past. His wife, in mourning clothes, stood next to him, looking so much the same as the day he had first fallen in love with her. She was so strong to bear this tragedy so bravely. It tore his heart to think that they had come full circle to this place of sorrow. This was the place where they were all bound, after all. He watched his mother-in-law‟s strained face, the wrinkles now more severe, crevices drawn into her face. He felt a bond with this woman, whose husband had been taken from her and whose hopes for joy had rested with a new grandchild. His wife must feel even greater loss
    • 196 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES than either of them, the loss of a child of the flesh. The sheer strength of feeling caused her to be so silent in her tragedy. Melissa greeted the guests who came to commiserate with her. She spoke with each in turn, taking in their statements of how her young girl had gone to a better place. Angel, the tombstone would say, and everyone commented on how apt that pet name was. This innocent was surely now an angel in heaven with the Lord. Throughout the ceremony, Melissa held her head up high, her chin almost defiant, fighting the effects of sorrow. John fought to keep a solemn, wooden expression. He felt no real inner control, but somehow he muddled through. Magdalene was the only one who shed tears. She, an old woman, much older today than a few weeks ago, could not help but succumb to her misery. In his heart, John envied her. Friends told him that he was young, that his wife was young, that many more children would bless them. Friends said that the Lord takes His own unto Himself and that this death showed the goodness of his offspring. Friends said that he should be grateful the child was spared the misery of this world and that Angel would never herself mourn for a loved one. He took these
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 197 sentiments as kindnesses, but none of them could pierce the dismay he felt at his loss. She was so small, so fragile, and so wonderful. After the ceremony, a woman came up to the young couple. “You are the parents, are you not?” she said, holding her hands out to them. “I am so sorry for your loss, so sorry to need to intrude on your loss.” She greeted both husband and wife, but her focus shifted immediately to Melissa. She held Melissa‟s hand as she spoke. “I must introduce myself. I am Augustine Emory. I have a message for you, which I know will be a comfort. Perhaps, if it is not too much trouble, we can go somewhere to speak privately? Perhaps I can offer you tea.” “I don‟t think my wife feels up to tea with strangers,” said John. “We should get home. You should rest, honey.” “Don‟t worry about me, darling,” said Melissa. “I can manage.” “I really must speak with you, although I know that it is an intrusion. Perhaps in a week or so? I do want to assure you now, though, that your daughter is in a place of peace and love, and that she sends her love to you.” The woman pressed a business card into
    • 198 ICE CREAM MEMORIES Melissa‟s hand and went off. Melissa looked down at her palm and blinked. John took the card and held it up to read it. Augustine. Clairvoyant and Medium. As he turned it over in his hand, Magdalene Archer approached the couple. “Was that Augustine Emory?” she asked. “You‟ve heard of her?” John said. “Why, yes. She is a very eminent spiritualist.” “I suppose all of that is nonsense,” said John, unconvincingly. “She is very highly thought of,” said Magdalene. “What was she saying to you?” “She said that our Angel was happy and at peace,” said Melissa. “Do you suppose that she can really communicate with the dead?” “I believe that they have done much scientific work in the field. It‟s all a little above my head, but certainly so many eminent people cannot be mistaken.” John looked at the card. “Perhaps we should go see her,” he said. “Just to see what she wants. Just to see.”
    • Chapter Twenty-Three: Uninvited Guest E VERYTHING seemed to revolve around food for Miriam. Her family was always busy, always working. When Charlotte was studying with Augustine, Professor Rowe was conducting experiments, writing his journals, or psychoanalyzing patients. When Charlotte was home, she was either studying with her father or sitting. This left Miriam with little role in the family. More and more, Augustine conducted all sittings, leaving Miriam in the background as an observer and hostess, if that. She had no responsibilities but the running of the household. Between meals, there was little to occupy her body or mind. Meals were the only time they all gathered together, Miriam, her husband, and
    • 200 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES their daughter. Sometimes Charles would be self- absorbed and occupied with some train of thought. Other times, he would become ebullient, and they would discuss philosophy, religion, and science. Miriam, in her old way, would interject beliefs and opinions culled from her experience and imagination. These were the best times. Miriam began spending more time in the kitchen, preparing for these meals. She canned fruits and vegetables, made jams and sauces, baked breads and pastries. The magical bubbling of yeast, the mixing of fats and oils, the transformation of a salt into a solution, all of the chemical properties of cooking appealed to her. This was an alchemy that yielded results: flour and milk and sugar and oil became cakes. Her natural creativity was let loose, and each meal was an experiment. Some failed miserably, and Charlotte pouted and picked at her plate. Professor Rowe, stoically, ate whatever was placed in front of him. Occasional meals were wildly successful, lifting food above its normal element to aesthetic heights. As her husband worked away at volumes of his lore of the soul, Miriam began her own journal of the palate. This cookery book was more than a collection of recipes. It was a philosophy of food, a treatise on the metaphors of eating. It was founded in a deep belief that while the body was
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 201 physical and, by extension, eating was a physical act, both body and food were inhabited by a spiritual power. In the body, this spiritual power was the soul. Food, which came from living creatures (both plant and animal) carried the residual power of the lower forms of life, which fed the soul. Each plant or animal had its own spiritual quality, and the cooking and mixing of food was a process of manipulating the psychical powers of the organic elements in such a way as to best align the vibrations of a soul‟s psychic elements to an ethereal plane. In short, the correct foods, prepared in the proper way, brought man closer to God. Our natural palate, Miriam propounded, would instruct us in this spiritual journey. Throughout history, man has not been content to merely eat. Man has brought the basic elements of fire and water and salt to his foods. Man chooses foods with care, combines them in complex ways, and manipulates them into unrecognizable creations. This behavior, occurring only in man, is not biologically necessary. Therefore, Miriam reasoned, it was not of the corporeal but of the spiritual. An entire chapter of Miriam‟s cookery book was dedicated to the study of ice cream. This delicacy was a culinary anomaly, and so it must
    • 202 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES have significant meaning. While most preparation of food used heat, bringing to bear the mystic element of fire, ice cream used water (ice) and salt, generating cold, which processed and combined. The palate clearly showed that this unique process was superior in the preparation of milk. Why was milk unique among foods in its ultimate preparation? Milk was neither plant nor flesh, and the natural food of the newborn. It had, then, a unique spiritual place, fitting it to this unique preparation. Miriam recommended improving the soul with ice cream as often as once a day, if feasible. The family was sitting in the parlor eating ice cream when someone knocked at the door. They no longer had servants in this new, western life, so Miriam arose and went to the door. The woman standing on the doorstep was young, perhaps nineteen. She held her hands together in front of her waist. “Yes?” asked Miriam. “Is Professor Charles Rowe at home?” inquired the woman. “He is indisposed,” Miriam answered. “If you wish to see him professionally, I can arrange an appointment.” “My business,” said the woman, “is private. And urgent.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 203 Miriam raised her eyebrows. “I am afraid that you will need to come back at another time. Can I take a message?” “I must insist,” said the woman, wrinkling her brow. “What private business could you possibly have with my husband?” The worried look on the woman‟s face grew deeper. “I must talk to him. He is here, isn‟t he?” “He is here,” said Miriam. “But he cannot see you.” The woman looked at her hands and at the ground and then back at Miriam. “This is unpleasant,” the woman said. “Yes,” Miriam agreed, with frustration. She attempted to close the door, but the woman blocked it with her foot. “I‟ve come a long way,” said the woman. “Just let me see him.” “What,” repeated Miriam, “is your business?” “Mrs. Rowe,” said the woman, “I am sorry to have to tell you this, but your husband has sorely deceived us both.” “I don‟t know what you can possibly mean.” “I,” said the woman, “am Mrs. Winifred Rowe, your husband‟s other wife.” This rather startling revelation gained the
    • 204 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES woman access to the house. Miriam was certain that the woman was mistaken. Her husband could not possibly be Professor Charles Rowe. Either the man had given her a false name, which was likely considering his obvious lack of moral character, or he had coincidentally had the same name. She lead the woman into the house, intending to clear up, for certain, that Professor Rowe was not, by any means, the man this woman had married. As they walked into the room, Winifred stared at Charles Rowe. “Charlie,” she said. She went up to him. “Charlie.” He stared at her, blinking, holding an ice cream spoon in his hand. “Yes? Er. I‟m sorry. Have we met?” “Charlie. It‟s me. Don‟t pretend you don‟t know me.” Charles Rowe looked up at his wife. “Who is this young woman?” “She claims, Charles,” said Miriam Rowe, “to be your wife.” The young woman fainted to the floor. They seated Winifred in a lounge and administered a wet towel for her forehead. Charles brought
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 205 brandy and forced a small amount into her mouth. Charlotte watched with interest as the woman coughed delicately and sat up. “Charlie,” she said, “Charlie.” “Lie quietly, rest yourself,” Charles Rowe said. “This is quite interesting,” he told his wife. “Young woman,” he said, “you insist that you know me?” “Know you? How can you deny it?” “I think we had better hear your story,” said Charles Rowe. “Certainly,” said Miriam, with her eyebrows raised. The woman closed her eyes and lay quietly for a moment. When she opened them, she looked at Miriam Rowe. “Your husband is denying me, but you must believe me,” she said. “Well, as he said, let‟s hear your story.” This is the story that Winifred Rowe told: On May 23, 1915, near midnight, a man — Charlie — walked into my father‟s inn. But maybe that‟s not really the start. You see, nearly two weeks earlier, I had gone to see this woman, this woman who is supposed to be a witch. Honestly, I would never normally go to see a witch. She didn‟t look like a witch. She didn‟t look mystical at all. In fact, she was the exact
    • 206 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES opposite. She looked like a little doll, porcelain and harmless. Her red-brown hair bounced each time she moved her head. Big green eyes, not heavily lashed but wide and lined so that they seemed wider, a pug nose, and freckles didn‟t help her look any more mysterious. This woman, this witch, looked clearly Irish, and none is less mystical than the Irish. She had an almost constantly puzzled expression, and the look in her eyes was that of a dog, trying desperately to grasp the meaning of what was going on around him. This woman seemed sub-normal, but I comforted myself that perhaps it was the woman‟s lack of mental proficiency that gave her a supernatural understanding, opening her to something mystical. You see, I was in an unhappy situation at the inn. I lived there with my father. I had nine sisters, each older than me. One by one, they had been married off and left the inn. They all lived nearby, in farms or towns, but it was just me and my father at the inn. I had my own suitors, if you will call them that, but they were all coarse men, they did not know anything of love. They were sorely unsuitable as husbands, not the kind of man that you can respect. They were all the same, simple, rough working men, not the type of man to inspire the glow of passion.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 207 I knew that there was love in the world. I had read books, and I knew that there were others out there who understood these feelings of the heart. They wrote of love and passion. I wanted to be swept away by an undeniable, impossible, dreamlike feeling. I needed to be wholly a woman. The men who courted me were more than disappointing. There was nothing under their rough exterior but a drive for sex. Excuse my language, if I am blunt, I have learned to be blunt, but it is the truth! These men worked in nearby mines, and their life was a hard one, full of physical labor. They did not read, or write. Instead, they drank at the inn‟s bar and made crude jokes at my expense, or the other barmaids. I worked as a barmaid in my father‟s establishment, and the atmosphere of men was smothering to me. These were the types of men my sisters had married, and they all had normal, working lives. My sisters took coarse behavior in stride, as the folly of men, but I could not. I had to believe that there was something higher and better for me. One man, Nick Parker, had been persistent in his attentions toward me. After hours, he would approach me, and speak to me kindly, throwing off his hard language and rough manner. He was, though, essentially a rough man, and he knew nothing of true, pure love.
    • 208 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES In any case, my frustrations had increased, and in desperation, I had gone to this rumored witch for advice and help. The witch‟s name was Patricia Marley. She opened the door to me pleasantly, seated me in a small parlor, and offered me lemonade. Her attitude was detached and far-off, in a dazed and dreamy kind of way. People called her a gypsy and a witch, but I had begun to doubt the woman‟s abilities, either natural or preternatural. “Stay away from her,” my father had told me. “That gypsy in her worn-out clothes. She cavorts with the devil. She‟ll curse you, just like she cursed old man Mason last winter, when he shot that no-good dog of hers. It was always on his property, always interfering with his sheep. She didn‟t care none for that, though, because once he shot that dog, his fate was sealed.” I didn‟t put much stock in my father. This woman had acquired a reputation for witchcraft, that was for sure. There were all kinds of rumors that flew around about her. Not that I believed in that sort of thing. If I had believed in it, I never would have gone, and that‟s a fact, since if it‟s true then it‟s the work of the devil, as my father said. The truth is, I went. I would hardly need to tell you about it at all, except that it was so strange. I went to the
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 209 woman and asked to have my fortune read. “Pay me first,” she said, “because you don‟t need to see the future to know that nine of ten people would like to cheat me.” “And the tenth?” I asked, taking some coins out of my purse. “The tenth will be offended at what I tell them, and not want to pay.” I laughed. “Well, I‟m none of the ten and happy to pay you.” She sat me at a table and asked me, “What do you want to know? The past or the future?” “The future, of course,” I said, since I already knew the past. She took out a funny deck of cards and asked me to cut them, which I did. She lay them out on the table. She said: “My dear, you are looking for love. You‟re looking for something better than can be got in this town. If you stay here, you will be an old maid.” “What?” I said. “I can‟t leave my father, and all of my family is here. Where would I go?” “You would go to the city. You would go to the east.” “I can‟t!” “Then you will be an old maid.” “What about Nick Parker?” I asked. “I could marry Nick Parker tomorrow.”
    • 210 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES The woman shook her head. “No, you couldn‟t.” This was very upsetting to me, and I could hardly contain myself. I vowed that I would marry Nick Parker and settle down to a normal life like my sisters. I left convinced that I should never have gone to the woman in the first place. The next evening, though, as I was just getting set to look around for Nick in the bar, a group of miners came in. They were all full of sad news. There had been a cave-in at the mines, and six miners were killed. Nick Parker was among them. So, what the witch had said was true, I couldn‟t marry Nick that day, nor any day. The witch was right. I could not marry any man from the town. I could not stand either possible fate, though: leaving the home of my family or growing old alone. Finding myself with no recourse, I went back to the witch. “What can I do?” I asked. “There has to be a way.” “I can help you,” she said, “for the right price.” “Anything,” I told her. “Whatever I have.” I didn‟t have a lot of money, but the inn did well. I had enough. “Since there is no husband here for you, and you don‟t want to leave, I will call you a husband.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 211 “Call him?” “Yes. I must work in private. Go now. Wait patiently. Within a fortnight, a stranger will come to stay at the inn who will be your husband.” I spent a week and a half waiting patiently, rushing to see each person who entered the inn. There were always travelers coming to stay, and though I talked to each at length, and was as friendly as could be, none of them were my future husband. Then, one night, nearing midnight, as I said, Charlie came to the inn. He was so polished and elegant, though of course he was quite tired and worn out with traveling that night. Here, Charles Rowe interrupted. “Was I at all disoriented? Confused?” “No, just tired. You said you‟d had a long journey.” “Where did I say I was from?” “Well, you didn‟t say.” “Did I tell you anything about myself?” “No, not really. We didn‟t talk about you, or me, in the sense of things that had happened to us.” “What did we talk about?” “Why — love.” We talked about love, and you opened my
    • 212 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES eyes to a greater and greater world. Our love is a metaphysical love, a communion of the spirit. Our love, itself, is a higher power. The physical act of love is a ritual that elevates us beyond this life. It is the only truly important thing that we ever do. We were married the following day, consummating our love. I continued working as a barmaid so that Charlie could devote himself to writing. He was writing a book of poetry that unlocked all of the secrets of love. Poetry is the only true way to explore love with words. We lived a life of passion, where our actions were ruled only by our intuitive understanding of the body‟s higher purpose in service to the soul. We lived happily, in total union. Then, one day, the witch came to see me at my work. I had not seen her for quite a while. She was visibly pregnant. “That man,” she said, “is not any husband that I called for you. I cheated you out of your money, you little fool. And now, look what he‟s done to me and left me to fend for myself in this condition.” “You‟re lying,” I told her. “He showed up, just as you said he would.” “Of course he did,” she said, “of course if you were looking for a husband among each and every man who walked into your father‟s inn in a fortnight, you would find one.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 213 We argued, and when I got home, I confronted Charlie. We had always been happy, and we had proven in our happiness his theories of love. I told him the whole story of the witch, and he — you — denied ever having bedded her. But that night, you just disappeared. I‟ve searched for you for so long. I‟ve come so far. How can you deny me? Is it just as you denied her? After all of the talk of higher being, of being closer to God… Is it a lie? It can‟t be a lie. How can you deny me like this? Charles Rowe frowned and paced the floor. “It‟s incredible,” he said. “It‟s just incredible.” “Well, what have you to say to it?” asked Miriam. “I can‟t ask you — either of you — to believe me. I‟m sure this young woman is sincere. As you know, my absence is mysterious to me, and I‟ve told you what I know of it. I can‟t say that while, in my mind, I remember one truth, in my body, I was behaving in some completely inexplicable manner. I can‟t deny this young lady‟s story, but I cannot accept responsibility for it.” “Responsibility!” said Winifred. “Responsibility! You took on my responsibility when you married me. You took on responsibility when you fathered our child.”
    • 214 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “You have a child?” “Charlene. After her father.” Charlotte‟s eyes opened wide. Charlotte‟s head fell backward, and she let out a low moan. “She‟s going into a trance,” said Miriam. “Not more of this witchcraft!” said Winifred. “Quiet, quiet,” said Miriam. Charlotte‟s head shot up. Her voice came, deep, strong, and masculine. “I must explain. This is difficult for your human minds to understand.” A rapping noise was heard that seemed to fill the air around them. “Silence!” said Charlotte, and the noise stopped. “The power is strong, the time is limited. Your husband,” she turned to Winifred, “is not a being of body, but a visitor from another plane. Do not blame this man, whose form was imitated. This being is an embodiment of the abstract, not a full human, but only a construction of the mind, a being of only love, whose only thought was love, whose only essence was love. Feeding on your desires, she brought him to being, and in her wrath she unstrung his fabric. I cannot explain, you have not words. Here. You must return to your home and your child. As kind hosts, these people will give you money. Tell your loved ones that your husband is dead. It is as much truth as they will understand. Have naught to do with this witch. She meddles where
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 215 she does not belong. Time is short. I have not time. We all have no time. There is no time. No time.” Charlotte collapsed on her chair. “There,” said Charles Rowe. “I knew there must be an explanation.” Miriam was hovering over her daughter, feeling her temples and her wrists. “But it‟s impossible,” said Winifred. “It‟s nonsense.” “Nonetheless, you must know,” said Miriam, “that spirit messages through my daughter are never false.” After a good deal of discussion, Winifred Rowe was sent home with a gift of money and the belief that whatever else, her husband was dead to her. I hate that girl, Charlotte, that child, that liar. She is completely foreign to me. She has been overcome, replaced, changed, maneuvered, reconciled, expunged, revamped, completed and discoursed out of existence. I have no fond memories of that person who I was. I can see now that these were the last vestiges of the child that was before she looked into the mirror, that selfish, angry, insecure, and human child. She was a fake, a fraud. She recognized one of her
    • 216 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES own quite easily, though. She recognized in the visitor a kindred spirit. All the woman really wanted was money, and all that Charlotte did was speed up the negotiations. Perhaps she did. I know, Charles Rowe was a libidinous man. I have seen his sins with women. In him, I never recognized the fake, the fraud who takes advantage of fear and desire for financial gain. He was, though, a fake and a fraud for other reasons. He wanted something so badly. I don‟t think he ever knew what it was. Do you trust the stranger who comes to your house with a plausible tale? Do you trust the man you see every day, the father? Do you trust the images you see in the mirror? I saw in the mirror an image of blood. Nanette was in the middle of the field. She was full of child, round and bursting, round and huge. The boy on the farm had made her that way, in the natural course of all things. He had stopped coming when she started to get large. He had disappeared from his father‟s farm, gone off to pursue some other life in some other place. His leaving was a quiet change in Nanette‟s life, as his presence had been. Her growing stomach and swelling breasts, she took in stride. She had some rudimentary realization that what was happening was not disease, not death. The
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 217 changes, she absorbed into her existence. The pain, however, when it came, took her by surprise. The water came rushing down her leg and spread out against the ground, and she fell to the earth. She yowled, letting out a screeching, animal noise. She pounded the ground with her fist. The dogs came to her when they heard her cries. They gathered around her, sniffing and licking her hands. There was nothing they could do. Then, a man nearby with a cart and an ox heard the noise. He came over to the field and saw an unwashed and abandoned young girl, in the midst of labor and surrounded by wild dogs. The dogs growled at him and snapped when he approached, but they were driven off by a stick. He took the girl to his cart and drove her to his home. This man was a doctor. He knew what to do in labor and successfully brought the girl through the pangs of birth. She gave birth to a baby girl, and by a coincidence, the mother being unable to speak, the doctor named the child Nanette.
    • Chapter Twenty-Four: The Séance for John Peacock J OHN Peacock was not a complicated person. He was a romantic person, which he kept to himself. He had moved through life without much difficulty, taking each step in stride as it appeared before him. He loved his wife. He loved his daughter. He did not know the extent of this love until his daughter‟s death. She was such a small being, foreign to him. She cried and spit up. She caused all kinds of disruption and trouble. Yet, somehow all of his hopes had been bound up in this small package. His daughter was dead. It was usually the wife who called. Women
    • 220 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES became attached to the children of their wombs. The umbilical cord may be severed, but mothers kept a nurturing attachment to their offspring. When a child died, it was usually the mother who wanted to contact it. Augustine was rather surprised to see this average-looking young man at her doorstep. “You said,” he told her, “that you had a message from my daughter.” “Come in,” she said. “You didn‟t bring your wife?” He looked uncomfortable, but he passed in the doorway and took the seat that was offered to him. “No,” he said. “I thought I had better come by and check this out, without troubling my wife. You see, she is hard hit by this tragedy. I wouldn‟t want anything to upset her.” “I see,” said Augustine. “I understand perfectly. The last thing I would like to do is upset your wife, Mr. Peacock.” “This is quite a blow to her.” “Yes, I can see that. It must be.” Gently, she led the discussion of his wife and daughter. He told her more than he was aware. Of course, an infant was the optimum subject for messages from the other side, since the child had not yet developed a personality and unique
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 221 experiences that could be held as tests of the communication. Basically, an infant was a blank slate. They made an appointment for a sitting the next week. Melissa Peacock was not happy when she found that her husband had gone to the spiritualist. “Why? Why do you want to torture me?” “I‟m just going to see if it‟s true. If she really can talk to our Angel—” “Of course she can‟t. These people are all frauds. I‟ve read it in the paper. I can‟t stand the thought of that woman saying she‟s talking to my baby—” “Okay, honey, don‟t cry. Sit down. Can I get you something? Some water or something? Don‟t worry yourself. I won‟t go if you don‟t want me to.” John Peacock showed up for the séance twenty minutes early. He was twice as nervous as his last visit, practically jumping out of his boots when Augustine greeted him. “This is Charlotte Rowe,” she said. “Perhaps you have heard of her great gifts.” “No,” said John. “I‟m afraid I haven‟t. I don‟t get around much.” “How do you do?” said Charlotte.
    • 222 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES He smiled awkwardly at the young girl. “Charlotte will sit with us. She is a gifted medium,” said Augustine. The séance began quite normally. After sitting in the darkness for twenty minutes, small ghostly hands appeared behind Augustine. John Peacock saw them, cried out, and jumped from his chair. The hands disappeared into the darkness. “I saw them,” he said. “Hands. Baby‟s hands.” “I believe you,” said Augustine. “I know. It is a common form for spirit apparition.” “Was it — my baby?” “Yes,” said Augustine. “She is trying to come through to you.” “What is wrong with her?” asked John. Charlotte did not move or speak, and seemed engrossed in her own world. “She‟s in a trance,” said Augustine. A wind blew through the room. The candles on the table flickered, sending weird shadows across the wall, and then were extinguished. “What is this?” said John. “Be calm. Is there a spirit here? Is there a spirit coming through to us?” A groan came from the room. In the darkness, it was hard to trace its origins. It was a slow, small groan, a creak. Perhaps it was a door grinding against its frame instead of a voice.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 223 The sound grew louder and more complex. It took on shades and subtleties, as if it were multiple sounds, layered on each other, competing with each other. The layers dissolved and extended, coming together into a loud wail, a baby‟s cry. “Angel?” John Peacock said. The cry drifted off into the darkness. They waited in silence for a moment. “Do you have a message for us?” asked Augustine. “Do you have a message for your father?” “Yes.” It was a hiss, barely a word, traveling on the wind. “Tell us.” They waited in silence for a while, too long. Augustine relit the candles. “I‟m sorry, Mr. Peacock,” she told John. “It is difficult for the spirits to come through.” She looked at Charlotte, who still seemed unresponsive, trancelike. “Perhaps,” she said, “we should try another method.” She sat in her chair and stared at Charlotte, but there was no response from the girl. “Charlotte?” she said. John, too, stared at the girl. “She‟s still in a trance,” said John. “Does that mean my little girl is still here?” “She is here,” said Augustine. “She is always with you.” She stared hard at Charlotte. “I will get a chalkboard, and we will try another method
    • 224 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES to reach her. She is trying to reach out to you. I can feel her.” Augustine rose from her chair, and Charlotte‟s eyelids whipped wide open, her head and body seized in a momentary fit. “No!” Augustine sat. “Charlotte?” “No!” John looked at the girl. “Angel? Are you here?” Charlotte‟s head cocked back at an unnatural angle. She lifted her arm, but her forearm and hand dangled off of it, as if she had no muscles there. “Fa—ther.” This was rusty and quiet, and though it came from Charlotte‟s vicinity, her mouth did not move. “Angel?” said John. “So unclear.” “Angel?” “Help. Strange. Nothing.” “I think we have an interference,” said Augustine. Charlotte rose from her chair. Her eyeballs rolled back into her head, until all that was visible were eerie, blind whites. The wind rose in the room again, whipping her hair back. She reached toward John with her hands, and vomit suddenly spewed out of her mouth.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 225 Augustine and John shot back from the table. Charlotte‟s arms seemed to be bending backward from the elbow. Gurgling noises came from her. “Charlotte!” said Augustine. She went to the girl and tried to shake her. “What is wrong?” “Go, now,” said Augustine. “Go in the other room to wait. I will be there shortly. Go!” John left, and Augustine turned her attention on the girl. “What are you doing? What are you doing?” she muttered under her breath. Charlotte collapsed on the floor, insensible. Augustine struggled to lift the girl, cleaning her up the best that she could, as quickly as she could, and depositing her on a sofa. “Charlotte?” she said. The girl did not answer her. When Augustine came into the room where John sat, she had made herself relatively presentable. “Mr. Peacock?” she said. “Yes? What is it? What happened?” “I‟m afraid we cannot complete the sitting today.” “My daughter — I saw her.” “I know. She is trying to come through to you. She wants to speak with you. She has given us a message, and I want to assure you that she is at peace.”
    • 226 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “But that — what was that?” “I must explain to you that sometimes there are forces from another plane, forces that interfere with our communication. I‟m afraid that Charlotte is ill, and that this has allowed an ill-wishing being to break off communication with your daughter.” “That was not my daughter?” “No, of course not. You must come back, per- haps tomorrow? We will have a sitting without Charlotte, since she is unwell. I will sit with you, and you will be able to communicate with your Angel. I feel her force around you. She is with you very strongly.” “I see,” said John. “I must see to Charlotte. She is really unwell. But you will come back tomorrow?” “Oh. Yes. Of course.” John left the house, upset and unsatisfied. There was a bright light and the feeling of sorrow. I was floating through the blank emptiness, just floating. I didn‟t see the baby, Angel, at that time. I only saw Nanette. She was cleaned. Her hair was washed, and she was holding her own baby to her breast. She lacked any feeling of self-consciousness, breast- feeding in front of the doctor. He, clinically,
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 227 accepted this as natural. He was speaking words to her, showing her objects. The doctor held up a fork. “Fourchette,” he said. “Fourchette.” “Four—chette,” stumbled Nanette, sounding unnatural and foreign. “Bon,” said the doctor. He gave her a piece of candy from the table. She giggled like a child, holding her own baby to her breast. Then, he picked up a spoon. “Cuillère,” he said. “Cuillère.” The baby made a gurgling noise, and Nanette looked down. She rocked back and forth in her chair. “Nanette,” she said. “Nanette.” The doctor sighed. He lifted the spoon. “Cuillère.” “Nanette, Nanette,” she said, then quietly she began to sing. “Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous? Sonnez les matines, Sonnez les matines, Ding, dang, dong! Ding, dang, dong!” She paused and looked up at the doctor, be- seechingly. “Frère Jacques,” she said. “Cuillère,” said the doctor. “Frère Jacques,” said Nanette, again, petulantly. “Cuillère,” said the doctor, shaking the spoon. Nanette sighed. “Cuillrr,” she spit out. Then, “Frère Jacques.” The doctor shrugged and dropped the spoon.
    • 228 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Nanette smiled and began again to sing. The doctor joined in round, following her singing with his own, to Nanette‟s delight. His deep and grumbling voice joined in with her young and elevated tones. The simple tune took on a new depth, a new meaning, as it turned in upon itself, combining with itself in new and strange ways, creating a möbius strip of music, running around and around onto itself. In Charlotte‟s head, the music ran around and around onto itself. A baby, at its mother‟s breast. A baby, in its mother‟s care. A baby, protected and loved through the deep-seated animal instinct of motherhood. A puppy, to be fed from the breast, to grow and live and create more babies; who will be fed from the breast to grow and live and create more babies; who will Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous? Sonnez les matines, Sonnez les matines, Ding, dang, dong! Ding, dang, dong! Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Baby mine, baby mine. Morning bells are ringing. Morning bells are ringing. Ding, dong, ding. Ding, dong, ding. Wake up. Wake. What is wrong? Why don‟t you wake? Why won‟t you wake up? Wake up, wake up! Charlotte lay ill for three weeks. She was
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 229 unresponsive most of the time, but they were able to feed her water and soup. The doctor looked at her and was unable to find the cause of her suffering. “A nervous attack,” he said. “I know that she works with that woman, and it can‟t be good for her.” “This is not a nervous attack,” said Professor Rowe. “These are physical symptoms.” “Perhaps it is a spiritual illness,” said Miriam, and both men frowned at her. They cared for her the best they could. During the time of Charlotte‟s illness, John Peacock went to four séances with Augustine. The first of these was much less troubled than the previous sitting. To John‟s joy, his daughter was able to communicate with them, in ghostly form, through both spirit writing and table turning. The baby, Angel, assured him that she was at peace, and that, in the afterlife, she had gained a great spiritual understanding. “Such a short time, short time, on that plane for me, a child, since my soul was ready, born in a state of advanced light, not long for the world, but bound for better things.” He did not tell his wife about these meetings, but at the last of them a message came through
    • 230 ICE CREAM MEMORIES from Melissa‟s father. “He is proud, very proud, wants to speak to her, wants to give her his blessing.”
    • Chapter Twenty-Five: A Ghost J OHN Peacock kept his séances a secret from his wife. Melissa Peacock had her own hoard of secrets. She came into the kitchen one morning and found the cupboard where she had stored all the baby clothes opened. The box of clothing was sitting in the center of the floor. She was staring at the box when her mother came into the room. “Oh,” said Magdalene. “Why did you bring these clothes out?” “I—” Melissa stuttered, “I just wanted to look through them.” “Melissa, don‟t torture yourself.” Magdalene replaced the box of clothes in the cupboard. “You shouldn‟t dwell on it, honey. You know how sick
    • 232 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES you‟ve been. Why don‟t you sit down? Can I get you something?” After that, the crying in the night started. It was two forty-eight, and Melissa woke to the familiar sound of a baby crying. At first, she did not remember that the baby was gone, that there should not be any sound of crying. She pulled herself out of the bed and into the hall before the realization struck her. She stood in front of the curtain to the baby‟s nursery and stared at it. When John came up behind her and touched her on the shoulder, she realized that the crying had stopped some time ago. She was just standing there. “Come back to bed,” he said gently. “Come back to bed.” When the crying awoke her the next night, she lay in bed, her legs curled up to her stomach, and waited for it to stop. During these times, she wanted to go see. She wanted to open the curtains and look in the nursery. She might find an empty nook, or she might find something else. There were small occurrences during the daytime. Every once in a while, she felt a pulling, sucking pain in her nipple, the illusion of being suckled. The scent of a dirty diaper would waft to
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 233 her from nowhere, as she did nothing in particular. Odds and ends that she left around the house were found in unlikely places. No one else witnessed these things. The cries never awoke John. The smells never assailed Magdalene. The day after John received a spirit message from Melissa‟s father, he and Melissa and Magdalene sat around the dinner table, eating a quiet meal. John turned over in his mind whether and how he should approach the subject of Melissa‟s father. Melissa picked at her plate. “You look tired, sweetheart,” said John. “I haven‟t been sleeping well.” “I know. It worries me.” “I‟m sorry to inconvenience you! What can I do?” “I didn‟t mean to upset you.” “I‟m not upset.” They ate in silence. “This is very good,” said John. “Thank you,” said Magdalene, who did most of the cooking. “Of course, it‟s Melissa‟s sauce.” “Yes, it‟s the sauce that‟s so good.” “Oh, yes. Your sauce is always so good.” Melissa was not paying attention to them. She was staring beyond them at the wall. Taking her
    • 234 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES silence to mean that praise was not welcome, John quietly resumed eating. Melissa stopped making a pretence of eating her meal. There was something unusual about the wall. It was not exactly moving, but it was also not exactly still. There was an area just to the left over John‟s shoulder that was hard to look at. It wasn‟t motion, or color, or shape, but there was something different about it, something not quite right about it. As she gazed at it, the area of not-quite- rightness gained a form. She knew what the form would be before she saw it. She told her mind to stop, because like in a dream, knowing what it was would cause it to become that. The thought had already come to her, though. There was no stopping it. The shape of a baby formed out of some distilled property of the air. It was like a blind spot in her eyes, that baby-shape. She couldn‟t see it, but she could see around it. The edges told unmistakably, undeniably what it was. Melissa jumped up and her dishes clattered on the table. She ran over to the wall, and once she was in front of it, she could see clearly. There were little marks of baby hands, marking a path up the wall, dragged up the wall. “The hands! The hands!”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 235 Magdalene and John came to her. She was pounding on the wall. “The hands! You see them,” she said. She looked pleadingly at the other two. “You see them, don‟t you?” She looked herself at her own hands on the wall and saw that the marks were gone. “I saw them,” Melissa said, “marks of hands, baby‟s hands.” Charlotte would mumble in her semiconscious state. Her ravings were garbled and unintelligible, and no one made much sense of them. Wish, wish, wisteria. Pockets of posies. Tick- tick-tick. You will not. All fall down. The mirror was inside my head. The mirror was looking at me. Melissa, Melissa, she is your baby. Melissa, Melissa, she is your child. She is angry. I am angry. The sins of the father are visited on the child. Nothing ever stops. Once it is set in motion it keeps going on, forever. It never ends. It ripples outward into the world and inward into our minds. It goes on and on. The baby is angry. It has inherited everything. It has inherited the blood curse.
    • Chapter Twenty-Six: Recuperation T HE doctor gave no helpful advice for Melissa. He prescribed her a tonic and mentioned rather against his better judgment that there was a local resident who practiced psychoanalysis. John, a rather direct-minded man, did not think of approaching Augustine with his wife‟s symptoms. The doctor had recommended psychoanalysis, and he took this recommendation. Melissa went to see this specialist out of desperation. “I don‟t know that you can help me,” she said. Professor Rowe gave Melissa his most professional, medical stare. “I can help you. You must put yourself in my hands, though, and open yourself
    • 238 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES up to the correct interpretation of these phenomena.” “Oh,” she said. “Imagine this room as a bubble, far away from the world and all its social values. Discard all shame and guilt when you are here. You must not bring those things with you into this room. Nothing shocks a psychoanalyst. We must look objectively, without any judgment, on all human things. Believe me, the deepest secrets in your psyche are no different than the deepest secrets of any other person. You may be unwilling to recognize your own wishes and desires and want to shove them into your unconscious, but they do not upset me.” But there were parts of Melissa that she could not open up. Her inner censor was very strong. The patient refused absolutely to use hypnosis. Though this annoyed Professor Rowe, he accepted it as a prejudice and determined to move forward with more standard methods. “Let us start,” he said, “with the very first of these phenomena that you experienced.” Melissa told him, with starts and stops, about finding the box of clothing in the middle of the kitchen floor. He questioned her closely about the incident. “Your mother actually saw the clothing in the middle of the floor?”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 239 “Yes.” “So we know that it was actually moved.” “Yes, it was,” she said. “Your husband did not move it?” “I never asked him. I didn‟t think so.” “Well,” said the professor, rationally, “before we begin studying this instance, I think we had better make sure your husband didn‟t move the box for some reason.” “Oh,” said Melissa, a little surprised at a solution of such simplicity. Under the psychoanalyst‟s orders, she spoke to her husband about the moved box of clothes. He confirmed, wide-eyed, that he had never moved it. Her heart sank. During her next session, Professor Rowe took up this topic. “You did not deny moving it at the time?” “No, I told my mother I‟d moved it.” “Why did you do that?” “Because I was afraid.” “Of what were you afraid?” “I don‟t know.” This was always the telling phrase for the psychoanalyst. Anything the patient claimed not to know was a key to their repressions. “You do know. You must tell me.” “I just wanted her to think that everything was all right.”
    • 240 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “But it was not all right?” “No.” “Because there was a box of clothes on the floor.” “Yes! It sounds crazy when you say it like that.” “No, nothing sounds crazy. This is all the perfectly rational messages of your mind. We need to explore what they represent. What does the box of clothes mean to you?” “It is my baby‟s clothes.” “What does it represent?” “My baby.” “That is the obvious meaning. But that is merely your conscious mind putting a logical interpretation on it. What exactly was in that box?” “Just clothes. Sleeping shirts. Booties. Diapers.” “What else? Just those things?” “I don‟t know. Just things. Just baby things.” “I think there was something else. Think about it. Picture the box. Picture yourself packing the box. Folding items. What are you folding?” “Baby clothes, baby things.” “What things that are not clothes?” “I don‟t know.” There was a pause. There was silence. The doctor let it go on. ”A blanket?” Melissa said.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 241 “Ah, there was a blanket in the box?” “Yes, the things from the crib, a blanket, a pillow.” “You did not mention them before.” “They are just baby things.” “No, these things have significance. What does a blanket mean to you? A blanket and a pillow.” “Sleeping things.” “Yes, go on.” “The things from her bed, from where she died.” “Ah.” “What does that mean?” “So, these things mean death?” “So many people die in bed.” “Do they?” “They do. Sick people die in their beds.” “But your baby was not sick.” “No, I guess not.” “Who are you thinking of, who was sick and died in bed?” “I guess... I suppose my father.” “Your father was sick and died?” “Yes.” “Ah,” said the psychoanalyst. “Tell me about your father.” “I never,” said Melissa, “liked my father.” Melissa approached these sessions with a mixture of relief and trepidation. They discussed
    • 242 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES her father at great length. Professor Rowe seemed to feel that her relationship with her father was the key to many of her symptoms. “The father is the creator of the daughter,” he said, “and the daughter is the creator of the baby. The link from generation to generation is the ever-moving recorder of the mind of God. Your link has been severed from your parent, and in turn your link was severed from your child. The phenomena in your mind are all imprints of the past, as you are an imprint of your father that carries on into the future, and your daughter is an imprint of you to carry on into the future. There is a message from God through these recurring phenomena. They are not psychoses, but misread telegrams from another plane. It is a terrible shame that my own daughter is ill. She is very gifted, and I believe that she would be a great help in your case.” This perspective seemed slightly skewed, slightly not right, or perhaps simply beyond understanding, but Melissa enjoyed the attention of this intimate one-on-one relationship centered only on her own thoughts and feelings. She naturally played to Professor Rowe‟s hints and leading questions, at the same time purging herself of her own feelings and emotions. This did not make the baby‟s crying stop, and
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 243 Melissa grew paler and thinner as she accumulated sleepless nights. The first time Charlotte woke to coherence, she spoke only in French. She did not seem to know that she was speaking French. Her parents would speak to her in English, and she would reply in French as if there were no difference at all. When they asked her why she was speaking French, she replied, “Que? Français?” Otherwise, she seemed perfectly normal and began developing a healthy appetite. English words began appearing sporadically in her French, and the balance of languages eventually began to turn, until she was speaking pure English and always recognized that French was French. “We should not send her back to Augustine,” said her father. “I don‟t want anything like this happening again.” “I agree with you,” said her mother. “I don‟t know what that woman was doing, but this episode cannot be repeated.” The parents, in agreement, did not mention the matter to their daughter. They merely stopped communication with Augustine, having already severed their financial arrangement due to their daughter‟s illness. For her part, Augustine had grown wary of this girl who
    • 244 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES randomly lapsed unconscious during an important sitting, nearly scaring the mark out of his wits. She was willing to let her pupil fade into the background of her life. Once Charlotte was more herself, Professor Rowe broached the topic of bringing her in to consult with a patient of his. Melissa was sitting on the couch in Professor Rowe‟s office when Charlotte walked into the room. Charlotte immediately fell to her knees and began to speak in a monotone voice: “Tick-tick-tick. Time is ticking by. Time is passing away. Time to die, the time is coming, it must not be allowed to pass. The time winds around in a circle, the circle is continuous motion, the motion is eminent, the motion of the hand, the motion of the food. Spoon to mouth, life to death. Death is coming, death comes again, death comes. Tick-tick-tick, time is passing. Passing away, he must pass away, tonight, tonight, don‟t let it pass away again, don‟t let the opportunity pass away again...” Melissa responded hysterically. She jumped up from the couch and began screeching. “Liar! Liar!” She jumped toward Charlotte and was only held off from her by the quick action of Professor Rowe, who caught and held her.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 245 Charlotte collapsed on the floor, and Professor Rowe called for Miriam. From the floor, Charlotte continued to speak: “I release you, I release you, I release you.” She was still muttering it when her mother came to take her to bed. The presence that was there in the room, the thing without body, Charlotte took into herself. It had been fighting to get in, but she only had touched the part of it that was John Peacock. Now, the part of it that was Melissa came to her. It rushed into her, a full force, with a feeling of self-knowledge. Cousin, child, sister, self. I crave you, and I cringe at your presence. "I blame myself,” said Professor Rowe. “She was not strong enough.” Melissa calmed herself. “I don‟t know what came over me.” “It is interesting,” said Professor Rowe. “Your reaction was a very strong one. It shows that Charlotte was channeling the message from God that has been so torturing you.” “If it is a message from God,” said Melissa slowly, “then why do I fight against it?” “It is the nature of humanity,” the Professor recited happily. “It is the nature of the human mi n d t o repress t h a t wh i ch i t do es n ot
    • 246 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES understand, to twist and misinterpret. The spiritual intruding on the physical is anathema to the human condition. The spiritual is the nemesis of the physical, and therefore the body interprets the intrusion of the spiritual as an intrusion of death. This is the basis of Freud‟s writings regarding the death wish, and this is why your neurotic episodes are fixated on death and the dead. When do we go to God? At death. This is essential.” Melissa blinked at him. “I feel different,” she said, and realized that it was true. “Something is different.” “The release of psychic energy through my daughter,” he said. “I wish I had notes of what she said. Do you recall exactly what she said?” “No,” Melissa said. “I don‟t.” “Time. She was speaking of time. Time and death, passing time, passing away. You see, the recurring theme. Death is a theme to us all.” “I see, Professor.” That night Melissa slept uninterrupted through the night. Charlotte was not supposed to remember anything that happened in hypnotic states. These times were supposedly hidden from her conscious mind. They were intended to live in
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 247 the darkness at the back of the mind, where all memories fled to once they were forgotten. Hypnosis, though, was a tricky thing. There certainly were times and ways in which Charlotte‟s consciousness changed. There certainly were times and things that she didn‟t remember. There were also times that she exercised the skills that Augustine had taught her, skills of pliably giving to an audience what that audience wanted. Her father was a rich audience. His wants were so broad, so conditional, so ill- defined. Then, there were other times.
    • Chapter Twenty-Seven: Family History Y EARS can pass so quickly. Adam and Eve beget Cain and Abel, and soon there is the first murder. The world burgeons with human beings, and human beings burgeon with sin. Women birth children, suffer their curses, die alone. Men work the fields, take their solace in ownership of their wives and children. Each generation begets its sins onto the next. One man contracts syphilis. His wife goes blind, and his child is born doomed to die. Are we not all, though? Born doomed with death already inside of us, the seeds of it planted. In birth, we are in death. So, Nanette gave death to a daughter, Nanette, and she passed death down with her through generation upon generation. Melissa
    • 250 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES gave death to a daughter, an Angel, who flew with speed to her home. Sometime in the future, another Charlotte will be born. Perhaps a child of a child of a child of Charlene, the fictional other daughter of Charles Rose. She will be born a priestess, and at the age of three, she will decide that she must build a church on a hill. Like Solomon, she has a vision of a temple. Her doting parents provide supplies, and she builds her temple, dressing it in pink ribbons and lily flowers. She dances every day on the temple floor, because there she has her visions of God. The visions are from a tumor in her brain. They give her an ecstasy that is indescribable. Sometimes she falls on the floor of the temple, and groans with the power and weight of the sublime that is within her, within her temple. Her parents find her there one day, groaning on the floor, writhing in the cool smell of pine dust. They bring her to a doctor, who looks inside of her brain with machines. She sits willingly through the tests. She is in the glory of God and has nothing to fear. They find that she has a tumor in her brain. She smiles and nods. The tumor is a gift from God, she believes. Her parents cry. They think
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 251 that their little girl is too young to understand, and they schedule her for a surgery to remove the tumor. A tumor is never a gift, they believe. Surgeons operate and remove the tumor, and then it is gone. The little girl wakes from the operation with a pale and frightened face. She has changed. God has been taken from her. She is never the same after that. She wanders the empty chapel, knowing that once something was here, something that she can never get back. She wanders it in desperation, looking in all the cracks and seeing no light, only darkness. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Charlotte decorates her church in black ribbons and spends her days crying in the pews.
    • Chapter Twenty-Eight: A Death M IRIAM Rowe was in the kitchen, making ice cream. She had a large number of ice cream recipes that she experimented with, creating flavors from anything that happened to enter her mind. After failed experiments with meat and poultry, Miriam had concluded that flesh was not a viable ingredient for ice cream, since heat was necessary for the proper psychical processing of flesh. Heat was diametrically opposed to cold, and since cold was used to process ice cream, flesh was an inappropriate ingredient. She failed to explain (and felt no desire to explain) why some of her other ingredients for ice cream were melted or cooked before adding, such as cinnamon apples.
    • 254 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Her experiments with fruits and vegetables were far more successful, and she created a surprisingly delicious carrot ice cream sweetened with honey. Not so surprising, but certainly successful, were berry, orange, and lemon ice creams. On this particular day, Miriam was conducting an experiment with radishes. Her reasoning was that carrots were a root, and since her carrot ice cream was successful, roots were appropriate to ice cream. Radishes were roots, and moreover they were red. Red was close in color to orange (like carrots) and was also a successful color in ice cream (see strawberry, raspberry, rutabaga, and watermelon). The trick lay in discovering how to prepare the radishes and what flavorings to add to them. Miriam had been testing radish ice creams all week, somewhat to her daughter‟s dismay, but the flavor balances seemed to be improving. Miriam was not discouraged. Sometimes the most difficult combinations were among the most fulfilling. She had settled on the combination of ingredients for tonight‟s ice cream, and she had the radishes completely prepared. She reached for the milk and to her annoyance found that it was not where she left it on the counter. Looking around, she saw that it was pushed all the way back into the corner.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 255 She reached to recover it and began measuring the milk into a bowl. As she was pouring it, something seemed to jog her arm, and she spilled milk all over the counter. Miriam looked around the room. She was completely alone. “Nanette?” she asked, although in the past Nanette had never communicated except through Charlotte. There was no response. The kitchen was still and silent. Miriam cleaned up the spilled milk and measured the necessary quantity. Then, she took up the cream and began pouring it into a measuring cup. Again, her arm jogged. Cream spilled on the counter. Miriam banged the cream down on the counter in agitation and swung around to face an empty, silent kitchen. She frowned. Again, she cleaned up the spill, and she measured out the cream. There was no disturbance. She successfully completed her concoctions. She loaded the ice cream maker with ice and salt, and pouring in her ingredients, she began to churn the ice cream. The churning of ice cream was an occupation that Miriam Rowe found soothing. For a length of time, one sat on a fairly comfortable chair and moved one‟s arm in a repetitive motion. While churning ice cream, one was clearly doing productive work. On the other hand, one did not
    • 256 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES need to think or exert any strong effort. After a while, the muscles in Miriam‟s arm had grown so that churning an ice cream maker was no work at all. She would relax into a daze and let her mind wander over random thoughts. Once she began to churn the ice cream, Miriam was pleasantly undisturbed. The sudden unorthodox behavior of her dairy products did not disturb her. It had passed out of her mind completely due to her unique ability to process only those things she felt were of importance to her. In fact, Miriam‟s mind was completely occupied with the radish, that crisp and brilliant red root with a snow-white center, like an apple. Radish and apple ice cream? Radish with cinnamon and brown sugar? She attempted to envision the psychic impression of a radish. Each plant or animal had its own psychic impression. Miriam had been quite impressed with some of the psychical research that had been done using photography, and she felt that preparing photographs of food so as to capture the auras of different dishes would be a worthwhile pursuit. Photography equipment was not inexpensive, though, and this idea did not seem to be practicable at the moment. She imagined the aura of a radish to be yellow, which was the color she most often attributed to vegetables for some obscure reason.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 257 Visions of a yellow, globular, aural being were parading in her imagination when suddenly the ice cream churn came to a halt. It felt as if something was lodged in the mechanism, something that was blocking the handle. Since her radishes were boiled and mashed, she could not imagine what could be blocking it. She gave an extra push to the handle, and the ice cream maker began to churn again. Just as she was settling down to her own thoughts, the handle began to turn faster and faster. It twisted out of her hand, and as she looked on in amazement, the ice cream maker continued to churn by itself, faster and faster. While the previous interruptions in her ice cream making had been annoyances, this surprising occurrence seemed beneficial. Was this, then, the hand of God stepping in to help churn ice cream? This thought had barely crossed her mind when the ice cream maker lurched off of its purchase and hurled itself across the room, spilling unfinished ice cream, ice, and salt across the floor. Miriam‟s face grew red with anger, and her throat constricted. The wind was knocked out of her, as if she had been hit in the chest with a ball. She was thrown against the back wall of the kitchen with a crash. The feeling in her chest
    • 258 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES persisted, like an arm thrust right through her heart. She felt it pulling on her as her body rushed upward and crashed against the ceiling. Then it released, and Miriam crashed to the floor. Blood seeped out of her mouth as she lay on the floor in a puddle of ice cream, red blood, the color of radishes, or strawberries, or rutabagas, or raw unprocessed flesh. Miriam expired. It was at this moment that Charlotte came running into the kitchen. She was pursuing a sweet of some sort, perhaps cake or bread and honey. She stopped dead in the doorway. She saw her mother sprawled on the floor, sticky with cream, blood flowing out of her mouth. “Mother?” she said, but she already knew that her mother was dead. Charlotte looked around the room, left and right, and her face became stern and hard. “You,” she said to the empty room. “You vile beast. Go off wherever you go to, and leave us all alone. I said go! Go, go, go, go, go!” In seeming response to this, the ice cream maker again flung itself into motion, crashed against the opposite wall, and dissolved into splinters. Churning ice cream was a solitary occupation. Miriam Rowe spent hours and hours churning
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 259 ice cream, separated from her family. The separateness had grown up over time, but in the end it was a definite fracture, a division that set her apart, alone. While Miriam Rowe churned ice cream, her daughter was in study with her husband. Under hypnosis, he attempted to draw out some sort of ecstatic, ultimate truth. That was Professor Rowe‟s only desire — truth. Truth was equal to God. The pathway to truth was guided by intuition. As human beings, each of us already knew the truth. That was the ultimate irony of the search. The truth was in each of us and around all of us but hidden behind the curtain of the unconscious mind. Charlotte‟s gift was to touch on those things that felt right, that seemed fraught with meaning and therefore must be fraught with meaning. The nearness of such power, such truth would excite Professor Rowe almost beyond human capacity. The answer was so close, so tantalizingly close — the truth — God. He could feel it. He quivered in its presence, brought by this beautiful, burgeoning child. She was no longer really a child, but a young woman. Miriam Rowe churned ice cream.
    • Chapter Twenty-Nine: Accusations I T is strange,” said the police detective, “that you heard nothing.” Professor Rowe shook his head sadly. “Our home is solidly built. I would have thought I would hear — but I was very absorbed in my work.” “You were with a patient?” “No. I am not only an analyst, or even primarily one. You see, the science of the mind is also a science of the soul. One cannot study the mind while denying the soul.” “So you‟re a preacher?” “No, no. I don‟t preach. I study and write. I am, if you will, a philosopher.” “Hmmm.”
    • 262 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Professor Rowe was pale and drawn. His usual enthusiasm when he talked about science, the mind, and the soul was lackluster. “At least,” Professor Rowe said, “I have the certainty, denied to so many, that my wife now thrives on another plane. She was an enlightened woman.” Whatever he said, Charles Rowe certainly sounded like a preacher, and the stolid policeman couldn‟t see any preacher throwing a woman around like that. It certainly couldn‟t have been the girl, that slight thing who had been in bed with an illness so recently. She didn‟t look like she could throw a doll around a room. “Your work,” the Professor was saying, “interests me greatly. You look into the past to see what was written there. It is a matter, I gather, of taking the remnants of the past as they are written on the present and correctly interpreting them. As in Sir Conan Doyle‟s work.” “Sure,” said the policeman uncertainly. “That‟s about it.” “If we could gather the key to that interpretation into a formula, could it be applied to the interpretation of dreams, remnants of the life of the soul?” The policeman stared at him. “Never mind,” said Professor Rowe, “just a
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 263 rhetorical question, just a musing speculation.” “All right,” said the policeman. “You can go.” The policeman was wondering whether Charles Rowe could have murdered his wife just to prove some incomprehensible theory when two men came in holding a woman between them. “Who is this?” “We picked this treasure up in a bar, out by where Carlson lives. He was on his game, since when he heard her talking what seemed like nonsense, he connected it up with this murder here.” “I don‟t think I can stand to hear any more nonsense.” “Then you‟d better not hear her tell it. What it looks like to us, plain and simple, is she was taking up a hobby of blackmail.” “Blackmail, eh?” “She went ‟round to the house with some story about Mr. Rowe being married to her out somewhere or other and came away with a pocketful of cash.” “What call would she have to kill the wife then? Unless the story was true.” “Not likely, or else what‟s she doing hanging out around here in a bar spending off the cash she got?” “Maybe that Professor killed his wife, anyway, to keep her from leaving him.”
    • 264 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “No, we think it‟s this girl. See, Carlson put it together with some other story — maybe you should tell it, Carlson.” “Right. It was like this, a man came to the station one day with a complaint. This woman had come to him, telling him that she was his daughter and offering to tell his wife all about it. Her story was that the man had gone on a business trip and taken up with a lady, and that lady was the girl‟s mother. He gives her some money, and she goes away, and that‟s that, but then he starts thinking the better of things. It was true enough that he‟d been off on a trip about the time she says, and that he slipped, as they say, from his marriage vows a bit. But he didn‟t see how anyone could have tracked him down after all these years, as he hadn‟t given the woman his name nor any information about himself. So he begins to suspect that he‟s been taken. Well, he thinks that‟s the end of it, and he‟s just been swindled out of some cash, when he comes home one day and finds that this woman is there with his wife, and the two are at blows. In fact, this little hellcat is beating on the poor wife and shouting how she let herself be sadly fooled by this man. The wife, you see, didn‟t believe the girl, who had it in mind to break up the marriage on top of taking the man‟s money. So there‟s the
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 265 pattern, as she‟s gotten money from this second poor man, and then his wife came to violence.” “Well, what do you have to say to that, miss? What‟s her name by the way?” “Winifred, plus whatever last name suits her at the time.” “What do you have to say for yourself, Winnie?” “None of it‟s lies, if that‟s what you think.” “So you‟re this one man‟s daughter and this other man‟s wife?” “No,” she said. “I mean they both did those crimes to their wives, just as I said.” “And you found out about it and decided to get some money out of it for yourself.” “They deserved anything they got, for what they did to those women. I hear them in my head, every day, begging me to put a stop to these evil men. You‟re just like them, mister. An upstanding citizen, upholding the law here. Isn‟t there a woman you left with a baby inside her to fend for herself, when you were just a kid? What do you think became of her?” The policeman stared at the woman. “Crazy,” said Carlson, “completely off her rocker, or trying to make out like she‟s crazy so that she‟s not hanged. Although, judging from her talk at that bar before she was caught, I vote for true, blue nuts.”
    • 266 ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Well, lock her up. Whether she‟s nuts or not isn‟t for us to decide.” They put the girl in a jail cell, and she never saw a free day in her life again, although she was not hanged. She was not even tried. Instead, she got a hold of a man‟s shaving razor somehow that never was explained and killed herself. They speculated that she had it on her the whole time, and Carlson was reprimanded for not searching her thoroughly. Her being a woman, though, and him having shown great presence of mind in connecting her with both crimes (blackmail and murder), his reprimand was only a formality. A young guard found her in the cell the next morning, and there was blood all over the walls and all over the floor. It seeped out of the cell doors, at least part of the girl escaping, not able to be held by metal bars. The boy who found her was sick to his stomach at the sight. He had to quit his job, because he couldn‟t stand looking at a jail cell from that moment forward, and he went on to become a carpenter of great local reputation (as his father had been before him, and always wanted him to be), whose cabinets and chairs were in great demand. This was one thing I saw in my mirror.
    • Chapter Thirty: Dream Analysis C HARLOTTE had a recurring dream after her mother‟s death. In the dream, she was walking on the sand by a large lake, so large that the far shores were invisible in the distance. The sand was white and silky smooth, and her bare feet sunk into it with a purely physical sensation of pleasure. The sensual sand encompassed her foot as she exerted the pressure of her body on it. As she lifted her foot, the sand closed around the footprint, erasing any memory of its passing. The feeling of the sand sent a tingling shiver up her leg as each of her feet in turn sank into it, engulfed in its center, and then rose from it into the open air.
    • 268 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES As she walked along the beach, her eyes were focused downward, at the sand and her feet, and their interminable motion of pleasure: sinking into the sand, rising from the sand, sinking into the sand, rising from the sand. This perpetual motion of walking hypnotized her, put her into a trance. She left her mind, and so she never realized the transition between sand and water. The comfortable feeling of the sand was replaced by the sucking liquid of water, parting freely against her foot and yet pushing up with its own passive pressure as her weight fell upon it. She walked, now on liquid. At first, her foot would reach the solidity of sand, still smooth and flawless, below the shallow reach of water. Gradually the sand receded, but her foot continued to fall to the same depth. The water was somehow thicker than water. As her foot made its recurring journey into the depths, the water condensed to honey and then to something more, something solid beneath her, concocted for the sole purpose of upholding her, levitating her at the top layer of water. The water was dark and deep. Perhaps there was motion barely visible underneath the rising and falling of her feet, but perhaps it was merely the reflection of Charlotte herself on the water.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 269 Foot following foot, in her erotic dream state, she walked out onto the water. She stopped, not by her own will, but by the dictates of her body, which moved in its own prescribed pattern. Now, both feet planted beneath her in the water, the liquid lapping at her ankles with a lush sensitivity, she looked up from the ground for the first time. The shores were distant around her. Her tracks were invisible in this transient medium. Her sight moved effortlessly in a full circle around her, encompassing the fullness of the lake, regardless of the constrictions of eyes or faces. Beyond her in every direction, the lake stretched effortlessly, motionlessly, smoothly, serenely. As she was lulled into a state of eternal calm, a figure constructed itself at the farthest point of the horizon. Her gaze fixed in its direction. It existed merely as a play of light and shadow above the water in the ambiguous region of mist between surf and sky. If the surroundings had been full of movement, created of streets and shop windows, horses and automobiles, the subtle form would have been invisible. Only among the calm and peace of the cold lake did this vision present itself to the eye, to the attention of the mind. Charlotte waited and watched as it drew
    • 270 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES nearer. It gained form and figure from the mists that surrounded it. Still one with the sky and water, the apparition gained bulk and dimensionality. As it grew in presence, moving ever towards Charlotte over the smooth waters, it gained detail. It became nameable. After a wait of the interminability of dreams, the figure hovered ethereally before Charlotte. “Baby,” Charlotte named it, “I told you to go.” “I can‟t go,” the figure said and didn‟t say. “You can go. Just know that you can go.” The figure hovered in silence. “Go!” said Charlotte. The serenity of the lake was shattered. “No,” said the baby. “You are unnatural here.” “It does not matter.” “Get on your way. You have nothing to do with me.” “I‟ve everything to do with you.” “What do you want?” “Want? Want? We all want.” “Want what?” “Anything that you can‟t give us.” “Us?” “I am I, and I am us.” “I don‟t understand.” “Why should you understand?”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 271 “Who are you?” “I am pain.” Then the figure would move closer and closer to Charlotte, as she stood unmoving in the dead center of the lake. It was a natural change, the figure engulfing and overtaking her, until the two were joined and unified. Then Charlotte awoke. During the daylight hours, Charlotte‟s house was filled with odd occurrences. The kitchen was a particularly belabored room. Cabinet doors would open and shut at their own whims. No one could prepare a meal or pour a glass of milk without being jostled mercilessly. Food that should have been perfectly good was spoiled. Flames on the stove were a dangerous thing, as they exhibited a tendency to suddenly erupt into blazes. The rest of the house was not immune. Montague was found chasing invisible entities through doorways and down halls, until his pursuit would dead-end in an empty room, where he would moan and cry at the ceiling for hours upon end. Stones that had laid unmoved for years took it upon themselves to hurl across the drive. Professor Rowe‟s books, which had calmly behaved themselves in the normal manner in the past, could not manage to stay on the
    • 272 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES shelves. Although the professor found that the random pages they opened to, as they fell to the floor, were intriguingly useful, this habitual untidiness was less than desirable. Professor Rowe related these occurrences to his daughter and felt that the best way to combat them was through psychoanalysis. “My dear,” he said, “you know quite a bit about this process. I ask you to open yourself up to it fully and not be constrained by any preconceived notions.” Charlotte told him of her recurring dream. “Dreams,” he said, “are always important.” They worked for many weeks on this particular dream. Its unchanging nature and constant recurrences were encouraging to Charles. “Let us begin,” he would say, “at the beginning. Describe again the shore.” “It is an untouched beach,” she said. “Yes?” “A virgin shore.” “Why is that?” “No one has been there. No one has traveled there.” “It is new ground.” “Yes.” “And you lay footprints upon it?” “Not exactly. My footprints are swallowed up by the sand.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 273 “Yes?” “The sand won‟t accept my prints, it won‟t be trampled on.” “In fact, it resists the knowledge of mankind.” “I suppose so.” “You see that this is the mind of God, the message of God, that refuses to be imprinted on the mind of man.” “Yes, I see.” The analysis went on in this vein for some time. Still, the dream remained the same, and the house continued to be tormented. And then, one night, the dream changed. “Now,” it said, “you will know.” “How will I know?” “You and I, we are joined. You can feel it already.” “Yes.” “Be still and listen.” What I remember is vague and strange. I came from a place where there was no real understanding of those things that surrounded me. There were colors, but I did not know the word „color.‟ There were shapes, but I had no concept of „shape.‟ What loomed large in my mind was a circular thing. It was a face, or a breast, or both, or
    • 274 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES neither. I only know that it attracted me, and that when it was gone from me, I created an uproar. My only recourse to the world, whenever I needed or wanted, was noise. Only when I had this circular shape near me, with me, was I peaceful. Sometimes this shape seemed to be a thing in the world. Sometimes it seemed to be merely an extension of my own mind. But everything in this time is confused. The external world, the world of actual things that existed around me, and the internal world, that only existed within me, were inseparable. I had no conception of myself as separate from any physical reality, just as now I am joined with all things. Now, I have a greater understanding. During this time, all was confusion. I cannot really tell you what it was like. My hand did not seem to belong to my body. My surroundings did not seem separated from myself. I never had time to untangle this jumble of unimaginable issues. Before I could resolve my situation, understand my self and others and the space that we occupied, a time of agony came upon me. I was unaware of anything, in one of the frequent periods of oblivion that characterized my state, when suddenly a feeling of pressure and pain enveloped me. I remember a sweet
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 275 smell and an unrelenting darkness. A feeling of panic developed in me. For the first time, I recall feeling separated from my surroundings. “It” was upon me, something separate from me, outside of me, in the vast unknown was attacking me. I was not ready for this separation of self from other. Only the most rudimentary instinct of preservation allowed me to realize the something outside myself was my enemy. I have an impression of darkness, darkness and a deep, red light. Red from underneath, molten red that comes from an angry, burning fire. The red that would forge something hateful. This struggle and anguish did not last long. I sank into oblivion again, unaware that I had undergone a deep and irreversible change. If this oblivious, non-being state was like sleep, then I dreamt. There were lights and colors and shapes, incomprehensible things that even now I don‟t have words for, things that cannot be represented in three dimensions. Ideas, knowledge flashed through me and within me. All of these things were one with me. I can‟t really explain. I was greater than myself, and there was peace in the knowledge of the eternal cycle of all things. I had no thought, only being. As brutally as I was pulled into this state, I was pulled out of it. I was dragged separate from
    • 276 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES the universe, a drop of water falling from an ocean. In a moment, I existed and I was transformed. Not only was I incorporeal, I found, but my mind was fully grown, fully sensate. I understood who I was, what I was, and what had happened. Yet, my knowledge was useless to me. I was not bound by a body, but I was confined behind a screen. My ability to perceive the physical world around me was limited. I could not communicate. I was bound to my mother, tied to her and yet separated from her. I had gone from total connectedness to total isolation in a single blow. I tried to make myself known, but no conscious action of mine had any effect. I did create changes in the world, waves upon reality, but this was entirely unconscious. I could not control it. These were the things, though, that I perceived most clearly. I heard the cries in the night, my own cries played back to me. I smelled the scents of my former self. Each of these effects was an echo, originating within me and emanating back to me. It was you who ripped me into this world, who made me what I am. You reached into that other place and pulled me out. I cannot return. Now you‟ve separated me from the mother to whom I was bound, but you have not freed me. I
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 277 am bound to you with a different bond. I am your pain. In 2005, it was reported that a scientist conducted a memory experiment. This scientist convinced a number of people, through suggestion, that they had as children felt sick after eating strawberry ice cream. This supposed memory caused the people to be less inclined to eat strawberry ice cream, at least at the moment. I know this because I read about it. At least, I believe I read about it. I have a memory of reading about it. Not that false kind of memory like the strawberry ice cream. This memory is real, and I can prove it by finding the same article again. Then I will have a second memory, a real memory that reinforces the first one, not a strawberry ice cream memory. The journalists who wrote stories about the strawberry ice cream memories wrote down things that they remembered they saw and remembered they were told. The scientist, assistants, and subjects remember the experiment. They remember writing descriptions of the experiment, generating recordings of the experiment. All of their notes, their collective recollections, their recordings, all of these things are reinforcements for their minds that what they remember is true. Truth
    • 278 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES lies in reinforcing your memory with new memories, driving home that this memory is concrete and actual. The scientist and assistants remember reading their own records, watching their own recordings. They reinforce their brains, create an impenetrable wall of interlocking memories that indicate the truth. Perhaps God is a student of memory, and all of our neatly docketed and filed records of the past are doctored in a complex conspiracy to make us believe that we can create results by our actions. When I remember a dream, it is a memory of something that I know is false. It has no physical reality. It is only in my mind: a shadow in a mirror. Yet, the shadows in my mirror are truth. As the great Professor says, all dreams are true. The truth is just disguised. My dream is all about me, the most important (and only sure) thing in the universe, with no intrusions from pesky reality. There are no “objective” things in my dream, no things outside of myself. There is no strawberry ice cream in my dream. When I awake, the dream is only a memory, but that does not matter. As I relate it, I am aware of its inadequacies. I did dream of the spirit of a baby, incessantly and repetitively, in the weeks following my mother‟s death.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 279 My memories of these dreams are in bits and pieces. I know that over the passage of time, I have filled them in with things from my imagination, logical deductions from no evidence. It doesn‟t matter. The dream came from my mind. My mind reconstructs it. The same source, the same result. You always know the truth about your dreams. I remember an impression of red, like a light, so bright that it hurts my eyes. Even when I closed my eyes and turned away, the aching red light persisted in piercing my eyelids. It imbedded itself in my mind, in my cornea. Red is an angry color, an energetic, moving, electric color. Red is a violent color. That red was the most vivid color I have ever seen. All other reds pale in comparison. One snatch of conversation: “What could I say? What could I do?” “Nothing, nothing.” “She murdered me. Murder, murder, murder.” That word. It echoed and rummaged around in my subconscious. “Murder.” I can still hear it now, when I close my eyes. I had a dream that Montague was sitting on my chest. He was moving his tail slowly and steadily, hypnotically, like a snake. His eyes were wide and bright as he stared at my face. He opened his mouth and said, “Murder.”
    • 280 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “What?” I asked. “Murder. Murder. Murder.” He blinked his eyes at me, and began clawing into my chest, making muffins with his paws. Then I was awake, lying in bed, and Montague was on my chest, making muffins with his paws. “What?” I said again. He cried at me, his cat cry. Mew. I was standing alone in my room, looking at myself in the mirror, brushing my hair. Behind my shoulder in my ear, as clear as day I heard it: Murder. I looked over my shoulder. The room was empty. There was nothing in the air. I was awake. I remember that was not a dream, not an ice cream memory. I was walking up a spiral staircase, surrounded by walls. At the bottom of the wall, where it met the stair, there was a crack. My eye followed the crack as I wound my way up the staircase. In some places, the crack was almost nonexistent. In other places, it was wider, much wider, wide enough to fall through. As much as I wanted to look forward up the stairs, my eyes were drawn to the crack at the bottom of the wall. People were calling to me from above. I was in a line of people who were moving up the stairs. These were my ancestors. I was the last in the line. I looked up from the crack.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 281 In front of me, there was a thin old woman with white hair. She turned around, casually, and extended a bony hand toward me. I could see the sinews in her arm, exaggerated through the translucent white of her skin, which was marred by the blue of her veins. Her fingers were wedged together and distorted into a claw from arthritis, but her fingernails had grown long and razor-sharp. There was no concern on her face, and she smiled at me. Her teeth were also razor-sharp. They were small biting implements, waiting only to get a grasp on something soft and meaty. “Murder,” she said. The floor seemed to disappear from beneath me. A vacuum grabbed me in its eternal arms. I was falling. The woman, her arm still outstretched to hold me, disappeared into the distance. The staircase was swept away into some impossible sky. The world appeared around me in a flood of daylight. I was on a hill, outside, tumbling down among weeds and grasses and dirt. This is a dream. This is true. I would wake up in the middle of the night, with a panic in my chest, knowing that I had just barely escaped death. On waking, I had no memory of what I had seen or heard in my private bedtime world. Flashes of a dream would come
    • 282 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES to me during the day: a red and dripping wall, a descending cloud becoming thick and hot and hostile as it engulfs me, the smell of milk becoming intensified hundreds of times over (as Montague must smell milk) and creating a needful desire, the taste of milk mixed with the iron taste of blood. I found a piece of paper one day that I had written on as a child: I hate you so much, can‟t you understand that I needed to talk to you, otherwise I wouldn‟t have been so horrible? I can feel myself going insane. I feel enclosed, trapped. I have been crying for no reason. I can‟t sleep, I can‟t eat. I‟m not myself. I think there is something wrong with me. Why can‟t I talk to you? You didn‟t even hear me, God damn you. I want to set this entire place on fire. A match to the papers, and sit and watch it burn. Or jump out of the window and leave it all behind me. I hate life. It is too complicated, too heavy. I have become confused. The sad part is that the world never ends. A point of light at the end of the tunnel is another soul. Fear is loneliness and loneliness is death. Kill me, send your sword Through my heart, pumping Red blood and let me Finally slip away and die, Denying insignificance.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 283 I love you, and I don‟t mean to hurt you, but I hurt inside. Would you forgive me if I died? I am wracked with guilt, the past haunts me, ghostly chemicals in my brain, tearing away at my sanity. The pen is mightier than the sword. I raise my sword to the paper and stab myself. The blood spurts on the page in gasps, and drowns. Leeches carry away my illness by carrying away my blood. Are these my thoughts? Who are they to? What do they mean? Weeks stretched into months. Over time, I came to believe in a story that I made up in my head. It was not something that I dreamed. It was not something that I remembered. It was not something that I was told. It was something that I saw in my mirror.
    • Chapter Thirty-One: Murder I T began with a young married man who had two daughters. He was not a man with great intellect or great talent. He was not a man of any particular kind of greatness. He was basically a normal man. He was a farmer by profession. He worked with his hands. He was a Christian man, and he went to church with his wife and daughters every Sunday, as a family before God. He had lived his life in the way he was supposed to, and his neighbors would call him an upright man. He would call himself an upright man. He didn‟t think about things much. The land was his livelihood. It gave him power. As a man, by the will of God, he controlled the animals and the growth of the plants. He generated food from
    • 286 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES the waste of soil. When he was a boy, his father had power. His father ran the farm and controlled the food. His father owned the family and the land. Still, with a little boy‟s memory, he could picture his father: a big man, a towering shadow with the strength to move mountains. His father‟s face was lost to his memory. Somehow, he could never bring it to mind. The image that floated in front of his mind‟s eye was his father‟s hands. They were rough and callused hands. Their massive redness made them seem to pulse with blood flowing through them. The father had a habit of standing with his hands held out in front of him when he talked. These hands would hang in the air at the level of the father‟s thighs. The fingers were broad and puffy. The wrists were lean and insubstantial in comparison to the hands, mere strings that held them. The square palms protruded outward, angularly, bulging. The calluses added a dimension of white hardness to the hands, and a texture of constantly peeling skin. The fingers would slowly clench in upon these hands, like a deep inhalation of breath, hold their pose, and then release. In this relaxed position, his father‟s fingers would tremble. When watching his father‟s hands go through
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 287 this repetitive motion, the boy (now a man) would be fascinated. In his memory, this action was always accompanied by a vivid roar, a lion‟s roar. Then, inevitably, it would end with a snake‟s hiss, as his father disengaged the belt from his waist. Hsss. It flew out like a whip. “What kind of a boy are you?” Crack. “You‟re not a man. You‟re not even a boy.” Crack! “I‟ve got cows with more guts than you, boy.” CRACK! “I‟ve got cats that work harder on this farm.” Crack, crack, crack. That was the world of a boy. He learned his lessons this way. Discipline is what made you a man. Once in a while, now that he was grown, the man would look down while he was talking. He would see his own hands hovering in front of his thighs, clenching and unclenching. A strange dislocation in time would happen to him then. It wasn‟t that he was reminded of his father. There was just a wave of dizzy unreality that would come over him. With a hiss, his own belt would fly out of its place. This man had no son, but he saw to it that
    • 288 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES his wife and daughters lacked no discipline. He was a good man. He loved his family. He did what he thought was best for them. He was a good provider. He was a moral man. He taught his family to be upright before God. His eldest daughter was still very young when the odd thing happened. It had been a bad day. There was some sort of sickness affecting the livestock. It was not something he had seen before. Six cows had died, and three more were sick. He had to keep them separate from the other animals. His time with the cows was interfering with the crops, and there was an early frost. Under the circumstances, his wife was understandably irritating to him. The potatoes at dinner were cold, and the roast was dried out with overcooking. He wished the woman would learn how to cook. Wasn‟t that the point of a wife? All day, a headache was troubling him. Even when it seemed to go away, he could tell it was just waiting, back behind his temples, waiting to come out. His wife could tell that the man‟s temper was boiling over this evening. She plead that she needed to churn butter. Churning butter was a never-ending task that conveniently took her away for long periods of time. She disappeared out the back of the house, taking the baby along
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 289 with her, as was her habit. The man did not mind being left alone with his oldest daughter. He loved his daughters. The small one wasn‟t much yet, but the elder one was big enough to be a miniature person. She was like a magical wind-up toy, a miniaturized woman to dance and smile for him. She was full of life and vitality. He loved to watch his daughters sleep. They had the smoothest skin, the roundest faces. They were completely lacking in self-consciousness. This was true beauty, something that he did not see in his wife anymore. She was getting wrinkles in her skin, around the corners of her mouth, at the corners of her eyes. His daughters were tiny and delicate and innocent and perfect. His eldest daughter smiled at him, coyly touching the waist of her dress with her hands, wringing her skirt, as she told him something incomprehensible about her experience of the day. He felt an immediate and overwhelming desire for her. Only his child could bring him joy. “Come, sit on Daddy‟s lap, honey,” he said. It was just a thing that happened, something that came over him. It was an oddity, an unusual blending of circumstances.
    • 290 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES He swore to himself afterward that it was just that once. It wouldn‟t happen again, not with his daughter. After a while, his memory of remorse faded, but his feelings and desires did not fade. Something that you want cannot seem wrong. He loved his daughter. He would never do anything to hurt her. Just look at her. She‟s perfectly fine. She‟s beautiful. There‟s nothing wrong with her. Nothing has hurt her. It didn‟t happen just that once. The little girl repressed the memories of her childhood experiences deep inside her unconscious mind, where they settled uncomfortably just below the surface, hiding out in a corner of her brain that she wasn‟t using at the moment. She was bright and cheerful and always looking for her father‟s good attention. She wanted to please him. She was always looking for love. Melissa had a doll. It had blue eyes and blonde curled hair, and it wore a bright pink checkered dress. Its lips were pink, and its cheeks were pink. She named this doll Nanette. Nanette lived a happy and imaginary life in
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 291 Melissa‟s room. Each day, Melissa would take out the doll and play quietly on the bed, mouthing to herself the words of another adventure. Each day, another chapter of Nanette‟s story was told. Nanette was an orphaned French girl. Her parents had died in a tragic accident. They were both drowned in the ocean on a boat, trying to cross the Atlantic to bring Nanette to America. Nanette survived but was left orphaned and penniless in the big city of New York. Poor Nanette was different from all of the other girls in the orphanage. She had trouble learning English, and her French accent made her a laughing-stock for the other girls. “You‟re so dumb you can‟t even speak,” they told her. “Say „She sells sea shells by the sea shore.‟ Say it!” They would roll with laughter at her accent. Young Nanette was beaten by unforgiving nuns at the Catholic orphanage until her knuckles were raw and bruised and bloody from the mark of a ruler. When Nanette was sixteen, her fortune changed. Nanette was walking back to the orphanage alone after being abandoned at a shop by her fellow orphans. They were on an outing in the city, and the other girls decided that Nanette was disturbing their fun. They snuck out of a shop
    • 292 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES while Nanette was looking at a dress she could not possibly afford. As she walked down the dark and dirty streets, a violent criminal cornered and attacked her. Luckily for Nanette, the son of a millionaire industrialist was walking by at the time. He witnessed the attack and valiantly fought off the attacker. After saving Nanette, the boy instantly fell in love with her. He took the nearly starved girl to a restaurant, where he bought her the best foods and the most sumptuous desserts. He heard her sad story and vowed that she would never go back to the orphanage again. He swept her off of her feet and brought her to live in his huge mansion. He gave her love, devotion, clothes, food, and maids. Nanette rose beyond all of her hardships through the power of love. Melissa thought that the power of love would save her also. But she knew the story about Nanette was a lie. Melissa married a man who loved her. He was a farmer, like her father. Melissa believed that she loved her husband and that they would live happily ever after together.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 293 She got pregnant. She had a child. The child was a girl. The girl had no name. It was two forty-eight in the morning. Melissa‟s eyes popped open, and she was very awake. She thought that she had heard the baby crying, but she hadn‟t. It was only a dream. The sound still echoed in her memory. She got up out of the bed. The floor was cold beneath her feet. John was sound asleep in the bed. He was snoring gently. Melissa shuffled along the cold floor to the bedroom door and walked into the hallway. In a way, she savored the feeling of the floor on the balls of her feet and her toes. She pulled back the curtain where the nursery door was supposed to go. There, lying asleep in her crib, was Melissa‟s daughter. The mother stood there, looking at the peaceful, sleeping child. She would need to wake the baby for her feeding, but she did not want to. Instead, Melissa pondered baby names in her head. Mary? It made her think of Christmas, not a real name for a real person.
    • 294 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Agatha? No, people would call her “Aggie.” Sylvia? It sounded too smooth on the tongue, like oil. Angela? Her father called her “Angel,” but Melissa just didn‟t like the name. Dorothy? The first syllable was too hard, like “door.” The name Nanette popped into her head, and all at once Melissa remembered the story of Nanette from her girlhood. “Nanette?” she asked the baby. “Are you Nanette?” The thought was followed by a burst of anger. Nanette was an orphan. Her parents were dead. Melissa was overcome with the idea that the baby wanted her to die, to be out of its life forever, even if that meant poverty and cruel companions in an orphanage. “Children hate their parents,” she thought, and this thought opened up another floodgate of memory. She remembered her father in every small detail, a very big father from when she was very small. She remembered the metal clink as his belt unbuckled with the finality of a jail cell clanging shut. She remembered thinking: This is not my
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 295 father. This is not a human being. The belt slithered slowly out of its place, not zooming out in anger for a whipping but sensually, quietly, uncertainly, tentatively sneaking out for a different kind of attack. “Come sit on Daddy‟s lap, honey.” His massive, red, callused hands sat on her tiny, smooth arms. She imagined that a hunter came with a great knife and stabbed her father over and over and over. Blood spewed over the walls and seeped out onto the ground, making it a red room. She could see it. She would concentrate all of her mental powers on the slowly spreading pool of red, staining and coloring everything in crimson tones. No hunter came. She loved her father. Her father loved her. She stood over the crib and looked down at her baby. It was tiny and soft and defenseless. It was a mirror. She was looking back in time. She grew a tumor in her belly, and when they extracted it, they found that the tumor was her. There was her soul, lying unaware in its crib. For the first time, Melissa saw the similarities between her husband and her father. They both had large, callused hands. They both had sturdy,
    • 296 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES weathered faces and square jaws. They both gave her the same feeling when they touched her, a mixture of nausea and pleasure and guilt. Time had rewound. Tick-tick-tick. It was reenacting itself, reinventing itself. Melissa looked down on herself with pity and remorse. Better never born. Better dead inside the womb, a black womb feeding only poison. Here was this child, nestled comfortably in a blanket. The blanket was a surrogate parent, providing warmth and softness. How easily it could turn on such a vulnerable creature. Even the blanket could be an enemy. Melissa took up the blanket and placed it over the small face. Her hand covered the other side of the blanket, completely engulfing the small face, holding the small head in place, stifling any cries. This was the end. She seemed to stand there forever, with the small being under her palm. Then, she realized that everything had been still and silent for a long time. Melissa released her hand. All continued still and silent. She tucked the blanket gently around the baby, lying so peaceful.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 297 “Sleep well, honey,” she said. She went back to bed. In the morning, she did not remember what had happened. Sometimes the memory would come back to her, and she would think that it might be a dream. At other times, she would remember it differently, like this: Melissa woke up at two forty-eight in the morning. The baby was crying. It was loud and obnoxious and demanding. She picked the baby up in order to silence it. It wanted to eat, with its greedy mouth. She held it to her breast, allowing it to feed, and its screeching stopped. This ugly, needing, desiring baby. A baby was nothing more than a leech. It lived in your stomach and sucked its life out of you from the inside. It tried to kill you as it worked its way out of you. It pulled you open, like cracking a nut, to escape from you. Then, out in the world, it continued to feed off of you. It drank from your breast, and it expected you to be its slave. It took and took and continued to take. There was a tiny crack in the wooden railing of the crib. She had never noticed it before. It ran almost the full length of the rail, but its width
    • 298 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES was less than the width of a hair. If she pulled it, Melissa thought that she could crack the rail in two halves with her bare hands. Melissa was strong. She had always been strong. She was the center of the universe, and yet this infant was sapping her power. It was the baby that her husband would run to comfort. It was the baby her mother fussed over. The two of them would talk about it over their dinners. This thing, that did nothing but cry and vomit and eat and piss itself. It was stealing all of her love from her. All love centered around Melissa. All love must be for Melissa. The infant had no name. It deserved no name. It was quiet now. It was satiated for the moment, but its appetites would only grow as time went on. It would feed off of her until she dried up. It would take away her husband‟s love. It would expect everything in return for being. She lay the thing down in its crib. She pulled the blanket up on top of the small squirming form. She pulled the blanket up over its head, up over its eyes and nose and mouth. With this blanket, she could cover it, blot it out, make it go away. She pressed with her own hand, covering its misshapen head, its tedious crying mouth, its running nose. She pushed it down so that it sank into the cushions beneath it. The baby
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 299 sank and settled, nestled between the soft cushion and the soft blanket. “Shut up,” she whispered. “Shut up, shut up, shut up.” Sometimes Melissa thought that, while this was happening, John woke from his deep sleep and came into the hallway. Sometimes she believed that he had stood there and watched her, her palm cupped over the baby‟s face until it stopped moving, until it stopped breathing, and long afterwards as it lay dead beneath her weight. He couldn‟t have been there, though. When she turned to the room, it was empty. I saw it all in my mirror, so it all is true. Charlotte didn‟t have an instance of blood in the month after her mother‟s death. She was grateful to skip it. She was feeling sick, nauseated and aching. Everyone was kind to her, because her mother had died and because she was still recovering from her illness. Her head was fuzzy, and she felt like sleeping all the time. On the day of blood, Charlotte woke. It was the middle of the afternoon, but time had ceased to have real meaning for her. The sun came in through the window, and a sharp pain cracked her temple. There was a pain in her abdomen, too, a deep
    • 300 ICE CREAM MEMORIES red pain. This was stronger and worse than any she remembered. She tried to get up from the bed, but she couldn‟t. Across the room, Charlotte saw a girl in the mirror. “Help me,” said Charlotte. The girl in the mirror shook her head and walked away. The mirror turned red. Charlotte looked down at the blanket. A red stain was spreading out from her middle. She lay in a haze, as the stain expanded outward, too slowly to be seen by the naked eye. Charlotte‟s eye was not naked. It saw the past and the present. It saw the seeping of the blood, starting from nothing, and gradually, incessantly pooling across the sheets, weeping. In the blood, there was a clump of something. It was a slimy, red, angry, unknowable something. In the blood, there was something soft and squalid, something that should have been, something that shouldn‟t have been. It was trapped between being and non-being. It was not liquid. It was not solid. It was not alive. It was not dead. Everything was red.
    • Chapter Thirty-Two: Murder, Murder, Murder A FTER the day of blood, visions came to me almost continuously. My mirror was filled with overlapping stories and conjoined threads of others‟ lives. I saw the pattern that is the world, a complex but circular pattern that moves through time and through space. I saw… It was two years after his daughter‟s death before John Peacock saw her face again. It was beautiful, angelic, and glowing, a face that showed the peace and understanding that his Angel had achieved in the next world. In the pitch-black room, her face jumped out from the darkness with a burst of light so bright that it hurt his eyes. It seemed that the darker the room was, the more willing the spirits were to appear.
    • 302 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES In the darkness, he had seen hands and trumpets. In the nothingness, he had witnessed disconcerting ectoplasm rise from Augustine‟s lips and hair, or from a table, or from some supernatural apparition. He had seen amazing things in the past two years. The world of the spirits gave meaning to the material plane in a way the uninitiated could not understand. The communications with his daughter were an addiction. His Angel was his personal, private daughter. He did not need to share her with anyone, not Magdalene or Melissa. He did not want Melissa to come to the sittings. He knew, uneasily, that his behavior was selfish, but he told himself that Melissa would object, would not believe, would interfere with the open line of spirit communication. John savored every word from his daughter. Sometimes her words were written on a chalkboard or paper. Sometimes they were spoken in a trance. Usually they were spelled out with the table. Though sometimes slow and frustrating, the table was the surest way to connect with his dear daughter. The table was like corresponding with a friend in some far away country by telegraph. All thoughts passed through a machine in an awkward code, from a remote location. It emphasized the distance that separated them.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 303 John Peacock sat opposite Augustine. It was a familiar feeling, a comfortable and hopeful feeling. They sat in the dark at the table. John waited for the inevitable lurch that would signal the beginning of contact. It always began the same way: first there was a dramatic lurch. Then, there was silence for a minute or two. After that, the table would begin rocking steadily, rhythmically. Finally, it began. The table pitched. Augustine‟s eyes opened, and her glance flew to John. “What is it?” asked John. “There‟s something — different,” Augustine said. Almost immediately, the table began rocking uncontrollably. “What‟s happening?” The movement stopped. “John,” said Augustine sharply, “are you — interfering in any way with our communication?” “Me?” asked John. “Sometimes, unconsciously, there is interference from a sitter. John — has anything happened to you in the last week? Anything that has made you wonder or doubt about our work?” John looked at her, dumbfounded. “No,” he said. Augustine blinked.
    • 304 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Perhaps we should put off our sitting until another time.” “No,” said John. “Why? Can‟t we try another way?” Augustine had risen from the table and was lighting an oil lamp that sat on a dresser. John rose also and went over to her. She looked at him critically. “I don‟t know,” she said. “Please,” he said. “I need to talk with her.” Augustine paused, considering. Then the table began to move, smoothly, rhythmically. Augustine‟s eyes opened wide. “My God.” John sat down in a chair. “Angel? Is that you, Angel?” A clear yes. “Don‟t listen,” said Augustine. “It‟s a trick.” “No,” said John. “It‟s my baby. It‟s spelling something.” Slowly but smoothly and unmistakably, the table spelled out its message: M-U-R-D-E-R. Augustine gasped and lowered herself in a chair. “What does it mean?” asked John. “What does it mean?” The table continued to move. M-U-R-D-E-R. M-U-R-D-E-R. “It‟s an unclean spirit,” said Augustine. “We
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 305 have attracted an unfriendly spirit. It is blocking communication. It would say anything. It only lies.” She got up again and was moving to the door. The table flew up off of the floor and smashed into the chair behind her. The furniture fell to ruins with a crash. Augustine screamed. “We need to get out of here.” Augustine reached for the door and pulled on the knob, but it didn‟t open. John jumped up and joined her at the door. The curtain in the corner of the room flew open, and a great stream of smoke spewed from it. The mirror on the far wall began to crack. John applied his muscle to the door, steadying himself against the jamb with his foot and pulling at the knob. “Is it locked?” “There is no lock.” The mirror crackled and crushed itself, making a spider web pattern that spelled out: M-U-R-D-E-R. John took out his knife and began to pry the hinges off of the door. The nails were easily pulled out of the wood. The hinges popped out of their seats. The door stood fast. John pulled at it and shoved against it with his shoulder. The
    • 306 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES door groaned against his weight but did not budge. “Augustine,” he said, “call on the spirit guides for help.” Augustine was shaking her head. She was sitting on the floor by the door. “This isn‟t happening,” she chanted. “It isn‟t true.” “Augustine.” He grabbed her by the shoulder and shook her. “Come to. Augustine.” She didn‟t respond. She shook her head. “This isn‟t happening. It isn‟t true.” John walked to the center of the room. “Angel,” he said. “My baby. Help us. I know that you‟re here. I know you can hear me. It‟s Papa. It‟s Papa.” The objects in the room were beginning to dance and move. A vase flew by his head and crashed on the wall behind him. “Angel,” he said. “Baby.” Tears were rolling down his cheeks. Augustine seemed to recover herself. She got up from the ground and came over to him. “We have to get out,” she said. “Angel,” he called to the air. She went to the door and pulled at the latch again. She walked through the ravaging curtains. A swift wind was blowing through the room. Her
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 307 hair whipped around wildly, stinging her eyes. She banged blindly on the windowpane. Her hands were icy. The wind was cold. A frost was forming on the windowpane. The tips of her fingers were blue. “No,” she said, and her breath came out in a puff of frost that was whisked away by the roaring wind. She went back to John. He was sitting on the floor now, murmuring: “Angel, Angel, Angel.” There was a cut on his temple, and a little porcelain figurine of a child on a swing lay broken in his hands. He was turning it over and over in his fingers. “Angel, Angel.” “John,” Augustine said. “You have to help me. Help me break the window.” He looked up at her, lost. “Listen,” she said. “Listen. I know this is crazy. Just ignore it. Don‟t think about it. Just break the window. Just think about breaking the window.” “Angel, Angel.” “Okay,” she said. “I need to tell you something.” Her hand was on his shoulder. Her hand was cold. His shoulder was cold. The air in the room was getting colder. “It‟s all a trick,” she said. “It‟s all a show,” she
    • 308 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES said. “Every time we used the table,” she said, “I was moving it. Until tonight.” “Get up,” she said. “I can‟t deal with this,” she said. “The face was molded from wax,” she said. “The hands were molded from wax.” “Help me break the window,” she said. “I‟m sorry,” she said. “I‟m sorry, but it doesn‟t matter now,” she said. “I used wires to move the curtains. I used wires. I used my feet. I used my legs. I have an assistant who comes sometimes. I am never really in a trance,” she said. “I‟m sorry,” she said. “Put it all behind you now,” she said. “Angel cannot help us,” she said. Her explanations and her pleas were coming to John in bits and pieces, breaking through the ice that had formed on his brain. “You,” he said, looking up at her. The wind was beginning to die down. The room was beginning to settle. The air was beginning to get warmer. He stood up from the floor and stared at her. “You,” he said. “What did you do? What did you do?” “John,” she said. “We have to get out of here. We have to think about getting out of here.” When he stood, he towered over her. The temperature of the room rose. The frost on the window dripped to the floor in warm droplets.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 309 John stepped toward her, and Augustine stepped back. She stumbled over the broken furniture that lay on the floor. “I‟m sorry,” she said. “Sorry?” his voice was unnaturally high, oddly shrill. “Sorry?” He stepped forward, and she stepped back. In this dance, they covered the few feet to the edge of the room. Her back stopped against the broken mirror on the wall. M-U-R-D-E-R it said, in jagged edges. The glass was hot against her skin. The glass was burning. Sweat was pouring down his forehead. The wind began again, a hot wind. “You,” he said. His hands were around her throat. His fingers burned into her neck. She could not scream. She scratched against his fingers with her long, polished nails. She tried to pry his fingers off of her neck. A lamp smashed into the wall by her head. The window cracked and burst in a spray of glass. She looked at the open exit desperately. She could not loosen his grip. She could not move. She could not breathe. The oil lamp that she had lit tipped over. The curtains burst into flame.
    • 310 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES The air was thick and sizzling. Her eyes burned. Her throat burned. John Peacock‟s eyes were black and blank as a shark‟s. “I‟m sorry,” Augustine thought, “sorry, sorry, sorry.” She passed out. When the roaring in his ears finally stopped, John stood in front of the mirror. On the floor at his feet, all crumpled in a pile, was Augustine‟s body. Her eyes were open and staring and blank. He looked in the mirror, and his eyes were like hers. He looked dead, wasted, spent, abandoned. The room seemed still and motionless. Everything seemed silent. Clouds of smoke licked his hair and neck. He could not feel them entering his lungs, depositing soot in his nose and eyes. He could not feel anything. He was completely numb. He stared at the mirror. He did not move. He did not try to leave. In the glass, he saw behind him in the smoke and flame a small, glowing figure. It was hard to see, vague and uneasy, but there was something. There was a small, red glow. “Angel?” he asked. The glow grew bigger, expanding. He was afraid to look away from the
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 311 reflection. He was afraid that he would turn, and the light would be gone. “My Angel,” he said. In the light, he saw a glowing face. He knew when he saw it that the other face had been false, a deception. This face was not static. It was moving and changing. He saw in it the aspect of his own face. He saw in it Melissa‟s face, her eyes, her brow, the little twist of the mouth. It was a real face, a face with energy and passion and pain. “Angel,” he said again. The figure came toward him, until it was hovering inside him, occupying his face and hands. In the mirror, his image shifted and changed and reformed. There were no words. There was an overwhelming hurt and pain and anger. Everything in the room changed, glowing a deep, bright red. Something broke in his head. A drop of blood came spilling from his nostril. His body toppled to the floor. When they found him, he was burned past recognition. Two weeks before her death, Augustine had agreed to host a séance for a visitor from the
    • 312 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES East Coast. He had purported to be writing a book about “the wonderful work that mediums are doing across the country.” He had, he told her, a friend in Los Angeles who was hoping to contact his wife. Could she see them? He would be documenting the case for his book. Augustine was quite pleased. She met with the two men, and they seemed completely genuine and anxious for a successful sitting. She should have been on her guard, Augustine saw later. She should have gone into a trance, used sprawled automatic writing to generate non-substantiatable messages. She had wanted to make a good show for the book, though. She had classed these two as believers. She had been mistaken. The whole event was a fiasco. At the worst possible moment, the sitters filled the room with light, exposing strings and revealing the material nature of a rather complex apparition she had devised. She ordered the two out of the house, but they snapped a photograph of her contraption before they left. They got an article into the local newspaper: MEDIUM EXPOSED AS FRAUD. The photograph was not very good, but it was damaging. How well she knew how many would believe in any fuzzy photograph.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 313 Half of her clients had stopped coming, and although she had convinced the remaining ones that these two men (called “investigators” by the local journalists) were con men and cheats looking to make some money by ruining her, she had temporarily stopped using any elements open to potential exposure. After the fire, after Augustine‟s death, authorities reconstructed the events. John Peacock, who had been deceived by this false medium, had read about her exposure in the paper. This was highly likely. The whole town was talking about it. They couldn‟t discover that he had said anything to anyone, but he might not want to look a fool. His wife didn‟t know he had been to the medium. John had attended a séance to see for himself whether he had been tricked, they surmised. He caught her in some stunt and became enraged. A struggle followed. He shattered the mirror and threw furniture around the room. It ended in him strangling the fake psychic. The doctor said she was dead before the fire got to her. “Can‟t blame him for that,” said the police detective at the inquest. “Her taking advantage of this grief the way she did.” “I‟ll warn you to keep your opinions to yourself,” said the coroner, who agreed with him.
    • 314 ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes, sir,” said the detective. In the struggle, the police said, a kerosene lamp was knocked over. “Weren‟t these séances typically conducted in the dark?” asked the coroner. “We think maybe he lit the lamp to expose the tricks,” said the detective. “Ah. Go ahead,” said the coroner. The kerosene lamp had lit the place on fire, and John Peacock had died in that fire. It was simple and straightforward, and there was nothing known to the contrary. That must have been what happened. The official ruling was that John Peacock had died by accident in the commission of felony murder in the second degree, with extenuating circumstances. Since everyone involved was dead, there was nothing more to say. Melissa Peacock received a large life insurance settlement on her husband. Supporters of Augustine protested the bias and pigheadedness of the inquest and the authorities generally.
    • Chapter Thirty-Three: Montague Dreams C HARLOTTE lay awake in her bed. She tried to let her thoughts drift off and take her away to sleep, but they would not. She hadn‟t slept well since her mother‟s death. It had been five years, but she still did not sleep well. There was a presence with her all the time. Montague was sleeping. He always slept in her bedroom. Charlotte petted him. He did not wake up, but he began to dream. His soft little paws began to jitter and dance. His whiskers and mouth began to twitch. His tail swatted the air. “What are you dreaming, Montague?” Charlotte asked.
    • 316 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES There was the smell of milk. This smell was strange. You or I would not recognize it as milk, but it was milk. It had no sweetness. The brain that smelled it did not understand sweetness, but it understood milk. It was a cat‟s brain. The cat followed the smell of milk. There were two smells that could excite the cat above all others: milk and blood. It chased the smell of milk and found that it was running through a huge field. Large grasses rose over its head, up into the sky, providing cover. Dewdrops formed on the blades of grass, but the cat did not mind the water. It was a hunter in the field. It could smell milk. It saw movement through the grass, half-hidden, disappearing. This excited the cat. Its tail twitched. It crouched on the ground. Its bottom rose into the air. Its fur became a sensory organ. Its body tensed, finding its perfect balance. It eyed the greenery in front of it, watching for the movement — watching for the prey. The cat hovered there for a long moment. All of its senses were at their height, waiting for the perfect moment to spring. The cat was a machine that was designed to hunt. This was its purpose. It was a vicious animal, a noble hunter. It purred, unaware that it was purring.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 317 Its eyes caught the swift movement. Its nose caught the strong whiff of the scent it had followed. Its ears rotated toward the sound of grasses moving, of feet shuffling. Its mouth watered. It pounced. The grasses parted in front of the cat, and its sleek body flew through the air. Its claws were extended. Its teeth were white flashes. When the cat landed, it hit its mark. The thing it fell upon, its unnamed prey, was strange and thrilling. It was cold and soft. It parted before the cat‟s claws and insinuated itself in between the cat‟s toes. The prey did not squeal or squeak. It was large. It was all around the cat. It made the cat excitedly jump in the air and then land again, in the cold, soft, slippery prey. In the way of dreams, the prey became the cat‟s environment. The grass, the field, and the dew were gone. Everything was cold and white and creamy. The cat bit at the stuff. The taste made the cat wild with excitement. This stuff was like milk and yet unlike milk. It was cold and smooth and soft. The cat licked its paws, but soon they became wet and sticky. The cat extended its claws. It yowled. It dug into the slippery coldness that surrounded it.
    • 318 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Within the cold, frothy, milky stuff, the cat dug into a solid meaty thing. All of its cat instincts were aroused. This new prey, a meaty prey, was hiding in the other stuff. The cat‟s claws dug into the meaty thing, tearing skin and releasing blood. The cat‟s nose twitched. Its mouth was open to absorb the scents that assaulted it. Here was milk. Here was blood. The cat dissolved into a frenzy. Then, there was a light. It was a small, round, wispy light that appeared in the air. It danced around the cat, teasing it, tantalizing it. The cat chased after the light, jumping into the air with amazing feats of acrobatics. The surroundings were changing again. The cat was on flat, barren ground. The light moved quickly and randomly through the air above. The cat jumped higher and higher. Its fur was sticky and matted with a mixture of blood and cream. “Here, kitty-kitty-kitty.” The noise seemed to come from the light, further enthralling the cat. “Here, kitty-kitty-kitty.” Everything was stimulating. Everything was exciting. The cat jumped and twirled. The light flashed in the sky above. The light twirled and giggled. “Here, kitty-kitty-kitty.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 319 With one unearthly effort, the cat jumped with deadly accuracy. At last, its paw hit a solid mass. The light fell to the ground. It stopped. It lay on the ground. It was still. The cat stopped. It looked at the light, the silent red light that lay on the ground. Tentatively, the cat reached out with its paw. It gave the light a gentle little tap. The light expanded and opened out. The light opened its mouth. The light was giant and angry. The light had teeth. The light swallowed the cat and ate it. The cat screamed. Beyond the mouth of the light, there was pain and fear, but then all of that cleared away. The cat experienced a moment of clarity. It knew that it was a cat. It lived in a gray stone house that was built by a madman to attract the energy of madness. It was a predator and was meant to hunt. It had been domesticated to live with men. Instead of being preyed upon, it was petted and fed. Instead of preying, it played with a string. The cat, understanding all of this, was filled with anger. It woke. Charlotte was petting the sleeping cat.
    • 320 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Montague jumped up from the bed and began dancing around. “Montague,” said Charlotte, “are you okay?” The cat did not seem to hear her or know that she was there. He ran around the room. He bounded up the walls. He rushed out the door. Charlotte followed. Montague raced down the stairs and went to the kitchen. He danced around the kitchen floor and finally stopped still in front of the icebox. Charlotte stood at the kitchen door and watched. Montague clawed at the air in front of the icebox door. Charlotte walked up and opened the door. The cat jumped up and knocked down a container of ice cream. Montague jumped into it, ripping and tearing. He got ice cream on his head, on his fur, on his paws. He yowled and screeched. Ice cream droplets sprayed all over the kitchen. Suddenly, the cat stopped. He stood, bedraggled in the middle of the container of ice cream. His tail twitched. He looked at the air. Then, he began to jump. He jumped higher and higher. He fell in the ice cream, skidded across the kitchen floor, and stopped. “Montague?” asked Charlotte.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 321 She walked to where the cat lay, in one corner of the room. She kneeled down to look at him. He was on his side, breathing peacefully. His paws were twitching. It seemed as though he had never woken up, as if he were still dreaming. Charlotte reached out and petted him. Her hand came away sticky with ice cream and loose fur. As she tried to wipe the sticky residue away, she clearly heard a voice behind her. “I am murdered.” The cat jumped up. Charlotte turned around. There was no one in the kitchen. Montague ran out of the room and out of the house. Charlotte never saw the cat again.
    • Chapter Thirty-Four: Magdalene, Mother M AGDELENE felt old. She had settled into a life alone with Melissa. They had sold off most of their land. They lived off of the money they had saved and the insurance money. Melissa handled all of the finances. Magdalene took care of the house and fixed the meals. She was Melissa‟s mother. John had died years ago. Since then, they had been two women alone, mother and daughter. Melissa was as full of life and fire as she had ever been. Somehow, as time went by, Magdalene ceased to be herself and faded into the backdrop of Melissa‟s life. Magdalene wasn‟t sure where her life had gone. Her husband had died. Her younger daughter had died. Her parents had
    • 324 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES died. Her granddaughter had died. Her son-in- law had died. She and Melissa were an island in time, disconnected from the past and from the future. Somewhere in all of that death, Magdalene had died. She went through the motions, but her life was reduced to its minimum possibilities. Magdalene was fast asleep at two forty-seven in the morning. Dead to the world, she was not even dreaming. A cry awoke her at two forty-eight, a baby‟s cry. Magdalene opened her eyes and lay in the bed. A baby was crying. She felt her body in the bed. She felt her toes under the weight of the blanket. She felt her own breath, in and out, in and out. She felt her heart beating, regularly, rhythmically. Her body was repetitively performing the necessities of life, the realities of living. Magdalene thought that she was dreaming, but it did not feel like a dream. She did not dream much anymore, and her dreams were not vivid. They had faded away with everything else. The longer that she lay in bed, listening to the crying, the more she realized that she was not asleep. She rose out of the bed and wrapped a robe around her shoulders. Once she was standing, shivering in her nightclothes, Magdalene‟s eyes
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 325 did not seem to want to stay open. Her lids were heavy. Her body seemed slow to react to her mind‟s whims. She realized that she had been standing in her bedroom for too long. She didn‟t know how much time had passed, but the crying had stopped. “How long has it been quiet?” she thought. Then she wondered, “Was there really a sound? Did I really hear crying? Or was I just dreaming after all?” She stood for another moment, wondering why she didn‟t just go back to bed. Then her feet started shuffling forward. She walked out of the room and down the hallway. The curtain still hung there, in front of the baby‟s room, now a closet. It seemed that the curtain had hung there forever. “Why did we never take down this curtain?” she said to herself. She stood in front of it. The house was silent, except for the rhythmic, perpetual beating of her heart. Magdalene reached out and touched the fabric of the curtain. It felt soft and worn between her fingers. This cubby stored linens now. She whisked the curtain aside. There was Melissa bending over the crib that was no longer there.
    • 326 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES At first, Magdalene thought: “Oh, it‟s just Melissa.” The sight was so familiar, so recognizable. But time had passed. There was no crib here anymore. There was no baby here anymore. Melissa was not this young woman anymore. The young Melissa was holding something, pressing down in the crib. She was pushing her hands down on a baby, wrapped in blankets. She was smothering it. She was murdering it. “Melissa,” said her mother, suddenly frightened. “I‟m dreaming,” she thought to herself at the same time. “Wake up.” The Melissa who bent over the crib turned around. She held the infant in her arms. It was swathed in its blanket, a miniature wraith, and Melissa‟s hand covered the baby‟s face. “You!” said Melissa. “You, Mother? You, Mother? What are you doing here?” “The baby—” Magdalene gurgled. “Are you trying to interfere? Are you here to help save my baby? You have no right to interfere. Where were you when I was a baby, Mother? Where were you when I needed someone to protect me? Churning butter? Churning butter on the back porch? Turn the handle on the butter churn, Mother! Turn the handle! You should have held a pillow over my face. Why didn‟t you? Why didn‟t you?”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 327 “But — Melissa —” “B-b-b-but, sh-sh-she st-st-stuttered.” “M-m-m-melissa,” Magdalene said. She had forgotten that she had stuttered as a girl. She hadn‟t stuttered since she was twelve. “P-p-p-please,” she said. “Wake up,” she thought to herself. “You knew what was going on,” shouted Melissa. “You saw what was going on. You went and ch-ch-ch-churned b-b-b-butter.” “What is it? Wh-what did I d-d-d-do?” her own voice sounded slurred and far away, but as the words rolled out of her mouth, she knew what Melissa was saying. “I protected my daughter,” shouted Melissa, gesturing with the immobile form she held in her hand. “I protected her! You never protected me. You killed me. I‟m not the killer! You‟re the killer, Mother.” “N-n-no,” said Magdalene. She tried to step backward, but her right leg wasn‟t working. Her right arm wouldn‟t move. She fell on the floor. Melissa stood over her, shouting. “Come sit on Daddy‟s lap, honey! Come sit on Daddy‟s lap, baby!” The baby blanket dangled in Magdalene‟s hair. It tickled the right side of her face. She felt numb.
    • 328 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “N-n-no,” she repeated. She leaned over and vomited on the floor. Her head hit the cold, hard wood of the floor. She saw the dangling baby blanket passing in front of her eyes. The world was blue and fuzzy. She smelled the rich smell of new butter, milk changing, milk fat turning into butter. She heard the baby crying again. “Angel?” she said. “Angel?” The blue blanket lifted from Magdalene‟s face, and there were Melissa‟s feet in front of her on the floor. “Mother, how could you?” Magdalene stared at the feet, unable to move or speak. “Mother! Mother! Mother!” she heard. “Mother? Mother? Mother, are you okay?” Melissa was bending down over her. Melissa was picking her up. When Melissa woke in the morning, she rose from her bed and walked into the hall. Her mother was sprawled on the floor in a pool of vomit. Her eyes were staring blankly, and at first, Melissa thought her mother was dead. Melissa kneeled down beside the prostrate woman and saw that Magdalene was breathing roughly and shivering on the floor.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 329 “Mother?” she asked. “Mother? Mother, are you okay?” “N-n-no,” her mother said. Melissa picked the older woman up off of the floor. Magdalene felt surprisingly light in Melissa‟s arms, just a bag of bones. The older woman was shivering uncontrollably. “S-s-s—” she tried to speak but could not. “Don‟t worry, Mom. Don‟t try to speak.” Melissa took off her mother‟s robe and cleaned her face and hair. The daughter lay her mother in the bed and tucked the blanket around her. Magdalene‟s face was distorted. Her right eye had a permanently surprised look. The right side of her mouth frowned downward, grimly. “S-s-s—” she tried again to speak, but she could only sputter and gurgle. Melissa went to the hallway with a bucket, brush, and towels. She wiped up the vomit and scrubbed the floor. She threw away the wash water and rinsed and cleaned the brush and bucket. She rinsed and wrung out the towels and set them with the wash. She went back to the hallway and stood looking at the wet spot on the floor. The water made a dark stain across the floorboards. It crept to the curtain.
    • 330 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Melissa walked the width of the hallway. She skirted the edge of the dark stain, keeping her feet to the dry, sallow wood. She placed her hand on the edge of the curtain and pulled it back. She saw neatly stacked sheets and blankets, spare pillows, a threadbare quilt, and a box of her old dolls and toys. Melissa stood in the hallway and began to cry. The doctor came the next day. He was a pleasant, happy man. His patients‟ illnesses did not bother him. Women gave birth. Their babies had colic and running noses. These babies grew. They broke their arms and legs. They got the measles and chicken pox. They had asthma and adenoids. They got colds and flu. They got older. They had problems with their nerves or livers. The women had female difficulties. The men had work injuries. They all had headaches. Their vision failed. They got pregnant. They grew old. They grew senile. They broke their hips. They had heart attacks. They died, but by that time, there were more children with measles and mumps and chicken pox. He tracked the progress of life through its diseases. They came in waves and cycles. They were constant and, on the whole, predictable.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 331 His visit to the mother and daughter was no different. The disease was just marking the passage of time. “She‟s had a stroke,” he said after a brief examination. “She is okay for now, but she will need help eating and getting around.” He spoke to Melissa out in the hall, away from the patient. “Your mother is getting old,” he said. “She could live for years and years, but she will need to have constant care. The stroke has hit her hard, and she‟s pretty depressed. It‟s going to be frustrating for her that she can‟t speak. If she gets to feeling better, she‟ll be fine. If she continues to be depressed, she might not eat, she might get weaker. She may have another stroke. She may not. If she has another stroke, it may kill her. Or, she may just be more debilitated.” “What can I do for her?” asked Melissa. The doctor shook his head a little bit. “Make her comfortable. Get her to eat. Try to keep her spirits up. Anything that she enjoys — if she can still do it, get her to do it.” When the doctor left, the two women were alone in the house. They lived alone there for sixteen days. On the sixteenth day, Magdalene had another stroke. Melissa found her on the floor in the hallway
    • 332 ICE CREAM MEMORIES again. Melissa brought her mother back to her bed again. Melissa took a pillow this time and pressed it down over her mother‟s face. Magdalene was weak, partially paralyzed, and helpless. She gasped into the warm, soft fabric. Her breath made it warmer. Magdalene tried to remain calm, to pass smoothly into the next life, but in the end, she gasped and struggled. Melissa Peacock collected her mother‟s life insurance.
    • Chapter Thirty-Five: Professor Rowe Visits the Afterlife C HARLES Rowe stopped seeing patients. He was getting old. He could feel his passions waning. His appetites were diminished. In a corner of his study, Professor Rowe had accumulated box after box of papers. These comprised his manuscript. He did not re-read. He did not revise. He just continued to produce page after page, thought after thought, dissertation after dissertation. His works were not published. He referred to them as “my book,” but he had approached no publisher. His writings were not divided into sections or chapters. They were not typed. These days, he spent eight or ten hours each day in the study, writing.
    • 334 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES He wrote about God. He wrote about the soul. He wrote about death. He wrote about birth. He wrote about life. He chronicled the many gifts of his daughter, Charlotte, detailing her spirit communications and séances. He commented in infinite detail on these. “The messages we receive through Charlotte are anything but simple. They form a complex and interweaving pattern representing layers upon layers of meaning and reality.” Through Charlotte, Professor Rowe attempted repeatedly to contact his wife, but this was never successful. “I believe,” he wrote, “that Charlotte‟s personal and biological connection with her mother prevents or inhibits the flow of communication from the next plane. The spirit of the parent is in some way continuous with the spirit of the child. This spiritual connection should indicate a closeness of the deceased to their offspring after death. We see this happen all the time. Spirits of departed ancestors hover over the shoulders of surviving children. Close relatives who die appear in dreams to their survivors. So why would a close relative be inhibited from appearing to a mediumistic child?” Professor Rowe wrote pages detailing such inconsistencies, looking here for the explanations
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 335 that would bring everything into focus. Throughout a six-month period, he searched transcripts of Charlotte‟s trances and copies of her automatic writings for hidden messages. He tried significant numbers as code keys, setting letters in rows three, six, seven, nine, and thirteen across. By taking a particular transcript, arranging the letters in thirteen-letter rows, and reading the columns from bottom to top and right to left, using only every thirteenth letter, he found the message: “Only you forget.” This code or pattern did not reveal any other message in any other transcripts. He tried similar codes with no result. He began using random- numbered patterns to arrange letters and found that, by subtle manipulations, he could spell any message he wanted to. “Which is the correct message?” he wrote. “There are hidden meanings in the very letters, the minutest details of Charlotte‟s trances. Without the key, I can‟t tell the real messages from the false. Maybe they are all real messages. They all belong. Maybe they all form a code, and that code will unearth the true, final message.” For the last ten weeks of his life, Professor Rowe did not leave his study. “I am getting close,” he wrote. “I can feel it in every bone of my body. I see now that the
    • 336 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES strength of my earthly passions interfered with my attempts to break through the mysteries of the universe. We are so attached to this plane! We can‟t let it go. We can‟t deny it. Everything we do brings us back to the material. As I get older, I find that my material desires are waning. My material existence is becoming more tenuous. I have lost much of my interest in sex. I have lost my desire for food. The pleasure of wine is not such a pleasure for me anymore. When I was young, I believed that the pleasures of the flesh were ethereal in components. Now, I come to realize that these pleasures are deceptive. Their attraction is the attraction of the material. As I age, I come nearer to death. Death is the gateway to those mysteries of the spiritual that I explore. Therefore, I am becoming more spiritual. I am coming closer to the answers. I am coming closer to you, Miriam. It has been so long that we have been separated, so long that we have been apart, I am just waiting to be with you again. I am just waiting to see you, to feel your hair. There, that is my madness. I only think of you in terms of the material. I see! I hear! I feel! In the spiritual world, I will be blind and deaf. My senses fade on this plane as I grow old. I wait for them to be replaced by something new. I cannot imagine my new senses. Sometimes I believe that the only
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 337 thing that prevents me from crossing over is my inability to imagine my other senses. My material senses must all drop away first. My material senses must cease to be real for me before my new senses will take over.” Seven months before his death, Professor Rowe began to build a sensory deprivation chamber. He did not have that name for it, but that is what it was. He placed a great tank in the middle of his study, filled halfway with water. It latched closed in total darkness. His difficulty was that he needed to allow air into the tank without letting in light. After some consideration, he created a triple-layered top for the tank. The inside layer had openings at the sides for air to pass through. The middle layer had openings in the top. The outer layer had openings in the sides again. This provided a maze that air passed through easily, but that stymied light. Once the tank was constructed, Professor Rowe inscribed it with symbols and coded messages in an intricate design. This, he painted over with black paint. Again, he decorated the tank with loops and whorls of letters and symbols. Again, he obliterated his work with black paint. He added yet a third layer of transcription, this one more overt, describing his intentions and, most of all, his questions. He had many questions.
    • 338 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Why does every answer I discover open ten new questions? The Professor‟s first experience in the tank was fourteen weeks before his death. He stripped all of his clothes and sat in the water with the lid open until his body was accustomed to the temperature of the water. After a while, he could barely feel it against his skin. He lay back and waited again, letting his mind go, letting his ears adjust, letting his hair soak. He closed his eyes, and he could feel that he was getting close to the truth. He hated to disturb himself in order to close the lid, but he roused himself, pulled the lid shut, and latched it. At first, he was aware of lying there in the darkness. He could not stop thinking about being inside the tank. There he was, in the tank. The tank was around him. The water was lapping against him. Everything was dark, but his eyes strained to see what he knew was there, the metal lid, the latch, the air opening on the sides of the innermost lid. If he stretched his hand out, he would touch it. The metal would be cold. The desire became nearly irresistible, to stretch his hand out, to touch something. He restrained himself. Unconsciously, his arm twitched. The motion sent waves rippling through the water.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 339 Waves lapped up against his skin, giving him a feeling of chill. He concentrated on remaining perfectly still. He tried to let his mind drift. He recited to himself the questions that he wanted to answer. Where are you, God? What do you want from us? He could not afterward pinpoint the moment when his train of thought stopped. His mind went blank. The blankness around him was an extension of his mind. His mind extended outward to the nothingness. The nothingness extended inward to his mind. From far away, he perceived a force, an energy. It was moving slowly towards him. It wanted to join him. It had a message for him. It wanted to tell him. — It wanted to tell him. — The message was almost within his grasp. If he could only strain a little harder, he would know what it was. If the figure could only be a little closer. “Daddy?” The lid of the tank rose, and light streamed in on him. The figure was gone. The message was gone. Professor Rowe blinked his eyes. Charlotte looked down at him. “How long has it been?” he asked. “Three hours,” she said. “You told me to get you after three hours.”
    • 340 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES He sighed. “It seemed like only minutes,” he said, lifting himself out of the water and wrapping a towel around his body. He was cold. Charlotte had brought him a robe, and he slipped into it. “I thought that three hours would be enough.” He extended his stays in the chamber and chronicled all of his experiences there. He never again encountered the being who came so near to him during his first trial, and he never recaptured the feeling that the answers to his questions were so close. His accounts were most typically like this: “I was in a garden, a vast and beautiful garden, filled with the smell of soil, of grass, of leaves, of blossoms. There were no lights, so I could see nothing, but I swear that I could sense every blade of grass. Miriam was there, and she gave me an apple. The apple was full of light. It glowed. It was the only light in the garden. “I took a bite of the apple. It had no taste, but inside there was a worm. I dug the worm out of the apple and put it on a piece of paper. The worm was white and smooth, about two inches long. I gave it a piece of the apple to eat. “The worm created a second worm, a fuzzy white worm of about the same length and thickness. Then, these two worms created a third worm. I
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 341 became afraid that the worms would crawl onto me, and I dropped the piece of paper onto the grass. The worms began to multiply. They created smaller and smaller worms. The grass was infused with them; these little white strands of creeping flesh were everywhere. “This is interpreted through my mind. “Is it any more clear or meaningful than a dream? “Have I only discovered another way to dream?” Professor Rowe became frustrated with his experiments, as he had with many more experiments before. He felt that only his first attempt had shown true promise. “Why? What condition or factor opened a door that is now closed to me?” Ten weeks before his death, Professor Rowe confined himself to his study. Charlotte brought trays of food every mealtime. He refused to open the door to her, waiting until she left to slip the sustenance inside. He wrote incessantly. One day at lunchtime, Charlotte came downstairs and found the breakfast tray still lying on the floor. There were ants crawling over it, retreating in a thin black line to a chink in the wall. She knocked on her father‟s door. “Father?”
    • 342 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES There was no response. She knocked again. “I‟ve brought your lunch.” Charlotte turned the knob on the study door and found it unlocked. She pushed the door open, calling again: “Father?” Inside, she found him. He was sitting in his large desk chair, his arms resting casually on the desk. In his hand, he held a pistol. The bullet had gone straight through his skull, and gore was splattered across the back of the chair and onto the wall. On the desk below Professor Rowe‟s hand was a stack of papers. Charlotte looked at her father‟s face. It looked thin and worn and drawn, but peaceful. His eyes stared at her, but they were empty. Charlotte pulled the stack of papers gently from beneath the corpse‟s hand. She read through these papers. They chronicled in detail the last ten weeks of Professor Rowe‟s life. They ended with the question: Why? Charlotte gathered kindling and firewood. She arranged these in the hearth and lit them. The study was cold, and she stood in front of the fire for a moment, warming herself. Then, she took Professor Rowe‟s papers and began to burn them. She burned the papers he had worked on
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 343 at his desk, and then she pulled out the boxes of manuscript that sat in the corner. Hour upon hour, with the heat of the fire assaulting her face and hands, Charlotte burned every remnant of her father‟s work. When Charlotte walked into her father‟s study, the urge to read his manuscript was irresistible. It was like something outside herself goading her on. It was the voice of Nanette. It was the voice of the baby. It told her: here is the answer. He has done it. He has found the answer. Read it. You have to know. She took the pages. They were stiff and yellowed. They made slight sighing noises as she gently moved them off the desk. Charlotte began to read. There were notes about Melissa‟s therapy. She read about Melissa. She read about Melissa‟s dreams. She read about Melissa‟s father. Charlotte read between the lines in a way her father had never been able to. Then, Charlotte read about herself. Charlotte read about her own dreams. She read things that had poured out of her mouth in thoughtless monologue, things that she had told her father just so that he could hear what he wanted to hear. She read about her own therapy
    • 344 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES sessions, and her own retellings of retellings of remembrances. Charlotte read about the hypnosis sessions. She read about the ones she remembered and the ones she didn‟t remember. As she read, she remembered. On the day that Miriam Rowe died, she was churning ice cream in the kitchen. She spent hours each day alone in the kitchen, separated somehow from her family. Charlotte never knew why her mother left the kitchen that day. Charlotte never knew for what reason Miriam Rowe came into to study that day. The study door opened, and Miriam Rowe burst in, some question or excited comment on her lips. Whatever she planned to say never was said. Professor Rowe was having a hypnosis session with Charlotte. But he wasn‟t having a hypnosis session with Charlotte. The scene that Miriam Rowe saw shocking and unimaginable. Something in her mind and heart suddenly broke. Miriam Rowe began to scream. Miriam screamed at Charlotte. “It would be better if you were dead! It would
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 345 have been better if you had never been born! It would have been better if I had ripped you out of my womb and killed you before you ever suffered this!” Miriam screamed at Charles. “You monster! I thought you were more than a man. I thought you were higher than a man. You are a monster! You are a base, earthly being! Why did I marry you? Why did I birth a child with you? What have you done? What have you done? There is no God, Charles! There is no God, not if you can do this.” Miriam ran out of the study. Charlotte could hear her, still screaming at them as she went down the hall. Charles went after her, down the hallway. Suddenly, the study was quiet. Charlotte sat in the quiet study, unsure for the moment who she was or what was happening. She was not sure if she had been hypnotized. She was not sure whether something real had happened or not. She was sitting on the couch. She felt strange. She looked at the study. Was it a real place? Were those real books on real shelves on a real wall? She rose quietly from where she sat. She adjusted her dress, feeling disassociated from her body, feeling far away and not herself at all.
    • 346 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Charlotte walked out of the study, with the feeling that she wasn‟t walking at all. She seemed to be floating. Her body was moving, but it seemed to be out of her own control. Her head was light. Her head was so light that it was holding her up off of the floor, as she floated along towards something. Where was she going? She waited to find out. Charlotte drifted through the house. It was quiet now. Everything was very quiet. Something had happened. What had happened? She looked down. Her feet were moving, one foot in front of the other, propelling her forward. She expected, for some reason, to hear the sound of crying, but there was no sound. Charlotte drifted into the kitchen. There, in the kitchen, was a still and silent moment, frozen in time. There was no movement. On the floor, there was her mother. She lay, distended and distorted in an artistic way, in a pool of ice cream, strawberry ice cream. No, it wasn‟t strawberry ice cream. It was just pink. It was pink with blood. Swirls of blood wrapped into the ice cream, mingled with it, changing it. Blood and ice cream mixed and pooled, flowed and splattered. Charlotte‟s father stood over this picture, also
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 347 frozen, also unmoving. He stared at his hands, which were raised in front of his eyes. His hands were covered in blood. His hands were covered in ice cream. Charles Rowe‟s hair was matted. His face was frozen in a moment of terror. His eyes were opened, and Charlotte thought, momentarily, that he had finally discovered the truth that he was looking for. She seemed to stand and watch this tableau for an infinite amount of time. As she watched, the silence was broken by the tick-tick-tick of her father‟s pocket watch. The watch was in Charles Rowe‟s pocket, and it imposed itself into the silent scene. Tick-tick- tick. Charles Rowe seemed to hear the watch, as well. He took it out of his pocket and looked at it. Tick-tick-tick. Time was passing. Time was always passing. Charlotte‟s father took the watch out of his pocket. He looked at it, and then he turned to his daughter. “Charlotte,” he said. He held the gold pocket watch in his hand. He held it by its chain. He held it out to Charlotte as if it were an offering. “Come, Charlotte,” he said. He removed her from the kitchen, removed her to the next room,
    • 348 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES where there wasn‟t the sight of her mother‟s body or the smell of bloody ice cream. Charlotte‟s father held the pocket watch up in front of Charlotte‟s face. He began to twirl it in his fingers, so that the gold surface turned round and round in front of Charlotte‟s eyes. The gold chain and the gold watch reflected light, in small sparkles that dazzled the eyes. “Charlotte,” her father said. “Charlotte, listen to my voice. Charlotte, don‟t think of anything but the sound of my voice. Don‟t look at anything but the pocket watch. See how it turns in the light? See how it casts reflections, rhythmically, with the rhythm of time passing. Each second as it passes is the same amount of time. The seconds passing create a rhythm. The light on the watch creates a rhythm. The rhythm is the passing of time. The rhythm is life. It is the rhythm of the soul. Listen to my voice, Charlotte. Listen to the sound of my voice. “You are very relaxed, Charlotte. There is nothing in your memory. There is nothing in the past. There is only the sound of my voice. You are very relaxed. The relaxation starts at your toes. It moves up your legs, up to your neck and out to your hands. Your fingers and toes are relaxed. Your head and neck are relaxed. There
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 349 is nothing around you. There is nothing in the world. There is only you; there is only the present; there is only my voice. “Your eyelids are feeling heavy, Charlotte. Your eyes feel full and strange. You feel like closing your eyes. You feel like going into a deep and relaxing sleep. Your sleep will help you relax. Your sleep will help you forget. You will go into a deep and relaxing sleep, a sleep with no dreams. When you are asleep, you will forget. You want to forget, and the sleep will help you forget. Listen to the sound of my voice. “Charlotte, you will forget everything you have seen here. You will put it away from your mind. Charlotte, you will forget everything about this day. You want to forget, and you will forget. You will only know that you came running into the kitchen to get something to eat, and you found your mother on the floor, dead. You don‟t know what happened to her. You don‟t know what could possibly have happened to her. You want to forget, and you will forget. Listen to the sound of my voice. “This will be your deepest, most suppressed memory. When you go to sleep, everything will change. When you go to sleep, everything you want to forget will cease to be. Everything will stop. Listen to the sound of my voice.
    • 350 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “You will never know what happened. You want to forget. Go to sleep, now, Charlotte.” I don‟t think it is true, when I went into my father‟s study that day, that he had shot himself in the head. I think the gun was there, on a table maybe, just sitting somewhere. I think my father had been performing experiments in sleep deprivation on himself. I remember something about it in his notes. I think I remember. I can‟t check my memory, or reinforce it, because I burned his notes, didn‟t I? I think that my father had fallen asleep, fallen into a deep sleep, a deep and heavy and forgetful sleep. To sleep, all you have to do is close your eyes. All you have to do is let your eyes close, let your heavy lids fall closed. If you want to sleep, all you have to do is close your eyes. I think he was asleep on his desk, passed out in front of his writing. I saw the piles of papers on his desk, and I picked them up to read. I picked them up to read the truth. When I put the papers down, things were different. When I put the papers down, my eyes were wide open. I don‟t think he was dead, yet. I think that I took the gun that was lying there. I didn‟t even
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 351 wake him up. I took the gun and held it to his head. I think I shot him. I killed him, and the blood spattered all over the room. That‟s when the blood spattered all over the room. Then, I burned all of the papers, all of the evidence, all of the ice cream memories.
    • Chapter Thirty-Six: Melissa Peacock A FTER Magdalene‟s death, the crying in the night began again. Every night, at two forty-eight, a baby cried. It howled and sobbed through the hours until dawn. When dawn broke through the windows, Melissa would realize that the crying had stopped, but she didn‟t know when. She would lay in bed, looking up at the ceiling, feeling as if time had stopped and was just circling, waiting to burst into motion. Perhaps it would reverse this time and start playing backwards, pushing through all of the events of the past. A pillow held over someone‟s head would bring her to life. A stroke would restore speech, vision and motor function. A sudden tug on her sister‟s arm would put it back into place.
    • 354 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Wisteria. She often thought about Wisteria now. Sometimes she saw her, a little girl playing with a doll. The girl was unaware of anything around her except for the doll. Melissa tried to talk with her, but the child did not respond. After watching her for several days, Melissa realized that the girl set her doll through the same motions repetitively. Sometimes the doll danced: the girl held it by the tips of its hands and moved it one-two-three steps towards herself across the floor. Then, she dropped one hand. Holding the doll by the other hand, she spun it one-two-three-four-five times. The doll stopped, facing away from the girl. The girl took the doll‟s other hand. Then, the doll jumped into the air, landed, and jumped again, higher. The doll landed on the floor, its legs splayed. The girl let its hands down slowly, and the doll sprawled on the floor in a bow, with its head touching the ground. After a pause, the girl would snatch up the doll and either begin a monologue about her date with the man she knew that she would marry, or begin brushing the doll‟s hair and plaiting it into a complex system of braids. Melissa counted twenty-nine games that Wisteria would play with the doll. Three of them had variations. The third had sixteen different variants. Melissa watched and memorized them all.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 355 She also took all of the towels and linens out of the cupboard in the hall, like this: One morning, Melissa awoke to the sound of crying at two forty-eight in the morning. She went to the hallway and flung open the curtain. She emptied the towels and sheets and blankets and pillows and miscellaneous artifacts into the hallway. When the room was emptied, she was still not satisfied. Melissa found the old crib, rotting out in back of the house and put it together back in its place. She filled it with a soft pad and baby blankets, soft toys, and a set of baby‟s clothes, placed cozily under the blanket. When she first saw the room recreated, the crib seemed weather-worn. The clothes and blankets were frayed and moth-eaten. Over time, though, the wood regained its luster. The cloth became less worn and more soft. The clothes gained bulk and substance. At night, when she would hear the baby crying, Melissa would go to the crib and pick up the swaddling clothes in her arms. She would walk the hallway, back and forth. She would offer her milkless breast to feed the unreal infant. In this way, she would quiet the babe. Even the crack in the railing of the crib slowly healed itself. It was flawless, smooth, glossy, perfect. The grain danced and sang through the varnish.
    • 356 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES The heights of color were the tawny beige of a new fawn. The depths of grain were the blackest pitch of the richest soil. The sheen reflected every motion from the hallway. One morning, when Melissa was feeding the baby, her mother shuffled into the kitchen. Magdalene went to the stove and began making breakfast. Melissa assumed that if she spoke to this apparition, she would be unheard. The mother cracked eggs and sliced bread for toast. She began frying bacon in a solid iron pan. She put coffee in a pot on the stove. When she finished preparing the breakfast, the apparition dolled it out onto two plates and set them on the table. Sitting in front of her food, she began to eat. Melissa picked up her fork and found that the food had form and substance. They ate in silence that day and the next and the next. On the following day, when Magdalene sat down to eat, she said, “How is the baby doing?” Melissa looked up. “Fine.” “She‟s so beautiful, isn‟t she?” “So beautiful.” “Have you thought about a name for her?” “I think about it all the time.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 357 After this, Melissa had a conversation with her mother every morning at breakfast time. Her mother only appeared in the mornings, only in the kitchen. She always prepared food, and she never spoke until the food was made and laid on the table. When they sat over their meals, they had conversations that they could never have had in life. Melissa lived alone, but her life was crowded with family. Her nights were taken with her daughter. Her mornings were occupied in conversation with her mother. During her days, she watched the child Wisteria as she played eternally with her doll. Melissa woke one morning at two forty-eight to the familiar sound of crying. She rose from her bed, walked to the hall, and pulled back the curtain. She picked up the baby clothes, wrapped in a blanket, and held them to her chest. She walked in a small circle around the center of the hallway to quiet the cries. The sobs were just descending when Melissa heard the sound of a disruption from the front of the house. There was a crashing noise, a sound like furniture overturning. Melissa pulled the baby clothes to herself and backed away from the stairs. It was John who struggled up the stairs. He
    • 358 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES was badly burned, and the skin was pulling off of him in black-red sheets. “Melissa,” he said as he stumbled up the stairs. Melissa screamed, backing away. “Get away,” she said. Her voice was a hoarse whisper. “Melissa,” he said. He fell to the ground and pulled himself up again. “I want my baby. Give me my baby.” “No! No! You can‟t have her. Get away.” She held the baby clothes to her chest. She backed into her bedroom, to the wall. He came slowly toward her, dragging one leg, leaving bloody footprints alongside the dragging smear from his other leg. Melissa slid down the wall until she was crouching on the floor in the corner. “No, no, no,” she said. She cringed in the corner, holding the clothes to her, until she looked down and realized that they were only clothes. She looked up and saw that she was alone. There were no bloody footprints on the floor. There was no one moving toward her. That was the only time that she saw John. Weeks or maybe months later, her father came.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 359 He was sitting in the big chair in the living room where he always sat. She walked into the room, and he was just there. “Come here,” he said. “Come sit on Daddy‟s lap, Melissa.” She backed out of the room she had just entered, slamming the door behind her. She stopped going into that room. He was always sitting there. Sometimes he called to her: “Melissa! Get in here. Don‟t disobey your father. You‟ll see the back end of my belt before the day is over.” He did not seem to be able to get up out of the chair. Sometimes she heard him in there, crying. “Melissa,” he would say. “I love you, Melissa. Why are you treating me like this? Why won‟t you let me go?” He never moved from the chair. Melissa began venturing into the room, standing against the opposite wall from her father. “Come here, Melissa,” he would say. “You‟re such a beautiful girl. Come sit on Daddy‟s lap.” Sometimes he looked old. She would walk into the room and find him vomiting on himself. “I don‟t feel so well,” he would say. Most of the time, he looked young. “Why?” she would ask him. “Why?”
    • 360 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Melissa, is that you?” he would say. “Come here. Come sit on Daddy‟s lap.” One day, she got so angry with him that she heated up a pot of oil on the stove. She took the pot and walked into the living room. “Why are you here?” she said. “No one wants you here. Go away.” “Melissa, is that you?” he said. “Come here. Come sit on Daddy‟s lap.” “I hate you!” she said. “I hate you!” “Come on, honey. Be a good girl.” She screamed and threw the pot of oil in his face. She could see his skin bubbling and scorching under the heat. “Yes,” he said. “That‟s Daddy‟s good girl. Yes, oh yes, such a good girl.” It was not long after this incident that the people came. First they knocked on the door. Melissa came to answer it, but she could not seem to get a grip on the handle. She could hear them talking through the door, a far away mumble. “Not seen her for days—” she heard. “—gone away?” she heard. After she had struggled with the door handle for a while, it swung open. “Hello!” Melissa said. The people were an older woman and a
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 361 younger man. They looked familiar, but she could not remember where she knew them from. They did not answer her but looked around the room. “Maybe she‟s just out.” “Nonsense. Let‟s look around.” They came in the door, and Melissa stood back to let them pass. “It was nice of you to call,” Melissa said. “It‟s cold in here,” said the woman. “Melissa?” called the man. “Are you here? Is anyone at home?” “I‟m right here,” said Melissa. The man and woman looked in the living room and the kitchen and then mounted the stairs. Melissa followed. “Melissa? Are you here? Is everything okay?” They paused in the hallway and then went into the bedroom. “Melissa?” the man said again. He rushed to a pile of something on the bed. “What is it?” asked Melissa. “What‟s wrong?” “You better not come in,” said the man. “You don‟t want to see this.” The woman stood by the door. “Is it bad?” Melissa walked over to the bed slowly. “It‟s pretty bad. She‟s been dead for a while.” Looking over the man‟s shoulder, Melissa saw
    • 362 ICE CREAM MEMORIES that the figure on the bed was herself, and her eyes were opened in a vacant stare. The man reached forward and closed her eyes. Everything went blank.
    • Chapter Thirty-Seven: The Life and Times of Charlotte Rowe C HARLOTTE Rowe became more and more reclusive over the years. She retreated from the world, retired from human contact. In 1968, Charlotte stopped giving séances permanently. She retired from the public eye, and from all eyes. She spent all of her time in her home, going through the motions of life. In 1972, a biography of Charlotte Rowe was published. It was entitled Charlotte Rowe: Ghostly Revelations and contained much that was patently untrue. This sensationalistic work contained a bizarre mixture of fact, speculation, and myth. It caused a stir of interest in Charlotte, but she retained her seclusion. Journalists were turned away at the door. Eventually, they lost
    • 364 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES interest. Other stories came along. No one thought about Charlotte. No one speculated about what happened in that strange, archaic stone house. Most of the time, Charlotte led a quiet existence. She cooked simple meals. She ate alone at a small table in front of a radio, and later a television. The world outside the house was changing. Her black and white television was replaced by a color television. There were wars and war protests. There was odd music. There were odd clothes. There were odd hairstyles. There were new beliefs and new religions. Charlotte saw the changes from her retreat. She did not belong in the new world. She was comfortable in her own pocket of the past. The spirit of the baby had never left her. It lived in the house, in the highest room — Charlotte‟s room. It was not the only thing in the house. One day, Charlotte was out in the front of the house, planting flowers. This was a new whim, to plant a garden all around the house. She looked up from the ground, wiping dirt off of her gloved hands. She sat on her heels and glanced at the tower. Something about the tower always drew her glance. A man hung there by the neck.
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 365 She never knew who this man was, but he appeared every so often, slowly swinging in the breeze. The air was filled with voices. She could never make out what they were saying. Every once in a while, a word or phrase would jump audibly out of the air. There was a cold spot in what had been her father‟s study. He had left something behind him there. It was seventeen degrees colder than the surrounding air. Though her life was one of solitude, Charlotte was not alone. She had things around her. She had things in her head. She decided, one day, to begin to write them down. A literary gift had been inherited from her father — the gift of writing whatever she thought, whether it was true or not. Once she began, all kinds of things came out on the page, all kinds of truths and lies. This exercise of writing seemed to settle her, and it also seemed to settle the infant who hovered around her constantly. There were fewer dreams. There was less crying in the night. Charlotte began to get older. She began to forget. The memories were mixed up with dreams, and the dreams were mixed up with imagination.
    • 366 ICE CREAM MEMORIES When it was quiet, she would talk things over with Nanette. Are you really here, Nanette? Or did I just imagine you? Don‟t leave me. I don‟t want to be alone. The baby‟s crying. I‟m tired. I must go to sleep. I am the most powerful person in the world. I am its narrator.
    • Epilogue M ARTY was not just Sid‟s roommate, though they did share an apartment together. In the past, Sid hadn‟t done too well on his own. Marty‟s role was broadly defined. Friend. Practical nurse. Errand boy. Sounding board. Calming presence. Only Marty didn‟t feel needed as much more than a friend and errand boy, ever since Sid started the graduate program. It was a positive outlet for Sid‟s sense of mystique and high, sometimes manic, intelligence. When Sid proposed a research trip, Marty wanted to go along, but after all, Sid was his employer, not his ward. And it seemed like a positive step, towards independence. In the end,
    • 368 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Marty encouraged Sid to go. They talked on the phone every day, and Sid seemed to be doing okay. Then came the manuscript, with its scrawled note. Then nothing. Marty started to feel a sickening worry. He followed Sid to Redlands. He couldn‟t find Charlotte Rowe‟s address or phone number anywhere, so he started at the room Sid had rented. “I thought I‟d got me a nice young boarder,” said the landlady, mournfully. Her house was stuffy and close, with a crocheted blanket on the old couch. “I never expected Sidney to just disappear like that, no notice. The room was paid up for the month, but you understand I can‟t hold a room. No forwarding address, never heard from Sidney again. If you‟re a relative, there‟s a lot of stuff left behind.” Marty looked through the things that were left there. There was nothing helpful, still no address. Marty only knew the name “Orange Blossom Road.” When he couldn‟t find Orange Blossom Road on any map of Redlands, he began to be concerned. If there was no Orange Blossom Road, then had Sidney made up the name? What else was untrue? Still, it seemed unlikely that Sidney would have or could have written a lengthy manuscript. Redlands wasn‟t very large,
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 369 and Marty decided to drive around the southeastern area of town, where this road supposedly was. Just as he‟d decided the attempt was pointless, Marty realized that he‟d gotten turned around. He was lost. After taking a couple of turns that he thought would get him back to familiar territory or a main road, Marty saw it. “Orange Blossom Road.” It was an old, wooden sign, different from most of the street signs in the area. On private land, probably, not owned by the city. Marty turned onto it and was driving through an orchard of oranges. It was an early spring, and the scent of orange blossoms was so powerful that it was almost poisonous. The orchard was close, impinging on the narrow road. When Marty arrived at the end of the road, the house appeared much as Sid had described it. There were tumble-down stone walls, a stone tower, and stone structures still standing. It did not look like someone‟s house, just an old building. Marty got out of the car and went to the door. The day was warm and silent, and the heavy fumes of orange blossoms made it stifling. He knocked and waited. He was just turning to go when he heard a noise from inside. A plump woman opened the door. She said, “Yes?” The French accent was very slight, but it was discernable.
    • 370 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Nanette Goddard?” Marty asked. “Yes,” she said again. “Hi. My name is Marty Ackerman. I wonder if I could speak to you, and, er, Miss Rowe if that‟s possible.” “Oh!” said the woman. “I know that you don‟t usually receive visitors, but I‟m looking for Sidney Hayes. I had hoped—” She opened the door. “Come in, come in.” Marty stepped inside, and she led him to a room with a stone fireplace and asked him to sit. “Perhaps,” said Nanette, “I should explain to you. It will not be possible to speak to Miss Rowe. Miss Rowe has passed away in sleep last night.” “Oh,” Marty said. “I‟m very sorry.” “She was old,” said Nanette, “and it was her time to pass on.” “Perhaps I can ask you about Sidney Hayes?” “Ah, yes. Sidney has been here a number of times. I think Miss Rowe enjoyed talking about herself, enjoyed the visits.” “I‟m trying to locate Sid.” “That, I‟m afraid, I cannot help you with. It‟s been a while since Sidney‟s been here.” “Perhaps you can help me by telling me about this,” Marty said. He took out the manuscript
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 371 from his bag and put it on the coffee table. Nanette looked surprised. “Where did you get that?” she asked. “Sid sent it to me.” “Sidney had this?” she asked, turning over a page of the paper. “Did Charlotte Rowe write it?” “I think so,” said Nanette, with a dreamy tone in her voice. “She wrote many things, you know.” Nanette looked up. “Or perhaps you didn‟t know.” “No,” Marty said. “Charlotte worked for many years as a writer of stories. She wrote them for magazines, after she gave up her work as a medium, you know. She wrote under another name, a disguised name, a nom de plume, what do you call it, a pseudonym. She always planned to write a novel.” Nanette looked down at the manuscript again. “She had been working on this for several years, but her health diminished as she got older. She was able to write less and less as time went on. It was very hard for her.” “This is her novel?” Marty asked. “It must be,” said Nanette. “She gave it to Sid?” “I suppose she must have, but I don‟t know why. Perhaps just to read.”
    • 372 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Perhaps,” Marty echoed. “Have you read it?” Nanette asked. “Yes,” Marty replied. “Sid asked me to read it.” There was a pause. Nanette broke the silence. “Sidney was looking ill, I think, the last few visits.” “Oh?” Marty asked. “Like a cold?” “No,” said Nanette. “Pale and drawn. Perhaps not sleeping well. Perhaps a stomach flu or fever?” This did not raise Marty‟s hopes or spirits. “Well, thank you for your time,” he said, rising from the seat. “I hope that Sidney is all right,” Nanette said. “I‟m sure everything is just fine,” Marty replied. “I‟m sure there‟s nothing wrong.” There was another pause as they stood in the room. “Would you like, perhaps,” asked Nanette, “to see her? Charlotte, I mean. Since you have heard so much about her, perhaps you would like to see her.” Marty was about to decline, but he found himself saying, “Yes, I would.” Nanette turned and started toward the stairs, as the mantel clock above the fireplace began to chime twelve noon. Marty followed her out of the room and up the winding stairs, with a strange feeling of fulfilling
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 373 an ancient ritual. In the crescent-shaped hall at the top of the stairwell, Nanette opened the single door. They entered. Charlotte lay in the bed, looking small and sunken. Her hair was snow white and wispy, like cotton candy. Though lined and wrinkled, her face was relaxed and had an air of smoothness. Her eyes, closed, were sunken into her face, underscored by great dark, bruised circles. Marty looked over at the mirror, a natural and human reaction. It was just a mirror, large and ornate. It reflected the room around it, his own haggard and disheveled appearance, and nothing else. He turned back to the figure on the bed. They stood there for a moment, looking at Charlotte Rowe in death. “I thought maybe you were coming to pick her up when you came to the door,” said Nanette. “Now that she‟s gone, I don‟t know exactly what will happen next. You know, I haven‟t really anywhere to go. I‟m alone in the world. So was she. None of her family left, alone here for years. I don‟t even know who owns the house now, or what will happen to it. I don‟t even know who might own that manuscript you have.” “Did she never try to publish it?” “She never seemed to think it was finished. She was always adding onto it, adding new things and then taking things away. She would
    • 374 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES be sitting up by her mirror and brushing her hair. And then, she‟d sit up straight and say, „Oh!‟ surprised like. I guess it meant she‟d just thought of something, because then she‟d want to write something down. It‟s a wonder where she got all her ideas from.” “Was any of it based on her life?” Nanette shook her head. “I don‟t know. I don‟t really know. She took some of it, I know, from stories she‟d heard, people she‟d known and met. Things that happened.” Nanette smiled briefly and suddenly. “She liked to listen to stories. There‟s a legend in my family, you know, in my mother‟s family about a girl found wild in the hills, with child. My mother used to say, „Nannie,‟ they called me Nannie when I was young, „Nannie, your wild-child is showing! Our family curse, we all are wild from the woods. When will you ever be civilized?‟ Charlotte used to love to hear stories about it, stories about France and about my family.” “But you said you were all alone in the world?” “I am now, yes. I am an orphan. My mother was an orphan, too.” There was yet another pause. “Women,” said Nanette, “who are alone in the world spend a lot of time inside their own minds.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 375 Marty didn‟t seem to have a reply to that. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you for talking to me.” “I wish you luck in your search,” she said. They left the room, an empty room with an empty shell in it. As Nanette closed the door of the house behind him, Marty paused again. Somehow, he could not shake the feeling that he was not quite ready to leave yet. He stood in the driveway, meandering. The scent of the orange blossoms had paled, overshadowed by the sounds of bees buzzing among the orange trees. Marty looked up to the bell tower. It was completely quiet and still. There was nothing, nothing but the smell of orange blossoms and the sound of bees, nothing but ghost stories around the campfire. Turning to get into his car, Marty saw a movement out of the corner of his eye, not in the bell tower, but in the orange grove. He walked over towards the trees, but he didn‟t see anything. Marty moved into the shade of the trees. It was cool there, and he remembered Sid‟s comments about the heat of the summer. The sound of the bees was louder, and the smell of the orange blossoms came over him again. He moved further into the orchard, and the trees
    • 376 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES obscured his view of the car and the house. The orange trees encompassed him, and he felt the timelessness of an orchard like that. Marty looked around and realized that he could not see the house, the car, or the road. In the middle of the symmetry of the orange trees, he was not sure which direction he had come from. Marty saw a figure dressed in black coming towards him through the orange trees, a smooth and quick black shape moving in and out among the orange trees. It was coming towards him. For some reason he would never know, Marty panicked. He fled. Marty ran through the orange trees, and the figure in black pursued him. Orange blossoms fell in his face, and he stumbled over the uneven ground, grasping at tree trunks to hold him up. He ran for what seemed an interminable time. Why didn‟t he find the road? Why didn‟t he find the edge of the orchard? Marty went deeper and deeper into the sweet smelling oranges, the sound of bees buzzing filling his ears. The world inside of that orange grove was a strange world, an old world that smelled of soil. The trees as he moved deeper into the grove seemed older, larger, more gnarled. The ground seemed to grow spongy with the decayed rinds of oranges
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 377 dropped, over decades. His feet seemed to be sinking into the mire of old oranges. Abruptly, Marty stopped. Something clicked inside his head, a failsafe. He turned around and faced the figure that was coming towards him through the trees. The figure in black saw that Marty was no longer running and stopped at the edge of a tree, in the shadows. “What do you want?” Marty asked. His voice seemed high and unnatural. The figure stepped forward. “Sid?” Marty practically shouted. “Sid! What are you doing here? Where have you been? I‟ve been worried about you.” “The thing that is inside won‟t go away.” “Oh.” “The thing that is inside won‟t go away. The thing that is inside won‟t go away.” “It‟s okay, Sid. Calm down.” “It is a red thing. A red thing. The red thing is inside. It‟s crying, all the time, it‟s crying, an angry crying. The red thing inside won‟t go away.” “Come here, Sid.” “The blood was everywhere. The blood was all around. It was the baby‟s blood. The baby owned it, and now it is inside, the red thing, and it won‟t go away. Marty, is that you?”
    • 378 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes, Sid, it‟s me, and everything is going to be okay.” “I won‟t have to go back in the room, will I? I don‟t want to be in the room again.” “Let‟s get you home and safe, Sid, and calm. You didn‟t try to hurt yourself did you?” “No, no, I didn‟t hurt anyone! I didn‟t kill anyone! I didn‟t, I didn‟t. I‟m not a murderer like they are.” “Don‟t worry about that now, Sid.” “It‟s the baby. It‟s angry. The baby is angry, and it won‟t leave me alone.” Marty calmed Sid as best he could. This seemed like a mental break. It seemed the problems were deeper, worse than Marty had thought. Sid had always shown symptoms of magical thinking, but they had been mild and countered by a strange rationality, a desire to explain them away that led to intellectual study. “You are fine. Don‟t worry about the baby,” Marty said. Suddenly, Sid was calm, looking around, looking at Marty. “You think that this is all in my mind, but it‟s not. I‟ve been waiting here, talking to it, trying to find a solution. I don‟t think that there is a solution.” “Maybe you‟d better come home.”
    • OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 379 “I guess I‟d better. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” “Don‟t think about it right now. Don‟t worry,” Marty said as he led Sidney out of the orange orchard, back in the direction from which he‟d come, towards the road, towards his car, towards home. “All of the things in heaven and earth are dreamt of in the human mind.”
    • Also from Stiltjack... January 2010
    • Also from Stiltjack... Cold Hillside a novel by Martin Cooper Giles, my sibling, my Mephistophilis. You lie whenever it suits you, but when you lie to me, surely you can take the trouble to make it convincing? Simon Coltraine is a professional songwriter and musician. His brother Giles - trader, rogue and amiable bully - is a crook. When Giles is killed in a car accident Simon returns to their childhood home to confront his memories and his own complicity in his brother’s schemes. The Devil has all the best tunes. Free to download in .pdf and .prc formats from stiltjack.co.uk.
    • Also from Stiltjack... Five Stories The Memory House a slim volume by “I’ll leave you my fantasy,” he Martin Cooper said. “It’s all I have to leave you in any case." Ip Dip Ip dip, sky blue, who’s it…? Fulcrum Fulcrum, n. (pl. –ra). (Mech.) point against which lever is placed to get purchase. Snow Doesn’t anyone die for love nowadays? Free to download in .pdf and .prc That Celeb. Smile formats Trouble is, any photograph worth from stiltjack.co.uk. taking, costs.