To Mrs. Jones, Sister John-Marie, Mrs. Cramer,
and all my teachers.
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
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
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
“I am one hundred and eight years old,” she
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
“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
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
OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 5
“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.”
“So, what do you do?” she asked.
“I‟m a student,” he said.
“U of R?”
“No, I‟m in Redlands doing research. Spiritualism.”
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
Take this manuscript and guard it with
your life. Try to verify any aspects possible
and check authenticity.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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.
“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
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?”
24 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES
“Yes,” she said, holding Charlotte tightly. “A
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
“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
“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
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
“Now, here we are,” he said, “the last switch.”
He glanced behind him and smiled at his
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
“Charles?” she said.
She touched lightly a board in the matrix, and
the whole thing came crashing down with a
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
“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
Or, of course, it could all be a lie, invented by
my mother, and perpetuated by me.
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
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:
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
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 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
“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.
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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.
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
“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
“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?” 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
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
“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
“Why, to Nanette.”
Mrs. Rowe stared at her daughter.
“Yes, Mother, of course. Who else would I be
“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
“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
“Oh. Umm. Parlez-vous avec Charles?” She
turned to her mother. “Oui. Oh. I‟m sorry. I
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.
“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
“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.”
“Yes, she says that I must take them under
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
After all, it got me some attention.
And I was always proud of my French.
The Séance for Norma
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
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
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
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
“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
Charlotte kicked her heels strongly against
“Charlotte,” said Miriam, “do not kick the
“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
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
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.
The Reappearance of
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
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
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
Miriam looked up. “We have those good ducks
sent over from the butcher.”
“Father‟s favorite,” said Charlotte, “is roast
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
“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
“Sheri, you will please go to the butcher‟s and
get a nice roast beef for tonight.”
“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
“Yes, ma‟am.” Sheri scooted off toward the
“Finish your egg, Charlotte,” said Miriam.
“You need your strength.”
Sheri re-entered the room and stood by the
“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
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
“Darling,” she said.
He passed out on the chaise.
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
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
“May I get you some tea, darling?” Miriam
“No,” said Charles in a voice that came from
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
“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.
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
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
“You do know,” he replied.
“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.
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
“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— “
“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
“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
“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.
Excerpt from Charlotte‟s
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
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
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.
Montague and the
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
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
“It is glorious,” sighed Miriam.
“It‟s hot,” said Charlotte.
“Now, Charlotte,” said Miriam. “Don‟t be so
“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
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
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.
82 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES
“He was sent to me by Nanette. His name is
“Oh.” Professor and Miriam Rowe stared at
“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
“What are you doing over there?” asked
Charlotte. “Come over to me. I have a piece of
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
OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 83
The cat in the mirror tilted its head to the side
and meowed at her. She heard it.
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.
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
“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
“Yes,” said Augustine. “Your aura is quite
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
“You are a sensitive, my dear,” said Augustine
“Yes, Mrs. Carlisle,” said Miriam to the
woman. “That is Nanette. She is with Charlotte,
“Ah, the spirit guide,” said Augustine. “Well, if
I am to observe, we shall need something to
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
“Science is nothing but an opening of the
“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
“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
“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
“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
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:
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
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
Charlotte nodded slowly and picked up her
96 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES
“Nanette,” she said, “thinks that is a good
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.”
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
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
“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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
“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.
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
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.
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
“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
When Melissa resurfaced, Wisteria was
“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
Melissa let her go.
Wisteria surfaced at the top of the water,
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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.
Excerpt from the
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
Each time, she felt power. She felt her own
presence, stronger and larger than her father‟s
Each time, this same cycle happened. She
would nurse him at his bedside, and he would
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Then, Magdalene began work on a new veil
that comprised layer upon layer of embroidered
lace bound by a beaded band that echoed the
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
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
“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
“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
Melissa stood and smiled and thanked her and
was again drawn into the glory of the wedding day.
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
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
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
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.
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
“„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
“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
OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 155
“Hmm,” said Charlotte, and took another
bread roll from the table. “What are we having
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
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
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
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
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 temple was pounding. The truth was in
my heart. Blood, bloody murder.
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
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.
“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
“Hush, darling,” said Magdalene. “She‟s
“Of course I‟m frightened.”
“You‟re okay. You will be okay. Get some water,
John, and some towels. Can you take some water,
“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
“Is she delirious?”
“No, she is fine. How long has it been?”
“Half an hour? Maybe more.”
“Get it out of me! Out! Out!”
“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
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
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
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
“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
”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.
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
“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
Melissa looked at John as they stood before
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
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.
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
“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
“You are not so happy.
“„No, that‟s true. I can‟t hide anything from
“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
“„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
“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,
Augustine paused again. Charlotte sat listening
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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,
“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
John looked at the card. “Perhaps we should
go see her,” he said. “Just to see what she wants.
Just to see.”
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
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
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
“He is indisposed,” Miriam answered. “If you
wish to see him professionally, I can arrange an
“My business,” said the woman, “is private.
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
“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
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
As they walked into the room, Winifred stared
at Charles Rowe.
“Charlie,” she said. She went up to him.
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
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 you? How can you deny it?”
“I think we had better hear your story,” said
“Certainly,” said Miriam, with her eyebrows
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
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
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
“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
“I can help you,” she said, “for the right
“Anything,” I told her. “Whatever I have.” I
didn‟t have a lot of money, but the inn did well. I
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“Nonetheless, you must know,” said Miriam,
“that spirit messages through my daughter are
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
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
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
The Séance for John
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
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
He looked uncomfortable, but he passed in
the doorway and took the seat that was offered to
“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
They made an appointment for a sitting the
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
“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.
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!”
John looked at the girl. “Angel? Are you
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.
“Help. Strange. Nothing.”
“I think we have an interference,” said
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
“Mr. Peacock?” she said.
“Yes? What is it? What happened?”
“I‟m afraid we cannot complete the sitting
“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
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
“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.
“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,
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,
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
“A nervous attack,” he said. “I know that she
works with that woman, and it can‟t be good for
“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.”
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
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.
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
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
“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
“Your mother actually saw the clothing in the
middle of the floor?”
OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 239
“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?”
“Because there was a box of clothes on the
“Yes! It sounds crazy when you say it like
“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?”
“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.”
“Yes, go on.”
“The things from her bed, from where she died.”
“What does that mean?”
“So, these things mean death?”
“So many people die in bed.”
“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?”
“Ah,” said the psychoanalyst. “Tell me about
“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
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
“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
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
Melissa blinked at him. “I feel different,” she
said, and realized that it was true. “Something is
“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
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-
Then, there were other times.
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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 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
“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.”
“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
“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.
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,
As she was lulled into a state of eternal calm,
a figure constructed itself at the farthest point of
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
“No,” said the baby.
“You are unnatural here.”
“It does not matter.”
“Get on your way. You have nothing to do
“I‟ve everything to do with you.”
“What do you want?”
“Want? Want? We all want.”
“Anything that you can‟t give 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
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
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.
“A virgin shore.”
“Why is that?”
“No one has been there. No one has traveled there.”
“It is new ground.”
“And you lay footprints upon it?”
“Not exactly. My footprints are swallowed up
by the sand.”
OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 273
“The sand won‟t accept my prints, it won‟t be
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?”
“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
“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,
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
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.
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
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?”
“You‟re not a man. You‟re not even a boy.”
“I‟ve got cows with more guts than you, boy.”
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
Angela? Her father called her “Angel,” but
Melissa just didn‟t like the name.
Dorothy? The first syllable was too hard, like
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
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
She remembered her father in every small
detail, a very big father from when she was very
She remembered the metal clink as his belt
unbuckled with the finality of a jail cell clanging
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
“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
Everything was red.
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
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
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
“What is it?” asked John.
“There‟s something — different,” Augustine
Almost immediately, the table began rocking
“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
304 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES
“Perhaps we should put off our sitting until
“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,
Augustine‟s eyes opened wide. “My God.”
John sat down in a chair. “Angel? Is that you,
A clear yes.
“Don‟t listen,” said Augustine. “It‟s a trick.”
“No,” said John. “It‟s my baby. It‟s spelling
Slowly but smoothly and unmistakably, the
table spelled out its message: M-U-R-D-E-R.
Augustine gasped and lowered herself in a
“What does it mean?” asked John. “What does
The table continued to move.
“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
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.
“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:
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
“Augustine,” he said, “call on the spirit guides
Augustine was shaking her head. She was sitting
on the floor by the door.
“This isn‟t happening,” she chanted. “It isn‟t
“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
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
“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
“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
She stumbled over the broken furniture that
lay on the floor.
“I‟m sorry,” she said.
“Sorry?” his voice was unnaturally high, oddly
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
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
“I‟m sorry,” Augustine thought, “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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Everything was stimulating. Everything was
The cat jumped and twirled.
The light flashed in the sky above.
The light twirled and giggled.
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
Charlotte was petting the sleeping cat.
320 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES
Montague jumped up from the bed and began
“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
Montague clawed at the air in front of the
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
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,
“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
Charlotte never saw the cat again.
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
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
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
“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
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,
“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,
“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
“Mother, how could you?”
Magdalene stared at the feet, unable to move
“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
“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
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
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
Melissa found her on the floor in the hallway
332 ICE CREAM MEMORIES
again. Melissa brought her mother back to her
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
“Have I only discovered another way to
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.
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:
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
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
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
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
Professor Rowe was having a hypnosis
session with Charlotte.
But he wasn‟t having a hypnosis session with
The scene that Miriam Rowe saw shocking
and unimaginable. Something in her mind and
heart suddenly broke. Miriam Rowe began to
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
Charlotte‟s father took the watch out of his
pocket. He looked at it, and then he turned to his
“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
“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
When I put the papers down, my eyes were
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
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.
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
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
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.
“She‟s so beautiful, isn‟t she?”
“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
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
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
Melissa screamed, backing away.
“Get away,” she said. Her voice was a hoarse
“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
That was the only time that she saw John.
Weeks or maybe months later, her father
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
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
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
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
“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
Everything went blank.
The Life and Times of
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
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 —
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
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
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
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
366 ICE CREAM MEMORIES
When it was quiet, she would talk things over
Are you really here, Nanette? Or did I just
imagine you? Don‟t leave me. I don‟t want to be
The baby‟s crying.
I must go to sleep.
I am the most powerful person in the world.
I am its narrator.
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,
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 375
Marty didn‟t seem to have a reply to that.
“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you for talking to
“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
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
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.”
“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
“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
“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,”
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
“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
“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.”
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