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