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Ice Cream Memories Ebook


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Ice Cream Memories Ebook

  1. 1. Teresa Perrin The Ice Cream Memories of Charlotte Rowe
  2. 2. Published in 2009 by Stiltjack Copyright © Teresa Perrin 2007 The author asserts the moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Free to download in .pdf and .prc formats from Cover image © Teresa Perrin.
  3. 3. To Mrs. Jones, Sister John-Marie, Mrs. Cramer, and all my teachers.
  4. 4. Contents Prologue Chapter 1: Family History Chapter 2: Spiritism Chapter 3: Nanette Chapter 4: The Séance for Norma Parker Chapter 5: The Reappearance of Charles Rowe Chapter 6: The Move Chapter 7: Anita, A Case Study Chapter 8: Excerpt from Charlotte‟s Diary Chapter 9: Montague & the Mirror Chapter 10: Augustine Emory Chapter 11: Ice Cream Chapter 12: Nanette Chapter 13: Melissa Chapter 14: Excerpt from the Writings of Professor Charles Rowe Chapter 15: Paul Archer Chapter 16: Prelude to a Wedding Chapter 17: Dinner Conversation Chapter 18: A Wedding Chapter 19: The Baby Chapter 20: Crib Death Chapter 21: Lessons in Spiritism Chapter 22: A Funeral Chapter 23: Uninvited Guest
  5. 5. Contents Chapter 24: The Séance for John Peacock Chapter 25: A Ghost Chapter 26: Recuperation Chapter 27: Family History Chapter 28: A Death Chapter 29: Accusations Chapter 30: Dream Analysis Chapter 31: Murder Chapter 32: Murder, Murder, Murder Chapter 33: Montague Dreams Chapter 34: Magdalene, Mother Chapter 35: Professor Rowe Visits the Afterlife Chapter 36: Melissa Peacock Chapter 37: The Life and Times of Charlotte Rowe Epilogue
  6. 6. Prologue T HE small, old lady lay in the small, old bed. She was sunken into the soft mattress, surrounded by pillows and encompassed by a thick, fluffy quilt. She looked thin and white, as if she had already faded away, been completely swallowed up by the soft whiteness that surrounded her. She looked at Sid, and she blinked three times. “I am one hundred and eight years old,” she said. Sid nodded. It was a lie. Charlotte Rowe was born in June of 1910, ninety-five years ago. Sid paused, looked down at his notes. Before he could choose his words, she told him: “You are here to discuss my Gift.”
  7. 7. 2 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes.” Sid shifted. “I‟m writing a thesis, about the history of Spiritualism in Redlands.” “Spiritualism,” she said. “Spiritual, regarding the connection with the inner soul. It‟s a name that packages the mystic for mass consumption, links the world of the Beyond with the personal experience of Grace.” She shifted and turned her head to the side. “We didn‟t call it Spiritualism.” “Spiritism,” he said. “It is not a subject to be taken lightly. It is… a dangerous subject.” “I don‟t take it lightly.” “Spiritism. Delving with spirits.” “I‟m hoping you‟ll let me record our conversation,” Sid said, taking the tape recorder out of his pocket. She looked at the machine and smiled. “Not at all. It‟s so important to be accurate, isn‟t it?” “Could you tell me about when you first discovered your gift?” “I am very tired. I wanted to meet you, to get a look at you.” She closed her eyes. “Oh… you couldn‟t… just a few questions?” She opened her eyes and asked suddenly, “Do you go to church on Sundays?” “Well, no,” Sid said, uncomfortably. “I——” “Good,” she said. “Come to see me again on Sunday.” She closed her eyes again.
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 4 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES old buildings of downtown were cramped by a dank, heavy, enclosed mall, by coldly utilitarian strip malls, by poverty-symptomatic check cashing businesses. The great old Victorian mansions that were the peak of style in Redlands‟ early years stood in hidden corners amid modern growth. Bits of the past — “historic” Redlands — were like discarded snake skins, husks that carried the shape of the past but were now dead. They were too intertwined in the Starbucks, fast food drive-thrus, discount stores. The present had sapped all of the life out of the past. Sid had always imagined that the land of orange groves would be lush, filled with orange glistening balls under deep green leaves. But under all the asphalt, Redlands was desert, or near enough to desert. The orange groves, what was left of them, seemed sparse and dry, unable to counter the natural heat and barrenness. Sid‟s room was at the top floor of an old house, and instead of heading to the sweltering room, he parked the car and walked into one of Redlands‟ bars. He ordered his first martini and sat staring at the olive floating in the clear, cool liquid. “Hey,” said a girl, sitting down next to him. Sid drank down his martini in a gulp. “How‟s it going?”
  10. 10. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 5 “Great, great.” “Me, too. Bloody Mary, please.” She smiled at him. “I used to be afraid to order them, you know. I figured when I got too drunk, I‟d order three in a row, and then, you know what.” Sid laughed. “So, what do you do?” she asked. “I‟m a student,” he said. “U of R?” “No, I‟m in Redlands doing research. Spiritualism.” “Spooky.” “Not so far.” “Don‟t underestimate Deadlands.” Deadlands, dead of nightlife, dead because of the lifeless desert underneath it, dead because of the ghosts that wandered the relics of its past. “Have you been to the graveyard? Plot 666. I used to think it was a joke, until one night I went out there with my friends. You know, we were a little drunk, but not very. I mean, we‟d had some beers. And we were out there, having like a picnic. That‟s when I saw her, in the distance, kind of hazy against one of the tombstones…” “Mm-hmm.” Sid drank down his second martini. Haunted Redlands, ghosts in the mansions, ghosts on the roadways, ghosts lurking in the cracks of the city as it sprouted up to cover its past. Cold spots. Apparitions.
  11. 11. 6 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Unexplained noises. “Another martini, please.” Sid awoke to the sound of his fan, burring in the window, hoping to capture some of the morning air before the hard heat descended. It already smelled of heat, rising up from the asphalt. Somewhere in the middle of the evening, Sid had lost track of himself and started dropping memories around. He had them last night, but this morning they seemed to have escaped him. He knew there were some people he met: faces, hands, and colors were impressed in his brain, but no names. He pulled himself out of bed and put on some dark glasses. Sunday. One more day to try again. He failed to escape the landlady‟s disapproving glance as he grabbed a glass of orange juice on his way out of the house. Sid‟s head was throbbing, but he set off toward the south side of town, where the roads became meandering and confused as they moved up into the hills. Orange Blossom Road was at the very base of the hills, on the east end of town, and although you needed to wind through a series of small, curving drives to get to it, once you reached Orange Blossom, it stretched out straight to the east through an orange orchard.
  12. 12. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 7 Once you passed the “no outlet” sign that marked the beginning of the road, there was nothing to see but orange trees, lined up with geometric precision, so that there could be no confusion between this manmade forest and a wild one. Until he first drove down this road, Sid hadn‟t realized that there were still any orchards that size. Another pocket of history, hidden away. Driving through it was eerie and unsettling. The orchard was neither natural, nor was it the comfortable bustle of civilization. Isolated but systematic, strange but familiar — in other words, uncanny. Sid followed Orange Blossom Road to its conclusion. At the end of the road, he passed through the open wrought iron gates that stood freely on either side of the road. The road continued on, narrower and less well-kept, up a slight hill and through more trees. The orange orchard ended and was replaced by oak trees, hiding the house until Sid was almost on top of it. The house itself was not Victorian in style, breaking the tradition of most other old houses in Redlands. It was actually older, constructed of stone. Built in the 1800s, its origin somewhat lost in history, Sid believed it was referred to in obscure records from the Estancia of the Mission
  13. 13. 8 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES San Gabriel‟s Rancho San Bernardino, dating 1823. The writer of the notes was unknown — certainly not Carlos Garcia (the majordomo of the time), and there was some doubt about the authenticity of the records. But the text was intriguing: The stranger went off to the east, although we warned him against that place. The natives know the unclean territory there. He insisted to build his blasphemous temple of stone, with a tower but not to God, and hinted that followers would join him. The original, of course, was in Spanish, and Sid could find no records of a cult or colony, and no legends from the local Native American tribes to account for the entry (neither the “stranger” nor the “unclean territory”). It was just a scrap, but he couldn‟t help identifying this “blasphemous temple” with the old rough-hewn stone structure that Miriam Rowe insisted had an “aura of spiritual power, a stronger presence than any other mystical place I have visited.” The house was rambling and gray, peppered with windows. The first story wound around the hilltop, and sections of it had fallen to ruin, leaving what looked like a low stone fence around areas that once were rooms. The outlying edges were decayed and falling down, but the central portion
  14. 14. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 9 stood. The tower was there, a three-story structure topped by a belfry. There was no bell, just an empty space where a bell was clearly intended and may have once been. Possibly, the bell tower was never finished, and no bell ever rung there. The Rowes had kept a telescope in the tower, where Professor and Madame Rowe looked up into the stars for calculations both scientific and metaphysical. There was no sign of a telescope now, only birds‟ nests. On his first visit, Sid had seen a flutter of activity there. Now, he looked up and saw the outline of a face, someone peeking over the railing. When he took off his sunglasses and squinted against the glaring sun, it was gone. But he was certain he‟d seen it. The door was opened for Sid by Nanette Goddard, caretaker to the house and caregiver to Charlotte Rowe. He had written to her, arranging his visit, and he had built up a picture of her in his mind, an older woman, but still good-looking, thin and slightly weathered, with light hair and darkened skin wrinkled by laughter and sun. Someone who smoked cigarettes in a non-vulgar way, who drank red wine. Perhaps it was just his image of a Frenchwoman. Nanette was younger than he had thought and overweight — not obese, but round. Her face
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 11 was oddly sparse. It had the air of a room whose contents had been given up over time, in favor of survival. When Nanette returned, Sid was standing in front of the empty fireplace, staring thoughtfully at the black ashes. “Come up,” she said simply, and she led Sid up the curving staircase of the bell tower. “Why would Miss Rowe want a bedroom up all of these stairs?” Sid asked. “The room was the nursery when she was a child. It is sentimental.” The narrow stone staircase ended in a crescent- shaped entryway. Nanette and Sid passed through a door into a round room directly below the bell tower, and there was Charlotte Rowe, lying in her childhood twin bed surrounded by fluffy blankets and pillows. There were no real furnishings in the room except the bed and, across from it, the huge and elaborately framed mirror. Sid caught himself staring at Charlotte‟s image instead of looking at the woman herself, and he turned his head toward the bed. Nanette left, and Sid sat down, starting up his tape recorder. “Feeling better today, I hope,” he said, lamely. “Better, I suppose,” she said. “I am never well.” “I thought I saw you in the bell tower. It‟s
  17. 17. 12 ICE CREAM MEMORIES right above this room, isn‟t it?” “The bell tower?” Charlotte paused. “Oh, that‟s her.” She went silent, staring into the mirror. Sid didn‟t like to ask who “her” was. He doubted Nanette had come rushing down the stairs from the top of the tower. Perhaps Charlotte was up to her old mediumistic trickery, fashioning apparitions in the tower. Sid shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Charlotte turned to him, and her eyes were sharp and bright. “I suppose,” she said, “I‟ll have to tell you everything.” Sid didn‟t show up at school when the fall semester started. Instead, his roommate Martin received a tape, a manuscript, and a note. The tape was hours of static, with what sounded like it could be muted, murmured conversation in the background. Repeated, in a lower register, like a drum beat, was what sounded like a voice saying, “I scream.” Then, there was the note: Tuesday, September 13, 2005 Marty, Take this manuscript and guard it with your life. Try to verify any aspects possible and check authenticity. Sid
  18. 18. Chapter One: Family History D ARKNESS is what I see. In his eyes. I mean, the Serpent. That is — in the beginning. Which is as good a place to start as any. The Serpent looks at me, and he is wrapped around the tree branch, not tightly, just rather devil-may-care almost flirtatiously wrapped around the tree branch, his tongue darting at the air. “Take the fruit,” he says. “The fruit of knowledge.” What am I thinking? About banishment, damnation, the meaning and power of God? Or, perhaps, about the loving nature of a forgiving, all powerful God who has planned for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Because beyond
  19. 19. 14 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES the barrier in the world of souls, all is happiness and light. No. I am looking into the darkness of the serpent‟s eyes, and I can smell the fruit, that fresh, clean, sweet smell. And I feel hunger. Pure hunger. The crispness, the coolness of the fruit on a hot summer day. Nothing is more pure and inescapable than that. When you‟re hungry, and you‟re offered a piece of fruit, you take it. And it‟s sweet, the first luscious bite, and the juice that streams down your chin. There can‟t be any bad consequences to that, can there? A simple, unthinking, naive girl, just a babe, in a garden, eating a fruit. After all, I have no fear of a kind God. I have no knowledge of good and evil. Yet. And it‟s delicious. Then I wake up from the dream. But perhaps that is a little too far back to start, after all. Miriam Silver was an ardent believer. At nine, she became an Adventist, and to her parents‟ horror, she refused to eat flesh. That is what she called it: “flesh”. She earnestly plead with her parents to give up tobacco, tea, coffee and meat, so that they wouldn‟t ruin their health and die and leave her an orphan. After two months of this behavior, she had a vision from God. He told her that He would
  20. 20. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 15 protect her and her family from the evils of eating meat, but expressly forbade, for the faithful, the eating of carrots except when baked with butter and brown sugar. Though this divine intervention was welcomed with relief by the Silver household, the episode was an indicator of the things to come. Miriam took up popular movements as they came across her notice: suffrage, temperance, American Holiness evangelism, populism, self- sufficiency. She also took up various and sundry cures and patent medicines: Orange Wine Stomach Bitters, Wonderful Little Liver Pills, Laudanum, French Arsenic Complexion Wafers, Cod Liver Oil, Castor Oil, Olive Oil. There were Amazing Cures for All Your Ills, including — but certainly not limited to — thinness of the blood, nerves, weariness, diabetes, skin lacking in firmness, dissatisfaction, asthma, insomnia and exhaustion. Each cure seemed better than the last, promising a bounty of health and wellness, and Miriam begged her family to try these miracle elixirs. Increasingly, as time went on, Miriam developed her own unique patchwork of beliefs, advice and medicinal wisdom. Through visions from God, experimentation with various concoctions and the teachings of sundry fanatics, she cobbled
  21. 21. 16 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES together Errant Mysticism, “a mystic journey that travels outside the bounds of the limits of our minds, that truly passes beyond human understanding.” In 1908, Miriam Silver met Charles Rowe, a practitioner in the young field of psychoanalysis. Miriam had left her family‟s Chicago home after receiving a vision encouraging her to an evangelical mission in New York. She lived on an allowance from her father, acquiring a small shop with an apartment above. From this shop, she distributed pamphlets, peddled medicinal cures and meddled in mysterious services which were not recorded. Although mystic folk medicine has a long and twisted history of spectacular success, Miriam was never successful. She fervently argued the dangers of cigarettes and cigars, demonstrating the proper way to smoke with a pipe to the glory and goodness of God. Unfortunately, her pipe-smoking method, which had come to her in a dream, was strange looking, awkward and embarrassing in public. She joyously advised on God‟s preferences for baking special cakes, which were invariably flat and rather soggy. She proselytized on the benefits of her own patent elixir, which though high in alcohol content, tasted strongly of garlic. Miriam became, in equal measures, more
  22. 22. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 17 depressed and fanatical as she failed to gain a following among the forlorn. She began exhibiting hysterical symptoms, which she attributed to God‟s visitations on her. She became unable to turn her head to the left and was compelled to touch the shop doorknob once every ten minutes. When one morning she awoke with the impression that her right hand was a great balloon, and was thereafter unable to lift or carry anything with it, she determined that this could not possibly be construed as a gift from God and contacted a psychoanalyst. As a patient on Charles Rowe‟s sofa, she struggled to untangle the complicated mesh of her unconscious mind. Miriam Silver was, by far, Professor Rowe‟s most fascinating patient, and he became convinced that this earnest and beautiful girl was indeed gifted with visions from God. “These visions,” he told her, “are interpreted through the disguising mechanisms of the mind. The Mind of God is so beyond the mind of man that His Word is treated as an ill-repressed memory, and dream-like, comes to you represented symbolically, as messages about carrots or cigars.” Professor Rowe disagreed fundamentally with the Freudian emphasis on sexuality, and particularly the formulating influence of infantile
  23. 23. 18 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES sexuality, that oxymoronic concept. In Miriam Silver, he saw the promise of a revelation in understanding not only the human mind, but in a greater scope, the fundamental nature of the universe. “Is it not true,” he wrote, “that the prophetic nature of dreams is well-documented throughout the world, and in ancient cultures? Dr. Freud dismisses these prophetic qualities in favor of degrading, animalistic explanations. There is no doubt that in the heritage of man, the spiritual is the essence that defines and controls all human behavior. The metaphysical pervades every culture and every aspect of life, but it defies human explanation. Why is this? Because the metaphysical comes to us garbled and distorted, in a code that must be broken. We have so many competing and various definitions of God and explanations of the universe that the mind becomes boggled. The ancient Greeks and Romans had their pantheons of mythic characters. The native African tribes have their strange masks depicting the preternatural element. The far eastern cultures have their own mythic traditions that defy western understanding. Even our blessed Christianity is broken and shattered into diverse sects. “We cannot understand the nature of God because it comes to us perverted through the
  24. 24. 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
  25. 25. 20 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES my mind‟s eye. He glows with a spiritual aura that he will never know!” Charles rushed to the bedside. “I can feel the power rushing through us, like an ocean let loose upon our souls.” “Yes, Charles, it is the power of God.” “It is everywhere around us.” “And in us.” The two fell together on the bed in a passion of ecstasy. Three months later, Charles Rowe and Miriam Silver were wed in New York by a justice of the peace, and in 1910 Miriam Rowe gave birth to a baby girl, six pounds and two ounces. She was named Charlotte Abigail Silver Rowe, and her overjoyed parents showered her with every affection. “We expect great things from you,” Miriam whispered to her newborn girl, when the baby was first laid in her arms. “Great things.” Soon little Charlotte grew into a vibrant toddler with silken blonde hair, cornflower blue eyes and a winning, constant smile. The small family was inseparable, and Professor Rowe saw his psychoanalytic patients in an office on the ground floor of their brownstone. Professor Rowe‟s science of psychoanalytic mysticism was the constant topic of conversation
  26. 26. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 21 in the household. Through his sessions with his patients and consultation with his helpmeet, he came to focus his practice on the aspect of memory. “What is this beautiful thing,” he would say, patting his small daughter on the head, “but a biological mechanism of memory: the memory of a moment of love, the memory of my physical and psychical person, the memory of your physical and psychical person, my dear. So that the memories in her mind are the memories of a memory, another level in this complex recording of the past on the present.” Though his small practice grew, finding new patients every month, he found no publisher for his lengthy and convoluted semi-mystical arguments. He spent long evenings composing an ever-lengthening volume documenting his case studies and extrapolating experiments in the supernatural that would allow mankind to converse with God. On May 22, 1915, Charles Rowe burst excitedly into the sitting room on the second floor of the brownstone, where his wife sat reading to their young child. “Miriam,” he said, “I have done it.” Charles had been spending long nights for the last several weeks in the brownstone‟s basement,
  27. 27. 22 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES which was set up as a workshop for both wood- working and mechanical tinkering. Charles Rowe had never been truly clever with his hands, but his father and brothers were all accomplished in these manly, mechanical skills, which were valued in his family beyond the more bookish qualities that Charles exuded. As a result, Charles admired the making of things and aspired to complement his intellectual exercises with practical machinery. When he pronounced his success in the sitting room, his wife looked up from the fable she was reading and smiled. “Of course, dear,” she said, “you will succeed at anything you put your mind to.” “This is beyond anything I could have hoped for!” “What is it, darling?” she asked. Charles had been incredibly secretive about his project, and his wife had not pried into his work. “It is what you and I have talked over, dreamed over, for years. It is the mechanism for talking with God.” Miriam stood up, almost dropping her child on its head. “Charles! Truly?” “Yes, yes. Come see it.” Miriam held the child to her breast. “Dear
  28. 28. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 23 Charlotte,” she said, “your father is the greatest man in the history of knowledge.” Charlotte, a quiet child by nature, smiled at her mother. “Well, come on,” said Charles, “the proof is in the pudding.” He led the way down the two flights of stairs to the basement workshop. Along the largest wall there was constructed a large scaffolding, from floor to ceiling and from end to end. It was three feet deep and composed of thin wooden timbers crisscrossing like an asymmetrical spider‟s web. Complicating the structure was a secondary crisscross of copper wire, moving along and among the beams. Sometimes the wires would follow the pattern of the wood, and then one wire at a random spot would break the pattern and streak off through its three-dimensional space at its own random-seeming angle. Among and between these two interweaving webs were small pockets, bulges of machinery that formed nodules, sometimes on wires, sometimes on wood. Some nodules contained lights or dials, and others seemed to be simply lumps of metal. Some were spherical, some square, and some completely irregular in shape. “Charles, it‟s amazing,” said Miriam. “Can you feel the energy emanating from it?” he asked.
  29. 29. 24 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes,” she said, holding Charlotte tightly. “A holy energy.” Charles walked over to the machinery and caressed it with his hand. “This is the moment that culminates my life work. Our life work.” “How does it work?” Miriam asked. “I will show you. No, wait. We need to document this occasion well. Go to the kitchen and get Mary and Bridgett.” Miriam rushed upstairs again and summoned the two maids, who were at work peeling potatoes. “But the potatoes cannot sit, they must go into the water,” said Bridgett, always a worried girl. “Damn the potatoes,” said Miriam. “Oh, forgive my language, but this is important.” The three women and one child descended the stairs again, to find Charles adjusting dials and buttons. “What will happen, my dear?” said Miriam. “I do not precisely know,” said Charles. “I cannot precisely tell you that, but you will see a dramatic result.” He turned to them. “On this day,” he said, “we make history.” Then he turned back to his great machine and flipped a switch on the wall within the structure. A low humming filled the room.
  30. 30. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 25 Charles stopped to secure his goggles on his head and flipped a second switch. The humming was joined by a flickering of lights and a quiet click-click-click. “Now, here we are,” he said, “the last switch.” He glanced behind him and smiled at his family. Charlotte blinked at him. Charles turned and flipped the final switch. There was a crackle and a large clap, and the room filled with smoke. The lights and sounds stopped, and the three women began to cough. When the smoke cleared, Charles was gone. Miriam stepped forward wonderingly toward the machine. “Charles?” she said. She touched lightly a board in the matrix, and the whole thing came crashing down with a thunderous roar. Of course, I don‟t remember any of this. I don‟t know any of this. I am completely in the dark. My mother would tell me things about herself, about my father, about his work, about my birth. My birth was, she assured me, a miracle that brought together man‟s scientific knowledge, man‟s psychical powers, and God‟s love. From these mystic beginnings come my great gifts.
  31. 31. 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?”
  32. 32. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 27 “Yes, that was the day your father disappeared. I remember now, we went down, and there was a great heap of rubble, and your father wasn‟t there.” “You didn‟t see him disappear?” “How could I see him disappear?” I have two alternative explanations. To witness the supernatural goes against everything our brains are programmed to believe. Perhaps Bridgett merely blocked out the events of that night and constructed her own memory of what happened. Or, of course, it could all be a lie, invented by my mother, and perpetuated by me.
  33. 33. Chapter Two: Spiritism C HARLOTTE Rowe‟s first memory was of being shoved up against her mother‟s breast in a cloud of smoke. She could recall the odor in vivid detail when she closed her eyes. Sometimes it came to her in the middle of the day, for no reason, and for a moment she couldn‟t place what the smell was. She would be washing dishes, her hands up to the elbows in warm, sudsy water, like the most luxurious bath, and for a moment instead of the smell of soap and the slight underlying stink of spoiled food, her nostrils were filled with this smell, so strange and yet so familiar. She would breathe in automatically to gather
  34. 34. 30 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES more of the scent, not only to identify it, but because compulsively, she wanted to drink it in. Her nose would tickle and twitch with the feeling of particles mixed with the odor — a strong, sharp, metallic odor flavored with something sweet on the one hand, and something bitter underlying it. In these instances, the smell only lasted for a second or two before it faded away, leaving no trace in the ordinary air. Recurrences of the smell persisted for Charlotte throughout her lifetime, and as she lay on her death bed, she would turn her head to the left or to the right, hoping to capture a whiff of it. It was the smell that started everything. Not only that first child-like and hazy memory — although that started things too. It was after that first instance of the smell that the women began to come. In Charlotte‟s childhood memory, her mother was the prominent and ubiquitous figure. Charlotte‟s impression of her mother was of a large woman — bustling and busy. Her mother was the final repository of all knowledge. She knew what to wear, what to eat, how to pray and when to go to the bathroom. “I‟m raising you,” her mother told her once, “as a child of the Lord. Most people don‟t know what it means to achieve Grace, because achieving
  35. 35. 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.
  36. 36. 32 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Before she could speak, Mrs. Rowe continued: “Follow me.” Mrs. Rowe turned and started toward the basement stairs. Miss Bellwether‟s eye fell on Charlotte, and she favored the girl with a toothy smile. “Follow me,” said Charlotte, raising her eyebrows and turning on her heels to follow her mother. The three proceeded single-file down the narrow basement steps to the oasis of comfort erected there. Mrs. Rowe stood by the table and turned to face the others. Charlotte immediately sat in her favorite chair, a large armless creature upholstered in deep purple velvet. “I presume this is suitable, Miss Bellwether.” Beulah Bellwether looked around herself. On the floor along the longest wall were the ruins, mysteriously attractive rubble of metal, wire and wood. The other side of the room was filled with shelves and cabinets, disused and covered in dust, but still filled with bottles, jars, instruments, gadgets and tools of every description. A large table was shoved up against the cabinets to clear the center of the room for its newer furnishings. Miss Bellwether made a clicking noise and nodded very swiftly six times. “The emanations here are very strong,” she said, “very strong.”
  37. 37. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 33 “Sit,” said Mrs. Rowe. “Sit up straight, Charlotte.” Charlotte shot up rigid in her chair, and Miss Bellwether sat down rather heavily with a small sigh. She straightened her dress beneath her, and looked first at Mrs. Rowe and then at Charlotte. “We have had,” said Miss Bellwether, “truly amazing results with table turning.” Mrs. Rowe raised her eyebrows. “I asked you here because I heard praise of your mediumship.” “Oh, I know. But mediumship does take many forms, does it not? I mean, table turning is indeed a mediumistic venture. Not that I insist we try table turning in any way. But I do feel that we must be open to many different types of communication. I mean, the mediumistic trance is quite wonderful, quite spectacular, but also, you know, somewhat unreliable.” There was a silence following this pronouncement, as Miss Bellwether looked earnestly at Mrs. Rowe. Mrs. Rowe sighed a deep and dissatisfied sigh, and spoke coldly. “We may do table turning, if you feel it is likely to be effective. But I would first like to at least attempt contact in a trance, as I had heard that you were able to do.”
  38. 38. 34 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Well, of course, Mrs. Rowe,” said the medium. “Of course, I never meant to imply that we could not attempt a trance. And I have every hope that, with the grace of God, we will be successful.” There was another pause. “We must all join hands around the table, if you please, Mrs. Rowe.” She set her hands on the table. Charlotte took one, and Mrs. Rowe took the other. “Please close your eyes,” said Miss Bellwether. Charlotte closed her eyes. She could feel the cool, smooth hand of her mother gripping her right hand and the warm, doughy hand of Miss Bellwether gripping her left. Small purple globes floated across her eyelids, and the room, the world, felt far off, way outside the boundaries of her head. The room was hot, and she relaxed into the chair, now that her mother could no longer see her posture. They had held many of these séances. That was a French word, and it simply meant to sit. Not precisely. “To sit” was seoir. A séance was a sitting. Like sitting room. But they did not hold their séances in the sitting room, they held them in the basement. What was the French term for basement? She was quite good in French, and sure she could remember. Miss Bellwether droned on, but Charlotte
  39. 39. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 35 disregarded her. “We ask any spirits,” she was saying, “who dwell in this area, or in an adjacent plane, any who have information for these souls here gathered, to present themselves in our presence.” What a loud medium Miss Bellwether was. Usually they were silent for a while, until they fell into a trance. But this one went prattling on about planes and energy and souls. That‟s what it was! Sous-sol, basement. So these were not so much séances as sous-sols. „Pardon me, my dear, but I must be off — I am late for a sous- sol.‟ „Yes, Mrs. Robinson, the séance is so passé (present tense passer). You simply must attend one of our sous-sols.‟ Miss Bellwether had finally fallen into silence. She was now breathing rather heavily through her nose. Adenoids, perhaps. Charlotte attempted to read Miss Bellwether‟s thoughts by traveling, with her mind, through Beulah‟s hand, up her arm, and into her vibrating nose. Feeling nothing, she determined to read her mother‟s thoughts. She felt again the cool hand, so calm and detached and perfect. She traveled up the well-draped arm, through the veins that, if you pushed back the silk fabric of the dress, were visible on the surface of her arm as blue lines. She traveled through the neck, where a pulse-pulse-pulse
  40. 40. 36 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES beat strongly and regularly. She arrived inside the head, where she could feel the presence of the closed eyes in front of her. They were dark eyes, shark‟s eyes. There was complete and total silence, and a cold emptiness. Here everything dropped away. She was neither breathing nor suffocating. Her heart was not beating. Her mind was a blank. Everything around her was blank, empty, impossible. The world dropped away and revealed itself to be illusion. Into this total and complete absence, came the smell. Mrs. Rowe and Miss Bellwether held hands in silence, except for Miss Bellwether‟s notable stentorian breathing. Miriam Rowe did not have high hopes for this particular venture. Although some of her trusted friends had given the highest references for Miss Bellwether‟s mediumistic capabilities, Mrs. Rowe felt certain that these references were based on questionable séances held in controlled circumstances. Certain rather humiliating experiences had taught her to maintain a level of caution with mediums. At one point, Miss Bellwether‟s hand gripped Mrs. Rowe‟s hand strongly, and the audible breathing was interrupted by a gasp. It was
  41. 41. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 37 followed by nothing, however, so it must have been merely a hiccup or nauseated twinge. Mrs. Rowe was just beginning to feel that, perhaps, her rather callous distrust of this particular medium could be causing a lack of results, when a violent gust of wind whipped through the basement. Automatically, Miriam Rowe‟s eyes flew open, and she saw that Miss Bellwether‟s eyes had also flown open and were looking at her with a clear and distinct fright. How odd, thought Mrs. Rowe. Then the voice came from an unexpected quarter. “Charles?” Mrs. Rowe asked, wonderingly. It was Charlotte who was speaking, her eyes still closed, her face expressionless. She repeated: “The resistance of the mind to the Power of God is strong.” “Charles,” Mrs. Rowe said, “Charles,” and she turned to the voice, breaking her handhold with the now-forgotten Miss Bellwether. “Life is an imperfect way of recording the past. Everything we create is a hysterical symptom of the past traumas of Earth.” “Where are you, Charles? How can we get you back?” The girl continued to stare straight ahead and spoke with the older, masculine voice of her father:
  42. 42. 38 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Time is recorded on the brain, and living things are time machines, traveling backwards in their minds, as their flesh moves forward. Hysterical symptoms are the infringement of the past on the present, through our personal recording of history. The child lives in the womb, and the womb is a memory of the child. The amniotic sac holds the knowledge of the child just as your mind holds the knowledge of my self.” Charlotte‟s head turned toward her mother, who was staring at her with great horror. “I know how to create eternal life.” Then, all life and energy left her, and she fell to the table as if the bones were gone from her body. Miss Bellwether screamed. Mrs. Rowe rushed to Charlotte‟s side. “Charlotte,” she said. “Charles.” Things become confused. They are told and retold. Recalled and remembered, and then remembered again. The experience of traveling into my mother‟s mind is so vivid that I can close my eyes and be in that moment even now. I think I remember speaking in my father‟s voice. I have heard about it many times, and I have seen it in my mirror. In my mirror, my face even seems to take on the aspect of his face.
  43. 43. 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.
  44. 44. Chapter Three: Nanette C HARLOTTE awoke in her bed with a nasty headache. There was an icepack on her forehead, but it was not helping in any way. Her mother sat at the bedside, and when she saw Charlotte‟s eyes fly open, she was ready immediately with a spoon full of something that smelled quite nasty. “Charlotte? Here, take this. It will do you good.” “Did I faint?” Charlotte asked, after obediently swallowing the stuff, which left an oily residue on her tongue. “May I have some water?” “Of course,” said her mother, and went across the room to pour a glass from a pitcher, “and no. Don‟t you remember?”
  45. 45. 42 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “We were in the sous-sol.” Miriam Rowe looked critically at her daughter. “It is not polite to speak French, except with the French.” Her mother was never good at languages. “I‟m sorry, Mother. I don‟t know why, I just had the word ready in my head.” “You don‟t remember anything?” Charlotte shook her head. “What happened?” “The most wonderful and amazing thing,” Mrs. Rowe said. She handed her daughter the glass of water. “You are the most incredible medium.” “Medium?” Charlotte asked. “I knew when you were born that you were special. You were born of the ethereal plane. You were a child of the highest spiritual power. Now, your birthright is coming to fruition in light of the Grace you have worked so hard to attain.” “What happened?” asked Charlotte. “It is so exciting. We must bring your talents to the world. We must — but of course you need your rest at the moment. So try and get some sleep, and I will bring you some blood pills in a moment.” Charlotte looked away from her mother. “Que s‟est produit? De que ma mère parle-t-elle?” “Charlotte! What did I tell you?”
  46. 46. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 43 Charlotte turned to her mother, and raised her eyebrows. “You told me it was only polite to speak French to the French.” “And since when do you disobey your mother?” “I am not disobeying!” “What language was that, if not French?” “I did not say I was not speaking French!” “Well? Is there a French person here? To what French person were you speaking?” Her mother was puffing up her chest and turning red in the face. Charlotte opened her eyes, with a surprised expression. “Why, to Nanette.” Mrs. Rowe stared at her daughter. “Nanette?” “Yes, Mother, of course. Who else would I be talking to?” “Who,” asked her mother, “is Nanette?” “Nanette. You know.” Charlotte searched for words. “What is wrong with you, Mother?” “Charlotte. Answer me carefully.” Mrs. Rowe dropped down beside Charlotte‟s bed again, kneeling by her daughter and caressing her forehead. “Is Nanette here with us now, darling?” “Of course, Mother. Nanette is always here.” “And she is French?”
  47. 47. 44 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Of course!” “Where is she, exactly?” Charlotte looked around the room. “Why she‟s here. Around. Sometimes all around the room, and sometimes right at my ear.” “Why have you never told me about her?” Charlotte looked puzzled. “Haven‟t I? She‟s always been here.” “This is wonderful, Charlotte. Simply wonderful. Can you talk to her right now?” “Of course I can.” “Ask her... Ask her if she is in contact with Charles.” “Oh. Umm. Parlez-vous avec Charles?” She turned to her mother. “Oui. Oh. I‟m sorry. I mean, yes.” Her mother was practically quivering now, sitting on the very edge of the bed, and nervously caressing Charlotte‟s head. “Can she ask him where he is?” “Okay, Mother. Nanette? Où est Charles?” “Well?” asked her mother. “She says...” “Speak, child. What does she say?” “Il est avec vous.” “He is... What?” “He is with you.” “What does that mean?”
  48. 48. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 45 “I don‟t know!” “You must know!” “I don‟t know, Mother. I really don‟t know.” Mrs. Rowe realized that she was holding her daughter‟s shoulders in a white grip. She let go and looked around the room. “The problem is that the language of the spirits is translated through our own minds. And, on top of that, your spirit guide speaks French!” “Spirit guide?” “Yes, darling. Nanette is your guide, and she will give you information from beyond the fabric of our mortal universe.” “Oh,” said Charlotte. “This has all been quite trying,” said Miriam Rowe. She rose and wiped her hands on her skirt. “We must converse with Nanette at length, and find out about her. Well. I will bring up those blood pills. You will need your strength.” “No,” said Charlotte. “Do not disagree with me, child.” “It‟s not me, Mother. Nanette warns me strongly against blood pills.” “She does?” “Yes, she says that I must take them under no circumstances.” “Oh.”
  49. 49. 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
  50. 50. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 47 another. And then, she comes to my bedside with a cup of tea, and she seems to be a normal, middle-aged French woman. “Nanette?” I ask. “Is it really you?” “Of course, it‟s me. Who else would be bringing you your tea?” “Do you remember when I was a child?” She laughs. “Sure, my dear. Don‟t you?” Perhaps I‟m mixing them up. I thought I just imagined her. After all, it got me some attention. And I was always proud of my French.
  51. 51. Chapter Four: The Séance for Norma Parker N ORMA Parker was a mousey woman, not old yet but certainly not young. She had lived in her mother‟s house all of her life. Her mother birthed eight children. The twins, John and Jacob, were her first born and died in infancy. Alan was the third born, oldest surviving, who had moved to Utah with a young wife years ago. Catharine, the fourth child, had felt a calling and had become a Christian missionary in parts unknown. Jeremy and Jason were another set of twins, the fifth and sixth children. They had quarreled irreconcilably, but both were lawyers living in Manhattan who had married on the same day women of the same age, hair color, and eye color. Margaret, the seventh child, had died
  52. 52. 50 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES moments out of the womb. Norma was the youngest of all of them, born when Jeremy and Jason were ten and her mother was already a middle-aged woman. Mrs. Mary Mae Parker was fond of saying that after Norma‟s birth she was never the same woman again. The labor of pregnancy, not to mention childbirth, so late in life was a burden to her, and she began complaining about it before she even knew she was pregnant. “Joe,” she said (Joe being her husband), “I just don‟t seem to feel well anymore. I swear, I am sick every day of my life these days!” She swore that she could tell the date of conception to a second, since for precisely 269 days, she felt sick, as well as tired and swollen and generally uncomfortable. The 270th and 271st days were spent in a sweating agony of labor, during which she openly cursed Joe and little Norman inside her (for she was certain this much trouble must be from a boy). When she lay back on her bed, exhausted and relieved, and was handed a little pink girl, Mary Mae did not feel sorrow for her mistake, since she had not recovered from her grudge against the small package. “Well, I suppose we‟ll have to call her Norma, then,” she said. The grudge, though silent, was undying, and
  53. 53. 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
  54. 54. 52 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES crockery. After that, the noises began. There were cracking sounds, rumblings, and crashes that Joe never seemed to hear. When Norma rushed to see what happened, she would find everything in place. My mother was a natural storyteller. She knew Norma through a friend of a friend, and she learned all about her life and her problems. Once she had obtained the invitation for us to visit Norma as spiritual advisors, she excitedly chattered about the Parkers for days on end. She would insert descriptive detail whenever the mood hit her, and run off on tangents of speculation. My mother built up characters in her own mind and colored a picture of Norma Parker‟s life that was cobbled together from everything she‟d heard, mortared with her powerful imagination. Resentfully, I listened to my mother‟s chatter. I did not want, particularly, to be a spiritualistic medium. I did not want to go to Norma‟s house. I figured that Norma was a sap, a martyr, a stupid woman. I was supposed to go sleep over at a girl‟s house, but my mother cancelled my plan in order to take me to Norma Parker‟s house. I hated Norma Parker. I hated my own stupid mother.
  55. 55. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 53 I didn‟t realize how emotionally purging the visit to Norma Parker would be. Charlotte and Miriam Rowe came at Norma‟s request. Miriam made a great show of wandering about the house, discussing emanations, clairaudience and astral movement. Charlotte, rather moody and restless, followed along with a pouting expression on her face. The three settled on a small sofa in the sitting room. “What do you think?” asked Norma, anxiously. “Can you help me?” “It is difficult to say,” said Miriam with much consideration. “There are definitely presences here.” Charlotte kicked her heels strongly against the sofa. “Charlotte,” said Miriam, “do not kick the sofa!” “Go away, Mother!” Charlotte shouted. “Charlotte!” said her mother, turning red. Charlotte was staring blank-eyed in front of her. “Mother — Mother — Mother,” she repeated. Miriam registered Norma‟s intake of breath. “Your mother — she has passed on,” said Miriam. “It‟s your mother Charlotte must be sensing.”
  56. 56. 54 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Exorcise her! Get her out! Get rid of her!” shouted Charlotte. She fell off the sofa in hysterics. “Get her out! Get her out! Mother! Be gone Mother! Get out Mother! Mother must go! Mother must go!” Miriam fell to Charlotte‟s side, and Norma stood behind her, watching with wide eyes. “Is she—?” asked Norma. “Don‟t worry,” said Miriam. “It‟s the presence of the spirits. The spirit of your mother is here with you. She is hanging on, unable to let go.” Charlotte let out an ear-piercing scream and echoed, “Let go!” Miriam said, “We will need to help your mother pass on. This happens sometimes, when spirits are too attached to the material plane. She loves you so much.” Norma smiled a very gratified smile. Once Charlotte was calmed and settled in the kitchen with a bowl of fresh strawberries and cream, Miriam began unpacking her exorcism equipment. She had potions and concoctions of her own making, along with amulets, containers, and figurines. She spent hours writing and revising incantations, and worried over recipes for holy oils and incense. Miriam‟s rites and rituals were her special devotion, and working through them, the sitter always felt a true accomplishment.
  57. 57. 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.
  58. 58. Chapter Five: The Reappearance of Charles Rowe P ROFESSOR Charles Ambrose Rowe awoke one day in strange and uncomfortable circumstance. His head hurt, and he was aware of being unshaven. His skin was sunburned, and he had the feeling of having been outside for quite a long time. He was aware of these things before he was aware of his surroundings. These, too, were harsh and strange. He lay on cold cobblestone in an alley that had a distinctly unpleasant smell. When he felt about his person, he found that he had no wallet, no money, and no pocket watch. The sky above him was dim and brown and the air was warm and humid. When he picked himself up off of the hard
  59. 59. 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
  60. 60. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 59 small family‟s circumstances had greatly improved. Although she did not like to mention it, in the first years of her husband‟s absence, Miriam had appealed to her father for assistance. This was, of course, no cause for shame. It was a family‟s responsibility to care for their loved ones in times of need. However, as time went on, her father and mother began to press her to return to Chicago. This would have been quite a sensible move. It was not wholly fitting, Miriam felt, for a woman and child to live alone, and keeping a separate household was an unnecessary extra expense. She was loath to leave the house, though. Her discomfort grew over time, as she strove (and usually failed) to reduce her household expenses. With the dramatic appearance of Charlotte‟s spirit guide, prospects instantly improved. Instead of being the sitter, she was elevated to the status of — well, not precisely of a sensitive, since her powers manifested only in visions and revelations and never upon her command — but of the Earthly equivalent of a control. While Nanette managed the supernatural side of the séance, Miriam managed the Earthly side. Charlotte functioned as a conduit between the two, their connecting link, often retaining no memory of her mediumistic episodes.
  61. 61. 60 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Although the true purpose of these sittings was, clearly, for the furtherance of the Grace of God and for the peace and joy of those who came, it was also, undeniably, a rather good source of income for a wife and mother who was unhappily left alone through awkward circumstances. Miriam spread jam thickly onto a piece of toast. It was good jam, and real butter too. Charlotte said, “We should have a roast beef for dinner.” Miriam looked up. “We have those good ducks sent over from the butcher.” “Father‟s favorite,” said Charlotte, “is roast beef.” This was not an entirely unique suggestion. Charlotte would occasionally mention that her father was quite fond of chocolates, or particularly felt like peach ice cream that day. Whatever, in fact, Charlotte happened to crave, she could acquire simply by noting that it was a favorite of father‟s. This had not happened in a while, though. Charlotte‟s father, as a topic of conversation or thought, had dwindled into the background in recent months. “Roast beef?” said Miriam. “I suppose that the ducks can be kept for another day. I should, perhaps, send Sheri down to the butcher‟s.”
  62. 62. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 61 “That sounds good,” said Charlotte, toying with her spoon in her three-minute egg. “Father will be pleased.” The doorbell rang, and Sheri bustled through the room on her way to the door. Miriam stopped her. “Sheri, you will please go to the butcher‟s and get a nice roast beef for tonight.” “Ma‟am?” “You understood me. A roast beef.” “But Angie has already begun preparing the ducks for tonight.” “Well, the ducks will need to wait. We will have roast beef tonight.” The doorbell rang again. “Well? Are you going to answer that? Remember, we are at breakfast and unable to entertain a visitor.” “Yes, ma‟am.” Sheri scooted off toward the door. “Finish your egg, Charlotte,” said Miriam. “You need your strength.” Sheri re-entered the room and stood by the table uncertainly. “Yes, Sheri?” said Mrs. Rowe. “There is a man at the door...” “I thought I made it clear that we would not be disturbed at our breakfast.”
  63. 63. 62 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes, ma‟am,” said Sheri, still uncertainly. “Well, what is it then?” “He is rather an impoverished-looking gentleman,” she said slowly. “We do not have either work or subscriptions for unemployed men,” Mrs. Rowe said sternly. “I know, but...” “But what? Let it out, Sheri. Don‟t just clamp your tongue on it.” “Well, he says he is Professor Rowe.” Miriam Rowe shot up from the table, knocking over a water glass. She rushed past Sheri and to the doorway. Charlotte said, “If I were you, I would get off to the butcher‟s.” Sheri blinked at the girl. Miriam Rowe reappeared at the doorway to the room, holding on her arm the tattered and distressed-looking man. She helped him to a chaise in the corner of the room, and kneeled at his side as he lay back. Miriam ran her hand gently over the man‟s drenched forehead, and then spun around with vicious energy. “Stupid girl,” she said to Sheri, “leaving him out in the rain like that. Don‟t just stand there! Get a towel. And run a bath. You can get Angie to go to the butcher‟s, and have the roast prepared as soon as possible. He will need good red meat!”
  64. 64. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 63 Sheri started and mumbled and ran out of the room. Miriam turned back to her bedraggled husband. “Darling,” she said. He passed out on the chaise.
  65. 65. Chapter Six: The Move P ROFESSOR Rowe was not the same after his return. Miriam let him sleep all morning and early afternoon on the chaise in the breakfast room. She woke him to bathe and shave and change into clean clothes (still neatly hung and folded in the upstairs closets) before dinner. He performed these rituals in near silence, going through the familiar motions with the awkwardness of a child learning each for the first time. He devoured his roast beef and new potatoes hungrily and silently. After his plate was emptied, he retired upstairs and was not seen again until tea time the next day.
  66. 66. 66 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES As he came slowly down the stairs, Charlotte was consuming warm jelly doughnuts, and Miriam was picking at dry toast. “Charles,” said Miriam, as he stood in the doorway, staring at them. “How are you feeling?” She rose from the table and went to him. Almost simultaneously, Charles moved towards the table. He sat on a chair and looked down at the variety of breads and sweets. He set his hands on the table and took a moment to stare at them. “May I get you some tea, darling?” Miriam asked. “No,” said Charles in a voice that came from far away. He stared down at his hands on the table some more, and then raised his eye to stare at the two females. Miriam was gazing at him eagerly. Charlotte glanced at him as she took a bite of doughnut. Warm raspberry jam dribbled down her chin. “We are going to travel across the country,” he said. “We will travel on a train to California and settle in a country that God has designated, where it is warm and the sun shines. I will resume my work there.” “Yes,” said Miriam. “I see.” It‟s strange how the truly momentous occasions
  67. 67. 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.
  68. 68. Chapter Seven: Anita, A Case Study O NE night, as I lay under my bedcovers, my head resting on pillows, my eyes wide open, staring into space, my mind empty, a blank, feeling too tired to go to sleep, too tired to think about anything, I thought I saw a motion in the large mirror hanging across from my bed. I stared at the mirror, in the darkness. I tried to focus my sleepy eyes across the room at it. The mirror, like the void, stared back at me. This staring match lasted until I was sure I would begin to see the glimmer of the sun nearing the horizon. In fact, the mirror seemed to lighten and brighten as I stared at it. My eyes were nodding, and the mirror was winking at me.
  69. 69. 70 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES Then, I began to see something in the mirror. I began to see my father. Professor Rowe sat on the leather wingback chair, his pen hovering over a notebook. Anita lay on the couch, her eyes closed. She was shaking her head. “I don‟t know, Doctor,” she said. “I just don‟t know.” “You do know,” he replied. “No!” “You must let go of your resistances. Your conscious mind is blocking your unconscious knowledge. You do know!” He stood up from his chair, restless, and began pacing the room. Anita put her fists in front of her eyes. “No!” she said. “I know nothing about it.” “You‟re making yourself sick!” shouted the doctor. “You‟re hurting yourself!” “I don‟t care!” she shouted. He whipped toward her. “You don‟t care? You don‟t care! Not you aren‟t, but you don‟t care! That‟s wonderful, Anita. That‟s a breakthrough!” Anita began to cry. “You‟re horrible!” Professor Rowe laughed. “Go back to it, again,” said Professor Rowe. “Go back to the beginning.”
  70. 70. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 71 “We have been over it and over it.” “Again. It‟s essential. Can‟t you see that we‟re on the verge?” Anita sat up on the couch. She removed her fists from her eyes, and placed them in her lap. Her hands did not unclench, and her fingernails bit into her palms. “I was walking down a long corridor,” she said. “Long and dark. It was unbearably hot, hot and humid, and I wanted to get out. It was suffocating. The corridor was long — and I rushed along it to get out.” She looked up at Professor Rowe, who nodded encouragingly. “My feet seemed to stick to the floor, though, and it was hard to make progress, hard to find my way through. I was just turning a corner in the corridor, when the— “ She paused. “Don‟t pause,” he said. “Don‟t think. Don‟t block the words from coming.” “I don‟t know how to describe it,” she said. “You do know how to describe it.” “This thing was coming — pummeling down the corridor toward me — I don‟t know, it was like a monster, or a machine. It filled the whole corridor, as if the corridor was its tunnel.” “Was the corridor the thing‟s tunnel?”
  71. 71. 72 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Yes,” she said softly. “Yes, its lair, its cave. I turned and ran from the thing, and it chased me back through the caverns, into the depths of its lair.” She let out a small sob. “How did you feel?” asked the doctor. “Afraid! Hopeless. I wanted out, wanted to escape.” “And it was keeping you in?” “It chased me into the very heart of the place, and then receded. Every time I started toward the exit, it would reappear, merciless, barreling down upon me, chasing me again into the depths. What does it mean, doctor? It‟s so frightening.” “There is no reason to be frightened, Anita,” said the psychoanalyst. He came and kneeled by her, placing his hands on her shoulders. “It is natural,” he said, “to be frightened. The human mind fears those things that are beyond it. You must try to step outside of the dream and view your fear as merely another element of the dream. And remember, everything in your dream is a representation of God and God‟s message. Step outside of your fear and think about the dream objectively. Put your fear outside of yourself. Your fear is part of the dream, nothing more. It is part of a message from God. From beyond the fear, from outside the dream, what do you feel?”
  72. 72. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 73 She looked up at him. “I don‟t know...” He moved his hand from her shoulder, cupping her chin in the palm of his hand. “You do know,” he said, with incredible certainty. “Oh!” said Anita. Her breathing was fast. Her heart was beating. Her palms were sweating. Soon, she found herself in the arms of the handsome doctor.
  73. 73. Chapter Eight: Excerpt from Charlotte‟s Diary I thought that I hated my mother, but she is nothing. She doesn‟t even deserve hate. She doesn‟t even deserve pity. She is a woman of the past, the worst kind of subservient swine. She simpers. She actually simpers. It is my father that I hate. That horrible man. He comes sweeping back into our lives, and begins by making ultimatums, uprooting us from our home. Can you imagine? The sheer balls of that man. Yes, balls! That is what Mr. George says. “Balls!” I know what it means, too. It‟s a private part that men have. And everything about a man is a horrible swear word by default! That‟s what I say. All of my respect for my mother has gone with
  74. 74. 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
  75. 75. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 77 in rivulets of fire. Even now, sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and go down to the kitchen. I sit there, with a glass of warm milk that I do not intend to drink (but that is cover for me if someone should wake and find me there). I stare into the gas oven and imagine what it would be like to turn on the gas and extinguish the pilot light — so simple and such a womanly endeavor, to extinguish the light on a stove — and to stick my head inside that dark cavern, encrusted with the food that women are entrusted to prepare, the food that gives us life. Women are the givers of life: those that create, bear, and raise children; those that run the household, prepare the food, and give comfort and cure to the sick. What are men for? Doctors merely make comment on the natural healing of women. Politicians create problems to solve them; businessmen create monies in order to make them! They are one step removed from the truths of life. If it weren‟t for the need of sperm (yes, I know all kinds of medical terms that my parents would blush at!) we would not need men at all. Nor do I need men! I have no use for sperm, or pregnancy. I have Nanette and all of the truths that she teaches me through her inspiration. And particularly, I do not need my father, who asserts
  76. 76. 78 ICE CREAM MEMORIES his (unnecessary) masculinity through ordering us out of our home and across the coast. I would not be surprised to learn that this whole deter- mination is created through his desire to escape persecution for some ungodly crime committed during his absence. After all, aren‟t men the par- ticular criminals of society? Lizzy Borden is talked of so often on the playgrounds that one becomes sick of her name, but how many men have taken an axe or knife or gun to their loved ones, and yet escaped infamy? I could so easily take an axe to my father, and I bet that I would have the good sense not even to be suspected. All men should die at the hands of gentle womanhood, not even suspecting. The fools. I know what I shall really do, though. There is not even a need for a bloody axe. I will be a rich and famous medium, richer than any man, and more powerful too! After all, don‟t presidents and senators have loved ones who died? They will all listen to me, and I will become the most powerful person in the world.
  77. 77. Chapter Nine: Montague and the Mirror P ERHAPS I had better explain about the mirror. I don‟t know who I was when I was young. I remember that girl, and yet she is so foreign to me, so strange. She is wild and uncontained. Sometimes I think that the mirror changed me. Am I no longer me? Was she me? Was I invaded by a spirit, a consciousness on another plane? Did I look into the void of my own soul and somehow change it? Or did I simply grow up, grow old? The other member of the Rowe household was a shorthaired gray cat named Montague. The day of the family‟s arrival in their new home in Redlands, California, Montague was already in residence.
  78. 78. 80 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES The rough stone building situated in the middle of a vast orange grove was not at all what Charlotte had in mind regarding a place to live. It was really nothing but rubble. They rode out from the railway station in a ridiculous open carriage which insistently pointed out each rut and rock in the road. When they pulled up in front of the structure, Professor Rowe helped first Miriam and then Charlotte down from the carriage. Charlotte kicked a large stone. “This place,” said Miriam, breathing the air in deeply and glancing over at Charles Rowe. “This place has an atmosphere,” she said. Professor Rowe was gazing up at the stone building with a self-satisfied look, as if he had built the place himself. “If you look at the design of the place,” he said, “you can see the intricate knowledge in the details of the design. This place was built with a purpose.” “It is glorious,” sighed Miriam. “It‟s hot,” said Charlotte. “Now, Charlotte,” said Miriam. “Don‟t be so narrow-minded!” “Well, it is hot. Can I have an orange?” “No,” said Professor Rowe. “The oranges are not technically ours.”
  79. 79. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 81 “Who will know?” asked Charlotte. “Don‟t talk back to your father. Come, let us go look inside.” The family walked up to the front door of the tumble-down structure and into a dark, dank stone room. They all paused at the entrance and looked about in a bit of dismay. “Well,” said Miriam, “we will soon make this place just like home.” As Miriam strode into the room, the cat rushed down the stairwell, screeching. It darted under her feet. She screamed and jumped from foot to foot, losing her balance and landing on her bottom. Professor Rowe stooped to help his wife up. Her screeching had turned to a howl. “That cat!” she said. “That demon! Where did that creature come from?” The cat was weaving in and out between Charlotte‟s feet. Charlotte reached down and caressed its head. Miriam was pointing at the cat. “Get that cat out of here!” Charlotte looked at her mother. “This cat is my familiar,” she said. Miriam‟s arm fell down by degrees, until it rested at her side. “What?”
  80. 80. 82 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “He was sent to me by Nanette. His name is Montague.” “Oh.” Professor and Miriam Rowe stared at the cat. “He will not bother you, Mother,” said Charlotte and picked up the cat. Holding the cat in her arms, Charlotte looked around the room. “Yes, we will get along here quite well.” She took the cat and went up the stairs to the top room of the tower. That room became, with no discussion, Charlotte‟s room. The room was, surprisingly, furnished. It contained a big, soft bed, a chest of drawers, and an enormous mirror on the wall across from the bed. Charlotte let go of the cat and flung herself on the bed. She sunk into the deep, soft mattress. Montague jumped up atop the dresser and began carefully examining his own reflection in the mirror. “What are you doing over there?” asked Charlotte. “Come over to me. I have a piece of string.” Because he was a feline and therefore contrary by nature, Montague did not respond. “Come here,” said Charlotte again, petulantly. She sat up on the bed and slapped her palms down noisily.
  81. 81. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 83 The cat in the mirror tilted its head to the side and meowed at her. She heard it. Charlotte blinked. Montague continued to stare into the mirror for a moment. Then he sat and commenced licking his paw. Charlotte looked at Montague and his mirror twin. Nothing odd happened. She was just lying back down on the bed when the cat in the mirror laid down two full seconds before the cat on the dresser. Charlotte walked over to the mirror and looked into it. She saw herself. Charlotte awoke the next morning crumpled on the floor with a splitting headache.
  82. 82. Chapter Ten: Augustine Emory O NE of the proudest moments of Miriam Rowe‟s life was when Augustine Emory came to observe. Augustine was a tall woman with a commanding presence. She walked into the house and sent an arch, controlling stare around the room. Her companion, a stout middle-aged woman, seemed almost absent by comparison. Miriam warranted only a glance from Augustine. Her gaze settled on Charlotte. “Well,” she said, standing over the child. “So this is the girl we have heard so much about. Stand up straight and look me in the eye.” Charlotte put her shoulders back and arched her eyebrows. Augustine put her hands on Charlotte‟s
  83. 83. 86 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES cheeks and tilted the girl‟s head up. The older woman‟s silver rings impressed themselves into Charlotte‟s cheeks. “Yes,” said Augustine. “Your aura is quite strong. Hmmm.” She turned the girl‟s head to the left and then to the right. “Oh!” she said, sounding quite surprised, and removed her hands from the girl. She fluttered her fingers in the air above Charlotte‟s right shoulder. “Strong ectoplasmic emanations,” she said. She turned around and, for the first time, faced her companion. “Can you see?” she asked. “I don‟t know,” said the other woman slowly. “I sense something—” “You are a sensitive, my dear, no matter how you fight it,” said Augustine. “You just need to let go and reach out.” “Oh, I know,” said the woman. “I‟m certain I saw something.” “You are a sensitive, my dear,” said Augustine again. “Yes, Mrs. Carlisle,” said Miriam to the woman. “That is Nanette. She is with Charlotte, always.” “Ah, the spirit guide,” said Augustine. “Well, if I am to observe, we shall need something to observe.”
  84. 84. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 87 The four females retired into a small parlor. As they entered, Professor Charles Rowe turned toward them. He stood in front of a fireplace, idly poking the smoldering logs. “Mrs. Carlisle,” he said, resting the poker against the fireplace. “I am so glad to see you. I truly believe that the path of the Lord is leading you to this venture.” “Yes,” said Mrs. Carlisle, rather breathlessly. Professor Rowe turned to Augustine. “And you, of course, are Augustine Emory.” “It‟s a pleasure to meet you, Professor Rowe,” Augustine remarked. “It is seldom that we meet a man of science who can truly keep an open mind.” “Science is nothing but an opening of the mind.” “Indeed,” said Augustine. “Will you participate in the séance?” “No,” he said. “I, like you, am an observer. Will you have a seat with me?” The two settled into a pair of wing-backed chairs in the corner of the room. Miriam turned off all lights but the low fire burning in the fireplace and ushered Mrs. Carlisle and Charlotte to seats at a small, round table. “Place your hands on the table,” said Miriam, and followed her own actions to her words.
  85. 85. 88 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES “Mrs. Carlisle, if you will close your eyes. I want you to concentrate on the problem that is foremost in your mind. Just let your mind drift through the problem, and visualize freely. You will see in your mind‟s eye visions of people who are important to you, visions of places and things. Do not stop to think about these visions. Just let them come to you, flow through you. Be at peace, be silent, be content. This is a safe place. This is a warm and comfortable place.” There was a lengthy silence, and then Charlotte let out a small groan, or perhaps it was a sigh. Miriam opened her eyes, and looked critically at her daughter. “You may open your eyes, Mrs. Carlisle.” Mrs. Carlisle opened her eyes and blinked in the firelight. “She is in a trance,” said Miriam. The girl‟s mouth opened and a low moan, more distinct, came out of it. “What does it mean?” asked Mrs. Carlisle. “Sometimes it takes her this way,” said Miriam. “There is trouble communicating, trouble coming through the barriers between the planes.” “Oh!” said Mrs. Carlisle. “We will try automatic writing,” said Miriam. “She is deep in a trance state. The difficulty is
  86. 86. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 89 bringing the communications she is experiencing into this world, for us to interpret.” “Oh, yes,” said Mrs. Carlisle. Miriam quietly transferred a nearby sheet of paper to the table, and placed it under Charlotte‟s hand. Charlotte was unresponsive, neither moving her head nor her hands as the paper slid underneath them. Miriam took her daughter‟s hand in her own, and placed a planchette in it, cupping the limp fingers around it. Charlotte allowed her hand to be manipulated. “Nanette,” said Miriam, “are you with us?” There was no response from the girl. “Nanette,” said Miriam again, “please let us know if you are here.” Slowly, achingly, Charlotte‟s hand began to move across the paper. This movement was accompanied by another low groan, as if her hand were a swollen and creaking door sliding with difficulty across the floor. The planchette made a large and wobbling circle on the paper. “Good,” said Miriam. “Good. Nanette, is that you?” The planchette moved again, this time with slightly more fluidity. It gathered strength as it began moving in circles, larger and larger, until they spiraled over
  87. 87. 90 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES the whole paper. Miriam quietly slipped a new sheet of paper underneath the moving pencil as the paper became covered. The instrument made two small loops and then stopped. “Nanette,” Miriam repeated, “is that you?” The planchette jumped, sputtered, and wrote: “Yes.” “Welcome, Nanette,” Miriam said. She turned to Mrs. Carlisle. “Do you have any questions that you wish to ask?” Before Mrs. Carlisle could answer, the planchette flew from Charlotte‟s hand and clattered noisily across the room. Charlotte let out a piercing scream. “Nanette! Nanette!” she called. “Nan—” She cut off and fell mute. When she spoke again, her voice was changed. “The little people follow you but you will never see them. How will you ever know for sure, if they are there?” “Who is that? Who are we speaking to?” asked Miriam. The voice droned on, not answering or responding. “They mean you no harm, they carry no hate, but they are not capable of love. They nip at your brains while you sleep and cause you to dream.” Mrs. Carlisle yelped. “Hush, my dear,” said Miriam. “We are interrupted by a confused spirit.”
  88. 88. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 91 “They‟re jolly and funny, laughing little children, with a mind toward pleasure and joy. They will trick you and tease you, and bite off your toes. They will trip you to watch you fall, and as you lie there, your back broken, they will laugh their deep and hearty laughter, rolling through their fat, fleshy tummies, filled with live meat they ate in their sleep. They never kill — but they feed off of you just the same.” “Nanette,” said Miriam. “Nanette, can you get through?” Mrs. Carlisle was pale and drawn. “They love life and hate pain, and they live forever — at least, so far. I don‟t know if they have womenfolk and raise children, but I cannot imagine them naked and making love. If they did, it would be silly and blasphemous, no passion, so depth. Perhaps only lust. I cannot imagine, either, them caring for children with their selfish ways.” Charlotte‟s father had taken out a notebook and was swiftly transcribing this message. “The little people live in the green blooming countryside, laughing their deep jolly laugh. You will never see them. No one sees them. They are spry and jolly and fast. They eat dreams and spit them out like chewing gum, choking up nightmares and morning dew. And they will eat you. But
  89. 89. 92 THE ICE CREAM MEMORIES they bear you no malice, nor love, and they own no hate, nor souls.” She stopped speaking. “Nanette?” asked Miriam. “Are you with us?” “Oui,” said Charlotte, in another voice. “I am here.” “What was that?” asked Mrs. Carlisle. “I am sorry, it is a break. We are not here anymore. It is good. Ask what you will.” “I—,” began Mrs. Carlisle. “There is someone here to speak with you,” interrupted Charlotte. “Mary,” she said in another voice, low and difficult to discern. “Mary,” she repeated. “Mother? Oh, Mother, is that you?” asked Mrs. Carlisle. After Mrs. Carlisle had left, Augustine Emory asked to speak with Charlotte alone. Miriam Rowe looked uncomfortably at the woman and said, “I don‟t know.” Charles Rowe said, “Leave them be alone together, Miriam. What is going to happen?” “You do see my daughter‟s talents?” asked Miriam. “Oh, I do see her talents,” said Augustine. “And I would like to discuss them with her.” This calmed Miriam somewhat, and after a bit of hemming, the two parents left the room.
  90. 90. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 93 “Well, sit down, Charlotte,” said Augustine. “Thank you,” said Charlotte, politely. The two sat for a moment without speaking. “You are a fraud,” said Charlotte. “Yes, dear, I know,” said Augustine, “That was quite a little show you put on for Mrs. Carlisle yourself.” “A show?” asked Charlotte. “Show?” mimicked Augustine. “Yes,” she said, “you are not really very difficult to see through. Today, it is me coming to see you. Tomorrow it will be a scientist, a skeptic. They are out there, more of them every day. The best thing I can say about your technique, of course, is that it is difficult to prove what you are doing. The worst is that it can all be so easily explained, and not everyone is as gullible as Mrs. Carlisle.” Augustine examined Charlotte‟s face critically as the girl absorbed this information. “I perceive,” said Augustine slowly, “that your parents — are true believers.” Charlotte nodded. “They are true believers.” “Good,” said Augustine. “That strengthens you. It lends you an aura of believability, their quality of sincerity. I see so many amateurs each year. They are all over the place, a dime a dozen, and most of them are strictly horrible. These amateurs are desperate to create something that
  91. 91. 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.
  92. 92. OF CHARLOTTE ROWE 95 Miriam bubbled. “She was quite impressed. She could not help but perceive your raw, natural talents, Charlotte.” Charlotte shoveled pork chops and mashed potatoes into her mouth. “We have arranged for you to begin your training immediately. Augustine assures me that this will bring your talents to the next level and allow you to bridge the gap between our world and the spirit plane.” Professor Rowe spoke. “In addition to your training with Augustine,” he said, “you will begin studying with me.” Charlotte dropped her fork, and it clattered against her plate. She chewed and swallowed her mouth full of food. “Isn‟t that wonderful?” asked Miriam rhetorically. “I have the utmost respect for Augustine,” said Professor Rowe, “and what she can teach you, but I do not want to narrow your mind. Specialization is both a great boon and the greatest danger to science. I want to assure that your outlook is broad enough to help you cross over into new ground, into areas that are as yet unexplored, the new frontiers of the human mind.” Charlotte nodded slowly and picked up her fork.