Artwork by Lucian Ioan DOBARTA LuciDO
“We really do have a lovely home.” Momandad said this at least once a week, and it was true. There was a huge cedar tree in the front yard with a swing that went so high you could kick the moon, and the back yard smelled of grass and dirt and a million smoldering birthday candles. The house was old, but in a cozy, white-slat-boardy, red-chimneyfied way. It was warm and lived in, with talkative floorboards and walls full of smiling off-color relatives. In fact, Gina and Zack sometimes felt that the house itself actually loved them.
The hands on the clock were feebly dragging themselves forward. Barely past ten, and the air was as thick as creamed corn. Gina was stretched out in the big open space that had appeared next to her bed when her Barbie things suddenly turned stupid and had to be gotten rid of a few years back. She was reading The Hobbit for the eighth time, and wishing she was in Middle Earth instead of Middleton.
“I’ll move to the hallway,” she thought aloud. “Maybe it’ll be different there.”
Zack wheeled into the driveway, cut a sharp turn, and hit the strategically-placed wooden ramp between the house and garage. El Furioso flew seven feet before its thick knobbly tires smacked down and skidded to a halt in front of the bike rack. Zack was through the mud-room door before his faithful steed had even settled into place.
Five seconds later, he streaked up the stairs and leaped over Gina en route to Zackland. Neither of them said a word.
Zack’s bedroom had massive quantities of boyness: there were interesting things that had broken and been thrown out by neighbors, plastic hamster tunnels of mind-boggling complexity (all of Zack’s hamsters either became world-class explorers or were never heard from again), and a veritable Gotham of stacked comic books.
And then there was the “toy chest,” a huge box made from dark Spanish olivewood. It had heavy hinges and a dramatically over-sized iron latch, and weighed more than most family cars. It had been given to Zack and Gina by Aunt Aloysia. Its purpose was to house the Objects, or, as Dad sometimes joked, “To keep them from escaping.” Momandad persisted in calling them toys, but they weren’t. They were what Aunt Aloysia referred to as “objets mystére.” She’d given them to the children at the rate of one a year starting just before Zack’s first birthday. There were twelve in all.
No two were alike. Some were sharp and weapon-ish and covered with indecipherable runes, others were strangely beautiful. One that Zack particularly admired was a complicated springy-hingey thing that no one could figure out; he was also partial to a heavily riveted bronze football with dozens of mouth-like spouts.
Gina had two favorites: a burnished lavender hour glass filled with a silvery blue substance that ran up instead of downward, and might just as easily be ectoplasm as sand; and a letter opener wrought from some exquisite purple-gold metal, intricately engraved and set with jewels that looked like they were made from fire. Every time she looked at them, them seemed to whisper, We are not what we seem to be…
And neither are you.
Thoughts: If, as science and theology tell us, the universe is not what it seems to be, then it must be true of us, as well.
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