The following is a short story that is a spin off of my sci-fi series. This story shows the main character, Wil VanLipsig, as a little boy, before life grew hard and he found his dreams and innocence shattered.
Wil walked through the seaside resort with his maternal grandmother. He was nine years old. For his birthday present, his father, Pyle had allowed her to take him to the capitol city of Aenias Drax. It had been an amazing trip, full of adventures and fun. His grandmother took him to all the historical landmarks, famous buildings, museums, art galleries and concerts she could find. Although the smaller towns were provincial and stayed, this was a bustling, lively metropolis.
To Wil it had been like heaven, the most beautiful place on earth! Tree lined sidewalks skirted canals that were clear and clean, sparkling in the sunlight. Small cafés were scattered everywhere, dotted with striped umbrellas of yellow, blue, pink and green. Flowers grew in pots and window boxes. Splashes of color caught the eye, dragging it artistically to the focal point of every garden. Wil’s sense of smell was acute even then, and he was able to pick put the different scents of each flower.
Walking one day from one museum to the next, they came upon a small building that sat directly on the edge of the canal. No bridge crossed the water, and a large garden stretched for nearly three blocks west of the canal. Wil could not see the other side, it was so large. Consulting their map, they could see that nearly a quarter of a mile of garden lay between them and their goal. Wil was anxious to see the displays at the next museum, and did not want to walk around because it would take them so much longer to get there. There was a man standing by a gate in the garden fence. He was letting people through, smiling and tipping his hat.
Wil’s grandmother approached him. “May we get through your lovely garden? It’s a long walk around and the boy is tired.”
Smiling, the old man answered her. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, this is the exit. Only way to get in the garden is from the south entrance. You’ll have to go around.”
“Can we go through the building?” She pointed to her left with her white gloved hand.
“Well now, you can try,” the old man said with a shrug.
“Thank you, we shall,” she said and took Wil by the hand, leading him to the business doors.
It was a pretty building, all glass windows and white painted French doors. When she opened the door, a tiny brass bell tinkled.
A strange sight met their eyes. To Wil, everything he had seen in this city was unique and new, but this was peculiar even to him.
They stood in a small, cobble lined foyer. To their left was a set of large windows overlooking the canal. To their right was a beautiful, delicately tooled wooden bench whose scroll work was dusted with gold leaf. Behind it was the wall of an elderly looking, wooden building. Directly ahead of them was a small picket fence that sat upon a wall, making the entire edifice about four and a half feet tall. Two small, cement steps led up to the fence. An old man, similar to the one outside, sat on the other side, reading a newspaper. He was hunched over in his chair, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose.
He did not look up when they entered, just kept reading. As Wil and his grandmother approached the fence, his hand hit a lever and a short, yellow gate, like the kind at a railroad crossing, came down in front of them at the top of the steps.
Undaunted, his grandmother approached, opening her handbag. She extracted several bills and offered them to the man. He looked askance at her, shifted in his chair and flipped his newspaper.
“May we please come through?” Wil’s grandmother used her most sweet and charming voice. Her look was expressive of a willingness to comply.
“Nope! Got to come into the garden from the south. Ain’t coming through here.”
“But we don’t want to see the gardens. We’re passing through. The child is tired and anxious to see the art museum on Brach Street. Surely we could walk through your building to save steps?
“Nope!” He looked at her over his glasses. “What’s that you’re doing?”
He was glaring at her hand. She had rested it on one arm of the delicate, wooden bench to her right. As if she had been stung, she pulled her hand away.
“I’m terribly sorry. May we pass?”
“Nope! You look careless to me. You might scratch my fine, handcrafted trailer.”
He jerked his head to his left. They saw that the building to their right was indeed a small trailer that was lined with light gold wooden paneling. It already looked quite scratched. The other old man wandered in and out of the door, brushed against the wall, and passed into the garden on the other side. He seemed to be laughing. The doors opposite them opened. Tourists entered, turned left and passed into the garden, brushing past the back end of the trailer.
“I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life!” Wil’s grandmother was getting angry. Two bright spots of color rose in her cheeks as she stuffed her money away.
Wil, being only a child, wandered up the steps, slipped past the yellow guard gate and down the other side. He sat on a bench looking out the window at the canal. The old man hardly seemed to notice. Wil’s grandmother stood paralyzed with anger.
“You’ve just let my grandson past!”
“Yep. He’s small, he won’t scratch my fine, handcrafted trailer.”
“I won’t scratch it either! Now raise this ridiculous gate and let me take my grandson and leave!”
The old man scowled at her over his reading glasses. “Nope. Ain’t gonna let ya pass. You might scratch…”
“Your fine, handcrafted trailer! I got that part! If you won’t let me in, let my grandson out!”
“He can wait here while you walk around.”
“He can’t! He’s just a little child! This is a big city and I don’t know you! Now let him out!”
A young couple walked through the other door. Wil had the impression that the woman was beautiful, with blond hair. The man wore a bright red shirt. He didn’t really look at them, but gazed out the window. His grandmother continued to fuss at the old man. The young couple stopped and stared.
“Very well,” his grandmother sighed heavily. “You leave me no choice. Wil!”
He looked up at his grandmother. She wore her no-nonsense-will-be-tolerated face, the one she wore when she was about to do or say something extremely important. When she looked like that, he was to do exactly what she said, no questions. He faced her, solemn and quiet.
“Wilhelm, go over to the trailer. Take out your pocket knife and scratch the hell out of it!”
Startled, he did not react right away. Hand at his pocket, he stared at her a moment. Then instinct took over and he walked obediently to the wall of the trailer, grabbed his knife and extended his hand toward the wall before the old man had a chance to react.
“Now look here!” He rose, dropping his paper to the ground. “Stop that!” He grabbed Wil by the collar of his shirt, yanking his feet off the floor.
The young man stepped forward and grabbed the old man by his collar. He could not lift him off the floor, but he was enough taller he was able to make the old fellow stand on his toes.
“Here now, you can’t do that to a little kid! Let him go!”
Wil’s grandmother used the distraction to raise the gate and follow Wil over the wall to the other side. Deftly, she extracted her grandson’s collar from the startled old man. Thanking the young man for his assistance, she spun Wil toward the door and propelled him forward, crashing through like a bulldozer.
Over her shoulder she called loudly, “Your fine, handcrafted trailer is already scratched, you old coot! And by the way,” she turned to face him, still gripping Wil’s hand tightly. “It’s made in a factory in our town, and they don’t craft them by hand!”
Lifting Wil nearly off the ground, she stormed off toward the museum. They had walked only a few blocks when another café came into view. Wil’s grandmother made directly for it, and ordered a glass of lemonade and a plate of cookies for Wil.
“And I’ll have whiskey,” she told the waiter. “Neat.”
The waiter brought their order, she paid him and gave him a handsome tip to keep her drinks coming. “Wilhelm,” she told him in her no-nonsense-will-be-tolerated voice. “You are never to speak to another living soul about this as long as you live.” She did not mean the incident with the old man, rather the fact that she was drinking whiskey.
They had never gone anywhere near the large garden with the grumpy guard again, but it was such a vivid memory for Wil, it drove much of the rest he had seen that day completely out of his mind. However, from time to time when they were alone, Wil would crack a wicked grin at her, and say, “Grandma, do you remember the yellow gate?”
© 2011 Dellani Oakes