Long-Stemmed, Decapitated Roses
When the lush, velvet buds of the roses fall to the polished floor of our atrium, my love, I’m reminded of a conversation that took place while you were attending a hearse showcase with Cousin It. A well-meaning, but flighty woman came to visit today, and she enquired about the long stemmed, decapitated roses that I so lovingly place in an elongated urn every few days on the table just inside the front door. When Lurch let her in, it seems as though they were the first objects she noticed inside our beautiful home–not the giant horned bat Uncle Knick-Knack had embalmed that we finally mounted near the staircase, not the displayed collection of poisoned medicine bottles we purchased from that retailer in South Africa, not even the finely crocheted doily made from tarantula silk with our family name spelled out (I did spend so long on that project, my love).
Her gaze lingered on the stems as though she were looking at a body with an amputated limb. That thought sounds most wonderful right now, my darling, but I do want to tell you about what transpired once her attention turned from my gardening spoils. The woman introduced herself as Amelia Frowd, the parent of one of Wednesday’s classmates, and the supervisor of the local Girl Scout troop. You’ll recall this was the group we’d temporarily settled on for improving Wednesday’s social skills, since the Crossbow Enthusiasts have an age restriction at the moment. I know we both think Wednesday is fairly advanced in terms of academics, but ever since her teachers became concerned with her being constantly picked last in gym class despite being able to outrun all of her classmates like a wolf attacking its lame prey (we’ve taught her well, mon cher), I’ve become more aware of how much she needs to be prepared for how to socialize in this world. Mrs. Frowd, who had arrived at our home in order to discuss Wednesday’s recently rejected application to the Girl Scouts, had some questions that she wanted immediately addressed about Wednesday’s behaviors.
I thought we might start Wednesday off with the local Girl Scout troop that congregates down the street. I’ve seen them a few times when Lurch is driving me home from the taxidermist or when I’m out for a midnight walk and their campfire reaches the blackened skies. I thought perhaps Wednesday could try out their group for practice in nightly ceremonies. It’s not exactly a coven, but I’m trying my best. I did hear that consequences are quite severe when they collect for their boxed baked goods and do not receive prompt payment. Apparently, they have a yearly ritual that involves the mass selling of sweets that place a spell on the populace that puts my own hexes to shame. I was counting on Wednesday to share this with me, but after the visit with Mrs. Frowd, I’m doubting that they dabble in the dark arts at all.
I suspect Mrs. Frowd had no qualms about the cleanliness of the house, as Lurch had been tidying up all morning and used extra bleach for the mess that last week’s family hide-and-seek game had caused.
Though when she followed me through to the drawing room, she commented on the foyer being “somewhat dimly lit.” I explained that Wednesday and her brother had been playing with the electric chair all morning and the lights in the house had been sputtering on and off as a result. She gave a nervous chuckle when I said “electric chair.” I don’t think our guest believed me, darling. There was, however, enough sunshine filtering in through the windows to light the drawing room for the duration of our conversation. You know how I loathe it, but apparently sunshine is still appropriate for entertaining guests at that hour.
Our conversation started out pleasant enough, but she was appalled when I informed that her I stayed at home with our toddler son. I don’t suppose it was my staying at home so much as it was her seeing him crawl up the wall as fast as he did. He’s turning into an arachnid much faster than we’d expected, my darling. He was almost all the way up to the ceiling before Mrs. Frowd began to hyperventilate. I could tell our guest was uncomfortable, so I had Lurch gently help Pubert down and take him to his room, where Thing could help him build a replica bastille with his building blocks. Thing was supposed to be watching him during the visit, as you’ll recall, but with the little spider legs that Pubert has, I didn’t want to diminish our son’s accomplishment. I do hope he cultivates his crawling talents, my love. He’ll make a fine lurker one day.
Thing made quite the entrance as well when he came to see Pubert off to the nursery, but in her already panicked state, Mrs. Frowd took one look and sank faintly into her chair.
After I revived Mrs. Frowd with some smelling salts––we’ll need to replenish our stock, dear, as she was not the only person to meet Thing this week––she collected herself and removed a three-page handwritten list of all of Wednesday’s behaviors that had struck her as “odd.” She said that most of them had tied in to the decision to reject Wednesday from the troop. I admit that at first, I was quite thrilled to see a handwritten note of any kind that had come from someone not in this house. We appreciate spilled ink and good penmanship within the confines of our own private mortuary, my love, and it feels as though the entire world is traveling far away from it in favor of the modern marvels of the screen. Not that I entirely mind–I do enjoy having my spells and hexes at a moment’s notice; the Kindle that Pugsley purchased for me as a Mother’s Day gift with the complete works of Anne Rice and the illustrated Dante pre-loaded into it was well-thought out. But still, I do love having an old spine in my hands. Much like our honeymoon.
But anyway, my dearest, after nervously checking the floor around her for Thing and our youngest but discovering we were in fact, quite alone, she delved into a list of behaviors Wednesday exhibited that she found disturbing. One example was when Mrs. Frowd’s daughter, Angela, had recently come home from school and she claimed that some of Angela’s garment was charred from a failed, non-sanctioned science experiment that resulted from Wednesday improperly mixing ingredients to a witch’s potion she found in an ancient grimoire. When I asked Mrs. Frowd if it was due to the combustible properties of wolfsbane, she did not look like she knew the answer to my question and moved on rather quickly to her next observation. She spoke of Wednesday trying to recruit some of the other girls in her grade to help her capture a wild bat for their class pet. I explained that although Wednesday had already had her rabies shot, I would speak to her about asking the other girls about their vaccination history before proceeding with any more hunting.
This didn’t seem to appease her though, and Mrs. Frowd said that one of the books Angela saw Wednesday was reading with a scalpel in her hands was Gray’s Anatomy, to which I responded, “It is advanced yes, but we do encourage higher levels of reading. We want Wednesday to get into a good college. Her father and I will be around to help her with the more difficult parts.”
I was feeling that Mrs. Frowd had a problem with everything that Wednesday did, because she wrote down that while the other girls were eating granola bars with raisins and chocolate, Wednesday had unwrapped a “foul-smelling, burnt variation of roadkill” and was eating quietly by herself. I was appalled. I let her know this is exactly why we would like for Wednesday to socialize––she should not be eating our special family recipe jerky by herself. I know Lurch packed enough for her to share. We’ve brought Wednesday up to be kind to the others who obviously don’t have the skills that are necessary for survival in the woods. Granola won’t help them last, the poor dears. I asked Mrs. Frowd if Wednesday offered to share and when Mrs. Frowd said she didn’t know the answer to that, that’s when I realized the woman wasn’t asking the correct questions or focusing on the proper behaviors that Wednesday does exhibit.
I enquired if Wednesday had ever excluded any members at school from an activity or an outing. When she said she didn’t know, I told her that based off of her notes, it seemed as though Wednesday asked all the girls to join in to help capture the bat, for example, before that activity was stopped. I asked if Wednesday had allowed Angela to participate in the science experiment and she said the outline of the beaker against the dress confirmed her daughter had some part in the experiment, but she was failing to see where I was going with this. I clarified that Wednesday may do things a little differently, but that didn’t give the other children a reason to ostracize her completely. I too had a copy of the Girl Scout application, and looking over it, I couldn’t find one item that would disqualify her––her academics were of high markings, she exhibited interests in many of the activities that were offered in the program and had already pre-volunteered for the campfire lighting and archery event that would happen this month, although it had already been explained that the two events were not happening simultaneously.
I’m afraid we may have selected the wrong group for Wednesday to join, my dearest. My questions about how she gets along were hardly answered. Wednesday, as it seems, does not ostracize anyone, though she may keep to herself. Mrs. Frowd already doesn’t seem to want her to flourish the way that we do. The moment I realized that Mrs. Frowd would not tolerate Wednesday in the troop no matter what, I conceded that it wouldn’t be worth the time to argue for a place where our daughter would not be accepted or appreciated.
I showed Mrs. Frowd to the front door and we passed the urn filled with the long stems again. When Mrs. Frowd walked by them, she said couldn’t help but ask me why I had cut the rose petals off when they were clearly the most beautiful part. I informed her that the sinewy, thorny stems of the roses were the loveliest part to me. She stopped as she was about to cross over the threshold and said, “But that’s not normal!”
I repeated a seemingly well-known adage that had been uttered by someone in my lineage, though I am not sure who; a phrase, darling, that had been turning itself over and over in my mind, ensnaring itself in the cobwebs of my dreams only for me to wake and think of it during my waking hours, allowing me to shape myself into the woman I am today: “Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”
Mrs. Frowd pressed her thin lips together in an agitated line and stomped out the front door.
I do hope that Gate did not leave too much of a mark on her as she passed through. There are some things that are out of my control once our uptight guests leave.
But to the more important matter at hand, I think we should find a group that is more attuned to Wednesday’s interests, my love. Perhaps they can coax her out of her shell while also appreciating what she has to offer. There is a place for everyone. We are living proof of that, my dearest. I hear Ripley’s Believe it or Not has quite a following and, though a bit of a peculiar group, I’ve heard we’re a bit “kooky” ourselves.
December Lace is a former professional wrestler and pinup model. She has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, TPG, Empower Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and the forthcoming Ghostlight, The Magazine of Terror and Lonesome October. She can be found on Twitter @TheMissDecember, decemberlace.blogspot.com or in the obscure bookshops of Chicago.