You are on page 1of 264



All rights reserved
Richard Borovsky, 2005
Copyright 2007 by Richard Borovsky

Cover image: M33, The Triangulum Galaxy

courtesy NASA/JPLCaltech
Thanks to Barbara Horn for her generous editorial help, Angel
Editing, Stephanee Killen, and to all those who read this novel
before publication: David Borovsky, Peter Borovsky, Willow
Harth, Bob Jacobson, Ed Janus, Gill Miller, Kathleen Piper
and Allyn Roberts. A special thank you as well to Michael
Borovsky for his post publication editing.
To artists of every sort
Also by Richard Borovsky
Available through






First things first. My name is Andr. I am a cat, and this is not a

childrens story. Second, I believe my verbal skills are equal to or
greater than those of the humans Ive observed, and on those
grounds, I believe Im qualified to write about your race. As a cat, I
am fastidious in my grooming; as a writer, in my use of language. I
should probably add here at the beginning that my opinion of
humans is not high. This is largely due to the belief, so rampant
among you, that your intellect and appetites are sufficient to guide
you through the mysteries of lifea shortcoming of greater
consequence than any among you realize. Ive served as a pet in
the homes of several such humans, and will admit that according to
their shallow understandings of my nature, theyve tried to make my
stays with them pleasantthis, of course, while regarding me as an
This kindness theyve shown to me, however, hinges upon
the following facts. First, that cats are smaller than humans, and


therefore present no imminent danger; second, that we are attractive

to you, both by sight and by touch; and third, that you dont find our
meat an agreeable food. If, on the other hand, our meat compared,
for example, to that of the unfortunate chicken, you wouldnt
hesitate to breed, feed, house and slaughter us. And, of courseas
a perceptive few of you have realizedif we werent small, but as
large as the average human, wed hunt you down to the last, then
wed toy with you and bat you around before killing but not
necessarily eating you. Then wed do the same to all dogs.
I am a domestic shorthair, my coat is black, my eyes green,
and if Im giving the impression that Im not a particularly nice cat,
I cant object, because I am not. Nice cats, you see, exist only in the
imagination of humans. Niceness is a quality we neither possess
nor respect. Intelligence, a sense of fair play, stealth, awareness,
self-possession, even clairvoyance, these are attributes of the so-
called domestic catand we are domestic only insofar as it is
convenient for us. Unlike dogs, we are not tame and never will be.
We are a proud race, and you are not. But its fortunate you see us
as you do. If you realized that we were conscious on a higher level
than your own, youd either persecute us to extinction, smother us
with obsequious reverence, or ignore the truth by relegating it to the
province of superstition. However, as things are, we often go
unnoticed and so were free to observe you undisturbed. And I,
personally, have done a good deal of observing.

I hardly noticed the humans in the house where I was born, since
my attention was focused exclusively on my mother and my several
siblings. The first three months of my life were spent in a period of
feline nurturing and education in which I learned, among other
things, that we felines are called cats, whereas humans, dogs,
squirrels, birds, insects, etc (with a few notable exceptions) are
called animals, and further, that as cats, we are able to see the
subtle planes of existence that permeate the physical plane, and
participate in the activities of those inner realms. This, as all felines
know, is one of the three qualities that distinguish us from the
animals. Along with this vision, we have evolved past the lower
creatures in our natural gift of multiple mortality (something you
have sensed in a childish way), and above all, the power to purr, a


lofty activity that is to human prayer and canine howling as a glacier

is to an icicle.
Fortunately, it wasnt until my mother had completed my
training that I was carried away. I was taken to live in a house with
a family named Frickly, a family consisting of one stupid man, a
slightly more sensitive woman, and two stupid childrenone of
whom named me Fluffy. The occasion was the childs fourth
birthday. His name was Little Ricky, and I was his present. The
name, unfortunately, stuck, but not Little Ricky Fricklys
impression of me, because on that very day, I made sure the
unpleasant little creature learned that certain parts of me werent
fluffy at all. After his mother had disinfected the scratches to his
face and demonstrated appropriate maternal concern, she took up
my defense.
You see what happens when you treat Fluffy roughly? she
said to the boy. Fluffys a sweet kitten, but if you hurt or frighten
him, he has no way to tell you to stop but to scratch. Now why
dont you be a good birthday boy and go pet him and tell him youre
But the sniveling little animal did no such thing; he chose to
remain next to his mother, clutching her knees. His five-year-old
sister, however, a particularly dull-witted and clumsy creature
named Fritzi, did approach me. She picked me up and petted me,
and though she actually did handle me roughly, I purred in her arms,
thus cementing my good standing with the mother and Little
Rickys bad reputation.
I never answered to that demeaning name, of course, even
though my behavior led Little Rickys oaf of a father to repeatedly
declare that I was a stupid animal, unable to learn my own name.
I avoided this man whenever I could, which wasnt difficult,
because sensing my higher functions, the brute was unnerved by my
gaze and kept his distance. But if his coarse language, doltish
movements, careless table manners and lack of personal hygiene
werent enough to disgust me, his dream activities alone would have
fired up my disdain. For cats, you see, are able to watch animals
dreams, and his were the most lustful, slovenly, greedy, and self-
glorifying Ive ever observed. Not even dogs, known for the basest
of dreamland activities, can compare with this man on a scale of
degradation. I was not compelled to witness Frank Fricklys lustful


fantasies for long, however, since as a result of another scratching

incident, my stay with this family was curtailed.
Cats are contemplative beings. When we sit and gaze at the
interpenetrating worlds before our eyes, we are not staring off into
space as you believe. Cats do not stare, and we certainly do not
gaze off into space. Among all animals, only humans and frogs
are known to stare off mindlessly. Snakes, it should be noted, are
among the few members of the animal kingdom whom we respect
for both their innate elegance and heightened level of awareness.
Given their aristocratic nature, it isnt surprising that despite our
natural differences, snakes are known to respect the contemplative
nature of catssomething that cannot be said of humans. Some
might suggest that human children, like tadpoles, should be forgiven
their lack of understanding, but forgiveness is not among the
qualities recognized by members of our race. Since the lives of cats
are natural and unsullied, we are innocent and do not err, and are
therefore naturally unfamiliar with forgiveness. And even if by
some trick of nature we were to become forgiving beings, that
leniency would not extend to Fritzi Frickly. The little animal, you
see, found it amusing to distract me from my meditative gaze and
dress me in her dolls clothing. Once dressed, she forced me into a
small chair at a small table, where she played at serving tea while
referring to me as Mr. Fluffy Fluffmuffin.
Even though the injuries she suffered werent severe, they
were alarming enough to convince her mother to take me to the
Humane Society. When she handed me over to the baby-talking
staff member, she explained that the family was moving to an
apartment where cats were not allowed. I dont know why she said
this, and if gratitude was within the emotional range of cats, I might
be grateful. Since no mention of my aggression was made, Ive
lived on with all of my claws attached.

This trip to the Humane Society was not my last. I lived with two
other families after the Fricklys. My stays with these humans were
longer than my first, but the quality of the experience was
unimproved, and after each adoption, I eventually found myself
back at the same place.
Both families had children, each of whom was uniquely
disagreeable. The male child of the first family that claimed me at


the Humane Society turned out to be possessed by a minor demon.

It was a disreputable looking gnome-like creature, invisible to the
humans, of course. This demon drove the nervous boy, Archie, to a
series of destructive and sadistic acts, not the least of which was an
attempt to set my tail on fire by fastening a fuse to it and igniting it
with a kitchen match. He was aided in this effort by his bully of an
older sister, Adrienne. The attempted torching failed, but the
children lost control of the fire, causing a serious scorching of the
familys dining room. During the year that I lived with him, I had
cause to scratch and bite little Archie on numerous occasions, but
given his temperament, I was never admonished. Had the little
animals parents known what I knew, they might have saved the
small fortune they spent on his ineffective psychiatric care by
turning the matter over to an exorcist. Furthermore, if the parents
had known the proper prayers and incantations, they could have
prevented any further infestation by appealing directly to me, since,
as certain members of the ancient Egyptian priesthood understood,
cats have considerable powers over spectral bugaboos.
I dont know what became of Archie. The family moved
away and apparently decided to start anew without the distraction of
an intelligent being in their home.
My second stay at the Humane Society ended when I was
chosen by a family with a daughter named Bambi. Bambi was an
only child, twelve years old, socially maladjusted, homely and
friendless. Of course, to cats, all humans are ugly, most closely
resembling apes and certain breeds of flat-faced dogs. There are
animals that we do find attractive: snakes in particular, as Ive
mentioned, and many birds, but the look of all so-called mammals
is naturally repugnant us, and even though humans are by far the
ugliest of them all, the unfortunate Bambi stood out among even
those. It was she who lavished her affections on me and kept me
essentially imprisoned in her poorly ventilated room for another
year of my life. I learned a great deal about the human psyche while
locked in Bambis room with her, since she spoke unceasingly. She
was the one who named me Shawn, after a boy her age with
whom she had no chance of romantic involvement, but whose
affections she sought by appealing to me. The only time I had to
use my claws on her was the one winter night when I believed she
was attempting to use me for unnatural purposes. Though Bambi


was annoying, her parents were far worse. They treated their
daughter with an intentional cruelty that any non-human animal
would find abhorrent. It was for this reason that one evening after
these brutes had verbally abused their daughter, I escaped from her
room and managed to urinate liberally on every upholstered chair in
the parents living room, on their white sofa, several carpets, the
entire contents of their linen closet, and finally, on their own bed
with them in it. Then I ran away.

The Humane Society is a repellent place. The indignity and

discomfort of being imprisoned by large, stupid animals is
compounded by the presence of the small, stupid animals among
whom we are imprisonednamely, drooling, foul-smelling,
endlessly barking dogs. Cats and dogs, you see, dont belong in the
same sentence together, let alone the same building. The human
habit of pairing cats and dogs reflects the limitations of their
understanding, since cats and dogs, though comprised of the same
raw materials, are as alike as diamonds and coal: the one a beautiful,
indestructible collector of light; the other a fuel only marginally
superior to dung. Yet at the Humane Society, the other caged cats
and I were forced to endure the company of dogs as long as we were
detained. Some cats suffered nervous afflictions due to the
ceaseless racket and the sycophantic blubbering whenever
prospective owners were present. True, certain cats put on displays
of affection when taken from their cages and fondled, but my two
undesirable experiences proved the risks of such behavior. So, on
my third stay at the Humane Society, I took the advice of an older
cat Id met. He passed on to me a mind-control technique that he
claimed was often effective when dealing with suggestible humans,
and I saw no reason not to try it in choosing my potential caretakers.
It seemed to work, for not only did all families with children steer
clear of me as if I were diseased, but despite competition, I attracted
two fully grown adults who showed every sign of being suitable
caretakers for a cat of my temperament.
I regret that I had to part company with this cat who was not
in the best of health when I saw him last. Cats do feel allegiance
with those of like mind, and my regret was marked by my suspicion
that Id never again have the opportunity to commune with a being
of such refinement and wisdom. Felines, of course, with the


exception of lions, are solitary by nature. But solitude in the wild or

even in the outdoor environs of a city, differs from solitude
surrounded by the likes of Ricky and Fritzi Frickly, Demonic Little
Archie, and Bambi and her brutish parents; so it was with touch of
hope for the bestnot a natural feline emotionas well as my
innate confidence that I faced the new life Id chosen for myself.
Things, it seemed, were about to take a turn for the better.



On some days Orlando didnt want to get out of bed. It wasnt that
he hadnt had enough sleephed been going to bed early recently
and rarely had trouble falling asleepit was that he preferred his
dream world to his waking one, which had become less fulfilling as
the years went by. His dream world was no picnic, of course: it was
capricious and unpredictable, but it had none of the drudgery of his
daily life, and though his dreams could be troubling, he often woke
wishing he could return to themthe possibilities seemed endless.
When Orlando woke and felt pressed to embark on his daily routine,
he often wondered if there was anything inherently more important
about getting up, taking a shower, drinking coffee and going to
work, than there was in dreaming. He had no family and no real
responsibilities beyond his own, and he sometimes reasoned, while
still in bed, that if he were to move to a warmer climate and become
a homeless man, eating at food pantries and sleeping under a palm
tree somewhere, he could still enjoy his dreams and even prolong


them if he wished. And who would care? What difference would it

make? It certainly wouldnt make any difference to Godat least
not the one he believed in.
But Orlando wasnt brave enough to live like that; hed
come close once and it hadnt worked out. Besides, if he were
homeless, hed have to associate with more conventional and
possibly disreputable homeless people; something he was not
prepared to do. But he really didnt take this possibility of
abandoning his so-called responsibilities seriously. He only
considered it while still in bed and wishing to return to one of his
happier or more intriguing dreams.
Orlando had turned forty and things hadnt worked out as
hed hoped. There was no brilliance to his life, no luster, something
he craved. His apartment was small, and the view of the little city
park hed enjoyed had been blocked by expansion of the Chinese
restaurant around the corner. Orlando liked the restaurant. He ate
there twice a week: usually alone for dinner on Tuesdays and
Fridays. He also liked the restaurants owner, Mr. Lee, a friendly
man with whom he often chatted and laughed, and who, through
wise investments in real estate, had the means to convert the parking
lot adjacent to The Jade Palace into a parking enclosure with a large
second floor banquet room above it.
Orlando was happy for Mr. Lee; he encouraged him. He
felt he had ties to the restaurant and that Mr. Lees success had been
his own. It wasnt until the project was well underway that he
realized that the grassy expanse of park hed seen from his kitchen
window would be blocked by a windowless brick wall. He had
enjoyed sitting in his little kitchen watching passersby: children
playing in the park, couples and families strolling there. Hed
watched the seasons change in the frame of that window by the table
where he drank his morning coffee. There were maple trees there,
radiantly green in spring and summer, turning now in the autumn,
and soon to be stark against the winter snow cover. And it seemed
to Orlando that so much in his life had turned out that way: mixed
blessings, in which he seemed always short-changed.
Hed given up a scholarship at a school hed hoped to attend
in California in favor of a lesser one the Midwest in order to stay at
home with his widowed mother who had been in failing health. He
nurtured a self-conscious sense of nobility for this act of sacrifice,


but hadnt counted on his mother lapsing into dementia, no longer

recognizing him and rarely speaking for the two and a half years
until she died. During college and graduate school, hed had a
number of passionate but short-lived flings. When it came to
women, he had trouble differentiating between love and lust, and
concluded there wasnt much difference. After he finished school,
he lived with a woman named Emily for seven years, a woman he
cared for deeply and who left him suddenly and unexpectedly, with
only a curt and ambiguous explanation. He was still alone.
Orlandos most pointed disappointment, however, was that after
years of striving, he had not succeeded professionally. Given these
experiences, the grayness of the particular day in question, and the
now dismal view out his kitchen window, we can understand why
he was reluctant to get up. But, as always, he did.
Orlandos looks were somewhat contradictory. His face
was round with an innocent softness to it, while his features were
sharp. His hairline was receding, though handsomely. He wore
round rimmed glasses, yet possessed a certain lan. Whether
Orlando was a wise man with weaknesses or an average man with
some good qualities was yet to be determined. This morning,
however, he couldnt bear to sit at the kitchen table and feel that if it
werent for his friends success hed still be able to enjoy the view,
so he decided, despite the unseasonable chill, to have coffee in the
park. After he filled his deep blue traveling cup, he put a three-day-
old lemon-poppy-seed muffin in the microwave, believing that
heating it up would revive its freshness. Orlando rarely used his
microwave. He rarely cooked. When he didnt have dinner at The
Jade Dragon, he ate at Miguels, or at the Turkish place, or
sometimes had burgers at the Hilltop or ordered out. He put the
stale muffin in the microwave for a full minute, and not only did its
steamy discharge scald his hand when he reached in and took it out,
but it crumbled into several pieces.
Despite the misfortune hed suffered in his adult life, or
perhaps because of it, Orlando had learned a thing or two about
coping with the human condition. He knew enough, for instance,
not to let this setback with the muffin disturb him any further than
he was already disturbed, and if Andr the cat were to be consulted
on this matter, even hed probably concur that for a human, thats
saying quite a bit. So it was in an optimistic mood that Orlando left


his apartment with his coffee and his crumbled muffin wrapped in a
paper napkin. Then he walked across to the little neighborhood
park where he sat on a bench under one of the maple trees caught in
the act but hardly embarrassed to be only half dressed in autumn
orange. This was September.
Orlando did have a knack for deriving enjoyment from the
little niceties of life. When he unscrewed the cap from his coffee
mug, he enjoyed watching the billows of steam rise and dissipate
into the cool air. This rising steam, he also noticed, resembled the
streaks of cloud that surrounded the pale, daytime moon, low in the
sky, and it pleased him to notice this. He lingered as he put the cup
to his lips to fully inhale the aroma of the freshly brewed coffee, an
aroma so pungent that it that cleared his mind and induced serenity.
And as Orlando enjoyed these simple things, he remembered
reading that appreciation of the moment was the key to happiness in
life. This seemed reasonable enough to him. He also recalled his
problem with this principle: hed never been able to string more
than a few such appreciative moments together, and that being the
case, he put it away along with other pithy but impractical spiritual
precepts in his mental file labeled To hell with it. Then he noticed
the crow.
His bench was set back from an old, buckled sidewalk that
ran the length of the little park and showed tufts of grass in the
seams and cracks that stretched along and across it. The crow stood
just across the sidewalk from him. It was a large bird, blue-black
and glossy in the muted morning light. Orlando was not particularly
attracted to city crows, noisy and aggressive as they often are. But
this crow was alone, and Orlando felt that its proximity boded well,
though he realized that the bird had most likely approached hoping
to be fed. He hadnt heard of feeding crows, however; pigeons, of
course, but never crows. As he sipped his hot, fresh brewed coffee
(making good coffee was one of his few culinary skills), and
watched the bird edge onto the sidewalk across from him, he felt
surprisingly benevolent toward the beady-eyed animal. He also
noticed that the bird had a slight limp, that its right foot showed
signs of an injury. He knew it was popular wisdom that animals can
sense fear, but he wondered if they could sense affection as well.
The crow stepped closer. Orlando hadnt touched his muffin yet, so
after another sip of coffee, he unwrapped it, put a piece in his mouth


and tossed a morsel to the crow on the sidewalk in front of him.

The bird made short work of Orlandos offering, and looked up at
him with what seemed anticipation. This pleased Orlando. Of
course he couldnt know the animals feelings, but the thought of a
hopeful crow made him smile, nonetheless, and he broke off another
small piece of muffin and dropped it near his feet to see if the bird
would approach even closer.
Not only did it approach, but it made a surprising sound for
a crow. It clucked, it almost cooed, so when he gave it another
piece of his muffin, Orlando was reminded of a silly picture hed
once seen on the cover of a Jehovahs Witness magazine: it was
The Peaceable Kingdom, where the lion lies down with the lamb,
and men and beasts live in harmony. The thought of this quasi-
biblical tableau amused him, but pleased him as well: he was moved
and genuinely happy about the seemingly good-natured crow.
Orlando leaned back and looked up at the cloudy sky. He thought
that if he were flying high in a plane thered be a dazzling, brilliant
blue sky above him, a sky that was indeed there at that very
moment, though he and all the other residents of the city were
deprived of its influence. That seemed significant to him. Then the
crow cooed again.
Orlando remembered a dog hed had as a child, an animal
whom hed loved and whod been his only confidant through
several lonely years when his parents had moved from city to city.
Then he looked back at the crow. It had not moved but was picking
up and putting down its feet as if walkingor limpingin place.
This seemed charming to Orlando and he tossed it another treat. He
wondered about getting another pet, something he hadnt considered
in years. Then he glanced at his watch: it was ten minutes before he
had to leave for work.
There wasnt much muffin left. He broke off another piece,
dropped it down for the bird and took another taste for himself. He
liked the idea of sharing with the crow. He liked the idea that he
and the bird tasted the same thing at the same time. The world
needed more of that. The Peaceable Kingdom again. Of course,
Orlando thought the picture on the magazine cover was ludicrous,
but there was no denying that it evoked a worthy sentiment. He
wasnt such a snob to deny that. He gave the crow a few more
crumbs of his muffin. The bird continued to look up at him in what


more and more appeared to be a truly hopeful posture, so after

another sip of his coffee, Orlando broke the last fragment of muffin
in half and shared it with his animal friend. But the bird continued
to stare up at him. Orlando smiled, shrugged and turned up his
Its all gone, he said, opening up the paper napkin and
showing it to the bird.
There was only a moments hesitation before the crow
attacked. With a violent flapping, it was up on Orlandos lap
furiously thrusting its beak at his open plastic coffee mug, splashing
the hot contents across his legs. Orlando shouted out, dropped the
cup and swung wildly at the bird, yet still it beat its wings, hissing
and grasping at his pants with its sharp claws. Even as he leapt to
his feet, the crow lunged at his face. When Orlando knocked it to
the sidewalk, he felt the strength of its beating wings under his
hand, and enraged then rather than alarmed, he kicked the bird hard
enough to send it flapping awkwardly back onto the grass. The crow
recovered immediately and with a few powerful flaps rose off the
ground and circled around to one of the nearby maples.
Never again! Orlando shouted at the crow in his rage.
Never again! Do you understand? Even in the intense heat of the
moment, Orlando wondered at this bizarre exhortation. Then the
bird cawed at him from the tree, loud and harsh, and several more of
its kind joined and jeered cruelly at him as he retreated from the
park, his pants soaked and torn, his sense of the peaceful
interconnectedness of things shattered.
And indeed, judging from Orlandos experience with the
crow, things werent all that well in the Peaceable Kingdom, where
at the moment the serpents probably werent playing hearts with the
doves, the ass was probably getting its ass soundly kicked, and the
lion, alone under a tree, was most likely picking fleece out of its
teeth. Orlando went home, deeply shaken. Before he sullenly
changed his ripped pants and then barely made the bus to work, he
seriously considered calling in sick and returning to the hopeful
world of sleep. This might have made all the difference.



In the beginning there were bubbles. How big? Bigger than his
`head, but not big enough to engulf him completely, not quite. Most
often there were two or three, always in motion, like luminous,
overlapping moons, containing his little body and permeating it
there in his crib. These were his awareness, these bubbles, and they
were filled with a brighter, richer and more cogent immediacy than
we can think or imagine. They were charged with resonances of a
most profound sort, with wordless wonder, with the simplicity of
infinity. If we were to attempt to name them, the names would be to
the reality of the bubbles like maps of an unknown and unknowable
world. We might look at them and draw certain conclusions, but to
what end? We might call one bubble comfort, or another
surprise, another joy; but the comfort that luminous bubble
contained might be the serenity of endlessness; the surprise the
miracle of transfiguration, the joy the ecstasy the suns lovebut
only in name, like the tracing of a shoreline on a planet galaxies


away. It would make as much sense to say that the bubbles were
full of radiant blue meaning, or a great vibrancy G major, or a
confluence of sweetnesses. Yet that was where he lived for months
and months, there in the uncharted world before names or language
of any kind.
It wasnt a world without pain, for when the luminous
bubbles first touched, when they first overlapped, or just as they
separated, he knew pain and unhappiness. It felt to him as if the
sharpness of the initial collision and breaking apart cut into his
otherwise immaculate awareness: the dagger points and razor edges
of vanishing interstices were for him what wed call hunger or pain
or want. But most often the laws of spatial geometry were kind to
him as they are to us all: just as the moon appears more often softly
rounded than razor-sharp. The space in which he lived, however,
and indeed in which we all once lived, is unlike the space we
currently occupy, crowded and clogged with the brickwork and
residue of language. His nursery, for instance, may as well have
been thousands of feet high and across, because the things in the
roomthe baubles that swung above him, the bars of his crib beside
him, the stuffed duck next to himwere things in themselves with
nothing attached: no names, no purpose, no history, and therefore
inhabited a vast uncluttered space, an immensity through which the
luminous bubbles of his consciousness drifted in upon him.
Around him, of course, and coloring and colored by these
luminous bubbles, were his parents; connected to him directly
through the plasma of love and that alone. They lived in a dream
world of their own, and their views neither enriched nor deluded the
infant: their world did not exist for him. Love, howevertheirs and
the love of the sun, perhaps, and the planetswas palpable to him;
it was the medium in which he operated, and in which his parents
also moved, to their own limited extent. Thus his needs were met,
and, correspondingly, theirs as well. For their part, they lavished
affection on him and often referred to him as a miracle. They
understood this only marginally, however, and looked down on him
as if through the wrong end of a telescope. But of course they did
their best, struggling as they were with the human condition.
His parents encountered no struggles with one aspect of the
human condition, however: they were both unusually attractive
people, and they passed their good looks on to their infant son.


Even shortly after delivery, the baby had an expansive, composed

look about him, and there was every reason to believe that hed
grow up to be a fine-looking man. He had his mothers beautiful
features: wide-set eyes, high cheek bones; his hair was a tender
brown and his complexion creamy. And he showed signs of his
fathers height, long limbs and long, slender fingers and toes. By
the time he and his mother were released from the hospital, their
pediatrician speculated the child could be a model, that his was a
face that millions might appreciate gracing baby-food labels. Given
certain tendencies he brought to his future life, though, one wonders
if his was a face that millions would wish to see. In any case, he
was not only miraculous as all infants are, but beautiful as well.
It was not until months had passed, and then only out of the
cumbersome necessities imposed by incarnation itself, that the
babys parents drew him closer to their own discernment of the
world. This was accomplished by the frequent repetition of a
certain sound. The word Toby was voiced countless times by
both his mother and father, and this blunt thing, this leaden,
deadening object eventually permeated the luminosity of his bubble
world and began to make him the fallen angel that he, like the rest
of us, was eventually to become. But only gradually did he begin to
recognize this word and its purported meaning; just as he only
gradually forgot the luminous bubbles that had so immaculately
informed his infancy.
His parents were decent people, though of course, they
had their own particular limitations. Tobys father, Tobias, a tall,
dark-haired, handsome man, thought very highly of himselfhighly
enough to feel that his son should bear his name. He was a
prominent, respected man. A well-to-do tax attorney, he rubbed
shoulders with others of his ilk, and more often than not saw to it
that his own desires were satisfied both personally and
professionally. Tobys mother, Angela, also thought highly of her
husband, highly enough to wholeheartedly agree to name the boy
after him. Swept off her feet just before graduating from college,
she gladly gave up her career plans to marry this already successful
young attorney, so what better model could her son have than
Tobias Wellington Senior? It was true that early in his life Tobias
had strayed from the path of virtue, but given his upbringing, this
wasnt wholly unexpected. Son of wealthy, blue blood parents,


he was brought up with servants and resources to satisfy his every

whim. That he would turn to petty larcenyshoplifting, to be
exactto defy convention and add a little zing to his life was
typical of a spoiled childs acting out; and it was to his parents
credit that they let him spend the night after his arrest in jail, albeit a
comfortable suburban one.
Angela, however, was too easily pleased. Shed been
treated shabbily as a little girl, and beautiful and perceptive though
she was, she was doubtful of her own worth and feared losing the
love and admiration of others. She was never one to cross her
husband and rarely offered anything but compliments to her friends
and acquaintances. In fact, her aversion to speaking critically was
so pronounced that she was at times unconscionably supportive. Of
course, she was considered a charming woman by all who knew her,
and particularly insightful in matters personal, social and even
political. Her lack of discrimination in no way distorted her love for
her child, however, nor did her husbands sense that he could do no
Tobias and Angela Wellington devoted a great deal of time
and loving attention to their little son, as they had to his older
brother, Adam, then a handsome five-year-old and already largely
acclimatized to the human condition. On weekends and on warm
evenings in September and October, Tobias walked with his wife
close to their home near Chicagos Lincoln Parka sprawling park
following five miles of Lake Michigans shoreline on the citys
north side. There, Angela pushed infant Toby in his buggy with
Adam tagging along. Both parents dressed casually on these
excursions, though Angela never left the house without make-up,
thus accentuating her full lips, her honey-pecan hair and matching
eyes. The two exchanged small talk as Toby gazed upward at the
luminous bubbles that were his mindor to put it biblically, Toby,
being as a little child gazed upward into the Kingdom of Heaven, to
which he still held his membership card. The parents talked of
dinner parties, fund raisers, the health of their friends, the latest
dietary fads, the Chicago Symphony, Adams kindergarten, vacation
plans, and little Tobys inexorable progress toward toddler-hood
something they keenly anticipated. The fact was, despite their
appreciation of their little miracle they couldnt wait for him to start
talking. Even if theyd been able to know that he dwelt in (or at


least in the suburbs of) the Kingdom of Heaven, like all parents,
theyd have wanted him to exit those premises without delay and
begin to cope with the world in terms they themselves could
understand. Once that time arrived, of course, they began to long
for the days when little Toby still lay in his crib and slept for hours
like a uncooked sausage, plump, pink and ready to please.

Five years later, the previously harmless little Toby stood in front of
the toilet in his bathroom and twisted the head of one of his turtles
around for the third, fourth and fifth time, until eventually the
creature stopped waving its little feet. Toby then gave the head one
more twist, dropped the dead turtle into the toilet, flushed it, and ran
out of the bathroom, through his bedroom and into the long hall that
led to the kitchen, suddenly in tears.
Mommy! Mommy! he cried. Freddy Greenback died!
at which he flung his arms around his mothers aproned waist and
continued to sob.
Oh, no! said Angela. Thats awful, dear! Let me see.
But Toby wouldnt let go. He was floating on his back, so
I flushed him down the toilet like Daddy did before, he said before
he was willing to release his grip and lead his mother back to his
room. An earlier pet turtle of Tobys had (apparently) died a natural
death, and Tobias had extracted it from its tank and flushed it down
the toilet as Toby watched, enthralled.
Are you sure he was dead, dear? Angela asked as they
stood in the boys room looking into the tank where his second
turtle sat silently on a rock.
He was floating like this, Mommy, he said, picking up the
other turtle and placing it in the shallow water on its back. It
immediately righted itself and crawled back onto its rock. Angela
put her arm around her little boy. Im sorry Mr. Freddy died
Freddy Greenback! Toby interrupted, annoyed at his
mothers ignorance.
Yes, Angela answered, sweetly. Im sorry Freddy
Greenback died. But you know turtles dont live long like people
Of course I know that, Toby thought. Im not stupid.


So well just have to go back to that pet store and get a

new one! she went on cheerfully. What do you think of that?
Toby didnt answer. His mother concluded he might be too
upset to consider a replacement for Freddy Greenback, so she asked
him if he wanted some applesauce and cookies, and he followed her
back into the kitchen.

Just before Toby first twisted the turtles head around, he had an
old, familiar feeling. It was like something hed felt in his earliest
days. Hed felt it at times when the luminous bubbles first touched
and first broke apart: that sharp, precision that he felt as pain lying
in his criba wracking stomach ache or a sharp, hollow hunger
but this old, familiar feeling wasnt quite that; it was something else.
It was a special pain Toby felt in his jaw, just below his right ear,
and at other times behind his right shoulder blade. It wasnt like a
stomach ache, not exactly, because this pain, well Toby liked it.
Clearly it was painful; if it went too far he cried, but even as an
infant hed learned to prolong this sensation before it became
overwhelming. It became a great source of pleasure for him, though
pleasure isnt quite the right worda great source of intensity,
perhaps. He hadnt felt this pleasant ache since he was two,
however, even though hed tried to bring it on. But there was
something in that dagger-sharp, satisfying feeling that arose again
when Toby thought of harming his pet turtle, something that made
the idea seductive to him, irresistible.
But that wasnt the only thing that little Toby couldnt
resist; something else was equally alluring to him. It hadnt
happened the first time he picked up a crayon, however. The first
time he picked up a crayon, his mother had put a coloring book on
the dining-room table in front of hima coloring book filled with
pictures of zoo animals. Being so young, he wasnt particularly
adept at staying within the lines. And he didnt improve much the
second time, or the third, or the twelfth, for that matter. But one day
(just prior to the Freddy Greenback incident) his mother couldnt
find the coloring book and tried to draw an elephant for her son to
color. She made her drawing on a piece of her linen-textured, light
blue Angela Wellington stationery. Toby took only a moment to
look at his mothers crude attempt at drawing before he picked up
an ultramarine blue crayon, another piece of stationery, and swiftly


created an astonishingly accurate rendering of the elephant hed

seen in the book. Hed been swept away, captured. He had no
interest in coloring it in, none at all; rather, he went on to draw a
lion, a giraffe, a crocodile and several monkeys in dark blue crayon
on powder blue paper with inexplicable skill. He had just turned
It wasnt that he hadnt had any practiceor preparation
might be a better word because during the months when infant
Toby was absorbed in the profundities of the spheres, he was paying
attention in his own unique way. There was much to absorb in the
Kingdom of Heaven, of course, and for reasons possibly genetic or
possibly astrological (which may be identical), different individuals
are attracted to different aspects of the world of archetypes. So are
different geniuses. Toby, for one, was enthralled by the shapes
described by the interpenetration of these clustering spheres. As the
luminous bubbles swelled, shrank, approached, receded and rotated
around him, linesoften a complexity of lineswere drawn by the
several points at which they intersected. These lines created forms
and figures. They were invisible, of course, existing only in the
unseen tracings left behind by the bubbles interactions, but the
multiple luminous spheres moving in and around him in every
possible way drew a vast multitude of simple and complex figures
and impressed themselves on Tobys consciousness. Other infants
(future writers?) might have been enthralled by the indefinable
contents of the bubbles, some (painters or composers) by the
blending and absorption of their colors or tones, but Toby
watched the lines alone, the lines of this kinetic spatial geometry,
this heavenly geometryand for his own exceptional reasons, he
memorized them. They became second nature to him. And these
particular lines, it turned out, happened to be those from which life
on Earth is also drawn.
It wasnt long before Toby made his preferences clear. His
mother was the more aesthetically sensitive of his parents; early in
her life she had learned to take refuge in art, music and literature.
She had majored in art history in college, and before losing her head
over Tobias, had hoped to pursue it further. Her talents lay in the
appreciation of art, however, not its creation, so one can guess at her
reaction to her sons gift. Not only did she lavish praise on him, but
put an array of supplies at the five-year-olds disposal. But Toby


didnt look twice at the water colors and temperas she bought for
him. Nor the pastels, nor the box of sixty-four crayons, nor the box
of thirty-six colored pencils. It was only the blackest of pencils he
took up, but only until Angela presented him with a pen and a bottle
of India ink, which was to be the medium for his entire artistic
But you cant erase it, dear, his mother warned him after
he completed his first drawing in ink, a picture of her own face.
Toby looked down at the drawing, and then up at his mother,
quizzically. It occurred to her than that he might not know what
erase meant, so she took a pencil and made a line on a scrap of
paper and instructively erased it.
I know about that, he said, feeling much the same
annoyance he felt when she explained to him that turtles dont live
as long as people do.
But erasers are there in case you make a mistake, dear,
she went on. When you do a drawing with a pencil you can fix
your mistakes. You cant do that with inkat least I dont think
you can I suppose you can blot out But she trailed off as she
noticed Toby looking intently at his portrait.
Wheres the mistake? he asked.
The drawing hed made of Angela wasnt an exact
rendering of her face, but it certainly wasnt a childish attempt at
that. It was a realistic drawing with an expressionistic flair, and
where the lines did not conform to the contours of Angelas eyes,
chin, cheekbones, ears or hair, they were unique, intriguing, elegant.
Oh, I think thats lovely, Toby, she said. Well show
Daddy as soon as he gets home. I dont see any mistakes. I was
just And she trailed off again.
Toby didnt say a thing. He didnt believe he made
mistakes; he never would. There followed a series of remarkable
drawings of animals, all created in memory from the line drawings
in his coloring book. Each was not only expertly and uniquely
rendered, but also artfully placed on the page. It was apparent to
both Angela and Tobias that they had a prodigy in the house. There
was no explanation of the boys talent. It wasnt apparent to them,
however, that they also had a problem in the house. When the
second turtle died soon after the first, they believed that there must
have been something in the water or that little creatures had fallen


prey to some obscure amphibian diseaseturtle rot, perhaps. This

time, Toby left the turtle floating in its tank, taking care, of course,
to rotate the head back to a realistic position.
When Toby was still going through his Angelic phase
(the Ethereal Fractions as opposed to the Terrible Twos), he
developed more than his attraction to pain and his unique ability to
observe the lines of life, however. Some might say he stood in a
unique relationship to one particular heavenly body, that there was a
strong astrological influence in his life. Specifically, those holding
such beliefs might suggest that it was the Sun in particular that most
potently influenced Toby, and that the other members of the Solar
Family served to focus and amplify this force; amplified it to such
an extent that the effect might seen unbalanced, as if Toby had a
large, ungainly head. Furthermore, those of astrological persuasion
would likely agree that the result of this solar power-punch was to
instill an imperial, uncompromising, undying self-confidence in the
gifted but narrowly focused child
Further compounding these tendencies, little Toby received
nothing but praise from his parents, particularly his mother, and
soon outside sources as well, for it wasnt long before Angela took
her sons drawings downtown to the School of Fine Arts, the
educational arm of the citys venerable Art Institute. The registrar
was skeptical of Angelas claim that the child whod made the ink
drawings she saw was only five.
Just turned five, his mother added. On July 24th.
The registrar, who at first glance, envied Angelas good
looks and wardrobe, secretly rolled her eyes and suggested that
Toby be enrolled in an intermediate rather than beginners drawing
class. Angela reacted pridefully to this, relishing the idea of leading
her little boy into a class full of ten-year-olds and watching him
outdo them all, which is in fact what happened.
Things hadnt started well, however. Toby reacted badly
when he learned he was expected to draw with one of the soft black
pencils the teacher handed out. In fact, he began to cry when told to
put away the pen and India ink hed brought along. The instructor,
Mr. Floyd, a man frustrated with his own lackluster artistic career,
had been annoyed to learn that a five-year-old had been admitted to
his intermediate class on the recommendation of the registrar, a
bossy woman with no credentials in the field. A child that age


should have been enrolled in the beginners class, one Orlando didnt
teach, and when the child began to show signs of an impending
tantrum, Orlando was ready to send him out into the hall where the
his mother was waiting. But Mr. Floyd had found Angela
Wellington disarmingly attractive; in fact, much about her reminded
him of a former lover whod left him, and it was the prospect of
incurring the disapproval of one so similar in appearance that
dissuaded Mr. Floyd from summarily expelling the child and
granting him his unreasonable wish.
Some might conclude that a karmic resonance of some
sort had come into play here on Tobys behalf and some might not,
but by whatever operative mechanism, it was time for little Toby to
show his stuff, and show it he did. The class had been told to do a
drawing from memory, and Toby drew a portrait of a lion hed seen
photographed in a copy of the National Geographic at home. The
male lion had his teeth bared in an aggressive posture. This picture,
like all the others hed done, had an expressionistic flair to it and it
captured enough of the lions menace to have frightened many
children his age. The lion was unforgettable. Its lines themselves
were the signature of genius. And beyond that, Toby added
something new to this picture: hed added several jagged horizontal
lines which captured the essence of a mountainous horizon, along
with what seemed a perfect circle of a Sun. When Mr. Floyd saw it,
he was so suddenly and deeply moved that he couldnt restrain his
tears. He wanted to ask the child if he could have the picture, but
did not. He sensed something in the boys demeanor that was at
odds with his pretty fair-haired looks, something that made him
believe the child would react aggressively to that request, not unlike
the lion he so dramatically portrayed.
Do you sign your work, Toby? Mr. Floyd asked.
I dont know how to write yet, the boy said.
You can just use your initials. A very great draughtsman
named Albrecht Durer often did that.
Toby looked interested. Here, Ill show you, his
instructor went on, and on a separate piece of paper he wrote TW
and the year, careful to form the letters and numbers without any
discernable style or idiosyncrasy. You can copy that, if you like.
Here, he said, indicating the lower right corner of the 9 x 12 inch
piece of paper on which Toby had inked his lion.


No, the boy said after a moment. Here. Then in his

own unique line, he copied his initials and the date, not where Mr.
Floyd had suggested, but in the upper right hand corner of the
picture, in the sky. Though the signature was only an arrangement
of letters and numbers, it seemed organic, naturalistic, like a bird
like a crow, reallyand it riveted the composition with a stunning
resonance of tension it had lacked before. Toby glanced up at his
teacher wordlessly, but with an unflinching sting of arrogance in his
eyes, and Orlando Floyd, mindful of the first crow hed seen that
day, could find nothing at all to say in response.

Somethings wrong with Mr. Zootie, Toby said to Mrs. Star, his
kindergarten teacher.
Indeed, something was wrong with the classs pet hamster,
Mr. Zootie. Mr. Zootie, apparently, was dead. He lay motionless
next to his wheel in the wood shavings at the bottom of his cage.
Oh, my! said Mrs. Star, after prodding Mr. Zootie with a
pencil a few times to confirm her suspicions. Children, she called
out then, Please put away your things and come and sit in our
circle. And then aside to Toby, whom shed enclosed in her puffy
arm: Let me tell them, dear.
Disappointed, Toby wriggled away and sat down on the
carpet, a little distance from the others. Something very sad
happened, Mrs. Star began. Toby just discovered that our little
friend, Mr. Zootie, has died.
My grandpa died, said Katie Klausmeyer. He thought I
was my mother.
Oh, Im sorry about that, Katie, said Mrs. Star. I
remember how sad I was when my grandpa died. But just as she
was about to go on, Toby broke in. Hamsters dont live as long as
people do, he said smugly.
Mrs. Star paused for a moment. Thats right, Toby, but we
didnt expect Mr. Zootie to die so soon, and its right that we all feel
sad about it.
Toby scowled at this, but that was nothing new. A number
of questions followed. Yes, they could look at Mr. Zootie, Mrs. Star


explained, but no, they could not touch him. And no, she did not
know why hed died. Someone suggested they take the little animal
to a vet to discover the cause of death, and Mrs. Star said that was
an excellent idea, but shed have to see if it would be possible.
Instructive as it might be, she suspected it wasnt; the school was
under budget constraints and she didnt know if she could find a vet
to volunteer his services. Which from a certain point of view
Tobyswas just as well, because had a necropsy been performed,
it would have been discovered that little Mr. Zootie not only
suffocated but had also suffered a broken neck. Its doubtful,
though, that anyone other than an animal pathologist would have
taken the trouble to discover that the hamsters neck had been
broken by the pressure it took to close off its airway, but it that
seemed to be the way it happened. Later that day, the class laid Mr.
Zootie to rest in a hole they dug in a far, grassy corner of the
playground. Several of the children cried.
Toby did not. Toby didnt like kindergarten. He didnt like
the children, he didnt like Mrs. Star, but what he disliked most of
all was that he was not permitted to draw with pen and ink there. So
Toby refused to draw at all. When the other children did, when they
drew with crayons and painted with temperas at their easels, Toby
looked at picture books and imagined Mrs. Star punishing him for
being able to draw as well as he did. You didnt draw that picture!
she shouted at him. Your mother drew that! You are a cheater! A
dirty little cheater! And her cruel accusations continued on as she
took him into the bathroom where she pinched him black and blue.
At times the little boy got so carried away with his fantasy that he
shed tears of indignation and rage.
If I let him use a pen and India ink, the teacher explained
to Tobys mother, Id have to let all the children use it. And even
with smocks she shook her head. Thered be ink stains on
clothing and complaints. And frankly, Mrs. Wellington, I dont
quite why this is so important to Toby. He does have a reluctance to
participate in class activities
Angela had no wish to listen to anything resembling
criticism of her son, and before Mrs. Star had gone any further,
shed heard enough. It wasnt that she blamed Mrs. Star; the
woman simply didnt understand what a gifted boy her Toby was.
But matters were soon clarified for Mrs. Star, because the day after


Mr. Zooties demise, Toby brought one of his pen and ink drawings
to school. It was a portrait of Mr. Zootie, and it was clearly the
work of a remarkable young talent. With an alternation of inked-in
and empty areas, the animals coat shown with an anatomic
precision; the wood chips around it were rendered with apparently
effortless curling flicks of the pen. There was something about the
way the animal was portrayed that gave the sense of an exact
representation, though many of the lines were free from constraint,
almost abstract. As was becoming evident in more and more of
young Tobys drawings, there was an uncanny sense of inevitability
to the inked lines. No mistakes.
Like everyone who first saw the five-and-a half-year-olds
extraordinary drawings, Mrs. Star was astonished. She didnt know
a line drawing could have such presence. She felt like she was
hearing young Mozart play the piano. When the class was gathered
in their circle on the floor, she presented the drawing to them,
adding that Toby had made a beautiful drawing of Mr. Zootie
sleeping in his cage.
Hes not sleeping. Toby said, sounding offended. Hes
dead. Its a drawing of a dead animal.
Marietta Star had been teaching kindergarten for thirty-five
years, and at that moment she realized that Toby had killed Mr.
Zootie. She didnt say anything, of course; she couldnt, really, she
had no proof. But shed never known a child like Toby, and as it
turned out, she was one among the very few who ever guessed the
extent of the young geniuss eccentricities.



Once the baby-talking keeper had transferred me into the exhibition

pen, the two adult humans Id chosen petted me but showed the
signs of reticence typical of those unaccustomed to cats. In short, I
frightened them, which seemed excellent basis on which to form a
relationship. They admired my beauty, I understood that, but like
the keeper, they spoke to me in baby-talk, which only served to
compound their cloddishness. Since humans dont believe they can
actually communicate with dumb animals, your words are empty
and directionless, and to us, it sounds as if youre speaking to
yourselves in the garbled parlance of the feeble-minded or insane
which is not that far from the truth.
These people did handle me with respect, however, and the
male carried me to the front office of the Humane Society in a
comfortable yet dignified way. The female laughed when told that
my name was Shawn.
Oh, that wont do, she said to the male, apparently her
mate, before turning to me and saying, Will it?


Thats up to you, said the eerily thin, bossy female

employee who was shuffling papers on the counter. Most of them
dont respond to names, but if this cat answers to Shawn, I suggest
you keep it.
Though the male who was still holding me did not speak,
and actually smiled, the scarlet flash he emitted in the direction of
the bony woman behind the counter made it clear that he did not
care for her advice.
Now you understand our neutering policy she went on.
Yes, he answered then. Well take care of that within
thirty days.
Any animal other than a human, even a frog, could discern
from his tone of voice, his momentary frown, his blink his slight
downward glance to the right that he was lying; but the female
behind the counter could not, and relied on his meaningless
signature for assurance of his intention to mutilate me. Perhaps on
some level, however, she did sense an imbalance, because she
Do you have a carrying case? she asked, emitting a
display of colors indicating that she was looking for a fight. We
require cats to be restrained in cars, so if you dont have a carrier,
youll have to go purchase one and come back for Shawn, or you
can buy one of ours.
The male hesitated long enough to make this officious
woman feel she had the advantage. Then he told her that of course
theyd brought a carrier. The carrier was out in the car, he
explained, and handed me over to his companion female before he
left to retrieve it. The scarecrow woman offered to hold me as soon
as he was out the door. I took that opportunity to hiss at her and
saw by the colors of her reaction that her anger was laden with
humiliation. This, by my standards, is fair play.
The carrier in which I was then caged was free of organic
scents, so I concluded that it was new and had been purchased on
my behalf. I found nothing unpleasant about the cage itself (other
than its purpose) but the ride in the car was predictably unpleasant.
Being the most surefooted and graceful of all quadrupeds, it should
come as no surprise that felines dislike any instability in the
foundation on which we so deftly move. Felines require no
assistance to move swiftly across the earth, and the clumsy


mechanical means on which bipeds depend for this activity is

naturally abhorrent to us. Fortunately, the automobile ride didnt
last long, and after passing through two doors, being carried up two
short carpeted flights of stairs and then through another door, I had
arrived at my new home. I cannot fully describe my alarm,
however, at the sight that greeted me even before I was released
from my carrier: pressed up against its wire-cage door was the eager
face of a child.
Surprise, Toby! the female shouted. We got you a cat!
Now thats better than another turtle, isnt it?

It was only after approximately an hour that I crept out from under
the sofa in the living room of the Wellingtons eight-room
apartment. The female had thrust a dish of high quality tuna in my
direction and I could not resist it. She then coerced me into the
apartments kitchen where she put the dish down next to a bowl of
clear water.
Dont bother him while he eats, the female instructed the
child, who was hovering nearby. Animals can turn vicious if you
disturb them while theyre eating. Of course, the balefully
uninformed woman was referring of dogs, not cats, and much as I
despise such comparisons, I appreciate being undisturbed while
eating, so I hissed at the child, as much to see his reaction as to
insure my own tranquility. But without hesitation, the child hissed
back. This impressed me. I wont go so far as to say that the child
won my heart at this moment, but there was something akin to feline
contempt in his hiss, something Id never seen in a human before, so
I left my meal momentarily, approached the boy and rubbed the
densely furred side of my head against his ankle. Then I returned to
my dinner.
Later that evening, I discovered there was yet another child
in the house, older than the first one I met. At first this was
alarming, but I soon found that he was as disinterested in me as I
was in him. I was relieved to find no more surprises awaiting me,
and over the next several days I observed life in the Wellingtons
home and came to the following conclusions.
First, that the male and female parents were typically
human, though superior to some regarding their children: which is
to say, though shortsighted, they werent cruel to them. They


continued to feed me human grade canned fish along with desirable

table scraps, though they persisted in babbling at me in a mindless
baby-talk that served no purpose other than to degrade their already
minimal intelligence. Their knowledge of feline life was typical.
They explained to their younger son, for example, that cats spend
80% of their lives asleep, or snoozing away at the boys mother
put it. Though strictly speaking this is true, the conclusions humans
draw from this are typically erroneous, particularly if the symbolic,
arcane meaning of asleep, un-self-awareness, is considered. In
this light, most of you spend 100% of your lives asleep.
Cats, on the other hand, when up and aboutperhaps 20%
of their livesare luminously self-aware, and when inactive with
our eyes shut, relax our conscious activities for hardly more than a
few hours per day. For unlike your kind, cats have the innate ability
to act volitionally in the territory where dreams take place,
commonly known as the Astral Plane, one of the several that
interpenetrate the physical world, ordinarily unseen by humans.
Cats are very busy on the Astral Plane, where, as on the Physical
Plane they fulfill the role of predator, ridding the inner landscape of
psychic pests while fulfilling their love of the hunt. If cats were to
neglect these duties and simply sleep away four-fifths of our lives as
you suppose we do, a night without nightmares would be as great a
rarity for your race as a day without your mechanized cruelty to the
other beasts with which you share the planet.
Secondly, I concluded that the older child in the house
seemed to reflect his parents humanity in every way, while the
younger one younger was a cut above them all. It was unfortunate
the Wellingtons attempted to pass their ignorance on to their
younger son, but fortunate that he paid little attention to them. This
was evident to me from the start. Unlike Ricky and Fritzi Frickly
and the others Ive known, including the long suffering Bambi, this
child showed few signs of response to his parents. He seemed
indifferent to them. This isnt to say he didnt have passions,
because at certain times, both awake and asleep, he displayed an
intensity of spirit Id never before seen in a human.
Though the boy often dreamed inconsequentially and
innocuously enough while asleep, there were times when he was
transported to a realm beyond any Ive known: a luminous place
where he interacted with great turning forms, with orbits or paths


cut by circular bodies the likes of which Id never seen. In these

dreams he seemed to swim with, or follow these mysterious shapes,
but to what end I could not discern. What was clear, however, was
the intensity of his feeling during these dreams; he seemed
passionately devoted to this activity, just as he was to his waking
adventures on paper.
Its the opinion of most humans that cats, along with
animals, have no understanding of art. Some among you have
suggested that non-humans dont have sufficient brain power to
understand how a two-dimensional figure can represent a three-
dimensional one; that a cat cant figure out that a picture of a dog
represents the obsequious animal itself. This, like most conclusions
drawn about anything but your own appetites, is false. A cat
understands a picture of a dog, and I daresay even a dog understands
a picture of a cat. But since neither picture smells, moves or
threatens in any way, neither the cat nor dog cares. Cats understand
art; they simply have no use for it, since unlike you race, nothing in
our nature stands between us and the beauty and wonders of the
natural world.
It should come as no surprise that I understand that Toby
Wellington was an artist. He was the first and only creative
human Ive encountered, but if his temperament is any indication, I
might conclude that these are a superior strain of humanity. When
Toby was busy with his ink and paper, a dazzling electric blue light
emanated from his chest, head and hand with which he drew. This
Aura of Creativity was not only beautiful in itself but had a
soothing effect on me: I basked in it, in the way that some of you
are comforted by resting your heads next to a purring cat. It also
gave me a certain gratification that Toby allowed no one but me in
his room when he drew, and along with his own snarling rebuffs, I
enjoyed hissing appropriately whenever his mother, father or
brother happened to blunder in.

Shortly after my first tuna dinner at the Wellingtons, Tobys

parents asked him to sit down with them in the living room where I
had again hidden myself under the sofa.
What would you like to name your new kitty? the mother
asked the boy, expectantly.
Doesnt he already have a name?


Yes, dear. The people who he used to live with named him
Shawn, but I think we can do better, dont you?
At this point I crawled out.
Didnt they like him? Toby asked, looking down at me.
Oh, Im sure they loved him, dear, but sometimes people
cant keep pets. Sometimes pets do smelly things.
Isnt that what that box is for? The boy asked.
Yes, yes it is. I didnt mean that he did anything like that,
As I later learned, this woman had a habit of talking herself
into corners, but it hardly mattered since the boy rarely paid
attention to her. Freddy Black-tail, he announced. Thatll be his
It merits mentioning here that despite this childs apparent
streak of genius and his agreeably aloof nature, he was, with typical
human consistency, a stupid boy. Having been called Fluffy, Mr.
Fluffmuffin, and Shawn, I was not about to let myself be subjected
to Freddy Black-tail or anything like it, so just as Toby finished
uttering his asinine suggestion, I not only hissed sharply at him, but
reared up as I did so. I felt this would drive my point home.
All three Wellingtons fell silent.
I think the kitty understands, the mother ventured after a
moment, moving her chair back a little. Maybe he doesnt like that
name, dear. Do you have any other ideas?
Andr the Alligator? the boy said tentatively.
Now it should be evident that felines are wise enough to
know the importance of hiding their intelligence from humans, who
would no doubt try to use it for their advantage were they to suspect
it. But there are times when feline dignity must assert itself, so
again I hissed at the child. I later learned, by the way, that Andre
the Alligator was the name of an ill-tempered puppet playing the
part of the villain in a story that Toby watched on television.
Television, by the way, like art, is understood but of no interest to
The hiss brought looks of surprise and concern to the
parents faces. I think we may have brought a nasty animal home,
the father suggested, his brow furrowed.
No, said Toby, showing uncharacteristic insight. Maybe
he doesnt want to be called an alligator.


The mother smiled and patted her sons sandy brown head.
See, dear? she said to her husband. Toby understands. What
about just Andr? she asked the boy.
Andr? Toby said. And then again to me. Andr? And
I couldnt resist; theyd already seen more than they deserved, but
I ventured one more gesture. I purred loudly, walked over and
rubbed myself against the boys ankle.
Now that cant be a coincidence, the mother said to her
husband. But he shook his head, told his wife not to be silly, and
suggested now that that was settled it was time for Toby to go to
Here, Andr, Toby said as he walked off toward his
bedroom; and feeling a taste of triumph myself, I followed him
away, wondering if a child, even one who had it in him to hiss,
had any hope to grow into anything beyond mediocrity living in a
house with a man like that.




After his intermediate drawing class was over, Orlando Floyd, his
heart racing, escorted his youngest student out into the hall where
Angela Wellington was eagerly waiting. Orlandos heart was racing
for two reasons. First, hed just seen the work of an exceptional
young artist; and second, in the course of an hour, hed managed to
fall in love with the artists mother. The fact that Mrs. Wellington
was lovely and looked so much like his dear Emily might have
fueled a serious case of the hots, but to have met a beautiful woman
whose son might be the next Albrecht Durer was enough to enflame
Orlando not only below the belt, but above the collar and in all areas
Angela was smiling an I-told-you-so smile as her sons
teacher approached.
Mrs. Wellington, I think we should talk, Orlando began in
the most professional tone as he could muster. This felt artificial to
him, and all mustering aside, he felt like an actor, and not a


particularly good one. Orlando had never wanted to be a teacher.

He was a draughtsman himself, and a fine painter, he believed, and
was willing to live on bread and red wine alone, or even bread and
water if he could be free to pursue his art. But Orlando couldnt sell
enough paintings to buy flour and yeast, let alone rent a room with
an oven. Then after years of struggle and menial jobs, he was
offered a good position on the faculty of a fine school. Hed
worked there for over ten years, and still he had to feign
I drew a lion, Mommy, Toby said, as Orlando led Angela
back into the classroom and to Tobys drawing board. Its the best
in the class, he announced, showing the drawing to his mother.
Toby hadnt seen any of the other students work, though most of
them had seen his and had reacted with shock and superlatives.
Oh, its a beautiful lion, dear, Angela Wellington said.
But Im sure there were lots of other lovely drawings in Mr.
Floyds class, at which she looked from her son to his teacher with
an indulgent smile.
Being in infatuated as he was, Orlandos heart leapt simply
because Angela remembered his name, but he continued on in his
pedagogical guise. Next week well begin drawing from life, he
said, and depending on how he does with that, I might suggest
Toby be enrolled on one of my more advanced classes. And he
was happy with the way he said that. He could have said one of
the more advanced classes, but he liked the respectful way the
striking woman nodded at him (and more pressingly, he liked the
way her peach colored blouse did its best to contain her breasts.)
Toby tells me he draws quite a bit at home, Orlando continued.
Oh, he does, Angela said, putting her arm around her
pretty son. But you wont let us watch, will you, Toby? Again
she smiled indulgently. Temperamental artist she said to
Orlando then, cheerfully.
Many artists crave privacy, Mrs. Wellington. And Toby is
very much an artist. Its a privilege to have him in my class. Even
as he said this, Orlando realized he was trying to curry a five-year-
olds favor as well as his mothers. This left him somewhat
disgusted with himself, since he didnt think he liked the little boy
very much. Or maybe the child frightened hima possibility that


didnt help his self-esteem either. Orlando did have an agenda,

So after Tobys next class, he went on, maybe we can
talk. On the phone, or if youre downtown I do have some ideas
Id like to suggest to you.
This was very pleasing for Angela to hear. Though shed
had a background in the arts, all the friends she and her husband had
made were lawyers and business people or wives or husbands
thereof. She looked forward to speaking to someone on the faculty
of an esteemed art academy, someone to whom she could display
her knowledge. Shed have to dig out some of her art history books,
she thoughtor she could even say something now. And she was
about to, about how much she admired the engravings of Albrecht
Durer, when Toby began to tug on her arm.
All right, dear, she said. Say goodbye to Mr. Floyd.
Without looking at him, Toby murmured a disinterested
goodbye, but Orlandos heart leapt again when Angela asked him
about his office hours. He hadnt expected her to ask so soon, but
when he told her that he was free every day from two to four, the
thought hed been sidestepping for over an hour finally swept down
on him like an Alberta clipper and cooled him off most cruelly: this
lady almost certainly had a husband, and from the looks of her, a
rich one. When Angela leftor actually when she was pulled from
the room by her impatient sonshe did smile at Orlando. This
helped a little. But being the man that he was, we shouldnt be
surprised to learn that he promptly managed to delete the image of a
husband of any kind from his imagination and rekindle his fire as
easily as he smiled at himself in the mirror.
Once everyone had cleared out of his classroom, Orlando
surreptitiously took Tobys drawing back into the bowels of the
graphics department, and using a new high-tech copier, reproduced
the picture with brilliant clarity. Doing this without the artists
signed permission was against school policy, but Orlando secretly
scorned school policy, along with the schools staid administration,
who, in a convoluted way, he sometimes blamed for his lack of
success. If they hadnt offered him his job, he reasoned when
particularly depressed, he might have struggled on as a starving
artist and finally broken through. It sometimes even seemed to him
that they relished the fact that he, too, could not succeed beyond


academia. Back in his classroom, Orlando slipped the copy of

Tobys drawing into his large portfolio. Then he left the building
without saying goodbye to the registrar, and, having completely
forgotten his unpleasant encounter with the crow that morning, took
the bus home. It was a Friday afternoon.

On Monday through Thursday of the next week, Orlandos desire to

remain asleep in bed left him entirely, and he stayed in his office
from two to four every afternoon waiting for Angela Wellington to
either call or knock on his door. Each day at two, he felt new
optimism, but the disappointment that followed on each successive
afternoon increased until when he left for home late Thursday, he
had himself convinced that the woman and her brilliant son thought
so little of him that they wouldnt bother to show up for class the
next day.
Considering his history of disappointment, we can forgive
Orlando such pessimism. After all, like the rest of us, he wished for
a life more satisfying than our current state allows. And despite
having read a bit about the spiritual traditions that have helped
humans cope with this problem, he hadnt found any answers that
satisfied him for long. He understood enough to realize that if he
were to devote himself to any of the ancient practices or the modern
hybrids, he might find fulfillment and even enlightenment; but
frankly, it seemed to him that it shouldnt take such a commitment.
He felt that if he couldnt be happy with what he was born with: his
humanity, the goodness of his heart, and his desire to rise above
suffering, then to hell with it, hed be miserable and take solace in
the nobility he felt by bearing the injustice of it all. In fact, Orlando
never complained, rather he looked on the administration of the
cosmos as incompetent; hed never agreed to the oppressive
conditions under which he lived, and so thought himself superior to
them. Orlando trusted his instincts, the whole gamut from the
carnal to the sublime, and he believed only in a God who could
beam down on him joyfully, just as he was.
Much of Orlandos attitude toward God and other
metaphysical matters had rubbed of from his old friend from art
school, Parker Blum. Like Orlando, Parker had not gone on to be
an artist, nor had Orlandos two other art school friends, Olivia
Piper and Glen Steinberg. Olivia had become successful in


advertising design, Glen had gone to law school, but Parker

continued to sell marijuana, work at menial jobs and study the
various spiritual traditions in an eclectic if not haphazard way. For
a while Parker was a Buddhist, for a while a Sufi, then a apprentice
astrologer; for a while he was a student of Zen, then the Kabala,
then the I Ching, then the Tarot; then he was a Theosophist, then a
student of Gurdjieff, then of Rudolph Steiner, then Krishnamurti,
then Sri Aurobindo, and on and on. Orlando still had dinner with
Parker every month or so at the Jade Palace, where Orlando always
paid the bill and listened to Parkers latest take on the meaning of all
things. Though Orlando had lost his taste for marijuana in his late
twenties after waking to find drawings hed thought brilliant the
night before flat and meaningless the next morning, he had not lost
his interest in Parkers belief that all acts were acts of God, and
continued to take matters of the spirit seriously if irreverently.
It may have been considered an act of God, or then again it
may not, but when Orlando woke on Friday, it seemed that in his
sleep, hed been covertly transported two-hundred miles south
where it felt like summer. The week had been oppressively gloomy
and unseasonably cold, and the morning promised a reprieve. The
day began so beautifully, in fact, that it prompted him to take his
coffee to the park bench again. It was only as he crossed the street,
his blue cup in hand, that he remembered the crow attack. His
thoughts all week had been fixed on Angela Wellington. In these
fantasies: a) she was widowed or divorced; b) she did not love her
husband and was ready to leave him; or c) she fell so passionately in
love with Orlando that her husband simply knew what was good for
him and gave upand most of his scenarios were more or less
preposterous variations of the latter. And in all these, of course, he
participated in imaginary conversations with his beloved which
revealed a compatibility unparalleled in the history of romance. He
hadnt thought of the crow all week. But as Orlando approached the
park bench on this bright morning, at least a dozen crows rose up
from utility poles, rooftops and trees, jarring his ears with their
hoarse racket that seemed directed personally at him as they circled
and all landed on or near the maple tree closest to the bench. But
today he had no muffin.
Again, his coffee was excellent. He always bought the
finest, and ground it at home with an electric grinder he kept


immaculately clean and polished. This week hed tried an even

stronger dark-roast blend, and he wasnt disappointed. This coffee
was so good, in fact, so potent and aromatic, that for a moment he
forgot that Toby Wellingtons second visit to his classroom was just
hours away. He also momentarily forgot the pack of crowsuntil
he looked up, that is, and saw that one particular bird had separated
itself from the group and was approaching him across the grass on
footand the bird was limping. Orlandos heart lurched (as
opposed to leapt), since he had no doubt that it was the same bird
that had attacked a week before returning for a rematch. His first
thought was to run; his second to flip the top off his cup and hurl the
steaming contents at the crow, but he sat there silently instead, his
honor and his coffee secure, and waited to see how closely the
arrogant black bird would approach.
The crow stepped on the buckled sidewalk and moved its
feet up and down in a little lame dance that in retrospect seemed far
more ominous than cute. It also looked up at Orlando in a way that
no longer seemed promising in anything but the most menacing
way. In a defiant gesture then, Orlando sipped his coffee and
smacked his lips as if the bird could understand that expression of
self-satisfaction. But the crow simply held its ground and stared.
Its look was indeed penetrating for a creature with such beady eyes.
Orlando felt a little silly, even ashamed about trying to stare down a
crow. No matter how unpleasant his last experience had been, this
was, after all, an innocent animal toward which he felt such
antagonismyet still, he wasnt so culturally brainwashed to ignore
the possibility that animals can embody powerful forces and bear
omens. So, though somewhat ambivalent, he sat, sipped and stared.
The other crows, those on the ground under the maple tree and those
alighted in it, seemed to be playing the part of the chorus in this
drama: they all looked over at Orlando and their own protagonist,
clucking, cawing in doleful commentary and occasionally flapping
their lustrous black wings.
Orlando looked behind him across the street to see if Mr.
Lee was looking out the door of the Jade Palace, or if there were any
other witnesses to this mystery play, but saw no one. It was when
he turned back to the principle crow, standing there motionless on
the sidewalk but still staring up at him that Orlando fully sensed the
menace of its look. It arose from somewhere deep in the shadow


world of nature, from the world of nightmares, or thunder, or the

Moonwhich shown pale in the daytime sky near its zenith.
Orlando felt the birds look in his skeleton. He shuddered, and
without hesitation, he got up, his coffee only half finished, and
retreated in the direction of the bus shelter just across the street. But
the crows, or the Moon, or the thunder, or the nightmare had a
different idea.
The birds first rose up and swooped down like a black storm
in front of Orlando in what seemed a willful attempt to prevent him
from crossing the street. Despite himself, he shouted, this time
through his teeth, I said NEVER AGAIN! Enraged, he snapped
the top off his travel cup and flung its contents in the direction of
the barrage of crows. This seemed to dissuade them, but only
insofar as they settled on the roof of the bus shelter and the trees
around it, where they continued to beat their wings wildlyand
purposefully, he was certain of thatwhile harassing him with an
unremitting, belligerent chorus of caws. If it werent for the
protection of the shelter, hed have had to run home again, and it
was still possible that the angry birds might enter the little structure
itself. But then his bus came into sight, and as it pulled up the
crows scattered and Orlando recalled a list hed recently read in a
trivia column in a newspaper, a list of the names of groups of
animals. It included the familiar: pride of lions and a troop of
baboons; but also the esoteric, particularly regarding birds: an
exaltation of larks, a parliament of owls, a charm of hummingbirds,
and what seemed so chilling at that moment, a murder of crows.

After Tobys class that afternoon, Angela asked him to wait in the
student exhibition gallery while she talked to his teacher for a few
Ive always hoped to teach him to love art as I do, Angela
said in Orlandos office, intending to make her sympathies clear.
(Her presence, of course, had obliterated all memory of Orlandos
early morning encounter with the murder of crows.) I mean to
appreciate the world of art, she continued. Hes got no problem
with his own. But every time Ive tried to walk with him through


the museum, hes showed no interest at all. It was like I was

walking him through a cemetery.
He might be a little young yet, Orlando replied, trying to
keep his eyes off lovely Mrs. Wellingtons breasts. But if youre
interested, I can suggest some things that might spark his interest.
We have a fine collection of drawings here that arent on public
display, and Id be glad to
Really! Angela said. Id like to see those too.
Orlandos heart was pounding. He could hardly respond to
this without betraying his glee, and he might have become a little
reckless. So he suggested, you and Mr. Wellington are art
lovers? Its no surprise Toby so talented.
Oh, no. For all his good qualities, Tobias is artless, Im
afraid. So is Tobys older brother, Adam, although hes
academically gifted, and an excellent athlete, too, like his father.
Here Angela paused, smiling. My husband loves Tobys drawings,
and he supports him in every way, but the art appreciation in the
family is left to me. I studied art in college, so Ive tried to But I
already told you that, didnt I? she said, warmly now.
Orlando nodded, unsure whether he hid the tangle of
ambivalent feelings that seized his solar plexus at that moment. The
artless part was just right; but the bit about the husbands other
good qualities made him sick. But the worst of all, however, the
severe body blow, was that a husband even existed, and one whom
she was willing to speak well of. Orlando had a difficult time
concentrating through the rest of his conversation with Angela,
wife of TobiasTobias the Olympian, no less. Yet he couldnt
fully express his joy when he learned that she admired the
engravings of Albrecht Durer and also those of Martin Schoengauer
as well, a lesser know artist; nor could he fully conceal his grimace
when she explained that her husband would spare no expense on
Tobys educationa grimace prompted both by the idea that her
husband was rich and generous and that he might consider taking
Toby to a teacher of more renown. Orlando also worried that when
he took her and Toby back into the School of Fine Arts closed
collections, that brute, jock of a husband might choose to bull his
way in there as well. But then, as if to broadcast the mixed message
loud and clear, when brown-haired, Venus-hipped Angela
Wellington arranged to meet Orlando the next Monday afternoon


regarding her sons instruction, she gently touched Orlandos

forearm in an wholly unnecessary way, while at he same time
smiling at him as if she herself might be infected by that same, drug
resistant hots virus that flourished in his bloodstream.

Despite the mixed message, when Orlando took the bus home that
day, he was grinning like a cat at a canary convention, concerned
that if he didnt restrain his smile other passengers might clear the
seats around him. There is hardly a time more thrilling than when
the first promise of love is confirmed, even if the confirmation is
less than resounding. Orlando disembarked from the bus with a
spring in his step, and after changing clothes at home, continued
springing around the corner to The Jade Dragon, his usual dinner
spot on Friday evenings.
Ignoring the smile still plastered on Orlandos face, Mr. Lee
greeted him with a look of concern. Mr. Froyd, he said. You are
Orlando couldnt guess at the source of his concern. (But as
always, in the invisible dialogue bubble above his head, he said,
Thats DOCTOR Freud, Mr. Lee, DOCTOR Freud.) Im fine,
Orlando answered out loud. Dont I look all right?
Now, Mr. Lee said. Not this morning. I saw what
happened to you.
Now Orlandos look darkened. You saw those crows? he
Portentous, Mr. Lee replied, nodding. Says my
grandfather. Crows always omens.
By this time Mr. Lee had escorted Orlando to his customary
table by the window, a spot from which he could see the bench
across the street in the park. What sort of omens? Orlando asked.
Sometimes good omens, sometimes bad, Mr. Froyd.
(Thats DOCTOR!) Ha ha! Grandfather a mysterious man,
maybe a little crazy.
So? So what am I to think?
Crows always portentous, he repeated. Symbols of
divinity for Chinese. You got a mess of divinity in your face! Ha
ha! You okay?
They didnt hurt me, if thats what youre asking. They
frightened me, though. I didnt realize you saw me.


Yes. I was concerned. You look fine now. Im very

happy to see you looking so well. Soup tonight?
Hot and sour.
Mr. Lee nodded. And the usual?
Orlando nodded. Hows your daughter? he asked, hoping
to clear away the specter of the crows that had bruised his good
spirits. Mr. Lee always loved reporting on his daughters success as
a financial advisor in New York, and he did just that, at some
length, refreshing the atmosphere around Orlandos table
considerably, but not entirely.
Orlando watched his host walk off to the kitchen. A mess of
divinity in his face, he thought, shaking his head and trying to
reestablish the image of Angela Wellington soft brown curls, wide-
set brown eyes and voluminous breasts.
He spent a dreamy weekend: sleeping late, walking in the
neighborhood, reading, and cleaning his small apartment as if
Angela Wellington were to soon knock on his door and stay long
enough to require use of the shower. He also looked furtively at the
copies of Tobys drawings hed smuggled home: the dramatic
drawing of the lion and the exquisite still lifethe basket of fruit,
candlesticks and stack of bookshed penned at his second lesson.
On Monday, he was up with the sun and paced his rooms
for over an hour before it was time to prepare himself for the
coming day and his meeting with Angela in the afternoon. The
encounter proved to be an anti-climax at first, however; Angela, it
seemed, had only minutes to spare. They spoke only briefly of
nurturing Tobys talent, but before she left, she not only touched
Orlando again, but mentioned that she was downtown most
Mondays for lunch at her club.

Toby also spent a dreamy weekend. His mother had promised to

convert the spare bedroom into a studio for him. He already had a
drawing table set up in there, but it seemed hed drawn enough to
satisfy himself at his lesson on Friday, and so chose to play alone in
his bedroom and at his retreat in the buildings basement on both
Saturday and Sunday. But he didnt play so much as dream. Hed
had a twinge of that pain in his back and under his ear again, and he
spent hours lost in reveries, several of which had a distinctly dark
tone. He had been annoyed that his brother hadnt paid enough


attention to his mothers accounts of success at the School of Fine

Arts, and so imagined suffering persecution at Adams hands until
the tables eventually turned and Toby was able to hurt Adam in a
succession of waysmost of which involved crushing injuries of
various sorts: ankles slammed in doors, jaws hammered with bricks,
and eye sockets with hammers. But boys will be boys. When Toby
grew tired of harming his brother, however, he turned to Orlando
Floyd, whom he also felt did not appreciate him enough. But once
Toby had created a scenario in which Orlando had called him a
dirty little cheater, an accusation apparently close to Tobys heart,
the boy did not choose revenge, but rather to remain in a prolonged
state of self-pity. This was a state in which he felt perfectly
justifiedperhaps because in a way known only in his soul, his life
was more worthy of pity than most.
After school on Monday, Toby did return to the spare room;
and over the next several days, he casually drew nearly everything
in the room: the windows, the door, the radiators, the bookcases, the
pictures hanging on the walls, the trunks packed with clothes, the
lamps, the light switches on the walls, the sewing machine and the
loveseat. He drew each object in ink on a separate piece of paper,
being careful to place the drawing on the page in an intriguing way.
As usual, only his cat was in the room with him as drew, and Toby
never left the room until each of these drawings was dry and stacked
away. When his mother asked him what hed been doing, he said,

Its fair to say that at that stage of his artistic life, Toby had nothing
to learn. He continued to draw with the same exceptional skill; his
strain of creativity was rare in that his mode of expression was
wholly spontaneous. There was no planning involved; Toby
transferred the crystalline image he had in his mind onto the page,
much the way certain composers simply write down the music
theyve heard rather than sculpt it out of an unrefined, rough
musical idea. In Orlandos drawing classes, of course, Toby drew
from life as well as from memory, but in his life drawings he
worked the same way: he hardly looked at his subject more than
oncebe it still life or human form before he had internalized it,


and from that repository, his hand simply transferred the image to
paper, using those exclusively elegant lines he had memorized in his
bubble days. The sense that Toby had of himself as he drew was as
much like that of an athlete as an artist: it was imperative that the
thought was not allowed to interfere with the childs flawless
instincts. And it never did. First, because there was no room: when
he was drawing, the boys consciousness was brimming full of
attention and observation, and perhaps most intently, full of delight;
and second, because Orlando Floyd wouldnt let anything intrude.
His mother had made good on her promise to convert the
spare bedroom into a studio. Not much conversion was necessary.
The rooms two high windows faced north, so once the curtains
were removed, the light was excellent. All the furniture was
removed to basement storage, with the exception of Tobys drawing
table, a utility table, his chair, and a loveseat that folded out into a
single bed. Angela also purchased a large cabinet with long, wide,
shallow drawers to store completed drawings. Toby worked under
ideal conditions at home; when he closed his studio door, he wasnt
Whether Toby drew things hed seen in the past or things
before his eyes, his early drawings had a sameness of excellence
about them. Toby always drew in ink on 9 x 12 inch white paper,
and he always limited his compositions to one subject: one animal,
one figure (or two if they were posed together), one still life alone,
or a landscape with one focal point. He always added backgrounds
to his subjects, and at times, like with his early drawing of the lion,
these were integral to the composition, but at this time in his life he
was a one trick ponybut quite a trick for a pony still in single
At first, Orlando simply stood back and observed, but it
wasnt long before he felt hed seen the child demonstrate his full
range of skills, and once he determined what the boy was capable of
at this early age, he didnt suggest that he undertake more complex
compositions or challenge him with new mediums of expression..
He had the insight to see that the work Toby was creating was
perfect within its own parameters, that it followed its own rules
without mistakes. Orlando knew that and also that the young artist
needed to be protected to ensure his natural development, and he
made sure that Angela did too; he made it clear that he wished to


help her nurture and protect her sons gift. Angela wasnt aware
that it needed protecting, but she was delighted. Orlandos sincere
interest pleased her greatly, as did the regular conversations she now
had with him most Monday afternoons, conversations ranging in
subject from Toby himself, to the history of art, the education of
children, to subjects more personal and closer to home.
In one such exchange, the two discovered that theyd been
brought up in the same neighborhood in Chicago. This, along with
other personal revelations and observations, eventually compounded
the middle-aged art teachers initial case of the hots into a sustained,
everlasting burn. First it was her cheekbones and wide set brown
eyes, then nape of her neck, then the glimpse of cleavage over a
scoop-necked blouse, then the very fact of her hips, then her
perfume, then the moist secret he knew she was preserving there
under her skirt, then it was the wisps of hair that came undone about
her neck, then that she was such a sweet-little-bit plump, that she
seemed never quite contained by her stylish, expensive clothes, but
more and more frequently it was that darkness beneath her skirt that
enflamed Orlando, and it is a credit to his integrity that he
maintained a clear perspective on Tobys talents while drooling so
persistently over his mother.

Hell be fine here until summer, Orlando said to Angela once the
end of the first term came around, a week before Christmas.
Angela, wearing a pale blue silk dress, was sitting in a red directors
chair across from a table that served Orlando as both desk and
drawing board. Orlando had just poured her a cup of coffee and sat
down with one of his own.
It doesnt matter what Toby draws, he said, just that he
doesand the materials not that different in the advanced class.
Thats fine, Angela answered, a little distractedly. Why
do you think artists are such peculiar people?
Are they?
Well, so Ive heard. I suppose I havent known any,
except for my sonand you.
And Im?


Oh no, Im sorry. Maybe I used the wrong word

unusual, or eccentric might be better. Because you do have a secret
life, dont you, Orlando?
He didnt answer. The first name basis was something new
to them, and he was still dazzled by it.
Im not asking you what it is, she explained, making a
slightly bitter face after tasting the coffee. Im just saying you
have one, and youre an artist. I dont and Im notand Toby
certainly does.
Are you sure? Orlando asked. Doesnt everyone have a
secret life?
Secrets, maybe, but not a life they tell no one about. I
think artists need that, even though they may deny it exists.
Orlando smiled. Did you learn that studying art history?
And is there something wrong with the coffee?
No, she smiled, trying another sip and making the same
face. Im not used to it black. And yes, maybe I gained a little
evidence in school, but just hearsay evidence. Mostly the idea just
came to me.
And you trust things that just come to you? Orlando
Angela answered a little timidly. Is that wrong?
Oh, no, Orlando answered, charmed. I think the most
important things are those the just come to you.
I do too, but why do you suppose that is?
Orlando stood up, walked around his desk and approached
her. But he wasnt sure what hed do next. I really dont have
much respect for authority, he said. Now thats something many
artists have in common.
Thats brave, Angela answered.
Not really. It would be brave to take a stand against
authority, but thats not something Im likely to do. Its just in my
secret life that Im brave.
See, I told you so.
Orlando was close enough to caress her, and there wasnt
much else he could do, standing right there, so he simply took her
cup of coffee away. Dont feel you have to drink this, he said,
feeling as if hed been caught in a lie.


Dont you take my coffee away! Angela protested,

smiling. This time when she reached out and touched him, it left
Orlando weak in the knees.
Orlando spoke before he could stop himself. Id never
take anything away from you
Angela blushed. So you do have a secret life, she said.
Im sorry, Angela. I didnt mean to
Think nothing of it, she said, patting his cheek, a gesture
which not only made his day, but his week, month, year, and
possibly the second half of his life.

Though Orlando had admitted to Angela that he had a secret life, he

hadnt told her or anyone else that hed secretly copied each of
Tobys drawings that year and kept them hidden away in a portfolio
encased in plastic at the back of one of his closets at home. But by
the time the second term ended in May, and Orlando exhibited the
best of his intermediate students work, Tobys drawings created
such a stir that the schools administrative board elected to put on a
special show of the boys drawings in the school exhibition gallery.
Orlando felt it was too early to alert anyone of note about this show.
Others at the school apparently differed with him, however, and one
prominent art critic, a Mr. Bland, did visit the student gallery,
probably expecting to find something charming and or perhaps even
promising. But the critic was predictably stunned by what he saw,
and this before he learned that the artist was still only five.
Fortunately the man had the discretion to contact Tobys parents
before putting anything in print, and following Orlandos advice,
Angela Wellington expressed great concern that any further public
attention was inappropriate for a child so young and impressionable.
Toby, of course, was not at all impressionable; in fact, as Orlando
already suspected, he was highly resistant to any influence other
than his own. The boys father, however, was too self-absorbed to
notice his sons disturbing predisposition, and his eager to please
mother could hardly understand.
Angela did have other sensitivities, however, and was
particularly concerned with the effect Tobys success might have on
his older brother. In light of this, shed begun to make extra efforts
to make Adam feel special, and was always mindful to praise him
for his excellent school work and his athletic prowess. Adam,


however, seemed quite pleased with himself without any

encouragement. He felt a comfortable affinity with his parents,
particularly with Tobias, but looked on his younger brother as a
reclusive little nerd who happened to have landed in the family. If
Toby wanted to be a weird, geek of an artist, it was no skin off
Adams ass.
When seen in perspective, its unclear whether Toby needed
protection from the distractions of the world or not, but it is clear
that Orlandos efforts pleased and comforted Angela Wellington to
an extent her husband never imagined. For when Angela accepted
Orlando as Tobys protector, she felt that hed become her own
protector as well. Of course she didnt think of it in quite those
terms; what she felt was that Orlando Floyd could envelop her in
that vibrant yet serene world of art shed abandoned to get married.
She hadnt foreseen that there would be a good deal more
enveloping than that, and that it would begin quite soon, weekly at a
downtown hotel. Or perhaps she had foreseen it. And what had she
foreseen about Tobias?

Though Orlando and Angela were never to remember it, the two of
them had met once, many years before. Whether this was a karmic
footnote in their lives, the play of irony across their marginally
aware existences, or the kind of foreshadowing that naturally and
frequently falls across all of us unnoticed, may deserve some
consideration. In any case, Orlando was twelve years old. He was
in Lincoln Park with three of his friends. It was spring vacation
from school, and the first truly warm and sunny morning of the year
that hadnt fallen on a school day. The boys had covered a lot of
territory in the large lakefront park. They had bicycled for miles,
crossed bridges, climbed fences and trees, hit golf balls, harassed a
few elderly people, lay in the grass and laughed, and finally,
laughed out, arrived at a small playground where they let their bikes
fall on the grass and ran to one of the climbing structures. The
playground wasnt crowded, but even as the boys first climbed up,
they sensed that during the winter they had somehow grown too old
for playgrounds. Not too big, really, just too old. All the other
children there were with their mothers or nannies. The oldest


looked about ten, and a few toddled around showing obvious signs
of diapers.
It was when the boys leapt off the climbing structure and
ran over spiral slide, that Orlando met Angela, four at the time and
named Angela Wyrth. The little girl was at the park with her
mother, a vain woman who wished she had a nanny of her own like
many of the other families in the neighborhood. She couldnt afford
a nanny; she was speaking to a one, however, a young German
woman there at the park with her own charges, a three and five-
year-old. As the two women sat on their bench, in fact, Mrs. Wyrth
was far more interested in her conversation with the German girl
than chasing her daughter around the playground to help her up on
this or off of that. But little Angela was calling her again. Seeing
the older womans exasperation, the young nanny offered to go over
and help the four-year-old, and Mrs. Wyrth gladly accepted the
offer. Her feet and back ached, and she had never expected
motherhood to be so so annoying.
It turned out the reason little Angela was calling for her
mother was because she was scared of the big boys and wanted to
go on the circular slide. But when the nanny with the foreign accent
approached Angela and offered to help her, the little girl made a
slightly different frightened face and backed away from her directly
into twelve-year-old Orlando Floyd.
She vants to go on for a slide, the nanny said to Orlando,
who hardly noticed the little girl behind him. Mistaking the
womans words for a request, Orlando shouted to his friends, who
were all on the spiral slide at once and way too big for it.
Hey! Get down. This little kid wants to use the slide.
And at this, he picked up little Angela from behind, his hands under
her arms, carried her the few steps over to the slide and planted her
squarely on the plastic covered ladder, only a few steps from the
top. Then he looked back at the nanny for her approval, which he
received by means of a nod and a smile, and ran off, following his
friends to retrieve their bikes and find a more age appropriate
Little Angela, meanwhile, took the last two steps to the top
of the ladder herself, plopped her bottom down on the slide and slid
merrily down, landing bottom-side-down in the soft but scratchy
bed of wood chips provided. But suddenly little Angela wasnt


merry anymore. She wanted to be boosted up onto the ladder again,

but she didnt want the German nanny to do it. She wanted the big
boy. But the big boy was gone, and when the nanny returned
Angela to Mrs. Wyrth, the four-year-old was crying. Her mother
didnt bother to find out why she was crying, however, and simply
told her to stop being a baby or shed take her home.



I believe that I have lived with the Wellingtons long enough now to
be in a position to judge them each fairly as individuals. But first,
let the fallacy of cat years as opposed to human years be
permanently put to rest. The passage of time is wholly dependent
upon awareness, not the movements of celestial spheres; and since
cats are more aware than all but a few humans, time passes not only
more slowly, but more significantly for us than for the rest of you.
That an average cats lifetime is chronologically one quarter of an
average humans does not play into the formula at all. Considering
the intensity and size of a cats moment to moment experience, as a
race we live far longer than you. This is not to say that all of you
experience time in the same superficial way. It recently came to my
attention that as a race you are not a homogeneous but multilayered
one consisting mostly of assorted simple creatures intermixed with a
very few who have, with few observable signs, risen to a far greater
level of awareness and understanding. Being politically correct,


however, or even appreciating my reasoning, is no indication of

higher awareness, so dont jump to any conclusions.
The adult Wellingtons, on whom I depended for my
physical wellbeing, fulfilled their obligations well, except for
occasional litter box infractions. They never physically abused me;
they provided me with palatable food and permitted me access to
the outdoors whenever I wished. The Fricklys and the other two
families who held me captive labored under the assumption that the
outdoors was unsafe for cats (these same people who believed that
they represented intelligent life on earth.) Unlike animals, cats are
uniquely suited for both indoor and outdoor living: you, of course,
require layers of cumbersome cloth to live outside during cold
weather, and the brightest dog (excuse the oxymoron) doesnt have
enough sense to avoid soiling an indoor environment, even with
easy access out.
The back door of the Wellingtons home opened onto a
complex wooden stair and porch structure. This led two flights
down to a paved area, which in turn led out to a walkway and to an
alleya place favored by cats for reasons we wish to keep to
ourselves. The porch structure was often warmed by the sun and
contained a number of narrow railings and perches, well suited for
prowling and contemplation, as well as easy access to the roof.
Though cats willingly live with humans, as previously stated, we are
at heart solitary beings, and we seek out places in which we can
remain undisturbed to satisfy our meditative nature. City rooftops
provide such contemplative sanctuary as well an excellent arena for
sport-hunting, and the roof of the Wellingtons building supported
an abundance of we call low flying ratsanimals known to you as
pigeons. There are city cats who depend on such prey for
sustenance, I know and respect several of these, and even those of
us who are kept and fed enjoy the taste of fresh blood, since the diet
served to most cats is bland and tiresome.
The female Wellington, known as Angela to the others, was
among the brighter of her kind Ive known, in that she understood
from that start that my tastes were at least as discriminating as her
own. Ive always been served a portion of any meat prepared for
meals, and on those occasions when the family satisfied its
omnivorous nature with plants or grains, she always provided me
with something other than cat food.


Regarding the later, I understand that there are masses of

unfortunate humans in the world who cannot provide themselves
with the widely varied diet they favor. They, for instance, may have
little more than the grain, rice, to sustain themselves. These are
deprived, hungry humans, and when they do have a dish of rice in
front of them they eat it greedily. Its all they ever get. So would it
be a reasonable conclusion that these unfortunates like their human
food? They eat it right up, dont they?
Despite her natural shortcomings, Angela Wellington had
an inwardly pleasant nature, evident by the range of natural colors
she emanated, indicating no ill will toward me or any others.
Outwardly, however, she was even more unattractive than the rest of
the family, since she insisted on accentuating her humanoid features
with colored applicationswhich, I should point out, bore no
relation to the colors of her natural aura. Her dreams, though
occasionally lascivious, were more often than good natured, even
though she often found herself at a disadvantage in these, frequently
stumbling into recurring situations where she encountered hostility.
It goes without saying that the woman didnt possess the ability to
bring her conscious mind to her dream stateanother of those
qualities that distinguishes cats from the animalsso in her dreams
she was usually buffeted about on the currents of the astral plane
like a mouse in a Maytag. (To any whod question a cats use of
such a simile, including the name of a commercial washing
machine, Id add the following. First, there was a time when I
frequented the basement of the Wellingtons apartment building.
The laundry facilities were located in the basement, and until the
hiring of a brutish janitor, I hunted freely there. One of the resident
mice, a fat black female, whom Id held in my claws more than
once, found her way innocently into an inviting basket of unwashed
laundry and thence into the drum of the washer itself where she may
or may not have drowned before she was agitated, tumbled and spun
dry, to be discovered tangled in a pair of pajamas as an unnaturally
clean little corpse. And second, as should be obvious, I can read.)
The adult male, known as Tobias, was altogether different
than his mate. Though he never physically abused me or prevented
me from coming and going as I wished, as time passed, I witnessed
the degradation of his psyche until within the span of one year, hed
become seeped in ill-will and deceit, and though he hid this from


the other members of his family, it affected them nonetheless.

When he returned home from work, he routinely bristled with
darkly jagged residues of foul play, duplicity and outright
dishonesty; and when he returned from his frequent business trips,
he was draped with the image of one particular human female,
naked and conniving herself. Whatever activities he was involved
with in his professional life were of such an unsavory nature that
despite his smiling, generous ways at home, his dark emanations
routinely despoiled the air his wife and child breathed, as well as the
food they ate. I have no doubt that these contaminations had ill
effects on his familys health, either physically or emotionally.
Being able to see these invisible pollutants myself, I was able to
take precautions for my own protection, something cats learn to do
patrolling the netherworlds as we do. As far as the wraith-like
slattern is concerned, I cant say what effects this image of deceit
had on his mate, though I can only suspect the worst. It is a
testament to the inadequacy of the human olfactory sense that
Angela Wellington could not detect the presence of this woman on
her husbands person, a scent that was disagreeably evident to me.
For the sake of harmony, I restrained my justifiable desire to hiss at
this man during this year of his decline and collapse, but I rejected
his friendly advances with such consistency that he eventually gave
up, explaining to his wife and children that he just wasnt a cat
Adam Wellington, the older of the two offspring, resembled
an unsullied yet undistinguished version of his father. The boy
spent a good deal of time in his room and made it clear to me from
the start that I was not welcome in there; though when he failed to
close his door, I inspected it thoroughly. As he grew older, he had a
propensity to leave foul, acrid and harsh smelling compounds out on
his work table, but otherwise there was little of interest in his room.
Since I was never within my range as he slept, I know nothing of his
dreams, but judging from his typical waking emanations, I assume
his dream life was insipid and dull. This child, you understand, like
his father and so many humans, had a critical imbalance of his
mental nature at the expense of the emotional. His so-called
intellectual life was wholly inconsequential in the grand scheme
of nature, and as long as his emotional life remained ineffectually


benign, he was of no threat to others. Under his fathers influence,

however, I was not sanguine about his future.
It was the younger child, however, who turned out to be by
far the most unusual. I hesitate to draw any conclusions about his
peculiar human makeup, except one. From what I observed, the boy
was a bundle of seemingly irreconcilable contradictions, and I
believe it was these, working separately and against each other
confined with in his psyche, that created the dynamo of the
exceptional power he expressed in his talent, and as I discovered, in
other ways as well.
The boys artistic gift set him apart from other humans
certainly from his parents. This intensity of purpose only increased
over the years. Apparently the pictures Toby Wellington made won
him acclaim even at his early age, though to me, a being
independent of art, his drawings were of no more interest than the
unrealistic, andin the case of Tom and Jerry and Sylvester
and that insipid birdinsulting cartoons to which he became
addicted. Though his art didnt affect me, his Aura of Creativity
became increasingly potent as a force in itself as he matured, or at
least grew larger, and since he still wouldnt permit anyone in his
room when he drew other than me, I continued to benefit from this.
Since my previous stays with humans had been brief, Id
never before observed a child growing up. And during the years
since I arrived at the Wellingtons, Toby did get bigger and more
independent from his parents. Shortly after I became a member of
their household, the boy celebrated his fifth birthday, then the next
summer, his sixth, then his seventh. During the days, he went off to
school where he seemed to learn nothing of any use to him, unless
one considers learning to get the better of his peers a worthy
accomplishment. Having observed him as I already had, I wasnt
surprised that he absorbed nothing relevant to his character as he
advanced through school, because it was obvious to me that this
child was magnetically impermeable. Any cat could see it. When
spoken to, when complimented or even chastised, Tobys
emanations remained undisturbed. Ordinarily, when one human
speaks to another, the subtle body of one affects that of the other:
blueness is transferred, a pink brings on a deeper red, a wave is
transmitted, a pattern of interference is created, or countless other
exchanges of energy transpire. Not so with this child. It was


graphically clear: no one communicated with Toby. Whether his

receptors were shut off, damaged or missing, wasnt clear. What
was clear, however, was that the boy felt no deficiency whatsoever;
that he considered himself intact and correct.
Correct indeed. On more than one occasion, a friend with
whom Toby was playing was accidentally hurt and needed the
attentions of Angela Wellington, either in providing first aid or
simply sympathy. Once I saw Toby shut a door on a friends head,
his own aura bristling with malice as he weepingly apologized to his
friend for the accident, and once, outside in an empty lot near the
Wellingtons home, while secretly observing Toby with another
friend, I saw Toby throw a rock at the boy who was looking away at
the time. The rock struck his friend in the back of the head, and as
he cried out in pain, Toby did so as well, holding his own head as if
both of them had been hit by someone throwing at them from a
Fortunately for me, and certainly also for him, the boy never
directed his wickedness in my direction. Whether he liked me,
respected me, feared or considered me his equal is unclear, since as
stated, his emotional reactions were unlike any Id previously

It would be a mistake to believe that my attention was wholly

devoted to the observation of humans over these years. I first met
Akbar on the roof on a moonlit night shortly after arriving at the
Wellingtons, and the possibility of hostility between us never
existed. Nor did it exist with his followers, who were always as
civil and respectful to me as I was to them. Any human
superstitions regarding the natural incompatibility between non-
human species should be dispelled here. Given his natural ability to
gather information and his mystical nature, Akbar was able to
inform me of matters both far afield and numinous, while what I
gleaned from my relationship with humans was of keen interest to
him. It was Akbar who informed me of the history of the League of
Initiates, of the twelve-fold influence of the Suns planets, the
meanings of cloud formations and the ever-changing pictures in the
stars; and it was I who provided him with details of the peculiar case


of Tobias Wellington Jr. More often than not, we observed the

natural and unnatural worlds around us: we read the stories of the
folding and unfolding leaves, we watched the weird magnetic
vortices that surged about the wires criss-crossing the city, we
listened to the news carried on the wind and inhaled the stink of
destruction pouring from the humanitys handiwork; we joined the
ancient voices of our separate species in the hymn the earth sings to
the Solar System and averted our eyes from the poisonous humming
Akbars opinion of humanity differed considerably from
mine. He did not belittle your race. He did not convince me of
anything immediately, and despite the cogency of his argument,
there was something about him, not his words but the subtle, silvery
shine of his emanations that moved me most deeply and
unexpectedly. Yet his understandings were compelling: Akbar
understood human civilization as a necessary step in the evolution
of consciousness on the planet, and even defended some of your
more misguided actions as well-meaning in several of our
conversations. He even went so far as to take the name of a human
king, Akbar the great, renowned for his religious tolerance in
sixteenth century India and his development of an eclectic, universal
religion, Din-i-Ilahi (Divine faith.) In a similar way, the present
Akbar, while retaining the fierce temperament of a warrior, showed
great charity toward the ways of humankind. The depth and breadth
of his wisdom impressed me; and when he confided in me regarding
his own membership in The League of Initiates, I took his words at
face valuebut still, I had to step back a bit from his persuasive
powers and the force of his character in order to maintain
`I pointed out that as an independent creature, he had never
served as a pet; he had never been locked in a poorly ventilated
room with a hormonally crazed pre-teen female, or plied with tepid,
sugary sweet tea and forced into a toy chair in an uncomfortable and
embarrassing position while dressed as Mr. Fluffy Fluffmuffin. In
short, I concluded that from a distance, humanity might not give off
quite the same aroma it from close at hand. Akbars band of
followers rustled at hearing this, yet they still glowed warmly,
without a trace of disdain or condescension. Akbar, too, welcomed
my views graciously, as if he wished to incorporate them into his


own, which not only reminded me that the wise are always humble,
but reinforced my belief that among the pure of heart, differences in
species hardly merits noticing and certainly not mentioning. And
indeed, each time I spoke with my venerable friend (he was years
my senior), I made it a point to never return directly to the
Wellington home, but to sit on a structural member above the back
stairs, where I purred deeply and devoutly enough to light the inner
planes about me for as far as I could see.

As Toby grew older, his relationship with his cat matured as well.
At first, the boy had simply been proud that Andr responded nicely
to him and only to him, and he was smug when the animal hissed at
others. Though Toby had the support of his parents and Orlando
Floyd, as we know, his response to others was muted, perhaps
because he was so sensitive his own source of inspiration. In any
case, since Andr the Cat rarely displayed affection or anything else
clearly discernable to humans, he made a perfect companion for
Toby, who saw himself in the animals aloofness. By allowing the
cat in the room with him when he drew, Toby shared his most
private moments with him and came closer to intimacy than with
any person hed known. And gradually, as time passed, Toby began
to appreciate his closeness to the cat in an ever greater way.
After hed lived with Andr for about a year, the boy
noticed that sometimes when the cat purred, a feeling of well-being
came over him. He didnt think of it as well-being of course, such
assessments are not the business of children, even prodigies: Toby
thought of it as catness. And this feeling was unlike any that had
naturally arisen in him. It was trance-like and utterly quieting. At
first, Toby had no control over when this feeling came to him.
Sometimes when Andr purred, Toby was uplifted by catness, but
most often he was not. It never happened while he was drawing; it
was then, when directly in touch with his vision that he was most
impermeable. But after Toby finished a picture, he began to find
that if he turned his attention to the cats purring, he could slip into
the state without much difficulty. The cat didnt seem to noticeor
care. The animal always sat on the loveseat in Tobys studio when
the boy was at work, and sometimes when Toby sat down next to


him and was touched with catness, the animal remained there and
at other times he jumped down and walked away or went to the door
to be let out. It wasnt long before Toby became proficient at
slipping into this state, and practiced this secret discipline on the
completion of every drawing done in his studio at home.
But as Toby grew older and his art more became complex,
he began to work less frequently but with greater intensity, and
more often than not in his downtown classroom rather than at home.
Soon the boy began to exhibit his work. His drawings won
immediate acclaim. He was written about, sought after. This caused
quite a stir but did not deter him from giving up his sessions with
Andr, which, by the time Toby entered fourth grade at age nine,
had become a regular occurrence, several times a week. Whether in
his studio or in his room with the door closed, hed set Andr down,
pet him until he turned his motor on, and then by a simple turn of
mind align himself with the vibratory resonance of the cats purr.
Within moments he achieved catness.



The Wellingtons lived in a three-story apartment building in a

comfortable residential neighborhood of Chicago close to Lincoln
Park. There were six eight room apartments in the building, three
on each side of an entry hall (with mailboxes, buzzers and an
intercom), and one other small apartment as well, different from all
the others: the basement apartment where the janitor lived. Like
most Chicago apartments buildings, the two apartments on each
floor were connected by wooden back porches, painted gray. These
had stairs leading down to a partially enclosed inner court and the
entrance to the basement proper, where, along with six storage
cubicles, were washers and dryers, utility sinks, electrical and
plumbing access, and a large old-fashioned boiler that supplied the
buildings hot water and steam radiators. Though this basement
fascinated nine-year-old Toby, Anton, the new janitor who spent
part of every day there, frightened him to the point of trembling. No
one had ever frightened Toby before.


Anton was a short, thick man with no neck to speak of; he

held his arms slightly away from his body, his elbows bowed out,
and as far as Toby could recall, his fists always clenched. His face
was square, his eyes deep set, and the stubble on his cheeks and chin
dark, nearly blue. He had a thick Eastern European accent, and the
first time he discovered Toby in the basement he abruptly ordered
him to leave. He had come up behind the boy and frightened him as
he was sitting at on old, worn work table playing with toy cars. The
former janitor, Mr. McGregor, was a kindly, even-tempered man
who let Toby play there whenever he liked. He told Toby that being
a janitor was lonely and that he enjoyed company, even in silence
and he must have been hungry for it, since in all the hours Toby
spent there, the boy rarely spoke to the man. But Mr. McGregor
was gone. Toby learned that apparently he drank. Anton was his
At age nine, despite his trance-like meditations and
exceptional gift, Toby was still in some ways a typical boy, and
when he recovered from the initial shock of being frightened by
what seemed an grizzly troll of a man, he began to resent being kept
away from one of his favorite spots. One might wonder why
Angela Wellington allowed her son to go to the basement alone.
Certainly there was enough down there that many parents would
consider dangerous: the old boiler, the janitors tools, an archaic
tangle of electrical works, and god knows whatever else had been
cast aside into the dark, dusty crannies and corners. But Toby
wanted to play in the basement, and his mother didnt have the
stomach to prevent such a gifted boy from doing what he pleased.
And, besides, Mr. McGregor had said that hed keep an eye on the
youngster when going about his own janitorial duties, so Toby came
to believe the basement was a safe haven. It wasnt that he felt at all
threatened at home; on the contrary, he was treated like royalty,
particularly when he was drawing, and even more so now that hed
had a successful exhibit, in New York City, no less. But in the
basement he felt as if he were allowed to break the rules of civilized
life upstairs, that he was freer to let his imagination run wild, which
he did.
He never mentioned his frightening encounter with Anton to
anyone. He would never admit he was frightened; and apparently
his mother didnt know hed been forbidden to return to the


basement, because the next day when Toby told her he was going
out to play, she acted as if nothing had changed. This was
summertime. He had gone to camp the summer before but hadnt
liked the children. The children at his private school had already
learned to warily accept him, and given Tobys force of character,
they acquiesced to any friendly gestures. But hed made no such
inroads at camp, and this summer he chose to stay home. When he
went out, he played in the empty lot close to his building, in the
narrow walkway beside it, and the sidewalk in front. All these,
including the courtyard at the bottom of the stairs and the basement,
were permissible. Sometimes he played with one or two of the
neighborhood children, but ordinarily played alone. His fear of the
janitor, however, not only prevented him from playing in the
basement but cast a chill over the back courtyard and even the
narrow walkway next to the building where he might accidentally
meet the brusque, stocky man.
For the first week after his run-in with Anton, he stopped
using the back stairs altogether. This further diminished the
possibility of encountering him, since the door to his basement
apartment was under the back stairs, and Toby had never seen a
janitor on the front stairs or in the front hall of the building. He
didnt think janitors were allowed there. Using the front stairs was
an inconvenience, however, since he had to ring the buzzer to be let
back in the house, and sometimes his mother was so busy talking on
the phone or taking one of her long baths that she didnt answer at
all. But after the first week of using the buzzer though, his mother
began to wonder, and still unwilling to admit that hed been
forbidden to play in the basement, Toby summoned up the courage
to use the back way again.
Once back to his usual routine, he was fortunate to avoid
seeing the janitor. On a few occasions he did hear sounds from the
basement as he walked by the open door, but never saw Anton
himself. His life, however, had been interrupted. He began to take
his small set of cars over to the empty lot to play with them there,
but these were private cars, and more than once one of the
neighborhood boys found him there and insisted on playing too. He
wasnt someone Toby liked. He was crude, and as far as Tony was
concerned, inadequate when it came to playing with carsand just
about anything else. He was the boy who, when shot dead in a


police game he insisted on playing, clapped his hands when Toby

told him to collapse. And playing with those cars in his room or in
his studio just wouldnt do. There were certain books he needed to
read in the basementone in particular about ancient Egypt that
required that darkened, subterranean setting to be enjoyed. Most of
all, there was a feeling he had in the basement: a feeling of secret
power, of ownership, and it was a feeling he couldnt summon up
anyplace else. So Toby decided he was going to poison Anton.
Before he could accomplish this, he reasoned, hed have to
observe him and his habits. Antons workbench was along the back
wall of the basement behind the boiler, and between the boiler and
the wall next to it was a place Toby thought he could squeeze in. It
was a small space where brooms, mops, shovels, rakes, and poles of
various sorts were stored, and it was backed by a framework of two-
by-fours and chicken wire. Toby believed that if he got in there, he
could spy on Anton.
Naturally, hed need to be silent. He knew that if he
brushed against the handles of any of the brooms, shovels, rakes or
poles, one might fall, and hed have to run out of the basement
before Anton came out from around the boiler. But Toby could tell
by the way Anton moved that he was slow. He knew that hed have
to have a good start, but if he could escape the courtyard and get to
the alley without being seen, he believed he could elude Anton by
disappearing into the neighborhood.
The first time he spied on Anton in that dark basement,
Toby was trembling so violently that when he wedged himself in
next to the snow shovel, he dislodged its handle and it toppled
against the side of the boiler. Anton had been fitting pieces of a
faucet together at his work bench and stood up immediately when
he heard the noise. But Toby didnt run away; he felt the breath
sucked out of him and went rigid. Anton sat back down at his
workbench, however; Toby didnt know why, but the man did sit
down, and he also did something Toby didnt entirely understand.
It seemed important: Anton opened a drawer, took out a
bottle with something brown in it, took a gulp, and returned it to the
drawer. The boy wasnt sure what was in the bottle, but it looked
very much like those his father had kept locked away in a private
cabinet upstairs. He never saw his mother open it. Moments after
the janitor put the bottle back in the drawer, though, he turned and


looked back in Tobys direction. Toby held himself tightly to keep

from shaking. He was in deep shadow in a dark room, and
apparently Anton couldnt make him out among the long handles
leaning every which way, but Toby saw his grizzled face even more
clearly than when hed first been surprised by him weeks before. It
was later that he realized that if Anton was drinking as he
suspected, he might have gained an advantage over him. That night
at dinner he waited for an opportunity to ask what drinking really
meant, but his mother and brother were talking about the Middle-
East, which was boring for him so he just ate.
Toby was tormented by the fact that hed been so frightened
of the janitor that he trembled, and this only increased his ire toward
the man and fueled his indignation. That evening after dinner, he
took his cat into his studio with him, but didnt even consider
drawing and ignored the cat as it purred on the loveseat next to him.
The next day, he crept back into the basement but saw the light
wasnt on over Antons bench, so he went back up the stairs and sat
outside the back door to his apartment where he could look down on
the basement door unobserved. Not long after that, Anton entered,
and Toby snuck downstairs and looked in. Once situated, he saw
the janitor hauling heavy bags that said Salt on them; Anton
didnt see Toby, but the boy bolted and ran away just the same. He
pretended Anton was chasing him, that hed falsely accused him of
stealing salt and that everyone believed the janitor and that Toby
was going to be punished for something he hadnt done.
When he came back to the basement a little later, he heard
Anton at his work bench, so he tiptoed in and slipped into his hiding
place. This time he was more careful. He dislodged no handles.
He was perfectly silent. The old boiler, however, was roaring next
to him, but he managed to stay there long enough to see that Anton
moved his hands over most of the surface of his work bench, which
was cluttered and dirty. Toby saw that he was doing something
with electric wires: he was wrapping black tape around them and
then biting the tape off the roll. He also saw him take another drink
from the bottle in the drawer. When he finally snuck out, he
decided to watch Anton there one more time before he poisoned
him, but he didnt keep that resolution.


Tobys older brother, Adam, was fourteen the summer Toby was
nine, and the younger boy, despite his own artistic success, resented
the fact that everyone always talked about how smart Adam was.
Adam was smart. In school, he was already on an academic track
for a fine institution of higher learning. Because of his purported
intelligence, Adam was allowed to handle dangerous chemicals. He
had an advanced chemistry set open in his room, which was where
he conducted what he called, his experiments. Toby was
resentful: hed been told he wasnt old enough to play with a
chemistry set, and certainly not his brothers, since Adam was
allowed to order extra chemicals from the scientific supply house.
His mother allowed this, but not gladly, since she said that many of
the chemicals were poisonous. But Tobys brother laughed at this,
saying that no one was going to eat anything from those bottles
not even Toby. Angela wasnt satisfied, however; not until Adam
promised to wash his hands very carefully after conducting his
Toby didnt know anything about chemistry. The names on
the little bottles meant nothing to him; they may as well have been
interchangeable. He did know by the color and printing on the
labels which bottles were original parts of the chemistry set and
which his brother had ordered, and he deduced that the ones Adam
ordered were probably the poisonous ones. Since Tobys brother
was gone during the weekdays with his job as a junior counselor at
a day camp, Toby had access to his room whenever his mother was
busytalking on the phone or on the back porch talking to their
neighbor, Mrs. Baum, a woman Toby detested.
Toby didnt think his mother was very smart. Whenever he
wanted to do something he wasnt supposed to do, he went ahead
and did it, and she never suspected a thing. Which is what
happened the next day; instead of spying on Anton one more time as
hed resolved, Toby snuck into his brothers room when his mother
was talking on the phone and put two bottles of possibly poisonous
chemicals in his pocket. Just to be safe, he waited for her to get off,
and then told her he was going out to play. If hed told her while
she was talking, he reasoned, she might not have remembered and
come looking for him.
He went out the back door and when he got downstairs, he
looked in the basement and saw the light was on in Antons


workplace. He even heard him clattering something over the sound

of the boiler, so he climbed back up the stairs, took the cars hed
brought along out of their box and began playing on the landing
where he could see when Anton came out and walked away. As
soon as that happened, Toby went down into the basement, around
behind the boiler, and in the dark, sprinkled some of the contents of
each bottle onto the workbench where he was sure Anton would
have to touch it. Then he ran out and back upstairs, where he sat,
pretending to play with his cars until his heart stopped racing.
Back so soon? Angela asked when he came back into the
Toby was worried that the bottles bulged in his pants
pockets, so he had to slip past her as quickly as possible, saying he
decided to read in his room rather than play outside. It didnt take
long then before he heard her talking on the phone again, so he was
able to replace the bottles in Adams room. He didnt care if his
brother noticed that some of the chemicals were missing. His
brother wasnt nearly as smart as everyone said.
Toby Wellington wasnt sure what was going to happen
then, but if he hadn't heard that Anton died in a few days, he
planned to sprinkle different chemicals on his workbench, or maybe
even put some in the bottle from which the janitor drank. He knew
it would be riskier to put anything in his bottle; it would take longer,
but if nothing else worked, it was a risk he was willing to take. The
boy had come to dislike Anton even more: the first day he spied on
him, he saw that his face was even bluer and uglier than he first
thought. He also saw that his hands were thick and that his
fingernails were dirty.
Two days later, Toby saw him in front of the building.
Antons arms were bowed out as theyd been the first time he saw
him, and his hands were clenched into fists. He didnt see Toby.
He had turned into the narrow walkway next to the building. The
boy waited, trembling again before going back to the basement to
see if Anton was in there; but he wasnt and Toby didnt feel safe
going in unless hed seen the janitor leave, so he had to wait. He
was more upset than he realized, however. When he went back
upstairs he started to cry, but stopped himself before he went into
the house. His mother didnt notice a thing.


It was much later that afternoon before he could return to

the basement again. When he finally got in, he did the same thing
he did the last time, except with different chemicals. Even in the
dark, he could see that Anton must have brushed off the ones he put
there before. Toby believed Anton was a dirty man, so he probably
hadnt washed his hands, but he supposed the first chemicals hed
put there hadnt been poisonous, or poisonous enough. So this time
he sprinkled more from each of the bottles. One powder was black
and the other white, but even as he was pouring them out, he
decided if these didnt work, hed put some in Antons bottle the
next time he came in. Then he hurried out, but just after he started
up the back stairs, he saw the door to Antons basement apartment
swing open, and he had to snap himself up against the back door of
his downstairs neighbor to avoid being seen. But the janitor turned
and looked right at him, frightening Toby so that he pushed back
against the door hard enough to open it up a little, and then a little
more, and he couldnt help it but he slipped into the kitchen where
he saw Mrs. Lambert drinking something out of a cup.
Toby! she said. Youre in the wrong house!
Mrs. Lambert wasnt like the hated Mrs. Baum on the
second floor, who thought it was funny to tease him, but Toby
didnt know what to say and felt he was about to cry.
Dont be embarrassed, Toby, Mrs. Lambert said. It was
just a mistake. It could happen to anybody.
But Toby didnt say anything; he turned and ran outand
he did start to cry, so he couldnt go right into the house. As Toby
had grown older, tears had begun to embarrass him, and he blamed
Anton for this humiliation. So he had to wait on the porch to settle
down, but apparently he hadnt waited long enough, because as
soon as his mother looked at him, she asked what was wrong. Toby
told her he hurt his foot, but when she asked to look at it, he told her
it didnt hurt anymore, and he slipped back into his studio and
closed the door before she could inquire further. His cat followed
him in, sat on the loveseat as usual and began to purr, but once
again, Toby paid no attention. Nor did he draw. He hadnt drawn
since he first planned to poison the janitor. At dinner that night, his
mother asked him again if he was okay, but by then hed concocted
a story about stepping in a hole in the empty lot, and though his
brother laughed at him, it didnt go any further than that.


He waited three days before he went back to the basement

again. Angela was concerned about him. He seemed unusually
withdrawn; he stayed alone in his room or studio most of the time.
No one had said anything about Anton dying, and Toby was sure
that news of that would have spread through the building by then if
he had. It seemed to him that he was down to his last chance, that if
Anton wasnt poisoned by the chemicals he put in his drinking
bottle, hed have to give up and never go into the basement again
unless he told his mother he saw Anton drinking down there, and
that might be enough to get a new, nicer janitor to replace him,
maybe even Mr. McGregor again. But the boy was unsure of that
course of action. He still wasnt sure what drinking meant, or
even if Anton was really doing it, though if it was something
unsavory, he suspected the man was probably guilty of it, because
he was ugly and dirty. When Toby was in his room by himself, he
thought about Anton accusing him of stealing salt again, even trying
to shake him, but the judge presiding in his fantasy didnt let Anton
do it.
On the third day, Toby waited until his mother was in the
bathroom, and found two more bottles of specially ordered
chemicals in his brothers room. When he went downstairs, Anton
was adjusting the boiler, and Toby wondered why there had to be a
fire in the boiler when it was warm outside. This didnt make any
sense to him, but he only wondered for a moment before he went
back upstairs and waited on the landing. Very carefully, he opened
each of the bottles and discovered that neither smelled badly; this
was fortunate, he felt, since these were the ones he was going to
pour into Antons bottle. He knew there was a funnel down there
on his work bench; hed seen it. But he waited so long on the
landing that he worried his mother might get suspicious or maybe
Mrs. Baum might come nosing around and tell him he hadnt
washed his face well enough because the freckles were still there.
By the time Toby saw Anton leave, he already had a stomachache
and had just about given up, but then when the door shut to his
basement apartment, he snuck down.
In the basement, the boiler was raging. Toby could see
flames leaping inside it. He also noticed that Anton had left a
sliding glass panel partially openabout six inchesand the boy
felt heat streaming out. When he got around behind it at Antons


work bench, he didnt know if he would be able to do what he

intended because it was so hot. But he knew which drawer to open,
and the roaring boiler cast enough light for him to see. The light
was orange, like a picture of Hell one of the Catholic neighbor boys
had once shown him. His back felt like it was burning and his knees
were knocking against each other but his hands were hardly shaking
at all, so he didnt have any trouble with the funnel: when he twisted
the top of the bottle off, it fit in perfectly. Then he opened both the
chemicals and poured some of one into the funnel and then some of
the other. He couldnt see in the bottle, but thought he heard a
fizzing sound. It was hard to tell though, with the boiler making so
much noise. And he didnt shake the bottle; he wanted to make sure
that when Anton drank from it the chemicals would be on top.
Toby screwed the top back on and put the bottle back in the
drawer, but as he edged around the boiler and started to run out, he
was so keyed up and his heart was pounding so furiously that he
slipped and fell to his knees on the hard cement floor. When he fell,
he knocked over some cans with paint brushes in them, and also
something that smelled like the woodshop at school. With whatever
it was splashed all over, Toby was frightened again: this time some
of it had got on his clothes and he wouldnt be able to go back in the
house unless he was naked and told his mother someone had beat
him up and took the clothes that he was wearing. He ran out and
didnt stop running until he got to the bushes on the other side of the
empty lot. Thats when he saw that only the toe of his sneaker had
been splattered. It had a strong smell to it, so he spit on it and
rubbed some mud on it and kept rubbing until it wasnt very

Fifteen minutes later, he was lying on his bed thinking about Anton
shouting at him for stealing salt again, when Angela rushed into his
room. Her face didnt look right; it looked like his grandmothers
face; that scared him. She told Toby to follow her outside because
there was a fire in the building, and he started to cry.
Its not in our apartment, she said, squeezing his hand.
Its in the basement. But we have to hurry. The Fire Departments
on the way. Then she said, Here, and handed him his leather
portfolio. Your drawings.


Apparently shed hastily collected them all. Still crying,

Toby looked at his mother indignantly. Shed gone into his studio.
Shed opened the wide, shallow drawers. Some of his drawings had
been hidden away under sheaves of blank paper. It didnt occur to
him that shed saved his work from possible harm. With the
portfolio under his arm, he followed her out, now trying to suppress
his tearsof fear, sharpened now by outrage.
Everyone from the building was standing across the street
on the sidewalk. They werent talking; they hardly moved. Toby
was worried. He didnt know what would happen to him if the
building burned down, and he didnt know where his cat was. Hed
seen war pictures of people pulling carts with all their belongings in
them. The peoples faces had looked dark and hard. Would his
mother look like that? And the firemen frightened him. They were
big and rough and loud, and their trucks were making terrible noises
toobut Toby never saw any flames, just a little smoke. Was the
fire burning inside where he couldnt see it? Was Anton burning
up? Was his room going to burn up? His studio? And then
someone said the fire was in the basement but it was out. Toby
didnt see Anton anywhere. If only the basement had burned down,
he wondered, was Anton dead in there? Would they take him out?
What did a burned person look like? Would he ever be able to play
there again? Who would be the next janitor?

A few days later at dinner, Tobys mother talked about what

happened. The house still smelled a little from the smoke. Toby
already knew the part of the basement that had caught on fire was
under the Lamberts apartment and that there had been some
smoke damage but nobody was burned, not even any furniture.
Angela said that there had been an investigation, and that the cause
of the fire had been determined to be careless use and storage of
flammable materials. As she said this, Angelas voice reminded
Toby of his father.
When the boy asked what that meant, his mother said, It
means paint thinner, dear. The paint thinner in the basement should
have been kept in a tightly sealed container. She also said the
janitor had been let go. But Adam said he didnt understand; he
thought Mr. McGregor was already gone.


Mr. McGregor is gone, dear, she explained to him. This

was a new man, Anton.
Then Toby went to the maids room to hide. There was no
maid living there at the time. The room was very small and very
crowded with furniture; there was just enough room between the
bed and the dresser for Toby to slip in, and the room smelled of the
last maid that worked there. Toby hated that maid. Shed slapped
him once and then never came back. The smell in that room made
him feel sick, and his cat wouldnt come in there with him, but he
couldnt go to the basement to hide, could he? He didnt want to,
but Toby fell asleep on that maids bed, and when he woke up, the
room had shrunk and the furniture was bigger. It was so crowded
he felt he could never squeeze out. He was frightened again; he
wished his father was still home. But he wasnt, and Toby wasnt
supposed to be in that room, so he couldnt call for help, and he had
to wait for what seemed a little forever before he could fit between
the bed and the dresser. Then it turned out that his mother didnt
know hed been gone.

The next day he was playing alone in front of the building. There
was an old green truck packed with furniture parked close by. Toby
thought the truck had something to do with the fire. Then he saw a
man hed never seen before coming out of the narrow walkway
beside the building. The man was carrying a chair. It was wooden
with shiny yellow cloth and black stripes, and he walked right past
Toby and added the chair to the pile in the truck. Then he just stood
there staring at the building. Thats when Toby got frightened
again. Hed been frightened more in the last ten days than he could
ever remember being before. And then Anton came out from the
walkway. He had a hard look on his face. As soon as he noticed
Toby, he frowned and pointed at him and said something in a
foreign language. Then he turned back to someone who was
following him: it was a woman who came out carrying a chair, just
like the other one. She was even shorter than Anton, but with that
same look. Anton said something to her too, and she looked at
Toby and frowned. Toby wanted to run.
Then something unthinkable happened, something deeply
disturbing, something impossible. Two children appeared; they
emerged from the walkway, a boy and a girl, and they both had


Antons face! His face without the bluish cheeks and chin. The boy
was carrying a suitcase, and the girl was carrying a wrinkled brown
paper bag! Toby was aghast. Why hadnt he seen them before?
Had they been hiding in that basement apartment?
How could they? How could they have been hiding in there
all that time without his finding out? Had they been imprisoned
there? What else was in that apartment? Why was the girl carrying
her things in an old paper bag? A wrinkled brown paper bag!
Toby could see that they were nearly his age but they had
that same look on their faces, that same look hed seen in the
pictures of the people from the war, and he started to cry out loud.
They were all looking at him now. Anton. The short woman. The
boy and girl with Antons face. That same hard look. He wanted to
run away, to run all the way to the park without stopping. He
couldnt move. Those chairs were piled on the truck behind him,
and there were tables there too, and a sewing machine! He didnt
even like children, so why was he crying? What did he care? But
hot tears were burning his face. Everyone was looking at him, yet
he couldnt move. He couldnt take a single stepnot one. He
stared back at the children. He was waist deep in sand.

NOTE # 1 The Feud

Though familiar with the interdependent theories of reincarnation
and karma, this reporter does not wish to attest to the validity of
those or deny it. In one school of reincarnational theory, it is held
that individuals bound by their souls in close kinship frequently
incarnate together to learn the lessons of life by repeatedly
exchanging positions in the family group or social milieu. The
following historical facts, therefore, are meant only as food for
thought should the reader have an appetite for metaphysical

In the year 888 AD, Odo, the count of Paris was elected king of the
West Franks to succeed the former Emperor, Charles the Fat.
Charles the Simple, meanwhile, son of the late Louis the Stammerer,
also ruled at the time, but since Charles wasnt just Simple but


only ten, not much was expected of him. He reigned in the city of
Laon, and it was there that there lived a simple carpenter named
Anthral. On one particular Monday, Anthral the Carpenter was
returning from the forest laden with a bundle of wrist-thick tree
limbs on his back and the remains of an oiled, leather bag of goats
milk (his lunch) around his neck. As Anthral entered the city and
passed a certain house, the lad Tobalthred, son of a bandit, was
perched upon a thatched roof and flung a partly spoiled cabbage at
the burdened carpenter, striking him on the head, knocking him to
the ground, and not only breaking open his bundle of sticks, but
causing his bag of milk to split under the carpenters considerable
weight. Anthral was then set upon by a number of village dogs,
who, intent upon the goats milk, separated Anthral from part of
one of his ears.
Tobalthreds motives were never clear, but unfortunately
for the youth, an old crone and potential candidate for village idiot
(if women were allowed that position, which they were not)
witnessed the entire debacle, and spitefully informed on the boy.
The injured and indignant carpenter wasted no time in retaliation,
beating Tobalthred about the head with a stout stick, causing such
excessive damage that henceforth the lad was known as Tobalthred
the Drooler, and without need of appointment or election, filled the
empty position of Idiot for the next thirty-two years.

In the year 1160, when Frances Louis VII and Englands Henry II
made a tentative settlement after Louis had driven the English off a
year before, minor skirmishing continued between the armies of the
two rulers. After an aborted raid on a phalanx of Henrys infantry
in a meadow outside Paris, a small group of English soldiers
approached the French camp after midnight. Finding the sentries
asleep after a night of drinking, the Englishmen were able to
penetrate the camp, but only as far as the mess tent. There,
determined to inflict at least some damage, the young officer
leading the raid, one Tobalthred of Kent, doused seven legs of
mutton with lamp oil and set a slow fuse to them. By the time the
British troops had retreated across the meadow and into the cover
of a wood, the lamb had gone up in spectacular flames that not only
singed it black but left what remained with a slightly acrid taste.
The French camps soldier-cook, Anthral le Blaireau (Anthral the


Badger) assured the men to whom he was responsible that he could

prepare the mutton is such a way as to entirely disguise the taste of
lamp oil. And so with a marinade of vinegar, wild garlic and thyme,
Anthral prepared the next days meal, only to find that the all the
men became violently sick after ingesting the lamp oil infused meat.
One officer was paralyzed on the right side of his body and several
men were never able to eat solid food again. Anthral was
summarily driven from camp, and in an order issued by Henry II
himself, banished from the kingdom. With his family trailing behind
him and his belongings in a cart, Anthral le Blaireau wandered in a
south-easterly direction until he reached Bulgaria, where, after he
and his family were persecuted for a number of years, he took his
own life by drinking poison.

In 1346, at the Battle of Crcy, the English, under Edward III,

massacred Europes greatest army of horse soldiers. The English
had landed near Cherbourg with 1,000 ships, 4,000 knights, and
10,000 English and Welsh longbowmen. Among the English
knightswho along with their archers make short work of the
Frenchwas Sir Tobert of Cornwall, who distinguished himself
greatly in battle, only to be taken down and surrounded by a
brigade of Bohemian troops fighting in support of Frances Phillip
VI. Sir Tobert was eventually challenged to hand to hand combat
by a Bohemian, the cruel Anton of Wences, who after injuring the
good knight, took him captive and slowly poisoned him with a
potion prepared by his brother, Adamic. Sir Toberts death, slow
and painful as it probably was, may have been a salvation of sorts,
because within three years Anton, Adamic, and two-thirds of Europe
along with them were annihilated by The Black Death.

Anton Vanic, by the way, the janitor temporarily employed in the

Wellingtons apartment building, a gruff though pious man, was
fortunate enough to find a better paying job maintaining the Serbian
consulate on the near-north side of the city, as well as doing all
maintenance, odd jobs in the Council Generals home and the
homes of all the other staff members and their relatives. His wife
was also occasionally employed as a cook. Oddly enough, this
opportunity did not present itself until Anton left the confessional at
his church one Sunday. He had confessed his hatred of a mere boy


whom he believed had somehow conspired against him. Once

absolved of this sin by his priest, he felt such a burden lifted from
his soul that tears flowed from his eyes as he walked out of the
church to rejoin his family. The Council General, meanwhile, a
member of the same congregation, was moved by the sight of the
weeping man, but even more so by the resemblance that Anton
Vanic bore to a portrait his own famous Ancestor, Bohemias blind
John of Luxembourg, who was killed at the Battle of Crcy in 1346.
Thus doubly moved, he struck up a conversation with Anton, and
hearing of his situation, subsequently offered him a job.



Ever since the fire, Angela said to Orlando, actually, before

that. Hed been acting upset for a while. I think something was
brooding and the fire just set it off.
They were sitting in at a window table in The Bohemian
Cafthats bohemian in the artsy rather than Eastern European
sense. The restaurant was across Michigan Avenue from the School
of Fine Arts. From where they were sitting, the two could see the
two great bronze lions that flanked the museums broad front steps.
Hes been through a lot, Angelafor a nine-year-old,
Orlando said. I think so, at least. Youre the mother, so I
shouldnt talk.
But you know him. He never let it show before, thats why
Im a little worried.
Orlando raised his eyebrows before reaching across the
table and taking her hand. Maybe thats why you shouldnt be
worried, he said, laughing and shaking his head. Angela looked at
him devotedly and relaxed her wrinkled brow.


When Toby was six, just after his father had left, the boy
began his private lessons with Orlando Floyd. For the next three
years, Toby was delivered to Orlandos well-lit studio-classroom
once a week, where for ninety minutes, he drew whatever his
teacher put in front of him or suggested. Yet during all that time, as
much as Orlando became intimate with Tobys drawings and his
mother, he felt he learned nothing more about the boy than what
impressed him on the very first day: that Toby Wellington was
arrogant and impenetrable. He never told this to Angela, however;
hed hardly hinted at it.
Orlando squeezed Angelas hand. He happens to have one
very adult gift, he said. But hes still a boy. And besides, I think
hes just ready for something new. Ever since the show, Ive been
seeing signs of boredom, maybe, or dissatisfaction.
Toby? Angela said, incredulous. My Toby? Dissatisfied
with himself? She laughed. After all thatthat? She screwed
up her face. Orlando found the expression endearing.
Angela was referring to the reviews, grandiose plaudits and
invitations that came in response to the showing of Tobys drawings
at the fashionable Cimino Gallery in New York City. The forty
drawings, selected from over four years of the childs artistic
production, were clearly the work of a young genius. As Orlando
had foreseen and the drawings demonstrated, the boys work did not
evolve during this period; there was little difference between his
most recent compositions and the original ones, but the drawings
had a startling power altogether their own. The very fact that a set
of 9 x 12 inch ink drawings of animals (several of the childs cat),
still lifes with various settings of vases of flowers, fruit, open books,
ink pots and pens; landscapes (mostly of Lincoln Park near his
home), and a few portraits of the boys mother could command such
a unanimously awed response speaks to the genius of the work.
One of the most striking of the set depicted a grouping of a dozen
crows, some in the branches of a maple tree and some on the ground
below it. The draftsmanship was immaculate and expressive as
usual, but in this picture the birds were arranged and poised with
such acute compositional tension as to convey the impression no,
to convey the certainty that they were about take flight, a certainty
that Orlando found disturbing, even though hed had no ominous
interaction with crows since the day they swarmed around him in


the bus shelter, four years earlier. But it was another drawing that
attracted the greatest attention: this of a vase of roses amidst a pile
of several open books. The books were open to pictures, drawings,
Tobys drawings, each displayed in the gallery show, one of which
was that same vase of roses and open books, so the overall
composition not only included three other Toby Wellington
compositions in partial or foreshortened views, but distinguished
itself with an intriguing picture within picture, M.C. Escher-like
complexity unseen in any of the other drawings. The drawing was
titled simply: Books and Roses. The following is an excerpt from
one of the more restrained reviews:

What came to my mind when I studied these

drawings that the nine-year-old artist created in the last
four years was greater than the sum of my critical
impressions. I dont believe I differ greatly from other
critics or the art loving public in my appreciation of the
living quality of all Wellingtons subjects, their startling
vibrancy, their essential reality. I believe most others
who attend this show of the young artists work to date
will recognize the unflagging elegance of his line, a
quality reminiscent of Picasso and Goya. Nor do I
expect the most outstanding feature of his work, his
uncanny sense of the balance and tension of
compositionapproaching the musical in some of the
drawingsto go unnoticed.
But what moves me most about this collection of
drawings, magnificent and perhaps historic as they are,
is my wonder at the splendor of humanity, an awe that
life is so designed that genius can emerge complete in
one so very young. Toby Wellington is not merely a
stupendous savant, not one whose brain, by some genetic
accident, has unleashed a phenomenal capacity for
memory or computation, but is one who has arrived
intact, a fully developed artist whose work expresses that
implicit sense of the divineor the supremely humane
which is hidden in the images of all great art.


Thirty drawings in the group had been up for sale, and these sold in
two days at prices high enough that after the gallery owner took her
large cut, an impressive amount was deposited in Tobys own trust
Yet Angela wished she had restrained her response to the
over-blown reviews, the requests for interviews with the young
Leonardo, and invitations for the New Picasso to appear on
television talk shows. If the phone in the Wellington apartment had
a say in the matter, it would have pulled its own plug during the
three week span of the show, so constant was the clatter. At first,
Angela answered all the calls, showed Toby every review, and even
discussed the possibility of an appearance on the David Letterman
show with him; but then, at Orlandos prompting, she settled back
down to earth and did her best to haul her self-satisfied son back
down with her. It was then that she first had an inkling that
something may have been a little out of kilter with the boy. The fire
that burned in his eyes had never seemed sinister beforebut
Angela wasnt sure. She didnt feel he needed any extra praise piled
on, however. And she took care of that by herself very well, she
thought, making it clear to her son that having a great gift didnt
excuse him from making his bed, cleaning the litter box, and
minding his mother.

Years earlier, when Tobias Wellington was first investigated for his
questionable interpretation of the Federal tax code, he maintained
the smiling faade he had always presented to his family. Tobias
lied very well. His wife and children proved easier to fool than the
federal agents, however, particularly the one he attempted to seduce,
and once his fraudulent practices came to light, the prosecutors
called the case a slam dunk. It was only when his insubstantial
defense was thus jammed through the judicial hoop that Tobias
Wellingtons emotional defenses collapsed as well. The slick,
handsome tax attorney with the pasted-on smile was reduced to the
blubbering little boy whod been steeped in fear of the unrelenting
fires of Hell in his early years at Our Lady of Perpetual Culpability
Catholic School. In his last meeting with his wife before his
sentencing, he fully confessed his sins; and had these only included


his attempts to cheat the Federal government on his clients behalf

and his own, she might have forgiven him. She probably would
have forgiven him. That was her nature. Despite his downfall, she
thrived on his approval. But when Tobias finished expunging his
heart of Federal sin, he went on expunging, and out popped the
story of the wraith-like slattern visible to the Wellingtons pet,
otherwise known as Miss Supplemeyer, Tobiass secretary, whom
hed been clandestinely shtupping for the last yearjust about as
long as hed been screwing Uncle Sam.
Never before in Angelas life had she been betrayed; and
were it not for her responsibility to her children (and one other
matter), she might have broken down completely. In the time it
took Tobias to tell Angela about his ongoing trysts with his
secretary, a sizeable chunk of her psychological superstructure was
dismantled, its columns and joists fallen and piled in disarray,
leaving a gap so large that it sucked the very breath out of her. She
gasped. She had trouble breathing. She knew at once she no longer
had a husband, but never having conceived of such a thing before,
she felt shed topple, and more than once (as she gasped) she
grabbed onto the nearest substantial piece of furniture. But she only
sought support of dressers, desks and sofas for a few days, because
before long she had Orlando Floyd to hold onto.
Redundant and uncharacteristic as it may have sounded,
after gasping at her husbands confession of adultery, and gasping
again at his request for forgiveness, Angela had said Get fucked,
Tobias! at which he himself gasped, never having heard such
language from her. And of course he pleaded. He told her he was
sorry. He told her that hed been stupid. He told her it would never
happen again. He promised it would never happen again. But by
then her temporary inner collapse was complete, and no longer
capable of speech, she turned her back and left her husbands
lawyers office.
Within a week, the divorce papers were filed. Angela never
let Tobias back into her life, nor did Toby. Adam kept in contact
with his father, but knew well enough to keep their relationship to
himself. Dependant as she had always been, Angela never
considered the possibility of reconciliation. The image of her
husband with his slut of a secretary was more than she could endure.
Infidelity seemed unpardonable to her, yet were it not for her own


unfaithful imagery, which she scarcely admitted to herself, she

would not have so comfortably popped back up and caught her
breath. She was not an emotionally mature woman. Shed never
had the chance to become one. Perhaps she had been betrayed once
before: by her parents who had undermined her self esteem. In any
case, Angela Wellington had been conveniently setting aside the
smoldering scenarios that she herself had been inventing, the lusty
scenarios starring her sons art teacher, in which, among other
things, Tobias had been somehow or other incapacitated. Whether
she was prescient or opportunistic is unclear; but whereas Orlando
reveled in his lust, Angela suppressed and misrepresented hers, until
such a time as it was convenient, and that time came on the very day
that Tobias was shipped off to the Grey Bar Hotel.
Gasping and teetering for less than a week, she had walked
into Orlandos office with a look on her face that hadnt shown
since the night fifteen years before when Tobias spiked her Diet
Pepsi and rented a X-rated movie he kept hidden under his coat until
he popped it into the motel VCR. Orlando had been rehearsing this
moment for over a year, yet none of his imagery or practiced
dialogue bore any resemblance to the reality of what came to pass.
What happened was ungainly. Angela had come around behind his
desk where Orlando was sitting, and when she bent over to kiss him,
the two banged foreheads painfully enough to raise lumps on them
both and cause Orlando to topple forward. In order to prevent
himself from falling to the floor at Angelas feet, he had to catch
himself with his extended right hand, bruising his palm and
puncturing it on a pushpin hed dropped earlier but didnt bother
picking up. Once the two recovered from their first aborted kiss,
however, they regrouped, and ignoring any portentous significance
of the mishap, hurriedly left the School of Fine Arts for the
venerable old hotel next to the Bohemian Caf across the street,
where, despite Orlandos bandaged palm, they managed with each
other quite nicely.
They were both immensely happy. Whether the promise of
a future with this delicious woman gave Orlando more joy than
Angela felt at once again having found a man to love is unclear.
Whatever their hopes, the two met each others needs as fully as
they made love, which, as anyone passing the door to their room


that afternoon could hear for him or herself, was lyrically

But then there was Toby. His father was hauled off to
federal prison when he was only six, and he didnt seem to care.
Tobias had tried to contact him but he never asked Toby about his
art or his cat. The boy could have done without any inquiries about
Andr, but not his drawing. His mother cared about his art, but as
far as Toby could remember, his father never did. He didnt even
look at Tobys early drawings the right way. He would never
understand the importance of art in Tobys life. That was
unforgivable, so the boy never answered his letters. As far as
people were concerned, a mother was quite enough for him. Then,
when he was nine, he was regaled as Little Picasso; and soon
thereafter, having probably already committed numerous lesser
crimes, he attempted homicide, only to fail at that but stumble into
something akin to arson, and subsequently experience a disturbing
epiphany whereby he realized there was more to things (like
janitors) than met the eye. What would he make of the fact,
carefully concealed from him and his brother these three years, that
there was much, much more that hadnt met his eye: that his teacher
was also his mothers lover? Was he even sure what lovers did?
And what if he were to catch them in the act?

Some might think at thirty-six and forty-four, Angela and Orlando

were a bit too old to be holding hands across the table, but the
waitress at the Bohemian Caf who came to refill their coffees and
whod waited on them frequently in the past found them charming.
Can I get you two lovebirds anything else? she asked.
No thank you, Louise, Angela answered, smiling at the
waitress and glancing at her watch. It wasnt long before she had to
be home.
Remember when we talked about the secret lives of
artists? Angela asked.
I remember every conversation weve had, said Orlando,
both amorously and in approximation of the truth.
Well, I was just thinking about it. You still havent told
me about yours.


I dont feel like much of an artist anymore, Angela. Thats

my secret.
Oh, dont say that. I know youre an artist. Its always
burning away there in your eyes. Youre certainly an artist in bed.
Orlando looked around the restaurant, feigning
embarrassment. Angela laughed. Shed certainly changed in the
last years, Orlando thought. Or perhaps her own secret life had just
bubbled up to the surface. But shed insisted she had secrets, but
not a secret life, hadnt she? Was he really so different?
What are you thinking about? she asked.
Its a secret. he said, reaching across and stroking her
No, really, she said.
What was it, he wondered, that made him the way he was?
Was he actually an artist, or only a dishonest man? I was thinking
that with an inspiration like you, art comes easy. Which was true
of course, but not what he was thinking. Angela Wellington, so
sumptuous in the flesh, could inspire a Popeeven a dead one. But
then again, he hadnt answered her question.
Angela smiled. She poured a little more cream in her
coffee, and glanced at her watch again. Orlando had been tied up in
a late meeting with people hed long disliked, and he hadnt been
able to take Angela to the hotel that day. But that was just as well,
they agreed; because although their passion for each other showed
no signs of abating, theyd been talking less, and then theyd begun
to take a proprietary interest in their relationship. Though they
hadnt yet declared as much, each hoped theyd be together for the
rest of their lives, and knew that enduring love required scheduled
So tell me what your life was like before me. Tell me
It seemed Angela required repeated confirmation of her
value. Orlando preferred to play this game with her in bed, but he
was always ready to comply.
I was like a pie, a cherry pie, with a big wedge missing,
he said. I was like a one-eyed man. My days were comprised of
twelve hours; I was leading half a life. I was fueled on hope and my
tank was dry. But then he stopped and looked at her soulfully. I
cant imagine being without you, he said.


But do you think were selfish? Angela asked him,

pensive now.
In what way?
She furrowed her brow again. That were so wrapped up
in each other.
He shrugged. I guess theres something selfish about
being in love, but
No, thats not what I mean. And maybe its just me,
anywaywhos selfish. Tobys my son, not yours, and youve
always been as devoted to him as I could have wished.
Orlando felt a pang here. He believed he did love Angela.
He hadnt hesitated to get out of bed in the morning or entertained
any thought of running away to a life of homelessness in a warm
climate since she had come into his life. His friend Parker had
recently expounded a new theory of his: soon the pathway for
humankind would no longer entail the enlightenment of the
individual, but of the couple. Love realized was wave of the
future. But Orlando had never been entirely sure what love meant
it had been three years that theyd been meeting weekly at the
Hilton, three years that theyd known periods of complete freedom
with each other, three years that theyd comforted and encouraged
each other; yet even when he wished to be, he wasnt always
completely forthcoming with her. (Forthcoming was his word.
Honest would be the more forthcoming one.)
How have you been selfish, Angela?
She gazed off for a moment. Ive given myself so wholly
to you that I think Ive somehow neglected Toby. Adams fine; he
has good friends, lots of them. Im not worried about him. But
Tobyhis friends, those that he has, are like Oh, I dont know, I
think theyre like playthings to him. Theres no warmth there, not
that I can see. And Im not close to him either. I know thats his
nature, but I sometimes feel like Im not making any effort.
You mean youre wasting your effort on me? Orlando
asked, fishing for a compliment; again being less than forthcoming.
Oh no, darling! Dont think that. You require no effort at
But you think youre too wrapped up in me? Orlando
knew that even if she felt that way, shed never say it.


No. No, I dont. I just think I could broaden my attention,

my affection. Love is an infinite resource, isnt it?
It was at times like these that Orlando rose to the occasion
and stepped away from the shallow, manipulative little selves of his
whom he employed to protect his lust. When Angela said things
like that, she reminded him of everything good and true hed ever
known. Maybe Parker was right: mutual enlightenment. Ah-h-h!
he said, looking into the pools of her brown eyes. Angela
Wellington, Bearer of Truth. Hed called her this before. She
always thought he was joking but he was not. Love is an infinite
resource, he repeated. Thats something I should always
remember. That lights me up. And theres another side to that, too,
you know.
And what would that be, Mr. Floyd?
He thought for a moment. He took off his glasses, polished
them with a paper napkin and put them back on. Louise had just
refilled his coffee. Not only was it too hot to drink but it was
slightly burnt too, so he poured some cream into it to make it more
palatable. Then he felt doubly blessed. Here he was with the love
of his life across the table from him, in the flesh; and here too in his
cup was one of those little niceties of life that he still so much
appreciated. The cream swirled into the dark coffee as a cloud more
perfect than a cloud can be is swallowed up into another; the cream
swirled like liquid marble; like a film of Leonardo painting a sky.
Look at it this way, Orlando said. Dont think youre
neglecting Toby, think that you love him, but that its possible to
love him more. That doesnt negate anything. See? It becomes a
win-win situation. Love is an infinite resource, right? You dont
have to feel guilty; you can just make a good thing better.
Angela loved it when Orlando said things like that, things
that seemed wise to her. Thats when the two were at their best
together: when it came to glimpsing their higher lights. It was at
times like these when Orlando wished he could be wholly
forthcoming, and disclose his most closely guarded secret: his
deep mistrust of Angelas son. When he and Angela momentarily
transcended themselves, he sensed that such honesty could do vastly
more good than harm. But, alas, such moments of selfless lucidity
were not only rare but of short duration, and by the time Orlando
decided to broach the subject, hed lost his wattage and slipped back


to his customary defensive position. He loved Angela, didnt he?

And he wouldnt want to risk offending such a lovely lovely
treasure as she, would he now? Anyway, it was time for Angela to
leave, and as much as it pleased the two of them to speak to each
other from the top of their hearts, a more primal desire, the desire to
be enveloping each other again in the Hilton next door, was their
mutual parting wish. (Lust, apparently, conquers all.)

Toby looked at Orlando questioningly, not a typical expression.

Which one? he asked.
The studio classroom was flooded with light. Toby was
seated at his drawing board; before him was a low table draped with
a cloth and set with a vase of irises, a pitcher, and several glasses
one half full of water. About twenty feet away, a young model sat
on a straight backed chair. She was barefoot, but as always when
young Toby worked, she was clothed, but only in a flowing robe.
So she, like the table, was draped; and were it not for her spiked
hair, she might have been a model for a sculptor in the Golden Age
of Greece or a Renaissance painter.
Which one? Toby asked again.
Both, answered Orlando. I want you to put the subjects
together. Any way you like. Put the vase of irises on her head, if
you want to. Combine the model and the still life into one
composition. And one more thing Orlando added. Use this,
at which he presented Toby with a 14 x 17 inch piece of fine
drawing paper. Are you up to it?
Orlando had never challenged the boy artistically or
verbally, but as he expected, the verbal challenge ignited a cold
gleam in Tobys eye, who looked back at his teacher as he moved
the stack of 9 x12 paper off his table and then glanced back at the
model and the still life. Then Orlando left the room.
Tobys first attempt at combining two subjects remains one
of the most intriguing compositions of his early years. With only
the slightest adjustments in the models position and the removal of
the pitcher and glasses, Toby created the Girl Arranging Flowers.
This was a large, spontaneous drawing in ink. Though it was made
without any preliminary sketches, there wasnt a tentative line or a


line out of place, and it captured a charm and innocence never seen
before in his work. It was a composition of such ingenious
complexity that it stunned the viewer. The interplay of the folds of
the girls robe and the folds of the tablecloth created a kind of visual
fugue that served as the foundation for the interplay of the girls
arms, hands and fingers with the stems of the irises and the way the
blossoms themselves mirrored her facial features. And all this in a
style of classic realism tempered by a unique, lyric expressionism.
It was Orlandos turn to gasp when he saw this drawing, and
he couldnt keep himself from feeling that a higher intelligence had
lent a hand in this work, and not necessarily an angelic one. The
fact that this boy, just turned ten, could create such masterful work
without preparation and without a false move was stupefying in
itself, but that he never permitted anyone to witness the creation
itself bordered on the spooky.
Orlando was so stunned by Girl Arranging Flowers that
he wished for a moment that Toby would never draw again, that this
would be his crowning work. But a number of spectacular
compositions followed. On subsequent Saturdays, Orlando
presented other dual subjects for Toby. First was a seated model
and a small set of shelves stacked with books, sea shells, small
figurines of Greek Gods and candlesticks. Then a table set with a
loaf of bread, bottles, jars and fruit; and a moveable section of wall
with an open window. Then, two models, one seated and reading,
the other standing. Tobys results combining these subjects were no
less spectacular than Girl Arranging Flowers; all these
compositions had one unique quality. In each, elements from one
part of the picture were reflected in others.
As in Girl Arranging Flowers, where the completed
picture looked like a puzzle cleverly fit together, in the next picture,
Toby altered each small figurine on the shelf to reflect one aspect of
the models posture, so as a whole she was mirrored in the Greek
Gods, and though this may not have immediately been apparent to
all viewers, the effect was bewitching. Then in his next
composition, he arranged the moveable wall section so that the still
life on the table was reflected on the window, providing a view of
the backs of each object in a stirring perspective that seemed to
create a holographic effect. In his composition with the two models,
the one reading and the other standing, he arranged the flowing


robes of each in such a way as to suggest one figure rising above

herself as she read. This did not seem like a trick, however, or a
clich. This looked like an archetype; a drawing of a form and an
idea that had always existed and had only waited for Toby
Wellington to give it substance. Though Orlando Floyd had felt
Girl Arranging Flowers, was a drawing for the ages, The
Reader, would become the first of Tobys famous works.
But how did it work? Orlando wondered. Some might
conclude that Toby became capable of greater complexity in his
work once he had so movingly discovered a greater complexity in
lifewatching Antons unsuspected family leave their home like
refugees. Perhaps, but Orlandos concern was deeper than that.
How did it happen, he wondered, that these ideal forms were
brought into being by a ten-year-olds hand? A ten-year-old who
seemed in the midst of a growth spurt, who had become
increasingly moody and had suddenly changed his habits. For
rather than drawing every day, Toby had begun to spend his free
time at home dreamy and distracted. Along with his reveries of
persecution and revenge, his regular periods of at-one-ment with the
purring of his cat, his thoughts often returned to that boy and girl,
his suitcase, her wrinkled paper bagwere her toys in there? What
kind of toys? Were the children allowed outside? But Toby only
drew for an hour-and-a-half a week, on Saturday afternoons in
Orlandos classroom. He did produce a series of masterpieces on
these Saturdays, but these changes in Tobys routine only caused
Orlando Floyd to wonder even more. It might be said that Orlando
was looking for an answer hed never find; not because he lacked
insight or sensitivity, but because hed never guess what Toby had
seen and made his own as he lay in his crib just ten short years
beforethat Toby had a head start, that he already knew the story.
He remembered it. Orlando did not. We do not. All Toby had to
do was tell it.



As time passed, I began to spend more and more hours in my

secluded spot above the Wellingtons back porch and on the broad
roof of their building. Once out the back door, I was free to descend
the stairs and wander as far afield as I chose, but once my curiosity
about the neighborhood had been satisfied, I seldom strayed far
from the building. As an individual, I have an unusually
contemplative natureeven for a catand the protected perch Id
found above the back stairs and a number of spots on the roof itself,
met my Place requirements especially well.

Unlike humans, cats have an acute sense of Place. Humans hardly

have a word for it, and although you can be heard saying such
things as: Theres no place like home, or I like it here, or This
is a nice spot, these sentiments are changeable and inexact. For the
most part, you humans, so keenly aware of your desires, are as
unaware of your surroundings as you are of your own psychological
posturings. A Place, as all felines understand, is comprised of


numerous, distinct spots, which differ from each other as much as

climates differ across vast geographical tracts. But to a cat, a Place
consists of only that area immediately accessible, such as a room or
a roof or a porch or a park; yet within that arena, such a great variety
of distinct spots can be distinguished that a cats room or roof or
porch or park becomes far greater in size than the same space for a
human; greater in size and far, far greater in meaning.
A dogor a humanmay be comfortable on a particular
stuffed chair because of the contour, support and surface texture of
that piece of furniture. Cats share an awareness of these variables,
but also perceive the more significant features of a spot than humans
and dogs: namely, the frequency and magnetic signature of the spot,
qualities immeasurable to those blind to the planes of existence
interpenetrating the physical. The frequency I refer to is not only
the frequency of light or sound or anything perceptible to human
senses or existing instrumentation, but a frequency including the
ever-present invisible mental, emotional, and spiritual forces that
share our physical plane with us; and likewise the magnetic
signature is described by the prevailing vortices, currents, and drifts
of these forces and others.
So when a cat sits down in a favorite spot, the cat knows
what hes doing. So does a crow; and most often Akbar and I chose
one particular spot on the roof of the Wellingtons building for our
discussions. This was a brick covered platform, slightly raised
above the asphalt surface of the roof, and close enough to the edge
of the building that we could observe the activity on the street below
while remaining inconspicuous, inconspicuous as two elegant,
glossy black creatures can be. As a matter of protocol, Akbars
twelve followers never joined us on the brick platform.
Although I was curious when I first met Akbar, it took me a
while to find the appropriate time to ask about his followers. They
are wisdom seekers, Akbar explained. They seek wisdom for the
simple joy of it. This is not a complicated matter. Though I do not
teach them, they learn from me. I am simply older than they, and
just as I cannot live without receiving and giving, neither can they.
I receive from the heavens around me; they receive from me. When
the time comes that they are full, others will be attracted to them.
No one has to say a thing.


The crow stopped, looked at his troupe and then back to me.
And you have observed correctly, he continued. There are
twelve in the group, just as there are twelve signs in the zodiac,
twelve constellations that transmit the mind and spirit of the cosmos
to our vantage point here on earth. And here is something
interesting for you, Andr; something you may find pertinent in the
future. Though the planets in this solar system blend their own
emanations with those of the twelve constellations as they circle
through the arc of the zodiac, it is the Moon that most immediately
reflects the twelve notes of this cosmic scale for all on earth to
receive. Because of its proximity and the speed of its revolution,
the Moon acts as a lens through which all life on earth is nourished.
The Moon feeds the full range of will and love of the cosmos to
every human being by forming every angle with every planet once
every month, and this for the entire span of every human livfe.
Many birds have access to information gathered from far
and wide, but one evening when Akbar stood apart from his
followers, I spoke to them and learned that his sagacity was
renowned and unparalled. No one spoke of his age, or how he
acquired his numerous scars or the injury to his foot that left him
partially lame. I was told that he was widely traveled and in contact
with a network of others creatures with whom he shared secret
knowledge. Much of this he imparted to me in return for my
insights into human psychology, a favorite topic of his.
One cool, windy evening when the clouds raced across the
moon, Akbar disclosed the following: Its important for you to
understand, he explained, that human beings are a unique species
in that as individuals they have the capacity to evolve, to grow and
change. This evolution isnt the physical sort that all species
undergo over vast stretches of time, but a psychological or spiritual
evolution, unknown to other creatures. Fundamental to this, and
also unknown to other creatures, are the great differences of
awareness and understanding that separates members of the human
species. Whereas all cats have vision that penetrates the inner
realms of existence and the understandings and abilities
corresponding to that perception, and the keen emotional sensitivity
of all dogs is approximately the same, humans differ greatly in their
levels of awareness and capacity for understanding. Some, those on
the leading edge, consciously or even systematically aspire to higher


levels of awareness, and a few among them have already achieved it

and stand apart in their wisdom, compassion and power. Unlike
humans, other earthly species dont participate in this conscious
evolutionary process. They dont need to: they fill the supportive
strata of the hierarchy of beings or in some cases have already
evolved to a naturally complete and perfected state.
When Akbar imparted this arcane knowledge to me, he
understood my initial skepticism. It was obvious that the Frickly
family, the other dull-witted families with whom I lived and the
baby-talking employees at the Humane Society were not among
those few highly evolved members of the human species. Yet the
crow assured me that within the League of Initiates, he had
relations with some exceptional human beings: a few of whom had
gained renown among the species and were revered and feared as
Despite my reservations, I continued to listen attentively.
The clouds showed no signs of slowing their race across the sky.
Its also important to understand, Akbar continued, that
the means by which this psychological evolution may be achieved
has been conveyed to humanity in differing and apparently
inconsistent ways, but that in essence, all human Religions and
Mystery Schools deliver the same message. So dont be misled:
although there are famous doctrines of reincarnation, of salvation,
and myriad visions of afterlife, none of these shed true light on
the mystery of death. What they do is act as a spur to kinder, more
compassionate behavior while alive. Death, as you already know,
Andr, must and always will remain unknowable to the living, no
matter what claims are made by whatever authorities.
The crow paused for a moment, as if to let me catch up,
though I believed I was following him effortlessly.
The opportunity for human evolution can be understood in
a variety of ways, he went on, as his followers appeared to be
listening attentively. It can be seen the possibility of awakening
from the dreamlike trance in which life is projected into a vanished
past and an imaginary future; it can be seen as the process by which
the individual is freed from the cycle of desire and gratification; it
can be seen as the recognition of love as the only currency of any
but illusory value; it can be seen as the appreciation of all human
experience as the sacred means by which illumination is practiced


and learned; it can be seen as surrender of the narrow sense of self

to the invariably wise, expansive and benevolent will of the cosmos,
and as the history of human spiritual doctrine demonstrates, it can
be seen in any number of variations, combinations, and further
developments of these themes, all of which are views from different
perspectives reflecting different temporal and developmental needs.
But whats particularly significant here, Andr, is that the possibility
to evolve on earth is the rarest of privileges. He looked at me
quizzically again. And to demonstrate that, he said, Ill tell you
a little story. This is from the human Buddhist tradition.
According to this story, there is a great turtle who lives at
the bottom of the vastness of the sea; and floating somewhere on the
surface, buffeted by winds and waves and carried away by powerful
currents, is a wooden ring, no bigger around than the trunk of a
small tree. And it happens that for reasons of its own, every
thousand years this turtle swims up from the bottom of the sea and
pokes his head above the surface to glimpse the starry night sky.
Now, of course, it is possible that when the turtles nose breaks the
surface every thousand years, the wooden ring will fall around its
neck, but this isnt likely, not at all. In fact, according to Buddhist
tradition, the possibility that turtle swimming back down with the
ring around its neck is so remote that it compares only to the rarest
of possibilities and privileges: that of a soul being fortunate enough
to incarnate on the earth.
Frankly, I found this surprising; and told Akbar that
according to my observations, human life was hardly something
worth relishing, that unhappiness was far more prevalent than joy,
and that strife far outweighed harmony among these creatures.
Which is exactly the point, he said. Souls are fortunate
to incarnate here not because of lifes happiness or its lush comforts
or the so-called great cultures that flourish on earth, but on the
contrary. It is a privilege for them to live here because of the
difficulty, the friction, for that provides them with an exceptional
opportunity to learn, grow. Thats how they evolve. It has been
compared to polishing the facets of a gem. The environment here is
like a school where the rules are strict, or like a factory for evolving
souls. At this time in its development, the earth is not a place for
perfection, certainly not for perfection of human society; but all
have the opportunity to strive for wholeness and illumination: that is


their birthright. You may have noticed that in their sleep they
occasionally succeed in their quest: they fly. Whether they
remember it or not, without this promising taste of illumination,
many wouldnt have the will to go on.
I told him what he said made sense but he was very
generous. Even if what you say is true, I said, To me, the
differences among them simply separate the dull from the dense.
They seem like slackers: poor students and very slow learners.
Slackers! Yes! he said, apparently finding my remark
amusing. He didnt laugh, of course. Crows dont laugh; cats
dont. We express amusement in more subtly.
Expressed dissatisfaction is a spur that drives the cosmos
on, you know, he went on. Its a form of love, Andr. Everything
done in life by humans, by beings like us and others as well has the
same intent. The nature of every act is to create a greater harmony
than already exists. Few humans realize that. They are fond of
classifying things: good and evil, right and wrong, moral and
immoral. They fail to see that in everything they do is a wish for a
more harmonious whole, even if their means are seemingly
misdirected, destructive or even murderous. So it might be said that
every act is an act of love Or then again, it might not.
At this, Akbar told me he was tired, thanked me for my
company, excused himself and joined his followers in an oak tree
that shaded the front windows of the Wellingtons apartment. I left
the roof then and went to my perch above the buildings back stairs
feeling revitalized and certain that this could be attributed to
Akbars influence on me. Even though some of what he told me
surprised me, these things seemed somehow familiar, somehow
close, as if Id once known and forgotten. My sense of well-being
and connectedness to the world swelled. Again my purr illuminated
the air around me, and though the feeling rarely abandons me, I
reasserted my joy and pride at being a cat.



It was a Sunday morning, and the boys were making breakfast for
their mother. It had been Adams idea; Toby was helping. Angela
was delighted by the show of filial cooperation. It wasnt a
complicated breakfast: orange juice, scrambled eggs, bacon, and
toast. Adam was planning to let Angela make her own coffee since
he didnt feel equal to the task. He was also planning to let Toby
rinse the dishes for the dishwasher since he really wasnt helping
much with the cooking. Toby was in one of his moods.
Hed been having twinges of that old feeling again; strong
ones, strong enough to overpower his urge to attain catness, at least
for the time being. Uncharacteristically, he mentioned this to his
mother. The day before, when shed seen him sitting in an odd way
in one of the big, blue velvet wingback chairs in the living room,
shed asked him if anything was wrong. Thats when he told her he
had a funny feeling in his back, under his shoulder blade. After
questioning him briefly and prodding him a little, she told him he
must be having growing pains. He had, after all, grown quickly into


a tall boy for his age. Then Angela lovingly stroked his hair, a
gesture Toby more and more dislikednearly to the point of recoil.
Whats wrong, dear? she asked, sensing his reaction to
her touch.
Nothing, the boy answered.
But something was brewing. Toby had been harboring a
simmering anger toward his brother. There had been no particular
incident to bring this on. Of course, in fulfilling his role as older
brother, Adam had teased and taken advantage of Toby over the
years and continued to do so, but only on occasion and never
egregiously. But Toby hardly registered these offenses; he had
other things on his mind. He couldnt understand how it was that
Adam hadnt noticed certain things. How was it that Adam failed to
notice that Tobys friend Damien so often ended up crying when
visiting their house, crying because of accidents that had befallen
him while playing with Toby? How could Adam not have noticed
that in the years since the turtles perished before living any sort of
life worthy of an amphibian, several other small pets had died
mysteriously: a gerbil and a guinea pig? Tobys mother had
assumed that Andr the Cat was the culprit, but that was ridiculous.
After both sudden deaths, the top was still securely attached to the
rodents cage. Now, it wasnt that Toby wanted to be caught; he
was too clever to be caught, but it angered him that Adam was too
dense to be suspicious.
That was it. Toby was angry with Adam because he
thought Adam was stupid.
As anyone who has seriously attempted to cook breakfast
for others knows, the difference between success and failure
depends on timing; and Adam Wellingtons instincts were good that
morning. The toast popped up just as the eggs were finished and the
bacon had cooked to the familys crispy preference. Adam expected
Toby to put the cooking pans in the sink, but when Angela saw
Toby about to pour the bacon grease down the sink drain, she told
him to stop.
Thats bad for the pipes, dear. Theres a can to pour that
in, and when it solidifies we can throw it out with the trash. Adam,
show Toby where the can is.
Wanting to please his mother, but resenting his little dweeb
of a brother for needing help with such a simple thing, Adam took


the can from its place under the sink and set it down on the counter
where Toby was standing.
Oh, this looks just beautiful, boys! Angela exclaimed as
she looked at the serving plates Adam had put on the kitchen
tablebut by then it was too late. Toby knew what he was going to
do. Adam was the target. Adams face was the target, but Toby
knew that he too deserved to be hurt; and he knew that when he
was, everyone would pity and coddle him.
So with his brother still standing next to him, Toby slid his
hand down the handle of the frying pan until it touched the hot edge.
This caused a more searing pain than he expected: clearly enough to
cause anyone to drop the pan on the counter, causing the hot bacon
grease splash volcanically upward. He protected himself with his
extended left hand; he did this instinctively, and with the expected
result. It was a pain like hed never known, but probably not as
severe as Adams. Adam had turned away, but looked back as Toby
screamed: just in time for the flying grease to meet his face.
Angela didnt become hysterical until after she cleaned off
Adams face and then Tobys hand, knocking the plate of freshly
scrambled eggs and one glass of orange juice off the kitchen table
and onto the floor as shed lunged to the boys aid. Then she called
911 and became hysterical on the phone, doing her best to follow
the simple instructions she was given regarding the thorough, gentle
washing of the wounds. After that, and after slipping on the
scrambled eggs shed spilled and sprawling on the floor, she sat and
cried with her arms around her crying boys.
But things hadnt worked out quite as Toby planned. Adam
wasnt disfigured as Toby wished. The damage to Tobys left palm
was more extensive than that to Adams face. In fact, Adam had
ducked. His face was barely touched: the hot grease had hit the
front of his scalp. He lost some hair and suffered some burns just
above his forehead, but the facial scaring would be minimal. The
burn on Tobys palmhis left one, not his drawing handwasnt
readily visible, but caused considerable pain during his recovery and
periodically after that. He was reluctant to show it to anyone, but
his mother noticed that the scar resembled a flying bird.
Typically, Angela Wellington blamed herself. Adam
blamed Toby, and Toby, of course, blamed Adam. Thus, the
somewhat illusory balance that had existed in the Wellington


household since Tobias had been sent away was upset. One can
imagine Andr the Cat seeing dark, murky billows of toxic emotion
emanating from the mother and her two sons in the weeks and
months after the breakfast accident. Toby didnt miss a drawing
session with Orlando Floyd, however; and only four days after he
was burned, he created a drawing of a mother comforting a child so
moving that the director of the School of Fine Arts, a normally
reserved man, commented that it looked like it came from the hand
of God himself. Toby only missed a week of school; furthermore,
he showed no signs of remorse for hurting his brother and a steely
lack of self-regard in dealing with his own pain. Adam, on the other
hand, a fifteen-year-old adolescent, was sorely embarrassed by his
burns and temporary loss of hair, and since hed been taught by his
parents, his school and the culture as a whole that intellectual
development was sufficient to qualify for an inner life, he had
nothing substantial to fall back on and so was temporarily bereft.
To make matters worse, Angela was too busy with self-
incrimination to address her boys needs: Adams anger and
humiliation, and Tobys apparent disdain. Thus disabled, Angela
leaned ever more completely on Orlando Floyd; or, more precisely,
she invited Orlando Floyd into her home so she could lean on him
there as well.
At this point, we shouldnt be surprised that Toby was more
than willing to suffer in the cause of hurting his brother, if even
slightly. All too soon, a far greater opportunity for his destructive
powers would present itself.
In his fantasies following the accident, however, he
imagined that he was on trial, once for blinding his brother, and
once for killing him by cracking open his head and throwing him off
a cliff. In defense he held up his injured palm, insisting that he, too,
was hurt. But this ploy elicited no sympathy from the cruel judge,
who in Tobys mind, resembled an older, hardened version of
Orlando Floyd, and inevitably Toby was sentenced to death. This,
the boy who drew with the hand of God himself.


NOTE #2 Sibling Rivalry

In 1346, shortly after Sir Tobert of Cornwall was poisoned by the
sadistic Anton of Wences, a son was born to his sister, Agnes of
Wessex. A sickly boy, named Tobert after his courageous uncle, the
child remained at his mothers side continuously until at the age of
ten, when Agnes and the rest of her immediate family died of the
Black Death.
How it was that the boy, pale and weak as he was,
managed to survive is unknown, nor are the means by which he
came under the protection of Agnes cousin, Sir Aden (also of
Wessex). Aden, however, possessed neither the courage of the boys
father nor the generous spirit of the boys aunt: he was a vain and
jealous man, set solely on personal aggrandizement. Young
Tolbert, on the other hand, though frail, had a winning personality
and gained favor of all he met, particularly the ladies. He was
quick to amuse, like a jester, and had a talent with the brush. But
Aden feared the gentle boys intrusion into his great hall; if the
ladies and noble guests werent charmed by Sir Aden himself they
wouldnt be charmed at all, and besides, painting pictures was an
effeminate amusement.
It was not long after Tolbert arrived than Aden saw to it
that he was given lonely quarters and was only released when no
guests were present. Furthermore, he elicited the help of the local
cleric, Friar Roland, who, in return for one black and white sow,
had Tolbert declared feebleminded and of weak moral
constitution in the eyes of the church, thus justifying the boys
banishment from the society of the castle, such as it was.
Despairing his loss of convivial chat and gentle company,
Tolbert languished in the tower, and after only six years of this
unhappy existence, at the age of sixteen, the talented boy was found
dead one morning in a pigsty. The circumstances leading to his
death are unknown, though a rumor circulated that Sir Aden had
murdered the boy, having gone mad for a night after drinking a
brew concocted by a gypsy, supposedly an elixir of eternal youth.

Sometime in the middle of the fifteenth century, a shepherd named

Adam lived in northern Ireland. His flock was not large but
sufficient to support his small family: his wife and son, known as


Toby. As the boy grew, so did his fathers flock, and as soon as
young Toby could climb hills, he joined his father with the sheep.
Competent shepherd though he was, Tobys father had other
interests: he had heard tales of magical powers ascribed to certain
flowers and roots, and believed that if he could locate these and
concoct them according to ancient tradition, he might grow wealthy
as a king. Before long, however, he grew tired of searching across
the hillsides and woods and began to send his son on these
gathering forays with instructions to bring back a certain blue
flower, a red root and a barbed leaf.
Toby did not care for these errands or for his fathers
impatience and ill temper when he ordered the boy mash these
flowers, roots and leaves with crude homemade implements. It
wasnt long, in fact, before Tobys days were filled entirely with
gathering and mashing plant life. But the findings were few, and
soon Adam began to neglect the sheep and join his son in the herbal
treasure hunt. Adams wife began to notice that the flock was
diminishing in number; untended sheep had been lost to foxes and
wolves, but as much as she tried to talk sense into her eccentric
husbands head, he would not relent in his search for botanical
charms. He assured her that as soon as hed combined the correct
ingredients, theyd move to town and live in a house with servants.
Toby was not a boy given to contemplation. He had grown
into a fiery, impetuous youth. He loved his mother but saw his
father, Adam, squandering their meager resources. This being the
case, theres little more to say about this particular constellation of
human souls than that one afternoon, after crouching next to his
father for hours in the laborious collection of weaselwort, a
yellow flower whose purple roots when boiled with the bark of a
certain elm made a bitter tea that purportedly attracted silver, Toby
finally rose to his feet, selected a stout stick and bashed his father
over the head until he gave up the ghost, after which the youth
dragged the amateur sorcerers corpse to the edge of a nearby
ravine and pushed it over. The little heaps of weaselwort and elm
bark were left to rot on the groundwhich may have been
unfortunate, since the tea that was never brewed from these
ingredients had powers curative enough to correct the imbalance of
humors that was to soon thicken the blood and cut short the life of
Tobys dear mother, Angelina.


In 1799, in Boston, Massachusetts, two sisters were hired into the

house of a prosperous barrister, Tobias Wells. Both the older
sister, Ada, and the younger by three years, Tobessa, were bright
and energetic; nonetheless, as was customary at the time, they both
began their service as scullery maids, doing only the meanest and
most dismal work in the great house. Before long, it was clear, that
between these two lively girls, Tobessa was the better worker.
Unfortunately, she was not the more ambitious or cunning. Ada had
her eyes fixed on a better life. It was her intention to rise within the
ranks to Cook as soon as possible and then to the coveted position
of Housekeeper. To this end she flattered the Butler and senior
servants while telling tales on her sister all the while. Not only did
Ada falsely accuse Tobessa of various household misdemeanors, but
went so far as to scatter pastry crumbs in Tobessas bed and a few
drops of the Butlers brandy in her bedside drinking glass. So
fervent was Ada in her campaign to discredit her sister that one
might conclude that she bore an inbred grudge of some sort toward
her. And to a degree, her treachery was successful. Evidence of
pilfering brandy and pastry alone was enough to prevent Tobessa
from rising to a position higher than second cooks helper, while
Ada quickly proved herself clever and efficient enough to take over
the position of Cook from Mrs. Bradley, a woman who was not only
getting old but into the Butlers brandy as well.
Despite Adas good cooking and competent management,
her reputation was far from pristine. She was seen as haughty and
conniving by the downstairs staff and never fully trusted by the
Housekeeper or Lady of the House herself.
Mild mannered Tobessa, on the other hand, even with her
weakness for thievery, was popular among all who worked in the
house. But as the years passed and servants were dismissed and
died and others were hired and promoted, her older sisters position
remained unchanged. Her ambitions notwithstanding, Ada was
Cook and simply that and would never have a place in the finely
carpeted and draped upper rooms of the Wells stately home. But
as Cook, the woman ruled the kitchen with a strong arm, a heavy
cleaver, and a chronic case of gum disease with attendant bad
breath. Meanwhile, Tobessa was passed over on numerous
occasions, remained Cooks second helper, and thus spent her long


hours scouring pots, cleaning the kitchen fireplace, and taking

undeserved abuse from her older sister.
If the daily scouring of cooking pots and pans and the
washing of the households dishes werent enough to leave
Tobessas hands in need of yet-to-be-conceived Lubriderm Skin
Therapy Lotion with Aloe, the scores of cooking burns sealed the
deal. To make matters worse, the Master Tobias, already a
corpulent man by nature, had taken such a liking to Joshuas
Lickings (fried pork fat,) a dish hed tasted on one of his journeys
to Virginia, that he asked to be served a hefty portion of it daily.
According to Cook Adas instructions, it was Tobessa alone who
was to prepare this dish, and Tobessa alone whose hands, wrists,
forearms and even cheeks were daily spattered with scalding
dollops of fat. The deleterious effects of the Southern indulgence
went beyond the plethora of burns to Tobessas skin, however, for
after seven years of ingesting this favorite of his, Tobias Wells
keeled over in court while defending a well-to-do embezzler, every
artery that supplied his indulgent heart being packed with pig fat
like a yet-to-be-conceived Oscar Meyer Wiener. Sad to sayor
perhaps notsuffering injuries incurred in a calamitous cooking
mishap involving a soup-bound turtle, Tobessa soon followed
Tobias to the grave.

(Once again, this information is provided for purposes of historical

perspective, and is not intended to affirm or refute and doctrines
regarding the whence from, hereafter or anywhere in between.)



For five years, Angela and Orlando had restricted all outward
displays of affection to Orlandos apartment and office; Grant Park,
the city park surrounding the Art Institute and School of Fine Arts;
the Bohemian Caf, and room 1233 at the Hilton across the avenue
from the Museum. It had been for Tobys sake that they had thus
restrained themselves. Both were sensitive to the delicacy of
nurturing his great gift, and both wanted to protect him from any
confusion between his private teacher and his mothers new love.
But with Angela as insecure and needy as she was, it finally seemed
that enough was enough.
Toby needs to face reality, Angela said to Orlando in their
hotel room as they sat back in bed, leaning against pillows one
Tuesday afternoon.
Orlando laughed.
What? Angela asked, sounding fragile.
I know what you mean, sweetheart, but I think Tobys
reality may be a far cry from ours.


Meaning I dont feel like I understand anything about him

other than how beautifully he draws. I dont know what makes him
tick anymore than I did when you first introduced him to me. And
Im not saying that in a pejorative way, Angela. Artists have secret
lives, remember?
She turned toward Orlando, propping herself up on her
elbow. I dont need to hear this right now, dear. Im feeling
hopeless recently when it comes to Toby. All Im capable of doing
is loving him, and he doesnt seem too keen on that these days. But
I dont think hiding like this is helping me get closer to him. If
anything, its a hindrance.
Whatever you say, Orlando answered. Youre the one
to make the decision about this. He was twirling the end of one of
her pecan-brown locks in his fingers, and seemed a little distracted.
But Ill give you my unbiased opinion, okay? Orlando turned his
attention to the smooth inside of Angelas forearm. Waking up
next to you every morning would be Well, you know what it
would be. And short of that, having dinner at your place
occasionally will do just fine, but Id be doing a disservice to you if
I let that influence my judgment.
. And that is?
That is that I think we should test the waters. I agree about
Toby facing reality. He might not be fazed by it at all or he might
be resentful. From what Ive seen, its hard to tell exactly how he
feels. Maybe he needs to learn to express that. I dont know,
sweetheart; maybe were making this into something more than it
needs to be.
Angela slid over and put her head of luxuriant curls on
Orlandos chest. Maybe we are, she said. Ill make something
they like for dinner. You come at 6:30.
Why, do you have other plans?
No. But Im Im nervous.
Would you be nervous if we made it for Friday?
Id be nervous all week.


So what do they like to eat? Orlando asked, sounding

very much the non-parent, as if inquiring about the feeding habits of
spotted tree frogs.
Angela had packed frequent picnic lunches for the two of
them to eat in the shade of the trees in Grant Park, and Orlando
knew she was an excellent cook. Are they good? he asked.
She lifted her head off his chest and looked him dubiously.
What do you think?
Sorry, he said, adjusting the pillows behind and sitting up
a little straighter.
Youre in for a treat, Angela answered. And not just
tonight. Ill make exotic meals for us. The boys always want to
order pizza anyway. Theyll particularly appreciate you for that.
But Orlando seemed suddenly thoughtful.
What? Angela asked.
Adam? Hows he?
I dont know. Hes not talking much. Hes terribly self-
conscious, but the doctor assured me hes healing beautifully, and it
really doesnt look all that bad even now. Hes a very handsome
boy. Hell be a handsome man. His face will have charactera
little like a pirate, but just a little. Women will love him. But what
bothers me so is that he seems to blame his little brotheras if
Toby did it on purpose.
You dont think theres anything to that, do you?
I dont know how you can say that.
Orlando wasnt surprised at her reaction. Youre right, he
said. Sometimes I look for things that arent there. Im sorry.
It was too bad. Angela was feeling bold, and this might
have been a perfect moment for Orlando to voice his suspicions.
But a bold, self assertive Angela was a very sexy Angela in
Orlandos eyes; so once again, he took the low road. It took no
coaxing at all; he enjoyed it very much, thank you. So did she.
When it came to the low road, the two didnt need a map.

Dinner that night went splendidly. Before they sat down to eat,
Toby took Orlando into his studio and introduced him to his cat, but
the cat submitted to Orlandos fondling for only a moment before
squirming away.


Maybe he doesnt like me, Orlando said to Toby.

He doesnt like anyone but me, the boy answered. We
communicate secretly. We have for years.
Yes, he understands me.
And no one else does?
What do you think? Toby said.
Orlando recognized the gaze and chill tone. How does that
feel, Toby? he asked.
What do you mean?
I mean, do you feel lonely? Do you know that your
mother loves you very much?
The boy hesitated, and then looked at Orlando as if he
didnt understand. Why? he asked.
Why what, Toby?
I know that moms love their children, that theyre
supposed to love their children, but why?
Orlando had begun to sweat. I dont suppose its the
answer youre looking for, Toby, but its just just natural. He
might as well have been speaking Aramaic. Toby registered no
response; not scorn, not disappointmentnone.
Would you like to see some drawings that no ones seen
before, the boy said, except Andr?
It would be an honor, Orlando answered, feeling much
like the same obsequious toady whod hoped to curry Tobys favor
on the day of his first lesson. But it was an honor. These were
studiesnot sketches, but complete mini-compositions, drawings of
simple, single objectsa doorknob, an alarm clock, a hammerand
Orlando was just beginning to register his joy and sense of
discovery at seeing these when Angela called them in for dinner.
He noticed that Toby carefully replaced the drawings in a drawer
under sheets of blank paper before he opened the door to go into the
dining room.
Both boys were chatty at dinner. They seemed bright and
happy to have a man back at the table. And they continued to be
happy with Orlandos presence on Tuesday, Friday and
occasionally, Sunday evenings for dinner for the next several
months. Toby was unusually congenial at these dinners, and as
Adam continued to heal, he too seemed relaxed and at ease with


Orlando sitting in his mothers former place at the table, while

Angela sat at Tobiass.
It was on the second night that Orlando came for dinner, a
Friday, that he noticed that Tobys cat sat on an arm of the living
room sofa, looked into the dining room and watched him throughout
the meal. The animals fixed stare somewhat undid Orlando at first,
but after several weeks, when the cat sat in the same spot and
watched him unflinchingly at every meal, he grew accustomed to it.
Shortly after that, however, the cat began to appear in Orlandos
dreams. These appearances were disturbing, because the cat always
bore an expression that somehow reminded him of that crow that
had attacked him five years before. Orlando didnt say anything
about this, but after the dreams had begun to recur on a regular
basis, he tried to pet the cat, hoping that this would somehow break
the spell, but the animal made it clear that it wanted nothing to do
with the man. Toby had noticed his teacher trying to get friendly
with his cat, and approached him after the cat fled.
Toby shook his head. I told you he only likes me.
I know that, Toby. I was trying to be friendly. But the cat
seems to know its own mind.
He doesnt like being called the cat. His names Andr.
Try calling him by name. Maybe he didnt like the way you were
thinking about him.
Of course Orlando knew this was foolish, but was touched
by what seemed by a friendly suggestion on Tobys part.
Here Andr! Orlando called out. Here kitty, kitty, kitty!
Here Andr!
Toby shook his head. I dont think he likes the kitty,
kitty part. He thinks its stupid. he said when the cat didnt return.
So Orlando tried calling Andr directly according to Tobys
instructions, and immediately the cat loped back into the living
room where the two were sitting, approached Orlando and stood in
front of him, fixing him in his gaze.
Does he stare at everyone like that? Orlando asked.
No. He usually ignores peopleeveryone but me.
So should I be flattered?
Flattered or worried, Toby answered.
Orlando thought the boy was joking; but when he laughed,
Toby did not.


What are you men talking about? Angela asked, coming

into the room.
Andr, Orlando said. Angela rolled her eyes and invited
them back into the dining room for dessert.

It was noon on a Friday, and Angela and Orlando simple couldnt

resist. Theyd consumed a bottle of Champagne at lunch downtown
in the park, and Angela convinced Orlando not to go back to his
office to finish up his paperwork, but to come home with her and
just stay through dinner. The boys wouldnt be home from school
for hours.

Ive been lying in this bed imagining you with me here for years
now, Angela said, on all fours above Orlando, her hands on his
shoulders and her hair cascading down onto his face. It was May,
the bedroom windows were open, a warm breeze wafted across
them. Then she sat back upright, beaming. What Orlando saw
above him there was the most glorious image he knew: her creamy
skin, apple-blossom-pink nipples, curling brown hair and eyes that
looked like candy from eternity, set him melting. The fact that he
was deep inside her now gave a paradisiacal ecstasy to his favorite
vision, of course, and soon the two were dissolving into love itself,
energetically, and as usual, making a good deal of rapturous noise
about it.
Enough noise to say, prevent them from hearing the front
door open? Enough noise maybe to prevent them from hearing the
approaching footsteps of a child who was home from school early,
as announced in the monthly school bulletin a self-absorbed mother
failed to read thoroughly, and to whom the love racket sounded like
calls of distress from his mother? Enough noise to prevent two butt-
naked people on top of the sheets from noticing a soon to be eleven-
year-old standing in the doorway gaping at them, a soon to be
eleven-year-old who, not having any friends and not on friendly
terms with his older brother, had no idea how it looked when
humans made love? Yes, that much noise. And so Toby once again
learned there was more to life than hed ever imagined.
Despite his mothers beseeching, he didnt come out of his
studio until the next morning, at which time he shrugged off her
apologies and awkward attempts at an explanation. She remained


mortified for weeks; and knowing Toby as we do by now, we might

expect some dreadful accident to befall her, or her paramour, or
bothor perhaps poor Adam might once again take the brunt of it.
But nothing of the sort happened; in fact this incident ushered in one
of the more well-adjusted periods of Tobys life to date.
This may be difficult to understand, but the bizarre and
elaborate workings of this boys psyche were often unpredictable.
Perhaps he reacted well to the forced widening of his perspective;
perhaps his maturation needed a shocking kick start; or perhaps
and maybe most likelyToby reacted to the apparition of his
mother and teacher naked and moaning by giving up the last vestige
of sympathy or any other humane feeling for the adults in his life,
because the next September when he started sixth grade, Toby
became friendly with several boys his own age and his social life
began in earnest.
At the Wellingtons apartment, of course, things were
touchy at first. Angela, emotionally fragile and confounded, made
sure Orlando didnt visit her there for a while; and, with Orlandos
consent, she temporarily cancelled Tobys Saturday classes.
Toby looked at his mother in pained bewilderment when
she told him this news. But where will I get my subjects? he
Although Angela was familiar with the way Orlando
worked with Toby, the fact that every picture Toby had drawn was
based on a suggestion from Orlando, even if that suggestion left
room for interpretation, had never quite sunk in. Furthermore, she
was reluctant to so much as nudge the boy in any direction
regarding his creative life.
Well dear, couldnt you come up with ideas on your own?
she ventured, sounding sadly unsure of herself. No I mean, it
would only be a tiny bit different Or I could call Mr. Floyd, and
he couldmaybe?
Why cant I go to class?
Well, honey, I thought you might be uncomfortable or a
little embarrassed. Id understand if you felt that way.
Toby looked stricken.
Whats wrong, Toby? Im so sorry
I dont understand, he answered, tears in his eyes now. I
didnt do anything wrong.


Of course not, dear. I never said you did anything wrong.

Then why am I being punished?
You mean? You think not going to class is a
punishment? Or that OrlandoMr. Floyd, I meanis angry with
Toby sucked back his tears and glared at her.
Honey, you can go to class. No ones mad at you.
Angela was about to reach out to hold him in her arms but thought
better of it.
So I dont have to be embarrassed?
Even Angela, so sympathetic to her sons every wish,
wasnt ready for this. No Of course not. You dont mean?
Toby? Do you understand what being embarrassed is?
Im not stupid, he said, looking at her as if she were a
different life form. So I get to go on Saturday?
Of course, Angela said, feeling more things at once that
she had the capacity to sort out. Of course, you can go on
Saturday. Of course, she repeated as Toby went into his bedroom
and closed the door behind him.

The embarrassing incident and Tobys reaction to it was never

discussed or even mentioned to him again. He continued his weekly
ninety minute sessions in the classroom-studio downtown
throughout the summer, and continued to produce pen and ink
drawings of a kind never before seen. In each, two distinct subjects
complete in themselves were joined in compositions so ingenious
and intriguing that many viewers marveled that there seemed to be
somehow more to the drawing than was apparent on the 14 by 18
piece of paper. Some even said the drawings seemed magical.
But not Orlando. He didnt believe there was anything supernatural
or spiritual that gave these drawings their unique quality; he
believed it was the sheer brilliance of Tobys vision: his ability to
create confluences of lines in which harmonies of like shape rang
out and resonated in stirring and most unexpected ways, while set
against and amidst bits and pieces masterfully rendered
disorganization, randomness grasped, frozen like nature caught
napping. This is what the boy could already do. And then in
September, eleven years old and nearly a head taller than his
classmates, and the most striking in appearance of them all, Toby


entered sixth grade with an expression on his face that could have
fooled anyone into believing he was just a big, reserved but friendly

Toby wasnt the only boy whod changed coming into sixth grade.
His friend Damien Sharp had spent the summer in Philadelphia with
his older cousins who were well practiced in getting into trouble.
Damien came back with tales of shoplifting, bullying, vandalism
and other assorted acts of malicious mischief, which surprised Toby
but excited him in an all too familiar way. In the past, Toby had
treated Damien as a kind of toy: hed take advantage of his company
only so long as it pleased him; and when it did not, Damien suffered
abuse. But just as something had clicked in the mysterious
workings of Tobys psyche, Damien had returned from his summer
vacation armed with a cocky new style of his own; and though
nothing was said, the two boys now recognized something in each
other. Then a third boy, Marcus Freeling, son of a faculty member
at Tobys small, private school, seemed attracted to the two as if by
magnetism. He too had matured over the summer, and he too was
good looking, so he formed the final, though subservient part of the
new trio as if a natural part of the team. Within weeks of the
beginning of the new term, these three boys were at the top of the
pecking order among of the eleven and twelve-year-old males in the
class and had begun to stir the wakening hormones of the most
popular girls. None of the three, however, had matured past the
cootie stage in regard to the opposite sex.
The school that Toby attended was among the best in the
Chicago, and it was only because of Tobias canny management of
money before his onset of criminality that Angela could afford such
a high priced education for her son. Tobias had become a very
wealthy man before he tried to defraud the Federal government, and
Angelas lawyer saw to it that Tobias was separated from his
fortune as well as his freedom when he stepped on the bus for the
slammer. Without any income other than the interest earned on her
ex-husbands investments, Angela could not lead a lavish existence,
but while putting her childrens education first, she still managed to
maintain her apartment and her expensive tastes in clothes. Her


club membership and travel abroad were things of the past, but she
had Orlando, whose tastes tended toward the aesthetic rather than
the material, something that pleased her as well, as long as she
could dress as she wished. And if Toby continued to produce and
sell his art, he was well on his way to financial security of his own.
The administration of Tobys school was acutely aware of
the childs exceptional gift, which was considered a windfall to
institutions already good reputation. Being a school that nurtured
individuality and creativity among its students, Tobys indifference
toward his academic pursuits was tolerated, particularly since at this
time, with Orlandos approval, he began to join the rest of the sixth
graders on art class.
In the past, Toby had been excused from art. Ever since
Mrs. Stars refusal to let him draw in ink and the subsequent
revelation of his great talent as expressed in the portrait of Mr.
Zootie, deceased, there had been an arrangement between the
schools administration and Angela Wellington that the boys art
education would be conducted privately. Any suggestions that
Toby even go into the art room at school, were met with his cold,
unequivocal refusal. Until that September. Whether this concession
on his part was motivated by his desire to demonstrate his sense of
superiority over his peers, a desire to join completely into the social
currents of his classmates, by astrological forces (Toby was
approaching his Jupiter return, the first time the giant planet with
a twelve year period of revolution crosses over its original position
in the natal horoscope, a return which generally corresponds with
the onset of adolescence,) by karmic forces or reasons unknown,
made no difference at all to the schools delighted and
administrators and facultyexcept the art teacher, of course, a Ms.
Pincil, who was terrified.
In any case, Toby walked through the halls of the schools
venerable old building with a look of self-confidence no longer
founded in disdain alone but in something that resembled
congeniality. We shouldnt be surprised that he and Damien, with
Marcus following along behind, were often up to no good, but the
mischief they plotted was more often than not undertaken off school
The results in art class were not only spectacular artistically
but socially as well. Toby began to create portraits. Hed drawn


models in the course of his work with Orlando Floyd, and had never
neglected to render their faces with skill equal to his compositional
gifts, but the only portraits hed drawn had been of his mother in his
earliest years of work. Now, in the quaint little art room at his
school, one of his classmates sat for him each week, and in the fifty
minutes allotted, he precisely captured his or her features and
essence in ink, and set it so on a 9 by 12 piece of drawing paper
supplied by the school, with such regard for the weight and balance
and negative space around it that it looked as if the image of the
person and the rectangle on which it was set were a spontaneous
blossoming of the world of nature.
Tobys friends, Damien and Marcus each reacted in his own
way to this reaching out on Tobys part. Damien, the more
hardboiled of the two, had little affection for art, refused to have his
portrait drawn, and looked upon the great fuss made about it all as
effeminate. It seemed he was threatened by Tobys display of
genius among their classmates, and belittled it defensively behind
Tobys back. Marcus, on the other hand, had been brought up in an
atmosphere saturated with the fine arts, but showed his admiration
for his friend with such fawning reverence that Toby rebuffed his
compliments with distaste, something that wounded Marcus more
deeply than Toby realized.
As far as the other children were concerned, Toby was
indifferent. His look was distant when they thanked him profusely
and marveled at what hed done. His portraits were neither
flattering nor unbecoming. Those children with facial blemishes,
however, were spared. Tobys motivation for this is unclear. When
they asked (as they inevitably did) if they could have the picture,
Toby told them they could not, but when Ms. Pincil suggested that
they use the schools copying machine, Toby said hed ask his
teacher, Mr. Floyd. Orlando, whod stopped surreptitiously copying
Tobys work since his love affair with Angela began, told Toby that
he was his teacher, not his agent, and that he could do whatever he
liked. He added that it would be very generous of him to make
copies of the portraits for his classmates, and that generosity won
friends. Though Toby only stared at Orlando at this comment about
winning friends, he did agree to let Ms. Pincil copy his drawings.
Each drawing was signed, of course, but when the children asked
Toby if hed personalize them with phrases such as For my friend


Amanda, or Best Wishes, he solemnly shook his head. The

children didnt know, of course, that those wordsthose lines,
reallywould upset Tobys compositions in an unthinkable way.

Damien lived in an apartment only three blocks from the

Wellingtons. The apartments themselves were similar; each was
spacious, generously laid out with bedrooms set off a long hall from
back to front. Damiens family lived on the third floor rather than
the second, however, and their building was six stories high rather
than three. This was advantageous in two ways: first, the third floor
gave the boys ten feet additional height when dropping water
balloons on unsuspecting pedestrians; and second, the six story
edifice provided cover if the boys could slip the screen down
quickly enough to be undetected. The balloons themselves were
small enough to cause no bodily harm while giving the target a good
soaking, but with adrenaline flowing and the desperate necessity of
silently closing the screen and immediately leaping back out of
sight, direct hits were not only few, but difficult to ascertain. A
shriek from a woman or loud cursing from a man usually indicated
wetness of some sort, even if only from the splash of the balloon on
the sidewalk; and risky though it was, the boys could hardly resist
the possibility of seeing an angry, wet adult.
They saw this only twice: once, it was an elderly woman
who looked as confused as angry, and the boys laughed so
raucously at this that they ran back to Damiens room for fear theyd
be heard out on the street. This was only the second occasion when
Marcus was with them for their bombardiering exploits. He said he
felt sorry for the old woman, and not appearing to have the nerve for
such sport, Toby and Damien didnt invite him to join them again.
And then there was the time when the tall, angry man saw Toby and
Damien peering out the dining room window. The boys would not
answer the buzzer when he rang it repeatedly, but could do nothing
to prevent him from slipping a note in to the mailbox, demanding
that Damiens parents let him come to their home to scold the boys
in person. The parents did not agree to this, though they did inform
Angela and gave the boys a good talking to. In retrospect, it might
have served everyone better if theyd let the angry man give them a
scare, if in fact, he or anyone could do that. In the two years that the


boys dropped water balloons from Damiens apartment, they were

only caught that one time.
Bombardiering from the Wellingtons second story living
room was a far riskier proposition; too risky, in fact, to throw at any
targets other than children. But there were lots of children in the
neighborhood, all of whom Toby disliked. He disliked younger
children as a matter of principle, and felt the same way about public
school and catholic school children. He suggested to Damien that
they throw rocks at the younger ones, but Damien wasnt sure if he
wanted to: if someone got hurt they might get caught, he said.
Tobys reaction was scornful, but he didnt force the issue. He
could have: he was bigger than Damien, and it was his house; but he
didnt want to listen to Damien complain. Besides, theyd been
successful the two times theyd thrown balloons at smaller children,
and it had been very funny.
Then one day Damiens fortunes changed. The two boys
had been poised at the living room window when a cat appeared
under the large oak tree just outside. Damien squealed.
No! Toby said. Thats my cat!
So what?
Dont! Thats what!
But Damien couldnt resist, and his aim was true. Andr
leapt a good two-and-a-half feet into the air when he was hit. When
Damien collapsed in peals of laughter, so Toby punched him in the
side of his head with his fist. Then he kicked him in the back,
twice. He told him if he ever touched his cat again hed kill him.
Then he told him he made the rules in his house, and then he told
him to get out.



It might be said that every act is an act of love Or then again, it

might not. Akbars words; and I have no reason to doubt anything
he told me. It took some thought to understand this, however.
Akbar also said, The nature of every act is to create a greater
harmony than already exists. So I conclude that this means that if
a human or other animal on whatever level of awareness seeks to
harm another, it is to relieve a perceived disharmony, a perceived
imbalance, or in other terms, to satisfy a need, and is therefore an
act of lovean act of self-love.
But if what Akbar told me about psychological evolution is
valid, then it must be taken into account that the sphere of self and
self-interest may vary greatly among individuals, as when a female
will risk her own life to insure the welfare of her kittens, or a human
for her familyor as Im told, a person for his or her community, or
even, for those most highly evolved, for all life on earth itself. So
its only in the most generous terms, or perhaps in the most
compassionate view, the view of one who truly loves all life, that
every act may be seen as an act of love. For those with more


exclusive, constricted views, some acts may appear to be less

loving, or destructive, or outright hateful. Thus, Akbar seems
correct when he says that every act might be seen as an act of
love and then again, maybe not.
Take me, for example. One day not long ago, when
following a pale green magnetic trail beneath the tracing of a
century old electrical gift of the moon, commonly called a tree, I
was hit between the shoulders by a human childs toy filled with
frigid water. If Id been attacked by any recognizable foe, ranging
in size from a spider to a wolf, Id have counter-attacked with all the
ferocity of my species. And though it may be difficult for you to
understand, cats have the sensibility to differentiate a naturally
occurring accidentsuch as a falling pine cone or even a
plummeting rockfrom an act with malice attached. If you had
more than five senses, youd also be able to make such distinctions.
In this case, however, I didnt need my subtle senses to determine
the source of this act of love in its narrowest, most restrictive
sense. I used my ears, and I heard the expression of four distinctly
different human emotions.
First, I heard malice, then compassion, then malice again
but from a different source and differently directed, and finally a
unique blend of fear, regret, anger and pain. Of course, I recognized
the voices and understood the roles played by each. Most
significantly, however, my immaculate fur was despoiled with
water and I suffered the corresponding thermal, psychic and deeply
personal shockthis, along with the my own expression of love,
which took the form of unbridled, explosive outrage as I quickly
retreated under the closest cover: a prickly, decorative hedge planted
along the apartment buildings wall. There I shivered
uncontrollably until Toby Wellington coaxed me out, wrapped me
in a large absorbent towel, and cradling me, carried me upstairs.
Though rubbing a wet cat with a towel might absorb water,
it causes a discomfort no less distressing than wetness. Rumpling of
the fur is as abhorrent to a feline as coating a humans bare skin
with gluenot to mention the electrostatic and etheric effects of
misaligned receptors. Still, I understood the boys good intentions
just as I understood his friends wickedness. His friend, a boy
whod visited the Wellingtons apartment since Toby was much
younger, stood in relation to Toby much like any inexperienced,


weak mammal to a dominant male. When he left the apartment, he

was in tears and in pain and looked at me only briefly, but the story
of his part in the cowardly attack was as evident in his emanations
as if he wore a sign around his neck.
After Toby let me out of his clutches, I found a warm,
sunny spot on the floor where I continued to dry and groomed my
coat back into a fully functional state. It was shortly after that that
the male replacement for Tobias Wellington entered the apartment
and made himself at home.
This was an unusual specimen. In my experience with
humans, I have noticed certain psychological similarities in each. I
dont doubt, as Akbar explained, that exceptional, wise,
compassionate and powerful humans have existed and still do, but it
should be clear that I havent had the privilege to encounter any of
these or any of their followers or devotees. All those I have met
have had an inherent selfishness in common; and all the males Ive
known have had a strain of deceitfulness intermixed with that.
The new male at the Wellington house, known as both Mr.
Floyd and Dear, was a typical male of the species, except that he
had a pure blue band in his aura I had never seen or felt before.
Besides his self-interest and willingness to deceive to fulfill it, this
man possessed a clear line of sight to the more rarefied realms of
existence, and therefore, insights unavailable to others of his kind.
What was most unusual, even disquieting about him, however, was
the way these illuminated perceptions failed to color his more
callous motivations. Rather than tempering his selfishness and
deceit, these lofty understandings of his alternated with his baser
drives, leaving him unpredictable, and to my mind, untrustworthy,
even dangerous. Any attempts he made to approach me were
clearly meant only win the favor of Toby Wellington, and I
instinctively rebuffed these, restraining my hiss reaction only out of
respect for the boy who had shown loyalty to me on a number of
occasions, despite his own streak of unalloyed meanness. Angela
Wellington, who, for biological reasons, was powerfully drawn to
Dear, showed him every favor, but I couldnt look on her too
unfavorably for this. Dear was by any standards, a great
improvement over the vile Tobias Wellington, and Angela
Wellington, though self-serving as any, was wholeheartedly open


and honest enough to become a sympathetic figure in that


I hadnt seen Akbar on the roof for a number of months, and it

wasnt until one of the last warm days of the year that he and his
followers appeared. He told me hed been away conferring with
other members of the League of Initiates, though he said no more
about this than when hed first made me aware of it: that from time
to time he met with others of like mind (not like species) to discuss
and plan matters concerning the evolutionally progress of life on
earth, particularly humanity. Since it was clear that if he wished to
tell me more, he would have done so, I didnt question him further.
Though cats are known by humans for their curiosity, it should be
obvious that physical or tactical curiosity is a far cry from lack of
tact. Intellectual curiosity is a human trait, characterizing those who
fail to see the wonder in what they already have directly before their
noseshence, the term nosiness.
In quite a different way, Akbar was particularly interested in
everything I had to say about Toby Wellington and repeatedly asked
for more detail regarding him. When I made a comment about the
popularity and demand for his drawings, Akbar said something that
surprised me. You know, my friend, he told me, what Toby has
made appear to be drawings only on surface; in a broader view
they are root systems of brilliant living organism on planes unseen.
And furthermore, and to the boys credit, by drawing these, he is
doing a service to the cosmos far more significant than providing
humanity with great art. And no, the old crow said, sensing my
question, these drawings are not tracings or pictures of roots, but
roots themselves. All great art functions as material anchors for
spiritual entities.
I thought about that for a moment, but felt I should tell him
what I knew about the boys malicious tendencies. Akbar was
keenly attentive, even concerned, explaining that he had been aware
of this before he had met me, and that these traits were inherently
related to his ability to create art. He did not expand on this
surprising assertion. I made a point of not asking him how he was
able to know about the boys history or in what way his
destructiveness was significant, and apparently appreciative of my


silence, Akbar informed me that hed told his brethren of my service

and that they asked him to convey their thanks.
Service? I asked. I was only aware of friendship.
From their point of view its the same thing, he answered.
I looked at him questioningly.
Andr, he said, with surprising warmth to his tone, this
is an exceptionally compassionate group.
Then the two of us sat quietly then and listened to the
harmonies emanating from the stars position in the night sky
unique to that time of year. This, along with the buzzing and
chirping of the local insects and night birds serves a similar purpose
of what humans call newscasts, though the information
transmitted by the natural world filtered through the pervading
sidereal harmony, relates to human journalism as starlight to electric
light, or perhaps as Akbars vision of humanity does to that of the
men who Mr. Floyd refers to as those bozos in Washington.
After we had spent a good hour in quiet contemplation,
Akbar asked me what I could tell him about Orlando Floyd. This
took me by surprise, since hed shown little interest in Angela,
Tobias or Adam Wellingtonor any human other than Toby. I told
him everything Id observed about the man (whose first name I
hadnt known until then), and though he listened carefully, he gave
no indication of why he was interested in him.
With the onset of cold weather, I knew Id venture up to the
roof less frequently, so I took my leave of Akbar with a degree of
formality. As I wended my way back down across the structural
supports of the buildings back porch and heard Akbar and his
followers take flight, I supposed that just as before, Id be
considering what he said until the next time I met with him. And
again, as on each occasion Id spoken with this crow, I felt more
myself afterward than before our conversation, as if hed
contributed something to my beingsomething luminous, yet in the
most refined way, material, like stardust. And though cats are a
proud race and have no need for what humans call humility, we
naturally respond to those greater than ourselves without
reservation, and I believe it was on this night that Akbar solidified
his place in my mind as my superior.


On an unseasonably warm day the next January, Orlando decided to

take his coffee to the bus stop for the first time in five years. The
night before had been a trying one. Hed been to dinner at The Jade
Palace with his friend Parker and his old friend Olivia as well.
Orlando saw Olivia only occasionally, but whenever he did, she felt
it necessary to unburden herself. Like Orlando and Parker, she had
been a promising artist, and though her career in advertising was
very successful, she claimed to be ashamed for having sold out.
This sentiment never seemed quite sincere to Orlando, nor did the
spirit in which she ceremoniously presented both Orlando and
Parker with gifts every time the three of them got together. These
gifts seemed meant to garner favor.. Orlando let this go, but Parker,
being the man he was, did not. He challenged Olivias sincerity,
and the two ended up bating each other and bickering. This
embarrassed Orlando, and on these occasions, Parkers spirituality
seemed as much of a sham as Olivias pretentious humility.
Orlando thanked whatever powers might be guiding his life that
petty strife played no part in it, and that he was in love with a
woman who loved him back. There would be other problems,
Even the sour memory of the previous nights dinner didnt
diminish Orlandos appreciation of this balmy day. There had been
other lovely days when hed considered having coffee in the park,
but had always opted out for one reason or another: there hadnt
been enough time to enjoy himself fully, he wasnt in the right
mood to appreciate the beauty of the day, he was too tired; anything
but the real reasonfear of another encounter with the limping
crow. Orlando had continued to have disturbing dreams of Tobys
cat, and more and more the cats penetrating gaze had reminded him
of that crow, to such an extent that eventually when he awoke he
wasnt certain if it had been the cat or the crow that had visited his
dream. In these dreams the cat (or crow) turned up in unlikely
places and fixed its piercing and unrelenting stare on him. The
cat/crow was on a grocery store shelf among the boxes of breakfast
cereal; it was riding on the bus on the seat next to him; it was
somehow incorporated into a great painting: among the
philosophers on the steps of Raphaels The School of Athens, at


the table in Leonardos Last Supper or among the Parisians

dancing and at the tables in Renoirs Ball at the Moulin de la
Yet time can erode the strongest defenses and the day was
so surprisingly lovely that Orlando set off for the bus stop that
Saturday morning with a new traveling cup, this one emerald green,
filled with a far milder blend of coffee than hed formerly used
Angela Wellingtons presence in his life apparently making up for
the balance of optimism lost in the smaller dose of caffeine. There
were puddles of melted snow all along the buckled sidewalk that
wound through the little park; the January thaw was at its peak: the
temperature was pushing sixty. The crescent moon that had
preceded the sun in the sky was just paling to invisibility, and
Orlando watched this disappearance as a charm of loveliness to toast
his day. He also saw wisps of cloud fading away behind the
climbing sun, and he doted on these: wispy things of all sorts, from
clouds to locks of Angelas hair being among his favorite little
niceties of life.
The only reason Orlando went downtown on Saturdays was
for Tobys lesson, and there was still plenty of time to linger with
his coffee before he was due at the school; he could even be a little
late. He had to take such care making his way around the puddles
that he didnt notice Akbar making his way through the wet grass
and approaching the sidewalk. But when Orlando sat down on the
bench and saw the crow, he went rigid and a strangled little yelp
escaped his mouth. This was the closest experience to the
supernatural he had ever known, and any niceties hed been
savoring went sour. He didnt know that crows even lived for five
years, and had Orlando known the Buddhist story of the turtle and
the wooden ring, he might have thought the possibility of the same
crow approaching him after all that time was as rare as the
possibility of incarnation on earth. But it was the same crow; it
approached him steadily, and when it stepped onto the sidewalk, it
lifted one foot and then the other, just as it had on the day when
Orlando first met Toby Wellington, and on the day of the boys
second class.
To make matters even more ominous, Orlando saw that the
crow was again accompanied by a group of followers: at least a
dozen, all of whom had eerily arranged themselves on the grass


behind the chief bird. Though Orlando had not planned to make
another sound or even move if he could help it, he heard himself say
something that seemed so ridiculous that his voice cracked as he
said it: Good Birdie, he said to the malevolent looking crow, at
which the crow flapped its wings, lifted up off the ground, and
hanging in midair before Orlando, gave out a rasping caw that
would chill the blood of a vacationing rattlesnake taking the sun in
Death Valley.
Then as the crow settled back down onto the sidewalk,
Orlando heard something that, in fact, changed his life, to the extent
to which lives can actually change. It was a voice. A voice that
seemed to come from the air just above the crow. It was thin and
reedybut sharp.
So far so good, said the voice. So far so good. That
was all. And it was the crows voice. The lame black bird had
spoken to forty-five-year-old Orlando Floyd. And then it turned,
flapped its wings and took off, soon to be joined by the dozen other
crows that had apparently been watching. Together then, brazenly
cawing and jeering all the while, they flew away and disappeared
behind the trees on the other side of the park.
Of course, Orlandos rational mind immediately set in to
repair the damage done by the intrusion of the paranormal, and did
its best to convince him that he had suffered an hallucination. But
he felt blurred, disoriented, light-headed. He began to sweat. So far
so good?
He took off his glasses and put them back on. Try as it
might, his rational mind could only succeed in its debunking tactics
superficially. Emotionally, Orlando wasnt at all convinced. Not at
all. If he were, he wouldnt have walked away repeatedly asking
himself exactly what the infernal crow had meant. So far so good?
So far what was so good? Orlando was angry, because if he truly
believed hed been imagining things, he wouldnt have had the
nagging inclination that the crows supernatural message had
something to do with his prize student.
But animals dont speak, he told himself again and again.
And thats that. Animals dont speak! Except for this one, perhaps.
This one did. And it chose to speak to him.



The drawings Toby Wellington created in the next year were to win
him a permanent place in the history of Western Art. The
development in his work during this period was one of both
complexity and scale. Again, Orlando Floyds suggestions
triggered Toby on to a new plateau, though Orlando could not have
foreseen the scope of the results.
Two years earlier, Toby had had a very successful second
show at the same New York Gallery that had sold his original,
simpler compositions. Of the thirty drawings displayed (all these
with two conjoined subjects rather than one), Toby, Angela and
Orlando had selected six to retain for the Wellingtons private
collection, and all the rest sold at high prices within a week of the
shows opening. The unanimous critical acclaim was not
surprising; it was clear by now to anyone with a seasoned eye that
this child had been born a masterful artist and was simply showing
what he knew. But whereas his mother had been overwhelmed by
the buzz created by his first exhibition, she took the attention


directed toward her son in stride this time, and protected him as she
saw fit. Another invitation did arrive for an appearance on the
David Letterman show, and the only way Angela could dissuade her
son from his threat to run away to New York was to promise him
that by the time he had his third exhibition hed be old enough to
appear on late night television
Now Toby was a twelve-year-old seventh-grader, and
though Orlandos promptings to Toby at this time were simple, they
were carefully thought out as the next natural step in the boys
development. Orlando suggested that since Toby had already
composed hundreds of drawings of varied subjects, he might be
ready to begin drawing solely from memory; and furthermore, that
he might challenge himself with an even larger scale than the 14 by
17 format he was already comfortable with. It surprised some in
the School of Fine Arts and others following Tobys progress that
Orlando did not introduce the boy to printmaking at this point,
etching and lithography in particular, in which the drawing was not
done in pen but with a stylus on metal and grease pencil on stone
respectively. Drawing on metal and stone was still drawing, after
all, and for one whod proved he could draw without making
mistakes, it seemed the transition would be simple. But Orlando
didnt feel the boy had yet plumbed the depths of his skills with pen
and ink.
And Toby didnt hesitate to prove him correct. When he
told his teacher what he wanted to do, Orlando used the schools
facilities to supply Toby with what he needed: a three by three-and-
a-half foot white drawing board of the highest quality mounted a
braced wooden board to ensure permanent rigidity. When Orlando
suggested a larger scale he had nothing this big in mind. This was a
size appropriate for a painting, not a pen and ink drawing. The
challenges presented by such a large format for a line drawing
would be vast even if the work were carefully planned and executed
in stages. To vary the textures in the composition enough to create
depth and avoid a distracting black-and-white sameness alone
presented such challenges as to make it clear why there was not a
rich history of oversized drawings in ink. To create a work of this
size in this medium even posed problems for the artist in finding a
spot to place his hand while workingand given Tobys style in


which he had completed every drawing hed done in one sitting, the
prospects for success in this venture seemed remote.
As far as Orlando knew, nothing like this had been done
before in quite this way. Once the composition had been conceived,
Orlando reasonedif thats the correct word to describe whatever it
was that the child did to begin creating his artthousands upon
thousands of lines would be required to describe it, thousands upon
thousands of lines that needed not only to be correct since erasure
was impossible, but stylistically correct as well, or to put it another
way: beautifully and uniquely Tobys own.
Toby chose to work in the schools large studio, empty as it
was of other students on Saturdays. This had been his preference
for years. His first drawing was of the studio-classroom itself, but
filled with students, including Toby, who was seated at his drawing
board like the others, in the act of drawing a still life set up in front
of them all. In the immediate foreground of Tobys composition
was his own drawing board, his rendition of the still life the class
was working on and his own hand in the process of drawing it. But
also included in the picture within the drawing were several of the
other students and their drawings of the still life as well. Beyond
this mini-composition, in the mid-ground of the composition, was
the full compliment of students busy at work drawing; and in the
background, the still life, consisting of a vase of flowers, a bowl of
fruit, a stack of books, a table cloth and the moveable window frame
behind it. Also in the background but off to the right, stood Orlando
Floyd looking on with what seemed keen interest.
So as it was arranged, the still life was portrayed in varying
stages of completion, from varying perspectives and angles and
finally in the background as the actual subject of all the students
drawings. The overall effect was astonishing. The composition was
replete with harmony, congruency and reflection. It was not only
prismatic, even holographic, but somehow kinetic, as if animated.
The still life was everywhere, and each version of it spoke to the
others with musical resonance; and so it was with the borders of the
paper on which each student was drawing and the borders of their
drawing boards: these rectilinear shapes resonated with each other,
with the frame and panes of the window in the still life, with those
as rendered in the other drawings, and with the large rectangular
windows of the studio-classroom itself shown on the far-right-


middle and background of the compositionwhich was, remember,

over a yard wide and a yard high. It was a house of mirrors, not
designed to befuddle but to illuminate. Then there were the student
artists themselves, all of whose faces were turned to one degree or
another toward the still life in the center background. These faces,
some looking down at their work and some looking back at the
subject, were faithful renderings of Tobys classmates, but all fixed
in expressions of deep concentration, so deep as to lend even greater
focus to the still life and their versions of it. As had been
demonstrated in Tobys previous work, all elements of this
extemporaneous composition complemented each other in
delightful, intriguing and uncanny ways; but here the number of
compositional elements had vastly increased, and the result was not
only unlike anything seen before, but presented am enhanced vision
of reality, a proof, a demonstration of the inner harmony innate in
all things.
When Toby invited Orlando Floyd into the room to see
what hed done, some of the ink was still wet, and no inhibition or
sense of decorum could prevent the flow of Orlandos tears at what
he saw. But then through his tears he began to laugh, and in the
most direct display of affinity Toby Wellington had ever shown
him, the boy also began to laugh in awe of what hed done.

On the next Saturday, Angela brought Toby downtown to the

School of Fine Arts for his lesson as usual, but the boy told
Orlando he wasnt ready to begin another drawing. When asked if
there was something hed rather do, Toby said that hed like to walk
around the museumby himself. Never before had Toby made
such a request; in fact, in the years of his association with the
school, he hadnt spent more than fifteen minutes in the galleries of
the Art Institutes permanent collection. Thrilled by the boys
interest, Orlando escorted him to the buildings entrance, told him to
show his student card and let him loose. Orlando stood watching as
Toby climbed the broad central staircase, but before the boy chose
which direction to turn on the second floor, he glanced back at his
teacher, making it clear from his lookthat forbidding glare
Orlando had known for years nowthat he didnt wish to be


Orlando never learned to react well to that lookwhether

from Toby, Tobys cat, or that infernal, limping crowand as he
walked to his office to wait for Toby to return, a twinge of that old
unfulfilled feeling returned, that feeling that had kept him in bed
many a morning; it returned as if to say hello and remind him that
bad feelings, like bad karma, have a way of sticking to your shoe.
No one, of course, will be surprised that Toby wasnt
willing to say anything about what hed been looking at, but
Orlando assumed hed know as soon as Toby completed his next
drawing, and Orlando was correct. Toby had studied one of the
museums most famous paintings, the huge pointillist canvass by
Georges Seurat, Sunday Afternoon on the Grande Jatte, which
depicts Parisians walking and lounging on the park-like islanda
painting which is not only a unique technical tour de force, but a
compositional masterpiece as well. Two weeks after Toby
completed his three by three-and-a-half-foot The Drawing Lesson
he drew another astonishing drawing of the same size, this depicting
contemporary city dwellers walking and lounging near a Lincoln
Park lagoon near his house. Orlando believed that as well as having
studied the great Seurat, Toby had been visiting the park, because
the next day when Orlando went to look at the scene Toby had
depicted, he found it startlingly accuratenot only regarding the
textures of the trees with their new, May foliage, but somehow, as if
by extraordinary coincidence, he saw some of the same people
depicted in Tobys drawing lingering there in the park.
The next of Tobys large compositions came after a period
of one month. This was of a bus crowded with passengers, standing
and sitting, as viewed from the back seat. This composition was
atypical of Tobys work in that the characterization of the
passengers faces was its most outstanding qualityat least at first
viewing. For Toby had created a picture in deep perspective where
most of the bus riders had their heads turned as to look at something
in the back of the bus. There was no indication of what this was,
but the overwhelming impression given by the varied curious looks
was that the passengers were looking directly at the viewer.
And there was such great diversity in those faces: from an
innocently curious child; to a smug but weary teenager; to a old
woman whose face was creased with a sorrow uniquely her own; to
an annoyed man, too important to be disturbed; to a heavyset


maternal woman, with subtle traces of concern in her look; to a

sleepy commuter, hanging onto the overhead rail, looking as of just
snapped awake; to a bored woman whod seen it all; to a woman
concerned her baby would awake; and more as well, packed in the
crowded bus. When one took it all in, it was too easy to forget that
the portrayer of this human mosaic was a boy not yet thirteen. This
is to say nothing of the congruency of line: the pairs of eyes, close,
distant, above and below; the backs of heads; the heads in profile;
the shoulders; the folds and creases in clothing; the reflections parts
of all this on the inner panes of the bus windowsall elements
together making the viewer feel self-conscious at being examined
by so many in so many different ways, and wanting to know what
was causing such a stir.
Then after only two weeks, Toby created a cityscape:
Chicagos skyline with a group of picnickers in the foreground. A
drawing in which the elaborate precision of the architectural
draughtsmanship stood in stark contrast to the softness of the
relaxed, laughing family. And others followed these: a new one
every two weeks, three weeks or every month. And the fair-
skinned, handsome twelve-year-old boy, who more and more
resembled his beautiful mother, grew even taller. The volume and
astonishing character of his compositions made Orlandos head
swim. The inspiration behind these complex, flawless drawings
seemed so great that Orlando feared that Toby, as the conduit for
such power, would be consumed, burnt out in the truest sense of
the expression. It was a strain on Orlandos nervous system to even
think of creating on such a scale and at such a rate. But Toby
showed no signs of strain.

It was shortly after this period of Tobys great productivity that

Damiens family had moved from their third floor apartment to an
old twenty-four story high-rise overlooking Lincoln Park and Lake
Michigan. Their new apartment was on the eighteenth floor, and
once Damien invited his friend over to show him the view, the two
boys waited anxiously for a bombardiering opportunity from such
great new heights. It came on a Saturday in August, only weeks
after Tobys thirteenth birthday, a day when Ellen and Alexander


Sharp had gone to visit Ellens sister in the northern suburbs, and
one on which Toby had told Orlando and his mother that he needed
a break from his Saturday lessons. At thirteen, Damiens parents
didnt know as much more about his secret life as Angela
Wellington knew about Tobys, so they not only trusted their boy to
stay home alone, but to invite his friend over to visit as wellas
long as he promised they would stay out of mischief.
In the three short weeks he had lived in the twenty-four-
story building, Damien had learned a thing or two about hi-rise
mischief. He had already experienced the glee of pushing all the
buttons in the two automatic elevators that served his wing of the
building, and then doing the same in the service elevator, thus
crippling elevator service for at least fifteen minutes and causing
mass consternation among the well-to-do residents. He also learned
to press the entire bank of intercom buttons in the buildings lobby
when the doorman wasnt present, and listen to the tinny chorus of
dozens of Hellos sounding like something from a bewitched
poultry barn.
When Tobys mother dropped him off at Damiens at ten in
the morning that Saturday, Damien already had the days strategy
planned. Once Toby arrived, he and Damien took one of the front
elevators downstairs and left the building in clear sight of the
doorman on duty. Then they walked three blocks down toward the
underpass across Lake Shore Drive to the park, but once out of the
doormans sight, rather than crossing under to the park, they took
the long way around and circled back to the backdoor of Damiens
building, where they took one of the service elevators up to the
eighteenth floor and entered the Sharps apartment through the back
door. In the three weeks Damien had lived at 3443 Lake Shore
Drive, he had noticed that many of the tenants there had children,
and many of those were close to his age and of his ilk; thus he felt
that he and Toby were doubly safe from detection when they went
to the twenty-fourth floor with a bottle of maple syrup and poured
the contents down the mail chute, and then, once back on the
eighteenth floor, pressed all the buttons in the elevators. Damiens
mother was a disorganized but avid grocery shopper and thus their
pantry shelves were stocked with many random redundancies. The
maple syrup would never be missed. Damien even thought to wipe


the empty bottle clean of fingerprints and drop it down the

incinerator chute.
The trouble with this kind of stunt, however, is that the
perpetrators dont get to enjoy the chaos of the stalled elevator
service and the dreadful inconvenience of a jammed, sticky mail
slotwhich certainly constituted a federal offense of some sort as
well. So after Toby and Damien finished laughing and describing
various scenarios of human rage and suffering, they didnt find the
video games they played provided sufficient excitement: there was
nothing to do then but move on to the inevitable.
Damien still had his stash of the small balloons theyd used
to make their jiggly missiles at his former apartment, and the boys
filled six of these and brought them to the living room, where the
windows overlooked Lake Shore Drive, a street busy with both
traffic and pedestrians. Unlike many of the newer high-rise
apartment buildings in the city, in some of which the windows
didnt open at all, this older one had conventional aluminum screen-
storm windows, so the screens could be raised simply by squeezing
two moveable latches. Many of these hadnt weathered well over
the years, but there was one particular window in Damiens living
room where the screen slipped up and down easily. So it wasnt
difficult to throw water balloons out and slip the screen back down
before anyone below could look up and see them. This was the
most prudent approach, though at first, the boys put their heads
out and watched.
As soon as they began, however, they found that the light-
weight balloons wouldnt do; they were swept back against the
building by wind currents that seemed unrelenting that day. Toby
and Damien threw all six balloons with the same disappointing
result: insignificant stains on the buildings brick edifice just a few
stories below.
It was actually Damien then who suggested the eggs. After
the boys stopped laughing, Damien brought two eggs from the
refrigerator. Since there was a stoplight directly in front of the
building, the plan was to aim at cars on Lake Shore Drive. In order
to get the eggs beyond the broad sidewalk below, however, the boys
would have to stand back away from the window and sling them
with some force. Toby threw the first egg as Damien watched at the
window. It was unclear whether Toby threw the egg too far, not far


enough, or if Damien simply didnt see where it landed, but the first
throw was inconclusive. Toby watched then as Damien stood back
and flung the second egg. The light changed just before Damien let
his egg go, and Toby told Damien he saw the egg hit the windshield
of a car, that he even saw the car swerve on impact. This did not
happen; he saw nothing of the sort, but had made sure that he
blocked access to the window with his shoulders so Damien
couldnt look out until after the traffic had moved along. Toby
didnt want to report another miss. He feared that if he did, Damien
would want to give up. But the effect of his lie was not what he
expected. Damien believed Tobys story, but seemed satisfied that
theyd finally hit something. He said he wanted to stop. This was
At Damiens bidding, they went back into his room and
began to play video games again, but Toby was disgusted with
Damien because he was so easy to beat. He felt he could foresee
Damiens every move and could outmaneuver him regardless. He
could only play for a few minutes before he couldnt stand it any
more. He stopped mid-game, stood up and walked back in the
direction of the living room. The sweet ache under his shoulder
blade throbbed for fulfillment. Lets do some more, he said. We
didnt even hit that car. I just made that up.
What do you mean?
I just said that because I thought thats what you wanted to
hear. Get it? Now I want to do some more.
Like what? Damien asked.
Like more eggs. Or maybe something bigger.
No way, nothing bigger. I dont even want to do eggs.
Why not?
I just dont want to. We might get caught.
Thats stupid, Toby said walking into the kitchen and
looking around. There was a large bowl of fruit on the kitchen
table. Shes wont miss one of these, he said, touching one of the
pears in the bowl. I can rearrange it so shell never know its
gone. And anyway, the way the fruit was arranged in the bowl
disturbed Toby. It was common. It was artless. It was no still life
hed ever draw.
No-o! Damien insisted. It doesnt matter if shell miss
it or not.


It doesnt? Toby barked back.

No! Damien said. Im the one wholl get in trouble if
we get caught!
Of course this was largely true; it was Damiens parents
apartment, but this self-serving consideration left Toby fuming, and
feeling a stab of pain under his right ear now, he pushed the pears
aside, picked up a cantaloupe and walked toward the living room.
Are you fucking crazy? Damien said.
Toby stopped and looked at his friend, disgusted. No, are
you? Whats your problem?
At this Damien tried to wrest the cantaloupe from Tobys
hands, but though he was strong, he was no match for the larger
boy. Toby stalked off to the living room with Damien pulling
desperately at his shirt. When he got to the window, he held the
cantaloupe between his knees and snapped the screen all the way up.
Im going to throw this out, he said. You want to watch or not?
There was something so forceful, so inevitable and
uncompromising in the way Toby said that, that for a moment
Damien felt powerless. He came over to the window to watch. His
expression was slack. Toby flipped the cantaloupe about ten feet
out and it plummeted straight down. Damien turned away before it
hit. Even Toby jumped back when it did. The wind off the lake still
buffeted the building so the boys did not hear the melon hit, but
when Toby looked out before letting the screen back down, he saw
that not only was the sidewalk below them was orange, but there
was a person sitting on it as well, at least from eighteen stories up it
looked like he or she was sitting.
Wed better get out of here, Toby said to Damien, who
went white at these words. Toby didnt wait for him to ask why.
Theres a person down on the sidewalk, he said, as of it were the
persons fault. Wed better get out the back way.
As tough and savvy an exterior as Damien had recently tried
to present, hed begun to blubber, and Toby despised him for that.
Once theyd rushed out the back door and summoned the service
elevator, Toby acted as if he wasnt acquainted with the sobbing
Damien even though the two of them were alone as they rode down.
They didnt see anyone downstairs behind the building either, but
before they headed away, Toby wanted to peek around in front to
see what had happened. Damien was frantic at this suggestion, so


much so that he stopped crying and tried to hold Toby back. He

grabbed Tobys arm with such force that Toby had to elbow him
sharply in the chest to get away.
What Toby saw was this: a small crowd of people had
gathered around someone on the sidewalk, some of them kneeling
down. It looked to Toby like it was a woman there, but he didnt
see any blood or hear anyone screamingall he saw was splattered
cantaloupe radiating out in a large circle around her, like a starburst.
He wasnt entirely satisfied with what he saw, but felt he shouldnt
force the issue and joined Damien who was hiding behind the
building, crouching against a door to a utility locker. Damien had
started crying again, but softly this time. Refusing to look at his
face, Toby told him to follow him away, which he did, and the boys
walked down a side street then, slowly and steadily as Toby
insisted, leaving the scene of the crime behind them. Damien
remained teary and agitated. Still averting his eyes, Toby told him
not to be stupid, that if he acted that way theyd get caught.
But what if you killed someone? Damien pleaded.
What if I did? Toby answered. I didnt mean to.
Then he told Damien to say they were at the park all day,
hanging around the lake and the tennis courts just like theyd told
Damiens mother, and that they should circle around over to the
park now and come back in about an hour when everything was
over and cleaned up on the sidewalk.
Damien, feeling powerless again, agreed, and they walked
back to the underpass where they crossed under Lake Shore Drive to
the park. Once there, Toby became more and more antagonized
because Damien kept saying that he was angry at him. This
sounded stupid to Toby, insipid, like something someones parents
might say. And anyway, Toby wanted to know, why did Damien
think I cared of he was mad or not? It was incomprehensible for
Toby to care. He didnt. And then Damien didnt want to do
anything in the park either, and when Toby told him he wanted to
throw stones at the gulls at the Lake Michigan shore, Damien acted
as if Toby was crazy or something. The two of them sat there on
the big rocks at the lake for a while, but Damien kept going on
about how Toby shouldnt have thrown the cantaloupe, and how
they were going to get in trouble, and Toby told him to shut up, that
he was ruining the day. Then Damien told Toby he was scared, and


that reminded Toby how he scared hed been of Anton, and he

became even angrier at Damien. He felt like killing him.
Once Toby decided they should go back to the building and
theyd arrived there, they found there were still some people in front
along with a police car. Toby went directly up to the doorman and
asked what had happened. The doorman told him that a lady had
been hit by a cantaloupe or maybe some other kind of fruit too, and
that shed been taken to the hospital. When he asked what had
happened to the lady, the doorman told him that she was only hit in
the shoe but had feinted.
Where did the cantaloupe come from? Toby asked.
From an airplane?
The doorman said that no one knew for sure. Toby shook
his head. Thats crazy, he said.
The doorman agreed, shook his head and said that the police
were going through the building, door to door.
Damien listened to this conversation in terror but didnt say
a thing. What was left of the cantaloupe on the ground looked to
Toby like mashed up orange; only the seeds were recognizable.
Toby saw that Damien looked pale, and concerned that the doorman
would notice, he hurried his friend inside. Again, Damien was
docile. But when the two of them got in the elevator to go back up
to the eighteenth floor, Damien said his mother was going to miss
the cantaloupe. He looked like he was going to cry again, which
made Toby want to slap him.
If she does, Toby said, Ill just tell her it was your idea.
Shell never believe that,
Oh, really? Your motherll think you let me throw
something like that out of your window? Toby looked at Damien
with disgust. And then a most peculiar feeling came over him. It
wasnt that he felt like this had all happened before, but that he
knew exactly what was going to happen next, as if a block of time
had fallen into place, a piece of it that he could see as a whole, from
all sides. It was very much the way he felt once he decided what to
draw and was about to beginexcept for the pain. Toby hunched
his shoulders as it shot down from under his right ear. And though
what Toby saw coming was unexpected, it made perfect sense,
because if the police were going to go to all the apartments looking


for a missing cantaloupe, there was going to have to be some

explanation, wasnt there?
Whens your mother going to get home? Toby asked
after they got off the elevator and were going in the front door.
I dont know. What does it matter to you? And why dont
you just go home anyway?
Because I want to throw something else out the window,
Toby said.
No! Damien shouted, stamping his feet. You wont! I
wont let you! But this sounded hollow; it sounded wretched to
Toby who already knew what was going to happen. Damien was
frantically grabbing at his shirt again, but Toby pushed his way into
the living room and over to the window. Damien tried to stop Toby
from opening it, and the two boys fought over that, punching and
pushing each other, until Damien slipped down on the floor and
Toby was able to put his foot down on his shoulder as he forced the
window all the way up.
But Damien was crazed. He was back on his feet, and in
order to raise the screen, Toby had to pummel him in the solar
plexus. When he buckled over, Toby flung the screen up with such
force that he heard the storm window behind it crack like a gunshot.
Damien struggled back up again; he didnt have the breath to make
a sound, but he was swinging wildly at Toby. Toby, however, was
unconcerned; he held Damien off with one hand and found what he
was looking for. He hadnt known exactly what it would bejust
that something would be there for him: and it was a crystal
candlestick with a red stub of a candle in it, one of a set of two that
was on a table next to the couch.
Toby took hold the candlestick in his right hand and
continued fighting Damien off with his left as he worked his way
back to the open window. Damien was sobbing and swinging
frantically but nearly all his blows missed, and when he did connect,
Toby didnt feel a thing. Toby was straddling that block of time.
He was holding the candlestick out the window; he was right up
against it; his arm was all the way out; he felt the wind against his
sleeve. His left hand was on Damiens head now, and though he felt
Damiens strength swelling against him, he still managed to hold
him off. Damien was flailing his arms like a baby having a tantrum
and crying so pitifully that Toby wanted to smash his head, he


wanted to see it crack open, but that was not going to happen. Toby
would see no such thing.
What happened was this. Once Toby felt the full power of
Damiens rage build up and nearly break through the force of own
his rigidly extended left arm, he dropped the candlestick he was
holding out the window, and as it plummeted silently down, he
released his grip on Damiens head, and simply stepped aside.
Thats what he did. He stepped aside. Damien lunged forward. It
felt like a choreographed dance. It happened in silence. A simple
stepwith no feeling attached, none at all. Toby used his left hand
to push Damien out the window. He glancingly touched the bare
skin under Damiens shirt where it had come out of his pants. The
index finger of Tobys left hand caught for just an instant in one of
his friends belt loops, so just for a moment, Damien was suspended
there, half in-half out the window, like a huge wriggling fish.
Tobys fingernail split in half, all the way down the middle,
but he didnt feel a thing. He heard the noise that Damien made as
he fell eighteen stories to the pavement below. It wasnt a scream; it
was a moan.
By the time Toby got downstairs he was hysterical. Hed
had to wait for the elevator so long that he thought someone else
had pushed all the buttons. Then once it came, it stopped on
seventeen and a man got on. Toby shrunk back into a corner and
but couldnt restrain his sobbing. The man was embarrassed and
didnt say a thing. Then the elevator stopped on twelve and two
women got on. They saw that Tobys finger was bleeding and
thought he was crying because of that. One of them tried to touch
him but he swatted her away. Then the other woman started
weeping. By then Toby was sobbing and gasping so violently he
had to squat down. He held his bloody finger under his right ear
and quaked. As the elevator descended toward the lobby, it shrunk
in size. The one woman tried to calm the other as they looked at
Toby in horror, but nothing could contain the other womans tears.
She wept convulsively, as if bereaved.
Then Toby was outside. And so was Damien. There wasnt
much blood, just something that looked to Toby like Jello and a lot
of skin, and Damiens legs werent right and his face was on the
wrong side of his head. The tiny red stub of a candle had somehow
ended up between Damiens limp fingers. And there were


cantaloupe seeds all around him. It felt like a very long time before
Toby could get any words out. He had crossed beyond the block of
time that hed seen from all sides at once.
I was trying to stop him. That was what Toby gasped
through his wracking sobs. Those words: I was trying to stop
him. Again and again. I was trying to stop him, he pleaded as
heads of people were bobbing and bending around him. Ugly
heads, with distorted features, dirty hair and coarse, oily skin. And
then his knees buckled and he was sitting on the sidewalk next to
what was once Damien. And then, as if reciting his lines on stage,
lines hed recited countless times in performance after performance,
he said Damien had been doing it. Damien had been throwing
things out of the window, and that he tried to stop him. Damien had
been doing it. And Damien was still there. No one had covered
him: he looked at Toby from the face on the back of his head with
gaping eyes.
Hed tried to stop him from throwing a candlestick down,
Toby said to the ugly heads of all the people who were putting their
heavy hands on his shoulders and on the skin of his neck and trying
to comfort him; he said theyd been fighting by the window and
Damien had lunged to throw the candlestick out and he couldnt
hold him when he lost his balance and fell out. How many times
did he have to say it? And once he couldnt talk anymore and the
hands came off his neck, he fell into a black pit that was the source
of all tears where he also found the essence of himself that flowed
out as well in searing drops. It was as if the bubbles had finally
burst and Tobys soul leaked out.

NOTE # 3
Murder, of course, is the gravest business. Some say taking the life
of any sentient being is the most ungodly act and should be strictly
avoided. Does pushing a thirteen-year-old boy out of an eighteenth
story window offend the cosmos (or the great ones who have
attained unity with it) more so than clubbing a superstitious,
neglectful, fifteenth-century shepherd to death and pushing him
down an eighteen story ravine? Is neither an offense to the cosmos?


Is murder universally proscribed because the lack of love implied,

and not because it ends life, which all saviors, avatars, sages and
saints insist does not end? And how do the various theories of
whence from and hereafter bear on this? What if the two boys were
playing out a long incarnational-karmic relationship, or even
bringing it to a final resolution? Or what if the doctrines of
reincarnation are fallacious or lacking in dimension, which to some
extent they must surely be? What if Damien Sharp was to be the
man who found a cure for cancer or some other plague that visited
humanity? What if he were to become a serial killer? And what
would Akbar the Crow say about this heartbreaking turn of events?



Toby continued to cry. An ambulance and three police cars pulled

up, one after the other. Toby cried to the police, all of them, and as
the paramedics examined the broken remains of Damien, he cried to
them. When his mother was summoned, he cried to her, and for the
first time in years, he clung to her. And when Damiens parents
arrived a little later, he cried to them, though to them he was only
another specter in a scene of unthinkable horror. Toby stuck to his
story: he had tried to stop Damien from falling. It didnt matter
whether he believed it or not; the torrent of his feelings was so
furious that trifles like the truth were blown away like motes of
dust. When pressed to speak more, he told the police that he had
had gone along with Damien when it came to just throwing eggs,
and said maybe because of that he was to blame for it too. But this
lie as well, caused no stir in the boys tumultuous feelings. And
when the police asked him to tell them everything that happened
again and again, and about the other times Damien had convinced


Toby to throw water balloons with him, Toby told them just how it
had all transpiredwith only one twist; and when Damiens broken
parents began to speak to him imploringly and said that it just didnt
add up, Toby only continued to cry. Perhaps his lies were effortless
because he so firmly believed it was not his destiny to be caught.
He had never been caught in the past.
Once the detectives were satisfied that the heartbroken boy
could provide no further information at the time, his mother took
him home. The forensic unit was still working the scene, but the
body of Tobys friend, Damien, had been taken away to the medical
examiners office. What remained on the ground was the starburst
of cantaloupe, shattered crystal, and a gelatinous splatter, which was
soaking into the porous sidewalk in front of 3443 Lake Shore Drive.
The red stub of the candle must have been removed. The doorman
who had been on the scene had feinted and was being ministered to
by the paramedics. His replacement had been called but had not
Nothing was said on the slow, short ride back to the
Wellingtons apartment, but to Angela, it no longer resembled the
home she and her son had left that Saturday morning in August.
Nothing was quite the same there, and she believed it never would
be. The shadows, in particular, seemed just a shade deeper in light
of Damiens death; and the way the light fell through the windows
on the tables, the chairs, the floor, carried a palpable weight to it, as
if the light itself were a dire consequence. And the walls felt closer,
millimeters only, but enough to make Angela feel as if shed taken
on a few grains of mournful weight herself. When she looked at her
son as he walked away from her toward his room, he seemed to
move cautiously, as if through strange rooms in utter darkness.
Andr was nowhere to be seen.

Of course, there was an extensive investigation. It lasted weeks.

Detectives talked to Toby repeatedly and at great length, asking him
to repeat his version of the events that day, which he did,
convincingly, tormented as he was from the collision of inner forces
of which the detectives knew nothing. And Tobys family was
interviewed, and the Sharps; and all Tobys and Damiens
classmates and teachers. But there was nothing in the evidence
gathered that could be construed to contradict Tobys version of the


story. Even the blood from Tobys broken fingernail on the belt
loop of Damiens jeans looked as if it might have been shed in
trying to hold the falling boy back, and the configuration of the split
nail suggested the same.
Once the questions finally ceased, Toby fell ill. He lost his
appetite, grew weak, ran a low fever and slept eighteen hours a day.
His complexion was pallid; his pulse rate low. His mother feared he
was going to die. After the consultation of learned specialists
resulted in no medical diagnosis, his pediatrician prescribed drugs
for depression, but to no avail. Toby was sinking away.

Try to understand how difficult it is for them, Akbar said to me on

the night of the Autumnal Equinox. They arent only struggling to
evolve in the densest plane in the cosmos, but its their ultimate
mission to enlighten it. Do you understand? As remote as that
possibility may seem to you, Andr, humans arent here just to
illuminate themselves, but to bring light to material life itself in the
form of love. And to do this, they need to immerse themselves in it,
to learn its secrets, to focus their energies in the density of it all; act
as specialists, if you will.
Akbar and I were on our usual perch atop the Wellingtons
apartment building. Even with the dirty air, the harsh city lights and
the brightness of the moon, the cloudless sky was resplendent with
stars. I was listening to Akbar intently. I needed to know more. I
knew what had happened; not only had I sensed it and seen
afterimages in Tobys emanations, but Akbar had confirmed it. I
didnt know how the crow knew what he knew; perhaps another
bird had witnessed the act; perhaps Akbar could read the secret
records of events, or see with an inner eye. But he had confirmed it,
and even called it murder.
Theres a divine spark in them all, he explained. But in
order to do what they must, these humans need to direct their energy
outward, thus losing contact with the divine for a time and
appearing to plod on without direction, as youve pointed out to me
more than once. Whats actually happening is a loss of
dimensionality: they perceive only a cross-section of reality. Some
have called this an illusion. They perceive the world as a linear


reality, in dualities, in pairs of opposites, and though it serves the

purpose of their mission, it severely limits their understanding.
Youve seen how it is. They have their good and evil, their right
and wrong the various gradients between the two; they have their
yes and no; free will and fate; past and future, and perhaps the most
limiting duality of all: their questions and answers.
To a degree, this method of understanding works, but only
as if they were a race of two dimensional beings living in a three
dimensional world. Do you follow me, Andr? They see and
understand things in a linear way: only lines and pointsaround
them, approaching them, receding, but not as aspects of the
transcendent three dimensional objects. And if a three
dimensional object suddenly enters their flat world, it miraculously
appears from nowhere; and if a three dimensional object moves up
and away, some lines or points theyd seen moving about would
disastrously disappear. They cannot explain this: they cannot
explain why certain things happen; they cannot explain birth and
death, because birth and death and other acts of God are not linear
events, they are actions from beyond their dimensionality; they are
not answers to questions. Nothing of deep importance to their lives
is an answer to a question.
Akbar paused, as if to give me a chance to catch up. I
noticed that his troupe of twelve was unusually silent and keenly
focused in their attention on their leader. One of them, I noticed for
the first time, had a streak of white on his head.
Quite naturally, the old crow continued, these humans
try to justify the incomprehensible with doctrines of salvation and
damnation and reincarnation and karma. But these doctrines are
linear, flat: theyre only projections of what they routinely observe.
So when a murder occurs, humans are constrained in two ways.
First, theyre restricted by the rules they created for living without
full knowledge of reality. This is just as it should be. Thou shalt
not do things that violate the laws of our known dimensions.
Killing, for instance. And second, they concoct theories to justify
what they cannot understand: theories about the will of God, when
in truth the fullness of the reality they cant yet see arises from the
will of everyone and everything, It is a Great Cosmic Dance of
Consent. Things do not happen to humans because they deserve it,
nor is any human to blame for any act; yet still, they should and


must believe so until they see the interconnectedness of all acts and
times and understand that it is the ignition of opposites that
maintains the pulse of creation.
But Akbar had not quite finished with me that cloudless
night of the Autumnal Equinox.
So, my feline friend, he said in conclusion. Rather than
answer your question this evening, Ill tell you something far more
useful, more widely applicable. To your concerns regarding the
boys crime I will say this: Yes, he is to blame, and no, he is not; but
best of all, I will tell you both are true, together at once. For only
when you understand that, will you know the unmistakable savor
and sound of truth. You reconcile the irreconcilable. You wed the
opposites within yourself. You carry it in your heart. Only then will
you become the mystery. You will feel it in your eyes, in the tip of
your tail, in your whiskers. Then you will be among the fortunate.
You wont speak of it; you will burn with it; you will emanate it as a
blessing for all to receive, as do the trees and wind and the rivers
and rocks. As one day, once we have all fulfilled our mission, all
humans will as well. Every last one of them.
A purr arose from every cell in my body when Akbar told
me this, and if Id had any question as to why Id felt drawn to the
Wellington child and felt it my duty to remain close to him, that
question was dismissed. As I expected, once Akbar stopped talking,
he wished me well, excused himself and joined the ranks of his
followers, who still seemed particularly reverent and hushed in his
presence that night.

It was only after it seemed Toby had been sinking away for ten days
that his decline leveled off. His mother noticed it first, but it was
only the next day she discovered the source, which seemed to be the
presence of his cat, Andr, whod begun to sit by the sick boys
pillow and purr. These visits by the cat began to bring a hint of
color back to Tobys pale cheeks, and when the cat was with him,
the boy was willing to say a few words, sip a little broth and even
have a taste of solid food. Noting this new development, his doctor
commented on the reputed therapeutic effects of petsa remark no
doubt overheard by Andr, and perhaps appreciated, but only to an


extent we can probably surmise, since the doctor undoubtedly

included dogs in his definition of pets.
But no matter what Andrs opinion of doctors, and for that
matter, of Toby, before long the cat took up residence in Tobys
room, taking his meals in there, most often remaining close to the
sick boys head and leaving only for occasional trips out the back
door, after which his purr seemed noticeably amplified, even at
times audible from outside the room. Yet still the boy continued to
sleep eighteen hours a day, but as Angela Wellington noticed, not
only did the cat sleep eighteen hours a day himself, but the same
eighteen hours. When Toby went to sleep, so did Andr. When
Toby woke up, the glossy black cat stood, arched his back, and then
extended his forepaws in that most elegant stretching gesture known
among mammals. Angela also noticed that after this routine had
been established, Toby customarily whispered a few words to the
animal, to which the response was a stirring, full-bodied, resonant
Except for his apparent relations with his cat, Toby
remained shaken, withdrawn, and clearly depressed; he wept
frequently and murmured what sounded like words of apology and
remorse. Needless to say, the child psychiatrist brought in by
Tobys pediatrician may as well have been trying to analyze the cat
for all the all response he received from the sick boy. Angela knew
at the first suggestion that her son would not cooperate with any
psychological probing, though as a worried parent, she let herself be
convinced to give it a try, feeling it couldnt hurt.
Orlando, on the other hand, felt differently. He too had
been shaken to his roots by Damiens horrific death. He had wept
with Angela, more tears that hed shed in his adult life; and hed
wept when alone, for a complex tangle of reasons: hed wept for
Damiens parents, for Angela, for Toby and for his own heart-
wrenching suspicions. Like Angela, he hadnt wanted to be alone,
so hed been spending a good deal more time at the Wellingtons
since the disaster on Lake Shore Drive. And though shaken by his
sorrow and still disoriented since receiving that enigmatic message
from the crow, his wits were still gathered closely enough about him
to know what was best for Toby. He believed any traditional
psychiatrist attempting to meddle with the psyche of the traumatized
boy might do nothing but harm. Toby, after all, with his


otherworldly gift and God knows what else, probably had an inner
landscape for which no map existed. And Orlando was correct in
his concern which hed vehemently expressed to Angela, for any
brightness regained after the first full week of high dosage purr
therapy was extinguished in an hour of Dr. Putzniks psychiatric
It took days for Toby to rebound. Dr. Putznik was an
individual Toby would have gladly pushed out a window, down a
ravine, or down the mail shoot in shreds, had not the boys
psychological coherence been shattered. But it was. Simply put,
though Tobys genius emerged complete at birth, his character had
not. The boy had broken his own rules, commandments hed never
read, written perhaps in his bones or his cells or genes, and in a
language he didnt yet understand; and the question remained
whether the kings horses and men or whomever it was that had the
task of reassembly could locate Tobys operating manual and make
any sense of it.

The condition of Toby Wellingtons psyche, however, was not the

overriding concern for Damiens parents, the Sharps. Ellen and
Alexander Sharp had suffered a loss from which they would never
fully recover, and in Ellens case, never recover enough to pass a
day in her life without tears. Of course they knew Damien had
become wilder, more arrogant if not openly defiant in the last year.
They had known hed thrown things out of windows; they suspected
that he and Toby had likely been more malicious than that, but they
never imagined their son would become the malevolent outlaw that
Toby described: a boy whod not only recklessly endanger the lives
of innocent strangers but put himself in a position to lose his own.
Of course theyd known Toby for years and were aware that with
his great talent Toby had been a somewhat peculiar boy, whod at
times picked on Damien; and of course it occurred to them in their
most private times together that Toby might have been the
perpetrator, and may even have but they couldnt bring
themselves to speak those words. They did harbor suspicions, but
their shock and grief were only dimly tinted by this uncertainty, for
they were, as anyone can understand, inconsolable.


Not even Akbar the Crows exalted brethren in the League

of Initiates could have consoled these bereft parents, though the two
did regularly turn to one such initiate in their Christian prayers, and
the image and love of this Master did mollify their grief from time
to time. Had the Sharps known the facts of what happened in their
living room that day, the scope of their grief may have been
deflected by a few degrees, but not the heartbreaking intensity. And
if they had been able to see the Great Cosmic Dance of Consent of
which Akbar spoke, they might have found consolation, but of
course in that case, they wouldnt be who they were and any
speculation becomes meaningless: they might never have had a
child to lose, they may have never met, they may have evolved into
beings beyond our ken. In the world in which Damiens parents
lived,the world deprived of dimensions, that fatefully level
playing field, the flat onethey suffered unbearably. We know the
greatest loss that can befall a human being (and perhaps other
beings as well) is the loss of a child, because the loss of a child is
the loss of promise, of hope, the loss of the future.
Angela Wellington suffered as well. She too shed more
tears in the aftermath of Damiens death than in her entire adult life
to that point; her reaction to Tobias infidelity having primarily been
one of indignation. During those days after Damiens death, with
her own son fallen into a near-death of his own, Angela often awoke
in tears, weeping at some terrible news she received in her dreams.
And she often wept at the very thought of her beautiful boy, whose
shock and grief affected him so; and at the thought of the happiness
she had once known in her household; and of course, she wept for
Ellen and Alex Sharp. Although they managed to be polite about it
when Angela called, the Sharps didnt want to see her; they even
found it difficult to speak to her. This troubled Angela as well; but
her greatest worry was that Toby would never be the same, that hed
climb out of bed trembling, stuttering, incompetent: a psychological
cripple. These were a mothers intuitive fears, yet as short on
information as she was, her intuition was hardly illuminating.

Hes eating more, Angela said, but somethings still terribly



It was a hot, windy day in September. Angela and Orlando

were sitting on the bench in the park near Orlandos apartment. The
park appeared to be crow free. Orlando stared away, watching the
clouds move swiftly overhead. Of course somethings wrong,
sweetheart, he said.
Orlandos intuition, though not parental, was like a spotlight
compared to Angelas. For like Marietta Star eight years earlier, he
felt he knew what happened, though in this case the decedent was
not a six-ounce rodent named Mr. Zootie, but a one-hundred-and-
five pound boy. Has it ever occurred to you that Toby may not
have been as uninvolved as he claims? he asked. It took
considerable effort on his part, but as Orlando said this he looked
directly at Angela. The color drained from her face.
I dont need to hear that
Angela, I think you do need to hear that. Im sorry, but
You should be sorry.
Angela. Im concerned about helping him, cant you tell?
Angela began to shed tears at this, and as a cloud passed in
front of the sun, cooling the park momentarily, Orlando felt the
foundation of his life shift underneath him. He took Angelas face
in his hands. Look, he said, have I ever taken your feelings
lightly? Do you know how frightened I am of anything coming
between us? He looked directly, his hands on her shoulders now.
You seem angry, she said.
No, thats not it at all. The stakes have been raised,
sweetheart. Im just as worried as you are, but I think you love
Toby so much youre not seeing things clearly.
You mean hes lying?
Orlando hesitated. I can see why he would.
I trust him, Orlando.
Did you ever think it might be better for him if you
Orlando scanned the park for crows. None were visible.
He saw the sunlight suddenly illuminate the far end of the park and
sweep across toward them as the cloud passed away from the sun.
Meaning that Toby may have been taking advantage of us, that he
might have been getting away with things, that he might have been
getting a free ride when it would have been better for him to have


paid his way. I cant say for sure, Angela, but Ive had my
Suspicions? Why didnt you tell me? How could you
keep that from me?
Orlando sat back. What do you think, Angela?
She didnt say a thing. Shed stopped crying and looked up
at the sky with a determined expression on her face, not unlike
Orlandos own resolute look. You think hes so upset now because
he had some part in what happened to Damien?
I dont know, Orlando said, his resolve giving way. I
really dont.
Angela didnt seem to have listened to him. But Orlando,
she said, I dont want to know about anything that will make me
feel worse. Her hands were folded in her lap now, her eyes closed
and her head bowed.
Maybe you wont. Maybe youll feel stronger.
Im not a strong person, Angela said, looking up,
sounding almost defiant.
You may not be the best judge of that, Orlando answered,
reaching over and taking her folded hands in his, as racing clouds
covered the sun again and the air cooled. But Im not going to try
to convince you. I think youre as strong as you need to be.
So what do you propose?
I dont know. Just that we keep together in this. Thats a
start. Thats when Orlando heard the chorus of crows, cawing,
circling and finally settling down in the maple tree across the
buckled sidewalk from them. He felt a little sick. Just as he finally
had tried be open with Angela, and succeeded, here was something
else he felt he couldnt speak to her about. A talking crow. So far
so good? What nonsense! He fixed his gaze on her face. He
didnt want to look around at the park.
How long have you been keeping this from me? Angela
Not too long, Orlando lied.
Its probably my fault, she said. I mean I probably
wouldnt have been very receptive. She was looking down at the
weeds and grass growing up through the cracks in the sidewalk.
You were brave to bring it up, Orlando.


Look, sweetheart, Orlando said. Youre the brave one

now. Its going to be hard for both of us, but if we can look at it
Look at that! said Angela. Look at the crow. Hes
coming this way and hes limping.
Orlando turned stiffly. And of course, there it was: the
same crow, the aggressive, talking crow. Orlando couldnt account
for the look on his face.
Oh, Im sorry, dear, Angela said, taking his arm. I didnt
mean to interrupt. You were saying that if we could look at
Orlando felt he was going to choke. His round glasses came
off and went back on again. From the same perspective, he said.
Without letting our hopes distort the way we see Toby. Weve got
to help him through this with our eyes open
You mean my eyes, dont you, Orlando?
Im sorry.
Dont be. I suppose I need to hear this. Here she
hesitated. But Im scared of that bird. Its coming closer. Can we
The fast moving clouds had become denser, and the park
was all in shadow now. The crows glossy black feathers shone
with added brilliance in the muted light. The bird had approached
the sidewalk in front of the bench and was raising and putting down
its feet as Orlando had seen it do three times before. Sure,
Orlando said stiffly, taking her hand and pulling her up. He kind
of scares me too.
He? Angela asked, as they hurried around the bench to
cross the street.
Orlando shrugged, befuddled but trying to smile, and led
her on across. The crow did not follow. We can have lunch at Mr.
Lees, he said, indicating The Jade Palace at the corner. Angela
turned and looked back at the crow once more. Hes going back to
his friends, she said. I think those are his friends.
Mr. Lee greeted them at the door. More crows, Mr.
Froyd? he said. (Thats DOCTOR Freud, Mr. Lee, Orlando
thought, despite the circumstances.) Mr. Lee was still looking out
the glass front door across to the park where the whole murder of
them had risen into the air, flapping and cawing. Orlando only
smiled at him and shook his head as Angela looked at him


quizzically. As they sat down at their table and Angela asked

Orlando what Mr. Lee was talking about, Orlando had already lost
his resolve and said he didnt really know.

One morning after hed been in bed for six weeks, Toby got up.
Hed been eating lightly for ten days, so he had the strength to stand
and walk, but not for long and not far. His appearance was
Hollywood zombie-like. His cheeks and eyes were sunken; he
moved as if in a trance. It had been only the day before when
Angela and Orlando had sat by his bedside and told him that if there
was anything about Damiens accident that hed been keeping to
himself, they would stand behind him and support him no matter
what the future held. Toby was thirteen years old, and though the
approach had been oblique, he had never before been so directly
challenged with the truth about himself. He showed no outward
signs of recognition, however, neither in denial nor regret. He
remained impassive; no surprise to either his mother or Orlando,
since hed responded to no one but his cat since he took to his bed.
But finally he was up, and looking frighteningly thin, he
walked into the living room, plopped down on the couch and looked
out the window. He stayed there with his black cat by his side for
the rest of the day, and by evening, he was responding to simple
questions, even politely.
Are you hungry, dear? Would you like some soup?
No. No thanks, mom.
Would you like to see whats on T.V.?
I dont think so. Not right now, mom.
Would you like me to bring you your cat?
Thatd be great.
But Tobys tone was as flat as a squirrel to eager to cross
the interstate. If the boy had been reassembled, some pieces had
been left out. Angela fed him, howeveranything he wanted
whenever he wanted itand in time he put on weight and gained
strength, but not the color in his cheeks or dangerous look in his
eye; and though he wasnt yet ready to start eighth grade in
September, by mid-October he was back in school.


His classmates didnt know how to react to Toby,

traumatized as they were by Damiens death. They had long sensed
something ominous in Tobys disposition, but much of that was
dispelled by his willingness to draw their portraits. Still, though no
one said a thing, some may have suspected him as a co-conspirator
in the bombardiering that day in August, and relations were
somewhat strained, particularly with Marcus Freeling. Perhaps it
was due to Tobys aloof demeanor, but Marcus didnt see fit to ask
him about the accident or express his feelings to him in any way
other than a worried stare. Toby reacted in kind, though his stare
was cold, not worried. Marcus had heard Tobys story, everyone
had, and apparently Marcus didnt want to hear anymore. He had
always been close to Damien; hed hoped to be close to Toby as
well, but as it was that October, he had often been rebuffed. Given
their former association, however, some of their classmates shied
away from Marcus as well as Tobybut Toby showed no reaction
to these signs of his classmates misgivings. He was polite to
everyone, though stiffly, almost robotically. His teachers said he
seemed like a different boy. Among themselves they said that it
seemed hed been switched with his good twin.
A change had come about in his school work as well. In the
past, hed only dabbled in school, participating when his curiosity
was aroused, which wasnt often. Now he seemed less distracted.
He was attentive in class, though shut tight in discussions. He
answered questions when asked but never offered anything. At
home after school, he sat down to his homework even before having
a snack. He wrote a cohesive, well balanced report on the life of
Leonardo da Vinci. His work was error free, but everything he did
in school and at home seemed as if the gloss was stripped away;
despite his refreshingly attentive manners, there was a dullness
about him, a deadening flatness that was hard to look at given the
coiled, electrically charged power he formerly exuded.
The fact that he had not put pen to paper in months seemed
secondary to those close to him, though probably not to his gallery
owner, Filomena Cimino, who may have felt she was the one who
suffered the greatest loss. But Toby Wellington, the artist, was no
longer in residence. The shambles of the former Toby, in fact, was
virtually unoccupied, save an odd, marginal character who took care
of the maintenance. It was he, this splinter of a self, who did the


homework and answered questions in school, and was appropriately

polite to his mother and Orlando Floyd. And when Toby slept, no
unifying principle held his nonfunctional parts together, and had it
not been for his cats newfound tolerance and generosity of spirit,
the boy may have succumbed to nightmares and dreamt himself into
insanity. As time went on, Toby no longer sobbed or wore the face
of wracking grief, but it took only a look in his eyes to see that his
grieving had given way to a numb sorrow.

Angela Wellington felt it as well. As the days passed, she slipped

into melancholy herself, an unaccustomed state for the good natured
woman. Despite her newfound courage in facing her son, the
weight of his sorrow was too much for a mothers heart. Orlando
saw her slowly sinking away, but knew there was nothing he could
do to help. Adam had gone off to college in September. His good
grades got him into Princeton, and he was happy to be leaving the
troubled household, but Angela missed his company. She often
went into his room when she was home alone. She lay down on his
bed and let herself be swallowed up by her feelings of loss. It was
one morning after Toby had gone off to school as she was lying
there that the first sign of relief came to her unexpectedly. Andr
had followed her into the room, leapt onto Adams bed, and curled
up, resting on a pillow next to Angelas head. She couldnt
remember a time in all the years Andr had lived with them that
hed come to her unbidden, but there he was, purring loudly enough
to almost make her smile.
He was just a cat, of course, but Angela believed that he
sensed how unhappy she was and was drawn to her by animal
instinct. She wouldnt have been surprised at such behavior from a
dog, but shed never known cats to be sympathetic. And he stayed
with her there in Adams room until she fell asleep, and when she
woke forty-five minutes later, he was still there. She felt somewhat
better, too, and though she wouldnt go so far as to say anything
about it, she felt the cat was responsible. So every day, at least
once, she went to Adams room to lie down and was joined by
Andr, who assumed the same position and stayed with her whether
she fell asleep or not. And every day after her session with the cat
(roughly the length of an appointment with a therapist), she felt a
little better, a little less pessimistic.


NOTE # 4 Techno-incarnation
According to this reporters historical source, one brimming with
information incarnational, a certain cloudiness obscures the facts
concerning the possible rebirth of animal souls. According to
Buddhist sources, human souls may be reborn in animals if an
animal incarnation will provide the lessons needed for further
development. On the other hand, the Theosophists contend that
human souls incarnate only in human form and never in animals
bodies. The Theosophists, a distinguished movement born in the
late 19th century and still flourishing today, have made current
many ancient Hindu and other esoteric beliefs. Animals, the
Theosophists say, are on a different evolutionary chain than
humans, and currently the door to human evolution is closed to
them. Any animals developed enough to be prepared for the human
experience wait (comfortably) in etheric realms until a vast epochal
change takes place and the door reopens to the human
incarnational chain. Or so they say. They go on to say that your
highly evolved dog, for example, may linger for ages in the
equivalent to Doggy Heaven, until some day in the vastly distant
future when he incarnates as your good hearted but very simple
servant, who may have a fondness for playing catch. Perhaps the
Theosophists are getting sold a little short here; they are a high-
minded bunch. In any case, its likely that Andr the Cat would
have an opinion on this particular example.
The historical source quoted earlier (known as a maverick
and not sanctioned by Akbar the Crow or any other esteemed
individual or tradition) insists on quite a different story regarding
the incarnation of animals. According to his information, three
species of animal life have already successfully bridged the gap to
human incarnation. Rodents, certain water foul, and mammals of
the family Leporidae. And this, in historical terms, is a relatively
recent development. It was among the Rodents, in particular the
Mus Musculus that the breakthrough first occurred. Certain
members of this species demonstrated such tenacity of spirit, such
apparent good will and common sense that by the power of


personality alone they insinuated themselves into the human life

chain. But still, the strictures set down by the Theosophists
concerning closed doors apparently constrained this great leap
for Mousedom to the realm of humanity. And so it was in the
1930s, that a genetically paired set of mice entered our world not
through the door but through the bourgeoning new world of
technological advancement. According to this source, both these,
both Mickey and his mate, Minnie, are REAL, infused as they have
been with the emotional and intellectual energies of countless
humans in what modern mystics might call a popular if not
Immaculate conception. The same holds true of two ducks, one
peevishly troublesome, the other ironic, but both suffering speech
impediments possibly incurred through hurried popular gestation;
and one wascilly wabbit. He says nothing of cats and canaries, but
asserts that the abovementioned incarnations are as real as you and
your grandmother, except that in the case of these exceptional
animals, the possibility of physical immortality exists in a way we
may never approach even with the future advances of science. And
though as already stated, these possibilities have not been expressed
by Akbar or any of his Brethren, its been suggested by this source
that the crows inclusive vision may encompass his own regarding
these technological entities. This may or may not be true.



I havent seen Akbar since the night of the Autumnal Equinox. I

never learned where else he went in the city, but after watching him
fly off on a number of occasions, I believed that despite his age and
damaged foot, he was able-bodied and could fly as far as any crow.
I also believe that he had developed alternative modes of travel. He
gave the impression that he met with the League of Initiates
regularly, and I would have been surprised if they were all located
in this particular city. Knowledge of geography is difficult for
felines to obtain, it is also of very little interest or use to us. As Ive
already pointed out, our horizons are closely set by human
standards, though within those boundaries our vision surpasses
yours to an extent you cannot imagine.
For example, its come to my attention recently that pillows
are among the most desirable spots in the rooms where humans
sleep. This is not due to their softness, though this too is
comforting, but to the powerful vortices these cushions anchor, due
to the psychic activity that routinely takes place upon them. The


vital energies of life pass more potently through these whirling

channels than through more static fields, and exposure to the more
powerful flow of this inner light brings rejuvenation, a brightness in
the eyes, an opening of the doors to perception. These pillow
vortices are at their most dynamic and inviting state when primed,
so to speak, by human dreamingthis I learned by my association
with Toby Wellington and time spent next to his head while he
slept. At first I attributed this to the boys unusually powerful
psyche, but I found that the energy around his mothers pillow was
as invigorating as his, though slightly different in character.
So I made it a habit to expose myself to the potently
comforting forces that surrounded his mothers dream activity,
while disregarding the banal subject matter of the dreams. During
her sons prolonged illness that followed his murderous episode, I
had found it necessary to guard him in his sleep, to hunt the
demonic entities that sought to loot his disarrayed psyche. These
wretched parasites took the form of naked, pink-skinned, gluttonous
troll-like creatures, which stood upright with grotesquely sagging
bellies, buttocks and jowls, and faces in the spitting image of a
famous cartoon duck but with a bill crammed full with dozens of
huge, decaying teeth. Though slow, this rabble was tenacious.
Some damage was done: the demons after all, were of his own
creation and knew their way around, but my aggressive defense
cleared most of them away. Unlike her son, the mothers inner
activities were not plagued by entities of much substance, but being
in a position to do so, I obliterated those that I encountered as a
matter of sport. These too were creations of her own: diffuse,
lumpish, Humpty Dumpty-like parasites that fed on her fears.
They were persistent but slow to react and easy to catch. Her
psychological makeup seemed porous, fragile and of little
consequence to me, but she appeared to benefit from my defense
and from my purr much as her son did, though on a lesser scale. My
initial impression that she was not an unpleasant person was verified
by my hours spent in close proximity to her head, and as far as I
could read the expression on her painted face, the feeling was
As one might expect, I was surprised to find that Id
developed a particular affection to these humans with whom Id
been living. Most cats develop attachments to humans but not in an


affectionate way, no matter how the keepers of cats may choose to

anthropomorphize our reactions. Cats enjoy being stroked, but
would respond to a mechanical stroking machine as gladly as to a
human, perhaps more so given that a machine would not object to
the natural use of our claws. Likewise, cats enjoy eating, and would
accept food from a dog as readily as from a human, and thats
saying quite a bit. But its not in the nature of cats to undergo
character transformations, since in the grand design of things,
theres no necessity for this: cats lack nothing within their spheres
of activity, visible and invisible. Which is to say, cats, like many
other natural forms, are perfect. This is not a prideful statement, of
course, since perfection precludes the distortion of reality that leads
to pride, envy, greed and all other such qualities.
It wasnt until I met Akbar that I learned of the possibility
of spiritual evolution and of the League of Initiates, those
illuminated beings with perfected natures, that state towards which
some humans strive. I never imagined that, as a cat, this opportunity
for growth was open to me. I did not imagine it, nor would I have
sought it out. But it may be that very few cats have had the
opportunity to meet a great being like Akbar, and if thats the case,
it may be my acquaintance with him that has spurred this surprising
transformation in me. Because I have not consciously tried to learn
compassion. I am a cat; compassion is unknown to felines, but that
indeed is what I have begun to experience. Perhaps if one such as
Akbar had suggested that I try to attain such a state, I may have, but
he made no such suggestion. Somehow, still, the possibility seems
attractive to me. I dont object to the seeds of this unique quality
germinating within me; on the contrary, I welcome the warmth and
expansiveness of it all.
Of course I recall the feelings I had for my mother and my
siblings during that period when I lived with them. But those
feelings, which call humans love, I believe, dissipate with feline
maturity, since those bonds are no longer productive. I cant deny
that the feeling of compassion Im beginning to feel for both Toby
and Angela Wellington resembles those fond feelings of my kitten-
hood, but it is also different. I sense a broader quality in these new
sentiments of mine, as if they may apply to other humans as well as
those with whom I live. This is indeed a peculiar premonition for a
cat; it is unexplored territory, and though as a natural being I


approach the unknown with acceptance, Im so accustomed to the

notion that I am not a nice cat, that I wonder what will become of
me and just what kind of cat Ill become if this unexpected
transformation continues.
Whatever the future may hold, I attribute the change thats
overtaken my feline nature to Akbar and his influence. I take no
credit for it myself. I believe taking credit is a peculiarly human,
prideful concept, just like taking blame. In the world in which I
believe Akbar lives, there is no personal credit and no blame; in the
scheme of things as he sees it, no beings deserve either praise or
condemnation for their acts, because all acts are acts of God, and
because instead of judging the world and limiting it by names,
categories, and beliefs, he lives by the rule of marveling at its
mystery and wonder, and thus becomes mysterious and wonderful
himself. And if, by any chance, you may be wondering how it is
that a cat like me is speaking in such lofty terms, Im wondering the
same thing myself, and again, attribute it to the aged crow who is
having such a profound influence on my life, and may well be
leading me from the fourth of my allotted nine into the fifth.





Orlando saw this headline, the accompanying article and others like
it posted on a bulletin board at the School of Fine Arts. No one was
sure who was posting these, but Orlando took them down
immediately, as did most of his colleagues if they saw them first.
This headline infuriated Orlando. The case was closed. There were
no questions. Since Toby hadnt been at the art school for months,
he didnt see these inflammatory articles, but Orlando and Angela
assumed he must have encountered similar material since it was so
prevalent. When asked if hed read such reports, however, Toby
said he hadnt.


As one might expect, demand for his work was at an all

time high. Those drawings that had sold at his New York shows
were being traded at three to four times the original prices; and there
was no end in sight since rumors abounded that the young genius
artistic production may have come to an end. These rumors angered
and frightened Orlando.
As much as he treasured Angelas company, visits to the
Wellingtons apartment agitated and depressed him. He, to a far
greater extent than anyone, had become familiar, even intimate with
Tobys extraordinary creative powers. The ongoing marvel of
Tobys work had filled all voids that may have gaped in his artists
soul. True, Orlando had found a mate, but hed lost a purpose for
his life, at least as far as he was able to understand such things,
which wasnt far at all. So of course, he suffered. His metaphysical
drifter friend, Parker, might have had a thing or two to tell Orlando
regarding his dilemma; and had Orlando known what Akbar knew,
he would have been serene throughout it all, but then again wed
have a different story here, one in which Orlando Floyd may have
been a talking crow, a revered saint, or even the moon of a planet
far, far away, and in any of these cases, particularly the last, it may
have been impractical to teach his class in intermediate drawing
which, by the way, he continued to do.
(In regard to the Purpose of Life, Akbar might point out
that life has no more of a Purpose than God has a moustache.
But he may also point out that when personalizing God, which often
serves humans quite well, he may indeed have a mustache, just as
life, when personalized, may have purposes such as: seeking the
divine in all things, loving one another or serving humanity. But in
the wider view of things, Life is too great a thing to be contained in
answers to questions. So Orlando Floyd, like his metaphysical-
drifter friend, Parker, may be seen as a man straddling the border
between the mundane and the illuminated, and thus finds himself in
a metaphysical pickle when wondering about the purpose of life or
the purpose of death or even the purpose of a porpoise.)
Given Toby Wellingtons inscrutable disposition and the
distance he maintained between himself and others, it should come
as no surprise that in the eight years he and his mother knew
Orlando Floyd, the boy had never visited his teacher at his
residence. Angela was entirely at home in Orlandos little


apartment by the park, but whenever Toby was invited to join her,
he refused. All that changed, however, and a good deal else as well,
one Saturday in mid-November.
Along with a small bedroom and his kitchenwhere the
view of the neighborhood park was blocked by The Jade Palaces
banquet hallOrlando had one large room which served as a living
room/office. This room was packed full with furniture and
bookcases, and the walls were covered with prints of great art, often
stacked two or three high, in the old style. The bookcases were
filled with an extensive collection of costly art books, reference
works and a good deal of fiction and poetry. (Orlando particularly
appreciated the novels of Tom Robbins and the poetry of ee
cummings and Dylan Thomas.) Several of the dozens of prints on
the walls were from the Chicago Art Institutes own collection, but
most were from other American and European museums. There
were classics like El Grecos View of Toledo, Raphaels The
School of Athens, and Vermeers Girl with a Pearl Earring(a
framed gift from Olivia); there were Czannes apples and oranges
on tablecloths, and Van Goghs stars swirling in the night sky that
was actually his mind, and Renoirs lovely women and children
(another of Olivias gifts, whom Orlando sometimes thought may
have a crush on him); there were Kandinskys and Braques and
Chagalls; there were works by the surrealists, Dali, Tanguy and
DeChirico, and there were calligraphic Klines, DeKoonings
Marilyn Monroe, and Rothkos meditations for the induction of
peace. Also hanging on the walls of Orlandos living room were
works from the Chinese (impersonal) and Japanese (social)
traditions. A few of Orlandos own paintings from his early years
hung in his bedroom; these were recognizable, DeKooning-
influenced, abstracted figures, mostly women. Many of the pieces
of furniture in the living room were rich in character, some were
antiques, some were just old, and a fine Persian carpet covered the
floor. And here and there in Orlandos apartment were little niceties
of life for which he had such keen appreciation. There were blue jay
and parrot feathers, polished stones, things made of cobalt blue
glass, compasses, clocks without faces, a light green bowl of pink
marbles, the skulls of small animals, an exquisite and rare set of
mounted butterflies and mothsstill another gift from Oliviaand
small lightning bolts, precisely cut from stiff gold foil.


On the day that Angela brought Toby to Orlandos for the

first time, the boy seemed to have suffered a setback. Hed been
back in school for a week but had awakened sobbing for the first
time in a month. He may have been in such a vulnerable
psychological state he didnt have the will to resist his mothers
suggestion that he accompany her to Orlandos for a visit, but he
complied, though it took him a full thirty minutes to simply dress
himself, comb his hair and brush his teeth. Even once out of the
house into the bright, chill November day, Toby was more visibly
depressed than usual, and had his eyes been closed and his arms
been extended in front of him, he would have made a perfect
somnambulist. He seemed utterly lost in some inner wasteland. He
didnt respond when Angela spoke to him. After she parked the car,
she had to coax Toby out, and then lead him like an invalid to
Orlandos door.
Orlando had been nervous but optimistic about the visit. He
knew that his apartment, though small, had the look of an artists
living quarters, a place where Toby might be at ease. He also
believed that the gallery of art history on his walls might reawaken
the boys desire to create. And Orlando had placed a large book of
the engravings of Albrecht Durer open on the coffee table. This, he
felt, would certainly peak the boys curiosity.
When Angela coaxed Toby in, he glanced briefly around the
room but he showed no signs of interest, nor did he give the book of
engravings on the coffee table a second glance when he sat down on
the couch facing it. Then a surprising thing happened, however.
The expression that came over his face was one neither Orlando nor
his mother had seen before, and when Toby settled in on the sofa
next to Angela, he became perfectly still, so still that it was clear
he should not be interrupted, whatever it was that had come over
him. Moments later, still motionless, like a monk in meditation,
tears began to run down his cheeks. He breathed deeply then and
threw his head back; then his tears had begun to flow copiously, and
Angela, worried now that her son was about to crumble, was about
to interrupt when Toby whispered, urgently.
What is this? he said, his eyes glittering.
Angela and Orlando looked at each other, unsure of how to


Toby continued to weep, rocking back and forth on the

couch, seemingly carried away. Then he gasped. What was that?
Orlando had some music playing very quietly on the stereo
and there was a pause at the end of a track. The music? he asked
Toby nodded.
Thats Bach. Its Glen Gould playing Bach. This is one of
the six partitas. But then the music started again, and as if struck
by something from above, and still weeping, Tobys attention, white
hot now, snapped back to the Bach.
Orlando slipped over to the stereo and turned up the
volume. Something of great consequence was happening to Toby
Wellington. Could it be, Orlando wondered, that Toby had never
heard the music of Bach before? When he thought back over his
association with the boy, he realized that the topic of music had
never come up. Though he was an avid and educated listener
himself and very much the devotee of Bach and others, he did not
play music in his classroom studio, nor had he heard any music at
the Wellingtons other than the one Ella Fitzgerald recording that
made Angela sentimental and the hip-hop Adam played in his room
with the door closed. Angela was not a musical woman; she and
Tobias had occasionally gone to the symphony, but her artistic
interests were strictly visual. Yet Orlando was incredulous. Surely
at school, a private school so comprehensive in its curriculum, Toby
had been exposed to classical music. Or was it possible that this
formidable artist had never been exposed to the formidable art of
Johann Sebastian Bach?
As Toby listened now he grew more animated. Each of
Bachs piano partitas is comprised of a number of relatively short
movements, like a suite; and each of these sections is named by the
particular eighteenth century dance form on which its based: thus,
Courantes, Sarabandes and Gigues (Jigs). The six Partitas,
which can be played on either Piano or Harpsichord, run from about
twenty to thirty minutes each; and without interruption that
November day, Toby listened to them all. Eventually he was on his
feet, pacing in front of the speakers, dancing, weeping frequently,
and exclaiming, How can this be? or Of course! Thats RIGHT!
OF COURSE! Angela and Orlando listened to the music as well
stately, exciting and lyric by turnsbut couldnt keep their attention


away from the spectacle of Toby, alive again, but in a new, charged,
invigorated way, the expression on his face one of simultaneous
astonishment and recognition.
When the last Partita ended, everyone seemed stunned, and
Angela suggested they sit down for lunch. Angela had brought her
pasta salad, one of Tobys favorites. He ate hungrily, like a teen-
ager: two heaping bowls and two Cokes, but when Orlando asked
him about the effect the music had on him, he seemed shy. When
he asked Toby if hed ever hear anything by Bach before, he began
to open up.
No. Ive never heard anything like that before. Is there
Orlando couldnt hide his surprise. Hundreds and
hundreds and hundreds of pieces, more than a thousand, I think.
Theyre for piano, for organ, for strings and other solo instruments,
for small groups of instruments, for larger groups, called chamber
orchestras, and vocal music toolots of vocal music, some for big
choirs and orchestras.
Symphonies? Toby asked.
No, those hadnt been invented yet.
Ill need to hear it all, Toby said, in a tone both eager and
Orlando laughed. I dont have it all, Toby. But we can get
more, and theres always the library.
Toby stared off, a bemused expression on his face.
And then of course theres more, Orlando went on.
Theres Beethoven
Oh, thats not the same, Toby broke in. Ive heard
Beethoven, thats nothing like this. Its okay, but its not Toby
stopped, smiling, as if there were no words for what he had to say.
What, dear? Angela asked. Its not what?
Toby looked from Orlando to Angela and back again. Its
not what I draw, he said. That music I heard today is what I draw.
Its the same thing. Exactly the same thing.

Neither Orlando nor Tobys mother understood precisely what the

boy was getting at, though Orlando might have guessed.
Throughout that fall and winter, Toby came to Orlandos apartment
every day after school and all day every Saturday and Sunday to


listen to Bach. On weekends, Angela joined him. With Adam away

out east, she lived there on weekends, cooking marvelous meals and
fattening Orlando up a little. During those months Angela enjoyed
a musical education as well. By the time the first few weeks had
ended, Toby confirmed that he indeed wanted to hear everything
Bach wrote and he joined Orlando and his mother in searching for
hard-to-find recordings. Between the three of them, they eventually
tracked down nearly all the Bach there was.
At first, Toby wanted to listen to all the keyboard music,
and as with the Partitas, he was overjoyed by the very existence of
the French Suites, the English Suites, the Inventions, the Well-
Tempered Clavier, the Goldberg Variations, and the rest. From his
occasional remarks, it seemed to Orlando that Tobys understanding
of these compositions was as great as his love of it. Toby did not
have a musicians vocabulary to discuss the keyboard music, but he
applied the words line, shape, reflection, shadow, tension and
balance to analyze the compositions with such facility that he
sounded like a composer himself. It seemed a natural progression
then to introduce Toby to the keyboard concertos, and the boys
reaction to Bachs addition of the small chamber orchestra was like
that first day all over again. He was intoxicated, awestruck. And so
it was with the other instrumental concertos, the Brandenburg
Concertos, the Suites for Orchestra, the unaccompanied violin and
cello suites, the trio sonatas, the B Minor Mass, the motets, and on
through the Passions, the cantatas, the Musical Offering, and on
through that most abstract of Bachs works, the Art of Fugue, and
on and back again. By the time the great, long exposition of the
masters work was over, Orlando finally understood.
It was the lines. Bach was the last of the composers whose
music still had a largely polyphonic component. This means that it
is often comprised of independent but related musical lines that
move freely, rather than a melody simply supported by harmony, by
chords. This polyphony (from the Greek: many/sounds) is perhaps
most readily appreciable in his keyboards music where the right and
left hand always play (at least) two separate but related, ever
evolving melodic voices. And apparently this bountiful
inventiveness of Bachs polyphony, the elegant shapes of these
musical notions followed the same laws of design, the same artistic
logic as the lines that Toby Wellington memorized as an infant


gazing through the luminous spheres of meaning that impinged

upon him. Bach, like all the rest of us, was a bubble baby who
forgot. To recall infancy, the world before language, would be akin
to recalling past livesif such things as past lives exist. So of
course Toby never remembered his months in the suburbs of the
Kingdom of Heaven, but if he had, he might have believed he lived
in the same castle as Johann Sebastian Bach.
The lines of other composers of Bachs time, Vivaldi and
Handel for example, though similar in shape, had practically no
effect on Toby. Whatever differences there are between these
composers at their polyphonic best and Bach were immediately
apparent to the boy. And the earlier music by the masters of pure
polyphony like Palestrina, though pleasant to Toby, was not his
music. And so it was for Mozart, Beethoven, and everyone that
followed. Only Bach was his music; only Bach drew Tobys
linesand the art world had already recognized that no one else
came close to drawing lines like Toby Wellington. Or perhaps we
should say, had drawn lines like Toby Wellington, because the
Toby who had discovered Bach, that same Toby who had murdered
Damien Sharp, showed no further interest in drawing whatsoever.

As one might expect, during the five months that Toby listened to
the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach, his mood changed
considerably. Listening to the complete works of Bach might even
change the mood of that squirrel that didnt make it across the
interstate; it would certainly have a profound effect on any living
human, particularly one with a highly strung artistic soul that was
wracked by grief and possibly guilt. Tobys mood brightened. He
lost his Hollywood zombie affect. Though hardly garrulous, when
he did speak, he became animated. He hummed, whistled and
sometimes sang. At thirteen, he was a tenor with a good voice. No
one who met him at this time would have suspected that hed just
recovered from severely psychological trauma, but for that matter,
most people wouldnt have understood much about the handsome
boy at all. His face, though masculine, looked more like his
beautiful mothers every day. His features were nothing like his
imprisoned father: he knew that, and it was fine with him. He
wanted nothing from the man.


It occurred to Orlando that though the music of Bach was a

balm for Tobys soul, perhaps even an expression of his soul, the
vacuum it rushed in to fill might have been better filled by honest
self-examination, by coming to terms with or owning up to what
Orlando believed hed done. Orlando even went so far as to share
this notion with Angela; and meeting the challenge that her lover
offered, she peeked over her own wishful nature and agreed. But
still, suspicions aside, both Angela and Orlando were deeply moved
and relieved by Tobys great discovery.
It was only after hed listened to Bachs complete oeuvre at
Orlandos little apartment that Toby began to listen to it all at home.
Soon the Wellington apartment was filled with music. Its
interesting, if not indicative of some dimension of what we call
fate, that among all the masterpieces to which Toby listened, he
always considered the first piece he heard, the Partita #4 in D Major,
as interpreted by Glen Gould, to be his favorite. Keyboard works
in general were those that drew their lines most lucidly for Toby,
but among those, this Partita was foremost. This work held such
primal meaning for Toby that after Orlando treated him to the two
full hours of Bachs B minor Mass one Sundaya monumental
work for choir, soloists and chamber orchestra, one that in itself
might resuscitate a family of flattened squirrelsToby asked to
listen to the twenty-five minute D Major Partita to clear his head a

NOTE # 5 Ancestry
According to the aforementioned historical sourceone always
willing to provide titillating information regarding the
transmigration of soulsthe following facts pertain to the
incarnational ancestry of Tobias Wellington Jr., known to his loving
family as Toby. It should be stressed here, however, that any
facts regarding history must be considered in light of the probability
that time is not a line, or at least not only a line, and that when we,
as humans, perceive something much, much larger than ourselves
as a line, like the horizon, for example, it turns out to be only one


dimension of something greater, just as we see stars as points. The

line of history then, is probably only an aspect, a cross-section of
something greater than we can see from our limited perspective,
and any reports of the transmigration of souls, no matter how
esteemed the source, should be taken no more seriously than we
take ourselves.

The life of the great Saint Francis of Assisi came to its close in the
year 1226 at the age of 45. After a comfortable but misspent youth
as the son of a merchant, he renounced worldly life and dedicated
himself to living by the Gospel: to poverty, charity, and
brotherhood with all of Gods creation. He founded the religious
order of the Franciscans, famously preached to animals, and
eventually received the stigmata in his final years. After he
breathed his last breath, the great servant of the Cosmos was
formally escorted to one of the more rarefied planes
interpenetrating the coarser ones in which he preached, and there
in a ceremony as natural as it is mysterious and sanctified, he chose
the place and nature of his next incarnation.
The souls of the most highly evolved humans may be seen in
the form of great polyhedrons: glorious, multi-faced, symmetrical
solids, not entirely unlike the grand reflective disco-balls of the
earthly 1970s. The souls of these great individuals, too, are
mirror-like when viewed from without, but when spinning in the
midst of the starry firmament, they also focus the starlight within,
creating a microcosmic map of the universe within themselves
according to their own unique, multi-faceted nature. Simply stated,
these great souls, like all lesser ones, transform the order of the
universe at the time of their death into a map of stars for their next
Yes! said Francis of Assisi, pounding his celestial fist
into his celestial hand as he viewed the prospects for his next life.
Vinci! Yes! Close to homeand those Florentine women to boot!
Basta con gli animali! (Enough with the animals, already!) And
indeed, he saw it all there in the map he cast within himself. Hed
be reborn 226 years later in Vinci, only 75 miles from Assisi, and
take the name of Leonardo.
And so in 1452, Leonardo da Vinci, was born just outside of
Florence, the star map of his birth having turned within the celestial


clockworks to indicate that the power of spirit achieved during his

last life be refocused into the realm of worldly rather than
ecclesiastical sublimity. And so, as it is well known, his soul
directed its enlightened vision to painting masterpieces, to
architecture, to the study of science and to futuristic engineering.
What is not so well known is that the great man loved animals so
deeply that he not only practiced vegetarianism but often bought
caged animals at market and set them free. And when he died in
1519, he was escorted by the same angelic transit service to the
upper realms in order to give his own sparking disco ball a spin to
discover whether hed win a trip to Paris or Timbuktu. Oh, che
miseria! (Oh, the misery of it!) cried Leonardo. Germany!
Whatever happened in Germany? But then, looking more closely
at the detail of the mission, he may have smiled. Two wives, that
nice but twenty children?
And so in 1685, the great diversified talent of Leonardo da
Vinci was harnessed, pared down and focused directly into the
supreme musical genius of Johann Sebastian Bach, who famously
dedicated all his music to The Glory of God alone, much as St.
Francis dedicated his life. And of Bachs music we already know a
good deal, but not of the moments after his death in 1750. After
being escorted to Lutheran Heaven by the appropriate (modestly
dressed) angelic host, and spinning his great glittering soul, Johann
was heard to cry Scheist! (Phooey!) because of all the possible
futures for him (he was hoping for a mere six year wait to play the
Mozart card, or a brief twenty for Beethovenhed even have
settled for a go at that Frenchman, Bonaparte), he had drawn the
dispersion card. True, only the most highly evolved and
experienced among human souls are granted the possibility of
dispersing their gifts of soul among the many, but apparently there
is a certain fun factor lost in the process. In any case, the Wheel of
Fortune had turned, and the dispersion foretold. But of all places!
Johann saw as he read the maps, it was to the cultural abyss of the
so called New World. It could have been worse, however. At
least some of his identity would be preserved; it was only a three-
fold dispersion: to a poet named Eliot, an Architect named Wright,
an Artist named Wellington, all apparently to be known for the
elegance of their lines. Of course, each of these individuals would
carry his or her own karma and partake of only a portion of the


great soul: the artistry would remain in tact, but the conscious
dedication to the Glory of God alone, might be lost in the

There are 209 existing scores of the Bach cantatas: works for choir,
soloists and groups of instruments. It was shortly after Toby
listened to the last of thesethirty minutes of listening that ended
Tobys excursion through the manifest soul of Johann Sebastian
Bachthat Orlando asked him if hed been thinking about drawing.
Aware of Tobys precarious state of mind, as his teacher, Orlando
hadnt as much as mentioned drawing since the accident.
Ive never thought much about it, Toby answered.
It was a warm, sunny Sunday in February: first day of a
fleeting winter thaw. The two were sitting at the table in Orlandos
kitchen, Orlando with a cup of coffee, Toby with a Coke. Orlando
took this to mean that the boys conscious mind had little to do with
his artistic impulses. I mean have you been wanting to draw?
Orlando explained.
No? Orlando asked. Just no?
You mean because its expected of me?
Im not sure if expected is quite what I mean. I think
people hope youll draw again because they love your work. You
can understand that. Think how you might feel if Bach had stopped
after he wrote the Brandenburg Concertos and never gone on to the
B Minor Mass.
You mean I should draw for other people? Toby asked,
taking a drink of his Coke. It was poured over ice the way he liked
it. As he sat back with the drink in his hand, he seemed almost an
adult. He had the hands of a man now, and his sweet features had
begun to sharpen. When he put down the glass, Orlando caught a
glimpse of the scar on Tobys left palm: a dull dark red, it still
resembled a bird, even a crow, thought Orlando; but as the boy
noticed he was being observed, he flattened his hand on the kitchen
I think people should create art because they love to, Toby,
or need to, Orlando said. You know thats what I believe. But at


the same time, I dont think theres anything dishonest about doing
things for others Though he had no such intentions, the
Orlandos word dishonest had a harsh ring, a pointedness to it. If
Toby noticed, he concealed it. So let me ask you this, Toby,
Orlando went on, aware that hed become much more direct with
the boy since that day when hed admitted his suspicions to Angela.
Could you draw now? Do you have that spark that brings it out?
Though thered never been any talk about a spark or any
such thing before, Orlando felt secure in his question. But Tobys
reaction shocked him. He started to cry; and his sobbing didnt
resemble the sobs of recognition and joy that Orlando had routinely
witnessed as Toby listened to Bach. Not at all. Toby pushed his
drink aside and strode out of the kitchen. When Orlando followed
him into the living room, he saw the front door slam shut. Toby had
left the building. Hed picked up his coat and gone. Hurrying
outside, Orlando looked both directions down the street; then
rushing to the park, he saw Toby running across it the direction of
his own home, several miles away. After following only a little
way, Orlando decided not to go after him. Angela had gone to a
visit an old friend recuperating at home from surgery that day. She
had planned to pick Toby up. Orlando expected her in about a half
an hour, so he turned toward home to call her. But he didnt get far.
It was that crow again. This time it stood on the brown
winter grass between Orlando and the old sidewalk he had to cross
on his way home. And again the crow was moving from foot to foot
in what now seemed a forbidding ritual. Orlando was so taken by
surprise that self-consciousness hadnt had a chance to set in before
he spoke to the crow.
Why are you doing this? he asked, imploringly. In the
second-and-a-half it took him to utter these words, however, self-
consciousness had plenty of time to curb his spontaneity and rob
him of the clarity of mind that accompanied it. He glanced around.
Two people were looking at him. One, a man approaching on the
sidewalk path through the park, turned away when Orlando noticed
him. He may have turned away for any number of reasons, but
Orlando assumed the man thought he was deranged. The other
observer was Mr. Lee, who once again was standing behind the
glass front door of the Jade Palace, as if a sentinel monitoring


human-crow interaction. It was just as Orlando decided to pretend

he didnt see him that the crow spoke.
So far so good the crow said. The voice was thin,
reedy and sharp, just as the first time, and again the words seemed
to emanate from just above the crows head. And the intonation and
cadence of the phrase seemed identical to what he heard the first
time the crow spoke, just over a year beforebut something was
distinctly different, because after only the shortest pause, half a beat,
the crow continued; he finished his sentence.
For the crow did not simply say, So far, so good the
crow said, So far so good, Mr. Floyd.
Among other things, Orlando felt that he was unraveling,
violently, as if he were a ball of string spinning wildly loose on a
spindle. He also felt paralyzed. He also felt insane.
What is this? Some kind of trick? Orlando whispered
with the kind of crazed urgency that can be expressed only by a man
whos been spoken to by a crow. Is this a recording? he hissed at
the animal. Is it?
But of course it was not. He knew it was not. And as if in
response to Orlandos frantic question, the crow flapped its wings
and rose off the ground directly in front of Orlando Floyd and
maintained its position at eye level until, with a terrifying
cacophony of cawing, the crows henchmen flew in from what
seemed all directions and beat their wings in a brutal din around
Orlando. Whether or not Orlando heard the words So far, so good,
Mr. Floyd, again or not was unclear to him. Maybe he just
imagined it as he ran off, parallel to the cracked sidewalk in the
direction of the large maple tree with a pale half moon hanging just
above it, and then dashed across the street and off towards home.
The crows did not follow, but Mr. Lee did. Hed come out the door
of The Jade Palace and was running excitedly after Orlando.
Mr. Froyd! Mr. Froyd! he cried out, sounding worried.
But as much as Orlando respected Mr. Lee, and as much as he
disliked appearing rude, the experience of being called by name by a
talking crow had been too much for him, and losing all restraint, his
invisible dialogue bubble burst and he shouted back at Mr. Lee,
Thats D-O-O-CTOR! D-O-O-CTOR! And then without
remorse, he out-ran the concerned restaurant owner and disappeared
into the door of his building. So far, so GOOD? he said to himself


aloud then. So far, so good, MR. FLOYD ? Impossible!




Several days before Toby Wellington went running off across the
park in tears, two hitherto unconnected forces came together and
made a noticeable stir in the ethers.
Ellen and Alex Sharp had been so emotionally debilitated
by the appalling death of their son that they could not bear to remain
in the apartment from which he plunged to his death. After
spending only one tearful, sleepless night there, they left for Ellens
sisters home in the northern suburbs. There they stayed for a full
month, during which time a funeral and memorial service for the
thirteen-year-old was held, neither of which Ellen Sharp was able to
attend: she had collapsed on the way out of the house to the funereal
limousine, and her doctor had recommended she spare herself any
further stress. It was when the Sharps felt they had begun to wear
out their welcome at Ellens sisters (which they had not) that they
decided to take a long vacation in hopes of refreshing their outlook
on life. Fortunately, Alexander Sharp was a prosperous
businessman and Ellen had inherited a tidy sum of her own, so a
prolonged European vacation was not beyond their means. They


decided that a long tour would be preferable to a stay in one place

(like Tuscany, where friends of theirs had offered them the use of
their rented home in the hills) because they believed the stimulation
and even the rigors of going from city to city would help them break
the cycle of grief.
This was successful only to a point. Ellen broke down into
a fit of sobbing during a performance of Don Giovanni the Milan
opera when the ghost of murdered Commendatore returns from his
grave and demands that Don Giovanni repent. She had to be
hospitalized overnight. Alex, a man with an unusually placid
temperament, went nearly berserk with annoyance at a Parisian taxi
drivers insolence; and the two of them had many a tearful night
in the finest hotels in the European capitals. But they did recover a
shade of their formerly optimistic outlook on life bicycling through
the English countryside and sipping themselves through their tours
of wine country, French, German and Italian. Maintaining such a
relentless pace, as if being pursued, they hardly skipped a country in
the bourgeoning European Union. They returned home after nearly
five months badly needing a rest, but ready to face life with a grief
that was enduring but no longer incapacitating.
They hadnt been in their very dusty apartment on the
eighteenth floor for fifteen minutes when Marcus Freeling called
and asked if he could meet with them. Apparently he had been
calling every day for weeks. The Sharps had always liked Marcus
and preferred him to Toby as a friend for their sonand it was
concerning Toby that Marcus wished to speak to them. He
explained he had information pertaining to Toby and Damien that
they needed to know. It was Alex Sharp who took the call, and he
agreed to see Marcus the next morning. If Ellen had answered, she
may have been more reticent, and probably not agreed to a visitor,
even a thirteen-year-old, before shed had her cleaning woman in to
tidy up the stale apartment; and had she known that Marcus parents
decided at the last minute to accompany him, she would have barred
the door. Nevertheless, when the intercom buzzed at ten the next
morning, Alex Sharp let them all up.
Flustered by the unexpected adults in her messy house, all
Ellen could do was make coffee and apologize that there was no
milk or cream to go with it. Searching the kitchen cabinets for
something to accompany the coffee, she nearly missed what Marcus


first said. His parents, Chase and Hope Freeling, tried to convince
Marcus to wait for Ellen to return to the dining room, but the boy
was apparently more upset than he looked and went on anyway.
Im sure Toby was lying, he said as Ellen Sharp rushed
back into the room. Ive done things with them before and Toby
was always the instigator. One time we threw water bombs out of
the living room window where you used to live on Barry, you know,
and it was all Tobys idea. He gave me a hard time because I didnt
want to, and he wanted to throw heavier things out. Damien told
him not to because someone might get hurt and it was his house, but
Toby said so what and was going to do it anyway. He always acted
that way. But thats when you came home, remember?
Ellen sharp didnt remember until Marcus told her it was a
day she had to drive him home because his parents were busy and
couldnt pick him up.
Ellen looked pale. I do remember, Marcus, she said.
And I also remember broken baloons and water all over the street.
I didnt say anything though. I think I forgot when you asked me
for a ride
But Marcus, Alex Sharp said to the boy, who was trying
to be brave but was trembling a little. I dont think we can
conclude that Toby was lying about about what happened that
day, just because of that one incident. And then he stopped and
glanced at Ellen. Hope Freeling looked worried; her husband put
his hand on Marcus shoulder, and the boy began again.
But it wasnt just that once! Marcus insisted. Every time
we did stuff, Toby was pushing us to do more. As he said this, he
looked over at Ellen Sharp with a troubled look on his face.
Apparently he regretted his choice of the word pushing.
What kind of stuff, Marcus? Ellen asked the boy
Marcus squirmed a little and shrugged his shoulders. Its
okay, his father said to him, his hand still on the boys shoulder.
Just tell the truth.
Making phone calls and stuff, Marcus replied. We used
to call up Here he gave his father, a teacher at their school, a
worried look. We used to disguise our voices with an electronic
mike and call teachers and say gross things to them. He was
now looking directly at the maple dining table between his elbows;


his hands were on his forehead. And we used to make other calls
too, and almost every time Toby said hed do stuff to us if we
wimped out. I mean, Toby was our friend, but when we did stuff
like that he got weird. He never wanted to stop, and he always said
wed never get in trouble. And we didnt.
Marcus father squeezed his sons shoulder. Its okay, he
said. I used to make crank calls to teachers too. Lots of kids do
that. There were affirmative murmurs from the other three adults
at the table.
You want to tell them the other things you told us?
Marcus mother asked. You dont have to if you dont want to.
Sure I want to, Marcus answered, sounding angry for the
first time. Toby knew I didnt like throwing things out of
windows, so sometimes he talked about it to me I dont know,
maybe to tease me. Hes never really mean to me, he just teases
sometimes. But he and Damien were talking about it and Toby said
how cool it would be they lived in a tall building so they could drop
eggs down or maybe tomatoes.
What did Damien say? Ellen Sharp asked.
He said it would be cool, Marcus answered. But then
Toby said if I didnt watch myself hed throw me out. Then he
punched me in the shoulder.
That was before we lived here? Alex sharp asked the
Yeah, and the next time I was there with them, and his
parents I mean you, he explained, looking at the Sharps,
werent home and we threw balloons down, Toby grabbled me
when I was next to the open window and kind of pushed me
He tried to push you out? said Ellen Sharp, incredulous.
Maybe he was kidding. He said he wouldnt mind killing
me. I wasnt sure, but I got scared and thats when he told me I
better not come when they bombed again.
Why did he say that, Marcus? Ellen Sharp asked.
I dont know, but I thought it was because I wasnt into it.
I did make some calls with them once after that. But here again,
Marcus seemed too embarrassed or ashamed to continue.
Well, it doesnt sound to me like Toby was really serious
about pushing you, honey, Ellen said, looking at her husband and
the Freelings.


But it is serious! Marcus said, suddenly very emotional,

his face taut. It was Toby that day that Damien fell! I know it.
Damien never started anything! He had ideas about doing stuff, but
he never would have thrown a cantaloupe out a window or anything
glass like that. Damien never did things like that! I knew him! And
even if he did, Toby never wouldve tried to stop him! Toby never
tried to stop anything! Never! Tobys lying! I know it! Im going
to tell the police.
At this that Ellen Sharp suppressed a sob. The police have
already investigated this, honey she said to Marcus, sounding
Then theyll reopen it, her husband broke in, his voice
The police investigation had seemed thorough. They had
inspected the crime scene scrupulously for signs of foul play, and
their interview with Marcus hadnt yielded any significant
information. Ellen put her hand on her husbands arm and looked at
the Freelings, uncertain what to think.
Marcus has always been honest with us, Hope Freeling
said to her. But maybe we should discuss this privately.
You think Im not telling the truth? Marcus asked his
mother, sounding angry again.
But Marcus, asked Damiens father, did you tell any of
this to the police when they talked to you?
But why?
I didnt want to get in trouble with Toby. Damien was
gone, so Toby would be my only friend. But then later when he got
back to school he acted like he didnt even know me. Then Marcus
began to cry. Both his parents tried to comfort him, but he shrunk
away from them. Surrounded by adults, the boy looked panicked,
as if he wanted to hide but didnt know where.
Its okay, honey, Ellen Sharp said, coming over to
comfort him. Of course we believe you, she explained, at which
she put her arms around him from behind. Perhaps he sensed the
tenderness that the bereaved mother felt in touching a boy so much
like the one shed lost, because Marcus gave in to her embrace.
Damien was my best friend, he said through his tears. I knew
him better than anyone. He never could have done that. Never!


And so they remained for a while: Ellen Sharp standing

behind Marcus chair, leaning over with her arms around him, with
Marcus weeping softly; Alex Sharp with his head in his hands; the
Freelings, on either side of Marcus looking at their living son in the
arms of Damiens grieving mother.

The initial investigation of Damiens death had not produced

enough evidence for the State to prosecute. There were signs of a
struggle, but nothing about it gave any weight to the argument that
Toby had pushed Damien out the window, for in fact, he hardly
pushed him at all, but had let go of Damien as Damien struggled to
reach the candlestick he was holding out the window like bait, and
let Damiens own momentum carry him out. The fact that hed
injured his finger by accidentally catching it on Damiens belt loop
in the process, however, seemed evidence enough for the experts to
conclude that as Toby repeatedly stated, he had struggled to pull his
friend away from the window from which he accidentally fell.
This evidence was hardly overwhelming, however; a
number of people in the District Attorneys office werent
convinced, but there was no hard evidence to the contrary. In short,
any case against Toby Wellington would be so burdened with
reasonable doubt that it wasnt worth the States time and money to
proceed with ituntil six months after the fact, when the police re-
interviewed Marcus Freeling. The boy was so frightened that at his
parents behest the detectives agreed to speak to him at home rather
than police headquarters. Marcus voice trembled but he told his
story clearly and convincingly. The explanation he gave for
withholding information when first interviewed seemed reasonable
enough from a child his age, and feeling the weight of his testimony
confirmed the suspicions of several in the office, the District
Attorney decided to bring charges. The fact that the alleged crime
scene had remained undisturbed for six months may have influenced
this decision.


Angela Wellington answered the buzzer, let Detectives Salonia and

Huff upstairs, and opened her front door with a question.
Did you find him? What happened? she asked, pale and
Did you find my son? How did you know he was missing?
Did Orlando call you?
Your sons missing? Toby Wellington?
Now Angela looked exasperated as well as worried. She
had received a call from Orlando only fifteen minutes earlier, telling
her that Toby had run away across the park in the direction of home.
Hed given her only the bare-bones facts of the incident because he
was coming right over. She had spent the last fifteen minutes in an
accelerating tizzy. When the doorbell rang, Angela thought Orlando
had misplaced his key.
Yes, hes missing, Angela told the detectives, sounding
impatient. He ran away. Isnt that why youre here?
When did he run away, Maam?
Just then Andr the Cat walked into the room, looked at the
detectives, approached them, sniffed one shoe, and walked away,
seemingly disinterested.
If you didnt know he ran away, why are you here?
Angela asked, wishing the cat had stayed. And then, unable to
suppress her hostess instincts: Why dont you come in. Can I get
you some coffee?
Detectives Salonia and Huff exchanged a glance. No
thank you, Maam, Officer Salonia said, as the two of them
followed Angela into the living room. Though the room was
spacious, the detectives looked too big for it. When they sat down,
Angela looked at them questioningly.
Were here to talk to your son, Mrs. Wellington. We have
some questions to ask him about Damien Sharps death. But you
say hes gone?
I dont understand. What kind of questions? And yes,
hes gone. My friend, Tobys teacher, Orlando Floyd, just called
and told me Toby had run away from his house. Mr. Floyd will be
here any minute to fill me in on the details. Im worried. Tobys
never run away or done anything like it before.


The detectives exchanged another glance and told her that

most children come home within hours, but that if Tobys absence
lasted into the night theyd take up the search because they needed
to see him.
You still havent told me why? Angela asked, wishing
that Orlando would arrive soon.
Detective Salonia seemed reticent. All we can say right
now is that there have been some new developments in the Damien
Sharp case. Well have to talk to your son first, and then we can fill
you in.
Angela went white as a sheet. Maam? Detective Huff
asked. Do you have anything for us?
Angela shook her head and then jumped up to go to the
door. Orlando was just coming in. After a whispered conversation
in the foyer, she returned to the living room with him, and
successfully steadying her voice, informed the detectives that they
wished to have their lawyer present with Toby when they spoke to
him. The detectives agreed but asked Orlando if he could tell them
anything about the circumstances under which Toby had run away.
Never one to have much respect for police, Orlando told Angela
not the detectivesthe story of the last Cantata and the
conversation hed had with Toby afterward, quite pointedly leaving
out the background and context necessary for the Detectives to
understand. It was only when they appealed to Angela, explaining
that a better understanding might help them find the boy if he didnt
return soon, that Orlando relented and filled them in.
It was one in the afternoon when the Detectives left,
instructing Angela to call them as soon as Toby returned, and at
nightfall if he hadnt come home by then. The sun went down early
in February and Angela didnt want to wait until dark to call for
help, but Detectives Salonia and Huff explained that Toby was still
far from being considered missingunless, of course, Angela or
Orlando were withholding any information. This angered Orlando,
but again Angela went white as a sheet.
By 5:00 P.M., Angela was frantic. Orlando had been out
for several hours covering the ground between the park and the
Wellington apartment, but hadnt found the boy. Though the
daylight had just begun to dim, Angela called the number the
detectives had given her. She had to tell her story to several people,


each of whom wanted details that were of no possible use to them;

they performed no function other than to pass her on to someone
else equally uninformed, until finally she reached Detective
Salonias voicemail. When Orlando learned that Angela hadnt
been able to speak to the detective in person, he cursed the police
and put on his coat to leave for the stationhouse, but just then the
detective returned Angelas call. He confirmed the address from
which Toby had runaway and the direction he was last seen
heading, and told Angela thatd get someone on it right away.
When Angela asked what that meant, Detective Salonia told her that
the department had an excellent track record and that all their
manpower and resources would swing into action immediately.
Then he said, Sit tight.
Again Orlando threatened to go to the stationhouse, but
Angela was worried that if he antagonized the police, they might be
less diligent in their search, and she begged him to stay with her.
He agreed not to harass them, but insisted on going out again to
hunt for Toby. How could it hurt? he asked. The police search
might scare him away.
Ever since the great emotional upset in the wake of the
accident, Angela had begun to rely on Andr for comfort in
stressful situations, and this particularly stressful one became even
more so when she couldnt locate the cat. She went from room to
room looking for him and calling his name, but he wasnt perched
on any pillow or windowsill, and didnt come out from under any
bed or piece of furniture. She supposed hed gone out his cat door,
a convenience installed by the janitor, Mr. Nicos, hired after Anton
left four years earlier but rarely seen. Angela went so far as to open
the back door, step out on the porch and call Andr, something
shed never done before, but still the cat didnt appear. She was
surprised at her disappointment. It reminded her of her feelings for
her menagerie of stuffed animals when she was young and felt
Once back in the living room, she was beset with the
universal parental reaction to a missing child: grim images spewed
forth in her mind wholly without her consent. She could not put a
stop to the pitiable, heart-rending worst-case scenarios she so
nimbly invented. And now it was getting dark outside; at least it
wasnt too coldnot yet. During the early afternoon when Orlando


had gone, she had wished he was there to distract her, but now with
nightfall when all fears were magnified, she cursed him for not
staying to comfort her. For a time she paced from room to room,
still calling the cat, but eventually she sat down in front of the
television, hoping she could find something so banal that it would
interrupt her flow of fatalistic imaginingslike a game show,
maybe. Wasnt there a channel devoted to those now?
The rerun she found of To Tell the Truth didnt do much
to distract her, but she felt if she turned it off or so much as got up,
shed fall to pieces, so she kept on watching. Eventually she had
herself convinced that even moving her hands and feet would bring
on a gut-wrenching attack of worry. But by the time shed seen
three half-hour segments of the show, she became interested enough
to feel some elation when she guessed who the two imposters were
among the last set of three contestants who all claimed to be ex-con
men. Then she remembered why she was watching and felt guilty
for not worrying herself sick. Thats when Orlando returned,
looking haggard and with no news at all.
By midnight, a female detective had come to the apartment
along with the electronic equipment to trace any incoming calls in
case Toby phoned home but refused to reveal his whereabouts.
Apparently she was going to stay the night. The temperature had
dropped, but only into the low forties. There were nights in
February when the mercury fell below zero. Nothing in her
experience gave Angela reason to understand why she didnt know
where Toby was. This seemed preposterous to her. Though she
was thankful for their effort, she felt the police would not go to such
lengths if they werent suspicions about Tobys part in Damiens
death. Behind the closed doors of her bedroom, she whispered this
to Orlando, but he had come to the same conclusion and could say
nothing to convince her otherwise. It was a terrible night for Angela
and Orlando. They finally fell asleep with their clothes on and
woke soon thereafter as the sun was coming up.

So did Toby. The first rays of the sun fell directly across his face.
Toby didnt know where he was. It took him a moment to regain
his bearings, and still another before he remembered why he was


there. But in those first waking moments, he felt a freedom he

hadnt known in years. For those few moments he had no history,
no future, only himself, isolated in a still clarity, like the pale sky
through which the sun shone on his face. But even when it all came
back to him, he felt like a different Toby than the one whod
awakened in his bed the day before. True, there was a crushing
weight impinging on him, the same weight hed felt for months.
But hed learned to accept it now; the Bach hed found in himself
had helped. Yet as he sat up and looked around that morning, he
felt relieved, as if hed broken loosebut only a little. He was,
after all, no more than twenty feet from his own bed. Above it,
actually: on the roof, where hed slept the night curled next to his
It had been a strange night. Hed never been on the roof
before, though hed seen how Andr climbed up there, and always
wanted to try it himself. When Orlando prodded him about drawing
again, the pressure within him had broken something: thats the way
it felt, but by the time hed run almost all the way home, he felt
better, but didnt want anybody meddling with him anymore, so he
climbed up to the top of the back porch and over to the roof.
Getting to the roof that covered the porch was the hard part, and
probably dangerous too, since he had to dangle for a moment or two
with nothing below him but the courtyard three stories down while
he hoisted himself up. But he wasnt up there looking around for
more than a minute when Andr appeared and trotted right over to
Toby was hot from the run home through the park, so he
took off his jacket and walked around looking off in every direction
for a while. He could see across Lincoln Park to Lake Michigan; he
saw the vast Midwestern city stretching out to the west and the
white ribbon of highway curling north and south close to the lake
shore. After he tired of this he sat down on a raised brick shelf
where Andr appeared to be waiting for him. There was part of a
large cardboard box that was somehow up on the roof, and Toby
had brought that over, folded it up and along with his jacket used it
for a cushion on the brick. He was quite comfortable, but thats
when things got strange.
A flight of crows appeared. Toby hadnt seen or heard them
coming, but there they were, flapping their wings and making a


terrible racket just above him. He wanted to run, but was scared to
get too close to the edge with all those birds flapping like they were.
And remarkably, he saw that Andr showed no signs of agitation: he
just gazed up at them; and the birds were as big as he was. Then
things got even stranger, because one of the crows landed right next
to Andrwhich meant right next to Toby as wellwhile all the
others landed a little way off on the roof and looked directly at the
place where Toby, Andr and the crow were sitting. Toby had
never been close to a crow before. He hadnt realized just how big a
crow was, and how long and sharp its beak was. But Andr was
purring. And the crow was doing something weird. It was picking
up one foot and then the other, rocking back and forth and cooing.
After this went on for a few minutes, Toby felt sure the cat
and crow were speaking to one another. This didnt make sense to
him, since hed always believed that cats and birds were natural
enemies, but there was no denying it: Andr was purring, the crow
was cooing, and their heads were close enough together to touch.
Toby started to laugh, but then both the cat and crow stopped
making their respective sounds and looked directly at him. This
shook him up a little bit; the two sets of animal eyes had a fierce
intensity about them, but he reached out and stroked Andrs pure
black fur.
What are you guys talking about? he asked. There was no
response, and only a moment later the animals turned away from
him again and continued to make little noises at each other. Though
he didnt realize it at the time, it was the first time Toby had laughed
since before hed pushed Damien out the window. Hed been
overjoyed a number of times, even daily, but it took an apparent
conversation between animals to provoke laughter. But quite soon
then, a wave of that pressure to which hed grown so accustomed
swept over him again and he satisfied himself with listening to the
animals and watching the sky begin to darken. Soon he was chilly,
and when he put his coat back on, he found that the cardboard alone
was a comfortable enough cushion for him. Then he lay down on
his back with his hands clasped behind his head, and decided to try
to recollect every piece of Bach hed heard in the last five months.
This was a stimulating and very moving experience,
because waves of joy accompanied every piece he remembered.
And when it came to music, or at least Bachs music, Toby


Wellington had a prodigious memory. He began at the beginning

with the D major Partita and found he could recall every section of
it. Then he went on to the B Flat Partita, the G Major, and then the
three partitas in minor keys. After recalling the French Suites, and
beginning with the English, he realized that he probably could
remember everything and decided to only choose his favorites. So
as the stars appeared above him, Toby remembered the Sixth
Brandenburg Concerto, the Gloria from the B Minor Mass and the
D Minor Concerto for Two Violins. It seemed to him that as each
piece ended in his mind, scores of stars appeared, though no new
ones came out while the music was playing. By the time hed
listened to all this, the sky was replete with stars and Toby was
getting sleepy, so he adjusted his cardboard mattress, zipped up his
jacket for the night, and ran through the sublime slow movement of
double Violin Concerto once again, fell asleep with its serene
conclusion and dreamt the following dream.
Toby was in a rowboat on a storm-tossed sea. The waves
were so high and the spray so stinging to his eyes that he could see
nothing but water and believed he was alone in the little craft. He
sat in the stern and clutched at the gunwales under a pelting rain,
certain that he would capsize and sink to his death in the churning
waters. He cried out for his mother, but even in doing so, he
realized that she was not equipped to help him. She had always
avoided the water, never swam or went sailing when shed had the
chance. As Toby looked above and saw that even darker clouds
were closing in around him, and he wished he believed in a God that
could save him, but as the most avowed atheist will do in such a
situation, he prayed to the God he did not believe in.
Thats when he noticed that the rowboats oars were
moving, and that two dark figures were straining against them,
propelling the boat forward through the torrent. It was only when
the bow of the boat pitched perilously up before him that he could
see that not only were the rowers very small but that they were not
human. By some power Toby didnt begin to understand, the cat
and crow who were rowing were somehow equipped with the
grasping power and strength to man the oars. Neither animal looked
back at Toby or in any way acknowledged his presence. If either
made any sounds, these were inaudible in the deafening storm. Yet
the two rowed on with great power; the rowboat sliced through the


waves. Toby shouted out to them but his own words were blown
away with the sheets of spray that broke over his face. He could not
hear his words, but as he mouthed them he wondered at their
meaning: it was as if someone else spoke. So far so good! he
shouted out. So far so good! But he was certain the animals did
not hear him, and if they had they probably wouldnt understand,
yet they rowed on, and on, though the storm showed no signs of
When Toby first awoke the sky was clouding over. Andr
remained at his side and the crow next to Andr. Just as they had
when hed fallen asleep, the animals continued to converse, and
holding his purring cat close to his body, Toby fell into a dreamless
sleep and awakened when the light of the sun washed across his
It wasnt much later when Toby swung himself out over the
edge of the porch roof, descended the back stairs to his second floor
back door and quietly went in the house. He was no longer certain
why hed run away.

You called the police on me? Toby said to his stunned mother as
he walked into the living room. Angela had been dozing in a chair
next to the officer at the phone.
My God, Toby! Where have you been? she asked,
rushing over to him.
Up on the roof.
What were you doing there?
Sleeping. Andr was with me, and some crow.
Sleeping? Oh, my God! Werent you cold? Are you all
right? A crow? She put her hands on his shoulders and shook him
a little.
Dont I look all right? he snapped.
Son, your mother was very worried about you, said the
uniformed officer, a woman named Potkowski.
Despite everything hed been through in the last half year,
Tobys cold, imperious stare remained unchanged, and he cast it
directly at the policewoman. She didnt take it well. She glanced
over at Angela to see her reaction to the boys disrespect, and seeing


nothing to support her displeasure, turned away and put in a call to

headquarters to inform her superiors that the suspect had returned.
Whatever made you run away, Toby? Angela asked, still
holding him and knowing full well that even under the most relaxed
circumstances it was unlikely that hed give her anything but a
perfunctory answer. With Officer Potkowski present, she hardly
expected that, but still she felt she had to play the part and ask.
Why is everyone asking me questions? he snapped again,
pulling away from his mother. Im going back out.
Officer Potkowski was pleased that this impudent child had
made that statement because it justified her reaction to it. No, son,
Im afraid youre not going anyplace, she said with some
satisfaction, standing to reveal her full height, which was over six
feet. Then she took a step toward Toby, who was backing toward
the kitchen.
You cant tell me what to do in my house, he said to her,
turning to walk away.
Toby, stop, Angela said. The police have some
questions for you.
I told you, Im sick of people asking me questions. So I
ran away, big deal!
But as he strode toward the kitchen, Officer Potkowski
moved more quickly than one might expect of a woman her size,
and put her two-hundred-and-twenty-five pound blue-uniformed,
black-shoed body between Toby and the door that led out of the
living room. Youre going to have to stay here in this room, she
said, putting a hand on his shoulder. She was careful not to use
inappropriate forceToby, however, wasnt. Theres no telling
how he might have reacted had he known why the police wanted to
question to him, but believing that they wanted to lecture him about
running away, he reacted as we might expect. He slapped the
officers hand off his shoulder.
In seconds, his rag-doll body had been flipped onto the
couch, where he cried as the large, indignant woman told him that if
he tried anything like that again shed handcuff him to the radiator.



Marcuss allegations devastated Angela and Orlando. Angela knew

Marcus, and had always felt the sweetness of his nature had been a
good influence on her son. Though neither she nor Orlando
divulged the depth of their suspicions to anyone, not even to their
lawyer, their concerns had been silently building for years and they
believed every word of Marcus story.

A grand jury had convened to hear the District Attorneys evidence.

Orlandos old art school friend-turned lawyer, Glen Steinberg, had
recommended his partner, Bob Jacobson, as a fine trial attorney; and
Angela, so nervous she thought shed become sick, accompanied
Toby and Mr. Jacobson to the hearing.
Adam Wellington had been traveling for a month before
coming home from college for the summer. Hed been driving
cross country with his girlfriend and had just arrived home when
Angela and Toby returned to the apartment from the courthouse.
Although Angela had tried to be cheerful for the sake of her


perfectly average and scholastically successful older son, her

attempts that day were unsuccessful: the ordeal of the hearing had
left her face drawn and her mood fragile. She was too upset to even
tell Adam the news; and it was only after hed had gone out to meet
with some of his friends, that Angela called Orlando. Based on
Marcus testimony and that of other witnesses, she told him through
her tears, Toby had been charged with murder in the second degree.
Everythings been wiped away, she said to Orlando
whod arrived shortly after hearing the news. Everything goods
been wiped away by this, as if it never happened. Because you
know, Orlando? Maybe things werent so good in the first place.
No, thats not true, Orlando answered, trying to clarify,
not console her. Tobys gift came with too much weight for any
boy to carry. Look, he said, we stick with him, okay? We have to
be the strong ones here. You do, I mean. The greatest burden falls
on you, Angela. No matter what Toby thinks or feels, you have to
be beside himeven if he rejects you. And Ill be beside you.
But whats going to happen? Are they going to take him
away? Angela was standing in front of the living room windows
looking out. She couldnt look at Orlando, who was behind her.
She hardly noticed the flight of crows that swooped down past the
window and flapped up and away above the buildings across the
Well talk to Jacobson about that tomorrow. I cant
imagine anyone taking Toby away, but were going to go crazy
thinking about it.
What else can I think of? Angela asked, shaking
Orlandos hands off of her shoulders.
Orlando had no answer for this. Back in the days when
hed read about Buddhismor was it Hinduism or something else,
he couldnt rememberhe heard that all human suffering results
from prolonging the past and anticipating the future; and he
supposed that was probably true, but he didnt know how to tell that
to a frantic mother. Who knows? If hed tried, it might have done
some good, but he didnt; he feared angering her, so all he said was
that he was sorry, so very sorry.
Then Angela put her arms around him and wept onto his
shoulder. It seems unfortunate that the purification of the human
soul is so often achieved through suffering. Angela had suffered


multiple blows: she feared her child was lost, shed heard of
Marcus accusations, and now her son was charged with murder.
This effectively undermined the remains of Angela Wellingtons
unrealistically optimistic nature. On the level on which she lived
and breathed, everything was decidedly not all right. Orlando had
dared to propose this to her, and now the clock of circumstance had
struck. Angela continued to weep on Orlandos shoulder: heavy,
solemn tears, for not only had everything good about Toby and his
life been wiped away, her own self-deception had been wiped away
as well. Our expert source on information reincarnational might
have a story or two regarding this karmic culmination in her life, but
whats in question here is not the lineage of this crisis, but whether
or not Tobys mother was about to draw her curtains, both literal
and figurative, climb into bed, and remain there, heavily medicated,
as the circumstantial clock ticked on. She stood weeping on
Orlandos shoulder for longer than one might expect. Then she said
that she too was sorry, and went into her bedroom and closed the
door behind her.

Fortunately for everyone involved, the trial was to follow swiftly

upon the grand jury indictment. One may speculate why the boy
reacted as he didwith Toby Wellington, one never knowsbut it
turned out that as soon as the proceedings began, he did his best to
tune out everything that the prosecutor and the prosecutions
witnesses had to say. Everything. As soon as the first witness took
the stand, Toby tried to tune in the opening Kyrie section from
Bachs B Minor Mass. Surely Toby must have known that in Latin
the words Kyrie eleison mean Lord have mercy, but its more
likely that it was the contrapuntal glory of the music that he wished
to engulf him and mask out the drone of damaging testimony. But
his tactic worked only to a limited extent. The Sharps dusty
apartment had left an unspoiled crime scene for the forensic team to
reexamine in light of the charges brought against Toby. When the
prosecutors witnesses took the stand, their words began to penetrate
his defenses, and their findings were more damaging than those of
the initial report. Feeling that the B Minor Mass might be too great
and complex a work to summon up in his mind under these trying
circumstances, Toby reverted to the simpler preludes and fugues of
Book One of Bachs Well Tempered Clavier, keyboard pieces, like


the Partitas, in which the independent musical lines stand out with
unparalleled excellence. But the lines of testimony insinuated
themselves into the music, ruining it for Toby. The words of the
prosecutions forensic expert sounded dissonant notes as he reported
that there was nothing in the crime scene to suggest that Toby had
not murdered Damien. It was a little later that he tried to bring to
mind the sweeping opening movement of the Sixth Brandenburg
Concerto, but the warm pulse of strings that first began to swell up
around him was vaporized at the words of the witness on the stand.
It was Marcus himself, and utterly incapable of drowning out the
words with music, Toby had no choice but to listen, his eyes cast
down at his hands folded in his lap.
Marcuss testimony, however, contained nothing for which
Toby had not been prepared, and Marcus voice seemed mousy and
frail. Marcus sounded like the weakling that Toby had always
suspected he was. And though Tobys expression had remained
unchanged throughout the proceedings so far, a hint of a sneer
might have been detected on his face as Marcus Freeling spoke.
It had been a long day. Toby had not eaten and he was
visibly shaking with hunger as he left the courtroom. One of the
bailiffs thought he should see a doctor. Toby reacted with scorn.
On the ride home he didnt say a word.
And a long night followed. Unlike most thirteen-year-olds,
Toby Wellington was perfectly comfortable with solitude; he
thrived on it, in fact, he sought it out. So when he couldnt sleep
that night, the feeling that gripped him came as a disturbing
surprise. Toby felt lonely, sharply and deeply lonely. Perhaps it
was what hed heard in court that day; what the Bach had not
masked out, what art could not dissuade. No tears accompanied his
loneliness, however; only a hardening of his feelings, of everything
he felt about himself and the world.
After a probing conversation with Toby, Bob Jacobson had
found the boy so poised and convincing that despite the risks
involved, he decided to let him take the stand in his own defense. It
was just before noon the next day when the time came for him to be
sworn in, and it seemed to those who knew Toby that Mr. Jacobson
had been right; that Toby might have chosen acting as a career
rather than art. His demeanor was a perfect portrayal of wronged
but clear-headed innocence. In his story, which was rehearsed at


length with his lawyer, Toby admitted that he had been the
instigator of mischief in the past, though not to the extent that
Marcus claimed. He explained further that on the day of the
accident, Damien seemed to have snapped. He acted as Toby had
never seen him act before: more aggressive, more unreasonable,
more determined. After a series of objections from the prosecutor,
Tobys attorney reworded his question to allow Toby to tell the jury
that at the time, he believed that it was because Damien had just
moved into a high-rise building that he got carried away with
dropping things out the window from such a great height; whereas
before, from the third floor there was no way to do anything
dangerous without being caught, and just as Marcus reported,
Damien never suggested it before. But Damien was a different
person that day in August, or so Toby insisted, with a convincing
look of bewilderment. Under Mr. Jacobsons direct examination, he
admitted to telling Marcus he would throw him out a window, and
also to a few other of Marcus accusations, but he did so with such
apparent guilelessness that he was more convincing than even Mr.
Jacobson could have hoped.
But Tobys skill as an actor proved only superficial. Toby,
and indeed Mr. Jacobson, clever as he was, was unprepared for the
States strategy. Earlier, the prosecution had called a classmate of
Tobys, Erin McKean, who recounted in remarkable detail how
Toby had once bragged to her that hed thrown water balloons out a
window at passersby, and had gone on to explain even if suspected,
hed simply lie about his involvement because people, adults in
particular, were easy to fool. Lying, he told Erin, was no big deal.
Toby, still trying to lose himself in The Well Tempered Clavier at
the time, never looked at pretty little Erin, and may not have heard
what shed said. This being established, however, the prosecutor
whether through courtroom savvy or insight gained in the discovery
processlaunched her psychological attack
This Assistant District Attorney, Ms. Bristlemeyer, asked
Toby if it was true that after Damiens death, he was very upset.
Toby responded that he was, and went on to answer a series of
questions describing his reaction to what he referred to as the
accident, still playing the part of the bereaved friend with what
seemed genuine sincerity. It was when he was asked if hed stopped
drawing as a result of his grief that Toby began to lose his focus.


So you were so upset that you couldnt draw any

pictures? the prosecutor asked in the matter-of-fact tone one might
use when asking if a sprained ankle kept someone from jogging.
And indeed, the trivialization his world-renowned work
pushed one of Tobys buttons; though only one. Because Toby
never spoke freely about his art. Never. Thats none of your
business, he said, fixing his gaze on the Ms. Bristlemeyer, a wiry
little woman with a hawk-like face.
Well, Mr. Wellington, she answered, even if it isnt my
business, I think its the jurys business if you were so upset after
Damiens death you couldnt figure out what to draw.
I think youre stupid, Toby answered.
After a long, calculated silence, Ms. Bristlemeyer rephrased
the question in still another demeaning way. So were you so upset
you couldnt pick up one of your what? Your pencils?
Shut up! was Toby response to this; at which the judge
told Ms. Bristlemeyer to watch herself, and told Toby to mind his
manners, explaining the meaning of contempt of court.
Toby already knew what contempt meant, and was all too
familiar with the feeling itself. In this instance, however, the
problem was that he couldnt stop himself from expressing it. I
dont care about that, he the boy said petulantly. He might have
stopped there, but that place under his right shoulder blade had been
aching since he took the stand, and his desire to express himself was
I dont care about any of this, he said, gesturing toward
the courtroom. The judge had just silenced all the murmuring when
Ms. Bristlemeyer continued.
Do you care about Damien? she asked.
Toby stared at the little woman.
She continued. Do you care about Damien Sharp, your
What does that matter? Hes dead. The expression on the
thirteen-year-olds face was scornful; there was no getting around
that. Though in his arrogance, Toby looked imposing, larger than
life, and cold, as if fashioned of stone or burnished steel; somehow
at the same time he looked like a bitter, shriveled old man, huddled
in his loneliness. Once the judge instructed the jury to disregard the


last exchange and curtly warned the prosecutor to return to the

point, he patiently addressed Toby.
I understand how an esteemed artist like yourself might be
reluctant to talk about his work, but I believe Ms. Bristlemeyer can
ask her question in a more respectful way.
This tactic worked. Its still none of her business, Toby
said to the judge after the tough little woman complied, but the
answer to her question is, No. Okay? No. Its got nothing to do
with being upset. Sometimes I draw and sometimes I dont. No
reasons. Get it? Its none of her business. The tone of this answer
was so haughty, however, that the jury members, to the last,
appeared to be chilled.
A little later, when under rather harsh cross-examination,
Toby was recounting his version of the struggle by the eighteenth
floor living room window at the Sharps apartment, he contradicted
a statement hed made to the police when questioned immediately
after Damiens fall. Toby had initially told the police that hed tried
to wrest the cantaloupe away before Damien threw it out the
window. In court, he said he didnt think Damien was serious about
actually throwing it down and was surprised when he did. Though
this contradiction might have been explained away by Tobys
understandable emotional turmoil when hed spoken to the police,
Mrs. Bristlemeyer took aim. She was keenly aware of the emotional
turmoil shed stirred up in Toby by questioning him about his art,
and he may have been the only one in the courtroom who didnt
realize he was being set up when she asked him about his
contradictory statement.
First you tell the police it happened one way and then you
insist it happened differently. How is the jury to know if youre
telling the truth about that?
I always tell the truth, he answered bitterly.
Ms. Bristlemeyer turned up her hands, raised her eyebrows,
and looked at the jury dubiously. She had no further questions.
Of course, it hadnt been all that long since Erin McKean
had made it compellingly clear to the jury that Toby Wellington had
little regard for the truth. If it was the District Attorneys plan to
discredit Toby, it was successful. Anyone witnessing prosecutions
cross-examination of the young artist would have serious doubts
about his account of what happened the day that Damien Sharp fell


to his death. The defenses case, of course, did not focus on Tobys
truthfulness or lack thereof, but on the lack of evidence directly
linking him to the commission of any crime. As compelling as Mr.
Jacobson was, however, the jurys overriding response that day may
have been their dislike of the defendant.

Although Angela Wellington had gone into her bedroom at three in

the afternoon that day before Tobys trial began, and though shed
drawn her curtains and climbed into bed, she emerged only an hour
later, apparently having summoned her weakened forces in brave
defense of her son. Throughout the trial Angela and Orlando sat
together holding hands, though this was not visible to others in the
courtroom. The two seemed in a state of perpetual shock at what
was taking place around them. They looked stunned when Toby
spoke with such sincerity and humility; they looked stunned when
he spoke with undisguised contempt. The two of them had always
been powerless to control Toby, and never before had their
helplessness been so apparent. Akbar the Crow, in his great
wisdom, may have seen these proceedings as an aspect of Great
Cosmic Dance of Consent, but it hardly felt that way to Angela and
Every word of the prosecutions witnesses wrung at
Angelas heart. Early on in the proceedings she began to feel
clammy and wet with sweat, and her eyes were soon puffy with
suppressed tears. The second day she wore sunglasses to court.
Orlandos head began to throb as soon as Ms. Bristlemeyer began to
present her case, and the pain became so intense that his vision
blurred before the first day ended. Though they sat close together,
their eyes didnt meet during the proceedings. The two looked as if
they were attending a funeralsomething which was not lost to the
courtroom artist, who drew constantly through out the trial. It was
she from whom Angela and Orlando hid their nervously entwined
hands, but there was no way to conceal their dismayed expressions,
which, along with the artists characterizations of Tobys arrogant
looks, appeared on all the networks at news-time and in newspapers
The press descended on the trial with lurid expectations.
Toby Wellingtons innocence or guilt was debated at lunch
counters, taverns, coffee houses, bowling alleys, book groups,


church basements, and of course, call-in radio shows for the five
days of the trial. The popular verdict, as the pollsters so selflessly
announced, was a resounding condemnation of this spoiled prodigy,
this beautiful boy, who seemed to the great masses of Americans
not initiated in the fine arts, a picture of elitism, of misplaced
privilege, dubious morality, and possibly indeterminate sexuality.
The public did not like Toby Wellingtonor more aptly, the public
enjoyed disliking him
Two of the less reputable publications ran the following
headlines for the benefit of all grocery shoppers who might need
their curiosity satisfied while waiting in line to check out.




The serious news services covered the trial with the
impartiality they could muster, but their reader and viewership were
not necessarily those who rushed to judgment or had a congenital
mistrust of art. It was the consensus of legal minds that the case
against Toby was unsubstantiated; it was also the consensus that the
jury in this kind of sensational, emotionally charged case was
Life for the Wellingtons during this period was intolerable.
Orlando remained with Angela and Toby the entire time, and Adam
kept to the house and did his best to give his little brother support,
something hed never done in the past and did now primarily for his
mothers sake. Orlando collected the newspaper before it was
delivered, monitored the mail, made sure the television was never
turned on, and screened all phone calls. Yet somehow the drift of
public opinion seeped into the house like an invisible toxin. Toby
was jeered as he came and went from the courthouse with his police


escort. Placards were thrust in front of him and up to the windows

of the car. Though quickly dispersed by the police, occasional
zealots shouted insults at the family from outside the apartment
building. The value of Tobys drawings, however, increased
another ten-fold.
In what seemed a pattern of behavior uncharacteristic of a
feline, Andr the Cat acted as if he willingly dedicated himself to
the well-being of everyone in the house, most particularly Toby and
Angela, but Adam and even Orlando as well. Whenever anyone
appeared to be more agitated, tormented or depressed than the
others, the black cat hurried to his or her side, established contact
and purred with unusual force and resonance. There were times
when the animal repeatedly switched humans, comforting Toby for
a period of a quarter-hour, than Angela, then back to Toby, and
again back to his mother without any break in between. When
Adam sat disconsolately staring out the window, the cat leapt up on
his lap (something the animal had never done in the past) and
commenced to purr. Even when Orlando sat with his head in his
hands, Andr ministered to him, surprising the man greatly enough
to bring a tepid smile to his face. The cat seemed tireless.
Uncharacteristically, he never napped when the humans were
awake. Mostly, he slept with Toby, but somehow had the instinct to
hop up next to Angela when she suffered her recurring nightmares
about being cornered by faceless people with dogs.

On the evening before the trial ended, Angela and Toby sat alone at
the kitchen table after dinner. They had ordered in from The Jade
Palace, but neither had eaten much.
Do you remember when I tried to draw that elephant,
Toby? Angela asked, trying to hold back her tears.
Yes, mom. That was pretty pathetic.
Angela smiled. When you showed me how to do it, did
you have any feeling about what you did?
Toby seemed to be thinking seriously about it. I was just a
kid, mom. I dont remember that much.
You took a dark blue crayon and drew a beautiful elephant
on a piece of my stationery. It was meant for you to color in.


I was coloring?
Yes, and you werent very good at itand youve never
done it since. Maybe you should try. You might be better.
Toby showed signs of a smile at this remark, but then grew
pensive again. I remember something about it, he said. I
remember that blue crayon and I remember how the elephant
looked. It was in another book and I remembered it.
And it didnt feel like anything special for you to just draw
what you remembered like that?
Toby looked at his mother earnestly; she couldnt remember
ever seeing such a look directed at her. She had seen that
expression on his face when he drew and when he listened to Bach,
but when it was directed at her, it felt distinctly warm, not a
sensation usually attributed to Toby. Maybe everything would be
better if I wasnt so special, he said.
Angela remembered what Orlando said when she made
comments like that.
Lifes a package deal, dear, Angela said. If you didnt
have your talent you wouldnt be Toby, you wouldnt be my son.
Maybe it seems like without that gift things wouldnt be so
complicated, but you are complicated. You have a wonderful,
complicated mind. It must be so terribly difficult for you now. Im
so sorry. Its almost too difficult for me to bear and Im just your
mother. But youre only thirteen, Toby, and youre going to have a
chance to grow into it all.
Am I really?
What do you mean? Angela pulled her chair closer to the
table. Toby sat across from her leaning forward, his chin on his
I dont feel like theres going to be any future.
The starkness with which he said that chilled his mother,
but she understood how a boy on trial for murder could feel that
way. She remembered that Orlando had told her that she had to be
the strong one. Honey, I cant get you through these next days.
But I promise you this will turn out all right
What does that mean? Toby snapped back. What do
you mean all right? Those people hate me. Toby sat up straight,
narrowing his eyes. Why dont you admit that? Why dont you
say it might not turn out all right?


Is this what its come down to? Angela wondered. Is this

what motherhood has come down to? Youre probably right,
dear, she said with as much clarity as she could summon up. Is
that what you need to hear? That youre probably right? I might
not know any more about this than you do, but maybe I do. And
Im hopeful. As a person, Im hopeful, Toby. Not just as your
mother. You dont need mothering now, dear. You havent for a
long time, but Im available if you do. Angela could see tears well
up in Tobys eyes at this; whether it was the sound of the truth that
elicited them or relief or self-pity she could not be sure. Is that
fair? she asked.
Fair? he said.
Maybe I could have used a better word.
Toby didnt respondor perhaps his stony silence was his
answer. But Angela was not to be sold short.
Do you remember what you drew after the elephant?
Toby didnt say a thing, but he cast his eyes down.
You drew a lion.
I drew a lion in Mr. Floyds class, he said, still looking at
the table. The first day.
Thats right, but you also drew a lion with that blue crayon
on my light blue stationery. After you drew the elephant. And
before you drew the giraffe. I still have it someplace. Its probably
worth a hundred-thousand dollars nowthe blue lion. Angela
laughed. Maybe we should sell it and buy a lifetime supply of
chocolate ice creamfor your whole class.
Do we have any ice cream? Toby asked.
Angela got up and walked over to the freezer. Ill go get
some if we dont, she said, feeling her motherhood, at least,
temporarily restored.
Send Mr. Floyd, Toby said. Hell go.
Angela found it charming that her son still refrained from
calling her lover by his first name. But of course, in Tobys mind,
Orlando was still first and foremost his teacher. As she had so
many times in the last few days, Angela wanted to hug her son at
any sign of normalcy, but lifes a package deal, she remembered,
hoping to forestall any debilitating wave of sentimentality. And at
the moment she was somehow proud of her boyor was it of



Alarm was in the air the afternoon I found Toby Wellington had
climbed onto the roof. Not only had I never seen the boy under the
sky, but his emanations were also unprecedented: he glowed with a
pulsing silver sheen with deepening scarlet hues at its core. He
seemed at once agitated and rejuvenated. No vestigial images
remained in his aura, so I couldnt determine the source of his
mood, but I approached him gladly and made myself comfortable in
my customary spot where he joined me as naturally as if he were a
frequent visitor to the rooftop.
A certain compression of the roof currents made it clear that
Akbar and his followers would arrive before long. The Wellington
boy was frightened at their approach and seemed alarmed when
Akbar settled next to me. Akbar had a good deal to report,
however, and before long, I pressed my fur against Tobys body to
stabilize him and turned all my attention to the venerable old crow.


Pay careful attention to this, Andr, he began, since you

may find it pertains to coming events. One might say something is
in the works. A worldwide occurrence, mind you, but one that will
reflect itself personally as well. A number of planetary cycles are
culminating simultaneously: cycles of planets in relation to the
position of the earth, planets that like the constellations of the
zodiac, affect the subtler planes of life here, and thus human life. It
is the nature of culminating planetary cycles to bring the
developments of the closing period a climax, to exaggerate the
trends of those periods and throw them temporarily out of balance,
and it is a time when the destructive forces of the cosmos help clear
the way for the new era, of whatever magnitude that may be.
I took a moment to fit myself more closely warm space
between Tobys right arm and his side. When Akbar saw that the
boy and I were both settled, he continued. According to the
venerable Hindu tradition, the balance of the cosmos is maintained
by the interaction of three Divine forces, or three Gods, if one
prefers: Brahma, the Creator; Shiva the Destroyer, and Vishnu, the
Preserver. Contemporary humans tend to relegate the power of
Shiva, the Destroyer, to the diabolical or undivine, one of the factors
that leads to the unbridled materialism of much of the modern
world. But regardless of this misunderstanding, humans, like all
other species, depend on this power for their very being.
When I asked Akbar just what cycles were ending and
which ones beginning at this particular juncture, he was less
specific. Let me only say that it will be a time for an advancement
in trust, a growth of acceptance; and that these in themselves are
among the evolutionary trends that culminate in the recognition of
the Divine in all things.
That all acts are acts of love? I asked.
Yes, Akbar answered. Or not.
Of course the old crow didnt smile at me in the moonlight
as he said this, but I believe if he could have, he would.

There was a great deal of tension in the Wellington home before the
infestation began; but when Toby arrived home late that afternoon
along with his mother and teacher, the atmosphere began to crackle


with a discharge of the most sinister nature as a hideous, slovenly

horde of astral rabble rushed in in their wake. These degraded
embodiments of negativity not only clung tenaciously to the subtle
bodies of the humans on whom they preyed, but hung in the
recesses of the rooms, in corners near the ceiling, under beds, and
behind doors waiting to invade any thoughts and feelings made
available by the absence of other such petty demons.
If I hadnt previously formed bonds of compassion with the
humans who inhabited this place, I would have backed away. Never
in my feline experience had I encountered such an invasion, such an
army of the grotesque, the source of which was an arena outside the
Wellington home, that place where Toby, his mother and his teacher
were apparently held captive during the days. These drooling,
decaying, obese, skeletal, filthy, stinking embodiments of human
hatred, prejudice, envy and scorn poured through the front door and
continued to penetrate the Wellingtons home through the windows,
through electrical appliances and through the plumbing. Its not in
the nature of adult cats to make alliances with other adults of their
species, but if Id had the opportunity I would have seized it, for it
seemed beyond my skills as a predator to rid the premises of these
specters on my own. Perhaps joined together with three other cats I
might have defended those to whom I felt responsible, but as it
stood, I had no choice but to divide my efforts, leaving those whose
auras I could not patrol to suffer as they would.
The demands upon me were so great that the joy I
customarily feel in the pursuit and killing of such pests was largely
lost. The boy, Toby, was apparently the focus of the attack, but his
mother, being by far the weaker of the two, suffered more acutely
from her smaller share of the parasitic attacks. Still, my strongest
bond was with the boy, and it was he whom I defended most
staunchly. Never during the duration of the invasion did I stop to
think that in an earlier phase of my life I might have lingered on the
back porch, hunted strays until I was sated, and left the premises.
Nor do I yet fully understand the tenacity of my allegiance to these
humans, but I remained in a state of consistently aggressive defense
for seven full days, and then seven more as the threat diminished
and the invaders I killed were less and less frequently replaced by


There was one particular strain of bugaboo that for a time

seemed to be able to replicate itself ad infinitum. This was a scaly,
winged, reptile like ghoul with sagging, festering skin and the face
of a young but malevolent looking human female. From what I
could gather, these hideous embodiments were inner manifestation
of the human degradation known as envy, though contrary to
popular superstition, they were not green but pink. I must have
slain hundreds of these incorporeal monsters, mostly clinging to the
aura of the boy, Toby. One I recall in particular, screeched out as I
dismembered it with my claws, insisting that she was royalty and
her name was Barbie.
Unlike his mother, older brother and teacher, Toby reacted
furiously to these unseen threats. It is difficult for me to know how
they appeared to him; perhaps as debilitating thoughts, physical or
psychological threats or memories of such threats, and though he
was at times overpowered, he reacted with an admirable outrage,
particularly when compared to the others whose submission was
unflattering. In fact, had Toby Wellington been a feline, I would
have gladly joined forces with him in doing battle with these
pernicious pests, if only for his courageously defiant spirit.

After Akbar told me about the culminating planetary cycles and

their refreshing, if unsettling, effect on worldly matters, he went on
to tell me something that many modern humans would find
fundamentally unacceptable, particularly the esteemed so-called
scientific community and those religious zealots who comprise its
vociferous opposition. This bit of information he passed on to me
concerns one of the most hotly debated matters in the purview of
either of these unenlightened factions: namely, the tremendous huff
about their beliefs, on the one hand in evolution, and on the other
in creationism. These opposing camps, Akbar explained, are
equally incorrect and correct in their beliefs about humanitys
origins; their share in ignorance and understanding is uniquely the
same. Akbars reason for explaining this to a cat remains unclear to
me, since the truth of the matter neither applies to me and my kind,
nor has any chance of being accepted by humans until a higher stage
of their development is reached. Still, the story is simple enough.


According to Akbar, the animal world did develop, or some might

say evolve, much as modern science supposes, butand heres the
other side of the storyas the animals evolved into creatures much
like humans, the spirit of humanity, or some might say the divine
spirit, descended into ever more dense planes of life until it met the
upwardly evolving animal form, thus creating man.
Again, I can only wonder at Akbars reasons for relating
this to me at this juncture of my life. Perhaps he felt this knowledge
of the grand scheme of things would empower me in the difficult
times that lay ahead and lend perspective to the human tumult I
would witness.

Spirit descends into matter to enlighten it, Akbar said on another

occasion. Spirit descends into matter to learn to love it, to lose
itself and find itself anew, richer and fuller. People think that they
are longing for God, when it is actually God who is longing for
Akbar walked away then and left me with his followers.
Again I noticed the one crow that had a patch of white feathers
above his eyes that ran back along the crown of his head. I had not
spoken to him before. He introduced himself as Veritas.
As spokesman for my brethren, he said, I thank you for
your service to our mentor.
Though this reminded me of Akbars words when he
thanked me on behalf of the League of Initiates, this crows words
still surprised me.
You give him the opportunity to become more of himself,
Veritas explained.
I still didnt fully understand.
You magnify his radiance.
I looked at Veritas expecting more, but I sensed that he
would not elucidate any further. Something else was on my mind,
however, something Id felt would have been an inappropriate
question to ask Akbar.
Can you tell me how old your leader is, I asked.
Akbar was off on the far side of the roof, but all other heads
turned in my direction. Veritas looked stunned, as if surprised I
asked. He looked at me very closely for a moment but made no



It was just after two in the afternoon. It had been five days since the
trial had begun, and the case had been turned over to the jury. The
Wellingtons and Orlando Floyd had arrived back at the apartment
and didnt know what to do about dinner. Orlando suggested he
drive over to the Jade Palace for some take-out when there was a
knock on the front door. Angela peered out the peephole and
Go away! she shouted through the door. You dont have
any business here! She broke down sobbing and ran to her
Go away! Orlando yelled toward the door then. Youve
got a lot of nerve! he added as he followed Angela away, hoping to
console her. That someone from the press would harass Angela at
home, and on this very day, nearly brought Orlando to tears as well.
But Toby, angry but fearless, flung open the door. He
didnt recognize the tall, broad-shouldered man who was his father.


As soon as she heard the door unlatch, Angela streaked out

of her bedroom, pulled Toby away from the door and seized Tobias
by the shoulders. Go away from here! she cried.
Mom! said Adam, who had come out of his room and was
staring at Tobias. Its okay! Angela knew that Adam had kept in
contact with his father and had never interfered. She knew Tobias
had visited him at Princeton.
Its not okay! shouted Angela, livid, her face flushed and
fists clenched. If you want to see your father, its fine. But not
Toby stiffened. Orlando had never seen Angela in such a
rage, or in any rage, for that matter. Neither had Adam, or Toby
who showed no reaction to his mothers outburst. He stared at his
father; his expression was blank.
Though it had been many years since Toby had let his
mother hug him, hed always taken her side whenever Tobias was
mentioned, and never expressed any desire to see or contact him.
His mother didnt like the man and he was a flawed, inadequate
person who didnt understand art or care that Toby was a great
artist: that was all the boy needed to know. Neither he nor his
mother knew just when Tobias had been released from Federal
prison. Adam had kept this to himself.
I came to show support for my son, Tobias said, still
standing in the doorway, his way barred by Angelas fuming
presence. Though still handsome, he looked like hed aged more
than seven years, his face was creased and his hair nearly white.
This is not an appropriate way to do it! snapped Angela,
who seemed to have aged greatly herself, though in only in the last
weeks. She looked like a woman in mourning. Tobys got enough
on his plate now! He doesnt need a surprise visit from you! She
turned to Adam. Im sorry, dear. Im sorry you have to see this.
Adam stood as tall as his father and resembled him as much
as Toby resembled Angela. Adam was already talking about
studying law. He nodded to Tobias in what seemed a familiar way.
Had he known Tobias was coming? Had he asked him to come?
But Angela hardly cared. Nor did she care if Tobias had reformed
or even been reborn during his years in the penitentiary. Her only
concern was that her ex-husband leave them alone during these most
terrible days of their lives.


Though Orlando remained sitting in a chair at the far end of

the living room throughout this encounter, he had the sense to
withdraw into himself and hope to appear as innocuous as possible
while remaining available in case Tobias became abusive with
either Angela or Toby. Hed never heard that Tobias had a violent
nature, but this was no time to test that out. And Tobias, who had
spoken calmly at first, was now showing signs of agitation.
The press has poisoned the atmosphere. Theyre making a
laughing-stock of my son! he said angrily to Angela. Im not
going to let you impede my right to see him!
I dont want to see you! Toby shouted. He was standing
rigid, just behind Angela in the apartments foyer. I dont know
you! Just like my mother said: we want you to go away!
Tobiass face fell, though might have expected his sons
response. Hed tried to contact Toby on his birthday every year, but
his cards had been returned unopened with Return to Sender
written in Tobys distinctive hand.
You put him up to this, didnt you? Tobias said to
Angela, but even as he said it, he yielded a little and began to turn
back in the direction of the open front door.
I did no such thing, she said, a note of mockery in her
voice. If you had any feeling for who you son is, youd know that
no one puts Toby up to anything.
At this she put her hand on her ex-husbands shoulder again
and pushed him in the direction of the hall. Before he backed all the
way out, he waved tentatively to Adam and looked earnestly at
Im sorry I havent been here for you, Toby. I want you to
know Im praying for you.
Orlando felt a pang of sympathy for the man. Toby,
apparently, did not. The mention of prayer disgusted him. He
looked at his father with that expression of contempt that hed
apparently mastered in court.
The front door closed then, but Angela went out onto the
second floor landing. At first only harsh whispers could be heard
through the heavy front door. Then Tobias raised his voice. It was
unclear what he was saying to Angela, but his tone was bitter and he
was shouting: something about ruination and creating a
monster. Then Angela gasped and began to sob again, but this


sobbing came from a deeper place than outrage and anger, it was a
deep, soul-wracked sound that had a soul-wrenching effect on her
younger son.
With the quickness of a cat, Toby flung the front door open,
and seeing his mother in tears, drove his left shoulder directly into
his fathers chest, sending him hurdling backwards down the
staircase. Toby stood for only a moment looking down
contemptuously at Tobias, a fifty-one-year-old man sprawled on the
lower landing. Then he turned on his heel and entered the
apartments foyer with a smug look of accomplishment on his face.
Angela stood there in horror before rushing down to her ex-
husbands aid. Fortunately for Tobiasif anything could be
deemed fortunate for him at this timethe staircase was thickly
carpeted and it was only eight steps from landing to landing. When
Angela got to him, his face was wracked with pain but he was
already trying to get up to see what hurt the most. Apparently it was
his back. Angela offered to take him to a hospital or call for an
ambulance if he felt he needed it, but nearly in the same breath she
pleaded with him not to report this to the authorities. Tobias
Wellington saw his ex-wife looked so broken, weak, worn down
and utterly defenseless, that despite his morass of conflicting
feelings, running from love to outrage to a broken paternal heart, he
told her not to worry about that, stood up fully, shook the wrinkles
out of his suit, and limped on down the stairs, listing slightly to the
left. (He was injured more seriously than he realized at the time,
however. Despite back surgery and countless visits to the
chiropractor, he continued to suffer lower back pain for the rest of
his life, along with a recurring dull ache from a simple fracture of
the heart.)

The event she had just witnessed was so brazen, so unequivocally

conclusive, that Angela felt the last vestige of hope (or perhaps self-
deception) she held for Tobys innocence dissolve. A part of her
felt it was still standing there, gaping in disbelief at what shed seen.
When she re-entered the apartment, her feelings had become so
volcanic that she believed she was having a nervous breakdown:
that she was about to collapse onto the floor, tear out clumps of her
hair, rend her garments with no regard for her surroundings and
weep inconsolably until she died. Fortunately for heragain, as in


her ex-husbands case, the word hardly applies people who have
actual nervous breakdowns dont think in terms either so predictable
or theatrical, and what Angela did when she walked back into the
house was look at Orlando, wipe the tears from her eyes, shake her
head and ask him if hed still go out and get some dinner.

It was only a short drive to The Jade Palace from the Wellingtons.
It had been at least a year since Orlando had dinner with Parker
Blum at Mr. Lees restaurant; his old friend seemed to have
disappeared. Orlando hadnt been in by himself since before the
trial. Mr. Lee had apologized to Orlando that he hadnt acted more
quickly. But you awright now? You call 911 yourself?
It took a moment for Orlando to realize that when Mr. Lee
was talking about.
When Mr. Lee last saw him, Orlando was fleeing in terror
from a murder of angry crows, and in answer to Mr. Lees worried
cries of Mr. Froyd! Mr. Froyd! Orlando, exhausted and
frustrated, had shouted, D-O-O-CTOR! D-O-O-CTOR! back at
him. The good gentleman, however, had thought that Orlando
needed a doctor and wanted Mr. Lee to call 911. Flustered, Mr. Lee
had not.
Orlando apologized for the mix-up when he entered the
Jade Palace that daythe day the boy accused of pushing his friend
out an eighteenth story window had just pushed his father down a
flight of the stairs.
I am sorry for you trouble, Mr. Froyd, said Mr. Lee after
Orlando had sat down by the window. Orlando smiled weakly in
acknowledgement of his friends concern, but stared out at the park
across the street, where he saw no crows. Not much later then, he
took the fragrant brown paper bag from Mr. Lee and nodded
goodbye to his friendwithout having created any dialogue bubbles
at all.

After Orlando returned with the food, Angela told him that while he
was gone, Andr had come in the back door, looked around the
living room, puffed up like hed seen a ghost and run back out
again. Toby was in his room and had asked if he could eat in there.
Adam had asked to be excused, and after giving his mother a very
considerate and seemingly sincere hug, left the house. Despite the


madness, Angela hoped the family could all eat together (she
considered Orlando family now), but had not an ounce of strength to
try to convince anyone of anything. Wisely, as an alternative to a
breakdown, Angelas nervous system had ordered a system restart,
but in a strictly functional capacity. Angela felt as if she had been
administered a large dose of Valium; she walked, talked, and
managed her bodily functions admirably, but no more. Her numbed
state rubbed off on Orlando by the time theyd finished dinner: he
too, like Angela, felt ready for bed, no matter that it was only seven
in the evening. As Orlando lay beside Angela in her bedroom and
stared at the delicate pattern of cracks in the ceiling, the silence in
the house reminded him that since the beginning of the trial, Toby
had not listened to a note of Bach. This made him inordinately sad
at that moment, and he was thankful that Angela hadnt noticed his
tears because he didnt want to break what seemed such
heartbreaking news to her.

The following things did not take place in the Wellington household
during the next days:
They did not show slides of family vacations, laugh at the
happy memories and tease each other kindly about how much
younger they looked and how oddly they dressed. They did not tell
knock-knock jokes. They did not play Parcheesi, Sorry or
Monopoly tournaments to pass the idle hours until they were punch
drunk with drawn cards and rolled dice and unable to remember
who had won what. They did not play twenty questions. They did
not make cookies, brownies, pies or even Jello. They did not dress
up in funny hats and play charades. They did not play Pictionary or
Scrabble, or build houses of playing cards. They did not clean out
all the closets and charitably pack up all they no longer needed for
Goodwill or other worthy organizations. They did not read aloud to
one another chapters from the Harry Potter series, scary stories by
Edgar Allen Poe or the tales of Rudyard Kipling. They did not root
for the Chicago Cubs or the Chicago White Sox. They did not listen
to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. They did not enter Tobys
studio where his twelve most recent 3 x 31/2 foot drawings were
framed and prepared for his third show at the Cimino Gallery in
New York. They did not call grandparents, uncles, aunts, old
friends or roommates. They did not do any internet surfing or


shopping. They did not go out of the house. No one vacuumed,

swept or dusted. Those who could, did not shave; she who might
have applied make up, did not. No one answered the telephone. No
one turned on the radio or the television. No one attempted to play
with the cat. They did not speak about anything beyond the
physical necessities of life which were few: no one even said Pass
the salt, since pointing to the salt took less effort and avoided the
risk of sorrowful intonation. No one looked in each others eyes or
intentionally touched each other. Nor did they try to console each
other. Nor did they laugh. Nor did they shed tears in each others
presence. Time passed like water slowly freezing on a lake.
In New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Tokyo, Berlin and
Madrid, where the largest numbers of Toby Wellingtons drawings
were collected, speculation abounded on just how high prices would
rise if he were found guilty. In Las Vegas, betting abounded and the
odds-makers scrambled as the days and hours passed.
It was Thursday. Adam had remained at home after Bob
Jacobson called to summon Angela, Toby and Orlando to the
courthouse to hear the reading of the verdict. When they arrived
home, what passed for a celebration followed. Angela smiled and
held Tobys hand high when she told Adam that his brother had
been found not guilty Apparently, there hadnt been enough
evidence presented to remove reasonable doubt. Angelas smile,
however, like Orlandos, was weighted with more than exhaustion
Several days before, Orlando had gone out on an ice cream
run, but when hed returned with four pints of Hagan Dasz
Chocolate, Angela and Toby had become depressed again and didnt
want to eat. Now that the verdict was in, Angela brought some of
the ice cream out of the freezer and the three of them sat down at the
dining room table. But no one said a thing. The ice cream was too
hard to scoop from the cartons, and it was only after a frustrating,
protracted struggle that Orlando managed to fill three bowls to an
acceptable degree. The ice cream, of course, was excellent, but
Toby ended up giving most of his to the cat, and neither Angela nor
Orlando could come up with any appropriately celebratory things to
say. Soon after, Orlando went home to change clothes, Toby went
in his room, and Angela sat alone in the kitchen crying before
deciding to take a nap.


As Andr the Cat knew, it was still a while before the Wellingtons
home infestation of public negativity dwindled away. And it was
only then, about a week after the verdict, that Angela Wellington
again applied make-up to her gaunt but still beautiful face and began
to relax and even smile a little despite what shed seen and heard.
Adam was away again visiting his college roommate in Boston, and
perhaps in contact with Tobias too, wherever he may have been at
the time. Orlando had gone to New York with Tobys twelve large
drawings, since Ms. Cimino was as much a businesswoman as an
aficionado and wanted Tobys third show to open as soon after the
trial as possible. Despite the cataclysmic upset in his life, Toby
remained an artist of the most genuine sort in that he had no regard
for his completed work, and thus no desire to travel to New York
for his shows opening, despite Ms. Ciminos pleading and a
promised opening slot on the David Letterman show. One might be
surprised that Toby declined the television appearance, particularly
since he had begged to be allowed to appear in the past. But this
was no longer the same Toby Wellington. His first request after his
innocence was declared was that he be home-schooled. Though it
is unlikely that a spirit as tenacious as Tobys can be broken, the
malice of public opinion and the sensationalism of the press had
penetrated his armor, and the only place he wished to go was the
I dont think Ill make much of a teacher, dear, Angela
replied to Tobys request. The two were sitting on the kitchen
having breakfast.
Thats not really what I had in mind, Mom, he answered,
pouring himself a second glass of orange juice; a good sign, thought
Angela. We can afford a tutor cant we? And I just have to stay in
school till Im sixteen and then I can quit, right?
No, dear. That might be the letter of the law, but you dont
know what you might want to learn as you get older. This is
something youre going to have to listen to your mother about. I
can look into the possibility of a tutor, though. But it makes me sad
that youll be away from your friends. As Angela said this she felt
the corners of her mouth turn involuntarily down.
Toby looked down at his near empty plate of pancakes.
Then up at his mother. She noticed the first traces of heavier
growth on his cheeks and chin, but also saw something else in her


sons face, something that summoned up images of him as a small

child. Was it vulnerability? Defeat? Fear?
Ive never had any friends, mom, he said.
Angela was about to say Sure you have, dear, but having
already decided that Toby was too old for such coddling, she
restrained herself. Yet still, Angela was not about to abandon her
son to such loneliness. Maybe you havent, Toby, but that doesnt
mean you wont in the future. This is a good time to look ahead.
She was shocked by the look she saw in her sons face then.
She clutched the seat of her chair under the table, for it wasnt only
sorrow that filled Tobys eyes at that moment, but what seemed a
dark wisdom, the gravest of certainties.
There was nothing Angela could say to what her son held
within himself. She could tell him that she loved him, but she
doubted whether hed know what she really meant. She could tell
him shed do anything for him, but he already knew that. So she
offered him still more orange juice, telling him that after such a
stressful time he needed as much vitamin C as he could get, which
may or may not have been true, but the truth had become of only
slight consequence to Angela Wellington, who slid the pitcher of
juice over to where Toby was sitting, poured herself another cup of
coffee, walked to the kitchen window that overlooked the buildings
gloomy inner court yard and gazed out. She saw Andr descending
the back porch stairs from the third floor, and watched as he pushed
his cat door open with his glossy black head and walked in.

Orlando returned two days after Tobys show opened in New York,
and as expected, ten of the twelve works that were for sale sold the
night of the opening for astronomical prices, and the first reviews
recognized what Orlando and Filomena Cimino already knew about
Tobys latest work: that it had qualities never before seen in
drawings of any kind, that it bordered on what one critic called the
realm of magic in art.

What this young artist has accomplished here is

unprecedented, the critic went on. When the heretical
seventeenth century mystic and engraver, Ambrose of
Hollard, speculated that with the ingenious arrangements of
lines and shapes alone, things never conceived in Gods


Domain may be made to appear as if Newly Created before

us, he may have had this recent collection of Wellingtons
work in mind. For in these large India ink drawings on
white board, lines and shapes are arranged with such
structural harmony, such musical resonance that static
forms appear to move and life seems infused in images by an
alchemy of arrangement. It is this critics belief that the
slightest deviation from the intricacy of Wellingtons design
would render these monumental drawings bland and lifeless.
One can scarcely guess at what may come next.

As Orlando expected, The Drawing Lesson, received the greatest

plaudits. The same critic declared that The Drawing Lesson was
the first true masterpiece of the new century. That Orlando
himself was depicted in this masterpiece as a veritable Drawing
Master flattered him more than a little. Yet the mixed messages of
these weeks had a disturbing effect on thirteen-year-old Toby
Wellington. After he had appealed to his mother for home
schooling, she found him even more withdrawn and unwilling to
disclose anything about his inner life than before. Yet even after
hearing Angelas report on Tobys state of mind, we probably cant
imagine Orlandos stunned delight when he arrived exhausted and
worried from New York, because hed hardly come through the
door when Toby approached and asked if he could arrange for six
more 3 x 31/2 foot mounted white drawing boards to be delivered to
the apartment.

Orlando Floyd was elated as he drove downtown to the School of

Fine Arts. He knew his colleagues on the faculty there would be
elated as well when they learned that hed asked old Mr. Janus,
known affectionately for decades at the school as the Canvass
Master, to fabricate Tobys drawing surfaces out of the finest and
most durable materials available. Orlando decided it would be
premature to call Filomena Cimino at her gallery before hed seen
Tobys new work, but she too would have been elated at his
decision to begin to draw again. The elation of all these individuals,
however, including Angela Wellington who felt a relief only a


mother can appreciate, would have been subdued or even stifled had
they known what Andr the Cat knew at the time.
We know that it had been painfully clear to everyone close
to Toby that the trial and the attendant publicity had taken its toll on
him. Andr, of course, unlike the humans in Tobys very limited
circle, knew exactly what form the boys problems were taking
during that period, since hed taken it upon himself to hunt down
and destroy the unrelenting psychic manifestations of those troubles.
As we also know, he was as successful as one cat could be in his
defense of Toby and his family. Cats ordinarily live in the present
and dont dilute their awareness in anticipation of the future, a
quality to which evolving humans aspire. Andr, however,
beginning to develop qualities above and beyond those of the
standard feline, became an exception to this rule and hoped that
once Toby was rid of the bottom-feeders that infested his aura, he
would be on the road to psychological recovery. The development
of such compassion in a cat may have been unprecedented in feline
history, but the assumption Andr made couldnt have been further
from the truth.
Toby remained in his studio; he even slept there as old Mr.
Janus worked through the night to prepare the drawing boards for
the brilliant young artist The smooth, lustrously white boards,
mounted and backed by braced aluminum frames were delivered
from the Museum School the next morning. Orlando had come in
one of the schools vans along with a young staff member who
carried the boards into Tobys studio; clear north light streaming
through its high windows. But once everything was in place, Toby
asked if Orlando and the young man could do one more thing for
him. He asked if they could also bring the stereo from the living
room into the studio. The boy didnt ask his mothers permission,
but he knew shed never object. Once the furniture in the studio
was rearranged and the speakers positioned on either side of Tobys
work space, he closed the door without a word. Andr was not in
the room.

One might suppose that Tobys ability to faithfully recreate music in

his mind might supplant his need to actually listen to it, but
apparently his inner broadcast system was disabled when he drew,
because soon after he shut his door and set pen to paper, the


Gloria of the B Minor Mass burst through the walls of his room
with all its trumpets and glory. Gloria in excelsis Deo. Glory to
God in the highest, the words rang out with the brilliance and joy of
Bach and his most exuberant and powerful. The apartment shook
and continued to shake as the Gloria, a substantial section of the
Mass that begins and ends with a bang, was repeated again and
again and again.
This was a Friday morning. Not only had Toby never
worked to music before, but this was the first time in years when
hed worked in his studio at home. He had started at ten in the
morning, and by three in the afternoon, the thirty-five minute
Gloria had repeated nine times. Although there are quiet, more
serene passages for soloists within the Gloria,like et in terra
pax hominibus bonae voluntatis, and on earth peace and to men
goodwillthe overall effect at such high volume drove Angela out
of the house at one oclock. Orlando accompanied her out and to
her car. She needed to go for a drive, but Orlando felt he should
stay in the apartment, despite his headache. It was when he got
back upstairs that it occurred to him that Toby might be transcribing
the music, somehow drawing it out on paper or that something
equally extraordinary was taking place. Soon after this, the music
stopped abruptly, in mid phrase. No sound came from the studio.
After fifteen minutes of silence, Orlando began to be concerned, but
at the same time, the two Tylenols with codeine hed taken for his
throbbing head kicked in and the very idea of concern left with his
A little later, he heard Toby taking a few steps, stopping,
taking a few steps and stopping again. After only five hours of
work, Orlando assumed that only a portion or a stage of the entire
drawing which had been complete, but he knew Toby was stepping
away and assessing things. When Orlando went into the kitchen to
make himself some coffee, he heard Tobys studio door close, but
was surprised when the boy appeared in the kitchen. Orlando kept
his eyes on his coffee makingAngela bought pre-ground coffee,
but Orlando was still scrupulous in his preparation techniqueand
Toby, his parka on, walked past him without a word, went out the
back door, up the stairs and then up to the roof. No one had
observed Toby gaining access to the roof before, and when Orlando
saw that in pulling himself up, Toby hung by his hands alone three


stories above the pavement of the buildings inner court, he quaked

at the thought of telling Angela about itsomething he might have
avoided several years before, but was now honor-bound, or perhaps
more aptly, love-bound to do.
At dinnertime Toby came down, ate a hamburger with
Angela and Orlando and went to his room, Andr at his heels.
Although he thanked his mother for dinner, Toby acknowledged
neither Angela nor Orlando in any other way. It seemed clear to
them both that he was in some sort of creative trance, though there
was something disquieting about his look, something that prompted
one to turn away. That evening Orlando told Angela about Tobys
risky maneuver at the top of the back porch. She didnt react as
Orlando expected, however; perhaps, he thought, she was becoming
inured to bad news. She did say something about asking Mr. Nicos
to install a ladder, a suggestion that would probably not go over well
with the buildings owner and insurance company, but she left it at
that. The two fell asleep on the sofa watching a movie.
On Saturday morning at ten it all began again. Again it was
the Gloria, Glory to God in the highest with its trumpets and
driving strings; again the volume was high, but things were different
in the Wellingtons apartment building on weekends: neighbors
were home. The Wellingtons former downstairs neighbors, the
Lamberts, had moved to Arizona several years earlier and had been
replaced by a crotchety couple, named Blunt, who lived in the eight
room apartment so their three children away at college would have
their own rooms to come home to. These people had never cared
for the Wellingtons, had been scandalized by the trial, and only
moments after Bachs glorification of God blasted down through
their ceiling, both Mr. and Mrs. Blunt were pounding on Angelas
front door demanding that the music be turned down. This was not
an unreasonable request. But though her words could hardly be
heard over the glorification, Angela refused. Perhaps it was her
first chance to fight back after the emotional pummeling at the trial,
but she was uncharacteristically defiant.
A portion of the considerable wealth that Tobys drawings
had brought him was earmarked for creating and sustaining his
working environment, and with only a few words exchanged with
Angela (and an unprecedented wink), Orlando Floyd asked the
outraged Blunts if he could speak to them downstairs in their


apartmentit would have been impossible to speak to them in the

Wellingtons apartment without competing with Bach, who
certainly had more important things to say. In any case, Orlando
believed that he could offer his solution to the problem more
effectively in the Blunts own space. Fifteen minutes laterduring
the Cum Sancto Spiritu, Together with the Holy Ghost, in the
glory of God the Father, Amen, the stirring conclusion of the
Gloria, with trumpets abounding againhe came back upstairs,
winked at Angela for the second time in their years together, hugged
her, led her out to the back porch and described the all-expenses-
paid week-end arrangements he had made for the Blunts in one of
the citys finest hotels. This, if the music were to continue blasting
from Tobys studio for the next two days. Orlando hoped it would
and it did.
Orlando and Angela knew the family that lived upstairs
would present less of a problem, if any. These people, Mr. and Mrs.
Brooks and their two children, had always been friendly with
Angela, and as art lovers themselves, showed reverence for Toby,
yet Angela agreed with Orlando that if it was necessary to buy
them off like the Blunts, they wouldnt hesitate. They didnt seem
to be home at the time, however, and just as on the day before, the
Gloria continued to resound through the Wellingtons apartment
and beyond as the Blunts headed downtown to their suite in the
Toby worked in his studio for five hours just as hed done
the day before. When he finished, he headed out the back door,
again, just as the day before. As his teacher, Orlando made it a
point never to interrupt Tobys concentration, even after hed
finished working. But no such protocol applied to mothers, so
Angela stopped him in the kitchen before he went out. She wanted
to broach the problem of hanging three stories above the concrete
without a net, something that had begun to worry her. She also
wondered how he was feeling, but his look showed such
impenetrable focus that she backed off and could say nothing more
than Be careful, dear, as he went out the back door.
Angela had to force herself to stay by the window and
watch him climb up the roof, and once hed completed the
maneuver, she felt certain hed one day fall to his death. But people
can be certain about most anything.


Moments after Toby climbed up to the roof and sat down in

his accustomed spot, Andr joined him and leapt up onto his lap,
purring. Toby had found that Andr purred more powerfully on the
roof than in the apartment, and it was Andrs purr that Toby sought
whenever he had the chance. It seemed so long ago that Toby first
found he could achieve catness, but the older boy still thought of
his communion with Andr that way and appreciated it no less. In
fact, Toby felt it was Andrs purr alone that made it possible for
him to carry the weight that bore down on him more onerously
every dayand Andr always cooperated..
Youre my first and best friend, Toby said to him that
cloudy March day on the roof, just as hed said to him a number of
times recently. Then he bent over, put his head down so he could
rub his forehead against Andrs, something hed seen cats do with
each other, and which he believed was a sign of affection. Andrs
purr increased in intensity at this and Toby closed his eyes and
smiled, just a little.
Meanwhile, something sadly ill-advised was taking place
directly below Toby and his cat. Orlando Floyd was about to buckle
under the pressure of his hopes and concerns. He believed that
Toby had worked long enough to at least come close to finishing
one of his new 36 x 42 inch drawings. In the past hed had glimpses
of Tobys works in progress. All this work, of course, had been
done in the large studio-classroom at the School of Fine Arts, a
public room in which Orlando had business to attend to
unconnected with Toby and his art. Here at Tobys home, the
situation was different. Toby had closed the door to his studio, and
this act had meaning, a definitive one. So when Orlando opened the
door to Tobys studio, he knew he was violating a trust. He felt
something sink in the pit of his stomach and a flush behind his ears;
the way hed felt in the past when hed hidden the truth from
Angelabut still, he couldnt resist a peek. Hed only open the
door a crack. And thats all it took. In that moment, Orlando saw
what looked like nothing hed seen before, something so dense it
was nearly black, something very disturbing and somehow even
monstrous. He knew that the angle from which he glimpsed the
large piece compressed it onto a tighter mass than when viewed
properly, but as he immediately closed the door and stepped away,
ashamed of what hed done, he couldnt shake the impression that


what hed seen, whatever it was, was the work of a deeply

disturbed. Orlando was stricken. His hopes were dashed. But he
vowed not to say a word to Angelaat least not until shed seen it

Once Orlando Floyd had glimpsed Tobys work in progress, his

attitude toward the boy, and even his own life, changed for the
worse. As he sat in the Wellingtons living room with the Gloria
from the B Minor Mass shaking the very air around him to its
atomic nuclei, two short sections of the piece, the only two of the
nine parts of the Gloria with somber meanings and tonalities,
seemed to dominate the music to the exclusion of all its exultation,
serenity and joy. The words pecatti mundi, the sin of the world ,
seemed particularly pointed to Orlando, and ominously portentous.
This was on Sunday, the second day of the Blunts stay at
the Hilton (that same Hilton across from the Art Institute where
Orlando and Angela had shaken the air with their own exultation
until they moved their lovemaking north to their respective
apartments), and the Brooks family was either still away or had
suffered stereophonic brain damage and were rendered unable to
protest. Orlandos darker outlook on life was exacerbated by his
own feelings of guilt and disloyalty, and after betraying the boy, he
was so ashamed that he looked at him like a frightened, beaten dog.
Its unclear how Toby reacted to this change in Orlando, though its
doubtful that it cheered him up.
Of course Orlandos weakness of character and his
foreboding glimpse had no effect on Tobys work. He continued to
toil away at whatever he was making through Sunday and on into
the next week. When he wasnt in his studio with the same music
blasting, he was on the roof with his cat, despite the weather, or in
his bedroom, also with his cat. He asked to take his meals alone in
his room, and these, Angela concluded, he shared with Andr since
the cat didnt touch the food in his bowl. On the occasions when
Angela and Orlando saw Toby, any suspicions they might have had
about his troubled state of mind were confirmed. The boy
maintained his look of intense focus combined with a most
profound sorrow. Though Angela knew nothing of Orlandos
indiscretion, she too had the sense that her son was creating
something behind closed doors that would shake her to the roots.


Once Id fulfilled my role as predator and rid the

Wellingtons abode of its vermin, I had looked forward to living
among humans with comparatively unburdened psyches. My
expectations were incorrect. Those embodiments of human
prejudice, envy, and spite that plagued Toby Wellington by
attaching themselves so tenaciously to his aura proved to be
masking another condition, one I was less prepared to combat. For
once I had finally dismembered the last of these petty demons, I saw
that the natural brightness of Tobys emanations had been partially
occluded by a hovering darkness that he himself was generating.
Indications of his natural brilliance and vigor pulsed and flashed
through this encumbrance; nothing in the boys nature had been
changed, but something pernicious had arisen around it. When I
had observed that this condition was more than transitory, a new,
unwanted sensation gripped my midsection. Whenever I came into
Tobys presence, I felt this to one degree or another. Most often I
felt it only slightly, but enough to convince me that just as this
darkness engulfed him, this new sensitivity to it had taken hold of
me. I did not feel any less empowered by this unique sensation, this
ache; if anything, I felt more responsive, more eager to come to his
aid because of it. And whenever he came into my presence, I
devoted all the power of my purr to the dispersion of this darkness.
Unfortunately, my efforts to counteract a force so deeply rooted in
him were only temporally successful and only to a shallow degree.



Eventually, all waiting comes to an end, except perhaps the wait for
the end of time. Nevertheless, in Orlandos anxious state, waiting to
see Tobys new drawing seemed endless enough, and during those
several long days, he appeared to have aged as rapidly as Angela
had during the trial. But the waiting period ended undramatically as
such things often do. It was a Thursday, a week after Toby had
begun to work with Bachs accompaniment, when Orlando noticed
that Tobys studio door was wide open and the door to his bedroom
was as well. Reluctant, even a little frightened to see what was in
the studio, Orlando went to Tobys bedroom first and looked in.
There, he saw Toby stretched out full length on his bed, face down,
dead asleep, with Andr purring away on the pillow next to his
Orlando knew that whenever Toby wished to be undisturbed
he closed doors behind him, so he steeled himself as he could and
strode into the bright studio to see what the troubled young genius
had wrought. At the first sight of the dark jumble of lines on the 36


x 42 inch board, Orlando moaned in a way one might expect from a

mortally wounded man. There was not only disappointment but
pain in the utterance, as if his hopes had nerve endings that had been
seared by fire. But in the time it took him to take a few steps into
the room, things changed. Decidedly. Oh, my God! he exclaimed.
What is this?
Angelas timing was perfect. Having left the apartment to
get away from the blasting Bach, she opened the front door just as
Orlando exclaimed What is this? and came rushing into the studio
to see what it actually was. When she first glanced at Tobys
creation from the doorwayat that same oblique angle from which
Orlando had seen it in his surreptitious peekshe moaned as
mournfully and as briefly as had Orlando, but then, in a cadence
slightly different than Orlandos, she cried: Oh! Good Lord! Look
at that!
Do you see it? Orlando cried. Those Those eyes?
What Orlando Floyd beheld in front of him was the head of
Apollo, a magnificent god, whose face shown and whose eyes
flashed with such power and illumination that Orlando nearly
flinched under his gaze. Yet all this appeared to leap forward at
Orlando from a surface that initially appeared to be no more than a
dense compression of swirling lines, like an immense thumbprint
with no discernable shapes within it. The jumble of lines, of course,
were Wellington lines, each distinctive and elegant in itself, but
when first seen, and particularly from the angle at which both
Orlando and Angela had first seen it, appeared to be no more than a
dark cloud of dismal import. But something was wrong. Angela
was looking at Orlando, perplexed.
What eyes? she asked.
Apollos, he replied, incredulous. Or whomevers.
Maybe its God with a capital G.
Angela stood back a little from the great, massive
thumbprintGods thumbprint, as one observer would sayNo,
she said. Her eyes really arent showingtheyre mostly covered
by her hair, but she may be the most beautiful woman Ive seen.
With maybe the exception of Botticellis Venus, but maybe not. I
had no idea Toby could draw such an exquisite nude. I Im just
so moved by it I And at this Angela Wellington actually
wept; she wept because the beauty of the figure that stood out alive


among those dark swirls of lines touched everything beautiful in

her; and that this wonder had been somehow created by her deeply
troubled son moved her even further.
The following phrases and others like them rang out and
were frequently repeated in the animated discussion that followed.
You mean you cant see that?
You mean you dont see her head, her beautiful body?
Hows that possible?
Its right there!
I have no idea what youre talking about!
How can I possibly make it clearer: theres her head!
I just dont see it!
I wonder what he sees?
Do you thinkmaybe?
This scares me a little.
My God! I wonder if theres more?

The five other drawing boards that Toby had ordered were leaning,
pristinely white, against the wall, and Toby himself still slept
soundly in his room. Orlando and Angela left the studio several
times, both to check on Toby and to re-enter to see if their visions
evoked by Tobys drawing would change and on the chance that
theyd be able to see what the other had seen. But nothing changed.
Toby showed no signs of stirring and Orlandos head of Apollo, the
Greek God of the Sun, Music, Poetry and more, continued to gaze
out at him, just as Angelas Goddessperhaps Aphroditethe
Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty, stayed sumptuously where she
was and oversaw her own realm.
No matter how she strained and refocused her eyes, Angela
could see only the vaguest hints of the face Orlando saw; and as
much as he wished to, Orlando saw no naked Goddess with flowing
hair. But as the two of them studied the astonishing drawing, if a
drawing is what it should properly be called, a little more did
become clear to them, however. As Orlando studied the radiant face
of Apollo, the background behind itthe remainder of the massive
thumbprinttook on a sinuous, flowing pattern he had not seen at
first. This pattern, he told Angela, mirrored the lines of the face,


just as the disparate elements of all Tobys compositions reflected

each other in congruity and resonance. This pattern depicted
nothing, however, although it supported the face of the god in a way
as innate as if it had been created by nature.
Angelas studied impression was similar. Once the image
of Aphrodite was fixed in her mind, the Goddess appeared to be
floating or levitating on a field of sinuous lines that reflected the
lines of her body and hair in a way so perfectly organic that it
looked as if she had grown there. And in her vision as well, nothing
was depicted in this background, though to Angela, it seemed to
show the atmosphere of paradise.
Soon Angela and Orlando had begun to speak excitedly of
bringing others into the studio to discover if anyone else saw what
they saw so clearly standing out from those swirling lines. Orlando
planned to call colleagues from the Museum School. Angelas plan
was simpler: she had heard the Brooks family troop upstairs a little
earlier, and she hoped to bring the entire family down for a viewing.
It speaks well of the two of them that they didnt come up
with some pretense for waking Toby. Theyd been pacing the living
room floor in excitement and chattering for over an hour before he
walked out of his bedroom and looked at them groggily.
Would you like some coffee, Toby? Angela asked. I
can make it nice and sweet so youll like it, and then we can talk
about that stupendous thing youve made. Okay?
Whenever Toby had just awakened, Angela found him as
approachable as when he was still a toddler. Approachable and
Sure, mom, the tall, handsome boy answered docilely,
following her into the kitchen.
Angela started the coffee. It didnt take long at all to brew,
but she couldnt wait. Orlando and I both looked at your new
drawing and we each saw different things, dear, different beautiful
Angela detected the beginnings of a smile on her sons face.
Then she described what theyd seen. Toby nodded. Well? she
asked, taking advantage of her years of experience with her son:
those times when she nursed him, carried him, picked him up when
he fell, rocked him to sleep, took him by the hand to the zoo and to


pre-school. Talk to me, Toby, she said. Tell me what it means.

Tell me what you see.
Can I have the coffee first? It wakes you up, right?
Minutes later, Toby held the warm mug of creamy, sugary
coffee between his hands. Angela had never asked him a question
like that before. Orlando wasnt in the room. She said it again.
Talk to me, Toby. Tell me what you see.
I started off meaning to draw the music. Because I can do
that. Mom? Do you believe in reincarnation?
I havent thought that much about it, dear. I suppose its
possible. Do you believe in it?
I think so. Because when I was drawing that music, it felt
like I remembered writing itthe music, I mean. I dont remember
being another person or anything like that. Only the music. I
remember being that. So I just drew it. And after a while I started
seeing faces and even figures in what I was drawing, but I knew that
if I paid any attention to them, I couldnt draw exactly what I heard,
or what Id written, or whatever. So I forgot about them even
though they were staring out at me, and I just kept doing it until I
was finished. Toby took his first sip of coffee.
But once you were finished, did you still see all the faces
and figures?
Uh huh. Some of the same ones and some different ones.
Toby took another sip. But mom, he said. I dont know if I can
do any more. The other five, I mean. Everything seems too hard.
Toby nodded.
Everything about your life?
He nodded again.
Sweetheart, Angela said, I wish I could help, but you
know, when things are too much for me and people tell me what I
should do to make them better, it just gets me mad.
But what do you do?
This conversation was unprecedented. Angela could
scarcely believe her son had asked her advice. Shed just lied to
him to put him at ease, saying that people offering her advice made
her mad. That wasnt true. But now she was moved.
What I do, Toby? she replied I try to imagine things I
love. Not try to fix thingsthats importantjust try to find things


that I love, little thingsand just have them. It usually helps a

little. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes I imagine I have all the roses I
want, but roses without thorns, and that I have them on my bed,
hundreds and hundreds of them, and the fragrance is so beautiful it
overwhelms me. I usually make them all red; Ive tried different
colors a few times but it didnt work as well as deep, deep red. I
just have them. You might want to try that with Bachor with cats,
maybe. Just have all the cats a boy could ever want, black cats that
love you, all of them.
Toby looked at his mother with a smile that captured
sadness and something elseit might have been love, Angela
couldnt be sure; nor could she be sure if what her son felt was for
her alone or something beyond her understanding. What is it,
dear? she asked, though she didnt expect him to answer and he
It was a little later, after Toby finished his coffee, that she
asked him if she and Orlando could invite others over to see his
picture, and he told her she could do whatever she wanted with it,
that he didnt want to look at it or think about it anymore.

The initial tests that Orlando and Angela conducted had

somewhat surprising results. Angela invited the Brooks family
downstairs and first escorted Jennifer Brooks into Tobys studio
while rest of the the family waited in the living room. Jennifer was
a younger woman with whom Angela felt comfortable. Orlando sat
quietly in a chair in the corner. Jennifer Brooks seemed a little
awestruck at the invitation into the famous prodigys inner sanctum,
but when she first laid eyes on Tobys creation, she turned to
Angela, perplexed.
I dont But she didnt get to the word understand
before she did understand. She gasped politely, covering her mouth
with her hand. Oh, my! she said.
What is it Jennifer? Angela asked. What do you see?
Jennifer Brooks again looked perplexed; not at Tobys
work, but at Angelas odd question. Still, Angela looked at her
quizzically. I I think its the Virgin Mary, Angelas neighbor
answered, a little shyly. I didnt realize Toby was religious, but


this this is just magnificent, and shes so serene. This is such a

beautiful thing, Angela. Im a Christian, but not really a religious
woman, but this Ive never seen anything quite like it. The way it
just comes out of, of nowhere. This is inspiring. Dont you think
Oh, I do, Jenn. I do, Angela answered. And Id like to
see what Phil thinks.
Jennifer looked at Angela a little dubiously. Im afraid
Phils not religious at all. But he loves fine art, so sure.
Angela asked Jennifer to stay put while she brought Phillip
Brooks into the studio. Hed been drinking Angelas excellent ice
tea, which shed brought into the living room on a tray. When her
husband entered, Jennifer was looking rapt at the sacred image
before her.
Whoa! Phillip Brooks said as soon as he saw the
drawing. Toby drew that?
Now both Angela and Jennifer looked surprised. Isnt that
a little, uhold for Toby? Phillip asked. I just hadnt seen him
do any nudes before. But thats just shes just gorgeous.
What? asked his wife, indignant. Its the Holy Virgin!
Not like Ive ever seen her! If thats the Holy Virgin, I
wouldve stayed in church!
Here Angela felt it was best to intervene. She explained
that she and Orlando had also had different reactions to the drawing.
Apparently, Phillip Brooks had seen a figure quite similar to
Angelas vision of Aphrodite. The nude that he saw was centered in
the drawing in the same place as Angelas goddess, and differed
only in the position of her head and hair. Phillip was quick to
explain that it was not a lascivious nude, but an elegant one with a
radiant smile and flowing hair, though her hair didnt cover her face
or any of her elegant body as with Angelas Aphrodite. Phillip
was a professor of philosophy. He called it a secular nude.
Jennifer Brooks was glaring at her husband. Before any
further opportunities were lost in a family spat, Angela asked the
Brooks if they thought it would be appropriate for their daughters,
ten and seven years old, to look at Tobys drawing and tell them all
what they saw, if anything. Still annoyed with her husband,
Jennifer agreed, apparently believing that her daughters with their
unsullied minds would not be gawking at any secular nude,


which, in her husbands eyes, she believed, may have as well have
been a Playboy centerfold. Apparently, their marriage had recently
hit a rocky spot.
Phillip Brooks looked a little edgy as he waited for his wife
to return with the girls. Jennifer brought them into the studio at the
same timeDora, ten, and Dawn, sevenand there couldnt have
been more of a contrast in their reactions: Dora stared blankly at the
dark jumble of swirling lines and said, Huh?
But Doras Huh? was drowned out by her younger sisters
cryor was it that a yowl? The little girl looked like shed
mistakenly pulled open a drawer at a morgue. When her face was
finally pried away from her mothers protective embrace, she
described an apparition that many church-going seven-year-olds
would have identified as Satan; though it may not have been The
Great Adversary himself: the leering visage with horns might have
been more correctly identified as the lusty, Old World god, Pan. In
any case, whether the horned boogey was a fiend or a god, he gave
the child a substantial enough scare to cause her to dampen her little
undies. Dawn was not forthcoming with many details about what
she saw, but from what Orlando could gather, her vision among the
dark swirls of Tobys pen was located approximately if not
precisely where Orlando had seen his own glorious vision of
It was unfortunate that the Brooks family left in disarray
when theyd so graciously come downstairs to view a newly created
work of art. A little later, Angela brought a plate of cookies upstairs
for the girls as a peace offering, but Jennifer Brooks told her
somewhat frostily that she was trying to get Dawn to calm down
enough for a nap and that sugar turned Dona into a holy terror. She
did accept the cookies, though, but smiled a smile that made it clear
that once the plate was returned, Angela shouldnt expect to see her
soon. Uncharacteristically, or perhaps not at this point in her life,
Angela Wellington felt no remorse at all.

Orlando invited three people to come to the apartment late that

afternoon after they finished work: two faculty members, one, the
most esteemed of his colleagues; the second, a young man from
New York, recently hired; and the third, Theresa Gomez, a woman
who cleaned the classrooms and offices, whom Orlando had


befriended years earlier and considered the most sensible person on

the premises.
The three arrived in the aforementioned order. Since Toby
wasnt anywhere about to witness the comings and goings, Orlando
assumed he was on the roof with Andr.
The seventy-five-year-old professor of painting, Timothy
Bacon, had been the schools greatest advocate of Tobys work save
Orlando. He came to the door of the Wellingtons apartment
excitedly, his blue eyes keen and clear and his full head of snowy
hair radiant. Typically, his manners were courtly, but he showed no
interest in small talk and asked to be shown the new drawing
immediately. By that time, Orlando knew what kind of reaction to
expect when people first approached Tobys latest creation. Like
the others adults, Professor Bacon stood looking both befuddled and
disappointed for several seconds until it seemed the sun rose behind
his blue eyes. He looked at Orlando, astonished, then back at the
drawing. Perhaps it was his great eye, his true connoisseurship or
the wisdom of his advanced age that kept him silent as he absorbed
the image that seemed to move him so. Several minutes passed
before Orlando felt it appropriate to break the old professors
Timothy, he said, weve found that different people see
different things in this picture...
Angela sat on the loveseat looking eager for still another
reaction to her sons newest achievementor feat, perhaps.
Professor Bacon didnt appear to be at all surprised. Ive always
suspected this could be accomplished, he said. What I see is very
simple. It is the modest facethe head and shoulders, actually, of a
beautiful young boy, or it may be a girl. It is perfectly ambiguous.
The face is innocent, yet theres a shade of sorrow to itnot enough
to cloud it, but enough to make me feel it hides a secret. Not with a
secret smile like Mona Lisa. No, with a secret longing, which to
me is just as compelling.
He put his hand to his heart and looked purposefully first at
Angela and the Orlando. And despite this this arcane
complexity of the surface, it gives the appearance of the most
simply conceived of all of the boys compositions. I dont see any
of the brilliant trickery, the ingeniously created effects of reflection,


repetition and sequence here, even though this is surface this

map this this riddle is trickery elevated to the realm of magic.
The professor looked at Angela alone now, with calm eyes
and a fatherly smile. I suppose everyone will see some part of
themselves in this, he said, nodding at the drawing. But I promise
you, Mrs. Wellington, the gift of this creation will last far longer
and penetrate far deeper into the soul of humanity than the popular
frenzy that has tormented you and your son. Then he sat down
next to Angela on the loveseat, took her hand and asker her and
Orlando to tell him what the others had seen so far.
Quite soon, the fabric designer from New York arrived, and
after Orlando introduced him to Angela, they all watched his
reaction to Tobys drawing unfold in the predictable sequence. The
exceedingly well-dressed young man looked confused and
disappointed at first glance at the seeming jumble of lines and then
astonishedbut in his case, not happily so. He was disturbed by
what he saw, so much so that in deference to Angela, he was
reluctant to tell then what it was.
But eventually, he described what he called a looming,
warlike visage with streaming hair and sharp features that brought
to mind an angel of destructionan Exterminating Angel, as he
put it. It was a face of retribution, of malice. The young man
explained he was both drawn to it and repelled by it. Though
chilling, he said, it was exquisite. Orlando wondered if the trendy
young designer had been looking at too much fantasy fiction book-
Once the designer fully described this deeply distressing
imageone that no one else was able to see, of coursea
discussion began among the four in the studio about the wondrous
nature of what was propped up there on that drawing board in front
of them all. They agreed with Professor Bacon that theyd believed
such a thing was theoretically possible, and they were still
expressing their amazement that it had actually come to pass, when
the doorbell rang again and Orlando escorted Theresa Gomez into
the room.
Theresa knew everyone except the young man from New
York, but before she was introduced, she took one look at the large
drawing, dropped to her knees, crossed herself repeatedly. Once,
she finally began to speak English, said that the Virgin Mary herself


was floating just above the surface of the drawing, and she thanked
the Almighty for bringing her into a room with the Mother of His
Son. She went on to tearfully thank the Virgin for her blessing.
It was a few minutes after that, when Theresa had calmed
down, that Angela and Orlando heard the back door open and close.
Then they heard Tobys footsteps lead to his bedroom, where he
closed the door, only to open it soon thereafter to let Andr in
before closing it again.
Orlando, Angela, Timothy Bacon, Theresa Gomez and the
young man from New York looked at one another in silence for a
moment then. Though each clung to his or her own tastes and
beliefs, in a rare moment of companionship, the four more
sophisticated art lovers looked to Theresa in acknowledgement, for
it seemed to all of them that it was her reaction to Tobys
extraordinary drawing that most completely expressed what they
truly felt.

It was the next day that Orlando and Angela first discussed the
diverse reactions to the drawing with Toby, who still remained
detached, reasserting that he was finished with the drawing and
didnt care what anyone thought or what became of it. As
disquieting as this was to his mother and teacher, they tried to keep
the conversation upbeat.
Actually, Toby, Orlando said, youre not quite finished
with this picture. You havent named it.
Toby shrugged. Call it anything, he said.
Angela laughed. Anything? Thats a peculiar name.
Dont you think it deserves a little better?
Though Angela was doing her best, there was such a sense
of defeat in Tobys demeanor that she could hardly keep smiling.
Anything? Orlando repeated. Why not call it
Everything or Anythings Possible? Wouldnt that be better?
What do you think, Toby? he asked, trying to refrain from sighing
as he suggested this.
Anythings Possible, Toby said flatly. Thatll be fine.
Neither Orlando nor Angela was thrilled with the title; it
seemed a little flip to them both, but they didnt want to approach
Toby about it again. He left the room without saying a thing.


One month later, Tobys drawing was installed alone in a small

gallery at the Art Institute with a purple velvet rope in front of it and
a museum guard by its side. People stood in line. They came from
all over the country, and as the news spread, from all over the
world. It was bigger than the museums King Tut exhibit, bigger
than the Monet exhibit, bigger than the Picasso exhibit, much
bigger. It was a showing of another order entirely. The line backed
up out of the gallery, out through the museums front entrance,
down the broad steps flanked by the two lions and off several blocks
down Michigan Avenue. Due to the controversial nature of the
drawing and its creator, however, several skirmishes broke out in
the line and on the Museum steps. To maintain order, Chicago
police were called in to support the Museums security force,
though other than a few black eyes, scraped knuckles and cases of
bruised self-righteousness, the public maintained appropriate
The reaction to Anythings Possible at the museum
downtown was much the same as it had been at Tobys studio at
home, but on a grand scale. People were awestruck, moved to tears,
some felt inspired, some felt blessed, some claimed their lives had
been changedand as we shall see, the bounty of this visual
wonder would soon be shared world wide, even for the least
Among Tobys acquaintances, Anton Vanic visited the
gallery; as did Chase and Hope Freeling; the timid Ms. Pincil, the
art teacher at Tobys private school; Mr. Jacobson, of course; Ms.
Bristlemeyer, the hawk-faced prosecutor; Mr. Lee, whom Toby had
met on several occasions; Officer Potkowski, who came to see what
all the fuss was about, and even the Blunts, the Wellingtons
crotchety downstairs neighbors.
The Wellingtons former janitor, pious man that he was,
crossed himself in the presence of the picture; the Freelings wept;
Ms. Pincil looked decidedly frightened. Bob Jacobson put his hand
over his heart; Ms. Bristlemeyer squinted; Mr. Lee grinned broadly;
Officer Potkowski left wondering what all the fuss was about; and
the Blunts decided that theyd best pay their upstairs neighbors a
visit. Tobias Wellington Senior was conspicuous in his absence; he


dearly wished to visit the museum, but the condition of his back
made travel next to impossible. Alex and Ellen Sharp did not attend
the showing, nor did the doorman on duty when Damien died.
Adam was in town just after the picture was installed.
Angela wanted to be with him when he saw it, and he was glad that
she accompanied him. He seemed frightened at first by what he saw
and didnt want to tell his mother what it was. Of course, hed
heard all the stories of inspiration and awe. Maybe he was
embarrassed, maybe worried about his mothers feelings, maybe
even his brothers, but Adam saw his fathers face in Anythings
Possible. He finally told Angela but made her promise not to tell
Toby. Angela was touched by this; she thought this was sweet.
She also thought it was sweet that the face Adam saw was smiling
benevolently at his son.
All three of Orlandos old friends came to the showing. All
three, as a matter of fact, asked Orlando to accompany them.
Orlando was happy to do this, particularly with Parker Blum, who
had only just returned from a year-long pilgrimage to Nepal. He
was dressed in monks robes, and did seem particularly patient,
considerate and non-judgmental under the recent Buddhist
influence. It should go without saying what great being he saw
when he looked at Anythings Possible.
Olivia Piper called Orlando and asked to have coffee with
him before viewing the drawing. She didnt bring him a gift, but
while sipping coffee at the Bohemian Caf admitted that indeed
shed had a crush on Orlando for over twenty years. This, however,
did not prepare Orlando for the shock of hearing that it was his own
face that Olivia saw in Tobys wonder-work.
Glen Steinberg, whom Orlando had reconnected with only
recently, seemed most deeply moved of the three old friends. He
wept at what he saw, explaining to Orlando that it was too personal
to reveal, but that he planned to visit the drawing often again.
Orlando knew, however, that Glens parents had recently died
within two months of each other. After he said goodbye to Glen out
on the museum steps, Orlando felt perhaps the strongest surge of
pride yet for his studentor was Toby his teacher? Or just his
The newspapers, magazines, television news magazines and
talk shows, of course, were brimming with news about the


wondrous picture. The results of a number of polls were published.

One taken by a national press association in conjunction with a
major network yielded the following results.

Among the children 5-12 who saw an image

35% saw disturbing images
65% saw amusing or uplifting images

Among children 13-17 who saw an image

8% saw disturbing images
92% saw amusing or uplifting images

Among adults
36% saw uplifting images of a religious nature
26% saw uplifting images of a mythic nature
11% saw uplifting images of a sensual nature
9% saw uplifting images of a personal nature
4% saw uplifting images they considered amusing
2% saw uplifting images of themselves
12% saw disturbing images (satanic, ghoulish or warlike)

Among the 1,700 Adults interviewed

68% said their opinion of Toby Wellington improved after
seeing this picture
21% said their opinion of Toby Wellington worsened
11% said their opinion of him was unchanged

Among the adults interviewed who had believed Toby

Wellington was innocent of murder
94% still believed he was innocent after seeing the picture
6% now believed he was guilty

Among the adults interviewed who had believed Toby

Wellington was guilty of murder,
59% still believed he was guilty after seeing the picture,
But 41 % now believed he was innocent!


Clearly, the results of this poll suggest that not only did the images
generated by his drawing do well in the eye of the public, but that
Tobys image had also greatly improved.. But whereas image may
be everything when it comes to art, when the life of a human psyche
is involved, image may be The Great Deceiver, perhaps even
The Great Adversary, for Toby Wellington had not improved; his
state of mind had become far more critical than anyone other than
Andr and Akbar imagined.



In this world triumph is always accompanied by tragedy, Akbar

said to me on the night of the Summer Solstice. But theres a
fundamental difference between the two. They may be opposites,
but triumph tastes more of the wholeness of reality than does
tragedy. Darkness is the absence of light; cold the lack of warmth.
The sun is always shining; it is only we in this world who turn
away. And whereas we may all share in this triumph, we neednt all
share in its opposite.
We were on the roof together, Akbar and I. Toby
Wellington was with us as well, though he could not take part in our
conversation, something that both the crow and I chose to regret,
as Akbar put it. Akbars followers were in a scattered group a little
way off to our right. I saw that Veritas was closest to us among
them. The night sky was covered in a dense layer of clouds.
When wed only just met, Akbar said to me, I told you
how the drawings Toby Wellington created were root systems of


radiant of multi-dimensional organisms; that they were the means of

nourishment for a form alive in the more rarefied planes of our
world, and that in creating these drawings he was doing far more
than creating great art. For all great art anchors archetypes: those
models of perfection to which all humans aspire and will someday
embrace. This creation is Toby Wellingtons mission, this is what
he seeks to do, what he aspires to accomplish by his very nature.
But there is a mystery here of which you must be aware,
Andr. What humans call time is a line. Seeing it that way, as
humans do, is not an illusion. But time is also and plane, and time is
a solid, and time has its own imponderable dimension of eternity as
well, and in all of this together, in the wholeness of time, the whole
of reality, there is no seeking without finding, no aspiration without
fulfillment. None at all.
But how can that be? It makes no sense. Observation
contradicts that at every turn. Anyone but a fool would reject the
idea that humans already are what they seek to become. But you
see, in this shallow world they call home, this world where their
mission is to bring light to the darkness, this world where they have
the opportunity to love every bug, every pebble, every possibility,
every memory, every fear and misguided thought, time is indeed a
line, but they draw that line, Andr. Thats the answer to the riddle.
They write the text. And they hide themselves from themselves so
that they may forever invent anew. Humans are both the creators
and the created, and the link between them as well.
And your friend Toby Wellington has electrified that like
in an unprecedented way. By means of what hes done, the truth
may reveal itself more fully, the Cosmic Mind may come to know
itself a little betterbut thats enough, because in the world of the
infinite and everlasting, the slightest bit is enough.
The crow stopped. Despite the cloud-covered sky, he
glistened with a particularly intense blue-black radiance.
But as I said, Andre, here triumph is always accompanied
by tragedy, whether the tragedy is seen or unseen. Always. In what
humans so hopefully call a Win/Win situation, it is loss that loses.
And though gain and loss are as naturally bound together as two
sides of the same leaf, they do and must seem separate here in this
world of limited dimension.


Sometimes the losses bound to human triumph are

dispersed through the population: in a lack of opportunity for others,
for example, as when a great discovery is made, excluding others
from that particular adventure and struggle. Or the loss may show
itself in a reactionary upsurge in superstition, or a fall from grace of
a former idea and its adherents. But not so with Toby. We can feel
the painful personal losses generated by Tobys great gift. They are
concentrated within him alone.
Akbar hopped a little closer to the boy who was leaning
back, propped up on his folded sleeping bag, listening to my purr
the and modulated cooing of the crow. There was something tender
in Akbars approach to Toby, and this generated a pleasant warmth
in the vicinity of my feline heart. There was a subdued rustling
among the twelve crows to our right.
Ive worked to support the life of Toby Wellington since
his birth, Akbar said, but only indirectly. You, on the other hand,
have cleared virtual boulders from his path, as have his mother and
Mr. Orlando Floyd, with whom Ive been working with since the
first day he met his brilliant, treacherous student.
This surprised me. Though it seems foolish in retrospect, I
hadnt realized that Akbars interest in Orlando Floyd was anything
but cursory.
Of the three of you who worked to support Toby in his
mission, Mr. Floyd needed the most help, and once Id tested his
mettle to be certain he could withstand the boys indomitable
temperament, I had to resort to extraordinary measures to draw him
on and maintain his powerful imaginative drive. He has proved to
be a man of great strength and characterand even more so because
he doesnt envision himself as such.
I confess I didnt inquire further about what extraordinary
measures Akbar took with Mr. Floyd because I was so interested in
what he was going to say about me and my role in this mission.
As it most often happens within families, Akbar
continued, individuals related by blood grow by synergy. And
here, the support his mother provided Toby throughout his series of
tumultuous experiences fulfilled her own evolutionary needs,
though she never thought of it in those terms. You are fortunate to
live with her. She is blessed with a naturally loving nature and has
become a woman of great fortitude, even wisdomwhich I believe


you know, spending as much time as you do in proximity to her

Though Id been aware that Akbar had extra-sensory
powers, I was shocked by his intimate knowledge of my habits. Not
embarrassed, mind you, as a human might be; cats are incapable of
such wasted emotion, but I was surprised that the crow had enough
interest in my life to make such an observation.
It was at this point, as if summoned, Akbars troupe walked
across the rooftop from where theyd been standing silently, and
with only the slightest rustle of feathers and clicking of claws on
brick, arranged themselves in a loose half circle behind the aged
crow. I saw Tobys colors darken and felt him become tense,
frightened by the company of large black birds coming so close to
him under a starless night sky, but I knew no harm would come to
him, so I amplified my purr and pushed my body against his in a
way he understood to be reassuring. I had no idea why Akbars
disciples had approached and were looking at him with such a
magnetic, palpable intensity.
Now this is very important, Andr, the crow said to me.
With Orlando and Angelas help, Toby has created the root system
for a living model. A model of a Peaceable Kingdom, a model on
inner realms of a harmonious, interdependent life of coexistence,
coexistence on and with this planet in what we call the future. That
remarkable quality in his final drawing which makes everyone who
sees it to come away with a gift suited to their own particular psyche
is reflective of what this living model displays. This luminous
organism is alive within us all of course, since the plane
consciousness on which it thrives interpenetrates our own world.
And on that stratum of pure mindthat stratum that will be realized
in humanitys futuregain and loss have lost their oppositional
sting, so just as in Tobys drawing, every individual may have their
own needs met without ever depleting the soul of the luminous,
living gift. That is the promise that Toby Wellington has given the
Here Akbar paused, as if to let me fully absorb his meaning.
As you already know, Akbar went on, by supporting
Toby in his monumental effort, Orlando and Angela also enriched
their own humanity. But your achievement, Andr, is greater than
Orlando and Angelas, and greater even than Tobys. If stories are


told of this in the future, they will be stories of your

accomplishment, Andr, not Tobys. But the stories wont be told
now, and neednt be, since you have no false sense of self and
therefore require no recognition. And that is precisely what makes
your life so remarkable.
For ages, you see, through fires and through floods,
humans have learned compassion by burning off and dissolving
their false sense of self, and they still do and always will. Thats the
way they operate. The opportunity to do this is humanitys gift and
makes incarnation here so treasured. And until now, it was believed
that no other species could achieve compassion since no other
species suffered such illusions with which to struggle. But in what
youve already done, my feline friend, you have led the way for
your magnificent, proud species. And youve achieved it through
force of character alone, and this, Andr, is unprecedented in the
history of spiritual evolution on Earth.
Stunned, I shrunk back from him. But Akbar, I said, in
disbelief, in wonder, surely, you have achieved compassion. And
you are a crow.
No, Andr, Akbar said after hesitating only a moment and
in a voice more grave than any Id known. This was the voice of
my bones, my ancestors, my prowess; it was the voice of what
hovered behind my very awareness. I am not a crow, Akbar said.
And at this I felt an urge to look away from him, to shrink back
further, and I did. Ive only chosen to take the form of a crow,
Andr, he explained. I am the Moon.
At this, the clouds parted at mid-heaven as if torn apart by
the hands of God. Akbar and his followers vanished from the
rooftop, and within the circle of a searing aurora, the Full Moon,
revealed, shone down with a light so glorious and electrifying that
for an instant the city burst out and dazzled as at noon on a sun-
drenched day.
Toby Wellington covered his human eyes with his hands
and buried his face in my lustrous coat. I buried my own in his
fragrant, soft brown hair.



It was one month later. The moon was full again. Except for the
few days when it had rained, Toby had been spending most of his
time on the roof. His mother had agreed to let him sleep there as
long as the weather permitted. She had been very concerned about
him; not about his choice to retreat to the roof, but about his
appearance, because Toby Wellington appeared to be getting
somewhat smaller. Orlando had noticed this as well. True, the boy
was carrying himself differently: his shoulders were slightly
hunched, his head bent forward, but beyond his slumping posture,
the thirteen-year-old seemed to have actually shrunkjust a bit.
His head, in particular, looked to occupy a little less space, as if
compressed. Angela and Orlando had discussed this with some
alarm, but reason convinced them that it was not a medical problem,
but a rather psychological malady that suggested compression.
The great reception that Tobys masterpiece had received at
the Art Institute of Chicago showed no signs of diminishing; and
though the heated flap regarding Tobys contract with Filomena


Ciminos New York gallery had finally cooled off, the fiery Italian
woman herself would continue to burn and threaten litigation for
some time into the future. With Tobys distracted, disinterested
agreement, Angela Wellington had sold Anythings Possible to
the museum for an undisclosed sum. This arrangement fulfilled the
humanitarian need both she and Orlando felt about the drawing and
its mysterious power to inspire and uplift so many people of
divergent beliefs. But both Orlando and Angela felt with a
depressing certainty that Toby would not be drawing anything new
in the near future. Of the six prepared drawing surfaces he had
ordered, five remained untouched, and Toby had stacked these
against the wall in his studio with their bright white surfaces hidden
from view. And Toby seemed to be disappearing before their eyes.
As a loving, responsible parent, Angela felt compelled to ask her
son what was disturbing him so deeply; she did this periodically,
just as she had when his mood had first begun to decline, despite
knowing that this boy of hers simply wasnt equipped to answer
questions of that sort. She had concluded, in fact, that Toby had not
come into this world fully equipped, that he did not have the
emotional tools to live as others did. And she suspected that this
deficit was directly connected to his unworldly artistic gift.
Angela Wellington had become a very perceptive woman.
Andr the Cat was the family member who most definitively
understood Tobys psychological make up, however, since Akbar
(as crow) had taken care to clarify this for him. Akbar explained to
Andr that Toby Wellington had been born to create art, to transmit
the unique understanding he was to acquire as an infant, and thus
anchor a great vision for humanitys future evolution. But as with
the destiny of all things great and small in the flatland where we
humans are born and die, Tobys Wellingtons destiny was both
fixed and unknown at oncea paradox impossible for us to resolve,
but the likes of which has in fact created us all along with
everything we know. Or, as this reporters acquaintance, the source
of all knowledge incarnational, once put it: Any question that can
be answered isnt worthy of being asked.
So: here we have Toby Wellington, designed to create art
and nothing more. And as weve seen, Toby was one cold art-
making machine; he left some bodies behind, but hed eventually
make amends, karmically, that is, and grow from it himself. Toby


Wellington, in fact, was such a cold art-making machine that the

only love he knew was the love of beauty; he had no natural
capacity for love of other sentient beingsuntil, and this seems to
be the unforeseen of the unforeseen, a misanthropic black cat came
into his life and unintentionally changed it forever. For Toby
Wellington could have continued on his surly way, creating
masterpieces and disregarding the feelings of others and the effect
he had on them, he could have continued on that wayuntil he had
a taste of love, that is, and that brought consequences of a wholly
unexpected sort.
Toby was on the roof with Andr that night of the full
Moon, as was the Moon itself in both its luminescent and corvine
forms: which is to say, there wasnt a cloud in the sky and Akbar (as
crow) stood at a slight remove watching the boy and his cat.
Akbars disciples were also present. Toby had reached his breaking
point, but if his cold heart had not been opened by his furry black
friend, he would have been at no such place. For although Toby had
learned what it meant to love another being, this surprising capacity
had not been installed with a coping mechanism for one of loves
unwanted attendants: guilt. And the guilt that Toby felt for the
murder of Damien Sharp, was like a bleed in the brain. A bleed
enclosed within a stone-hard skull. The pressure had made him
appear to shrink. He came equipped with no release valve. Toby
had never said he was sorry and never would. He was designed to
create art that would change the worldno apologies required.
So neither Angela nor Orlando could imagine this boys
suffering, and neither can we. When Toby went to the roof that
night, he had planned to jump off. He had left a note on his drawing
board along with one of the five remaining boards prepared for
drawing. In the note he told his mother that life had become too
hard to live, that he hoped he would be happier somewhere else,
and that he loved her. He had never told her that he loved her
before. Perhaps this was a new development. On the 3 by 31/2 foot
surface of the board he had quickly drawn a picture of his mother,
looking precisely her age but as truly beautiful as she was, and with
her, on her lap, lustrous Andr that Cat, looking his age and truly
beautiful as well. It was the most spare drawing Toby had done in
years. It had been created with the greatest economy of line yet to
be seen in his work, but as a drawing of the two beings Toby loved,


it was as expressive and exquisite as anything hed done. It in itself

was an act of love.
But once night had fallen and Toby was alone on the roof
contemplating his own end, he wasnt so sure. He was sure that he
wanted the unbearable pressure of his guilt to end, but he wasnt
sure that he could jump. And what does a boy only a few days
away from his fourteenth birthday do in such a situation? What
does he do to pass the time until his resolve can build to a suicidal
pitch? He cant go back downstairs and talk to his mother or
Orlando Floyd, not because he wouldnt wish to, but because he
cannot speak. He can no longer form words. If he could, hed be
talking to his cat. The pressure he feels in his skull is too great for
speech. Its not too great for Bach, however. But Toby does not, as
one might expect, choose a mournful piece of Bach, of which there
are many. Nor does he choose a plaintive piece, like the Kyrie
eleison from the B Minor Mass, a piece Toby knows as well as any
in Bachs vast output, one in which the composer so poignantly asks
for Gods and Christs mercy.
One might think that on such an occasion a piece like that
would be appropriate. But on that starry night of the full moon,
Toby Wellington chose a little piece of Bach to pass the onerous
weight of time: time as a line, as we know it and draw it. Toby
chose a little prelude and fugue from Bachs Well Tempered
Clavier. Among the forty-eight preludes and fugues in the
watershed work, some are somber, some are turbulent, some are
dreamy; in fact, one of the qualities that makes this piece so great is
the wide emotional landscape created while repeating the same form
across the full gamut of tonal harmony. But the prelude and fugue
that Toby chose to play and replay in his mind that night was neither
somber, turbulent or dreamy: it may be the prettiest of the group.
It was the thirteenth, the F sharp Major prelude and fugue; two little
pieces of music without a burdensome note between them: the
music of guileless, unburdened youth, perhaps, a lovely, clever little
prelude and fugue that would surely win the W.T.C. Miss
Congeniality Award; sweet, happy, unselfconscious music for a
spirit nearly broken, composed by another spirit dedicated to the
glory of God alone.
For his part, Andr simply purred. There were no more
hideous embodiments of human negativity to hunt down and


dismember. There was only the boy at his side that he had come to
love, though as a feline, it would be a while before the idea of love,
the more personalized form of compassion, would become a part of
his psychological vocabulary. But as we know, he was doing quite
well for a cat, and he stayed pressed against Tobys body until hours
later when the boy had heard the last of Johann Sebastian Bach and
rose to his feet.

Toby stood so close to the edge that he teetered. The whole of his
monumental accomplishment and the whole of his monumental
remorse rose up in him like a last tide of torment that few if any
boys not-quite-fourteen could be expected to bearand he could
not bear it, but neither could he jump. He could not. It seemed he
had already done his part. He was finished. Perhaps the weight of a
moonbeam alone might have sent him, like Damien Sharp,
plummeting down, and in a certain sense it was a moonbeam that
tipped the balancebut in another more visceral sense, it was
hardly a moonbeam, but the furious beating of a crows wings,
inches behind his head that sent him tumbling at last to his merciful

Once again from our source of all things incarnational:

Two souls walk into a bar. One soul asks the other:
So how was your life?
It was great. The best, the second soul answers.
Really? How so?
Well, you see, it only lasted thirteen years, and I never had
a worried day. I never reflected on anything, never had any
responsibilities, never worked a day in my life, and never did
anything but play. It was a breezea little touchy for the last hour
or so, but hell, I fell eighteen stories and it was over in a flash.
Really! the first soul says. How bout that! I lived
thirteen years too! But most of it was awful, believe me. Awful
responsibility, overwhelming, way too much for a kidand work,
let me tell you, it never seemed to end. And pressure! Unbearable.
I practically never played and the last time I tried, I ended up in


one shit-load of trouble. The soul shook his incorporeal head. But
I fell too, just like you. Only three stories, but it was over before I
knew it. I envy you, though. I wish I had a life like yours.
The second soul looks at him. It wasnt just the life, he
says. Ive had lives start like that before. No: it was that sweet,
short whole of it. And that sudden endbefore all the trouble could
even get started!
The first soul looks wistful. Ill ask for one of those, next
time around.
Good luck, says the second soul. Its something
everyone should try. Let me know if I can do anything to help. Ill
be glad to lend a hand, he says, clapping the other soul on his
etheric shoulder So. So what are you drinking?

Those little things, Toby said to the girl, sitting there with him in
the sand. What did we used to call them?
Thats right, stars. And didnt we ascribe wondrous
qualities to them? Didnt we think they burned and that they were
so big they could swallow us whole?
The girl held up a handful of sand, and as it sifted through
her fingers, each grain came alive like a star: white, electric blue,
golden and pink. And as the constellations touched the beach, the
sounds they made were like the songs of birds, but not birds: bells.
Those, Toby said, pointing to the wisps of cirrus cloud
above them. Now those we called watersoaring water.
The girl, whod once in a dream held a wrinkled, brown
paper bag, smiled. Raising the hand from which shed sifted the
stars, she drew it across the air above her head in an arc, and there
followed wispy streamers drawn down from above, which she
swirled around herself in rings that rung out in hollow, flute-like
Bells and flutes, said the boy who looked like Toby once
looked, but had no bird-like scar on his hand.
And those, he said, pointing to the sky again where a
flock of the blackest birds swooped down toward the slate-grey
water of the lake. Did we call those puzzles? Or charms?


The girl looked uncertain. I dont remember, she said,

but watch at which she held up her open hands to the black
flock, which in turn tumbled and fell like blossoms off a tree into
her hands and all about her. Look, she said of the fallen birds,
you can take them apart. It doesnt hurt.
And she did, and out of the black feathers came little
waving flags of all colors, and crystals on sticks, and marbles, white
and black. Theyre for playing, she said. For those who didnt
have a chance.
But what about those who did? asked the boy who once
looked like Toby. Whats for them?
Everyone gets the same. Its all one life. And that was all
one dream.
Thats not what I was told, said the boy.
Really? she stood up then, revealing herself to be very,
very tall. And she began to laugh. Her laughter rolled out of her
like the jagged peaks of the mountains across the lake, like the
white-capped waves that broke its surface. And the boy who
someone said once looked like Toby began to laugh as well. And
his laughter was like the water lapping at the shore, like the
sunshine dazzling on the lake.
But the boy could no longer find his companion. He looked
up, but saw no one, so he began to dig. And there in the sand he
unearthed a flock of sheep and a choir of celestial voices; he found
promises hed buried and forgotten, and shards of stories hed
wanted to tell. And deeper still, he found skeletons of himself with
strange inscriptions on the bones, and a rusted old machine for
making colored sparks; he found an ancient telescope that saw into
the future, and a kitten who had been waiting a moons age to be
born a man.
Then someone called to him from a house behind the tall
grass that grew along the dunes. Her voice was like the music of
dandelions and poppies.
I will dream some day that she is my mother, said the boy
with the sweet face and light brown hair. And by now the girl who
was gone had become the clouds that reformed above him, denser
now, with laughter raining down from them.
To think, said the boy still sitting in the sand, that I
could have forgotten all this!


But then the womans voice called out again and he

remembered something else. Something white with yellow trim.
And then something more: something in F sharp and the palest
green, and something that tasted of fresh starlight. And when he
stood to cross the beach to the house in the dunes, he remembered
things of another order entirely.
He remembered the lesson of the flying fish, the testament
of the lilies, the words to the colors of the rainbow, the face of the
Man in the Sun; he remembered the formula for fitting lost pieces
together, the key to the meaning of numbers, and the identity of the
rain. He remembered the punch-line to the joke about the rabbi and
the marsupial; he remembered the melody of song that everyone
forgets and finally, when all seems lost, recalls. He remembered
how Adam and Eve lived happily ever after, and how he himself
was the creator and the created, the artist and the art.
The house in the dunes beckoned him on, and there within
it, was a catalogue of paradox, a gallery of lifetimes, a museum of
eternities. There within were all the cats a boy could ever want to
have, and his secrets, coiled like colored streamersand he had
only just arrived!



Definitely not Bach, Angela said.

Orlando laughed.
It was two years later, in July, on what would have been
Tobys sixteenth birthday. Angela and Orlando had moved to
another apartment, again close to Lincoln Park and the lake, high-
ceilinged and spacious like the apartment where Angela had lived
for years before Tobys death. There, in the new home shed made
for herself lived her husband, Orlando; her son Adam, on the
occasions when he was in town, and her beautiful black cat, Andr.
The child she was expecting (at the age of forty-one) was due in
One can easily imagine the tremendous public stir created
by Toby Wellingtons death. But just as the world had officially
determined that Toby was innocent of murder, the world now held
the erroneous belief that he had accidentally fallen to his death.
Angela had burned Tobys note regarding being happier someplace
else, having showed it only to Orlando, and had told the detectives


who once again visited her at home that Toby was fond of doing
reckless things on the roof. Though there was some suspicion at
police headquarters, in the interest of good taste, the chief of
detectives concluded the investigation summarily. Toby
Wellingtons reputation had greatly improved, after all, and the city
fathers wanted to be sure that the great attraction at their venerable
museum was in no way besmirched. Angela kept a few of the early
drawings that remained in Tobys studio. The others she sold for
prices that embarrassed her despite her planned philanthropic use of
much of that money. Of course, she kept Tobys final drawing. She
and Andr were now framed and hung above the fireplace in her
new living room.
In line with a suggestion made by Orlando shortly after
Tobys death, mass runs of a reproduction of Anythings Possible
were made, and these were distributed for sale around the world at
little or no expense at all to anyone who wished to have the uplifting
religious, mythic, personal, sensual, humorous or narcissistic images
in their dwellings or workplaces (which would be 88% of those who
saw images in the picture)and of course there was nothing
stopping that 12% who saw satanic, ghoulish or warlike images
from plastering their walls with those if they so chose. The
reproductions were available in full, half and one-third the original
size; and those of decreased dimensions generated no fewer visions
than the drawing on permanent display at the Museum of Fine Arts.
There was a size for ballrooms, prison cells and mud huts. That this
philanthropic effort, this world-wide dispersion of a map of human
destiny satisfied the precise intent of The League of Initiates was
of course unknown to Angela and Orlando, but when it comes to
philanthropy, the gap between what one knows and does is of little
or no significance.
The sorrows of Angela Wellington have already been
chronicled here, and her grief at Tobys death was much like one
might expect. It was a grief of the seemingly bottomless sort, and
remained acute for an appropriately little eternity. The only thing
that differentiated her misery from that any grieving parent was her
knowledge that Toby himself had been suffering unbearably, and
that being who he was, she didnt have a history of a warm, mutual
bond with him. Orlando`s sorrow did not run as deep as Angelas,
but since as weve seen, Tobys work was so bound up with


Orlandos purpose in life as a teacher, he was hurt in ways Angela

was not. Toby Wellingtons chilly affect notwithstanding, he had
become Orlandos closest friend in art and now in music as well,
and the loss of this companion, distant though he was, was one from
which Orlando Floyd would never fully recover.
But when we join the happy couple, they are neither
thinking philanthropically nor grieving: theyre thinking about their
baby: their baby boy, still blissfully swimming in maternal ante-
room of The Kingdom of Heaven, and specifically, theyre
considering one particular aspect of his all-important prenatal care.
Orlando has just returned from a short errand. He has the prenatal
device in his hands. Angela is sitting on her bed, leaning back
against pillows, the great dome of her belly exposed to the air.
Orlando loads his purchase into the device, flips the switch and
places it against Angela, within inches of their embryonic baby boy.
Suddenly a womans voice rings out; it is innocent and
sweet. Its definitely not Bach.
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream the woman sings through the little
portable CD player.
Angela smiles. Thats the ticket! she says, smiling at
Orlando. Thats the ticket! she says again, looking at the enclosed
slip to read the other nursery rhyme titles on the disc. Seeming
satisfied, she leans back and listens:
Orlando, too, is satisfied with their childs first musical
experience, satisfied and hopeful, but theres someone in the room
who apparently doesnt share the opinion of the parents-to-be. And
he, of course, is the hero of our story, the star of our show. He leaps
up on the bed. With his gleaming black head he butts the mini CD
player off Angelas mound of a belly and replaces it with himself:
equally black but far warmer and more lustrous than the electronic
device. Then of course, he commences to purr, an activity, which as
we know, is to human prayer and canine howling as a bonfire is to a

So Andr purrs, and the baby boy gestates, and Angela and Orlando
forget what they will and remember what they must and row and


row, and carry on with the task of drawing the line and writing the
text as all good people forever have done and will do. And
somewhere the Moon is rising and somewhere it is setting.
Somewhere the star clock turns and chimes the hour. It is the hour
of birth and death, of folly and forgiveness, and all else glorious and
true as the night is dark and the moment is forever. And so Andr
purrs, and the baby boy grows, and the Moon will not forget, nor the
stars, as visions of paradise unfurl to the sweet, dark music of the


Related Interests