Tuesday, November 18, 2008

For My Grandparents (Part 7), Rabbit In The Grass: The Haunted Mandolin

I have always been a passionate lover of nature, especially in the fall. As soon as the leaves begin to change color, and the first hint of winter's chill hangs in the air, my thoughts turn inward. I think back to the times I spent in blissful communion with the earth, and try to reconnect with that unbridled wonder I felt for nature when I was a child. Inevitably, the backward glances turn to memories of Nanny, my grandmother. She more than anyone else shaped my attitude toward the natural world - not so much by what she said - but by who she was. Nanny, whose birth name was Louise, was one of those women who seem to embody the earth itself. She and Poppy, my grandfather, lived atop a sunny hill in a little clapboard house whose field stone foundation, and many walls were the product of my grandfather's back - breaking labor. The property - 17 acres of typical, rocky, New England soil -was connected at one corner to my maternal aunt's 40 acres - an enchanted place that had thick oak woods, and ponds with fish that jumped, and bullfrogs that croaked. Through the back of her land it was a short walk to an old, abandoned quarry, and a stretch of quicksand that was purported to contain the sunken remains of a freight car. Behind my grandmother's house, and in a low-lying field on the far side of the next door neighbor's land, my grandfather grew an abundance of produce: corn, tomatoes, pole beans, squash, potatoes, onions, a variety of herbs, grape vines, and apple, pear, and peach trees. Throughout the summer and fall we feasted on fruits, and vegetables plucked straight from the garden.

My grandmother was also skilled at growing things. Her handiwork could be seen in the mad jumble of flowers that engulfed the borders of her front yard - a triangle of grass graced by a towering flagpole in the center, and a scattering of white Adirondack chairs that gleamed in the summer sun. Family members swore Nanny could stick a dead twig in the ground and in no time it would sprout green leaves. Also, legendary was the St. Francis-like effect she had on animals. I once saw a vicious dog that would attack anyone in sight, roll on its back in front of Nanny, waiting for her to rub its belly. And then there was the rag tag band of cats that haunted my grandmother's property. I used to love seeing Nanny step outside the front porch door to feed them. Strands of her long, silver-white hair - escapees of her tortoise shell combs - would flutter in the breeze as she cried: "Ki dee. Ki dee. Ki dee. Ki dee." Upon hearing her, cats of every description would swarm her feet, and curl around her legs, as they waited anxiously for her to lower the bowl of cat food and table scraps. No creature ever went hungry if Nanny was around.

After my grandmother's death, when the family was dividing up the more valuable items in her estate, I asked if I could have just one thing of hers - a fluted, green, glass jar with a soft metal lid in which Nanny used to store her coffee. As I sit here writing, that same jar stands on a shelf in the window above my left shoulder. It's a symbol of the treasured times we shared. As a child I spent many weeks during the summers living in my grandmother's cheerful, sunlit house - the exact opposite of the dysfunctional, and often scary home of my parents. Each morning after waking to the crowing of the rooster, I'd push aside the brown rock that kept the bedroom door from sliding open, and enter the kitchen. As always, my grandmother was already up sitting with her back to the big iron stove with the emerald green, and creamy white, ceramic finish. I didn't have to be told what to do next. I knew the drill. I went straight to the sink, retrieved the green jar, and brought it to my grandmother. She'd then scoop up several spoonfuls of the fragrant grounds, and deposit them in the basket of the coffee pot. From my side of the kitchen table I could see the amber liquid pulsing up and down in the little glass knob in the lid. While the coffee perked, Nanny and I would eat out favorite cereal -Wheat Chex. A heartier breakfast followed at mid morning after we'd worked up an appetite outdoors.

On one such morning as she was pouring cereal into her bowl, my grandmother said something that demonstrated to me just how aware she was of our kindred natures. She said:

"You know, Glen. You're just like me. You have to live alone, because, when you live by yourself, you get up when you want to get up, you eat when you want to eat, and you go to bed when you want to go to bed."

How prescient were her words. In her simple, direct way she spoke volumes about my core being. Perhaps if I had heeded her advice I might have been spared a lot of drama in my life. As it turned out, all of my live-in relationships were stormy, to say the least. Although I'm a faithful, and loyal person, I understand how challenging it can be to live with my personality. My contemplative mystic, and exuberant artist sides can be difficult for one person to accommodate. I've often joked that if I wanted to achieve domestic success I'd need a different compatible lover for each of my two halves - one for the maniac, and another for the monk.

I should explain here that my grandmother lived independently for a long period of time - bringing up her three daughters without the support of a spouse. The man I referred to as Poppy was my step grandfather. My grandmother's first husband died when their daughters were very young. By all accounts, my biological grandfather was an abusive man who drank heavily, and gambled away the family's money. Nanny didn't remarry until her girls were all in their early twenties, and did so, only after Poppy had courted her relentlessly for many years. Although I have no doubts that she loved Poppy very much, I know a part of my grandmother sometimes craved the quiet, uncomplicated life of a single person. Nevertheless, I'm very happy Nanny remarried. Otherwise, I would never have known Poppy - a kind, hard working man who adored Nanny, and greatly enriched the lives of her daughters and grandchildren.

In addition to our shared love of independence, my grandmother and I had something else in common. Like me, Nanny had one one foot planted firmly in the spiritual world at all times. Exactly sixty days after his death, [the period of time prescribed by family tradition], my grandfather visited my grandmother. She said he came to her bedroom window, in what she described as 'flowing' colors, and said goodbye three times. That moment was supposed to signal the completion of Poppy's passage into the spirit world, but ,by no means, did it mark the end of his visits. Several months after my grandfather's colorful farewell, my sister Susan was cleaning my grandmother's bedroom when Poppy made his presence known. While Susan was dusting the furniture she heard a sharp "Ping!". She looked up and saw that one of my grandfather's mandolins that sat on top of an armoire, popped a string. My grandmother, who had been sitting just outside the bedroom door saying her afternoon prayers, [Nanny was religious, but not in a dogmatic, or overbearing way], peered into her room, looked at Susan without commenting, and went back to her prayers. A moment later a second string broke. Again, Nanny looked at Susan, said nothing, and resumed her prayers. When a third string popped, Nanny said to Susan:

"The mandolin is yours. Poppy wants you to have it."

The day my grandfather died I was at home in a place I was renting on the beach in South Wellfleet, Ma. My roommate, who knew my family well, and was very fond of my grandparents, sensed I was feeling sad, and said to me - out of the blue - "Do you want to go home to your family?" Without a further thought we left the house and headed down a long sandy road that ran beside a tidal creek next to where we lived. From there we made our way across open marshland, and through a moonlit forest of scrub oak that led on to the highway. At the time there was only one bus on the extreme end of the Cape. It came and went just twice a day - once in the early morning and again at night. We set foot on the highway just in time to hail down the last bus that could have taken us to Connecticut that day. My roommate and I decided to make a quick stop in Hartford first, in order to visit my sister Marie. It was bitter cold when we left the bus station and walked the mile or so to my sister's house. When we showed up on her doorstep Marie was shocked to see us because it was late, and neither my roommate nor I had thought to warn her about our arrival. After visiting for a couple of hours we were driven to the bus station where we boarded a New York bound bus that stopped in my home town. When we got to my parents' home, before we even had a chance to take off out coats, the telephone rang. My uncle phoned to tell us that Poppy had been taken to the hospital in an ambulance. A few minutes later a second call informed us that Poppy had been pronounced dead on arrival. I found out at his funeral, that my grandfather had made the rounds of the family the night before he died. He appeared in several peoples' dreams, and was seen by my Uncle John running down the staircase in his home. The day after the funeral, Nanny gave me Poppy's pocket knife, for which, (according to custom), I had to pay her a penny before receiving it. She also gave me his gold signet ring, which I wear to this day.

I was the last family member to occupy my grandmother's house before it was sold. I'm embarrassed to say I did everything I could to discourage the sale of the property. When prospective buyers would come around I would point out all of the defects - even hinting that the house might be structurally unsound. My aunt who was the executor of my grandmother's estate got wind of what I was doing, and I was forced to stop.

Finally, the dreaded day arrived. It was the tail end of autumn, and the air was piercing cold. I had decided the night before that this would be the day when I would end my occupancy. In less than a week strangers were set to move into my grandmother's house. Awakening at the dusk of dawn, I snapped open the shade of Nanny's bedroom. The sight that greeted me was breathtaking. There was white frost on the lawn, and sunrise was just a heartbeat away. Thinking it was the first snowfall of the year, I reverted to a childhood practice, and walked outdoors in my bare feet. Delighted by the crunching of the stiff, and glistening grass, I waited for the magic I knew was soon to come. And there is was. In the distance, beyond the huge Chinese elm, where the rounded edge of the lawn sloped downward, following the path of the tree-lined drive, the sun burst over the horizon. In a flash, a blast of gold lit up the frosted grass, igniting countless dewdrops into blazing diamonds. It was a sight I will never forget.

When I returned indoors I began the painful process of gathering up my belongings. This would be my final departure from the place that had been my childhood sanctuary when I needed to escape from the unhappiness at home. After I finished packing I decided to lie down down on my grandmother's bed and take a short nap. I fell asleep briefly, and was awakened by the sound of heavy footsteps in the attic overhead. Intuitively, I knew it was Poppy. Deciding to investigate, I went into a tiny closet off the parlor where a skinny ladder led to trapdoor in the ceiling. I mounted the stairs, and threw open the hatch. It was pitch dark up there. I climbed a little higher until my shoulders cleared the attic floor, and began feeling around the perimeter of the hatchway. Suddenly, my hand struck an object, and I heard the resonant sound of strings vibrating. Even before I grabbed hold of it I knew it was my grandfather's other mandolin. Clearly, Poppy wanted me to have it. I hope some day to honor his memory by learning to play it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

(Part 5, Rabbit In The Grass) The Art Of Flowing: Making Magic Happen

Part 3 of this series began on the day when I returned home from the beach and found that I'd been evicted from the apartment I called Widow's Walk. In this episode I'm backtracking to the time just prior to then, when I was still living in that apartment. It was during that period that my inner voice began speaking to me with growing clarity, and conviction. Guided by this new found intuition I made significant changes in my lifestyle. I completely revamped my diet, began spending a lot of time in nature, and focused more of my attention on my spiritual development.

I don't recall the exact moment when I began to practice the art of 'flowing', but I do know the system began to take shape during the spring and summer I spent in Widow's Walk. Using the art of 'flowing' I was able to manifest the simple things I needed for my daily survival. The best way to explain the process is to describe the way in which I practiced it in my everyday life. For example, let's say, one day I decided I needed a new pair of shoes, but I couldn't afford to buy them. I'd wait until bedtime, and when I was lying there preparing for sleep, I'd tell myself that I was going to receive a new pair of shoes the following day. I didn't ask, or pray for them. I simply stated, as a matter of fact, that I would receive them the next day. I should add here that everything I sought back then was a basic necessity - nothing grandiose - except for one thing that had to do with a certain love interest. That wish came true, but, ultimately, was a disaster for me. It was thus that I learned the wisdom of the old saying: "Be careful what you wish for".

The day after my bedtime declaration is when I would implement the second component of 'flowing' - something I called: "Following the Line of Least Resistance". This entailed going about my daily business in as smooth, and stress-free manner as possible. For example, if I began to do something and it didn't feel quite right, I would pause - center myself - and proceed according to the dictates of my inner voice. At times, this could mean changing the direction in which I was walking, at other times it might mean scrapping an item on my agenda, and doing something else, instead.

As I navigated through my workaday world, I imagined that the path I was on was a tree, and that I was climbing it. The main trunk of the tree represented my core - the place where I paused to receive guidance from my intuition. The less I strayed from my core, the more likely I was of having my needs met by the universe.

The branches of the tree, which symbolized the intuitive choices I made regarding the direction I took, or the changes in my agenda, etc., were never directly across from one another, but were staggered at identical intervals. If I were on a branch to the left of the trunk, and my intuition told me everything was okay, I stayed where I was. If not, I moved up to the next branch on my right. However, if I continued to move in a certain direction despite having reservations, it was because something inside me told me it would be beneficial to do so. In such instances, interpreting those inner signals could be tricky because I had to make the subtle distinction between cautionary anxiety that was meant to steer me in a new direction, and a kind of excitement I feel when fate is prompting me to take a leap of faith. In my mind, climbing straight up to the branch above me constituted a leap of faith. This kind of movement was more rare, and scarier, because the distance to the branch directly above was twice as far as the branch to the left or right. Such leaps were risky, but the potential rewards were great.

In Part 6, I'll continue with the third component of 'flowing', which involves spending time alone in nature.

(Part 6, Rabbit In The Grass) Making Magic Happen

In Part 5, I left off with a description of the second component of 'flowing': "Following The Line Of Least Resistance". In this installment I'm going to discuss the third component, which involves spending time alone in nature. Everyday, at dawn, before going to work, or attending to the various practical, and social items on my agenda, I took a walk in the marshland on the west end of town. While I was in the marshes I navigated by intuition - following the line of least resistance wherever it took me. Whatever the set of operations may be that enables the psyche to influence matter, whether it be in the case of synchronicity, those meaningful coincidences talked about by Jung, or the ability of the mind to work in concert with the universe to manifest the things we desire, contact with nature seems to pump up the process. Perhaps, a combination of the absence of stimuli associated with civilization, and moving in sync with the primal rhythms of nature, opens up whichever channel it is that links us to the rest of life on an energetic level. In any case, rather than continue to speculate on matters better left to saints and scientists, I'll simply share with you a most amazing experience I had on one of my morning treks.

One day when I was threading my way through the serpentine paths of the tidal creeks at low tide, I had a transcendental experience. Rounding the soft curves of the narrow channel I felt myself becoming one with sensuous pattern of its contours. I observed the marsh grass blowing in the wind, and noted that the blades were bending in the same direction as the scudding clouds above. Everything around me, including myself, seemed to be part of a larger, dynamic unity. Then, a remarkable thing happened. I looked down at the sandy bottom of the creek, and was shocked to see a stream of glistening energy - the ghostly residue of the water that had been there just a few hours earlier. The energy was rushing along in the same pattern as that of the other elements in the landscape. If that weren't enough, I looked at the back of my hand, which I had bent to mimic the curve of the channel, and saw the blood coursing through my veins. The blood was moving in the same direction as the grass, and the clouds, and the phantom water in the channel.

I'm going to end this episode with an example of how the art of 'flowing' worked its magic in my life. Once, when the summer season had come to an end, I found myself dangerously low on money and food. That night, on the eve of sleep, I told myself that when tomorrow came I was going to find a good job, and have a delicious meal. The next day, a fellow shopkeeper who had made a couple of big sales that afternoon, invited me to go out to dinner with him to celebrate his good fortune - his treat. The restaurant he chose was one I had always wanted to go to but couldn't afford. As I was eating, someone I met earlier that week spotted me through the restaurant window, and walked in to where I was seated. A mutual friend had told the man I was an excellent cook. It turns out he had just opened up a restaurant in town and needed a chef. He asked me if I wanted the job, and I accepted. It ended up being one of the most enjoyable work experiences of my life.

This story illustrates just one of numerous times when practicing the art of 'flowing' allowed me to tap into the power of the universe. Here is a recap of the steps involved in flowing: First, figure out what it is you desire. Next, tell yourself succinctly, and with authority, that you will obtain such and such. Follow this up by spending meaningful time alone in nature - navigating, intuitively, and allowing yourself to merge with rhythms of the earth. Then, all that is left to do is to continue to follow the line of least resistance as you go about your daily business. If you don't have easy access to nature, substitute meditation and/or yoga. If you really want a kick-ass experience, try all three: nature, meditation, and yoga, and combine them with the other steps. I have, and the results have been astounding.

'Flowing' is a process that can work for everyone. Give it a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Until next time, good luck, and stay in the flow. Glen

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

(Part 4), Rabbit In The Grass: A Preview And Two Quotes

For a long time, now, I've believed that human beings have, within their brains, the latent capacity to do anything our most sophisticated technologies can do. Moreover, I think the creation, and continued refinement of technologies is a necessary prelude to humankind being able to turn on and utilize these seemingly magical faculties. In the next episode of "Rabbit-" I plan to discuss the art of 'flowing'. Flowing is a system I stumbled upon while living on the Cape - one which enabled me to manifest the simple things I needed to survive on a daily basis. I've wanted to write about flowing ever since I first experienced it, but until now I lacked the necessary insight and energy to do so. The following are two quotes that I hope will create just the right ambiance for Part 5 of "Rabbit In The Grass".

1."It is possible that our civilization is the result of a long struggle to obtain from machines the powers that primitive man possessed, enabling him to communicate from a distance, to rise into the air, to liberate the energy of matter, abolish gravitation, etc. It is also possible that we may ultimately discover that these powers can be exercised with an equipment so simple that the word "machine" will acquire a different meaning. If this happens, we shall have gone from mind to machine and from machine to mind, and certain remote civilizations will appear to us to be less remote."

2."The cybernetics technicians have perfected electronic machines which function first arithmetically and then analogically. These machines are used to decipher codes. But scientists generally are so constituted that they refuse to believe that what Man has made he can also be. Strange humility!"

*Jasques Bergier is a distinguished nuclear physicist and chemical engineer.

1.Louis Pauwells and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians, (New York: Avon Books, October, 1968),166.

Friday, September 12, 2008

(Part 3), Rabbit In The Grass: The Man With The Terrible Eyes

This episode begins at the point when my second summer on the Cape was nearing its end. That period was significant because it was the first time I'd lived by myself in my own apartment. It was also the first time I had my own business. In my tiny rustic shop, I sold lamps that I made from wood and stained glass and, also, art on consignment. The shop was called "Inner Light" - a name that made the people at the town hall a little nervous when I went for my business license. Apparently, - for them - the name conjured up images of head shops, and brothels. Once I'd assured them I wasn't peddling drug paraphernalia or sex, I got my license and was off and running - or, I should say, limping. You see, I didn't exactly make a killing that summer. It was an outcome that anyone with a brain cell could have predicted. On a basis that was too regular for practicality, I slapped a sign on the front of my shop that read: "Gone To The Beach". It was totally irresponsible of me, but I didn't care. I was young, and foolish, and the natural surroundings of the town were so beautiful, I just had to be out there.

On one of my hooky playing days, I spent the afternoon at the beach with some people I'd just met, from Long Island. When I returned home, I found the door to my apartment locked, [something I never did], and there was a big bag filled with all my earthly possessions, in front of it. I'd been a tad behind in my rent, and now I was out on the street. Although I hadn't been given the required thirty days notice, something told me to just let it go. Besides, I didn't feel right about arguing with my landlord, since I knew I was entirely, at fault. Eventually, I did pay the balance of the rent due. Motivated by guilt, and the necessity of not making an enemy in a town where everyone knew everyone else, I paid the landlord with money I earned cooking in a restaurant that winter.

The apartment I was leaving behind would always be my favorite. I refer to it as the Widow's Walk because it had a cupola on the roof where you could look out on the sparkling waters of the harbor. During the time I spent in that place I experienced the first major growth spurt of my spiritual development. The central lesson I learned there, was how to surrender to the universe. In fact, I learned that lesson so well, that when I was standing outside my locked apartment thinking about my impending homelessness, my inner dialogue went something like this: "Hmm. What to do?....I know. I'll go to a party." The people I'd met earlier that day had invited me to a party on the deck of Brittany House, the guest house where they were lodged. Leaving my sack of stuff just where I'd found it, [Why lug it around town?], I headed for the guest house whose second floor I could see above the tree tops on the hill behind me.

The so-called party was a pretty sleepy affair, one of those wine, and cheese things. However, the view from the deck was spectacular - almost as good as the one from my Widows Walk, down below. I'd only been there a brief time when an elderly woman, who I would soon get to know very well, emerged from the house with a platter of cheese and crackers. The woman's name was Catherine - a charming, seventy-five year old, with a thick French-Canadian accent, and an eye for the boys, especially a freckle-faced, redhead, named Brian. Whenever she saw him she would press her hand to her bosom and coo: "Ooh! dat Brian. He give me a trill." Later, when a joint being passed around had gotten too small to handle, Catherine came to our rescue by teaching us how to use a safety pin as a roach clip. Needless to say, I was instantly smitten by the old girl.

Catherine grew up in Montreal, where she spent the better part of her adult life caring for her invalid mother, her drunken husband, and her only child, Richard. Richard, now a grown man, had been a very, successful antiques dealer, before becoming an art history professor in Boston. He and his mother had pooled their money to buy Brittany House. Catherine's life had been one of self-sacrifice, and constant scrimping to make ends meet - a fact, evidenced by her extreme frugality. She never wasted anything - especially, leftover food. If there were even the remotest indication that something was still edible, it was sure to find its way to the dinner table that evening. I know because I lived in Brittany House that fall, and part of the winter. When I told Catherine I was looking for a cheap place to live, - without a moment's hesitation - she said: "Don't worry. Yer gonna live here, wid us." At the time I met Catherine, Richard was away in Boston.

That evening, when all the guests had gone up to their beds, Catherine and I were alone in the downstairs kitchen. Outside, the air already had a slight autumnal chill, and the scent of mint tumbling over the garden wall, wafted in through the screen door. Retrieving a tattered pack of playing cards from her apron pocket, Catherine surprised me when she announced, abruptly: "I'm gonna read yer future."

Catherine's method of reading was straightforward, and simple. She used only the sevens to the aces, (inclusive), discarding the lower numbers. The cards were laid out three times. The first layout represented the past, the second - the present, and the third - the future. I don't remember most of the reading. It was quite a while ago. I do know she made a couple predictions that came true the following summer, just as she had described them. She also told me things about my family that were so detailed and accurate, that, had I been a die hard sceptic, I'm sure I would have become a believer.

The whole time Catherine had been reading for me, she kept looking furtively, from one to the other of the three doorways that opened on to the kitchen. At one point after I'd laid down the cards for the third time, there was a sound like a footfall. Catherine scooped up the cards in a flash, and whispered: "Richard's home." We waited a while, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Why she was afraid her son would catch her reading, puzzled me - especially, when I found out later, that Richard was a student of the Occult. As I was getting up to leave, Catherine handed me the deck of cards and said: "You keep dem."

When I got to my room on the second floor, I spread the cards out on the bed. Seeing them had a hypnotic effect on me. In a matter of seconds, my mind was awash in streaming imagery, triggered, sometimes by individual cards, and at other times by clusters of them. As the energy around the cards continued to shift, I began weaving a narrative from the passing scenes - stitching them together into a story that I recognized as my own, but from an unfamiliar perspective - a prospect from which the larger patterns of my life were highlighted, and not just those of my past, but those that appeared to be, their logical extension into the future.

From that day forward, for several years, I carried the cards wherever I went. More than anything else, I used the them as a personal form of meditation. You see, it wasn't the prophetic aspect of card reading that fueled my interest. Instead, it was the simple, repetitive, act of doing it. The practice soothed me, and helped to keep my mind receptive to a bigger reality. If, however, the cards afforded me an occasional glimpse of magic - so much the better.

During the following week, I got the chance to explore the old house while trying to make myself as useful as possible. I didn't know the exact age of the place, but I recognized architectural details from the early nineteenth century. Richard had filled every nook and cranny with his collection of antiques - all a bit grandiose for my taste - items such as silver, Rococo wall sconces, and painted Venetian chairs from the Renaissance. The lavish furnishings made me curious about their owner, but I didn't get to meet him until the next weekend because he had remained in Boston on school-related business.

As the week progressed, guests started trickling into the house in time for the weekend - the last hurrah for the summer tourists. When Saturday arrived the weather took a turn for the worse. A storm brought torrential rain, and near, gale force winds that flooded the center of town. Rather than brave the elements, the guests hung out in the adjoining parlors downstairs. Sprawled out on the oriental carpeting, some played card games, while other sipped wine, and chatted amicably with one another. I sat on the floor playing checkers with a personable young man named Michael, the only guest close to my own age.

Around the middle of the afternoon, a motley foursome, who I later found out were sharing a small room with only one double size bed, wandered into the front parlor. The group - all of whom appeared to be in their early thirties - consisted of two women: one tall and beautiful with a great body, one short, fat, and mousy, and two men: one tall, nearly bald, and anorexic looking, and lastly - the one who appeared to be their leader - a man of average height, stocky, but not fat, with black, slicked back hair, and eyes that scared the hell out of me. Abnormally large, round, and bulging, his eyes were bloodshot, with large red veins where the whites would be, normally. One might have attributed their menacing quality to a disease of some sort, except that the characteristics already described, weren't nearly as frightening as the way in which the black, void-like irises seemed to track, and trap everything in the room. I had the impression it wasn't he who was peering out through those eyes, but a dispassionate, predatory, creature - one who had taken over his body, and was searching out the frailties of anyone locked in its gaze.

The four roomies formed a tight little knot as the snaked through the room. Stepping outside their huddle, the emaciated one walked up to an elaborate, bamboo cage filled with canaries that occupied the entire wall behind me, and, in a piping voice with a foreign-sounding accent, said: "Such pretty little birds." Then, as if responding to some secret cue, the four of them turned as a single unit, and filed out of the room.

That night, when the house was quiet, I left the library - my makeshift bedroom when the guest rooms were full - and went to the kitchen hoping to find Catherine still awake. Sitting at the table with Catherine was Michael, the guy I'd played cards with earlier. Before I had a chance to sit, Michael blurted out: "Did you see that man with the eyes? He was staring at me the whole time." To which I replied: "I thought he was staring at me the whole time." Then, Catherine, who often had premonitions about guests, even before they called for reservations, said: "Last week I dreamed a man wid terrible eyes was gonna stay here. His name was Artur."

Arthur and his companions were the only guests staying on the first floor. They were directly across from the library where I was sleeping. The distance between our rooms was no more than eight feet. Their room had a solid wooden door. Mine had the flimsy, shutter type that folds open in the middle. In my temporary sleeping quarters was a small, wooden chest that was always kept locked. Inside it was Richard's collection of rare esoterica. One of the books was a copy of the Cabala, which I assumed was written in Hebrew, since Richard later told me he'd been translating it over the previous six months. These details will seem trivial until you learn what happened later that night.

An hour or so after Catherine, and Michael went to bed, I was still hanging out in the front parlor, watching the last flickering embers in the wood-burning stove. Suddenly, I felt a wave of nausea come over me, just as Arthur was entering the room by way of the library. He walked up to a long, floor to ceiling bookcase to my right, and placed his hand on the spine of a book. Turning toward me, he observed me for several seconds without speaking. Then, in a tone that sounded both cordial, and threatening at the same time, he said: "I'm borrowing this book on Egypt." Once again, he stood there in silence, staring at me with those awful eyes. The cliche simile of the rodent, paralyzed with fear, before the cobra, poised to strike, fit my situation, perfectly. Unnerved, I averted my eyes, and when I did, Arthur snatched up the book, and slinked out of the room.

Shortly after that I went to bed. But before settling in, I secured the tiny latch on the shuttered doors. It wasn't much protection. A toddler leaning against it would have broken through. Still, it was better than nothing.

That night I had a dream in which I was lying in bed in the library, and Arthur was in his room transmitting some kind of negative energy to me. The energy, which looked like a red, laser beam, was shooting through a crack in the shutters, hitting the upper part of the window next to the door, and ricocheting off of there, and into my chest. As the beam was penetrating my chest it was making beeping sounds. Somehow, I knew my only salvation was to yell for help, but every time I tried, no sound came out. Finally, after many attempts, I found my voice, and yelled out loud: "Help!"

As discretely, as if he were a butler, come to announce the serving of tea, Richard, who I had not yet met, and who had just returned from Boston, stepped from the parlor on to the threshold of the library. For reasons unknown to me, I sprang to a seated position, and gaping at the silhouetted figure in the doorway, whispered:
"You know about him?" In a matter of fact tone, he replied: "Yes, he has some power." And then, without my mentioning the references Arthur had made to Egypt, or anything else that had happened that day, Richard said: "Now, lie down." And - instructing me to imitate his gestures - folded his arms across his chest, and said: "This is the pose used by the ancient Egyptians to protect themselves from evil spirits." Then he lay down on the floor beside my bed with his arms positioned the same as mine. I fell asleep, instantly, and slept soundly through the night. When I awoke, Richard was gone. I looked for him, and found him asleep in his bed. Arthur and company were gone, too. They had checked out at the crack of dawn. I never saw Arthur, or his friends, again. The rest of my stay at Brittany House proved most interesting.