I Am Isabel the Storyteller

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#33. Mimi and Pop’s Answer to My Question. (Don’t read this if you want to stay calm.)

Isabel. Pop points to the nook bench. Sit down. Now.

I cave.  Okay.

And Pop begins.

He uses his deep, serious lawyer voice. I never saw him during one of his trials (he took early retirement when we came to live here), but I picture him as an Atticus type, as in Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird? That Atticus? (After my school reading group did the book, Pop took me to see the Broadway play last winter.)

He places his hands palm down on the table and smoothes the surface as if flattening invisible documents.  I want to explain what a preliminary hearing is, Isabel.

I give a whatever shrug*. 

Oliver has already described it to me, The preliminary hearing is when the judge listens to the police tell what the guy is accused of doing. While we curried Sir Isaac the other day, he explained how he’d gone to the library and read all the articles about the murder. He looked up preliminary hearings on Google and Wikipedia. He even watched old Court TV shows. Of course he has extensive personal experience from the emancipation court hearings.

But come to find out, Oliver doesn’t know the half of it. I sit straighter and lean forward when Pop says,  During the preliminary hearing the person accused of a crime pleads guilty or not guilty. It’s called “entering a plea.”

A plea, Pop? It sounds like “please,” so I make some guesses. Like he’s going to beg? My voice wears a sharp edge. Like he’ll say, “Please. Please. Don’t put me in jail and throw away the key just because I murdered two people.”

Pop raises his eyebrow. He hasn’t heard me talk tough before. Well, it’s new to me, too, but I’m glad.  It gives me courage,

No, it’s not like that, Isabel. Pop says. It’s when the judge tells him what he’s been charged with, and the man has the opportunity to say whether he’s guilty or not guilty.

Hit me with a brick, why don’t you; I’m that stunned. Like there’s a question? This guy is GUILTY. I grab Pop’s hands and shake them. Mom and Dad are dead, Pop. Or did you forget? 

As soon as I say this, I wish I could hit the delete key.

Isabel Scheherazade, tough-girl in training


*PS  This shrugging business? Mom and Dad didn’t like it. They said shrugging is a form of non-verbal violence that doesn’t contribute to the conversation in a positive way. (They talked like that. I miss it. Well, I miss it now.) Mimi and Pop haven’t said anything to me about my shrugging. Yet. We’re still too new with each other.

#32. Mimi and Pop and I have a confrontation. A confrontation with a long fuse, that’s for sure.

Their reaction to my question is Immediate and Dramatic. A tear leaks out of Mimi’s eye.  Pop pats her back and grits his teeth.

I cross my arms and swallow down the lump in my throat. I’m not a crier. That is, I’m not a crier NOW.  I used to cry upon occasion. Like, when I was a baby. Babies cry. Or when I’d fall and scrape my knees. Or if something sad happened in a book or to the twins. Or if Mom scolded me and put me in time out. Regular crying that you do in regular times.  No more.  Sometimes I FEEL like crying. My heart gets tight and empty. I can hardly bear it.  I wrestle with the lumps in my throat. But no tears.  I’m like one of those coals in Pop’s grill. One of the coals that gets pushed to the side and isn’t part of the big clump that’s really cooking the chickens. It just glows over there, unnoticed.

I don’t want to cry. I want to get even.

This all goes through my head while I watch Pop and Mimi calm each other down.

I remember something Oliver told me about them. Having kids around after all these years is something Mimi and Pop aren’t used to yet.  I have no idea how he knows these things, but he’s right. Oliver also said that it’s the same with Zia, but different. She knew him well as his nanny up to age 7.  She’s had to get used to my being a grown-up now, he says. Hmph! For sure she needs to get used to his living at the farm, but not because he’s a grown up!

I’d say it’s different for you, Oliver. My parents are dead. Forever.

Right, and mine are dead to me, even though they’re alive. 

Back to the Preliminary Hearing question that’s making Mimi cry and Pop grit his teeth.

Sorry, Isabel. Pop tugs tissues out of a box and splits them between himself and Mimi. More time passes. (A few seconds, but they’re heavy seconds.)

Mimi says, Isabel, what happened to your Mom and Dad is terrible. Then she seems to notice how I’m standing with my arms crossed.  She pats the space between herself and Pop and starts to get up, Sit down, why don’t you? 

I shake my head. Just tell me. ARE. WE. GOING?



#34. I, Isabel Scheherazade, am sorry I talked so tough to Pop and Mimi; but, um, I don’t think they get what’s at stake here, as they say in the movies.

I’m sorry, Pop. I shouldn’t have said that.

Although, I think they DO forget; not that they’re dead, but that they were murdered.

Murdered by this guy.

Pop gets up from his side of the breakfast nook and comes over to my side. Even though I’m not wanting him to hug me, I let him. I think it makes him feel better. I wriggle away after a bit. I don’t want to get softened up.

Pop says, We’ll get through this, Isabel. Don’t worry.

Get through this? I think. I don’t want to get THROUGH this. I want–what is it I want? I know. I want to GET this guy and put him in jail. Forever. I hate him.

I probably should say this out loud to Pop, so he understands where I’m at. But something holds my tongue, and all of a sudden I feel tired. My sad heart takes over for my mad heart. Mad gives me energy. Sad makes me tired.

Uh, Pop? I’m muffled because he’s hugging me tight again. I think he’s weeping. Pop? Er, I told Oliver and Zia I’d curry the mule for them today. Got to go.

As I run by the nook window, I see Pop consoling Mimi again, neither one remembering that  Zia and Oliver had told them I needed more tutoring before I could curry Sir Isaac by myself.

Isabel Scheherazade


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