I Am Isabel the Storyteller

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# 63 To what lengths and distances do living beings go to preserve or dissolve families? And shouldn’t someone be accountable?

Dear Honorable Judge Welch,

I am researching our town’s racial past. My friend Oliver—the same Oliver who asked to be emancipated a while back?—was racially harassed the other day and ENOUGH ALREADY. I am trying to understand how our country was ok with flourishing on the backs of enslaved and disenfranchised people. I know if I don’t learn the history I might help perpetuate the systemic racism that empowered Oliver’s attackers.

My research got me thinking about families and how they are preserved or dissolved. I’m astonished at the great lengths living beings go to in order to do this preserving and dissolving. The phrase “to go to great lengths” means to spend a long time or to take a lot of trouble to affect something or other. I see it also in terms of the DISTANCE it takes to dissolve or preserve. For instance:

5,000 miles: The distance 10 to 12 million enslaved peoples and their families were abducted across the Atlantic to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century. To Dissolve.

8,000 miles: The distance the Upland Sandpiper flies from the Argentine Pampas to Alaska’s Upland tundra to mate, nest, and raise their young. To Preserve.

4,000 miles: The distance Arturo’s Tante traveled from Peru to cook and clean for her nephew and grandnephew after the Mama died. To Preserve.

3.2 miles. The distance Mom and Dad drove from our “nest” to the traffic light in time for Mr A. Spinoza Carlotto to run it. To Dissolve.

If my thoughts are Dad’s garden last Spring, then they are still germinating. Not to be morbid, but maybe this is where my metaphor is going:

Dad’s garden was almost ready to harvest when he and Mom were murdered. We decided to let it go to seed—like Peter Rowan’s song: if I die before you do, let the garden go to seed. We wanted nature to take its course. So nobody picked the beans, or plucked the tomatoes, or dug the potatoes; and next Spring the process will start all over again, without Dad. My immediate family is like Dad’s garden—butternut squashes, broccoli, kale—going to seed, rotting in the ground. Will it regenerate? Do I believe that?

Please do not think I am “turning a corner” and that my will for revenge is softening. I am not shrugging my shoulders and doing the teenage whatever.

I want to reiterate that Mr. A. Spinoza Carlotto needs serious jail time. Somebody has to pay. Right? Even though it doesn’t seem like anyone is “paying” in regard to the enslaved peoples; their descendants are still suffering and it’s been a few centuries.

Please don’t let your sentencing be influenced by this, Judge Welch.

Isabel Scheherazade

# 55. Mom and I were going to watch the penumbral eclipse together, but since she’s been murdered, I have to watch it alone which is forcing me to sit in that middle seat of our van with all the crash day and court day memories. Not good.

From my dormer window seat, I study the giant Hunter’s Moon, squinting my eyes to see if the penumbral eclipse has started.  Mom was eagerly anticipating this night. We’ll watch it together, Isabel is what she promised. Hey, who knows; I am experiencing the Mom-is-nearby feeling. I hear her voice as if from the great silent void of space saying, On its southern-most edge, Earth will move between the set-sun and the full moon. This will allow us to see the outer part of Earth’s shadow. And there it is, Mom—our penumbra! It’s getting clearer and clearer.

But missing Mom is putting me in that middle van seat of memories; in real life Mom and Dad kept that seat folded down in order to fit the double-wide twin stroller; so, as a metaphor it works, since I usually want to bury the horror of the crash day and now the court day. But like the penumbra sneaking into view via my peripheral vision, I revisit a scene sliver from the court caper. As Pop and Mimi were marching me outside, I glimpsed the killer in a shadowy alcove beyond the metal detectors. He was lit from above by a chandelier missing most of its lightbulbs.

Here’s what I saw: the killer is hunched over like he’s carrying a load on his back—burdened, as they say in books. Too pooped to pop as Mom used to say when she was pregnant with the twins. Another man, his lawyer maybe, supports him on one side. On his other side, more in the light, is a tiny lady dressed in layers of bright, colorful clothing: a square woven cloth that covered her narrow back and shoulders, secured in front with what looked like a sturdy diaper pin; an embroidered skirt with several other skirts underneath; and a vibrant hat loaded with beads, sequins, and bric-a-brac. She pats his back as they walk. Is it his mother? She looks like an illustration from my National Geographic magazine on Peru.

His suit is strange. I think it’s too small for him, like he might have gotten it for his wedding years ago and then grown up. You can see his white socks and all of his wrists. His hands shake, just like that time in the coffee shop.

The scene gets fuzzy along with my and Mom’s penumbral eclipse, so I crawl into bed. Even though I punch pillows and yank covers, I’m not as filled with venom and vengeance as I was immediately after Mom and Dad were killed. Maybe it’s because of the chickens or Sir Isaac or Oliver or maybe even Arturo. My madness is more muted.

But not so muted that I’m giving up on seeking revenge. Pop and Mimi go on and on about different laws and shades of meaning, blah-blah-blah. No disrespect to Mimi and Pop, but Mom and Dad are dead because of this guy.  I want the judge to put him in jail and throw away the key. Darn. The problem with thinking about this now is that it riles me and I can’t sleep.  I might as well get up and write a Judge Welch letter.

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