To the Artist's Page To our home page
To Jonathan Penton's previous piece To Jonathan Penton's next piece
Leon lay there in bed for an indeterminable amount of time pretending to be an animal. The sun had not yet broken over the eastern horizon, outside her window. Leon wondered what animals thought about just before sunup.
Her room was far too large for her, and despite modern insulation and heating systems, was still a bit drafty at this time in the morning. She was accustomed to such a climate, however. The sheets pulled up over her bare legs were for modesty rather than warmth. Although the door to her room was locked, there were many people in her house and she was always a bit afraid someone would walk in.
The room had once contained a large poster bed, but when Leon slept there, she would become nervous and have nightmares. Her father had removed the poster bed and introduced her to a twin bed, slung low to the ground on a tiny metal frame. That had made things a little better, but then the room seemed enormously large until Leon's father had painted the plaster over the walls dark blue. Leon was not quite so afraid of her bedroom after that. Still, she had a vague understanding that underneath those cool blue plaster walls lived stones much older than her father. It made her nervous, from time to time.
This morning the room was quite messy, and that helped to combat her anxiety. Slowly, she drew herself up onto all fours, taking time to visualize each movement before she made it. Her legs were out from under her sheets now. She forced herself to remember that as an animal, she was not concerned with such things as clothing and modesty. Not sure what kind of animal she was, Leon used her hands to pull herself up to her windowpane and press her nose against the glass, as she thought of dogs doing. The sun was just beginning to appear. She lowered herself back down to her hands and feet, turning full circle on the bed to survey her surroundings. She jerked her head back and forth, hoping to catch sight of some small prey. Seeing none, she focused herself on moving from her bed to the closest chair. Her left arm shot out --she was right-handed but she figured that animals use whichever paw is more convenient-- and she gripped the chair's high Victorian back. She extended her right leg, withdrew it, and tried her right arm instead, grabbing hold of the chair's leg before she pulled her right leg up to the chair. She then placed her left foot on the chair's back. She was now standing with her left arm and foot on the back of the chair, above her right hand and foot on the chair's seat, in a position she thought of as cat-like. Proud of herself, she was still for a moment before dismounting the chair and moving towards her bedroom door.
Once at the door, she reached up for the knob, but stopped herself. Animal or no, even if the guests were all asleep, her father would be most displeased if she wandered down into the bed-and-breakfast without pants. Leon grabbed a pair of only slightly dirty jeans from a toy shelf and pulled them over her legs. She also grabbed a sweatshirt, and pulled it over her head. She had no intention of removing her nightshirt, which was far too thin and frail to make it through the day at school. Satisfied with her appearance, (The sweatshirt had pulled her short hair in all directions, and later that day she would be accused of looking very much like an animal. She would not find it entirely displeasing.) she opened her door, went through, and locked it behind her.
As she made her way down the stairs, her rear end several steps above her front, she could smell Miss Marek cooking for the guests. Early in the twentieth century, one of Leon's ancestors inherited a tiny slab of French land, surrounding a castle that Henry the Fifth was alleged to have slept in. This ancestor decided that it would be a great idea to move the castle --stone by stone-- to his much more sizable slab of land in Oklahoma. He named the area New Agincourt. (The castle was originally located closer to Amiens, but whoever heard of Henry the Fifth sleeping in Amiens? Not the American public, of that the heir felt sure.) It was the intent to make New Agincourt a tremendous tourist stop, a touch of France in middle America, a place of poorly written theater and crowded ice cream parlors. Instead, those wanting a touch of France continued to go farther south to New Orleans, to see a bit of breast as well. Those wanting ice cream parlors and poorly written theater would discover Disneyland, and the dozens of theme parks that rose over the country in the following decades. Those very few wanting to see old European landmarks would eventually be rewarded with London Bridge's move to Arizona. New Agincourt would sit silently, a tribute to one man's mixture of capitalism and vanity. The castle itself was not totally worthless as a tourist trap, however, and Leon's father was able to run a very successful bed-and-breakfast-style inn out of some of the rooms.
None of these things were on Leon's mind at any point, least of all this morning, as she smelt Miss Marek cooking bacon and eggs and mushrooms and peppers together. She hurried down the stairs, almost tripping in her determination to keep her hands on the floor. The stairs, at times, could be more disturbing then her bedroom walls. The thick carpet over them did a poor job of masking the coldness of the stone underneath. The staircase that she climbed down was private. None of the guests had access to it, and although it was not locked, the maids knew they were to stay out. The stairs dumped her directly into the family dining room. From there she neared the swinging door that led to the kitchen and the smells within that room. Leon opened the door a crack and peered through, checking Miss Marek's position. The woman was at one of the five stoves, humming softly as she worked. Between them was Leon's oversized lunch box, stuffed with not only lunch, but a breakfast that was sure to be a large western omelet. The sight was overwhelming, and gave the girl pause. Leon thought of Miss Marek as not only a wonderful cook, but beautiful and wise as well. She knew that Miss Marek did not like her very much. It was not a paradox for Leon. She was used to it --from the teachers, from the other servants, and from her father's mother. Still on all fours, Leon regained her energy. She burst through the door, scampered across the tile-over-stone kitchen floor like an ungainly raccoon, grabbed her lunch box, and scampered out. Miss Marek never turned around. She knew Leon was there, of course. The child was no animal, and had the stealth of a Sherman tank. Miss Marek was accustomed to ignoring Leon's behavior.
The girl held her lunch box in her right hand (she had forgotten her resolution to be ambidextrous) and touched her left hand to the floor with each step. Her shoes and book bag were located in the family room, her next stop in the morning routine. She donned her shoes, slung her bag over her back, then decided to grip the lunch box with her teeth. So prepared, she opened the castle's back door and went out. In ten minutes, the "special ed." school bus --the little yellow bus every American child knows as the retard bus-- would be there to pick her up. She was still on all fours now, but she would stand up before the bus arrived.
To the top of this page