[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 5
Elsa finished working on Joey’s wounds and even wrapped his wrist with an ace bandage. She’d been right about it being sprained. After two more sticks soaked in the mint-flavored liquid Joey felt good as new; until he stood up.
His body felt a little stiff, but the pain was muted enough for him to function. Elsa closed up the medical kit, picked up her stool and scooted back down the hallway. Joey peeked around the corner, but with little light it was difficult to see where she’d gone. He assumed the kitchen wasn’t that way and didn’t want to offend the nice lady after the attention she’d given him.
After a short bit she came shuffling back into the room and smiled at him.
“Let’s go into the kitchen and make some tea.”
She shuffled her way across the room and through the open doorway. Joey thought he passed through a time warp and into his grandmother’s kitchen straight from the fifties. All the appliances were olive green and looked brand new, the floor was covered in a yellow, flower-patterned linoleum, and the counters were tiled in pink. It was an offensive clash of colors.
Elsa picked up a white tea pot from the stove, it had fighting chickens or roosters on the side, and went to the sink to fill it. Once it was full she returned to the stove, lit a match and got a fire going under the tea pot. She fetched a ceramic tea set from a cabinet. Joey noticed it was the only thing inside that particular cabinet as if it had been waiting there all along for her to come in and use it.
“Please, sit down.”
Joey sat at the small table that was positioned in one corner of the kitchen. Its window was covered with the same heavy drapery and lace curtains. She set one cup in front of him and one on the opposite side of the table.
“Do you take cream with your tea?”
Joey had never had tea in his life. Should he say yes? Would she get offended if he didn’t? What was the right answer?
“I don’t have heavy cream, so would you prefer milk or half and half?” Her serene smile and the way she folded her hands to her chest made Joey think of a doting old lady waiting on a grandchild.
“Milk is fine.” Joey looked down at the empty tea cup and then back up at Elsa and remembered his manners. “Please.”
By the time she made it to the refrigerator and back the teapot started to whistle. As it sat on the stove and hollered for her to retrieve it she placed several tea bags into a small white pot and left the lid off. She emptied the contents of the kettle into the pot and placed the lid on it. She finally sat down once the kettle was returned back to the stove.
“You’ve got a strong face.”
“Huh?” Joey had been entranced by the steam rising from the spout of the tea pot.
“I said ‘you’ve got a strong face.’ You remind me a lot of my son, Victor.”
“So why don’t you talk to him anymore?”
Elsa poured tea and sighed. There was a deep rattle in her chest as she spoke. Joey hadn’t heard it before.
“As I told you, it’s really my fault. He was such a headstrong boy. I tried to keep him out of trouble as much as I just wanted to raise him right, can you understand that?”
“You see, he always wanted to go places. He never wanted to be a good boy and just stay home. I’ve seen you ride by on your bike before and with your scraggly hair and all.” She waved a finger at him. “I can’t help but feel like you two are a lot alike. Are you like that?”
“Headstrong you mean? I guess I never really thought of it before. I mean I get it into my head I want to do something and I just do it. Is that what you mean?”
“Do you always listen to your parents? Do what they say when they say? I suspect you’re a good boy, but you’ve got your own ideas.”
“Do you ever get that feeling like no one understands you?”
“Well, my friend Carlos does.”
“So one person in the great big world understands what you’re all about.”
Joey had to think had about that. Sure he and Carlos were friends, but Carlos, along with the excessive record collection, also collected comics, books, movies, darned near anything he could get his hands on. His parents had converted their basement for him and had told him he could live there as long as he wanted to. Joey’s parents wouldn’t even get him a used car so he could get around easier and they expected him to know what he wanted to do once he graduated high school.
“No. I guess he really doesn’t understand me either.”
“My Victor was the same way. He only had one friend and though they did everything together, Victor was happier with his dog down in the park playing fetch and day dreaming. He also spent a lot of time down at the Astronaut Academy when it was downtown. He dreamed of going into space, but the men there would always tell him he wasn’t fit enough or he was too small.”
“That must’ve been tough. When was that Academy there?”
Elsa’s eyes misted over. “Around the same time Victor left.”
“But where did he go?”
“I knew he wanted to go into space so badly. Oh, I shouldn’t tell you these things.”
But she was telling him. This woman looked as though she hadn’t changed anything in her house since sometime in that late fifties or sixties. How long ago could it have been? It just occurred to Joey that there was no radio or television in the house or at least not one that he could see.
She wiped a tear from her eye. “I’m sorry, Joey. It’s been so long. It was back in sixty-four. Victor’s father, Hector, had built a machine. Hector worked at the academy. He brought work home with him all the time. It was a promise he made to Victor. One day Hector disappeared, but his dreadful machine was still there.”
“A machine? You’re confusing me.”
“He built a machine to send himself into space. He built it for Victor, but he tested it on himself.”
“He built a rocket?”
“Heaven’s no. This was much different.” Tears were streaming down Elsa’s face. “He called it a transporter. I have no idea where it transported him to, but obviously he never found his way back.”
“Hector transported himself into space? How did he know where he was going to end up?”
“I don’t think he ever knew that. All I know is that every day since the day Hector left I’ve gone out to that garage to see where Hector is and why he hasn’t returned. It’s been such a difficult life, but being that Hector worked for the government, I’ve been able to manage on his pension and life insurance. I’ve never told anyone that he had that awful machine in the garage for fear that’d take that part of him from me.”
“But, Elsa.” Joey leaned in closer. All thought of his pain had gone. He had to know. “What happened to Victor?”
Elsa pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of her house dress and dabbed at the corners of her eyes.
“In seventy-two, I showed him where his father went.”
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