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Breaking the Four-Month Seal on a Time Capsule of the Heart

I have taken three day-trips into Harm City since coming back east. My little friend, Emma, for whom I have been a surrogate “Grampap” had been asking many questions about me since the journey west in January. I was apprised of this by her grandmother who made no bones about the fact that I was “a bastard” for taking myself away for four months.

“Where’s Jim?”

“Way out in the woods.”

“Is him’s comin’ back tamarno ta play—ta pick berries!”

“No, not tomorrow, honey.”

“I miss him.”

“So does Mom Mom, Honey.”

“Who’s Jim? Is he me pap or a unx?”

“He’s a real good friend of the family.”

“Him’s commin’ back?”

“Yes, Honey.”

I mailed her a card with some money and a note about tactics to insure maximum parental obedience to her will once a month. Once a month I talked to her and she told me she missed me and wanted to “Go fer walx en play jump.”

When I finally hit Baltimore with two days to stay, her grandmother said, “I’m not getting her hopes up. She’s had a lot of questions about you—even told her asshole father on facetime that she loved you. I thought the piece-of-shit was going to cry when she said that. So she won’t know you’ll be here when she gets home from daycare. She hates daycare and she’s been really bad with her mother and is always going into timeout.”

There I sat, the Monday after Mother’s Day, on the old couch, when her pretty little mother walked in and said, “Who is that Emma?”

Her smile was tight and unreleased as she stalked around the dining room table haltingly and I waved and said, “Hi, Emma.”

She walked close, looking all about as if for a trap of the heart, and sat down easily on the couch next to me, holding her pink backpack in her hands and eying me sidelong from under her falling locks of bronze.

“You Jim, right?”

“Yes, I’m Jim.”

“We play Jump en Witches en Gampires en Princesses en go fer walx?”

I nodded yes and said, “Your hair looks so pretty, Emma.”

She smiled a little wider and said, “Where you hair?”

I grinned and rubbed my defoliated dome and she reached into her backpack and said, “Me draw some hair on you head!”

Her mother protested and I cut her off, “It’s quite alright. Thanks for not chopping off her hair.”

Her mother then admonished her that she could not draw or paint anyone but the nut on her couch and left us to our devices. I sat as Emma used her blush brush, lipstick and crayons to color my naked skull. She then said, “Play jump—princess jump!”

I stood and tore down the couch cushions and made them into a landing pad as she ran and donned her princess gown, came out of her room and spun for me to see her in her dress. She then brought out her step-up from the bathroom which she uses for brushing her teeth at the sink and sat it by the end of the couch.

She then stepped a foot to the front window of the basement apartment and slid behind the curtain and said dramatically, as she spun out from behind the curtain and raised her hands in triumph, “Princess Ella!”

She then held out her hand which I took—me being the safety attendant for her performance—and stepped up her pink plastic stepper and onto the arm of the chair, cast my hand aside, raised her hands over head and leaped, saying, “One!”

As she rolled off the couch and I made sure she didn’t bounce her head on the coffee table, she said, “Me do twenty jumps—double twenty!”

The show continued for about an hour, with me coaching her on landing and rolling and keeping her head safe and her insisting that such favorite numbers as six and 18 were repeated many times, her well able to count to twenty at age 3.8. The various princesses that jumped, after spinning out of the curtain, included, to the best of my recollection:

Princess Bell!

Princess Arianna!

Princess Mwana!

Princess Emma!!!

Princess Cinderella!

Princess Tiger!

Princess White Tiger!!

Princess White Tiger with Black Spots!!!

Princess Lion!

Princess White Lion with Black Spots!

Princess Elephant!

Princess Elephant with Wings!!

Princess Rilla!

Princess Pink Rilla with Wings!!

Princess Snake!

Princess Snake no Like Monkeys!!!

On we played, me the humble, giant assistant to her circus leaping act, her mother clapping for her best jumps. Eventually it came time to eat dinner and, as we put the couch back together some sunlight beamed through the window as the sun slid from behind the clouds an hour before sunset and I reached for my sunglasses, my right eye seizing up. Emma, seeing this said, “You okay, Jim?”

“The sun just hurts this one eye.”

She then came to stand before me on the arm of the couch in her princess dress, still looking up as she put her hands together as if lecturing class, “Him’s peekin’ en sneakin’. He no poke you eye for long—iz almose gampire time!”

“You want to go gampire hunting?”

“Yes—with you gampire glasses en you flashlight! You brought you flashlight, right?”

Emma then looked out the window as the gray of the dreary May day reasserted itself and the sun was curtained by cloud again, wrung her little hands together while standing on the arm of the couch looking out the window and said, “Awes, the sun gone—him’s sneakin’ ‘gen.”

“Don’t worry, Emma. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny.”

Her mouth then creased in a big-cheeked smile, her arms went up and her hands out and she broke into song, “Tamarno! Tamarno! I love you, Tamarno!”

We then had many adventures after dinner playing snakes and explorers and swearing a sacred pact to adventure outdoors in the sunny tomorrow. Then, finally a few hours after dark, the little princess close to exhaustion, she looked at me and said, curling up with her pink blanket made by a good woman in Utah, “Time to go to sleep—start snorrin’. You snore—no clowns or gampires comes with you snorrin.”

Mom Mom eventually laid Emma in the living room chair and told me to stretch out on the couch—as they share the same, tiny, toy-crowded room and left my painted head snoring on the couch to sleep well.

It seemed only a few hours later when I woke to soft sunlight coming through the westward-facing window and the touch of a large, plastic princess wand nudging my forehead, Emma standing over me in her princess dress on the arm of the couch declaring, “Mom Mom is sleepin’ en Mommy is workin’—no yucky daycare—hers thinks me sick. Time to get up and play, Jim—Princess Emma says so!”

As I swung up with a creak and a pop and hung my head, squinting in the soft light, Emma was deep in song, “It’s Tamarno, Tamarno—we havin’ fun in da Tamarno!”

Two hours later, dressed in shopping clothes by her Mom Mom, Emma was out in front of the apartment building in her soft canvas sneakers, conducting a one-goon ballet class, for she has a recital in a few weeks and thought out loud, “Jim, you be better gampire hunter if you can dance.”

These words recalled similar admonishments from various coaches echoing in the haunted halls of the past.

Then she was on the sidewalk, doing basic ballet steps, postures and even a pirouette, insisting that I do the same, demonstrating, stopping with hands on hips and then looking back down the walk at me and grading my efforts according to the three scales on her class bell curve:

“Perfect!” awarded for my efforts twice,

“No, not like that, like this!” often accompanying my awkward prancing and posing,


“Oh—you funny!”

The half hour or so of ballet practice was somewhat embarrassing for me, but left Emma beaming, even as the maintenance man with his golf cart/tool box and the hipster bitch with the designer dog looked on in worried dismay and the slutty waitress from across the way smiled and winked as I tried to keep pace with my tiny instructress.

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