The Legend of Scott and Zelda
After a while he said, “My dear, I wish you’d try to make more friends. Your birthday party guestlist is deary.”
“I haven’t any friends,” she said.
“How can you say that?” He shifted toward her on the hard bench. The chilly spring air was fragrant with growing things. “There’s Ernie and Sheilah and Ginny to name just three.”
“They’re all dull.”
“That is unjust,” he said. “But if it were so that’s all the more reason to make new friends.”
“Ginny smells like old lady bathroom,” she said. She sighed and scraped the gravel with her shoes. She smiled. “I’m so glad the monsters came to me. The first thing they did was relieve me of my dirty body.”
He leaned forward as though stabbed by sudden stomach pain. “Darling.” He ran fingers through his thinning hair. He heard more gravel crunching as though parties of two and three were walking the paths on the grounds. “Darling.”
“Those mad ideas that run through my head, slashing furrows in the wall of my skull,” she said. “The monsters tell me what they mean. They tell me I mustn’t be afraid of them. They lift me out of my body and hide me somewhere safe, somewhere I can’t be found.”
“That place isn’t real, darling,” he said. “I always find you. And you always run to my arms. Won’t you walk with me? I dislike these cold granite benches.”
“Then you shouldn’t have put me here,” she said. “Still, it was here that my monsters found me and showed me entrance to that other world.”
“I wish I could go with you,” he said.
“Maybe someday,” she said. “What?”
“Your eyes,” he said. “There’s the twinkle of mischief I miss.”
“Only you could lure me away from the place I love so much. Here,” she said. “I painted it.” She took the large roll of papers from her lap and held it out to him. She looked away absently, as though disconnected from the act. He had not asked to look at the paintings, knowing she would present them when she felt ready.
He spread them out gently on his lap, one at a time, the cold bench forgotten. “You paint so well,” he said. “Are these all the same place?”
“My kingdom. Yes.”
“They’re all different,” he said. His sensitive fingers touched the wild images reverently. The premature sag left his features and he lit up like a delighted schoolboy.
“What would be the point of painting a place the same way twice?” she said. “The monsters tell me I should never have given up dancing.” Breeze lifted the large sheets and they rustled softly.
“You still dance. Only now you do it with paint.” It sounded like larger parties were moving around them now. Gravel plunged as though cinder blocks were crashing onto it, leaves were savaged as though blades slashed down from a height.
“And I filled another sketchbook,” she said.
He turned the pages. “Why is Ernie holding me like a girl in this one?”
“One of the monsters was whispering to me about you two.”
His face sagged again. “Your art seems to me to be a fragile link to that twilight world of yours that I can never touch. I feel certain that if once I relaxed my hold of you, you’d fly back to that ethereal world and I’d never reach you again.”
“You’d never notice I was gone,” she said.
“What’s the difference, since you barely notice I’m here? And I’d have my monsters.”
“There are monsters on this side,” he said.
“I prefer mine,” she said. “And new ones appear all the time. There, you can’t say I’m not making friends.” She stirred, brightened. “Here they come.”
“What? Good lord – “
They sprang and lumbered, hopped and danced, rolled and slithered toward the couple on the bench. Branches thwacked, stems snapped. Trees were torn from the ground, roots showering damp clods of dirt. Grass and leaves were trodden to muck. The gravel paths had deep black ruts. “I should have told you to pack some clothes,” she said. She rose and came up on demi pointe. “Oh, dear. Who will plan my birthday now?”
“Turn me loose, you bloody brutes!”
“Don’t worry, dear. My monsters will be gentle. I told them about your unmanly preoccupation with bodily comfort.” She stepped prettily after the pack and the struggling man.
“Darling, help me! For the love of God mmf – ” A giant pawlike hand stopped the rest.
“You did say you wanted to come with me,” she said. “Do you know, perhaps my mad ideas are my monsters.”