A Secret Grave 64: The Key

 

When Victor was about thirteen he started observing his family differently, almost as if he had never seen them before. His brother, Roy, who’d begun chasing after girls, was a handsome, loud mouthed bully, popular in school because he was suave and had an eye gaze that could cut kids to shreds; his mother, Evelyn Frances, with her cool good looks, perfect hats and handbags, who’d be so sweet to the other ladies and then decimate them behind their backs; his father, Leonard, who more and more was a ghost in the house, a successful doctor who’d lob difficult questions at each of them at the dinner table, then go lock himself in his office – what did he do in there? And, of course, little Diana, whose fiery temper matched her curly red hair, who was born the day JFK was assassinated, and whom Victor largely ignored.

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Evelyn with Roy (left), Victor (center) & Diana (center, right) with two of the neighborhood kids

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Unlike Roy, Victor was allowed in Leonard’s greenhouse, which was kept locked. In fact, Leonard had given him jobs to do, such as rolling up hoses, checking on misters, raking gravel, keeping an eye out for ailing plants. He had realized early on that Victor had the healing touch. Plants that weren’t doing well would perk up when the little boy was around and so he was quietly encouraged to spend time in there, and when he was thirteen (the age he would have been bar mitzvahed had they continued to live in Toronto, near Leonard’s parents) he was given a key to the structure.

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GR Bisby in Tottering Tower Greenhouse., University of Minnesota Department of Plant Pathology’s photostream, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Roy was very jealous. He would see his younger brother go in and out of the greenhouse freely, and visibly darken with rage. As the older son, it should have been his privilege. Victor knew Roy was itching to steal the key. He knew that if he wore it around his neck, Roy would beat him up for it, so he hid it in different places, burying it or sticking it between the pages of a book, changing the spots frequently, hoping his brother would give up or forget. But Roy didn’t forget. He’d beat Victor up anyway, for no excuse at all, leaving him with a lumpy eye or bloody nose. Evelyn ignored this behavior, saying “boys will be boys” and that the brothers should work things out on their own. Victor knew better than to involve his father in the problem. Instead he developed strategies to avoid Roy or keep him at bay – all very difficult in a suburban household – and the stress of having to be ever vigilant gave him nervous tremors and occasionally delusions. He had to figure something out to get Roy off his back permanently.

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ Souvenir key, Calsidyrose, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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