Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chapter 7: Agrippa Encounters An Old Lock

Sat, October 17, 2074 2:45 pm: 100 Woodland Dr.- Middlebourne, Pleasantview


Agrippa couldn't say that he was surprised. Through the glass door, he spied Phoenix and his son sitting on the couch, watching children's programming with rapt attention. The pair looked like they hadn't moved for hours. Agrippa raised his fist to knock and noticed the bit of a screwdriver jammed into the brass lock. He pushed open the door, trying to imagine the force it must have taken to snap the screwdriver in half.


The blaring din of the television heralded Agrippa's arrival. At the entrance, he stepped in something that was simultaneously sticky and crunchy. The air smelled of sour milk. And though they must have felt the breeze from the open door, neither Phoenix nor Conrad turned.

"Who is it," Conrad called, giggling at raspy false voice he'd put on. Agrippa paused in mid-stride.

"Hey sport," Agrippa said flatly. He would not be able to summon the gaiety that his nephew usually inspired in him.

"Uncle Ripp!" Conrad gathered his legs onto the sofa, kneeling to face Agrippa. He swung his arms over the backrest and grinned. "Guess what Uncle Ripp? I have a loose tooth."

"Get outta town! Let me have a look." Agrippa beckoned the boy over.


Conrad hopped out of the chair and slid across the floor towards his uncle. He opened his mouth wide for inspection.

"See, it's this one," Conrad said. He pushed the tooth in question with his tongue. Agrippa tussled his nephew's hair.

"Well, you know what this calls for," Agrippa said. Conrad's eyes widened with curiosity. "Ice cream!"

Conrad gave his uncle a celebratory hug that knocked the wind out of Agrippa. It was punctuated by the soft electric zap of the television shutting off.

"Not today," Phoenix murmured. "Conrad, would you do me a favor and go straighten-up the nursery?"

"Aww, man! Do I have to?"

"Don't make me ask you twice."

Conrad stalked grumpily towards the stairs, his face contorted in a childish pout.

"Ice cream tomorrow, sport," Agrippa shouted after his nephew. Conrad turned to Agrippa and smiled, then ran up the steps.


On the sofa, Phoenix stared dead ahead as though the television were still on. He drummed his fingers on his legs, no doubt thinking of how he would counter whatever it was that Agrippa had come by to say.

"Where's the missus?" This was the wisest opening inquiry that Agrippa could think of. Phoenix's response was bound to be indicative of how the rest of the conversation would go. No matter where Phoenix told him that Oona was, his tone of voice would give Agrippa some sign of the domestic situation that he had just walked into. As it happened, Phoenix did not respond but snorted disdainfully.

"May I take a seat," Agrippa asked. Phoenix shrugged.

"Be my guest."


Agrippa fretfully smoothed the wrinkles in his pants as he dropped down beside his brother. He thought to himself that Dirk should have been in his place. Dirk always knew how to handle Phoenix, even and especially when Phoenix was going through a personal crisis. It was best to just get to the point.

"Missed you at the funeral today," Agrippa said. Phoenix continued to stare blankly at the television screen, his silence charged with annoyance. Agrippa cleared his throat. "You know, Don always thought very highly of you--"


"Ripp, let's not do this. I'm not going to be lectured by you. In case you are forgetting, I was the one who found our mother's body." Phoenix's low growl startled Agrippa. He shrank away from his brother.


"I haven't forgotten." Agrippa's voice was gentle, cautious. "But you just can't blame Don for what she did."


"The hell I can't," Phoenix grunted. "And anyway, I don't owe the Lotharios anything. I'm not one of you anymore." None of Phoenix's many sob stories held less water than this one. Agrippa sighed.


"Phoenix, no matter whom you marry or how frequently you fail to bathe, you will always be one of us. I know how much you like picturing yourself as the town pariah but your family is not so easily disowned." Phoenix shook his head.


"As I recall, I wasn't the one that did the disowning." Agrippa fumed. Phoenix's melancholy eyes and silly excuses would not win him over today.


"No? Sometimes I think that everything you do stems from a desire to shirk off who you are. You spend your days lazing about in front of the television. You rarely show up to functions but when you do, you're always late and half-dressed. You don't work. Then there's Oona who I'm convinced you married to just spite the rest of us. And I mean, look around you, Phoenix. I've visited derelict buildings less steeped in filth. The entire history of your week is unfolding before my eyes. How many cartons of cereal can one man eat?" Phoenix snickered dryly.


"What does my cereal have to do with anything?" Agrippa closed his eyes. Phoenix had not denied any of it. Most shockingly, he hadn't even flinched when Agrippa mentioned his wife.


"My point is that you've spent too long running away from... I don't know what. Your responsibilities. Bad memories. Rich man's guilt. Take your pick. But you can't just wake up one morning and decide that you aren't going to be a Goth anymore. Life doesn't work like that. And your absence today was just the tip of the ice burg."


Phoenix paused, looking away thoughtfully.

"Thanks, Ripp. I'll keep all of that in mind."


"I'm serious. Listen, I'm only telling you this because you're my brother. Is this really the sort of example you want to set for your children?" Phoenix pursed his lips for a time as if repressing a great tirade of rebukes. He then simmered and stood.


"Given their maternity, these are not the sorts of questions that my children will have to grapple with. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going upstairs to spend some of the remaining time that I have with them." Phoenix's eyes shone. Agrippa had a good idea of how that screwdriver had ended-up in the front door. It was a new lock for which Phoenix did not have the key.


"You're going through with the divorce then?" Agrippa squirmed. He was not used to the sight of his brother with actual problems. Phoenix nodded silently.


"Oh, Phoenix. I'm so sorry. If there's anything I can do to--"


"I'll see you tomorrow, Ripp," Phoenix interrupted. He walked by Agrippa without another word.


On the way out, Agrippa considered something that he never had before. Maybe Phoenix wasn't running away from who he was but instead towards it. Maybe he had never been like the rest of them. Agrippa shook his head, dismissing the thought. This was an old lock for which Agrippa apparently never had the key.


  1. Whoa his wife is going to freak when she comes home and finds him there...poor guy :(

  2. Oh, she knows he's there. (She would never leave her kids home alone!) That's why she's not there. I don't know why I never mentioned this in the comments before but Oona is staying with her father for a while.

    Also, she's Cully's half sister on his mother's side. That's mentioned in a later chapter in passing.

  3. Phonenix has "the" nose! I know, I'm late, but I'm working on catching up.


  4. hahaha Oh Lisa! You're actually ahead of the game on that comment. No one else (including myself, sadly enough) noticed that Phoenix had THE NOSE until Chapter 34.

  5. Hmm... very intriguing - you're hinting at a history that hasn't been disclosed yet - I'm trying to get a feel of all your characters, but I'm too lazy to look up your genealogy (esp as their specific surnames aren't mentioned here), so I'm guessing these are kids of Cassandra & Don, and she must've died in mysterious circumstances or something...

  6. Agrippa and Phoenix are Darren Dreamer and Cassandra Goth's sons. Phoenix has the last name of Goth and Agrippa is a Dreamer.

    Don and Cassandra never married. Don instead married Dina shortly after Mortimer died.

    And Cassandra shot herself in the head.

    Cassandra Moira Goth-Dreamer

    Darren Alon Dreamer

    Agrippa Ptolemy Dreamer

    Phoenix Sebastian Goth

    Donald Nicolo Lothario

    Dina Cecelia (Caliente-Bachelor) Goth-Lothario

  7. Hmmm... why is Phoenix a Goth while Agrippa is a Dreamer? And, more importantly, how did I not notice that before? *bangs head on desk*

  8. hehe *points upwards at thread*

    Phoenix is a Goth because he was born before Darren and Cassandra were married. Darren couldn't really be a Goth because his blood wasn't good enough. Cassandra shouldn't have been a Dreamer but she chose to be one as a sort of silent rebellion against her father. The rules about who can marry into the Goth family have become a lot more lax over the years since Angela and Alex decided that Lydia would be a Goth even though she's 3/4 Townie.

  9. Wait, I could have sworn that I had explained this before but apparently I didn't!

    So yeah, long story short, when Agrippa was born, his mother was Goth-Dreamer, making Agrippa a Dreamer.