Entering inside myself, searching, struggling with patterns, shapes I used to know; taste on tip of tongue, burning sensation in groin. Blood candy haunts me; bitter aftertaste, fear, sweet fear, so very real for children. Delicately swaying, precarious - juxtaposed against another's fancy, not mine, scarcely my dream. Images of horror implanted, inherited, but from where?
Imaginary acquaintance...Mr. Klavinsky. Visit his candy shop in dark wood.
Nocturnal sojourn, catch glimpse through trees of radiant harvest moon in starlit sky; autumn breeze on face. Mr. Klavinsky's little wooden shop lay at end of dirt path. One could smell it way off, rotten fruit aroma, nauseating; taste it as if with invisible tongue, and upon taste becoming too putrid, feel oneself turn into phantom, wafted down path. Deathly quiet. Pulled along into seeming vacuum. Neither animal sounds, bird sounds, insect sounds, nor rustling of leaves; yet enchanted night alive with creatures, shadowy figures...ravenous eyes observing me.
Arrive at shop. Expectant, living out inner experience triggered by need for fantasy - alas, now irretrievably lost! Now I can only describe how Mr. Klavinsky frightened, delighted...branded me forever.
As I am about to clasp rusty brass doorknob, door flings open. Leap back. Forest reverberates, aurally comes to life. Wolves howl, owls hoot, crickets chirp.
Standing there in doorway, Mr. Klavinsky.
"My, what a pleasant surprise!" he declares sardonically. "If it isn't little Johnny!"
Tall, slim, rakish old man; perfect posture, wizened face. Black top hat, white gloves, stylish black suit with red handkerchief fluffing out of breast pocket, frilled white shirt, black tie, gold tiepin, tightfitting black trousers, pointy-tipped black leather shoes. Ashen skin, creases within creases; dead man's face, but zealous blue eyes, red veins popping. Grotesque hooknose, huge gaping mouth, thick rubbery lips, hideously sparkling silverish false teeth; loping, porous pink tongue, constantly licking chops; thick crop of snow-white hair supporting top hat at back of skull.
Mr. Klavinsky flicks top hat with left index finger, gestures welcome with right hand. "Step inside, little Johnny, step inside." Wheezing voice, ingratiating tone.
Of course, can't enter immediately. Pause before shop, soak in ambiance.
Blazing fireplace in rear wall projects light through open doorway. Tin chimney on roof spews gray smoke which transforms into glitter. Mishmash of colors rise, crystallized luminescence sprinkles down. Exterior walls painted alternating foot-wide yellow and red stripes; paint cracking, peeling. Moldy blotches of rotten blackish-brown wood breed life. Weird vermin swarm, buzz, hum strange tune.
Tiny black lacquered purple-eyed insects throb, chew paint.
Mr. Klavinsky's insane eyes compel me to reach out.
Left hand touches infested spot. Squishy, wet, refreshingly cool. Remove hand, touch yellow paint stripe - immediately malleable, gives way as fingertips press - melting, then ice cold. Hastily pull back. Touch red paint stripe - instantly glassy substance, goes from red to silver; every red stripe silver, nearest ones casting back reflection.
Entire shop living, breathing organism, eating away at itself.
Stark naked twelve year old little boy, beet red from head to toe; except fingers on left hand slithering green snakes, forked tongues extended, fangs bared, hissing - thumb ephemerally fluttering pink light.
Concentrate; attenuate, diminish pink light. Run red right palm through pink ghost thumb...tingling sensation. Reach out, press right hand in insect blotch, upon yellow stripe, silver one; remove hand. Four green snakes, thumb pure violet light; attenuate slightly.
Step into candy shop. Mr. Klavinsky shuts door behind us. Everything here extension of me, including Mr. Klavinsky, whom I must play off of. He represents something angry at periphery of consciousness; deep ancestral masculine rage, as though he'd always loomed over me.
Once inside shop, heart beats faster, eyes shimmer, ears prick up. Fireplace bathes room in thick yellow haze. Room shifts, vibrates. If I want I could make it stop or stretch it beyond what it is. Feminine blue wallpaper, wooden floor and ceiling, full-length mirror in gold casing, wooden table with two wooden chairs. On floor near fireplace three large glass jars, each containing different variety of blood candy. Sparkling scarlet spheres, dullish maroon licorice-like sticks, rose-tinted squares. First two bottles full, last has just enough room for one more square piece.
Mr. Klavinsky strolls to window.
"Shall we begin?" he asks, studying me.
"Yes, please." I nod, anxious.
He smiles cruelly.
I wouldn't enjoy our little scene if I didn't hate him. If my childish impetuosity and his cynical demeanor mean anything, it's that a price must be paid.
Behold myself in full-length mirror. Desperate naked little boy, bright red; green snakefingers hiss, pink left thumb flashes, violet right thumb dims - flickering.
"Please!" I gasp. "Please!"
Grinning from ear to ear, Mr. Klavinsky opens window. Night air blows in. Light alters. Yellow haze turns greenish. Violet thumb burns.
Into room flies lovely blackbird.
"Ain't she pretty?" coos Mr. Klavinsky.
Blackbird flies around wildly, squawking, bouncing off walls. Mr. Klavinsky reaches out, grabs bird. Terrified, bird claws, rips beak at him, drawing blood. Tattered white gloves. Blood splatters onto floor, nearby wall.
I watch, rapt. Mr. Klavinsky murmurs dementedly.
Glazed beady eyes, bird seems hypnotized. Mr. Klavinsky's face brushes bird's. For instant I think bird is about to rip into his eye...only, no. Find I have wandered up to them.
"Sit, little Johnny," says Mr. Klavinsky, indicating chair at wooden table. "Make yourself comfortable. We need to feel comfortable. That's very important."
Ducking his gaze, walk over, take seat.
Fireplace now emits emerald sheen. Outside window luscious orange harvest moon. Mr. Klavinsky releases bird. It flitters, lands straight in front of me on table, commences trilling.
"Make it stop!" I plead.
Gratingly high-pitched, twittering my brain. Fiercer, fiercer; not loud, acutely pitched. Mr. Klavinsky's voice easily heard.
"Try and sit still, little Johnny."
Trembling like leaf...making room vibrate intensely. Shapes, colors blur. Losing it, coming out...returning. Ordinary little boy - No - no!
"Please, Mr. Klavinsky!"
"Trust me," he says, walking over to chair opposite me at table, sitting. "I understand what's happening. Listen to her. Sound goes right up your spine, eh, little Johnny? Well, let it. As one gentleman to another, that's my most humble advice."
Oh, how I hate him! But must go along. Close eyes, concentrate on breathing; hear bird more with stomach, gut. Open eyes. Bird silent, pensive. Room ceases shaking. Nerve endings honed. Colors crisp. Green sheen darker, gray cloud passing before orange moon.
Mr. Klavinsky sits back, peels off torn bloody gloves, drops them on table. Stare at his hands, if you could call them that; bloody talons. Long, gnarled, sharp nails tap table annoyingly...then stop.
Mr. Klavinsky's eyes riveted in mine. He leans forward, says but one word.
Reach out. Snakefingers wrap around blackbird. Expect it to yelp, surprised when it doesn't. Envelop, cradle pain. Bird's dead. Gooey black substance...what's left.
Mr. Klavinsky imposing.
"How do you feel, little Johnny?" he asks. "Happy? Sad?"
"Leave me alone! I can't do this with you sitting there gawking!"
"If you desire, I could step outside." Pushes chair back, stands.
Cold wave passes over me. Instinctively lean forward.
"Yes, little Johnny?" His eyes penetrate, chill. "What is it? What's the matter? Oh, I get it. You want to take command. You want Mr. Klavinsky to disappear. Poof!"
"Would that be possible?"
"Poof, little Johnny! Heh, heh, heh, heh! Ah, if only little Johnny could make nasty Mr. Klavinsky go poof!"
"Okay, I'll accept I can't. But do step outside."
"Of course. Mr. Klavinsky is little Johnny's playmate. We must experiment. No harm in that." And he starts making his way to door.
Mr. Klavinsky spins angrily.
"Listen here, boy!" His face contorted like demon's. "Either you have the courage or you don't!" Suddenly bowing theatrically, ironically...mechanically. "Mr. Klavinsky is your servant. Little Johnny is paying a visit to my shop. I am here to provide assistance."
He leaves, closing door behind him.
Uneasy. Window. Pumpkin glare...pumpkin head, formerly moon. Daddy Pumpkin smiles, drapes out soul, diamond eyes beaming; rumbling, his laughter. Fireplace incandescent white glow. Kneel. Snakefingers reach in. Sleepy...curling up on floor. Passage through vortex - pristine white, transforming - yellow, amber, orange, blood red. Daddy Pumpkin's sensuous mouth, razor teeth slice flesh. Spits out square of blood candy. It lands at feet of Mr. Klavinsky nervously pacing before shop. Mr. Klavinsky stoops, picks it up; mildly stings scarred flesh. He swiftly enters shop, strides up to blood candy bottle which has enough room for one more piece, lifts lid, places square in empty spot. Chuckling, thinking about little Johnny, he turns, looks out window. In sky Daddy Pumpkin sighs, fades. Mr. Klavinsky leers, conjures image. Little Johnny in bed, hiding beneath covers, avoiding...connecting, sweating.
© 1982 Peter Schmideg