November 19, 2003

As Viktor grew up... (Part 2)

He was a small, unfriendly child. His studies consumed him, but he resisted any attempt by Grandfather to teach him alchemy. Viktor scoffed at the art, calling it outdated, and later, as he got older, simply an elaborate ruse. Grandfather never realized the extent of his own child's hate for him, and always tried to do the best for Viktor. Grandfather set up his alchemy practice in the bowels of the Fox theater, next to Ishmael, who was descended from a line of great Moorish alchemists. The dank and poorly lit depths of the theater emitted strange smells that hinted at the clandestine, yet brisk, dealings below. Alchemy was surprisingly popular in Atlanta. Grandfather used his profits to buy little Viktor anything he asked for, but bristled at the repeated requests for Chemistry sets. Grandfather sent Viktor to one of the best private schools in Atlanta, where Viktor became a top student in the sciences and mathematics. Eventually Viktor graduated and was accepted to university in the north. Grandfather was able to buy Viktor an automobile for his journey, and sent him packing with his tuition and enough money to live on for the year.

Both men were relieved to be free of each other. Grandfather, who loved his son a great deal, but had never understood him, and Viktor, who was finally free of the man who ripped him away from his beloved mother as an infant. Grandfather had always quite enjoyed Atlanta, but his new found freedom from Viktor opened up new world to him. He and Ishmael would spend days underground, neither sleeping nor eating. They attempted to unlock the secrets of the cosmos, but mostly succeeded in building a strong friendship. Other days, Grandfather and Ishmael would spend walking the streets, marveling at the world. They would sit on the porch of the little house on Peachtree Lane, discussing Allah, Jehovah, Demosthenes, Ibn Zakaria, Aquinas, Bohr, Newton, Ghandi, Einstein, Fuller. Ishmael and his wife, Khadijah, grew to be grandfather's greatest friends.

Each week, Grandfather would sit at his cluttered desk in the little house on Peachtree Lane and write his son a letter. He would tell him of the sweetness of the onion he had on his sandwich, the beauty of the butterfly that alit next to him as he sat on the park bench, or the tasty borek Khadijah had served. And, without fail, each week, Viktor never replied. Until one day, shortly after the birth of Ishmael's son Ibrahim, a letter arrived from the north. Viktor had finally written. In a brief, formal letter he told Grandfather that he had graduated, been married and had recently had a son, James. It also contained a check for several thousand dollars. Accompanying the check was a ledger with Viktor's perceived debts to Grandfather, beginning with the cost of the passage to America, the cost of his private schooling, and ending with his college tuition and the automobile. There was no return address.

The next day, Grandfather retreated below the Fox theater. Khadijah would bring him food almost daily, food which he rarely ate. Ishmael kept the lawn of the little house on Peachtree Lane mowed, and painted it after the first year, and again after the third year. Grandfather spoke to no one, closing his shop to all besides Ishmael and Khadijah, and even they were only acknowledged with head nods and grunts. After the third year, the lab was closed to even them, and Khadijah would slide the food through the uneven space between the bottom of the door and the ground. Ishmael would slide in notes to Grandfather, and once every few months, one would come out. Eventually, after five years, Grandfather opened the door to the shop, walked over to Ishmael's laboratory, and knocked on the door.

Posted by orion at November 19, 2003 04:21 PM | TrackBack