|The Seven Sleepers||8|
“Do you believe that?”
He put the banister brush down and laid his palms against the edge of the workbench. He looked sideways at her. “No, I don’t.”
He reached up and opened a tiny trapdoor in the ceiling and pushed the toy into the dark space beyond. He closed it again. He retrieved a lamp fitting from a nearby shelf and screwed it into the brass thread that was embedded in the trapdoor. When the fitting was tightened it completely concealed the trapdoor. He struck a match and lit the lamp. Carmen had seen this process before, and thought little of it.
“Will she get better?” she said.
“I don’t think so.”
Carmen said nothing.
“Do you visit her?” Joe Carmichael said.
“Sometimes,” Carmen said, trying to be as truthful as possible. The fact was that Grandmere Anna scared her, and she didn’t like to visit her alone. “Slops visits her a lot,” she said, as if that made up for it somehow.
“Yeh, she likes Slops.”
“I like him too.”
Her pere returned to his armchair and refilled his baccus. Carmen watched him from across the room. His hands were bony and immensely strong, but she knew that they could also be gentle. There was a time not long ago when she would have crawled onto his lap and clasped her arms around his red chapped neck and laid her head upon his shoulder, but these days she felt too grown up for such things. Sometimes he gave her a sad little smile, as if she were a bird flying away for the winter.
Grim appeared. He twined himself in figure eights about the legs of the seated man, purring, then leaped lightly up onto the workbench. Carmen suddenly remembered why she had come up to the attic, and there was a burning sensation in her throat.
Before she could speak though, her pere did. “Now, Carmen.”
“It’s not fair.”
“Few things are.”