Winston and the late Edwina and were five year old cats when Freud and Artemis joined the household. Just six weeks old, they were stray pieces of fluff, one orange and white, one jet black; with flat baby noses, pink tongues and soft paws. They pounced on anything that moved and stalked single grains of rice that had fallen to the floor.
It had been several years since Edwina was that playful and Winston, born a big ol’ doofus, had never been much inclined to anything except eating. Neither of them was pleased with the attention the interlopers received from my students. And they begrudged me every minute I spent in the kitchen which was barricaded to function as a playpen.
Abby was eight when her twin brother and sister were born and she began lessons with me. Abby knew something about being the eldest.
We were sitting at the piano when Winston grouched into the room, well into his season of discontent over the imposition of the kittens. Abby assessed him expertly and nailed me with her eyes.
“Are you spending extra time with him?” she demanded.
I needed extra time to keep up with this next little guy, aged around ten:
Jacob told me he was making a duplicating machine in his bedroom. I heard about it every week for several weeks. One day he came in and announced,
“I’m not Jacob. I’m his duplication.”
“Is that so? He must have got that thing to work.”
Next week the boy who came for his lessons was a duplication of the duplication. I had images of multiple Jacobs flying out of a machine that was out of control. I wondered if I was going to be getting multiple checks, but the machine broke down and only the original Jacob came after that.
He was an original. And here are two more originals:
“Here we are, two little ghouls come to ruin your life!”
Enter Anna and Julia.
Even the cat looked forward to the girls’ lessons on Monday nights. I might not have seen (the late) Edith all day, but at 6:30 on Monday night, she was waiting at the door for Anna and Julia who kept to a policy of being businesslike. This endeared them to Edith all the more.
As distracting as cats are (to me), the subject of this vignette is “ghoul.” I don’t remember how it started but Anna and Julia created an imaginary world they called Ghouldom. It had nothing to do with the undead or anything dark. I think they just liked the sound of the word. They had ghoul identification cards. They made maps of Ghouldom and established an academy at which one could learn to be a ghoul. Week after week they brought in travel brochures and literature until I expressed an interest in becoming a ghoul.
I feel the need to reiterate that the weekly visits were for piano lessons–a minor point that may get lost– and yes, we did piano. Both girls practiced more or less regularly and learned how to play. See: http://www.elenalouiserichmond.com/2010/12/tales-of-the-high-teas/
The next week the first of my study guides were handed to me, I signed a contract and was issued a temporary identification card. The following week brought in a flood of welcome notes.
The one from Mayor Henry Ghoul said, “I am honored to welcome you to the land of ghouls. I hope you try your hardest to ruin people’s lives. Good luck!”
Dude Ghoul wrote, “Waz up, Man! Dude, have fun bein’ like a ghoul! Later.”
Five year old Patrick Ghoul wrote: “Congragulsion Ms Eleanea. Goood luke at ghoul. Luov.”
The next week I got an exam schedule. Every few weeks, a new exam was left for me to complete which I usually did five minutes before the cat stationed herself by the front door and the girls showed up for their lessons. The whole business had been going on for over a year when Anna who had begun adolescing, dropped out of the game entirely. Julia and I managed to hold on until I finished the final exam and got my ghoul license.
I saved my final essay because I was quite proud of it (you’ll want to imagine this in Chiller font):
What it means to be a Ghoul
The first thing it means is that there once were two utterly delightful girls who took piano lessons from me, a reasonably sane woman. One day the girls came to their lesson and they were no longer just Girls, they were Ghouls, come to ruin my life. While maybe my life wasn’t definitively ruined, it certainly has not been the same since.
One of the hardest things about being a ghoul is learning the list of all the ghoul presidents. Only about 8 are women. That’s not good news.
The best part of being a ghoul is getting the certificate/license and all the congratulation notes from Very Important Ghouls. But then my Sponsor took them all away so I couldn’t use them for my exam. She had better not lose them.
The ghoul diet is kind of restrictive but it’s better than Weight Watchers or The Zone or even Eating For Your Blood Type.
The Very Best Part about being a Ghoul is seeing my Ghoul Students/Sponsor every Monday night.
Respectively Submitted (and this better be good enough to make senior ghoul),
Elena Louise Richmond (Ghoul nickname, Itch)
Mayor Henry Ghoul is proud to see Julia at M.I.T. and Anna about to become president of the student body of Western Washington University.