THE RANSOM NOTE
AUNT ROSY AND THE SNAKEPIPE
DREAMING ON THE TOILET
WE HAVE YOUR SON. THE RENSOM IS ONE THOUSAND PUT THE MONY TO THE HOLLOW TREE NEXT TO PLAYGROUND AT WOOD PARK SQUARE COME ALONE OR... (someone drew a skull and bones here) YOU ARE SORRY! DONT WORRY WE DO NOT HARM YOUR SON. MONY OR LIFE! THE BLACK HAND
What could be possible said to the inconsolable mother, when she receives such a letter about her only son? Who, by the way, an hour earlier was looking for his socks under his bed. Because last night the ‘cheeky bugger’ scattered his cloths all over the room, as Aunt Rosy, the ‘grandmother-to-be’, mother of Uncle Larry, the ‘stepfather-to-be’ hissed into the ears of her future ‘daughter-in-law”, mother of Johnny.
Of course, this ‘future grandmother’ and
‘future stepfather’ matter demands an
explanation for those readers whose parents
never divorced and so he would not know
that a man can have more than one mother or
father, as well as several grandparents.
Which can become a huge advantage on our
birthday and on Christmas Day, when we
get gifts in abundance. And its huge setbacks
become obvious on every other day of the year.
Because extra parents and grandparents not only
have the right to give us presents, but they also tend to control our lives – including telling us what to wear, what to eat or what we should do for a job when we grow up. This in itself should not be a problem, as someone with fifty-sixty years of life experience can give good advice to the young. The problem starts when this ‘advice’ is given us as commands, just like if we were soldiers in the army. The only good thing to do on command is to eat cheesecake – and even that can be a burden if we must do it in excess.
Uncle Larry’s mother, the grandmother-to-be obviously did not know this, because she usually bossed around the children like a grim sergeant major. ‘Dress up! Wash your hand! Eat your breakfast! Clean your room! Be polite! Off to school!’
Johnny thought that even a dog would go nuts if he was ordered around like that all the time, and according to Molly, Johnny’s five-year-old little sister, Aunt Rosy speaks in such short outbursts because she is thrifty even with the words she speaks.
It has become fairly obvious that Aunt Rosy is a very stingy woman – not just with money, but also with food. She would never throw out any leftovers! If any member of the family is unwilling to consume the remaining of the supper from yesterday or the day before yesterday, Aunt Rosy takes the sacrifices and shovels it in. No wonder she weighs twenty stones – before lunch and without her clothes.
Uncle Larry is the opposite. He pecks at his food. He is really faddy. He eats this but rejects that. He is tall and thin, like a pole with a melon on top. Johnny believes he should be creeping around the house to avoid hitting his head into the ceiling. With Molly they call him The SnakePipe.
It happens that sometimes we love someone (Johnny’s mom), but we do not like those (Uncle Larry and Aunt Rosy) who might be liked by the person we love (Johnny’s mom). Sometimes there are such complicated and mysterious matters in life.
Aunt Rosy and Uncle Larry, as we mentioned before, have been living in the house as tenants for over half a year. Johnny’s mom needed money after the divorce from Johnny’s dad, so she rented out one of the rooms. As the weeks and months passed by, Aunt Rosy kept whispering into Johnny’s mom’s ear about his son – that Larry is such a great pick, because he is so decent and hardworking and single. And makes such good money as an insurance broker. And that Johnny’s mom needs a man in the house. Somebody, who takes care of things and helps her ‘regulating’ the children. Aunt Rosy talked about this so much that at the end Johnny’s mom, who was very sad and griefy after the divorce, was beginning to believe that they would be better off with the SnakePipe. She agreed to marry him.
Whether she actually loved Uncle Larry or not – who knows? What we know for sure is that at night, while at sleep she often whispered ‘Frank’ – her ex husband’s name. But as she always slept alone in the master bedroom, nobody heard that.
However, it was obvious that Johnny did not want a new dad and he made it very clear to everyone. He loved his ‘old’ dad, who was a truck driver, wandering somewhere in Europe at the moment. This „wandering” was the main issue behind the separation of Johnny’s parents, who were fighting over this even in front of the judge at the divorce trial.
“My husband is constantly on the road, wandering around Europe.” said Johnny’s mom. "I am not wandering” said Johnny’s dad. “I am a truck driver.”
“He is wandering” said Johnny’s mom.
“I am a truck driver.” said Johnny’s dad.
And so on. From this we can see what problems can occur when people have a difference of opinion about matters that appear to be the same. Especially in fighting over matters, when the result of the difference of opinions ends up in “irreversible differences” and become the publicly quoted reason for breaking up a marriage. Such as wandering.
But Johnny never accepted the decision of the judge to end their parent’s marriage. But as his opinion was never inquired by anyone involved, he was seeking justice somewhere else. And where was this ‘somewhere else’? Where children at his age (plus youngers and elders as well) usually do – everyone, who has a little spare time on his own: in his imagination. That is the one battlefield where we always win!
‘At the end of the street appears a red pick-up van. It comes really fast and stops right in front of our house. Its tires are squeaking! Suddenly, the door opens and Dad jumps out of the driver’s seat in his favorite white sweatshirt and blue overall. He is holding out his big, strong arms in front of him. Everyone who looks at him stands still. A fat man looks at him. He stutters “So-so-so-so-so-rrrrry....! and starts to back off.”
Again, from the beginning:
‘At the end of the street appears a giant, red truck.’ It appears again. Then again. This is the best part. And then the scene where dad is walking toward the house while holding out his arms. He gets out of the truck in his white sweater and his blue overall. Like a leopard. A leopard in white sweater and blue overall. Nonsense! Okay, let’s focus! So here comes dad, here comes... here comes... the new action movie in your cinema this weekend! He kicks the garden gate wide open... No, no, he does not kick. He just opens it with a nice, but firm swing. The earth is shaking under his feet. This is good. The earth is shaking under his feet. What feet? You mean under his boots. Yes. Boots. Those big black CAT work boots. His steps resemble the sound of a T-Rex approaching in Jurassic Park movie. In the dining room, Uncle Larry suddenly jumps to his feet from the dinner table and bumps his head into the ceiling. Aunt Rosy turns into a black cat and jumps out of the window... Okay, this can’t really happen, unfortunately. Aunt Rosy starts shrieking “What are you doing here? What are you doing here?” Mom leaps up to her feet and looks out of the window. Tears of joy run down her cheek, now she is just as beautiful as she was before the divorce. She runs out of the front door, down the steps and jumps into dad’s strong arms. Gooooaaaal! I mean, HURRAY!
At that point, usuall tears appeared in Johnny’s eyes too. They guttered down his face like big drops of rain in a summer evening. Johnny did not care. He felt sorry for himself. He felt sorry for this poor little boy, whose parents divorced. They divorced, although they were still very much in love. This is a very sad story. But enough of the grief! Let the revenge begin! Johnny wiped down his tears and stared at the door knob or the toilet paper, so he could continue daydreaming about his dad coming home. (It goes without saying that such daydreaming can take place in the only nook of the house where Johnny was able to lock himself and escape from the outside world: the toilet.)
‘So where were we? Ah yes, dad in his white overall... No. In his red sweater and orange overall, he stands on the garden path leading to the front door, and he embraces mom. The young, pretty mom with the long hair she is on the photos taken before they got married. Then they hold hands and start to walk up to the house. Mom now looks relaxed, she is also a bit roundish and she has a... mommy-face, but it’s fine. So they are walking toward the house, holding hands.
In the house, Uncle Larry is painfully rubbing the top of his head, and Aunt Rosy keeps shrieking “What do you want? What do you want?” Then dad grabs both of them, smoothly, with care, just how strong people do, and like he did it once with the cat when it puked on the kitchen floor, he throws them out of the house. Dad begins to laugh, and mom laughs, and Johnny laughs, and Molly laughs, and they all laugh and laugh... until Aunt Rosy or Uncle Larry start hammering on the toilet door, shouting “Are you all right? Have you drowned already?”
From this scene, we can see that the grandson-to-be is not really fond of his grandma-to-be. To be exact, if a lion escaped from the zoo and he was walking down the street in the street they lived in and Johnny’s grandma-to-be just went out of the house to throw out the garbage and the lion missed breakfast that morning and he was very hungry...
But Johnny always stopped wishing the story at this point, as his mom always proudly talked about his son as being a generous, good intentioned boy, who would never kick a stray cat. Which is true. Johnny has never kicked a stray cat. That’s because they all ran faster than he did. This is how one turns out to be warm hearted.
And now this warm-hearted boy has been kidnapped! He is the one who is being asked one thousand sterling for. He is the one whose mom is crying for, holding the ransom note in her hand.
“Oh my God! Johnny! How could this happen? Help! Help!”
Hearing Johnny’s mom cries, Aunt Rosy rolled out of the kitchen, where she was battling with the remainings of the chicken soup from last Friday.
“What’s going on, dear?” she spit out the words along with some carrots. “What’s going on?”
She kept repeating this simple question even when she already had the kidnapper’s note in her hand and was trying to make sense out of the words.
“Johnny...” cried out mom. “They kidnapped Johnny!”
“Oh, no!” said the grandma-to-be and she leaned against the vintage glass cupboard, which resulted in all the china tea cups beginning to frantically shake, just like if an earthquake hit the house.
“This is bad. This is very bad. This can put a stop to the wedding...” thought the very concerned grandma.
“They demand one thousand pounds!” said Johnny’s mom.
“What???” screamed Aunt Rosy and now she started to panic. “One thousand pounds? This is outrageous! This is ridiculous! Help! Police...!”
And as much as she could move with her enormous weight, she ran out of the house, screaming from the top of her lungs, her screams shattering the silence of their neighbourhood.
Johnny’s family lived in a quiet little town, a fifty-minute train drive from London. Their house was just like millions of houses in England, two stories, four rooms with a small, rectangular shaped garden in the back and a patio in the front, overlooking the street. The garden’s wire fence, which separated their house from their neighbours garden had carefully concealed holes. These holes were created by the children from the street, so that they could pay a secret visit to each other, avoiding the watchful eyes of their parents. The kidnapped boy’s little sister, Molly was just thread needing through one of these fence holes when she heard Aunt Rosy’s one-word screamings in front of their house.
“Johnny! Kidnapped! One thousand! Help! Police!”
These five words make the whole story clear even to a five-year-old child. Especially if that five-year-old is as smart as Molly, who was known to ask the most unexpected and uncomfortable questions when she was around adults. For example, when Uncle Larry was holding her mom’s hand and declared his love for her in front of the whole family, Molly suddenly announced:
“Uncle Larry, you should let go my mom’s hand, because you did not wash your hand after going to the toilet!”
And when Aunt Rosy was sick and had painful stomach convulsions from eating a piece of bad smelling turkey after Easter, Molly tried to cheer her up this way:
“Don’t worry, Aunt Rosy, you will not suffer for long. It’s because you will die.
Which she meant as comforting words, and she did not understand why Uncle Larry was screaming at her to shut up and get out of the room.
“Fine!” said Molly with a shrug of her shoulders, heading toward the door “But if you are shouting like this, your tooth will fall out again and you will look like an old man.”
Miss Parsley was followed by Mama Torrino, carrying a naked baby in his arms, the smallest of the Torrino children, who arrived a few months earlier after Sophie,
Now you understand why everyone was wary of Molly’s sharp tongue. But right now no one paid attention to her, as all the neighbours, who were at home that Monday morning hastily run to their house, following the cries of the grandma-to-be. First arrived the Halls, the pensioners from N6, whose house were always full of kids. They raised six children and nine grandchildren. Mrs. Hall was holding a big carrot in her hand, one she just pulled out of her vegetable garden. Mr. Hall was right behind her, with the obligatory cigarette at the corner of his mouth. The Halls were followed by Miss Dorothy Parsell, or Miss Parsley, as the children called her behind her back, because she was often dressed in green, her favorite colour. Miss Parsley has never had a job, but with her wardrobe and giant hats she wore at the horse race, she stood out of the rest of the wives of the neighbourhood. This is the advantage of all your relatives living abroad and regularly sending you boxes of clothes. And being lonely is its setback.Andrew and Wanda.
Then hastily came Grandpa McGregor, the retired shoemaker, with his wooden foot, knocking on the pavement with each step, who lived with his son, his daughter-in-law and his grandson three houses away. It was that house where Joseph McGregor had his small workshop and his attic, where... but we will talk about it a bit later.
So everyone who heard Aunt Rosy’s voice was gathering around the two hundred-eighty pound town crier, trying to read the ransom note and comforting the inconsolable mother, who had to tell them again and again that she was just going to the convenient store to buy toothpaste, milk and bread when she saw the letter tucked in the mailbox.
“Unbelievable!” hawked Mr. Hall, being engulfed in his ash-cloud.
“But who could do such a thing?” asked Mama Torrino, who was thinking that her children is never being kidnapped, although sometimes they were so bad that she wished they were being kidnapped, just for a little while.
“Well, it’s hard to say, hard to say...” grasped Aunt Rosy for air, who got breathless from all the commotion. Then for she looked around and raised his chubby finger: “But it could only be someone who is against this wedding. Yes, that’s it! Someone who does not want my son and Elisabeth to be happy. Who could it be...?”
“But Mama Rosy, what’s all this has to do with the wedding?” blubbered Johnny’s mom, but the old lady looked at her with piercing eyes.
“Who could it be? What did you say your ex-husband is right now?” she asked and she pressed the word ‘ex’ so hard like one would do with a stuck barn door.
Everybody watched the escalating scene in silence tensed with excitement.
“I am not sure... maybe in Rome. But why you’re asking, Mama Rosy?”
“Well, maybe he is in Rome. Maybe he is here. Maybe he sent home one of his buddies. We’ll see.”
Aunt Rosy clasped her hands in front of her chest, like a detective who just solved a mysterious murder case.
“What are you saying?” asked Johnny’s mom. “You think that Frank...”
“Your EX husband...”
“…that my ex-husband has something to do with this? NEVER!”
“Ohooo! Aren’t we defending him a little bit too fast...?” mumbled Aunt Rosy.
“I am not defending him, but he would never do such a thing.”
“Even if this way he could stop you from marrying my son?”
Grandpa McGregor couldn’t listen to this anymore.
“So how about your son? Where is your son, Mrs. Wiesel?”
“He is at work. Why?”
“Well, I just thought... since everybody knows...”
The old shoemaker suddenly grew silent. He realized that it was none of his business that Johnny is against this marriage. This is family matter and not of anyone else’s concern.
“C’mon, just say it!” snorted Aunt Rosy. “You mean that the relationship between my son and Johnny is far from being perfect? Yes, you’re right. It is not perfect. But is it my son’s fault? My Lawrence does everything he can to please the boy. The other day he brought him a brand new baseball glove. Do you know how much those things cost? Even when they are on sale at ASDA. And what did I tell him? You know what did I tell him? It doesn’t really matter what I told him. But if you must know, my son treats the boy like if he was his son. And it is the child’s job to respect his father. Don’t you all agree?
“Yes, that’s right...” the neighbours murmured. There was no point to argue with Aunt Rosy. She had the loudest voice among all.
“I don’t understand how could you even imply, Mr. McGregor, that my son... Just because they have some problems... My Larry!”
Aunt Rose sank her face into her palms and made sure everybody knows how hurt she was. Grandpa McGregor looked at the ground and whispered a scarcely audible apology, although in his head was still full of thoughts of suspicion. “Why couldn’t have Larry BadMeyer kidnapped Johnny?” Joseph McGregor has never trusted insurance brokers.
The rain began pouring, so Aunt Rosy invited everyone inside. While waiting for the police to arrive, they all sat around the big, mahogany dinner table. It was Mr. Hall who called 911 from his mobile phone, explained the situation and gave the operator the address. Now everybody sank into his thoughts. Only Miss Parsley chirped into Aunt Rosy’s ears, quivering half a kilo green paint on her dragon-like eyelashes.
“Did you say they demand a thousand pounds, my dear? Is this how much a child cost these days? I don’t really know much about the prices. But for that kind of money one can’t really get a decent hat for the Ascot Gold Cup...
“Oh, my God!” Johnny’s mom cried out loud and stepped to the window. “My little boy is gone!”
Her desperate scream made everyone realize that this is not the time to talk and being polite, but somebody must do something. So they all looked at each other, expecting someone to say something useful. Aunt Rosy put some ‘fresh’ home baked ginger cakes on the table – at least they were fresh when they were baked at home ten days ago. She also put on the cattle and made tea for everyone. They silently drank, ate and immersed in their thoughts.
“This cake is really nice, darling!” complimented the sweets Miss Parsley. “I’d like to know the recipe, if I may...”
But before Aunt Rosy could have revealed the secret recipe of her cake, Grandpa McGregor broke the silence.
“Has anyone considered that calling the police might be a mistake?”
„You are right. The kiddnappers may take it the wrong way...” said Mama Torrino, whose ancestors came from Southern Italy.
“What do you mean by taking the wrong way?” asked Mrs. Hall.
“You mean...?” whispered Miss Parsley frightened and put her palm onto her neck and she did not mean that the kidnappers would put a bow-tie on Johnny’s neck.
“But Dorothy, please!” hissed at her Mama Torrino. “Let’s not consider the worst case. They might just cut off a finger and send it to the family.”
“Oh, no!” cried out Johnny’s mom again, who heard every word. “My little boy!”
Once again, everybody immersed back into his thoughts what to do about the situation. The elegant Miss Parsley took another cone and carefully sank it in her tea.
“When the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped in America, in the 1930’s, everybody first thought that...” said Grandpa McGregor, but he couldn’t finish his sentence, because suddenly the Nightmare of the Adult World, Molly entered the room and opened her little red mouth:
“Are you going to eat all the cones or would you consider leaving some for us too?” asked politely, making sure not to offend anyone, which she managed to do perfectly. Offending all the adults being present.
“Molly, come here baby” said her mom. “Your brother has been kidnapped. Our kind neighbours are here to help us to decide what to do.”
“Okay, first of all, what is kidnapped?” asked Molly, because she liked to clear up things first.
“It means she was taken by somebody.” explained Mama Torrino to the little girl.
“By who?” asked Molly, to which Aunt Rosy quickly replied:
“We don’t know, yet.”
Molly carefully looked around, because she sensed the threatening tone in Aunt Rosy’s voice.
“Was Johnny taken from this room? Is that why you all look for him right here?”
“The kid is right!” yelled Grandpa McGregor. “The boy must have been grabbed from the house by someone he knows...”
“This is getting really spooky!” said Mama Torrino. “They couldn’t have taken him in the street. One of us would have noticed that, for sure.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions!” said Mr. Hall. “I am going outside to wait for the police. They should be here now, any minute...” He got to his feet and walked out, grabbing his pack of cigarettes and his lighter.
“I have lived here for over fifty years and I have never heard anything like this.” lamented Mrs. Hall, still holding the carrot in her hand. “What is happening to this world...?”
“Oh, these children!” said Miss Parsley. “You have to constantly watch them. They always cause trouble.”
As soon as she muttered these words, Bernie Torrino, from his mother’s arm made a pee right on Miss Parsley’s beautiful french dress, that had flowers on it clearly waiting for a good old watering. All hell broke lose. Everybody jumped to his feet and started screaming and running around the room. First in line was the squeaking Miss Parsley with her green dress being socking wet, followed by Mama Torrino busy apologizing for the unfortunate accident, with the little Bernie on his arm, who was screaming from the top of his lungs, rightfully so, as he got frightened from all the commotion and couldn’t finish relieving himself. Then came a crying Molly, who got a secret pinch from Aunt Rosy, just a reminder to shut her mouth when not asked, and then there was the cursing Aunt Rosy, who accidentally knocked over the tea pot, breaking one of his favorite china cup. They all ran out of the house to the streets, where all the noise of the hubbub caused by Miss Parsley, Mama Torreno, the little Bernie, Molly, Aunt Rosy and Johnny’s mom was soon overruled by the ear-splitting sound of the sirenes on the four police cars finally arriving to the crime scene.