Archive for the ‘The estate’ Category

How to get a head in life

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

By Tiber

A neighbor actually returned something we had lost in the flooding. It was the topiary in a pot that Nestor, our gardener, had trimmed to look like Dad‘s face and head.

 It doesn’t look much like Dad now.

Of course, Dad never recognized himself in it anyway. Afraid that Nestor might be let go in the financial pinch, Mrs. Brunty, our ever-wise housekeeper, had suggested cutting a topiary to look like Dad.

She didn’t think that Dad would recognize himself in it but that he’d fall in love with Nestor’s work because of a subconscious connection to his own head. And then he wouldn’t fire him. And she was right!

Dad is crazy about that topiary, the “art” one, he calls it.

And now, with it so damaged, he was so afraid that Nestor would not be able to remember such an original piece and be able to reproduce his masterpiece exactly.

Nestor, of course, just took another quick look at Dad’s head and has whipped out another one.

We all get a laugh. Dad is thrilled. And I don’t think Nestor will ever be fired now. Even if the house goes.

Water, water everywhere

Monday, August 29th, 2011

By Tiber

We’ve had some flooding. Water can be so serene and beautiful but when it surges through like this, what a mess.

Nestor, the one remaining gardener, certainly can’t clean the whole estate by himself. So Dad has recruited all of us to help. And everybody’s okay with that since we want the place back to the way it was before.

We’ve had a little flooding in the past and the interesting thing to me is all of the unknown items that end up with you. (While some of your own possessions have floated away.)

Dad said we should make a real effort to return the items we find. But then we found a squash racquet. And nearby, there was an actual squash. There was a cantaloupe too so they probably came from a fruit stand or something but Dad thought someone might have actually been trying to play squash with a squash so he’s keeping the racquet “to keep his I.Q. from dropping any lower.”

We also ended up with somebody else’s lawn furniture. And our own was gone. Dad said in that case, why not just let everybody go with what they have? Mom likes ours a lot better, though, so I can already see us forced to be weird little Oliver Twists, roaming the neighborhood going,

“Please, sir, do you ‘ave our ‘litul’ French wrought-iron table?”

The one thing we thought we’d have no trouble returning was a large plastic tub filled with chopsticks. There’s s Chinese restaurant in the village so…but then we saw written on the side of the tub, “Property of Luigi.”

I knew right then, this is all going to be a lot harder than I’d thought.

Raise the drawbridge, lower the Dad…She’s living in the gatehouse and you shall not pass

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

By Tiber

Here Dad is trying to cut expenses and now he’s got another person living here.

Cook’s sister, Saskia, just lost her job and her husband.

As a side note, when did women start getting so big? I don’t mean fat. I just mean big. Cook’s taller than I am and Saskia’s even bigger than she is. I really think her husband may not have left so much as just run away. Duncan’s always maintained that the reason Cook never knew her father was because he was actually a sasquatch. And with the appearance of this giant sister, he claims this confirms it.

“Her name’s even Saskia! She’s named after him!”

Duncan is going to get us all killed one day by the simple use of his mouth.

Anyway, Cook asked Dad if her sister could live here until things get better. Knowing that money’s tight right now, though, she had already worked out the perfect space and job for her. She could be our gatekeeper! Our house was built long before security cameras and for almost a hundred  years, someone did live in the gatehouse and screen visitors.

So, even though Dad has still kept on his regular security guys, as a favor to Cook, he said yes to Saskia living in the gatehouse.

“You won’t even know she’s there!” Cook assured him.


Dad knows all too well that she’s there.  Because of her ex-husband, maybe Saskia’s wary of all men now. But for whatever reason, she never remembers who Dad is. And every time he drives in or even out, she throws herself in front of his car, yelling, “Halt! Who goes there?”

Dad’s feeling less and less like a man just coming back home with his dry cleaning and more and more like a barbarian salivating  to storm the castle.

It was Duncan, in the maze, with the mallet……..When butlers are beaned, you’re Clueless

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

By Tiber

We have  a big hedge maze out behind the house. You can legitimately get lost in it, which is why we often give people glasses and a bottle of wine. Might as well enjoy yourself while you’re waiting to be rescued. Of course, adding liquor to the mix, who knows what’s gone on behind those high “shrubbies,” as our gardener, Nestor, persists in calling them.

Some of my parents’ oldest friends, who know their way out of the maze, took some newer friends in for a look last night. And when they came back to the house, they said, “You’re getting us in the mood to play ‘Clue’ tonight, aren’t you?” – which made no sense to my parents.

It turned out they were referring to “who killed the butler, in the maze, with the croquet mallet.” Eventually, this was determined not to be “Clue” at all but instead, Brunty, our real butler, dead in the maze, from a croquet mallet. Thankfully, it turned out that Brunty was only beaned, in the maze, from a croquet mallet.

He’d been out there clearing away glasses from the night before, when a croquet mallet came flying over from the nearby croquet pitch and hit him on the head. He seems fine now but really, considering how he is normally, how can we be sure?

Plus, would the mallet-thrower strike again? No one knew who it was. Until captured, we were advised to just avoid the maze entirely.

Finally, it was discovered that our maid, Taffy, had seen my brother, Duncan, walking towards the croquet pitch last night, where she had then heard the simple sound of croquet balls hitting each other.

Taffy, however, in her usual special way, had decided that what she’d really heard was Duncan throwing artificial legs onto a pile to light them on fire. So she had moved along, not wanting to interrupt his mission.

Later, Duncan, who of course had only been playing croquet, had gotten frustrated with his game, and had thrown his mallet over the hedge where it ended up hitting Brunty in the maze. So the mystery was solved – except for the Taffy part.

I noticed something long ago. Other people don’t seem to live in houses like ours, where residents will, with only an ounce of information, leap to conclusions like this one where, it was believed that a family member, after having had a long and particularly busy day, had decided that out of all the ways in the world to chill, the best choice would be to construct an artificial leg pyre in the dead of night on a croquet pitch.

There is a bright side, I guess. The members of our household who so often book non-stop flights to Crazy Town are happy there.

Once Taffy had “figured out” what Duncan was doing, she had just nodded at his having his own enjoyable time and serenely went off to bed.

Cheapy cheapy bang bang

Monday, July 5th, 2010

By Tiber

Dad said we shouldn’t have any fireworks on the grounds this year, “for safety reasons.” It’s always a sure bet that when Dad says he’s concerned about our safety, what he really means is that he doesn’t want to pay for something. Either way, he insisted we could have just as much fun having a low-tech 4th of July.

The audience consisted of Mom, Duncan and Honor’s 10 year-old triplets, Honor, Jasper the renter and even the rarely-seen-out-of-her-room Aunt April, who, wisely, sat far away from Jasper since, as we all remember, she mistook him for an intruder the night he arrived and attacked him with a pitchfork. Even so, Jasper kept eyeing her, probably worrying that she still might be carrying a smaller, fold-up version of a pitchfork in one of her pockets.

So our celebration began and we had some John Phillip Sousa music which went off fine. Dad, Vanessa, Duncan and Iris Nell then proceeded to do patriotic readings and those were audience-pleasers too.

But then, we got to the fireworks substitutions, which consisted of Dad covering a bunch of flashlights with different colors of cling wrap and having us run really fast, in and out of the woods, with them. At the same time, Mrs. Brunty, the housekeeper, and all of the maids, beat on pots and pans and shook large pieces of foil for the “booming” sound effects. I think, truthfully, at this point, our efforts were not so much “low tech” as “subterranean.”

Kru and Iris Nell soon collided and Kru hit a tree and chipped a tooth. I’m always reminded of Mom going to a parent/teacher meeting for our youngest sister, Erin. She earnestly asked if there was any way for the school not to teach Erin anything about genetics, in the hope that at least one her children wouldn’t live in fear that she’d turn out like the rest of us.

Time arrived for our finale where Brunty, the butler, only had to walk out as the Statue of Liberty, holding aloft a sparkler. Unfortunately, since it was dark, he first fell into the lily pond.

His sparkler was doused so he grabbed the first wooden thing he saw, in hopes of lighting that as the torch instead. Unfortunately, when Brunty came staggering out, with his drenched clothing clinging to his skin and lily pads plastered onto his skull, he looked less like The Statue of Liberty and more like the Swamp Thing, brandishing a croquet mallet.

The triplets, after a lifetime of terrifying everyone else remotely in their orbit, actually got scared themselves and ran!

But maybe this is a way for them to learn empathy.

Oh, who am I kidding? I must still be blinded by the mind-blowing spectacle of all of those flashlights, so excitingly rolled up in Saran Wrap.

Home sweet theme park

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Tiber

I knew I was feeling an ill-defined urge to flee when Dad, suddenly, called us all outside for a family meeting.

He said that to bring in some extra income, maybe we could do what some British families, who also live in big country houses, do – open up part of the house and grounds to the public.

“The tickets would be much less than people would have to pay if they went to a big amusement park.”

“And with good reason,” Vanessa observed.

Undaunted, Dad continued. “Well, obviously, my wonderful children, we’ll have to put in some attractions. And all of you can contribute, depending on how much free time you have.”

I knew he was looking right at the now-downsized king of free time. Me.

“We could do a haunted woods attraction,” my sister, Erin, volunteered.

“That’s very good! What sort of scary thing could we put in there?”

“How about Duncan’s triplets, just sitting on little chairs?”

Dad started to write this down before he realized what she’d said.

“…No! That’s not funny!”

Duncan made a face at Erin but she does better ones right back and he recoiled.

My sister-in-law, Honor, reminded me of my pending nightmare.

“Maybe guests could observe when Tiber starts making our goat cheese.”

Duncan guffawed. “Plus, when so much of it goes bad, we can build a Disneyland Matterhorn out of it!”

“Oh, yeah?” I retorted, “Well, we can also do ‘It’s a Small World’ if you’ll just flash your-”

Duncan jumped me at that point and we soon were rolling around all over the ground. Unfortunately, the goats had gotten there first and the rising smell gave most of the family a valid excuse to run away.

“Stop it! Both of you! Get up!” Dad yelled.

“And in any event,“ he said, “I’ve decided not to have Tiber learn to make goat cheese, after all.”

That was the best news I’ve ever had since, I don’t know, birth.

But Dad just had to go on.

“No, I’m thinking instead, since we still have the goats…that maybe we can make some painted goat carts, you know, with cute little flowers on them and bells. And Tiber can start giving people rides in them, all over the grounds.”

I’ve fallen into hell. And that’s the tricky thing about hell. When you fall there, you just keep right on going.


“You say tomato and I say, ‘It’s alive! It’s alive!'”

Sunday, June 20th, 2010


By Tiber

Dad’s still toying with the insane idea of saving money by having me make goat cheese for the family. My guess is, the only reason for the delay is that since the goats he brought home now know me, they’re trying to take him to court.

In the meantime, Dad has chosen  my sister, Iris Nell, to grow some more of our food. I don’t mean like cattle or wheat, though for all I know, those may be next. He’s had her plant a kitchen garden, where she’s growing herbs and vegetables.

Of course, you always have to take Iris Nell’s personality quirks into account, as you do with all of us, since our quirks are the kind that can suddenly leap out, block your path and taunt you by stripping off their underwear and throwing it in your face, blinding you to the location of the exit. Or maybe that’s just me. Actually, let’s pray that’s just me.

Iris Nell has, at least,  had a little experience with growing tomatoes. When she was a kid, somebody gave her a little plant in a pot. She took good care of it and it began to produce, yes, actual, real tomatoes! This blew Iris Nell away. She’d sit there and stare at the produce on the vines, marveling,

“I made these!”

I think it made her feel sort of like a god. And my parents let it go, thereby setting her up for a lifetime of disappointment when she couldn’t also flick lightning bolts to zap the unkind.

The thing was, though, she could never bring herself to actually eat the perfect little tomatoes, which sort of defeated the purpose. She may have had them bronzed for all I know, so we can only hope that she’s moved along from that stage.

In a way, I understood her feelings. When you’re a kid, you just don’t expect to see some item they sell in a store suddenly appear in your own backyard just because you watered it.

It’s almost like creating your own cat just because you buried a flea collar.