08-30-2011, 07:22 PM
For all its dullness, there was one interesting feature on the outskirts of Boren--a castle. That's right, a real castle. Oh, not the huge fortresslike castles like they have in Europe, but a castle all the same, an anachronism among the cookie-cutter houses in the suburbs, with turrets and balconies and a large double door that looked like a drawbridge.
Sometime in the early to mid-nineteenth century, some wealthy land baron with delusions of grandeur wanted to live like a king, so he had a castle built right there in the heartland of America. It was the Gilded Age, the era of if-you-got-it-flaunt-it. And this guy flaunted it big time. No one remembers who he was or what happened to him, but his castle stood there, year after year, its windows broken and boarded up, its stone walls spraypainted with graffiti, its metal fixtures ripped out by looters, its once fabulous garden overgrown with weeds. Its only moments of glory was on Hallowe'en, when the local JayCees hosted the Haunted Castle of Horror in it. Like everything else in Boren, it was pretty lame--pre-recorded sound effects, cheap strobe lights, plastic skeletons dangling from the ceiling. It wouldn't have scared a three-year-old. There had been rumors of demolishing it, but nothing was actually done. So there it stood, a shell of its former self, a rotting relic of a bygone era.
When I was little, my then-best friend, Deanna, and I would go to the castle and play "princess" in the ruins of the garden. To us, it was an enchanted castle with a magic garden, where we could be royalty and have tea parties wearing our paper crowns. Our young minds had not yet been dulled by the tedious routine of later life. We were free to dream, to believe in magic. Hope was still alive within us. Anything was possible. In our magic garden by the enchanted castle, we were surrounded by beauty and goodness. Unicorns roamed freely, fairies danced on the lawns, evil witches were vanquished, and we all lived happily ever after.
Then, one day, Deanna's family moved to Cleaveland. I never saw her again. The moving van which held all the family's personal belongings drove away, taking with it my childhood hopes and dreams. No longer did magic exist for me. I slogged through school and drifted through the streets of Boren, searching for any diversion, any distraction to drive away the malaise. As I entered my teens, I became angry, bored and depressed. Only the movies were my refuge. But I wanted something more. But what?
That "something" arrived on the day before I started my junior year of high school. On that lazy, hot, late summer afternoon, I once again found myself in front of the castle. Glancing in the general direction of it, my long dormant curiosity was awakened by the sight of the giant doors standing wide open, and a light shone from inside. Almost grateful for even this small diversion, I crossed over to investigate.
There were three people standing in the big foyer of the castle. A stout woman in a gold Century 21 jacket was talking to two men in front of her: a grey-haired man in a grey suit, and a tall, raven-haired character in a denim jacket and torn jeans, very Goth, very punk. I was fascinated! I had never seen the likes of him before; he looked so...different! Yeah, I know that sounds kinda lame, but in Boren, sameness was the rule. Anything out of the ordinary was bound to draw attention, and this guy had certainly drawn mine! I had to admit, he was so appealing to me, in more ways than one. What was he? I wondered. Italian? He did have a sort of olive complexion. And he actually wore earrings! No boy in Boren wore earrings, at least not that I knew of. We wore uniforms to school, and the dress code was pretty stiff. No jewelry of any kind, except a watch. My dad believed any man who wore earrings was gay. In fact, Boren was (and still is) pretty conservative--any contact between men beyond a civil handshake was suspect. And a man who wore earrings and wore his hair in an unconventional way was a radical and a homo as far as the citizenry was concerned. At the time, I didn't even know what a homo was, let alone what one looked like.
The three shook hands all around and made their way to the door. I ducked behind a pillar and watched as they headed for the SUV parked by the side of the road. The grey suited man turned to the Goth.
"I hope you know just what the hell you are doing, Chris," I heard him say.
"Don't worry, it's gonna be great!" Chris the Goth replied. "I love this castle. And to tell you the truth, I think this town could use a bit of excitement."
You got that right, Chris, I said to him mentally. More than you know!
"Trust me, the Magic Castle is gonna be a success." Chris went on. "I can feel it!"
Magic Castle? Memories of Deanna and myself in the garden playing "princess" replayed in my mind. Many will call it coincidence, but to me, it was cosmic karma.