The game went on for a little while, with questions about the sixth largest lake in the world, the sixth month of the year (and why does it have the name “June”?), the sixth longest river in the world, a question I decided to answer because I was just plain sick of playing dumb: the Yellow River of China. But by that time, most of the others were bored and ready for cake anyhow. And really ready to get out of there and go home.
So Aunt Claire took us to the dining room. Where everybody ate cake and ice cream and didn’t say much. And then Jane called her mom to come get them all, and Blue Boyle, without a word, just got up and left, walked out of the house, down the driveway, and off to wherever he lived.
And here’s the oddest thing. The minute he stepped outside, rain whooshed in as if it had just been waiting for him. This was no gentle shower. It was a hard downpour, a real southern Ohio thunderstorm. Lightning split and colored the clouds; thunder rattled the windows. Father called out to Blue Boyle to come back and wait inside.
He just kept walking, his same brisk pace, off into the dark, no hint at all in his body language that he was in a rainstorm. He was out of sight by the time the hailstones began rattling on the roof. But I didn’t imagine he paid much attention to them, either, as they bounced off his bare head.
A few minutes later, the storm softened, and Jane’s mother arrived. Jane and Elena and Matilda chirped their thanks and, flocked under an umbrella, fluttered off to the car. Leaving Harriet, Aunt Claire, Father, and me to clean up. Father was happy, I think. And that was the most important thing for me. I wanted him to really believe that it had been a really good party.
But I also hoped he’d never to do it again.
Harriet stayed until most of the work was done. Aunt Claire stayed until it was all done. And then they both came into the living room where I was reading. I looked up and saw they both had presents in their hands.
“We hope you had fun today,” said Father.
“Oh, thanks, Father. It was really fun,” I lied.
“Your little friends seemed nice,” he said. Then paused and added, “And Blue Boyle? He’s a big one for his age.”
“He’s really growing fast,” I said.
“Too bad about the storm—and that Boyle boy in the middle of it,” said Aunt Claire. I looked at her. She was smiling.
“He didn’t seem to mind,” I said.
“No, and I didn’t either,” said Aunt Claire. She was smiling. As if she knew something.
“We have a couple of little things for you, said Father. They both put their gifts on the table near me. Their shapes gave them away. Books. But that was fine with me—more than fine; it was perfect.
I unwrapped Aunt Claire’s first. It was an old book by a woman named Frances Trollope. Domestic Manners of the Americans. I looked quizzically at Aunt Claire.
“It’s the story of a woman,” she said, “an English woman who came to America in the 1820s and then lived in Cincinnati for a while. It’s a book about her impressions of Americans—and life on the Ohio River.” She looked at me. “And she was friends with Mary Shelley.” I looked back at Aunt Claire’s unusual smile.
“Now open this one,” said Father, who handed me the other book. I unwrapped it. Sketches and Stories of the Lake Erie Islands, by Lydia J. Ryall. I flipped through the old book, saw that it was published in 1913. “And you know why I gave you that book?” Father questioned.
Of course I did. As you’ll see a little later…
In a few minutes, Aunt Claire left for home. Father went off to work a bit in his study. And I went to the living room, found Frankenstein, and, just for curiosity’s sake, looked at Chapter 6. It begins with a letter Victor receives from his father. It contains terrible news. His little brother, William, has been murdered. And the murderer, of course, was the creature that Victor created. But the authorities, not knowing of the monster’s existence, have charged Justine, an innocent family servant, with the crime.
Victor returns home for his brother’s funeral. He’s been in Germany, studying—and creating the creature that has done this horrible thing. And as Victor enters his family home, he realizes: Six years had elapsed since he had last been home.