Edited by Her 8th Grade English Teacher,
Mr. Bob Walton
Packet II: Her Homework Ate My Dog (1995–1996)
a novel by
Copyright © 2013 by Daniel Dyer
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
For my grandsons,
Logan Thomas Dyer
(born 15 February 2005)
Carson William Daniel Dyer
(born 4 April 2009)
“Victoria Frankenstein” is the pen name (or real name?) of a young woman I knew as Vickie Stone nearly twenty years ago in the fall of 1997, near the end of my teaching career, when she joined my eighth grade English class. By spring she was gone from our northeastern Ohio school … but not from my life. Oh no, she will never be gone from my life, for I know I will never be able to erase from my brain the memories of Vickie Stone, that quiet, intelligent, profoundly mysterious student who forever changed … well, everything for me.[i]
I know that most of you have probably read the first volume of Vickie’s story—I Discover Who I Am. This was just one of quite a few stories Vickie gave me over a period of some months. Each was handwritten, each tied together with red yarn. As a group, I’ve called her writings The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein … well, to be accurate, that’s what Vickie called them.
She did not want me to write on her stories, and she wanted them back as soon as possible. I was just supposed to provide comments—on separate sheets of paper, mind you. But I was so struck by what Vickie was writing that—without getting her permission, or even telling her—I began making photocopies of her stories and keeping them in folders.
Later, after she’d disappeared so mysteriously from our school, I received a postcard from her (I’ve never learned where it was from) that communicated to me very clearly that she had known all along what I was doing, copying her work. She was not angry with me, just slightly amused, I think, that a teacher would do something so close to being, well, dishonest.
I still have my doubts—very serious doubts—about much of what Vickie wrote. It’s maddening, really, because there are little indications all through her work that she is telling the truth. But when I checked out some of the most fundamental parts of her stories, I could find no evidence that any of it was real.
• She claimed to have lived in a little town on the Ohio River called Franconia. There is no such town—not in all of Ohio.
• She claimed to have had teachers whose identities I’ve not been able to establish. The names she’s given just don’t match up with the names of real teachers in Ohio.
• She has the annoying habit of using the names—sometimes accurate, sometimes slightly changed—of persons who were involved in one way or another either with author Mary Shelley (1797–1851) or with Mary’s novel Frankenstein (1818). Vickie said her best friend, for example, was named Harriet Eastbrook. And Vickie wants us to believe that just by coincidence, the name of the first wife of Percy Shelley (who became Mary’s husband) was Harriet Westbrook.
• She wrote about a fantastical field trip to Middle Island (on the Ohio River), where she witnessed evidence of grave-robbing and of the creation of living creatures from parts of the dead—including a missing classmate named “Blue Boyle,” who had grown to, well, unbelievable proportions.
• Even more disturbing—and even harder to believe—are her descriptions of an encounter with a huge serpent-like monster in Lake Erie, a creature that only she managed to see aboard a crowded ferry to Put-in-Bay. And then another adventure in an abandoned lighthouse on uninhabited Green Island in Lake Erie, a place where, again, she encountered an even more monstrous version of Blue Boyle.
• Back home, she says she survived a killer tornado that drew into its vortex a mysterious woman named Claire Wahl (“Aunt Claire”) who had helped raise Vickie.
• Vickie also portrays herself as some kind of scientific and artistic genius, able to read difficult books at a very early age (she said she read Frankenstein at 4!), able to create in her basement workshop devices that are far beyond what talented professional carpenters, engineers, and scientists could produce.
• Most difficult of all to believe, however, is Vickie’s account of her discovery that she is in fact a relative of Victor Frankenstein, who created the famous monster more than two centuries ago. Vickie would have us believe that Victor Frankenstein was real, not just a fictional character. She would have us believe that Mary Shelley based her famous story on an actual family named Frankenstein. (Okay, there was one—but it’s doubtful that Mary Shelley had known much, if anything, about them—and those Frankensteins certainly did not create monsters![ii])
She also expects us to believe that members of that Frankenstein family survived, and that one descendant, embarrassed by the Frankenstein reputation, changed the family name to Stone, emigrated to America, married, and had a daughter named … Victoria. The very Victoria (Vickie) Stone whose stories I am now editing and publishing. Oh, and Vickie’s mother died shortly after childbirth—just as Mary Shelley’s had in 1797. Another coincidence?
I will only say this much more: I have not changed a single word that Vickie gave me. (But I have been very tempted to do so!) However, I have, from time to time, provided notes at the end of her text, usually to provide additional information, but sometimes to raise questions and doubts about what Vickie has written.
And so I give you Part II of The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein: Her Homework Ate My Dog. These papers cover events that occurred during her year in seventh grade—1995–1996.