blog 25 the tintype photograph

We all burst into tears. Then I crept up to the door and whispered to Maeve to go into the attic and find the trunk and drag it downstairs. But I did not tell her about the photographs I hid. Part of the secret of Weasel could be kept at least. Maeve dragged the trunk downstairs and we heard Mother forcing it open. Then Mother screamed and ran out of the house. Later the minister came with police. Later still the minister came upstairs and unlocked the door. “The little ones need food and water now!” I shouted. The minster was horrified. Mary and I carried the littlest of our brothers and the other brothers followed weeping as we marched downstairs to the kitchen and Maeve’s open arms. She fed us and later the minister and the policeman came and talked to us about the trunk.

I claimed to have no knowledge. So they dragged the trunk away and analyzed the old newspaper the tiny mummified baby was wrapped in. The newspaper was 1828. That was the year Willie was born. It had been an difficult pregnancy and Mother had been especially cold and demanding and angry during it. Father had therefore been especially busy at work . Mother almost died delivering Willie. Father had been especially guilty after that and he stayed home more often. But after Charlie was born Father moved into a separate bedroom and never visited Mother again. Mother had given birth to seven children in all, though some did not live, spaced scarcely a year apart until Charlie who was born 3 years after Willie. Father, a doctor, knew another pregnancy would kill Mother. And after many of the pregnancies Mother was withdrawn, depressed, listless, and morbidly obsessed with death.

The Police came back two more times to search the attic for more clues but right after they left with the trunk I ran up to the attic and found the pictures hidden under the moldy cushion. I tore each one up into tiny pieces. I held the last picture of Father and Her. I paused and stared. The picture showed Father weeping at the train station as he gestured fugitively to someone in the crowd getting onto the train. I could barely see Her in the crowd as she was climbing into the carriage. I tore half of the picture into tiny pieces. Then I buried the pieces outside on the ledge under a crack in a brick I knew about.

I kept the half of the picture of Father and kept staring at it. By odd chance Father was standing by a man with a newspaper. I found a magnifying glass and I stared and stared. I could almost make out the date…..almost. But it was a photograph and photographs don’t move. I let everyone see it. We kept it secret. It was our secret. But over the space of a week the pristine tintype strangely fogged over as a mold- like blur devoured the picture of Father weeping as he waved goodbye to us, his children. Then it was just a damaged old photograph of a the train station in town. I kept it for years and one day at school I asked to borrow the microscope and I manipulated it until I could read the newspaper the man was reading at the train station. It was dated 1828.


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