Elephant Eggs by Laurie Michaels-Lee
Elephant Eggs by Laurie Michaels-Lee
Doctor, was it wrong to lie about where I was the night Grandpa died?
Well, it does compromise you. You do understand that don’t you?
I guess so. I was so distraught, I wasn’t thinking clearly. Who has a clear head after spending 19 hours at the hospital while your loved one is being taken off life support? He never regained consciousness you know. It was horrific. Most of me wanted to run as fast as I could from the hospital. The irony that I wanted to run to grandpa’s house for comfort was not lost on me. I think fear, love and loyalty fixed me in place to the bitter end. The fact that Millie, my Grandpa’s housekeeper, was with me, made it bearable. In the very end Mama showed. That was rich! I hadn’t seen her in years. Millie was at least civil towards Mama. I was indifferent. I was beyond tired and had no nerve left for her to crawl on. Grandpa’s latest fling popped in for 3 ½ seconds, mainly to take the room temperature. Thanks to me, it was cold as a witch’s tit, and I have to say, I was too exhausted to care.
Where did you go after your grandfather passed?
I dropped Millie off at her house and then went directly to Grandpa’s. It was the only place I could be. I needed to be in his house, surrounded by his things. I needed to sleep.
When I unlocked the front door at Grandpa’s there was a rush of air and papers drifting across the foyer floor, papers were everywhere. They were coming from Grandpa’s study. I felt sick when I saw the room. It was torn up. Torn apart. Christ, it looked as if a bomb went off. The contents of every cabinet, chest and drawer had been emptied onto the floor. There was not a book left on the shelves. My mind framed the scene like a series of snapshots. It wasn’t real. I started feeling sick to my stomach. I remember thinking, what if the person responsible for this was still in the house. I panicked and ran out. I don’t remember one minute of my drive home. Not one minute.
Do you have any idea who ransacked those rooms?
Oh jeez, anyone that knew Grandpa well enough, knew he kept large wads of cash hidden and not all in the same place. Grandpa loved hiding money. I mean had a thing about hiding money.
Did I ever tell you when I was a child and would visit grandpa we would play a game he called Elephant Eggs. These were carved wooden eggs with ivory inlays for ears. The ears stretched all the way to the back of the egg while the trunk scrolled down the length and curled at the end and the tiny onyx eyes were set within carved lids just below a furloughed brow that created a worried look. When I turned the egg upside down I could see a swan in the water. There was a small locket door on the back of the egg with a tiny keyhole. Grandpa said elephant eggs were very rare and to the best of his knowledge he had all of them in the world and if I could find one hidden in the downstairs study, then I could have what was inside. I loved playing Elephant Eggs. Grandpa told me that whatever was inserted inside the tiny hinged door of an elephant egg would grow and grow until it grew too big and finally hatch out of its shell. Most elephant eggs had been broken to pieces because people hadn’t found them in time to save them from their own magic. Grandpa told me it was our duty to save the last of the world’s elephant eggs from becoming extinct. I believed him and I was thrilled! When I found an egg I would run screaming to grandpa, I swear he was excited as I was. He would pretend the egg had been missing for a very long time and the last time he saw this particular one he remembered that he had slipped a penny into the belly by opening the egg with his tiny gold key. The key, he insisted was the only key in the entire world that could open such a magical egg. When grandpa opened the egg with his tiny key the penny had magically turned into a hundred dollar bill. I was a child but old enough to know that a hundred dollars could get me the new bicycle that I had been waiting and hoping for. Over the course of the summer at grandpa’s house I could find maybe 2 or 3 elephant eggs. Grandpa continued this game all through my college years when he assured me he had only put a dime or a quarter into the egg. Grandpa was just as excited when I would find an egg containing 10 one hundred dollar bills as when I was a child. I would feign the same excitement, but inside I would be thinking Oh grandpa, why do we always have to play this tedious game of find the money? Don’t get me wrong. I loved getting the money. I was just weary of the game.
Years later I learned it was a game that his father had played with him. His father would hide elephant eggs but grandpa could never find them. He would spend a frustrating but excited afternoon searching but never found any eggs. When he was much older he realized there never were any eggs hidden. Grandpa’s father had described the eggs and the told the story and was a master at creating hope and the chance of a surprise but could never deliver the euphoria of finding a treasure. Some of me believe that’s why grandpa kept playing the game.
That certainly says something about your grandfather. Look, I understand your intentions but YOU need to understand that the police will be interested in the last person to be in that house before the poor housekeeper found that mess and right now that person looks like you!
I understand. I’m not worried. I suspect I’ll hear from some sort of investigator very soon, maybe as soon as today? I don’t know. I’m tired. So many arrangements I still need to make.
I know poor Millie was shocked at finding the house in such disarray and right after grandpa’s passing. When the police got to the house, they called for a medic to assist Millie. She was so distraught they had to transport her to County General for observation.
Mildred Allred had been loyal cook and housekeeper for my grandfather, Beauregard Bennett.
Millie had paid meticulous attention to him and the Bennett estate for 43 years. She ran a tight ship with an unwavering routine and that suited both of them.
Monday was washday. Tuesdays the grocery order was phoned in and delivered first thing Wednesday morning. Wednesday the house was readied for Thursday and Friday. Thursdays and Fridays were always reserved for one or two of Beau Bennett’s friends and/or colleagues. Millie always prepared the same Thursday lunch of poached oysters with Bloody Mary relish, seared steak with peppers and mushrooms on toast.
Friday’s lunch was always smoked salmon, caviar, and tarragon Crème Fraîche with onion and bagel. A tankard of Gentleman’s Jack was always served after every lunch. Beau Bennett would personally end every meal with a cigar. After lunch Beau and his guest or guests would retire to the study to practice “walkin’ on a slant” as Millie put it.
Millie took great pains to keep a tidy and orderly home for Beau Bennett. She made sure his treasures and trophies from decades of travels and collecting were polished and arranged just as he wanted.
There were times when I’d watch her, polishing rags in hand, standing in front of the carved chests from some temple in Lhasa, or gazing at the Chester Beach bronze. Part of me thinks Millie envisioned grandpa’s house a museum and she, the curator. Poor Millie. I know she’s devastated.
Let me ask you again, do you know who might have ransacked those rooms at your Grandfather’s house?
No, I don’t. Grandpa kept those things from me. Most of the time so did Millie.
Grandpa wasn’t the best judge of character when it came to his boy toys. Three years ago he had extended affair with some young thing.
The only reason I know that is because Millie told me Grandpa was distraught over a missing envelope. When Millie asked what the contents of the envelope was, Grandpa told her it contained $60,000.00. Millie told me she was upset with Grandpa because he was careless with whom he let into his life and one day it was going to catch up with him. She was sure this particular rogue was the culprit in this instance.
Do you remember this person? I think you should tell the police about this individual.
No, I don’t know him. I never met him. Grandpa casually mentioned him once or twice.
I don’t remember his name, Justin I think, or Jason, something like that. Millie probably remembers him. Oh my God, Millie. What time is it? I’ve got to run. I told her I’d come by before noon. Oh, wait, I remember now, Jackson. That’s it! His name was Jackson.