“Applause may be good for the moment, but love is everlasting.”
– Pepe, The adventures of Pinocchio
Attempts to teach Eugene proper English turned into frightful fits of tears. Veronica Frankenstein simply could not understand how such a simple construct as ‘Good afternoon, Sir.’ could be transformed by the child into utter nonsense.
Although he was capable of innumerable noises and nonsensical mutterings made with a variety of body parts, his entire vocabulary seemed to contain a grand total of ten actual English words: Momma, Dadda, Hi, Bye, Yes, No, Hell, Shit, Hot and Damn – The last two usually uttered consecutively.
Private tutors were brought in from far reaches of the country, each with their own thoroughly unique way to instruct Eugene.
Miss Grace Honeywell brought with her the idea of unschooling, an attempt at instructing young Eugene through life experience. The thought of a text book would cause the young woman to swoon and the idea of a structured classroom would incite a tirade about the fall of modern society and the failings of the public school system. After a particularly disastrous attempt to instruct Eugene in the field of Entomology; one in which the tiny blue boy ingested several of her much prized butterfly examples of the papilio genus, she fled in the night.
Dr. Thomas Fletcher entered home with a PhD from Columbia Theological Seminary and a small trunk of texts both religious and secular. The good Dr. Frankenstein came home one afternoon to find Dr. Fletcher, surrounded by a flock of supportive teaching aides, performing an exorcism upon young Eugene, who sat in his bed quite unmoved by the experience, if not somewhat entertained.
And so it continued for several months. Each new instructor claiming to hold the key to unlocking Eugene’s young mind. And with each promise, a new found excitement for Dr. Frankenstein, that young Eugene would indeed blossom.
Eventually however, each tutor’s method would prove ineffective and each would leave, usually in great haste, explaining that they simply could not tolerate working with such a heathen of a child.
Shortly after Eugene’s eighth birthday, having reached both their emotional and financial limits, Reginald and Veronica Frankenstein enrolled their makeshift son into the local public school, Colburne Elementary, hoping that an education through immersion would benefit the young boy.
Throughout the first week of school, Reginald and Veronica Frankenstein would prepare Eugene in the morning, provide him with his breakfast of oatmeal and toast, which he would of course consume in the most grotesque manner conceivable. Afterward, he would be dressed in appropriate attire and driven to the school, where Reginald would drop him off at the sidewalk in front of the main building.
Eugene’s day consisted of the normal regiment of kindergarten instruction, interspersed with regular trips to the playground. Lunch time, however, was time Eugene spent alone in the nurses office, as kindly Nurse Rita was just about the only adult capable of watching him eat.
While Eugene’s classmates did not openly display the contempt for him that many adults would, he was most certainly not the most well liked child in his class. His mannerisms were atrocious, his communicative skills abhorrent and he just plain smelled funny.
In the beginning, Eugene spent more time with his nose in a corner of the classroom than actually participating; a fact appreciated by the students, teachers, and Eugene. The less time he spent with other children, the more time he could spend thinking about various other matters that interested him; whatever those matters were could be anyone’s guess.
Eugene’s school day ended promptly at 2:30, when he would be escorted with the other children to the curb in front of the school building, to await their parents. Eugene looked forward to this most of all. On most days, either Veronica or Reginald Frankenstein would arrive on time, with a smile and a loving hug.
When questioned by police about Eugene’s disappearance, Veronica Frankenstein could say very little. His being snatched by some insidious villain out of the question, it was decided that he must have simply wandered off at some point during the day.
Try not to judge Veronica Frankenstein solely upon her abandonment of young Eugene. She had done her best to accept the young child as her own. It’s an unfortunate circumstance that his striking similarities to her own child caused her so much distress and dread. Time spent with Eugene only served to bring about memories of her own beloved Sylvester, which highlighted Eugene’s glaring imperfections.
As the laws regarding the creation of such a being as Eugene are particularly lacking, so apparently are the laws regarding the disappearance of such an individual. There was to be no man hunt for his captor and an amber alert was not set into motion; his picture was not to be placed on cartons of milk. Instead, his file was to be placed on the bottom of an already sizable stack of cases regarding missing children.
Eugene was not to be missed, except perhaps, by Mr. Puddles. Mr. Puddles – a rather awkward mix of terrier and collie – knew something was amiss. The grumpy mutt would normally spend his evenings tormenting a young bluish tinted human child, and that child was no longer available for him to play with; a situation he set about right away to remedy.
Veronica Frankenstein had told Eugene they were not going to school that day. Instead, they would go to a place he would thoroughly enjoy. He sat in his booster seat, jabbering incoherently the entire ride until finally the car stopped and he was helped from his restraints. Immediately, the sights, sounds and smells of the carnival filled his senses. Eugene was delighted. He had dreamt of such a day and he hugged his mother before she took him by the hand and led him through the crowd.
It began as yet another bonding attempt by the dutiful mother, but every passing child and every joyous mother brought about more memories. Every memory made her realize that the child she was escorting through the carnival was not her own.
Eugene was not her child. Her Sylvester was gone, replaced by this blue-skinned doppleganger. She had tried to manufacture feelings for the monster, but found she could only muster contempt; both for the unfortunate creature, and his creator.
His mother had made sure he was the first child on the merry-go-round, to assure his pick of steeds. She placed him gingerly on the unicorn – his favorite – kissed him on his forehead, and quickly retreated behind the fencing with the rest of the ogling parents. He thought for just a moment that she was sobbing, but quickly dismissed the idea, as the metallic contraption began to move, its pipe organ spouting out a merry melody.
Time after time he would pass the section of fencing where he believed his mother would be standing, his arm outstretched and a wide gaping smile smeared across his face and time after time she could not be seen.
When finally, the ride came to a slow but eventual stop and the music died to a whisper, Eugene climbed down from the unicorn, patting its muzzle with gratitude for such a fine ride.
He ran to where she had left him and surely would still be – with a smile and a camera full of keepsake snapshots – but his mother was not there. He then ran on to the ticket booth and again he found only the glaring, hateful eyes of those around him; The same hateful eyes his mother’s arms had afforded him protection against. He ran to both places once again to make sure he had not missed her, but much to his trepidation she was nowhere to be found.
She was similarly not found at the funnel cake emporium, tilt-a-whirl, ferris-wheel or beer garden.
Panic began to set in; she was gone and Eugene feared the worst. Despite that fear, Eugene did as he was instructed to do in just that situation.
“If you become lost,” his mother would say. “Stay where you are and I will find you.”
So he did.
For nearly four hours, Eugene stood in the middle of the busy midway, stared at by passersby, pointed at by frightened children and avoided by all. After he found he could no longer stand he found a bench nearby and sat for an additional two hours, during which time he cried, tears streaming down his normally awful face.
The tears did something for poor Eugene, however, that no other thing had done; those giant crocodile tears humanized him. No longer did those who passed by him pull away in disgust. No longer did they stare down at him, glad their own children were safe at home. Instead, they huddled around him, stroking his fine hair and patting his back while speaking words of encouragement in soft voices.
“It’ll be okay.” They said to him.
“We’ll find your family.” They promised. “Everything will be alright.”
And he believed them. “Thank you.” He replied, which of course sounded much more like, “Blat Snorf.”
Even with his warmed cheeks and more child-like demeanor, a certain onlooker knew a good thing when he saw it.
Pepe Garcon, the curator and barker for the theatre of the strange stood amongst the crowd, marveling at the enormous stroke of luck that had happened upon him. His small sideshow had been struggling more with each town; until that is, he stumbled across this tiny piece of Americana. Eugene, along with some other recent acquisitions, would surely boost his sales and secure his place among the finest of showmen.
Pepe knew what was happening. He had seen it many times before. “These poor people.” he thought “They have been taken in by the monster’s tears.” The instinct to nurse and protect others is a difficult one to push aside, but he had years of experience. He had seen through the human disguises by some of America’s most famous monsters and freaks. Carl the Caterpillar Man, Dickie the Penguin Boy and Myrtle, the Four-Legged Girl from Ipanema to name a few. He would do for this one what he had done with the other misfits. He would provide him with the love and security the little monster needed and in return Eugene would provide a means of escape from this wretched carnival life. This abomination would make him rich.
It took just a short time for the crowd to disperse. Once Pepe brought everyone’s attention to Eugene’s lazy eye, misshapen head, premature male pattern baldness and widespread surgical scarring, they were quick to abandon him; once again leaving Eugene alone with his misery – and Pepe Garcon.
Eugene sniffled – or perhaps snorted; with Eugene one never can tell.
“Now, now.” Pepe cooed, after bending down low to face Eugene, placing a finger under his chin, “These people don’t know what they want. They fear that which is different.” He winked at the small child and stood up. “Come with me, child, and the very same people that have feared and alienated you, will pay to be in your presence.”
He waited but saw no response from young Eugene. He thought quickly and continued his hard sell. “Explore the world. Travel to exotic locales and meet extraordinary people.” He spun his cane once upon his wrist. “The life of the carny is one of hard work and high adventure,” He continued, “But you look to be the sort that would fit right in.” He extended his bony hand toward the boy. “Come with me and those that have tormented and chided you will no longer see you as a monster, but as a thing of beauty, a work to behold and cherished.”
At first, tiny Eugene looked at the man, doubting his character.
“Come with me, my boy,” sly Pepe finished, “and you will be loved.”
Eugene stood up without a further thought, and took his new friend’s hand.
“Very wise, young man.” Pepe nodded his approval.
Eugene’s face contorted into what could only be surmised to be a crooked, toothy grin, but even Pepe Garcon could bare to look at it for no more than a brief moment.
Pepe grimaced slightly, “You should probably refrain from making such faces in public.”
Eugene’s smile immediately faded. “Shit.” He said, which sounded just as it should.
It was indeed Pepe Garcon’s luckiest of days as well as perhaps the beginning of his meteoric rise amongst his peers. It is an unfortunate matter of simple physics however, that whatever goes up, must come down; and so too shall Pepe Garcon.
Unbeknownst to Eugene or the public at large, another child was to be taken that night, confiscated somewhere between the twinkling lights and beer vendors; snatched up by a pair of desperate – and somewhat hairy – arms.