Engines Of Tunnel Industry

By Scrappy LeMonte

The cave to which Vincent had withdrawn in the worst moment of his terrible illness, dark and dreadful on that awful night, was on this evening warm and bright, glowing with lantern and candle light, laughter and chat. Father, Mary, Vincent, Catherine, Jamie, and Michael were all holding large white sheets of butcher paper up to the walls, rubbing charcoal over the sheets to capture a tracing of the strange markings they’d discovered. Rebecca and David were gathering the tracings and keeping record of the spot from where each was made.

Vincent stepped back from the wall, engrossed in the tracings he had just made. There were figures of lions, bears, birds, people, and strange symbols. Catherine also stepped back, her sheet filled with tracings. She looked over to Vincent. He looked at her and shrugged. “Somehow, it feels familiar to me,” he said.

They handed their sheets to Rebecca. “I think I would like to start back up now and get some rest before tonight’s meeting,” he said to Catherine. “Will you come with me?”

She smiled. “Of course.” Catherine picked up a fat pillar candle and took Vincent’s arm. “Are you tired?” she asked as they started up the tunnel.

Vincent loved her soft voice, her gentle manner of speaking. A tingle ran up his arm from where her hand lay out through the top of his head. “I am, a little,” he answered. “I wanted a chance to speak with you. Catherine, we have many things to think about and decide upon.”

“I’m most concerned about you, Vincent,” said Catherine. “I’m worried about your opposition with yourself; you’ve been trapped in contention for so long. The poet in you battles with the protector in you. You must find a way to reconcile the two sides of yourself.”

“There’s more to the dark part of me, Catherine. It’s not just the violence to protect those I love. It’s the wave of emotion that overcomes me when I’m moved to passionate feeling. The wave of emotion that overcomes me when you’re near me, when my desire for you takes me over.” Embarrassed, he had to look away. “My breath comes short and fast; my heart pounds. I feel a weakness in my arms and legs, and I fear I’ll hurt you--”

“My breathing quickens, my knees go weak, too! But Vincent, you won’t hurt me.”

“I’m afraid.”

Catherine looked deep into his eyes. “Let’s put it to the test. Kiss me now, and if you hurt me, I’ll let you know.”

He slowly leaned very, very close to her and kissed her lips very, very gently. His head felt like it was spinning; he drank her in with all of his senses until she filled him. He pulled back, breathless, and they smiled at one another.

“Didn’t hurt a bit,” said Catherine. “Let’s try again.”

He took her in his arms, held her close and kissed her softly and slowly. Her heart was pounding; he utterly thrilled her. They pulled apart and smiled for a moment. Holding hands, they resumed their walk.

“Catherine…my dark side. I need to make you understand, when I become violent, I have lost control of myself, and I can’t stop it.”

“But does that make you a bad person, Vincent?”

The question surprised him. “Yes,” he answered emphatically.

“Vincent, the only time you become violent is when someone you love is physically attacked. If you saw me…let’s say you saw me shoot and kill someone who was pointing a gun at Father. Would you judge me, would you think I was a bad person?” The question made him think. “Would you? I think you should reconsider the issue. Maybe the real issue is your hands, because your hands are your weapon. You don’t believe you can be gentle or show love with your hands. But you did.” They stopped and faced each other. “When I recall how you touched me, I tingle.” She closed her eyes and savored the memory. “Is it the passion, Vincent? Is it being swept away by feelings that you dread?” She sighed. “We made beautiful love to each other, Vincent…beautiful. We can do it again.”

He looked down; he cleared his throat. He was becoming emotionally overwhelmed. She sensed that he needed a bit of distance, so she resumed walking. A few moments later, he was back at her side, taking her hand in his.

After a few minutes he said, “I’d like to rest a bit.” He backed close to the wall and leaned on it. She thought she saw his eyes become just a bit glassy. He slid down the wall and sat on the ground. She sat in front of him and reached out to feel his forehead. he smiled and took her hand. He felt her concern for him, warm and soothing. “I’m just a little tired.” He paused.  “Catherine, I want to talk about your job.”

“My mind’s pretty well made up.”

“Hmm…that sounds just slightly…inflexible.”

“Sorry. I just…” She sighed. “I just want to do something different. When I can see that I’ve helped someone, it’s a really great feeling, but there’re not a lot of those times. Most of the time it’s a lot of paperwork and long hours.”

“I don’t believe you would be happy coming to live in the tunnels.”

“That’s what I think I want to do.”

“No. Think about what that would be like. Right now, you go to your job, and your work interests you. Yes, Catherine, it does. It interests you and satisfies you. You need to think about that. I remember not long ago how passionate you became because the District Attorney of Queens refused to prosecute someone suspected of rape—”

“Because the victim was supposedly promiscuous! How on earth—”

“See? See what I’m saying? You are a part of the city, Catherine, as much as the Statue of Liberty, I think! What goes on in the city affects you; you are part of it. I’m telling you this because I love you. You would not be happy turning your back on the city.”

“Hmm…” said Catherine.

“It’s not just your job. It’s your friends also. You have some wonderful friends. Friends that you’ve had since your childhood. Friends who were there for you when you lost your father. Friends who call you constantly, wanting to spend time with you.” He paused for a moment. “You should spend more time with them, Catherine. Think how much you love going to events, galleries, galas, spending weekends together, shopping…lunch…” He stopped because he could see she had fallen into a reverie. In her recollection, he could feel her memories of excitement, lighthearted enjoyment, and happy companionship.

She noticed him looking at her and laughed. “Busted. We know each other better than we know ourselves.”

“Or are we more honest with each other than we are with ourselves?”

“Yikes! That’s a horrible thought. This is going to take some time to figure out.”

“I’m feeling better,” said Vincent. “Let’s go now.”


She was sitting up in his bed; his head was in her lap. She picked up a volume from his nightstand and thumbed through it. She stopped and read aloud,

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
  If this be error and upon me proved,
  I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

She looked up from the book, then down to Vincent’s golden hair.

With his head in her lap and his eyes still closed, he recited,

“When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;”

He raised himself up on one elbow. He continued,

 “Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.”

He cupped her cheek in his palm. Circling each other with their arms, they kissed. He pulled back. They had a silent understanding: we need to take this slowly.

She sighed. “I wish this moment could last forever.”

He stroked her cheek. After a time, he spoke. “You’re excited about this meeting.”

“Very excited. Everyone in the community does an amazing job of foraging for food and supplies up top, and the helpers are amazing. But when you can earn your living with the work you do, you feel the happiness that comes from pride in your achievement. You feel freedom and a sense of security in knowing that you can take care of yourself.”

Lena’s employed many people in her soap making business.”

“I’m a loyal customer.”

“And Lisa has everyone stretching, pique-ing, arabesque-ing. She has classes for every age from toddlers to geriatric.”

“If she ever offers tap, I’m signing up.”

“I’m waiting for hip-hop,” said Vincent, and they laughed.

“I can see it, kind of,” said Catherine. She hunched up her shoulders and crossed her arms across her chest. Vincent put a hand on his hip. They laughed.

“Cullen has more than a dozen employees, but his armoires are selling so quickly, he can’t keep up with the orders.” He sighed. “I believe we are becoming bourgeois.”   

“Hmmm, how worried is Father that people will forget about the Founding Principles?”

“He’s worried. Very worried. Everyone seems to have a talent or a craft they can market. Even Mary is sewing quilts. But Mouse…Mouse has outdone us all.”

“It was only a matter of time,” said Catherine. Mouse had built a hydroelectric generator at the waterfall, which produced all the energy necessary to power the Engines of Tunnel Industry. Father insisted on burying the lines and instating a standing Fire Department. He also assigned Mouse the task of delivering running water to the community, and that planning was nearing its final stages.

“We have actually recruited almost a dozen people to join our community. Recruiting…” he let his sentence trail off. “We have an electric utility, a water utility, a fire department, craftsmen, manufacturers…”

“That’s a lot of change in a short amount of time. You have many new members. Has your role changed, Vincent? Are you still expected to protect the community?”

“Yes, of course. I’ve always felt it was my duty.”

“Do you think the sentries should take on more responsibility to help you? There are more people, more activity, more movement in and out of the tunnels by many more people.”

“Now you’re getting worried. Don’t.” He pulled her close and kissed her head. “It’s not so many more people. And they are all trustworthy.” She was still looking at him. He sighed. “I will bring it up at the meeting that perhaps the sentries need to take on more responsibility.” She smiled. “Hungry?” She nodded. “Let us go in to dinner.” He slid off the bed and offered her his hand.  


“William, that was delicious,” murmured Catherine. “How did you season the carrots?” She sat at the table in Father’s chamber with Vincent, Lisa, Lena, Michael, Mouse, and of course, William and Father.

William glowed with pride and Lisa couldn’t stand it. “Don’t get him started, Cathy, or we’ll be listening to recipes all night.”

“I agree with Catherine. William deserves quite a bit of recognition and praise for his delicious cooking,” said Father.

“Thank you, Father … Cathy,” William said with a glance at Lisa.

“Let us do get started. We have a long agenda. Cathy, perhaps you should begin.”

“Thank you, Father. Well. Let’s review our current position, just to make sure we all share the same point of reference. The Tunnel Community has begun to sell products they have created to the world above. The original motivation for this activity was to satisfy the artistic talents of several people in the community. Some in the community have become concerned that this economic activity will corrupt the Founding Principles you all promised to adhere to and uphold when you became part of the community. So we are meeting here, now, to find some kind of arrangement that we all can feel comfortable with. Are we agreed, so far, on our purpose?”

All nodded assent. Catherine went into full attorney mode. “In our previous conversations, my suggestion was that you incorporate into your organization the same principles you live by. I believe that we have accomplished this by first forming a holding company, then under its umbrella, forming Limited Liability Corporations, foreign domiciled in Delaware, held in a self-settled spendthrift trust for each business. This form of organization will protect each one of you – and the community – not only from lawsuits, but from prying eyes as well, so your community will remain secret.”

“Is she still speaking English?” Mouse wondered aloud.

Vincent looked around the table. A good number of them looked completely at sea. A few understood the arrangements too well, he thought. Catherine seemed to be oblivious to them all. She loves being a lawyer, he thought.

She passed an accordion folder to Father. “There are all the checks, the debit and credit cards, and all the contact information for your enterprise. Father’s signature is required on all checks, as well as the business owner’s. The Governors of the Community are the governing officers of the holding company, and each member of the community who has one is the governing officer of his or her business. If any new businesses are formed, you’ll need to make me aware so I can file the articles of incorporation and purchase insurance. In regard to the issue of profits, my suggestion is that you first pay your insurance premiums, your bills from your suppliers and utilities, then make a contribution to the community. That could be for improvements, such as a new communication system that Pascal has been advocating, or a clinic, or anything the community sets a goal for. After that, if there is anything left, profits can be divided in whatever way you decide.” She was so proud of her work. This was the perfect arrangement; it suited all their needs and wants perfectly. She readied herself for their expressions of amazement and gratitude.

“Profits can be divided in whatever way we decide,” echoed Lisa.

“Father would be the Senior Governor of the company that governs us all,” observed Lena.

“But what if my business is going very well and I want to expand, but Lisa’s business is floundering? The profits that my company generated would prop up her failing enterprise and leave my successful business stagnating,” reasoned Michael.

“A very unlikely scenario,” said Lisa. A titter of laughter ran around the table, quickly squelched by a heavy feeling of foreboding. Mental gears were turning.

“But a valid point. We can’t divide profits like that if we want to grow and expand,” said Michael.

“If. If growth and expansion is our goal. If we chose to become money grubbers,” growled Father.

“How is it money grubbing if Mary wants to create a more complex quilt, or if Lena wants to experiment with a scented lotion, or if Jason wants to create a large sculpture? All those things require investment,” said Mouse. He was gaining skill at language in leaps and bounds.

“Mouse, your speech…” gasped Catherine. “It’s very good! How…?”

“Mary teaches me,” Mouse answered.

“Well, she is a great teacher!” Catherine exclaimed.

“She’s a bargain at twice the price!” agreed Mouse.

“Tell me you’re joking, that you two are not commercializing your relationship,” said Father, his face dark.

Mouse and Mary looked at each other, truly confused. “We trade. I use Mouse’s electricity to sew my quilts on sewing machines, and in return, I work with him on his speech.”

Father pounded the table with his fist. “This is exactly what I was afraid of! The help we used to offer each other freely, we now are using as bargaining chips!”

“No, Father, we’re not bargaining,” answered Mouse. “Mary’s been helping me for a long time. Now I have a way to repay her.”

“I think I see Father’s point,” ventured Lena. “I think I see how things could get out of hand if we’re not careful.”

“Exactly. What if William wanted to charge people for his cooking? What if Mouse decides to make people pay for electricity? We could become exactly like the world above,” added Lisa.

“We’ve already gotten a lawyer involved!” cried Lena.

“Well, Catherine?” asked Father, “What is your suggestion, now? Is there a legal inoculation to protect us from this sickness of capitalism?”

Catherine felt like she’d been punched in the stomach. She could hardly catch her breath.

“I only did what you asked me to do. You needed a retail space to sell your goods. I leased that space for you. You needed wholesalers to buy raw materials from. I found them for you. You needed insurance. I found it for you.”

“Yes, Catherine, and we’re grateful, but did you have to establish a corporate empire? Holding companies, foreign domiciles, trusts…”

Oops. Too much information. “Father, I know it sounds complicated, and it is, but what’s really important is that I’ve arranged things for you so that you can buy and sell with the Upper World with no fear of your world being discovered, much less injured in any way.”

“Put your mind at rest, Father,” offered Vincent. “Catherine has foreseen every possibility and protected us.”

“Has she foreseen what greed and acquisition would do to us? What’s next? Will she install an ATM next to the pantry?”

Catherine discreetly drew a line through some writing on a sheet of paper in front of her. “Father, Jason was already buying stone and steel and selling his sculptures. Rebecca was already buying greenware, renting a kiln, and selling ceramics. But there were always questions and difficulties about payment and deliveries. What I’ve done eliminates all the difficulties.”

“Yes, so now we’re poised to plummet into a tax-free cesspool of corruption.”

That hurt. That particular remark cut Catherine. Her throat got tight; her eyes watered.

Vincent was distraught. Father was right. If they weren’t careful, they might start bartering with each other, where before, they had always freely given. Catherine was right. People from the Tunnel Community had been trading with the World Above for some time, but at great risk of being discovered. Both sides had merit, but the stakes had changed from disagreement to personal attack. “Perhaps we should pause, take a short break--”

Catherine spoke, and her words were ice cold. “I hoped you would have realized just how big this business could have become. I hoped you had the vision to see the potential for what you could have built. However, I see I was wrong.” She rose from the table. “And, since my services are neither needed nor appreciated, I will leave. Good night.” She walked out. After a moment, Michael followed.

Father shuffled the papers in the file. “I don’t have time for this!” he cried. “Here, Lena, Lisa, handle this—business.”

“Catherine! Wait!” Michael called out to her. She stopped beside the Mirror Pool. “Oh, Cathy, don’t cry. Here, take my handkerchief. I’m sorry if what I said contributed to that riot.”

“Oh, no, it’s not your fault, at all,” she mumbled, drying her eyes.

“I didn’t mean to act like I didn’t appreciate all the work you’ve done. I think what you did was great!” He smiled down into her face and pulled her into a hug. “We’re all going to calm down. Father is going to realize that we’re not going to cannibalize each other.” Catherine chuckled in spite of herself. “And we need you, more than ever, to help us. Electricity is a great thing; our lives have totally changed a hundred times for the better because of it. I’m looking forward to toilets that flush.”

Vincent came up from behind in time to see them hugging and hear her laugh.

“We need you to be our advocate, our liaison, to the World Above,” Michael continued. He looked down and searched for her eyes. “Will you do that for us, Catherine? Please? We need you!”

Catherine smiled. “Of course I will,” she said.

Vincent neared them, and they stepped away from each other. “Feeling better?” he asked her.

“Yes, thanks to Michael.”

“Yes…thank you, Michael,” said Vincent, and he stared at Michael. It was an awkward moment.

“Okay…well, I’ll see you two later,” said Michael. He turned to walk away. He was annoyed. Could he not have two minutes with Catherine without Vincent intruding? Silently accusing him of trying to make a move on his woman?

Vincent looked down. Catherine was staring at him. “You know that was totally innocent, nothing more than one friend cheering up another friend.”


“I’m just—I can’t take anymore tonight, and now you’re acting jealous when you know you don’t need to be!”

Lena and Lisa appeared. “And you two, pushing Father to practically be paranoid. I hope you’re happy! Did you get what you wanted?”

“Not quite everything,” purred Lisa, as she stepped closer to Vincent and put her hand on his shoulder.

It was too much for Catherine. She lunged at Lisa, but missed her footing and fell sideways into the Mirror Pool. Lisa and Lena almost collapsed laughing while Vincent knelt down and pulled her out.

He was helping her to stand when her frustration boiled over. “Stop helping me!” she yelled, and Vincent’s frustration hit critical mass. He released his grip. Once again she tipped sideways into the Pool. Lisa and Lena were doubled over, screaming with laughter. Catherine surfaced, and Vincent bowed. “M’lady,” he said and turned to walk away.

He saw the rest of the meeting attendees standing close by, watching. William stepped up quickly and shoved Lisa and Lena into the Pool. Vincent gave him a high five as he passed.

Catherine surfaced and crawled out. It appeared that now the entire Tunnel Community was there, even the children. As she stood beside the Pool, dripping and panting, Father approached her. “Well, you can see all the commotion you’ve caused tonight. Perhaps it would be best if you stayed out of the tunnels for a few days.”

“You’re banishing me?” she asked, incredulous.

“For a few days,” said Father. “Until we all calm down.”  


“Catherine, please forgive me for coming at so late an hour. I couldn’t sleep until I apologized to you,” Vincent rehearsed as he climbed up the side of her building. “Catherine, forgive me, the hour is so late. But I couldn’t sleep until I apologized to you…”

Catherine was pacing on her balcony. “Vincent, please forgive me for waking you, but I couldn’t sleep until I apologized. I lost my temper, you didn’t deserve to be treated the way I treated you…” She started again, “Vincent, please forgive me for waking you. I couldn’t sleep until I told you how sorry I was for the way I treated you…”

She stopped. Was that his voice?

Was that her voice? He quickly scaled the final few feet and jumped over the balcony wall.

A beautiful smile spread over her face when she saw him. His heart warmed when he saw her. They ran into each other’s arms and kissed, softly at first, then more passionately, more deeply.

Pulling back, they spoke at the same time.

“Forgive me, Catherine, the way I treated you was terrible; I lost my temper.”

“Vincent, I lost my temper! The way I treated you was terrible; you didn’t deserve that. I’m so sorry.”

He scooped her up in his arms and, kissing her, carried her to her bedroom. He sat on her bed with her on his lap. He kissed her lips, her face, her neck. Cradling her in his arms, he lifted her up and back onto the bed.

Her chest was heaving. He covered her mouth with a deep, long kiss. You are mine, he felt more than thought. Out of nowhere, a cold wave of anxiety settled on him. And he became aware of the presence of his Dark Side. Without even thinking about it, he visualized himself taking Dark Side by its throat and choking it.

He realized for the first time that if he chose, his Dark Side was his slave, not his master. He could use the power of his Dark Side, harness it, invoke it to do his bidding, mwa ha ha. He looked down at Catherine. He tightened his grip around Dark Side’s throat. Dark Side begged for mercy.

And so they made love. And while they did, he opened up a part of himself to her that had always been closed before. He had never let down the guard on his spontaneity before; the ramparts he kept up were high and steep, always, even with her. Dark Side was his inspiration to be spontaneous, and passionate. It wasn’t just sex. It was a celebration of their love, a celebration filled with joy and even some laughter.

He was healing. Really and truly healing, and it was making love that was doing it. Lovemaking with one’s treasure has a healing power, and it was healing him. Their love was healing him. She wanted to cry.

He pulled her torso tightly to his own. Their hearts literally beat together. He lost awareness of his surroundings and met Catherine in some hazy sphere lacking any substance aside from them. The boundaries that separated them into two people faded, then melted away, and they became one, each unique, but joined.

Her breathing was very slow and deep, and her head was lolling. “Catherine,” he called to her in a whisper.

“Vincent,” she answered in a whisper, her eyes still closed. “My love…I’m yours.” And with those words, their bond completed its link. She knew his feelings, his thoughts, his dreams. She slept.

Still holding her, he rested his head next to hers. So many questions answered… He slept.


The next morning, she answered the knock on her door to find Samantha and Geoffrey.

“C’mon in, sit down. What can I get you? Juice or milk? I’ve got cookies, too.”

“Vincent!” they cried and rushed to hug him.

“We can’t stay long. In fact, we have to get right back. We came to invite you to an opera!” Samantha was so excited, she was almost trembling.

“An opera? Where?” asked Catherine, wondering how they could’ve gotten tickets.

“Underground!” cried Geoffrey. “It’s our opera. We’re putting it on!”

“An opera? Oh, my goodness, that’s amazing! Of course I’ll come—oh, wait, I’m banished.”

“He banished Mouse, too. Right after you,” said Geoffrey. “He tried to tell Father he was making a mistake.”

“It sounds like Father’s really angry,” said Catherine.

“No, no, we asked Father before we came. You’re not banished anymore. Everyone says they’re sorry. They want to make up with you and they want you to come tonight,” said Samantha, her eyes dewy.

“Okay, then!” said Catherine, smiling.

“Vincent, would you walk Catherine in? You have to go through the basement of her building and use those tunnels, okay?” asked Samantha.

 “I’ll do exactly as you say,” answered Vincent. It was the least he could do for such a complicated lie, so poorly told. And he didn’t want the children’s opera ruined by any kind of adult unpleasantness

“Okay,” said Samantha. “We better go now.”

Riding down on the elevator, Geoffrey smiled, saying, “‘They want to make up with you!’ ‘They’re sorry!’ Way to sell it, Samantha.” He held out a clenched fist, and she bumped hers atop.

“It shook me up to see Vincent there. I had to think quick,” she said.


When they reached the Music Chamber, William and Father broke off the argument they’d just been having and silence fell over the room. Catherine and Vincent took seats behind Father, Lisa, Lena, and Mary. Mouse scurried in and took a seat by Vincent. Father stood to leave, but the lights cut out suddenly, and the conductor started the orchestra. It was the overture to Lucia di Lammermoor.

Jamie rushed onstage. “Good evening. Thank you all for coming! Tonight’s production by the Tunnel Community Children will be an original work based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. We worked pretty hard, and your attendance means a lot to us all. We’d be very hurt if any of you left before the end.”

Father sat down.

“Act one opens in the palace. We now give you King Lear,” Jamie concluded and exited the stage, pulling the curtain open as she went.

Several children were standing on stage, wearing the names of their characters on placards around their necks. The orchestra stopped and the play began:

LEAR: I’ve divided the kingdom into three parts and will now confer them to you. I do this now, so that future strife may be prevented, and I can enjoy retirement. King of France, Duke of Burgundy, at this time will I also chose which one of you will be my youngest daughter’s husband. Now, daughters, which one of you loves me the most? Whoever loves me the most will get the best part of the kingdom. Goneril, eldest-born, speak first.

GONERIL: Sir, I love you more than I can say, I love you more than eye-sight, freedom. More than the most precious thing on earth. I love you more than life, health, beauty or honor. As much as a child ever loved its father.

LEAR: Very good, Goneril. You get the northern third of the kingdom. Regan, speak.

REGAN: Sir, I love you as much as Goneril. Only more, because I don’t love anything else BUT you. My only happiness is knowing that you love me.

LEAR: Great! Regan, you take the southern third of the kingdom. Cordelia, your turn. I saved the best part of the kingdom for you. Tell me how much you love me.

CORDELIA: I love you as much as a child loves its father, no more, no less.

LEAR: So young and so untender?

CORDELIA: So young and so true.

LEAR: Let truth be thy dower! Goneril, Regan, I’m splitting your sister’s part of the kingdom between you two! Burgandy, France, whichever one of you wants her can take her, but she goes with no dowry!

BURGANDY: I can’t do it! My subjects demand a dowry! Sorry, Cordelia!

FRANCE: Cordelia, I’m so impressed with you! You are the most wonderful person I’ve ever met! I love you! Marry me!

The orchestra begins playing a melody (Regnava nel silenzio at 4:00) from Lucia di Lammermoor.

LEAR SINGS: I asked for you help, but don’t like the results. Why can’t you do things my way?

GONERIL & REGAN SING: You might be a star. He likes things as they are. Should have done things his way.

CORDELIA SINGS: I helped you out, then you threw me out. Why must it all be your way?

GONERIL & REGAN SING: You might be a star. He likes things as they are. Should have done things his way.

CORDELIA SINGS: Can’t you see I’m improving things? Changing your world for the good?

LEAR SINGS: Changing our world, but improving our world? Improving our world, are you sure?

GONERIL & REGAN SING: If you’re wrong we could lose everything. Lose everything we are.

LEAR SINGS: Lose everything we are.

ALL BUT CORDELIA & FRANCE SING: Lose everything we are.


The curtain closed. The adults sat frozen.

Jamie took the stage again. “Act two. Civil war has broken out--” She was interrupted by the noise of crashing, giggling, and stomping. Jamie peeked behind the curtain. “You guys ready?” she asked. Apparently so. She began again. “Civil war has broken out. We are on an open British plain.” She once again pulled the curtain open with her exit.

Again, they wore placards with their characters’ names on them. Regan and Goneril had their hands around each other’s throats. Gloucester had ketchup running under his eyes and held a toy sword under Cornwall’s upstage arm. Cordelia and the Fool sat back to back on the stage, hangman’s nooses around their necks. Edmund and Edgar were pointing swords at each other, about to begin a fight. Kent and Lear stood next to each other downstage.

The orchestra began playing The Sextet from Lucia di Lammermore, probably better known as O, Elaine, from the Three Stooges film, Squareheads of the Round Table.  

KENT SINGS: Happy now? Now are you happy? Take a look, a look at where we’re at. We’re not speaking, apart we’re keeping.

LEAR SINGS: I see, I see how awful things can be! I wish, I wish I could go back and change things!

EVERYONE ON STAGE SINGS: We wish, we wish we could go back and change things!

KENT SINGS: Bend, just give a little ground, compromise!

LEAR SINGS: I will compromise! I’ll get along! With my family!

EVERYONE ON STAGE SINGS: We will get along with our family! We will get along with our family! O! O! O! O! Getting along! How lovely it will be! O! O! O! O! Getting along! How lovely it will be!


The lights came up. All the children stood. Everyone bowed: conductor, orchestra, singers. Jamie walked back out on stage, applauding.

“Thank you, thank you. And that will wrap it up for this night’s performance of King Lear, the Opera, a production of the Tunnel Community Children. Until next time (if it should become necessary), take this as a bug in your ear, a hint, a clue, a microphone drop from us to you: Figure. It. Out.” And they all left.

Adult feet shuffled. Heads bowed, eyes dropped, apologies were muttered, then spoken. Eye contact was made, hands shaken, warm, loving hugs were exchanged. Catherine and Father made a date to talk about…just everything.


They sat around the table in Father’s chamber, staring at the tracings they’d made of the symbols carved into the walls of the cave Vincent retreated to in the worst moment of his illness. Father, Vincent, Catherine, Mouse, Mary, Lena, Jamie, Michael, Cullen.

“What we need is a Rosetta Stone,” said Cullen. “Maybe we should search the rest of the Tunnels for more symbols.” While they considered the idea, Sebastian entered.

“Hoping to find a language we can understand written alongside?” asked Father.

“Yeah,” Cullen answered.

Vincent closed his eyes. The symbols held a familiarity for him. He tried to let his mind wander, searching for any fragment of a memory shaped around the symbols. He reached for Catherine’s hand.

Catherine, too, closed her eyes. “I’m seeing a field of tall grass…it’s warm…a breeze is blowing…I hear someone talking…I don’t understand what he’s saying…”

Vincent spoke, “I’m talking with an Iroquois Indian…I don’t understand this language, but we’re trading…pecans for fish…I’m walking…walking…I’m home…” He and Catherine opened their eyes. “That symbol…” Vincent said to the group and pointed at a square shaped squiggle on the paper. “That symbol is on my home.”

“What did you just do?” asked Mary.

“I don’t know,” said Vincent. “It was a vision.”

“It might have been Genetic Memory,” said Sebastian. “There is a theory that certain memories are present at birth, encoded into our genes.”

“That’s just a theory,” said Father.

“You think Vincent could’ve had a memory that one of his ancestors had?” said Jamie. The possibility was astonishing. Could Vincent ever know anything about where he came from?

“It might be possible,” said Michael. “Look at how Catherine and Vincent share thoughts sometimes. Maybe Vincent has mental abilities that are different from ours.” That sent a shockwave around the table.

“Let’s try to find out. Vincent, would you allow me to hypnotize you?” asked Sebastian.

Vincent squeezed Catherine’s hand. “Let’s try,” urged Catherine.

“I’ll try,” said Vincent.

“Wonderful! Now, the first thing to do is get you comfortable,” said Sebastian.

“I’m comfortable,” said Vincent.

“Let’s get a bit more comfortable,” said Sebastian, pulling a flask out of his coat. He handed it to Vincent.

“Okay, not too much, Vincent,” Mouse teased as Vincent pulled from the flask.

“Give your keys to Michael. We can’t have you driving around,” teased Mary. They all chuckled. Vincent shook his head at them as he swallowed.

“Now, Vincent,” crooned Sebastian, “close your eyes. Close your eyes and in your mind, go to the safest place you know. Where are you at, Vincent?”

“My chamber,” Vincent answered.

“Very good,” said Sebastian. “If anything frightening happens, anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, you can return here immediately. Understand?”


“Vincent, let us now depart on a journey. A journey through time, through space…we are going to a place where there is neither time nor space. We are floating up…floating…high, high above the earth, leaving the atmosphere, flying through the twinkling stars. Your spirit is large, your spirit is large, and it is still expanding. Your spirit flows over the world, through all time, through all space…through all time, through all space. You are talking with an Iroquois Indian, trading pecans for fish…you are walking home…you are home…look around, Vincent. What do you see?”

“My home…my wife…my children…I see my storehouse, and I (unintelligible) to tell my (unintelligible) I want to (unintelligible) apples (unintelligible)--” and then Vincent was speaking a foreign language.

When Vincent paused, Sebastian asked him another question. “You have a wife and children? Do they look like you?”

Vincent hesitated, then answered, “My children look like me. My wife, not so much.”

“What about your mother and father? Do they look like you?”

“Very much like me. And my aunts and uncles, (unintelligible), (unintelligible),” and more foreign language.

“Vincent, what year is it?”

“It is the fifth year Tekonis has been chief,” answered Vincent.

“Vincent, I want you to remember everything about everything you’ve seen, remember all that you know. I want you to return to your safe place, your chamber.” Sebastian paused. “Are you in your chamber now, Vincent?”


“Alright, now please return to us here, in Father’s chamber. Do you remember what we were doing?”

“Looking at the history.”

“The history. Yes, return to us here when I count three. Ready? One, two, three.”

Vincent opened his eyes. His eyes widened, and he smiled; he had to catch his breath. He was still holding Catherine’s hand and gave it an excited squeeze.  “I remember,” he said. “I remember everything!”