Extracts from The Diaries of 'Professor' Cornelius Crane

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July 28th, 1969

I’m in serious trouble. I’ve been found out. I may have to burn this diary and all the loose notes before they take me away.

Ironically it was the uncomfortable curiosity of a large child that has undone me.

I was reading on the small camping stretcher that’s been assembled for me in Claudia’s room when I heard Hannah’s lamenting.

“No! No! No! Nooo!”

This was the first time that her wailing had produced discernible speech. I rushed into my bedroom and she stared at me in a peculiar angry manner, as if I was a stranger bursting into her own bedroom. “What’s wrong?” I asked frantically.

She scrunched up her face and declared, “It was you!”

“What?”

“You killed Poppa!”

“What?”

“You put all those bees into the baking powder tin!”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“I couldn’t sleep properly because there was something hard in your mattress.” She held out the thick, hard-covered notebook towards me. “I found this.” I felt the blood drain from my face. She added. “I read the last stuff you wrote. I know it was you.”

I suddenly felt angry; the blood returning swiftly to my enraged visage. “That’s my private stuff! You had no right to scratch through there.” I grabbed the notebook out of her outstretched hand. “How dare you? Have you no respect for other people’s privacy?”

She was suddenly terrified of me. She pulled her knees up against her chest and stared over the top of them. “I knew you didn’t like my Poppa, but I would never have imagined that you could ever have done…”She paused.

“What? You’re crazy! Why would I want to kill him? You haven’t been acting or thinking rationally since your father’s death.”

“You killed him! You did! You did! You did! I read it! You killed him. I’m gonna tell everyone it was you!” She started wailing loudly, “You thought you were clever with your twenty year-old brain, but now I know the truth!”

I held up the notebook. “This is just a silly story I’ve been writing, okay? It doesn’t mean anything!”

“You’re fibbing! I’m gonna tell everyone!”

My mother had suddenly appeared in the doorway. “What’s going on here?”

I quickly said, “Hannah’s been scratching through my stuff!”

Hannah said, “That’s a fib! The bed was a bit uncomfortable so I just…”

I interrupted. “She has been going through all my stuff? I can see it.”

“I have not! That’s a big fib!”

“Oh, yeah? Then why is my…”

My mother interrupted sternly. “Connie?”

“Yes, ma?”

“Get to the kitchen!”

“But, ma?”

“I’m not gonna talk again! Go!”

“Yes, ma.”

“Now!”

“Alright, I’m going.”

My mother reached the kitchen ten seconds after me. She was fuming mad!

“What’s wrong with you? I thought a son of mine would know better. Her father’s just died; her mothers in police custody – and you upset her even more with your petty squabbling!”

“Sorry, ma.”

“Have you no heart? I told you the problem would be sorted out shortly. You’ll have your own bedroom to yourself again soon. Okay?”

“Okay, ma. Sorry, ma.”

“Don’t tell me, ‘Sorry.’ Tell it to Hannah. The poor child’s in a terrible state as it is.”

“Okay, ma.”

“She’s more than twice your age, so you show her some respect, you hear?”

“Yes, ma.”

“Just because she’s a bit slow doesn’t give you the right to talk to her like that. Don’t think you’re better than other people because you go to a special class at school.”
“No, ma.”

“God has given you a gift. You be sure to use that gift properly!”

“Yes, ma.”

“Off you go then. And I don’t want to hear you two fighting again – ever!”

“Yes, ma.”

When I returned to the room, Hannah had done some scratching through my stuff. She had removed my can of candy from my bookshelf and opened it.

She pushed the baking powder container under my nose. “These were my father’s favorite candies. You can’t buy them here. He used to get them special all the way from Belgium.” She sat on the bed and started to sob bitterly. “Why, Connie? Why? My Poppa never did you any harm?”

My mother appeared in the doorway again, so I quickly said, “I’m sorry, Hannah. I never meant to hurt you. I’m terribly, terribly sorry.” Mother smiled at me and nodded. Then she was gone again.

Hannah stared intently at me. “It was also you, the foul-mouthed kid, that Mr. Fry was talking about? Wasn’t it?”

“No…yes. Yes, I was hoping to surprise you. I wanted to make you happy. Can’t you see that? Can’t you understand that I never meant you any harm?”

I sat down next to her and put my hand on her arm. She pushed it away and looked at me with malice in her eyes. “I hate you! Get away from me!” Then she quickly put a hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry, I ain’t never said that to anybody’s face ever.” She shook her head and started crying again. “It’s my fault! It’s all my fault. I should never have told you about Poppa’s allergies. I would never have thought it possible of you to do something like that. But you did. And now he’s gone. He’s gone and it’s all because of me. I’m not slow, I’m stupid! Stupid…stupid…stupid Hannah.”

“Stop that! And stop blaming yourself. I knew about your father’s allergies long before you told me.”

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better! Please go away!”

“It’s the truth!”

“Go!”

“You must believe me! I…”

“GO!”

Her voice had gotten uncomfortably loud. Fearing another reprimand from my mother, I made a hasty exit.

It was terribly foolish of me not to realize that Hannah’s larger, heavier frame would reveal my secret hiding place – especially since I was now writing my memoirs in a large, thick, hard-covered notebook.

Although the camping stretcher in Claudia’s room is very comfortable, I doubt that I will be getting much, if any, sleep tonight.

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