The Holocaust Queen

February 23, 2009
By Lucas Ropek BRONZE, Parkdale, Oregon
Lucas Ropek BRONZE, Parkdale, Oregon
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Prologue: An Introduction to His Crazy Spaghetti Mind, his violence, and one or two details that
mean absolutely nothing/everything.

I first saw my Holocaust Queen when I was under a great deal of stress. But that was before.
Recently, this happened:

I was chewing bubble gum, drinking beer, and playing Nintendo 64 at my brother Lyle's house, and
we were all gaming for the win, and I was in the lead. It was Spring Break and school was out and I
hadn't seen hide nor hair of either of my parents for four days. That was nice. But I was also
stuck in his tiny house, and I was tired of eating the same crappy food over and over again, day
after day. Right then we were drinking and talking about sex and girls like we
always did, and that was good'but we had also been sitting in front of the TV for probably seven
hours, playing video-games incessantly. Lyle got up to turn the TV off and I began to complain, said
something like 'Oh c'mon Lyle'' And Lyle turned and hurled an ashtray at my face.

So that happened.

It didn't hit me but it shattered on the wall behind me and I screamed and he turned and just
looked at the wall like I wasn't even there.

I love my brother, but his house is a dump. It has small windows and a pool table, and ugly yellow
carpeting that is tearing up at the seams and is, slowly, crawling off the wooden floor beneath it.
That day it was just three of us: Lyle, me, and Lyle's bud Sid. It's funny. Now, Lyle treats the
friends he has like he does his home. All I've ever heard him say to Sid since they started
hanging out two months ago is 'Shut the hell up Sid' or sometimes 'Sid get me some
food.' Sid takes it like a dog who's been beaten every day of his life, and I don't
really understand their relationship, but Sid never seems to mind. Sid's a hillbilly who wears
rock t-shirts and talks about Metallica, a band Lyle hates. Lyle has pictures of Hendrix and Black
Sabbath all over his walls'the original rock gods, and somehow they look generic and bland on his
bare wall, but he advertises them blatantly.

It's like Lyle's trying to be a caricature of something lately, some sad bohemian cardboard cut
out'with his Hendrix archives, and random hippy paraphernalia which he
leaves lying around on the floors and on tabletops. It depresses me. He's a ghost. Before last
year, Lyle didn't smoke that much pot. Lyle listened to Hendrix, but he dug Dylan more. He
listened to the folk Dylan'the one who cared. Now he makes damn
sure that he never listens to Dylan unless it's his nihilist mid sixties phase, where all he talks
about is riddles and blurry metaphors. Now, whenever he smokes, he makes damn sure hillbillies like
Sid are in on it, and he gathers them to him in large crowds like some beat messiah, and he sits in
their barns and he gets stoned and drunk. I think he's trying to be one of those sad figures, the
classical high school dropout; adopting the stereotypical attitude of decadence that says his
life's always just been about rock n' roll. Maybe that's good, I don't know.
Maybe that's safe. But then again, the difference with Lyle, is that he could've been the mayor
of San Francisco if he wanted to. He could've been a genius and an astronaut if he wanted. Lyle
could've done anything.

This is what Lyle did instead. This is how he drove himself into the ground like a beautiful flaming
airplane might scream across the sky at 40,000 miles per hour; all fire-belching jet engines, and
bursting fuel canisters and jumping metal skin aflame. This is how he ripped us all apart and did it
lazy and selfish, and how he told me not to worry about it.

Chapter 1: He Gives the Institution a Goodbye Glance Lyle dropped out April of his senior year, two
months before he was set to graduate. He had all the credits he needed, and a full resume of
extra-curriculars that included hours of community service spent with stray dogs at the local
vet's office; plus he had a nice senior photo to boot. My mother got the most expensive
air-brushed crap she could afford, blew probably over 300 plus on him posing all awkward and
miserable next to a tree or a lake or something corny and stupid like that; Lyle comes home from
that disgusted and he goes out with his buddies one evening and takes six or seven polaroids of him
sitting next to this old broken down sawmill out in the boonies, place they call The Barn'a place
they used to hang out regular and get drunk and party. He really loved that place, said it was
beautiful, and he wanted his picture to be with it. He uses one of the polaroids for his senior
photo, one where he's squinting into the sun and holding a Pepsi cola can in his left
hand'looking sunny and chaotic and wonderful, and he's smirking, and damn if it wasn't twice
as good as anything my mother paid for. Lyle didn't care much at that point though.

It's funny. I hear a lot about Lyle from my teachers now'they always want to know how he's
doing. It's hard, having them all clueless and curious, and me having to not say a word. I do the
best I can'go along, and listen to them, and nod, and say as little as possible. But they talk
about him a lot. I always get to hear from my physics teacher Mr. Kramer what a pain Lyle was to
have in class'how my brother would sit in the back of the room and sleep the entire time, would be
awoken by his own snoring or by classmates throwing pencils at his face. Mr. Kramer gives me the
most lip about Lyle, saying how my brother never listened to a word that came out of his mouth,
never gave the faintest glimmer that his existence as a teacher mattered much and how, when his test
results came back for the semester final with the highest score in the class Lyle just smiled and
shot a rubber band at the back of Kramer's head while he was explaining the next lesson. Lyle's
SATs scores qualified him for a National Merit Scholarship, and he could've gone to Harvard if he
wanted to. He could've gone to Reed, or Whitman, or Sarah Lawrence in New York. Lyle had talked
for a time about going to New York and living there as an art student, but that was before mom and
dad split up. After they told us that divorce was the decision, Lyle didn't talk about school
anymore. He sat in his room for two weeks and wouldn't speak to anyone, and when Dad dragged him
out yelling and screaming on the 15th day, Lyle was livid, and his eyes were red, and you could see
his face had been contorted and changed by all the crying he'd been doing'like what the cover of
a book looks like when it's been left in the rain and warped. That was when we knew Lyle wasn't
going back to school.

It was a very bad day the day Dad finally dragged him out. I remember that one. He kicked down the
door to Lyle's room and grabbed Lyle from beneath the bed sheets and dragged him by his arm in his
boxers and threw him on the living room floor and screamed at him, and that was the day I could see
the interior of Lyle's room, and I knew that it had been turned to charcoal; amidst the screaming
and the chaos that ensued I hazarded a glance toward the open door and I saw inside the empty paint
cans spilled over on their sides, and the sopping brushes as they littered sticky and tar-like all
over the white of the carpet. Lyle had painted the interior of his room with black paint, smeared
all the walls with a thick black paste and it reeked of tempura and oil and it looked like an oil
rigger had spilled, like black blood had rained in the open windows, like there had been a fire in
there. I couldn't speak, and I just stared and mom came running and then she stared, and dad was
beating on Lyle and he finally left him in a bruised mess on the ground and he walked over and just
stood there. Dad's features looked like the face of a mountain they were so still. There were
stains of pitch, and soot, and crow everywhere, and the likes of his old movies posters sat in ruins
and smeared and messed on the wall.

My father and Lyle had regular screaming matches for the next several months after that. My mom just
sat in the bedroom a lot of the time, or shut herself up in the den and I didn't see anything of
her the majority of the time, except for the occasional sighting of her hovering along pale and
white in her bathrobe, shimmering into the kitchen to get food'(except she never seemed to
eat)'appearing and disappearing throughout the house, like a specter, like a ghost. That was the
end of my junior year, and back then I was still on the swim team and Lyle had been painting regular
masterpieces in art class, wowing our ethereal art teacher Ms. Graves with abstract sculptures, and
getting his face in the school newspaper with murals he was painting for the Lions club.

Now Lyle doesn't talk to mom or dad. He's stayed there, in that rotting place'for some four
months and he hasn't come by the house since December, when he dropped off my Christmas gift and
had a screaming fight with dad.

I see him, but not as often as I should. I've been thinking about things a lot
lately'remembering everything and trying to put it all back together. When something like that
happens, it makes you re-examine. It makes you dig in real deep, and look. I've been looking all
over the place, and I'm still at a loss in some places.

Chapter 2: How I Came to Find History, the Infamous Tit Giant Lindy Johnson, and a Pecking of

For a long while now, Lyle's always talked about how tragedy is the beauty of the
world and how Anne Frank is the poster child for this.

Later, when I was a freshman and Lyle was a junior, I noticed that he carried a copy of Anne
Frank's diary around a lot. In his Advanced Junior Literature class they were dissecting
contemporary literary characters and Lyle had chosen Frank. Lyle's teacher Mr. Stine had at first
reprimanded him on choosing a real person for his project. 'Anne's a character all her own,'
Lyle had reportedly said, and that had been that. That was how much power Lyle used to have; he said
something, and everyone trusted he would make it work, even the teachers.

There are two places you'd want to look if you wanted to find out why Lyle did what he did. The
most obvious place you'd want to look at would probably be the months after they told us they were
splitting up. These were the days where Lyle inverted everything and turned white to black, day to
night, and made everything all ugly. But the other place you might want to look would be earlier.
You might want to see how they treated us earlier.

I suppose if you want to find the source of a lot of things, it would've had to have started with
manta rays. Maybe'manta rays, and Goya, or perhaps a naked sculpture of Achilles standing proud
and glorious and bronze in the afternoon sun of some summer day. One of those things. When we were
really very young, Lyle and my parents used to go on trips to all the major museums in Trenton, the
nearest metropolitan city, and I was left at the babysitter's watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. It
started off as my parents' idea, but grew very quickly to be Lyle's conquests. They took him on
Saturdays. On Fridays as the weekend approached, Lyle would begin to get excited at the dinner
table, chattering away about the pieces he had seen last week, the exhibits he heard were appearing
this coming weekend. They took him once to the aquarium of sea-life and according to my mother he
spent four hours staring and studying the Manta Ray tank. The amazing thing was my parents'
complete acceptance of everything my brother did while on those excursions. It had been the tests, I
think. Lyle tested into the Talented and Gifted program at the age of six, and always after that
there were extra things for Lyle: new books, new trips, new movies and art supplies and notebooks.
Lyle would spend a day in the Museum of Natural History then come home and draw detailed diagrams of
the dinosaur exhibit. His dinosaur art went up next to my Elmer Fudd depictions on the refrigerator
door. It got so as our parents would take him every weekend, a whole day trip that museum hopped
from the history building, the aquarium, the zoo, and finally, the art institute. He would spend
hours in the art halls, tracing and retracing exhibit after exhibit, latching himself onto certain
portraits and refusing to leave, throwing tantrums sometimes if an exhibit was particularly

After the divorce, he screamed into his pillow so many nights I don't know.

And' after dad moved out at the end of Lyle's senior year, all Lyle did was drink and talk about

Chapter 3: Classic Yellow Schwinn, he dreams Summer nights it was, usually. This was after he was
done with school and I was heavy in the head and moving into my junior year and the family was split
to all ends. He would sit and get drunk and for hours I would be beside him and he would sob and
talk to me about how his relationship with them was like a war, how he wanted them dead and he was
the one that had to do it. He kept calling himself a general and talking about how he wanted to
exterminate them, take them out of existence and wipe them off the map, and all that. He would be
their Hiroshima, he said. We would go for drives at midnight, and it was all he talked about. He
would drink and drink, passing back swallow upon swallow of dark, black stuff, and go on about dad so
much that sometimes I wanted to hit him in the stomach and make him throw-up all that ugliness
boiling away down there; but I could feel what he was saying, and I knew he had every right to say
these things, so I would be still and I would listen, not moving'staring ahead at the dashboard
and the rushing road. I always drove and he always talked, and drank. He talked so much about how he
wished dad was dead, how he wanted to kill dad, how he would sneak into dad's bedroom one of these
days and take a kitchen knife and just finish it. He said dad had intentionally gotten him a set of
golf clubs instead of the bike he'd wanted, telling him they'd look really nice when Lyle joined
the golf team in the spring. 'He said, 'Well Hon, looks like Lyle's gonna be the sheen of the
green,''said it to mom in that stupid voice'you know the one I'm talking about...pretentious
prick.' Lyle's impersonations of Dad were always mangled and childish, sounded like Darth
Vader, or Lord Voldemort. Lyle always said the yellow classic Schwinn model was all he'd talked
about around the house for months. I didn't really care, or remember, but somewhere there
was a memory of that, yes. On those late night drives he would sit in the passenger seat of the
Camero, drinking like a socialite on New Year's Eve, and I would drive him up to Bald Butte, the
only place I knew that could calm him down any. It was a vista that hung beautiful and removed on
the most northern foothills of the mountains. From there the entire valley looked like a postcard,
and at night it was even further removed: the towns looked like glittering glass diamonds, spilled
careless and beautiful against the black satin backdrop of the valley, wonderful and radiant, tiny
refractions of light amidst a sea of dark.

Lyle would go on about society and people and how they were so very beautiful from afar, but very
ugly, and very disgusting up close. He talked about Anne Frank too, sometimes. He called her his
Holocaust Queen, and said she was beautiful in her grotesquerie. 'Imagine her Al' this starling
white rose, surrounded by a horde of locusts, all grabbing at her, all stricken with her purity and
wanting to contain her, to have her, to destroy her.' He said the scope of her life was so rich,
and the texture of her character so full, that the very thought of her demise curdled him, curdled
him. 'It hurts me, Al'physically hurts me,' he would say. 'I stand in the bathroom sometimes
and I look at my face in the mirror, and I just imagine that she's standing there next to me, dead
and rotting and beautiful, and I want to vomit, I just want to vomit.' He said that the feeling
was a wonderful curdling. 'I've come to love pain.' He said. 'I think it's beautiful'the
only way, the only true way to accept life is to accept all the negativity, all the blackness and
hate and death that flows through the world. To take that and relish it as beauty, terrible,
gripping beauty'I think pain is part of that, but I just wish I could let some of it go.' He
said that happiness was the amount of hours the sun shone, were the minutes in a spring rain storm,
your lover's embrace etc. whatever; the thing that floated your boat'it was slim, and
happened on rare, selective occasion. He could go on for hours. I would listen. But I really
didn't have an opinion on anything, and he was very drunk, usually.

Chapter 4: The Holocaust Queen
But then, about two months before that day in September, I saw my
Holocaust Queen. It was a July night. She melted out of the summer blackness and I lost my mind for
a little while. I can't tell you much, all I have are a few burning images. Not much. I was
walking home from a party, drunk, and my head was spinning slightly, and everything reminded me of
being in a dream. My limbs were light, watery. My head was a cloud. I remember that the sidewalks
were empty grey moonlit ghost trails, and there were street lights hanging down like fluorescent
stars, and everything had a grey/red tinge to it. Then, out of nowhere: something. I can tell you
things like this: She wore this white dress that radiated and exploded in the dark, and it made her
look like she was about seven years old; I saw her for the first time in the heat and the black of
some summer night and the air was thick and the surrounding world pressed in warm and wet like a
suffocating mouth, and I saw her there in the black of that, and I just about died. She crawled up
the sidewalk with one of those pitter-patter walks, the kind that cats do when traipsing along
picket fences, or the kind that children have when they're first learning how to wander. She had
pretty white knees that shown just below the hem of her dress'which was flower patterned and
looked like a beautiful clandestine table cloth swept off some bourgeois table in a New York
restaurant and patched and loved into some wonderful, perfectly fitted specimen. She looked perfect
in the night. She was a dream made right. She melted out of the dark of everything and I saw her
luminescent form sing, and her feet waltzed so light on the grimy sidewalk that she looked like she
was floating; ethereal and detached from the reality of this world. I can tell you that her face was
radiant white. I can tell you her eyes were two blue pools, wet and cool. Lips sketched the face and
twirled like pink flower vines along the edge of the chin, and suddenly, looking at her, I felt like
Lyle. In the septic light of a street lamp she stopped a moment to examine the leaves of an elm
tree, and I thought she looked like an angel.

I never said a word to my Holocaust Queen. I couldn't bring myself to do it. As soon as she
turned, I fled to the other side of the street and tried to casually walk in a different direction.
I ran away and I went home and fell into my bedsheets feeling strange, and I never saw her again
after that night. But it was strange'how I thought about her and those few seconds for the next
several weeks, and after that, the next several months, and sometimes, even years later, still would
I contemplate who I'd seen. I found out who she was easily enough'but that wasn't the issue.
Her name was Jane Birchell, and she had gone to our school her freshman year. Her parents had
divorced, and she had been forced to go to the school in the district next to ours. She did lots of
drugs. She had an older sister named Mary who had a husband and two kids. She also had an older
brother named Tim, who was up in Seattle somewhere selling cocaine. Jane was the only child still
living with her mother, and on summer nights she took walks in the city by herself, all dressed up
and looking like a dream. She was sixteen that year, and she liked Buddhism and studying Dharma. She
liked Happy Days and Ron Howard. Someone told me that she'd tried to kill herself a few years back
and the heart in my chest beat very fast at that news.

Chapter 5: He Gives Me One Last Goodbye Wink and Glides Ethereally Off, Stage-Left Two weeks after
that I heard some tepid rumor passing around school that Lindy Johnson had been fitted in a mental
institution and that they had her in a padded room with white walls, and that she had to wear a
strait-jacket all hours of the day.

I talked to a friend, Stan:

'You mean they just shipped her off like a crazy..?' 'Yeah, I guess so'' 'Why in
the world would they do that?' 'Attacked her brother while she was sleeping I guess, was
screaming and yelling and I guess she almost strangled him.' 'What the hell'?' 'Yeah, I
don't know man. Your guess is as good as mine'' 'But, what kind of parents would just ship
their kids off like that?' 'Foster parents, I guess. Her real ones gotten taken out when she was
young, I think. Car accident or something.' 'Man'' 'Yep.' 'And now she's in a
home..?' 'Yep.' 'And to think that she used to be'' 'Yeah, I know right!'you
remember in middle school''

I never really resented Lyle for all the extra attention, I don't think. Sometimes it crept up and
kicked me but I kept it down for long enough and eventually there was nothing, no bitterness,
nothing. Lyle always had the advantage, and I accepted that. We never competed. There wasn't any
point. He would beat me at anything, and I would be left in the dust and that was it, and I didn't
question it. I was luckier then, maybe'for what came after. I was used to the nothing. I was used
to the disappointment. I had less to lose.

For when it all came down to it, all these things'the mindfulness, and the natural talent and the
quick wit'built into some standing tower and magnificent and beautiful like it was, seemed
fragile, always. I guess I never acknowledged it back then. Now I wish I had. Maybe I could've
done something. At best you might describe Lyle as temperamental. He didn't handle failure well,
nor rejection. All these things towering and well placed and composed perfectly'a quarter million
little pieces set in exactly the right order with this latch going here and this cork fitted there,
and everything, everything all really dainty and tenuous beneath. Who could have known, really? From
looking at him with his brash handsome features and his skulking intelligence, and his pretentious
humor you might've thought him a mountain. You might've thought him a roman pillar. I thought he
was a god for a long time. But, like magnificent things will'he unraveled at the lightest touch,
and the finger in the dyke was my father's and it was dad's and always dad's. I knew that from
an early age, I know. I don't know how I knew, I just did. And mom knew too. Only my father and
Lyle were oblivious to their real relationship. They thought they were father and son. They
weren't. They were king and bishop. They were emperor and heir. Deity and monk. I was always
plebian. Their long talks in the early days, Dad monologuing brazen and matter of fact and knowing
that every word he said was being taken in, was being respected as law; Lyle with his little head
whirring silent and mechanical, making the connections, putting the puzzle pieces together, becoming
dad's thoughts. He manifested the words in our father's mouth. Then'when things turned black,
every word was a poison and Lyle felt like he needed to take it all back, vomit up everything that
had been said and heard, but he couldn't. I was standing in the kitchen and listening to them
scream at each other from the dining room the night the plug got pulled, the precipice tilted, and I
suddenly realized that everything was weighted on something too far down. Lyle was a tinker toy
tower of Babel. Lyle was a rock made from roses.

By the beginning of September that same year, Lyle was disappearing all the time and popping up on
late nights drunk, and I couldn't keep talking to him the way he was going. I stopped listening to
him after a while. The drives quit. The brother therapy sessions quit. I quit. I went on with my own
life and sucked up into my own head and I made sure that I didn't look around to see what
everybody else was doing. I thought about Jane sometimes, and about other people I had known
briefly. I thought about Lindy Johnson and my schoolwork and what I would have to do in my senior
year to graduate. I was a race-horse with no jockey and things were speeding on and on in the dark
and my blinders had dropped over my eyes and I didn't mind, I didn't mind.

Now, I've forgotten a lot of things. I should remember everything, but I don't. All I have are
clips and fractures of light that ricochet and come back to me sometimes. What I remember from my
brother before, is this: Lyle always liked foreign films, and Lyle always liked blonde girls, and he
liked turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce. Lyle always liked walking around on fall days and
picking the dead leaves off the sidewalks and taking them home and pressing them into notebooks as
book-markers. And Lyle always loved dogs. Lyle loved dogs.

The night he tried to kill himself he left a note tied to the chain of our Golden Retriever Avery
that read:

'I'm sorry for Avvi's sake. She never did a bad thing in her life.'


My mom found him in the bathtub, and this time the walls were red. He'd slit his wrist with a pair
of scissors and the bathroom floor tiles were filled in with blood and water. After I heard my mom
screaming from the bathroom I ran and I stared and I had to lift him dripping and lifeless and naked
out of the bathtub. The ambulance and the police were called. We waited and waited and finally we
could hear the sirens and my mother was shaking. We took him to the hospital, and I clawed my way
into the backseat of the ambulance, and pushed the attendants aside and just held his hand, god I
loved him so much. On the ride over with the siren screaming like banshees and police lights going
blue and red, I was holding onto his limp white wrist and crying like I'd never cried and the
tears were covering my face wet and warm like the only comfort in the world. I was sitting there in
the backseat and the night was rushing by outside dark and black like the ink in Lyle's room, and
everything everywhere looked like that, suddenly. Street lights rushed by chaotic and dim, but that
was all. I held tight to Lyle's hand and I thought of Jane, and of dad, and of Lindy Johnson crazy
and locked up. I thought of Anne Frank and all my teachers at school talking about Lyle's bright
future and the many careers he had ahead of him and it crumpled me and I leaned double, gasping for
breath. The night rushed by outside, and right then'bent over and looking out the window, I
thought I could see things clearly for once. The streets whizzed by impenetrable and oblique, and
there was black, and there was black, and occasionally there was the illumination of a blip of
rueful color that seemed to blink and laugh at us as we rushed on, blind and stuck and wheeling
through the darkness.

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