Call us Quasimodo.We had decided that we...

Call us Quasimodo.

We had decided that we were, in Greek dramatic parlance, a "tragic personage." After all, were we not flawed in character? Did we not look in the mirror one morning and discover that we were not heroic (a true coward, in some ways)? Mean and petty. Spiteful. We had even lusted in our hearts. Still do.

"Look how disfigured we are," we said to the Formidable Companion. We pointed to a pimple on our nose.

And so we bid farewell to everything that was beautiful and pleasing.

"We'll be taking our meals up in the attic," we announced to the Formidable Companion. "We intend to live there, up among the rafters and the birds and the cathedral bells. And the gargoyles. Just like Charles Laughton did. And Lon Chaney before him."

"Our friends, the gargoyles," we continued. "Mute witnesses to our wasted ways."

We were in high gear now.

"Nothing up there but some Christmas decorations," the Formidable Companion said.

"Ah, Christmas!" we cried. "How we'll miss it so."

"I'm off to work," she said.

"Goodby, Esmeralda!"

"Get help," she said.

The front door closed with a click.

We shouted after her: "Think of us after we've turned to stone!"

We got a ladder and entered the attic. It was sweltering. We looked out the window and saw the mountains in the distance. We could almost imagine the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum out there in Topanga, where Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" will be staged at 8 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. (Call 455-2832 for information.)

By now, sweat was rolling off our face.

"Bag this," we said, descending the ladder.

We remembered that there was a crawl space beneath the house. Much cooler. A dark cavern, really. An ancient catacomb, perhaps? We could almost hear the strains of an opera. A perfect place for a masked phantom.

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