- Ignatius' mother was out. It seemed increasingly these days his mother was choosing to spend less time in the house, and extra time bowling and gallivanting with the degenerates he saw a lot more of than he liked. That evil crone Santa her policeman friend, and sometimes even that senile old man who waffled on and on about communism. Together, the group were truly becoming the kind of scourge on humanity Ignatius wrote so fervently about in his Big Chief tablet. Spread out comfortably on his mattress, often alone, Ignatius had a lot of time to think about these things. He drew offensive portraits of an exaggeratedly toothless Santa, and indulged in a few paragraphs portraying his mother as a screaming harpy. Which she was. Then he balled these pages up and threw them aside, helping them blend in to the squalor that was his working space. Yes, his mother was truly growing to be bolder and more scheming with every day around these friends.
Why, just the other day, she'd uncharacteristically snapped at him over the fact that she was hosting dinner for those two horrors, Santa and that policeman Mancuso. Once he'd gotten wind of the oncoming hellstorm, he'd spent the evening doing his fair share of sulking and complaining. Coming downstairs in a long green dressing gown at four, he entered to see his mother scurrying about the kitchen. The kitchen door whined as he opened it more forcefully than usual, a purposefully dramatic entrance.
- "Mother, I am demanding you reconsider. You are truly attempting to invite these devils into our house to sup?" (Ignatius found he quite liked that phrase, old and expressive, he commended himself for coming up with it, and set it away in his mind to write down later in another lengthy indictment against society he had planned).
"You been reading them medieval books again, Ignatius?"
Ignatius scoffed. "I don't see what that has to do with anything." He put his hands on his broad hips, looming over his mother in the manor of a hippopotamus encountering a mouse at a watering hole.
"Scoundrels in my living space. I can't allow it. Not tonight, anyway. I have a manuscript to write and I do not wish to be disturbed by drunken laughter and borderline embarrassing dancing."
"So you don't wanna sit down to dinner?" Mrs Reilly said distractedly. She was setting the table, hovering around with cutlery in her fist near Ignatius' preferred seat, eyes going beady in the candlelit gloom.
"To dinner? With them? My God, you can't seriously be asking me this!" Ignatius put a paw over his face, blue and yellow glancing away towards an invisible incredulous partner.
Mrs Reilly slammed the cutlery down, so that they rattled enough to make Ignatius pause.
"Okay Ignatius. You don't wanna sit with them? Then go to your room like always." She said sharply, sharper than what she would've said in the past. She'd secretly been hoping Ignatius might want to at least linger to sit down with them, (food was always a fine incentive for her boy) so she could show Santa what her Ignatius was really like, show her he wasn't a bad boy at all, just a little odd at times, and because Mancuso had told her he'd been waiting to give Ignatius his review of that Boethus book he'd borrowed from him. Her idealist self even wondered if it might've been something good for Ignatius, something social.
"I see how it is." Ignatius said, turning around so his back faced his mother. He made a wounded expression, looking up to the heavens now. "First you find this new gang, and now all of a sudden our finances are going down the drain-"
"-Ignatius, we been poor before all this-"
"-And the liquor bottles hardly find their way into the recycling anymore, and now you're sending your loving son to bed with no dinner, in favor of these friends of yours." Ignatius sneered. "Oh, yes, I see how it is." His moustache shined with an unholy light.
A wooden spoon hit the back of Ignatius' head and the gleam in Ignatius's moustache sparked out. Ignatius turned around briefly to see what projectile his mother had presumably thrown at him from across the room, one eyebrow raised. The scene he saw in front of him was drastically and very immediately different to what he had turned originally away from.
Mrs Reilly had started to sob. She sat collapsed against the table, hands over her head, a mess of red woolen jumper and hair. She pounded the table with an open hand, and the bracelets on her wrist made a queer jangling music with every tremor that went through her.
"For once! Oh, just once, boy, I want to see you do right. I want to have a son worth bragging about when my friends come over." She said, voice muffled due to her face down position. "Everyone else shows off their chirren to people, Ignatius! An' I never get to do that, because- because- oh lawd, I don't know what's wrong with you, boy. Ever since you was a kid."
Her sobbing grew more hysterical. Ignatius contemplated going back upstairs and leaving his mother to whatever emotional breakdown she was having, but against his better judgement, he crept towards his mother and put his arm over her shoulder. This disturbing melodrama had to stop before it went any further.
He cleared his throat, looking down at the wet puddle his mother had made on the tablecloth with her spontaneous tears and snot.
"Ah- mother?" She looked up, eyes still watery, most of the mascara she'd put on prior to all this running down her face. She braced herself for an incoming irrelevant demand for a Dr Nut, or maybe Ignatius asking what time it was, even though he wore that Mickey Mouse watch to read the time in the first place. He'd said it was broken or something.
"When would this dinner be?"
Mrs Reilly, caught off guard and suddenly very pleased indeed, beamed tearfully. She grabbed his own hand in both of her own. "Aw Ignatius, you really-" She hiccuped. "Mean it?"
Ignatius found a frustrated smile rising to his mouth, attempted to be assuring. "Of course." He said, feeling a conflicted mix of feelings, disgust partly, and a general son-like tolerance for his mother, the latter of which he mostly pushed away whenever it made a nuisance of itself. Like it was doing now. It struck him either his mother truly was an emotional wreck or a manipulator of the highest order.
"Honey, they should be arriving at six at the latest." She stood up finally, with a quick sigh, running her hands through her hair and pushing a chair under the table. "I gotta go fix my makeup." She announced, and sped off towards the bathroom.
The dinner was a bore, the only vaguely engaging part of it the unbridled hostility and suspicion radiating off of Santa Battgalia towards Ignatius. From all the things Mrs Reilly had told her about her boy, she knew well enough to maintain a healthy barrier between herself and the man. No, he might fool his mother but he wasn't going to fool her, that boy was trouble. Mrs Reilly, up until this dinner with the large surprise guest, had been almost inspired to break away from her controlling son completely. Her independence had been so close! Now, it seemed that the equilibrium of their planned private dinner had been upset, Mrs Reilly was back to herself again, making motherly eyes at her son.
Ignatius had no taste for the type of conversation they made at the table, gossip, (at least Claude hadn't been there to grace them all with his presence so as to talk about those dirty communists again) mainly, and dry gossip at that. At some point Mrs Reilly brought up Myrna Minkoff to Santa, which earned her a glare from her son. Myrna, however much of a bewildering, confounding creature she'd appeared to his mother, was not to be discussed in his presence.
"My boy got a master's degree, you know." Mrs Reilly bragged.
Meanwhile Patrolman Mancuso attempted endlessly to engage Ignatius in clumsy conversation, sitting across from him. He made idiotic observations about Boethus, conclusions about his philosophy Ignatius had jumped to when he was but a boy of ten, and discovering the world of Fortuna for himself. Ignatius yawned, yellow and blue eyes rolling.
"Astute observation, Mancuso. There is, I suppose, a wealth of powerful language in medieval writing." He said shortly, with not an ounce of real feeling on the matter, forking into his meal with an uncharacteristic distraction. He drank noisily from the Dr Nut he'd poured into a wine glass. He set it down.
Patrolman Mancuso was smiling, after taking the comment Ignatius made to heart. A light dusting of red coated his face.
"I'm glad you think so. Damn fine, uh, book." He said, trying not to mention to Ignatius he hadn't quite read the end of it, as he had lost the book, and then it had wound up being used as evidence for a fantastic crime. However, this Boethus thing was his only talking point with the eccentric fat man, and by God was he clinging to it.
"And you really helped me out there with that case, by the way." Mancuso mentioned, suddenly reminded of the finest point in his career. "The uh, sergeant actually likes me now!" Patrolman Mancuso shouted, laughing in a manor that was all together too loud.
"Well, you know, if I hadn't dedicated my life to prose, I would've quite liked to have become a detective. It must be a natural calling, which is why I suppose I led you to uncovering that heinous crime. After all, it's the closest job, I found, to the job a vigilante type might possess, like Batman. This is what attracted me to the idea of becoming a detective, originally." Ignatius explained. He glanced at his mother and Santa, engaged in some private discussion despite there being four of them at the table, as usual, and then back at Mancuso.
"Are you familiar with the philosophy of Batman?"
In a way that hadn't been anticipated, although there was an immense and altogether unsettling friction between myself and my mother's... friends, Mancuso was less of a dunce than I had expected. I feel I have been too hasty about passing judgement on the man, despite my almost arrest at his hands. For he now knows the works of Boethus, and through me, he has been introduced to Fortuna. The ghastly hag that my mother has taken under her wing however, well, that is another story.
-Your socially engaged boy, Harper.