Lake Effect, Spring 2012, Volume 16: The Frankenstein Meets the Mummy

Michael Cyzniejewski


The Frankenstein Meets the Mummy

     Annie was an Egyptologist. I was not. I’d been taking some pottery classes in Salt Lake when we left for Chicago and somehow convinced her I cared about that, that I was sacrificing my dream because this was her turn, her opportunity. I loved her too much to let it slip away, I’d said. She’d just gotten back from a seven-month dig in Cairo and I’d waited for her—whatever that meant—so that gave me some collateral, some time in Chicago to not do much.
     While Annie was at work, I hung out at the lake, smoking the pot I’d bought at the Laundromat, playing chess with old Czech guys, and swearing to make dinner but instead using Annie’s money to buy take-out. I caught up on old TV shows I’d only seen once or twice, shot hoops down at the magnet school court, and every morning I did twenty-five push-ups, just to say I did twenty-five push-ups every morning. Annie pointed out there were a lot of schools in Chicago that taught pottery, that I could enroll at Columbia, Loyola, even the Art Institute. I told her I’d sign up for the next term, said that twice before she stopped asking; the only hint of my pottery endeavors was a glazed dish by the door that held our keys and spare change. Annie had enough success for both of us. She was the breadwinner. She was the vanguard. I was waiting for the day she came home and asked me to leave.

     Annie’s position at the Natural History Museum gave her full access to the museum, and when I say, “full,” I mean that she could literally take a key, walk up to any display case, and remove anything she wanted—an old parchment, a solid-gold crown encrusted with jewels, even a mummy. Yeah, if Annie went crazy, she could steal a mummy, bring it home, and prop it up at our kitchen table. She had that kind of access. For some reason, I felt proud of that.
     The only thing Annie couldn’t do was bring non-employees in when the museum was closed—after five, the place was battened down like a missile silo. The stuff in there was literally worth a gazillion dollars, priceless artifacts, irreplaceable collections, the world’s history, all under one roof. Even the roof was worth a gazillion dollars. Only she, her boss, and the other curators were allowed inside, no exceptions.
     Except on Scout night. Every other Wednesday, the museum held a sleepover for Cub Scouts. As crazy as they were about security every other night—laser tracking, motion sensors, a live feed to the Chicago police—on Scout night, all hell broke loose. Thirty little soldiers with their dads and their sleeping bags camped out under the T-Rex, giggling and farting till morning. On Scout night, security went soft, so Annie brought me in and we pulled an all-nighter. It was our time together, the closest thing we ever had to a date, Annie so married to Egypt and all its treasures.
     I didn’t care much about Annie’s line of work—to me, the past was the past—but it was nice to hang out with her, see what she did, keep her interested in me for another couple of weeks. If I didn’t tag along on Scout night, we would never see each other. I’d sit at her side, write down stuff she dictated, carry five-thousand-year-old stone things around, and when she went upstairs, I’d escort. She was scared to death of the taxidermied animals in the west wing, every species of beast on the planet stuffed and posed in fake habitats, staring out with marble eyes. Truth? They scared me, too, even during the day, but when we came within a hundred feet of that exhibit, Annie held me tight, clenched me like I was going off to war. One time, not long after she started, I’d convinced her to have sex with me down in her office, her boss at some gala downtown. I sprawled out on her desk, she got on top. The coolest part was, on the examination table just three feet away, in this air-tight glass chamber, lay a mummy, a real mummy, some princess they’d found in a tomb not far from the pyramids. It was the closest we’d ever come to a threeway. First I imagined it was Rachel Weisz, and from there I went to Elizabeth Taylor. I didn’t last five minutes.