robertisenberg

Excavation #1: The Castle

In Germany, Uncategorized on May 2, 2011 at 5:12 pm

The Excavation series is excerpted from my MFA thesis, entitled Ruins. These short chapters deal with youthful imagination and an increasing desire to explore the world. Photograph of Castle Isenberg, as imagined by a Westphalian artist.


Mom told me to find Lucas. He was in the basement, she said. I hopped down the strange stairs. I didn’t know this house. I didn’t even really know Lucas—just the son of my Mom’s friend. When I reached the carpet, I saw a very big room. Bigger than any room in my house. The walls were cinderblock, and the floor was scattered with toys. Tanks and action figures and plastic guns.

But when I saw the Castle, everything else faded. A single light shined over it, and everything else turned to darkness. All the walls were made of balsawood, but they were supposed look like stone. A drawbridge fell from a gatehouse’s mouth. All along the battlements, knights stood at the ready. They wielded swords and halberds. Gloved hands whirled flails, and shields parried blows. And their armor—the silver armor actually gleamed.

Lucas sat behind it, a giant surveying his kingdom. His eyelids drooped beneath his blond bowl-cut, not because he was bored but because he was concentrating. He fixed a knight into a plastic horse, using the little nub to lock them together. Then he placed the horseman in the middle of his cavalry unit.

“Oh,” said my dad.

I looked up. Dad was standing over me. He nodded, as if he’d expected me to find this here.

“What is it?” I whispered.

“It’s a castle,” my Dad said.

“A kassel,” I echoed, though I couldn’t picture the new word. I scanned the armies with my eyes. They were arrayed in mid-battle, their swords all frozen in the air, ready to deal killing blows. Some knights had already toppled. I yearned to touch them, move them around, make the scene move. I wanted to know everything about them, because I didn’t know any of these words yet—knights, armor, halberds, gatehouse. I swore to find every picture book in my parents’ den, and then I would find every book in the library, and then I’d ask for more books for Christmas. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and Alexandr Nevsky would become my favorite movies. I would draw pictures of castles, dress as a Crusader for Halloween, memorize the dossier of every knight at King Arthur’s table. I would beg my parents to travel to England to see these castles up-close. I’d see any rough stone wall and pretend it was a castle ruin. I would study Latin. I would minor in Medieval Studies.

But it all began here. A relic of history. The remains of things lost. And I would try, try to set it all in motion, because the beauty of ruins is that they are as alive as the imagination.

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