been a waif, and he has. He knows firsthand the rodent desperation of the truly rootless and fears
it. I think it’s why he continued until the very end to write Virgen Steel songs and make albums
even when he could no longer tour. Every two years, like seasons, there would be the tour. He
simply refused to stop making a product, though many critics began to say there was nothing
new there. He had to have something to sell, always.
“We have so much, herre,” was her refrain, accompanied by that dimpled soft smile as sweet as
an apple. He would growl and say it should be for their own first, and she would go on to ask
him if he saw his seven wanting for anything, anything at all, and of course they were not, in fact
they were spoiled, but she taught them good habits as well as how to be generous and how to
undermine a spouse’s fears with reason.
He would have to content himself with glowering at the strays and frightening off the worst of
them before they stole too much. They could hide nothing from him; their natures were as
transparent as window glass to him, while his Fru Bountiful steadfastly believed whatever they
told her for a sob story. She was polite that way, letting their lies unravel at their own natural
speed and then telling them goodbye.
until Lily the eldest began to interfere. For she was a natural leader, was Lily, with stardom
written upon her palms and shining from her brow. Her destined collaborators in the Moffs were
drawn to her by sheer magnetism from the far corners of the world.
The new regime of ‘Lily’s gang’ had already been founded when I was being born of Rufus’
misery in his horrid first marriage, though it gained in momentum when she began her own band
in her late teens. In this she was Daddy’s girl. Her musical talent got her discovered by an agent
who had no idea she was a descendant of Virgen Steel, in a London coffee bar the Moffs were
jamming in. They transcended the sad Pierrot ‘emo’ style that was in vogue with their overlord
vehemence, though they dressed to blend in with hair in multicolored streaks and white faces.
At that time she was still small enough to fit on his lap, not the runway model Valkyrie she grew
into later. So she got commiseration from Papa Steen about how to fire temperamental bassists,
or how to put out without making empty promises of forever. He didn’t mind Cammie, one of
the strays, becoming a permanent part of her life. He warned her about Chris and Tintin. He let
her make her own mistakes. But she overestimated her own influence with him.
That is because when it comes to the extrasensory, Lily Herren is as blind as a baseball bat. She
has his lovely hazel eyes, her mother’s curvaceous proportions writ large, a fabulous singing
voice, his athletic grace, and his scheming mind, but she also jumps without looking for a spot to
land. Nobody told her that the reason her father lands on his feet is because he can see five
headlines. ‘Moffing it up’ is what they call it now. And an early casualty was her parents’
Steen never let me into his private dreams; I’m not sure whether he could, not having imagined
me first. But he is in Rufus’ dreams quite a lot, as a guest, as I mentioned before. And both of us
could not help but notice he was having nightmares. He’d show up for a Rufus scripted night
adventure as if he’d just gotten away from something distasteful. And sometimes when he was in
the bed and Rufus had already finished sleeping, Steen would be moaning and mumbling that
mashed potato language he grew up with, so low I don’t even think a Dane could make it out.
The kicker, literally, was when he suddenly yelled “Anna!” And the blankets all flew onto the
floor when he sat up, shocked awake.
Rufus, as his band-mate took the sheet with him down the aisle of the bus toward the shower.
I took things into my own sparkly hands then and insistently dreamed of Steen until he made an
appearance there in my own dream space. That I have my own dreams shows how real I actually
am, and that I could imagine Steen clearly enough to bring him there pleased me.
My dream Steen had reddened, sore looking eyes. And for some reason his ears seemed
unusually large and pointed at the ends. “It’s because the children can’t tell what you really are.
Lily has heard of you, my dear, but she thinks you are a real woman someplace. She’s telling all
sorts of maerchen to Anna, and it is hurting us, as man and wife.”
I had tested Lily on that myself, as soon as Steen decided to bring her on tour with us this time.
He wanted her away from Chris and Tintin’s bad habits, two of the strays who were on their way
out of her circle a little too slowly for his fatherly taste. So he told her she should leave her
Moffs for a season and guest star with the Virgens. He got her a group of reliable backup
musicians, all old enough to mind their manners around him.
But no, Lily can’t hear my hum, can’t see my twinkle, and walks right through me like a ferret
going through a cobweb. Steen said it’s common for the wizard talents to skip a generation in
not even when I stuck my hand down his diaper. Ugh—never again…
“You have not been a parent, Heidi. We feel each hurt our children get. Yes, we even do not
mind the smell of the baby’s farts, because it is our child. This is instinct. If Anna believes these
silly things Lily repeats, she will take Bjarne away. It is like taking away one of my fingers.” He
began to cry big wet tears all over my dream space. Soon we were in a big puddle of them and
his nose was swollen and red. I held him all round with my marshmallowy soft and flexible
dream arms and did the best I could to coo and soothe. And I touched all his fingers with the
ones I’d been working on growing for myself, to reassure him.
layer, like scales of a fish. If I looked closely I could see little faces on each one where the nail
I thought of the little Heidi I’d had once in Rufus’ dreams and resolved to make myself one of
those again sometime. How different it would be though, to have a completely new individual,
not a copy of you at all, who was a part of you like that!
It was a bit frightening. How it must hurt to have them grow up and yet, what a relief to have
them no longer fighting against you to be the way they thought was best.
I looked down at the Lily finger, and her brother Nils; they were the two biggest. It was as if they
were developing cracks along where arms and legs should be. I saw the Lily finger wagging
itself as if trying to come loose from Steen’s poor hand. Nils was waving his head digit around a
bit as if looking about, though it had its eyes shut. But his was a lot less restive than Lily’s.
“No,” said Steen, “there’s no stopping it. They will grow up and be themselves. I only wish they
could see and hear as much as their weird father, that is all, my dear. But if I do tell them the
truth, the advokats for Anna will put me in the nut house where there will be no way to provide
for the children. She cannot think of you as anything but another human woman, my poor Lily.
And saying you do not exist is impossible at this point.”
was there, it had upset her rather a lot. She didn’t mind him pretending he had an incubus; that
she just took as another of his games. But for some reason, the feminine in Anna would not
tolerate someone of her own sex around her Steen. Perhaps she thought that she was no longer as
beautiful to him after all the things her body had been through to make the children.
We simply held each other until he woke up. Whatever came next was not going to be pleasant,
and it was bound to come, as surely as a hurricane.
The talk of the Herrens’ divorce is what got Patty started. She was a very tolerant woman; hadn’t
she taken in Junie and raised her as their own? If there had been other by-blows of Rufus’ own
DNA, she would even have taken them too. Tia and the boys were not raised to feel at all
superior to Junie, even if she looked nothing like the rest of them with that Orphan Annie fuzz of
caramel and her chocolate eyes.
pieces together, she finally realized that there was a closer bond between her husband and Steen
than could be accounted for professionally. They weren’t just workmates and drinking buddies.
Whether they shared a girl or not, what were they doing in the same bed? Did they touch each
other? Did they—
Sadly, when Rufus had been on the road, Patty had gotten involved with a local church, for
socializing and community support for herself and the children. They had summer camps and
Bible schools and the thought of what her Rufus was doing with other women was just part of
the way men were, but with another man? No . That was abomination. He would never touch her
She’d sort of slid away from him carefully every time he’d hugged her, this time he got home.
After dinner, in the TV room in their loungers, kids off to bed and her hands full of knitting and
his full of the remote, she’d finally just said it:
“Heidi is really Steen, isn’t she?” Her rage was pouring off her like heat off an electrical
element. She spent a lot of her self control on keeping her hands busy and her lip from curling
into a snarl.
The content Rufus had been feeling being back at home shattered like toffee hit with a hammer.
His eyes blackened to indigo and his face sagged in fifty places. Slowly, he just looked at her,
shaking his head. Then he turned back to the television and hid his eyes in his hand. He didn’t
know where to start.
He stayed so still and quiet while I did all the raging, despite the fact that she couldn’t see or hear
me. You hypocrite! What about the thousand and one girls he’s been with? Why didn’t they
bother you? How can you hate him for this? It’s love, too! I was tempted to fly at her and do—I
don’t know what. It wasn’t as if she was any sort of threat, nothing like a bar fight. She was just
sitting there, radiating her poison. In the end, all I could do was watch, and wait, just like her.
When at last words came from Rufus, they were in a hoarse whisper. “Don’t make me choose.” I
could feel the pain in his chest where his heart was being ground into pieces.
stood up with the neatly folded pile of blankets and said, “Sleep here.” The bedding landed with
a flomp on his lap.
His eyes were on her as she paused in the doorway. Her eyes looked a little more liquid now, not
steaming mad, and she was struggling with a lump in her throat as she spoke next. “I filed the
papers yesterday. We can keep it real quiet. I don’t want anybody talking trash about my
children’s father. Just don’t—touch me.” And we heard her hurrying upstairs.
Rufus didn’t sleep there. He stormed out and slammed the door so loud that I am certain Patty
heard it. Then he drove fifty miles to Catriona’s and picked up tequila on the way and drank it
with her when she got off her shift. No, Catriona can’t see me either, but she has an incredible
laugh. Everything in the world strikes her funny, including gruesome tragedy and lewd
lasciviousness, when it comes with tequila. Rufus and I needed to hear laughter very badly.
Even though the tour was over, within a few days both Steen and Rufus were back on the bus. It
took a month of wrestling and arguing before they decided on the best place to buy a house
where they could park it. The house is wholly owned by Steel Virgin Records Ltd and everything
in it contributes to the production of music. Including Beaver and me.
Lily and the Moffs are not allowed here. They made their own way to the place in the tabloids
Murray and Ole do. In the end, the critics took more notice of that than what Lily did, because it
changed the string lineup. The Virgens had been known for their ‘triple guitar attack’ up until
then, though now and then it was mandolin or lute in the case of Rufus.
Yes, Lily did it. Jurgen the snitch explained to her that he always counted the girls who got on
and off after a gig, and she found out that Jan the blowup doll had once been named Heidi from
Murray, and jumped to conclusions. Steen has never forgiven her, and his solution was not to tell
her she was no longer his daughter, but to tell her she was no longer allowed to associate with his
band. Moffs and Virgens don’t mix.