Author Note: If the reader hasn’t already done so I strongly suggest that you read part one, “A 60’s Tale | The Vanderlip Legend,” of this short trilogy before proceeding.
Ironically, Miss Clark’s English class for would be writers had opened my eyes to the world in ways that I had never imagined. Miss Clark had stunned my three new friends, and me but alas her beauty was only an illusion. Her real guile was to awaken the minds of sixteen year olds. Two magic words from her beautiful lips would later spur me on a lifelong search of new worlds and adventures… and the love of writing.
Those two words were, FRANK VANDERLIP, the subject of a class report that would bring four friends together on a somewhat obscure adventure that defied the Viet Nam War, became a somewhat “coming of age,” and forced me to endure my mother’s wrath such that I had never seen before…
Palos Verdes Peninsula
Because Narcissa Drive would be our destination I had searched for Narcissa in the dictionary. I couldn’t find the exact word, but I did find Narcissus:a beautiful youth in Greek mythology who pines away for love of his own reflection and is then turned into the narcissus flower. No way would I bring that topic up for discussion with the guys in our group.
<feature photo courtesy maureenmegowan.com
We had no precise plan Friday night as we drove up Hawthorne Boulevard in Bob’s Rambler (we had drawn straws for who drove). We had all passed our driver’s license test within the past three months.
The ride became quieter as Bob turned left off of Palos Verdes Boulevard in Portuguese Bend onto the narrow Narcissa Drive. Without the benefit of streetlights he navigated Narcissa Drive by a full moon and parking lights. Bob, also responsible for the stuff to bring, had included two flashlights for emergency use.
After we passed a small lane designated on the map Bob found a small turn out to park in. He turned off the ignition and lights. The four of us waited quietly for a house light to illuminate or worst of all, if someone called the police.
After several tense minutes I said, “Okay, let’s go,” surprising myself.
“Don’t slam the door,” Bob said.
“Why don’t you honk the horn?” Ron said to Bob. “There might be some stray dogs outside.”
“Shut up, Ron.”
The first thing of significance we saw after we trekked through the rich undergrowth toward our destination was a sign: NO TRESPASSING!
“We’ve reached the rear of the Vanderlip property,” Scott said with authority, despite a somewhat high-pitched voice that begged to be made fun of.
VIOLATORS WILL BE PROCECUTED
“Jeeze, I thought you guys researched this place,” Bob said, all nervous about bringing his car along.
“Look, that old sign is about to fall over,” Ron said. “The fence is a piece of cake.” He said it like our high school football game was about to begin and the coach had finished his pep talk (Ron was a starting defensive end on the varsity team).
“Yeah, let’s get this show on the road,” I said, sparked by Ron’s attitude. I could sum up each member’s psyche with one-word descriptions: I was the optimist. Ron (who masqueraded as a clown) was the realist. Bob was the pessimist. And Scott… well, he was many faceted, which is what I liked about him.
“Yeah, let’s get this game on the road,” Scott said, mimicking classmate Carlotta Pruitt’s high-pitched voice (from Miss Clark’s English class).
“Miss Clark would be proud of us,” I added and was besieged with “OH Miss Clark,” purrs from the other guys.
We decided to forgo flashlights. Both the light of the full moon and the Vanderlip mansion patio lights were sufficient for our views from the rear of the Vanderlip property. We stood on a “grassy knoll” that quickly descended into trees and shrubs that harbored strange animal sounds. On an elevated area about two hundred yards beyond stood the rear of the Vanderlip mansion. In the patio and backyard stood some kind of statue surrounded by Greek architecture that made me think of the weird Narcissus again.
We heard a far off barking noise. “Guard dogs?” Ron said.
“Doberman Pincer’s can tear you apart,” Bob said.
Admittedly, we hadn’t considered the possibility of guard dogs. “Let’s hang out here and observe for a while,” I said. We (Scott and me) learned that the Vanderlips owned a kind of zoo in the rear of the property. But it wasn’t clear if the animals were all gated up or not.
Ron growled into Bob’s ear and he jumped. “Jesus, Ron, you want the whole world to know we’re here. If we get caught I could lose my car.”
“Shhh!” Ron pointed off to the left and whispered, “I thought I saw something move.”
I didn’t know whether Ron was kidding or not. We froze for a good minute.
“It was probably a peacock,” Scott whispered.
Our plan had been a simple one: to spend the night here and then pee on the property before we left (a rite of passage thing). Considering the guard dogs (and possibly wild animals) we decided against venturing up to the mansion. If the dogs came we were only twenty yards from the back fence.
At midnight we ran out of things to say and do. We decided to prepare our grassy beds and call it a night.
I felt an object next to my foot. I reached down and lifted it. “Bob, shine your flashlight on this real quick.”
An Incredible Discovery
“Look at that,” Ron said. “It’s a big old egg.”
Our mission suddenly had purpose beyond our expectation. The only thing that could trump this was if the ghost showed up. We all marveled at the majestic egg until Scott shrieked, “Fa-rook! Fa-rook!”
“Jeeze, Scott,” Bob said. “Why don’t you just mosey up to the Vanderlips back porch and tell them we’re here.”
“It’s the sound a giant condor make. I thought I saw a condor fly over a minute ago,” Scott said. “That’s a condor egg.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about Scott,” Ron said, like he was the ultimate source on bird eggs.
“It could be an ostrich egg,” I said.
The deft silence underlined our thoughts about the incredibly large egg. Scott’s “giant condor egg” had conjured up the most vivid image. Tomorrow morning, we would all ascribe that title to my great find.
“What was that over there by that grove of trees?” Ron said.
“Shut up, Ron,” Bob said.
“There have been rumors that Frank Vanderlip kept animals from all over the earth… and even beasts from the past,” Ron said, suddenly all serious like. “Why else would the Kennedy family go out of their way to come out here?”
We could see the whites of his eyes by the light of the half moon. Ron’s big-eyed expression gathered us in. “Let me tell ya something. I’ve seen an egg like that before and man… I’m scared.”
“What are you talking about?” Bob said, in disbelief, but Ron had captured his imagination, too.
“Okay, let me tell ya then. You guys don’t understand. This guy Vanderlip is pal’s with the Kennedy’s and the Rothschild’s… and all those unimaginably rich families. They have access to stuff that we could never imagine… Like UFO’s and stuff.” Ron paused to capture our eyes before he continued. “My dad told me about them when he took me to the La Brea tar pits in L.A…” Ron lifted the egg from my hands. His eyes grew huge before he said, “Gentlemen… THIS is a dinosaur egg.”
Speechless, I glanced at Bob and then Scott. Their jaws had dropped, too, at the thought of the origin of this mysterious egg that Ron now returned to my hands.
Ron began a silent chuckle. He caught his breath and said, “I can’t believe you guys bought my dinosaur egg tale.”
The three of us lowered our heads and began dry laughter (like when there’s no noise, but an uncontrollable rolling of the gut). After I regained control of my senses I said, with serious intent, “Whatever it is, I’m going to take it home and hatch it.”
“How are you gonna do that, ace?” Scott said, as his eyes searched through the dark forest of shrubs.
“There’s always a way,” I said, having no idea how I would accomplish it… yet.
(To be continued)