Mr Lupescu is a strange horror story by Anthony Boucher. It’s about a young boy who comes up with an imaginary friend when his mother leaves his father for another man.
The teacups rattled, and flames flickered over the logs.
“Alan, I do wish you could do something about Bobby.”
“Isn’t that rather Robert’s place?”
“Oh you know Robert. He’s so busy doing good in nice abstract ways with committees in them.”
“He can’t be bothered with things like Mr. Lupescu. After all, Bobby’s only his son.”
“And yours, Marjorie.”
“And mine. But things like this take a man, Alan.”
The room was warm and peaceful; Alan stretched his long legs by the fire and felt domestic. Marjorie was soothing even when she fretted. The firelight did things to her hair and the curve of her blouse.
A small whirlwind entered at high velocity and stopped only when Marjorie said, “Bob-by! Say hello nicely to Uncle Alan.”
Bobby said hello and stood tentatively on one foot.
“Alan…” Marjorie prompted.
Alan sat up straight and tried to look paternal.
“Well, Bobby,” he said. “And where are you off to in such a hurry?”
“See Mr. Lupescu ‘f course. He usually comes afternoons.”
“Your mother’s been telling me about Mr. Lupescu. He must be quite a person.”
“Oh gee I’ll say he is, Uncle Alan. He’s got a great big red nose and red gloves and red eyes — not like when you’ve been crying but really red like yours’re brown — and little red wings that twitch only he can’t fly with them cause they’re ruddermentary he says. And he talks like— oh gee I can’t do it, but he’s swell, he is.”
“Lupescu’s a funny name for a fairy godfather, isn’t it, Bobby?”
“Why? Mr. Lupescu always says why do all the fairies have to be Irish because it takes all kinds, doesn’t it?”
“Alan!” Marjorie said. “I don’t see that you’re doing a bit of good. You talk to him seriously like that and you simply make him think it is serious. And you do know better, don’t you, Bobby? You’re just joking with us.”
“Joking? About Mr. Lupescu?”
“Marjorie, you don’t—Listen, Bobby. Your mother didn’t mean to insult you or Mr. Lupescu. She just doesn’t believe in what she’s never seen, and you can’t blame her. Now, supposing you took her and me out in the garden and we could all see Mr. Lupescu. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
“Uh-uh.” Bobby shook his head gravely. “Not for Mr. Lupescu. He doesn’t like people. Only little boys. And he says if I ever bring people to see him, then he’ll let Gorgo get me. G’bye now.” And the whirlwind departed.
Marjorie sighed. “At least thank heavens for Gorgo. I never can get a very clear picture out of Bobby, but he says Mr. Lupescu tells the most terrible things about him. And if there’s any trouble about vegetables or brushing teeth, all I have to say is Gorgo and hey presto!”
Alan rose. “I don’t think you need worry, Marjorie. Mr. Lupescu seems to do more good than harm, and an active imagination is no curse to a child.”
“You haven’t lived with Mr. Lupescu.”
“To live in a house like this, I’d chance it,” Alan laughed. “But please forgive me now — back to the cottage and the typewriter… Seriously, why don’t you ask Robert to talk with him?”
Marjorie spread her hands helplessly.
“I know. I’m always the one to assume responsibilities. And yet you married Robert.”
Marjorie laughed. “I don’t know. Somehow there’s something about Robert…”
Her vague gesture happened to include the original Degas over the fireplace, the sterling tea service, and even the liveried footman who came in at that moment to clear away.
Mr. Lupescu was pretty wonderful that afternoon, all right. He had a little kind of an itch like in his wings and they kept twitching all the time. Stardust, he said. It tickles. Got it up in the Milky Way. Friend of mine has a wagon route up there.
Mr. Lupescu had lots of friends, and they all did something you
wouldn’t ever think of, not in a squillion years. That’s why he didn’t like people, because people don’t do things you can tell stories about. They just work or keep house or are mothers or something.
But one of Mr. Lupescu’s friends, now, was captain of a ship, only it went in time, and Mr. Lupescu took trips with him and came back and told you all about what was happening this very minute five hundred years ago. And another of the friends was a radio engineer, only he could tune in on all the kingdoms of faery and Mr. Lupescu would squiggle up his red nose and twist it like a dial and make noises like all the kingdoms of faery coming in on the set.
And then there was Gorgo, only he wasn’t a friend — not exactly; not even to Mr. Lupescu.
They’d been playing for a couple of weeks—only it must’ve been
really hours, cause Mamselle hadn’t yelled about supper yet, but Mr. Lupescu says Time is funny—when Mr. Lupescu screwed up his red eyes and said, “Bobby, let’s go in the house.”
“But there’s people in the house, and you don’t-”
“I know I don’t like people. That’s why we’re going in the house. Come on, Bobby, or I’ll-”
So what could you do when you didn’t even want to hear him say Gorgo’s name? He went into Father’s study through the French window, and it was a strict rule that nobody ever went into Father’s study, but rules weren’t for Mr. Lupescu.
Father was on the telephone telling somebody he’d try to be at a
luncheon but there was a committee meeting that same morning but he’d see. While he was talking, Mr. Lupescu went over to a table and opened a drawer and took something out. When Father hung up, he saw Bobby first and started to be very mad.
He said, “Young man, you’ve been trouble enough to your Mother and me with all your stories about your red-winged Mr. Lupescu, and now if you’re to start bursting in-”
You have to be polite and introduce people. “Father, this is Mr.
Lupescu. And see, he does too have red wings.”
Mr. Lupescu held out the gun he’d taken from the drawer and shot Father once right through the forehead. It made a little clean hole in front and a big messy hole in back. Father fell down and was dead.
“Now, Bobby,” Mr. Lupescu said, “a lot of people are going to come here and ask you a lot of questions. And if you don’t tell the truth about exactly what happened, I’ll send Gorgo to fetch you.”
Then Mr. Lupescu was gone through the French window.
“It’s a curious case, Lieutenant,” the medical examiner said. “It’s fortunate I’ve dabbled a bit in psychiatry; I can at least give you a lead until you get the experts in. The child’s statement that his fairy godfather shot his father is obviously a simple flight mechanism, susceptible of two interpretations: (A), the father shot himself; the child was so horrified by the sight that he refused to accept it and invented this explanation. (B), the child shot the father, let us say by accident, and shifted the blame to his imaginary scapegoat. (B) has, of course, its more sinister implications: if the child had resented his father and created an ideal substitute, he might make the substitute destroy the reality… But there’s the solution to your eyewitness testimony; which alternative is true, Lieutenant, I leave up to your researches into motive and the evidence of ballistics and fingerprints. The angle of the wound jibes with either.”
The man with the red nose and eyes and gloves and wings walked down the back lane to the cottage. As soon as he got inside, he took off his coat and removed the wings and the mechanism of strings and rubber that made them twitch. He laid them on top of the ready pile of kindling and lit the fire.
When it was well started, he added the gloves. Then he took off the nose, kneaded the putty until the red of its outside vanished into the neutral brown of the mass, jammed it into a crack in the wall, and smoothed it over. Then he took the red-irised contact lenses out of his brown eyes and went into the kitchen, found a hammer, pounded them to powder, and washed the powder down the sink.
Alan started to pour himself a drink and found, to his pleased surprise, that he didn’t especially need one. But he did feel tired. He could lie down and recapitulate it all, from the invention of Mr. Lupescu (and Gorgo and the man with the Milky Way route) to today’s success and on into the future when Marjorie — pliant, trusting Marjorie — would be more
desirable than ever as Robert’s widow and heir. And Bobby would need a man to look after him.
Alan went into the bedroom. Several years passed by in the few seconds it took him to recognize what was waiting on the bed, but then, Time is funny.
Alan said nothing.
“Mr. Lupescu, I presume?” said Gorgo.