By Rodger Jacobs
There was something wrong with Caleb from the first day Carla brought him home from Cedars-Sinai. As a baby he would lay on his back in the crib and stare fixedly at something only he could see in the north-west ceiling of his nursery. A psychic who worked as an advisor on a TV show that Carla was guest-starring in suspected a ghost and suggested that Carla burn white pillar candles and wild sage in the baby’s room to scare off the spectral intruder. All she succeeded in doing was nearly burning down her Mulholland Drive home.
When he was a year-and-a-half old, the infant Caleb - whose father was an anonymous sperm donor, fueling tabloid rumors about Carla – developed a fondness for the fish-shaped Goldfish soup crackers. Whenever Carla asked “Do you want some Goldfish?” Caleb always replied with one terse word: “Sop.”
By the time Caleb turned two he still insisted that soup crackers were “sop.” One Sunday morning Carla sat at the kitchen table with the New York Times crossword puzzle. And there it was. 52-Down. A three-letter French word for soup cracker: sop.
Carla became convinced that Caleb was a reincarnated Frenchman, a conviction that was solidified on another Sunday afternoon. (Sunday was Carla’s only full day to spend with her boy. The Monday through Friday slot in her Day Planner was overrun with auditions and callbacks. Saturday was reserved for shopping at Gelson’s and The Beverly Center.) On this particular Sunday, Carla was curled up on the couch watching an A&E documentary about Hitler’s occupation of France. She was auditioning the next day for the lead in a musical theater adaptation of “Sophie’s Choice”. She wanted to learn as much about the Hitler scourge as possible.
Young Caleb came toddling into the living room just as an image of German troops goose-stepping through the streets of Paris flashed on the screen. The flaxen-haired little boy took one look at the vintage war footage and “without missing a beat”, as Carla explained, said “Look! Nazis!” And then he calmly returned to playing with his foam rubber Sesame Street building blocks.
“How would a two-year old child know the French word for soup cracker and be able to call a Nazi by name?” Carla asked her acting coach after a particularly grueling session wherein Carla was instructed to perform the role of an egg frying in a pan. She borrowed heavily from Jack Nicholson for the bit.
Both Carla and her coach agreed that past life experience intruding in the present could be the only answer to Caleb’s cryptic abilities.
In the ensuing months Carla bought every book on transmigration of the soul that she could find. She haunted the Bodhi Tree and Book Soup. A clerk at the Psychic Eye Book Shop in Burbank slipped her an Edgar Cayce book on reincarnation in exchange for an autographed 8x10 for her adoring daughter.
“Himmler!” Caleb shouted with glee one day. He had been looking over his mother’s shoulder as she leafed through a Time-Life book of photographic essays on World War Two. She had been accepted for the lead in “Sophie! The Musical” and was doing a little extra Sunday afternoon research.
A visibly stunned Carla moved a finger across the page and pointed at the image of a rather dowdy-looking woman in a haus-frau’s dress standing next to Heinrich Himmler.
“Who’s that?” Carla asked in her best sing-song voice. She didn’t want the child to know how alarmed she was.
“Eva!” Caleb giggled.
“And who is this?” Her finger tip rested on the dark, mustached face of Eva Braun’s other companion.
“Daddy!” Caleb shrieked.
The next morning Carla called The Shubert Organization in New York and declined the role of Sophie. She then phoned her business manager, informed him of her decision, and asked him to put her in touch with the best adoption agency in L.A.
“I have to get rid of Caleb,” she said with crisp bluntness. “He has more bad karma than I need in my life right now.”
© 2004, Rodger Jacobs
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