This is for my fellow wanderers to whom I’ve been sewn with golden thread by the thousand little hands of trust and desire.
– Ratty Scurvics
November 12, in the Year of Our Lord Two-Thousand and Four
I got into a car chase today with four ring-tailed lemurs in a Chevy. The sons-a-bitches drive up to my trailer every morning and take turns biting Caligula, my dog. A Pomeranian.
This morning I staked the Evil Ones out, hiding behind my trailer’s hitch. When they came to a stop and started jumping out of the Chevy’s windows toward Caligula, I sprung forth swinging tazers and snared one of them. The rest made a dash in a flurry of falsetto curses and sped away. But, not so fast Evil Ones. The secret is this: lawn mower engine+dragon kite= airborne avenger.
I lifted off with a seizing lemur and a dazzled little Caligula becoming smaller below me. Unfortunately, though, the quick ties holding the kite to the engine tore and I plummeted to the dirt (but not before I was out of Caligula’s sight, she’s still very impressed with me). Without taking a moment to consider my broken crown I stole the first car I saw and tore ass after the Evil Ones.
It wasn’t an easy chase and I ended up in jail, but now the lemurs know I’m onto them and won’t be such an easy target. Peractum Est.
When my wife left me she ran her fingers through my beard and, shoveling into my eyes with extreme kindness and surrender, said, “Darling, you’re too vacuous.”
She was correct; of course, a man of such insurmountable libido as myself must surely be blessed with vacuousness as well. She was a very bright bulb.
I thought about her from time to time when the garbage had to be taken to the dump. In order to sidestep misery I moved my trailer to the landfill so now I toss refuse out of the window with impunity and never consider my loneliness. Caligula knows me; she is a kindred soul and my only friend.
Because I am a very important man, and refuse to use the telephone, my secretary, the Ghost of Connie Francis, grew concerned that the grip on my empire was weakening and, being the dutiful secretary she is, placed this machine I am typing on now in my ex-wife’s new house for me to obtain. She did this so it would seem like my idea. She is very considerate but absolutely transparent.
When the lemur tied up in my closet comes out of his coma I will ask him why God made me so vacuous, and why my ex-wife couldn’t be a stronger woman. He is an Evil One; they have insights on many mysteries.
The Evil Ones drove past my house very slowly today, three times. On the second pass I was prepared. I cut the tail off of a raccoon hat and waved it menacingly, daring them to cross a line in the dirt. They were fooled and horrified, believing it was the tail of their compatriot I snapped in the air like a lasso.
Afterward I heard on the radio that Jesus died. This made me sad because he slept under my trailer last week and promised to teach me how to make rock candy. He told me he was on his way to Reno to become a showgirl. What a shame to die before your dreams are realized. But why anyone would want to beat him up is beyond me.
Whenever you turn on the radio you hear something awful. If it’s not a murder or a war, it’s a broken heart or a malicious vendetta.
I’m beginning to suspect that too many stupid people were born at the same time. I will ask the Ghost of Connie Francis what can be done about it.
While I was weeping over the death of Jesus the Evil Ones drove by again, this time dragging a dummy leg behind the car. I’m not so gullible as that, but I am concerned about Caligula. She won’t eat goldfish. I think this whole mess is getting to her.
The Pied Piper showed up at my place this morning with dozens of screaming, filthy little children. He was calling in a debt he believes that I owe him. I said the same thing I did centuries ago, “You can have all the damn rats and the children too. I have no use for either.”
Among the children I recognized my niece. Poor little thing, the ass obviously does not change diapers. I gave her a bath and let her play with Caligula before the Piper struck up his song and led all the hypnotized kids into a tunnel in the face of a trash heap.
Caligula looked up at me and insisted I get something to eat. She said I’ve had nothing for days but dead leaves and it was making me a challenge to be around. So I pissed in my truck’s radiator and went to town.
An old spinster named Millie gave me an apple and told me I was awful to behold, that I looked dirty and worn out. I responded that there was a good reason for this because I wear the world on my shoulders; it’s heavy and filthy. She gave me another apple. While I ate it she sang a ditty about mountain marriage but I placed the intention right before dazzling occurred.
She is the Pied Piper’s sister and this song was intended to trick me into delivering my fortune to her. I left swiftly and returned to Caligula. She is the only gem in a toolbox of corroded, useless spark plugs
I had an awful and beautiful dream last night. Caligula died, this was awful. I took her outside into the night to bury her when a cloud of fireflies landed on the branches of a dead tree. They made the perfect image of a showgirl in profile, kicking and smiling like an angry monkey. This was beautiful. Then I skinned Caligula, fashioned a seat cover out of her pelt for a motorcycle I don’t own in life and rode naked to Reno to become a showgirl for poor dead Jesus.
When I awoke I discovered that the lemur managed to untie itself and get out of the closet. The Evil One is nowhere to be found in the trailer but all day Caligula showed me fresh bite marks so I know he is here, somewhere among us.
I traveled far away recently to visit an idol maker. He carves lazy pigs out of wood watching television in their underwear. A few times a year I go to him to collect the wood shavings. They are a fantastic emetic.
During the journey back it rained saltwater and I walked through an entire country without seeing a thing. At one point I took a train that traveled past an industrial park. I am fascinated by these creatures with their enormous joints and violent music. They are deteriorating lace, freestanding like exposed beds of coral on the rim of a dying sea.
I discovered my autobiography in an Indian gift shop. It was in the western adventure section, but I’m not a cowboy; and honestly, I haven’t written an autobiography.
According to the book, I come from Arizona, which is a lie, and I rustle – I have no concept of rustling. This is a hoax! A daydream. Maybe a defamation project by John Arundel.
I am pleased to be home. Caligula is so happy she is eating goldfish again.
Once while I was hiding out in the Vatican archives I discovered an ancient map. I won’t tell you why I was in hiding or why I chose the archives to secret myself but I will say that I had years to explore the catacombs.
The map was fragile. I think it was drawn on a grocery bag in colored pencil. The eastern hemisphere was meticulously rendered, even to the flakes of dandruff on grazing kine. It was while I studied this map that the Ghost of Connie Francis first approached me. I think she knew the time had come for me to have a secretary.
Always helpful, she brought my attention to an unfamiliar landform. Scrawled across its mass was a word in bizarre script that could only be described as bullshit. Nevertheless, it did wake me up to the idea that there are parts of the world I don’t know about. It was an enormous island beneath India, stretching almost to the Indonesian archipelagos.
The Ghost of Connie Francis tapped me on my shoulder, as she noticed I was contemplative, and began to sing, “This land is Lemuria. Home of the Evil Ones.”
At that moment I realized I had to leave and find another hideout. I was turning into a lost book.
The Pied Piper took a wrong turn and led the children through a tunnel that came out behind Niagara Falls. Some of the younger ones drowned, which is a shame. He almost went to jail but discovered a tunnel in the floorboard of the cop car on his way there. The children, who were taken to an orphanage, were nowhere to be found the next morning. I heard about it on the radio from an irate announcer.
When I’d heard enough and turned the radio off Caligula ran up to show me a fresh lemur bite. I swept her up and ran outside toward the forest at the dump’s edge. The Evil One followed me, although not exactly him, but his shape – his pellucid likeness in mass. He loudly and pompously sang the mountain marriage song the Piper’s sister knew while he promenaded into the wood behind me strutting like a Frankfurt dandy with spring on his mind.
I found a coke can to hide in but the opening was too small for Caligula and me both. I frenetically threw my head back at a sudden noise and a tree frog leaped onto my forehead, suctioning with his toes. It complained about lavatory security with the radio announcer’s voice!
There was no pulling the son-of-a-bitch off my face and in the struggle I fell to the ground. Caligula darted immediately, eating him. She is my heroine!
When I returned to my trailer there was a very tall, naked marionette cooking at my stove.
She threw her arms across her nakedness and did everything she could to curse without making a sound. All you could hear was the clapping of wood against wood. I understood perfectly and stepped outside to give her privacy.
In a moment she opened the door and allowed me inside. She had put on a gown that looked like a patchwork of cowboy boots decorated with birthday cake icing. This gown stiffly enveloped her and I imagine it would retain its shape if she collapsed. Then she served me a wondrous repast with pepper on everything. Lots of pepper!
I don’t know very much about her yet but she is welcome. I relish her silence and at night she hangs herself up in the closet to sleep.
I noticed something this morning I’m not sure I should have.
When I crept out of my room (as I’m in the habit of doing now in hopes of catching the loose lemur), I observed her, the marionette, involved in her morning ritual. She was applying a lattice of birthday cake icing to her gown. Although her features are painted on a wooden face, they displayed a quiet concentration that moved me.
I returned to my bedroom and after waiting a minute or two for her to finish I jumped on my bed to feign getting out of it. She was demur, behaved as though she was born in a garden of icing flowers. Caligula was already devouring her goldfish and the room was fragrant with a scent I didn’t quite recognize but resembled an attic familiar with centuries of secrets.
The Ghost of Connie Francis has demanded that I pay less attention to the maid she hired and devote myself to these memoirs. Ordinarily, such a contumelious slip would be unforgivable, but if you saw her when she was that serious, in a swoon – hopping from foot to foot and singing like the brokenhearted- I’m certain you’d let her trespass decorum whenever she was inclined. It’s appropriate in any case because I had a visit from my poor dead niece today.
She appeared, alone (without the Piper in lead or dozens of children behind), and unfurled the most tragic story.
The night of Niagara Falls she and the other children were deeply asleep for once after centuries of dancing at the Piper’s whim when he marched through a wall and picked up that abhorrent, but irresistible, song again. The children got to their feet and followed him into the large dormitory bathroom. He made them dance one by one down into the toilet.
Every child drowned.
This is what she came to tell me, that at last she and others from Hamelin were free to go to Heaven. Then she crawled into a nickel that was lying on the ground. It popped on its side and rolled away out of sight.
Long ago, I had a big sister who gave me a rag doll to play with called Niece. I learned that Niece was real, only very small and her true name was Agneta (who is now inside of a nickel in heaven). When the Piper came three years later, she was fully capable of dancing with him. As for myself, I was lame. My legs were misshapen, unusable, but the music he played was so magical I couldn’t stand to be left behind. I had the desire to dance for the first time. When I saw the blind girl Jarvinia stumbling but trying to follow I called to her, “Jarvinia, together we can go with them. Let me climb onto your back. I’ll tell you where to go and you can carry me.”
She agreed and soon we caught up.
The Piper led everyone to Poppenburg where an entrance appeared in the rock face. They were told to dance ahead into it. We were last and the Piper stopped us.
“Go back home kids. No one can come who can’t dance.” I asked him when they would be back.
“Never, your grownups took me for an idiot.”
That’s when I started to cry, considering the absence of my friends, of Agneta.
“Look, cut it out!” he said.” This may work to my advantage.” He handed me a scroll.
“Give this to your grownups. Tell them if they want to pay the children will dance back, but they have to come to me.”
He touched both of us with his golden flute. My legs uncurled and I could stand, eyesight came to Jarvinia.
“Now go home and tell your parents!”
Jarvinia spoke up,” But they’ll never believe us. We’ll die before we convince them.”
“No you won’t,” replied the Piper, “you are like me now and we aren’t the sort that dies. Whether or not your parents pay me, which I doubt because I’ve made it nearly impossible, the debt will be remembered forever through the two of you as a lesson to anyone who thinks I am a fool.”
I threw his scroll to the dirt and yelled, “You are a fool! You can have all the damn rats and the children too. I have no use for either.”
I was jealous of the others who got to go. He smirked indifferently, then resumed his song and walked in after the children. The entrance closed and became a wall of stones.
I have been ill recently and unable to write. I’m convalescing but it still required an effort to remember the story correctly until the Maid force fed me olives and helped my memory return.
I left off at Poppenberg on St John and Paul’s day 1284.
We walked back to town very slowly and spoke little. The amazement over being healed was brief and tainted by its consequences. I can say with certainty that neither Jarvinia nor I ever celebrated the event. As soon as we came to our homes we were beaten for lying about what happened to the children of Hamelin. What would have been a joyous miracle, our healing, had the same effect on our parents as it did on us, temporary and shadowed.
I ran back to Poppenberg with Jarvinia. Under the circumstances we didn’t know what else to do but hope that the Piper would return for us. Then, despairing, I chased down a loose pig and slaughtered it. Jarvinia demanded to know what this was all about. Had I lost my head? But there was a plan.
I made her assist me in eviscerating the animal and draped its guts in the tree limbs, over bushes – smearing blood. Then we went back to the townspeople, telling them that all the children were kidnapped or butchered. We could show them where.
At Poppenberg, the mothers were wailing, destroyed, scooping handfuls of meat into their aprons to bury. Jarvinia happened to notice the scroll on the ground; she hid it in her shirt and signaled to me not to say a word. She was a smart girl and understood that we had screwed things up so badly by this point that the Piper’s scroll would ruin us.
For now, this is all have the strength to write. I hear hissing and the sound is exhausting me.
I cannot believe it! The hissing sound was the air going out of my trailer. Now I am trapped inside of a vacuum, the door won’t open. I heard the Evil Ones tear ass in their Chevy moments after I realized the problem. I know it was they because of the stench of wet ferret. I will have to saw my way out when my strength returns. Until then the Ghost of Connie Francis insists that this is a perfect opportunity to write, there is nothing else to do – not even breathe. The maid has taken to cooking by friction because the stove won’t light for lack of oxygen. She furiously rubbed two pieces of bread together until she made toast, which I am now eating with Caligula at my feet. I know it all sounds ideal but I’m not happy. So again with the tale, at least in my memory I am somewhere else.
When we returned to Hamelin Jarvinia and I were outcasts. We were never abused or asked another question, but we caused discomfort for everyone. Now there were no children to play with and no adults forced us to behave. We were satellites of each other, alone in loneliness. I stopped going home when my sister lost her mind from mourning for Agneta and took up throwing eggs at the walls. She would not do anything else. The house reeked of rot and every surface had an integument of slime.
Jarvinia led me to a shack in the woods. She brought food and blankets to me. Then one day her father discovered the scroll. It hadn’t been hidden well enough. Disaster followed.
The scroll contained a map with directions to the Piper’s hideout. We hadn’t looked at it. This made me very upset. Could we have just paid him long ago and had Agneta back? Why did I follow through with the decision to fake a mass murder? At the time, the ruse seemed like the only way to explain the children’s disappearance without being beaten more. What was the result? Abandonment and ostracation. But, in a way, I was vindicated. For a time, at least, I inadvertently saved the poor parents of Hamelin from an even more awful truth. Yes, the children were alive but they could never be retrieved. The Piper’s home was across the endless ocean in a land never conceived of by the townsfolk. He may as well have told them to go to the Hesperides, to Avalon, to Jupiter.
Jarvinia returned to the shack to tell me she was being sent away after that and it was the last time I saw her until much later. She was my only friend and I wanted to know what happened to her so I ventured into town to ask. When I got to her house our unusual situation was clear. Her brother answered the door and I hardly recognized him. When the Piper’s abduction occurred he was a young man; the person who faced me was ancient, near the grave. I was still a child.
Just now I looked out of the window and noticed the trailer is floating off of the ground. I have to see what in hell is going on!
We’ve been floating around for days now, hovering over the landfill. The only thing keeping us stationary is an extension cord I jacked into a power line. I made the decision to cut the umbilical. If I’m airborne then I want to go somewhere.
There, it’s done and now we are loose in the sky like a balloon. Something happened when we began moving, the Ghost of Connie Francis sang the mountain marriage song. In an attempt to understand why this damn ditty is following me I will write some of it down:
Oh, I’m a’livin and a’lovin in the middle of my mountain Where the sunshine’s all around us, my baby and me
It still doesn’t mean much. How could the sun be shining inside of a mountain? Obviously it’s a love-delusion like the usefulness of 80-year-old wedding cake. Caligula enjoys it though; she hops around like there is the smell of roast beef in the air. I’m tempted to ask the Ghost of Connie Francis what the song is about but you have to understand, there are things you just can’t discuss with a ghost.
Below, the town is very small. People are watching us float by. They remind me of the wee people. Can you believe God had the idea of making such tiny beings? The wee people can fit in the palm of your hand. They are very nimble and intelligent, often understanding your mind better than you do. I met them when I was trying to get to England and visit Jarvinia.
I spent years traveling after that last visit to Hamelin. There was a curse on me: I was growing up just very, very slowly. I was absolutely restless and run out of every place I went. At first it would be all right – I pretended to be an orphan pauper and live from charities, but then, over years, my curse would become evident and the townsfolk sent me walking back to the Devil. I came to the conclusion that the only person in the world who could know me was Jarvinia. She was in the same condition as I was, an ageless
wanderer trapped inside of a fairy tale.
I made my way to the coast and discovered there was no swimming across the channel. I was young you have to remember, I’d never seen anything wider than a river, the ocean seemed impossible. Distraught, I sat on a beach and had one bad idea after another. Then the wee people appeared. They encircled me before I even saw them approaching. They asked a million questions about my plight. I told them my curse and about Jarvinia, how I must get to my friend over all that water. “Simple!” they shouted, and ran back into the forest. Soon they returned with an enormous spool of golden thread.
With swiftness and industry, they set to work and by nightfall they had woven a rope that stretched from the beach to England. Then they attached an apple basket to it and explained that I was to sit in the basket and pull myself across. I did, but not before I gave each little savior a kiss on the cheek. That wasn’t the last time I saw them, we’ve encountered each other often since.
I can’t leave the vessel. I am forced to see where I am. Dead flowers are becoming dust in the carpet. They are everywhere and I like it. I will tell you why.
Before I began to pull myself across the channel, a wee person jumped up onto my shoulder and gave me instructions. They affixed the other end of the rope to a cave entrance on the English coast; I was to wind the golden rope into a ball and roll it inside (now it was mine) then continue walking through the cave. Eventually I’d encounter a troll walking with his midnightmare and I should ask him where Jarvinia was.
I had questions. Firstly, why would they give the rope to me? It was an astonishing amount of gold, a fortune. Secondly, why should I go into a cave to seek out a troll; and what in the world is a midnightmare?
As for the gold they assured me it was nothing to them, the midnightmare was the reason. You see, an unusual thing happens in some cellars, caves or at the bottoms of some wells after midnight: midnight grass grows. The midnightmare is a subterranean horse that grazes on this special grass. They are herded by trolls who take them out to graze every night. As for the gold, it is left behind in the midnightmare’s hoof prints so, wherever midnightmares graze, the ground is thick with gold dust. This troll they were sending me to was a kind one and aware of all the touched humans in the kingdom. I followed their advice and after I hid the ball of golden rope, I ventured into the cave.
After many hours, the floor began to shimmer with light. If you can imagine seeing the surface of a pond with torches burning on its bottom you will come close to understanding what a strange and gorgeous vision it was. A meadow then sprung from the cave floor of slender, active blades of grass moving like wiggling fingers. In the distance I saw a short, pudgy troll in a ragged cloak, and beside him, his grazing midnightmare. I approached him and asked if he knew of a cursed girl named Jarvinia from across the sea.
Yes, he knew exactly the person I was talking about and could take me to her. I was ecstatic. He said if I walked with him we’d pass by a place where I could find her.
We made our way through the caverns feeding the midnightmare (and, yes, it was true, behind her she left a trail of golden hoof prints) until we reached a tunnel that was more brightly lit than the rest. A well ended there and its eye allowed moonlight to enter the cave. He told me to look up the well. At its mouth, ten feet or so overhead, was the silhouette of a girl sitting on its rim. It was Jarvinia! I almost called out to her when the troll stopped me. He put his hand to my mouth and led me to his midnightmare. With his hideous little fingers he pulled a hair from her tail and the hair became a flower. This flower had translucent, sapphire petals and at its heart was a small flame that shone through to cast a delicate bluish light onto the cave walls. He then put it between his hands and clapped. The flower shot up the well and hovered near Jarvinia’s ear. By its light I could see her face and the happiness that the gift put there. She plucked it from the air and tried to look down the well but I was pulled aside by the troll so she couldn’t see me.
“Now, tomorrow night meet me here again and we will do the same.” he said.
Why not call out to her and let her know I was there? He insisted I trust him so I did. We continued doing this for many nights.
I discovered that the magic flowers always died in the morning, that they dried out as soon as the sun hit them. Today I want to believe that every dead flower I come across was once as beautiful as the magic ones from the midnightmare’s tail. This is why I surrounded myself with them.
Three important things were made evident to me last night. The trailer is steering itself; it is not a vacuum but filled with buoyant gas; and poor Caligula has not been for her “walk” in a week.
All of these truths blossomed in my mind as I was eating a cheeseburger the Maid cooked for me. That she made a cheeseburger through the agency of friction alone is… I don’t know what to say. But many things in the world make no sense at all. Her process may have initiated my new mental activity.
Now that I am smart, I decided to instruct Caligula how to use the toilet because she is an exceptionally nervous dog. I realized this was not going to be a simple enterprise and drank copious amounts of beer so I would be able to urinate many times consecutively. She needed an example.
Once I was prepared to begin instruction Caligula didn’t seem to be in the mood to pee, so I gave her copious amounts of beer too. Then I became completely drunk and was not smart anymore. We took to howling and peeing anywhere we felt like it. The maid almost broke out in termites she was so appalled. She ran around behind us with a sponge putting her friction expertise into practice by furiously mopping up our urine as soon as we made it and leaving behind little floating pools of smoke all over the trailer.
When we were finished and exhausted from all that joy, we fell asleep embracing on the floor. We swore to maintain our high regard for each other when we overcame the nausea. This afternoon when I heaved my wounded mass upright I was pleased to see Caligula pissing in the sink. Its fine, I think she absorbed the essentials of the lesson. Using the sink is acceptable.
The trailer ran out of gas. She let herself down in a vacant lot across the street from a chapel. When I left to examine our new surroundings a wedding erupted from the chapel in a glittery storm of anise and satin.
A woman apparently married a gorilla that seemed to have the kindest disposition and a true mind behind his brow. As I walked up to congratulate him I had memories of my own wedding.
There wasn’t much love between us, she simply told me she had puppies in the oven and needed a man who wouldn’t get in her hair. This hair of her’s was no good for nesting so the condition didn’t trouble me. Cooking puppies, on the other hand, seemed like a cruel idea and I swore to keep a careful eye on Caligula.
We wed but she took off in a few months to begin a new life as a setter of hair, maybe to make other women’s hair more attractive to birds because of her inadequacy (at times she was very compassionate).
I approached the gorilla and told him I envied his happiness and wished him a long life in love. He did something surprising. He pulled his jaws open and where his throat should have begun there was a man’s mouth.
He said, “If you want to be happy like me, my friend, always keep your secrets.”
I learned that I am in a city called Annapolis. It is Christmas Eve and all the people here are celebrating. A garment of stars has been laid across the city, over her pale and busy skin. Poor dead Jesus was born tomorrow. I still don’t understand why anyone would want to beat him to death. I hope those men are being spanked somewhere.
In commemoration of my dead friend, I purchased gifts for all of my living ones. For the Maid I got a new pair of cowboy boots; for the Ghost of Connie Francis, a Peggy Lee record (which she managed to insert into her manual typewriter like an ordinary sheet of paper – I’m not sure that means she liked it); for Caligula a new pair of reading glasses; and for all, fishnet stockings. I insisted that we put them on in memory of Jesus who wanted to be a showgirl, which we did but when I also suggested that we go karaoke I was met negatively. The Ghost of Connie Francis eventually obliged me even though I was determined that we sing duets which she believed would make a silly man out of me because no one can see her. She is a good sport and a marvelous time was had.
We sang exclusively show tunes to honor Jesus. The audience, however, thought I was having very bad ideas when I announced my motive. But who can resist a high kick in fishnets? I won them over in the end.
On the way home, I realized that reading glasses weren’t such a good present for Caligula, so I stopped at a deli and apprehended a side of beef. The little darling is asleep beneath it now, still wearing her stockings. It is as big as an igloo over her.
Tomorrow eat some rock candy and sing a show tune to celebrate a wonderful dead fellow’s birthday. And I hope you’re having sweet dreams tonight when the fat man breaks into your house to put things there you like. To kindred royalty everywhere, Merry Christmas.
The Ghost of Connie Francis sang a song to me that the Maid pantomimed beside her. The song was about a housewife isolated in her derangement and convinced that her family is a delusion, evidence of her insanity. With blood on her teeth and a momma’s-gonna-rock-you-to-sleep radiance in her eyes, she butchered them in their kitchen with a carving knife.
Afterward, when her heart was the only one beating in that room, her aloneness was complete. She became a bird, serenely nesting on her own children’s bones.
Then the Ghost of Connie Francis asked me to follow her outside. Caligula and the maid walked with us into the chapel across the street. It was small and built of rough- hewn stone. There was a glass cabinet containing a comb, some jewelry, a jade artifact and an ivory box. On the brass plaque affixed to the frame was engraved: Possessions of Anne Arundle. Arundle, a cursed name; why in hell did the Ghost of Connie Francis bring me here?
I was awake all night thinking of the Arundles. I even ate ice-damp dead leaves and it didn’t relax me. My restlessness is aggravated by a brochure the Maid snatched from that chapel explaining the relationship between Anne Arundle and the city and how her belongings came to be here.
As it turns out her husband, Cecil Calvert, was given Maryland by the King. Each artifact has its own story but the ivory box – well, I don’t think the person who wrote the pamphlet knows about that one. I do. I must reluctantly return to a night lifetimes ago.
My escapades with the troll and his magic flowers continued until Jarvinia jumped into the well bucket and plummeted down. We were both so happy. When she came to England, she explained, the relatives who were supposed to receive her refused to. She found a convent where the sisters adopted her. From then until that night, she lived peacefully with them.
We had many things to talk about. We laid our coats on the cave floor and debated whether or not such a thing as sorbet could exist until sleep overtook us.
A rattling like the aftershocks of a distant collision woke us. The dissonance became clearer and, realizing what the sound was, we trembled. The well’s mouth inhaled the acrid breath of smoke and blood. A battle occurred above. Jarvinia climbed the rope and I followed.
There was Hell at the nunnery. Habited and ravaged women, pursued by knights, lost their lives and their virtue. An enormous fire heated the air intolerably. Jarvinia and I hid behind a structure, shivering with indecision, trying to be very still and at the same time see everything. Then we were noticed. A half armored ass rushed toward us but we couldn’t run. We saw that we had been sewn together with golden thread. Before I had time to cuss at the wee people (who else could have done this?), the knight dragged us into the convent. I refuse to describe what was happening inside, it was a palace of screams.
“The bitch is good.” one man said to another. “Kill the kid.”
He took a closer look and saw the golden thread, “They’re tied together with gold. Help me get their clothes off.”
How the wee people managed it I’ll never understand but I grew to see the logic. We would have been murdered otherwise. The wee people rescued us in their sideways manner by distracting our executioners with something that trivialized killing. Wealth.
By morning those men pulled out the needlework. Jarvinia was selected to join the mercenaries on their ship headed to attack France, I was thrown in with a rabble of slaves and marched back to the captain’s castle with booty. As I loaded carts I learned that the captain’s name was John Arundle and, included with the heaps of silver candelabras and jewels being escorted to his treasury, I saw an ivory box, the same one that now rests in that glass case within the chapel. I learned later that the ship Jarvinia was on sank, drowning everyone. Too briefly did I have my friend again.
January 3, in the Year of Our Lord Two-Thousand and Five
The days arrive and vanish with complete unpredictability. I swear that Monday came where Thursday was supposed to be.
I spend quite a lot of time in the chapel. The robed man who runs the place was very taken aback when I told him I’d met Jesus at the landfill. He is skeptical that Jesus was on his way to Reno, but I assured him it was true.
Its peaceful in the chapel, I dwell in my memories.
Yesterday as I was crossing to enter it, I saw a troll and his midnightmare walking in the sewer through the grate under my feet. It was brief, without exchange, but I realized that perhaps they are everywhere, even Lemuria. Then, once inside of the chapel, I discovered the ivory box was singing and what’s more, the Ghost of Connie Francis is familiar with the song. I wonder if it’s some kind of haunting, or a memory returning my attentions. The song is subtle. I don’t think the robed man is aware of it.
Last night the Ghost of Connie Francis performed it for me while I went to sleep and, I’m certain, it was the source of an awful dream.
The Piper piped a morose and dissonant dirge. I was in a cave watching him. Midnight grass infused the cavern with pallid light. His back was to me and in front of him a poor soul danced. I couldn’t see who the person was so I moved closer. It was a woman, weeping and begging the Piper to stop. Her movements were jolting and awkward and she fought each step with her entire will but it was a dance. I made her face out. It was Jarvinia. I rushed to the Piper and demanded he stop the torment.
With his mouth still wrapped around the pipe’s end he said, “The situation has changed old man. I got bored with the children and killed them. Now I want to be paid. The game is through. You remember the debt, 1000 gold florins.”
After all of it, the centuries that didn’t belong to me, the curse, the murders – he will never forget and just as he promised, Jarvinia and I are his legacy.
“I have it,” I raged at him,” release Jarvinia!”
“I know you have it, but now I must have it, and soon or I will dance her to death.”
I awoke. If only it were possible, I would pay anything, but this is a fantasy because Jarvinia drowned after the massacre at the convent.
The Ghost of Connie Francis is singing that song again. I’m not sure I want her to.
Caligula brought a friend home this afternoon. I’m excited for her, she doesn’t know anyone but an old man, a ghost and a marionette; she needs someone to do animal things with.
This new pal is a chicken pugilist named Kiki Pickles; at least that’s how she introduced herself, it could be a showbiz pseudonym. She’s all alone in world, the poor thing.
You see, she was formerly a very famous chicken pugilist until, after a fight one night, her trainer fell over dead as he was carrying her to the limo. Since then Kiki Pickles has been roaming around with nowhere to go wearing her boxing gloves. She couldn’t take them off herself so I freed her claws from those combat mittens and she’s much happier now.
At the moment Kiki is showing Caligula some maneuvers in the bathroom. This is good for her. When the Evil Ones come back around she’ll give’em something to chew on all right!
Something absolutely remarkable has happened and you must know about it. I’ll start with an alarming suggestion from the Ghost of Connie Francis.
She told me that Anne Arundle’s singing box was actually a music box that needs winding and now is the time to do it. She went on to tell me that I had to break into the chapel, smash the glass case and steal the box because the winding process was complex and had to be done in the trailer. I am no good at playing the hoodlum, but she sang the box’s song so sweetly and imploringly that I had to consent to the robbery. Next, she led me outside to a manhole and made me crawl into it. After a few uncomfortable turns, we found ourselves in a chamber with thriving midnight grass and the troll I recently saw. He curtly greeted me and motioned to follow him. Soon we arrived at a very old iron door that he unlocked with a broad-toothed key the size of a hatchet. We entered the cellar of the chapel and from there the Ghost of Connie Francis took me to the glass case. I almost backed out but she would have none of it. The troll handed me his enormous key and I threw it though the glass. I snatched the ivory box and ran back down to the cellar and the sewer.
In the trailer I examined the box closely. It was singing and I suspected the Ghost of Connie Francis pulled some kind of trick on me because there was no way to open it. The box was hollow but its edges were seamless, as though it had been carved from within. The Maid flew across the room and landed right on top of it with her bottom, crushing the precious object and killing its voice. When she lifted herself, there, stuck to her butt was the Pied Piper’s map.
Jarvinia must have hidden the map inside it at the convent. This brought tears to my eyes.
“What is the point? Jarvinia is dead the children have been murdered, I am the only one left who remembers and it doesn’t matter to me anymore what the Piper wants.”
There was a polite tapping on the door, very light, as if a dragonfly was trying to force its way in. I answered and at my doorstep stood Agneta, very happy in a samite gown. She held her hand out and between her fingers was a shiny coin.
“Uncle Brandeis,” she said, “you can have my nickel if it will help buy back Jarvinia.”
I collapsed. When I returned to the world my head was in the Maid’s lap and Caligula licked my face. There is much to do.
Evidently, no one who lives in the world understands it.
When Kiki Pickles started crowing at three in the morning, waking everyone, I begged her to stop and made the point that she is a hen and hens don’t crow. She responded by raising her lower eyelids just half way and heaving one clawful of dirt far behind her.
“I’m an old woman, dammit, I’ll do whatever I want.”
What could I do? She was a professional pugilist and, although retired, I still didn’t want to anger her.
Things that were once impossible now are; like the apocryphal rope woven from sand for instance. These days it is done for fiber optics cables, and let’s not forget obvious miracles like head transplants, teleportation and television. Do you have any idea what a television would have done to one of my old Hamelin friends? Witches had their cauldrons to look into for visions but there wasn’t such a thing as channel surfing; those wicked women had to really know what they were looking for and try very hard to find it.
I’m not only referring to machines or manufactured tricks. Those are clever, but could anyone explain how my maid is alive and conscious even though her head is a solid sphere of wood? And what about her choice in garments? Where did she get the idea to decorate herself with birthday cake icing every morning? This is life and I don’t suppose reason has much to do with it, which is why I let go of the delusion that it should long, long ago. Dreams are real and fairytales are truths. I’ve lived through too many affirmations of this to presume otherwise.
So now, for my next leap into the impossible, I have to come up with 1000 florins to rescue Jarvinia. I have the gold, that isn’t the problem. The ball of golden rope the wee people gave to me is still mostly intact. Sure, I played at being the rich fool a few times, but the supply of gold didn’t noticeably diminish. Right now, under the floorboards of the trailer, I have hidden about one hundred and fifty feet (the rest is still in England, I only brought along a little). Could there be a mint somewhere that has the facilities to recreate 13th century coinage? What a froggy leap!
People, I think I have my answer. A quick little man just ran up my leg. Right now his hands are proudly on his hips, and around that tiny waist is a belt loaded with chisels. He is winking at me. The room is now full of wee people all doing the same! Could there be sense in the world after all?
Jarvinia don’t let the Pied Piper destroy you yet!
This is a busy place today.
The wee craftsmen are chiseling away and stirring up windstorms of gold dust. The dust has collected in Caligula’s dense fur so that she is a gilded, sneezing bitch joyously confounded by the activity around her.
The wee people slice coin sized disks from the rope and then expertly carve them into florins. What dear little counterfeiters they are!
Earlier today there was a problem that resolved itself in an amusing way.
A wee man came across the remains of Jarvinia’s box and became
furious. “Don’t you know how hard it is to climb into the middle of a solid chunk of ivory and make a box from the inside out? That was my work you flea on a goose’s balls, and my best too!”
I tried to explain that it was the Maid’s fault, but for the best because the Piper’s map inside wouldn’t have been found otherwise.
“I don’t care who smashed it you zit on a pig’s lip! Anorexic goat! You dandy pants old faggot! The ogre’s piles! Babayaga’s diaper! The last urine soaked seat on the bus! …”
My, oh my, but did it go on. The Maid walked over to see what the string of curses was all about.
“This is the Maid.” I told him. “If you want to keep talking that way, you’ll have to do it to her.”
The wee man opened his eyes so big it looked like two hummingbird eggs were set in his face. Then he bashfully lowered his gaze.
“Oh, I suppose it’s all right. I’m sure it was for the best.”
Of course you know what this means; and don’t say it’s impossible.
The Ghost of Connie Francis and I have been studying the Piper’s map minutely. She is excellent with geography and knows much more about the hidden places than I ever could. When I was perplexed about the strange island in the Indian Ocean, it was she who sang to me about Lemuria. She is a gifted ghost, not at all like some of the translucent trash I’ve met. According to her, the location is beneath a nearby mountain range. Close but still a long walk away. If only those Evil Ones would come by and fill my trailer with gas again.
The wee people have completed their task and a great mound of my native money is stacked to resemble the Maid serenely reclining on the floor like an odalisque. I believe I know whose idea that was, and I think it’s charming. Those two have been quite the doves. The wee suitor has begun to carve elegant arabesques on her wrists that are easing their way up her forearm. This may be his way of getting fresh, but if it is, she’s giddily willing.
We are in preparation; soon we’ll leave to search for the Piper’s hideout. The Ghost of Connie Francis tells me it’s important that I continue to document my very exciting and vacuous life. I’ve come to trust her in this.
For all of his evil, the Pied Piper did teach me how to listen to music; to be conscious of the influence it exerts on behavior. His songs are not beautiful; pleasure isn’t how he commands you. There simply isn’t a choice of being critical.
A creature lives inside of music who insists on being responded to.
Did you know that sometimes a melody is a ghost? Yes, sometimes when a creature dies it haunts the world as a song or a little book of tones that is read aloud in a person’s mind. Have you ever caught yourself humming a tune you never heard before? Well, that could be a ghost perched on your shoulder singing to you. The song may be enlivening or solemn; there are many kinds of ghosts. Very often music is made by people who listened to a ghost, whether aware of it or not, and were inspired.
As determinedly as I tried to hear her after I thought she drowned, I couldn’t find Jarvinia’s music. I never assumed it was because she is alive. I’d know her melody immediately; it would be ennobling and clever. I speak about this now because I’ve been wondering if the Pied Piper may have enslaved nasty spirits in his golden flute.
How long has he been doing this? Could he even be intoning the songs of fallen angels? This is something I want to understand because I intend to stop him, to disarm the Pied Piper so he can never ruin another soul again.
The weather here is bitter. I was awake all night listening to the freezing rain strike the air stream like machine gun bullets. I’ve been poisoned and can’t think properly. The air is very heavy and breathing is a struggle. In my dementia, I accidentally stepped on a wee person and the pervading mood is distrustful now.
I can’t help but to wonder if Jarvinia’s rescue is being sabotaged.
It has been over a month since we landed in Annapolis and I am restless to move, I require activity, purpose. The world is exhausting me with its puzzles. I’d gladly exchange my empire for a childhood, a real one this time with Agneta’s pastry smeared cheeks and Jarvinia’s quiet brilliance; to be again with all my old Hamelin friends, running through the streets searching for cats to club to death and muddying our shoes. I would never have met the wee people who are so dear to me, or Caligula or the Ghost of Connie Francis, but I would be ignorant of the secret life behind everything and without wretched confusions. I’d have a childhood and a pure, if mediocre, life in a soft-spoken village.
I miss my innocence.
I was unfaithful to a very important idea: that one should remain who they are in spite of temptations to be otherwise. I was a cripple and had no right to want what the other children had, the ability to dance. The worst consequence was that because of my desire I had a role in transforming Jarvinia from the little girl she was into this poor woman spinning through one hateful dance after another.
My hands are beginning to go numb and typing is difficult. I have to end this.
While I tossed with fever the Maid knelt to me and whispered.
“Brandeis, you cannot die, you are my hero. When I was a tree cowboys camped under my limbs and read your autobiography aloud to each other. Then one night while they were sleeping I carved myself so I could find you. I stole their boots to make my dress and every morning I decorate myself with icing to celebrate your birthday.”
I knew she was referring to that disgusting libel in the Indian gift shop and struggled to speak, to protest.
“It was a lie! No more fairy tales, no more myths!”
“This is not a myth, this is beauty and I believe in it; enough to make myself and join you. I’ve read your story to the wee people too and they love you Brandeis. Please wake up. We have so far to go, such important things to do.”
“That book, that book was bullshit.” I yelled.
Then the Ghost of Connie Francis began to sing. “You did not choose a world of lies, you chose to desire. Follow me now.”
I stood with effort and walked behind her out of the trailer and down the manhole. There in the shimmering tunnel was the troll and his midnightmare.
“Mount your steed and rustle a mad piper!” the Ghost of Connie Francis exclaimed.
Everyone began to sing the mountain marriage song in unison. Oh, I’m a livin’ and a lovin’in the middle of my mountain where the sun shine’s all around us, my baby and me
At last I thought I understood what the song meant.
We are going to journey into the center of a mountain by the light of the midnight grass to save Jarvinia and return to our usurped destiny.
Now I am recovered and singing along with them, the wee people, Kiki Pickles, the Maid, the Troll, Caligula and the Ghost of Connie Francis.
The Troll and the Ghost of Connie Francis agreed that the location of the Piper’s hideout is near an enormous underground lake beneath Mt. English in the Smoky Mountains. We marched in that direction through a network of sewers and caves. When the midnight grass dimmed and left us by torchlight the Troll enjoyed terrifying us with nasty stories.
This is one worth retelling.
Once, a very wicked baron lived in a castle surrounded by a large and dangerous forest. He had a beautiful wife whom he loved jealously and a ward that he also loved as his own son. Because of his dark and malicious temperament, this Wicked Baron went out into his forest everyday to murder anyone he found traveling through it. Then, afterward, the poor people were butchered for select trophies he hung from hooks on the castle wall.
Something began to happen to the baron in the night.
He would see a stranger standing at the foot of his bed. At first, this made him furious and he would try to slaughter the person with an axe he always kept bedside. The stranger always vanished, however, and this frightened the Wicked Baron. On the morning following one of these visits, the Baron came across that very stranger in the flesh on a path leading into his forest and he cleaved this man’s head with his axe. There, thought the baron, I won’t be bothered again. But he was, that very night, by a new, unfamiliar face staring at him in the moonlit chamber. The next day he encountered this traveler and slew him as well. He was divided into pieces for the hooks.
The pattern continued and the Wicked Baron came to believe that destiny visited him in the disguise of people he was meant to murder; until one night the face at the foot of his bed was his beloved wife’s and his treasured
He refused to accept this was fated and closed his eyes tightly against the vision. He reached over, felt her body asleep beside his own and realized that it was destiny’s apparition staring at him in the darkness.
Coming home drunk from hunting the following evening, he entered his bedchamber to find his wife sitting on the windowsill and his ward lacing her boot. The Wicked Baron flew into a jealous rage and pushed her out of the window, but not before dissecting his ward in front of her.
With that done he went to sleep, exhausted by anger and drink. Guess who came to the wicked baron in the middle of that night: Himself. The Baron ran from the room. Outside, voices chanted, “Fatis, fatis…” There, on the castle wall was a bee’s hive of limbs writhing on their hooks. Torsos were beating against other torsos with repulsive, wet percussion. Eyes were sliding around in their sockets in severed heads. Mouths lifted the fabric of skin dangling from beneath their jaws as they chanted, “Fatis, fatis…”
The Baron fell to the ground, whimpering. At that moment his wife walked through gate; her body was a collusion of maimed angles.
She took the axe from his hands with ease and made a trophy of the Wicked Baron.
Today, if you go to that castle, you can sometimes hear the chanting and see the illusion of a man weeping shamefully on the ground, hatcheting his own limbs from his body.
We are being followed.
Periodically I sensed a shadow, a small one, in my periphery. The stench of wet ferret pervades and I know what we were dealing with. The Evil Ones. The the cave opened up into a vast chamber that had no visible ceiling, no far wall and held an ocean in its expanse. Its waves flung their black hair onto the gravel sand. All around, in recesses and from behind boulders were taut little faces fixing their orange, glowing eyes on us.
We proceeded, walking along the beach. What should we do? Wait for the Piper to find us? Begin yelling his name?
The scattered lemurs regrouped and filed into a cave a few hundred yards away. We followed them. I told the rest to wait and took the Ghost of Connie Francis with me because she is invisible. With our backs along the wall, we crept in.
The Evil Ones were swarming. There he was. The Pied Piper stood over them, reaching into his sleeve for what looked to me like pebbles and tossing handfuls into the air. When the grains touched the ground they became pomegranate seeds the lemurs set upon. So, this was feeding time.
What reason could I have for apprehension? I walked directly to him and said, “I’ve come for Jarvinia.”
“Well old man, you made it. I don’t have time for this shit. I’m busy.” He turned back around and stuck his hand into his wide sleeve.
This was not going to do at all. I shoved him and the gravel scattered. Each lemur followed a grain as if it was a falling star with his wish imprinted on it. He quickly faced me and gave that indifferent smile he’s so damn good at.
“Well Brandeis, you mean it don’t you. After all this time how could it possibly matter?”
“She is still alive isn’t she?”
“Of course, I gave she bitch a rest. So you are prepared to pay the debt? Your little friends completed their forgery? Fine, come with me.”
He put his golden flute to his lips and issued tones that made me retch. This was a disgusting song. Thankfully, it had little effect on me.
I heard her first, her feet dragging across the dirt, -and the miserable breaths of one who has cried too much. Then I saw her. She was shifting and settling like a doll shaken by a hateful little girl. She kicked her legs forward tensely, as if men were holding them behind her with ropes. Her long, matted hair covered her face, parted just enough to see the longing for sleep and the terror she was incapable of responding to anymore.
This is what that bastard had done to Jarvinia
“There she is old man. Pay me and you can take her. Unless she’s too screwed up for you. I can understand if you’d rather I just killed her off.”
He kept playing, blowing into that pipe and causing the air to resonate with despair. Jarvinia opened her eyes partially and moved her line of sight over floor, then to me. With a hoarse voice she tried to say my name but could not.
“I’m ready to pay you now!” I yelled. “Stop this. I have the florins!”
“Oh, I don’t know old man. Let us have one last go. She did used to be a cutie.” Suddenly there was harmonic tension in the cave. Another song was being played -no sung. It came closer until it was as loud as the Piper’s dirge. He stumbled and played even louder, more maliciously. But the other song matched his and met him with beauty.
It was the Ghost of Connie Francis. She walked toward us in her serious swoon, her eyebrows slightly raised, and an ecstasy warming her face. The Piper changed a note in his song to make it more hateful but he was not going to intimidate her. The Ghost of Connie Francis stood right in front of him, leaned over, and kissed the end of his flute. It shattered into hundreds of shimmering knives that sliced into the Piper. He fell in pieces, each fragment screamed, and then there was nothing left but our memory of him.
Right now, I have Jarvinia in my arms. She is unconscious but alive and when she is rested enough I will take her back into the light.
One thing makes me nervous – we are surrounded by orange, glowing eyes.
Wondrous things have happened since my last entry. Jarvinia is completely restored.
The Maid unhinged herself and, with the help of her wee-suitor, became a bed. We then plucked flowers from the midnightmare’s tail for Jarvinia to lie on and the wee people set to work untangling her hair. With the Ghost of Connie Francis humming sweetly at her bedside, life and beauty returned. She is with me now on the midnightmare and has a sapphire halo from the glowing flowers she placed in her hair.
Also, and I told you it wasn’t impossible, the Maid and her wee suitor admitted they are horseflies about each other and were married on the beach. It was a raucous affair – the wee people don’t fool around when there’s an excuse to dance and imbibe lizard tears! We all sang the mountain marriage song and it made perfect prophetic sense. Only an adventure on this scale could bring together a gang like ours. The ersatz made a face when you stepped farther back from the picture, and it grinned like a hamster.
We have been journeying along the bank of this ocean for weeks and are content with our wandering. The Evil Ones are a disconcerting presence. The Troll told me that they lingered for a while where the Piper’s fragments fell and searched for pomegranate seeds, but he seems to have taken their sustenance with him and they are starving. Hunger makes them even more menacing.
Sounds are coming from the sea; like a tin sheet is being scratched with fingernails. None of us has any idea what it could be.
Jarvinia decided she wanted to find out what that sound was in the ocean, to swim out there until she discovered the source.
“But Jarvinia,” I said, “the sea is so deep, vast and dark. I don’t think you are having a very good idea.”
“Oh, Brandeis, I can swim. How do you think I survived the shipwreck? I swam to Spain. This is nothing, just an excursion.”
There was no dissuading her and she dove in, disappearing quickly out of view. Yes, she is an adept swimmer.
A few hours later she returned, asserting that there was nothing to worry about.
“It is just a bunch of geeking mermaids on a rock not too far out.” I asked what a geeking mermaid was.
“I don’t know how else to explain them. They are harmless but completely insane and won’t stop picking under their scales.”
The Ghost of Connie Francis erupted into song: “Brandeis, you must get me to them, across the water to their rock.”
“Its really very close.” responded Jarvinia. “If you threw a torch out into the water you’d probably see them.”
The Troll did just that and there was a knuckle of rock jutting out from the water with several fish-women on it. They were hunched over with their tails in front them.
“This mare swims.” said the Troll.
It was all she needed to hear; in a flea’s hiccup the Ghost of Connie Francis joined me on the midnightmare’s back and soon we were on that rock with the mermaids.
The creatures were about four or five feet long and absolutely white, so pale in fact that you could see through their skin to the grey muscle and pulsing organs beneath. Their lips were tightly flexed, very close to their gums, exposing reflective teeth and, dropping past their shoulders, were veils of coarse, white bristles. They manically scratched under their scales stirring the cacophony he heard from shore. Up close the sound was horrendous.
The Ghost of Connie Francis gave each one a sonorous kiss on the forehead and each mermaid became still in turn. There was shock in their eyes, confused peace. Their voices had been returned to them and they sang a choral ode to the ghost who did it.
In the song they recounted their story. As it turns out the unfortunate maids were once angels but fell from Heaven. On their decent, they landed in the ocean and became these little beasts. The Piper convinced them to follow him to this underground lake on the promise of wings. When they got here he tricked them out of their voices and put their songs into his pipe. Since then they have remained here mutely cleaning their scales to rid their bodies of salt because the water is their tomb and they long to dig their way out. Those poor mermaids.
The Ghost of Connie Francis was almost in tears and I was not far behind her. My suspicion was correct that the source of the Piper’s music was something imprisoned, although this was too tragic an accuracy for me to be pleased with.
Desire, they said, is what trapped them here, the desire to forget who they once were, to forget the sound of their own lost voices. The song ended with an entreaty.
If you desire, desire with a pure heart
Otherwise this place will keep you close to its black one and become your Hell of comforting sadness.
One of the wee-people came rushing up to me breathless and disheveled. He told me that a lemur tried to eat him. The Evil One pounced and very nearly got the little man in his mouth. Good thing he carried a hatchet with him. That lemur is now tongueless.
The worst thing about the encounter was the condition of the lemur. His fur was encrusted with blood and a sweet, metallic smell was on his breath. His entire face was smeared with gore and flesh clung to his pointed teeth. I demanded that the wee-man take me to the place where he was violated and Kiki Pickles joined us.
No trace of him was left except for a patch of wet dirt that Kiki P. determined was urine. Then, in the shadows, I saw a woman. Whoever it was ran away as soon as I noticed her. I’m not certain, but from what I could make of her features she resembled Millie, the Pied Piper’s sister.
A dead mermaid was found on the beach today. Her body was leopard printed with small bites. We were all distraught, especially the Ghost of Connie Francis.
Together we buried her in salt and as I was shoveling the last mound over her face I realized how lovely she was, even with her broken teeth and dry white eyes. This beatific creature was as immortal as I am, perhaps more so, and I couldn’t help but to question how something so enigmatic could perish. Like Madame du Pompadour, begging hysterically for mercy? In a frenzied moment of ideological incompatibility like the Buddhist shrines in Afghanistan? Or does it gradually dissolve like a rose floating in a bowl of water? Possibly any of these ways or none of them.
I stopped with a handful of salt suspended over her face and decided to kiss her goodbye.
Later I rested on my back and Caligula climbed onto my chest. She told me she missed the smell of sun warmed grass and chasing dragonflies. I think she is absolutely right.
The time has come for us to return home.
This is my final memoir entry, and there is much to tell.
Yesterday the mermaids convinced Jarvinia to replace their taken sister. I tried to dissuade her but she slipped away.
Later I dreamed that I climbed into a stone fountain. When I decided to leave its steps had become the highest branches of a tree. The fountain was no longer there but the branches were moist and my boots slipped on the wet bark. It was very difficult to get a hold. I told myself that if I held the branches sincerely, pretending they were Jarvinia, I would be able to climb down; but there was conflict. Desire guided my hands to clasp but despair weakened my grip. The drop was abysmal; to fall would have ended me.
I awoke surrounded by lemurs. Each one resembled murder herself and, in union, massacre. They were starving.
Caligula and Kiki Pickles rushed forward kicking the Evil Ones in all directions. What had that pugilist taught my sweet little Caligula? She flipped and flung her legs with expert ferocity; never was more than one leg on the ground at any time. The Evil Ones were outclassed. Bravo Caligula! All the while Kiki Pickles expressed the deftness of the professional ass kicking chicken she was. As for the Troll, well, lemurs were puppy dogs to him.
A woman then emerged from a dim tunnel and the Evil Ones gathered around her. Standing before us with her broken mignons at her knees was Millie.
She was a stooping old woman in a magenta Sunday suit. Her eyes were wet and from them a multitude of tributaries ran downward to the deep, dry riverbeds of her chin. The wine stained fullness of her lips were depressed, betraying toothlessness. She stared directly at the Ghost of Connie Francis and loosened that disgusting mouth of hers.
“You are the whore that destroyed my brother!” she said in a severe, projected whisper.
Both of her hands went to her temples and wound up locks of hair she then tore out. Her arms dropped to her sides, hair and bleeding pieces of scalp were gripped in her fists.
“We are to be feared, bitch! My brother was too subtle. You are going to find out that I am very different.”
As she spoke, droplets of blood landed on the dirt like the pomegranate seeds the Pied Piper had fed to the lemurs. The Evil Ones licked them up as quickly as they fell.
The Ghost of Connie Francis was afraid. I’ve never known her to fear anything. We weren’t going to sing our way out of this. I took her hand in mine to reassure her. With effort she smiled but it was only a gesture of feigned strength.
One clever lemur discovered the source of the blood and began licking straight from the scalp scrap in Millie’s hand. Others followed and an excited lemur tore a small mouthful from her leg. The wound healed instantly and Millie cackled at our shock. The entire pack then set upon her but as soon as her bones were exposed, the muscle and skin returned.
The Troll slapped the midnightmare on her neck. She snorted and stamped the ground creating great mounds of gold dust she then kicked up into a cloud. The Ghost of Connie Francis tugged my hand and we ran together in an uncertain direction.
Gradually the haze became darker and thin until I couldn’t smell gold anymore and realized we were deep in a tunnel and away from the ocean.
We found the others by a pool in torchlight.
The Maid approached me and said, “Brandeis, here is a surprise for us.” She then motioned to the Troll to extinguish his torch. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw a faint glow on the pool’s bottom. They had found a way outside. Caligula leaped up to my stomach and ecstatically dug into me with her claws. But I had to be certain before I led everyone into the water. I took off my boots and coat and dove in.
I swam in the direction of the light and came out in a lake under the sun of a beautiful day. Jarvinia was there. I told her about our ordeal with Millie and expressed my joy that she was with us again. Her features became very serious.
She said, “I’m not coming with you Brandeis.” I asked why not.
“I’m going to help the mermaids get out of the cave. I found a way and I was returning to them when I saw you.”
“We can wait.” I replied.
“Don’t wait. I am leading the mermaids back to the sea.”
This was a sorrow. For a very long time our eyes were fixed as I searched as far as possible into Jarvinia and she into me. Finally she spoke.
“Always listen for my voice. I will never stop singing to you.” I promised and she swam away.
Right now I am sitting on a rock in the center of the pool. We are going home as soon as I finish this last entry. I am leaving these memoirs here.
On behalf of Caligula, the Maid, Kiki Pickles, the wee-people, the Troll and the midnightmare and the Ghost of Connie Francis – remain always vacuous.
Brandeis of Hamelin March 24 in the year of Our Lord 2005
The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. –Pascal