On the Fringes of the Underworld
Real children do not go hoppity-skip unless they are on drugs. ~ Terry Pratchett
There was a time when a young Sister Madly ventured to the fringes of the underworld and lived to tell the tale- which is what she’s doing now, in fact.
By the time she was 7, Sister Madly had been exposed to a variety of anti-drug campaigns, including the famous Just Say No movement, which had led Sister Madly to believe that she would be pressured into experimenting with drugs more often than she actually was- that is to say, at all. In fact, all she really knew about drugs was that they were bad for one’s well-being which, by this definition, included the cancer, nuclear war, and the guillotine.
One warning she frequently encountered was the poster of an egg in a frying pan, but this Sister Madly did not understand. Eggs were those things she dyed for Easter, or sometimes threw at a target in Serafina’s garage* or that strange families ate for breakfast. Eggs were also used in anti-smoking ads, where some dirty cigarette was violently snuffed out in the yolk. This could only mean one thing: eggs were as bad for her as drugs, smoking and the guillotine. Her brain might even turn into an egg while on drugs, albeit temporarily, and that was something Sister Madly could do without.
*Sister Madly never threw eggs at passing cars or at other people; that is why nature gave us crab apples.
Then one day, her curiosity broke. You see, any magazine that dared to portray the graphic nature of drugs often depicted these things as brightly-colored candy pills. If this was society‘s way of protecting Sister Madly from the evils of narcotics, they were going about it entirely the wrong way. Sister Madly liked candy as long it didn’t tasted like red.
She remembered once hearing something about shoes hanging from the power lines, and that was about all she had to go on. So Sister Madly and Serafina went about this the only way they knew how, roaming the neighborhood until they found a pair of sneakers dangling overhead. They had a whole system worked out: sandals to score acid; for coke, a pair of stilettos, because all fashion models were on coke; sneakers, being generally nondescript, were the source of the nondescript candy-colored pills. As for heroin… probably a pair of nurse’s regulations, Serafina said, since it involved needles- which scared Sister Madly so it was decided to avoid those at all costs.
It wasn’t that Sister Madly necessarily wanted to try any of these things- she just wanted to see them; she just wanted to hold, perhaps even own, one little candy-colored pill. Something she could hide in the water pipes in her closet and play with every now and then, and be happy that she owned something that no one else did.
Thanks to her parents, Sister Madly learned at an early age that one did not often get something for nothing, so Sister Madly brought along a handful of gumdrops. She did not like gumdrops (she must have a discussion with Serafina about the candy the girl kept around her house) so this wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice. Still, she knew better than to admit this, because if the gumdrops did not seem all that valuable to Sister Madly, the dealer might demand something else. Like money.
Of course, for their own protection, the girls were accompanied by Serafina’s imaginary dog, Sambo.
And so Sister Madly spent the next few hours standing, twirling or hopscotching in the middle of the street under a pair of sneakers, running to the curb every time a car passed by (even Sambo couldn’t save her from the oncoming cars and mopeds.) She went over what her parents had said about playing in the street and wondered if she was violating this order (she was) but it was the only way she knew how to contact the local demimonde. Obviously, her parents didn‘t want her to play in the street for fear that Sister Madly might be mistaken for an addict and give all her gumdrops away.
It wasn’t long before the girls abandoned this particular venture and made their way down to the liquor store on the corner, where Sister Madly bought some candy cigarettes. No doubt the local demimonde had been frighten away by Serafina’s imaginary dog, Sambo.
Next time, they will leave Sambo at home.
POST’S THEME SONG: Sugar Town, Nancy Sinatra