It’s said that everyone should work in Customer Service at least once in their lifetime, to appreciate what it’s like to work on the other side of the counter, to understand it’s about mutual respect not entitlement, and to master the art of maintaining a professional demeanor when you and your coworkers start toppling over like a flock of Fainting Goats.
Sister Madly never did achieve that last one.
It was at Utopia, and as was the winter custom, Sister Madly and Co. were passing around the common cold like a freshly-lit peace-pipe. These colds were typically nothing more than a nuisance, and this time would have been no different if it weren’t for one thrilling side-effect:
Imagine, if you will, Sister Madly going about her day, selling crystals and reaping the souls of the righteous, when the floor beneath her right foot suddenly falls away into the abyss. Now imagine this being accompanied by a crushing bout of dizziness, resulting in a full-on face plant into the patchouli incense.
Or into a customer.
Or the Voodoo Fetish.*
* Nkondi, a grotesque statue covered with nails, whose function was to protect villages of the Congo by housing a spirit that hunts, harms, and punishes witches and other enemies of the tribe. Best not to anger it.
Feeling that she was entitled to a little sit-down after that whole ‘face in the Fetish’ incident, Sister Madly lingered amongst the beads and mystery dust, wondering if she owed the Fetish an apology. She’d hate for it to foster a lifelong grudge over this little incident- that sort of thing is not healthy! Particularly not for the angelic, oh-so-plucky, shorter-than-she-deserves-to-be Sister Madly.
But her heartfelt apology was interrupted by Victor, who was crawling across the floor, pushing a shoe box ahead of him with a wooden dowel as though it were a fresh batch of nitroglycerin.
“DON’T TOUCH THE BOX!”
Victor, being the throes of vertigo himself, refused to carry the box lest he drop it, refused to slide it along the floor with his foot lest he fall on top of it, and certainly didn’t want Sister Madly- who had violated the Fetish, uninvited- handling it, lest he be cursed by proxy.
It wasn’t nitroglycerin in that box, but it might as well have been to Victor: a fertility god the size of business card, carved from a single opal. Victor had a pathological fear* of fertility gods, afraid that he would upset one and be cursed with a litter of children without engaging in the enjoyable process of making those children.
* He also lived in fear of the Giant Squid.
Normally, Sister Madly wouldn’t be too concerned with angering the Fertility God- after all, she routinely used the African gods to fan herself when she was hot and has yet to give birth to anything other than some incredibly bad ideas. Still, she had to admit that she, too, didn’t feel much like having children at the moment. There was still so much she did not understand about the universe, like tire treads. Why are they so blasé? If Sister Madly had a monopoly on the tire market, she would implement a line of designer treads, like Celtic Knots. She’d like a set of tires with Celtic Knot tread. Or a string of poetry- just imagine all the joy of happening upon Lovecraft written in the snow.
That is not dead which can eternal lie…
Or perhaps Poe- the entire tread nothing but the word Nevermore in slick, gothic lettering.
Or Dr. Seuss.
I do not like green eggs and ham…
It was absolutely brilliant, this idea of Poetry Tire Tread- but a brilliance the world would never know if Sister Madly ended up annoying the Fertility God. She could combat whatever curse the Fetish was about to dish up- endless William Shatner on the radio, a plague of creepy-crawlies, cucumbers- by hiding in her sock drawer, but children could easily break through this line of defense (she ought to know, having once been a child.) Indeed, a litter of Sister Madlys would be a nightmare.
Victor chose to continue on his own. He didn’t want a litter of Sister Madlys either.
- 1lb lamb, cubed
- 1 14oz. can coconut milk
- 1½ TBSP ginger, minced
- 1½ TBSP garlic, minced
- 1 sm onion, chopped
- 1-2 chilies, chopped
- 1 TBSP tomato paste
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp cardamom
- salt/pepper, to taste
- ghee, for sautéing
Brown lamb in heated pan; set aside
Heat ghee in pan
Add mustard seeds; roast until seeds start popping all over town
Add onions; sauté until translucent
Add chilies; sauté 2-3 min
Add ginger and garlic; sauté 2-3 min
Add spices; sauté until fragrant; 30 secs
Add tomato paste; stir to coat
Add lamb; stir to coat
Add coconut milk; mix, and bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer until lamb is tender, stirring occasionally; 15-20 min
THEME SONG: Voodoo Chile, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
It’s been said that eavesdropping is the epitome of bad manners, but the truth is that in every conversation that ‘doesn’t concern you,’ there is a wealth of beneficial information. Sister Madly is proud to say that she now knows the ins and the outs of a Jetta engine; how to cheat at cribbage (she doesn’t know how to play, but she knows how to cheat); that the Earth is flat, by golly; and that anyone can be hired as a phlebotomist without the least bit of know-how.
No doubt it is a comfort to you to know that Sister Madly needs neither experience nor a Bachelor’s Degree to stick a needle into your veins and drain you of your life source. Degrees* and experience are the sort of things reserved for important jobs, such as dog-walking and waiting tables at the local tavern, and woe betide he who applies for these professions without them.
*Degree ‘in any field’ according to the dog-walking Ad, which is good news for Sister Madly’s neighbor who doesn’t know what to do with that BA in History.
Since the moment of her conception, Sister Madly has had a strong disinterest in any career remotely related to the healthcare field. To date, it remains a contender for the last career field she’d ever consider along with politics, trigonometry, and some lingering questions as to what it is that the Department of Sanitation does all day. So when the Happy Phlebotomist embarked upon his recruitment campaign for Phlebotomy Inc., it was all that Sister Madly could do to keep from silencing him in unspeakably creative ways.
But as he stood there with a malicious good cheer that showed all of his teeth, Sister Madly decided that it would be totally unfair to dismiss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without hearing all the details. Perhaps there was a less hands-on position available, like personal assistant to the Head of Phlebotomy (known as ‘P’, no doubt) as a sort of Moneypenny Dreadful. So she asked if the position would require her to deal with people. Directly.
And with blood. Directly.
Yes, that was all it took to silence the Happy Phlebotomist, but it was without satisfaction. The look on his face was the same horror that commonly results after witnessing a ruthless desperado tossing chocolate bunnies through the propeller of a plane. He was completely incapable of accepting the idea that anybody would not want to pursue this fabulous profession- just absolutely fabulous.
“Are you saying that you can’t stand the sight of blood?”
And people, yes. Is that a problem?
Admittedly, Sister Madly did stretch the truth a bit: it’s not blood in general that she can’t stand, it’s her blood in particular that is terribly upsetting. As living creatures who often find themselves bewildered over the proper way to eat an Oreo, we each are entitled to this life-sustaining nectar in our veins; she’d just rather see your blood splattered across the pavement than her own.
It’s a personal preference. Like how lunar dust tastes better than coffee.*
*Again, Sister Madly is guilty of stretching the truth: lunar dust IS better than coffee, make no mistake.
There is, however, a practical side to her refusal: being a phlebotomist requires a certain finesse that Sister Madly tends to lack- you know, sticking a living someone with a sharp, pointy object in such a manner that not only causes the least amount of pain, but ensures that the someone survives the ordeal without thinking of the term ‘lawsuit.’ It also requires an unholy amount of precision that is sure to snap her sanity in two if not alleviated by eating the nearest couch.
And what about natural phenomena, such as earthquakes and spontaneous combustion? What if she sneezes in the midst of a job? She is not a dainty sneezer- you have no idea how close she came to blasting this world into oblivion last allergy season. Or what if she suddenly gets bored? Sister Madly tends to move onto another activity at the mere thought of boredom, leaving the previous one unfinished. That behavior can’t be good for business, just leaving people with needles jammed into their veins while she sits in mop bucket playing the jaw-harp.
But the Happy Phlebotomist heard none of this. Instead, he handed her a business card, told her to think it over, and to apply online. Also, there is a cat who lives in the parking lot.
Where does she sign up?
*It was later noted that, when recruiting the male species, the mention of the kitty was replaced with the mention of a sandwich shop across the street.
What I am looking for is a blessing not in disguise. ~ Jerome K. Jerome
Aside from the occasional fortune cookie, Sister Madly is rather inexperienced when it comes to magic. She sulks when the stars refuse to tell her anything specific, like how to replace the spark plugs in her car or which market is having a sale on her favorite cider. Yet the practitioners she encountered at Utopia back in the day had either less knowledge of the craft than she, or proved to be one noodle short of a darling chow mein- like this fellow.
So when a plucky pagan lad dropped by with a homemade candle asking if Utopia would allow him to ritually ‘bless the store,’ Sister Madly wasn’t quite sure what to do with him. Even the employees weren’t that dedicated; they routinely had to be bribed with a paycheck just to show up.
Management utterly adored the idea of such a ritual- after all, it was the grand opening of Utopia in its new location and they clearly could use all the supernatural aid the universe could spare. But even in their starry-eyed giddiness did Management retain enough wisdom to take measures to ensure that the Blessing did not result in a Blessing in Disguise by assigning Sister Madly to stand guard over the candle while it burned.
Typically, a votive candle has a lifespan of 8-10 hours. That means Sister Madly will be spending the better part of her day making certain that neither the clientele, the building, the city, nor the Utopian Sweetheart -Sinner*- caught on fire. This Sister Madly was perfectly able to do; she just wasn’t looking forward to it.
*A cat. A fat, lazy cat.
It rather generous of the lad, calling that scent ‘Tahitian Vanilla;’ ‘Burnt Toast’ was more like it. As for the Blessing… well, Sister Madly isn’t too familiar with pagan rituals, but she was almost certain that what the lad was doing around the candle was not so much ‘magic’ as it was ‘Pilates.’ However, once he began chanting in a cryptic and, in Sister Madly’s opinion, nonexistent language, she began to suspect that the Plucky Pagan was a card-carrying member of Club Psych Med- in fact, his entire ritual looked like something he picked up from watching far too many Hammer Films.
And Management just gave him permission to play with fire. Precious.
Now existential thoughts are inevitable when staring at a candle for hours on end, such as contemplating the meaning of life and wondering if it is possible to make Sake out of Rice-A-Roni. Breaking into such thoughts can be just as hazardous as waking a sleepwalker, yet Management risked it all by interrupting her thousand-yard stare.
“Do you think you can hurry that up?”
And just how does one hurry up a Blessing? If Sister Madly knew how to do that, she would be the most well-to-do complex organism in the local galaxy. One cannot hurry along a Blessing anymore than one can ‘Get a Life!’ or ‘Grow Up!’ on command. On the other hand, it is only a candle, and a questionable one at that; and while there are those who swear by Pilates, the practice is hardly magical- what repercussions could there possibly be?
Let’s start with coming face to face with THIS:
Yes, no sooner did Sister Madly snuff out the Burnt Toast Candle that the Lion appeared, with little regards as to who (Sister Madly) or what (the wall) was in his way. No doubt it was like the legend of Bloody Mary, where one can summon the spirit by chanting her name three times while looking into a mirror; thus when one snuffs out a Burnt Toast Candle, one summons a Dancing Lion from some Chinese New Year Celebration of days gone by- which was all fine and dandy, but what was Sister Madly to do with a Dancing Lion?
While those in attendance found the Lion Dance fascinating, the same cannot be said for Sinner who, at the start of the performance, launched himself from the counter via Victor’s open container of guacamole, onto the stroller of a terrified toddler, whose shriek sent Sinner straight into a display of creepy African Masks where he overturned several trays of beads.
Many, many beads…
This is because of the candle, isn’t it? Due to her insufficient understanding of Burnt Toast Candle Rituals, Sister Madly rendered the Blessing null and void by snuffing out the flame early. The Grand Opening Celebration would be forever be remembered as the day Sister Madly let a Blessing go awry, immortalized by photos of a Dancing Lion, green paw prints across various antiques, pillows and children, and a fat cat who refused to climb off the bookshelf until he had finished licking his feet.
Indeed, Utopia missed out on a Blessing that day…
But Sinner has liked guacamole ever since.
*The Lion Dance was planned weeks before by Management; they just neglected to mention it. To anyone.
THEME SONG: Dance with the Dragon, Jefferson Starship
All Images via Pinterest
And on the air was the scent of hush puppies ~
Too cruel, she said, too cruel.
Poetry like this accounts for the continuing success of bongos and berets.
It also accounts for the long litany of Sister Madly’s unanswered applications over the years. Perhaps she shouldn’t have included that little ditty on her résumé after all.
Some years ago, Sister Madly was forced to admit that one can spend only so much time shape-shifting and harvesting organs down in the cellar without paying the electric bill. In an effort to remedy this, one particular Want Ad drew her attention like a fly to a lovely blue bug-zapper: a Hearse Driver for the Mortuary.
They didn’t demand much: professional appearance, clean driving record, willing to work for ten cents above minimum wage. No doubt the customer complaints would be on the low side- a plus during her darker, more introverted moments* – and let’s not overlook the generous perks, such as the use of the company car. Sister Madly delighted in the vision of gleefully joyriding that Doombuggy through the nearby HOA.
* i.e., all the time.
Of course every job has its drawbacks, such as the potential to seriously impede her already questionable social skills by associating with nothing but the dead, not to mention that a rundown of her day could really sour the mood at a party. She could call herself a chauffeur, if asked: whether the person she transports in that limousine alive or not is merely a technicality. Furthermore, it is better than come cushy job that requires her to harass little blue-haired ladies and mispronounce their names.
Though her motives were slightly suspicious, Sister Madly allowed herself to daydream that first magical day on the job…
Or perhaps she should keep looking.
And so Sister Madly spent the next 3 minutes daydreaming herself into all the brilliant careers that would inevitably cross her path, including:
~ Personal Trainer ~
~ Body Guard ~
~ Superhero ~
~ Ice Cream Truck ~
~ Celebrity ~
~ Celebrity Impersonator ~
~ Indie Musician Who Pours Taps at Local Craft Brewery on Wednesdays ~
~ Artist’s Model ~
~ Latest Fad-Diet Weight Loss Guru ~
~ Nanny ~
~ Personal Shopper ~
~ THIS ~
~ Undercover Security Agent at PDX International Airport ~
~ Little Bunny Foo-Foo ~
~ The T-1000 Terminator ~
~ Lead ‘Bud’tender at the Corner Head Shop ~
~ Navy Seal ~
Then again, mortuary work depends entirely upon bodies. Perhaps Sister Madly would be more successful in the business of creating those bodies rather than collecting them. An independent contractor, if you will.
So would any of you like some elderberry wine?
** Sister Madly tends to picture herself as a Smart Car. No one knows why.
THEME SONG: Working Girl, The Members
All Images: Pinterest