That some People
~ Albert Camus
1) Laurie Simmons
Charm is a Way
of getting a ‘Yes’
a Clear Question.
~ Albert Camus
Images: Mark Osterman
~ Ludwig Borne
Artwork by Guido Daniele
Star Cluster Capella
Is 42 light-years Away.
The Light it Generates
Takes 42 years to reach the Earth.
If You were to Travel to Capella
Shortly before your 42nd Birthday ~
You would be able to Witness
Your own Birth back on Earth.
1.) Ablak A Multra
2.) Dear Photograph
3.) Dear Photograph
4.) Ablak A Multra
5.) Ablak A Multra
Even the Old Ones deserve a little holiday cheer…
AWAKE YE SCARY GREAT OLD ONES
Awake ye scary great Old Ones let everything dismay!
Remember great Cthulhu shall rise up from R’lyeh
To kill us all with tentacles if we should go his way!
O’ tidings of madness and woe, madness and woe,
O’ tidings of madness and woe! (and great woe)
In Yuggoth and in Aldebaran the great Old Ones were spawned
Imprisoned by the Elder Gods to wait for long eons!
Enticing humans to release them,
Chanting dreadful songs!
O’ tidings of madness and woe, madness and woe,
O’ tidings of madness and woe! (and great woe)
An Arab said “That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange eons you will find that even death may die”!
The great Old Ones will rule once more
Then all will be destroyed!
O’ tidings of madness and woe, madness and woe,
O’ tidings of madness and woe! (and great woe)
*Repost from 2014
Not very long ago
In a neighborhood relatively nearby…
~ Created by Tom BetGeorge
The smile that greeted Sister Madly that December day of yesteryear was one she hoped to never see again, for it was the smile that always preceded something disagreeable. And clearly, this was going to be more disagreeable than simply hauling a wagon through the snow to deliver homemade bread to the neighbors.
But it ended up being much more ghastly than anything the 8 year-old could have imagined.
It was the Living Nativity.
What made this so disagreeable was that she was living in Michigan at the time- the ideal place to have an outdoor Nativity in the dead of winter; absolutely ideal.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Great Lakes Region in the middle of December, allow Sister Madly to provide you with a brief synopsis:
…as opposed to where she lives now:
It was after a proper period of sulking (and a lecture from her parents) that Sister Madly decided to see this unsolicited obligation as the opportunity to flaunt her most excellent theatrical abilities- after all, who knew what Hollywood guru would be in attendance that night? Her dread was further mollified by the news that she was not to be a shepherd boy as was first thought, but rather, a King.
But this was no ordinary Christmas Pageant: there were no lines, indeed no speaking of any kind, not even a song- which was most fortunate for those within earshot, as Sister Madly cannot carry a tune with a forklift.* In fact, there was nothing required of her but to stand perfectly still, and be completely silent. While this ventured dangerously close to mime territory, Sister Madly refused to cross that savage boundary and decided to convey kingly majesty through her presence alone, just as any brilliant thespian would.
* She is not licensed to drive a forklift, either.
So on the appointed evening, Sister Madly, along with her parents and Tallulah (all of whom were, no doubt, plotting to steal her spotlight) found themselves at the First Church of the Middle of Nowhere. There was no sign of the Hollywood Guru, but he most likely wanted to be inconspicuous and hid the Rolls Royce.
Now Sister Madly knew better than to expect Broadway quality costumes from a country church, but even her simple expectations proved to be too high. The King’s costume wasn’t so much pulled over her neon, insanely-puffy winter coat (which glowed sweetly beneath the blue fabric like a cartoon x-ray) as Sister Madly was stuffed inside of it. And she had to wear the puffy coat- not for any sensible reason, like the weather, but because it made the robe fit more snugly as the costume was meant for an adult, not an child.
A child… Sister Madly was seriously offended at being lumped into a demographic to which she actually belonged- an indignation that was further provoked when she was told that she would be standing on a milk crate because she was too short. Of all the nerve…
While the other Kings wore winter coats as well, they had nowhere near the puffability as her neon monstrosity. Sister Madly was almost perfectly round, and moved with all the grace and speed of an imbalanced washing machine. She looked less like a king and more like Violet the Blueberry in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
It was as terrifying as it was magnificent to behold.
But Sister Madly reminded herself that this wasn’t just a still-life production centered around the Baby Jesus- who was noticeably absent from the Manger- it was an epic tale about a Mysterious King of Orient-R. And Sister Madly, with her plastic jewelry and her arms sticking straight out at her sides, she was that King, chosen to bear the hallowed gift of Murder-
Myrrh? What in tarnation is myrrh?
“It’s a burial spice.”
…because the person’s been murdered?
“Because the person is dead.”
Where does murder fit in?
So no murder, then. Just gold and something called myrrh…
Wait- what about about Frankenstein? Sister Madly’s wrong about that too, isn’t she? It’s actually Frank-and-Beans?
“Frankincense. Also a spice.”
And just like that, a piece of her childhood slipped away. Gone, now, were the days of Gold, Frankenstein, and Murder; gone was the mysterious land of Orient-R. Sister Madly wasn’t a King, nor royalty of any sort; she was just an 8 year-old moppet in a puffy coat, standing on a milk crate in the midst of a Nativity that sadly lacked a Baby Jesus.
There had better be cocoa afterwards.
THEME SONG: King of Wishful Thinking, Go West
She thought she was safe that night, when she slipped past a group of protesters into the pub. However, it was here where the real danger was percolating: once again, Sister Madly found herself facing the Happy Phlebotomist.
Through no fault of her own, Sister Madly found out that much has happened in the life of this cheerful mosquito since their last encounter, including co-authoring a vegan cookbook (which, incidentally, no one has ever seen) as well as making a batch of vintage wine- which should be ready “by the end of the year.”
Sister Madly, however, maintained a healthy level of skepticism. One just can’t call it a ‘vintage’ wine if it hasn’t been made yet; that’s like calling milk ‘butter’ when it’s still inside the cow. Life just doesn’t work that way, no matter how much one prays.
But the Happy Phlebotomist was quick to point out that wine-making was merely his passion, perhaps something for retirement. In the mean time, he gets by through a lovely regime of Spinning, Zumba, and Hot Yoga, through promoting a line of ‘natural’ supplements, and through phlebotomizing unsuspecting souls.
Now don‘t get her wrong- Sister Madly has nothing against a vegan lifestyle, nor the Spinning/Zumba/Hot Yoga Combo Plate that the Happy Phlebotomist now champions; it’s just that Sister Madly finds no joy in feasting on topsoil or twisting herself into a well-cooked pretzel. Still, she has a hard time believing that anyone who habitually depletes the human race of life-sustaining fluids for a living is as humane as his routine leads one to believe.
As for the vitamin supplements, one has to be cautious around these products- after all, most of them are not FDA approved, unlike American Imitation Pasteurized Process Cheese Food, which is.
But that didn’t stop the Happy Phlebotomist, who achieved a freakish level of joy when he discussed the many uses of Colloidal Silver- surely even you, Sister Madly, would benefit from this miracle ‘cure-all.’
Sister Madly has to admit that she is not the spring chicken she was last week- why, just the other day, she managed to turn basic strength-training into a most spectacular pageant of twists, flails, and fancy footwork that any respectable jitterbug would envy, and has walked like a hunchback ever since. She also has a fair amount of illogical allergies, becomes exceedingly deranged when life withholds from her a decent amount of sleep, and when it comes to medieval weaponry, Sister Madly has all the self-control of a starving vulture over a zebra carcass.
But while Sister Madly loves to wear silver, she admits that her enthusiasm stops short of drinking it.
“There are some who swear by it.”
Some may swear by it, Jolly Ol’ Blood Extractor, but Sister Madly is more curious about those who don’t. She wants to know what, exactly, she is getting into before she starts melting down her jewelry for breakfast.
Oh, there was a reason, all right, but he was suspiciously evasive about it: any natural remedy has its risks if not used properly, he said, such as stomach upset, headaches, or rendering certain medications ineffective…
“…and then there some people who have been known to turn blue – permanently – but I don’t think it’s something you need to worry about.”
Hold it right there, Chipper: you are trying to pitch Sister Madly a miracle supplement whose potential side-effects include turning into a Smurf, and you don’t think that is something she should worry about?*
* A condition known as argyria, caused by prolonged exposure to chemical forms of silver, resulting in a blue or gray discoloration of the skin.
In an effort to reassure her, the Happy Phlebotomist explained that one could reduce the risk of this Technicolor discoloration by becoming nocturnal, as exposure to sunlight increases it. His pathological good cheer quickly escalated to psychotic levels when he realized all the delightful possibilities of promoting a substance that has adverse effects when exposed to the sun, such as creating a package deal consisting of Colloidal Silver and Vitamin D- the latter of which would be lacking in an individual avoiding the sun.
Yes, somewhere there is a world where that idea will work…
To tell you the truth, Sister Madly spends precious little time contemplating what life would be like if she were blue, but even then it didn‘t take her long to reach the conclusion that, if she woke up one morning the color of her recycling bin, she was be apocalyptically cross about it.
Then again, there is something appealing about having a choice of what color one turns after prolonged exposure to the sun. Mother Nature can be so thoughtful, the dear.
In the meantime, Sister Madly will be implementing her own health regimen by routinely disinfecting her insides through pints of lovely, local ciders.
THEME SONG: Mood Indigo, Duke Ellington
It’s been said that epiphanies don’t come to those who have all the answers, but to those who haven’t a clue.
Immediately following a round of ear drops, Sister Madly attempted to navigate through the whole of her itty-bitty apartment with her head tilted to the side. It was at that moment that Sister Madly had an epiphany of her own: she would never make it as a halibut.
To be fair, it’s not that she has spent her idle hours wondering what life would be like as a halibut; sometimes the universe just comes along and gives you the answer to a question you never thought to ask.
And clearly the halibut lifestyle is out of her league.
You see, halibut swim upright during the early stages of life; but as juveniles they begin swimming sideways, which cannot be a pleasant way to exist. Sister Madly has no idea how halibut make it through their posh nautical bungalows without getting lightheaded or crashing into the doorframe, but she gives them kudos for doing so.
Yet there is plenty to envy in the life of a halibut: swimming about with no inhibitions, no politics, no leafy greens on the menu. No taxes. No jury duty. No Jehovah Witnesses pounding on the door at 8 in the morning- nothing but that sweet, deep-sea life of mayhem, grand debauchery, and seahorses.
It suddenly occurred to her that she knew an awful lot about the life of a halibut without ever having encountered the fish in its natural habitat, much less befriending one. Such insider knowledge could only be explained by having been a halibut in a past life.
Not doubt these fishy reflections would have gone by the wayside had she not encountered the Professors later at the pub, where a discussion broke out on whether or not Sister Madly had knitted a certain scarf (which she certainly did not.*) The interrogation became so intense that Sister Madly hardly noticed the moment all the pitiless PhD’s agreed on splitting a Fish Sandwich- which turned out to be halibut.
* Neither does she crochet, sew, or do whatever it is that one does with a loom.
Now on any given day, Sister Madly can be found treading somewhere between stone-cold logic and utter psychosis, but that night, she was flirting with the point of no return. Never had she been so tortured over a Sandwich- and not from a ethical viewpoint, which could be forgiven, but that of a hapless soul fearing that she may be noshing upon her own brethren like some aquatic Hannibal Lecter!
So she discussed the matter amongst herself:
It’s just a sandwich, Sister Madly.
~ Not just any sandwich- a halibut sandwich.
A dead halibut, so what does it matter?
~ But it does matter! What if this filet had once been her best friend? Or one of her descendents? Seriously, this is a deep-fried nibble dish of everything that is wrong with society!
What in tarnation… Do you realize, Sister Madly, that your obsession with a fish is rendering you completely incapable of defending yourself against the grisly accusation of Scarf Knitting? You must not let yourself be thwarted by a sandwich yet again!
“You do realize that you are not actually a halibut, don’t you?”
She may not be a halibut now, Professor, but she may have been in a past life. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming:
Halibut: does not knit.
Sister Madly: does not knit.
Halibut: cannot live without water
Sister Madly: cannot live without water
Halibut: does not speak Swahili
Sister Madly: does not speak Swahili
Halibut: very tasty
Sister Madly: not very tasty *
* Trust her on this one. ‘Bitter’ is her middle name.
Halibut: strange looking
Sister Madly: strange looking
As you can see, Sister Madly fits the criteria of a halibut in 4 of the 5 characteristics listed, which proves that she was a halibut in a past life.* Logic, Professor; stone-cold logic.
* 5 out of 5 would prove that she is one currently.
Naturally, the Professor could not* argue with her reasoning.
* Some would say ‘would not’ but, whatever.
But that didn’t mean the argument was finished.
“Are you quite sure that you didn’t knit this scarf?”
Of course! Halibut don’t knit.
“Neither do wheat threshers.”
You know, you might be on to something there, Professor! Not only to wheat threshers not knit, Sister Madly instinctively knew that, much like herself, wheat threshers have absolutely no desire to learn the skill. Thus the only conclusion to be drawn is that before she was reincarnated as a halibut, Sister Madly was first a wheat thresher.
Logic. Stone-cold logic.
It was a common sight that summer, the old refrigerator box moving upright across the lawn.
To the untrained eye it was a free-spirited box, pouncing upon puffball mushrooms and chasing fireflies with unmistakable good cheer. But what the untrained eye did not realize was that this wasn’t just childhood whimsy; this was a mission of the highest caliber, one that demanded both stealth and discretion.
You see, Sister Madly was utterly convinced that her neighbor, Harry, was a Russian spy.
It was not an easy conclusion to reach as the classic signs of Russian pride were absent, such as fur hats and vodka parties, and bowls of borscht on a Saturday night. But there was no mistaking the subtler signs, the ones sadly overlooked by the federal government: the mowing of the lawn before 7 AM; the cans of fruit cocktail he gave to children on Halloween; the disapproval when Sister Madly’s hula hoop got stuck in his tree ‘yet again.’ Yet the incident that all but confirmed Harry’s Soviet sympathies was the night questionable music drifted from the shed tucked away behind his house.
A song that referenced alien abduction.*
* Come Sail Away by Styx
All the music that ever mattered could be found at the roller rink, sandwiched between Roxette’s Joyride and the closing anthem of We Are the World. But this little ditty which encouraged extra-terrestrial naughtiness was nowhere to be found at these skating parties, leading Sister Madly to the obvious conclusion that the song was a code to be deciphered.
Even though the word ‘alien’ never appears in the song, by simply mentioning a starship, the aliens are implied- which was a clever move on the part of the Russians. The ‘alien’ was without a doubt Harry as he proved himself a stranger by strangely suggesting that Sister Madly was not using her hula hoop properly since she kept getting it stuck up in the tree.
As for the starship, there was no such craft parked in his driveway, nor on the street in front of his house. Obviously Harry had the craft hidden away, which could only mean that the starship was inflatable. Yes, somewhere on that property there was a zeppelin stuffed into a coffee can, ready to be inflated and deployed at a moment’s notice- and that moment was approaching. Clearly this was the message hidden in the song. A brilliant lot, them Russians.
And just as Sister Madly was congratulating herself on the cracking of this code, there came a polite knock on the side of her box.
But it wasn’t Harry; it was her dad. And it seemed that after days of watching the refrigerator box amble through it’s many misadventures, he managed to work up just enough curiosity to ask what it was that Sister Madly was doing.
Maybe she should tell him about Harry- after all, when it came to fighting international spies, her dad was probably a bit more capable than she.
To her surprise, the Pater Madly did not seem particularly threatened by the Russians; in fact, he seemed to imply that his greatest foes were a bit little closer to home- the bats living in the chimney, for example. And the wasp’s nest.
Sister Madly had to admit that she did not know which country was currently #1 on the International Espionage Watch List. Perhaps Russia was so last Tuesday. Perhaps another nation was now a greater threat, someplace mysterious and largely unfathomable- like Paducah.
But just as it was with Russia, the badges of Kentucky pride were absent, such as silver spurs. Harry didn’t wear silver spurs, not even with his comfy, tasseled loafers. But he did whistle now and then, to prove his good cheer. Yes, Paducah was a possibility.
Not only was her dad remarkably unconcerned, he was amused, which made Sister Madly wonder if he was a spy as well. After all, he made ice tea in the old apple juice jars, and in the refrigerator one couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Because of this, Sister Madly was often given ice tea ‘by mistake’- which is just the thing a spy would do, in her opinion.
The Pater Madly, however, did nothing to deny – or defend – his ties with Russia (or those with Paducah, for that matter.) Instead, he simply informed Sister Madly that he had gotten her hula hoop out of the tree.
And on the advice of her father, Sister Madly did her best not to get the hula hoop stuck up in Harry’s tree- if her dad was doing his part to improve relations with Russia, she might as well do hers.
She got it stuck on the roof of the garage instead.
THEME SONG: Come Sail Away, Styx
4) Paula Strahan
Is never a Place ~
Rather a New Way
of Seeing Things.
1) Ali Gulec
2) Charles Allan Gilbert
There comes a time in every child’s life where one must face that dreaded rite of passage: the ambiguous ‘science project.’
If Sister Madly had known all the loopholes, such as time machine = clock, or better yet, cooking = chemistry, she would have had her mother bake a couple dozen cookies and be done with it. With little hesitation, both parents deemed proving the existence of unicorns impractical to the scientific community, yet supported her decision to dismember her sibling and replace the limbs with butterfly wings so long as Sister Madly was willing to clean up afterwards (which she wasn’t.) In the end, Sister Madly chose an experiment out of some How to Scientifically Take Over the World book that she once found wrapped up under a Christmas tree.
And that experiment was to bleach a rose. With sulfur.*
* The book mysteriously disappeared after the completion of this science project.
There was some concern about this project from the onset, in particular the obtaining of the roses. After all, Sister Madly knew just how expensive these flowers could be (He got you a dozen roses?! It MUST be love!) which was why they were so treasured. Growing the roses herself was simply out of the question- to this day, plants refuse to photosynthesize in her presence. She decided that her parents’ budget would allow for 3 roses: a practice run, the actual project, and one unbleached rose to compare. She wouldn’t need more than that because science projects always turn out perfectly the first time around- especially when it involves an 8 year-old playing with fire.
Her parents, however, had a slightly different- and, in Sister Madly’s opinion, utterly preposterous- concern: where, dear child, are you going to get the sulfur?
Contrary to popular belief, one does not just pop off to Sulfur Express to get this element, nor does the average citizen keep a stockpile in the garage next to the Harley. And while certain religious texts believe sulfur* to be an important ingredient in the Lake of Fire, neither her parents nor the school board approved of the lengthy, transcendental holiday it would take to obtain the sulfur, much less the destination. Her school wasn’t very Hell-friendly.
* Brimstone = Sulfur
Then again, she once heard that onions contain sulfur, thus saw no reason why setting fire to an onion would not produce the desired effect. Her parents did not agree.
It was her science teacher, through a connection at the local college, who later obtained the sulfur. As Sister Madly now had all the components, she was quite ready to bleach the rose and successfully take over the world.
However: Rose + Chemical + Fire = Father doing the project while Sister Madly watches.
With her father at the reigns, the project went off without a hitch (although it took a total of 5 roses.) But it wasn’t enough for Sister Madly to walk into school the next day and announce that the experiment had been a success; no, not only was she required to turn in the completed project, she was to present it to the class.
What do you mean that Sister Madly has to understand and explain the science behind this project? Isn’t the fact that a rose transformed from red to white in the seclusion of her own backyard with absolutely no witnesses cool enough on its own? The How to Scientifically Take Over the World book didn’t explain how this experiment worked, only that it does work and quite frankly, that’s good enough for her.
Mind you, when all this occurred, the average family was still several years away from regular internet access. Sister Madly didn’t know any pro-science adults who could explain to her the sulfur phenomenon (she wasn’t very social) and didn’t know where to begin researching it in the library (not that she had any desire to do so.) Faced with these impossible options, Sister Madly decided that it was necessary to bluff her way through, figuring that if she threw enough scientific-sounding words around, she would pass.
And bluff she did, attributing the bleaching phenomenon to static electricity: when exposed to fire in an enclosed area, the sulfur produces an electrical charge which causes its particles to cling to the rose, thus turning it white.
It is not known whether the teacher bought this snake oil sales pitch, or whether he simply admired her audacity, but that day Sister Madly adjourned for recess with not only with a passing grade, but the confidence that school was a waste of time as her science teacher was no more wiser than she.
20+ years later, Sister Madly finally knows the science behind this experiment.* It hasn’t enhanced her life in the slightest.
* When sulfur burns it produces sulfur dioxide- which acts as a bleaching agent- reducing the pigments, thus turning the rose white. Re-oxidizing the reduced pigments restores the color, which can be as simple by exposing the reduced dyes to the oxygen in the atmosphere.
It’s a known fact that every great business transaction begins with “Psst, Buddy…”
More so when the negotiation sequence is initiated by a sock.
It began a few hours prior in faux Medieval times,* where all attempts to out-cupcake the Dodo in the Battle of the Baked Goods failed in a most pathetic manner. True, it was because Sister Madly fled in what looked like a cowardly fashion, but she had a good reason: her sock was slipping off.
*A Renaissance Faire.
For those still following along, aye- this would be same sock that accosted Sister Madly behind the Hatchet-Throwing Range (perhaps not the ideal place for a little business tête-à-tête, but the nearest Waffle House was several states away.) She lost her sock, you see, when the Dodo made off with it after Sister Madly launched it out the window of the Citadel That Has No Pearls. What became of the Avian Horror immediately after was a mystery- that is, until she came upon a 2-ton* Viking well-versed in Barbarian-speak with her sock on his hand. Sister Madly didn’t think that was very sanitary, but then, hygiene didn’t seem to be a top priority with this particular philistine.
It came as no surprise to find that, amongst his other fiendish virtues, the Dodo was a heartless Sock Trafficker, having sold her paisley little friend to the Vikings for mere pennies on the dollar. Now her wretched Sock was doomed to a life of hard Viking labor, such as drinking and pillaging, and bellowing incoherent battle cries (faux Medieval-era Vikings didn’t do much else.)
But what baffled her was that the Sock didn’t seem particularly upset about this- in fact, it seemed rather chipper, if not downright happy. The Sock was never happy on her foot; after all, it did try to slip off earlier in the day. It did fly out the window at the first opportunity, and not once did it protest when shanghaied by the Dodo.
And when one considers the fact that it was the Sock, itself, negotiating its own safe return…
She promised the Sock prime real estate in her sock drawer. She promised him treats. She promised to hand-wash him in the kitchen sink rather than force him to endure the spin-cycle, which can’t be a pleasant experience. She even promised to buy him a cider here and now… an offer that was interrupted by the arrival of some good, old-fashioned, plague doctor melancholy.
You’re bribing a Sock Puppet with a pint?
My dear corpse-bird, if Sister Madly had a dollar for every time… that is, she has negotiated with socks before, especially during that crucial washer-to-dryer transfer- that they honor their commitment to each other, that they implement the buddy system- admittedly with mixed results. Besides, she wouldn’t be bribing her Sock with a pint if someone hadn’t handed him over to the Vikings in the first place!
I set him free. If he loves you, he will return to you.
Why aren’t you out treating the plague?!
Do you see a case of the plague that needs to be treated?
Rather than admit that he had a valid point- or worse, that he was good at his job- Sister Madly lamented that she didn’t have any cupcake ammo aimed at his stone-cold heart (if he had one.) The Dodo then obliged her with a handful of his customary Mystery Flavored Dum Dums.
Which she threw right back at him.
But soon she faced a different dilemma: her other sock clearly wasn’t happy about being left out of the barbarism- she knew this, because it was currently working its way down to her toes much like its mate had. It wouldn’t be long before she had a mutiny on her hands, and to be overthrown by sock puppets was not the way she wanted to leave this planet.* Besides, this particular sock species tends to mate for life- one never sees a paisley sock paired with an argyle. To destroy such a bond would be cruel, and Sister Madly had no choice but to let this sock join its mate. Her conscience can be totally bourgeois, sometimes.
And so Sister Madly pulled off her other sock and stuffed it into the Viking’s drinking horn.*
*Her conscience can be a total brat as well.
THEME SONG: Rock-A-Sock-A-Hop, Jimmy Crain
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
Sister Madly so wanted to be an orphan when she was young. The Boxcar Children can do that to a girl.
No doubt it would be a dreamy life, where she would spend her days collecting pretty rocks, cooking over an open fire, bathing in a babbling brook (but only when she felt like it, by golly!) and stocking her humble abode with treasures found at the local junkyard. She would be a pioneer in the industrialized Midwest, where she would eat nothing but jerky and Zingers- which was only logical, since these foods never spoil. Also, they were readily available at the party store down the street.
Despite its flawless beauty, there was something about this plan that offended her mother so horribly- seriously, what did being an orphan have anything to do with her mother, anyway? After all, it was a perfectly normal childhood desire to be a foundling; even her sister, Tallulah, had orphan aspirations, which were inspired by the movie Annie.
*Turns out, being an orphan had everything to do with her mother.*
Alas, the dream began to sour when it became clear that Sister Madly could never survive in a boxcar; in fact, she is reminded of her own incompetence every time she goes camping. And it’s not just setting up the tent; getting in and out of the horrid thing can only be achieved through a sophisticated network of zippers which leaves her whimpering within the confines of that canvas prison until someone lets her out. If she can’t figure out a tent, surely the boxcar would have eaten her alive. Not to mention that she has no idea where the nearest junkyard is, that babbling brooks are hard to come by, and what on earth does she know about intentionally starting fires?
But what killed the orphan dream was not only the discovery that the frosting can be peeled off a Zinger in one rubbery piece, but that it can stick to the ceiling for hours.
And that riffraff is FDA approved.
Fortunately, her plucky spirit did not die with the dream, for even prior to these discoveries Sister Madly was fascinated with the idea of alternative worlds- especially those found down rabbit holes, inside of cupboards or magic books, or behind mirrors. It is so much easier to survive in these realms than in a boxcar as one’s basic necessities are always provided for through magic, with no shortage of life lessons learned through a host of mythical creatures, arch nemeses, and lovely lunch pail trees. Sister Madly never understood why those who stumbled upon these worlds spent their entire time trying to get back home- seriously, just think about it. Magical jewelry. Luck Dragons. Ancient texts. A moon that becomes a kitten’s smile. Spontaneous musical numbers in which you instinctively know all the songs and all the choreography.
And again- lunch pail trees.
But as the years passed, her looking-glass remained inaccessible, she never encountered the Goblin King, and her mother was constantly preventing her from traveling Over the Rainbow by dragging her to the basement whenever there was a tornado in the area. Apparently, Sister Madly’s insistence that she knew exactly how to get home from Oz was not at all reassuring.
As neither her mother nor the laws of physics were on her side, Sister Madly sulked at the prospect of living out the rest of her life in the world of the mundane.
But is there really such a difference between the two worlds?
In one world, roads are made of yellow brick.
In the other, roads are made of asphalt, in which large, gaping sinkholes appear without warning and swallow everything whole.
In one, the animals speak the native language and join you for dinner.
In the other, the animals speak a foreign language and are made into dinner.
In one, certain foods make you grow taller.
In the other, certain foods make you grow wider.
In one, the moon is a smile.
In the other, the moon has a face. Sometimes.
In one, mushrooms make you hallucinate.
In the other, mushrooms make you hallucinate.
In one, animals wear human clothing.
In the other, animals are human clothing.
So Sister Madly, explain to us if you will, why should you prefer the mysteries and adventures of alternative worlds when the one you live in is just as bizarre?
Then again, there’s that whole lunch pail tree thing…
THEME SONG: Mad World, Tears for Fears
It happens to the best of us, that close call of almost having to marry your sister.
It’s the same old story: one minute, you’re sitting at your favorite pub with a few pints of cider, then the next your elder sister is sitting across from you, asking if you’d be willing to take the place of the man who was suppose to marry her in 10 days. He flaked out, you see. How typical.
It’s the classic American love story.
The conversation didn’t begin that way; in fact, they were discussing the wedding cake that Tallulah had picked out. Sister Madly implored her to do away with the
yucky questionable fruit filling, which is an atrocity meant for things like food fights and PB & Jam sandwiches, not heavenly, life-altering cake. Not if you want your friends to actually like you. Seriously, toothpaste or kibble would be a far more user friendly filling.
It was then that Tallulah broke the news of He-Who-Flaked-Out-of-the-Wedding, that she just might need Sister Madly to take his place, which left Sister Madly gaping like a large-mouth bass (albeit, a fetching one.) She should have seen this coming. A few weeks after her engagement, Tallulah had warned that this might be a possibility; but that was over 14 months ago, when Sister Madly had ample time to prepare by drinking constantly. Or joining a circus. Or being institutionalized. Or at least by brushing her hair.
Yet like any decent elder sibling, Tallulah understood her apprehension, saying that if Sister Madly had any better suggestions, she was more than willing to consider them.
Oh, but Sister Madly had suggestions, and plenty of them; yet Tallulah managed to find fault with them all- even with the one that was so logical and so horribly practical, it was clearly above reproach:
Summon Cthulhu, you say? Sure, Sister Madly, that’s a plan- not a good one, but a plan.
But summoning Cthulhu takes a bit of time; there’s chanting and worship and travel and finding about 3000 expendable souls for him to snack on along the way. It would do no good to have him feasting on all the wedding guests in the middle of Tallulah’s vows. That’s bound to ruin a couple of friendships.
But much like Cthulhu, Sister Madly doesn’t just marry a desperate soul on a whim. There needs to be a sit-down where the ceremony is planned out and vows are discussed- and let’s not forget that whole fruit filling issue, although Tallulah seemed to hint that she would be willing to change said filling to a glorious chocolate bliss if Sister Madly would only do her this favor.*
* Turns out, Tallulah never hinted any such a thing. That was the cider talking.
Seeing as her options were becoming all-the-more limited, Sister Madly decided to utilize the barter system- Tallulah was, after all, family.
Will you play Safety Dance at the reception?
How about Dancing with Myself?
I’ll think about it.
How about the bagpipes at dusk?
You hate Twister.
How about Safety Dance during-
THERE WILL BE NO SAFETY DANCE!!!
Will you hire someone to pose as Slender Man in the photos?
Ha Ha Ha Ha! (For those of you who unfamiliar with Tallulah-speak, that is a ‘no.’)
Will you at least pick up the tab tonight?
I suppose I can do that.
When one considers how much cider Sister Madly consumed not only before, but after that initial proposal, the joke was on Tallulah.
As it turned out, Sister Madly did not have to marry her own sister 10 days later; Tallulah, you see- the ever intrepid, down-to-earth Tallulah- found someone else to officiate the wedding, relieving the panicky Sister Madly of the duty of performing the ceremony for her sister and brother-in-law.
Sister Madly still doesn’t understand why Tallulah objected to Cthulhu, as he is the High Priest of the Great Old Ones. Clergy officiate weddings all the time.
For those uncertain: Sister Madly was asked to officiate (perform) the wedding ceremony for Tallulah and the now Mr. Tallulah. While Sister Madly loves her sister, she herself isn’t quite ready for marriage.
It is no secret that Sister Madly’s lineage is one of bootleggers, barbarians, gamblers and smugglers- and those are just the ladies.
By the age of 15, Sister Madly’s great-grandmother was not only married, but making moonshine; yet tales of these exploits paled by comparison to the ones that emerged during Prohibition (1919 -1933), when she began making bathtub gin. While illness to near blindness was common amongst the clientele in the early days, Sister Madly is still disappointed that the family recipe was not passed down to future generations- seriously, what else is she going to do with her bathtub?
Despite the nomadic blood in their veins, her grandparents had managed to settle into a more conventional lifestyle. Yes, much like your very own household, the Halls of the Elder Madly estate were slick with an electric organ, a fully-stocked cocktail bar, several antique slot machines and good, old-fashioned melancholy. Sure, it was a bit like the Phantom’s Lair meets Voodoo Magic after a mid-1960’s renovation, but that doesn’t mean it was short on charm. Or polka albums. Or false walls. Mysterious drafts and unexplained noises. The sense of never quite being alone. Spiders. And pin-up playing cards.
Never one to be a gregarious little supernova, Sister Madly often spent family holidays in the comfort of the mysterious drafts and the slot machines. Her grandparents took to this antisocialism as though Sister Madly were some sort of child prodigy instead of a wayward little urchin outlining bodies in chalk at the bottom of dimly-lit stairwells. The laundry chute became the clandestine way Tallulah would pass candy to Sister Madly down in the basement on the days Tallulah chose to socialize with the adults- although sometimes, Sister Madly was forced to retrieve the treats herself when elder sis FORGOT ABOUT HER.
Not that she holds a grudge or anything…
It was during one such solo mission that Sister Madly discovered the sliver sleigh bell that she would one day come to inherit. Actually, the sleigh bell had been on the mantle all along, but that was the day she became curious about it- enough to delay the mission to the candy dish and ask certain questions. Yes, she was that curious.
The story is that this sleigh bell was smuggled into America by one of Sister Madly’s great-grandmothers when she emigrated from Finland. It is said that the Finnish Government back in the day frowned upon the natives leaving the country in favor of new adventures, so to discourage the wanderlust, those emigrating were allowed to take with them very little money and absolutely nothing of value. Thus Sister Madly‘s great-grandmother departed Finland with nothing more than a wild aspiration and a silver sleigh bell, which she had hidden inside a ball of yarn.
Why a sleigh bell, you ask. Sister Madly would like you to believe that it was Great-Grandma’s way of giving society the ol’ middle finger- or whatever gesture is the Finnish equivalent. And while Sister Madly finds this to be a most delightful theory, it begs the question of whether border patrol was simply inexperienced in detecting sleigh bells hidden inside balls of yarn, or if this was part of a greater plot to infect America with a lunacy that can only be transmitted by a sweet, sleigh bell trafficking, 19 year-old who did not even pretend to know how to knit.
*At this same age, Sister Madly was living her own dream of joyriding scissor lifts through the mall. Never lose those stars in your eyes, Moppet.
Therein lies the proof that Sister Madly is, without a doubt, of this same bloodline: not because she gets a kick out of transporting knives inside of socks or substituting absinthe for Mountain Dew, but by the way she defiantly buys skeins of yarn without even knowing how to knit.
Blood, you see, is thicker than moonshine.
FRENCH ONION BARLEY
- 5 onions, sliced (used 2 red, 3 yellow)
- 2-3 Tbsp butter/oil
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 8 oz mushrooms (opt)
- 2/3 cup dry barley, rinsed of riffraff
- 4 cups beef or mushroom broth
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp thyme
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 puff pastry sheet, thawed, rolled-out and cut into squares
- 1 egg, beaten
FRENCH ONION BARLEY
Melt butter/oil in dutch oven
Add onions, stirring to coat
Lower heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally (every 5-8 minutes or so)
Continue until onions are caramelized (45-60 minutes)
Add mushrooms and sauté (5 minutes)
Add red wine to deglaze pan
Add broth, spices and bring to a boil
Add barley and stir
Reduce to a simmer and cover
Simmer for 45 minutes or until barley is tender
Divide soup into oven-proof ramekins
Pull pastry square taut over the top of each bowl
Press pastry against rim of bowl to seal the edges
Brush pastry with the beaten egg
Place bowls on baking sheet and bake @ 400* for 20 min (do not open oven before 15- pastry may fall)
THEME SONG: Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, Dervish. Or Cher. You choose.
The Professors were having yet another social get-together, the likes of which can range from tedious to interesting to (admittedly, with a little help) downright bizarre, and one simply attends just to see which it will be. Against their better judgment, the Professors asked Sister Madly if they could borrow a decanter- or something that could pass as such- and oh, could she pick up about half a dozen brown eggs on her way over?
Sister Madly is nothing if not obliging, and went about her tasks with an uncommon cheer. When she arrived at the Professor’s house later that afternoon with decanter in hand, her cheer was bordering upon sinister.
That’s a beaker.
Actually, Professor, it’s an Erlenmeyer flask, in which Sister Madly usually keeps flowers.
You brought us your vase?!
No. She brought you a decanter. Only when it is holding flowers is it a vase.* That should be fairly obvious.
* The flowers that were in the vase were transferred to the teapot. And she did rinse out the beaker beforehand, so all the fuss was quite unnecessary.
But that was nothing compared to the moment she handed over the eggs.
You can’t make Scotch Eggs with Cadbury!
How do you know, Professor? Have you ever tried?
Do you really expect us to believe that you didn’t understand what we meant?
Why, she hadn’t even thought of that! This sort of stunt has become so unapologetically routine that Sister Madly merely assumed that the Professors knew she was just being a little horror.
Not that she isn’t proud of the fact.
If I had my druthers…
What happened to them, Professor?
Naturally this question had less to do with what had become of these ‘druthers’ as it did with wanting to hear the Professor try to explain definition of the word. And oh, it was completely horrible for the Professor, but it amused Sister Madly to no end.
Perhaps you accidentally put your druthers out with the recycling. Or maybe they got caught in the lint trap while you were doing the laundry- that’s where Sister Madly tends to find missing socks. They say druthers are drawn to lint traps because of the static cling-
She didn‘t get very far in her conjecture before she was sent outside with a cider and a muffin. Sister Madly didn’t want a muffin. The thing had so many poppy seeds that, if one were to plant it, a row of fully stocked opium dens would bloom in its place.
So she impaled it on the nearest car antenna.
Now the Professors are usually reluctant to let Sister Madly out of their sight for long, in case she should sneak into a closet until nightfall and poison them in their sleep (like she would bother waiting until they were asleep.) The last time they were this negligent, Sister Madly decked the halls with so much mistletoe that one was never more than a few steps away from at kiss.
This time their negligence would result in something far less whimsical.
You see, Sister Madly had come across a truly horrifying recipe she had intended to make for her brother-in-law that weekend, and had picked up the ingredients along with the eggs. But why waste a ghastly recipe on someone who will only smile politely at the result before ordering a pizza when she can make it now and send the Professors into months of intensive therapy?
The making of this concoction was terribly easy- so easy, in fact, that Sister Madly was almost ashamed. The Professors hardly gave her a second glance when she took her place in the corner of the kitchen, peeling bananas and wrapping them in ham. No doubt they thought this behavior was typical of one who had recently consumed a truckload of poppy seeds, and congratulated themselves for having Sister Madly properly sedated.
When she asked the Professors if they had any Dijon, she was handed a bottle of Wasabai mustard, and when she asked for cream, she given a container of caramel-flavored coffee creamer. Sister Madly, being nothing if not obliging, didn’t say a word; after all, she could blame the poppy seeds, but the Professors- they could blame no one but themselves.
It wasn’t long before the wallpaper began to peel beneath the cloud of the most hateful funk.
What’s that smell?!
That would be your druthers, Professor: Prosciutto and Musa Fruit Hollandaise- or, in bologna and cheese speak, Ham and Banana Hollandaise Sauce-From-A-Packet.
HAM AND BANANA HOLLANDAISE
- 6 bananas
- 1/4 c lemon juice
- 6 thin slices ham
- 3 Tbsp mustard
- 2 packets hollandaise sauce mix
- 1/4 c light cream
- 1 cup water
Preheat oven to 400*
Sprinkle Bananas w/2 Tbsp lemon juice to prevent darkening (does not work but do it anyway)
Spread ham with mustard
Wrap each banana in slice of ham
Arrange in single layer in baking dish
Bake for 10 minutes
Combine sauce mix with water, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, and cream in a saucepan
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly
Pour sauce over baked bananas
Return bananas to oven
Bake until wallpaper peels from the walls and the linoleum warps, approx 5 minutes
THEME SONG: Yes, We Have No Bananas
In the Madliverse, curiosity not only kills the cat, it buries it at the nearest construction site, fills the hole with cement and makes it the foundation of a fabulous 5-star hotel.
So it was with some trepidation when Sister Madly succumbed to her curiosity and asked Midori, a recent transplant from Japan, the question that had been plaguing her for days:
What language do you think in?
But Midori thought it the most natural question in the world, just as she thought dandelions made the lawn look ‘untidy.’ She also despised the name ‘Chad’- which proved to be most unfortunate as irony would one day find her married to a Chad. Midori was one who could trace her family tree back many, many generations straight through samurai Japan, while Sister Madly’s family tree was once handed her on a yellow post-it and whose branches were as alive and lush as a twig in the dead of winter. This family sapling covered no more than 5 generations and scattered them across Europe, Asia and the Middle East- something which seemed to fascinate Midori.
That was how the 2 of them found themselves lounging amongst the pillows of the opium bed at Utopia, debating over the proper pronunciation of the word Pączki*- until Management appeared, which resulted in the 3 of them lounging amongst the pillows of that antique opium bed, debating the proper pronunciation of the word Pączki. Similar debates would occur over the pronunciation of Gruyere, Reykjavik, and Jicama during the next several months, just a handful of the words they had both before seen, but had never heard spoken.
There was once an attempt to teach Sister Madly the Japanese language- and she is proud to say, to this day, she can still count to ‘1’ like a champ. Yet Midori steadfastly refused to teach her any Japanese recipes- “What is there to teach? Raw fish is not a cuisine.” In fact, Midori found America’s fondness for deep-frying anything remotely digestible as irrefutable proof that there is, indeed, a god.
*It’s pronounce POONCH-key. Say it: Pączki.
So it came to pass on the eve of Midori’s 22nd birthday that she and Sister Madly found themselves wandering the town, when…
“Oh my god- I’m so old!”
You know, Sister Madly once looked forward to the day in which she unintentionally frightened small children simply by being old. However, as Midori now finds herself ancient on the eve of her 22nd birthday, one can only concluded that Sister Madly has been laughing in the face of the Grim Reaper since the beginning of June.
Naturally this led them to the roof of the nearest parking garage that night with a roll of SweeTarts and some cider, doing that which all the Ancients find inevitable: discussing the laws of Thermodynamics.
Indeed, Sister Madly was untamable in those days.
But it wasn’t until they arrived back at Midori’s later that night that the conversation took on an entirely new meaning.
“Where’s my porch?”
The question was facetious, really, for one only had to look no further than the charred bits of wood smoldering at their feet to find said porch. Still, one could not help but wonder how the lovely wrap-around porch was suddenly reduced of a pile of charbroiled ashes without at least a note of apology.
That is, everyone except Midori.
There was no arguing with this logic, for obviously there had been some thermo involved in the removal of the porch; and there was no arguing that the dynamic of the porch had drastically changed. There was no arguing because of the few too many ciders Sister Madly had consumed not long before, and no longer found the topic remotely interesting.
However, when one removes the wrap-around porch from an old Victorian, one also removes the method of conquering the distance from the lawn to the front door. Fortunately- for Midori, at least- Sister Madly was able to offer up what remained of her strength and her brawn, and attempted to stand en pointe upon a stack of cinder blocks while she hoisted Midori upon her shoulders so she could unlock the front door.
This plan went much more smoothly in her mind, for in her mind, Sister Madly was skilled in ballet, had impeccable balance, and was not three sheets to the wind. In reality, her balance was as such that Sister Madly not only toppled Midori multiple times against the door, but multiple times against the doorbell as well- a doorbell that played the first few chords of Beethoven’s Fifth. Bet the landlord regrets that purchase now.
Still, it was the least Sister Madly could do; one simply cannot leave the elderly out in the frigid night air- that would be rude. Especially on her birthday.
*Midori tends to think in the language that she is currently speaking, by the way.
(Inspired by the controversial, often inaccurate, fire-and-brimstone world of cartoonist Jack Chick.**)
* I shall never sleep calmly again when I think of the horrors that lurk ceaselessly behind life in time and space, and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars that dream beneath the sea… HPL *
** Website may be blocked in some countries.
Who Will Be Eaten First? by Howard Hallis