Queen City and Other Dimensions

 

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PREFACE

SYNOPSIS 

 

Queen City and Other Dimensions is an iconoclastic farce and a humorous satire of manners, politics, mythologies and social conventions. Supreme Court Judges in the guise of Roman Catholic Cardinals, more than a few politicians, and their evil benefactors, religion, science, and this, that, and the other are satirized. There is an infamous book from a distant planet pursued by many, including the Vatican. As the book goes through a succession of hands each reader is changed by its magic. Victoria Aires and her bevy of gay cohorts, members of the Friends of Erotic Artifacts, take a wild field trip to the caverns of sensuous delights on the far side of the Cheyanne Mountain Strategic Air Command where they discover a government secret plot to spy on the citizens of Queen City with tiny bots; a test in preparation for spying on all world leaders. Chaos ensues when Queen City becomes the victim of a fracking disaster, the brain child of the Koch brothers who have set up shop by Lake Titicaca near a psychic retreat called Puerto Nostradamus. Queen City and Other Dimensions explores time travel, astro projection, folding space and so much, much more.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

 Edward Crosby Wells has been writing for the stage over twenty-five years. He has won several international awards, and his plays have been performed worldwide.

  After growing up in Harriman, New York, a small upstate village, Wells did a stint in the US Navy, tried college but dropped out, then joined a community theatre group, started writing plays, and put his dreams for writing novels to bed.  Harriman, fifty miles north of New York City, gave the author easy access to films, museums, and theatre. 

 He enriched his theatrical experiences while writing reviews for a trade publication in New York City, "Show Business" and "Abel Magazine." He went back to college  and studied theatrical literature, and English and American literature of the fin de siècle.

  In his first novel, Queen City and Other Dimensions,  written under the pen of E. C. Wells, he has relied on character and dialogue to tell a fantastical, iconoclastic farce. 

 


 

 

BY THE AUTHOR

 

NOVELS

Queen City and Other Dimensions 

Gnarled Pines (in-progress)

 


PLAYS (Full Length)

3 Guys in Drag Selling Their Stuff

Desert Devils

Flowers Out Of Season

In The Venus Arms

Poet’s Wake

Streets of Old New York (Musical)

Tales of Darkest Suburbia

The Moon Away

The Proctologist’s Daughter

Thor's Day

Wait A Minute!

West Texas Massacre

PLAYS (30 to 60 minutes)

20th Century Sketches

Empire (40-minutes)

Slow Boat to China (30-minutes)

*Tough Cookies (60-minutes)

PLAYS (under 30-minutes)

21 Today (monologue)

Civil Unionized

Cornered

Dick and Jane Meet Barry Manilow

Harry the Chair

Leaving Tampa

Missing Baggage

Next

Pedaling to Paradise

Pink Gin for the Blues (monologue)

Road Kill

Samson and Delilah

Sisters of Little Mercy

Slow Boat to China

Talking Dog

Vampyre Holiday

Whiskers

SCREENPLAY

Road Kill

 

All plays are licensed by Stageplays.com           

*Tough Cookies is handled by Samuel French, Inc.



CHAPTERS


1.  the other side of wonderland

2.  tea time at shady sanctum

3.  jesus and the devil walk into a bar

4.  too much public television

5.  the obligatory book

6.  a night in snow white’s crotch

7.  may I put my hands on her

8.  robbery, villainy, insanity, and cardinal sins

9.  origin, orgies, and the color of magic

10. better call fuzzlbum

11. frackers, buzzards, and real live mormons

12. shitty tits, made in china

13. gnomenclature for unconscious dimensions

14. what’s a gingrich, birthing and a beautiful thing

15. there goes the neighborhood

16. coming home to roost

17. lunchtime at shady sanctum

18. on the road, woman with a dick, rolly stomps on it

19. hitler’s ego, and monsanto’s bad seeds

20. lock and load and risky pleasures

21. party like it’s the end of the world

22. back to sphincter island

23. welcome to wonderland

 

 

 

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. —Andre Gide

 

 

 

For Ronald L. Perkins, my husband and my inspiration        

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ONE

   the other side of wonderland

 

Queen City, Colorado began as a commingling of settlers, speculators, alchemists, prospectors staking claims to Rocky Mountain mines of silver and gold. They had given up their every attachment in pursuit of the miraculous mother-load that will, they think, fulfill their every dream. Well, at least it got them out of the house.

Drifters and grifters from just about everywhere came looking for something. Some weren’t sure what that something was, but some were sure they would find it in the Queen City of the Plains. They came and they settled, putting down roots into mile-high ground situated against the majestic Rocky Mountains to the West that inspired, to one degree or less, the white kinda-mountainous roof of maybe-snow-capped peaks rising over Queen City International Airport. Eastward are the barren plains and the flatlands of Kansas—the dead zone.

Much like America, equality, and democracy, Queen City is an idea—an enchanting idea. It evolves while yet maintaining infinite dimensions of its past: Gothic, Modern, Pretentious, Victorian, Post-Modern, Contemporary, Quaint, Bold, Steampunk, Deco, a hodgepodge out of time and ahead of its time at once. No one can easily stick a label to it. It is neither fish, fowl, nor Rocky Mountain oyster. Welcome to the other side of Wonderland—Queen City.

Some of the most atypical individuals live in the Capitol Hill district of Queen City. Carlotta Bean is one of many singular residents on Capitol Hill. She owns who-the-fuck-can-figure-it-out Little Alexandria; a converted stable that consumes two extra large lots. “A wonder to behold, but not to be believed. A gaudy mismatch of everything,” was the sum-total of what the Asshole Princess of Self-Focused Critics wrote regarding Little Alexandria for Architectural Digest. The Demon Critic proceeded to slobber her unbearable euphemisms and similes, her unspeakable grammar, doublespeak, and an endless parade of repetitions across two slick pages. That blatantly egregious reference to Little Alexandria was simply used as an example of the antithesis of, “…that rattrap in Cherry Creek…” bemoaned Carlotta Bean, “…a prefab owned by carpetbaggers from Dallas, Los Angeles or some other woe-worthy place.” Carlotta was heartbroken, for a short while anyway, until another side of her arose from the suburbs of Hell to come to her rescue suggesting a vendetta.

She began her vendetta with a barrage of poison-pen letters handwritten to the editor and to the “sick bitch gonzo writer” herself. Every single day two letters were written in purple ink from a tortoiseshell fountain pen. As her vitriol grew daily, her diminutive handwriting became as large as fingernails and as jagged as the stabbings of a Donald Trump signature. No one from Architectural Digest ever replied. She felt abused, hurt, unnoticed. She was thrown into a tailspin which headed straight into a deep and hate-filled depression, which she felt disposed to parcel out among her friends and anyone else who gets in her way. When Carlotta’s unhappy she dragoons those around her to be the same.

The daily missives and telephone calls, her angry outbursts and farting into her smartphone, pretending to be a lawyer threatening to sue their collective asses, became meaner by the day. Once she screamed into the phone, “I know where you live, fucker!” followed by a barrage of ear-piercing shrieks. After a month of menace she made one last, regrettable, not very smart, phone call, “There’s a bomb hidden in your building!”

After an hour, or so, of her bullying interrogation, she finally let the Men in Black Suits talk. Hours later, after explaining the situation ad infinitum, interspersed with her sobbing and contriteness, the Men in Black Suits confessed their surprise that she and Little Alexandria were treated “…so shockingly, so shabbily." Carlotta entertained the Men in Black Suits with her coquettish, sensuous, woman-girl persona. She turned into a purring kitten with a come hither smile, “Anytime you boys are in town be sure to come see me. Ohh, and since we all agree that this was nothing but nonsense you may leave now. Ya’ll have a pleasant day, ya hear?” The Men in Black Suits bowed and walked backwards toward the front doors and let themselves out, smiling as though they just had the fuck of their lives. And perhaps they did.

The following day a computer generated legal document arrived via certified mail. The document was complete with two unreadable notarized signatures from the magazine’s attorneys. If the Men in Black Suits hadn’t helped her to turn over a new leaf, the “cease and desist” order scared the bejesus out of her with threats that, unlike Carlotta’s own threats, could in fact be carried out. She ceased and desisted. After a month without a word from anyone at Architectural Digest, she felt assured that would be the end of it. And it was. She never heard from the magazine again. She did not renew her subscription.

Carlotta Bean is a slight woman, a natural beauty, a mature woman shrouded in mystery. Her dyed-black hair is cut into a strikingly asymmetrical shape that suits her face and temperament perfectly.

When Carlotta first saw Mister Bean, Mister Bean saw her as a vagina, a lovely vagina, but a vagina all the same. When she wasn’t a vagina she was a piece of arm candy—a trophy he could fuck. She saw him for what he was; a sad man with a shitload of money. They both knew full-well that their living together was simply an arrangement, but after a few months they found the best in each other. The vibes they shared were positively intoxicating, so Mister Bean asked his vagina to marry him and, without any hesitation, his vagina said yes. Mister Bean and his vagina were a match made in somewhere otherworldly: a strip joint on Colfax Avenue where Carlotta gave her future husband a lap dance.

Carlotta was reasonably happily married right up until Mister Bean died from eating a moldy baloney sandwich while sleepwalking. It took Carlotta nearly an entire year before she could put on a face, an attitude, get out of the mansion, get her hair and her wigs done, get a waxing down under, and have a bit of fun. And, boy-o-boy, did Carlotta Bean know how to have fun—and a lot of it!

On either side of the north entrance to Little Alexandria, rising two stories high, two marble Ionic columns stood attached to nothing. “It’s a wonder they haven’t toppled. Must be some kind of gravity or magnetic thing or something,” those who saw it were heard to say.

The frieze below the cornice of each depicts naked Greek soldiers with spears, shields and unreasonable stiffies. Some nights the columns prowl around the grounds. One night, while wading in the outdoor pool, the south pillar fell and chipped its cornice. The north pillar helped it up and out. Before the sun rose, they managed to wobble their way back to their places where they stood guard at the north entrance to Little Alexandria.

Neighbors gathered daily with binoculars and cellphone cameras to catch anything they could see over the dull yellow stucco wall. Did either of the columns appear askew? Minnie Beach swears the columns switched places. Others swear that they had also noticed something, but they are not crystal clear about what it was they noticed. When they try to remember, they suffer unbearable migraine headaches.

There are Keepers of Count among the Capitol Hill bunch. As an example: The Keepers of Count keep count of the kind of flowers their neighbors plant or intend to plant, how well their choices of colors will coordinate, what kinds of insects might they attract, who was watering their yard on no-watering days, and who was getting suspicious-appearing deliveries from Amazon? Things of little consequence populate the minuscule dimension of gossip within a galaxy of doomed machinations performed from a sense of insignificance, trapped them in the mire of their discontent—the Keepers of Count.

The Capitol Hill coterie appear conspicuously in coffee houses and sidewalk cafés. This provides an advantageous viewpoint to do what comes naturally—observe those whom they know, then dig for lethal information that may come in handy, in the future.

Saturday, a sunny day in mid-June. Excitement and the scent of sublimity was in the Queen City air. The FEA field trip ended when the chartered bus, which was more than an hour late, returned with neither V nor Lily on it.

Professor Hans von Mummi, of whom most on the bus had, at one time or another, wondered from where the “von” came, or if it were simply an abused preposition, was on the bus.

Before taking an early retirement, Professor von Mummi, alone in the night while playing with his chemistry set, blew-up and destroyed the entire applied sciences building where he headed the chemistry department at Queen City University. After returning home from a month in Queen City General, and another month in Utah getting plastic surgery, von Mummi looked right as rain. Better than rain, in fact. Still, he needed something to occupy his mind. So, he decided to write an opera.

His opera, Snuff in the Tropics, based on the Jonestown Massacre, had a free public reading at the Uranus Café in Queen City’s LoDo district; a pretentious throwback to the Beat 1950s’ cafés that populated New York’s Greenwich Village. However and unfortunately, the cast was so large that the small avant-garde coffee house could not accommodate an audience in excess of twelve. Besides, who wants to listen to a “reading” of an opera? Surely, something is bound to be lost in transliteration.

Prof. Hans von Mummi’s wife, Helga, an environmental artist, accompanied him on the FEA field trip. Helga’s claim to notoriety was papering the trees and grass of Cheesman Park in Queen City’s Capitol Hill territory with pink crepe paper. But moments after she had completed the installation a torrential rain came and the paper soaked into the lawn, dying the entire park pink as it disintegrated. Apparently, crepe paper wasn’t such a great idea. It took several mowings before the park returned to green. Helga then restricted herself, at the request of the City Council, to the interiors of shopping malls. Oddly enough, the sunny day following her washout the Gay Pride Parade assembled in the pink park causing some to think it a message from God.

Philip and Mercy Pence, proprietors of The Prometheus Society LLC, were on the bus. The Pences specialized in removing the bodies of loved ones, turning them into ashes before  scooping them into hand-crafted boxes before return delivery. They make all the arrangements as well as the boxes. The mourner is free of worries and stress. Should you want a quiet no-questions-asked cremation, one instantly forgotten, a never-happened cremation, the Pences were thrilled to accommodate their “special” clients in their time of distress—for a significantly inflated "special" price. The Prometheus Society LLC is a cottage industry owned and operated by the Pences from their very own cottage.

Philip Pence was once a grandiose pontificator perpetually certain that he knew better than anyone within the sound of his voice. His friends and acquaintances found him a boring buffoon. Since his quarrelsome certitude intimidated any attempt to disagree with him, Philip the Pontificator quickly and drastically limited his sales ability; as well as his friends. That said, about a year before today’s FEA field trip, he suddenly became a quiet person, a submissive person, an introspective man—he became Philip the Ordinary. What happened? Everybody noticed, but none could figure a motive for the change. It was as though Philip wasn’t there anymore; which brought to the minds of many, The Body Snatchers. Some went so far as to check their cellars for pods. Those who hadn’t cellars scoured the bushes.

Mercy Pence is a champion when it comes to selling insurance for a low maintenance funeral. The secret to her success is her studied illusion of empathy and her uncanny ability to secure down payments from people who could never afford the monthly installments, and so, they would eventually default. Not Mercy’s fault. Mercy convinced herself that helping the poor buy into the American Dream of dying with dignity, with a quick and quiet departure, with neither inconvenience, nor stress to the survivors for whom she was doing God’s work. Clearly, it was not her responsibility that "…some who hadn’t thought about the consequences of their signed-commitments, who forfeited years of their payments because they should have known better and paid their policies on time." It certainly wasn’t the fault of Mercy that "…they’ll soon find themselves in a black hole and covered with lye.”

Carlotta Bean, occasional poet and collector of houseboys, along with her current houseguest, were on the bus sitting near Billy Butts the entertainment and society reporter for Out And Beyond.

Nelson Beach, the lawyer who had managed to squirm free from disbarment after Sarah Hookerbee, a lady with a heart of lead accused him of sexual harassment, was on the bus. Sarah Hookerbee, his newly hired secretary, settled on an undisclosed under-the-table payment. She dropped the charges and Nelson raised her rank from secretary to executive assistant. He thought that he could then remain close to her without needing to pay for her personal and especial services, but with Executive Assistant Hookerbee, everything is negotiable.

Nelson Beach sat on a narrow bus seat next to his wife Minnie; plus-sized, resembling a blond Rhine maiden, who was a woman with a kind heart and a gentle disposition. Her husband’s indifference left her to create the illusion of the bus seat being more narrow than it ought. Minnie made jovial remarks meant to amuse, but they were never thought through far enough to anticipate how some might misinterpret her meaning. Poor thing. Minnie stayed home mostly and did nothing as far as anybody knew, other than housewifery.

Moving on, the bus finally returned to Queen City with the Friends of Erotic Artifacts sans Victoria (V) Aires and Lily Nettles, who nobody noticed missing until long after the bus was on its way home—a fact that V would find unimaginably insulting and Lily would find it a just-goes-to-show-you lesson learned.

When the chartered bus was nearly halfway home Carlotta Bean’s Greek house guest inquired, “Plume-ed lady no come back?” of the whereabouts of V who had worn her mauve fedora with the red and yellow feathers stuck to one side under the maroon velvet ribbon that gathered into a puffy bow, about which Minnie Beach had fallen flat upon her own petard with one of her lackluster attempts at wit, obviously well beyond her grasp, by pointing out earlier that day to everybody within ten blocks of the bus station, “I love your hat, Vicky. Maybe I should go to the thrift store with you next time.” Minnie Beach reminded one of a roly-poly toy that uprights every time it is knocked over.

“You do that,” V said, balefully. “…and my name isn’t Vicky! Call me that again and I’ll flog you like a piñata!”

Minnie had an overblown desire to be quick-witted, though she would settle for funny, even amusing; however, she was regrettably disadvantaged by a shortsighted sense of humor. She did give the occasional dinner party designed to reinforce her friendship with others, although they never worked out quite the way she had planned. Her last dinner party resulted in four of her guests coming down with ptomaine poisoning from her matzo ball soup. “It wasn’t my fault. Queen Soopers sold me old rancid matzo meal.”

V rarely paid Minnie Beach much mind since the time Minnie tried to get away with claiming that that thing hanging from the second floor balustrade in her Georgian prefabrication was a rubbing of the Cardiff giant that she had rubbed in a circus sideshow tent a few years back. Pah-leez. Furthermore, Minnie went on to declare how she nearly got herself trampled, maimed and quite possibly killed when three bull elephants objected to her crossing the circus grounds in the dead of night while on her way to the egress along with three charcoaled bed sheets flapping in the wind of an impending tornado. Really! Too much? She was rescued, she claims, by a big, beautiful, blond, blue-eyed aerialist named Claus who happened along just in time to sweep her out from under Bosco the Brute, the biggest of the three bull elephants. “Bull” was the name for it, according to just about everybody. Although, all who knew the story thought it highly imaginative and somewhat revealing; still, nobody was about to believe a word of it. Lily Nettles almost did. Perhaps she wanted to believe. Yet even she, with her trusting nature, always trying to make the best of everything, soon thought better of it. Besides, the Cardiff giant had been discovered as a hoax a long time ago, so a rubbing of it is an irony twice removed. Minnie Beach refuses to change her tune, although Claus elicits a refrain of “the man on the flying trapeze” when her philandering husband is about.

Minnie Beach was made to suffer. No matter how painful the slings and arrows of her outrageous misfortunes she suffered them in silence. In silence she found a stronger self: a self who could manage her own reconstruction. Her friends would never know how deeply the stabs of their disbelief had penetrated. Minnie Beach could never, ever, take her friends, those doubting Thomases, too very much to heart again, but she did time and time again. 

Minnie was made to suffer. She knew "friends" would only break her heart beyond complete repair one day; as if it were a piece of fine china, like her mended teacup that once broken could never be all together mended. No matter how delicately adhered with unseeable fractures held tightly back together, Minnie would always know it was damaged. She could not help but feel guilt and shame every time she caught a glimpse of the blameless teacup. What a dreadful humiliation befalls her whenever she serves that rehabilitated teacup. She did not much like her friends because time and time again they would chip or break her porcelain heart. Time and time again.

Sir Geoffrey Hemphill retired, but from what nobody knew, was on the bus. He was a natty gentleman who suffered an aura of sadness and confusion. Geoffrey was amazingly short, a hundred pounds wet, dressed smartly in a safari suit with a pith helmet covering the combover that he dyed, along with his goatee, coal-black causing him to appear startlingly like a lawn gnome. (Parenthetically, lawn gnomes were a growing danger in Queen City. Since they lost their appetite for small furry things, they began biting, bruising and eating people’s feet. The smart folk take along baseball bats when going outside in the dark.)

Sir Geoffrey had tried to persuade the bus driver to go back to pick up “the girls” since, feared he, “…they were left waiting in the dust of the bus, rejected and forlorn.” Getting no satisfaction from the driver, Sir Geoffrey, in a fit of rage, withdrew his mighty Swiss Army knife and threatened the driver to within an inch of his life, so to speak, with the first blade he could manage to pull out which happened to be an inch long bottle opener; causing a bit of excitement and general chaos in his attempt to demonstrate his chivalry and the degree to which he was willing to go to retrieve V and her actress friend Lily, whom he saw as a barrier to V’s surrendering herself to him in his attempts to court her for her hand in marriage. He never got a clue from V and, for that matter, from himself. He wanted her as a beard and she wanted him to come out of the closet and be a honest friend.

When the bus pulled off and stopped along the side of the road, somewhere where one could look and see only miles of nothing and nowhere, the driver informed Sir Geoffrey that he was merely moonlighting as a bus driver on weekends and that he was a member of Queen City’s Finest. It took a bit of time for Sir Geoffrey to let that sink in, but by the time it did he was being handcuffed and informed of his rights. Coincidently, the driver/policeman mysteriously disappeared the following day; leaving behind a pregnant Chihuahua and a wife who never noticed him missing, although the dog seemed to, every now and again.

The chartered bus had finally come home to a full stop. All aboard were eager to disembark. Some were worried over the whereabouts of V and Lily. Some were not. Billy Butts was preoccupied with weightier matters such as himself and what wonderful company he must have been for all on the bus. Billy really should have been an entertainer; a talkshow host; a grifter. He had the gift of gab and a wealth of talent yet to be mined.

FEA field trip Saturday started on a high note and, by all accounts, it seemed a glorious morning.

“What a glorious morning,” Lily mused.

“Not so glorious, Lily. It’s hot and if Minnie Beach says one more word about my hat I am going to hand it to her!”

“So much for a glorious morning. I don’t see how that will gain you anything, V. You did buy that hat in a thrift store. I was with you,” glibly said.

“Get off it, Lily!” snapped V who had already moved on to visions of Minnie Beach getting run over by a shopping cart in Queen Soopers, although that might be impossible given the size of Minnie vis-a-vie the cart’s wheels, or slipping on a jar of mayonnaise. Upon a second thought, came another vision where Minnie wouldn’t be hurt by any glass, or any other object; just her pride and her butt. V was a fair-minded person who simply wanted justice and little more, though it’s the little more that could get worrisome, yet deliciously satisfying.

“I’m sure she meant well,” said Lily, trying to be of comfort.

However, V took no comfort from Lily’s tone and simply said through an undignified sneer, “Meant well indeed, Lily.”

“You don’t really care about stuff like that,” Lily said, or asked—it seemed more a question than a statement, but too ambiguous to tell.

“What kind of stuff?”

“Revenge.”

"Revenge? What kind of revenge?"

"What other kind is there? The kind that hurts people, V."

“Of course I don’t really want revenge. And I certainly do not want to harm the poor soul. Nevertheless, I am not going to stifle my imagination from having visions designed to amuse myself. So I shop in thrift stores. Who doesn’t? Lily, you do not happen to know if mayonnaise comes in plastic or glass jars, do you?”

“I’d say some are and some aren’t, but I think more plastic than glass. There must be a glut of oil, or a shortness of sand. What do you think, V?”

V feigned a shudder, “I refuse to think about it.”

They all boarded the bus in relative silence. Nothing of any consequence took place. Just a lull. Perhaps they were waiting for the air conditioning to kick in and provide them with a greater degree of comfort. At least, enough to break the silence.

Nelson Beach split a buttered crescent with Minnie while Sir Geoffrey, whom everybody referred to as “Sir,” yet nobody knew whether or not he was actually knighted ,and if so. for what and by whom, forged ahead to get the aisle seat across from V, knocking against the seat occupied by Philip and Mercy Pence in their high lacquered hairdos more suited to drag queens, causing them to drop their magnetic checkers just as they put the last checker in place. Helga von Mummi leaned forward blocking her husband from being seen by Carlotta Bean whom she imagined staring at his crotch as he was busily arranging himself in his new white linen slacks. He was a well-endowed man and mighty grateful. Carlotta did catch the action, but she was too busy trying to disengage Billy Butts who was kneeling, facing backwards in his seat in front of her, looking like a balding gray haired elf; talking about Jackie O and how they had a great many friends in common who came to The Studio where he had been a club boy while going through his trust fund during his glory days in New York City before joining AA after several hospital incarcerations, was drooling all over Carlotta’s Greek who didn’t seem to mind at all. The Greek nodded and smiled showing his pristine white teeth and, though not knowing most of what Billy Butts was saying, he didn’t need to understand any of the words to get the gist of what Billy had in mind. The Greek did not discourage. Soon the Friends of Erotic Artifacts were rolling along their merry way towards their long awaited FEA field trip to Dead Squeezer’s Caverns.

After a couple uneventful hours, the bus turned onto the axle-breaking bumpy dirt road outside the town of Squeezer which led to the picnic tepee and souvenir stand where tickets were sold before entering the shaft leading down into the caverns.

The Queen City Friends of Erotic Artifacts were quick to disembark as the bus finally pulled up in front of the tepee and made an abrupt stop—nearly hitting a man in lederhosen who was foolish enough to stand wide-eyed and frozen as the bus came barreling towards him. The near fatality could easily be attributed to the bus driver’s auto-asphyxiation from farting all the way from Queen City.

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TWO

tea time at shady sanctum


Maxfield Talbot, a burly man, appearing to be in his seventies, sat on a beanbag watching natives beautiful black women glistening rainbows banana skirts dripping fruit flies naked beady-eyes behind shrubbery wearing Campbell’s tomato soup cans paying constant attention throw off cans where manhood stands Jesus naked whips snap where are you the Vatican everything out of order does it matter not really look at the mess you’ve created you need more self-control keep jumps shorter remember order by secret signs learn to read envision pay attention believe it you’re doing good yes believe it keep jumps short and simple try harder stop fucking with time did we switch points of view no they are all yours listen to yourself we are in the mind always in the mind listen LISTEN! AWAKE! Max awoke and mumbled, “Where was I there...where is here where am I now?” Max wriggled out from under his bed while trying to remember yesterday, or if there actually was a yesterday.

The especially tall pine legs of Maxfield’s bed, made by one of his sister’s husbands to accommodate his “portly proportions,” heightening the bed to allow him to remain a robust figure without going on one of V’s torturous vegetarian diets. Max believed himself to be completely invisible while under his magical bed. And, maybe he was.

Maxfield’s hallucinations are inexplicable, if indeed they are hallucinations. However one might try, there are no words, not one single word, to capture a nano-fraction of his disjointed reality, or an essence of his drug-induced visions, if they are drug-induced—the inexplicable Maxfield Talbot.

Another time, in the parlor of Shady Sanctum, Maxfield’s niece, Victoria Aires, was having “another one” of her anxiety attacks.

Whenever others disagreed with her, however slight, it added unbearably more anxiety to be anxious about. V’s mantra to escape and forget about that basket of deplorables, is to smoke a doobie. It doesn’t do a thing to cure deplorables, but it helps to see them in a better light as, more than likely, human; however, lamentable and pitiful.

The visions and ideas V conjured for America’s own good, in her efforts to save it, never came to fruition, since she was never quite sure what exactly needed saving. Nothing ever came to mind in that regard. V told herself that she had every reason to be anxious. She was diagnosed as something quite depressing—bipolar. V was prescribed enough drugs to put a person of lesser tolerance into a persistent vegetative state. But visions fade and melt. They disappear and stream towards their source. Time becomes entangled. Memories become taunting devils, impossible bullies who come from nothingness and disappear into nothingness; leaving a sadness and a desire to try to become acquainted with the subconscious, or at least to learn to listen to its advice. “After all, it is the home of my conscience, is it not?” V said to herself. “Love this new prescription. Is it me, or is it Lamotrigine?

V desired to be an ageless woman, a natural woman of grace and mystery. V was also a woman hellbent on leaving an indelible mark in history. Her anxieties had anxieties of their own. Each passing day became more insufferable. “More psychotropics, Doctor.” For V, anxiety has always been well-traveled, carefully surveyed, and familiar territory.

“Who is that sitting at the kitchen table, Lily?”

“He looks a lot like a satyr.”

“Nonsense. You are suffering some kind of LSD flashback.”

“I never took LSD, V! That was you.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am. There is a satyr sitting at the kitchen table writing something in a spiral notebook. He looks pretty real to me.”

“I never doubted he was real, Lily. I have known several satyrs in my day.”

“You’re full of it! Take your damn pills,” her dearest friend, Lily, advised.

“They give me dry-mouth,” V sighed.

“But they make you more…”

“What?”

Lily was reluctant to get it out, but she managed, “…normal.”

“What in hell is ‘normal,’ Lillian?

“Sorry, just saying.”

“Please, try not to say ‘just saying’ to me. I am not one of your Facebook friends. How about you go see what he is writing. When a satyr takes notes it is a sign of something historical about to happen, and we are somehow involved.”

“V, he just disappeared.”

“That’s a satyr for you.”

V, bright red hair, pale white skin, attractive without make-up, well-groomed, eccentric, writes with a fountain pen, only in green ink, claims to be “close to forty,” even though fifty is also close to forty in the grand scheme of things. She is known for her fashionable hat collection, to cover those bad hair days, to avoid the ravages of sunlight, or mainly because hats are simply fabulous. If you want to be a woman of mystery wear a hat, the bigger the better. If you are a black woman on Sunday morning wear a hat ornate with muted colors, pink, purple and lilac petals shimmering in the slightest breeze or the turn of a head. If you are the Queen of England wear the same thing. Cowgirls wear a hat. If you need to hide a hole in your head you wear a hat. For the love of haberdashers everywhere, wear a hat!

V claims not to give a “rat’s ass” about what others think of her, but that is most certainly, in every respect, not true, fake news. If anything, she gives too much of the rat’s ass for what others think.

V owns a prodigious red stone Victorian mansion—a beautiful example of late nineteenth century architecture—that her father left to her after his “mysterious death.”

Her passion for going against the untangling evolution of time and fashion became part, but not parcel, of her persona. She had a good act. Most of her haute couture came from yard sales and thrift stores. She knew how to create the eye-popping illusion of opulence.

V saw herself as a “theatre person” and all her friends would agree. Most thought of Victoria Aires as a drama queen, but the fear of her unexpected screeds of literary maleficence, should anyone speak out of turn, or out of place, elevated the consciousness of her friends to an unexpected level of agreeability. Bipolar people leave little to the expectations of others.

V held a high opinion of herself as an artist. She knew she had a natural flair for directing. She daydreamed of having her own little theatre where she could show off her talents. Without quarrel, few would dispute what had become fact, that her talents and directing skills went far beyond the walls of Theatre. V challenges herself to create and perform her own life with joie de vivre, a brava performance indeed, until she gets bored. And, when she is bored, V sharpens her directing skills on the lives of others; to the dissatisfaction of friends and foes alike. Although, distinguishing friend from foe needed a great deal of effort, and appreciable skill. Once, V had a mercurial epiphany, “Perhaps I am a bit overbearing.” And then she forgot about it.

Once, Sir Geoffrey Hemphill pleaded, “Will you marry me, Miss Aires?” She replied with, “Oh, Sir Geoffrey, if I will I would have long ago.” V performed a spirited rendition of shy with a touch of coy and a whole lot of no. Poor Sir Geoffrey, looking spiffy in his white linen suit, pale blue shirt, dark blue with yellow diagonally-striped tie, and vibrant yellow socks that poured into his brown and beige saddle shoes—dressed to the nines and all for V. The slightest thought of “coming out,” making himself visible, frightened Poor Sir Geoffrey beyond description. “A life in the closet may not be living, but it’s safe,” he thought. After his proposal to V, she smartly rose and said as the actress she never was, “You are so cute.” Then she left the room at warp speed.

Feelings of shame, anger, sadness and self-hatred with suicidal tendencies are often exacerbated in the wake of unrequited love. “It’s not about love, kiddo, and you know it.” Poor Sir Geoffrey wouldn’t listen to his higher self. So, he felt himself doleful, witless, a man of little consequence, as he sat dreaming he was still awake in the parlor with Maxfield, who had recently returned from safari in Africa, and so he borrowed Sir Geoffrey’s ear well into the night to relive it.

Cruelty would certainly be one of the many last things to enter V’s mind, but when people pose a question they ought to know exactly what it is they want to do with the answer. Do they want the truth, or do they want to postpone the inevitable by going on a long and arduous expedition through the maze of V’s rhetoric? Poor Sir Geoffrey.

V’s father, The Late Reverend Aires, once a man of the cloth, probably synthetic and made in China, became a radical disciple of an unknown Roman Catholic denomination, that he had founded himself, whose teachings had absolutely nothing to do with Jesus, nor the amelioration of Humanity;

“Rose colored glasses are for the flock to view the Good Shepherd; not for the Good Shepherd to view the flock,” the Good Shepherd often told his Little Princess Victoria before sending her off to pass the collection plate. With the restrained smile of a sad, starving, disconsolate, but hopeful, orphan, V created a short piece of theatre impeccably played. Those who looked into her watery crestfallen eyes, who sat and waited for the end of their world, dropped more cash into the collection plate than they could otherwise afford. The Little Princess had an affect on folks, which left many worshippers feeling guilty for their own poverty. The late Reverend had also gained considerable recognition from his missionary work which took him around the world converting to whatever, saving whomever, however, for a price. Jesus can be an expensive business. While still in her teens, the Little Princess had become a world-class traveler. When the Little Princess reached her closer-to-fifty birthday—another over-priced regenerating cream reason for supplemental anxiety—she made up her mind to leave for posterity a certain and indelible contribution, which now only left her to settle upon exactly what that contribution might be; yet further cause for anxiety.

V is not quite the controlling, argumentative creature that some have mistakenly mis-thought. She can be, of course, but it is not one of her full time personas. V learned the long and hard way, that it is no longer beneficial for her sense of wellbeing to make confrontational choices, or to take unnecessary chances. V is unquestionably smart, intuitive, often overreaching, overbearing, rarely knows what is good for her own good. Psychotropics. helped her regain some of her bearing. V has an inexplicable desire for lasting fame which she disguises as, “leaving something for posterity.”

V is easily bored and she does not suffer fools willingly; as evidenced by those who have exited her life only to find themselves transformed into the walking wounded, limping back to their zombiehood. Before the medications, V was perceived as a bitch. That’s not to say she was or she wasn’t; it’s all a matter of degree and interpretation. Now, through the magic of chemistry, V could be more deliberate, thoughtful and carefully rehearsed before launching into anything that could be deemed provocative. V does gain a great deal of satisfaction from her supposition that the multiple levels of her rhetoric, avoids instant provocation, so she sends her victim merrily on their way, without realizing her villainy, it is too unreasonably late for a counterattack.

V rarely goes out into the world at large unless it is necessary, or there is the promise of fun, or she simply must get out for no apparent reason. Her switch to isolationism came after her realization that, “on balance, the heavy side of the scales snores with sleeping people who have chosen their ignorance, their lies, their deceptive euphemisms born of prejudice, hypocrisy, and rampaging hatred. People, generally speaking, cannot be easily trusted, or trusted at all. No way. No how. No one. Except Lily, of course.” Maybe her darker moods were all just a passing cloud of negatively charged particles of self-consuming acridity. Or a psychotropics glitch.

Oftentimes, V sincerely thinks herself far too complicated for most mortals to grasp for more than twenty seconds, or so. There are moments in her days, sometimes entire days, when she believes herself a genius. Then, time persists and she finds herself in a Ground Hog Day sort of way. “There must be something better! Days should not be indistinguishable nor interchangeable with the day before, or the day before that,” V pouted in a world weary, muted outrage.

It should be pointed out that after V dropped out of community college she never stopped educating herself. V is one of Gertrude Stein’s biggest fans. All of Stein’s books fill the top shelf of her bedroom bookcase. Once that shelf was filled with Ayn Rand, but when Ayn Rand began to smell like Monday’s fish on Thursday, V tossed her Fascist greedy ass into dumpster-hell along with a copy of The Art of the Deal, for which she paid a quarter in a yard sale, to make room for Gertrude Stein. She credits Stein with teaching her the ever-interesting elements of subtext. How to read, basically. V has been using education in sublimity ever since to mystify with seemingly never-ending layers of indirection and subtext which she claims, “…should not be mistaken for ambiguity.” V told this to the man seated next to her at one of Minnie Beach’s dispiriting dinner parties. When the man barked in return, “I don’t get it!” V smugly accused, “That is because you are short of imagination! You must have exchanged it for a degree in who cares!” The following day V learned that the man who had been seated next to her was a Nobel Prize winning nano-scientist working on a government project in Colorado Springs. "So friggin’ what!" V remarked to herself when she learned of her ignorance.

V’s father died from an oversized hybrid Africanized honey bee attack. Strangely odd, since the killer bee is unable to survive as far north as Colorado. Maybe, its faulty navigation had something to do with global warming. In whatever case, V was left to pay the astronomical taxes on the mansion known as Shady Sanctum. Maxfield Talbot, her father’s step brother, helps out with his royalties from several books—An Entomological Study Of Washington DC, How To  Think Like An Ant Before The Rapture, Don’t Kill Our Friends The Bedbugs, and For The Love Of Dung  Beetles. His foray into the field of etymology produced his first book on the subject, Conversations With Insects, but he soon returned to his entomological roots due to a royalty dispute; one does not pay interviewees! There is also Max’s Social Security which helps to keep Shady Sanctum in the family. There is little left in the Talbot coffers after paying for all those pounds of illicit drugs, his traveling expenses before he learned to fold space—although he still has much to learn in that regard—his latest trip to Haiti on bug business, and all those epicurean escapades in Morocco.

Maxfield has made it his life’s work to study arthropods which led to his earning a rather widespread reputation from his knowledge of the practical implementation of gene splicing. His lectures on the ins-and-outs of entomology were a hit on the university circuit. Any knowledge of his surreptitious experiments in insect husbandry—though not quite the Doctor Mengele of the insect world—were nonetheless restricted to a select few peers. One of them was Doctor Fleischmann, an old Queen City University chum who now lived on an obscure island in the Coral Sea.

Doctor Fleischmann was released from prison after five years for not living up to his oath as a doctor of medicine, which caused the death of a wildly popular pop singer which, in turn, made Fleischmann a wildly unpopular pariah. So, he sequestered himself on a small island east of New Caledonia and northeast of Australia known as Sphincter Island. While working for the late pop star Fleischmann bought the island with cold hard cash. That was before he murdered his cash cow; the King of Pop.

The last time Max saw Fleischmann they spent their time together reminiscing about the old days. They entertained themselves having a bit of fun for auld lang syne. Manipulating DNA was always great fun. So, Maxfield and Fleischmann went to work manipulating the DNA of a New Caledonian scorpion with the DNA of an African cockroach. The result was a super-sized cockroach with an unnerving sized scorpion stinger like a rat’s tail. The thrill of creation! The ecstasy and the rapture from ejaculating without touching yourself was overwhelming. Work was good. Then it happened, Murphy’s Law, the thing they never anticipated; their creation quickly duplicated itself and the duplication began to duplicate and so forth, exponentially. Their little monsters would quickly be problematic.

The morning after their venerable accomplishment, Max awoke to observe several cockpions crawling up the windowpane. He imagined they were looking for a chink in the window. In a blink of his eye, the cockpions paired-up and began dancing the tango, the dangerous kind, razor-sharp angles, quick turns around the surface of the glass and all the while their stingers stood ready, but for what, or whom? “It’s time to boogie,” Max said out loud to no one but himself.

The short history of the big building on the island is that it was home to hundreds of terminally ill patients from around the world; a place to rest and wait. When whispers and rumors of Doctor Sphincter’s experimentations with body parts, especially fresh organs removed from his patients, both dead and alive, for his clandestine work to create a super-subspecies of Man, it all came to a complete halt when the authorities discovered his true vocation; he was then murdered on the spot by subhumans with brooms and pitchforks. The sanatorium was closed permanently. The Island of Doctor Sphincter was abandoned sometime in the 1950s and remained so until Doctor Fleischmann took-up residence in the early 2000s. Serving as doctor to the biggest rock star in the world paid unnecessarily well.

“Thank you Maxfield, you’ve been a good friend.”

“You do know what will happen sooner than later?”

“I do. There is nowhere else for me to go. I am a pariah, you know.”

“I do,” mumbled Max. "Big time."

Doctor Fleischmann and Max walked in silence to the edge of the cliff on the far side of the island. They hugged one last goodbye before Max jumped from the cliff and disappeared into somewhere in the future, leaving only sparks of light that were soon extinguished by the ocean below. Maxfield reappeared under his bed. “Boy-o- boy, I’m getting pretty good at this!” Max, as he occasionally does, gleeked.

Sphincter Island was no longer habitable by humankind, nor mammals of any kind; only the pariah was left behind, tucked away from society. The huge cockpions were discovered to be cannibals that survived solely by eating one another. After every meal, they were always ferociously hungry, the cockpions split like giant amoebas infesting the island. Doctor Fleischmann knew that he could no longer endure his unique predicament. He could not live with himself for the rest of his life—which he knew would be a short one. “For Pete’s sake! I really liked his music, his dancing—” He then chose the largest cockpion from those slowly circling him, he picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand, “This is for you, Mikey.” Fleischmann waited until he felt the devil’s sting. As he lay dying, his last spoken words were, “This is it” And then he was cockpion food.

Max is rarely invited to speak at universities, nor take all-expense paid trips to study bugs as he once did. When he briefly taught entomology at Queen City University, his students referred to him as “A giant in his field,” then they giggled and he would humbly thank them. It took Max two years after his fleeting stint at QCU to become conscious of what they meant.

His short tenure in academia came to an abrupt end in a university men’s room. Max and three of his students were caught smoking marijuana; pre-legalization. He was conducting an experiment into the nature of memory loss. Who the devil knows why academics are so damn incredulous!? Maxfield seemed insane to some, to others he was simply an old hippy drug addict, but to a brave few, Professor Doctor Maxfield Talbot PhD was a master and guide into the creative powers hidden within the vast unending universe of the Self—the magical, mystical place of creation. Some thought Professor Talbot, The Master. However, The or not, Master or not, following him was a trip down a rabbit’s hole––something to ponder before jumping in.

The late Missus Reverend Aires died while giving birth to V, so naturally she had fulfilled any debt to that which posterity could possibly hold claim. V’s mother was remembered by V’s great uncles and aunts (all dead except for Maxfield) as a ferocious force of nature with a fun wit. The late Missus Aires was clearly demented, or  as some proclaimed, possessed. She loved acting in little theatres around Queen City until, while playing Ophelia in Hamlet—the devil knows what got into her—she broke-out into song and danced the cooch across the stage. What a memorable farewell performance! She gave birth to V nine months later and died, but not until every last drop of her spirit found its way into her newborn, Victoria. Whenever conversations turned to family history, especially involving the late Missus Aires, amazingly, no one recalled a thing. When relatives turned their memories to Maxfield, they cannot remember his ever looking younger than he appeared to them now. Fifty year old memories and yet Maxfield has always appeared seventy-ish. They chalk it up to the tricks of memory.

Gert Aires-Birdsall, V’s father’s sister, along with her husband Charlie, established a retreat near Lake Titicaca in Peru for clairvoyants, spiritualists, astral projectionists, space and time folders, and intergalactic surfers who ride gravitational waves through spacetime just for the thrill of it.

Puerto Nostradamus, highly praised in several esoteric journals, enjoyed a fashionable reputation as the favored watering hole for celebrated Internationalists and the usual perennial variety; the nouveau riche. The glossy brochure made Puerto Nostradamus appear an attractive destination for those who would or could develop their psychic abilities. “Hidden potentials that lay sleeping within the initiate are carefully nurtured at Puerto Nostradamus,” was written at the top of the brochure.

Their brochure was filled with sepia-toned photographs of well known psychics, including Shirley MacLaine and Nancy Reagan. There were quotes endorsing Gert and Charlie’s hospitality. Madonna said, “A miraculous experience,” and New Jersey Governor Crispy Crapp bragged about having lost one-hundred pounds, “I lost 100 pounds.” (The Governor regained every ounce and then some in less than two months.) There were pictures of natives rowing across Lake Titicaca, guests riding on several domesticated llamas and a visiting dignitary helping Charlie hold down an alpaca while Gert was busy sheering it. Another photo was of Gert all alone in the garden tending to her coffee plants, while a rather dark and dirty-looking family rested beneath a cacao tree in the background, to the left of Gert’s bonnet. All this was beguiling, yet V had serious doubts about that sort of thing which, consequently, kept her from visiting Aunt Gertrude. Although, V did recommend Puerto Nostradamus to a good many of her ex-friends. It sounded devilish even without having any idea where it was, what it was, or anything about it. The very name of Puerto Nostradamus conjured something other than a place for spiritual enlightenment.

Then there is Cousin Harriet, Maxfield’s younger sister, who found the word “Aunt” much too matronly for her taste and, therefore, insisted she be called “Cousin” Harriet. Cousin Harriet disappeared before the courts waived her privilege to enjoy the company of three husbands while two of them were still alive. As a result, the four of them took flight from Queen City International Airport for Gotham City from where they booked passage on a Norwegian freighter and haven’t been heard from since. Cousin Harriet, in her own small and special way, achieved a certain amount of local, however infamous, notoriety.

“Why shouldn’t I enjoy a bit of recognition?” V asked her dearest friend and companion Lily Nettles.

“What have you done for it?”

“You’re being provocative, dear heart.” V had already arrived at an acerbic edge by the time she got to “dear heart.” She hated questions that led to self-incrimination. “Sometimes you beg the question, Lily. No one gives a rat’s ass about me. I have nothing. I am nobody. Just a buttload of unfulfilled dreams.” Even V, herself, had trouble believing what she just said.

Boo-hoo. Give me a break! You’re being silly and you don’t believe a single word of it. By this time tomorrow, today’s anxiety will have morphed into your usual arrogance of genius. That’s the bipolar cycle. I’m used to it.”

“I would not have used the words ‘arrogance’ and ‘usual’ in the same sentence,” V pouted.

“People love you, Sweetie. You host the Ladies’ Grecian Culture Study Group once a month, Friends of Erotic Artifacts bimonthly, and you’re a Capitol Hill fixture, a celebrity. You are the woman around whom the world revolves.”

“Really? Do you really think so?”

“There might be a few who wouldn’t agree with the revolving world stuff.”

“There’s always a few out to get me. It is always best to know who they are. Who are they?”

“How would I know, V?

“Exactly. Maybe I should forget about it.”

“Forget about what, V?”

“Posterity. Maybe I should forget about posterity and say fuck it!”

“That’s the spirit. Fuck it!” Lily had finally found something with which to agree, as she offered up her empty teacup for refilling. By coincidental happenstance the cup and the subject were dropped.

Pudgy Penny and Piggy Peter came barging through the bird’s eye maple double doors that entered into the parlor. These custom-made doors were adorned with naked smiling cherubs bearing shields and swords, anchors intertwined with hexagons and rhombi, roses and ribbons of leaves, and most ornate is the three-foot tall dancing Dionysos that splits in two whenever the doors are slid open. Shady Sanctum was, after all, the residency of the late Reverend Kirby Victor Aires. The late reverend knew the worth—just short of pompous—of a pious atmosphere.

The twins Penny and Peter were a last minute gift to Uncle Max from Cousin Harriet the night she decided to fly the coop, as it were, with her three husbands—Jacques, Sean and Bonito. The twins were twelve years old when Cousin Harriet gave them to Max nearly ten years ago, and they haven’t grown a day since. No one is really sure from where they originally came. One day Harriet just showed up with them and said she had found them. “I found them. Here. They’re yours.” And, though the twins were not identical, they were similar. Pudgy was noticeably fatter than her brother Piggy whose pumpkin-red Buster Brown was cut not quite so butchly as Pudgy’s.

The twins returned early that morning from Haiti together with their Uncle Max who folded spacetime in order to spend five weeks with a mulatto family to study dark migratory short-horned locusts. The twins entered the parlor wearing an assortment of beads, trinkets and, “Oh my god are those human teeth?”

“Auntie Vickie!”

“What now, Peter?”

"Is there any way of getting in the basement, if say Penny and me was locked out ‘cause somebody went and bolted the door from inside or something like that so there’s no way to get down there if say somebody wanted to so what would you say to that?”

Yeah, what do you say, Auntie?” Pudgy Penny asked with unremarkable indifference.

“I would say don’t call me Auntie,” V twisted an indecipherable smile and added, “Coal slide, I imagine.”

“So did we,” grinned Pudgy Penny, looking like a jack-o-lantern stuck atop four and one half feet of coagulated gelatin. “What else,” continued the irritatingly impatient Pudgy Penny, “would you say?”

“I would say that’s it, kiddos,” answered V.

“We’re not kiddos!” Piggy Peter shouted.

“Of course not,” V snickered.

All the while, Lily sat and watched quietly. She would not look directly—as a blackbird flies—at the children. Lily made it a point to keep her glances as short as possible for fear of frightening the twins with her brutal thoughts; of which she was certain the twins could read.

“Can we have it?” Pudgy Penny asked while fingering her beads and human teeth. “It’s dark. It’s damp. It’s dirty, it’s moldy and it’s smelly.”

“It’s just perfect,” chimed Piggy Peter. “Will you give it to us?”

“Oh, my,” sighed Lily, sotto voce, from behind her hand covering her mouth and nose.

“Hello, Auntie Lily.”

“Hello, children…” then begrudgingly added, using five or six syllables to squeeze it out, “…welcome home.”

“We’re not children!” Piggy Peter corrected.

“Well, you’re home anyway. How wonderful.” If there were ever sarcasm in Lily’s tone, this was it; and that was as far as Lily’s interest could take her. She thought better of asking them how their trip had been—she didn’t want them in her head. Lily did not much care for anything about anything having a single thing to do with the children. To her, the twins were a mutant virus; one of life’s calamities—like floods, famine, pestilence and death.

“Well, are you going to give it to us or what!?”

“What?” V asked.

“The basement! Weren’t you listening?” Pudgy Penny took an annoying air that smacked of condescension diluted with a lethal amount of exasperation.

“Nobody uses it anyway,” added Piggy Peter, no less gelatinous than his sister, peering through two narrow slits beneath the red bangs of his slithery hair. “Since Uncle Kirby went over and out and all those goof balls who used to meet down there took a hike, its been abandoned.” Piggy Peter, who never met Kirby or his goof balls—he was dead decades before they arrived. They didn’t know the man, just bits and pieces cobbled together from overheard conversations. But they learned to fake a sense of solemnity by not disturbing the seldom talked about memories of V’s father, whose interest in matters theologically paranormal took him and his small circle of illuminati to the basement where he kept a most impressive library of old and rare books, that have long since disappeared. There was a worktable where he wrote his psalm books; publishing and selling them himself. Much of Kirby’s personal income had come from the sale of sacred relics. The genesis of those sacred relics remain a mystery, as does the nature of their sanctity.

Before Kirby Victor Aires met and married V’s mother, and before he became the renegade high priest of his own theologically incorrect, surreptitious cult—The Brotherhood of Solar Agnation—Brother Kirby had decoded ancient and forbidden books in one of the sub-basements beneath the Vatican Palace. Brother Kirby was the pet of the Cardinals. He was considered Cardinal material by the Pope, until Brother Kirby had an epiphany.

Things don’t always work out the way we imagine they should, as proven by Brother Kirby who instigated a heated argument with His Holiness over the existence of God vis-a-vie the ability of the individual to become their own God. “I am God!” he shouted at the Pope.

“You are an idiot!” Arshmann shouted back, but not in his usual shriveling old man voice. It was certainly not the Pope’s voice that boomed with ungodly hatred from deep within the pit of Hell. Maybe, there are many pits in Hell. Like Dante, perhaps. Surely, it wasn’t the voice of God, unless, this God was unique to Arshmann himself; which only goes to reinforce Kirby’s point.

The encounter ended with the Pope on the floor holding a burning candle in his clenched fist and Brother Kirby holding a brass candlestick over the skull of His Holiness.

“I curse and excommunicate you!” proclaimed Pope Arshmann.

“Big fucking deal,” said the former Roman Catholic Brother.

The following day Kirby was escorted off the sacred Vatican grounds by an attachment of Swiss Guards. Never again would he acknowledge the infallibility of the Pope, that self-important German Nazi, the bitter ideologue who had memorized the party lines. Moreover, he was stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Brother Kirby was out the door and on the street. Soon afterward, Brother Kirby started his own anti-Catholic Brotherhood of Solar Agnation with the book he walked off with from the Vatican’s immense storehouse of misappropriated loot, and the largest known collection of the world’s treasures. The late Reverend hid the book in the back of his trousers. As the Swiss Guards escorted him off Vatican property, one of the guards observed, “That man has the squarest ass I’ve ever seen.”

“Well? Will you give the basement to us?” asked Pudgy Penny in a demanding sort of tone.

“If the two of you want it take it. You’re driving me crazy!”

“You’re already crazy, Auntie Vickie,” chimed the twins in unison.

“Come, Drusilla,” said Piggy to Pudgy.

“I will, O Zeus, my brother,” swooned a pensive Pudgy to Piggy.

Then they were gone, down the hall and well out of earshot by the time V finished refilling Lily’s replacement teacup; a black mug imprinted with I’VE BEEN TO THE ZOO in gold lettering.

“You gave away the basement?” Lily sounded perplexed, puzzled and careworn.

“Only for a week or two. Then they will trade it in for something else. The attic maybe. By the way, Zeus I know, but I seem to have forgotten who Drusilla was?”

“Caligula’s sister.”

“Yes, of course,” said a weary V, rolling her eyes while pouring herself another cup of Earl Grey from her Dresden china teapot cracked here and cracked there and covered with the tea cozy Lily crocheted the time she came down with a foot infection; a reaction to a bite or sting from a source unknown. To this day Lily still suspects it was from one of the spiders that were given sanctuary in the house ever since V had declared that any attempt at killing them was verboten. Or, it may have been one of the black centipedes that are occasionally seen scurrying across the parlor floor, racing between the legs of V and Lily as the “little fuckers” headed to their den hidden somewhere within the walls.

"They could be poisonous! I better Google," Lily told herself.

“Which reminds me,” continued V, “next Saturday is our FEA field trip, is it not?”

“It is,” Lily confirmed, remembering something. “That is, unless Carlotta Bean forgets to take her meds and pulls another one of her stunts.”

“I don’t think so, Lily. Her last one was less than two weeks ago and, knowing her, she wouldn’t chance another scene quite so soon; especially after taking in that new boarder. She’s a stickler for making a good first impression, particularly for new conquests, after that she doesn’t give a rat’s ass. Le Bean certainly made a mess of things; insulting Poor Minnie’s buffet before dropping her emerald ring into the punch bowl, polluting the poor thing’s Georgian Ambrosia punch with the heavy scent and bile taste of Gardenia Bold. Made by some French faggot, according to Carlotta. Anyway, as she fished about in the peach-colored brine, its tide rose midway to her elbows before she nearly drowned herself in shock from seeing the disturbingly distorted faces of everyone there. As you know, all that cleaning-up after her vile tantrum left me exhausted. And poor raving Billy Butts! Will he never learn to shut the fuck up long enough to take a breath? I guess it was her attempt to strangle him with her peach-tinted hands that brought the evening’s festivities to an abrupt conclusion.” V paused to sip tea while waiting for the right words. She didn’t need to wait very long before, “Nope, not so soon as Saturday, Lily. She keeps her new boarder in the Paisley Room; the room that nice fellow papered for her. You know, the one you always liked with the mysterious eyebrows you thought Arabesque. I detected his eyebrows were carefully plucked and that he didn’t align the paisleys quite right. Carlotta has always been quite practical in utilizing her inamoratos. I wonder whatever happened to him? Billy Butts certainly couldn’t restrain his lust, but I think Mister Arabesque was all one way about that sort of thing. With him—the inamorato—when the time came to choose, the choice came down to Carlotta with all her prurient interests and a seemingly endless amount of money, or Billy with matching interests, but less money, Carlotta won, if not hands-down, certainly by a nose. “Anyway, this newest boarder had been a tourist guide in Athens. Apparently, he has all the attributes which make for success: tall, tan, piercing black eyes, wide infectious smile, perfectly even white teeth, and not an original thought in his lovely head. He doesn’t speak a lick of English, but Carlotta said he is willing to help her learn Greek in exchange for room and board, and whatever else. Although, the idea of teaching one without a lick of English by one without a lick of Greek does sound intriguing.” Sometimes, V’s breezy, affected manner can get so protracted one would need a surveyor’s level to measure its boundaries. This is one of those times. For someone whose life is riddled with untaken opportunities, V always held tightly to hope. “I keep feeling I am here for something. Something good. Something better. Something. But what?

V was an avid collector of objets d’art and, unless eclecticism is a specialty uniquely to itself, V had no especial field of interest other than her splendid collection of erotic artifacts that she had gathered at one time or another, one place or another. “Something from just about every period in art history—nay, Human history,” V assured doubters in what must have been a case of inflated exaggeration, a little white lie with shades of gray. “I do not lie—I hyperbolate!” Easy to mistake the difference.

“The Queen City Art Museum refused my donation. For free! For fucking free! No interest in the history of sex toys dating back to the Roman Empire, maybe one or two of them were up an Emperor’s ass. Imagine that? Back before that cult of one-godders brought down the Roman Empire. Shows what they knew.”

“Who knew? The Romans or the one-godders?” Lily asked with no real interest.

“I don’t remember.”

“Get out the bong and take a few good tokes, V. You’ll feel better in no time.”

“Suppose I do not want to feel better?”

Hmm. I think there’s  some kind of existential thing going on here, V.”

As regards the subject of Art, V’s only requisite was that she be “moved" by it and would continue being moved long after she brought her precious piece of Art home; provided the price was right. What more should one ask of Art?

V holds strong opinions, not only about Art, but pretty much about everything. She is careful about what she puts into her brain. For example: V reads only books considered intellectual, some of which she had no idea what she was reading, but she knew that one day the wisdom contained in those books would surface with clarity, engendering a positive shift in her point of view. She could not say how she knew she knew, though she knew with unwavering certitude that she simply knew, period. Ergo, damn the empirical. Full speed ahead!

“A matter of maturation and saturation, Lily.”

“Really?”

“I don’t know. Who wants reality anymore anyway? Do you really want what’s outside that window—needs cleaning by the way. Do you really want what is out there?” V asked with all sincerity. By the by, the next day V might extoll, with all the same sincerity again, an opposing point of view.

“It sucks, V, but you can’t remain inside forever.”

Easygoing Lily prefers listening while leaving V to do pretty much all the talking. Lily did not want to interrupt and spoil the elation V enjoys from hearing the sound of her own whisky voice.

Lily shares many of V’s qualities, although Lily is more relaxed, more confident, and not bipolar. Lily does suffer a fear of death, but only for short durations and they are always from the same source; just before her entrance—stage right, left, or upstage—when she’s certain that she has forgotten every one of her lines, when she wants to run, when her heart gets stuck in her throat; yet, she goes on without missing a beat, without dropping a word; reborn onstage, and with an audience.

The long list of characters that Lily had performed, were all prequel to her arrival in Queen City. Since then, little of note.

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TWENTY-THREE

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