Sanctum Excrementum 1

{Dear Readers: Allow me to introduce to you Mavis Marble, reporter extraordinaire. In her guest blog, Sanctum  Excrementum, Mavis continues the Animarrative tradition pioneered by Francine Lafollette in her Romantic-Recovery blog Francine’s Guest Post 1 (Or see Francine’s Guest Posts on main page.) For those unfamiliar with the term, Animarrative is a story-telling form that combines narrative with animation video, pictures and drawings, ideal for those readers affected by attention deficit disorder.               June O’Sullivan-Roque}

Sanctum Excrementum

Greetings! Some weeks ago I agreed to present a series of events that are being recounted to me.  Please note that  I am only the recorder.

First, a bit about myself:  My name is Mavis Marble. For twenty years, I worked as a reporter and writer for newspapers and magazines in a large and bustling city. Three years ago I decided to give up life in the concrete jungle and move to a semi-rural area. My two-acre property, which includes a sizable garden, is nestled in the foothills of a mountain range, and I run a small craft shop in the town itself, a half mile away. I consider myself a free and fearless fifty year old,  with no family ties or other constraints.

Many years ago, I decided to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, sometimes subsisting solely on raw foods, mostly because it helps me to keep my chakras open and allows my mind to explore, but also because it makes eating easier.

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My habits, which some consider odd, are very suited to country life. The few friends I have no longer consider it strange to see me eat a rose or a petunia when they visit me in my garden. And they are always surprised at the tasty dishes I create from simple items growing there. Flowers, herbs, and plants in general, have always had special appeal to me; I enjoy their flavor and find them very palatable. In fact, I consider everything in my garden to be of culinary or medicinal value. Of course, my garden is untreated by pesticides, and I happen to know intuitively which plants are suitable for consumption.

On Mondays, when the craft shop is closed, I walk to the top of Daisy Hill, (Dizzy Hill to some locals) where I relax in my favorite spot under a beautiful oak tree. I take my journal with me, and sometimes lunch, but there is always plenty to eat there – purslane, red clover, wild raspberries, and mushrooms growing in abundance in the shade of an overhanging rock.  A spring bubbles from a crevice close by. That day, the sun was shining hot, but there was a nice breeze coming from the west. I remember thinking how perfectly harmonious the setting was –  birds chirping, water trickling, sunlight dancing on the branches swaying in the breeze. I settled back on the rolled grass pillow I had made, and watched a train meander through the town below.

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I must have been there for a while, scribbling, nibbling, meditating……Suddenly, a man (or a woman, I couldn’t really tell) appeared before me. He or she was trying to get my attention by shaking my shoulder as if I had fallen asleep, though I know I was quite awake.

When he thought I had come to full awareness, he introduced himself as Elisiba, leader of the Resistance in Merigonia. I later found out that he considered himself neither male or female; however, I get a decidedly male energy from him, and since we do not have a pronoun in English to represent both sexes, I am going to refer to him in the masculine. Merigonia, he explained to me, is a nation in a world very similar to ours in its composition, except quite invisible to us in our normal state. I understood that they spoke English, or at least that English was one of their languages.

The leader of their nation, in addition to a host of other atrocities, had imprisoned, banished or disenfranchised all the writers, reporters, literary professionals. In their attempt to restore order to their country, Elisiba and others had found the ability to cross into other worlds. Among their many tasks, one was to find a writer to record the events, which he insisted should be made known to as many people as possible. Somehow this was considered a service to humanity, and some kind of Karmic obligation – to alert other nations contemplating the kinds of choices they are making or have made and that are leading to their destruction. Elisiba did not clarify whether their annihilation has already occurred, whether it is imminent, or even whether it can be avoided. He is very dismissive of my questions about this.

According to Elisiba, I was chosen for my general integrity, and for my ability to stick to the facts and make them clear.

At some point during our conversation, Elisiba was joined by two others, clearly a man and a woman. They did not introduce themselves, but held my hand, which I took as a gesture of assurance that they were indeed flesh and blood.  Elisiba seemed to be about forty, and the other two were older. They all had short curly hair of different colors and a goldish-brown complexion.

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One of them gave me a fountain pen with which to sign an agreement, written on parchment, the main thrust of which was that I would tell the truth as it was presented to me; on this they were quite insistent. I do not remember if there was any finger-pricking or any blood involved, but I was impressed by the sincerity and the seriousness of everyone present.

So, I agreed to become an official chronicler of the Merigonian affair, which I have entitled (rather aptly, you’ll agree) Sanctum Excrementum.

To accomplish the task, I would be provided with video and audio recordings, meeting minutes, and diary entries, with Elisiba filling in whatever information he can. And though it seems like a technological impossibility, I have to convert their video into a format that can be displayed by our system. I assure you, no one was as surprised as I was when it worked. The informational material is kept in a cave nearby, which I have tried in vain to find on my own; this leads me to suspect that it does not really exist in our dimension.

When they left (disappeared, really), I realized that only a half an hour had passed since I was under the tree, though my time with them, talking, taking notes, visiting the cave, felt like hours. No, I did not get a copy of the agreement I signed; neither did I think it was necessary. It felt like a symbolic thing. I did have in my hand, though, a small metallic box containing a video and instructions on its conversion.

I am going to start from the very beginning, that is, when things began to take a turn for the worse in Merigonia.

It was the time of the 49th election, and the people were choosing their new leader.  The Merigonians have a curious tradition for choosing their leader. They begin by gathering all candidates who can secure the greatest wealth. Their followers are willing to give them great quantities of cash if they believe in their leadership. Many presented themselves, but they managed to narrow it down to two, a man and a woman. The day of the final decision arrived, and each candidate prepared to present their spoils to the people.

The video below has been converted from the Merigonian, and the sound is not perfect, but it is a fine representation of the springboard from which the subsequent events took place.

 

 

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Francine’s Guest Blog 9

Wedding Warps, but then…Cake

 

From Patrick’s funeral, I rushed to the wedding.

Normally, I would have felt quite out of place at a gathering where I know only a handful of people, but for some reason, I did not. Grace and I had been roommates at university and though we kept in touch, we did not really mingle with the same crowds. Grace’s dress was beautiful, very lacy, and strapless. The dining hall, which did not have formal seating, was elegant, and the guests were mostly well-dressed. I found a seat next to a couple I knew vaguely.

Halfway through the meal, I looked up to see a familiar figure, which I quickly realized was no hallucination: Mr. Wrong, with the tramp in tow. He saw me before I could bury my face in my food and we both stared at each other in embarrassment. He hastened to introduce me to Tracy as “the girl I told you about”. It turned out that Tracy was connected to the groom in some roundabout way. Wrong had never met Grace, so he had no way of knowing I’d be there, so I forgave him for that. In fact, I forgave him for everything (in my mind) on the very spot, mostly because of Tracy. She was drunk again, and was dressed in a rather decent peach colored dress, which looked nice with her skin. Unfortunately, she was wearing flip-flops, which totally cancelled whatever elegance the dress had managed to convey.

I don’t understand how flip-flops became an acceptable accessory for formal attire. I don’t care how many sequins they put on them, they do not belong in a wedding, unless you’re 6 months pregnant. And the other thing is that if your feet look like two tired trout, you need to show as little of them as possible. And not waste money on expensive manicures either. I’m just saying.

The servers had placed huge pieces of cake on every table, and I was planning on taking some home, but not openly. So I went into the restroom to rearrange my purse. I came back to the table to find that the couple had left, and two guys, one of them really loud, had taken their place. I caught the end of the conversation, which I assumed was about the valet.

“…the idiot had parked my Benz next to a beat-up blue Toyota,” said the loud one. “Of course, I made him move it…”

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The cake was still there, so I sat down, but turned and looked at him. If there is one phrase that describes my car to a T, it is “beat-up blue Toyota.”

“I thought you said there weren’t any attractive women in here,” he said to his friend, when he saw me; then to me, “Are you married?”

Not thinking fast enough, as usual, I said, “No,” and thought about the most sarcastic way to phrase a response to the affront on my vehicle. I wasn’t quick enough.

“Got any kids?” he continued, leering.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” I said, and showed him the pictures of the Somalian and the Syrian. “Different fathers,” I explained, smiling. And suddenly they both had to go talk with the groom’s father. The cake was delicious. Moist and compact, with a light strawberry filling.

My phone rang, and I went outside to answer it. It was Sam the detective!

“I may have a lead,” he said, “but you’ll have to meet me for dinner to discuss it.” My eyes were popping out of my head when my mouth sputtered my acceptance. I vowed not to pursue the bread bandits. Without them, I would not have met Sam. It was fate that led me to remember that I had books to sell that day, and it was fate again that pushed me to go to the police, when I didn’t even want to.

I had had enough of the wedding, and as I floated to my beautiful “beat-up blue Toyota” I reflected on how far I had come since my last encounter with Mr. Wrong. The insignificant dent that he made in my life is all but forgotten. I can move forward with this business of life. I can’t say that any one thing helped, but that everything did.

According to my mother, time is the undisputed healer of all emotional pain. One of the ways to help Time, I’ve discovered, is to fill your days with meaningful things, to be grateful for the things you have; to be generous. And to forgive.  Apart from those early days of the break up, my days have been full of activity and incidents, some good, some bad. Without them I think I would have spent a lot more time feeling sorry for myself. And getting fatter. Lots of people have worse lives than I do. As it is, I feel better about myself; I can sleep through the night; I’ve got a romantic prospect, and…

I cannot end this blog without showing you the dress I’m wearing to dinner with Sam. Robbie says it’s “the bees’ knees.” That means it looks super awesome.

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Francine’s Guest Post 8

This One’s for You, Pat

 

It was the day of Patrick’s funeral. I had to find something to wear. I am not one of those people who will just wear anything to funerals and weddings. I find that  disrespectful. I finally found in the back of my closet a black dress, a little short, and some would say a little flirtatious, but quite elegant. Robbie would love it. Then I found a perfect hat to go with it.

At the funeral were a few of our department colleagues, with whom I did not mix much, since they think they are superior, being full time instructors. After the very short service, we gathered in a reception room. There was an abundance of wine at the bar, around which hovered Pam Cadell, the department know-it-all and alcoholic. She was wearing a slightly louder version of her everyday jumper-type outfit, which Robbie called “the pinaform” (a word he had coined from pinafore and uniform.) Her dreams of becoming a lawyer having been squashed by middle age and lack of brains, she contented herself with torturing her colleagues with political announcements and unsolicited legal advice. She had already put away several drinks and when she saw me, she said,

“Fancy dress! Isn’t that a bit expensive on a part timer’s salary?”

My friend Doreen, whose free and expressive use of profanity I’ve always admired, would have responded with a hearty “Now that’s none of your f***ing business, is it?”

All I could manage as my voice rose higher was, “Ha-ha thank you my mother made this dress yours looks very practical with the red flowers to hide the wine stains in case you spill it and with those big pockets you could carry out grapes crackers sausage cheese just kidding ha-ha.”

“Francine, my dear, you look divine,” Robbie said when he saw me. Robbie looked strangely relaxed, and when I commented, he admitted that he was relieved that the ordeal was over. It had been very sad and stressful for him, caring for Patrick while he helplessly watched him suffer. Robbie’s and Patrick’s gay friends were mostly elegant, except for one, whose loud handbag caught the attention of both Robbie and me at the same time.

“Cow skin? Really?” Robbie gasped. “With a leather jacket? Should I say something?”

“You know you won’t,” I said. And we comforted ourselves by shuddering and saying “Ugh!” a few times.

People kept coming, and the little reception room was getting quite crowded. The line at the bar was a twisted mess; drinks were being spilled on the nice gay suits; napkins were on the floor, some wet; but I noticed that the disorder did not bother me a bit.

I met Patrick’s young sister, Jane, and had a very nice conversation with her. She rejoined a group of their relatives, and I could see that I had caught the eye of an old man among them. He was a tall, thin, really old man with a thick shock of white hair. And he kept raising his glass to me every few seconds.

People were leaving and I wanted to say goodbye to Robbie before I left, so I went into the room with the coffin where I thought I’d seen him go. But there was no one there but Patrick, with his colorful silk ribbed tie in the Windsor knot, a beautiful contrast against the pale pink shirt. Suddenly I heard,

“I’ve been admiring your lovely chapeau…”

It was the white-haired man. I’ve always liked men complimenting my attire, even when it’s not sincere. I think it shows attention to detail and dedication to craft. And the use of the word “chapeau”, common with the gentry of the early part of the twentieth century was refreshingly cute.

“Merçi,” I replied.

“I could buy you several hats like that,” he said, “if you’d marry me.”

I looked at him, amused. I could tell that he must have been pretty hot in his youth. His body was still straight, relatively tight; he had nice teeth (not the original, certainly), exquisite clothing, and very likely, plenty of money. Half a century too late.

“I’m just guessing,” I said, “but I think we’d have only a few years together before I’d be left a grieving widow, and I don’t think I could stand that.”

“But what wonderful years they’d be,” he said, smiling, and looking deep into my eyes.

Just then, a woman about the same age as my admirer appeared at the door.

“Are you coming, Al? Jesus Christ!” She said, and downed the rest of the contents of her glass.

Suddenly Al’s shoulders dropped and the twinkle left his eye. He did bow to me, though, whispering “Adieu!” Then, mumbling “Yes, dear,” he went to join Mrs. Al outside.

On my way out, I overheard Pam Cadell say, in her most drunken, sanctimonious, over-indulgent voice, “He didn’t deserve to die.” And I thought, now, that’s just stupid. Nobody “deserves to die,” or “doesn’t deserve to die.” Death comes to everyone. And when is not a matter of merit. Otherwise, you would not still be here, Miss Pam Cadell. It certainly was sad, and it was nice that so many people had shown up to comfort Robbie and Patrick’s family. But from all the talk from those who’ve had NDE’s, the other side is pretty awesome, because they never seem to want to come back from it, what with the bright warm light full of love and everything. We, the living, are the ones who are left to suffer. So, we just have to deal with it and hope that time really does heal us quickly.

(I am going to tell you about the wedding in the next blog post as I don’t like to make things too long.)

Francine’s Guest Post 3

I Chase the Elusive Morpheus

The insomnia having gotten out of control, I made an appointment to see a doctor. The new insurance had a list of about fifty thousand doctors, so after narrowing them down to those who were accepting new patients, I closed my eyes and picked one. And let’s call him Dr. Young.

His secretary seemed quite anxious to take my appointment, and that kind of aroused my suspicion. Not that I wasn’t grateful for a same day appointment, but which doctor has every slot open from 9AM to 4PM? Why hadn’t I been more careful in choosing?

As soon as he walked into the room, I knew my fears were justified. Dr. Young looked like he had just graduated from high school. He could not have been more than nineteen. And it was obvious that he had never shaved in his life. What can this child do for me? I asked myself.

I was able to make a short video to prove to you that I’m not making this up.

“So, you’re having trouble sleeping,” he said.

“Yes, I sleep about 6 hours per night, if I’m lucky,” I replied.

“That’s actually not that bad,” he said.

“I used to sleep eight hours before,” I said.

Then he started to recite the ways to “create an ideal sleeping environment”, which is very popular now on the internet. He must have seen the annoyed look on my face because he stopped halfway through the list.

“Do you have some medicine to make me sleep?” I said dryly.

“I do, but I don’t think you need any medicine just yet…If this continues…”

“It has continued,” I almost shouted. “It has continued for three weeks! I just need something, anything, just to get me through the next few days. I have 60 essays to grade! I have to get some rest!” The desperation in my voice was palpable.

“E-e-exercise also helps,” he stammered.

This little twerp thinks I’m a drug addict, I thought.

“Your health is very good otherwise,” he continued. “Come back and see me in a week.”

Not bloody likely, I thought.

And with that we parted company.

 

Here is a list of the items I collected before I left:

– 6 tongue depressors (Yes, I wax my own legs. I buy the wax in bulk, and I get the applicators from doctors’ offices.)

– 2 syringes (you never know when you’ll need them.)

– 2 rolls of bandages (the soft, expensive kind.)

– a stack of make-up applicators (I don’t know the medical term, but they look like a Q-Tip, but longer.)

Now uploading the video, I notice that little rectangular blue thing on the wall behind him, which I think may be a camera. I zoomed in, but couldn’t be sure. Why would there be a camera in a doctor’s office, right? I came up with these answers:

  1. They’re doing some social experiment at the hospital, to try to figure out what kind of people steal medical supplies.
  2. The camera is to watch him, to see if he’s playing video games while he’s supposed to be working.

I’m more inclined to think it’s B.

It would be real embarrassing if it were a camera, though, right? For me.