by Julianna Towns
Ch. 1 The Laws Are Silent In the Midst of Arms
(OR A Day In The Many Lives of Arthur Quint)
When I was a boy, my father always told me to "keep my hands in my pockets." I didn't know what he meant, until now. I've got three fingers left on my right hand, and my left hand would be nearly intact were it not for the tip of my thumb, which fell off yesterday.
Saying "Oh Shit" was about all I could do.
Carville, Louisiana, is not exactly my kind of town. It couldn't possibly be anyone's kind of town, but I've learned to accept what I cannot change, and though I secretly say prayers to the goddess Chaulmoogra, I still see my old standbys Promin and Diasune on the side, two-timing mercenary that I am. I trust my open mind won't venture the road less traveled until possibly my face falls off, and then I probably won't care, anyway.
Anya Lipschitz is the most fetching spin' in the complex. She arrived only two days ago. One might even mistake her for one of the staff, if she didn't have a gaping hole where her nose used to be, but I can live with such idiosyncrasies.
Life can be quite fresh and free if one dispenses with the usual standards of beauty.
Last night, we dined on tomato puree and waldorf salad. It was quite funny seeing old Father Frigo clean up the mess after Louey the Bowling Pin dipped his stump into a buffet bowl and pushed it into poor Father Frigo's face.
I can't help but think it's what Father Frigo deserved, after he made the lot of us dig 39 10' holes at the east side of complex, and then made a rather dry joke about the hospital running out of space for extraneous human detritus. I can't blame the poor man, though, he must be going through quite a bad patch, having been here for nearly 30 years.
What I miss most of all, aside from sexual intercourse, is blancmange and blood pudding, although I wouldn't be able to stomach the sight, nowadays, isn't that funny?
Yesterday, I gathered the courage to talk to Anya. She thinks that if she holds her hand over her face, no one will notice the gaping hole between her eyes. I find her demure naiveté rather endearing. She doesn't believe that once I used to own a bicycle shop in the Shetland Islands, but that doesn't matter, because she's never heard of the Shetland Islands, anyway. How I landed in the United States is rather an odd story. After a rather miserable term at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, I opted for a more suitable career of busking on the sidewalks of London, having taken up the unicycle while juggling 2 oranges, a banana, and a casaba melon, as there wasn't much competition in that area of expertise. A chap named Archibald Leach started copying my act, and due to his comely looks and good fortune, I was winnowed out of the foray, and decided to cut my losses, and head out to the Shetland Islands to start my own business. A windfall came my way in the nick of time, my old Aunt Pip having died of the quinsy, and being her favourite nephew, I had my day in the sun. There weren't many bicycle shops in the Shetlands, and well, I decided to set out and make my fortune. As everyone knows, however, bicycles can be had for a song in Bangkok, and my first business excursion brought me to the land of Typhoo, where I extracted my present malady. So how did I land on the continent? The answer is simple. Chaulmoogra oil, processed experimentally now in the U.S., and once only available on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. I've been here since 1943, 3 years to the day.
If 1/3 the shaft of my penis had not deteriorated in 1944, I might try to woo Anya into my bed. Somehow, I feel my present state might well be considered comeuppance for shabby treatment of certain females, who might otherwise wish me a fate worse than death, and as far as I can tell, their curses have succeeded quite nicely.
Tomorrow, is the long-awaited Lippencott Dance. Named in honour of Harry Lippencott, one of the Institute's most generous benefactors, we shall dine on soft-shell crab and crawfish etouffee. Those of us who cannot benefit from the use of knife and fork will sip pureed polenta through a straw. How I long to hold the noseless Anya in my arms on a warm Louisiana evening!
Father Frigo sometimes treats us to a song on the old grand piano in the day room, his favorite being "The Old Folks At Home" which he performs rather badly, in imitation of Al Jolsen. None of us care, anyway, because when we laugh, the vibration causes our scabs to break loose and fall upon the floor, which makes Father Frigo furious. One can't blame the man for forcing us to dig so many holes.
Aside from life's little inconveniences, one might find a semblance
of contentment here, in our quiet, septic little home, far away from the
rough and tumble rat race. Quite often, I find myself enjoying the simple
things: a saltine cracker, a shiny doorknob, or the subtle smell of chloroform.
And tomorrow, the Lippencott Dance! I've much to look forward to. After
all, in the entire scheme of things, with the name changed, the stories
apply to all. Have a care, therefore, and rejoice in your humble existence,
for tomorrow, God may no longer smile upon your undertakings.