somewhat better than it ought to be  

April 14th, 2011

And O the lost insane gulls yowking, falling around in a gray and restless shroud at the moving poop.

Jack Kerouac


I am moving and must divest myself of some items that will not fit in my new apartment. If you are interested in a steam shovel, a smallish ocean liner or a ziggurat please let me know before the end of the month. Box 12.
Do you have trouble saying the word phantasmagoria? If so you are not alone. Why not join our support group Phantas...somethingsomething Anonymous?
For sale: actual French fries. Fried in France (in the Loire Valley actually). Delivered right to your door by actual French speaking people born in France. Inquire about prices. Box 1432.
Looking for affordable housing in the city of Winnipeg? Well, I can't help you but if you want an over priced home in the Souris area I am your man. I am Larry the Over-Priced Realtor. In business since March of 2011. Box 4.

The Mystery of the Lost Lenore

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Part One Hundred and One

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The Princess and the Anvil

Once upon a time (how else would this story begin?) there was a princess whose name is really irrelevant as it has no bearing on the story but seeing as how you are being so insistent - it was Margarella (I'm not making this up).

Margarella was an average sort of princess in that she lived in an old castle and her father, the king, was a kindly old guy with a beard but she was slightly less average in regards to her enthusiasms.

That is to say that she liked to do stuff that was not the regular princess stuff, like taking long unaccompanied walks in secluded parts of the forest or kissing frogs or hanging out with malevolent dwarfs (dwarves?). Margarella liked puttering in the garage. She was more an average sort of princess. This irritated people.

You may have noticed (if you've been paying attention at all) that a very quick way to become unpopular is to exhibit behaviour that does not strictly fit within the province of your class, race, group, clique or province. This will sometimes cause you to be called "a nut" or eccentric depending on your average annual income and elicit indignant whispers of "Who does he/she think he/she is?" (This is not an actual question and requires no coherent response).

Well, Princess Margarella elicited whispered comments such as the above (and sometimes worse) especially when she was seen (which was often as she left the door open for better air circulation, clad in her favorite coveralls puttering in the garage. This behaviour not only annoyed the denizens of the castle and her neighbours but also worried somewhat her father, the kindly old king (see above).

Now don't get me wrong. The king, despite his age, was not one of those fat old men with a weltanschauung stuck in an earlier era of barefoot pregnant women slaving away over a hot stove. He was not sexist or racist or a hidebound conservative traditionalist. He was merely worried that his only daughter was in danger of becoming such an oddball that no one would have anything to do with her.

While the king had no crazy ideas about "getting her married off", he did sometimes hope that at some future date she might find herself in a longish term loving relationship with a man or woman not necessarily of her class, race, creed or religion and that prospect was seeming less likely with every day she spent in that damn garage. What's more, she was becoming taciturn to the point of rudeness.

Even as a young princess, early in her days of puttering, Margarella had not been especially ebullient or loquacious in her responses when she was dismantling a carburetor or sharpening a hedge trimmer but now her laconic manner had become the norm in all her daily encounters. Her language had become merely an affirmative and negative pattern of grunts (it was sometimes hard to distinguish one from the other). Her only words to her family were a short "What's to eat?" when she slumped down, still in her greasy coveralls, at the dinner table.

As is usual with princesses and kings and the like (or so I am led to believe), Margarella and her family were surrounded by a group of men who functioned as "counselors". The most vocal and intrusive of these was a man called Sajtos.

Sajtos, more than anyone else in the castle was deeply disturbed by Margarella's behaviour. This was not only because he was the kind of guy who thought that people ought to behave in a manner appropriate to their class and station (why else would he have chosen regal counseling as a career path?), but also because he thought that Margarella's behaviour reflected rather poorly on himself. Already counselors of regal personages had started making snide remarks about his princess. This hurt him.

Every Thursday night Sajtos would play Go Fish with a group of other royal advisors and between hands (or whatever rounds of Go Fish are called - don't write in) his fellow smart guys would ride him about Margarella.

One fellow in particular, the chief advisor to the Duke who lived next door, a fellow called Xantax, would chide him unmercifully. One one particular Thursday, Xantanx proposed an unusual bet.

"Your 'little princess' is such a roughneck (he was not referring to the summer Margarella spent on an oil rig, as far as Sajtos knew he had successfully hushed that up but still the word made him wince) that she could fall asleep lying on an old engine block and not even notice."

"Or an anvil." added the quiet little fellow in the corner for no good reason.

"That" replied the incensed Sajtos "is a ludicrous suggestion. She may have her rough spots but she is still as sensitive as the bovine creature that allegedly sprung from the loins of your beloved Duke!"

At this point more unpleasantries, which we will not delineate here for lack of space, were exchanged and a bet was made. It was decided that the next night but one (that would be Saturday I guess) the assembled group woild place an anvil (nobody had ready access to an engine block but, for some reason, a few of the group owned anvils) under Margarella's mattress to see if she could indeed spend a restful night perched thusly.

Saturday came and the anvil was placed. Margarella, after a full afternoon of puttering, toddled off to her bed at the usual time. She slipped into her favorite flannel bunny pajamas and climbed into bed. She tried to read a few pages of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (which was her nighttime reading that week) but she was so tired she could barely keep her eyes open. She doused the light and soon was fast asleep. She was so deeply ensconced in the realm of the Sandman that she didn't hear the giggling of Xantax or the fuming of Sajtos who were secreted in her closet.

Sajtos was worried indeed. It was not so much the loss of the bet as it was the humiliation of being bested by that idiot Xantax that bothered him. He contemplated making some noise that might wake the princess but he was afraid of Xantax's reaction and of becoming known as a sore loser (which he was). And so he sat there amongst the pile of soiled princessy coveralls until angrily he fell asleep.

In the morning Xantax woke him and indicated, with some glee, that Margarella was still sleeping. The two counselors crept silently from the room.

Margarella woke more refreshed than she had felt in a very long time. She was so refreshed that she felt like a little fresh air and exercise. She dusted off her inline skates and went for a roll along the canal paths (I forgot to mention there were canals where they lived). There she met a handsome prince who was big into the whole inline skating thing. They hit it off and started seeing each other. Regularly he would come over and they would spend the day together happily puttering in the garage (at least that's what they said they were doing).

Everyone was very happy although they wondered why Sajtos was wearing coveralls.

Hugh Briss