The Dweller in the Christmas Mustard (Ep.3)

Oswald Madness was sitting at the end of a very long table in a very white room that had a long line of narrow vertical windows against one wall. The windows were covered with chemical blue curtains, the bottoms of which gently swayed because of some sort of artificial air being pumped in.

His eyes hurt. His throat felt like he had been screaming for a long time, but he didn’t know why. There was some sort of lingering cloud over the table that silently churned like a butter thunderstorm. Then someone spoke and the cloud began to twirl into a tighter vortex and then drifted up and out of the room through an invisible hole.

“Can you pass the Christmas mustard?” the young girl called from a seemingly long way away. “I have some vivacious ham here that I would like to add a little more zing to.”

Oswald looked down in front of him at the table adorned in a crystal white cloth. There before him sat a jar of unopened Christmas mustard from a deli in Chicago that he used to know of because his Aunt Sharlene would never shut up about it at family gatherings around the holidays.

He looked up and called out. “Who’s there?” He saw the vibrations of his voice shoot across the long table and stumble into something on the other end.

The girl’s voice came back. “Do I need to come over there and get it myself? You really don’t want that.”

Oswald pushed his chair back and got up. The floor didn’t feel real. He picked up the jar of Christmas mustard and started walking toward the other end of the table. He walked and walked and walked. “This is the longest table I have had the displeasure to encounter,” he said out loud.

“Just keep going. You’re almost there.” A small hand suddenly reached out and snatched the jar from him. “Thank you.” And then the mist around her cleared and she slowly came into view. He just watched as she struggled to open the jar. “Fuck!” she said loudly, and then she handed the jar back to him. “Could you open it please?”

Oswald pushed his hand against the lid and turned. There was a little audible pop. He handed it back to her and she smiled up at him. “I don’t know why they make those things so damn hard to open. What if this had been an emergency?”

“A sandwich emergency?”

She gave him a dirty look as she did not care at all for his sense of humor.

He quickly altered the awkward moment. “I know you,” Oswald said to her.

“That’s right,” she said as she smeared Christmas mustard on a piece of rye bread with a silvery knife that flowed like liquid. “I know you as well.”

“What is this?” Oswald wanted to know. “It seems that just a minute ago I was chained to a very different table. I was in some sort of trouble, I think.”

“You were in trouble, but I decided to get you out of it,” the girl said, and she looked around with admiration. “This is my home and I have invited you for lunch. Are you not hungry? I assure you the meats and breads are top of the line… Top of the line.” She took a monstrous bite of the sandwich she assembled and chewed. She casually swung her legs beneath the table and hummed while slowly moving her head side to side as if she didn’t have a care in the world. She was wearing washed-out blue jeans cut by ragged stone, red high-top tennis shoes and a Nirvana T-shirt. She swallowed and looked back up at him as if she was annoyed. “Are you just going to stand there and stare at me all afternoon?” She took another bite of her sandwich and chomped. “Go on now. You can go back to your seat and have your lunch.”

Oswald looked to his right and down the long length of table to a chair in the distance. “We can’t possibly carry on a conversation with so much space between us,” he said to her. “Can’t I sit closer to you?”

She ran her hand across her mouth and looked at him as if he had requested something horribly unreasonable. “Why would you want to do that? We’re eating, not talking. There’s a time for talking and it’s not when we are eating.”

“We can’t do both?”

“No! They’re two totally different and unrelatable things. It would be a mess!”

Oswald decided it was not in his best interest to push the subject, so he turned and walked away from her toward the other end of the table, a table that seemed to have become even longer than before. When he reached his end, he sat down in the chair there and scooted it in closer to the table. He sighed when he realized he forgot to bring the Christmas mustard back with him. “Hey!” he yelled out.

“What do you want now!?” the girl answered sourly.

“I forgot the mustard. Can you bring it to me?”

There was a cackling, childish laugh. “You’ve got some nerve, Mr. Madness. You’re in no position to ask me to do anything for you.”

“I just want some mustard. You can’t expect me to eat a dry sandwich. It’s not like I’m asking you to jump off a cliff.”

“You want me to jump off a cliff?”

“No! I just want some mustard!”

He heard a plate clank in the distance and then it was quick footfalls coming toward him. The girl suddenly appeared, and she slammed the jar down in front of him. “Here’s your fucking mustard!” she barked. “I wouldn’t want you to choke on a dry sandwich… Or would I?” She scowled at him, turned, and walked away toward the other end.

Oswald cringed and called out to her vanishing trail. “Thanks.”

He worked on assembling a sandwich and when it was built to his satisfaction, he took a big, deep bite. It was very agreeable to him. But then he realized as he reached out in front of himself that there was nothing to drink. He looked all around to see if he had perhaps overlooked something. He swallowed what was in his mouth, cleared his dry throat and called out to her again. “Hey!”

“Jiminy Cricket! What the hell is it now!?” the girl replied from the other side of the vast distance.

“I don’t have anything to drink. I could choke without something to wash this rye bread down with.”

“Ugh!” she scoffed loudly. “Seriously, Mr. Madness. You are becoming a real pain in the ass.”

“You sure do swear a lot for a young lady.”

“So fucking what!”

“See.”

“I’m sorry if I offend you, but I was unfortunately raised in not the most stable or proper environment. I’m afraid I’m the product of poor parenting… But despite my personal woes, I persevered. As you can see. But try not to be so judgmental.” She reached for and rang a small bell.

He thought he heard her whispering to someone. And then that someone suddenly appeared beside him balancing a small silver tray on his hand. He was tall. His bald head was large and shiny. He had small facial features. He was dressed in a black and cornsilk-colored suit. And when he spoke it was in a very soft, almost undecipherable tone. “The lady has asked me to bring you something to drink.”

Oswald hesitated to answer the strange man at first. “Yes. What do you have?”

The strange man nodded his head and a slight smile appeared on his face. “Whatever you want, sir.”

Oswald thought about it. “Chocolate milk.”

“Fine, sir. I’ll bring it straight away.” He gave a quick bow and then was off. He returned in nearly an instant, and the strange man’s hand, clad in a tan glove, set down a tall glass of chocolate milk in front of Oswald.

Oswald peered up at him and tried to smile. “Thank you.”

“Oh, you’re quite welcome, sir,” the strange man answered. “I do hope you enjoy it. I worked it out of one of our brown cows myself… May I get you anything else?”

Oswald nodded. “I think I’m good.” He lifted the glass to his mouth and took a deep drink. He smacked his lips and looked at the strange man who had brought it. “That’s the most incredible chocolate milk I ever…” The glass suddenly fell from his hand and the chocolate milk pooled on the table and began to seep into the tablecloth. Then Oswald’s eyes flickered and closed, and he collapsed headfirst into the spill. The strange man got down on his knees and moved his face closer to where Oswald lay. The man shook his head and made a noise with his mouth. “How unfortunate,” he whispered. Just then the girl appeared. She was whimsically eating a chocolate covered banana as she looked things over.

She cocked her head and asked. “What happened to him?” Then she laughed before taking another bite of her treat.

The strange man looked up at her and grinned. “Must have been a bad cow.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Go HERE to read the previous episode.

Fiona Blood Orange (1)

I saw some Wild West cowgirl chick smoking crushed Opana off a piece of foil through a swirly, glass sarsaparilla straw as I turned the dusty corner from the Main Street drag to the side road leading out of the town of Rock Ridge and into the wilds beyond. I nearly tripped over her, and she looked up at me with the look of being way out dazed and far out confused.

“Hey mister, do you have any of that fine, fine cowboy money?”

I fiddled around in my big pockets like a fool.

“Nope,” and I tipped my 37.9-liter hat her way and politely said “Mam.” Then I strode off all cool like with my rock-hard silver pistols dangling from my waist and ready to spit.

She came scrambling after me, nearly knocking loose from my grasp my packages of sundries I had just purchased at the local general store.

“But mister, I just need a little money, that’s all. Surely you got a little bit to spare?”

“I’m sorry drug girl. I do not have any money to spare. Now please, leave me be so I can get home and build a fire before it rains ice.”

I shoved her to the dusty ground and walked off.

I stood at the banks of the stream that ran across the land not too far from my homestead. I studied the cool water as it rolled over the rocks. I bit into an apple. I hoped it was not a poison trick from the town witch. I thought about an old gun-slinging pal from back east who was in love with a chick named Fiona Apple. The air was full of autumn chill. I looked around for some good firewood. I spit out my cowboy-rolled smoke and gathered the wood. A colorful peacock wearing a fur coat slyly followed me back to my log cabin — when I turned quickly to catch him following me, he ducked behind a tree or some brush, but hell man, I knew he was there.

“You’re not fooling me Mr. Peacock!” I said aloud to the ice-cold and wounded sky of the Wild, Wild West. “I don’t know what you want, but I know you’re following me… I hear peacock tastes like chicken, so you better watch your step, or I’ll cook you.”

There was a colorful flurry in the brush and the peacock came out of hiding and then just started pecking at the ground as if he didn’t even see me there holding wood and breathing out frosty fog from my face.

I turned and walked away. The wood was getting heavy, and I needed to dump it.

And I dumped it right where I stored my wood right outside the cabin. It was a late afternoon of a Sunday somewhere around the year 1879 or perhaps 2079 — I had no calendar or sense of time and therefore did not know. Sorry about that, but let’s just say the world was completely different then you probably know it right now.

I piled some wood in the fireplace and fondled it with flame and tinder. There was warmth and orange light. I lit some oil lamps and unbundled my bundles of sundries and laid them out nice and neat atop my roughly hewn wooden table. There was tobacco. There was rolling papers. There were matches, soap, biscuits in a tin, coarse twine, honey, paperback novel, small slab of meat, sugar, flour, fishing line, hooks, jerky, a Fiona Apple CD called Tidal, corn husk oil, bullets, new red pajamas with footies, wool socks, sharp knife, chilled butter, three eggs from a chicken, three bottles of root beer, candles, lamp oil, pencil and paper, map, big whiskey, maple syrup and black licorice.

The Sunday peacock pecked at the window as I rolled a fresh ciggy wiggy.

“What the hell do you want? Why don’t you just piss off and leave me be to my peace and being alone.”

The damn thing started to talk to me.

“But sir, it’s getting awfully cold out here and I was hoping you’d let me sit by the fire for a while. I won’t be any bother, I promise.”

I rubbed at my wicked, scruffy face and pondered the words of the Sunday peacock.

“You’ve got a fur coat on, that should be bloody well enough to keep you warm,” I barked back at him.

There were a few moments of silence.

“All right then sir, I’ll be on my way. Sorry to have bothered you. Good night then.”

I went to the window to watch him to be sure he was indeed leaving. And he was indeed leaving, but he was singing a common tune from the new old world as he walked away … “I’m screaming in the rain, just screaming in the rain …” is how it went.

It wasn’t even raining though. It was darkening clouds of ice cubes and a biting wind that began to kick up when I went out to fetch some more wood. It was then I realized something was out there — something, someone, some living, breathing being ducked behind the thick trunk of my favorite poplar tree.

“Come out from there now!” I yelled. “Come out or I’ll find you and gun you down.” 

“No!” some weepy devotchka shrieked and she jumped out of the shadows.

I reached for my horny, rigid pistol.

“Don’t come any closer or I’ll blast you!”

“No sir, please, no sir.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m the girl you met in the street today, in town. You pushed me to the ground you mean bastard.”

“What’s your name, and what do you want here?”

“My name is Fiona sir, and I’m cold and hungry. I’m sorry, I followed you.”

I strained to look. “Fiona Apple? Is that you?”

“No sir, my name is Fiona Blood Orange.”

“You some kind of Native American chick?”

“My father was, but my momma was from New York City.”

“New York City! Did she eat Pace picante sauce like a bitch?”

“Sir?”

“Nevermind.”

“Nirvana?”

“Huh?”

“I’m cold. May I please come inside?”

“Yes. Just don’t try to smoke everything in my cabin.”


She sat near the fire wrapped in a thick blanket I gave her. She rubbed at her nose with the back of her hand and just stared at the flames. I sat at my table mindlessly gnawing on jerky and thinking about what it would be like to snuggle up with this little bunny.

“Are you a bunny rabbit?” I asked aloud, not thinking.

She turned and looked at me strangely.

“What did you say?”

“I was just wondering if you liked bunny rabbits.”

“They’re fine, I suppose. Do you?”

“They sure do taste good…  You just got to cook them right. You have to know how to retain the juices and keep the meat tender. I like juicy, tender meat. I don’t enjoy dried out bunny rabbit.”

She licked at her lips and tried to smile.

“I don’t eat meat.”

“You don’t eat meat? Then what do you eat?”

“Nuts, twigs, grains, plants… Apples.”

“Blood oranges?”

“When I can get my hands on one.”

“Bananas?”

“Love them, but only when they are nice and brown.”

“Are you a woman lover?”

“Sir?”

“Do you lie down with women? Sexually speaking.”

“No, I do not sir, and even if I did, I don’t see how it is any business of yours.”

“My apologies. I was just curious. I need to know things.”

She said nothing to me and went back to staring at the fire, clutching the blanket closer to her body as if it were some sort of shield.

After several minutes passed, I broke the sexually tense silence.

“I only have one bed.”

She turned to look at me.

“Sir?”

“I only have one bed. It’s my bed and I plan on sleeping in it tonight.”

“That’s fine sir. I won’t deny you your own bed. I can sleep on the floor.”

“That will be awfully cold.”

“Not near the fire.”

“The fire will go out at the coldest hour of the night. Your blood will lock up and cease to flow.”

“I’ll keep the fire going, sir.”

“You can stop calling me sir. My name is Wild Rick.”

“If you are trying to get me to share your bed, you can just put that thought out of your mind… Wild Rick.”

“What if I gave you some drugs?”

Fiona Blood Orange’s eyes suddenly widened.

“You have drugs?”

“Maybe.”

“You’re a liar Wild Rick. You don’t have any drugs.”

“What would you do if I did?”

I could tell her inner thoughts were fist-fighting within her own head.

“I don’t know!” she yelled. “That’s a terrible thing you are trying to do though, just terrible — seducing me by means of my own demons. You should be ashamed of yourself!”

“You’re the drug addict, not me. I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Bastard!”

“Bitch!”

“Pervert!”

“Kiss me.”

“Never!”

I rolled over in the bed and my hand fell upon her bare breast. She stirred in her dream beneath the covers. I looked at her face as the first mellow yellow glow of dawn worked its way into the cabin. She was beautiful, yet strained and sickly. Pale yet flushed. Young yet old. Crippled yet full of boundless energy. I crawled out of bed and got dressed. I scribbled her a note and left it on the pillow beside her. It read: Dear Fiona Blood Orange, I’ve gone down to the river to catch some fish. I want you to make me some flapjacks when I return, that is, if you want more drugs. Best wishes, Wild Rick.

TO BE CONTINUED. THIS IS THE FIRST OF TWO PARTS.