Saturday, May 07, 2005

Short Story: Madame Trugany

This little tale was written many moons ago, but I still like it. I could have re-edited it, correct the writing flaws, smoothed out the rough bits, but decided not to since any form of polish may round off too much of the rough edges. The rough edges seem to work in this piece, at least they do for me. Can an author like his own work without seeming like an egotistical dweeb? I’ll judge my work no more and leave that up to you.

Well, in a nutcase. . . . I mean, a nutshell, this tale is one of going over the edge and when all else fails taking advice from a relative stranger and interpreting it any way you want it too. Of course the Madame in the story may be more than just a college student earning easy money and reading from a script. But I’m not sure that is the case. So, without any more waiting here is my short story. Oh, and I don’t like malt vinegar. You probably couldn’t have guessed that one. And my real name is Paul not Marty.


Madame Trugany
by Paul Darcy

"Take immediate control of your life! That is the path to freedom and self-worth," the voice of Madame Trugany hissed serpent-like through the telephone receiver Marty held firmly to his ear.

"Yes, I see now," Marty replied, suddenly comprehending the intrinsic truth of Madame Trugany’s enlightening statements. "It is all so clear to me now. Of course." Marty removed the phone from his ear and set it back on the receiver where it promptly fell off. He looked at the device scornfully. How dare it do such a thing at the moment of his ultimate edification. Cheap Radio-Hut crap, he thought. That red haired weasel of a sales guy with the ugly tie had sold it to him, said it was the best one for the money, had sold hundreds, he said, and never a one of them returned with a problem and would he like the extended warranty? Suckered him in completely is what that sales weasel did. What was his name? Well, in light of his new discovery, it didn’t matter. He knew now the direction he needed to take. He would take control of his life, and do it today.

Madame Trugany was his savior. Of that he was sure. His only regret was that he hadn’t called Mo-Jo’s hotline sooner in life and gleaned Madame Trugany’s words of wisdom, before he lost his wife, his car, his kids, his dog Spot and most recently, his job. It could all have been averted by her insightful words and guidance. But that was all behind him. Firm immediate action was what he needed.

Marty surveyed his cramped one room apartment, fully stocked with all the necessities he needed: a phone, a sleeping bag, metal stool, doorless cupboard, coffee maker, and one large portable washbasin which doubled as his toilet. Take control, he chanted, hearing Madame Trugany’s words as though she were there beside him spurring him on.

Dragging his stool over in front of the doorless cupboard, Marty sat down. He leaned over and rummaged through his collection of belongings. It would begin here. It would begin now. He was taking control.

He pulled out a half roll of electrical tape and bit off a three foot length. It was not as wide as he would have liked but, wrapped double, it would do. He stuck one end to his forehead and proceeded to wrap the rest around his skull like a bandana making sure to overlap the tape so it would stick in place and not fall off. The last few inches he stretched tight and pressed down firmly. He had seen electricians do that. It was what one did with electrical tape.

Scrounging in his cupboard some more he produced a shard of mirror and admired his makeshift bandana, turning his head from side to side. It made him feel good, but it was missing that final touch.

Of course! A moment later he produced a bottle of white-out and, with the half dried contents and crusty brush, painted a dot on the electrical tape in the center of his forehead. He checked his appearance in the mirror shard once again. His grin of self approval exposed his four remaining crooked teeth. "Take control," he spoke quietly to himself. "Take control."

Now, where was his weapon? He was sure he had stored it carefully at the back of the cupboard. It took him a minute of carefully sifting through his many treasures before he found it. It was where he had remembered it to be, propped up in the farthest back corner away from prying eyes. He reached in and clutched it in his good strong hand and dragged it out into the light. The ammunition he had bought for it long ago tumbled out at the same time with a sloshing thump on the rotting plywood floor. Yes. His eyes glinted with glee reflecting the glare of the single bare bulb hanging by a wire in the ceiling. Taking control was good.

He lifted and cradled his weapon lovingly. He had acquired it so long ago. He couldn’t quite remember the exact day he had received it, but he was sure his mother had bought it for him. Its polished grip, multiple barrels and pump action mechanism filled him with confidence. But the most striking and memorable feature on this tool of destruction had to be the lime green 2.5 liter holding tank. He also liked the other three bight colors of his gun, but not as much as that tank. It was the Super Squirter SST: his pride and joy.

Popping the top off the holding tank he grabbed the ammo from where it had fallen on its side from the cupboard. It was a full gallon of seasoned malt vinegar. God how he hated the stuff. He could still recall the day of the fair when he was very young. He had gotten a big greasy cardboard plate of homemade chips from the side of a broken down van on the fairgrounds. Welded to the side of the truck was a tray holding all sorts of condiments swarming with flies. He had felt adventurous and so hadn’t picked the ketchup or regular vinegar but instead had chosen a bottle of muddy coloured fluid marked ‘malt vinegar’. He had lavishly doused his fries with the novel muddy brown fluid. Then he could remember sticking a fry into his mouth and spitting it out immediately in disgust. It was the most horrible taste he had ever experienced as a child. What is this vile stuff, he was thinking just before a large beefy hand had forcibly struck the side of his head rattling his teeth. He still had all of his teeth back then, and maybe that impact was one of the reasons so many had fallen out since.

His dad loomed over him threateningly. "Eat those goddamn chips I bought for you or I’ll smack you so hard you’ll join them astronauts on the moon." Marty was terrified, but he had eaten every last chip under the watchful eye of his large, menacing father. It was the second worse memory of his life. His first worse memory was blocked from his mind so he thankfully couldn’t recall it.

Take control, he told himself again, reentering the present. He unscrewed the cap of the malt vinegar and poured until the entire 2.5 liter lime green tank was full. The smell nearly made him retch, but he managed to replace the cap on the vinegar jug and Super Squirter tank without vomiting. He was prepared. His tool of vindication was primed and ready.

He stood up quickly and marched straight out of his apartment. He was taking control.
First stop, his old employer. He would demand his old job back.

Twenty paces down the street on the way to his old workplace, Marty encountered his first obstacle. Blocking the sidewalk were two teenage boys. Oversized clothes, shaved heads and baseball caps on backwards assaulted his senses. Absolutely sickening, he thought. Goddamn punks today. If he ever dared look so ridiculous in his youth his father would have slugged him.

He could overhear them as he got closer and could tell they had seen him coming. "Get a load of this freak," one said to the other who pointed and laughed.

"Hey freak," the other now shouted in his direction, "where did you escape from?" More derisive laughter followed. Marty, infuriated, drew his weapon and fired. But he was too far away and the two punks dodged the jet of vinegar easily. They left with a volley of jeers and foul words. Marty would have pursued them but he had his appointment with his old employer and didn’t want to waste any more ammunition. He might need it.

Before too long, Marty was climbing the three steps of Big Bob’s Sausage Emporium catering to all the fatty meat lovers everywhere in the city. He boldly cleared the last step and entered the shop.

A chorus of cheap tin chimes announced his arrival and Big Bob himself looked up from the counter where he was counting out extra fatty pork sausages for a rather large woman of indeterminate years. He held one greasy sausage in each meaty fist.

Marty marched straight up to the counter pointing his Super Squirter SST at Bob’s head menacingly, its lime green 2.5 liter tank sloshing with bad childhood memories.

Bob laid down the sausages he had been holding and the woman at the counter veered to the left of this bizarre scene making for the door.

"Hiya, Marty. You okay?" Bob asked him putting on a harmless fake smile and lifting his hands away from the counter to show Marty he now had nothing in them.

"I’m just fine old buddy." Marty leered as best he could with the electrical tape beginning to bind his scalp, making his threatening facial features hard to control. He mocked Bob’s artificial grin to let him know he was on to him. "I came to get my job back. You will give it to me now!" Marty demanded and with a sudden move twisted and fired his Super Squirter SST at an extra large fatty pork sausage that was sitting on the counter. It was washed to the floor with a dull sickening splat, its greasy, lumpy contents oozed out of its ruptured casing like brains on the unclean floor.

Bob’s gaze traveled from the splattered sausage back to Marty. His nose twitched as though he were smelling something. "What is the matter Bob? Are you scared of me?" Marty laughed. Now who was the boss he thought.

"Well," Bob answered, "ah yah. Yah, I’m scared of you and I could give you your job back but I already have a replacement." Before Bob could explain any more a skinny pimply faced youth wearing glasses taped in the center came out from the saloon type doors at the back of the shop carrying a tray of freshly stuffed sausages.

"Ah, what is this uncle Bob? A holdup?" The youth spoke in the most annoying pubescent voice Marty had ever heard. The pimply youth placed the tray on the counter and eyed Bob waiting for instructions.

This was Marty’s replacement? It was at that moment that Marty knew true rage. "Why you scrawny, four eyed geek," Marty spit the words out like bile, "you job stealing, good for nothing, four-eyed twerp." Marty swung his weapon toward his usurper.

The youth, aware of his peril, tried to run back through the saloon doors, but Marty was too quick and let him have it with all four barrels at once. A full liter streamed from the lime green tank through the bright orange body and out the four cherry red barrels like a ruptured water main blasting the glasses clean off the youth’s head.

The youth crashed through the saloon doors and groped in horror for the phone in back.
Marty turned back to Bob who hadn’t moved. "Now, Bob. Get rid of that twit and hire me back!" Bob looked slightly more worried than he had a moment ago.

"Sure, Marty. Sure, whatever you say. He’s gone. You can start tomorrow, okay?" Bob grinned again but Marty was not an entire fool.

"Now, Bob, about an increase in my pay. You know I’m the best meat grinder you ever had." Sweat began to run over Marty’s electrical tape bandana threatening to wash away the white-out dot.

"Yah, Marty," Bob said encouragingly. "We can talk about that right now, okay?"

***

Officers Clyde and Henkel received their orders to head for Big Bob’s Sausage Emporium. In fact both of them had made many trips there to get their favorite sausages in the past. Now, it seemed, some nut was holding up the place up with a squirt gun.

They had been nearby at the donut shop and a moment later they squealed in to the parking lot of Big Bob’s. Both of them got out of the car. They hefted their bulks across the parking lot and up the stairs, both nearly out of breath from the exertion. They slammed through front door and made ready to apprehend the looney.

A gap-toothed hobo with electrical tape wrapped around his head turned and pointed a brightly colored squirt gun at them and fired before they could reach him. Officer Clyde lost his hat in a flurry of stinking vinegar and Officer Henkel took a direct hit to the chest before they could wrestle the nutcase to the ground.

He was screaming into the dirty floor when they cuffed him. "I get my one phone call. I know my rights. I want to call Madame Trugany at Mo-Jo’s. I get to make my one call!"

"Holy cow. This is Gil Bates isn’t it?" Henkel asked Clyde.

"Yeah, I think you’re right," Clyde concurred. "Look at the state he is in. Man, he is out of it. You would never know that only a few months ago he was a respected member of this community."

"Must have been on account of his wife and kids leaving him awhile back," Henkel supplied. "I seen other cases like this where the guy just falls apart. Poor bugger."

"Yeah, well let’s take him in. He needs help."

Marty screamed all the way to the squad car, "I get to make my one call. I want to call Madame Trugany."

***

In another city, far, far away, Joe Hampsten returned home to his apartment defeated and utterly tired. He tossed his suit jacket against the wall in anger and clasped his hands to the sides of his head. Damn, he thought, she gets possession of the Porsche as well. He sat down heavily in his apartment chair facing the fifty-one inch television.

He grabbed up the all-in-one remote control and flicked on the tube. A flashy advertisement was playing. "Call Mo-Jo’s hotline. Your first consultation is absolutely free. Our trained psychics are standing by to take your call. Satisfaction guaranteed. All of your problems solved." A number flashed in bright red letters across the screen.

What the hell, Joe thought. He needed a distraction, any distraction. He picked up his phone and dialed. Maybe they could tell him how to get the Porsche back.

A pleasant female voice greeted him on the other end of the line. "Hello, this is Mo-Jo’s hotline. My name is Madame Trugany. I am so glad you called."
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