Frankenbronte by Michelle Denise Norton

We looked down in despair, down, down at the papers burning in the ornately lacquered and screamingly artistic trash container -- although Matissa preferred to describe it as the "womb for ideas to be given back to the Universe". Her despair was religious, mystical, and highly charged with that hint of sexual perversity only prose poets draped in black and preferring the works written by Ann Rice under her Frenchifried pseudoname can drip. My despair was merely for what the smoke would do to the unartistic, pristine,and antiseptic white of my rented ceiling. Plus, having to deal with the deranged creator the morning after. I grabbed the manuscript pages out of the fire, losing one to the pernicious influence of gravity. It drifted down, toward the heat, the flame, the freedom of the inferno and I could make out the despairing final lines of one of Matissa's more cherished pieces: "Brock -- it had at first sounded like a forgotten hair tonic, and every shampoo after this parting would bring back the memory of his fingers. But she must be firm -- Scott and the claims of maturity had shaved the dead weight off her life and her head. The memory of his smooth handling of the clipper and electric razors still dazzled her, as he must have dazzled Brock. Brock belonged only to him. She belonged only to art." Matissa stepped so close I could smell the damn fake Giorgio. Her hand gripped my wrist, her eyes would have been boring into my brain if I hadn't been frantically fighting off both a sneeze and a laugh. I'd always hated Brock -- even in real life when he'd been much less dramatically endowed as a simple Craig. "You must let them free. They are my loves, my children. Only tonight, only tonight can they be free. And only tonight can I be whole." She waved the book under my nose, that damn Writer's Digestible sponsored grimoire, "How To Make A Life Livable Through Writing. " Innocents picked it up thinking it was an how to find an agent, get published, make a million, and not spend it all on cats tome. Instead, readers discovered a freaky new age bewiccian spell type thing that claimed to bring happiness to your life by empowering the "Ultradimensionality of the trapped selves you have created, crying out for a voice. Give them that voice."

And so, on this night, the birth night of that beknighted self help authour, E. A. Poe, millions of soon to be unsanitized customers were working a little literary magic and calling their demons home. "Come to momma." I spoke aloud, thoughtlessly. Matissa hugged me, "You do understand." The fake cheap Giorgio overwhelmed my senses and weakened me for only a moment, but a pivotal one no less. Matissa, in a move no doubt kinaesthetically remembered from the days when she was known as Mayday Matilda McCrory and played power forward on our city finalist roundball quintet, stole the package, shot and scored, leaving me mumbling on the ground and having flashbacks to practices where she wore not black shawls and fishnets, but Manon Rhéaume jerseys. "My loves." For a brief, headshaking flash I thought she meant me, but then realized it was I who was seeing double, not her. Just as my vision cleared, Matissa began to circle the "womb," stomping her ballet slippered feet, shaking her rainstick, and chanting slowly in a deep, unnatural basso voice, "It is on LY a pa PE r mo ON, bu Ti t wo UL dn 'T be ma KE be li ev E if yo U be li EV ed in mE." I had known that the sudden and intense resurgence in popularity for hoary chestnuts caressed by Tony Bennett's golden throated golden fleeced golden age had boded ill for something. I had not realized it would be modern witchcraft. Matissa dropped to her knees in a sobbing croon, mother hen bereft of her painstakingly laserprinted chicks. I wondered if perhaps the Tequila shots had worn off and now was the time to mention that I still had all the stuff she had ever given me to read stored on the disk I kept for the wonderings of someone else's mind. The explosion in the trashcan sidetracked my helpful impulses. I would like to say I dove over Matissa's obviously overwrithed body, dropping a meditation cushion between us and the apparently birthing womb in a calculated and heroic effort to protect a clearly insane friend from the real physical threat presented by shrapnel. This is not true, but I will say it anyway. Somehow I ended up with the meditation cushion beneath me and Matissa's weight pushing me down so I would like to beLIeve it was the rollover from a heroic urge and not an agave one. I ended up staring at the can from underneath Matissa's right armpit, her open mouth floating out distinctly nicotine grace notes. Damn it, I knew she's started to smoke again. So much for our mutual support association. She had left me guilty and lurking, to smoke my cigars in the back wrenching atmosphere of the back stairwell, while she practiced her vice in secret. Damn, I hate hypocrites.

The trash can could have been smoking a cigar with the amount of blue grey smoke that swirled from its mouth, the lacquered metal of its exterior red with heat, its regular shape melting and lurching, the colors bending into unusual purples before joining the metal molten reds. I swear it hopped three times, spun, and cried Mama while Matissa snored on my breast. Then I passed out. I had the meditation cushion to myself the next morning. I woke, bleary eyed and achy, to singing in the kitchen. Matissa had certainly recovered more rapidly than expected. I rolled over and looked up. Four small, expectant, and curious eyes stared back. "MATISSA!" "Don't scare Aunt Kylie, children. She never handles drink well." Matissa stepped around the corner in a dense paisley house dress covered by a sweetly floral robe, the combination of which almost made me vomit. I must have looked green for Mat nearly sounded sympathetic. "You really shouldn't drink so much, Ky." "I agree to help you with some stupid new age coping shtick, you slip me 100 proof tequila under the guise of something milder, I watch you do primeval chants in the living room, two hallucinations pop ... "Not in front of the children, dearie, "She looked backed over her shoulder with a milky warm maternal smile. I lost my former lunch and future breakfast then. Matissa continued, "I'm going to help Auntie Kylie clean up, dears. You amuse yourselves with the Fruit Loops." "Fruit Loops is right. You're bananas." "That's really cliched, Kylie. You never stoop that low." "I've never had demon spawn in the kitc...." "Don't talk about Bat and Amore like that." Matissa dragged me into the bathroom, her attention on the demons behind. I sat down on the toilet. Bat had obviously visited it at some point, but at least the damp was a GENUINE, 100% AUTHENTIC physical sensation. "You really should look where you sit. I hope you're not planning to yell at him ..." "MY GOD, Matilda, are you insane. Who are those children? What is going on? Did you slip me some kind of hallucinogenic in my drink yesterday? Or did you kidnap them?" "Perfectly natural reaction. The book has prepared me. I said you should read it." I stood up, pulled up my dignity, pulled down my shorts and underwear, "Hand me that towel." I wrapped it around my waist, "Now -- and very slowly, because if this is a dream I don't want to hear any more than I have to before I wake up -- explain Bat and Amore."

"Surely you remember the story I wrote about the childhood of my dream date?" "He never watched Batman." "That's him." "Did he call you Mommy? That's incestuous." Matissa laughed, "Kylie, the true artist is not restrained by societal convictions or mores" "Just leather ones lashing them to hospital beds in psych wards." Matissa ignores me when I get a certain angry enough to spit Indian cobra venom tone in my voice, "Amore is the sweet gift of the return of the soul of my childhood." Oh my god. I remembered the story. Epistemological. Just Amore. We love or something. Saccharine sweet, sickeningly worse than even Diet Pepsi. CRASH ... Either the roof had collapsed or the refrigerator had fallen. Matissa beat me to the living room. Little Bat had sweet innocent knife wielding Amore pinned under a metal chair, turning blue with rage. "Ah look, True Love is killing Sweet Youth." Matissa's glare could have killed me, but I merely transformed its force into momentum taking me out to the diner for breakfast, leaving my roommate to deal with the warring shards of her innocence.

He didn't look like Craig. He was more .... windblown, yet without a hair out of place. "Brock." "Do we know each other?" He gleamed, sunlight glinting off a pearly white incisor. "I've heard about you." "You have?" "A friend of mine recommended your salon." "Really." So that's the difference between halogen and incandescent. I couldn't smile back. There's just no way to compete with fiction. "Looking for true love?" "Of course." I knew he'd be simplistic, but this was even better than I had hoped for. "Scott?" "Clipping someone."

I had to laugh. I just wish things didn't sting so much when they came rushing out your nose. Brock continued non plused. I believe he was observing his reflection in the almost clean, but definitely shiny metal of my fork. "You sense of humor is wonderful. Nice mix of stripes on the towel too." Matissa might have been able to listen to this all day, but I could never do it. It usually took me three shots of bourbon to get through her shorter stories. Brock had taken me five. If I hadn't already discovered my attraction to the female of the species, he might have done the trick. "Cliché, again," I can hear the mother hen clicking. Steeling myself, I looked into the bright blue gaze of the father of all cliched contradictions and I did manage that smile, "Do you want to meet her? The woman you dream about? The one who gives your whole life meaning and yet confuses your totally unnatural hormones at the same time?" "You know?” "I know all." He waited expectantly, apparently unable to speak without another cue. "End of the street, # 1648, Apt. 3c. Don't knock. Use my key. It'll be so much more romantic." I pressed the key into his firm yet yielding palm. "You're amazing." Like Willie Mays. I finished my coffee, scanning the diner for other fictional critters. Of course, the first one I spotted was myself in my dream Tom Seaver World Series winning jersey. I ducked. Matissa's fictional version of me had tended to monopolize conversations in five to seven minute chunks. I'd probably be picking up my DREAM date, Fantasia Kincaid, in a minute or so. I was tempted to stay and cut in, if only to meet the only character Matissa had written that I 'd ever liked, but then I realized how demoralizing it would be not to stand a chance against yourself. With a tip of the hat to Kelsey and a flash of the towel at Fantasia I started to follow Brock home. Then I saw the line, just appearing, walking out of the doors of the El Station and about to run me over in their haste to reach their creatrix. I wondered if the implosion would occur first or if Sweet Youth and True Love would just chop them all to bits in front of Mommy's horrified yet loving eyes. That's when I saw the future glowing green, bright, and engraved upon my retina. That's when I hit delete.

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