|Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream (part 1 of 2)
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
On Thursday night, imyril, dizzykj and I went to watch Ben Haggerty tell seasonally appropriate tales at the Barbican pit theatre. I enjoyed it so much I wrote them up on the train home, and I want to share them with you this Halloween night.
Ben began on a plane to Jonesborough, Tennessee, heading for a storytelling convention. A dashing devil in a cowboy hat tricked him into stretching out across Row 13, reserved for the absent Mississippi Moondoggies. The weather turned bad, forcing the plane to divert to a city in Georgia. Ben noticed a funfair during the bus trip to his hotel and walked to it after checking in, much to the consternation of the receptionist. He played a shooting gallery game, hitting an unprecedented nine out of 10 targets and winning a lucky silver-plated left hind rabbit paw (shot by a cross-eyed man on a moonlight night). He slipped the paw into his pocket and wandered on.
He felt drawn, guilt-ridden, to the sideshow, outlawed in his country. For a mere $5, he could purchase the privilege of viewing ten exhibits through ten doors. The first, he was told by the carnie barker, was something English for an Englishman. A lord found himself a lady at an American beauty pageant while playing away from home. He took her to the sideshow, where he was hypnotised by the expert sideshow performer Marcello. Since the lord had a laugh like a donkey, the lady told Marcello to turn him into one. The lord's braying amused her briefly, but she wanted something else. She told Marcello to turn him into a rabbit, as he'd been after her like one. He did. As the lord hopped about the stage, Marcello dropped dead of a heart attack. No one could snap the Englishman out of his trance.
Having viewed the unfortunate man, Ben remarked dubiously that it could be any old bloke pretending to be a rabbit. Ah, said the carnie man. Consider Door 2! Behind Door 2 you'll find an amazing sight. A long time ago, twin Dutch girls with a poor seamstress mother were out on an errand when they heard an organ grinder in the street. Enchanted by the music, they stopped to watch him. Oh, you like my music! said the man. Watch this. He pressed a button and a large red flower, poppy-like, unfurled from the box. In the flower's centre stood a perfect porcelain Dutch boy. These twin girls have always wanted a brother. Please sir, they asked, may we have the music box? This is my livelihood, he replied. If you want it, you must do something really bad.
The girls went home. The next day, they ruined their mother's sewing basket and cut up the curtains. Returning to the music man, they found him scornful. Such paltry sabotage is not really bad, he said. Despondently, the girls returned home, where they found themselves forgiven. The next day, they deliberately shattered all the crockery while washing up. Their furious mother threatened, If you continue like this, I'll leave you here alone! The girls, though frightened, would not be so easily deterred from their goal, though the music man deemed their deed not quite bad enough. Once the boy was brought home, their mother would relent.
The next day, the girls razed their mother's little garden, so carefully tended, her pride and joy. Seeing the girls with the secateurs in their hands, their mother packed up and left. The girls waited. After night fell, they heard a knock at the door. They rushed to it. But it was not their mother. Instead, the music man told them that they'd succeeded at last in being really bad. He scooped them up and stuffed them in a sack.
In the morning, the organ grinder could be seen in the street. When the poppy opened, it now revealed two perfect little Dutch girls.
Though the music box was indeed ornately carved and beautiful, Ben wasn't impressed. Well, said the carnie barker, wait til you see what's behind Door 3. First, let me tell you the real story of Cain and Abel. Cain's father was the Devil. See, the serpent didn't give Eve a fruit. He gave her...something else. Nine months later, she gave birth to Cain and a twin sister, whose name everyone forgot. Eve became pregnant again, this time by Adam, and gave birth to twins, Abel and his twin sister.
When the four children grew up, Adam decided that Abel should marry Cain's sister and vice versa. Cain had a problem with this. His sister was stunningly beautiful, while Abel's sister wasn't. So Cain suggested putting the choice to the Lord. Whichever of them gave the best offering to the Lord would be allowed to marry his sister. They took their offerings - Cain, a marvelous cornucopia from his harvest; Abel, a fluffy young lamb - to God. God struck the lamb down with a thunderbolt. Ha! exclaimed Abel, rushing down the hill to claim his prize. Cain, unthinking, picked up a stone and loosed it at Abel's head. He tried to hide Abel's body, as the ravens did after plucking out the smoking lamb's eyes. Of course, he couldn't hide it from God, who cursed him to roam the Earth without peace for eternity.
If you want to see Cain's folly, said the carnie barker, open Door 3. Ben went in to see a tiny brown snake writhing in a large aquarium. As he watched, the aquarium began to fill with bubbling red liquid, drowning the snake. Shaken, he emerged. English, did you like that? demanded the carnie barker. It was pretty horrible, said Ben, but no more so than any other piece of modern art.
You're hard to please, English, but I think you'll be shocked by Door 4. That there is a sad tale of greed. Old Ezekiel "Easy" Brown was drinking in a pub with his friends. He was a black man in the south, and like most, he was poor. This night he was angry about it and he stood up and shouted, dammit, is there no way to make easy money in this town?
A strange man stood up and answered, there is. Yeah? challenged Easy. Then why you dressed in rags like us? Because I'm scared to get it, replied the man. I tell you why. It's grave-robbing that can make you rich. There's a mausoleum in that graveyard on the hill, made of black marble, no door, with a symbol like they have on dollar bills, pyramid with an eye in it. You poke that eye and a whole wall slides back. When you step in, the door shuts behind you. A beautiful vision of a woman appears. She offers you all the gold you can carry, all the wealth you can hold and all the knowledge of mankind. All you have to do is kiss her (with tongue). Okay, I said, but only if you say the Lord's Prayer with me. So I started saying it. She hissed and threw me out. I ain't going back there.
That's EASY! shouted Easy. He rushed out of the bar and up the hill to the graveyard. He found the mausoleum and the pyramid and the lady and did what she said, with none of the Lord's Prayer stuff. She kissed him and his tongue turned into a snake. He rushed frantically back to the bar, where the tongue cursed his friends. He rushed home, where the tongue cursed his wife and daughter and drove them from his house. As he was about to give up hope, he stumbled across a baptism at the river and hurled himself at the priest. The priest, recognizing a man possessed, started to exorcize Easy. The tongue popped out of Easy's mouth and scuttled away in the water. Just as he thought he was saved, it returned with four alligator friends, which wrenched Easy's limbs from his body.
Now Easy has all the gold he can carry, all the wealth he can hold in his hands, and he's crazy. Job done. If you want to see him, English, open Door 4. Ben did, and saw the pathetic creature lying in straw, surrounded by money.
I need a drink, Ben told the carnie man. This county is dry, replied the man, but I have a secret. Open Door 5, go up the hill to the shack and show them your ticket. Just don't be too long.
~to be continued~