by Raji Singh
Tucked away in thimbles, squirreled into deep recesses of musty cubbies; used for padding in cracking old button-top shoes: Buried and forgotten in all these places for over 100 years are bits and pieces of writing by my Russian immigrant, great grandmother, Shelva Fiction.
I keep stumbling onto this total disarray of information she compiled, a treasure trove of family lore, her personal philosophies, a newcomer’s view of America uniquely de Tocqueville-ian.
If I published it – could her Shelva’d history become the next de Tocqueville Democracy in America. More likely a title would be, The Fictions of Democracy in America.
Ironically, I am discovering her writing as I archive my great-great grandfather’s, her father’s-in-law, precisely detailed, but intentionally organized disarray of files, charts, journals of the Fiction House Publishing Company.
(He incorporated his method of ‘filing’ out of necessity, to keep his Abolitionists, and Underground Railroad activities secret from freedom’s enemies. Whereas G-gra’ma Shelva was, kindly put, just plain disorganized.)
I was too young ever to have known G-gra’ma Shelva. I am being introduced to her, “Nice to meet you g-gra’ma,” through her observations of she and her husband. She spins a tangling web about g-grandfa’s successes and follies, and her patience with the constant landslide of them all.
‘My druzhyna, my forever loving, my constantly roaming kazakh, ‘Doc’ Fiction – ach, with his line of patent medicines and aphrodisiacs.
‘A desirous public greets him wholeheartedly.
‘So joyous our travels in his fancy covered troika, pulled by three mighty ‘sveaty steeds. Muscular beasts they are. Tall blue feathers as babushka for their heads.
‘So successful is my druzhyna, not just one pony for him.
‘Clip-cloppity, clip-cloppity. Everyone hear us! We come with our wares. Smell our miracle musk potions. Swim in the scent of our lavender notions.
‘Exciting as the travelling is, ach, too much schi (cabbage soup) and other muzhik (peasant foods) cooked on our wagon’s little stove– being back at home at Fiction House it is our forever romantic foray.
‘At Home: Mmm. Arousing sbiten we imbibe. Its honey sweet wine sticks us for days to our wedding- night bed. Soon we shall soon wear it out I am certain. Busy bee love, in this our Fiction House hive. The strains of our Balalaika-like buzz – it flies us away.
‘But soon, all too soon for still buzzing little Shelva, after pleasure, it is back to business for my sweet druzhyna. Ach for the Doc. It’s back to his mixing la-bor-atory in the basement.
‘Two of his – “prescriptions” as he call them – prove very effective: And I can attest to both. The first: His patent “Goat Scrotum Juice”, for male virility, “for men from age 18 to 118”.
‘For life of me, I not know how any man put a thing with such a name to lips, let alone imbibe – like old country-man do vudka.
‘The other, “Mudame Ruse Heather’s, Whure’s Delight” – you Amerikan would pronounce it, Madame Rose Heather. It is, “a dessert recipe for a happy boudoir”. Believe you me, once you taste it you’ll want to have ‘it’ six days a week. Twice on Sunday. That why our bed it wear out.
‘After some time your husband will insist on a ice box full. He even whip it up his-self.’
~ ~ editor note: Shelva’s words on ‘GSJ’ and the ‘Delight’ were actual testimonials her Doc used in his advertising. ~ ~
‘I think, now that my sweet druzhyna will stick to our hive, the more the travelling will slow, then cease, when Doc’s plan for an air mail order business via his passenger pigeon idea comes to fruition.
‘Ach, mine Doc. So many ideas, has he.’
~ ~ editor note: Unfortunately for Shelva, Doc, and following generations of folks living in the middle west and east coast, the pigeons were able to unravel the packets containing Whure’s Delight, and Goat Scrotum Juice, and then disappear forever into romantic love nests in the high-rise buildings just being built. ~ ~
‘Ach, mine Doc! Such a good man he is. I barely speak Amerikan, yet I must write so much of what he wants to say. The medicines are all his concoctions, but my words sell them.’
~ ~ editor note: “G-gra’ma Shelva. It is time the world knows your writing story. Your language is pristine. With love, your great grandson, Raji.” ~ ~
NEXT WEEK: G-GRA’MA BECOMES A BESTSELLER, WRITING ABOUT THE WHURE’S DELIGHT.
©Raji Singh 2012
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE, but that’s a different story. It’s available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)