by Raji Singh
I am discovering the crumbs of the wry bread of life that sustained my Russian immigrant great grandmother, Shelva Fiction, in her new “Ameri-kan” homeland. Midst my archiving the reams of notes, documents, letters, and ‘lost’ books of the 19th and 20th century Fiction House Publishing, I continually come across Shelva’s writings.
They’re on bits and pieces of paper, caught behind drawers for over a hundred years, used for linings of disintegrating pocketbooks… in just the oddest of places. This disorganized form of journaling somehow brought her a semblance of order in her adopted country. By what I’ve been reading, it certainly brought her joy.
One of my great grandfather Doc Fiction’s ill-fated inventions Shelva wrote of in the 1890’s nearly burned down the Fiction House. It almost killed him.
My husband, mine sweet druzhyna, ach, he got the idea for the… ever you hear such a cuckoo idea – Doc Fiction’s Fecal Self Monitor (FSM), patent pending. As if the patent office even to look at, let alone approve, such a device.
I love my husband deeply, but sometime he push my caring too far. Like those bust builder ideas! Maybe one day I jot down notes on them. Hopeful, I’ll have forgotten them by then. He must have conjured them up in his basement lab-or-a-tory some idea-void night, probably vuudka inspired, or, by what mine good Doc distills and calls his stump juice.
I am an amply bosomed Moscow girl, more so than any czarina is. Mine druzhyna loves his ‘nightly play in his Shelva’s ‘Elysian Fields’. So, most surely, these ‘busters’ as he calls them are not – how might the young Freuds and Jungs of Europe say – “manifestations of some dream he desires come true”. Knowing my husband, I interpret them to be altruistic, sincere wish to support less-endowed women of Amerika.
For his motivation, I’ll not discount his yen for the Ameri-kan coin. That part I do not mind, since it buy such nice things for his “darlink Shelva”, and it allows me to send nice things to old country relatives who are downtrodden by czar.
But that’s all a matter for some other time, or for a nice Vienna vacation for druzhyna and me, and later a couch chat for him with that city’s all-knowing listener all-knowing listener, Sigmund…
From the the bookshelves of the Fiction House is where my dear Doc he gets the hair-brain idea for the Fecal Self… the FSM contraption – I vow I’ll never say the words the letters stand for, ever again. He is avid reader about ancient Lindian medicine. He is intrigued how royal houses made studies of privy remains of princes as they grew, to insure the future Kings were getting proper nutrition, and so that things weren’t going awry within their evacuation tubes.
~ ~ editor note: Doc Fiction’s idea – create a light source that could be used to be put in a chamber pot so the ‘end’ product could be viewed more clearly. This was before the proliferation of electricity or indoor plumbing.
(editorial comment – For the life of me G-granfa, why?)
Shelva’s writing contribution to the project was to be a brochure explaining what to look for. Garnering insight from G-gra’ma Shelva’s tucked away notes I’m sure she must have reiterated to Doc often, ‘For heaven’s sakes, Dearest. No one in their right mind wants to look at that.’
G-granfa’s light source was, basically, a small lantern that could be attached to the chamber pot, “for”… according to the outline of the proposed brochure, “… sunlight-clear viewing of your product.”
Again, why’ G-granfa? Why?
Came time for ‘product’ testing. ~ ~
G-gra’ma Shelva writes:
Not in here, Dearest. Not in my house. I’ll have no part in this. To the outhouse with that ghastly munshik gadget.
For mine-misguided druzhyna, who became a late 19th century Julius Caesar, the ‘die is cast’.
The lantern is lit and anchored in place a foot down the drop hole. Down he sits – to complete his work.
First thing go wrong: The act of sitting keeps the methane gases in the hole from escaping, and, little did druzhyna realize, birds had built nests in the ventilation stack. Poor man of mine dreams. Skin of his ruump’ act a seal. Cause gases to build up even more. When he completes countdown, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
That little extra ‘quite’ natural gas’ he adds sends lantern flame quivering.
Then, BOOM! Into the door he is propelled by explosion of gas. Hair singes in places that oughten’ be singe. OUCH! Rump’s toasted. Sections of the burning outhouse shoot upward, landing on the Fiction House roof. It catches fire. I’m running out of house. What to do? What to do?
Meanwhile, back at the outhouse, my Doc safe. Turt there. With his mighty shell, he knock it down, and drag Doc to water trough. But, oy, the house roof. Dry cedar shingles exploding as red, white, and blue fireworks. Amerika, Fort of July. Part of roof collapses and starts burning inside the house.
To the rescue, Captain Polly, and dozens of her pigeon friends.
Together they seize a big burlap sack of Captain Polly’s seeds in their beaks and talons. Wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t witness with my own two eyes. Huffing, puffing, they fly it up to the roof ridge, claw open the bag and drain it. Seeds landslide, ‘click, click, pop, pop’ downward, dousing the fire, first on the roof, then inside the house where they drop in a heap from through the newly created skylight.
Poor dear druzhyna, laying there helpless, and not too pleasant smelling. He is necessarily occupying the trough to nurse wounds. Neither of us could climb roof to make sure fire didn’t restart.
Turt to rescue. A freshly-mixed vat of Doc’s elixirs is near the house. Turt siphons a gallon at a time deep into his beak-snout. Over and again with mighty pressure, he fire-hoses it 20, 30 feet up, onto smoldering roof.
It’s hard to believe, but I couldn’t make any of this up, even if I tried.
In no time at all, our house, it is saved! Fortunately, Doc’s medicine bag of potions is always close at hand. I rush with it to apply the magical elixirs to his reddening posterior. I swear, by the bones of Peter the Great, those vials of I’ll never know what, did the trick.
One fortuitous thing came from the incident. All of mine druzhyna’s drawings and prototypes for the bust enhancers were destroyed when the burning roof caved in. His heart never there to start them again. And in my heart, I smile thankfully, my big Moscow smile.
~ ~ editor note: Back to Doc’s FSM’s. Ironically, there are many such products on the market around the world today. Sales are brisk. G-granfa’ must just have been a century ahead of his time. ~ ~
(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.)
©Raji Singh 2013