Tuesday, August 8, 2017

BOIL ORDER



Tuesday


Since Hezekiah's death in the trash bin, Lulu has taken his old Robin action figure and stripped him
down to his unders. This creates a completely new superhero she refers to as “Naked Noxema”. NakedNoxema is presently embroiled in a complex adventure with Lulu's kewpie doll, Marzipan. They're
engaged in a life-or-death struggle with the six red death crayons on top of grandma's Charlie Rich
record. Lulu can't put it into words but somewhere in her head there's the supposition that the six red
death crayons are in possession of Hezekiah's soul and are preventing him from ascending to heaven.
She knows her mother would not allow such talk, but Lulu doesn't talk most of the time---there are
reasons for this. Marzipan fires her laser beams at the Charlie Rich landscape and the red death crayons
are thrown to the wind. She knows they'll regroup, though----they're tougher than they look.
Maroon is the wild card out of the death crayons, though, because it might be red or it might be
purple. Somewhere in the fracas Lulu supposes it will betray the crayons of death and join forces with
Marzipan and Naked Noxema It may be too early in the story for that yet, though. Lulu likes to try to
see the good in everybody.
“Lulu, leave your grandma's record alone.”
Lulu hears her mother but what she's saying isn't important....what is is the sound of crickets, clear
as day out in the wet grass. The back door is gone, so she hears them clearly. Rikkkkt, rikkkkt, riiikkkkt.
She worries some of them may be drowning----whenever Marzipan and Naked Noxema are done
defeating the crayons she figures they may have to rescue some crickets.
“Lulu? I said leave your grandma's record alone!”
Rikkkkt, riiikkkkkt, riiiiikkkkt.

Wednesday

Men are yelling outside. Lulu gets up off the couch. She's sleeping on the couch, now, because her
bedroom is gone.
She wanders on out to the porch and her mother is out there and Uncle Larry and some other men
are in the yard yelling and pointing. There are piles of sticks everywhere.
Water's all over the ground and she's sure it's too late for the crickets. The men quiet down and now
they're just talking. Everyone from the neighborhood is gathering because there's nothing else to do
anyway, and then Uncle Larry and the one man start yelling and pushing each other. Lulu sees her
mother start like she's going to go yell with Uncle Larry and then she stops and just stands there.
Boring, complicated, stupid adult stuff.
She wanders into the kitchen, climbs onto the counter and grabs a cup out of the cupboard.
She goes to the sink and finds a lot of roaches and silverfish scrounging around. They scatter
when she leans in and Lulu has to agree that this is probably for the best. She twists the cold
water faucet. The plumbing in the kitchen shakes for a second and the faucet goes, “RUNCH,” and
spews out water. The water is reddish-orangey-brown at first, but after a second it clears up. Lulu
fills the cup, shuts the water off, leans her head back and takes long, thirsty gulps.
She wonders what the day will bring. Negotiations with the Maroon Crayon are at a standstill,
But there's always hope.
She stares down the hallway at the doors. The bathroom is still there, she knows, as is grandma's
room. Her and her mother's rooms are gone. The doors are still there and the hallway looks normal
but both her and her mother's rooms are gone. Grandma was sleeping in the room that used to be
Hezekiah's but then Hezekiah died and grandma had come to stay with them. “I'm staying to help your
mother,” Grandma told Lulu, although she isn't sure she ever saw Grandma helping much.
A sudden urge hits Lulu. The runs to her bedroom door, wondering if maybe her room came back.
She pulls the door open partway.
It's still gone. She sees black space, part of the wall and then the sky, then the highway, way out
there. She looks down into blackness and she can make out junk and then dirt. It doesn't look so far
down but her mother and grandma have repeatedly told her if she tried to jump down there, she'd get
hurt.
Satisfied that things are still the way they were, she shuts the door and ambles back out toward the
living room. She feels like she's in some kind of limbo because there's no more kindergarten and her
room is gone. She thinks of where Hezekiah is----wherever he is----and feels a kind of lonely solidarity

with him.

  Around the corners and under the doors and in the closets and from the shadows the silverfish in the
house are singing to Lulu. Of course, their songs are very different from the songs of people---the
silverfish voices click and clatter and scratch, but she understands that when they sing it's the same
thing that people do....they sing to their children to help them sleep at night and maybe they sing on
their birthdays. She feels a warm comfort that they're sharing their songs with her.
Lulu is still thirsty. Outside the men are yelling again.

Thursday

It's night time and there are campfires outside the house. Lulu's mother and grandma and Uncle
Larry are outside on the porch and there's music and people are laughing. Lulu has a blanket over her
and everything is becoming vague and fuzzy.
She thinks she's alone and then she hears soft whispering and Mr. Noble is standing over her
smiling. He runs his hand along the blanket and whispers, “Lulu? Let's see what's wrong with you,
sweetie.”
What's wrong is she's thirsty. She has half a mind to tell him so when suddenly there's screaming.
She almost can't recognize her mother's voice and half of it doesn't sound like real words, anyway.
“huuuAAAUUUUuuuuhhhhAAAUUUUuhhDAVID NOBLAAAAUUUUHANDSOFFAMABAYBAY
AAAUUUUUAAAAHHHHH” and other people come in and mill around the room and Mr. Noble is
gone and her mother is asking all kinds of questions and Lulu won't answer and she's bothered by all of
this noise. Her mother takes her out onto the porch and they sit with all the other people late into the
night. The grownups talk and talk and talk about nothing. She can't hear the crickets at all anymore.
She knows she should be hearing them now but they're silent. She knows she's lost them, just like she's
lost her brother.
There's an old man sitting on the porch, in the corner, smiling at her. She doesn't know who he is.
He's smoking a cigarette and smiling at her. He softly says something to her. It sounds like, “udyuduh?”
She must have not heard him right. She doesn't know what “udyuduh” means. She doesn't respond.
She stares back at him and holds tighter to her mother.

The Dream

It was a Flesh Spider; It was huge, it was in the middle of the living room, it had two heads and
eight legs and it was made of skin, like a person. It hobbled and rolled around on the floor and it went,
uh, uh, uh, uh.”
Lulu closed her eyes and pretended to sleep but it was like her eyes wouldn't shut and it kept
flailing around the floor, going, “uh,uh, uh, uh, uh.” She put her hands over her face but it was like
she could see right through her hands. The Spider heaved and shuddered and it shuffled back and
forth like it didn't know where to go.
Uh, uh, uh, uh!” It didn't seem to want anything to do with Lulu or even know she was there. She
decided she didn't want to give it any help. She stayed silent a long time and that was all she
remembered.

Friday

Grandma's puttering around in the kitchen smoking cigarettes. “Goddamn silverfish,” she rasps.
Lulu is momentarily frightened for the Silverfish but she's got her own problems.
Marzipan is wounded. It happened in a skirmish with the six red death crayons, sadly behind enemy
lines, deep in the Territories of Crayola. The Kewpie doll is under little cotton covers trying to heal.
Naked Noxema kneels beside her in a silent, grim vigil.
“Awww,” fawns Grandma, “Robin's such a good friend to your dolly, he's praying for her to get
better, isn't he?”
She glares at Grandma. Robin isn't Robin anymore; He's Naked Noxema. Anyone should be able to
look at him and see that, now.
Grandma sits face to face with Lulu. “Girl, I wish you'd talk,” she says. “What's going on in that
little head of yours?”
“I want water,” says Lulu. Her voice is loud and awkward and she almost frightens herself.
Grandma takes a full step back.
“Alright,” she whispers. She heads off to the kitchen and runs the water. Lulu hears the plumbing
shake and the faucet goes, “RUNCH”. Grandma runs the water for a minute and then fills a pan, and
Lulu knows this is all wrong. Grandma puts the pan on the stove and lights the burner.
“Noooo,” cries Lulu. “I don't want the hot water, I want the cold water!”
“I'm sorry, sweetie,” says Grandma. “You know we have to do this. There's a boil order.”
Lulu's heart sinks. There's nothing worse than not being understood. She stares up at the ceiling
and cries quietly.
A face looms into her line of vision and she realizes Hezekiah is floating above her. He talks to her
without opening his mouth. It's like he's thinking and she can hear it.
It stinks, don't it?
Yeah, Lulu thinks back.
That's the way it is, thinks Hezekiah. That's the way it is everywhere, all the time.
I know.
I'll seeya soon, Sis.
Okay.
He's gone. The Silverfish are singing again, and this time she understands their song. It's what
Hezekiah told her. That's the way it is, they sing. That's the way it is everywhere, all the time. They sing
it over and over and they never stop singing...it becomes constant and she realizes the silverfish have
been singing it all the time. Maybe they've just been waiting all this time for her to pick it up. She
begins humming the song to herself.
Later her mother and Uncle Larry come home. Grandma says, “your daughter spoke today.”
Everyone fawns over Lulu sand they offer her cookies.
“What's our lil' girl got to talk about today?” Bellows Uncle Larry. Her mother talks very softly
and kindly to her but Lulu doesn't have to be burned twice to know that fire's hot.
She never speaks to anyone, ever again.
They bring her out on the porch and all the people are out there and the grownups talk and talk and
talk. They're arguing something about “Deema” or “Peema”, or something she's never heard of, eema,
eema, eema. Stupid, terrible adult nonsense. She thinks of the silverfish and their song. That's the way
it is everywhere, all the time. She thinks about the song for a long time and then she focuses on the
lightbulb. It's a big lightbulb, on the porch, over her head, shaped like a circle. The lightbulb becomes
her whole world and then she hears her mother screaming like she did the night before.
“OOHHHAWAWAWAAAHHHuuuuuhhhh!!!!”
She wakes up in darkness and she's on the couch. She looks down on the floor. Marzipan is still
under the little cotton blanket and she can see the form of Naked Noxema still faithfully kneeling
beside her. There's also a ring of silverfish and roaches and they look like they're praying. They're
singing; they're always singing, now. She subconsciously joins in. That's the way it is....that's the way it
is everywhere, all the time.
She sees her mother and Uncle Larry together on the recliner and it looks like Uncle Larry is
sleeping on top of her mother. A quilt is over them and she can only see the tops of their heads---her
mother's long, dark hair and the ring of curly hair surrounding Uncle Larry's bald head.
Something about seeing it makes her shudder, but the silverfish keep singing and she puts the
thought out of her head. She makes her way out to the kitchen. She climbs the counter and grabs a cup.
The plumbing shakes. The faucet goes, RUNCH.

Deep in the Territories of Crayola

Naked Noxema is desperate. Marzipan won't wake up and many, many lives now hang in the
balance. “Don't go to the outlands,” he tells the silverfish. “We've lost thousand out there, you know.
All the crickets. You have to be careful. Stay close at all times and keep your heads down.”
He has no idea what he's doing ordering the silverfish around. He shouldn't be in charge of
anything. He wishes Marzipan would wake up.
All the silverfish are singing. Naked Noxema tries to think of their anthem and sing along with it----
maybe it will calm him down.
Two Lego sentries run in. “Quiet,” says Naked Noxema, “Marzipan is trying to get better!”
“This is important,” cry the lego sentries. “Maroon is really purple!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Maroon has changed sides,” they cry. “Maroon is with us, now! The Red Crayon Coalition is
broken!”

Saturday

The men are yelling----the men are always yelling. They yell when they're happy, they yell when
they're sad, they yell when they're angry, they yell when they're all friends and they yell when they
fight. Lulu dislikes them all, even Uncle Larry.
Especially Uncle Larry, maybe. Lulu can't even think of a good reason for this but maybe she
doesn't need one.
It hits her that she might be blaming all the men for the crickets dying. It might not be fair, she
supposes, but with the way they act she doesn't feel bad about making that judgment---so it's okay.
One man is on the ground yelling. “You don't think the rest of us have kids? You don't think the
rest of us a'lost people?”
Her mother is yelling, “we're not saying that!”
Uncle Larry goes down the stairs. “Buddy, what're you tryin' to say? You lookin' for a punch in the
goddamn mouth?”
Lulu is using her inside voice, singing with the silverfish, over and over. It's her prayer, it's what
keeps her safe. That's the way it is.....that's the way it is everywhere, all the time. That's the way it is....
then there's a loud pop and then blackness and then she's looking up at the circle light again and the
circle light is getting brighter and brighter and somewhere far away she can her her mother screaming
again and Grandma is screaming, “get some water, quick! Put some water on the stove!” And Lulu's
thinking, no....

Sunday

The ocean goes on to any point on the horizon and Lulu is suspended a hundred feet above it.
She's just hanging there in the sky and doesn't know how or why this is happening.
She's aware that there are lines criss-crossing the air above her and she doesn't know what it means.
“LULU” calls a voice. And the song of the silverfish are gone and nothing is left but the great music of
the air and it goes RRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNNN
it's like the thing on the TV where they tell you this is only a test and Lulu feels as though she's being
stretched in every direction at once she's aware of a boat or a submarine on the horizon and another
one on another horizon and they're both firing torpedoes and the torpedoes will meet in the middle
and the giant music of the sky goes RRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNN and someone is
yelling “HER FEVER WON'T BREAK” and the torpedoes are coming and she doesn't understand why
she's suspended in the sky but she knows the two torpedoes are headed right toward each other and she
is right over the point where they will meet and then she sees the light above her it's a circle and it
looks like a halo and it gets whiter and brighter and it encompasses everything and REEEEEEEEENN
she falls silently into blackness and

Monday

Lulu and her Generals meet with the legos and the crayons of life.
--Glad to have you with us, she tells the maroon crayon.
The green and blue families have embraced Maroon as if it were one of their own.
--I've wanted to work with you for a long time, says Maroon. The Turquoise Crayon embraces
Maroon.
--We need to break the Dome, says Lulu.
--We have to move fast, says Naked Noxema. The White Death is overtaking everything.
--Don't be afraid of the White Death, says Marzipan. Her wounds have healed and she's turned into
a robot. The White Death is just Change, and Change is hard but it's also good. It's what you leave
behind that will hurt you.
Lulu hears strange shuffling and bumping.
---Like that, says Marzipan. That will hurt you but only if you stay with it.
Lulu knows it's the huge flesh spider from her dream, but those days are over.
--I'm scared, says Naked Noxema.
--It's okay to be scared, says the Olive Green Crayon. Just use it to make yourself stronger.
--I couldn't have said it better myself, says Lulu.
--Are you ready to go? Asks Marzipan.
--I think I am, she says and Marzipan embraces her.
Their assembled forces fly over the Dome and she knows this will be the hard part. They fire and
fire their laser beams but the Dome won't break and the legos are falling----they're all so weak when
they're separate. The Red Death Crayons are broken but they're still dangerous and despite all the good
people's firepower the dome is holding fast.
She feels hands grappling all over her body and several big, strong hands are pressing hard on her
face. A voice far away is going OOOHHHAHUUUHAUAUUUHHHAAAHHHuuuuuh” and she sees
the brave crayons falling away into the dark. Even brave Maroon is spiralling out of sight.
--We have to break the dome, screams Naked Noxema. We have to do it now!
Hands are forcing Lulu's mouth open. Several big, fat ugly fingers force their way into her mouth.
They're reaching down her throat and choking her
--Abort Mission, shouts Marzipan, abort mission!
--No, chokes Lulu, and she bites down hard on the fingers. There are screams off somewhere and all
the hands pull away.
--Hit them now, orders Marzipan.
They swing by the Dome again and fire their lasers at it. Far away Lulu hears a man yelling,
“You think no one else has ever lost anybody,” and she thinks, I have lost somebody and that matters.
Cracks appear in the Dome and there's a loud pop and everything turns black but then she sees the
white circle of light up above and it becomes huge, it becomes the whole wide world, and then there's
the great music of the sky but even that subsides and the sky opens up like a big pop-up book and
there's God and Jesus and Charlie Rich and all the crickets are there, and Hezekiah is with them and
he's wearing a bright, glowing crown on his head, and Marzipan and Naked Noxema are there, and all
the crayons, even the bad red ones are there now----this is fine, because Lulu likes to see the good in
everybody. And the Heavenly Host are all joined in song, and their voices all boom across the sky
forever, that's the way it is, that's the way it is everywhere, all the time...braying, vexing voices of old
fall away for good and there are fountains everywhere gushing pure, clean water and millions and
zillions of silverfish spin around her in great, huge circles and it's all Lulu knows forever.

Published in CORVUS REVIEW.
Copyright 2015 C.F. Roberts, 2017 Molotov Editions   

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