In the funny house (by Ilija Tegeltija)

April 2005
Mental hospital ’’Nimes’’

The cawing of crowes, who were scattered on the birch branches that have just come into leaf, was dragging the fifth hour of the new day before the eyelids of the nurses from the night shift. The duty nurses, dozing on the chairs in the Nurses’ Room, were resting while the patients were sleeping, gathering strength for the new episodes of twisted fancies because of which the patients, once accepted by the society, were placed here now...
Here, on the glade, only a few kilometers from the quiet town whose lifestyle is withstanding the sands of time. Devoid of commotion, rush and strangers. Unaffected by changes. Maybe it was just the fact that an institution like this is one of the ’’trademarks’’ of this place that has contributed to it being avoided whenever possible. Or, to be exact, not being visited  -  until it becomes a necessity. For who wants to do business with lunatics?
It’s a cruel reality perception of our contemporaries who, with their influence  -  material, seldom spiritual, are participating in shaping the world of today. Rich and completely unaware of the responsibility. The blind painters of the group portrait of our flock. If we weren’t sheep, they wouldn’t be painters either. But those are the facts which we shall leave to some future time... a deep, deep future, in all likelihood.

5:05 AM

Granny Martha, a former cleaning lady in an elementary school, was suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, so in this manner she was the one to be the ’’earliest rooster’’ of the department. Every day, exactly at 5 AM, she would begin her ’’countdown’’ by getting ready for work, which she, poor thing, was still going to in her imagination. She has never stopped taking care of her students, teachers, brooms and floors. Her day was often ruined by questions about a young woman teacher named Margoth, who at one time staged Martha a unique ’’flashback’’ into Martha’s early youth  -  a period filled with hope and lightheartedness. A place that looks magical as long as you’re riding that effervescent wave of the youth vivacity. You’re relishing the winds that are caressing your body, as you’re drifting above everyone. Intoxicated by enjoyment, you don’t see the giant rock which your wave too will crash into. Waking you cruelly at the foot of a crag. The one you’re supposed to climb in order not to drown. The cold shoulders of the mountain called Life.


’’Those from the Public Transport are coming today, they’re handing out the brochures about etiquette in public transport to the kids. And they’re coming from garages, with greasy soles. The floor looks as if it’s been shat on. It’s the same every year!’’
’’Whenever they came... Whenever they’d come... Whenever the road would bring them.’’
’’Come on then, Martha,’’ she was ordering herself, ’’in that case it would be better if you picked up the pace!’’

Sitting on the edge of the bed, short and chubby as she was, with her hair cut short and her feet swinging back and forth, one couldn’t help but compare her to a cockroach. Her big white teeth completed the scene; she was speaking through them:

’’Where’s the broom? Where are the scrubber and the bucket? Everything’s scattered all around the building again. Shame on you, you whippersnappers. You behave like that at home too? How careless! So many kids and yet you don’t take care of anything. All you care about is screwing around. Ah, if only I had Joseph, the late janitor, here with me, to have him pull out that broad belt of his... But nooo, little princes and princesses are protected today by children’s rights, didn’t you know? And how can you not be so spoiled and careless, when your teachers are children as well... Soon you’ll all be sneaking into toilets together.’’ She quickly crossed herself and opened her mouth wishing to continue the monologue, but she was interrupted by Simon, a black man in his fourties. A former politician who, due to the unsuccessful prime minister race, has flipped out and started talking solely to the dead. They listened to him and gave him useful advice. Conversations with them have maybe robbed him of his career, but they have helped improve his mental state a lot. He now was leading a peaceful and harmonious life. Devoid of wrangles. Living a bit farther from the center, he could enjoy nature and spend his hours in a friendly environment, having fruitful conversations. He appreciated this opportunity. He loved what he had become and he was trying to keep his friends protected. Thus he addressed Martha:

’’Hey hey hey! My friend, I’m going to ask you to leave Joseph out of this! What do you think, there’s no work up there? Whenever you mention his name  -  he, poor man, starts to lose balance... Right now he’s on the ladder, fixing the gutter, so please let him finish. We can come visit you later, and then we can talk. Please, Martha. This man means a lot to me. I don’t want to lose him...’’

Silence was leaving the Nurses’ Room, driven away by the sounds of munching, stretching and yawning.

’’Come on, dear ladies, it’s time for coffee! Martha and Simon have begun the overture. Let’s hand out the medicines before they’re all fully awake, to keep this morning nice and cuddly at least until 8 AM. As Jessy’s been doing since the night she’d spent with the doctor. Come on, siren! I think it’s your turn to make coffee. You’ve wet your beak...

’’Tsk-tsk-tsk! Come on, you jellies... You’re all saints, sure! Why, none of you has fucked the doctor yet, right?’’

Smiling proudly, Jessy agreed to make coffee and share the details of the last night’s experience.

’’Come on, come on! Hurry up, Martha and Simon will enter the coffee kitchen any moment now, you know we’ve let them because they’re the only ones who remember to switch off the burner after use. When they park themselves there it takes them forever to leave. And the kitchen’s as spacious as an asshole.’’

’’OK darlings, I’m off.’’

She smiled and as she was leaving she shook her bottom for the rest of the shift. A joke of theirs.
When she came to the coffee kitchen, she realized that Martha and Simon had beaten her to it. They were already there. Talking. Discovering communication again. In their own way. With their own topics.

’’Simon, lemme ask you something...’’
’’Yes, Martha?’’
’’You’re saying that Joseph is fixing the gutter, right?’’
’’That’s right.’’
’’And do you know, Simon, that Joseph died about ten years ago?’’
’’I know. I told you the last time you questioned me about it...’’
’’Did you? I don’t remember. Whatever... So Joseph isn’t alive anymore, is he?’’
’’That’s right.’’
’’So how can he fix the gutter then?’’
’’Why, in the world of the dead, of course.’’
’’I beg your pardon?? The world of the dead? Simon, I think you’re nuts! What do you mean, the world of the dead??’’
’’Martha, it’s not me who’s nuts, it’s you who’s forgetful. I’ve already told you about this!’’
’’About what?’’
’’About me having the privilege of being able to talk to the dead. I hear and see them just as I can hear and see you right now.’’
’’Reeealy?’’ Martha marvelled.
’’God, you’ve completely lost your marbles, Martha. I‘ve told you about this a couple of times already.’’
They started to laugh. They were happy in their insanity. They loved the fact that they’ve overcome the doctors’ attempts to classify their world view as a diagnosis, and they were laughing.

’’Say, Simon... I don’t know if I’ve already asked you this?’’
’’Go ahead, Martha.’’
’’When you’re looking at them, can they, for instance, sit here where I’m sitting now? Do you understand? Can we all sit at the same spot, because they’re not of this world, you savvy?’’
’’No, Martha, they can’t, because they’re somewhat smaller than us, you know...’’
’’Aha...! That’s nicely arranged. Little people. Like my children. My schoolchildren. Whiny whippersnappers, with muddy shoes. All they do is fuss and eat and cry.’’
’’Children, Martha. They’re children. We have to understand them.’’
’’And tell me, Simon... do these dead people of yours cry?’’
’’No, it’s more like they don’t give a fuck...’’
’’Aha! Well, that’s OK, in a way.’’
’’Everything’s OK in a way.’’

author: Ilija Tegeltija

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