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Where the hell have I been?!

Well…

Lillian, my mother-in-law, who was hospitalized a few weeks ago with an advanced case of COVID-19, came rocketing off her ventilator, out of the depths of the disease, spitting Spanish tacks, denying she had COVID, demanding coffee… “Tráeme café, quiero café! ¿Dónde diablos está mi café!?”

Three days later, her poor lungs reduced by the disease to something akin to ensanguinated sponge rubber, she slipped into a coma and left us all behind. No one she knew was allowed to be with her at the end. A stranger administered the palliative morphine that kept her comfortable until her spark went out.

I’ll skip over our despair and fury and the smoldering urge to apply a sawed-off pool cue to the skulls of the cretins who couldn’t and can’t be bothered to wear a crepe paper mask for a month to slow the spread, who kitbashed their depraved indifference into a political movement. The less said about them the better.

Instead, I’ll tell you about the ongoing aftermath and Lillian’s long, long shadow. She’s just an ashy revenant now but her outline remains draped over time itself, a cabbage rose-hued chroma on the hulking mass of the things left in her wake. When we moved her and my father-in-law Ernesto in with us four years ago… too many falls in the bathtub, too many burners left on all night… we knew we’d have to subtly and secretively sneak more realistic fare into their singular diet of Werther’s caramels, Stouffer’s Spinach Souffle and microwave Mac and Cheese. We steeled ourselves to spending our quality time with an ambient mutter of Matlock, Murder She Wrote and telenovela filtering up from the ground floor of the two-storey we’d rented for us all, but we somehow didn’t reckon on the cresting tsunami of stuff they’d bodysurf in on, including a precipitous mountain range of furniture. Oh, so much furniture.

One flight down from where I’m perched in our spare, mid-century, Bond villainish level there is even now a Rococo implosion of, as of last count (which was, like, an actual minute ago), twenty-two chairs, two sofas and twenty-five tables wedged in among seven breakfronts stuffed with a Dresdenesque mélange of walleyed cherubic bric-a-brac, gewgaws and whatnots. It’s a bit like Versailles threw up all over the first floor of the place.

In short, my in-laws, shall we say, strongly embraced the Fragonard.

And more, this rented house which once had a two-car garage now has in its place a dank socket impacted from doors to wall to wall to rafters (not an exaggeration) with an Escheresque labyrinth of lumpy cardboard boxes and plastic storage crates packed with a moil of statuary, dish sets (six at last count) and a leering rogues gallery of glass Christmas ornaments, nut crackers, Snow Babies and other less decipherable chimera.

And now all of it must be dealt with, every day, a cubic inch at a time in an operation as contortive and secretive as the D-Day invasion… for Lillian and Ernesto never, never, never never threw anything away. For decades and even now as the lights dim and the curtain is coming down just the hint that it all might be simply arranged in a more orderly heap elicits howls. Every overstuffed box and drawer when moved at all emits a clinking, sifting scuttling sound of sliding thirty-year-old pill bottles, broken jewelry, corroded mint tins full of buttons and paper clips and rusty screws, not to mention Christian iconography ranging from staid Catholic to more vibrant Santería, with the occasional chaser of Erich Von Däniken. Lillian and Ernesto were nothing if not ecumenical.

And then (you knew this was coming, didn’t you), just hours after Lillian went on her way, desirous acquaintances and dishonored relations who haven’t had any contact with my in-laws for literal decades began Wormtongueing forward into the circle of Ernesto’s fading light to imply that Lillian wanted them to have this gimcrack or that. It’s horrifying.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing. In spite of this exasperating gap in publishing I am absolutely still working on Pepperpot Piper, and the promise of your continued presence is humbling and palliative. Please stay tuned!

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Home | Archives & Cast | Shop | Contact Kel | The Story So Far

12/07/2020

Finally daylight!

Pepperpot Piper is written & illustrated by Joseph Kelly
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