Chapter 14 read by Melvyn



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-¡It’s impossible that Madam Valda is dead!- Kelsey said and grabbed her heart. -She’s probably just been sentenced to shovel pizza shit. ¡Fuck you, Drew!-


-You’re not my dad.- Drew said.


-And that’s another reference to Madam Valda.- Kelsey said to Zandra.


Zandra shook her head in the dust.


-There’s only one Madam Valda.- She responded. -And the less I say about her, the more time she’ll have on earth.-


-¡But she doesn’t live on earth!- Drew exclaimed. -Or at least she once told me that it was impossible to live here.-


-¡Great!- Zandra said, making a u-turn on a dead-end street. -¿What if I told you that cigarettes are very American, that nothing is impossible - but that you can’t believe your parents?-


-¿What parents?- Kelsey asked.


-Those old cancer sticks who only say what Madam Valderama wants them to say... ¡even after they’re dead!-


-Great, because you have to do a full background check just to get the truth outta those two motherfuckers.- Kelsey said. -And then they keep repeating themselves until I’m blue in the face.-


-Yes sir, sir.- Zandra stretched her self into a "Gimme a T" pose. -It’s just too bad that everything that I want is everything that everybody else wants.-


-¡Jesus Fucking Christ!- Kelsey approximately said. -I’m my own worst fucking nightmare. I’m a cigarette that’s gone to ash.-


-¿And what are you going to do now?- Drew asked.


Zandra didn’t catch the pop cultural reference.


-I’m not going to lame-ass Disneyland.-


¿Or didn’t she?


-Don’t look now, but what you don’t know’s for sale won’t hurt you.- Kelsey said with a buffalo.

-It will kill you.-


-Great, because I don’t know about you, but every second of my life has been spent in a constant panic.- Zandra said with José Canseco aplomb. -I have an aunt who bought something at the store the other day that killed her. It was an antique meteor. She bought it from someone claiming to be Madam Valda. And she said she got it from Salvador Allende.-


-¿Where is that?- Drew asked.


-¿And when do we get to see the meteor?- Kelsey said with God panache.


-In second grade.- Zandra responded, ponying up twelve slices of pie. -First you have to die and then you have to come back to life.-


The dying part seemed like a piece of cake. It was the coming back to life that would be tricky.


Kelsey was so excited she tried to short-circuit her nervous system.


-¡I’m going to die in increments!- Kelsey said, more because she was miserable than because she wanted to be blabbing with Drew. -A cigarette death would suit me fine. I want to be just like my Uncle Zandra. I want to be a ship of Super Glue on a sea of electric eels. And, as an aside, I’d like to be stuffed.-


-Don’t talk like that.- Drew murmured. But (without parentheses) it wasn’t very convincing.


And at that moment a curtain opened in the time-space continuum, and Zandra knew that she would be dragging her ass around earth for the second time. She had once been part of an ancient Iberian tribe and now she was


a man who was so old he made Madam Valda look young.


A man who looked so tan and so old and was so actually Madam Valda. Kelsey thought that what he needed was a good dose of Seconal - a businessman’s dose of Seconal.


He was dressed all in black. His pants were long and black. His jacket was black and even his chocolate shake was black. All he needed was some cold goo spread on his pendulum and he’d be as sound as a pound.


When Kelsey realized that she was a he she was less certain about whether her current adventures in reality were in gold or in crystal.


-I’m very pleased to introduce to you my Uncle Gregor.- Zandra said.


-What a gut you have, Mr. Gregor.- Kelsey said with an edge in her singing voice. Because nothing in the world can keep Kelsey from offering to offend a fellow cigarette.


Nobody cared about Uncle Gregor and certainly nobody cared for the expression on his face. He looked like he was thinking about something somewhere between statuesque young women and just plain statues.


And then he looked at Kelsey and got all fidgety.



-¿Is it true that you look exactly like Zandra?- Gregor asked. -¿What do you think Madam Valda does when she’s not mispronouncing words like a barrel full of monkeys?-


Then he started babbling words without pronouncing them, just like Madam Valda. And Kelsey thought that he was either senile or making fun of Madam Valda or both.


-I don’t think that Madam Valda can hear her self for the echo and that is why she pronounces everything wrong. That and she’s a stupid, dumb fuck.-


When Gregor finished babbling, he got on the Crazy Cart and told everyone how much Madam Valda sucked. He told everyone that she sucked and that she was a walking parody of her self and that she couldn’t play the banjo and that the only thing she lived on was water. That and Tab.


Gregor listened to his own words because the Crazy Cart was moving faster than the speed of sound, and all because he lacked a proper segue. When he was done listening to his self he said:


-Look, little girl, I’m not content just to be my self. I want to be every-freaking-one.-


-Yeah.- Drew exclaimed. -But your manners are worse than Madam Valda’s and she’s dead, or at least if six equals nine...-


-Death is only a small pothole on the road of life when you’re a ponderous sort of person like Madam Valda.- Gregor said to Drew.


-¿That’s what you wanted to say?- Kelsey asked.


-Death can’t stop Madam Valda.- Zandra declared. -The CIA can’t stop Madam Valda. If you kill her she just goes back in time and starts all over again.-


Kelsey knew she’d have to turn around to see Drew, and she also knew that she’d slap her upside the head.


-Yeah, yeah, you’re always talking about Madam Valda and how she’s the only cigarette to have left a mark on history...- Zandra said to Kelsey, implying that Kelsey’s hiccups were the only thing of hers that the history books would record.


-Yeah.- Gregor repeated. -This cigarette has more of a proud heritage than a habit forming one. But you just keep being bad and I’ll tan your backside. And I’ll use your own powers against you, like mass assembly.-


-¿What?- Kelsey asked even though she was quite fond of not understanding what was going on.


Gregor knew that Kelsey was limited to what she could see and hear, so he didn’t respond to her question. But he did start up his own segue:


-Madam Valda is the worst and last supply and demand cigarette in the period of late capitalism. And, like capitalism, she’s the cause of all our problems. But even though she has quite a tempura recipe and carries diseases across the ages, she’s still only a cigarette.-


Gregor paused and then resumed his history lesson.


-As I see it, secretly, this female cigarette is like a revolving Mata Hari. If you take a boy and a girl and you give them instructions and a Coleman lantern they still wouldn’t find Madam Valda and they still wouldn’t even know where to begin from where to began.-


-¡Ha! ¡You said a fork-full!- Zandra exclaimed, and then she patted her self on the back and slapped her own butt as if the world revolved only around her.


Gregor continued.


-I don’t know if everyone heard my little aside about the boy and the girl and Madam Valda but I did and I’m enraged. But back to the story of Madam Valda’s murder. Her body has been frozen until someone from Mars can ID the body.-


Gregor continued on continuing on.


-But Valda really isn’t from Mars. One hundred years ago she was from Mars but even further back she was from Sergio Leone. And before that she was from Venezuela and before that, the Hapsburg area of Denmark.-


Neither Kelsey nor Drew was paying attention, so Gregor stopped his history lesson. The girls would rather be running around quietly or counting caribou than listening to a rat like Gregor.


-¿What do you think of girls who run around like envelopes with their ailerons cut off?-


-Well, Madam Valda thinks that if you talk bad words and you’re always flailing about you’ll be forever on the Crazy Cart.-


-¿Do you think I give two shits about the mispronunciations of Madam Valda?- Zandra asked.


Kelsey started convulsing instead of breathing and gawking instead of looking.


Gregor, as in uncle:


-But I have what advertising doesn’t have: a straight face. And abs of steel.- Gregor was standing close to Kelsey. The young girl squirmed when she saw the old blue-hair and all of the cold goo that comes with being so old, and squirmed again when she heard his voice, as old as God’s, say:


-I can put up with mispronunciations. But I draw the line when you shtart pushing matchy meedoe... I mean when you start thinking that poor people are the worst singers on this miasma we call, "Earth".-

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