Mother had a new linen jacket tailored for me when I came to live in
Hollywood. “My followers think the dull, oversize, coarse gray suits
you wear hardly become the son of the inventor of edible currency,”
she said, before presenting my measurements to a tailor from Chungking,
who made the jacket.
Mother strongly urged marrying siblings to one another. “You’ll
always have a pretty good race that way,” she said, and spent great
energy encouraging me to perform coitus with my eldest sister, though I
never did. It was my understanding that Mother intended to take the
offspring and raise it as a house servant, someone groomed to care for
her in her dotage.
When I was only six, just before the age of reason, she sewed my lips
shut as a punishment for spitting on her night-blooming jasmine. I
didn't eat, drink or speak for three days, until my brother, Freddy,
snipped the thread with scissors.
Mother was about five-feet-ten, skeletal, with long, black hair, a soft
forehead and dreamy eyes. She grew her own tobacco and sent it to a
cigarette factory for machine rolling. When she picked up a newspaper
she read every item, even the advertisements. Buffalo brand lithia water
was the only kind she drank. It was excellent, she said, for renal
calculi and all diseases dependent on a uric acid diathesis. She
relished lying in bed all day, writing in her journal.
If an inch were added to Mother's height she would be too tall. If an
inch were taken away she would be too short. Another grain of talcum and
she'd be far too pale. And a touch of rouge would make her overly red.
She healed herself and she healed her family. When one of us had a cold,
she added a little red currant jelly to a glass of hot whisky punch
before bedtime, and that did the job. Or she’d take a pound of gravy
beef, cut off all the fat, chop it fine and let it sit in water two
hours. “Beef tea,” she used to say, “mighty good for you and
me.” Or she’d give me a mustard bath. Two tablespoons of mustard per
gallon of water. In the basin she’d mash the mustard into a paste,
then gradually add it to the bathwater.
In the course of her pioneering work in perfecting edible money, using a
syrup of gluten and agar-agar, one of her followers drowned in a tub of
it. In the morning, as was her habit, Mother came in, signaled the
followers to pedal the machinery up to full, then processed that batch,
which yielded a record number of tasty bills. But it was noted a few
days later that one of the workers, a quiet, hermetic type, had been
found missing. Shortly after, the money began to stink. Someone noticed
eyelashes sticking out of the the paper. Then everyone stopped eating
it. The furor was short-lived and now all of us enjoy the many benefits
of edible money.
Mother taught my brother, Freddy, to speak in a straightaway and
truthful fashion, mimicking the journalese of late Americana. Freddy
died one hot August day when, in an effort to lower his body
temperature, he hopped into an old fridge Mother kept on the back
gallery for storing certain comestibles. Though Freddy was clever enough
to prop the door open with a stick, a sudden gust of wind blew across
the French-occupied valley and carried the stick away, slamming the
door. Mother and I were away, bathing in the Ganges, and Freddy
His corpse appeared lifelike and normal after death, pliable of skin and
ruddy cheeked. Death’s train had come, but my brother hadn’t climbed
“It hardly seems proper to bury him,” Mother said.
We kept Freddy in the sun room for many years and gave him a very fine
corduroy sofa to lie on. For the most part he lay still, though when the
barometer fell before a storm, his belly distended and he passed gas.
When the skies cleared, the belly defated. On one occasion his dry lips
parted and a whitish spew of leukorrhea spilled forth.
Mother's fondest wish was to impose the rules of dreaming on her
followers. “Dreamland is unbounded,” she told the assembly, “and
has none of the frailties of the body. There, eternity is compressed
into a moment and infinite space is traversed more swiftly than by
light. In dreams, the dead are not dead, though they die and the living
do not live, though they are alive.”
In addition, mother postulated that, were it possible to retain the
timelessness of the dream world when awake, by whatever means, then time
would appear as eternity. At last there would be time enough to fulfill
Back in '22, Mother ingested one hundred and forty four sewing needles.
She encased them in paraffin and swallowed the great horse pill with
gusto. In a few days she complained of considerable irritation of the
skin and of itching rashes. Within a week, needles were protruding from
all parts of her body.
A physician paid a call to her home and extracted them with pincers. In
the first harvest, one hundred and forty three were recovered from her
arms, hands, breast, buttocks, feet, the lobe of the ear, the vagina,
and the corner of her false eye.
She said there was no pain attached to the needles' emergence, even
though they came out invariably thick-end first and unless immediately
extracted, disappeared again.
The physician said that needles inserted under the skin were known to
have been borne through the muscles in many authenticated cases, coming
to rest in distant parts from the place of origin, but there is no
record of a needle being introduced into the stomach and then emerging
from the ear, as the last of Mother’s needles had. To do that it would
have had to traverse the skull, which was incomprehensible.
Mother addressed her followers in sexual matters, saying, “I think,
frankly, that we should take pains to avoid the stimulation and abnormal
excitement of coital passion, which in the past has done so much harm in
the lives of human beings everywhere.”
I must confess, Mother was a violent-tempered and selfish paraphiliac. A
prickly feeling went through her, a voluptuous pleasure, when animals
were beaten in her presence, or if she read tales of cruelty, about
torture, the rack, or the glinty guillotine.
We could never leave a bottle of mucilage around, as it would drive
Mother into a frenzy and she would not be satisfied until I took off the
rubber nipple and poured the sticky stuff down her throat.
When I was a youngster, Mother insisted I harden myself by going around
naked to the waist when others wore thick, padded overcoats, and she
subjected me to stringent diets of boiled roots and paw-paw fruit. When
we lived in Hollywood, she forced me to wear a lock of hair on my
forehead and have my photograph taken in Bonaparte's famous pose.
One day I presented her with some beetles in a match box. She slid the
box open and daintily bit each of the insects in a way that would
immobilize, but not kill immediately. She put them in a pile on the
carpet and watched them slither and agonize and twitch. When they were
dead she ate them.
Mother saved all of her bodily exuviae: phlegm, tears, stool, pus, ear
wax, dandruff, vaginal discharges, nose pickings and bitten-off
fingernails. She flossed between her toes with thick white yarn to
dislodge specimens of the cheesy paste abundant there.
Once a week one of Mother’s followers, a moxibustionist, went to work
on her, burning dry moss in little glass jars, then setting them at
strategic places on her body. The heated air made them suck at her flesh
like leaches to stimulate the bone marrow and encourage the production
of white blood cells. Such treatments left her covered with painful red
Then came the herbalist, who made her breathe the fumes of boiling
garlic and ginger, drink wheat grass tea, take in Evening Primrose oil,
lecithin, acidophilus, shitake tea, Taheebo and Echinacea extract and
drink her own warm urine first thing in the morning.
A chill ran up my spine one morning when she summoned me to her room and
grasped a handful of loose, facial flesh, pulling it outward, then
letting it go. Instead of retreating, the lobe sagged in place like a
When I was eighteen Mother sent me to the United States where I attended
Oral Roberts University, solving the problem of school expenses by
constructing my own portable home at the edge of campus. It consisted of
a covered wagon built on an old auto chassis, the wooden sides being
covered with a canvas roof. Inside there was a bunk, a stove, a table, a
chair and a rack for books. I managed to live on about ten edible bills
a month by doing my own housekeeping and eating vegetables and fruits
Mother sent to me, all the way from 3 Fountain Court, her London home.
If one visits the Historical Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, even today, one
can see my cozy wagon, reconstructed in painstaking detail, down to the
chamber pot and its darkly waxen contents.
There was a time, after her trial for sedition, when Mother learned to
be idle, wandering about from house to house, asking for crusts at back
windows. She tattled and became a busybody, speaking things she
oughtn't. Arrested, she was publicly spanked, to no avail.
In short order she was haunting the alleyways, selling tobacco to
innocent children, spreading gossip like butter, until one wild night
when she fell asleep sitting on a gutter's edge. By morning her feet
were frozen a sickening blue.
She made her way to the Strand and begged a surgeon to take them off by
any means at hand. The surgeon obliged, blowing an analgesic powder into
her face before going to work with a bone saw and a chisel.
When the feet were free of their stumps, the surgeon heaved them into a
nail keg and then went to the closet, selecting a pair of stout, birch
shoetrees. Using metal clamps, carriage bolts, auger and tap-screws, he
affixed them to her protruding ankle bone. After a period of hopping
around, she grew accustomed to her new feet, walking with ease, swimming
in the Thames. She had no further inclinations and soon was at work on
her most ambitious work, The Book of Surprizes.
Mother tells of an occasion which found her pedaling her car along the
Great Trench. As she went along she was set upon by a band of lunatics.
They did nothing to her that would snuff her wick at once, and when she
fainted from the awful agonies inflicted, they revived her by grasping
handfuls of her hair and tearing them from the scalp.
Then they commenced their ever-more ingenious tortures. “This is fer
havin’ such ‘orrible red hair,” one of them said, feeding pine
needles and cones to a slow fire smoldering on her stomach.
The next day and the day after that, she continued to supply fun for the
lunatics. A comely young female came to her and tried to make me open
her mouth while she squatted over her to defecate. When Mother refused
this final indignity, the lunatic fetched a brick lying by and
one-by-one knocked her teeth in, smashing her jawbone in the process.
Then the lunatic grasped her tongue with a pair of wooden pincers and
made every effort to pull it out, though in the end she failed, only
bruising it and causing it to swell and nearly choke Mother. All this
seemed to convulse her, and the other lunatics, with mirth.
Another pleasantry was to amass a quantity of glowing charcoal on a
strip of leather and bind it around her head. When she would swoon, the
coals were removed and she would recover, but in an instant a fresh lot
She made such sport for the lunatics that her death was to be as long
drawn out as possible. The children enjoyed breaking her feet in the
fashion of bastinado. She was staked to a mud bank and the soles
of her feet clubbed until every one of the innumerable small bones were
broken and the flesh reduced to jelly.
On the third day, there were indications the band was breaking camp and
preparing to move on to their next depredation. Before leaving, one of
them came back and shot her in the head with a small caliber pistol,
though not fatally. Even now the bullet is lodged where it came to rest
and forms a pea-like protuberance there.
Last spring, while engaged in clearing out a body of marsh land, Mother
came across a den of terrapins. She lined a wooden box with cotton. The
terrapins were laid in rows on the cotton and covered with another
cotton layer. On top of this was placed a second row of terrapins, and
so on, until the box was filled, the box then covered with a blanket and
stored in the cellar. There the terrapins slept through the winter
while, upstairs, huddled near her stove, she illustrated her singular
monograph, The Theory and Production of Edible Money.
Mother claimed a certain familiarity with the afterlife. She said to me.
“It’s a place called Julep, a rough, misshapen sphere about a
hundred miles in diameter. Gyrating on its poorly-defined axis every few
hours, it has a circular orbit with a radius of ten thousand miles. In
symbiotic association with the comet Velikovsky, Julep has meandered
through the cosmos for unspecified eons.”
She believed Julep to be the actualization of Limbo, a place of benign
detainment on the very border of Hell, a place where certain of the dead
went, one that offered another opportunity to walk your body around, to
inhale another cool breath of life.
I am a victim of ejaculatio praecox, nightly dreams that end in
pollution. My semen never comes out normally and it has a peculiar
consistency. If I attempt coitus I experience a severe cramp in the
femoral region simultaneously with the orgasm. Only a small drop comes,
but afterwards, while I am washing, the real semen flows out, as
insubstantial and watery as skimmed milk.
During the Unguent War, Mother volunteered to drive buttermilk to the
front. One day, on her regular run, the wagon wheel dropped into a
pothole in the road and overturned. The tank burst and buttermilk filled
She was trapped beneath a fallen mule, until a kindly soldier pulled her
free. She was in a sorrowful way, considering the amount of buttermilk
she'd swallowed. But the soldiers gave her a dose of fit powder and made
her drink turpentine to purge the butterfat.
“The art of the nimrod is serious business,” Mother always said,
“best done when the moon is of a uniform grey tint.” She fished many
a junefish as recreation after her days flying mail to Manila and
searching for lost flyers. She believed strongly that the artificial
lure was the bait of the future.
In'49 Mother published a pamphlet treating her revelations having to do
with the mysterious kinetics of metamorphic rock. She said that out
there, on the great plain west of here, stones were moving, some due
north, some south, some indifferently. Gneiss and schist were the worst
It was obvious her notions were not taken well in the community at
large. After the issuance of the publication she was subjected to
cadaverine in her drinking water, sabotage of her pedal car, foudroyant,
sour breath, and many a case of the bejabbers. In addition, someone
plugged her stovepipe with old rags. When she started a fire in the
potbelly one cold morning, the draft reversed and a smoldering swift
flew out the fire door.
With the onset of menses at 9, Mother felt strong urges to become
pregnant and have a baby. As a teenager she accompanied her father on
big game hunts, not only observing but participating in the evisceration
and butchering of kills. At 17, a mass was developed in the uterus that
consisted of enlarged, degenerated placental villi growing in clusters
resembling grapes. Exploratory surgery revealed a second masse, a
ten-pound teratoma in the uterus, containing the small brown teeth,
shriveled testes and knotted hair of an unborn brother, either of hers
or mine. It was never determined.
In the latter part of '98 I went to work for an upholstering firm. A
fellow worker by the name of Cirella, threw a piece of my work on the
floor. I hurled a heavy pair of carpet shears at her and killed her
instantly, severing an artery near the heart. Cirella and I had been on
bad terms for some time. But Mother settled a fair sum of edible on
Cirella's family and, by using her civic influence, fixed my stay in the
lockup at a merciful week.
In the cell, which was the breeziest and most comfortable in the jail, I
was provided nightly doses of peccary steak, navy beans and buttermilk
while my cap, my umbrella and my violin were left hanging close at hand.
To amuse myself, I gave fellow prisoners charts of their phrenological
traits. When that bored me, I played my fiddle.
Mother and I were sleeping soundly together about 5 o'clock one morning
when a lunatic wearing ornamental headgear and pajamas presented himself
at our bedside. He had one foot in the bed when Mother woke up and
screamed. The intruder merely grinned and lay down in the bed, pulling
up the quilts and preparing to sleep. Mother grabbed the lunatic and
tried to gain mastery over him by holding him to the floor and rinsing
his moustache with chloroform. Despite all, the lunatic managed to
wiggle off into the kitchen, only to return with an empty molasses tin
and slam it over Mother’s head. A rim on the inside of the can sliced
her tongue and wedged behind her gum, as she wasn't wearing her teeth. I
ran to the shed and got a pair of tin snips to remove the can, but when
that proved too dangerous, glycerin was applied and the tin came off
easily. Only the very tip of the tongue was lost, falling into the
carpet, and was never found.
While visiting French Settlement Mother was hit in the face with some
acid thrown from a rear window. The servant of a well-to-do settler was
the guilty party. She slipped to the pavement, impeded by a loss of
vision. When she called out for help, a Sister of Charity bathed her
eyes with violet water and dabbed them with the whites of eggs.
The servant, when questioned, said, “I was only taking lacquer from an
old parson's bench and threw the used-up acid out the window. How could
I have known that such a personage as yourself might choose that moment
to walk by?”
Bee stings are a specific in the cure of lockjaw. I once had occasion to
use them on Mother. She had been picking plums and standing on a ladder
when a pig entered the yard. Naturally the dog gave chase, bumping the
ladder and throwing her to the ground, fracturing both thumbs.
Three days later, the monad of tetanus invaded her body and she grew
comatose. Realizing the hopelessness of the case, I turned to the bee
sting. I removed Mother's clothing and strapped her to an old hickory
stump. I lathered her face, throat, breasts and scalp with honey and
retired to the house.
The bees soon came in great numbers, stinging her many times, so that
her head was swollen twice normal size and her breasts, the very ones
that nursed me, looked like strawberry torts. But the cure was
effective. In a few days she was well enough to bake her macaroons,
address her followers, and recite vespers.
On a visit to Far Rockaway I stopped at Mother's summer home. The two of
us had a pleasant chat on the patio. She demonstrated her method of
steeping mugwort tea, a solar procedure. She placed a glass pitcher on
the lawn, in strong sunlight. When the tea was sipped, it had none of
the tannic bitterness imparted by tin pots.
It was her day to fiddle in the garden, she explained, and invited me to
pass the time reading magazines, presenting me with a tray of them. I
selected one which included an article by her, entitled,’On the Monad
I relaxed on the patio, listening to the hum of cicadas and the rasp of
grackles in the camphor trees. Suddenly, Mother cried out, “I'm
bitten! I’m bitten! Help me!” She danced crazily, waving a hand
sickle at rabid skunk. The skunk had been hiding in the peonies and had
bitten her on the calf.
She lay near death at the Pasteur Institute for the best part of a week,
suffering hydrophobia. The most modern medication, it is said, could not
sustain her life. Before long, she was dead.
Mother loved the practical joke, asking to be buried in a lace nightgown
and seated in her pedal car with the seat slanting comfortably. To quote
from her will: “In the afterworld, distances are great. One needs a
good, fast pedal car.”
Unembalmed, and as prescribed, she was placed behind the steering wheel,
a jug of lemonade and a box of sandwiches on the seat within easy reach.
Her little dog, Mulligan, sedated, was placed in her lap.
The pedal car was lowered into the ground by a crane, and dirt piled
atop it, making an impressive mound.
Two weeks later, a court ordered a disinterrment, in light of evidence
that the circumstances of Mother’s death had come under suspicion. The
mound of dirt was excavated with a backhoe and the car lifted out. When
the door was jimmied open, Mulligan hopped out into the light of day,
wobbling but very much alive. When the interior of the pedalcar was
examined, what had happened was clear: Mulligan had awakened to find
himself in a desperate situation. As if resolving to make the best of
things, he survived by eating the sandwiches and contriving to pull the
stopper from Mother's lemonade.
Finally, when the sandwiches were gone, Mulligan had little choice but
to begin eating Mother. It is fortunate this happened at the later
stages of her entombment, as she was left generally intact, aside from a
section of the throat which was nibbled away.
Now Mother’s partially restored remains can be viewed at the Unguent
Museum in Pisstown. It is kept on a catafalque made of an opalescent
material, illuminated by concealed lamps. During the day, the shrine
looks like an ordinary glass structure, but when darkness comes the
lamps are turned on and Mother is bathed in a ghostly fluid.