Friday, March 29, 2013

The Only Thing Worse is the Cure, Finale

This is the conclusion of a weekly serial. You can begin at Part 1 here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, step onto this platform and experience the last miracle of the Modern Age! I tell you that I was born with one lung and a withered leg, yet today I stand as tall before you and with as deep a voice as any among us. You must be asking yourselves: why is he so firm for an invalid?

I answer you: it is the dust I have for sale in these here jars. Take a pinch of it in your tea. Wrap it with your tobacco, or rub it into your gums. It works in all mysterious ways, Ladies and Gentlemen, and I have made it affordable because miracles ought to be affordable. You can taste the quality.

Who would sample these wares? The first miracle is free. Yes, yes, the Young Madame has the intrepid spirit, and may I say, that is a distinguished parasol. Here you are. Yes, into the gums, or past them, whatever is your fancy.

There we are. And how does the Young Madame feel?

What’s that?


Do the ashes not possess a certain savoriness? Yes? Maybe? You say…?

A yearning! Yes, I like that. The Young Madame is right – these invigorating ashes do possess a certain yearning! That is the very verb that stirred my being when I first crossed them, and you all must be asking yourselves: from whence did this Gentleman retrieve his miracle ashes?

I was traveling along the coast for mercantile industry when I spied a thousand ribbons of smoke rising to the heavens, and followed them unto a peculiar beach, upon which there lay the wreckage of a flock of ships. A veritable flock, I tell you. Not one, nor two – fifteen if there were five, all mashed up together among the shoals. What a storm must have squalled those men, what holy war at sea, I dare not imagine, and naught to help them save an island with a few shanties offshore, and it with no lighthouse. You’d think such a colony would want to help sailors in such need.

Now these ribbons of smoke had not emanated from the ruined ships. So afeared of another war in these plagued times, I hesitated upon the beach and trampled a fine suit of clothes. Then another. Another, and another – perhaps several hundred pairs of shirts and pantaloons, and guns as any nation would envy, all splayed out as though an army had mounted there, and decided to call off its war, instead stripping its uniforms in favor of a swim. This militia of fashion formed a crescent around the beach, leaving a single bald patch, where there lay a simple sack cloth, as a monk might wear. It was pierced at least thrice with shot, though worry not, for there was no blood. In its place?

For within the sack cloth, I took a handful of ash, and lo, I had never breathed so painlessly in my life as when I held it. The two juniors I had with me also claimed to have lost acute tooth pain an amorous predilections, and they have taken more jars of these ashes for sale in the north, and perhaps to Jerusalem. Smelling char about the sack cloth and the sailor uniforms, we set about examining them, and found indeed all those ribbons of smoke had risen from this spot, and that such miracle ash was deposited within the collar of every uniform on the beach.

Ladies and gentlemen, my news may disturb, yet it is indisputable: the Rapture had come upon us, and few were called. Those few gave unto us one sweet parting gift, a gift which grants health that you have witnessed both in myself, and in this Young Madame who, as you can see and she can attest, has improved in constitution during the brevity of my tale. They possess, as she called it, that certain yearning. That we were not summoned does not mean we are forsaken, for these ashes can be the path to a better life. And I am selling them by the tenth-pound. Now what do you offer?



  1. A nice dark end to the tale. I like the fact that the mystery of why he had those powers and how they worked is never solved.

    I think this was an ambitious project and that you pulled it off admirably. This would be great as a section in a collection of your work. (You must have enough material for about 20 volumes by now!)

  2. Dark days, but not for all... Someone always benefits do they not?

  3. I suppose it’s human nature to want to see horrible things- that’s what causes rubbernecking and crowds around caution tape. But damned if we’re not desperate to sneak a peak at the action and find out what caused the carnage we glimpse.

    I had the same reaction to this- I could see the beach, the clothes filled with ashes, our MC’s robe strewn amoung the rest and I felt so… angry. My mind is racing with “What happened?!? Noooo!”

    It’s like Gettysburg- that field used to be crowded with cannonballs and musket bullets and now there’s nothing but land because all the metal has been pilfered and sold to tourists.

    So I guess it is the most fitting end, because it’s the most real. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel cheated.

    Absoultuely wrecked me, John.

  4. It's going to take me a while to process what happened here.

  5. I think I'm going to be thinking about this one for a while, but that's probably a good thing because I want to unpack it and understand it more. Part of me hopes it was the comeuppance for the 'healthy' folk who waged war on the Young Master. But you nailed the voice of the carnival barker in this one.

  6. Like Tony and Icy, I think I'll be thinking this one over. I wonder if our patent medicine huckster understands what happens to a healthy man who takes the ash....

  7. Giving the final voice to a carnie, when the conclusion comes in such a manner, a dark and wrapped in mystery one, allowing the story of the Young Master to remain a myth and his last appereance, his last gift (or not) to be presented by his ashes..I just can't. It's fabulous. This serial was a brillaint idea and I'm so glad you decided to extend it. I'm going to spend a little time going through it. A re-read from part 1!

  8. Just caught up on the last couple parts. The entire thing now strikes me as a very Tom Stoppard-esque parody, one of some biblical stories rather than Shakespeare. But I'm not knowledgeable enough to attempt any further explanation. Very enjoyable, though, and I particularly enjoyed this final character selling ashes.

  9. Ah the opportunity is always there to make some money eh!

  10. What an interesting ending, not least because it indicates the story occurred in the 19th century. I thought it was earlier than that.

    I'm with Larry, Icy, et al, and rather worried about that snake oil salesman.

  11. Like some of the others I too will be thinking about this one for a while - which is what a great storyteller wants, right? ;)


Counter est. March 2, 2008