The character of The Healings is a depressed male – the universal human being in search of his own Self and his place in the society and, on a deeper level in the world. In his quest for healing, he is accompanied by his one and only partner, his talking cat.
Written in the first person, the short stories depict his encounters with those whom he calls “sources of wisdom,” from shamans to scientists, from dream interpreters to psychiatrists, from flesh-and-bone creatures to illusory entities or just bizarre life situations.
I have to put the phone down and turn on the TV. Aunt Lyla is literally screaming at me. Don’t I read the news? Don’t I listen to the radio? Don’t I watch TV anymore? What news? What radio? What TV?
Back to the phone. I tell her that my cat and I had decided to take a break from all this strenuous life. We needed some rest so we lowered the blinds and enjoyed a long, refreshing sleep. Aunt Lyla is shocked. Now? When the world is about to teach its citizens the ultimate lesson of respect? I’m puzzled. Back to the TV.
We watch the speech of a well-known politician in silence. Apparently, after centuries of social and political turmoil, the International Law of Censorship has finally been passed. Unanimously. I catch his last words: “The world welcomes a new era. An era of respect for each other, an era of understanding and everlasting social unity.”
A couple of commercials promoting rye bread and mustard follow.
I look at my cat. Maybe she can explain to me what this is all about.
Of course she can. She’s a female. She has intuition on her side. According to the new law, we’re not allowed to express ourselves just like that, tell whatever comes to mind and offend other citizens. Every word has to be weighed, measured, polished, and only when we are absolutely sure it will generate unanimous, spontaneous approval, shipped to its addressees. What are the consequences of breaking this new law? Oh well, fines, imprisonment or both. Not counting the lawsuit the offended party can follow up with. Wow! We are indeed witnesses to a new world.
We’re happy. This means no one will dare to call me crazy anymore. Unless they’re ready to sponsor our vacation in Tahiti, he he.
My cat brings the champagne. We toast for an insult and offense-free future. Just in the middle of my sophisticated mental toast a raw revelation cracks my skull open. I realize that, while I can enjoy my days without being called crazy, mental and retard, I, too, cannot return any compliments anymore. We are bound to silence. We can no longer let our inspiration flow. I have to be very careful with my cat who has a very nasty habit of expressing her dislikes. She’s also very opinionated. Whenever asked about something, she delivers the most outrageous, social and political feline perspectives. Right now, we need to cool down and watch the other people’s behavior. We also need bread.
We go to the bakery in fear, avoiding looking people in the eyes. I see they started implementing the new law already. At the store a clerk makes some unorthodox remarks about the height/weight proportion of one of the customers. He tells the woman she’s skinny enough to eat every day five muffins without gaining weight. The woman is offended. She doesn’t think she is skinny. She thinks she’s just fine. Police are called in and they bust the rude citizen right away. I ask respectfully about his immediate fate. Three years in prison and a substantial fine. As we pass the woman, we hear her crying on the phone and making a pledge to sue the clerk for at least a million. She is so offended. Will she ever be able to recuperate from this traumatic experience?
My cat looks at me. I know what that look means. I stuff her mouth with pretzels and stick her face in the bag. In the car I take her out and allow her to repeatedly call the woman “bitch.” She also calls me various names. I agree with her, but she has to get it. If Daddy goes to prison, who will be here to look after her?
We have to understand how this new law works. We were sleeping when they passed it, for God’s sake! Now, we have to wake up.
We go straight to Aunt Lyla. She is watching a short documentary that teaches citizens how to express themselves politely while preserving the initial meaning of their thoughts. It’s not easy but she can see some progress already. I tell her about the bitch at the store. She tells me about a fuck up she met at the butcher’s shop. I learn that we cannot use the term “fuck up” anymore. Instead, we can safely use “disoriented citizen.”
There are a few things she likes about this new law though. I snap. Like what? How can one like this? I call her crazy. She calls me an idiot. We decide to call the police and sue each other. My cat hisses at us. Who’s going to take care of her if we start this sick game? The cat calls us both “severely disoriented citizens.” Aunt Lyla and I turn around and look at her. Can we sue a cat? We have to read the new law, word by word.
We part ways filled with anger. I feel like the blood in my veins has been replaced with boiling lava. I need to understand this. I am happy we got some sleep already, because I do not see too much sleep for us in the near future.
A gallon of coffee and eighty-nine cigarettes later, the sun shines upon me again. Aunt Lyla calls. She agrees to drop the charges for the “idiot” if I take back my “crazy.” We make peace. Resourceful as she is, she managed to get two invitations to a very select, unique meeting with Ishmael Popcorn, the father of the concept of the censorship coming from inside out, as a citizen initiative. For more than a decade, he has actively promoted the idea of a society where the censorship – read: good citizen’s manners – is no longer imposed from outside by the government but, by repeated educational measures, it becomes a citizen’s initiative. The current law is actually based on his theory.
My heart starts beating faster. We better get ready; the meeting starts in less than an hour. I give my cat a bath. She hates baths, especially when she gets shampoo in her eyes. I show her The Law. I try my new daring prêt-a-porter. I ask her if I’m hot. She doesn’t say a word. I ask her again. Nothing. Now I get it! She wants to tell me that I look like crap. Really? Why don’t we sit down for a minute and quickly review the main aspects of…The Law? She starts purring and she tells me I’m hot.
We leave the house. On our way to the meeting I sue two neighbors. One called my cat “food aggressive” – it’s “resource protective” idiot, read The Law – another one called my fancy prêt-a-porter “outdated” – Really? Who are you, moron, the fashion police? If you want to enforce the Law, read it first! Ha ha!
Caught in my fresh unexpected lawsuits we get there later than we planned. We know we are “disoriented citizens.” We apologize to Aunt Lyla who, in order to save the seat for me, put on three sweaters and pretended she was pregnant. Nobody dared to question her extreme desire to give birth at the tender age of sixty-seven – The Law, Art.23, Par.4. We sit down in silence and position our antennae in the direction of the great speaker.
Prof. Ishmael – ageless face, mummified body, shaky voice – appears to be at least one hundred years old. Aunt Lyla corrects me. He is actually ninety-eight. I politely apologize – The Law, Art.9, Par.2. His discourse is simple and meaningful. He gives the example of so many societies that failed to gain absolute control over their citizens.
So much useless pressure, dictatorships, anarchy. With such poor results. The idea of the ultimate censorship came many years ago while having coffee with a couple of select dictators. He just couldn’t watch them struggling to eliminate the free-thinking using such brutal inefficient methods. Why use so much pressure coming from the outside? Why not place the pressure inside the citizen and then watch it grow? He knew he was on to something big. Seventy-nine years later he authored his glorious study, Censorship Like a Seed. According to his theory, the censorship lives inside the human brain.
It’s like a seed, planted and watered by a loving parent – government. Once the plant is mature and vigorous, and most important, can sustain and reproduce itself, it doesn’t need help from the parent anymore. The parent rests while watching his children grow, living their own lives, producing offspring.
Another advantage of this theory is the low cost of the law enforcement. The law is based on eternal human features: poor self- assessment skills, lack of competitiveness, and, of course, the almighty smallness. The great thinker estimates that after the initial phase, the police will gradually step down and let the citizens themselves enforce the law. Human smallness is eternal.
We express our gratitude to Aunt Lyla for bringing us here. We start walking towards home, muted and respectful. We pass a gray, tall building. The street is narrow, and so are my thoughts. My cat points at a tiny cross hanging on the door. The gray building is actually a monastery and according to the wall plate, it hosts the Carthusian Order. I knock at the door and a reluctant monk gives me, in a few words, all the information I need. What makes the Order so special? The monks are taught to cultivate the spirit of the exterior silence – speaking only when truly necessary. Solitude and silence are the keywords. I look at my cat. She approves. We step into great silence. We both feel we will be here for a while. There is nothing for us out there.
© 2012 by Oana
Born in Bucharest, Romania, Oana lived twenty years under the grotesque dictatorial regime of Ceausescu. After the fall of the communism in 1989 she studied languages at the University in Bucharest, then received her Master’s at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. English is her third language. She has worn many hats, working as a translator, as a teacher, and eventually caring for animals both domestic and wild. She volunteered and worked for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers both in the US and Canada. She lives in Arizona, where she continues to dedicate most of her time to her animals and to writing.