Bruce Douglas Cummings
The chief stomach poisons
are the arsenicals--e.g., Paris green
(copper acetoarsenite), lead
arsenate, and calcium arsenate.
settles astride the old French capital
like consumption on the bosom of our Mistress. Night,
which in winter exhibits little kindness toward Parisians, parades
gaudily this evening in the lace of fat, furry snowflakes. The snow
melts into the slops swimming along the boulevard. As it freezes,
later, the cold shall spare us the aroma of this obscene glace'.
Today I found myself unable to
serve Monsieur le Marquis at table. Monsieur le Marquis is not at
home. We believe him once more partaking of His Radiant Majesty's
hospitality in unaccustomed austerity at the Bastille. Ah, well,
"one is born to one's fortunes," as they say in the provinces. I,
myself, I wonder that His Majesty's officials have been so slow
to proceed against Monsieur le Marquis. That the toleration of Louis'
court should extend for so long a time, especially towards a gentleman
of Monsieur's peculiar and arcane predilections, perplexes.
The Fete de Noel
is almost upon us;
I wager that some intercession will allow monsieur le Marquis to
grace us with his presence that day of days. Madame must, perforce,
invent a small divertissement for her husband in honor of the Season.
She hit upon a most diverting scheme, but, alas, she "let the cat
out of the bag"to use a quaint Anglicismand now must
Madame had commissioned an artist
at the court to paint detailed miniatures that depict the less public
anatomy of several in Monsieur's circle. Upon their arrival a fortnight
ago, Madame instructed me to secrete them in a casquette which then
I labeled: "Most Fragile: Precious icons from Russia." Madame carried
this and the miniatures into the petit salon where suddenly she
came upon Monsieur le Marquis. She had thought him awaiting release
later that day. A miniature tumbled to the floor in its gilt frame,
coming to rest face-up, on the pale Aubusson.
Despite close scrutiny,
Monsieur, unable to discern the identity of the likeness, exclaimed:
"Exquisite! Whose is it?" This, of course, caused both Monsieur
and Madame to collapse amidst such ejaculations of hilarity that
Madame came to injure herself. As sometimes occurred, she coughed
up a little blood. The sight of Madame's blood and catarrh mingling
slickly on her gown, a white-pearled moiré of the antique style
whose décolletage revealed rouged nipples, elicited from Monsieur
an outpouring of sympathetic gestures. He asked if he could assist
her to her boudoir. She demurred, shaking her black ringlets, quickly
smiling up at Monsieur.
We whisper behind doors and below
stairs that Monsieur became so quickly engorged in his blue silk
breeches that he later vented himself upon the scullery maid. She
tells me that she reveals the scars for a price at a tavern known
to us both. We shall see.
A muralist of intimate
with Monsieur's late mother painted upon the ceiling of Madame's
boudoir a mural of seraphic loveliness, the subject a favorite from
the Latin mythos: Leda, raped by Jupiter, incarnate as a swan of
surpassing beauty. The years have not dimmed the brilliance of the
swan's plumage, and the pellucid verdant depths found in the lagoon
in which he swims cannot be matched, or find their like, even at
Legend says that Monsieur's late
mother required that the artist complete his work before she would
surrender to his considerable charms. It is she who modeled for
Leda. A muscled, mustachioed onlooker of gypsyish mien can just
be discerned, all but obscured by foliage, who all say is the artist
Frequently Madame entertains
for chocolate in her chamber.
There the assembled company is much amused when an undisturbed cup
of eggshell Limoges becomes dusted ever-so-lightly with green pigment.
For, it is also legend, so anxious was the painter in his pursuit
of his model, that he omitted the sealant coat upon his masterpiece.
© 2000 Bruce Douglas Cummings
was a Flamenco Dancer before being diagnosed with
Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. "Once," while laboring
in the "God-forsaken 'Hospitality Industry,'" Bruce recounts,
"I was compelled to work late by my execrable tyrant of a supervisor
who, during the course of the night, made not-so-subtle jibes at
my competence and sexuality. In particular, she expressed doubts
over my ability to write. In response, I gave her this story. I
was delighted with her revulsion.