UnBooks:Psychedelic Rosie and Her Coat of Many Colors
“Guess what! Rosie is psychedelic!” - Bill informed me right at the school’s entrance.
A universe of questions invaded my mind - first of all, who was Rosie? and why would she be psychedelic? But instead of asking Bill about it, I requested that he shut up. I had no clue what “psychedelic” actually meant, but knowing Bill as well as I did, I knew that if he wanted to say something, he never ought to say it out loud, especially while close to a headmaster, which was our case.
Fortunately for Bill, who has already received five bone fractures and three dislocations just because of the tone of his voice, it soon turned out that Mr. Jones was smoking his usual something folded in the usual cotton paper with his usual very absent air and was generally in a state that our teacher usually summarized as ‘shouldn’t be disturbed’, though I would instead have qualified it as ‘couldn’t be disturbed’. We’ve tried, a lot of times. One of the most courageous kids at school, Tuck, once went as far as breaking a flowerpot on Mr. Jones’ head during one such day. The man only smiled.
Concerning that “something”, we desperately wanted to know what it was that Mr. Jones was inhaling. Dan, another student at St. Patrick’s Public School, though former, broke in the house of our master’s family, disguised as a housebreaker in case he would be caught, and took a giant box that the master kept under his bed. Respecting Communist ideals (according to the Mayor, Dan’s parents were Soviet spies, even though they looked quite Canadian), Dan then redistributed all the contents of the box between the present students.
Filled with enthusiasm, kids started eating, licking, breathing in, smoking inside cigarettes or just like that the green leaves that previously belonged to Mr. Jones and his relatives. By a strange coincidence, this was all happening on the cliff that dominated the sea near our town. Now, I haven’t seen what happened next, mainly because I fell ill just two days prior to the event and, to my greatest dismay, could not assist the distribution, but the police officers told us that shortly afterwards a few children decided to jump into the water. They were immediately followed by those who were having a ‘bad trip’ (as the officers phrased it), and finally by those who didn’t want to be alone, which was almost everyone. I haven’t seen them again, but I hope they aren't injured or anything, because the cliff is actually pretty damn high, if you excuse my language.
But then, everybody soon forgot about them, because there was Rosie. Apparently, this is what Bill was trying to tell me at school, the afternoon Mr. Jones was on a good trip or whatever you call it, but you never know with Bill, because even if he likes telling stories, he is not good at that. However, he is a good drawer. He once drew me a picture of an elephant, which I still have at home. When we have Bill as a guest, he often throws a proud look at his framed creation and asks to borrow five bucks. It goes without saying that one cannot refuse money to an artist.
Rosie appeared in our town in the middle of fall. She was indeed quite strange. I didn’t know or hear about anyone else who would sunbathe under the rain and later - snow - or spend weeks in exactly the same position (and this I am not exaggerating) on a clearing in the forest, which previously served us as a football field. Also, nobody knew what she ate - she never left her new home. Everyone started calling her “psychedelic”, first silently (except for Bill, for whom it was impossible to do something in silence) and then louder and louder, till that strange and exotic word rang everywhere, above and below, conquering every possible thought, till the Mayor and the mothers stopped thinking about anything else apart from “protecting our children from harmful Soviet influence” - that is to say, ban our daily football matches.
I still didn’t know what it meant, but I was sure that this description fit her perfectly. For once, Bill was right, and, as this happened on spectacularly rare occasions, I had to investigate the matter myself...
When I met Rosie, she was looking straight up into the sky. “Don’t you see it?” she mumbled. I was not sure if she expected an answer, but I still said “Yes, Miss,” even if I didn’t see a thing.
"These clouds... Indescribably beautiful..." Rosie sighed, admiringly, pointing at the smoke ejected by the chimneys of our local table factory.
"Of course, Miss," I responded.
As the matter of fact, we didn’t know her name back then. It was I who discovered it, because the next thing she uttered was: “You can just call me Rosie”. I was about to say “Of course, Rosie”, but found it a bit too familiar an expression, considering that she was at least ten years older than me.
Meanwhile, Rosie was busy being amazed at the hole in the ground we made when setting up the goal, which she considered a molehill, a ‘naturally fresh’ color of the yellow grass, which we had painted green a week before while bored to death, and at the rustle made by my shoes, which she took for the sound of the falling leaves. “Truly psychedelic,” I thought, thinking whether it was polite to leave now or if I had to wait for a few moments.
Then Rosie carefully unwrapped a package and started to chew on some substance, which I couldn’t identify. Suddenly, I realized something. I remembered how the Mayor, having eaten a dozen colorful mushrooms from our forest, would say that he had visions. So I asked, as tactfully as possible:
"Rosie, do you prefer eating or smoking?"
"What mushrooms do you eat? How do you feel after? What color are the visions? Where do you get it?"
"I don’t understand... Get what?"
"Hallu-cinogens!" I was so curious and impressed, impressed and curious, that I even managed to remember another long scientific name. I am sure any spectator would have been deeply stricken by such skills, anyone but Rosie, who still seemed quite lost.
So I added: “Well, what is it that you are eating?”
"Nothing special," she said. "A ham and cheese sandwich."
Of course, when I came back home, I tried to avoid all the questions. However, my mother found a way to make me talk by threatening to call the police, if I didn’t tell her where I have been all the morning, afternoon and evening, thus violating the rule of not staying outside after nine. I had to tell her that I was looking for bilberries in the woods and lost my way, after having been chased by a wolf. This knowledge comforted her slightly. She still punished me though, but I will spare you the details of the rest of this evening, which won’t help me to advance in the story.
It is very surprising that adults put in place the rules they themselves violate mostly often, but this is generally the case, and I have seen my mother leave the house well after nine and even ten p.m.
She would put on an evening gown, which, though it was her best and most expensive one, never looked well on her, an aristocratic hat (the way she referred to it), which nevertheless appeared to me quite disemboweled, and would try to sneak out of one of our second floor windows, so that I wouldn’t be woken up by the squeak the floorboards on the first story made. Soon after her elegant exit, I would notice a small light appearing in the house of our neighbor, Bill’s father, a friendly native American, who seemed to be on very good terms with my mother, though I have never seen them meet by day. It was also he who taught this poor woman to inhale the white powder one of his friends brought him from South America.
By the way, just so you know, there is no connection between that phenomenon and our fight with Bill, after which he received a scar. This is another story, which I am not going to tell here.
Talking about Bill, the night I came back, despite the fact that it was well past nine and I had already received a punishment, I went to see him, though it was probably not a good idea, because I was not planning on telling him anything about Rosie. You can't tell Bill a secret: he can be a good friend and will try to keep what you told him to himself, but the point is that even when he talks to himself (which he was doing at a surprising frequency during the time I am recounting), he usually makes everyone in the neighbourhood aware of his most inner thoughts.
So I kept silence and was patiently ignoring Bill’s more and more persistent queries. Now, if Bill is an artist, he is still sometimes quite annoying. When he started asking what exactly I and Rosie did in the forest, I had to hit him. He tried to return the hit but lost his balance and fell down the stairs of his house, where we were both standing. It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to catch him, which I would have done otherwise, just to be able to hit him again.
I immediately left the house, furious not to ever return, and saw Bill only when he was already able to walk with crutches. During his stay in the hospital, he was introduced to drugs and changed completely. So I could not count him as my friend, but then I did not count many people as my friends and I've never felt a regret or whatever, which my mother says is a very common sentiment when one loses a person to whom he's close.
So this is how I was living and growing in my hometown, a small and peaceful place, despite the fact that it was constantly surrounded by Soviet spies, American Indians and many other strange people. I guess my story was not centered around Rosie, but - thinking of it - is there a single good book in this world, whose title would be at least related to the book itself? I am not in any way pretending that my incomplete recounting of a series of meaningless events that took place in my homeland can be compared to the creations of the best of our authors, but what great writer has not compared his work to the books other great writers have made, no matter what it is exactly that he has produced?
Speaking of the title, I think I have to tell you a bit more. There was a reason I called this “Psychedelic Rosie and Her Coat of Many Colors”, because I rarely do something, if it doesn’t have a purpose.
A few weeks after the accident with Bill, Rosie was gone, to our greatest surprise. It was also me who found that out.
After our first encounter, to say I was appalled would be to say nothing at all. But soon I managed to reassure myself with the thought that Rosie herself did not know what she was doing. It did not seem that improbable - after all, did Shakespeare know, while writing, that he was leaving his influence on the entire post-medieval English dramaturgy? So I decided to visit her again. But that time the clearing was empty. Entirely empty. Perhaps, Rosie finished all her ham and cheese sandwiches, or maybe our table factory ceased entertaining her the way it did previously. Some also believed that she finally understood she would not be able to live through the whole winter without any clothes (once again, I am almost not exaggerating) and went to some South country.
But I didn't believe it and I had my own reasons not to. Because I soon found something on the grass, something that she left, which was a piece of clothing.
A coat of many colors.
A coat that dazzled me with all the possible and impossible hues, a coat that would outshine a thousand diamonds all together! The moment I saw it, I was blinded. I couldn’t walk and I didn’t want to, so I just lay down on the grass and unwillingly glanced at the sky, so as not to lose my sight entirely. However, when I took my eyes off the coat, I saw something as interesting, what Rosie might have seen - no, she couldn’t have seen it, because she could still talk to me when I asked her questions, while I was at the peak of my emotion - I watched a pink elephant, exactly the same one Bill drew, fiercely traverse the pearl sky, then throw a victorious look at me and vanish, majestically.
When I came back to the town the next night, I couldn’t find a single human being. They were all gone, surrendering to an army of octopi, which I saw hiding in our attics since the day when I’ve started to take my father’s pills, which was quite a while ago. However, this is a different story and I have no intention of bringing it up now.
Anyway, I soon realized that I had nothing to do in such a wild place and left. Since that moment, I am trying to find my relatives, but it seems that the Earth was invaded by aliens, who, though closely resembling our animals, are colored in a very arrogant manner and are even able to communicate in human languages.
I am writing this story in a place they call a "mental hospital" for some odd reason, because it is nothing like a mental hospital, but rather a prison. My father was in both soon after the war, so I know the difference. The only thing that's mental about it is the fact that I can barely think a few moments I take the pills they force me to consume. More pills. The only reason I am still exercising my mind while writing - because I rarely do something aimlessly - is that I hope one day a human survivor will be able to read my book, and he will know why he is alone on a whole planet.
Enclosed in a small white-walled chamber, I've had plenty of time to reflect upon the years I've lived through. I've thought about Rosie and her coat of many colors and Bill and my mother and psychedelia. Bill told me psychedelics were like that because they took something called LSD. Well, I've seen how happy Rosie was and if a tragedy can arrive at any moment, maybe it is only sensible to enjoy your life while you still can, if you get what I mean.
Maybe I should have joined! What if Bill could be right after all?
| Cream of the Crap
This article was one of the Top 10 articles of 2014.