Wednesday, December 22, 2004

My Christmas Visitor

As expected, I'm back... but neither to bitch about how horrible the holidays are, nor to gloat over how wonderful they are. In truth, I just don't care about the holidays anymore, and am looking forward to Boxing Day, when Christmas is all over with and I have a whole week off in which to sleep and catch up on my reading and to spend at least four hours each day working on my novel.

No, the reason I am posting today is to share with you the partly-amusing-and-partly-grisly tale of My Christmas Visitor:

I named him Chris Mouse after a forgettable Rankin-Bass Christmas special from long ago. Isn't he cute? And yes, that is a real fur stole he's resting on. A really nice russet mink stole from the Fifties with a matching muff, trimmed with a fringe of tails and feet, one of the stars of my fashion taxidermy collection (though it smells a bit, due to having been stored damp by the previous owner, and I haven't had it cleaned yet).

Unfortunately, the soft and cuddly-looking Chris Mouse is not a mouse... he is a rat. And he is not sleeping on my fabulous and collectible extremity-fringed russet mink stole, he died there, apparently from poison.

So here's the story: on Saturday, Caroline was helping me prepare for the late-night Cookie Monster show at Harvey's, and I noticed a bit of a smell in my basement drag-room. I didn't have my glasses on, so I didn't spot Chris Mouse immediately, until I was rummaging around in a nearby bin of lingerie trying to find a black satin slip. Caroline and I had been rummaging for a few minutes by this time, talking loudly and making plenty of noise, so I knew immediately that the fuzzy little lump was not alive... had it been alive, it would have departed post-haste.

It nevertheless was very cute. It looked as if it were asleep, curled in a cozy little ball; its little eyes were closed and its little ears were folded back and its little whiskers were so adorable! And cuddled there on top of my russet mink stole, it was even cuter! I have a thing about the juxtaposition of furs (note the picture in the Cast column featuring my fake-fur teddy-bear wearing a real vintage fox wrap), and though I worried about what postmortem substances might have passed from the rat into my mink, the picture was very sweet and stuck in my mind.

Caroline and I pondered what to do with it, but I was already running late and so I simply put the situation out of my mind. I did, however, relate the image just described to some of my sisters at the show; while the common reaction in the dressing-room was a collective "ew," Princess Johnson advised me to have the rodent taxidermied and affixed to a pin so I could wear him as a corsage on the stole. The colors did go together rather well, but I didn't know if I would be able to find a taxidermist, much less afford to have a rat stuffed and mounted as a brooch.

Well, with one thing and another, I sort of forgot about Chris Mouse until I came home Monday evening from the gym and noticed a rather naffish smell in the front hall. I walked around the house trying to figure out what the smell was, and when I got near the basement door where the smell was strongest, I remembered My Little Friend "asleep" on the mink stole downstairs.

He had to go immediately, before the smell got strong enough for Grandmother to notice it... she cannot know that there is or ever was a dead rat in the basement, no matter how cute; for if she did, she'd have me down there cleaning the whole place out during my Christmas vacation. But how to remove him?

I should take a moment to explain that, while I am inordinately fond of dead animals, I can only handle the kinds of dead animals that have been processed in some way, whose remains are nice and dry and clean... I love my furs with their heads and tails and feet still intact, but these are satin-lined and have pretty glass eyes. I love my alligator purse and my armadillo purse, also with tails and heads and feet in situ, but they are cured and lined and contain press-powder compacts and spare change rather than decomposing viscera. I love my stuffed turtle and my inflated spiny blowfish, but they are odorless and don't play host to the larvae of flies and other insects who are an inevitable part of the decay process.

So while I wasn't upset about the fact that Chris Mouse was dead, I did feel more than a little squeamish that, unlike all of my other dead animals, he was still in process. I don't like that sort of dead thing, not at all.

Caroline does, though... she works in a medical pathology lab, and though most of the time she just shuffles pap-smears and urine-samples, she dreams of the day when she gets promoted to the stratum of lab-assistants that can assist in autopsying stillborn fetuses and cancerous corpses, or biopsying breast tissue and renal tissue and what-have-you (as it is, she can only observe, and then only if she's on break and the room isn't too crowded, which is all too infrequently), actually cutting into and observing the viscous and decaying things left behind by the unseemly processes of Dame Nature. Gross decomposing things are right up her street.

So I called her up, and over she came, dressed in her green scrubs and armed with surgical gloves and a formalin-treated specimen bag. With a cackle of maniacal glee, she plucked Chris Mouse from his mink nest and looked him over with great interest, only popping him into the bag and sealing it when the increased stench-level of having moved the corpse became too much to deal with. Still, the bag was clear, and she took delight in noting the rigor of the tail, the softness of the fur, the curious wriggling of the maggots, et cetera.

As Caroline studied our dearly departed friend, I assessed the damage to the mink; it didn't appear to be stained, but it stank rather more than before, so I put it in a garbage bag. I also sprayed out half a can of Fresh Linen Scent Lysol to kill the stench (this is where I store my entire extensive drag wardrobe, mind you, and the last thing I need is for my beaded gowns and remaining furs to all smell of Eau de Dead Rat... I hadn't had the mink cleaned yet because fur-cleaning is prohibitively expensive, so you can imagine what a whole bin of furs and fifty or so gowns would set me back at the dry-cleaners).

But not only was I queasy from the decrepitude of Chris Mouse, I was also fairly jumpy about the prospect that Our Friend had not been alone when he entered my basement. Right in front of me was a big plastic bin full of furry things, some of which were the same color as Chris Mouse, some of which have little rodenty noses sticking out of the pile, and all of which could easily contain a host of rats, alive or dead. So, while Caroline was with me and could help me with corpse-disposal or smelling-salts if anything untoward came tumbling out, I gingerly shook out each fur piece in the bin until I was satisfied that everyone in the bin belonged there.

There was nothing in the furs, and further investigations revealed no evidence that Chris Mouse nor any other rodent had been in residence any time recently... I had to suppose he came in after being poisoned. My coworker JB, when told this story at lunch yesterday, posited that Chris Mouse had come inside to die and had mistook the slightly smelly fur for his mother, and passed on peacefully under the illusion that he was in the bosom of his family.

So anyway, Caroline and I took Our Friend out to the alley and double-bagged him, then placed him at the bottom of the garbage can and covered him with three bags of kitchen refuse and a few solemn words about the Circle of Life. Then we had dinner (citrus chicken cassoulet and steamed collard greens) and watched the Dieux de Stade 2004 DVD, amusing ourselves with lewd commentary on the generous displays of French footballer flesh. A good time was had by all, despite the grisly occasion that brought us together.

And that is the story of My Christmas Visitor, illustrated.


To return to what I said in the last post, I do feel like I'm handling the holidays well. I am almost done with my shopping, the tree is up and Grandmother is helping decorate it, and I have the next two days off in which to do all the work that needs to be done. It should all be fine.

Still, I'd just as soon skip it. Aside from the things I bought for the children, I would be perfectly happy to keep all the presents I've bought, in exchange for not getting any presents from anyone else. And the tree reeks, it's probably the smelliest and most resinous fir we've ever had, I would really prefer to not have it in the house no matter how pretty it is with the lights and the baubles and my beautiful Czech glass tree-topper (with which I replaced the former stars and angels that were always so redolent of Christianity).

But whatever, I can't easily avoid it so I will just have to accept it. It will be over soon, anyway, and then it will be my birthday (I'll be thirty-seven on Monday... feel free to mark the occasion in whatever manner you wish), and then I have a week off from work, and then it's New Year's Day (when I will dispose of the tree and all evidence that Christmas ever was), and then there are no more holidays until, like, April (we don't celebrate the fake Saint days). Yay!

So in case I don't post again this week, Merry Christmas to you and yours (or Happy Saturday if you don't celebrate Christmas)! Love you!

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