Simone and Pearl and the Power Cosmic!, part 6: Changelings.

5 Apr

1.

Someone has kidnapped my children and replaced them with simulacra. Or little look-a-like elves.

Pearl is one. My sweet, even-tempered, calm little munchkin is gone. The new Pearl is a beast. She bounces up and down, she tries to rip the doll clothes to pieces, she slaps faces and even bit Simone right on the face. In anger. She giggles when we tell her no; she implacably attempts to get into the cleaning supplies; and she breaks as many objects as she can. She eats like some little mini pony and leaves destruction in her wake. If she doesn’t want the food she throws it on the floor.

Her favorite game to play with me is to stand by my back and hit it with both hands. I pretend to go into convulsions, which she just loves.

She loves to fiddle with the stereo. We now have two amateur djs turning the thing off and on, switching from phono to cd, and making the listening of music in our house a trying ordeal. Pearl has no discernable taste in music at this point. She likes to clap, do a little jig.

Her first word, as far as we can tell, is “No.” She draws it out in a long, sonorous bellow. “No-o-o-o-o-o.”

2.

Simone has been replaced, too. My spitfire ninja, my quicksilver mad-hatter has morphed into a fussy, fashion-conscious prima dona. She spends ten minutes a day trying on different outfits. She cries out when her socks aren’t facing the right direction. She said to Beth the other day, “I can’t handle these purple pants!” and then she changed.

She’s three and a half.

The princess phase continues. Amplified by just a touch of diva.

She’s become dramatic. Every day she says something like, “I’m having trouble breathing out,” (she wasn’t); or “I can’t clean up anymore, I’m so tired!” (after three minutes of standing around); or the now almost-daily, “I’m sick, daddy,” and after she gets what she asked for, “but I’m feeling better.” I can’t adequately convey the histrionic nature of her outbursts. Months ago she got angry and yelled, “I don’t get nothing. No cake and no whipped cream! Nothing!”

She’s a regular Tallulah Bankhead.

Her favorite movies are A Dolphin’s Tale and Cinderella. The first is a well-made, simple, old-fashioned tear-jerker about a lonely young boy who helps save a dolphin. Based on a true story, of course, and these animal young child friendship movies are a major weakness for me in the tears department. Simone handles it all with a big smile. She only asks me to fast-forward the scene where “the mommy gets angry,” which I dutifully do.

Cinderella is another matter. Simone loves this movie, and it’s easy to see why. The film is carefully balanced between the classic fairy tale and a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The malevolence in the movie is palatable to a child. It has none of the madness of Snow White, or the scary picaresque of Pinocchio. Plus it has lots of dresses, her favorite topic of conversation. The big issue with the movie is that Cinderella’s longsuffering seems to serve no purpose. She’s kind to animals, but she takes terrible abuse from her step-sisters. Worse, she appears to be waiting around for a rich husband to appear. (And he does!) It’s a far cry from the values we want to instill. But she loves it so much. Beth suggested we “lose” it, or say it got damaged, and that they don’t make it anymore. Ah, the casual cruelty, larceny and lies of the attentive parent. We’ll see.

Simone spends a lot of time in the neighborhood coffee shop, The Grind. A few weeks ago she turned to a dude at a neighboring table. “So, tell me,” she asked, “who are your favorite princesses?”

3.

Beth and I have changed, too; we’ve been in a media blackout. I’ve spent the last week without reading, listening to the radio, watching any movies. So no NPR, or any of the podcasts I listen to (Mike and Tom Eat Snacks; The Conspiracy Show; How Did This Get Made?; Sound Opinions and This American Life). No comic books or graphic novels. No novels, short stories or poetry. No New Yorker, New York Times, The Reader or The Onion. And no Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or HBOgo. No internet, besides work-related email and a one check a day on gmail. So no Facebook, no Google searches, none of the websites or blogs I check on a weekly basis. Finally, I’m only listening to orchestral music. No Spotify, Youtube, Pandora, or any of my cds or records that has words. Today I listened to Carl Stamitz. Yesterday Mozart and Bach. Tomorrow, Schubert?

Even listing the above—which is a regular week for me—makes me anxious. This is the longest I’ve gone without reading since I was seven. (I binged on comic books at an early age.) The idea was to carve out some space to write. So far it’s succeeded, but in strange ways. I feel calmer. I’m spending more time with Simone and Pearl. I’m less frustrated. My dreams have returned to the vivid horror shows of my youth. And I feel more clear-headed, more lucid about my own writing. I’m working on a novella, only longhand, blue pen on white lined paper, and I’ve almost completed a draft. I’m still submitting things, and the pain of rejection really is easing.

I’ve written some thoughts on the experience, and will post them when the whole thing is over. But the experiment has shown me that I’ve been overstimulated for a long, long time.

Finally, Beth and I got some type of stomach flu again. She recovered faster than I did. My diet for almost seven days has consisted of rice, toast, potatoes, Jello and Gatorade. When I deviated from this, I was punished. With my unkempt beard, I have returned to my half-starved Danish peasant phase, where I look like some abandoned, busted out berserk eking out a living on tubers and spiders beneath a pitiless Scandinavian sun. I only need a tattered cloak and a blunt axe to complete the picture.

I’ve gone six days without coffee and feel calm and at peace. My legs don’t bounce. My kidneys don’t ache. My vision doesn’t telescope onto odd details. It’s been nice. I plan to get back to the dark bean as quickly as possible.

More to come dear friends and neighbors, fellow citizens of the world.

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