Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Tale of Medusa. Part One ( Friday Fable with an early start. )

Once upon a time, Miss Bliss was thirteen years old. She was a fairly shy girl, modest and often given to silliness and giggles. She had a crush on Barry Cowsil and loved the song his family recorded called Indian Lake… which has to be one of the most disturbing and ethnically inappropriate drivel to ever hit the air waves. But she was just a girl and did not know much about the world. Yet. That knowledge was coming in the form of a big fat wave that was sucking back from the beach in anticipation of knocking the holy crap right out of her. (If you listen hard enough you can hear the bubbles chuckle beneath the undertow.)

Bliss hummed this terrible tune as she opened the front door, noted the chime of the tiny bells her mother had attached to the curtain covering the window in the old heavy door as she pushed it shut. Bliss’s mother had strict rules, so unlike many children who would have entered a house, tossed down their books and bolted for the television, Miss Bliss did as she always did and obeyed mother’s rules.

Her books were carried carefully up the stairs to her room, where they were stacked on top of her wicker table, neatly. She immediately removed her school clothes and donned a pair of “play” shorts and a tank top. Her school clothes were immediately carried down the stair through the breakfast room, on through the kitchen and to the back porch where she deposited them into the waiting washing machine on top of the dirty towels from the day before. Bliss added soap and did as she did every single day of her young life…turned on the washer and walked back through the kitchen, through the breakfast room and up the carpeted flight of stairs to the hall, rounded the newel post to the frosted glass door and knocked. There was no functional lock on this door and it was expected that all persons wishing to enter this room, knock and wait for reply.

When no one answered, Bliss turned the knob and quickly stepped inside. On any other day, she would have walked directly to the toilet and dropped her pants. Today she stopped cold with her mouth open trying to understand what she was seeing. Medusa occupied the bath tub. Her arms were draped casually on the sides of the tub, rivulets of blood trickled down the inner walls of the white tub where they ended in red smoke-like swirls and mingled into pink water. Tiny red drips dotted the side of the tub. Bliss took in the cuts on the exposed wrists and had a brief moment of anger when she realized that Medusa was bleeding on her sterling silver charm bracelet form Disneyland. God damn! (She still feels guilty for thinking this.)

“Get out.” Medusa hissed softly.

Miss Bliss’s mind shot backwards into the rear of her head.

“Oh. I didn’t know… “ she began.

Didn’t know what? That someone was in here? That someone was busy trying to kill themselves in here? That there was blood in the bathtub… mother would be so pissed at the mess! That her sister was in the bathtub with all the clothes on? That Medusa had finally gone around that bend in the road that she didn’t want to come back from at all? Bliss backed out of the door, pulling it softly closed and then raised a shaking hand to knock.

“Go way!” Medusa hissed again, then added “And don’t you dare tell mom!”

Bliss turned on her heels and flew down the stairs, through the breakfast room, through the kitchen and on to the back porch, where she pounded on her mother’s door and yelled that Medusa was trying to kill herself. Mother hauled herself up from her nap, ran to the phone to call the father, who called the family doctor and the green grass grew all around and around and little Miss Bliss broke her brain trying to understand. Silly Bliss! There is no understanding of things like this. They simply are facts. Ugly, horrifying facts. She sat down on the steps and in her head heard the Cowsils singing Indian Lake is a scene You should make with your little one…”

Mother’s feet pounded up the stairs. Mother beat on the door, then realizing the absurdity of knocking on an unlocked door in an emergency, threw it wide and demanded that Medusa get out of the tub.

Over and over, the broken recording continued. Bliss wanted to plug her ears and scream, her mother was upset enough and did not need one thing more. But the Cowsils were still on stage in her head when her father flew through the door and took over. Medusa was wrapped in a blanket and snicked away. Bliss watched the Mustang back out of the driveway and narrowly miss a departing college student in an old Chevy. She was all alone in the old house with nothing but the Cowsils’ song. “And the countryside's pretty… And you'll see daffodils peepin over… The hills or a honey lovin' mama bear…”

In the excitement, Miss Bliss was forgotten. She did not mind. She wanted only to remove the Cowsils from her head, go and then lay on her bed and stare at the ceiling. Hours later they returned. Father had gotten Kentucky Fried Chicken. This was almost unheard of in this household. Mother did not allow fried foods. Father did not spend money on fast foods. It was a special day!

Following orders given by the family doctor who clearly did not have a clue how to deal with this mess, Bliss’s family acted as if the event had never happened. Medusa was given money to go to San Francisco to visit her fiancĂ©e. Bliss would be sent along to accompany her sister. Prior to the journey , her father took her aside.

“I’m counting on you…” her father began. “Your sister is fragile. You are not. I know that you have a good head on your shoulders. I expect you to use it and not fight with your sister. She’s having a hard time right now. Whatever she wants, don’t you argue with her. You just do what she says… do you understand? I’m counting on you…”


And there it was. This was the reason. The trip that Medusa had demanded and the parents had first refused. Now she had gotten her way. All expenses paid.

No one ever addressed what happened inside Bliss’s brain the day she found her sister like that. Bliss shoved it down into a file cabinet in the furthest corner of her still orderly mind and locked it shut. She would reluctantly add to the file each time the Medusa chose this method of persuasion to force her family into capitulating with a variety of schemes.

(A brief note: It’s a terrible thing to have someone you care about harm themselves. A suicidal person is in a great deal of pain. I don’t claim to have any insights on why or how this ball gets rolling for someone. Nor do I think that the people who suffer with this are like Medusa in any manor! I suppose you need to take it on an individual case. The motives and reasons must be without number. I feel terrible for anyone in that much pain. What a demon to have knocking on your door!)

In the case of Medusa, I do not believe that she ever intended to harm herself at all. She wanted to go to San Francisco and spend time with her boyfriend who was in the navy. Her parents had said no. Medusa had used the ruse of attempted suicide as a golden ticket. Once that ticket was accepted, it became part of life for Bliss’s family.

Bliss never counted the number of times that Medusa performed this parody of a true suicide attempt. Think of a nice big fat number… and substitute that for my lack of count. Make it a lot of times… the most you can imagine getting through and then double it. That’s the number of times… twice as much as you can take.

Medusa was indeed mentally ill. She remains that way to this day. She will eventually die that way, though NOT of suicide. But the fact remains that Medusa is a bonne fide sociopath who believes she is smarter than anyone, better than anyone, more deserving than anyone, and is exclusively self-oriented. No one else matters in the Medusa universe.

The suicide years seemed to last an eternity by the time Bliss had finished enduring them. But in actual count it was only about a decade of torment. Medusa began with slashing her wrists, but you know, that kind of hurts! The high Medusa must have gotten from watching the rest of her family leap and hop the hurdles in the race to make sure she was still living at the end of the day must have been entertaining. She settled down into a more easily managed system of drink, pills and phone calls in the dead of night. That was the way to go. That was her new golden ticket.

It made for a weird world for Miss Bliss. When Medusa married and moved to Louisiana, Bliss was ecstatic. The more miles between, the merrier, until the sad truth manifested that you can commit an attempted suicide via Ma Bell long distance. Crap! The hoops just became higher and more plentiful. The option for salvation became increasingly more difficult and demanded bucket loads of creativity and a list of emergency service phone numbers kept next to the telephone. It was exhausting.

It crept into all areas of life. When Miss Bliss thought she’s met the man of her dreams and was lined up for eternal happiness… she brought her beau home to meet the family. They all arrived, dressed nicely, eager to put up a show as the kind of nice family he would want to join. It was unfortunate that someone mentioned this to Medusa, who demanded that she be flown back for the occasion. An exceptionally nervous Bliss could only hope for the best outcome. That was not going to happen.

Medusa got drunk on the flight. She continued to drink. She sat at the top of the stairs and shouted down weird remarks. “Negative! Negative!” was her favorite response to anything Miss Bliss said in the living room below. Twice Miss Bliss’s mother stomped up stairs to ask her to stop and be quiet. When it did get quiet, every person in the room sighed with relief. The conversation eased up and became light. People began to enjoy themselves and laughed. Miss Bliss felt grateful that Medusa must have gone to sleep.

And you know that didn’t happen. The night became long and unhappy when someone said “Hey… did anyone hear that?”

That was the sound of a banshee wailing outside in the fog that was curling over the golf course beyond the picture window. Bliss said “Oh no…oh no…” Oh yeah, it was Medusa up to her tricks. Wailing in the night as she wandered the condo complex. The night was over for celebration. The hunt was on to locate and subdue the banshee before the cops could arrive. The last thing Miss Bliss saw as she closed the door on what should have been a wonderful night, was her mother rocking a twenty six year old baby to sleep, assuring her that she was wanted and loved. Miss Bliss wanted to hit that baby in the head with a big fat rock and assure her that there was no place for her in the known universe and then she got to feel bad for even thinking such a thing about a sick person. Crap!

This was the way that things went in Miss Bliss’s life. All holidays, all birthdays, reasons to celebrate or focus on anyone other than Medusa, met with unhappy melodrama.

It was the main motivation behind the short fast wedding that involved only close family and caused Bliss to flee as soon as the I dos were said, as if you could ever out run Medusa. In that instance the fear of an outburst was enough to keep Bliss from being happy on her wedding day. She would later learn that an episode had played out at the wedding diner Bliss had evaded… in front of all the new in-laws.

UGH. Aren’t you glad you joined this family?

It should be no surprise to you that Bliss and her new husband packed up their stuff and moved as far as possible to Oregon. Distance had not saved Bliss when Medusa moved to the south. But, there was no other family in Oregon. No reason for Medusa to show up or drop in. Unlike life close to parents they shared. Bliss’s life became happy. Things slowed down. Things felt normal. There was only the catch of breath when the phone rang and the careful examination of StbX’s face as he spoke to whoever was on the other line. He would shake his head and Bliss would feel the muscles in her body relax. Life was good. Most of the time.

Until Medusa moved to Oregon to be close to the “only sister who cared”. But that’s tomorrow’s story.


  1. So the happy Cowsills' Indian Lake became an unhappy other state lake. You are right. You cannot outrun them.
    Waiting for part two. Why? Because it seems epidemic, Ananda. Such unhappiness in such an otherwise beautiful world. It is an all too familiar story.

  2. good heaven's ananda, what an awful stress to live under and what a heavy burden you parents place on your young shoulders when they sent you to SF. i am so sorry this has been your experience.

  3. i'm with lime and peggy. yuck! i am so sorry. i am so sorry.

  4. What can I add to what peggy, lime, & crazy4coens said? ... How very sad that you had to grow up and live with that horrible stress.

    Outstanding that uou seem to have turned out well in spite of it all.

  5. If I focus on this as though it is fiction, and didn't happen to someone I've grown to care about, I would just think about what an amazing story it is...and how I can't wait to hear what happens next.

  6. Peggy-- I liked very much what you said in your email, how you never saw these things on my face.

    Peggy... it was nice, kind people like you who helped me escape into "normal" by being my friend.

    I didn't include anyone in my nightmare because that would take the normal away and bring you to my crazy. I really needed the normal you offered. So thanks for that. :)

    And hey! I'm so glad you're here at Funch now! Drag your brother here screaming if you have to... but you may want to wait for a funny page.I'd love to hear from Mr.Cool.

  7. lime-- Thank you.

    But I guess I need take a moment to defend my parents a bit. They were overwhelmed and had no clue what to do. Mental illness was still a big, big taboo socially. They got bad advice from a crappy doctor who seemed to think it was female hysteria. And we lived in a perpetual state of shock. The things she did to us and to herself!

    I didn't fully explain that part. It was just too big of a thought for anyone's head to deal with it well. I don't blame my folks. I think they needed us other kids to be made of stone to offset the one made of sand. I was not the only kid... 2 other good sisters and the best brother ever. I leave them out generally, but they were there.

    But thank you for your empathy.

  8. Crazy4coens-- You make me laugh! You know all this crap! You know the Medusa... in the flesh, up close, personal bitch in your face. You stood by me. You were brave to come to my home. Thank you!

  9. cube-- That is a lovely thing to say and much much appreciated. Thanks.

  10. laura b.-- Hey you librarian... you have such a librarian's mind set. I love that about you. Its a much nicer story in fiction.

    Thanks for the invite to Goodreads. I have to do some work there before I am a good friend, but its coming... its coming. I think I'm gonna love that place.

  11. I can only simply repeat the sentiments of the previous comments. I don't think a 13 year old girl should have been burdened with the stress of looking after her older sister.

  12. All-- This is an uncomfortable story. I am very aware of this. Do not feel like you have to comment. What really can anyone say. It happened.

    I am alright. I wasn't always. But you know... life is a forge. I've spent some time in the fire and being banged around by hammers. But there are worse things that happen in the world. I can't imagine losing a child, for example. I have so much to be grateful for in my life. That is what this story is about. Not so much what happened but what happened because of it. Oh well... you will see.

  13. AlienCG-- Not a wise choice. True. Still they were caught up in the tragic behavior of a very emotionally sick child. I can't begin to comprehend what that would feel like any more than I can imagine what it's like to be Ted Bundy's mother. At least I didn't create my sister. How would that fit into your head?

  14. My oldest sister is kind of nutty and likes to create weird drama at family events. She doesn't sound as bad as your sister, but I'm always wary of her.

  15. ananda - yes indeed i did know her - medusa was a crazy trip - one of those people i avoid eye contact with.

    i do think your parents should have had the common sense and decency to consider your well being when you discovered her in the tub (what a bitch!) and they should have known to take care of you as well as her. they were your parents- they should have taken care of you!

  16. Those suicide gestures are often such hostile acts. Manipulativeness in all it's ugly forms makes me cringe.

  17. crazy4coens-- You love me too much to be objective. Or maybe I love them too much and feel too bad for what they went through. I don't know. But I love you back that much too. I'm getting rid of it right here and now. Woof.

  18. secret agent woman-- You are so right! So dead right. This sister hates me. She knew exactly who and when would open the door. She knew I would tell. All part of the plan.

    Her ability to manipulate and control us with emotional blackmail was astounding. It is the reason that to this day I detest people who manipulate. It has zero virtue.

    BTW, I almost warned you not to come here today. I know you are uncomfortable with violence. Tomorrow has violence. Be warned friend.

  19. What a tale....too much, huh? I read on Blog Like No One is Reading, a comment at the beginning that seemed to hold so much hatred towards the commenters sister...I was shocked to read hiding behind mental illness, just an aggression that was so unsettling to be near, be around, to see....and that's just one blogger's comment. I can't imagine what you've gone thru having a life like this....and glad to see you also defending your right....xo

  20. this sounds like a very exciting story an di wish i can read it too bad i don't have time.
    but when i do find a time i would definatly read it.

  21. Braja-- Thank you. It is a difficult thing. Very hard to do what was right for me. Thanks for understanding about my folks. I can't imagine having a child like that. But I know how they have suffered. Much love.

  22. essenam66-- Interesting name you've got there.
    Friday posts are almost always long. Thanks for stopping in. I do hope you come back, but no harm done if you don't have time. Welcome to oodles of funch.