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Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Midnight Callithump



Now comes the unwelcome shivaree, the midnight callithump, the grand parade of sleeplessness.

See the slack-jawed cut-throats in red sport coats and orange eyepatches that lead the procession.  And see behind them, the prestidigitators of impressive height. Next in line, the political idiots in full spectrum and plumage trailed by their deaf-mute translators. The children scream. Of course they do.

Hirsute apothecaries with mortars and pestles bump and grind while a dozen denizens of the distant north dance upon the line. Automotive precogs hold aloft their standard gears and cogs. Arboreal linguists follow close behind – they are developing an alphabet to describe the whispered conversations of maple tress under the moon. No one can hear them.

Next come hierarchs and heresiarchs in equal numbers; they are indistinguishable one from the other.

There are Commanders and Dominoes in voluminous cloaks. There are Dominions and Comanches in native dress. There are blond infidels and beloved idolaters. And look! Look! See the coercive priests (who are lately attempting to disguise themselves as passive aggressive celebrities – don’t be fooled) and the tortured communards whom the disguised priests are leading to the auto de fe: private punishment will be followed by public penance.

Here a group of curious monks and callow novitiates along with a number of polyglots and illiterates, and abecedarians of various ages – you can tell them by their ill-cut tonsures. Here a skeleton army; led by Colonel Cadaver. Eyes right! Here the weeping flagellates with whips and boards. Here Rotarians flipping pancakes, and Shriners in little cars and little fezzes, and other assorted Oddfellows. And here at last those poor fellows, the Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici. Everyone knows that you can’t have a proper callithump without them.

It’s impossible not to notice the mummers and mummies that come next, what with their drums and trumpets, but the line of comic gravediggers that trail behind them are easily overlooked. Can you count the relic hunters that succeed the gravediggers? There should be fifteen – one for each of the Holy Prepuces in the cathedrals of Europe. And then there are the psalmists – one hundred and fifty of them, and then the twin palm readers. They are the perennial crowd favorites; they throw candy. But dour proof readers sweep up behind, disappointing everyone.

Here at the end of the parade is a pack of cynics and manics - hydrophobic dogs that look like men and rabid men that walk on all fours, snarling and growling. Howling. Clawing. Scratching. Biting. The children scream again.

And I scream too for everyone in this riotous progression looks too familiar; everyone in this noisy burlesque dream is me.


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