Lamonjelo was a quaint village full of chirping birds, friendly vibes, marijuana and a sno-cone stand run by organ grinders. Some of the cottages were capped with ivy-woven thatched roofs; others kept out of the riffraff with wrought-iron fences hugging their perimeter. A Samoan sold honey-roasted cucumber seeds on the west end of Main Street, even in the rain and the occasional brush fire, and kids paraded through the park pretending their balloons were puppies on leashes.
When Marcel Bone founded Lamonjelo in 1896, he declared one edict, and one edict only: Everyone would remain in a grand mood. Outwardly, at least. Oh yes, townies could stab each other with ice picks over lost games of Poker and get orally raped in the streets — there were no laws against that — they just had to appear happy while doing so.
Mister Flannigan would smile and return a hello with a robust felicitation of his own, even though he was thinking about the smell brewing from the bodies beneath his floorboards. Mable Cleaver would beam and flutter her eyelashes after the postman inquired of her current emotional state, even though every time she shat it felt as though razorblade-embedded pine cones were passing through her dirtstar.
Behind closed doors, the townsfolk were permitted to let out their real emotions.
They could sit on the tiled floor of their bathrooms and cut themselves; they could toss their children down basement steps; they could listen to Nick Drake while penning suicidal prose. As long as no one saw.
Draw on your smile with a Sharpie if you have to.
That was the motto you’d see inscribed onto a rusted sign as you drove past the old canning facility and over the threshold of Lamonjelo.
Lamonjelo was truly a precious town to live, though, on par with the North Pole itself when you consider it. They didn’t have elves, but once Farmer Sitzbath bred an entire litter of pygmies, which sent parents into a frenzy as each tried to snatch one up for Easter presents.
And Artemus Weenerankle, good old jolly Artemus, was practically Santa’s doppelganger. Every Tuesday he’d sit in a sagging and worn lawn chair, the fabric ribbons of which exploded in the national colors of the Seventies, while young boys and girls would pause on their jaunt home from school to perch upon his distended belly. When they asked how he was doing, he would smile past his bleeding gums, ignore his burning canker sores and spew out words cobwebbed in merriment. It was just the right dose of candy-coated oration the children craved after a long day of arithmetic and sex-ed.
One day when Artemus was leaning his wrinkled face out of the trailer window, taking in the pungent aroma of exhaust and tobacco, a pail of kitty litter was dropped accidentally from above by Mrs. Blackass, connecting squarely with Artemus’s creviced crown. The blow caused something inside of him to stir.
That next Tuesday, when little Jonny Applecrack scooted his bony buttocks upward until he was sinking gently into Artemus’s seersuckered crotch, things in Lamonjelo were about to change.
“Hello Mither Artemith! How are you?” little Jonny Applecrack cheerily lisped through his gap teeth.
“Well there son, lately I’ve been dreaming about you,” Artemus began. “…in a pool of your own blood. I guess I’m not doing all that well, would you say?
” Little Jonny Applecrack ran sobbing in the direction of the train tracks, where a drunk flaneur scooped him up and stuffed him into a burlap sack, which he swung over his shoulder before continuing on his way.
Minutes later, Artemus returned April Pisspool’s inquiry with a snarl. “Today I found blood in my stool and learned that my son is not mine. I’d say I’m pretty fucking lousy.”
April fled for her home in a whirling dervish and told her nanny everything. Word spread quickly, and honesty spiraled through the town like an epidemic. Artemus had unwittingly broken the sacred edict and the dark and bloody secrets burst from Lamonjelo’s underbelly like bats from a cave. Apparently Marcel Bone had bound his edict with a black magic chastity belt.
The floodgates had opened; it started on the south side of town, outside of a small Bavarian-styled bungalow. “I’m feeling nauseated because I just watched my husband encase our gardener’s head in a plastic bag which he then pummeled repeatedly with a shovel. Have you ever seen someone drown in their blood?” Candy Calftooth cried when Father Fiddler, passing by on his way to urinate in the orchard, asked how she was doing.
It was an uproar to rival the likes of the Great Crabs Outbreak of 1974, when Susie Bigmams shacked up with a traveling Encyclopedia (the Ukranian version) salesman who had just made a killing in a neighboring whore house. (Those warted tarts taught him uses for encyclopedias that blew his mind, among other parts.)
While townspeople ran around in a disheveled fashion, unable to prevent their tongues from spitting out exactly how they were feeling, breaking up friendships and marriages, Artemus closed his window and laid down for a nap.