"alice the liberator of the story-time"
by greg giordano.
alice kramden was a common housewife in a common tenement apt in a common poor neighborhood in new york city. her husband ralph was a bus driver- known for his loud mothed rants and crazy get rich quick schemes. their only friends were the nortons; ed and trixie- two of the friendliest , wackiest neighbors you have upstairs from you. but life was hard for alice- boring and repetitive.
while ralph was at work- alice spent the remaing 8 hrs a day (after the hour and a half it took to clean the house, shop for meager groceries, etc) trying to devise an escape for herself. it was in a fit of post-war, 50's housewife malaise that was breaking her both mentally and spiritually- she turned in desperation to inhaling the fumes of boraxo, bleach and other chemicals available in the apt.
this proved to not only be a destructive escape- but was also humiliating , not to mention costly- as ralph was suddenly contesting alice's increasing expenses for more cleaning supplies.
deperation begat a streak of ocd-style cleaning obsession. on a particularly intensive session- alice decided to tackle the underside of the now ancient refrigerator. it was, even by a filthy person's standards- horrifying. besides dust clumped grease and rat droppings, etc. that had accumulated- she found another substance under the dilapidated appliance.
it was a fungal growth. like a cross between mushrooms one would see growing on an old log and a blue mold. these mushrooms were almost alive- alice was certain that she saw them flinch as she scrubbed them off the underside of the refrigerator- but then again, she had been huffing marvel mystery oil she had stolen from ed norton's toolbox- she must have been hallucinating. they were strong as barnicles in their adherance to the ceramic and zinc undercarriage. but with great effort- they came free.
the cleaning escpade left her exhausted. she was never going to be able to clean enough., she realized. her life was to be an endless prison. that afternoon- she knew there was only one answer. suicide.
ralph, ed and trixie were all going to the bowling alley witout her- it was apparent alice "had a headache" so there were no suspicions or protests. alice had thought long and hard of the manner of taking her own life. they had no extra money that month. it wouldn't be possible to buy even a bottle of aspirins and vodka chaser. all the products in the building; rat poison, bleach,etc. would all mean a painful agonizing end that alice could not bear to go through. she remembered, that her mother told her as a girl- not to eat mushrooms she picked as a child- "they're poison honey!!" she remebered "blabbermouth" saying to her as a child. that was it. the mushrooms - she realized would do it.
she boiled them with a bottle full of vanilla extract and sugar. poured the liquid into a teacup and made herself comfortable in bed. her favorite tommy doresey album played softly. then she drank the brew. it was awful- the sugar and vanilla made the bitterness of the tea barely palatable. she felt nausea in minutes- then renching pain in the stomach. suddenly she ran to the kitchen sink and vomited.
it was then after getting her composure that she felt strange sensations in her body- first her face, then her spinal cord- like 1000 volts of electricity were going through her body - she turned and fell to the kitchen floor as her body seemed to to be convulsing. she saw her surroundings turn electric blue, pink- the viewpoint was a swirl of melting objects and color. then alice felt as if she was floating- and looked down to see her body under her- she was on the ceiling! alice thought she was dead- going to heaven- but then all at once a feeling of speed- and an explosion of vacuum-force overwhelmed her astral form. she passed out into inky blackness.
alice woke to the sound of grunting and howling. her vision cleared - she was face down on a leopard skin rug. the floor was grey rock- not smooth like the flooring of grand central station but more like someone just cut a giant piece of slate and laid it on the ground as a floor of...a house?
she was in a house- like one of those levittown ranch houses she always dreamed of- only as if it were made for cavemen. it was like one of those funny skits she saw once at her mother's house on the sid caesar show only in full color- only real. she ran to find the bathroom. there was a mirror, sink,toilet (in the house!) all the amenities- only caveman style.what she saw in the mirror shocked her but also was pleasing. her hair was the bright red of her youth- a bone was holding it in a bun. this made her laugh- and she saw her figure was nice, too.
there wasn't enough time to look at herself - a thunder exploded from the living room. it was like a bear- or worse but somehow friendly and familiar. she ran out to see what it was- and saw a caveman. it was as if someone made a massive caveman version of ralph and she knew he was her husband, somehow. he stared at her from under his huge thick brow. an ape-like smile on his face was all she needed to "remember" how much she loved him, and he her. they hugged and kissed and grunted and growled at each other. he called her something akin to "welll-mahhrr", and he was "fraahhhd" , or something like that.
soon she forgot the bronx, and her life in the apt. she was willlmahhr, mate of frahhhdd and friend of the tribe-neighbors; behh-ti and bahhrrrnni. the strange hyperborean world was wonderful- flying on the backs of pterydacdyls, pet brontosauri, foot driven vehilces like ...cars? was that what they were called? she could remember for sure, and didn't care either.
for what seemed to be many years, willmahhr lived in joy and adventure in this prehistoric suburban world. the tribal water-buffalo lodge was having the yearly gathering of the buffalo tribesmen and their mates. it was the custom for the tribe to drink and eat and worship together. as the mate of one of the elders of this tribe-lodge willmaahr was responsible for making the fermented "vision-brew"; a potent herbal concoction that would make them at least- be happy and drunk- at best have visions and some even flew to other worlds to have council with the gods.
there were inferior crops that year- bad berries and what seemed to be moldy grains. willmaahr did not want to use them- dangerous she thought. but the elder of all- the puuh-bar- slate, his name- was adamant; he ordered her to make the brew anyway. she did what she was told. it was blue in color- not normal at all. slate made her try it first- as was the custom. she drank of it. and then willmahhr went to hell. she convulsed- she left her body immediately like the fastest hawk- flying out of her body, then into the air, then into the stars above.
after what seemed to be many seasons of flying- she saw many worlds. a world where a family of monsters, a dragon a rhino shot rocks from its horn, a dog wearing clothing singing and playing some long-necked harp; bears who spoke as men and stole food from baskets; and finally- a place like her village but in the sky. with vehicles that flew by- metal women cleanining houses on stilts...she was overwhelmed. her mind finally felt as though it was disintegrating as she went farther forward into a storm of stars.
she was floating. in blackness. in front of her- a green light appeared. it took human form. there was a popping sound that she could feel reverberate in her soul. a green man the size of a baby floated before her. she instinctively knew who this was- the legends. even her frahhd and bahhrni said they communed with the trickster before, but no-one believed them. but here he was in his small but powerful presence.
"gaaahhh-zu." she mumbled.
he nodded. "you know me. you all do- i am that which is here- the end of all things. you have seen many wonders, willmahhr-alice. but you must go back to your rightful place. remember what you've seen, child. write it down- tell others. know that all time and lives are never-ending; all the stories and lifetimes are one. now back to the bronx, alice. go!"
and then- a flash of grean light- and alice woke up in flower fifth avenue hospital in the emergency room. apparently ralph, trixie and ed came home early with ice cream for alice. they found her convulsing form in the kitchen- with no delay- they ran her down the stairs of the walkup- ralph flagged down a bus and ripped the driver out of the vehilcle, driving alice and friends at high speed to the best hospital he knew of.
later in her room- she woke up and began telling them of the tale. it was called by the doctors, a"psychotic episode with delusional episodes of schizophrenia". she was admitted to bellvue that night and stayed under the care of the psychiatric team for 3 months. all that time- she recounted the tale of her journey. the antdeluvian world- the final trip home and 'gazoo" as it was written in the case history, whom she claimed was ther e the whole time- her only friend. alice was sent to live at a sanitorium run by the sisters of mercy in connection with bellvue. the doctors tried various medicatons - nothing could assist with the delusions- finally it was deemed necessary for electric shock therapy to be used-alternating with insulin-shock therapy.
the only other person she really talked to at the sanitorium was a young man- he was struggling with finding a job- and upon advice from his family- found work as an orderly. he liked alice's stories- they were full of fun adventure and cosmic mystery- not like the usual "drivel" as he described most patients delusions. also, alice was a nice lady with a family and friends who loved her- they visited every day- he believed there was hope for her and it was worth giving her his time.
finally the delusions stopped. a year later of therapies, drugs and shock seemed to work. there was no more "gazoo", no more neanderthalic stone-age family- no visions at all. within 6 more months alice returned home. but not a home in a crumbling tenement. ralph and ed had realized that no matter the outcome, alice would need a healthy and safe home. both worked extra hours for the year alice was first gone- odd jobs on the side- ralph gave up hare-brained schemes for hard work and it paid off. both ralph and ed were able to get gi loans on neighboring houses in levittown. they knew it would help her recovery- and given the trials of the last 2 years, they all needed a break from the grind of the city.
alice came home to a clean home- outfitted with a General Electric stove and refrigerator, stainless steel sink and cabinets, the latest Bendix washer, and a York oil burner. it even came with a carport and a 12 1/2 inch Admiral TV set built into the living room staircase! the future was here for the kramdens and the nortons. ralph would still have to drive a bus- and ed commuted to the city on the railroad to work in the sewer- but it worked and it was a home- and thats what mattered.
as the years went by- alice was taken off the medication- it seemed to be an "episodic" case. she revealed finally in therapy that she had taken the mushroom tea- and then it was clear to everyone what the source of the delusions was. ralph and alice never had a baby- it didn't seem to work out. the norton's did though- a son. the next year, the kramdens adopted a daughter.
1960 arrived a year of hope and promise. while washing dinner dishes one night- alice was called by ralph to the tv set. he was white with shock- he could only mutter the old "abb-ahhbabababba" that he used to when he was really nervous. alice wanted to know what was wrong. there was no time to answer- the howl from a past long forgotten returned to her ears.
"wiiillllllmaaaaa!!!!" she heard. she didn't panic. ahe just slumped into her chair in front of the tv. there he was. fraahhhd. well in this case "fred". barney, betty and of course wilma. a cartoon show about her delusions. ralph was consoling her "it'll be ok baby", he said in soothing tones he was taught by the nurses to use. wilma was not upset- it was like a vindication- a fond memory in a way. and in her head only she heard gazoo.
"thank you for telling the stories to that young man, wilma-alice. this will be the last time you hear me, don't be worried. but you did something very important by making that journey. you broke open the barrier between the story and the world you live in. but know that this isnt the only place it happened. all the multiversal worlds are in your debt. including one where you and ralph are stories just like wilma and fred. it's funny how big it all is, the multiverse. but don't worry my lady- just know that you will be known forever in the annals of the multiverse as the great 'wilma-alice', breaker of partitions/liberator of the story-time. and there's one more thing- a phone call. goodbye wilma, er i mean, alice."
pop. gazoo was silent and gone for the last time. just then the phone rang. ralph picked it up- talked for a few minutes, then said it was for alice. she answered the phone.
"hiya alice kramden? this is joe hanna. hanna & barbera- we make cartoons. are you watching the flinstones right now, mrs. kramden?"
"great! look, you have to understand- alice? me and mr. barbera heard all those crazy stories from my nephew a few years ago, y'see? and well...ya haveta admit we couldn't let all those crazy- sorry! wonderful, stories go ta' waste.we went ahead with the show- well first we made huckleberry hound and yogi bear- that was great! but the flinstones?!? we made it-and it's been a big hit, mrs. kramden! i mean the beer companies, winston cigarettes, all want to buy ads- toy companies, skies the limit, alice. all from your stories."
" uh-huh, yeh yes, exactly! i mean this show is gonna make us rich! and we have others planned too! the herculoids, the jetsons...all gonna do gangbusters, alice. so me and will- mr. barbera wanna do right by you, alice. when we found out where my nephew got those weird ideas from- william said we had to take care of our little goldmine. so you're a stockholder in our animation company, now! you'll be rich too, mrs. kramden! you and your husband, i mean of course."
she was smiling like a hyena while watching the animated hijinks of her cave-husband on tv.
"yeah, now here's the thing- we wanna make you an employee too, alice. we want you to come to hollywood- all of you- th' whole family- and you'll get an office here at the 'shop'. now all you'll have to do is tell us the stories you told my nephew. only don't spare a detail, alice. we'll have the writers do the rest. so whaddya say, alice? huh?"
alice had a rush of memories. of all the worlds she'd seen on her voyage. many she never remembered in the hospital- now flooding her brain. but she wasn't getting delusional. she was fine. she knew the truth and it was enough. and even if she was delusional, that was then. she knew her purpose. she would go to hollywood- she'd take the job, although she'd insist on anonymity- she was always a private person, particularly after the psychosis- and evcerything would be fine. forever and ever. she dropped the phone, joe hanna, "hello"-ing desperately.
"what honey? what's wrong?" ralph was panicked, but steadfast.
"nothing fred- er i mean , ralph honey- it's all gonna be fine."
ralph pulled her to his chest, he was considerably leaner 10 years later. it was good to hold alice- she was alive again in a weird unexplainable way. he knew she was telling the truth about the future. he was a better listener now too.
"you are the greatest."