October 23, 2002

For those trapped in their vacuums, glued to the wall by blobs of strawberry jam, obsessed by the quest for the perfect mildew remover, or oppressed by male oppression (the worst kind), The Voice’s Sandra had some sound advice last week: your prison is your own. So, guardian of your own destiny, run the vacuum in reverse. Jeannie you are Zena. Blow off those ancient trappings and set yourself free. Ride to the shrine of AU.

I say so, too. Pursue it, woman; pursue it undaunted. Seek what shall be yours, stay strong, arm yourself for the noble quest of higher education. But like my 18-year-old daughter recommends, don’t buy the metal Madonna corset; those can hurt your nipples. She recommends genuine full body armour that bangs and grinds as you ride off, warump, warump, warump, into the grey sky across rough hewn land on a heavy, mighty steed named Marty.

She says she can see you forced out of the terrible hose in a rush of back blown vacuum dust, your steed stumbling then recovering his gait. She sees you riding, riding, riding, until you start to get really, really sleepy. And hungry. So hungry that you jump off and hunt squirrel. Then make some squirrel stew, after you start a fire with the flint of the land. And then chew the rodents daintily while making earrings from their skulls and hair ornaments from their tails. Then grunt with satisfaction, look furtively about, and lay down for the night. Then start to fake an orgasm, out of habit, before you remember the point of this fantasy.

She sees you arising with the sun, washing off the night with misty dew, and being pleased. You will be pleased because there will be no mildew in the grout, primarily because there will be no grout, a fact that, nonetheless, will not stop your pleasure.

She sees you continuing, resourceful, and undaunted. After you polish your horse, meticulously removing every trace of jam and not even caring how on earth it got there, you set out for the day. You ride hard. As the noon sun starts to beat down, you slow, you stop, you dismount and tie Marty to a tree. With lightning reflexes you leap upon the hawk that lands on the branch above you, and tear it into cubes for fondue for you and Marty. That’s after you pluck its feathers and make a sexy little neck dress and halter-top thing that kind of fastens around the back and scoops in the front past the collarbone. As you get up to leave, you are satisfied to see that you’ve been tossing your hawk refuse into the trunk piece of your armour, which you took off so you could see your reflection and check out the feather thing. You do a quick clean up of all the unsightly litter nearby, and leave the shiny receptacle behind for others, knowing you have set a good example.

She sees you travel onward, noble quest in your spirit, power in your grasp, gorgeous accessories in your hair. Each tramp of Marty’s majestic hoof stirs a torrent of dust, a painful reminder. You politely ask him to step lightly so as not to ruin your coiffure. Beside the worn and dusty path you notice some really nice flowers. You veer your glorious stag westward, over softest green, following a trail of daisies, through a field of fireweed, along a line of lupines, to a world of wildflowers, lilies, poppies, ooh pretty:. then you realize you have strayed. You are lost.

Darn, you say. Was that rises in the west, or sets in the west? But then you have a good idea. You dismount. You draw your sword, take off your helmet, get down on your knees. You turn the helmet over and rip your sword across the nearby stand of flowers, catching them in your helmet as they fall. You adjust the exquisite lilies and poppies, dropping in a lonely dandelion because they have a good attitude and need love too. Your arrangement is smashing, you notice, as you place it perfectly in a bed of charming red rocks.

Having the satisfaction of a job well done but still lost, you realize things are grim. Yet you do not despair. You have one last hope: you look deep into the annals of humanity, think of all the sad things you can, wonder if the hawk had a family, and start to cry. Then, in a vision from either Minerva or your sister in Morinville (you can’t make out the signature), you see a large square”?stone and metal, perched on green land”?as a portal. Following your vision, you walk. Because you forgot to tie Marty up.

You forgive him, realizing you should have been more understanding of his needs, and start up a hill. Just over the crest you see it, framed by a halo of light: the AU portal as in your vision. A woman in a lab coat steps through it, walking towards you with something white draped over her arm. She solemnly covers your feathers with this other lab coat, gently lifts away the squirrel accessories, tosses them into a shiny bin teeming with rodent jewellery, and hands you a student registration form. She motions for you to follow her and speaks loudly but casually over her shoulder toward the crowd hovering at the door of the nearby brown building, “Can somebody watch the portal? I’ve got to clean this one up and get her to Registry, fast.”

(Graphic: Artemesia Gentileschi Judith and Her Maidservant Florence, Palazzo Pitti, c. 1613-14 – see )

Audrey is a distance ed maven and part-time writer living in the United Kingdom. She is finishing her last year of an honours Master of Health Science degree, in preparation for a distance ed PhD in how to get a distance ed PhD. A mother of four, she sporadically sleeps, is in love with fractal math, and has found peace where neuroscience and Java programming meet.

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