Legalities: I do not own "The Simpsons". They were created by Matt Groening, God bless him, and the rights to them belong to Matt Groening/Twentieth Century Fox. The characters Eric and Felicia deGeorge are the creations of Jake Lennington, as are the ideas of Rev. Lovejoy becoming a crooked televangelist and Bart and Jessica working at a radio station together. Other concepts and characters and plots are ©2005 Fionn Whelan.
CHAPTER ONE: The Dead aren't Dead
Lisa was hit with a shrill blast of noise.
"HEY, WHAT IT IS, SPRINGFIELD! THAT WAS GREEN DAY, AND THIS THE MAN HIMSELF, BART SIMPSON. SITTING HERE WITH ME, IS MY LOVELY ASSISTANT JESSICA."
"THAT'S "PARTNER", BART."
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?"
"YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN."
"BART-MIND…GUTTER. ITS ONLY FREAKIN SIX A.M."
Lisa sighed. She wanted hit that snooze button and try to sleep for the five minutes it would buy here. Oh well, don't want to be late. Might as well get up. She threw the comforter off. The cold air hit her like a wave of brilliance. Stark, shrill reality.
Lisa poured herself a bowl of whole wheat cereal, and moistened it with some soymilk. With a cuppa of hot tea, she washed down a vitamin pill.
"OKAY, I KNOW, IT'S MORNING, AND IT SUCKS," said Bart "AND WHETHER IT'S THE PARTY TONIGHT, THE GAME NEXT MONDAY NIGHT, OR THAT SLEEP YOU WISH YOU GOT THE NIGHT BEFORE, YOU WISH IT WAS THE NIGHT."
"HOW ABOUT THE BIG DATE ON FRIDAY NIGHT?" Jessica added.
"YER THROWIN' ME OFF WOMAN! SO, LET'S TAKE IT WAAAAY BACK, WITH "I LOVE THE NIGHT" BY BLUE ¨OYSTER CULT."
"SO, WHERE WE GOIN' FRIDAY?"
"THIS IS NEITHER THE TIME NOR THE PLACE!"
Lisa rolled her eyes as she munched her Kashi GO-LEAN®. That Bart. At least he's got a job.
She showered quickly. The hot water rushed over her, taking the weight of the world off of her shoulder, if only for a few brief moments. Warm and clean, she grabbed her books and set off down the hall.
Lisa had managed to finagle a scholarship to the University of Springfield. She had rented an apartment downtown, and Grandpa helped her pay the rent with his unused Social Security money. Her mother, Marge Simpson, also helped, teaching piano lessons out of her home. With Bart out of the house, and Maggie and Eric in school full time, things money wasn't quite as tight as it had been under Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.
Lisa took the stairs, as she did every morning, as it was, in the long run, faster than waiting for the rickety elevator, and probably safer, too.
The apartment complex was the sort found in many large and medium-sized cities, eight storeys high, made of bricks, with a metal grate elevator, stairwell, fire escape, and clotheslines hanging from the window to window. The top three storeys were fairly shabby, and, when she had moved into it, Lisa's apartment was a den of rats and cockroaches. Repeated spraying, roach traps, a cat, and constant vigilance and scrubbing succeeded in wiping them out. She painted the bare bricks bright, cheerful colours, and, when she felt inspired, painted murals on them. She sealed every hole and gap she could find, used roach traps, rat traps, lines of boric acid, and her cat Marty to stop whatever vermin managed to get past her first line of defence. She didn't have a rubbish bin, but simply threw her trash and scraps into the dumpster below one of her windows. And she never left dirty dishes in the sink. Constant vigilance was the only thing keeping the apartment from slumping into the squalor from whence it came.
Lisa finally reached the bottom floor. She said hullo to concierge, Mr. Short, and his parrot, the apartment's unofficial doorman, Mercury.
"Hello Mr. Short!"
Lisa shook her head and smiled. It had probably heard Mr. Short and his wife talking about her Buddhism.
Lisa mounted her little vespa scooter, put on her helmet, and puttered off to the University.
Lisa was now in her senior year at Springfield University. She was planning on going on to be a professor, perhaps of physics. Her teacher and mentor, Professor Frink, was getting on in years, and his son had gone off to work for NASA, so it was entirely possible that Lisa could take over for him when he retired.
Being in her senior year, Lisa had class only every other day or so. For kicks, and, to argue with the professor, a personal pastime of hers, she had signed up for "Judeo-Christian Ethics: An Introduction", taught by an idealistic young professor named Brian Callahan.
She parked her scooter, and chained it up, then set off in the brisk October air for class. She navigated through the crowds and convoluted corridors until she found her class. She saw her friend Jamie sitting in the crowded auditorium, and waved as she walked over to an empty seat she spied.
The professor, a clean shaven, clean cut fellow, came bursting into the room in his usual mock-dramatic fashion. He set his briefcase and papers on his desk in the centre of the procemeum, and hastily extinguished the cigarette he had been inhaling furiously.
"Good morning," he called, opening his briefcase and shuffling papers about.
A few students responded, some simply lifted a hand or mouthed a 'hello'.
"Alright, today, my ducklings, we shall examine this thing we call," he paused, writing the word on the blackboard, "'Love'. Jamie, what is love?"
"Um, love is when you feel…"
"Wrong!" he called, and he turned and wrote the word 'feelings' on the board, then crossed it out.
"You there, Grimm, should everyone marry their 'true love'?"
"Wrong!" he laughed, and he returned to the board and wrote 'marriage?-not always!' in his lopsided, sprawling script.
"Can you ever stop loving someone?" he asked the class. Some said 'yes', most said 'no'.
"Never! That is the first major point about love. Love is transcendent, of time and space. But that still does not answer the question 'what is love?'. What love is, class, it is a connection. A bond, a bond between two persons at the very soul. Have you ever heard someone say that they loved someone, but did not like them? That is very true. You see, 'like' denotes preference, and emotion. Love is beyond, transcendent of emotion. Certainly, it may cause a lot of lovely feelings, but those feelings are the symptoms, not the cause."
"Love is eternal. It can not be slain by the sword or withered by time. Those of you who read the Bible or attend a church may have heard the phrase "God is Love". That, my friends, is the key to knowing the nature of love! God is the first one to love, HE loved us before we existed, when we were but plans on his drawing board. Out of His Love, our souls came into being. He created us, just so that we might know the Love He has to give, and be able to give to Him that which He would give to us all: all of His Love."
"In God, in Christ, we see the nature of love. Love, if it is true, means sacrifice on the part of the lover, for the sake of the one who is loved. Such was God's love that He gave His Only Son, that God Himself came down from Heaven, to live a life of simplicity, toil, and self-denial. He humbled Himself and became man, offered Truth and Eternal Life, and ended up dieing at the very hands of those he came to save. By that love, that sacrifice, man is redeemed, made good. As love is eternal, and so is God, Who is both love and love's author. Thus, the argument for the Resurrection, but that's another lesson altogether."
"St. Augustine, in his Confessions, talks about the effect of man's fall on his copacity and ability to love. St. Augustine wisely saw that love in this life is inseparable from loss. We love, say, a beautiful beach town we visited as children, a place our family has visited since the 1910's. We go there one, year, and it is overdeveloped, and the water is poisoned with farm runoff. We love a pet, and it dies. We love a friend, and she dies. Every must end…except love. Except God. You see, it is natural, but foolish to love person for their own virtues, because, they are imperfect, impermanent. We are sad when, say, our child moves out of the house to pursue his own fortune, or when a loved one leaves, for they are no longer with us. That is selfish love, the kind of love that brings pain. When we love God above all, and when we love all people as God's children, then, it does not matter whether they are in our house or on the moon, for we are united by God. If a person we love dies, and we love them perfectly, then we are not sad. Their life of pain and toil is over. If they are in Heaven, then they will never suffer fear or sadness or loss ever again. If they are in Purgatory, then they will get to Heaven eventually, for certain. And, God forbid, they end up in Hell, then that is where they deserve to be. Either way, justice, justice, which we see only in its imperfection in this life, in courts and angry armed mobs, in this sorry world of compromise, is seen fulfilled in perfection in the next world."
The bell rang.
"Homework: read the first hundred and twenty five pages of The Confessions by next Monday. Have a good week! If you have any problems or questions, you can reach me by e-mail or see me in my office Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from one to five!"
As was her habit, Lisa stayed after class to argue. She had raised her hand several times during the class, but he had somehow overlooked her each time.
"Yes, Miss Simpson?"
"Why didn't you call on me today?"
"Oh, you know how it is, Lisa. They are here so I can teach them. You are here to further shorten what little life alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine have left me with."
"So, what was it you meant when you said that you shouldn't always marry your true love? Isn't that's what marriage is all about?"
"Hardly," he replied, tossing his papers into his briefcase and snapping it shut, "Walk with me."
"You see," he continued, once they were out in the sunlight, "The concept of romantic marriage has ruined the institution. Marriage's prime purpose is to make children and to raise them in a loving home. Love should be there, yes, but it shouldn't be the main reason you marry someone. Sure, you love each other, but does he have a job? Can he give you a home? Is she capable of having children? Is he of the same religion as you?"
"Oh sure. Marry some ugly old pervert your parents set you up with because he's got cash and is a "good Christian", and get stuck baking muffins and squeezing out babies for him until he dies of syphilis and leaves you with twelve crying babies."
"I was advocating nothing of the thing. People just need to understand love before they go off and marry someone for it. Love isn't a feeling: people getting married off of a feeling is why we have so many divorces."
"Well, if it's not a feeling, or 'just something you just know', as has been said in so many movies, then what?"
"Marriage is a vocation, Miss Simpson. It has to something carefully aand rationally considered, and prayed on. Like, after college, I thought about joining the seminary, so I asked God what He wanted for me."
"What did God say?" Lisa asked sarcastically.
"'Stay out of those damned seminaries! They're filled with queers!' What, they are, just like the movie industry or San Francisco city hall!"
"Anyway, professor, I'm gonna go get a snack or something. Bye!"
"Good-bye, Miss Simpson."
Lisa left the campus and crossed the busy street. She went into Starburkes, and ordered a low-fat Venti soy vanilla café latte with extra foam and a chocolate biscotti. She sat outside at enjoyed her mid-morning snack, watching the people. Finishing her biscotti, and with just a few sweet drops left in her cup, she took her pocket harmonica out and played. The saxophone was her life, but it was impossible to carry everywhere. She began playing "Clementine", just for practice. A passer-by dropped some change on her table.
"Oh yeah, real funny," she sneered. She watched the rude passer-by walk away. A person on the other side of the street caught her eye, if only briefly. The traffic signal changed, and she lost him in the rush of cars and buses.
She walked back to campus. She was on her way to the library, when she met her old fried, Allison.
"Hi Al. How's Bio-chem?"
"Ah, well, can't complain. My brain feels like it's throwing off sparks, and we're only on to photosynthesis. How are your classes?"
"Alright, just tying up a few loose ends for my last year."
"Say, me an' a few of my friends are going to the Norah Jones concert in the park Thursday, and I have a spare ticket. Wanna' come?"
"Sure. I mean, my only class the next day is at noon."
"Great. I'll see you at the park at seven then."
"Yeah. It was nice seeing you again!"
Lisa went to the library to read for a while. She didn't have any homework, or studying, she just wanted to read in quiet for a while. After an hour or so of Nicho-Machean Ethics, she left campus for the day. She stopped at Zippy's for a salad, then went to the gym for an hour.
She went home. She boiled the water for some noodles. She rummaged through the fridge, and found some teriyaki sauce. She ate her meagre dinner, showered, and drifted off to sleep.
Her dreams were grey scapes of shifting shape and shadow. The face of the stranger, the slave of Burns, drifted about in the fog.