SBR 1.17: Burger Van

If you listen carefully to birdsong, sometimes you can hear messages between the chirps and trills, a whisper of something sinister, threatening change. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.

Hello, faithful listeners, it has been a somewhat trying week at the studio, settling in Revel, the small, ginger cat who has decided, for some bizarre reason, that he lives here now. To be honest, I don’t mind the company, but his moving in was rather abrupt. I’ve been seeing him on the doorstep for a few weeks, ever since Christmas, and he seems to have a little gang of pals he likes to hang out with. Anyway I may have gone slightly overboard with the cat trees and the beds. At least I’ve found a use for the living room.

Hopefully he’ll be good and quiet throughout this evenings proceedings; I gave him a tray of salmon and he’s sleeping very heavily now so I think we can manage a good few minutes.

Firstly I’d like to thank those of you on the forums for your excellent sleuthing through old versions of Spirit Box Radio for any mentions of the Crystal Ball, even though it didn’t turn up much useful information. For those of you listening who don’t use the forums, or those who may not yet be caught up with what is now a frighteningly long conversational thread, the Crystal Ball was only mentioned several times outside of when Astrid was using it to answer questions from the faithful listeners. The first time is when Astrid frustratedly suggested that Madame Marie use the Crystal Ball herself, to which Madame Marie replied that there was clearly no chance of that happening.

The second instance is the one I remember, where Madame Marie and Astrid discuss how this Crystal Ball in particular differs from most of them, tapping into the latent memories of nearby Arcana and communing with them to get answers to questions from faithful listeners, though the mechanics of that were not explored.

Almost everything else was more of the same, where Astrid seemed to be goading Madame Marie into using the Crystal Ball only for her to refuse, coolly. It’s funny. I had such a different impression of Madame Marie’s relationship with the Loyal Assistants than the one painted by this collection of moments. She always spoke very highly of them and they always deferred to her authority on the rare occasions they hung around the house outside of the studio. I have always listened to the Advice and Community Segment, but supplemented with those moments I saw off the air I think I misunderstood the situation as of Madame Marie being truly in charge and nothing but respected.

I have the utmost respect for her but it seems in these brief moments Astrid did not. I miss her deeply, terribly. I wish I could talk to her about this. I’m not sure she would have answered but I’m certain the way she told me to stop asking questions would have been very reassuring.

The final instance of conversation about the Crystal Ball is a brief comment that most people seem to have missed, but was amazingly pointed out by Regular Caller Beth. In that instance, Astrid tells Madame Marie to move further away from the Crystal Ball because all she can see is her bloke. ‘Her bloke’. It’s curious, isn’t it?

As far as I know, Madame Marie hasn’t been on a single date since I’ve been alive. Of course, nobody knows the full extent of their parent’s private lives, but I’m sure I’d have noticed her leaving the house frequently enough for her to be seeing someone even semi-regularly for any extended period of time. I don’t leave the house, you see. Madame Marie says its not good for me.

As this crowd-sourced information search has been going so well for us, I’ll ask that if, by any chance, anyone was to know anything different about Madame Marie’s dating life, or what ‘her bloke’ might mean if it’s not about that, please write in to the show or else drop a comment on the forums to keep us all in the loop.

I really want to get to the bottom of how the Crystal Ball works. I have a blanket thrown over it now; every time I look at it for more than a second or two it pulls me in. Even with the blanket on it I find myself staring at it too often, too long, though I’m not actually seeing anything. And I need to know how the man in the flat cap and shell suit ended up in a memory that looked way too old for him to be dressed like that in it. Maybe it’s not really memories, maybe it’s thoughts, fantasies, that kind of thing? I don’t know. Probably useless for me to speculate. I do not have the knack for the spiritual stuff, as you all know very well.

//

Moving on to other things, then; several of you were asking questions about the house Kitty visited last week which she claimed we’d lived in during our childhood. She got home early the next morning and couldn’t remember going into the house, even when I played her back the clip from the show where she was telling me she’d been exploring it. She said she wished she had answers for me, but she doesn’t, so I’m afraid I don’t have any for you either, faithful listeners.

I think that’s all the Advice and Community housekeeping I have for you, faithful listeners!

This week, we’ve received a very interesting letter in our PO Box from a faithful listener writing in anonymously. Here’s what they have to say.

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Dear Madame Marie,

This is probably not the right place for this sort of letter. I’m not even sure if you’re going to read it, what with the amount of mail you must get. But writing what happened out like this is kind of cathartic. And I love your show, it really helps with my insomnia.

My wife and I own a food truck. How we got to this stage of our lives would take several more letters, so I’ll skip to a few months ago. My wife had just left her catering job, and I’d just quit in a suitably understated fashion from a call centre that was slowly leeching the life out of me. And we’d pooled enough of our savings to do something that my wife and I had been talking and planning for… Well, for a while. It’s just one of those crazy ideas that you talk about in bed together on a Sunday morning, the oh wouldn’t it be nice to have a food truck and we’d go to different festivals and rock up to farmer’s markets and everyone would love our food sort of idea. You know, the ones that really aren’t supposed to leave the bedroom, because that’s all that they are. Ideas, dreams.

Only this one ended up being a reality, and before I really knew what was going on I’d sold my car and we’d gone all in on a gently used food truck that we had to pick up from bloody Swansea. And ‘gently used’ my arse, we spent nearly a week getting it fit for use. But she was so happy that I didn’t care. Even on my hands and knees scrubbing weird unidentified grease out of the crevices of this food truck we’d spent all our savings on, I kind of thought… Yeah, alright, we can do this. We can do this.

My wife’s a bloody good cook. We just needed a concept that would catch. So we started out with a strictly vegan ethos with a Mexican fusion slant—my wife’s idea, I always joke that I’m the carnivore in the relationship. Did a few dry runs with family and friends, and then rolled up to the nearest farmer’s market and right into a colossal failure. Oh, sure, people liked the food. The four or so people who actually came to our food truck complimented it well enough. But there’s only so much a vegan Mexican fusion food truck can do to stand out against a sea of similarly themed food trucks. I could see that my wife took the blow really badly. If I had any sense, I would’ve gently said to pack up and call it quits.

‘Course, I’ve got no sense. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make my wife smile.

So I told her that we’d go to a festival, get a licence and everything. And next time, we’d pull it off.

Except we didn’t.

We’d just finished our most recent festival and hadn’t even broke even. We’d been living off what we couldn’t sell, donating the rest. The losses kept piling up, and there were bills to pay, and the awful sympathetic looks from family and friends. I could tell that it was breaking my wife’s heart. And I didn’t want to be the one to bring up the fact that the food truck hadn’t taken off like we’d hoped, but… One of us had to break the silence. And there was an evening where we’d been munching our way through veggie sushi tacos where I figured that we had to talk about it. But before I could say anything, she held up a hand. There was something so determined in her eyes, that spark that made me fall head over heels all those years ago.

She said “I need to go on a short trip. You gonna be okay by yourself for the weekend?” And I could tell that she knew what I was going to say. I figured she needed the time to herself, so I just shrugged and smiled and took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Sure,” I said “but I think we’re gonna have to talk about this when you get back.” And she nodded like she agreed with me, and the next day she took her car and drove off to… I don’t know where. I thought that would be it.

Only it wasn’t.

She came back in a white van. No clue where she got it from. It had a massive freezer inside, one of those giant ones that open up like some sort of futuristic coffin. And there were these guys helping her shift it, big lads too, didn’t say much—or anything, really, not even when I offered them a cuppa. They brought out these pre-wrapped cuts of meat, vacuum-sealed, and then stack after stack of frozen burgers. I kind of just stood in the doorway, and then to one side so they could get that bloody freezer in, and my wife just… Stood there. She wasn’t smiling. She didn’t know that I was looking. Her jaw was set, and there was something so steely in her eyes. I almost didn’t recognise her, in that starched apron with her hair all tied back beneath that blue hairnet. She was like a stranger.

That evening, when the lads and their van had left, she shooed me out of the kitchen. Said she wanted it to be a surprise. Whatever she was making, it smelt amazing. She came out of the kitchen a few hours later with a platter of burgers. All meat. The confusion must have shown in my face because she laughed and said she’d work on the veggie options later. She told me to try a bite out of each one—this one lamb, this one beef, this one pulled pork—and not a word of a lie, each one was delicious. The meat was perfect. Succulent, juicy, with a texture that just melted on the tongue. Like wagyu, but there was no bloody way we could’ve afforded that. She asked me to be honest with her, and I was. They were the best burgers I’d ever had. She full on teared up and hugged me tight, stroking through my hair, mumbling through kisses: “We’re gonna make it, baby. Just give me this one more run, and if it doesn’t work out we can pack up for good, I promise.”

I can’t say no to my wife, and she knows it. So, I nodded, and she hugged me all the tighter, and… God, it felt like I was doing the wrong thing, leading her on like that, when I knew that these burgers would go the same way as every other venture we’d tried.

But we rocked up to the next farmer’s market anyway, and I braced myself for the worst. Instead, we were swamped. Easily the most visited food truck. People were queuing around the other vans for it. And I’ll admit, it was great. It is great. The money is good, and I’m decent at grilling the burgers now so my wife can have a break.

My wife never lets me access that massive freezer when she’s not there. She padlocks it shut and keeps the key on her at all times. And at first I thought, hey, meat’s expensive, but I’ve been doing our finances, and… It’s really not. It’s cheap, far cheaper than the mulched-together mince you normally see in store-brand burgers. And for how good it tastes, the texture… It doesn’t add up. She gets the meat delivered, and get this. It’s the same white van, the same lads unloading the van, and it’s at odd hours too. Last one came at four in the morning. Whenever I bring it up, she just won’t engage. Hands me a burger and tells me to take a bite. Or kisses me quiet. And I’m too much of a sap to tell her how I really feel. But she’s happy, right? And I’d do anything to make my wife smile.

Only, last night. When I was locking up the van, I had one of the leftover burgers. When I bit into it, something weird stuck to my tongue. It crunched. I spat it out and washed it clean, and I’ve been sitting here staring at it for the past few hours.

I’m pretty sure it’s a human fingernail.

Anyway, any advice would be appreciated.

From, Mrs Concerned Food truck

//

Well, Mrs Concerned Food Truck, I’m not sure how much advice I can give you as this does not seem strictly concerned with the Arcane, so I’m assuming the reason you’ve written in to us is because you have nowhere else to turn. There are ways you may be able to… uh, convince your wife into telling you the truth about where she’s sourcing the meat for the truck, but I’m afraid I don’t really know how that sort of thing is done.

The other thing is you can try to consult a tarot deck about this issue, which I would offer to do for you, but as I’ve explained before, I don’t have a proper deck at the moment as mine has been confiscated, and the only one I do have access to is strange, and, I don’t know. I’ll give it a go, anyway. So I’m just going to act like it’s a normal deck and go for a one card draw as that’s all I’d really mastered before, so let see where we get with this.

I’ll shuffle the deck, draw a card, place it face down and. It’s one of those shiny ones. The field of corn with the animal carcass in it. I’m not really sure what that means. The card doesn’t have a name printed on like tarot cards usually do. Its just the image. I think the animal is a cow but it’s hard to tell as its in a pretty advanced state of decomposition. Maybe this means it’s beef but. Bad beef? Beef that doesn’t meet regulation standards? Beef stolen from cows that drop dead in corn fields? I don’t know. Or perhaps it means it’s not beef at all and is in fact made from corn, somehow.

This doesn’t really explain the… fingernail…

Unless it’s corn husk?

I fear I may have just given you more questions there, rather than hinting towards any answers.

At any rate, this was the only thing in the PO Box this week, and everyone on the forums has been pretty diligent about collating information rather than writing in with their own queries, which I thank you for, but I do want to say that this is supposed to be the Advice and Community Segment, not the Help Sam Scrape By as Show Host segment, though of course I am extremely grateful it’s supposed to be me helping you, not the other way around.

My skills are limited, of course, but if I’m to convince Madame Marie to let me stay working on the show a bit when she gets back, I really need to up my game, I think! I’ll be spending the next we or so studying the LBBM, and doing what I can to plug up any gaps in my knowledge. Remember to post on the forums if you’re planning on attempting to commune with the dead to avoid any mix-ups where possible! Thank you for tuning in to Spirit Box Radio. I’ve been Sam Enfield, and I wish you all a restful night.