Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help

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9780385660808: Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help

No one except Milrose Munce knows that ghosts of former students live in his school. Not only is Milrose aware of these ghouls – he’s on a first-name basis with all of them. Of course, some are more likeable than others: the third floor is the home to nearly all of his good friends. Most of them – like Imploded Ig, Deeply Damaged Dave, and Toasted Theresa – were the victims of science experiments gone wrong though they do manage to maintain a sense of humour about their demise. Then there are the ghost athletes who lurk in the basement – a pretty disagreeable group, the majority of them having died after a particularly clumsy manoeuvre on the school’s sports field.

After Milrose is given yet another detention for offering his teacher an answer that was just a bit too clever, his life takes an unexpected turn. He is sent to a hidden den in the school’s basement to receive Professional Help. Here, he and the quick-witted Arabella, a fellow captive, are put under round-the-clock supervision of the maniacal Massimo Natica. Fortunately for Milrose and Arabella, once they join forces with their ghostly friends, Massimo Natica doesn’t stand a chance.

In the tradition of Edward Gorey and Roald Dahl, the dark comedy and imaginative brilliance of Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help will appeal to adults as much as it will to younger readers.

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About the Author:

Douglas Anthony Cooper is the author of two critically acclaimed novels for adults, Delirium and Amnesia. An author, playwright, photographer, web designer, and artist, his writing and photography have appeared in New York Magazine, Wired, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and The Village Voice. He has won several national awards in the US and in Canada for his feature-length articles.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Milrose Munce was on fine terms with the dead. Some of his best friends were, in fact, long deceased. They were magnificently repulsive, and did their best to keep him entertained.

Milrose did sometimes wonder whether his school produced more dead students than the average. Perhaps it did. On the other hand, adolescence was hilariously perilous on the whole, and it was a wonder those idyllic years failed to claim even more lives. Milrose himself was lucky to have survived numerous death-defying acts of everyday youth. So perhaps other schools were equally stuffed with vile wandering ghosts. It would also make sense if this were not a well-known fact–Milrose could imagine the staff doing their best not to emphasize fatality rates in meetings with parents. Certainly, precise figures regarding the prematurely departed never seemed to make it into the brochures.

Not that Milrose Munce was the least distressed by the impressive population of hideous wraiths in his own school. Life would be so much less interesting without death.

Milrose was on especially fine terms with the disgusting apparitions on the third floor. Other floors were less friendly, true: the ghouls in the school basement, for instance, were a touch wary of him. Milrose sympathized. He knew that his mere presence served to make them feel inadequate and uncomfortable. Milrose Munce was, you see–through no fault of his own–intelligent. Basement ghouls, who liked to lurk in lockers, were generally athletes who had done something exceptionally stupid on the playing field and had died a gruesome death as a result. They were not always pleased to be confronted with a boy who was, unfairly, still alive at fifteen and who was–even worse–a dire athlete and not at all dense.

Milrose was not particularly well loved on the second floor, either. The ghosts on that floor were not precisely hostile, but they were just as full of themselves as dead athletes, and possibly even less talented. Milrose, who did not take many things very seriously (himself, especially), found these pompous phantoms unbearable.

Poisoned Percy was typical of the second-floor ghosts. Percy had died while attempting to fake suicide. He had hoped that this performance would make him famous as a poet: that once he were revived in hospital, the literary world would take his suffering seriously and recite his verses at funerals. In fact, the only funeral at which his poems were ever recited was his own, where the audience ground their teeth throughout the ceremony in an attempt not to grimace. The sound of grinding teeth occasionally drowned out the reader.

Percy, typically of the second floor, had no sense of humour regarding his life’s unpleasant conclusion. He had been careful to leave a bottle marked “Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)” beside him, after swallowing pills secretly removed from an entirely different, less poisonous, bottle marked “Vitamin C.” No, he had never been the sort of boy to laugh at his own shortcomings, and when the pellets he dramatically swallowed turned out not to be Vitamin C but instead expensive first-class rat poison, he was deeply annoyed. His mother always felt kind of awful about her decision to store rodenticide in a vitamin bottle, but these things are not easy to remedy after the fact.

When Milrose encountered Percy, the pale poet would only sometimes condescend to take notice of the living boy. “Oh, Munce . . . there you are. How’s life?”

Milrose would shrug. “Fine. How’s death?”

“Droll, Munce.”

Milrose insisted upon calling the ghost Percy, which was short for his given name, Percival. Percy insisted that his real name was Parsifal, but nobody believed him.

Yesterday, Milrose had run into Percy on the way to Math, and–against his better judgment–decided to chat. Being late for Math was something Milrose occasionally enjoyed, and yesterday had felt like the right kind of day to be irresponsible.

“So, you working on stuff that’s fresh, Poisson?”

“Always. A poet is always working. Even when I sleep, I am at work. It is my whole being. I am now writing an epic poem, if you must know. It will be . . . epic.”

“I forget. Does epic mean ‘long,’ or ‘dull’? Or both?”

“It means deeply moving. And my theme in particular will move even the coarsest soul to tears.”

“Even mine, huh.” Milrose sighed. “Um, all right. What’s the theme?”



“Digestion. And its enemy: indigestion. I’ll read you what I have so far.”

“Kind of busy today, Perce.”

“It’s only seventy-two pages. And the name’s Parsifal.”

“Decent of you to think of me. But I’m no critic. And I’m really busy, in fact.”

Percy had removed a thick, ominous manuscript from his prissy school bag. While he was arranging the pages, however, and clearing his throat, the bell had rung.

“Sorry, Perce. Never been late for Math. Famous for it: never being late. Gotta run.”

Percy barely had time to utter the words “The Flavour of Indigestion, An Epic Poem in Twelve Parts,” before his victim had achieved safe haven in the stairwell.

The dear decayed on the third floor were nothing like the dull dead on the floors below. These were most often the victims of science experiments gone wrong, and they had a sense of humour regarding their untimely mistakes.

Cryogenic Kelvin, for example, had assumed that a cup of liquid nitrogen would make for a refreshing cool drink. His professor had been too busy dissecting a giant carnivorous slug to notice that Kelvin was turning an interesting shade of blue and was growing wet with condensation. When Kelvin began to emit a crackling noise, Professor Pointell finally noticed him. “Kelvin, you’re not looking well. Why don’t you take
a seat.”

Kelvin bent to sit down, and immediately shattered into ice cubes, which melted mournfully all over the floor.

Cryogenic Kelvin, dead and cheerful, had a good attitude towards his final mistake. “Yeah, well . . . it’s because Caroline Corduroy broke my heart. I mean, she also broke my liver, my kidneys, my eyeballs, and my spleen. But whatever. I thought she was pretty hot.” Kelvin would pause, like a professional comic. “Guess she found me kind of cold.”

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Cooper, Douglas Anthony
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Douglas Anthony Cooper
Published by Doubleday Canada (2007)
ISBN 10: 0385660804 ISBN 13: 9780385660808
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