WHISPER YOUR NAME INTO MY HEART (7)

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Chapitre VII ~ LES ACOLYTES

(The Devoted Attendants)

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rotocol on behalf of my Wedding Entourage is left to Etienne the young Captain of Our Guard.  Etienne is officially chagrined because I, Giselle, a daughter of the King do not properly represent the King.  And yet I carry Etienne’s yearning eye as I ride away.  Chanson my beloved horse needs no urging to pursue poor Magge into the Monastery courtyard.  The four acolytes who had been signified by the commanding finger of the Thirteenth Monk lead poor Magge away.  Together we arrive at the Infirmary which is a separate house.

        The acolytes gently dismount Magge from her horse.  A tear is forged by me for each of poor Magge’s sharp inhalations.  As they lead her inside they remove from her the hooded cloak that is heavy with dampness.   Revealed on the back of her garments is a dark cloud of stain.  The wounds from her whipping are exhaling her very life.

        With shocking boldness the four acolytes do conspire and then do remove all of Magge’s attire.  She is being held naked and barely conscious next to a stone pool of gently steaming liquid.  There must be a furnace below or within the stone.  The acolytes remove their own clothing while balancing Magge in a skillful ballet.   They step into the pool, lowering Magge in a cruciform pose.  Magge starts with a gasp as the warm unctuous water slowly submerges her body up to her neck.  Her eyes are rolling now and do not seem to focus.  Her eyelids descend slowly as my own eyes yet widen in anguish for her.

        The acolyte who steadies Magge’s head against his shoulder and cheek speaks to me soothingly, saying ~ These waters are a medicinal concoction.  They extinguish putrefaction and bind the skin. ~

        Another, younger, acolyte is steadying Magge’s legs and he speaks enthusiastically, saying to me ~ These waters also preserve the dead for burial. ~

        The first acolyte glances at me and then he glares at the younger acolyte and he hisses, saying, ~ You mean for Resurrection, Quattuor!  I am sorry Your Highness.  Quattuor is young and yet unenlightened.  Your Highness, I am Tredecim, and we are all servants to The Incorruptibles, servants to Your Highness, and servants to God. ~

        Quattuor, whose pride is now injured, speaks, saying, ~ But servants to Tredecim first of all! ~

        They laugh gently at Tredecim’s predicament.  I speak to them, saying, ~ Are all of you named as Latin numbers? ~

        They all nod and mumble affirmatively, saying, ~ It is a Rite of Humility, Your Highness. ~

        The acolyte at Magge’s left hand speaks, saying, ~ I am Duae. ~

        The acolyte at Magge’s right hand speaks, saying, ~ I am Sedecim. ~

        I now watch Magge’s face slowly transforming from death mask to sleeping maiden as her body imbibes the warm medicinal bath.  For the first time since her excoriation I have a whisper of hope for Magge.

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WORD TO THE WISE

word to the wise combo 1 - crop 1

WORD TO THE WISE

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Every word was once a poem

–            Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the beginning was the Word

–            The Bible, John 1:1

‘Nigger’ is today the ugliest word in evocation

‘Cunt’ is today the ugliest word in personification

–            You gave me your word.

‘Forgive’ is today the loveliest word in evocation

‘Angel’ is today the loveliest word in personification

–            I give you my word.

        In the tree-lined parking lot of the Edwards Multiplex Theater sat Clarissa and her girlfriend Skylar eating hamburgers in the shade of the lavender tree beside Clarissa’s black VW Beetle.  Clarissa chewed and listened thoughtfully as Skylar talked.

        Skylar, who was short and plump, wore shoulder-length hair dyed dark brown with a crown of orange.  Skylar, who with round face, Asian eyes, and flamingo eye-shadow, stuck out her chin as she spoke.  Skylar who wore a blue plaid flannel shirt and dark blue jeans was saying, “So like my mother was asking me ‘are you straight, or are you gay?’ and so like you know how when I argue I get into it, I don’t back down?  And you know my mom is like old-school Korean?”

        Clarissa, grinning with her mouth full of hamburger as Skylar’s eyes pleaded for acquiescence, nodded to Skylar and then Skylar continued, “So I was all like ‘what does it matter?’, I’m like totally straight but like I told her about how those girls at Stefano’s party were like checking me out, remember, so what?  And my mom was all like ‘why can’t you be normal?’ and I was all like ‘what, and hate everyone?’  And then my mom was crying, and my step-father came in and said like ‘get out of your mother’s sight’ and so I am like, fuck you, this is my house before it will ever be your house and everything so I just left,” and Skylar, shaking her head, finally stopped talking to take a bite of her hamburger.

        It was Clarissa’s cue to speak.

        Clarissa who was short and slender and ebony wore her dark hair pulled back and it lay between her shoulder blades.  Clarissa who had full lips and a narrow nose that held up her averting eyes as she spoke stood up crumpling the empty hamburger bag.  Clarissa who wore a tight cotton logo T-shirt that said Mulatta Soul and dark blue jeans was saying simply, “You can stay with me anytime.”

        Skylar replied with a plug of hamburger in her mouth, saying mutedly as she then also arose, “Clarissa, you are an Angel.  You forgive everybody,” and she followed Clarissa to the trash receptacle on the theater walkway.

        Clarissa stuffed the crumpled bag into the receptacle, saying philosophically, “All that shit drama; it’s all yesterday’s trash, so just get rid of it.”

        Skylar’s mouth had to speak, full of the last hamburger bite, saying, “But I called you like a ‘nigger cunt’ right in front of Stefano just because he called me a ‘cunt’, ha ha, when I was winning that argument about sexism and I knew he likes you and I knew that you like agree with me and I am like so totally sorry but you never say anything.”

        Clarissa sighed, “Skylar, if I carried around all the words that everyone wanted to lay on me I would be a…,” suddenly laughing, “Don’t you say it, Skylar, it’s not funny!”

        Skylar grinned slyly saying, “Iggernunt?”

        Skylar took Clarissa’s hand and together they went into the theater to see Word to the Wise starring you, dear reader.

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POLARITY

polarity

POLARITY

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        Do you remember the question you asked me when I first asked you for a job as a Pole Dancer at this club: Why do women have so much power when they are young?

        Well, then you surely remember your answer: Because they have so little when they are old.

        You still think like that?  At the Vancouver Peace Summit 2009, the Dalai Lama said, “The world will be saved by the western woman.”  And look at this:

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        Weakness, frailty and demure reticence are no longer sexy. What’s sexy now are flexibility and power. Innate power. The pole is a metaphor for self-sufficiency. What do we do on the pole after all, but support our own body weight, support ourselves while we flow and soar in organic, sensual feminine movement?

        The pole is a masculine, okay I’ll say it, phallic symbol. It is sturdy and solid, and well, rigid. The pole dancer uses feminine energy to move around the pole. Leaning on the rigidity of the pole makes all those cool circular, spinning tricks possible.

–        T. S. Valenzuela | Editor In Chief, VERTICAL

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        So why are you making me retire?  Is it my age?  My followers cannot tell how old I am… unless they try to estimate from my 2012 Miss World Online Pole Dance Championship.  Do you think I’m “too old to pole”?  Black women age beautifully!  And I’m still the best at Presentation, Performance, and Tricks.

        Say huh?

        You want me to coach the Pole Dance Olympic Team?  Shee-it.  Is that another one of your fucking lousy jokes?  Cause you aren’t funny.

        Say huh?

        And how much would that pay?

        I make twice that.

        Yes, yes I do.  I’m Magdelisha!  Magdelisha has some very important gentlemen followers and you know it.

        And how much is this club… are you going to make off of me coaching an Olympic Team?  Of course, so that’s why you are making me “retire”.  I’ll go to another club, you motherfucker.”

        Yes I will.

        I will not “shut the fuck up”.

        I swear I will walk out of here.

        You motherfucker.  Bitch, you wouldn’t.  If you tell them what I really am… if you say you fired me for that they will kill me.  If they kill me you lose too, Bitch.

        Don’t act like you don’t care.  I’ll tell them about both of us first!

        OK, OK.  Yes.  I agree, I agree.  Gawd A’mighty, what is wrong with us?  We don’t need to persecute ourselves.

        I have a Pole Dance routine I call Two Spirits that protests the notion of only men and women.

        Yes.  I liked that slogan at the conference in Winnipeg, too: “All Drums Welcome”.

        You are the one who told me about the Hindu Hijra, neither men nor women, you know, and how the almighty god Krishna became a woman himself to marry that warrior, you know, who wanted a wife before he sacrificed himself to the gods.

        Yes.  Yes.  I remember.  Anne Fausto-Sterling did say it best in The Five Sexes.

        I’m sorry, too.

        Hug?

        Yes I do think it is funny.  Shee-it.  Look at the two of us.  Around and around we go.

        Whatever we are, I love you, too.

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HUNTING FOR YOUR SKIN

HUNTING FOR YOUR SKIN

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“Death is nothing at all … Nothing is past, nothing is lost

One brief moment and all will be as it was before

How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again.”

 – English theologian Henry Scott Holland

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        I am Judice.  It is a golden morning.  The upper-desert breeze is cool on my face and it whispers in my ear.  I hear a bird singing.  I take a deep breath.  Sitting so still is hard.  But I can see why those hairy guru weirdos like it.  You can see things you never noticed.  The desert is so delicate and sharp.

        Here he comes.  At this distance he looks like a bouncing ball!  He is golden with shades of grey like the morning desert all around him.  How funny.  He’s bouncing on all fours like a cartoon coyote.  He’s glancing left and right like he’s saying good morning to other desert critters.  He’s still coming towards us.  I hear the bird singing.

        Jacey told my mom and dad that coyote skins are going for about $30.  This coyote is young, big and healthy.  He should be worth even more.

        The coyote suddenly stops and seems to be staring in our direction.

        Coyotes are very keen on noise and movement and they have great noses.

 

        I hold my breath.  I hear the bird singing and it sounds too loud.  But the coyote decides to continue in our general direction at an angle far to our right.  I bite my lip to keep from snickering because he is so funny as he bounces on all fours, la-dee-dah.  But I keep my eye and my rifle as one and the same.

        Jacey blows softly on a little closed-reed coyote caller, making a sound like a jackrabbit in distress.  We all keep rabbits to eat.  I remember how surprised I was when I found out they scream.

        The coyote stops again and stares in our direction.  He is face-on towards me.

        “Now,” whispers Jacey, the word barely rising above the cool desert breeze in my ear.

        My rifle sounds like a door slamming in that peaceful desert.  I smell a sweet savor.  I see a mist of blood burst from the coyote’s right shoulder under his chin.  He drops on his side and rolls onto his back.  It isn’t like in the movies.  No dramatic staggering.  It’s like he was snatched down by the earth to witness the sky.  His head rolls from side to side in slow motion.  I suddenly imagine that I can hear him thinking, “Oh, my God, what happened to me?”

        There are several reasons for hunting coyote.  If you enjoy hunting it allows off-season hunts… they are a nuisance in some areas

        Coyotes seem to become more active right before a storm front moves in.

        Jacey hugs my shoulders and kisses my chin as we get up and go over to the coyote, “I love you, Judice.  Jesus loves you.”

        The Christian Harvest Outdoor Ministries offers fully guided hunts in a delightful Christian atmosphere.

        Jacey is the Student Ministry Team Leader.  Jacey would have to be impressed with this kill.  I really like her.  This has done it, I can tell.  She was saved at the age of ten, but I want Jacey to like me as more than just another Self-Confrontation Disciple.  I want to be special.  This coyote showed her I can do it.

God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

        Jacey is looking down at the coyote’s final volitions.  The cool desert breeze pets the coyote’s fur.  It is a fine kill.  The coyote’s fur is truly golden with shades of grey.  And Jacey never looked so beautiful.  The golden morning, the sweet silence, the perfect kill: This moment is so perfect for us.  I just want to kiss her skin.

        I embrace Jacey and she pretends to be startled.  I kiss her chin.  I try to kiss her mouth.  She pretends to push away.  I hold her dearly.

        Jacey cries, “Stop it, Judice!  What are you thinking?”

        Jacey struggles backwards, staring wide-eyed into my face.

        Jacey cries, “For God’s sake, what is wrong with you?  For the love of Jesus, are you a God damned lesbian?  Leave me ALONE!” and Jacey forcefully renounces my embrace.  Her face is now red-veined meat contorted in revulsion.

        I cry, “Jacey, what?  You don’t hate me!  We love each other!  You said so!” but Jacey covers her mouth with both hands and whips her head side to side, denying me.  Denying everything I offer her.  Everything.

        What have I done?  “Oh, God,” I gag as fall to my knees.  Why are you forsaking me, Jacey?  I am crying, “Why are you doing this, Jacey?!”  Oh, God, oh, God, here comes pain.  Such pain!  I am crying.  I am going to vomit.

        Jacey is slowly backing up, abandoning me.  Jacey doesn’t care.  I hiss breathlessly in pain, “Don’t you care at all?”

        I pick-up my rifle, rising onto one knee, “If I can’t have you…”, now what am I going to do?!  I scream, “What am I supposed to do?!”

        I aim the rifle at her, the barrel is shaking, my eyes are burning.  Jacey raises her hands and clasps them in front of her face as she backs up.  Suddenly, she falls down backwards and then turns over and scrabbles away on her hands and knees screaming, “Help me, Jesus!”

        I glance down at the coyote as he gazes so peacefully into eternity.  I turn my rifle, taking the muzzle with my left hand and I hold it into my right eye pressing it against the skin of my closed eyelid.

        With my right thumb on the trigger I vow my final volition, “ ”

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ORCHARD OF THE GOLDEN APPLES

orchard of the golden apples

ORCHARD OF THE GOLDEN APPLES

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        She never let him cut her.

        Docteur Beau Tétravaux, who is the creator deity of The California Beauty Factory, may have been chosen to co-host the annual Golden Apples Pageant for The Most Divine, but Selendra refuses cosmetic surgery.

        The California Beauty Factory is a universe and Dr. Beau Tétravaux is its Big Bang.  It is a Régime of distaff discipline, diction, discourse, diet, depilation, deportment, demeanor, dance, dysmorphia, and doinking, indeed.

        Dr. Beau Tétravaux is warning Selendra, “You do know that you are going to be dans les concurrents supérieurs (within the top contestants), don’t you?  Mousse, Victoria, Chera, and you, ma chérie, each of you are so ‘sure’ that you are the fairest creation since the Un-Do Button.”

        Selendra asks, “And what does Señora Espejo think?”  Señora Espejo has long been associated with the Golden Apples pageantry.  She is Dr. Beau Tétravaux’s gadfly counterpart with her Manhood Academy.  Señora Espejo’s famous quote is:

In this world, that which is truly important is no longer left to chance.  You can live by the Design of Nature, or you can live by the Nature of Design.  Those who live by the Design of Nature want and those who live by the Nature of Design give.

        Dr. Beau Tétravaux is dismissive, “Señora Espejo?  What is she to you?  What she thinks about women is mode à reculons (fashion backwards).”

        Selendra taunts, “And yet she is co-hosting the Apples with you; won’t that make her a hectoring reflection?”

        Dr. Beau Tétravaux puckers, “Ooooo, if only Wit were a Talent Category: you wouldn’t have to rely on your Freestyle Rap performance.”

        Selendra waves away his piqûres (jabs), asking, “So, what do you have for me today?”

        Dr. Beau Tétravaux leers, “A Trojan horse.”  For it is Dr. Beau Tétravaux who instructs the Bed Test course himself.

        Selendra blushes at the coup.

        Selendra was enrolled as a young girl into The California Beauty Factory by her father, Kebenaran Dunia, the CEO of Avidya Communications.  He would always say to her “Beauty is currency in this world.”

        Selendra’s mother had objected to that enrollment, saying, “Women are only the currency of your ambition.”

        Kebenaran soothed, “I should have said that femininity, the feminine principle, is the currency of our world.  Beauty is its denomination,” and tilting his head to her in a calculated move from his youth, “You are my treasure.”

        Selendra’s mother would not be soothed, “I am your wife, the mother of that child.”

        Kebenaran grew ominously conciliatory, “I am sure that you do not forget history.  When tribes, and even states, encountered one another they exchanged beautiful women and beautiful men to purchase the peace between them.  Would you return us to the masculine principle of War?  Although, War was once indeed the sole forge for the greatest material advances of Man: flight, food preservation, the internet, virtual sex, …”

        Selendra’s mother dared to challenge, pronouncing, “Woman is the forge of Man’s soul.  And what is this Man’s world now but warfare dissimulated?  Men like you have fouled the forge, creating this world to stave off the feared obsolescence of your own version of masculinity!”

        Kebenaran’s jaws grew tight, annealing fury, saying, “You sound like a Leper,” using the common slang term for those who still believed in the Design of Nature.”

        Selendra’s mother must have known the consequences of her words, and yet she spoke, “Any sufficiently advanced concept is feminine.  You yourself say ‘It is so easy a woman could do it’.  It is the emblem of excellence, of elegant design.  You know it, you admit it without realizing, and yet you have found a way to arrogate power.  You men are all afraid, aren’t you?”

        Selendra’s mother was banished by her father soon thereafter for such opposition.  Her mother had been a ’38 Beauty Factory mint.  Kebenaran was then legally owed and received a full refund of bridewealth from The California Beauty Factory.  Dr. Beau Tétravaux had told Kebenaran by way of apology, “Sometimes this can happen.  It is the risk of the liberal education that is a standard feature,” to which Kebenaran had muttered, “Perhaps you should consider redesigning your approach to their education.  It could be a commercial advantage and a good selling point for The California Beauty Factory,” an idea which Dr. Beau Tétravaux raised at the next board meeting, stating, “Competition from others, especially the state-owned Venezuelan Beauty Factory, is stiffer than a Viagra overdose.”

        Selendra now imagines the men and women of great power and wealth who await the winners of the Golden Apples.  They bid for immediate ownership.  Lesser men and women await lesser graduates of The Beauty Factory in all the franchise showroom runways, bidding to qualify for a mort gaige (death pledge), an old term for “until death parts us”.

        Selendra has heard from a secret  Leper friend that her mother now lives in a Hindu monastery.  Selendra lately dreamed of her mother, asking in that dream, “Mother, is this dream of you a sign of my weakness?” and in that dream her mother replied, “Do not doubt yourself.  It is I who have dreamt you.  My dearest Selendra, you are going to be a ’57 Beauty Factory, minted for joy.”

        One need only pass unscarred through the orchard of the Golden Apples.

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TWILIGHT IN PARIS

08 twilight in paris - crop1

TWILIGHT IN PARIS

          By the April of this year Anno Domini 937 it has already been a long season of drought unpromising to the village of Paris.  The Seine River has disavowed the Island of the Village, which is the archaic appellation of the Île de la Cité, and now it travels furtively past in veins of sandy banks.

          Twilight has come for this day ending.  Sister Alyssa emerges from the Couvent du Vaisseau Saint convent, crossing from that tomb of angels on toward the tumult of men.  The nascent evening cooking fires are redeeming the pungent exhale of the village.  Sister Alyssa walks carefully and gently as if balancing herself traversing that village of Paris and then she passes on down toward the desolation of the Seine River.

          She touches the crucifix of lead suspended upon the hide strip around her neck.  Sister Alyssa wears the habit of un-dyed lamb’s wool.  She carries a small sack woven of rough cloth.  Turning in the twilight she looks back toward the convent.  Seeing no one, Sister Alyssa removes her coif to free her roughly shorn hair and then turns her face away from the convent once again.  She now steps with intent toward the block of marble uncovered by the receding Seine near the edge of one small channel.

          This block of marble is the remains of a Roman altar, as she has deduced during the previous evening pursuant the few archaic Latin figures exposed and eroding, “Romulus et Remus.”  She seats herself upon those pagan remains and gazes upstream toward the forests of the Langres plateau, the dark womb of the Seine River.

          Sister Alyssa is petite but her mind is grande.  Flowing back to her youthful decision to become a nun, she remembers the suppliant men.  She could never have given her mind in slavery to any such rough husband.  But by that inability she was then left with only one other destiny in her humble and poor life: she married the Church to have protection and some solace.  But the Church has proven to be a rough husband.  Within the convent is the hierarchy ruled by women from the wealthy families.  And the knowledge provided is carefully sieved by the Church hierarchy.  It has become a distasteful diet to Sister Alyssa.

          She places the rough cloth sack upon her lap and unfolds it.  Thereupon are a small loaf of bread and a portion of roasted lamb tongue.  It is because of the drought that the villagers are sacrificing their starving livestock in an ongoing pyrrhic festival and donating portions to the convent.

          Sister Alyssa pinches a piece of the bread and purses her mouth and thinks without thinking, “Take, eat; this is My body.”  She peals a strip of lamb tongue, “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.”

          Chewing the lamb tongue, Sister Alyssa finally thinks, “I thirst”.  She arises, turning to set her repast upon the ruined altar.  She then approaches the water.  She lowers herself to both knees and bows onto her hands, closing her eyes for to sip, thinking, “The living water,” as her dangling crucifix dips unnoticed into the gentle vortex.

          Still on her hands and knees she slowly opens her eyes and contentedly raises her head, when suddenly she utters, “But what is that?”, having spied a four-legged silhouette far up the sandy shore.  She thinks without thinking, “A dog joins me.”

          Out of the approaching silhouette now emerge two liquid yellow eyes that fix upon her.  Sister Alyssa sits back stricken by a bolt of fear and clutches her damp dangling crucifix.

          It is a black wolf.

          Sister Alyssa’s mind observes through a frost of fear that the black wolf is thin and its coat is disheveled with hunger and thirst.  It has followed the river down from the forest in desperation.

          The relentless stare of those yellow eyes is suddenly averted and the wolf turns toward the water and bows to lap greedily at the water.  His long fangs gleam under his curling lip.  Sister Alyssa thaws her fear enough to rise cautiously and she steps backwards toward the exposed ruins of the pagan altar.  She realizes now that she is clutching her dangling crucifix with one hand and a river stone with the other and her lips are fluttering in prayer.

          The wolf has slaked the thirst but not the hunger and he lifts his head back toward Sister Alyssa.  His lutescent gaze presses into her eyes as he approaches.  She believes that she actually can feel his animal desires.  With another jolt of fear she has the sensation of, of…surrender!  Her mind is crying out for panic but she stands.  She releases the river stone and then feels behind herself for the roasted lamb tongue.  Touching upon the lamb’s tongue her fingers embrace it and her arm casts it toward the black wolf.

          The wolf reacts with a frighteningly sanguinary skill and captures the lamb’s tongue in its jaws.  With three chomps he has swallowed the offering.  Sister Alyssa imagines that she can feel that carnivorous lust, hot, wet and like a dagger penetrating her own flesh.  She wanes faint.

          But the wolf abruptly turns back to the darkness up the river and departs.  Sister Alyssa cannot see the motion of his silhouette any longer when suddenly the candles of those two yellow eyes alight back toward her one last time.  After that she can no longer feel his presence at all.  She closes her eyes as her fear shudders away.

          Sister Alyssa replaces her coif and returns through the living darkness, proceeding up the bank toward her convent.  A man’s voice calls to her and she turns.  It is the young Reynard, on sentry duty for the Paris marshalcy.  Sister Alyssa sees him as lofty and sinewy for a moment before she sacrifices forbidden perceptions.

          Reynard speaks, “Sister, it is not safe to be down at the river in darkness.”

          Alyssa answers, “Yes.  You have told me before, jeune homme,” and she smiles.

          Reynard smiles briefly and then puts back his professional façade of gravity, sternly saying, “Even a nun is not safe, Alyssa… Sister Alyssa.”

          Alyssa juts her chin in mock defiance, “Sinner, do you not believe that the Lord will protect me?”

          Reynard responds, “Sister Alyssa, I believe that we must carry Providence upon our own shoulders.  But I am not much of a theologian…”

          Sister Alyssa laughs involuntarily and touches Reynard’s elbow, “God’s Witness, Ma Dame Berthildis says the same of me.”

          Reynard nods, “I shall accompany you to the parvis of Couvent du Vaisseau Saint.”

          They walk slower than necessary together and Sister Alyssa thinks of the suppliant young men she once deflected.  Arriving at the convent Reynard bows to her and then he continues jauntily on his patrol of the village.

          Entering the candlelit parvis Sister Alyssa is startled to encounter Sister Superior Ma Dame Berthildis. Sister Alyssa bows and then trembles with an unrealized guilt.

          Ma Dame Berthildis narrows her eyes, “Where have you been this evening, Sister Alyssa?  And why are you blushing?”

          Sister Alyssa speaks quickly, “Ma Dame Berthildis, I took my supper near the river so that I might pray for an end to this terrible drought.  And a walk in the evening air can be invigorating.”

          Ma Dame Berthildis says ominously, “Many things out in that sinful world can be invigorating, Sister Alyssa.  Do not be concerned with appeasing your flesh.  As for this drought, it is certainly God’s judgment upon Paris.  Therefore be certain that you pray instead for your Compréhension, my dear, dear Sister Alyssa.  And in so doing, ma novice impudent, leave to me and the other Sister Superiors the salvation of Paris.  Sister Alyssa, know this also: I have been watching you.”

          Sister Alyssa asks defensively, “Ma Dame Berthildis, what do you mean?”

          Ma Dame Berthildis replies, “Why should you fear my watching you?”

          Sister Alyssa qualifies, “Ma Dame Berthildis, no, it is not that I fear… I mean…”

          Ma Dame Berthildis says with finality, “Sister Alyssa, you will not be the first wayward young nun I have cast back to her true desires.  Compréhension, my dear, dear Sister Alyssa, Compréhension, yes?”

          Sister Alyssa bows very deeply, saying, “Ma Dame Berthildis, I assure you it shall be as you wish, I mean as God wishes … but of course as you wish as well…”

          Ma Dame Berthildis says with exasperation, “Good night, Sister Alyssa.”

          And yet that same night upon her hard bed Sister Alyssa helplessly makes a vow to go to the pagan altar again upon the very next evening twilight.

          And so it comes to be that she does this as if enchanted, retracing her steps and manners, assuring herself that she is unobserved in this profane rendezvous, telling herself again and again that only a fool wishing to dance with death would fain conjure a resurrection of the evening before, you foolish relapsing nun, and yet she does carry her communion of bread and meat.

          Sister Alyssa seats herself again upon the ruined pagan altar.  She listens for any sound above the furtive river, she impales the darkness with her eyes, and with her fingers shaking she uncovers her bread and roasted tongue of lamb.  Thus she begins her twilight communion.

          After a while Sister Alyssa whispers to herself, “Nothing good will come of this,” and at that moment she thinks she sees a ripple in the far darkness.

          At the crepuscular threshold suddenly two yellow eyes ignite and Sister Alyssa gasps unintentionally.  The black wolf is approaching her.  She becomes fearful and flushed at the same time with vertiginous bewilderment, moaning softly, “What have I done?” then calling out in the face of the approaching beast, “What have I done!?”

          But the black wolf halts instead and sits on his haunches merely a matter of steps away, his gaze unbroken into Sister Alyssa’s eyes.  With trembling hands Sister Alyssa tosses the lamb’s tongue toward the beast and again the offering appears drawn into the agile jaws of the black wolf.  He chomps three times with clashing teeth and he swallows.  Yet the black wolf remains near as he was, with untamed patience.

          Sister Alyssa is exhaling rapidly as she breaks the loaf of bread in half and tosses one ragged fragment to the black wolf.  He receives it mid-air and gnashes it repeatedly until he takes a final swallow.

          Sister Alyssa then holds her breath as she holds out the other half of the bread toward the black wolf.  The black wolf slowly arises and takes a few steps, stops, and then stretches out his muzzle to gently grasp the remaining offering from the upheld palm of Sister Alyssa.

          Sister Alyssa exhales, feeling close to tears of relief, when abruptly the black wolf bares his terrible fangs and rumbles his chest with a chilling growl.  Sister Alyssa cries out at once, almost tumbling backwards, and then realizes that the black wolf is staring over her shoulder toward the slope of the Island of the Village.  She quickly stands, snaps her head around in that direction, sees nothing, and then turns her face back to the black wolf.  Sister Alyssa now realizes that she is breathing rapidly through her mouth.

          The black wolf blinks several times and licks his fangs but he is calmly returning to his haunches.

          Sister Alyssa sits down again upon the ruined altar and dares to extend her bare hand toward the black wolf.  The black wolf hesitates, turns his head to one side, and then leans toward Sister Alyssa and miraculously merely licks her hand with a gentle intensity as if she is his pup.  Sister Alyssa is suddenly giddy.  She gently touches his muzzle and strokes it slowly.  It is not unpleasant.  The black wolf closes his eyes but there is a soft growl from his belly.  Sister Alyssa closes her eyes.

          With a shock Sister Alyssa opens her eyes and the black wolf is not to be seen though she scours the darkness.  She hurriedly replaces her coif and bustles up the slope back toward the night fires of Paris.  Those lights have never seemed so harmonious with the stars above.  Yet Sister Alyssa herself burns with a peculiar shame.

          Arriving at the top of the slope Sister Alyssa looks up and is startled by the sudden confrontation by Ma Dame Berthildis.  Behind Ma Dame Berthildis is a menacing regiment of the Paris marshalcy.

          Ma Dame Berthildis cries unto the sudden inability of Sister Alyssa to act, “Capture her!  She is a witch!  I swear and attest that I have witnessed her sorcery!”

          Sister Alyssa is roughly seized and cries, “Ma Dame Berthildis, you have misconstrued me!”

          Ma Dame Berthildis cries, “She confesses!  So, you damned witch, we have caught you in a perverse consortium with that demon!  So much is explained!  I knew you were vexing but I did not know that you are evil!  So evil!  Know this, you foul witch: I shall open the mouth of Hell for you!  You are going to burn!”

          The deputy leader of the Paris marshalcy says, “Ma Dame Berthildis, I doubted you and would not believe your words and so you must forgive me!  I am horrified at what my eyes have seen this night!”

          Ma Dame Berthildis cries, “We must put an end to this demonic bargain immediately!”

          The surrounding members of the marshalcy shout acquiescence.  But Sister Alyssa then descries young Reynard, his eyes wide and his teeth clenched, and she cries, “Help me!”

          Ma Dame Berthildis contorts at Sister Alyssa with vicious hatred chanting, “Burn!  Burn!  BURN!”

          Sister Alyssa cries, “I have done nothing but befriend a wild animal!  He was weak and starving!  Is he too not one of God’s creatures!?”

          Ma Dame Berthildis asks in reply, “Witch, do you offer your veiled bestiality as a venal acquittal for blasphemy?!”

          Sister Alyssa now hears her Reynard’s voice cry out along with all the surrounding members of the marshalcy, “Burn!  Burn!  Burn!”

          She plunges into despair.

          Sister Alyssa’s wrists are then roughly bound together with a hide leash and she is yanked forward by the assigned deputy Reynard himself, who holds the leash over his shoulder, himself sickened by her alleged betrayal and newly fearful for his own alleged soul.  Sister Alyssa begins to plead, over and over, louder and louder as this godlessly cruel fate inundates her mind with Compréhension.

          Then like a stroke of lightning from dark heavens above the terrifying black wolf pounces upon Reynard, landing onto his shoulders, toppling Reynard forward while tearing out his throat in one mass of gore.  The black wolf then leaps backwards in a snarling rage, dancing in a deadly perimeter around Sister Alyssa.  The distress sends the marshalcy stumbling hindward, leaving Ma Dame Berthildis exposed, alone and in the grip of the most unholy horror, unable to command her fleeing mind, unable to summon a scream!

          The black wolf astonishingly arises onto his hind legs and balances unsteadily, his slavering jaws holding inches from the face of Ma Dame Berthildis.  Her mind has gone.  The black wolf lunges, taking her entire neck into his mouth and with a violent series of shakes severs her head from her collapsing body.  That severed head spews blood and rolls with opened eyes toward the rallying marshalcy.  And so the regiment finally collapses as they all whirl about and hurtle away shrieking into the streets of the village of Paris.

          The black wolf subsides to four legs and now turns slowly to Sister Alyssa.  Blood still drips from his fangs.  She has no will.  She has only eyes with which to witness.

          But the black wolf bows to take the loose end of her hide leash into his mouth tenderly and then he leads Sister Alyssa down the slope of the Island of the Village, into the sandy banks, toward the pagan altar and beyond into the darkness along the river, upstream into the unseen forest.

          Comes the sound of distant thunder as the wind swiftly smells of rain.

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COME APART

17 come apart - crop1

COME APART

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          La Faculté is an exclusive restaurant on the campus of the private Lejeune Women’s College.  In this dining room the walls are antiqued brick.  Tall arched windows with their sheer curtains provide an ambience of casual elegance.  The variously sized round tables all have white tablecloths.  There is the usual mix of clientele: Professors, Donors, Alumni, and their special Invités.

          A young woman enters the room escorted by the Maître d’.  She causes a ripple of attention because she is young and wears a tasteful red dress but also because she wears a pair of wrap-around sunglasses; most unusual.  She turns her head pensively as she walks; she is apparently a student; most unusual.  She is soon seated at a table for two, yet alone, choosing to face the entrance to the dining room.

          Minutes later the Maître d’ escorts a more mature woman along the same pathway toward the young woman’s table for two.  The mature woman causes a ripple of attention because so many persons at the restaurant appear to know her.  She nods graciously left and right, but with only a half-smile, seeming preoccupied, and then she is seated at the young woman’s table.  They stare at each other.

          The mature woman speaks first, “I’m so glad you are here, Leandra.  How are you?”

          The young Leandra leans forward and raises her sunglasses which reveals that her eyes are surrounded by bruises, greenish with healing, “This is how I am, Narissa.”

          Narissa MacKenzie, Ph.D., the Dean of Women’s Studies, looks downward and says very gently, “I reserved this table as you requested.  I was happy that you picked the place to which we came on our first night together, Leandra.”

          Leandra hisses, “I picked this place so you wouldn’t dare make a scene in front of your admirers who think you are so perfect.”

          Narissa’s shoulders slump, “Leandra, you know how sorry I am.  I haven’t been able to live with myself these past weeks.”

          “I can’t live with you anymore, either,” Leandra decrees.

          Narissa whispers back, “Please don’t say that, Leandra, please.”

          Leandra continues, “How could I have been so wrong about you?”

          Narissa pleads, “Haven’t I been good to you?”

          A tear glistens below Leandra’s dark glasses and she scratches it away quickly, “You met me when I didn’t believe in myself.  I trusted you.  I needed you.  You gave me your confidence,” then Leandra’s voice rises and trembles, “You gave me your love.”

          Narissa adds, “I still do, Leandra.  You know I love you.  Back then I saw a wonderful young woman who was lost and full of doubts about herself,” Narissa gestures toward Leandra with open palms, “Look at what you’ve become.”

          Leandra says coldly, touching her sunglasses, “I’ve been looking at myself for weeks.”

          Narissa stutters, “I, I didn’t mean that.  I meant…”

          Leandra continues, “You make me feel like I’m crazy; like it’s me,” and then Leandra seems to be talking to herself, louder and louder, “Everybody thinks you’re so perfect; oh, sure, how could it be you?  They think I’m to blame; that I’m crazy.  They can’t see what I see.  Well fuck them.”

          Heads turn at the nearby tables.

          Narissa leans in and bows to Leandra, “OK, OK.  There is no need to be agitated.”

          Leandra opens her mouth wide, “Agitated?  You mean like a mental patient?  Like you were that night…?”  Leandra is savoring Narissa’s discomfort.

          Narissa begs, “Leandra, I thought you didn’t want a scene.”

          “What I didn’t want is another fucking violent scene from you.”

          Narissa gives a false smile and whispers, “Please, Leandra.  People are looking.”

          “Oh, really?  And what do they see?  The perfect Dean MacKenzie of Women’s Studies quarreling with a silly graduate student?  Well, study this,” and Leandra makes a V-sign with her fingers and sticks her tongue between them.

          Narissa grows apprehensive, “Is this why you wanted to meet here?  To humiliate me?”

          “You are the one who wanted to meet.  I just picked the place, Dean MacKenzie.”

          The background noises clink and rattle into Dean Narissa MacKenzie’s ears like a train is coming.

          A waitress steps discretely into the conversation gap, “Dean MacKenzie, Chef Perello will prepare for you a special meal of Herbed Yogurt and Crepes, if you please.”

          Narissa is grateful for the distraction and she smiles and nods.

          “And what will Miss be having?” asks the waitress, bowing slightly toward Leandra.

          Leandra asks with a straight face, “I hear that you serve Bourré de Merde here?”

          The waitress is stunned, “I’m… sorry, Miss?”

          Narissa is aghast, but salvages her smile with effort, “Joking.  Always joking.”

          Leandra mercifully concludes, “I’ll have a glass of your best champagne.  That’s all.”

          “Very good,” says the waitress as if saying “Thank God”, and she departs their table.

          Leandra taunts Narissa, “Well does my French meet your standards yet?  God knows I only want to please you.”

          When the glass of champagne arrives Leandra drinks quickly half of it, and taunts Narissa again, “Oh, I’m sorry, was that not the perfect way to drink fine champagne?”

          Suddenly Narissa’s gaze changes as if she too is raising a pair of eye shades, “You need to remember, Leandra, if my position is threatened because of you, then you can be damn certain that all of your ‘achievements’ since you have been with me shall be exposed.”

          Leandra rallies defensively, “What I have achieved I have earned myself!”

          Narissa sits back, tasting blood, “Oh, really.  And just who will believe that?”

          Leandra falters, “You fucking bitch.  You’re the one who kept me isolated, pretending to shelter my confidence.”

          A dignified woman approaches their table as Narissa, who saw the woman in the corner of her eye, concludes with a saccharine non sequitur to Leandra, “So now you can be anything you want to be,” and then Narissa looks up at the dignified woman as if surprised, “Oh, hello, Rebecca.”

          “Dean MacKenzie, I just wanted to tell you how proud we all are of your Lejeune Achievement Award.  I look forward to the ceremony,” and then she respectfully departs the table.

          Leandra mumbles, “Better make sure she didn’t leave her nose in your butt,” and then pointedly, “I’m already gone, Narissa, and you just can’t accept it.  Let. Go.

          Suddenly a thought strikes Leandra, “Won’t your crazy mother be attending that ceremony?”

          Narissa bristles, “You little tramp.  You wouldn’t dare.”

          Leandra pretends to muse, “Hmmm.  I might sit right next to her.  I’m sure we would have a lot to discuss about you.  She and I have a lot in common: we both have screwed you,” and Leandra sneers.

          Narissa slaps the table making both the silverware and Leandra jump.

          Heads turn.

          Narissa trembles.  Her eyes flash with acid tears.

          Suddenly Narissa has a look of terror as if a trap door is opening beneath her.  She topples forward onto the table, banging it hard with her head, and rolls onto the floor.  Leandra screams.  Others are screaming, “Call an ambulance!”

          When the Emergency Medical Technicians arrive, Leandra rides with Narissa in the ambulance, insisting with a lie, “I’m her niece.”

          “She needs me.”

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