Sunday, February 24, 2008

Leave Only Footprints

By T.J. McIntyre

My feet crunch through ice cold snow:
leave only footprints
and winding trails behind me.

The above photograph was taken by the editor in January of this year while on a walk through the Ebenezer Swamp Ecological Preserve. The peaceful scene drew out a haiku.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lonely Man Bridge

by Wayne Summers

Clint spat another bug from his mouth. It was dusk and the midges were swarming. A gentle breeze sent the thinner branches of the towering gums surrounding him swooping and swaying, and at times the rustle of leaves was so loud that it drowned out the sound of his footsteps on the gravel road. An animal noise pierced the semi-light and Clint felt his heart skip a beat. It was time to look for shelter.

Behind him he could hear the sound of a car coming closer and closer until the way ahead of him was flooded with the light from its headlights. Clint stepped back from the road and waited in the tall grass for the vehicle to pass.

“Where ya headed?” asked the middle aged man as he leaned out through the window of his beaten and battered Range Rover.

“Nearest town,” Clint replied.

The man’s face was partly hidden by the shadow of his hat and partly by the shadows of the approaching night. Clint couldn’t make out any features on the man except for his bulk, stocky rather than fat.

“I ain’t going that far,” the man explained. “But I can give ya a lift up the road a bit.”

Clint smiled weakly and nodded. “That’s okay mate. I’ll walk it.”

He’d heard too many horror stories about what could happen to unwitting backpackers.

“Nearest town isn’t for a few miles,” said the man sending a spit ball hurtling into the dirt. “Sure ya don’t wanna lift? Cut ya journey in half.”

“No mate. I’m happy walking.”

Silence. Clint’s heartbeat was pounding in his ears. What was this guy waiting for? He felt the first flush of adrenalin flood through his body.

“Alright then,” said the man finally before driving off. “But I wouldn’t hang around here for too long.”

Clint exhaled audibly and only then realised that he had been holding his breath.

“Fucker!” he cursed.

The last light of a mid-autumn evening lingered over the canopy of the bush. Clint slid his backpack off and opened the flap. He dug around inside until his hand connected with the plastic of his torch. He removed it, did the backpack up again and switched the torch on. Ahead he could just make out what looked like an old bridge.

Lonely Man Bridge

The painted letters were cracked and peeling and Clint couldn’t help running his fingertips across them so that tiny flakes of dark paint wafted to the ground. Then he heard it. The snap of a twig. Just to his right.

He froze. More adrenalin.

Five more seconds passed and he began to doubt whether he’d heard anything at all, although the hair on the back of his neck was standing on end.

“Hello,” he called into the growing darkness, shining his torch across the thick vegetation.

The breeze picked up suddenly, tousled his hair and then swept further west. Somewhere in the canopy a night bird called and tiny winged things, perhaps bats, ducked and wove through the air above, feasting on the midges.

A small part of him wished he’d risked a ride with the stranger.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He spun around almost blinding the woman standing in front of him.

“Hello. I’m Ivana.”

The woman was young, maybe in her mid-twenties. Her skin was pale, washed out, and her eyes were dull and grey. There were dark rings around them and just the slightest signs of bags. She smiled wearily for a second or two and then the smile slipped from her face.

“W-w-where did you come from?” Clint asked, scanning the area behind her with his torch.

“I can’t find my daughter,” she replied in the kind of voice that one uses when they have given up on everything.

“Your daughter?”
Ivana nodded then turned and disappeared into the shrubbery on the opposite side of the road.

“Hey wait. Maybe I can help you. Have you called the police?”

Clint kept the light from his torch squarely on Ivana as she navigated her way through the dense foliage. Soon Clint could hear the sound of water rushing over rocks. It reminded him he was thirsty. At about the same time the bushes and trees started thinning out and the ground became rocky. Above, the canopy gave way to a splendid, starry sky.

“Can you see her?” Ivana asked, her face a mask of worry.

Clint joined her at the water’s edge. He shone his torch out over the river, sweeping the beam of light up and down.

“No, I can’t,” he replied. “Are you sure this is where you lost her? That current looks awfully strong. Perhaps she’s been washed further down stream.”

Ivana looked at him blankly. “She’s here somewhere.”

Clint began walking along the edge of the river, carefully scanning as much of the river as his torchlight would allow. Ivana followed slowly behind. They were getting closer and closer to the bridge, beneath which splashes could be heard. Clint shivered and tucked one arm across his chest.

“There she is!” he said, his torchlight illuminating the little girl clinging desperately onto the wreck of an old car. “Here, hold this.”

He thrust the torch at Ivana, who simply looked away from him and towards her daughter. Clint clicked his teeth, removed his backpack and then positioned the torch on a flat rock by the water’s edge. The beam was quite strong but only just reached the old car wreck. It would be enough.

Clint could feel how cold the water was the minute he stepped into it. By the time he was waist-deep he was shivering. His teeth chattered and it was getting difficult to move he was shaking so much. He looked back at Ivana but she hadn’t moved. He was now beginning to regret having passed up the chance of a ride. Another splash.

The current was incredibly strong and Clint had to fight against it, taking small steps until the water became too deep to walk. He tried swimming out and up, against the current and in the opposite direction but it was a real battle. The exertion was at least warming him up. A little.

Suddenly his foot became caught on something. He jiggled his leg frantically but whatever it was that had become tangled around his foot had it securely within its grasp. Clint began to panic. “Help!” he called as the icy water rushed over him but the cry was muffled by the water. His eyes bulged as he realised he was being pulled beneath the surface. He used his strong arms to swim back to the surface, just a metre or so above, however his body was growing numb and he was taking in more and more water. The world went dark for a moment. “No,” he told himself, “this is not going to happen.” He forced his eyes open, willing them open with every fibre of his being. Mustering up the last ounce of his strength he jerked his leg and miraculously it was freed. He swam for the surface, bursting through with a loud gasp.

Surprisingly he didn’t feel weakened by his ordeal. If anything he felt refreshed. He could see the pale stream of powdery light filtering across the river and he knew that at the end of that small beam of light there was a little girl waiting for him.

“Don’t worry, darling,” he called out as he neared the old car wreck. “I’m coming.”

The girl watched him in silence. No tears. No whimpers. And Clint heard yet another splash.

“Hello,” he said as he reached her. “Grab hold of my neck and hang on tight.”

At first she didn’t move. She stared at him, her brown eyes wide and unblinking.

“Come on, I won’t hurt you. Mummy is right over there waiting for you. See?”

The little girl turned her attention to the figure waiting on the river bank and then back again. Slowly she let go of the door and wrapped herself around Clint. Together they headed back to dry land, but as they got closer Clint noticed that there were other people waiting with Ivana. He couldn’t see exactly how many there were but there were at least half a dozen. All of them men. For a moment he stopped swimming. He exhaled deeply and then continued, the little girl’s eager kicks spurring him forward. Finally Clint’s foot touched the rocky floor of the river bed. It felt good to find firm land.

“My baby!” Ivana ran to meet them, her footsteps clumsy on the rocks.

Clint let the little girl slide off his back. He was happy that he had been able to reunite mother and daughter but the presence of the men was making nervous.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

Ivana scooped her daughter up in her arms and kissed her on the cheek.

“They’ve never seen anyone rescue Tatjana before.”

“What do you mean?” Clint furrowed his brow and took a step back from the approaching group.

“We’re all so caught up in our own situations that no-one has ever considered rescuing her. I seem to have caught you at the right time.”

A nervous giggle escaped Clint’s lips. “This is getting freaky. What the Hell are you on about?”

“Although I suppose after a few more days I suppose it won’t seem so special.”

“Hey, I don’t know what you’re on about but I’m outta here. I gotta go.”

Ivana smiled for the first time since they had met and her grim-faced friends melted back into the night.

“Where can you go? You’re trapped here just as we are. My daughter will be back in the river tomorrow and you’ll rescue her again, only you won’t have an audience because the pattern is only broken when someone new comes along.”

“What pattern?” Clint had a sick feeling in his stomach.

“The moment of our death. Those sad and lonely men will plunge to their deaths from the bridge up there. I’ll go over the edge in that old car and you’ll drown again.”

“I am so outta here,” said Clint. He turned and ran into the bush, scrambling his way up the side of the small hill and not stopping until he came out on the road. Puffing, he rested his hands on his knees and sucked the night air deep into his lungs. If he was dead surely he wouldn’t need to catch his breath.

On the horizon the first orange, yellow glow of a new dawn kissed the tree tops. Clint was feeling weary and sat down against one of the bridge’s crumbling brick pylons where he soon fell into a dreamless sleep.

He was awoken by someone tapping him on the shoulder. It was night again.

‘Hello. I’m Ivana.”

Clint looked at the woman, at her pale face and at the dark rings around her eyes. She looked familiar but he couldn’t think why.

“I can’t find my daughter,” she explained before turning and disappearing into the bushes by the side of the road.

Clint followed her. “Maybe I can help you. Have you called the police?”

And in the distance another splash.

Wayne Summers was born in Narrogin, Western Australia. He grew up in Kojonup before attending university in Perth. He teaches English to overseas students and is currently studying to be a counsellor. He writes horror, science fiction and fantasy short stories and has appeared many times in print and online in both the UK and the US.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Face in the Tree

By Walter Giersbach

Thirteen summers ago I discovered the true taste of barbecue—slow-cooked, smoky tasting and piquant as a woman’s thighs. It was the same time I discovered Belinda Lee in a little town outside Asheville, North Carolina. Belinda was as country as corn pone, a major change in my diet from northern boiled beef and skinny blondes in Boston. I never knew such a molasses-sweet girl existed. Two things distracted me from Belinda: my work researching Civil War strategy for my Master’s dissertation and guilty memories of Calista, whom I’d left back home in Salem, Massachusetts. They were minor distractions. Well, Belinda’s barbecue also distracted me from any more serious thoughts than eating.

Belinda called it “bobby-cue” and made such a deal about going out to strip shag bark from a hickory, light a low fire and cook the meat for—I swear—six hours. The first time Belinda made barbecue, I laughed to think someone would work so hard for a meal. Her Carolina-style was made with a vinegar sauce and a bit of Southern heat, both of which found a backdoor into a hidden part of my brain to start a circus of pandemonium. Her pulled pork was a magical blend of barbecue ingredients that was a versatile entrée that turned a simple bun into a palace of pulchitrude.

We would sit down with napkins around our necks, and then I’d dip the first morsel of pork into her sauce and pop it into my mouth. The buzz of ecstasy begin at the base of my throat and extended down to my stomach while, at the same time, the aroma of her sauce permeated my brain and flowed out my nostrils. My head swam as I closed my eyes to let the feelings extend through my arms and legs. I had never before tasted such enchantment in food. This was the discovery of a new religion, the essence of witchcraft capturing my soul.

Belinda smiled in a secretive way and said, “Down here, we say cookin’ doesn’t last like lovin’.”

Her granny would often join us along with her folks and some brothers and sisters. Barbecue was serious eating in their neck of the woods. Granny said, “You got it back’ards, B’linda. Lovin’ don’t last but cookin’ do,” and she cackled.

Ours was what Granny called a tornado romance there in Asheville. Nothing was left standing in its wake. “You two are just smitten,” the preacher said, as he accepted a glass of Champagne after I married Belinda at the little church in the hollow outside town.

Belatedly, I called Calista in Salem and sheepishly said I’d found another woman. She was outraged and used a really vulgar term. This was totally unlike the girl I had known since eighth grade. Calista was a folklorist, an oral history publisher and a self-described New England witch. She was royally pissed at losing what she thought was her property and flew down—on an airplane, not a broomstick—from Salem. I don’t know why she was angry; I’d never said we were going to get married. I never promised her a thing, but when she saw my wedding ring and met Belinda coming back from the woods behind our house, I knew there’d be trouble.

“Y’all stay for some barbecue?” Belinda asked real politely.

Calista was not amused at Belinda’s invitation. “There’ll be no more bobby-cue, Baby Cakes,” she said mean-like, and grabbed the bark out of Belinda’s hand. “This is what you eat?”

“It’s what we make the fire from,” Belinda said in confusion.

“I’m surprised,” Calista snarled, “it looks better than the care you give your skin. Maybe you should put your face in the fire.” With that, she stalked back to her Hertz rental and aimed it back to the airport.

A strange thing happened in the coming week: Belinda began to age quickly. I put aside my research and got her to a good dermatologist in Raleigh, but he was mystified as to why her skin was flaking. Soon, it was all I could do to look at Belinda without feeling my own skin crawl. Her friends began avoiding us. Her parents looked oddly at me, as if I had infected her with a Yankee virus. Granny clucked and said nothing.

In the middle of our confusion and fear I received a telephone call from Calista—a sarcastic Calista I’d never known. “Enjoying your bobby-cue? Eating your hickory-smoked pigs?”
I tried to make civil conversation, but she just wanted to relish her pain that I hadn’t done—what? Marry her instead of Belinda? She was sucking on her remorse the way a dog gnaws a bone. I hung up as quickly as possible and went in to see Belinda, who by that time had taken to bed.

Belinda’s lips moved behind the thick puffiness in her cheeks. Her eyes had sunk deep into the flesh of her head. Her skin was brown and flaking. “I’m dying,” she whispered. “But I’m so hungry….so hungry. Feed me.” I jumped forward as her head lolled to the side, then I realized she had fainted. I debated whether to call the doctor or her parents, but decided to obey her wish first. I went out to the field above the creek and up to the hickory tree Belinda had always pulled bark from for her authentic smoked meats.

I went to the opposite side of the tree and suddenly dropped the bag I’d brought. A section of the trunk the size of a dinner plate had become as smooth as a eucalyptus, and in place of the curled, scaly bark was a face—Belinda’s face. It came to me in a flash. Calista had taken her vengeance by turning Belinda’s face into a shag bark hickory while the features I loved had morphed onto the tree in the meadow.

Forgetting the basket, I ran back to our house. Belinda was hallucinating and mumbling. Her mother had come over while I was in the field and was trying to put soup into her mouth. Time was running out for Belinda the way the last drip of honey leaves the jar. Doctors had no medicine for what was eating my wife. My only solution was to do the irrational, the unscientific and seek help from Granny.

Afterwards, swallowing my apprehension, I telephoned up to Massachusetts. “She’s dead, Calista. Belinda’s dead.” I choked over my lie, “I’m so alone and need you. I’ve made a terrible mistake.”

“I understand,” Calista cooed. “Do what you have to do, bury the poor thing and then let’s meet and talk.”

“In Boston. This week,” I said.

By the next day, Belinda seemed to be better—at least, somewhat improved. “Darling,” I told her, “I have to go up to Boston for a day or two. I called the doctor, who’ll look in, and your mother will stay, but you’re going to be all right. Trust me.”

She nodded uncomprehendingly, and I walked over the hill on my mission of hope.

Calista met my flight at Logan Airport and we cabbed into the city. “I made a reservation—for us both—by the waterfront,” I told her. “We’ll see shows and there’s a new jazz club I’m dying to visit. Meantime, let’s celebrate with a drink.”

“Celebrate?” she asked curiously. “You just buried your wife.”

“A new life. I must have been out of my mind, staying in the South. Do you know what they do down there…?” I hustled her into a little bar and restaurant on Newbury Street I knew from earlier days and ordered up drinks. Margaritas, that would make her hungry enough to eat anything. The “anything” I put on the table were chips I’d carried north. Granny was a true witch of the South and had made up chips she called Something Special Surprises. She guaranteed they’d whet the appetite.

“I don’t want to be reminded of Southern cooking,” Calista said.

“Try one, as a token of what we once shared in the magic of our love.” Reluctantly, Calista took one and licked it with her long pink tongue. Then, she inserted the chip between her red lips. The glow of a smile crossed her face.

“Anngh,” she said, as though she were auditioning as a judge on a cooking show on television. And her mouth closed.

Granny had told me Yankee girls were skinny, anemic and a passionless bundle of nerves. Her remedy was a secret from the hollow where she lived—guaranteed, she said, to put flesh on those white Northern bones. Granny’s spell was beginning to work. “Ummm,” Calista said, swallowing and reaching for another. “What is this?”

I’ve seen the way the kudzu has invaded the South, growing to overwhelm trees and telephone poles until the result is an obscene mass of succulent green jungle that chokes the life out of everything natural or man-made. Almost before my eyes now I could see Calista begin to fill out as her manicured hands dipped into the bag of chips. Her cheeks puffed out, the pouches under her eyes filled in, her neck began to thicken. She was visibly growing as her hand waved the waiter to our table. She called for another margarita and began ordering a trio of appetizers, two entrées, a side dish of french fries and a couple of desserts. When I got up to go to the men’s room, Calista was d reamily stuffing food in her mouth as fast as her hands could move. She had finished two days’ worth of calories with no end in sight when I excused myself an hour later . I left my credit card number with the waiter, told him to fill her up, and went out the door to catch a cab back to Logan.

Belinda was much improved by the time I got back. Her face was smooth and shiny again. I checked on Calista through a friend a week later, and discovered she had ballooned past the two hundred pound mark. My friend said she hadn’t once mentioned my name as she continued eating.

But most interesting was that Belinda’s impression remained on the shag bark hickory until years later when I could point it out to our children. I taught our kids to make equally delicious barbecue fired over wood from a cherry tree. Cookin’ and lovin’ both last when they season each other.

Walter's short stories have been published over the past year in Mouth Full of Bullets, Lunch Hour Stories, Every Day Fiction, and Bewildering Stories, while Wild Child has just published two volumes of his stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue and Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, Vol. 2. Earlier, he directed corporate communications at Fortune 500 companies in New York for more than 30 years. A complete biography can be found on his website at

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Queen Chicory and her Magical Feasts

by Shawn Huegel

Once upon a time and long ago, a Queen lived cloistered below the city of New Orleans in an underground village, chosen Boudreaux. According to legend, her name was Queen Chicory and no other Queen in the history of New Orleans could compare to her grace. Her warm tone was the color of hazelnuts, and her heart larger than a hearty help of heaping Jambalaya.

For generations Creole parents told the tale of Queen Chicory arriving in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day, sitting upon a throne, aboard her elected float the Krewe of Ghetar. Always meticulously adorned in her traditional Mardi Gras sequined gown, and feathered mask; Queen Chicory threw gold coins and purple cellophane wrapped praline candy to New Orleanians gathered in the streets.

Old folks say, that on the eve of Mardi Gras, Queen Chicory would reluctantly leave New Orleans and return to Boudreaux Village; seldom thought of by a living soul until the following year. Despite lemon summer suns and baby’s breath nights, Queen Chicory was very lonesome in Boudreaux Village; and her heart was worrisome, woeful and weary. Quieting her despair, Queen Chicory would leave Boudreaux Village as the sun hid behind the red roux stained triple moon. Clothed in shabby, shredded, scruffy clothes, Queen Chicory set out for the ‘The Hot Pilly-Pilly Café’ in New Orleans. In two shakes of lambs tail, she would gobble one Po-Boy, one Muffuletta, two plates of Creole Seafood Gumbo, two Mudbugs, one crispy Beignet, and a piece of King Cake for dessert; yet, she never gained a pound!

It has been told, a crafty and magical green Olive anointed Henri the Hierophant, lived on a branch from an evergreen tree outside of Queen Chicory’s palace. For years Henri would hear Queen Chicory’s cries of loneliness, and was very saddened by her sorrow. “Ah coo, what can I do?” he cried, as stuffed pimento teardrops fell from his hollow eyes. For many moons, Henri would view the settling colors of the sunset from his time-less tree, pondering a solution to Queen Chicory’s desperation.

One enchanted evening, in the twinkling of an onion the marinated juices in Henri’s skin tenderized his nutty brain, processing a rather clever idea. “Ah coo, Joie de Vivre, I’ve got it!” Henri proclaimed. “A potion that will transform all of Queen Chicory’s favorite foods into a moveable, magical and whimsical feast!”

As the sky did a Two Step with the lemon sun, Queen Chicory awoke to echoes of hard tapping hammers, swooshing paintbrushes and piercing prune shears. “Bayou biscuits! Who could that be?” she gasped. Quickly she ran down the spiral staircase and flew open the marble door. Awaiting her arrival on bended knees was Martine the Muffuletta and Picot the Po-Boy. In unison the duo announced, “Bonjou Queen Chickory! Please, do not be alarmed. Henri the Hierophant created us to bring you companionship and foodhood.”

“Who is Henri the Hierophant?” Queen Chicory inquired.

Martine calmly explained, “Your highness, Henri the Hierophant is a magical olive that dwells in the evergreen tree outside of your palace.”

Well, Turtle Soup! Queen Chicory thought, a magical olive that lives in a tree? Why, I never knew…

Gaining control and collecting her thoughts, Queen Chicory delighted in the revelation of her whimsical friends, and assisted the delicacies in setting up house. However, Queen Chicory was unmindful of the envy and arrogance that would soon exist amongst her newfound feasts.

Martine the Muffuletta and Picot the Po-Boy built homes in the first parish of Boudreaux Village. Martine and Picot knew they were the royalty sandwiches of New Orleans and Boudreaux Village; however, boasting, bitter, bad-mouth tastes, were uncharacteristic for their bread. Queen Chicory became very fond of Martine and Picot; and every night Martine played salty sweet sounds of Zydeco tunes from his accordion, while Picot and Queen Chicory danced in the spotlight of the orange tinted triple moon.

In the second parish of Boudreaux Village lived the Crispy Beignets, and the King Cakes. The Crispy Beignets were never rude publicly to the King Cakes, but in their sugary hearts they loathed them. Every morning the Beignet’s would sweep the powdered sugar from their front steps; their pleasantries were composed of politely, polished, and perfected waves never uttering a word. In their fungi, fermented opinion, the Beignets were the royalty doughnut of New Orleans and Boudreaux Village; and their actions were justified!

Elder Beignet would often remind the clan of their superiority. “Remember to knead, fold, and rise to your lineage,” Elder Beignet loudly proclaimed. “King Cakes are an aftertaste, a ring-shaped mess from mere cinnamon dough; splattered with icing, and speckled with purple, green, gold colored sugar!”

The Crispy Beignet’s knew their powdered sugar didn’t stink.

In the third parish, dwelled the Mudbugs and the Creole Seafood Gumbo; and they were as thick as thieves. The Mudbugs were similar to their kinfolk the Lobster. The Mudbugs were not as large as their great cousins, but they were no small fry; their meat soared with more sweetness to savor in. Legend has it, both were a mouth-catching bunch, but their salty spores were to the bone. Their beliefs were akin to the Beignets; however, they hated ALL of the foods in Boudreaux Village especially Martine and Picot! “What are we? Spoiled leftovers from a crawfish boil!” confided the Mudbugs to the self appointed King Gumbo. “Queen Chicory spends all of her time with Martine and Picot, never giving us a food thought!”

When the sauce of the triple moon whirled into a white roux, the Mudbugs and King Gumbo, covered their mouths with Chinet dinner napkins, and snuck into Martine and Picot’s parish. Carefully checking if the coast was clear, the sect used tomato paste to food paint cruel words such as “Po-Boys: Walk west until your bread floats” and ‘Muffa What?” on their neat white fences. Their next stop was the Beignets and the King Cake’s parish. Delightfully dancing in their deviousness, The Mudbugs and King Creole food sketched, “Stank a Wank King Cakes!” and “Saccharine Sappy Beignets - Go away” on their foodmobiles.

It so happened the following morning, Martine overheard the Mudbugs bragging about the unsavory grafooditi - when all food broke out! The King Cakes smeared icing on King Gumbo’s face and Picot dealt a brisk ladle to one of the Mudbugs head. Meanwhile, the Crispy Beignets decided to desert their smug zone and join the food fiasco. Hour’s later, pieces of Crawfish tails, powdered sugar, chunks of Gumbo and French bread were scattered on the village streets. It was truly a food mess!

Suddenly, the doughy white clouds turned the color of dirty rice, and the red bean sky gloomed over the village. Heavy rain rapidly fell on the cobble streets; and a gust of wind blazed through the village like brown flour sizzling in fat. The moveable feasts were frazzled, frightened and fumbled for their food parts.

Legend has it; Queen Chicory had observed the wicked weather and food battle from her bedroom palace window. “Andouille Sausage! What can this be?” she questioned. “I must seek Henri the Hierophants counsel. Surely he has knowledge of this distasteful affair.” Grabbing her rainbow colored feathered umbrella, Queen Chicory rushed to Henri’s mythical tree.

And so it was told, Henri the Hierophant confessed to Queen Chicory that he had caused the intense rain and bellowing winds, to scare some food sense into the whimsical feasts. “Ah coo, my dear Queen Chicory,” Henri explained, “Your moveable and magical feasts are jealous and hatefulness consumes their swamp cooler hearts!”

“Why Genoa Salami! How can that be? Queen Chicory passionately proclaimed, “I love all of them and you as well Henri, my delectable green olive. Would you please calm the rains and settle the winds, Henri? I must speak with everyone immediately, and I want the weather blissfully beautiful!” Queen Chicory pleaded.

“Your wish is my desire!” Henri peacefully abided.

That afternoon Henri the Hierophant and all of the moveable feasts gathered in Queen Chicory’s courtyard. Tearfully Queen Chicory apologized to her newfound feasts; unraveling how her loneliness had trapped her thoughts and self-pity had consumed her emotions. “My words are pure and I will never again choose one of you over the other; let us be a be a gentle whisper for one another.

And it was so, their wicked thoughts evaporated into thin air, and the magical feasts embraced each other under the Mardi Gras bead lit sky. Elder Muffuletta wrote a song in celebration of their newfound kinship:

Olive’s green, Olive black. No more worries on our backs!
Beignets and King Cakes getting along.
Elder Muffuletta singing a song.
King Gumbo doing a jig!
Henri swinging on a twig.
Hate has departed from our hearts.
We stand together - not a la carte!

Ancients say, Queen Chicory, Henri the Hierophant, and the moveable feasts lived happily, heartily, and harmoniously together, forever and ever.

Shawn Huegel lives in Bella Vista, AR. A former substitute teacher, she is married and has one son who is currently in college at Willamette University in Oregon. She is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and moved to New Orleans, LA, after graduating from high school. She lived there for five years and this story is a tribute to New Orleans - her second home.