Member submissions from our call to write something for Halloween/Fall 2021
Mon Amour, Ma Mort
By Ernest McDaniel
As Francois Arnaud lay dying, he ruminated upon past delicacies. Delicate…yes. Delectable…yes!
Ah, but momentary. Kisses to the palate that broke long intervals of mere pabulum. Between, life was Bolero in the rhythm of an SOS, Clare de Lune in three notes only—salt, sweet, fat. And such would be his remaining days, he knew, except for his souvenirs…his memories.
His first wife Angele had been an artiste magnifique. “Mon amour,” he breathed. If only she had not touched the raw vegetables with her hands, had not kneaded the pastry with her fine fingers, then their days together might have been many.
Francois could himself manage well in the kitchen. A secret: fresh ingredients. Another: never overcook. The task was to warm flavor into bloom, not into oblivion. True of flesh, especially, but even true of the plant.
He remembered buying fresh vegetables from the vendor in the nearby square. “Mon ami,” the inevitable greeting came. A nod, a smile, a signal to this man that he possessed no ill intention. Spread between them were… Yellow squash. Fragrant onion. Prickly okra. Crisp mustard. Radiant green peppers. Tomatoes ripened to bursting!
With the father was the small son, playing dark-haired about his feet, asking Papa this and Papa that, begging to assist in placing produce in the basket. Francois had watched intently as the boy gripped a white onion with two hands, tender pink fingers and tiny nails. Soon after this day, of course, the child had gone missing, never to be seen again. A sadness for the father, no doubt.
Francois knew of creatures who possessed a sense of smell far beyond that of humans. He himself had superior olfactory sense to that of normal men. His sense of taste, however, this he surmised exceeded that of any animal. He did not possess a lively palate, it possessed him.
This blessing indeed surpassed all others he had known. The consequent hunger far beyond any enjoyed by other humans, the resulting appetite he had so deeply sated upon rare and extraordinary occasion—these profound satisfactions had been his! And for these delights, these feasts, he felt supreme gratitude. Even now, at his end, he could relish and savor them.
Francois belched loudly. Without doubt, he mused, his was a life well lived. To live fully, there must be that for which a man would die—so some claimed. …As if death were merely an option and life merely an empty meandering. No, not acceptable. Others instead asserted a man must know that for which he will kill. Yes, this was more sensible.
Francois raised twitching fingers to wet tongue. He tasted. He kissed. He drew a long and ragged breath. He closed his eyes. Of life and death, he knew but this: he had not killed in order to live, he had not lived in order to kill, all had been…in order to dine.
Winds of Memory
By John Brizzi
As he stood there at the window, a childhood memory came to him. It was of a simpler time where magic existed and nothing mattered. It seemed like the sun always shined then, warm, enveloping, and a stark contrast to the grief he now wore like a shroud.
In his recollection, he stood out in the front yard of his childhood home on a windy day. His arms outstretched, he called upon the winds forewarning the upcoming storm.
“Blow, winds, blow!” He cried.
The winds blew harder, as if heeding his command. He felt swept away as nature’s power and fury swirled around him. He would never feel that free again.
The memory pained him now, as he stood there at the window, watching the snowflakes fall. He put his hand to the window longingly and whispered “blow, winds, blow” over and over. He balled up his fists as he closed his eyes and concentrated.
In the end, it didn’t matter. He would never feel the wind again. The cold, on the other hand, was eternal.
They wouldn’t let him outside anymore. He was here trapped in the sterile environment they created for him. There was a time where he would have welcomed it – the solitude, the distance from people. He wanted to touch the snow again. If he could just feel the flakes on his skin again, if he could just watch his breath’s smoky wisps on the cold air again, it would all be ok.
Another memory came to him, dated several years after the previous one. Climbing the mounds of snow created by the plows in his hometown. Childhood friends, now faded memories, danced in his mind. Snowballs whizzed back and forth, and the below-freezing temperatures didn’t feel as cold.
There would be no more snowball fights. There would be no more friends. All that remained were the fluorescent lights, the artificial temperature, the white walls, and his memories. It wouldn’t be so bad if all of his memories were happy ones.
He sat back down in his chair and waited. And waited. And waited. He knew that soon dreaded sleep would overtake him. Sleep was always horrible, no matter how many pills they gave him. Sleep brought it all back. His pristine white snow would be turned into a swirl of red and gray.