A Democratic Feast
Every day when the clock-tower strikes three, the church bells ring tremendously. The town exhales. There is a great shuffling, the sound of dominoes tumbling as neighbors shutter their windows.
Joshua and I scramble to latch our doors shut and stuff checkered towels underneath the frames to sequester cool air. By this time of year, however, the cool air is imagined. There are only varying degrees of heat.
We settle on opposite ends of our pallet. The dust swirls above me. My ribs gnaw at my stomach, ripple under my skin, things alive. I too, would like to eat, I whisper gently to assuage them.
Joshua lies here beside me, sweat gluing curls against his forehead. His cheeks are plump and flushed. Perspiration softens his skin into pliable dough. A droplet slides across his browbone.
My ribs quiver. Ah, I can’t help myself. Just a little taste —
Stop that. I’m trying to rest.
Try it. I clench his limp wrist and hold it under his chin.
He hesitates. I push his hand closer to his mouth. Ah…marmalade?
I nod. I offer him my palm. Preserved lemon.
I run my tongue along his jawline. Quince-and-ginger compote.
His forearm tastes of capers. My knee is spicy and herbal. We can’t quite place it. Habanero jelly? Not exactly. I’ve got it! Peppercorn. That’s right.
Your chin is the most delectable.
I strain my tongue. What’s it like?
Sweet lime and basil. A bit of chili. Well balanced.
We’ll tell them at tonight’s town hall.
Everyone will be so pleased.
We spend the rest of the afternoon smacking our lips.
The church bells thunder. The town awakens, one sticky eye at a time.
We plot excitedly as we untuck the towels from the doorframes, unlatch the doors. We walk outside.
Figures of varying height, shrouded in dust, hunch toward the town hall. Everyone is headed there tonight. The open barn door pours out light the color of melted butter, dribbling yolky yellow onto the throughway.
Joshua kisses my knuckles tenderly. Toasted pistachio, he giggles into my ear.
Please, everyone, settle down. The mayor bangs his gavel as members take their seats. First order of business, I’d like to welcome our special guest, Madame Kinder from the Society of Bucolic Pleasures. She’ll give closing remarks. Polite, scattered applause. Now, to go over some housekeeping matters…
The mayor unfurls a large piece of parchment and begins to read out the usual list of affairs; land plot disputes, preventative measures for ulcers, the poll on wheat-berries.
I close my eyes briefly and ruminate on Joshua’s collarbone: caviar on water crackers.
I’ll open the floor for comments, questions, and concerns.
The wicker chairs strain. Joshua’s hand is a vice around my forearm.
Questions? If there are no questions, we’ll move to a final vote on wheat-berries. The mayor raises his gavel.
Necks whip around, eyes flash.
We have something to announce! Joshua clasps my palm.
We stand up and move through the aisle. Heads swivel toward us.
The mayor moves to create space at the pulpit and places a hand on either of our shoulders. Joshua grapples the microphone, which emits a feedback screech. Ahem. We’ve made a discovery —
Amazing, really —
Today, we’ve found that, Joshua gives me a tentative grin, we taste marvelous!
The wicker chairs fall silent.
Joshua licks his hand. Marmalade!
The mayor raises his own hand and inspects it slowly, before stretching out his tongue. As it makes contact, his eyes widen, pupils contract. His jowls wobble. He jabs a fat finger in our direction. You make a fool out of me!
No, we promise, pleads Joshua. Mayor, please, my hand. He offers it up to the mayor’s great maw.
The mayor assesses Joshua quizzically, then shrugs. He pulls out a silk pocket square, and polishes Joshua’s hand. You’re lucky marmalade is my favorite flavor. He bends down and gives Joshua a robust lick.
My god. The mayor looks up, revealing shining eyes, and claps Joshua soundly on the back. This is a splendid marmalade!
The wicker chairs screech as members burst out of their seats, surge towards the pulpit.
We stretch out our arms, and the crowd carries us atop their hundred feathery tongues, screeching with delight. Plum cobbler! Pickled watermelon! Crème brulee!
Set them down! Set them down. The mayor bangs his gavel. Decorum!
I alight on my feet, wobbly from the exercise. Saliva drips from my shirtsleeve.
We must go about this the proper way. After all, we’re not barbarians. Now, let’s decide what to do, altogether, the mayor turns to us for approval. We turn towards each other, nod.
The wicker chairs shuffle. Heads bob and murmur.
I want licks! A voice chirps. They can stay with me!
No, I deserve the licks!
WE WANT THE LICKS!
The chorus rises. The wicker chairs jostle. Dust flies through the air.
Decorum. De-co-rum! The mayor’s gavel cracks.
If I may, a soft mezzo-soprano rings through the crowd.
The mayor raises an eyebrow. Madame Kinder. You have the floor.
I think I have a solution to please everyone.
Joshua and I embrace each other.
Madame Kinder giggles and interlaces her delicate hands. We can all have a taste. Why don’t we simply…eat them?
The crowd titters.
Decorum! Please, I must urge you all to take your seats. Now, listen, let’s do this respectably. The mayor bangs his gavel. All in favor, please say aye!
Maz Do is an emerging writer living in New York. She is an undergraduate at NYU studying Middle Eastern Islamic Studies and enjoys learning new languages. She has been previously published in Scoundrel Time.
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