The Barbecue

“Yoohoo!” A flash from the corner of the yard was the orange and yellow sun-dresses of the Bunting sisters, competing with the flowers for brightness and color. May had her hair in a crimped halo around her head, and bright geometric shapes on her accessories, looking like she walked off of MTV. Maggie looked a little more tasteful, but her bright colors still clashed for attention against the subdued, neutral tones of Betty’s guests.

Party crashers. Time to show what she’s made of. The pair of them might be gaudy, but who better to spread word-of-mouth than gossips? If she couldn’t make it on her own soon, maybe she could resort to catering neighborhood parties. She grabbed two flutes of champagne and headed over. “I’m so glad you decided to join us.”

“How kind of you, but we prefer not to be associated with scandal.” Scandal? This was a business launch, not a drunken frat party. The sisters smiled at her confusion.

A sudden metallic screech squirmed up her spine. She turned to see a woman sauntering alongside her shiny new catering van, a woman who idolized Madonna, in a black corset with a lace skirt, with her hair styled like Marilyn Monroe and holding a riding crop. Betty was so astonished, it took her a minute to realize that noise was the woman dragging a key in looping spirals across her van’s new logo. All chatter stopped as the guests held their breath.

The woman strode into her lawn, greeted by the roses as they sighed the last of their withering scent into the heat. She walked to a tray of barbecue themed appetizers. Weenies skewered with festive toothpicks were carefully arranged on an ebony tray garnished with swirls of condiments patterned like fireworks. She ran a lazy finger through the designs, smearing them. While while the well-mannered crowd watched in amazement, she sensually sucked her finger clean.

“What are you doing?” Betty’s voice was loud and frantic, her heels grabbed at the lawn and threatened to sprain her ankle as she rushed toward the invader.

The woman held her head high, and her walk was straight, but her breath smelled of brandy and there was a lazy swagger to her pace. “Oh, I see you’re having a party. How fun. I’m just here to talk to my boyfriend.”

For a moment Betty felt like a mannequin, frozen in a pose that was a parody of relaxation, stiff limbed with a strained smile. “I’m afraid you have the wrong house. The man who lives here is my husband, and all of my guests have families.”

“Yes, your husband, my boyfriend. That one.” She smiled, the shade of a nearby tree showering her with flashes of sunlight, the contrast between light and shadow across her face was nauseating, dizzying. “You do know, right? I know they knew.” The horrible woman pointed to the sisters, now doubling over with laughter.

They knew? Oh. They were gossips. But about her? But they knew? What this woman was claiming? They knew this was true, and they hid it from her? Their families had lived next door to each other through two generations, they grew up together. She flashed cold and weak, her focus and clarity fading in and out, as she struggled to understand the implications of what was going on.

“They didn’t tell you? I’m so sorry. I thought people liked you. I mean, how can you start a party business if people don’t like you?” Maggie and May finger-waved at her together while the horrible woman sneered. Betty knows this has to do with her son. This must be about her son, they were always out to get him, so spiteful to a child. Horrible people. Where is he? Was he seeing all this?

Her eyes scanned the small crowd, she felt herself blush at the expression on her guests’ faces. She saw a small figure dart from behind the bushes by the front of the house into the cargo door of the van. Was that David? What was he doing?

The music video reject in front of her tapped her whip against her thigh playfully. “Such a shame you don’t know how to show love to your family properly. If you can’t keep a hold of your man, I’m here to take care of him for you. He can come with me, and won’t be your problem anymore.”

It hurts, but still sounds like she could be talking about a different family. And she’s nuts anyway, calling herself a good better person while she’s crashing a party holding a whip. Maybe that’s why the sisters were laughing. There was no way Jim was into this woman and her drama. Where was Jim? He would clear this up.

He’s right where he’s supposed to be, tending the grill, one hand absently holding a pair of tongs with a hot dog grabbed between them, another holding an open bun, his mouth agape. She starts walking toward him. Behind her she heard the van start up, and she turned toward the sound to find it moving, her son at the wheel, his eyes wide in delight and his mouth open in laughter she could see but not hear, crashing through her roses, the appetizers, and the bizarre woman herself, her body bouncing from impact, only to fall under the still moving wheels, her hairdo frozen into place as a growing pool of crimson spilled beneath her.

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P.S. – So that a weekly post won’t distract me from my current focus, this is an excerpt from a larger project. Probably a flash novella. It was inspired by my first reading with my nifty new Housewives’ Tarot, using a spread that came in the booklet.

And with that, I’m a little bored of constraining my characters to tarot archetypes. After this project I’ll allow more sources of inspiration, though naturally I’ll still play with my decks occasionally.

Janice and Claire in the Garden: Knight of Swords

In the sunshine of the patio, they perched on white ironwork chairs, sturdy creatures forged in a pattern to imitate delicate lace. “I assure you, you’ve never had a treat like my cheese puff surprise. Lofty, and oh so sweetly sharp.” Janice beamed as she served her guest a tiny plate.

Claire accepted with a polite smile. She took a couple of delicate bites while making humble mumbles as she wondered how to phrase a comment that didn’t declare them too salty. “These seem like they have quite a bit of um, liquid smoke?”

“Yes,” Janice smiled and leaned on the table, slowly resting her chin on an elegantly poised hand, quietly crossing her ankles before continuing, “I used a heavy hand to cover the taste of the crab, but I rather like the smoldering edge it lends, like revenge served before it goes stale.”

Claire dropped her fork. “Janis, you know I’m allergic. Quick, where’s my purse? I need my EpiPen.”

“I put it in the closet. But your EpiPen isn’t in it. The police will find it, and some other small items that must have dropped out of your purse when you visited the bathroom.”

Claire’s voice was starting to sound scratchy, perhaps the crab, perhaps from confusion and panic. “The police? What police?”

“Well, I’m sure when your husband claims the life insurance, they’ll want to investigate. Don’t worry, I can tell them I didn’t know shrimp was related to crab. If I act pretty enough, they won’t think to much of it at all.” She tossed her head back and smiled like she hasn’t since riding that boyfriend’s Harley, the one her mother hated, purring with a low rumbling fire rising between her legs.

“Fuck your morbid humor. Where is it?” Claire fumbled with her mother’s heirloom pearls, pulling too roughly in a silly attempt to get more air.

Janice waved the cheese knife through the air as if she were tracing a lazy spiral, a distant smile on her face. “Oh look, your body is fighting against itself and forgetting your need for vital breath in the process.”

She leaned closer, her crimson lips reflecting an orange, fiery tint that made her teeth look aged and yellow, but seemed to match the gleam in her eyes, brightening them with a mad rage, “Your face will be too bloated and grotesque for an open casket.”

“Janis, why?” Her voice was thin, croaky.

“Well, Claire, maybe you shouldn’t have unfollowed me on Twitter.”

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Tarot deck: Archeon. Tarot Prompt: Knight of Swords.
Interpretation: Passion and wit. A sharp tongued teenager. Fire and air = smoke. Intelligence to temper burning emotions, but smoldering.
The darkness on the side of her face, reminds me of a certain demonic barmaid with fire in her hair. Looks passive, but smolders. Would totally get you back when you least expect it. Rage filled and overly rational minds bent on revenge might not forgive easily, even when something is forgivable and understandable. Especially if they already have a taste for murder.

416 words. More tarot stories.

P.S. – I already seem to be channeling the voice of the 50s housewife as cheekily portrayed in my new tarot deck, it won’t stop calling my name.

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P.P.S. – I chuckled when I thought deadly crab were a gift that should be salty.

Periwinkle Blue: The Queen of Pentacles, Reversed

The scream of a blue jay broke through the shadow of the trees, a war cry as it battled a squirrel in the yard she pushed her daughter by. She paused to dab at her forehead with a silk scarf while her toddler cooed at the squirrel. She enjoyed this street, with its trees so old they cracked the sidewalks, sheltering the stately homes that carved out a well-manicured niche from the old-growth forest.

Periwinkles tumbled down the lawn to kiss the base of the towering tree the squirrel skittered up for safety. Sweet little flowers the color of the dress she wore, that woman he introduced her to at the party. She couldn’t remember her name. She looked so much like the woman on the news, the one that went missing.

She dismissed the thought. Her child thought the billowing white flowers were popcorn. She smiled at the thought of telling him when he came home, it was cute enough that maybe he would listen. Where would she be without him? Could she be without him? Could she do that to their daughter?

A flash of light on fluttering leaves startled her. She was embarrassed at how high she jumped. The leaves were pretty though, flitting in and out of the light. They reached the park, she hadn’t noticed. The clang of the iron gate reminded her of prison bars, but it would keep her child safe while she relaxed.

She sat on the fading bench and browsed her phone, looking for a podcast to enjoy. She tried one of her favorites, always good for distraction. A few minutes into it, she closed it. She tried reading earlier, she already knew she couldn’t focus on a plot. She decided to watch the birds.

The birds are in usually in pairs this time of year. Male birds preening and dancing, showing all their flash and none of their substance, female birds in awe of their skills and flattered with their attention, to be later disappointed when they find themselves chained to the nest.

A tiny white pebble caught her eye, reminding her of the tooth she found wedged between the boards on the porch this morning. She decided to push her daughter on the swing. Maybe the laughter of children would give her the peace she needed.

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Tarot deck: Archeon. Tarot Prompt: Queen of Pentacles, reversed.
Interpretation: A sensual woman, gentle but strong. She loves beauty, pleasure, walk is in the light of prosperity with dignity and grace. A patient, compassionate listener.
Reversed: Falling into despair. Sharp, cutting, regret. Guilt, trapped in past misdeeds, bad choices, falling. Rather than a wealth of joys, narrowed in focus to a singular intrusive thought.

389 words. More tarot stories.

P.S. – A day late because I still can’t find those damn periwinkles I saw that whispered pretty words in my ear. Totally want them for the pic on this.