The other day I sent Pip to give everyone a “heads-up” that I wasn’t sure I could do this weekend’s episode… due to the unfortunate combination of my clumsiness and lots of stairs inside and particularly (the culprits in my misadventure) outside my home…
The story nagged at me though, so I’ll try to provide a quality episode.
However, I’m going to give my post-tumble achy self a little break, and challenge any or all of you — to leave a comment with a link to a favorite recipe that uses one of this week’s three ingredients!
Without further ado, here is Episode-8. Bon appétit!
8. Lettuce, Shrimp, Hot Peppers
“Andy! Annn-deee!” someone screamed hysterically, and after a moment I realized I was the one screaming.
Whether by accident or by design, the ghost-riders had taken Andy. Caleb the spirit cowboy yelled at them to stop before he also disappeared, but it had done no good.
As I tried to collect my wits, I noticed a wooden box that bore a faded image of a head of lettuce. I thought absently that it was a good thing the produce was gone; else the spoiled odor would fill the place. But then again, maybe it rotted away so long ago that even the smell was gone.
The sudden stillness of the building felt unearthly. I sat down on an old crate, not giving any thought to how dusty it was. Had it really been only a little while since we drove up to the abandoned factory? The words Andy had spoken at that moment came back to me and I shivered.
“Yeah, it’s like the hand of Fate making sure things stay in balance. If one thing or person leaves a realm, then another must take its place,” Andy had said.
Had the hand of Fate reached out and grabbed Andy to make sure whatever mystical realms stayed in balance? Or what might happen if someone were to escape death? Like Marshal Myrick — he died briefly and was revived by Dr. Veronica Vale. Could that have disturbed a cosmic balance of some sort? Or maybe the presence of one of the ghosts upset the balance of things. Did Daisy or the Maestro have to “move on” before Andy could come back?
As if on cue Maestro Martino appeared. He was bubbling over with excitement. “Signorina,” he cried. “A wondrous thing has happened!”
I looked at the ghost chef blankly, still reeling from the drama that took place only a moment before.
“I have been given a reprieve! My curse is cut in half!” Martino exclaimed joyously as he all but danced around me.
Maestro lifted me off my feet in a great bear hug. I thought of Andy being pulled into the air by the ghost-rider’s lariat and I shuddered. The ghost chef must have felt my reaction because he put me back down hastily.
“Oh forgive my excitement Signorina,” he apologized. “I did not mean to be improper,” the spirit said and then glanced around as if he had only just noticed the location. “But where is the young Signore?”
“They took him,” I said, distracted by the chaotic tumble of thoughts rolling through my head.
The Maestro looked a question at me, but instead of answering, I asked some questions of my own. “Maestro, where is the wooden owl clock? The one you had to bind yourself to? And how were you able to find me?”
He chuckled. “Signorina, I told you. I am one powerful poltergeist!” he said merrily.
Maestro Martino reminded me that he could be away from whatever object to which he was bound for limited periods of time. He said that he sensed the strong supernatural activity relatively nearby and it attracted him. Then he also sensed my presence in the midst of it, so he came quickly. I marveled at how powerful he truly must be to pick up all those things. I could understand that he might be aware of ghostly activity, but I thought it was particularly extraordinary that he felt my mortal presence.
I told him about the Devil’s Herd and the ghost-riders. “Is there anything you can do to get Andy back, Maestro?” I pleaded.
“One of them was here, strongly,” Maestro muttered. “He was most interested in you, Signorina.”
Then he came close to me and put out his hands, palms toward me as if he could feel something in the air around me. He tut-tutted some more.
“What is it?” I wanted to know.
“Can you not see it?” he asked but then seemed to remember himself. “Of course not. My mistake,” he said and wriggled his fingers.
I marveled to see a multi-colored aura all around me. There were bright horizontal yellow-green bands around it at my waist and shoulder.
“A poltergeist made physical contact with you, no?” he asked but it didn’t sound like a question.
In answer I told the Maestro about Caleb the ghost-rider and how he pulled me to safety as the Devil’s Herd thundered past. His thick eyebrows went up in an expression of curiosity that was accompanied by another tut-tut sound.
“So, a ghost who is cursed for his cruelty during life saves an innocent bystander… This is most intriguing,” he said.
Martino put his hand to the places where Caleb had stood. Then he apologized and placed his hand at my waist. After a second the Maestro gasped.
“Repentance?” he said in an astonished tone. “Remorse and repentance? I’m sure I feel these things from your ghost-rider. It must be one powerful curse that afflicts him. I am amazed that the curse has not been lifted.”
I looked at Maestro Martino sadly. He had never shown anything but kindness to me. Yet he said he was cursed also. Always one to put my foot in it, I asked about something that was none of my bees wax. “Then shouldn’t your curse be lifted as well? You said just now that it was cut in half. Why didn’t they… whomever, just take it away?” I asked and then blushed at my temerity.
He gazed at me with the saddest look in his eyes… Even Wriggles the pug couldn’t look that sad. Then he abruptly smiled and chuckled.
“Ah, but you see, Signorina Pip, I have no remorse for the things that got me thusly cursed,” he admitted and spread his arms in a big shrug.
Maestro went back to the spot where Caleb had stood when he whistled at me. His entire body started to vibrate in a frightening way. He waivered from transparent to solid and back again, sometimes blinking out entirely. It was like a visual version of the static on the police radio. There was also a low discordant hum that set my teeth on edge.
The spirit chef loudly clapped his hands together. To my astonishment, Caleb the cowboy appeared. At first he seemed confused, but when he saw me he grinned. I ran toward the two ghosts.
“Simmer down now little filly,” he said.
The ghost-rider looked a little unsettled, and I supposed he might well be. After all, he had just been plucked out of whatever and wherever without so much as a please or thank you. Caleb turned to Maestro Martino. Some kind of acknowledgment or recognition seemed to pass between them. I had the feeling they had just gauged each other’s power.
Caleb took off his Stetson and scratched his head as if he didn’t know what I meant. However, I was pretty sure he was playing with me.
“Oh, you mean the little shrimp that was here with you?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said bouncing on the balls of my feet. “Andy! My friend, the one the other ghost-riders took!”
He chuckled, but I thought there was sadness in the cowboy’s eyes. “I’m sorry ma’am. I know who you mean. It’s just… well you’re so cute,” he said though it only sounded half apologetic.
Caleb seemed to be considering whether or not he would be able to do as I asked. He looked around the factory floor where we stood.
“We’ve been here before,” he said sounding a little troubled. “Me and the other riders, I mean. But it doesn’t feel like it’s anywhere out west,” he added and I told him that we were in Savannah, Georgia.
“This has to be a strong place, to draw the Devil’s Herd so far away,” he said in a speculative tone. “Something else happened here too. I think that’s why the place is so strong…” his voice trailed away.
“A nexus,” Maestro murmured.
I didn’t understand the term, but my only concern was for my missing friend. I told Caleb about Daisy and what she had said about something horrible that she couldn’t remember happening in the factory. Caleb nodded as if what I said made perfect sense.
“Sometimes it’s best not to remember,” the cowboy said in a flat voice. “Tell her that — your Daisy. Tell her it’s best, even in death, to forget some things. Those boys… it will catch up with them eventually.”
“What boys?” I asked.
“Boys… men now,” Caleb said with a faraway look in his eyes.
It was as if he was looking at something only he could see. However, when I glanced at Maestro, I had the feeling he was looking at the same thing Caleb saw.
“The boys who were here on the day your Daisy can’t remember,” Caleb answered after a moment. “They did something so bad that it attracted the ghost herd and the cursed riders. We were here that day. It scared ‘em off, but their damage was already done. Daisy saw us, but all things together, she blocked out all the memory,” he said.
“You mean the ghost-riders tried to save Daisy?” I asked.
“No ma’am. It had nothing to do with helping anybody. The herd and the riders, we’re sometimes drawn to places where something awful has happened. And those boys definitely did something horrible. Those boys… They’re not young anymore. And they haven’t paid for what they did to her. That’s what’s bothering Daisy, ma’am,” Caleb said.
His explanation seemed disjointed and difficult to follow, but Maestro nodded in agreement. I, however, felt confused.
“Do you mean this is where Daisy died?” I asked in a whisper.
Caleb shook his head negatively. Maestro gave a slight movement of his head too. Apparently they both were able to see the same past event.
“Maybe. Maybe not,” Caleb said. “But there was cruelty here. It’s not something a lady should have to remember,” he added and would say no more on the subject.
“Now listen here —” I began, ready to rail against the idea that gender should have the least bit to do with what anybody should about anything. However, that was a ridiculous concept to most non-flappers. It would have been even stranger in Caleb’s day. Besides, there were more urgent things to address.
“What about Andy?” I asked, and I wondered if I sounded as distraught as I had to my own ears.
“Don’t you worry none, ma’am,” Caleb said with what was probably meant to be a reassuring smile.
“Well, the truth is ma’am,” he paused and ground his boot against the floor. “It would take a lot more power than I have,” he said. “But you never know. I’ll try my best.”
Maestro Martino unexpectedly grabbed Caleb’s hand. The ghost chef put his other hand on the cowboy’s shoulder. At first I thought it was an ordinary gesture of respect. However, Maestro started to glow. Then his hands seemed to merge with Caleb and they both became translucent.
A blinding white glow suffused the Maestro. Soon it covered Caleb too. The white light became so bright that I couldn’t see anything. I shielded my eyes to no avail. I turned my head and closed my eyes.
I heard a fizzing sound followed by a pop. The light was gone. I opened my eyes. At first all I could see were spots. Then I realized that Caleb the cowboy was gone.
Maestro Martino looked absolutely spent. He plopped down on a crate. The ghost chef dusted off part of the top and chuckled. I noticed foreign lettering on the crate. “Peperoncino,” it said. Was that Italian?
He sighed. “Ah… a bit of home. Peperoncino. Hot peppers. Alas, home is as far away as ever,” he said sadly. “But all is well. It was the right thing to do.”
“As you probably suspected, I leant the ghost-rider enough power to help the Signore. But the only way I could do this thing was to also give him his wish,” Martino said.
I was so worried about Andy that I was feeling impatient with the cryptic answers from the spirit. I tried to control my tone. “What wish?” I insisted.
Then I remembered Caleb’s words. “I know I did some bad things during my life. Some truly horrible things,” he’d said, shaking his head remorsefully. “I only wish I could be allowed to make up for it, to redeem myself somehow.”
“Maestro…” I began in an awed voice. “You didn’t? Oh, but you did,” I said as comprehension dawned. “You gave Caleb the chance to make amends for the things he did in his lifetime?”
The ghost chef nodded but did not speak.
“And in doing that, you somehow gave up the time that was going to be taken off your own curse,” I said.
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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