by Michael Díaz Feito
Table of Contents|
Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
Chapter 4: Meat
Satan met Fèlix and Frater Luís on the road to Barcelona. She had prepared a feast for them and the company of Genoese pilgrims with whom they walked: beer and six honey-slathered rabbits roasted over a firepit.
The rabbits pleaded but did not hide, leaving their warren one by one and sleepily as Satan said, “It’s weird to kill you, because I can’t know your minds. But the big argument takes precedence.”
Veiled and regally aquiline, she introduced herself as Mercedes and invited the travelers to eat and camp for the night. Her two attendants served them in the purple dusk between birch trees.
Pilgrims were praising Compostela. They displayed their badges, scallop shells, and other trinkets purchased at the shrine. Ninety maravedís’ worth of mementos, Mercedes thought, and the hypocrite chased off the moneychangers? Tu autem fecisti eam speluncam latronum! You valorized everything for the salvific ledger. God, what’s the point?
“When we’re done, they’ll come to kiss Crunia so sweetly,” Luís said to Fèlix.
“Excuse me, Dompnus Luís,” Mercedes said. “Why doesn’t your friend eat?”
The pilgrims quieted and watched. The attendants poured them more beer, whispering. Like the roadside feast, Mercedes had prepared this question earlier for Fèlix and the tonsured nun, Frater Luís. A simple question would set the machine of suspicions turning automatically, because, mirabile dictu, that’s how their disembodied language works.
Fèlix said, “I’m not hungry now, Dompna Mercedes. Thank you.”
“I see,” Mercedes said. “That’s fine. But you are, Dompnus Luís?”
“Very,” Luís said. “It’s been a long while since I’ve had meat.”
“Have more, please! You’ll need blood if you’re going to Bethlehem.”
“Aw jeez, thanks. I think I will. Boy, could you bring me that leg? Yes, that one there. Fèlix, our lady is right, Fèlix. Eat while you can. Like the good soldier, who sleeps and eats while he can. Here, try some of mine.”
“I don’t eat meat,” Fèlix said.
It was already dark outside the firelight. A nightingale chirped somewhere deeper in the forest, raising a seductive alarm over the slate hills. The song faded. The air was cold, delicious to breathe. A pilgrim’s wife walked away from the camp. Then her husband, a bald, pale-white man, unfazed by his wife’s departure, slurringly said to Fèlix, “Why not?”
“Why not what?” Fèlix said.
“Why not eat meat? You a regular?”
“It’s for penance,” Luís said. “Right?”
“Why the hell not, then?” the pilgrim said.
Fèlix said, “Meat is filthy material. It’s the profit of copulation. I won’t burden myself with it.”
“Wait...” the pilgrim said, “that adds up to heresy somehow, doesn’t it? I knew it! Dompna Mercedes, it’s a heretic! This clog-wearing troll is a heretic!”
“You shut up,” Luís said. “Stupid man. Shut up if you’re so stupid.”
Mercedes intervened. With her most refined manners, she suggested that Fèlix and Luís should leave. Grumbling and glowering at the Genoese pilgrims, they shouldered their satchels and returned to the road. Luís said to Fèlix: “Do you have to say crazy stuff?”
The remaining pilgrims, minus the bald one’s disappeared wife, slept in the orange glow of the fire. They snored. They cuddled their empty tankards.
Mercedes and her attendants changed themselves into hogs. Although she regretted that she could not feel the essence of the animal whose form she took, Satan relished the stiffening of her hairs, the shaping of ladylike hands into hooves, and slipped from the fancy veil. The hogs chewed the sleeping pilgrims, who did not even stir at the snouts’ wet nuzzle.
Copyright © 2017 by Michael Díaz Feito