Posts Tagged ‘Chapter 3’

“The Devil in Paris”, Chapter Three

January 27, 2016

Continuing the short story….

Mlle. Margot Lucern, Devil in Paris

Perhaps Mlle. Luciern…..

John Garrett Devil in Paris

Perhaps John Garrett…..

Gormosy 2

Definitely Gormosy.

-thanks to

Chapter Three


A week later, John Garrett was shown into Madame’s apartment by an old servant. He glanced at the dark and wizened man and smelled brimstone. Madame was known to choose her servants carefully. Life could be a subterranean maze in Paris. He knew other demons in the city and all were not friendly devils.


“Ah, John! Bonjour!” Madame was drinking tea with a young woman, one Garrett did not recognize.


“You remember Mlle. Luciern? What changes we have wrought! Such an elegant young woman. What man in his right mind could resist her! Could you, John?”


Ah, thought Garrett. Madame is up to her old tricks. She insists in making me part of her plan for this young woman.


Madame’s eyes glittered as she turned to look at the young woman sitting across the tea table. Garrett bowed over the jewelled hand of Louise, and then stood back to look at Mlle. Luciern.


Madame had indeed worked her magic. Mlle. was coifed and gowned like a young, elegant Parisian matron. He admired her hair, piled high on her head, with many curls and loops and one long curled tendril, a thick sausage over her shoulder. At least Madame’s hairdresser had forgone the powder and her natural color was preserved. Mlle’s complexion was good but now she had some bloom in her cheeks. He knew this was all art, for Louise was an expert with faces and makeup. He saw Mlle. had only two black satin patches on her face, one near the left eye, and one near the mouth to draw attention to her painted lips. They did look alluring to him, like they were stung by an amorous bee.


Garrett cocked his head to the side and let his gaze travel down her figure. Her morning dress was of light blue silk. Ruffles framed her breast. Garrett let his eyes linger only a second, but Mlle. did present a lovely bosom to onlookers. He knew this was due to more of Madame’s magic – this time with pads in the corset. Round, delicate mounds above and the merest of rouged nipples appeared like little mouse noses peeking over the tops of the corset. Such was the fashion for seduction. He wondered how far Madame had corrupted her student.


“No, Madame Gormosy, no man could resist such a beautiful young woman.”


Garrett was surprised to see Margot blush so deeply. At least Madame’s instructions had not destroyed this vestige of virtue in the girl.


“Mlle. is an good student, John. She learns fast and takes an interest in her future. Her mother will be proud of her. We will get her matched up with the proper husband soon enough. But as I have told Mlle. Margot, there is plenty time for an engagement. Now is to be given to sharpening her feminine skills. That way she will attract the best prospect for her future happiness. Mais bon Dieu!   She is still so young and innocent. We must hone her wit and deportment. Nothing like the polish upon an apple to attract the proper bites.”


Garrett stared at Madame Gormosy. He could easily see through her designs, but of course, the young woman was too naïve to understand what was happening right under her nose. She was a pretty morsel, and it was hard to take his eyes from parts of her. The swell of her breast, how gently it rose with an almost imperceptible movement. He could feast his eyes on that tender piece of flesh all morning. How much more alluring she would be if she were panting, he thought. A sly smile appeared on his face.


Ah, Madame Gormosy was full of devilry this morning, and it was infectious.


Louise Gormosy spoke with excitement. “Today we will work on the great science of “coquetry”. Non, M. Garrett, do not laugh, for women have their own science. Let the men work with fire and chemicals. We women have our own fire and it is called “La Passion”


Garrett winced and hoped Mlle. Margot would forgive the bad prose of her patroness. But Madame would press her case.


“Surely Mlle. Margot has higher aspirations than to be a housewife to her husband. It is a most contemptible and unfashionable position for any women of breeding, and has no social standing except for a parson’s wife or a lowly farmer’s. Ah Dieu! Mlle. is made by nature for much finer things!”


Garrett wondered if the word “God” did not burn the inside of Madame’s mouth, but since she was an old devil, he imagined she would have a mouth immune to heat. Still, he had heard this speech before, but he could not remember when. Perhaps it was another time in another century, while attending Madame under similar circumstances, that she had used these same words. They seemed familiar to him in any case. He heard her drone on.


“Now, Mlle. Margot, advice today is seen as ridiculous to be given, and even more ridiculous to be taken, but your dear maman would want you to listen to me very closely. Alors! She has given you into my hands for more than to fluff your beautiful hair and plump your fine bosom. It is her choicest desire to prepare you for entrance into the best of society and this is the path to catch the eyes of a husband. Have you read Madame d’Effine’s letters? Non? Pity. But I can supply you a copy of her book. Or better yet, I can give you the benefit of my long experience.”


Garrett could not stop a smile creeping across his face. Mlle Margot would have no idea just how long that experience really was. Yes, Mlle Luciern, it goes back a long way. Whether Madame could read his mind, which was standard fare amongst devils, or she caught a glimpse of his sly smile, she turned around suddenly and gave Garrett a vicious look. His face went neutral and he closed his eyes in compliance. He would not interrupt her behavior. Besides, it was entertainment for a morning’s visit.


“Now, Mlle. Margot. Virtue is all very fine and good, but to get a husband, or any admirer, a woman must use what attributes she has and develop more. A fine voice, the ability to cut to the heart of a man’s desire just with the cast of your eyes, the flutter of your fan, ah! There is so much to learn, but we will persist. Now, M.Garrett, please attend to Mlle. and lead her around the room, s’il vous plait.


Garrett stood and offered his arm to Mlle. Margot. They walked around the large salon, Mlle  Margot only as high as his chest. He was a tall and well- built man, with broad shoulders, and Mlle. petite next to him. He observed her blush as she placed her hand on his and looked up into his face.


Entertaining as Madame was, he was beginning to have his doubts about her plans. He believed this young woman to be innocent. He rarely, now that he thought of it, came across a woman so – uncorrupted, and certainly not in Paris. The thought crossed his mind: Quelle dommage, as Madame liked to say. Perhaps he would have his own plan for Mlle. Luciern. What was a little competition between devils? They had shared tender morsels before in their long history.


Eh bien! Attendezmoi! John, give me the advantage of your eyes. Tell me what you think are the best points of Mlle.’s figure. Does that style of dress, the color suit her the best, mon ami? Speak out loud what her beau would say, and let us see how Mlle. reacts to such praise!”


Ah, it was clear what Madame’s plan was now! Madame was a terrible devil this morning, and she would have her fun at the expense of the painful blushes of Mlle. He decided to turn the game to his own advantage, and perhaps spare Mlle some pain.


At that very moment, the old devil servant of Madame Gormosy slipped into the room and approaching quickly, whispered into the ear of his mistress. Madame cocked her head towards his mouth, and though she did not take her eyes from John Garrett and Mlle. Luciern, Garrett saw they grew dark with concern. Muttering some curses low under her breath, she rose and went with her servant from the room, forgetting her two guests.


Garrett took the time of Madame’s absence to lead Mlle. Luciern to a chair and to sit down across from her. He observed Mlle. sink gratefully into her seat, and with a motion beneath her skirts, kick off one shoe.


“Ah, Mlle, does your foot hurt?”


“M.Garrett, I can not get used to these narrow shoes Madame makes me wear. I am not used to this fashion. And if you would know further, I am not used to these headaches. They are from my hair pulled from my head and pinned so tightly. And I can breathe only a little. Madame demands my corset be laced tight.” Mlle. blushed, but Garrett could hear the distress in her voice.


“Ah! I sympathize. Perhaps you think what Madame does here is far off the mark?”


“I don’t understand what you mean, Monsieur.” Another sharp kick under her skirts and off came the other shoe.


“Mlle Luciern. Forgive my blunt words, but Madame is an “old fogey” as we say in England. She means well, but she is generations behind in her thinking.”


How many generations Mlle could never guess.


Tears formed in Mlle. Luciern’s eyes, and she shook her head. Garrett could only sympathize.


“Here, Mlle. Let me do something for your comfort. I will take all the blame, but tant pis! I am an old friend of Madame’s and used to her ways.”


He stood and moved behind Mlle’s chair. With practiced movements, he removed the pins from her hair and spread them from their high peaks and down her back. With gentle hands he massaged her temples and she groaned in relief.


“Ah! Bon Dieu, Monsieur. That feels so good. My poor head was about to explode. Madame means well, but she does not seem to suffer pain like the rest of us. I saw her put on a hat the other day and plunge a long pin into her head. Mon Dieu! She said she did not hit her skin but her hair, but to me, ah goodness! To my eyes, it seemed to go through her head!”


Garrett smiled from behind Mlle’s chair. In fact, he had seen Madame do this before and other such things and had warned her if observed her game would be over. Madame had laughed, she had been doing such tricks for centuries. Besides, the winds of Paris were strong and her hat would blow off if she didn’t get a good layer of skin beneath her hat pin.


“Madame has a thick skull, Mlle. Luciern”, Garrett said drolly. “She is used to all sorts of torture for fashion.”


Garrett looked down Mlle. Luciern’s bosom and watch the gentle curves rise and fall with her breathing. Too bad his plans for Mlle. did not include a seduction. He would like to savor those two young mounds in his mouth. But it would be a passing fancy and his plans for Mlle. Luciern’s future did not include this fleeting pleasure. He had a more lasting pleasure to savor.


And his good friend Louis would be the poorer for it.


Jane Kohut- Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2016







“Devil’s Revenge”…..a chapter from a novel.

December 29, 2014

Night Fog 2

WARNING: A bit of sex…..

For fun and entertainment.  A chapter out of my second novel  I am thinking of finishing.  It’s really two books  in one, and too long by far.  So, I am having fun myself with these chapters.

Today is our 30th wedding anniversary.  My husband has some of the charisma of the Demon.  But aren’t all men rubbing shoulders with the underworld at some point in their lives?

Lady Nyo

Chapter 3

Stretching like a cat, I awoke slowly. Suddenly I smelled the strong scent of wood smoke and bounced upright in bed. Looking around, I saw the fireplace and realized where I was. Damn, it was happening again! The Demon was playing fast and loose with my atoms, zapping me from my own comfortable bed and century. How in hell does he do this? Hah! Like he would tell me, but at least this time I wasn’t sick to my stomach.

The Demon had a name, Garrett Cortelyou. Cocksure of his charms, arrogance fed into his seduction and he was a danger to my decorum and decency. Compounding the situation he was devilishly attractive and exuded an unearthly charisma.   He was master of a particular brand of sexual magic and his appetite knew no bounds.   He delighted in corrupting me, shocking me with his…. techniques. I would call him a libertine. He had little concern I was married and I forgot I was when he was near. There was a certain charm in his humor and he was an entertaining devil. Sexual encounters with him were addictive and probably dangerous. But this could not continue – I was losing control of myself. What kind of world had he pulled me into? Why was I here? This was insanity and since it happened over and over, I knew I was not dreaming.

I also knew somehow… answers to this present situation revolved around the novel. Perhaps if I kept writing until the end it would resolve.   I could return to my comfortable, boring life with my husband and my chickens and this excitement and unreality would disappear. I realized the book was a key, but which door did it open?

And then this demon? Well, I really didn’t know that he was a demon, just guessing. I didn’t have anything else to call him and ‘demon’ fit for some reason. Perhaps it was the magic and the mind reading, but I needed a name for him. What part did he really play in the scope of things? He was a sharp-eyed critic and petards my writing with his presence and demands. I knew he wasn’t ‘real’, oh real enough in some physical sense, but there were other considerations. How did he materialize and why? And why me? Of course, he used the ready excuse of the book and how I thought I had brought him ‘into life’, but the power of words, my words, couldn’t upset the universe to such a remarkable extent. No, there were other forces at work, and I would just have to discover what they were.

Here I was, early morning by the light in the room, and again, in a strange bed.   I had to pee, and knew from past visits where the chamber closet was. It was cold in the room, the fire was dying down and I hurried across the floor. The sound of a pee in a china pot is quite intimate, as water with our modern toilets muffles sound. Leaving the closet, I stumbled over my feet in surprise. There, sitting in a chair, was the demon.

“I thought we agreed you would refer to me as your “Demon Lover”? Garrett was eating a large slice of currant bread, the Dutch escapes me–

“Kretenbroad”, he said, dusting the crumbs off his chest as he chewed.

“Thank you, the word eluded me.”

“Anna makes good kretenbroad.. I think I will marry her.” He grinned and snapped his fingers, making a dish of tea appear on the table.

“You could do worse.” According to the first novel, Anna was the spinster niece of Daniel Griggs, the manservant who lived in this house for thirty years.

“Much more. Get your facts straight.”

“Garrett, what gives you leave to invade my bedroom at all times of the morning?”

Still chewing his bread, he gave a devilish grin. “I like celestial music in the morning.”

“What are you talking about? What music?”   He could be so silly.

“The music a woman makes when she pees in a chamber pot,” he said, still grinning.

“You are a nasty demon.” I was getting impatient with his antics. He took great liberties.

“ Come drink your tea before it cools, “ he said, dusting the crumbs to the floor.

I sat down in my nightgown, and picked up the ‘dish’ of tea. It really was a bowl with two handles, but every time he conjured up tea, it was good.

“Of course it is, I made and stirred it with my –“

“Don’t tell me, Garrett, I won’t be able to drink.” He really was vile this morning, and his visits were always backed with a purpose.

“Always backed”? That’s more garbled English. Write it in Dutch.”

“All right, Demon!” I was irritated. “”Why are you here?” (Better I ask why I am here…) I was struggling with the book, trying to finish and every time we were together in this room, there was a setback in my writing, or a detour, or something strange and distracting.

“Oh? You see me as a distraction? I can be more dangerous than that.” He burped loudly. He had the table manners of a goat.

“Bahhh”. He grinned crazily, and for whatever reason he appeared this morning, I was heading for trouble.

“First, give me your hand, and be more tender towards me.” He extended his hand across the table, and gave me a sweet smile. For some reason, he did this each visit. I never trusted him, especially when he was extending his paw.

“Hand.” He nodded to himself. “And call me ‘Lover’. I miss that from you.”

I had to smile. He was such an insecure devil.

“I am not. It’s just that you are a bad writer.” He lunged across the table and grabbed my hand. “And still not fast on your feet.”

A current flowed from his hand to mine. I was knocked back at the intensity of his touch. He had done this before but something was different today.

“You fed me. See, Bess, I was starving, and your cooking restored my strength.” He grinned and squeezed my hand. “Anna made me stronger, too…and I thank thee for her.”   Anna was a good Dutch cook, apparently.

“I don’t think I want to fokken her, though.” He couldn’t resist. “Nope, don’t want to do that at all.”

He scowled. “ I read what you wrote…and again, you should stick to what you know.” He smiled, yanking my hand towards him.

“What in hell are you talking about?” He rubbed the front of his breeches, and leered.

“Sex?” Is that the word you can’t think of? You have to use sign language?”

“Ha…funny! Especially coming from a woman who obviously doesn’t know a thing about fellatio.”

I sat up, and thought back to what I wrote. “What was wrong with it?”

“See the sentence above the last.”

“Now you are going stupid. Of course I know about it, I’ve been married for years.”

“Then your husband doesn’t know much.”   He had me there.

“I will teach you something useful –the devil leered again- and make you a better writer.” The current between us grew stronger. My hand felt like it was melting into his, the heat fusing our flesh together.

“That’s what good …(the devil burped) …sex is supposed to feel like.”

Garrett was a cock-sure devil, (“damn right”) and most of his suggestions for the novel were on target. He had lived in those years, the early part of the 19th century, and knew the social customs of the period. I could only rely on my spotty research for these things.

“Hold still. I will put something nice in your mouth, sweet woman.” Ah, God…his mind was always fixated on lust.

“It effects better parts of me too, but you keep your knees together too much. Ah, seduction of women writers is hard work.”

“You’ve used that line before, Garrett. Now, who is original?” My little joke didn’t please and he pulled me over the table and into his lap.

“Give your highwayman a kiss, sweet Bessie.” When he was in this mood, there was no denying the demon.

“Oh!” I said., sitting upright on his knee.   “That’s one of my favorite poems. “The Highwayman”. I thought it the most romantic poem I ever read when I was twelve.”

“Doesn’t turn out too nice, both of them dead. That musket beneath her breast….” He shook his head and burped again. His stomach at least was all too human.

I put my head on his shoulder. He could be a sweet devil, and evoked tender emotions from me he didn’t deserve. He thought it a good time, when I was docile in his arms (“won’t last long”- I heard him think!) to pick me up and walk to the bed. He lay down besides me, and placed my head on his shoulder.

“You are rather sweet this morning, my Demon.” His temper was usually like mercury. I think we were coming to terms.

“Well, we have, my darling. I have chased away all the competition and you have me at ball and cock.”

I had to laugh. I was still married, and older by decades.

“I was born in 1790. Beat that.” (I was to find this was a lie…another one.)

I thought I was robbing the cradle. He was such a beautiful creation, but still, just a figment of my imagination.

“You really need to expand your horizons, sweeting. There are so many parts to the universe and you just occupy one. You limit yourself by what you believe.”

I never accepted the stories of ghosts, haunts or spirits, but lying by his side, I was beginning to wonder. He appeared flesh and blood enough this morning, especially as he grabbed my hand and placed it on his half mast cock swelling under his breeches.

“Good. You learn something. Am I real enough for you now?   Let me show you something else.” He passed his hand quickly from the top to the bottom of my nightgown and it melted away like smoke.

“Ah! The first time I have seen you naked. You wear too many clothes. Let’s see what I’ve caught.” He pushed my hair back from my breast, and stroked a nipple.

“You have pink nipples…very pretty! And you are pink elsewhere, I see.” I lay in his arms and blushed at his words. He took my hand and placed it in his shirt, next to his heart. He always wore a heavy linen shirt and I had become enchanted by his smell of wood smoke and probably brimstone.

“Very funny, sweet woman. Now unclench those knees and let me make love to you.”

“Wasn’t it you who told me the portal to a woman’s soul is her mouth?”.

He turned on his side and smiled tenderly. “You use my own words against me? You show courage. You also forget I am a nasty demon.”

“Not so nasty. And getting a bit better.” His behavior had turned my mood from irritation to tolerance. There really was no way around things, if I wanted answers. I had to play a role. Conditions were changing between us and he was softening with a gentler touch.

“I have no softness, and don’t bet on it.” He stroked my thigh and squeezed a breast. I tried the same trick on his clothes, passing my hand down the length of him, and he laughed.

“It will take many decades, sweetheart, for you to learn that trick.”

“Not even levitating a chamber pot?”
“You would have more luck just throwing it.”

He was a handful, this Demon. It was hard work keeping stride with his wit. He could have written a much better book, but then again, he likes best being the sharp-eyed critic.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2014

A Thank You, and a beginning to Chapter 3, “Tin Hinan”.

August 18, 2009

I want to thank people who read this blog yesterday and either wrote or called me about that surprising royalty check for “A Seasoning of Lust”.

Writing seems like a solitary venture, but really, the formulation of this book  was a long slog through a couple of years and a lot of friendships.  I was guided by many people, and some actually remained as friends! Actually, the majority of them have.  And besides their congratulations, there is also the fact that this book was born in a cauldron of a lot of doubt and angst.  That came about because of a particular situation I entered freely.  But that has its  legitimacy as to the development of some of the works of the period and some them  made it into the book.  These mental and emotional ‘spurs’ were as viable as all the other influences. They should be acknowledged.

I believe  good lessons, strong lessons can come  from adversity and also, can come some special creativity.  It might take a while to sort out the lessons and the people, but one should,…..ultimately, be grateful in some important way.

To them, the friends and the irritants, I am.  They were all part of the mix that made this book, and it wouldn’t necessarily exist without their presence.

Lady Nyo



As I think back to those times, so long buried in memory, I wonder what I was doing.  Only eighteen years old, such a tender age, and Takama even younger.  We were two maidens driven by Zar-induced madness. There was no other accounting for what I did. Vigorously consulting the goddesses every night I never got an answer.  False goddesses they were, or silent to my pleas.  Safi. (enough)

The first few nights in the desert were sleepless with grief and anger.  I didn’t think of the future danger.  I didn’t dare.  If I did, I would have turned back and then what face would I have?  Our men were known warriors, but our women were just as strong.

Takama made the fire each night, bending over the fire bow and feeding our tiny blazes with twigs and dried camel dung from a sack. She drew precious water from the skins, threw in millet, salt, and we ate some of the dates.  There was no variety in our diet, but I made sure Takama had packed my jewelry.  Sold in a market town or oasis, this silver would bring a different food for our bellies.

Niefa and the donkey fed sparsely on the brush and wild grasses that pockmarked the desert.  We had to be careful with our water, but Niefa was afterall, a camel and she could manage without much water.  Takama’s donkey was another problem.

The first few days had the nature of adventure, and except some expeditions with my father and mother over the mountains, I had never been on my own.  Takama, being a slave, had not even that knowledge. She never left the oasis.

I followed the sun to the east as it rose, and the desert still stretched out before us, endless and unbroken to the horizon.  Some days I wondered if we would die here, the four of us, bleached bones in the desert.  There was little shade except for crouching beside Niefa when we stopped to stretch our legs and squat in the desert.  Takama laughed at me, for I still carried the behaviors of a woman.  I squatted down to pass water, instead of standing.  I would have to remember when we came close to an encampment.

Since we expected to meet others, Takama would be my ‘wife’, and I her young husband.  That would give us at least some sort of story.  But our biggest problem would be explaining why we were out in the desert away from our tribe, and traveling alone.  This was foolhardy at best and dangerous in any case.  A young couple travelling without the cover and protection of at least a small caravan could be runaway slaves. If we were perceived to be such, we would be slaves fast enough.

We talked around our pitiful fire at night, when the stars stretched from horizon to horizon, a blanket of diamonds over us. There was only the sound of the desert wind moaning in the nighttime air.  It got cool as soon as the sun dropped to the horizon and cold when the stars and moon rose into the dark bowl of heaven.

“Aicha, do you think we will soon fine an oasis?”  I heard the worry in her voice.

“Do I look like one of those old, smelly fortune women? Do I look like even a Sheikha? How do I know?”  I was cross with her, for I was fearful myself.  I hide me fear with my fierce words to my slave.

“What if the Arab raiders catch up with us here in the desert?  What will we do?”  Her eyes were wide with her thoughts.

“Ah, Takama, you can dance for them and I will hold them off with my sword.”

Stupid girl, I thought.

“A quick slash of a takouba (sword) and all our problems will be over.  But I would bet even the hated Arabs aren’t stupid enough to kill women. If they guess at my sex I will be raped along with you and sold as a slave.  In fact, from what I hear, even if they didn’t know my sex for sure, they would still rape me.”

Takama’s lip started quivering, and soon her childish tears would fall.

“Takama”, I said in a softer voice, “Soon we will find an oasis and good bread and salt will be offered.  You know our traditions.  The desert tribes are the most generous on earth! We will find a safe haven around their fire and protection from all else.”

Suddenly, Takama screamed and jumped up.  A big desert scorpion, as big as a clay bowl, was crossing towards the fire.  I took my takouba from my girdle and sliced it in half.  It was a lucky blow for these creatures were fast.

After a week, the indigo-blue dye had stained my face, and I had the look of a young man.  Takama tried to line my veil with white cotton, for she did not want to see her mistress degraded in such a way.  I fought with her over this, and threatened to pummel her with my fists like a man would, but we only ended up laughing and rolling in the sand.  I was glad for company, but felt guilty I had taken her from everything she had known for my own selfish reasons. She was a slave, and bound to follow my whims, but she now was also a friend.  Throwing destinies together out in the desert is a great equalizer.

We rose early with the sun, and plodded slowly to the east. After a week, we began to see a change in the dunes.  Off far to the east and north were mountains, and although our steps seemed not to bring us closer, we knew that it was just a matter of time before we would reach some oasis.  Our water was low, and we rationed it out carefully, making sure that the donkey first, then Niefa, had a drink.  Soon we saw shrubs, and more and more grasses.  We pulled up the tough grasses to bite at the tender stalks where they joined the roots, but there was little moisture in this desert grass.

Finally we saw the faint glimpse of palm trees and we knew soon we would arrive at an oasis.  We were coming up to the foot of the mountains and like our own oasis back home, the runoff from the mountains would give some water and pasture.  That was where tribes would gather, and not all of the tribes were nomadic. Most were sheepherders, tied to the land until it was used up by the herds of goats, sheep and camels. Then they would move on, over the mountain passes until they found more pasture.  This was the life of herders back into history.  This was our history.

Winter was coming on, and already the nights were colder.  Takama had brought enough heavy blankets for us, and we had the heat of Niefa to warm us as we huddled together under the covers. A stop at an oasis where we could obtain food, water and shelter was becoming urgent.

I don’t remember all the events of this journey, but I do recall the strong urge to keep running away from the scene of my shame.  Hasim had found me wanting in some way, or had found another more desirable.  Each time I thought of this, my heart overflowed and bitterness and shame rose up like a ghost before me.  I could not quell my liver.  I was single purpose in my need to put as far a distance from my memories as possible.  Running was the only way I knew to change what had happened back there.

As we came closer to the oasis, we saw green grass and date palms.  It was a big oasis, and soon we could see the black tents of nomads.  Niefa bellowed as she smelled fresh water, and even Takama’s donkey picked up his hooves.

It was early evening, the star called Venus had risen when we plodded into the encampment.  They saw us off in the distance, but since we were only two, no general alarm was sounded.  Children ran out, curious as children are, and shyly made a ring around our beasts.  They wanted to know where we came from, but knew those questions would be rude from children, and anyway, desert tribes did not ask.  Hospitality was given first, and what a man wanted to reveal was all that was expected.

We proceeded to the middle of the camp, where men were assembled, and the women behind them.  Now several boys came and grabbed the bridles of both Niefa and the donkey, and I slipped off her back and stood there, my good ‘wife’ Takama coming up behind me.

“Welcome, welcome, come and eat and drink with us”.  A tall man, obviously a chieftain, came up to me, and touching the tips of my outstretched fingers to his, he then clasped together his hands in the traditional desert greeting.

I remembered to keep my veil around my face.  No man would remove his veil from across his mouth in the presence of authority, and this man looked like he was fully invested with the leadership of the tribe.  He carried a dagger in his girdle and the takouba, at his side.

Bowing to him, placing my hands crossed over my chest I answered.

“We have come a long way over the desert, and seek water and supplies.  We have need of rest and a safe place to recover our spirits, praise the Gods and Goddesses.” I remembered to pitch my voice low, and tried to make my eyes look fierce.

“My wife is in need of sleep. The desert is hard on one so young and this is the first time she crosses it.”

I caught a slight flicker of a smile in the eyes of the man before me.  We nomadic people are versed in reading the eyes, for they are the gateways of the soul. The soul resides in the liver, but the eyes are the portals.

“We welcome you to our camp. Come and sit with us, and tell us how you found the desert, the mother of us all.  Your wife will be refreshed by the women.”

I didn’t look at Takama, for to do so would give too much regard for her welfare.  Only if she were sick or breeding would a man publicly show his concern, and then in a very small way before strangers.

I sat and ate good mutton stew, and was grateful that darkness was falling fast, for when I lowered my veil to eat, perhaps my features would appear as that of a woman.  But the blue dye had soaked into my face, and I thought I passed for a young man.  Young I would appear to all, and there was nothing I could do about it.

There would be no questions, for this is not our way, and I offered little about our journey, except to say the desert was a wide sea indeed, and we had come from afar.  What I didn’t then realize was anything I said about the journey, these nomads would already know. If I said we had been journeying for two weeks, they could probably pinpoint our tribe’s oasis.    If I said a month, they would know I was lying, for there was only this oasis and we would have passed by two weeks ago. Stuffing my mouth with mutton and washing it down with goat’s milk, I was grateful for the hospitality and the few questions.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009

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