Sunday, March 19, 2017

DOG and CAT

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


DOG and CAT
By R. Peterson

The canary yellow Open-Toe Flats held the scent of dance-floor polish, mattress-semen and Black Opium perfume as I avoided them. I was looking for the source of the tapping I could hear somewhere up ahead. So many pairs of feet … and all of them moving. The intoxicating smell of Charlie’s Hot Dogs roasting in a portable cooker on wheels drifted to my nose from what I would estimate was two blocks over and I was reminded that I hadn’t eaten since the day before. I almost turned and followed the aroma radiating from my best friend but on this particular night my cultured palate cried for something far more elegant.
I began to drool as I followed the crowd down the scuffed green stairs and into the York Street Station and people began to give me more room. Rabies is a universal possibility that strikes fear into all people not just those who have read Cujo and I began to acquire a listing nervous jerk … I should have been on Broadway! The air in the underground transportation system smelled of butane, stale cigarettes and escaping human body odors. For a moment I lost the cane man’s scent and thought I might be in trouble. Transportation officials in New York City won’t allow animals to board subway trains unless they think your there for a good reason, usually one mandated by government disability laws.
I saw two cops wearing Timberland boots patrolling the subway platforms and thought I might have to abandon my elegant dinner plans. Luckily I spied the padded cane at 52nd Street followed by a pair of $800 Valentino sneakers playing the concrete up ahead and quickly padded alongside them as if I belonged there, stopping and moving when they did. I was going to be the disabled, but obviously rich, man’s best friend … at least until after I scored a good meal.
The two pairs of cop-boots turned quickly away when they realized who they thought I was escorting and moved toward four insanely expensive Air Jordan Playoffs and two Ankle-Wrap Espadrilles loitering belligerently against a concrete wall and turned ever so slightly in the direction of a cheap pair of women’s orthopedic shoes shuffling alone.
I walked arrogantly beside the blind man to the Service Entry gate and stepped through it when he did. The sense of power I felt as lines of people moved aside to allow us to enter the F Train ahead of them was indescribable. I lay silent, alert and obedient at the cane man’s feet between him and a middle aged woman wearing white ankle-wraps.  She smelled of Patchouli and he of Old Spice. After a minute of silence, the woman reached down and gave me a hand full of Bacon Bits retrieved from her purse. “That’s a good boy!” she petted and patted my head as I wolfed them down. So far the man I was escorting had made no objection to my presence although I did detect a slight smirk on his forward staring face. Perhaps the stranger realized that for a disabled individual to make his way in the world today one had to use all the available resources available … I hoped so. His handicap was being blind … mine was being a dog.

-------2-------

I can’t remember when I couldn’t read. Images from the blaring TV set where I grew up always showed images along with the corresponding sounds. My first words were Tide, Alpo, Pepsi and Hanes; all I really had to do was translate the English into Canine. A digital clock hanging from the ceiling of the subway-car said 7:30 PM. I hoped the cane-man was hungry … I was. The snack the woman gave me was just enough to make my mouth water. A dog has many talents that surpass those of humans, one of those abilities is detecting emotions especially those of fear, anger or desire. I didn’t just imagine I knew what people were thinking … I actually did know. The woman was looking at the well-dressed blind man thinking how attractive he was and wondering how it would feel to mate with him, perhaps in an expensive hotel room with a vibrating bed. He wouldn’t be able to notice the wrinkles just forming under her eyes or the tiny veins that had begun to appear in her legs. “Nice dog you have!” she said as she scratched behind my ears. My tail went up like a flag and began to wave at the lady.
“I don’t own a dog.” The man replied. You could see his other senses tune into the woman next to him as he began to gather dark data that unexpectedly promised a winding path leading to a stone tower on a hill filled with lust and romance. The woman instantly turned with disgust and slid her Ankle-Wraps as far away from the good looking stranger as possible. She couldn’t imagine any disabled person so callus as not to claim a loyal and trustworthy assistance animal, even though technically belonging to Social Services, as their own. She didn’t have to show me her ASPCA card; I knew it had to be in her purse.
The blind man got off at the Broadway station an hour and forty-five minutes later. I was starving …. Thank God so was he! I followed his expensive shoes into a swanky restaurant between 7th and 8th Avenue called Appetito’s. I learned the man with a cane was named Carson Henley and that he had a reservation. I’d always just been Dog as long as I could remember, as in Get that dog out of here and where did that dog come from? A maitre d', wearing a tux and with a white linen-towel draped over his arm, turned up his nose when he saw me but led us to a small table in the back, after Mr. Henley handed him two twenties and told him that yes … he’d be dining alone.
The waiter brought several wine samples to our table and rinsed-out separate glasses with an ounce or two of the expensive wine and then poured a small amount in each glass for Henley to sample. A second waiter, smiling under a mop of red hair that made him look like Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen, brought a china plate with a four-ounce rib eye steak cut into bite-sized nibbles and swimming in broth. He set it on the floor beside the table for me to enjoy. I thought about asking him what happened to his reporting job at the Daily Planet but didn’t.
Even though I was starving, I tactfully waited until the waiter and the blind man were talking about the wine before I slurped it down. I may have grown-up in a dirty alley but I always hoped and imagined that I came from exquisitely bred and registered parents.
Henley decided on a Chateau Montrose, a steal at $180 a bottle, and ordered Cacciatore with onions and bell peppers. Another waiter brought Bruschetta and warm bread from the oven while the smiling redhead sliced a plate of Pecorino Toscano (cheese) for me. I felt like a wolf at a sheep and lamb camp.
A violinist, who was surely destined for Carnegie Hall, played a serenata by Toselli while the blind man savored his Cacciatore and I delighted in the extra-large bowl of the same they brought for me. The classis song by Elvis Presley rumbled through my head when I finally got up to leave. I wasn’t no Hound Dog … I didn’t catch the rabbit (Cacciatore) but I ate it and as I wandered toward the door a waiter opened it for me, they must have thought I had business to do outside. Just before I left I turned back. Mr. Henley raised his cane in the air and smiled in my direction. I had the feeling that he’d known I was there all the time and didn’t really mind. Loneliness is an awful thing.

-------3-------

It took almost two hours to get back to York Street, sitting between two nuns who thought I was sent to them from heaven, but it was worth it. Everyone has to live it up once in a while. It was just after 12 P.M. when I left the F train and I decided to pay Charlie a visit. He should have been just closing up his portable hot dog stand. The old Italian’s license was good until midnight. He always had a few leftover wieners and buns for me, no mustard it gives me gas, and even though on this night I happened to be stuffed, I still enjoyed being scratched behind the ears.
Traffic was light and I hugged the brick wall of a bakery as a black Lincoln spun in a half circle as it rounded the corner and then roared past me. The car screeched to a stop in front of Charles Visconti just as he was folding the hinged piece of plywood that covered his cooker. I didn’t have to see Charlie’s face to know he was scared. Fear is a smell that has drifted on the wind since time began. “I don’t have the full two-hundred,” Charlie stammered holding out a fistful of bills and coins as four big men poured out of the car. “I’ve got a little more than one-forty … I’ll have the rest tomorrow!”
“Charlie - Charlie …” The man in front held his hands at arm’s length as he approached the old man. “You know how Vinnie operates …. You don’t got the lousy fifty a week the next night it’s a hundred then we come back and it’s two-hundred … you ain’t got it now … you ain’t gonna have it tomorrow!”
“I’ll call some people,” Charlie told them. “I’ll get you the money I swear!”
“You can call your friends in a few minutes … I’m sure Vinnie will let you use his phone.” The big man said as he jerked Charlie toward the car. Vincent Carminati was a big time insurance broker specializing in catastrophic accidents. He extorted money from all those who did business in this part of the Big Apple. You paid up and he made sure you were covered. Like the hundred dollars per year the city charged for a Mobile Food Vendor Personal License. It was perfectly legal … as long as you kept quiet about it and the cops got their cut.
The other three men turned Charlie’s hot-dog cart on its side and began to kick it to splinters. I knew no matter how much money Charlie came up with they weren’t bringing him back. The old man was my only true human friend in the city and I wasn’t about to let him go down without a fight.
I growled and hurdled toward the car just as Charlie was pushed inside. One of the men’s boots connected with my head and I was sent sprawling. The other man drew a gun but before he could put a bullet in me the third man stopped him. “Killing a dog is like killing a cop,” he said. “People don’t like it.”
“See you later, Mutt!” The man with the gun smiled just before the door slammed. I was seeing stars and couldn’t make out the license as the car sped away, but everyone knew where Fortezza was. It was a mansion on the banks of the Hudson surrounded by twelve-foot tall chain link and razor-wire fencing. At least a dozen guards, most of them off-duty police officers, patrolled the grounds to keep unwanted guests from entering without an invitation.
There was only one other creature in the city who could help me bring Charlie back alive and he lived in the dark side of the city. Like me, he had no real name but he had amazing talents that more than made up for it. I headed for the subways once again, planning this time to ride the Metro north. It would most likely take the rest of the night to find my friend and then pay Fortezza a visit. Like most of the other black residents of Harlem, Cat survived by using his wits in the mean and ugly part of the city. I hoped for Charlie’s sake that we would not be too late.

-------4-------
 I could hear the fight when I crossed W. 120th. Street into Marcus Garvey Park. At least a dozen spitting and hissing toms had Cat cornered in the dark end of a shelter. As I drew near I could see him standing in front of a silver-tipped Persian in heat. The feline also smelled of Oribe Gold Lust Shampoo and her silky fur glistened from the reflected light of a diamond studded collar. She had obviously snuck out of an expensive Manhattan apartment for a little défense romance and found herself suddenly in the presence of animals.
A large yellow tomcat, with goo dripping from one eye, lunged toward my friend just as I entered the shelter and I could see a whirlwind of razor-sharp claws just miss Cat’s ear as he ducked and moved to the side. He clamped his teeth down on yellow’s tail and used the momentum to vault himself into the fray. I lunged too and the felines began to scatter in all directions. Bringing a one hundred sixty pound black lab to a cat fight was like pulling a gun on someone with a knife. I was surprised when an angry Cat swiped my nose with his claw. “What did you do that for?” he demanded. Cat could speak seven languages including pigeon and canine.
“I just saved your life,” I told him. “Those alley-tigers were ready to kill you.”
Cat shook his head as he watched the Persian slink away with her nose in the air. “You ruined my life,” Cat said. “It took me a week to choreograph this fight with my friends. I was going to be the hero saving her from a gang of ruthless can-bangers.
Cat sat and glared at me as he licked my blood off from his claws. “Missy hates bone chewers,” Cat said. “Her owner pays an extra two grand a month for an apartment that forbids pets that even look like they could bark … now she probably thinks I’m a dirty dog lover!”
            “Sorry,” I said. “I wouldn’t have come here if it wasn’t important!”
Cat just looked at me as he licked his paw and began to wipe his face so I went on. “A bunch of Vincent Carminati’s men grabbed Charlie earlier tonight and busted up his vending-cart. They took him to Fortezza … and I’ve got a feeling it’s a one-way ride.”
            “I’ve ate a few of his overcooked wieners after closing time,” Cat said. “But who hasn’t. Why should I help?”
            “Because I need you,” I said. “Fortezza is Italian for fortress … and there is no way I can get inside there without your skills!”
            “Why should I help you?” Cat asked. I realized then that I didn’t have the answer. Cat and I had met at an animal shelter two years earlier when we were both about to be euthanized. I was scheduled to die because I was unwanted and Cat because of illegal generic experiments that gave him an I.Q. of 196 - genius level even when compared to humans. The scientists responsible for his super brain were terrified of getting caught and were even more afraid to dispose of him themselves. There were too many ASPCA card-carrying interns working in the bio-lab although none knew the complexity or the extent of the project. The scientists wanted the dangerous experiment terminated but decided to have it done legally through a local shelter. I didn’t speak Feline then, but Cat had picked up enough Canine in the two hours he’d been locked up to convince me to chew on a bar of soap that he’d somehow stolen and play dead. When an attendant unlocked my cage and reached in to pull me out I bit his hand and then kicked his dropped keys into Cat’s cage. Cat did the rest. While the terrified attendant was on the phone trying to have someone give him a shot for rabies we escaped from the shelter along with dozens of others … and never looked back.
            “You’ve saved my life a dozen times,” I told him. “I guess there’s no reason why you should!” I turned and started to leave and was surprised when I found Cat walking beside me shaking his head.
            “If you don’t know the answer then I’ll tell you. It’s because we’re friends!” Cat said. “And never for as long as you live forget that! Friendship should never be brushed off or taken lightly!”
            “I’m sorry, I guess I forgot.”
            “Don’t let it happen again.”
It didn’t surprise me at all when Cat retrieved an i-Phone 7 from an unlocked sprinkler control box where it had been charging and then began dialing numbers after he laid the phone on a large flat rock bordering a flowerbed. The automated answering systems that humans hated allowed Cat to summon a pet limousine service to pick us up at the park and drive us to an address destination all without speaking. I watched as he punched in a credit card number along with a security code and then wondered who would get the bill.
            There was a tray with several kinds of dog treats plus water in the huge backseat of the limo and I gorged myself as Cat made several more phone calls. I knew Cat had a plan but I didn’t know what to expect. The Pet limousine dropped us off a block from the gated entrance to Fortezza and we hid in some bushes until a pizza delivery van arrived.
            The guards at the gate appeared skeptical until the man driving the van said the six large pizzas were for them and had already been paid for. When they asked him to exit the running vehicle he showed them a receipt with Vincent Carminati’s credit card number. Cat used the diversion to slip inside the van and jam it into gear. My feline friend slammed all of his forty pounds down on the gas pedal and the van with the open door crashed through the locked gates. At least a dozen guards surrounded the van with guns drawn as the horrified delivery driver with a pair of pudgy hands wrapped around his neck tried to explain with a wheezing cough that he must have forgotten to put on the parking brake.
            I slipped past the guards and into the shadows of the compound, Cat joined me minutes later. “What do we do now?” I asked.
            “We’ve got to find out where they’re holding Charlie,” Cat said.
We waited until after two police cars arrived and took away the driver and then a tow truck dragged away the van. The armed guards were all eating Pizza and watching as a crew repaired the damaged gates.
Cat said it was time to move and we kept to the shadows as we dodged security lights and hid behind a long square building. The moon slipped out from behind swirling clouds and reflected off an Olympic sized swimming pool. Something about the man floating face down in the water made me stop and hold my breath.
Suddenly we were bathed in bright light and Vincent Carminati stepped from the shadows. He was not alone; a dozen guns were pointed directly at us. I could smell greed, lust and violence smoothed-out with limoncello spirits.
            “I see you came to pay your last respects …” A hideously grinning Vinnie emphasized the word last.
I looked at Cat and he just shrugged his canine shoulders as if unconcerned. “Some nights are not that great,” he sighed.

TO BE CONTINUED …


Sunday, March 12, 2017

THE MAGIC OF KISSING part 3

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


By R. Peterson


Allison Weatherbee spent the rest of the morning trying to avoid Greg Johnson. Although the school’s most popular boy seemed to be getting over the strange infatuation that had overpowered him when they kissed two days before. Allison noticed him still giving her strange, sometimes longing, looks while she and her best friend were eating lunch.
Vicky Jenkins’ robust enthusiasm for tomorrow’s school fair balanced out Allison’s dread for the same event. “I’d give anything to be in that booth selling kisses even if I was sitting next to icky Marsha Hicks,” Vicky vowed as she spread light-dressing on a leafy salad. Just outside the cafeteria window, members of the school’s shop class were busy putting together a booth that resembled a thatched-roof Polynesian dwelling. In keeping with the theme for Back off Boys, a stage performance about a nurse that falls in love with a ship full of World War II sailors, bamboo torches had been erected on both sides of a path leading to the hut.
“I don’t want to kiss anyone,” Allison told her best friend. “I’m thinking about staying home tomorrow!”
“You can’t!” Vicky gasped. “Marsha Hicks breaks up too many couples as it is. For once I’d like to see a few of her boy-friends get stolen!”
“You’re welcome to take my place,” Allison told her. “I don’t want a repeat of the disaster that happened during rehearsals!” The entire school had been turned on when Allison used techniques learned from a fourteenth century book when she kissed the school’s most popular boy during a drama rehearsal.
“What disaster!” Vicky argued. “Someone overloaded a circuit and a breaker got tripped. When you lip-locked Greg Johnson even I felt something. Everyone wants that kind of fairytale magic to happen when they suck-face. You can’t blame people for chasing after you wondering just what is was that made you different. “Perfume? Aphrodisiacal breath mints?” Vicky gave her an appraising look. “It can’t be your breast size! What the hell would make the Coverdale Stallions’ quarterback drop to his knees and worship the ground a poster-girl-for-social-anxiety walks on after just one tiny kiss?’
“I’ve heard the word witchcraft come up more than once,” Allison said. She took a drink from her milk-carton then sniffed it with a wrinkled nose before tossing it in the closest garbage can. She was reaching for her entire lunch-tray with a look of revulsion on her face when Vicky slapped her hand.
“You’re not going to throw that away too,” she said snatching the corn-dog that Allison had already laced with mustard. “I lied to Mrs. Farmer when I said I’d be grazing on the north-forty today.” Vicky took a big bite. “Unless there’s a cute bull around!”
Marsha Hicks happened to be walking past and she stopped to glare at the two social outcasts. Allison noticed the popular cheerleader had just a few fish-sticks on her tray and a handful of chips. “Both of you eat like pigs,” Marsha smirked as Vicky stuffed the breaded wiener into her mouth and mustard ran down her chin. She turned vicious eyes on Allison. “The only reason you got cast as Rachel in Back off Boys was because Miss Wolf felt sorry for you!” Marsha looked sure of herself. “After tomorrow, you’re going to have to accept the fact that you are going to get grossly fat and live in a trailer court with a half-a-dozen smelly, snot-nosed brats playing in the dirt. And you won’t even know for sure who donated their sperm. Take my advice,” Marsha said smiling. “Don’t show up at the kissing booth tomorrow and avoid the humiliation. Do you really thing my lover boy, Giggy, or anyone else is going to choose you over me?” Marsha laughed. Allison glanced behind her to where Greg Johnson sat with a group of his friends. Greg saw her looking and after a moment of hesitant recognition smiled. His enchantment was fading … but wasn’t gone yet.
            “A thirsty man will drink at the town pump when he has to,” Vicky told Marsha giving the pretty girl her dirtiest look. “But he’ll always look for cleaner water … if he isn’t desperate.”
Marsha stomped away and as she did Greg Johnson rose from his table and began to walk toward them. Marsha noticed Greg too and the next instant a tray clattered to the floor followed by Marsha’s wail. “I think I sprained my ankle,” she cried. Greg rushed to help the struggling girl to her feet and Allison couldn’t help but notice the dramatic display of Marsha’s cleavage.
            “You’re right,” Allison told her friend as Greg led the clinging girl with her arm wrapped around his neck to his table. “For once that bitch needs to lose at something!”

-------2-------

            Melania just shook her head when Allison told her about the kissing booth fundraiser and sent her downstairs with a second basket of dirty clothes. The old woman’s basement was a vast cavernous labyrinth of dingy rooms filled with boxes, books, brooms and spider-webs. Thank God the laundry-area was clean and brightly lit.
            Just as Allison placed the basket on the floor, the clothes-dryer stopped and the door opened. A balled-up sock sprang out and after shaking into a foot shape began to hop across the floor. It was pursued by a pair of ladies Monaco trousers. The rest of the almost-dry laundry tumbled out of the machine in an orderly fashion and proceeded to lounge across several lines stretched between an upright water heater and a broom closet. “Just set the basket by the washing-machine,” Melania yelled from the kitchen above. “They’ve been cleaning themselves for years!”
Allison stumbled towards the stairs and climbed them backwards, unable to take her eyes from the designer pants as they hustled the wayward sock back to the washing machine. With a thumping heart she watched as a bell-sleeved silk blouse poured Tide laundry detergent into the quickly filling washer.
            “People often ask where those missing socks go,” Melania chuckled as Allison closed the basement door. “They run and hide … and if they are not caught they end up as dirty-rags sleeping in allies and wiping garbage cans.”

-------3-------

            After helping Melania remove all the cans and packages from the pantry and clean the shelves - rodents had chewed into the food supply and made a mess - Allison followed the old woman into the library. “I haven’t seen Simon since yesterday,” Melania said. “Each time that cat goes off on one of his adventures the mice celebrate by having a lavish feast at my expense.”
            “Have you tried setting traps?” Allison asked as they sat at the table where La magia di baciare e come usarlo the fourteenth century book that translated as The Magic of Kissing and how to use it lay open on chapter three.
            “The mice in this house are very clever,” Melania said. “They would rather drag traps into my bedroom to catch my toes rather than their tails and they often do. Many is the time I’ve leaped onto my mattress still wearing shoes and kicked them off beneath the covers.”
            “I’m sure Simon will show up in a day or so,” Allison said.
            “I hope so,” Melania said giving Allison an appraising look. “We need his talents more than you know.”
            “What happened to Niccolo and Juliana?” Allison asked, remembering that in Melania’s last story the young priest and his lover had been tied to a stake in the village square and were about to be burned alive.
“The false Pope Baldassarre Cossa was a wicked man and had Niccolo stripped of his authority and everything that identified him as a man of the cloth,” Melania told her. “He feared that if he allowed even one official to leave his now corrupted church more would follow. To him the wooden crucifix that hung by a chain and adorned Niccolo’s humble robes was a symbol of his own lusting power, wealth and vanity. Cossa laughed triumphantly as he tore the cross from the young man’s neck.”
            “That must have been awful for those poor people,” Allison said, “to have the very foundation of their belief and devotion seized and used by a fraud and a thief.”
            “Faith is something that can never be taken … but must be cast aside by those who have it,” Melania said. The old woman placed a withered hand above her own breast and closed her eyes as if reluctant to see horrible images from the past before she continued. “Niccolo had a small silver crucifix on a steel chain hidden under his robes and as the flames erupted  he somehow was able to loosen one of his hands and held the tiny cross above both his and Juliana’s heads and praised God in a loud voice even as the fires of hell began to consume them.”
            “How horrible!” Allison gasped.
            “It might have been, had the young priest’s faith not been so very great,” Melania sighed. “To Niccolo the sacred cross was not a symbol of vain riches and authority but of love and devotion. It held an eternal and everlasting power far greater than that which the corrupted Cossa had seized. A glowing light flowed from the cross Niccolo held above their heads. The celestial illumination surrounded Juliana creating a divine shield that protected her from the flames even as Niccolo himself was consumed by the fires. The evil Cossa, unable to stop what was happening, fled from the village having never seen a true miracle before. The man who had sought control of the church for his own greed and lust was terrified and went into hiding. Later, armies of the faithful from all over Italy pursued him and he was eventually driven from power.”
            “What happened to Juliana?” There were tears in Allison’s eyes.
            “Julianna was cool and unharmed when the terrified villagers sifted through the ashes,” Melania said, “but Niccolo was gone. All that they found of him was the crucifix. The silver had melted in the tremendous heat into the shape of a heart with a jagged crack down the center. Some of the villagers fell to their knees and worshiped the young girl as a saint, while others grew fearful. They spat, threw stones and called her a witch. After a number of days Juliana couldn’t take their adoring empty stares and sly plotting whispers anymore and she took the silver heart necklace and traveled to the north. Some legends say she finally died there after hundreds of years while others say the power of love made her immortal and that she would never die completely but be reincarnated again every thousand years … always searching the centuries that followed for her long lost lover.”
            “Do you believe the story is real?” Allison asked Melania.
            “Belief is the most powerful thing in the universe,” Melania told her. “Belief can make even the most outrageous dreams and ideas become real.”
Melania pointed to the ancient book with the brass gilded wooden covers and told Allison to turn to the last page and then to read the last paragraph. “There is much to learn from this volume but tonight I want you to know Juliana’s finale thoughts … at least those of that age in which she once lived.”
Allison opened the book and read the last lines.
“Io passo i percorsi di dolore. Autostrade scure morbide e sereno. Per raggiungere la fine della solitudine. E lì in attesa di trovare l'amore”
After a pause Allison stammered. “I caught a little of it. My comprehension of Italian is not that good. What does it mean?”
“It’s a kind of poetry and also a promise,” Melania said as she closed her eyes and translated the words into English. Allison noticed a tear rolling down the old woman’s cheek.

“I tread the paths of sorrow.
Dark highways soft and fair.
To reach the end of loneliness.
And love find waiting there.”

“Do you think Juliana will ever find her lost lover?” Allison asked.
“I hope so,” Melania told her. “But it’s late … and you have a very exciting day tomorrow.”
“I know you told me not to kiss anymore,” Allison stammered, “at least until we get things under control … but I don’t know how I’m ever going to get through it!.”
            “Remember the balance of all things,” Melania said. “Pleasures always have a dark side and the greater the pleasure … the more chaos and danger.”
            “I’ll do the best I can,” Allison promised. She gave the old woman a tearful hug and then left the mansion.
Melania stood at the window and watched the emotional young girl as she walked into the night. The old woman’s withered hand involuntarily reached inside her blouse until her fingers grasped the tarnished glob of silver that had been melted into a heart shape centuries ago. The treasured object hung around her neck by a rusty chain. Her arthritic fingers traced the jagged crack down the center. “I know you will,” she muttered.

-------4-------

It stopped snowing right after Allison’s first morning class and by lunchtime the sun was smiling on the High School fundraiser erected on the lawn.
There were several booths selling drinks and even one selling bananas with the name of a boy written with black marker on each yellow skin. After a girl purchased a banana with a certain boy’s name written on the side, the named individual was required to peel and hold it for her while she ate it. Principal Dunn thought it was a wildly stupid idea and he was clueless as to why so many girls lined up to buy the fruit especially from the more popular boys. But he had to admit it was definitely a money-maker. Dunn was even considering mentioning the idea to the stuffy PTA at the next school board meeting … as a possible source of future funding.
The path to the Back off Boys kissing booth was lined with flaming Citronella bamboo torches and even Allison thought it gave the booth a tropical look. She was actually in a good mood until she stepped in the booth and found out Marsha Hicks had gone all out to win the lead in the school play.
Marsha had poured herself into flesh-colored leggings so small they looked painted-on and the super-thin, off the shoulder, white Parker Yasmin blouse she wore did little to conceal the bulging pink bra underneath. Her hair looked like at least a two-hundred dollar visit to a stylist and her make-up was exotic enough to make Cleopatra hide her face.
Allison suddenly wished she hadn’t worn jeans and a baggy green-tee that said My other shirt is dirty, but then she wasn’t planning on kissing any boys today. She had already decided that she was perfectly happy to let Marsha simply win and take over the female lead in the play … or so she thought.
Several boys walked past the booth with Kisses $5 written in block letters on a banner across the top but so far they were only looking. It took pimple-faced Lewis Cramer to break the ice. He charged all two-hundred eighty pounds of his bulk toward Marsha and tossed a five dollar bill into her glass jar. Lewis licked his lips and then bent her backward with a kiss guaranteed to make every hillbilly in West Virginia blast squirrel-guns in the air. Marsha came up wobbly and out of breath but she smiled broadly when she noticed two other boys lined up to taste her lips … and not a single one for Allison.
Allison tried to look nonchalant but she knew her face was turning red and in all actuality she had never been so humiliated in her life. It didn’t help when Marsha turned to her between kissed and said loud enough for half the school to hear “Perhaps you should lower your price!” Several girls laughed … and even a few boys. Allison wanted to melt and sink into the ground.
Suddenly, as if Superman had come to life wearing black jeans and a letterman’s jacket, six-foot two inch tall Greg Johnson appeared from the gym door and was staring directly at Allison as he approached. “Let me have at least one paying customer … and let it be Greg,” Allison closed her eyes and prayed to James Dean the Patron Saint of teenagers. Greg was close enough for Allison to see the ocean-blue sparkle in his puppy-dog eyes when he was suddenly distracted and turned toward Marsha.
A gasp swept the crowd and even more boys crushed toward the popular girl. The cheerleader with the Cleopatra eyes had just removed her bra and was sliding it out one thin shirt sleeve. Even with the sun shining, the cold October air made both of her nipples stand at attention like soldiers saluting a flag during a parade. Every boy in the crowd was suddenly filled with uncompromising patriotism. Allison looked across the lawn and saw Principal Dunn staring at the cheerleader but then just as quickly saw him turn away. Modesty and virtue almost always fly out the window when large sums of money are involved.
Tanya McKinsey, one of Marsha’s friends, talked loudly and her voice carried above the surging crowd of males. “You should have left your bitch at home Marsha … or at least given her a bath … dogs don’t belong at school!” She was pointing at Allison and all but a few of the crowd roared with laughter.
So many tears filled Allison’s eyes it was hard for her to find the latch on the gate that would allow her to exit the booth. All she wanted was to run all the way home and hope that by some measure of grace God would allow her to die tonight so she wouldn’t have to return to school tomorrow. Vicky Jenkins hand on hers stopped her just as she was reaching for the latch. “Where do you think you’re going?” Her voice was accusing.
“Home,” Allison bawled. “I’ll think about how to end my horrible life later.”
“You going to let her win?” Vicky pointed to Marsha who was brushing lips and pushing boys out of the way so fast she looked like a postmaster stamping mail.
“I can’t compete with Marsha Hicks … I never could,” Allison wailed.
“But you can,” Vicky argued. “Whatever  you used to turn up the heat during the auditorium search for it. Find it and pull it out now!”
Allison turned and Marsha was smiling broadly at her while an agitated group of males licked their lips and waited. The gallon jar in front of Marsha was full and she was emptying the bills and coins into a bag that a beaming Miss Wolf was holding out for her. The drama teacher didn’t even glance in Allison’s direction. It was as if Allison were invisible. Suddenly Allison was angry and reached for the thimble-sized Brown Sugar and Vanilla lip gloss that was still buried in her purse.
            “What are you doing?” Vicky looked at her strangely as Allison coated her lips.
            “Applying my war paint!” Allison told her.
Allison noticed several boys sniffing and even Vicky’s nose twitched a little but still there was no rush to her side of the booth. She looked for a boy … anyone who could get things rolling but the crush was all on Marsha’s side. Allison looked at her watch it was already 12:45 and Principal Dunn had only allowed one hour for the fair. ‘It will take at least two hours to clean the lawn,” he had told the faculty. Several boys were beginning to turn away from Marsha and look around but things were going much too slow. If Allison didn’t kiss a boy soon … or anyone right now she was going to lose! Desperate times call for desperate measures and to this day Allison still doesn’t know why she did it. Perhaps it was some long buried coming-out-of-the-closet impulse that caused her to grab a startled Vicky Jenkins and kiss her on the lips … but when she did … all Hell broke loose at Cloverdale High.

-------5-------
Melania was asleep in a soft recliner when her eyes suddenly flew open. “I should have expected this,” she muttered as she looked for her coat. “What a time for Johnny … oops I mean Simon to decide to go stray!”
            Five minutes later her garage door rattled up and the 1949 Buick Roadmaster came to life with a rumble. Melania tried to think of all the places Johnny Lang might be and in the end had to rely on her own instincts to find him. I don’t blame the poor girl Melania thought to herself as the classic car turned onto Vineyard road and then roared west toward the desert. All people can be cruel but it takes a rival girl in school to be truly horrible.
A plume of snow arched behind the fire breathing car like a boat’s wake as Cloverdale’s resident witch searched the dark highways of Comanche County looking for the one person who could set things right.

-------6-------

To call the School Fair bedlam would be a vast understatement exploding chaos would be a better word but still understated. Every student in Cloverdale High School watched as a wide-eyed Vicky Jenkins kissed Allison Weatherbee back … and on the lips. “Wow!” Vicky exclaimed as she staggered on wobbly legs after Allison finally pushed her away. “All this time I’ve had my batteries in backwards!”
Greg Johnson was the first to throw a five into Allison’s jar and he punched Luke Jensen in the mouth when he tried to push his way forward with a handful of bills. Allison closed her eyes when Greg kissed her, but heat made her open them quickly when Lewis Cramer bashed Greg in the head with a flaming torch that he had pulled from the ground only seconds before.
Allison could smell smoke and heard the crackle of wood burning.
 She felt like she was being tongue raped when Lewis forced his file-like appendage into her mouth and was only vaguely aware of him dropping his entire wallet into her jar.
It took at least six boys climbing and crawling like monkeys to knock Lewis out of his front row position … by then most of the nearby females had also become affected. Tanya McKinsey slammed Vicky with her purse and yelled “Back off bitch!” before pushing her way toward Allison with eyes overflowing with lustful desire. Miss Wolf pushed her back and then gave her drama student a much too matrimonial come-on look that said what exactly will you do for an A?
The entire football team was fighting each other while the wrestling and track teams ran in circles trying to get in a few blows. Marsha was knocked to the ground and almost trampled as the crowd driven to lustful madness surged forward and broke apart the booth. Allison was pulled from the burning wreckage by three members of the girls’ volleyball team who individually swore to her their never ending devotion and loyalty as they stole kisses and tried to lead her away. She felt groping fingers unfasten the button on her jeans.
One moment Principal Dunn was screaming for everyone to stop the fighting and the next instant he was brushing cheeks with Allison explaining in a whimpering yet somehow hopeful voice that he and his wife were drifting apart and would soon to be divorced.
In the distance sirens could be heard, but Allison held out no hope for an end to the riot … people, ambulance and firemen were just more soon to be infected people coming to join in an out of control passion party. She was knocked to the ground by another surging brawl of lustful desire. Only by crawling on her hands and knees was Allison able to escape the frenzy.
When she found her herself finally free of the madness she sprinted across the street and hid behind Elmer Larson’s apple tree. “What have I done?” she voiced her thoughts out loud.
“It looks like you decided to become a winner!” Allison looked up to see a smiling Johnny Lang leaning against the back of the tree. His brilliant blue eyes and swept-back dark hair took her breath away. It was then she noticed Melania’s Roadmaster idling just down the street. The old woman looked like she was listening to music and seemed to be pre-occupied.
Allison knew what was coming and she looked forward to it … but then she didn’t.  She knew it was the only way to end the madness but the sooner it started the quicker it would finish. And she knew from the past that Johnny Lang was impossible to walk away from without tears and pain in the heart.
She held her breath as Johnny’s lips moved closer to hers. Her heart was racing - pumping her up with desire and she was sure her bra would break both elastic straps. Perhaps hoping it would and wondering what would happen if it did.
Johnny Lang’s lips were electric and Allison felt the tiny cars in all her secret places turn on and rev to redline before racing up and down her legs. Checkered flags were waving in all her most embarrassingly damp and erotic spots. Allison was a child again riding a white pony in a carousel that kept turning faster and faster. She was sinking deeper and deeper into glorious pools of sensual bliss and there was no going back. Suddenly Allison felt warm, wet and wonderful and she was afraid to move … afraid that if she did it would destroy the moment and she wanted it to last … and to never end.
            After an unknown length of time a shadow passed over her even though both her eyes were closed. She felt the oversize ruby ring with the masking tape on the band slip from her finger and was aware of something rising and floating ghostlike above her head. And then with a dull ache the feeling left like a soft summer breeze … and she knew the phantom Johnny Lang was gone.
When a tearful Allison finally opened her eyes a wide-eyed and dumfounded …but thankfully no longer lustful …Vicky stood behind her panting. “What the Hell just happened?” her best friend asked, trying to catch her breath from the run. From over Vicky’s shoulder Allison could see students and faculty milling around on the lawn. No one seemed to realize just what had taken place. A fire-truck was putting out the flames and the mist and rising smoke made it seem as if everyone were just awakening from some kind of ethereal dream. Principal Dunn and Miss Wolf were searching the littered lawn yelling at students and picking up five dollar bills. A black cat crossed the road and slipped behind an old Buick Roadmaster idling next to the curb.
Vicky was nothing if not persistent. “What was all that?” she demanded again.
            “It was the magic of kissing,” Allison whispered.

THE END?


           



Sunday, March 5, 2017

The MAGIC OF KISSING part 2

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson

The crowds of youngsters lingering outside Cloverdale High School weren’t just standing there gawking; most of them were moving toward Allison Weatherbee and Vicky Jenkins … moonstruck boys … and the furious girls who loved them. Allison ran when Greg Johnson sprinted toward her with a hopeful smile plastered on his athletic face. “Wait!” he called out. “I need to talk to you!” Vicky kept up for the first fifty yards then Allison began to pull away. “I’ll call you later!” Vicky promised as she bent then grasped her knees trying to catch her breath.
Becoming the spotlight of so much attention was the most frightening thing Allison had ever experienced, but she was only sixteen; scarier things would surely come into her life in the future.
Allison left the sidewalk and ran through several back-yards. Three muscle cars loaded with male students rounded the street corner and were rumbling down Meghan Way, moving slowly. Gawking heads leaned from open windows searching everywhere. Allison found herself cowering next to a garage behind Mrs. Dern’s house. Somewhere a dog began to bark and then another. The doorknob turned in her fingers and she held her breath as she slipped inside.
Globen Dern, the trim (some would say skeletal) seventy-year old who prowled the sidewalks of Cloverdale had a reputation of being something of a kleptomaniac. It was rumored she would pick up anything, anywhere from a forgotten baseball on a lawn to a broken doll plucked from a garbage can on her frequent nighttime excursions. Most of the citizens of Cloverdale considered her harmless and if they really wanted any of the junk items back, they could always have Sheriff John Walker retrieve them.
Allison gasped and instantly she knew the whispered stories had to be true – at least about the old woman’s stealing. Broken combs, radiator caps, pieces of water hose, trash bags, marbles, matchbox cars, pens, pencils, action figures, notebooks, car keys, lost shoes and divorced and unmated socks loomed roof-high in the center of the shed resembling a small volcano. No doubt ready to explode with the gasoline can that almost had to be in the pile somewhere … everything else was.
She opened the door just a crack and peered out. A 1964 Impala SS, the car Greg Johnson drove, rumbled past. Allison heard the slightly dragging sound of The Association singing Cherish on what had to be an eight track car stereo most likely with a book of matches stuck under the cartridge to keep the capstan and the tape engaged. Most girls would die for a date with Greg, but Allison figured she actually would if she ever gave in to his sudden lusty desire, perhaps in glorious bliss but still death was death. What was it Melania had told her …the desire that two people feel for each often burns hotter than any wood. Right now Allison’s shaking legs felt like kindling and she had no desire to go up in flames. She had to find her way to Melania’s house, the old woman, whom most of Cloverdale’s residents swore was a witch with supernatural powers, would know what to do … Allison hoped she would.
Just as she opened the garage-door and began to edge outside, Allison heard a bouncing ping sound as a small object rolled down Mrs. Dern’s loot-pile and landed at her feet. Bits of Inchyra-blue glitter spread outward in all directions.  Melania often said there were no coincidences and Allison tried to smile as she reached down and picked up the imitation silver man’s ring, the kind that left your finger green. It was probably purchased at the Comanche County Fair and the masking tape wrapped around the large band said it had been worn by a girl … someone was going steady … or had been. She looked at the enormous square ruby - obviously a fake and smiled.
“If you have any magic in you at all transport me to Melania’s basement,” Allison whispered as she slid the ring on her finger. Allison stood in hopeful expectation for almost two minutes with her eyes closed; an eternity when you’re sixteen, but at least the dogs had stopped barking. Holding her breath she opened her eyes and slipped out of the garage. “Will this day never end,” she moaned as she crouched low and scuttled through an October-frosted garden withering and dying before the coming of night.

-------2-------

Allison waited until the cars circling the block passed and then tried to open the back door to Melania’s mansion … It wouldn’t open and she found the front door was locked too. Melania was always at home and it was beginning to snow. “This is all I need!” She jumped over a fence and began to make her way to the rusty trailer-home her mother shared with Fred Hicks … Allison refused to acknowledge the pervert as her stepfather. The dirty old man had barged into the bathroom too many times, supposedly looking for combs or talcum powder, while she was naked behind the semi-transparent shower curtain.
She was just about to cross at the East end of Galbraith Street when, hearing a low rumble, she turned and an old Buick pulled next to her with what looked like flames shooting out the four venti-ports on the passenger-side front-fender. Allison sighed with relief as she recognized Melania’s 1949 Roadmaster. She didn’t think anyone else in the world had one just like it, although Melania claimed the car’s designer Ned Nickles had its twin. “Your house was locked up!” Allison accused the old woman as she climbed into the classic car.
“Lots of other people know you work for me after school and when you’re suddenly incendiarsi word gets around. The crowds of boys that chase infected girls can be dangerous, unbearable and hard to get rid of,” Melania told her. “When you’re a fox it’s best to lead predators away from your den. I see you found the ring … or rather it found you.”
Allison looked at the ring she had slipped on her finger inside Globen Dern’s garage. “I just picked this up from the floor of Mrs. Dern’s garage! How did you know I had it?”
            “Magic calls out to everyone who is listening,” Melania said as the car accelerated down the snow covered road. “I knew you were in trouble … so I came to your rescue.”
Allison noticed they were headed out of town and not back to Melania’s house. “Where are we going?” The wind had picked up and it looked like the beginning of a blizzard.
            “To meet with the owner of that ring,” Melania told her.
It was snowing harder and at times the car seemed to be floating … drifting across the desert along with the snow.

-------3-------

            The ancient Buick roared down the roads that crisscrossed Comanche County. Melania smiled at Allison and turned on the radio. The KRNR radio announcer’s voice boomed over the blowing wind outside from the car’s eight speakers. “Classic rock time let’s give it up for Cliff Richard and the Shadows playing … Move it!”
            “Sounds a lot like Elvis,” Allison said. “But I’ve never heard of them.”
            “They were Britain’s answer to American rock and roll before the Beatles,” Melania told her but they are more than that tonight. Their music is a signal to let us know that we’re about to meet our own … shadow.”
Snow blew across the desert as night fell and Allison noticed the car slowing. “That man in the road ahead is very dangerous … to your heart,” Melania said with a laugh. A tall, lean figure stepped onto the shoulder of the highway just as the old woman stopped the car. Icy wind blew his long dark hair to one side. Allison scooted next to Melania as the man kicked snow from his cowboy boots and slid into the seat next to her. The old woman made introductions. “This is Allison Weatherbee … my new apprendista … Allison, this is … Johnny Lang.”
Johnny looked at Allison and smiled. “I see you’re wearing my ring,” he said glancing at her finger. His smile stunned her.
            Rivers of ecstatic bliss were running down Allison’s arms and legs and Johnny’s deep blue eyes took her breath away. She could feel incredible warmth radiating outward from him and suddenly realized how cold it was in the other parts of the car. Allison wanted to scoot closer to the shadow like a moth to a flame but she was frozen, unable to speak or to move.
            “Slow down,” Melania told Johnny as she accelerated the car back onto the highway. “I’m sure Allison is an l'amore-virgin … and too much of your attractive charm might kill her.”
            “Sorry,” Johnny said and then turned and stared out the window as a new song came on the radio. Allison was aware of Melania turning down the volume but just barely. The stranger had almost all her interest. He was so incredibly handsome. Johnny wore a soft leather bomber jacket over a white t-shirt and black denim trousers. He smelled faintly of fresh hay touched by frost and Canoe cologne. Allison thought she could see sadness in his eyes as he gazed out the window; a longing for something lost and it broke her heart. The pain in her chest forced her to breathe and she found her voice just as Cherish began to play softly from the speakers.
            “Did you want it back?” The instant the words left her mouth she felt stupid. Of course he wanted the ring back it wasn’t as if they were going steady … he hadn’t given the ring to her. It was just something Mrs. Dern had stolen in her nightly rounds around Cloverdale. But it had obviously been worn by a girl, the masking tape on the band was a tell, and the ring was his. A stab of jealousy pierced Allison’s heart she didn’t even know him … not yet anyway.
Johnny turned to look at her and she was suddenly lost in his eyes and she didn’t want to be found. She was aware of how close they were and she wished they could touch. “Do you want to give it back?” His smile sent shivers down her spine. He was playing with her and she knew it … but his voice was like heat and she was freezing.  
            “I- I don’t … no,” she stammered.
            “Then we’re hooked-up,” he said as he leaned over … and kissed her.
Johnny Lang’s lips were electric and she felt the tiny motors in all her secret places turn on and spin out of control. Allison was a child again riding a carousel that kept turning faster and faster. She was falling deeper and deeper into pools of bliss and there was no going back. Suddenly Allison felt warm and wonderful and she was afraid to move … afraid that if she did it would destroy the moment and she wanted it to last forever. After an unknown length of time a shadow passed over her even though both her eyes were closed. She was aware of something breathing and floating ghostlike above her head and then with a bang the feeling left … and Johnny Lang was gone. When Allison opened her eyes they were pulling into Melania’s garage and the old woman had just put the automatic door down. “Where did he go?” she gasped looking around. 
“Johnny lives in every girl’s dreams … and he had to go home,” Melania said. She opened the passenger side door and helped the girl into the house … Allison was crying.

-------4-------

            “Why did I have to go through that?” Allison was sobbing as Melania was heating a pot of water for tea. Simon, the old woman’s black cat rubbed against Allison’s leg … but she ignored him.
            “Johnny absorbed the power of your kiss, and you are no longer attracting people to you as you were, although there might be some residual effects still lingering on those you was closest to.  Johnny was the only person who could remove most of the magic with no ill effects,” Melania said. “I’m sorry about the pain you feel … but there is a price for everything. Having Johnny kiss you was the only remedy that I could think of to keep you from creating chaos wherever you went.”
            “I could feel his pain and it touched me,” Allison said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be the same.”
            “And there is no reason why you should. If it makes you feel any better, Johnny has broken a thousand hearts and every time he does, the smallest of splinters from love exploding tear him apart.” The old woman took the kettle off the burner when it began to whistle.
Melania set two cups on the table with tea bags and filled them with hot water. Afterwards she put the pot back on the stove then picked up the cat and stroked his fur. “The love and affection you felt for him was only half of what he felt for you. Johnny is the spirit of love and he haunts young hearts whenever he appears.”
            “Will I ever see him again?” Allison’s eyes were pleading.
            “We all join the spirits eventually,” Melania told her. “And become like them. But there are always ways.” She looked at Allison and smiled. “There are several rooms upstairs that still need to be vacuumed. Staying busy will help keep your mind away from your troubles.”

-------5-------

            Allison enjoyed exploring the upstairs even if she was guiding a vacuum cleaner. Portraits of cats dominated the many rooms, but there were clever and interesting things in every place, Melania’s house seemed like a mysterious museum.
Melania had somehow acquired or enchanted a Black Forest cuckoo with hands that spun backwards. The clock chimed every hour and when it did a small door opened above the clock-face and several objects flew out. Tiny silk wings and spinning gears circled the room chirping, while all the eyes in the cat paintings followed them. The flying mechanical birds flew back inside the clock just before the tiny door closed with a soft click.
            A beautiful woven rug with an elephant design that looked like it might have come from Persia or another Eastern country rose from the floor almost to the ceiling as she drew near and hovered there as she vacuumed. The rug settled back down on the floor with a sigh once she had finished cleaning beneath it.
Simon was sitting on an upright piano watching Allison approach. Suddenly the hissing cat jumped, tipping over a vase and rained marble-sized beads down on the open keyboard below. Blue glass balls rolling and bouncing like peas played Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto in its entirety before stampeding off the edge and escaping into an open heating duct in the floor.
A bookcase between two windows held numerous interesting objects besides books. Allison watched a pack of playing cards shuffling themselves. Male and female dancers attached to the lid of a music box engaged in some kind of lover’s squabble. A thimble-sized pewter figure of a wolf with tiny ruby eyes watched them. She thought she glimpsed several rabbits run across the floor toward light from a transom. They were being chased by a creepy porcelain doll dragging a broken leg but they all seemed to vanish into the distinctive lines between light and shadow cast by the window.
Allison finished cleaning and then did some dusting. She enjoyed working for Melania, the old woman had always been very kind to her and it was a welcome change from being at home listening to her mother and stepfather argue. Melania called to her just as she was putting her cleaning supplies into a closet and Allison found her once again in the downstairs library.

-------6-------

“Juliana Hiker also got into trouble for using her kissing magic,” Melania told Allison as she handed the teen the five-hundred year old copy of La Magia di Baci.
“I would think that anyone with that much magical skill wouldn’t have any troubles at all,” Allison said as she took the book.
“Remember the balance of all things,” Melania told her. “Great skills are often shadowed with comparable accidents and blunders.” The old woman had made more tea and she handed another cup to Allison. Allison could smell mint and something that smelled like hickory but she couldn’t tell what it was. “Read from chapter three this time,” Melania told her. “I think it’s important that you learn about all the dangers involved in kissing before you go any further in your studies … especially after what happened today.”
Allison turned the pages carefully until she found the correct place in the book. She cleared her throat and then began reading. "Egli era l'uomo più bello che avessi mai visto e sono stato attratto da lui come una fiamma, anche se sapevo che lui era proibito."
 “He was the most handsome man I’d ever seen …” Melania translated the words into English. “And I was drawn to him like a flame … even though I knew that he was forbidden.”
“Why was he forbidden?” Allison asked.
“This part of the book is a diary that Juliana kept when she was a young girl,” Melania told her. “Masuccio Salernitano’s grandfather Niccolo, although extremely handsome and desirable, was a priest in training at his first parish. The only contact Juliana had with him was to kiss his hand as he passed out bread during communion and that was enough … at first. Eventually she wanted Niccolo to love her and not as a priest. Juliana began to study the dark arts especially writing and learned everything she could about kissing. Juliana visited the church every day and always kissed his hand. She was very beautiful and believed that their love was meant to be … and after a while so did he.”
“Writing was one of the dark arts?” Allison was intrigued.
“Words evolved from ancient symbols that only shamans and religious leaders were allowed to use,” Melania said. “Even the texts of the Holy Scriptures were written in Latin and common people were forbidden to even examine them. Words have always been vessels for an immense source of power no less today than at that time.”
“Is there magic in all words?” Allison asked.
“There is magic in all things,” Melania told her.
“What happened to Juliana and Niccolo?” Allison could read the book in her hand but she wasn’t sure if she could understand all that she was reading.
“Niccolo decided to renounce his vows of chastity which was punishable by death and he and Juliana planned to escape to the north where the church had less influence. They planned to be married and live simple lives as farmers.”
“What happened?” Allison thought the story was becoming very interesting.
“They were caught when a wagon they were riding in broke a wheel and one of the villagers who came to help noticed Niccolo and Juliana hiding under a pile of straw. The villager who had always secretly loved Julianna, alerted the authorities.”
“Surely the church would have understood that not all who are called are meant to serve,” Allison had to push away Simon who was once again rubbing against her leg.
“This was during the reign of the anti-pope Baldassarre Cossa. He was an evil man filled with greed and treachery. People were abandoning the church in droves and Cossa wanted to make an example of these two people and strike fear into his remaining followers. He had Juliana condemned as a witch and made plans to have her burned at stake.”
“What about Niccolo?” Allison was forgetting to drink her tea.
“Baldassarre Cossa told Niccolo that if he would renounce Juliana and testify against her he would be allowed to live.” Melania shook her head. Allison could see the sorrow in her eyes as if she had known these people personally.
“What did he do?” Allison gasped.
“He refused of course,” Melania said. “He told Cossa that he would rather die than live without her and the next morning they were both tied to a post in the center of a large pile of wood in the village square.”
Just then the clock upstairs chimed seven times. They could hear the mechanical birds flying about the room and Melania knew she must send her young helper home. “I’m afraid our little excursion to meet Johnny took too much of our time.” She said. Melania walked Allison to the front door. “We’ll continue your studies tomorrow after you help with laundry and bring a few herbs up from the basement.” She looked at the young girl and smiled. “You shouldn’t attract nearly as many followers at school, but make sure you don’t kiss anyone. We still don’t know what magical powers might linger even with Johnny’s help!”
I hope not Allison thought as she left the mansion and began walking home. Having that many people chasing after you … is terrifying.
Melania watched Allison from the kitchen window as she walked down the street. Simon was rubbing her leg so she picked the cat up. “You want some affection do you Johnny?” she smiled as the cat began to purr. “Oh I almost forgot … when you’re in this house and in this form your name is Simon.” She carried the cat into the kitchen planning on a saucer of milk perhaps warm … it was a cold night. “How about watching a movie on TV? I hear there’s a Humphrey Bogart movie on after the news … I know how you cherish the old black and whites.”

-------7-------

The next day Allison was feeling a lot better; things seemed to be almost normal … until she got to school. “A kissing booth!” Allison could hardly believe what she was hearing. Miss. Wolf had called her from English Literature into the principal’s office along with Vice-Principal Adams and Marsha Hicks. Marsha was wearing a mini skirt and Principal Adams had made her staple a newspaper around the bottom so the paper-hem met her knees … it wasn’t the first time.
“The local PTA and the Cloverdale Committee for the Arts have all decided that a Kissing Booth at a school fair would be the best way to raise money for new auditorium lights.” Miss Wolf told them. She was all business. “With you and Marsha both working the booth I’m sure we can come up the fourteen hundred dollars in no time. Plus it’s great publicity for our upcoming performances!”
“But I can’t,” Allison objected.
“You seemed to do pretty well yesterday,” Miss. Wolf said with a smirk. “You had the whole school talking about your little open mouth affair with Greg Johnson … so don’t tell me you’ve suddenly become prudish!”
“But!” Allison stammered.
“What about my cousin?” Marsha interrupted. “Is he still on the injured list?”
“Vern Hicks is unfortunately out for the semester,” Miss Wolf said. “His mother is considering transferring him out of drama and into electronics. She says with his fragile temperament the stress of sexual contact might be too much for him.”
“Then who is going to play the male lead?” A light went on in Marsha’s eyes.
“I got Coach Simmons to re-arrange Greg Johnson’s football practice schedule.” Miss Wolf looked at Allison and smiled. “He did seem rather taken with yesterday’s rehearsal.”
“I’d like to make a suggestion,” Marsha said suddenly showing tons more enthusiasm for the school play. “Since me an Allison are both working the booth together whoever sells the most kisses plays Rachel and the loser is her understudy … are we agreed?” She looked at Allison, then smiled and leaned closer to whisper with concealed venom. “Your mother is barely good enough for my uncle. Are you afraid no boy will choose you?” Allison thought she looked like a crocodile wearing designer clothing.
Mrs. Wolf clapped her hands and laughed. “I think a little competition is a great thing.”
Everyone was looking at Allison; she didn’t know what to say …. Marsha smirked like she had already won the contest. Finally Allison nodded her head in the affirmative.”
“When is the school carnival?” Marsha asked.
“Tomorrow,” said Miss Wolf smiling. “We’re desperate to have the funding for the lights and we need the money as soon as possible.  The principal agreed to let school out at noon and Mr. Henry’s shop class is building the kissing booth right now!”
Allison felt sick as she gathered books for her next class. Vicky Jenkins was standing next to her locker. Greg Johnson happened to be walking past and started to lurch toward Allison with a stupid grin on his face but several of his football teammates pulled him back. Evidently there was still a bit of the magic residue left and Johnny hadn’t absorbed it all. Vicky was staring at the best looking boy in the senior class as his baffled teammates dragged him away.
“Hopelessly drunk on love!” Vicky whispered. “Girl, if only I knew where your hidden still was.” Finally when Greg Johnson disappeared at the end of the hall Vicky turned her attention back to her best friend. “What’s up?” Vicky asked. “You’re still smoking hot, but not glowing … and now you look like that cartoon dog Scooby Doo when he realizes he has just swallowed a hand grenade.”
            “You may be right,” Allison said thinking about the kissing booth Miss Wolf and especially Marsha Hicks had forced her to be in. She looked at her watch. “This whole attraction thing that has been pushed on me … looks like it’s going to explode in about … twenty-six hours.”

TO BE CONTINUED …