Originally posted in Tales From the Mad Cafe on Saturday, September 11, 2010
This is what happens when a typo takes on a life of its own.
photography by Jun Tuazon
The Goosebums were the terror of Burbon Street on Mardi Gras night, a pack of four young men in their twenties, full of liquor and hormones, goosing the prettiest women [and the occasional mistaken identity crisis with an angry or over-zealous drag queen] on the parade route. With as different backgrounds as any flock could have, their common bond was good booze and bad women, earning their infamous moniker when they were trying to break the world record for goosing one year, not caring that there was no such distinction to be had only that they were able to make a name [and a nuisance] of themselves.
Aaron LaRue was from old money, his great-great-great-etc grandfather having acquired the better part of the Louisiana Purchase [or so it was said], making his money off the leases he made to plantation owners that grew on his property. His job was to look pretty, gain a respectable wife, and perpetuate the family name. The girls all loved his deadly charm, sparkling from his green eyes and pouring from his full lips, simply adored his olive skin and flowing auburn hair.
But they hated his womanizing, his arrogance, and his expectation to bed them on second meeting or even first, based on how much he spent on them.
Harry Forester was middle-class rich: well-to-do but not well enough not to have to earn a living, boyish good looks making him the ideal general manager for his father’s dealership. It had taken a beating during Katrina, an even bigger one during the recession, with Government funds as well as Harry’s head for business the two blessings keeping them successful. Recently engaged, this was his last hurrah with the flock, his last night to goose and drink and perhaps fuck any one of the young women catching his eye. He loved his fiancee, true enough, but he was finding out he loved his freedom more, having promised his lady love no more goosing after their engagement and now regretting it miserably. He had met Jenny when he had goosed her last Mardi Gras, and it was instant sparks.
Or maybe it was just the stars he saw when she back-handed him.
Jordan McAllistair was a typical jock with a geek hidden inside, full football scholarship to LSU, poor kid made good. Being top of his class in computer science and meteorology, he was now one of the foremost hurricane trackers and storm chasers around, having predicted Katrina to hit sooner and harder than first thought, but kept out of the loop because of his age and penchant for questioning authority. He was almost fired for punching out one of NOAA’s top brass after Katrina hit where he’d said it would, when he said it would, but his mentor stepped in and saved him from the chopping block.
It was his temper that held him back from most things, including women. Tequila made him mean, everyone knew it, Jordan knew it, but everyone also knew not to step between the man and his Patron. He was often a brutal lover, so the more delicate of the female species steered clear of him after only one night.
Xavier was the black sheep of his family as well as the flock, the scent of the clove cigarettes he smoked wafting about him, sweet and spicy. His long, blue-black hair accentuated his Creole features, lithe, cat-like form swathed in Gothic splendor, an all too perfect stereotype of what Anne Rice fans looked for when coming to find their beloved Lestat and Louie. When they found Xavier, however, they found he was more scary than sensual. It was not just his collection of blades and Medieval torture devices that gave the maidens pause, it was the way he relished describing in gross detail how each of them served their purpose, thereby killing any romance that was intended or inferred. Others were equally appalled at his interest in all things ancient, pagan, and reputedly cursed or haunted – Xavier quickly learned the way to a woman’s heart was not through the door of a creepy plantation.
”Something is in the air,” Xavier declared, holding his cigarette in his teeth as he goosed a woman with his “Magic Stick” – a mahogany walking cane topped with an orb of milky quartz set in an ornate, silver-wrought basket.
Jordan rolled his eyes. “Here we go again.”
”It’s that foul cancer stick you got stickin outta your mouth, boy!” Aaron drawled, smiling at Xavier’s glare. “Voodoo’s for Halloween, Exy, this is Mardi Gras.”
”Mardi Gras is a Voodoo holiday.” Harry had been strangely solemn, hands in pockets, barely a goose since they’d left the pub, so he scowled when the others looked at him strangely. “What? I read Serpent and the Rainbow.”
”Whatever.” Aaron smirked, goosing a pert young butt cheek stuffed in barely-legal denim shorts, hanging a strand of fancy beads around her neck as she turned around and giving his most charming smile. “The only thing in the air tonight is sex, and lots of it.”
Poor Harry groaned, knowing that he would most likely miss that part of the ritual, given his spoken for status.
”Oh, come on, Harry…. what Jen doesn’t know….” Gary kissed the beautiful girl, who reeked of Crown and Coke, hand cupping her ample breast. “Don’t be such a pussy-whipped fool.”
”Let him alone, Aaron,” Jordan snickered, putting his arm around Harry. “He’s just rethinking that proposal, that’s all.”
”You guys, it’s not like she doesn’t know I’m here.” Harry swayed, the effects of the Tuaca bombs downed earlier becoming more pronounced. “She’ll expect….”
”My point exactly.” Aaron left the young girl to wander away with her friend, giggling when she found the business card he had magically slipped into her cleavage. Putting his hands on Harry’s shoulders, he stared deep in his eyes. “She’s expecting you to misbehave, to get laid, drunk, and all the vices in between because she knows once that ring is on your finger, you’ll be a good boy forever.”
Harry was held in a trance, Aaron’s eyes embarrassingly having the same effect on him as they did women. “She does know I’m here….”
”Yes, dear boy, how could you be here….”
”If I didn’t have her permission.” Harry’s face lit up, sudden realization coming over him, a wide grin creeping across his face.
”Gods, I love to watch him work,” Xavier murmured in amazement, taking a drag on his cigarette before tossing the spent butt aside.
”I’m drowning in the bullshit.” Jordan shook his head, feeling sorry for Aaron’s victims.
”So, Harry, this means you get to choose any woman from this crowd.” Aaron swept his hand across the throng of people around them. “And do with them what you will.”
Harry’s grin got wider, more menacing, a predator just being given the scent to his prey. He would have his one last night of debauchery come Hell or high water.
”That something in the air just got thicker.” Xavier lit another cigarette, following the flock as they went in search of fresh hunting grounds.
The flock ended up somehow in the infamous Voodoo District, having gotten turned around by the crowds, the booze, and the women distracting them along the way. Xavier immediately declared it was a bad idea to continue on, but the others, per usual, laughed him off.
”Poor little Exy’s scared, maybe we should turn back.” Gary snickered, hanging his arm around the taller man, who glared. Gary was tanked, and annoyingly so, having the habit of draping himself over everyone he encountered, including a very annoyed Xavier.
”Ain’t scared, just know where to stay out of and when.” Xavier’s ears pricked to the sound of drums, of singing. “And this would be one of those times.”
Gary and Jordan looked at each other, frowning when they, too heard the melody. It was nothing like they heard in movies, no, this was more ethereal, powerful, sending vibrations to their very being.
”Maybe we should….” Jordan began.
”Her. I want her.”
Harry was in a trance as they rounded the corner to a cul de sac filled with people, some singing, some playing drums, some just standing transfixed in the light of the bonfire before them. Yet it was not the music that caused Harry to stop in his tracks, it was the woman dancing around the bonfire, red dress flowing as she spun and gyrated, her body moving like the serpent hung about her neck.
”Oh shit.” Xavier had been enjoying the high his specially packed cloves had gifted him with, but he sobered up quickly. “Nah, bro, not her. Definitely not her.”
”Awww, why not?” Harry whined. “Gary said any girl.”
It was true that, even given “permission,” Harry had not goosed a single girl that night, barely looking at those who would’ve fucked him where he stood. The fact that the beautiful Creole woman in the red dress, long, velvet curls swinging with her movements, had caught his eye was a surprise to the flock.
”She’s a loa,” Xavier replied.
”A what-a?” Jordon hiccuped, afraid the rum was not all gone but coming to the surface.
” Loa,” Xavier replied, grabbing Harry before he entered the circle of devotees. “Voodoo goddess.”
”She certainly is.” Harry shrugged off Xavier’s grasp, entering the throng without hesitation or fear, the woman gazing at him, the fire setting her dark eyes ablaze.
”Whatever she is, Harry wants her as his lov-ah.” Gary smiled at Xavier, following Harry. “Who are we to stop him?”
Xavier shook his head, watching the two men enter the ritual without a clue or care. Jordan came up beside him, eyes wide and spooked.
”I got a bad feeling about this.” Jordan took the flask of bourbon from his pocket, taking a drink and handing it to Xavier.
Xavier raised his eyebrows before taking the flask – Jordan shared his bourbon with no one – and taking a long swig. “As well you should. Women possessed by the loa are somewhat – unpredictable.”
”Speaking from experience?” Jordan smirked, taking back the flask and putting it in his pocket.
”Maybe.” Xavier sighed and walked toward the crowd, where the woman had taken Harry and Gary into the dance. Harry, being the better dancer drunk or sober, was grinding against her thigh as Gary grabbed another girl from the throng. “C’mon, let’s see if we can save these fools.”
”What’s your name?” Harry asked. Her hands upon his cheeks, his chest as she rolled and swayed with the drums were making him breathless, his arousal evident every time he pressed against her thigh.
The woman chuckled, leaning in to lick his ear lobe. “Erzulie.”
”Beautiful Erzulie.” Gary kissed her neck, fingers tracing down her cleavage even as his other hand held firm the waist of the young girl. “You fancy my mate there?”
”Oui..” Erzulie’s glossed lips shone like satin, the feel of them upon Harry’s own just as soft. “He has such soulful eyes.”
Erzulie looked over Harry’s shoulder to see Xavier leaning on his cane, lighting a clove, and glared. Jordan near pissed himself when she turned that glare on him, whimpering like a kid who’d just seen the monster under his bed.
”Exy, how nice to see you again.” She ran her fingers through Harry’s hair, kissing him full on the mouth. “Found me a new lover, it seems.”
”You can’t, not with him.” Xavier took a drag off his clove. “He’s engaged.”
”He doesn’t act like he’s about to be wed.” Erzulie pouted, tongue tickling Harry’s earlobe. “I just want a little taste, hmmm?”
”I’ll give you more than a taste, there, doll.” Harry leaned down and kissed her cleavage, looking up at Gary. “I think I can take it from here.”
”You’re not taking anything anywhere, Harry!”
Harry turned to see Jenny, her green eyes burning with rage, face as red as the long hair upon her head. She was dressed in her typical Bohemian fashion, curvy figure accentuated by her multicolored broom skirt and peasant blouse shot with silver. Harry always thought she looked a bit mythical in that garb, like a goddess with the silver jewelry and sandals on her feet.
”Jenny, I-” Harry stammered. “You gave me permission?”
”Permission?” Jenny’s eyes filled with tears, her hand trailing down his cheek. “I trusted you – one last night with the boys, one last round of gooses, but you betray me like this?”
”He only wants some loving before being chained, child.” Erzulie wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing her breasts into his back as she lay her head between his shoulder blades. “Can you not just let him be? He’s so…. sweet.”
”Erzulie, you know damned well who and what I am,” Jenny glowered. “Now back off!”
”Witches.” Erzulie rolled her eyes. “Always come to crash the party.”
”Witch?” Harry exclaimed, moving from Erzulie’s embrace and staring at his fiancee. “What the….”
”Things just got worse didn’t they?” Jordan said, his eyes still popping out of his head, wanting this badly to be a bourbon-induced nightmare.
”Yep.” Xavier took the flask out of Jordan’s pocket and took another big draught.
”Yes, Harry, every time you attempted that as an insult toward me, it was actually a compliment.” Jenny’s lips twisted in a menacing grin. “You will see what kind of witch I am now, you bastard!”
”Now, child, don’t….” Erzulie stepped forward, but was stopped by a warning glance from Xavier.
”You care more for your stupid reputation, your stupid little club than me.” Jenny’s lips trembled, her anger merging with her hurt, the air around her crackling with energy. “You like being a Goosebum so much, then remain one, forever!”
In a flash, there stood a goose where Harry once was, his shirt and pants shrinking to match his new form. Confused, Harry ruffled his feathers – feathers? – and whined.
”No, no I want to be -” Harry waved his…. wing?– “with…. you… ahhhhhh!!”
Harry looked at his hands, now wings, and began to flap them in panic, running around to hide behind Xavier, who just stood there beside Jordan’s quivering form, taking another drag off his clove.
”Well, this is a conundrum.” Xavier mused, looking down at Harry.
”Jenny! What the hell!” Gary had witnessed the whole thing, the girl in arms having run screaming from the ritual, the other participants not even noticing.
”And you!” Jenny wheeled on Gary. “The one who started all this shit! Goosebum!”
Gary the goose cursed like a sailor, stamping his webbed feet and fluttering about before fluffing out his feathers and flying up to sit dignified upon a fence post. “I will not be ruffled by this whore.”
”Jenny, please, this is not….”
Jordan shrank and whimpered, hiding his face behind his wing. “We are so Christmas dinner!”
”Calm down, AFLAC.” Xavier picked Jordan up, setting him down on the fence post beside Gary.
”Goosebum!” Jenny snarled, glaring at Xavier.
Xavier picked up Harry, setting him beside the others. “Gods, you three are pathetic.”
Gary hissed at Xavier, who just smiled and pat his head. Jenny growled, calling on all her power, Erzulie’s eyes flowing with tears.
”Poor little geese,” Erzulie sniffled.
Xavier looked around and smiled. “Won’t work, hun.”
Jenny huffed and puffed, determined to blow his ego down. “Goose – bum!”
”That’s three.” Xavier walked toward Jenny, swinging his cane beside him. “You know if the power of three is ineffective….”
”But how?” Jenny was incredulous and shaking, looking up at Xavier, who had gotten near nose-to-nose with her.
”This.” Xavier tossed the cane, catching deftly in the middle and tapping Jenny on the forehead with the crystal. “Was given to me by Papa Ghede himself. That orb you see in there? It’s normally clear, but since it was made to absorb curses, it’s gotten a bit cloudy over the years.”
Jenny looked at the swirling, white, milky substance within the crystal with wonder and dread She had always felt something funny about Xavier, but could not quite place it, and now she felt she could not move
”Ahh, poor little Goosebums!” Erzulie was sobbing, cuddling Gary, who nuzzled her neck. “What are they to do!”
”Yeah, what are we to do, Ex?” Jordan flapped his wings. “Can’t stay like this forever!”
”Shut up, will you?” Xavier stroked Jenny’s forehead with the orb-topped cane. “So, since it’s getting a little crowded in there, perhaps I should evict some of the residents? Lift the curse.”
”We’ll have to eat beetles.” Jordan moaned.
”You wouldn’t dare,” Jenny sneered.
Erzulie let out a bainsidhe’s wail, falling to the ground and sobbing for the misfortune of the geese and all the animals of the world who never knew love or care.
Jenny rolled her eyes. “Could you stop that incessant blubbering over there?”
Xavier sighed, tapping Jenny’s nose with the cane. “Don’t go anywhere.”
He walked over to Erzulie, reaching into his pocket and drawing out some sesame candy. “Here, this will make things better.”
Erzulie’s eyes dried immediately, snatching the candy from his hand like a child, smile gleaming. “My favorite!”
That accomplished, he walked over to Jenny, who had tried to move, but remained rooted to the spot by some unknown force. He trailed the orb along the nape of her neck. “Now, lift it.”
”She said forever, Exy.” Gary nibbled a bit of candy Erzulie had offered. “Might as well make the best of it.”
”She’s not that powerful.” Erzulie scratched Gary’s chest and he hummed in pleasure. “Not yet anyway.”
Jenny’s eyes narrowed, looking over at Erzulie with contempt. “I can’t lift it because it’s not permanent. It’ll only last six months.”
”Hmmm, that means I’ll not have to keep them out of the crock pot forever, then?”
”Hey, watch it with the cooking humor!” Harry snarled, as much as a goose could snarl, that is.
”Sorry, Harry.” Xavier chuckled.
Jordan spied a beetle and snapped it up, stopping short of swallowing it when Gary looked over, still cuddled in Erzulie’s arms, and shook his head. Jordan tossed his head back, chomping loudly with his beak and swallowing the beetle dramatically.
”That.” Gary took another piece of candy, nibbling Erzulie’s fingers and making her giggle. “Was revolting.”
So, for six months, the Goosebums lived as geese, eventually shedding human clothes, and some of their human instincts [Jordan developed a taste for beetles, and was soon special ordering them online with Xavier’s help] as well.
Erzulie – or Mambo Ester as she is known when not possessed by the loa – took up with Gary after he proved he did indeed have more money than God despite being a goose.
Harry went with Jenny, promising to renounce his membership as a Goosebum, and Jenny promised no more curses unless she had PMS, leading Harry to become an amateur authority on the timing of a woman’s cycle and what best to placate her during those times, even starting a blog which earned him a spot on Oprah.
Jordan became the official spokesperson for ALFAC, replacing “that fake bastard,” as he put it, hoping the curse wouldn’t wear off in the middle of a commercial set.
Still the loner, walking the streets of New Orleans, cane in hand, and top hat on head. He’s always late for parties, always having to get new shades, as the right lens keeps going missing, and wakes up with cotton in his ears and nose. Occasionally, he gets arrested for public indecency, Mambo Ester there to bail him out as she had done many times before.
Papa Ghede so loves his devotees.
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