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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-five DINNER IS SERVED



he skin that hung from the back of The Grandmother’s arms flapped and swayed over the pot of soup while she stirred with a long pole. The intoxicating smell of the boiling spices made my stomach twist and grumble, and I licked my lips. Steam coated her face when she leaned over, dipped the big spoon that hung off the side of the pot into the stew, and took a sip. She closed her eyes and rolled the liquid around on her tongue before nodding and giving me a toothless grin.

She lopped both ends from a dozen cassava tubers with a large machete and then pointed to the pot hanging from the pole-formed teepee over the crackling fire.

I gathered the starchy roots and tossed them into the bubbling cauldron one-by-one. Then I did the same with the yams and hog plum. When the Grandmother wasn’t looking, I grabbed the spoon and dipped it into the pot. I puffed at the steamy liquid, inhaled the earthy fragrance and then took a sip. I imitated the Grandmother and rolled the hot liquid around on my tongue, releasing the full-bodied layers of herbs and spices. “Mmmm.”

The women set the long table, carrying armloads of hand-carved serving dishes and trays laden with food gathered from the rainforest. Saliva flooded my mouth when the platter filled with all my favorites was paraded past; bananas, figs, mangos, Brazil nuts, cashews, and passion fruit. The bright colors decorated the plate, and the sweet, heady fragrance filled my nostrils.

When no one was looking I popped a plump acai berry into my mouth. One of the women handed me a platter stacked with layers of crisp cassava flatbread. I placed it on the table and returned to stand by the Grandmother. “When are we going to eat?” I asked her. I was so hungry it felt as if my stomach was trying to eat itself.

“The ceremony will begin soon.”

Drumbeats and chanting signaled the entrance of The Grandfather. He wore a headdress of bright-green parrot feathers and a seven-inch porcupine quill pierced his septum. The lower half of his face was stained red, the upper-half black. A jaguar claw necklace hung from his neck.

My heart galloped and my scalp prickled with excitement. It was almost time.

Drumbeats interrupted the village chatter, and the Grandfather danced around a large open-pit fire, thanking the gods for the feast we were about to consume. The drumbeats stopped, and the Grandfather stood still while the men brought in the main course. The beast hung from a pole that sagged in the middle from its weight and required the strength of two men to carry. The entire village would be fed well today.

They placed each end of the pole in Y-shaped supports, on either side of the fire, so the meat hung over the flames. Skin popped, and fat sizzled and dripped. The mouth-watering aromas increased with our meal’s diminishing screams.




Jackie Valacich lives in Tucson, AZ with her professor husband and two dogs. Her passion is horror; words and movies. The creepier and scarier the better. She has published a blog for London School of Economics and a short horror story in The Sirens Call. Forthcoming short horror story in Ink Stains Anthology Issue 10, short horror stories in The Offbeat Volume 18 and Jitter Press Issue 6.

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