Marlene Hauser

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula stonei), Purple subspecies, male sitting on a fence in the Ramble of New York's Central Park.

The Fair Incognito Cont’d

Hi Everyone

Some authors say that all work should be kept quiet until you have finished the last draft. I imagine that to possibly be true. However, as a few of you have asked for more of WIP The Fair Incognito, I find it impossible to say no, just as I once found it impossible to say no to my young son who always wanted to taste the fresh chocolate icing from the mixing spoon.
So another draft excerpt. Please enjoy.

Jean-Jacques had said he wanted to collect Dash, his hunting hound, but what he really wanted was to roam the streets of Henderson once more. He was still unsure how it had all come to this – bankruptcy, the loss of everything, including now Lucy and the boys. With the flatboat, so close to the town, he felt he could almost reach out and touch the mill, Main Street and of course the two-storey cabin, but then the wind rose and the rain lashed, and he came back to his senses.

Someone had to stay, Captain Cummings ordered, stand sentry over the boat, and the crazy Frenchman enlisted. They knew about his last days and weeks in Henderson, the rants, the Bowie knife, the Arkansas toothpick and wanting to kill with his own bare hands. He should not return there.

With the commander gone, having sworn a speedy return, not more than a few hours at most, Jean-Jacques waited, riveted by the muddy currents of the Ohio River. It was his once upon a time friend, that river, when its pulse was meant to run the mill, the now infamous and evil crusher that, instead of laying up gold, had drained his pockets faster than any other get rich quick scheme.

Jean-Jacques knew he could so easily slip away without a trace into these lacy green tides. He saw just for a moment the boat in which he now sat vanish, sink quietly into the dark waters, bulleted by a hard, driving rain. Jean-Jacques pictured himself cutting loose the moorings, drifting with the manic, now zigzagging, currents, and the long line of thunderstorms moving steadily across the horizon; letting Nature take her course, destroy him and the flatboat, never to be seen again. But then what about Lucy and the boys? Captain Cummings would surely go to them, seek payment, then to Lucy’s brother, then her brother-in-law, who wanted nothing to do with the man who had apparently lost his Midas touch, if he’d ever had it at all.

Then Jean-Jacques pictured his Lucy, amused once again, unruffled; and his lads, lusty, wanting their own flintlock fowler, to go downriver with him; the Henderson cabin, walls lined with books, fine scripts from England, France, China even; and of course the pianoforte. Had they ever really existed? He remembered a roaring fire, merriment, Alexander Wilson ambling through town, Ferdinand Rozier, of all people, ordering Jean-Jacques to take down his folder and show this Scotsman, display it for all to see, the birds he brought to life in sharp colours, full of humour and loss, telling a human story that even he could not yet read.

Life then had been a shindig; he the host. He’d been happy that it all spun around him, guests taking delight in the fun he offered, not unlike the carousel in Henderson’s Central Park on Independence Day, going round and round, playing ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’, before coming to an ear-splitting, hard-braking, grinding stop.

“Any use to you?” Joseph knocked Jean-Jacques on the shoulder, handing him the black bird. The captain, crew and Dash now safe, back on board.

Taking the crow, studying the delicate, purple tracery in its silken black wing, Jean-Jacques smiled.

Mesi, Jozèph. Wi. Mesi.”

Then his thoughts turned elsewhere. Joseph could watch, or not, as he pleased, the hand of Jean-Jacques move across the blank page, breath-taking, stirring magic, Vodou even. Jean-Jacques heard Lucy reading while he worked. Like song, her voice told the same reassuring tales over and over again. Of course, his favourites she would recite in French as once his mother had. Atala. Robinson Crusoe. Or anything by Jane Austen, which made her happy, which in turn caused him to beam.

Then Jean-Jacques drew as if bargaining, praying to an Unknown something, in large, gross, layered shapes – circular, oblong, rough, triangular – reducing them bit by bit, until finally his nefarious Grackle turned its black head, its beady, steady, piercing, golden eye, and laid down the law.
   “Guilty as charged.”
Wishing you a March 2024 full of “onward and upward.”



Photo by MichaelStubblefield | iStock