One Good Fellow Nervous
I once went to a place where peacocks roamed free. I had come because of an invitation to an expansive garden estate where a wedding would be performed later in the day; a mixed ceremony: half Christian -- half Hindi.
While I ventured out for a mid-morning stroll around the grounds to admire things, a catering crew arrived. The next thing I knew, I found my self being forced to stop and shake hands with lots of dark-eyed strangers. I nodded and smiled politely as I kept an eye on the hirelings. They themselves stayed busy transporting tray after food tray from several vans to a cool and shaded hall where rows of tables waited. Before long, the smell of exotic foods began to reach my nostrils, and that woke my stomach.
I am not one who naturally eats a lot of food, but when I do, breakfast is preferred over any other course. I had forgone that meal on this particular day, thinking to allow my little appetite to grow.
By noon I had worked myself into a slight sweat by mentally entertaining dozens of unfamiliar spices, imagining all of their last voyages, and just how happy we might all soon become.
But at one point it became too much to bear. I then discovered myself drenched in shame over my torturous self-abuse: I had wandered into the hall somehow, and stealthily examined several of the food tables without drawing undue attention. My legs shook. My stomach growled. My eyes latched on and would not let go. The spread I witnessed looked so appealing. Everything smelled too wonderful to describe. Not one thing in any of the trays was recognizable, but each morsel, every delight, all these lumps of unknown things from unknown origins beckoned to me like a haunting of coaxful Sirens. It was the worst part of my day.
Before long I began to hallucinate. Veiled dishes rose up from the table tops, and then they came over to dance with me. I became too frightened to stay after that, so I ran outside like a coward.
Near the front entry I leaned against an ornate pillar to rest as a middle-aged man worked a languid push broom around a long, looping driveway. He looked vaguely familiar at first, even with the flowing yellow robe he wore as a type of disguise. Then I realized his skin tone matched mine exactly. I took to the idea that the two of us could converse with ease if either of us would initiate the conversation, so I said hello.
He stopped sweeping and turned to look at me.
At that same moment, a terribly loud flapping noise exploded out of nowhere, and in a flash of blurred blues, a resident male peacock flew past my head, after leaving his perch on the portico roof above me. He landed with a thud on the pavement near by, and it was a most-undignified moment for us both. I could tell from the suffering look in his pride-soaked eyes that the bird was unaware of my sudden panic, or of my ravenous hunger.
He was able to recoup quicker than I, and so the creature vainly strutted off.
The man with the broom smiled. I believe I then offered to eat the ample bird, but I think the good fellow took that idea as a threat. He must have felt compelled to stand there like he did and tell me he was a proper Vegetarian, so I, in turn, felt obliged to let him know I was a practicing Presbyterian. He soon went back to his first calling, but he kept giving me nervous looks, so I finally left him in peace.
After a time the fancy proceedings got under way, and after more time elapsed, it came to a merciful end. I was never so happy. At last, we could all feast.
I moved along at a slow pace as I stood in line, holding a tray, smiling and nodding and pointing to all the edibles, and I smiled even more to watch my plate become weighted down with such delectable goodies. Out on a veranda I found a quiet spot to sit, and after making myself comfortable, I began to sample my collection.
Goodness gracious me.
My stars, what is that?
Each lump, each rolled thing, each mound of odd stuff was honestly tried and methodically convicted on the spot. Before long I wanted to hang a cook. I looked around to see what the others were doing, but every man, woman and child seemed to be enjoying themselves greatly, which really bothered me.
The one single thing on my plate left to test looked suspiciously like chocolate, which will always do as a desert. I had saved it for that purpose, but when I bit into the thing, the good people next to me began to scatter. It might have had something to do with the sickened look on my face, or maybe the sweeper had informed everyone about my habits.
But after discreetly disposing of the surplus evidence I had, I left the estate behind to go seek a fast-food place, which I found not too far away.
Funny how delicious even simple fare will taste when a man is truly hungry.