Sunday, October 29, 2006
Halloween Tale: Soul Cakes
By Marcail (Hallowe’en 2006)
The flickering candles bring your face in and out of focus on the walls about the room. Your anger is etched in the hard lines of your mouth and in the twitching of your left eye. When I think you’re banished, I catch of glimpse of you crouching in the corner. My rosary slides faster through my fingers in pace with my keening prayer.The others seemed not to notice. Their evil laughs punctuate the stories of past visitations by the ancestors as told by the older folks. It’s All Hallow’s Eve. We have gathered to guide the souls back to visit their earthly home. A bottle of wine is uncorked on the table to refresh them. Little "soul cakes," Barmbrack, wait to be discovered by the living and the dead. We wait as midnight approaches to eat and learn our fate for the year.
I fear my secret will be revealed. That they will attack like a pack of wolves. I have prayed nightly since your dispatch that you’ll not find the way back. Others, it seems, have the ear of God. I sense your presence getting stronger as the time approaches. Your Da fiddles and taps his foot and I am transported to our wedding night. The night they gave me to you. I hear the fiddle and the dancing getting louder and more frenetic as you pound into my folds and bite and tear at my flesh. I see my spirit depart my body. I’m never the same, but I took back the soul you stole from me that night.
I’d do the deed again. I pray harder that you never return to defile me with your loathsome spirit. Your Ma's soul cakes are said to be the most powerful. They’ve brought you back, so there must be some truth in the rumour. To me, her baking fails to nourish. Her offerings are as meager and as mean-spirited as her family. I’m trapped in her bosom -- smothering. I tried to return to the orphanage where she, who is the miserly cook, found me. It was not my fate. The Mother Superior claimed I was bound to my new family. The seed was planted.
The clock strikes the hour. In unison, we break bread and eat. I see the look of surprise on her face when I pull the gold ring from my soul cake with my teeth. Choking and gasping, all assembled fall on blue faces until a peaceful silence descends. Smiling, I pick up my candle and walk to your corner dispelling the shadows. You are gone. I sit and gaze in the mirror. My fate -- the man assigned to be my second husband looks back. I do not know him, but he has a gentle smile and kind eyes. If it doesn’t work out, I know what I have to do. A minor change of ingredients is all that’s required.