Return of the Orange Virgin

Chapter Three—Meet Biff

The Fata Morgana was not expected to kill her lover. Still, the idea was not unattractive. It was just one of those ideas that came to one. Like checking under the bed to see if life had coalesced from the dust balls, or “when my nose itches someone is thinking of me.”

She stopped to scratch her nose. “In days past and forever lost, my frenzied women would have lapped up the spillage along with the blood and torn pieces of the bridegroom, tidying. Consummation, then the meal—the wedding feast.

“I had done it because it was expected and now someone is thinking of me and I want to do it again. Damn old White Sow of Naxos. Bloody, savage old thing!” She had hoped to lead her worshipers to an appreciation of the finer things. “But no—blood and guts, blood and guts. Nothing else would satisfy them. I tried.” The White Sow was one of her attributes and the cause of the Levitical prohibition against eating pork. “My blood communion and they were jealous. Those camel jockeys couldn’t deal with a little competition.”

She postulated a conversation with the hypothetical pig-killer. It was only an everyday pig, probably an accident, one of those confluences of malevolent serendipity where everything lined up for no particular reason, and here she saw it as a summonsing to slaughter her love-slave, “...gigolo, dancing boy, whatever. The pig is incidental,” said the Queen of Heaven.

“So are we all. Tell that to the pig,” the alleged slayer would say.

“You killed it.”

“I was an instrument of forces beyond my control.”

“A hairy and time-worn excuse. I used to use it all the time.”

“Nonetheless, you postulate that your pig is dead. What are you going to do?”

“Do? Do? What is all this rush to do something? There has been time and enough for these twelve thousand years.”

“And you did nothing. Perhaps that is why you are called.”

No comfort there. She cut off the invented inquisition and kicked a pebble from her path. Her deposition of the hypothetical accused was over, but the voices continued.

“Blood must answer blood. Kill your automaton then we’ll talk.”

“He has no blood. You are dismissed. Go away.”

Her isolation had made the trivial immense and the immense itself was trivialized by the fleeing eons. It had been a nice touch, the blood communion, and a wakeup call. Whose touch? Whose call? Once a corps of eager priestesses would have done the deed for her. Here she would have to do it herself. Where was the fun in that?

She scratched her nose again.

Things here were not as they had been, yet ever so often she hankered after the thudding hooves, horn tips dipped crimson in the blood of a careless bull-dancer.

“They took such delight in the killing and forgot me at the end. I would really rather have my own snowplow or a little red truck.”

*  *  *

Meanwhile, the object of Morgana’s brown study responded to a rumbling in his stomach. Tummy, actually. He was tall, lean and broad shouldered—a hero. If he called his stomach a tummy, who was to argue?

Biff Bangtree backed out of the buttery, his pockets full of doughnuts. Biff Bangtree was not yet his name, since Morgana had neglected to call him anything. That he have a name was not a vital component of their lovemaking. “Oops, I beg your pardon,” he said as the kitchen door’s double swing hinges caught up with his momentum and gently nudged him through. He paused some moments, then quietly slipped back in. Just a few feet, just making sure. Biff had troubles with leaving a room. He felt compelled to check if he was really ‘here’ or if he had left himself behind. He studied the door’s gentle back and forth as it described an ever-shrinking arc. A wide Cheshire smile exposed polished rows of teeth too white, too straight for even expensive orthodontia. No one there. This, then, is me. Giving the swinging doors a hefty push, he dived through just in time.

Passing a mirror, Biff stopped to check if he might be in there and, noticing his cheeks all puffed out, remembered the doughnuts and swallowed. A long brisk walk through the honeycomb of corridors would help him outdistance his uncertainties. When he saw himself, he liked what he saw but felt unworthy. Each mirror was a fresh adventure. Would the handsome stranger in the glass have been recalled, metamorphosed into something less palatable? Biff’s anxieties peered out from what he suspected was a disguise to see if it had slipped, parading his good looks in front of an endless succession of reflective surfaces. Putting on an innocent, carefree air, he swung whistling down the hallway.

He was pretty and knew it; his self-admiration could be considered a normal, healthy manifestation. Biff liked what he saw. He ran a moistened fingertip, addressing the composition of an eyebrow. What woman would not be proud to love such a creature?

“Desire is an honest emotion. Never be ashamed of it,” Morgana had told him. “Furthermore, it is right that you look to me for nurturing, for you are my chick that I have hatched from the egg of the world we both stand on.” Another puzzling metaphor. Biff felt warm, reassured and comforted when she said the words, nonetheless. She had pulled a set of knee-length checkered knickers from a creel she carried slung over a shoulder. “These are pants of the kind called plus-fours. I want you to wear them when you are out and about where the parlor maids may see you.”

Swinging around an ormolu panel screening the service stairs, Biff sat on a step and let out a deep, deep sigh that started at the soles of his feet. He had this feeling. A feeling that somewhere deep, deep down in his makeup, something had gone wrong.

Slumped on the stair, his knees supporting his elbows, which in turn held his chin, Biff felt a depression hovering nearby. He had told Morgana about these episodes, but all she said was, “Growing pains, that’s all. They will pass. Take an aspirin.”

One of his hands strayed to an ear, toyed idly with it and then, feeling an itch, vigorously went after relief, his little finger diving deep into the auditory channel.

The ear came off.

Biff sat there looking at the ear in his hand and the depression settled lower upon his shoulders.

“Oh shit! Just simply shit!” He threw the errant ear across the hall and reached up to the side of his head where he felt the swelling nubbin of its replacement starting to grow. There was a twinge in his belly. Dinner time. All this fighting the blues and growing new parts took energy. Biff decided another raid on the buttery was in order and stood. The thought of doughnuts and cookies startled the depression and it flew away.

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