“Ah yes, your death—I have something deliciously modern and
psychopathic planned for you...”
The Fata Morgana was not expected to kill her lover. Still, the idea was not unattractive. It was just one of those thoughts 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 blood and torn pieces of the bridegroom, tidying. Consummation, then the meal―the wedding feast.”
“Isn’t that a bit premature...”
There was a concatenation of sistrum and dijareedoo, a musical rattling of quills, scales and feathers as a man-dragon shambled into the room. He peered nearsightedly into the mists generated by the goddess’ incense pot. “Oh, I say...” A naked man appeared about to attack him. Harry Pease had armed himself with an aluminum softball bat and was standing, ready to give as good as he got. The Manticore’s scorpion tail arched threateningly over his head as he puffed his cigar to a glowing cherry red. The tip of his tail thrashed about and dripped venom.
The goddess indicated an invisible line between the two. “Calm yourselves. Manticore—there is no threat. And you, Harry, at ease. This implausible catawampus is a pet of mine.” The Fata Morgana swung her legs to the floor and stood, stretching languorously. “We had just finished, Manticore. Your timing is excellent if not your manners. Both of you, your noble gestures are appreciated, but please stop waving those things about.”
The Manticore looked up at the end of his sting where a pearlescent drop shimmered like a soap bubble in the sun. He blanched and carefully laid his tail flat on the floor. Harry set down his bat.
“Ahh, simultaneity.” The Fata Morgana, Queen of Heaven, Lady of the Wild Things, etc., etc. reached to stroke Harry’s behind as he put on his trousers. 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. Thus is the practice of exile. I would really rather have had my own snowplow or a little red truck.”
When she departed, she had gone all at once and unannounced. Her altars were found empty, her sacred likenesses shattered or disappeared. Censers were left swinging in their gimbals as horror-stricken votaries fled, sandals flapping, into the night to rouse the priestesses. “Oh, I have my favorites from the old days: pocket clay venuses from the time when speech was new and I was unquestioned. From among the heart-wrenching utterances of rude devotion and abject submission I brought a favorite not so humble―a sixty-cubit image of ivory and hammered gold.” The Fata Morgana had always been fond of its fierce golden gaze. “It bankrupted a satrapy in Asia Minor.”
The Return of the Orange Virgin was first published online as a serial novel―32 monthly chapters lofted over three years (2006, 2007 and 2008). During a lengthy writing process I had raided the manuscript for ideas and characters for short stories. And the stories were being published. Maybe I’d give it another try. In spite of being made unpublishable by my swiping great globs of the tale for other stories, I thought The Return of the Orange Virgin might have traveled well. Had it matured like fine wine while no one was looking? I went back to check the MS. Nope―still cottage cheese, not cordon bleu. Hence, an all-round revision seemed the only proper way to treat a Lady. Some suggested that I was wasting time more properly set by for chasing dust bunnies around the spare bedrooms (see There’s Life in the Old Girl Yet).
The original Orange Virgin received 11,375 hits by the posting of the final chapter―among them those hit or miss Google searches that bring up individual chapters, random images, etc. As with the original OV, this conflated novella version (205 pages in the trade paperback) tended to change as chapters were trimmed and rewritten. Considerable excess poundage (22,000 words) has departed Planet Earth to circle forever in the cybersphere. Bye.
Secondly, a hearty, manly handshake for the persistent readers who stayed with the original Orange Virgin during its first web upload. Thanks for your patience; you guys kept me going. The inconsistencies, logical absurdities and plain-out wrong-headedness demonstrated by the author (as when a personage may emerge many chapters after her introduction only to disappear altogether without a why or wherefore) have been lessened, expunged and/or excised as The Orange Virgin was conflated to fit inside the covers of Platterland, a collection of tales due for release in late 2010.
And thirdly, splendiferous thanks to Benito Gallego for permission to use his Morgana (above) as the Orange Virgin’s title page decoration.
Have fun reading The Return of the Orange Virgin—I did with the writing and the re-writing. Think of it as a hypertext puzzle box.
Online streaming of Orange Virgin chapters (MP3 audio—FeedBurner.com)
Online streaming or download of Orange Virgin chapters (m4b Audiobook, Ogg Vorbis, and MP3 audio—Internet Archive)
The Orange Virgin audioBook on iTunes (30 chapters and a prologue)
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