CHANNILLO

Antelogium (1)
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Antelogium

noun [an-tē-lä’-ji-əm]

1. Beginning.

Aaron Darveau, March 5, 1973

Bourbon Street, the most well know street in New Orleans, danced with thousands of bright, psychedelic, Mardi Gras costumes. The aromas of fruity drinks, beer, and whiskey made up the light breezes that weaved up, down, and around the narrow streets and alleys, not quite covering up the bitter odors of sweat, urine, and vomit, because you can’t have the former group of smells without the latter in a town that lets it all hang out once a year. The blues rhythm of picked banjos, spoons ricocheting across washboards, and sticks battering loosely fitted snare drums echoed from all of the bars—bars which, luckily for Aaron, Jimmy, and Wendell, didn’t heavily enforce the legal drinking age of eighteen.

Aaron had just lifted a jug of some particularly nasty, cheap brew to his lips when a half-naked woman carrying a paper bag full of groceries weaved through the revelers as she came up the street toward him. Long, flowing, pastel-colored scarves, accented with the tinkling, bangle bracelets associated with most Creole women, tastefully camouflaged her milky-chocolate complexion. Just as a grin crept across his face, some drunk bumped into her, knocking her groceries to the ground. Most of the people around her ignored what happened and those who didn’t pretended not to notice. Aaron thrust the jug of beer into Jimmy’s hands and rushed over to help her.

Some people have two imaginary friends to help them make decisions, a little devil and a little angel. Not Aaron. His spiritual mentor was James Tiberius Kirk, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise from the television show, Star Trek. He didn’t let too many people know that though, as being from a small town in Louisiana, science fiction wasn’t quite the mainstream hobby fishing or hunting was. Usually, when needing help on making a decision, he asked himself, “WWKD—What Would Kirk Do?” In this instance, Captain Kirk wouldn’t want to look too eager by running up and skidding to a halt. As he neared her, his jog slowed to a stroll. “Can I help you, Ma’am?”

She looked up, amused. “Ma’am? Asire w ase, you da gentleman! Sho ‘nuff! Helping out a lady like dis!” Her Creole tugged at his ears and kept him distracted from the fact she wasn’t quite as young as he thought she was from a distance. She was probably mid-thirties, but he was bad at guessing ages. She might have been in her fifties for all he could tell. In either case, that musical accent stripped the years from her.

“Yes, Ma’am, I am,” he spouted without thinking, inwardly grimacing at the stupid rhyme. He kneeled down next to the mass of spilt groceries. “My name’s Aaron Darveau.”

She handed him her bag. “I’m Jajine. Hold dis.” As she refilled the bag, she remarked, “Dat’s a Cajun name, but you not from ‘round dese parts. And you can stop with the Ma’am bit. I ain’t dat old.”

“Yes, Ma’am. I mean, okay, Jajine.” The bag was torn, so he shifted it around to keep its contents from falling back out. “And, no, I’m from Monroe. Me and my Junior ROTC drill team are marching in the Rex Parade tomorrow.”

A thoughtful expression washed over her face, and she seemed to stare into him. “Rex,” she muttered. “Well, ain’t dat a coincidence.” She quickly finished picking up the rest of her groceries and then pulled a damp business card from her bosom. She placed it in his hand, swapping it for the bag of groceries. “You come and see Madame Jajine tonight. Ah’ll give ya a free readin’ for helpin’ me out like dis.” Her bangles jingled—ching, ching, ching—in perfect rhythm with the back and forth swaying of her hips as she disappeared into the crowd.

He held the card up and looked at it. Various glyphs and astrological signs, the kind he had only ever seen in the horoscope section of the newspaper, decorated its edges. Madame Jajine, Fortune Teller, Dauphine Street was all it said. He slipped it into his pocket.

(to be continued)

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