Punch's Cousin, Chapter 248

Thursday, May 19, 2011


You’ve got nothing to say that I want to hear.” Charles spat at Marie Laveau and his brother, Giovanni.

“You’ve been led astray, Carlo,” Giovanni shook his head. “Sure, the Englishwoman is beautiful and I’m sure she’s soft and fragrant, but she’s a devil in a pretty package.”

“And, you’re not?” Charles growled.

“No, I’m your family.” Giovanni smiled.

“You? You want to talk with me about devils? How many men have you killed?”

“Personally?” Giovanni laughed. “None.”

“You don’t need to be the hand holding the knife to be a murderer.” Charles answered sharply.

“They’ve ruined you, these English.” Giovanni shrugged. “Not to worry, this kind woman and I will show you the way.”

“Yes,” Marie grinned.

“Evil always attracts itself,” Charles shivered. “I’m not surprised that the mist has united the two of you.”

“I found this poor man—bloody and lost—in need.” Marie grinned. “I only offered him some kindness.”

“In exchange for what?” Charles asked.

“That’s unkind, pretty man.” Marie scowled. “The root of all that I do is love.”

“Love of yourself!” Charles barked.

“How am I so different from you?” Marie asked. “Are you delivering messages for the English because of your loyalty or because you wish to secure a place for Barbara Allen in your bed?”

“What I do is from respect and affection.” Charles said. “Not that I should explain myself to the likes of you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a most urgent errand to attend to.”

“I can’t let you do that.” Giovanni sighed, reaching for the note from Cecil which Charles grasped in his hand.

Meanwhile, Marjani peered out of the window, hidden behind the thick drapery which Mama Routhe had made from the remnants of the luxurious gowns that they made in their shop.

“What’s happening now?” Adrienne asked.

“Marie and that man have Charles cornered.” Marjani answered softly.

“Damn!” Robert grunted. “Surely he’s come with a message for us. Why should Marie Laveau want to interfere?”

“Because of me, Sir.” Marjani shook her head.

Robert moaned loudly. “I’ve grown weary of the machinations of these people! I can’t just stand here and wait! My dear Punch is alone. I feel he needs me! I must return to him!”

“Robert,” Adrienne whispered. “What will you do?”

“I’ll put an end to this once and for all!” Robert said, taking off his jacket.

At that very moment, in the secret, ethereal “room” inside of their shared body, Mr. Punch stretched out on the cloudy floor and wept loudly. “It ain’t true!”

“Naasir would not misguide us,” Julian soothed Punch from his chair.

“I would not, Sir.” Naasir added, also not moving. “I only speak the truth.”

“No!” Punch sat up. “You don’t speak nothin’! What do you know? You’re dead! You ain’t speakin’ at all. There ain’t no substance to you! You’re just a picture of a man. You’re just some dream that me master and I are sharin’. You don’t got no more truth to you than did the spirits what strutted across the stage of our memory. That’s all you are—a memory. Ain’t no breath in you. Ain’t no life. You’re just some trick of the light and some foolishness in our memories. You come in here, glowin’ like the sun and tellin’ your stories. How do we know that what you say isn’t fed by me master’s fears? There’s no truth to it!”

“Though I may be a trick of light and memory,” Naasir responded evenly, “there’s truth in what I say.”

“You’re a dream!” Mr. Punch said. “The dream of a mad man! Come on, Master, you can’t deny it. That’s what we are. Everyone knows it! We put a kind face on it, but at our core, we’re nothing but a lunatic. That’s what everyone says. We’re a broken man—splintered into two parts.”

“We’re two men!” Julian shouted uncharacteristically. “Naasir is just as real as you are. You can’t deny that you’re now a real person in your own right. Perhaps you don’t have a human form of your own, but you have a heart, mind and spirit. You of all people should not doubt Naasir’s veracity. What he says is true. The child is not ours to raise!”

“None of this is real!” Punch said, springing up and swatting his arms at the furniture in the room. He pushed over candle stands and tables. He pulled the hangings from the walls.

“What are you doing?” Julian screamed.

“I’m showin’ you that this ain’t real!” Punch shouted. “None of it is.”

“Stop!” Julian howled. “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

Just then, Cecil entered Julian’s bedroom in the house on Royal Street and found Toby whimpering next to Mr. Punch’s/Julian’s body which quivered and shook in awful spasms.

Toby trotted over to Cecil as the man entered the bedroom and tugged at his pant leg.

“What’s this?” Cecil asked, rushing over the Mr. Punch whose body became gripped in a terrible seizure.

Toby barked.

Cecil places his hands on Punch’s chest and shook the man, but neither Punch nor Julian would respond.

“Dear God!” Cecil grunted. “What is this?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-247? If so, you can read them here. ads

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