Return of the Orange Virgin

Chapter Seventeen—Chocolate for the Queen

Twinkling star showers dazzled Linda Winkelman’s eyes from the inside. She wished they’d go away; they made it hard to focus; and maintaining her focus was the only grip on reality she had at the moment. Linda doubled over, retching again and again, but bringing nothing up. The Tevye guy had returned and was standing at her side. He smelled of lavender sachet, barnyard and goat. From her posture of abject misery, she could see his feet and the hem of a moth-eaten robe. From under the robe protruded two large and spectacularly untended feet. Cracked black toenails and a nacreous shine on his skin proclaimed this pilgrim had been a long time between water holes. He was wearing sandals! Sandals were strange footgear for winter in New York, but Linda was not prepared to debate fashions in the wholesale district. She hugged herself and rocked gently, trying to keep from passing out. So his feet haven’t been washed for a while and he has scabby black toenails. So what? Was that a velvet robe he was wearing? Linda tried not to look up.

“Yes dear lady, I have slipped into a little something more in keeping with the gravity of the occasion, and if it were not for your discomfort, which will pass, you would have noticed that I have also donned the Horns of Power. Very Mosaic, nu? I got all dressed up for the Visitation. You are the instrument, the vehicle, if you catch my meaning, of a meeting of vast teleological implications. At this very moment, even as we speak, so to speak, the emanations of the demon-queen of Sumer and Babylon are invading your persona.”

Leaning forward, her abductor patted Linda’s cheek and let out a mighty sigh. “Ahh, but you are concerned with your current distress, not to chat about cosmology. Let me assure you that what is happening is non-invasive, in the physical sense—except for memories that you will treasure for years to come and that will make you the envy of every other human creature. But they’ll wash right off if you so elect, leaving you none the worse for wear. You are to be the vessel for the return of the goddess-mother of the world. Care for a mint?” He peeled back the foil from a 2-pack of peppermint patties, took one and offered her the other. Linda groaned and turned away.

“Look!” He waved a magisterial hand down the stained front of his robe, “For this occasion we have rolled out the regalia so as to be in tiptop form—to be any less were to be a failure of magnificence.” He took a bite and held his peppermint patty six inches from her nose. His body heat was melting its chocolate coating and the odor of peppermint was powerful and sickening. Another wave of nausea wrenched her forward. Not noticing, the man who called himself Gershon Meyrowitz prattled on.

“Our darling Rahab, our loving Rachelle, our Tiamat...” Her abductor flourished what looked like a credit card. No, it was a crescent shaped gold coin... with tooth marks. It was the peppermint patty somehow turned into a golden coin with a bite taken out of it. He noticed her eyes widen.

“Yes, a bite is out, and it has a picture of a birdie, see?” He held the coin down to where Linda could see it. There was a representation of a loon at rest on a wilderness lake. “We will put it where it is all warm and cozy and the heat from your body will melt the coin like the mint that it was. It will seep in your soul and disappear. No cleaning bills, no chocolate mess—just like M and Ms.” He folded the mint wrapper’s silver foil around the coin, making a tight triangular package, and reached into Linda’s blouse to tuck it down her cleavage. This hairy, smelly individual was actually intending to lay hands on her! This was the New York you didn’t read about in the guidebooks. He leaned forward, mimicking a favorite relative pressing coins on a prize niece. “See how it is shaped like the gibbous moon. Auspicious. It is not every day we have a Visitation, in fact, this will be the very first—an occasion that should be dressed up to, gans gleich? I am God, how do you do.” She tried to move away, straining to raise an arm to ward off his fumblings.

“There,” he said, buttoning her back up, “That should keep it snug and warm.” He gave her left breast a pat. “I have marked you for the Orange Virgin. For exactly what, even I do not know. But remember that it was I who marked you. You are Mine if I will and I shall derive comfort from knowing I can catch up with you later.”

Linda’s vision had the fisheye distortion of a fever dream and the someone—yes, there definitely was someone else in her head—was playing with her focus; the store, everything, was zooming. The Tevye type shuttled and pumped in time with her magnified pulse beat. Her head felt stuffed, too full. It took all the will she could marshal to try to fend off the man’s attentions, but her body wouldn’t respond.

Just relax, my dear. I won’t let him harm you. It was the woman’s voice in her head, which at that moment was more crowded than Linda could recall it having been in the preceding thirty-six years.

Trust me, insisted the woman. In spite of her better judgment, Linda Winkelman trusted. The voice inspired trust and, whatever was happening, she needed a friend, and fast.

“Whoever you are, get me out of this.” Linda surrendered. A wave of euphoria rolled through her body and Linda was distracted from the full and undivided attention she felt she owed her impending unconsciousness. Air, she needed air. Ahh... the Storm Rider was opening her coat. That should help. This guy has the balls of a bandit, thought Linda as she passed into unconsciousness. Damn, it’s hot in here! Salmonella poisoning, that was it. It was that takeout sushi they had called in for lunch.

Bunching up a fold of flesh from her cheek, the demiurge who was Gershon Meyrowitz held it between his thumb and forefinger, toggling her head back and forth. “Hotsy-totsy, Morgana. You in there? We’ve been expecting you.”

What had been Linda Winkelman rose from a curled-up position, muscles stiff and cramped. She stretched to stand on tiptoe, arms extended. “Whew, what this poor girl has been through!” Golden eyes glowed around green pupils as freckles danced across the bridge of a nose that had not been tilted seconds earlier. Long red-gold braids cascaded to the floor. “There’s got to be a better way. By-the-bye, beyond reading off a name tag, do you know who it is that you’re wearing?”

“I am no hedge wizard. I am in control here. None but the ever-present lunatic fringe question my actions. Besides, as you and I know full well, ‘possession’ of a subject not sufficiently flexible, intelligent or mentally adaptable can kill them or drive them mad and that’s no fun. Besides, does not Gershon look the part?” Heels together, the Gershon body made a wide, florid bow. “And a lifelong immersion in the articles of faith makes him a most amenable host. He’s been waiting for me, right? Besides, it has a serendipitous location, this place of his. Convenient to subways, buses, the Pennsylvania Railroad, not to mention the young lady so suddenly and charmingly tenanted by you.”

“Thank you, El. Always the cavalier. In ancient days you came to me with perfumed beard and romance on your mind. Look at you now.”

“Yes, look at me.” The pride of ownership. El flexed Gershon Meyrowitz’ burly shoulders, and like a heavyweight contender warming up, feinted a few jabs and hooks, shadow boxing.

“I’ll bet the poor man hasn’t had a bath since you moved in. Certes, my lord, this model might better have been left in the showroom. For his own good.”

“And My good? The greater good, as I sincerely believe?”

“You might at least keep him presentable. Those feet are a disgrace. How long since he’s been home? I’ll bet he hasn’t seen his family in weeks.”

“No, months actually.” El cracked a grin, “They think he has run away with his bookkeeper.” An all-encompassing gesture became a two handed shrug, index fingers indicating that somewhere within a plump worsted vest or its contents dwelt home, hearth and little ones with a weeping wife languishing in distant New Jersey.

“Such concern for the little people; you’ve mellowed. Integrity never was your strong point, El,” said the Fata Morgana. Linda Winkelman resumed her pose of thoracic agony.

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