It’s said that around the end of October the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, allowing the Living to hobnob with the Dearly Departed. One unsettling tradition this time of year is a Dumb Supper: a silent dinner held in honor of those who have passed on. Since there would be many such delightful celebrations on Samhain, Sister Madly decided to host hers early.
Now last year’s attempt was fraught with problems, including an uncertainty as to how to invite the Dead to dinner, and not having enough space to accommodate the guests. The latter of these issues was easily solved this time around as Sister Madly would be house-sitting for her sister – the impeccable Tallulah – and her husband while they venture off and do saintly anniversary things.
As for inviting the Dead… there are Spells specifically tailored for summoning the spirits, but spelling was one of Sister Madly’s weaker subjects when she was a school-aged brat and she is proud to say that she hasn’t improved much since. And as neither the Dead nor Sister Madly is on social media, she resorted to verbal invitations, arbitrarily shouting them out these last few months regardless of the hour, especially when passing a cemetery.*
* She also invited a cow, a vagrant in plaid pants, a scrub jay, and a tow truck while utilizing this method.
The arrangements were nearly perfect: the house is set back from the street, thus away from the prying eyes of the HOA should calling up the Dead be in violation of the Bylaws. Also, should the more impish of the Dearly Departed choose to stick around after the Supper, they will be haunting Tallulah and possessing her 2 toffee-nosed cats.
And perhaps an appliance or two.
When hosting a Dumb Supper, one is required one to feed the guests; not only is it polite, it speaks well of one’s upbringing. Naturally, Sister Madly decided to raid Tallulah’s pantry to fulfill the menu- no doubt Tallulah would be pleased to find her cupboards stripped bare for the sake of the Dearly Departed, just as she would be happy to find that her humble abode ransacked for the event.
However, this did not go as planned. The only fare that had potential was a can of Spam,* a post-ripe mango, half a bottle of vodka, and a tin of Oh, My Cod! cat food- it was not unlike the Peanuts Thanksgiving of jelly beans, popcorn, and buttered toast- and that was unacceptable. After all, the Dead might be gluten-free, and it would be inhospitable of Sister Madly not to accommodate the dietary needs of her ephemeral guests. It was most impolite of the impeccable Tallulah to have not been more prepared for the Dumb Supper she didn’t know Sister Madly was going to host.
* The Spam was a wedding gift to Tallulah 3 years prior, and manners forbid Sister Madly from revealing the giver.
Just as she was mentally rehearsing her Why-Is-There-No-Food-For-The-Dead Reprimand (complete with dramatic eyebrow-arching at appropriate intervals) Sister Madly became aware of a low and oh-so mysterious hum somewhere at the dark end of the house.
Sister Madly does not like the dark end of the house, not when there’s mysterious hums and no curtains on the windows (seriously, Tallulah, that last one- what gives?)
But then, she became indignant: the Supper was not for 2 days yet! While simple etiquette tells us that fashionably late to a party is acceptable, 2 days early is nothing more than outrageously boorish, regardless of one’s mortal state. Sister Madly will have to see about leaving a Book of Manners at the cemetery the next time she passes by.
Armed with the adorable Ebenezer (ghosts, she decided, become weak in their nebulous knees at the sight of a grumpy Persian,) Sister Madly investigated this ghostly transmission and soon discovered the source: standing upright at the edge of the bathroom sink was Tallulah’s electric toothbrush, at full-power on its own accord, slowly rotating in its place.
If this was not the early arrival of the Invite, then this must be a transmission* of a wretched soul who had passed on in this very room. Everybody knows that ghosts commonly haunt the place of their death, particularly if that death was tragic.
And Sister Madly knows exactly how that happened:
* The transmission was a request of Chinese Takeout. Sister Madly, of course, obliged.
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POMEGRANATE GLAZED CHICKEN
- 8-10 chicken drumsticks/thighs
- 1 Tbsp sumac
- 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 tsp lime juice
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/3 cup olive oil
POMEGRANATE GLAZE ~ (yields approx. ½ cup)
- 2 cups pomegranate juice
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp ginger powder
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 Tbsp honey (to taste)
- ¼-½ tsp harissa or sriracha (to taste)
- ½ tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- salt, to taste
Mix together marinade ingredients
Add chicken; shake/mix to coat
Refrigerate 30min – 24hrs
Mix together all ingredients except Worcestershire
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer to reduce (glaze will coat the back of spoon)
Add Worcestershire; mix and simmer 2-3 minutes
Adjust honey and harissa/sriracha to taste
Remove from heat; set aside
Preheat oven to 400*
Place chicken in a baking tray (for crispier chicken, add baking rack to tray)
Bake for 45 min
Remove from oven, brush chicken with glaze
Return to oven; bake 10-15 min, or until cooked through
Brush with remaining glaze straight from oven
THEME SONG: Ghost Story, Charming Disaster
What I am looking for is a blessing not in disguise. ~ Jerome K. Jerome
Aside from the occasional fortune cookie, Sister Madly is rather inexperienced when it comes to magic. She sulks when the stars refuse to tell her anything specific, like how to replace the spark plugs in her car or which market is having a sale on her favorite cider. Yet the practitioners she encountered at Utopia back in the day had either less knowledge of the craft than she, or proved to be one noodle short of a darling chow mein- like this fellow.
So when a plucky pagan lad dropped by with a homemade candle asking if Utopia would allow him to ritually ‘bless the store,’ Sister Madly wasn’t quite sure what to do with him. Even the employees weren’t that dedicated; they routinely had to be bribed with a paycheck just to show up.
Management utterly adored the idea of such a ritual- after all, it was the grand opening of Utopia in its new location and they clearly could use all the supernatural aid the universe could spare. But even in their starry-eyed giddiness did Management retain enough wisdom to take measures to ensure that the Blessing did not result in a Blessing in Disguise by assigning Sister Madly to stand guard over the candle while it burned.
Typically, a votive candle has a lifespan of 8-10 hours. That means Sister Madly will be spending the better part of her day making certain that neither the clientele, the building, the city, nor the Utopian Sweetheart -Sinner*- caught on fire. This Sister Madly was perfectly able to do; she just wasn’t looking forward to it.
*A cat. A fat, lazy cat.
It rather generous of the lad, calling that scent ‘Tahitian Vanilla;’ ‘Burnt Toast’ was more like it. As for the Blessing… well, Sister Madly isn’t too familiar with pagan rituals, but she was almost certain that what the lad was doing around the candle was not so much ‘magic’ as it was ‘Pilates.’ However, once he began chanting in a cryptic and, in Sister Madly’s opinion, nonexistent language, she began to suspect that the Plucky Pagan was a card-carrying member of Club Psych Med- in fact, his entire ritual looked like something he picked up from watching far too many Hammer Films.
And Management just gave him permission to play with fire. Precious.
Now existential thoughts are inevitable when staring at a candle for hours on end, such as contemplating the meaning of life and wondering if it is possible to make Sake out of Rice-A-Roni. Breaking into such thoughts can be just as hazardous as waking a sleepwalker, yet Management risked it all by interrupting her thousand-yard stare.
“Do you think you can hurry that up?”
And just how does one hurry up a Blessing? If Sister Madly knew how to do that, she would be the most well-to-do complex organism in the local galaxy. One cannot hurry along a Blessing anymore than one can ‘Get a Life!’ or ‘Grow Up!’ on command. On the other hand, it is only a candle, and a questionable one at that; and while there are those who swear by Pilates, the practice is hardly magical- what repercussions could there possibly be?
Let’s start with coming face to face with THIS:
Yes, no sooner did Sister Madly snuff out the Burnt Toast Candle that the Lion appeared, with little regards as to who (Sister Madly) or what (the wall) was in his way. No doubt it was like the legend of Bloody Mary, where one can summon the spirit by chanting her name three times while looking into a mirror; thus when one snuffs out a Burnt Toast Candle, one summons a Dancing Lion from some Chinese New Year Celebration of days gone by- which was all fine and dandy, but what was Sister Madly to do with a Dancing Lion?
While those in attendance found the Lion Dance fascinating, the same cannot be said for Sinner who, at the start of the performance, launched himself from the counter via Victor’s open container of guacamole, onto the stroller of a terrified toddler, whose shriek sent Sinner straight into a display of creepy African Masks where he overturned several trays of beads.
Many, many beads…
This is because of the candle, isn’t it? Due to her insufficient understanding of Burnt Toast Candle Rituals, Sister Madly rendered the Blessing null and void by snuffing out the flame early. The Grand Opening Celebration would be forever be remembered as the day Sister Madly let a Blessing go awry, immortalized by photos of a Dancing Lion, green paw prints across various antiques, pillows and children, and a fat cat who refused to climb off the bookshelf until he had finished licking his feet.
Indeed, Utopia missed out on a Blessing that day…
But Sinner has liked guacamole ever since.
*The Lion Dance was planned weeks before by Management; they just neglected to mention it. To anyone.
THEME SONG: Dance with the Dragon, Jefferson Starship
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