Enjoy an excerpt from my book A Star Rose in Cerami, wherein metaphysical innkeeper and hunk Augustus Cavilieri find his inner Wild Man at the Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade.
Rosemarian owed Fatima Theodora and Elena each fifty dollars, for she had not thought that the reserved Augustus would ever find his inner Wild Man. As always, the innkeeper had proven her wrong. Following behind the silvery-blue, glittering Silver Indians of the Crystal Excellence, the patrons of the feathered band made a wide turn through a broad intersection in Clarendon. As they angled around, Rosemarian finally had a quick, clear view of innkeeper, the group’s tallest member, who performed at the front of the line.
Because there were no other Mardi Gras Indians in the parade, Horus avoided the use of a Spy Boy to signal the approach of rivals troops. Instead, the Big Chief preferred to have an active Wild Man clearing his path. But like the traditional Spy Boy, Augustus’ regalia allowed him more freedom of movement than his ornately feathered and paneled brethren. He wore fringed scralet buckskin and dyed suede boots to match. His ruby encrusted collar lit up the night. His curving headpiece was papier-mâché formed to mimic the skull of a Bighorn Sheep. A corona of orange feathers emphasized the whiteness of the faux bone, giving him the appearance of a diabolical ram that his vermillion grease-painted face only enhanced. One small, elaborately embroidered panel formed his breastplate. It bore the Flower of Life that she had seen on Frange’s door. The multiple panels attached to the other members’ regalia contained equally esoteric symbols. The beams from spotlights set up on platforms intended for reporters bounced wildly off of the stitching formed by metallic threads and the faceted gems.
After the first appearance of Horus’ troop, more narrow-minded patrons of the parade had complained about the symbols, suggesting a satanic influence and connection. Horus’ lecture at the old Arlington Central Library had not only enlightened folks about the Mardi Gras Indian traditions but had also segued into the universality of the symbols on their garments. Because of his lecture, no further complaints had ever arisen.
The innkeeper suddenly made a prodigious leap into the air. For a moment, he hung in space like a phoenix, eliciting gasps from the crowd. Upon his landing, Augustus lunged and chanted as he cut an impressive swath before him in his mission to the clear a wide path for Big Chief Horus. His contorted face struck fear into the children on the sidelines, who surely must have thought that the Devil had come to take them for misbehaving. Perhaps, he was a bit too enthusiastic. The powerful moms of Arlington now might lodge a complaint against the troop, and they posed more danger than that of people with narrow minds. However, she knew that the smooth-talking Horus could settle any rough waters.
And his troop is fabulous, Rosemarian thought, picturing Horus defeating his enemies with his eloquence and his Mardi Gras Indian mind power. Daniel Webster and the Devil both would never have a chance against his charisma. She wondered whether he had taught his nephew the finer points of presence or whether such charm simply ran in his and Frange’s blood.
Ah, poor Horus. He respects that the equally festive and elaborately costumed South American dancers keep their own “diabolical” traditions. But he definitely needs another Mardi Gras Indian Chief to count ritual sartorial coup on for his night to be complete and the full tradition to be observed, she continued to muse.
Now, I wonder why the Masons have not gotten involved with the parade? Surely a group of banjo playing Shriners would make an interesting counterpoint, although they are not as fearsome in appearance.
For several moments, she contemplated how she might help Horus with more outreach for next year’s parade, the thought of the dangers to follow that evening receding from her mind.
A shriek sounded. Somewhere up ahead, Augustus had taken his performance to the next level with a banshee bellow, and the crowd responded back with drawn out hollers worthy of a band of Sasquatches. Rosemarian leapt from her position and dashed along the sidelines for a better view of the Mardi Gras Indians. The blue crepe paper rose she wore gave her carte blanche along the parade route, for her substantial monetary contribution had helped to make their appearance possible.
The Big Chief nodded his approval at his Wild Man’s heightened efforts. Unlike his followers, Horus was outfitted this year in silver and green feathers, his duty and obligation being to have a new, spectacular suit every year. His collar contained diamonds and emeralds, making him the only being alive capable of outshining the ultimate Wild Man. For his sake, she hoped Augustus was ready to defend his leader from theft. Traditionally, the Wild Man carried a weapon, but Horus had insisted that ferocity was all that Augustus needed to do justice to the honor bestowed upon him.
Horus could take care of himself in any situation. He was not lean like his nephew, and he appeared solid enough to pack a good punch if necessary. She could envision him as a Marine in his youth. From his date of birth, she also knew the lawyer was a eleven tone Caban. He had made manifest his sign and vibrational signature in the moving and shifting energy of his marvelous troop and the good the members represented. Except for acquiring basic, practical information, she had not been one to pry into his affairs when she had decided to support his troop. But considering his surprising connection to Frange, the gods alone knew what other secrets the middle-aged man hid. She made a mental note to compile a more detailed folder on him when all the “excitement” ended.
Practically speaking, Horus also had his men at his side tonight for reinforcements. The Flag Boy, a young black man outfitted in violet feathers and an amethyst and silver collar, carried an ebony pole. The argent flag of the Silver Indians of the Crystal Excellence sparkled with zircons that formed a star tetrahedron, a symbol made from the melding of two tetrahedra and associated with spiritual mastery, healing, and ascension. While it was a colorful troop manned by gentlemen who gave back extensively to the community, she now suspected that Horus had groomed each man personally for the fight against evil, whenever it appeared.
The high school marching band in front of the innkeeper suddenly struck up a rousing rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In. Rosemarian glanced down the sidelines. Elena and Fatima Theodora waved and cheered Augustus, who lunged at them in ferocity. Her niece recoiled in mock horror; Fatima Theodora raised her fists like a pugilist.
A cool breeze rose and wrapped Rosemarian’s heart with melancholy. The twinkling lights; the noise and gaiety; the brilliant costumes; it all passed before her. In a few moments, the entire parade would disappear from view as the line of marchers snaked around the buildings of Clarendon. The people would disperse; darkness would come. No better metaphor existed for the ephemeral experience of Life. In the end, every parade led to the same destination: Death. On the deserted ball field off the main road through the neighborhood, Elena had touched upon the same truth last year and had wept. But since her dream of Peter, Rosemarian had cried herself empty.
A mass of people around her erupted in yowls of delight, which snapped her back to the present. Augustus, possessed by an almost superhuman energy, did not one, but two cartwheels. So many flashes went off that she knew one person had caught the winning moment for all time. Augustus would get the prized trophy for being the most magnificent person in the parade, a faux pas to be sure, for a Wild Man should never trump his Big Chief. But with true style, he would make deprecating comments about himself before turning over the rather mundane pyramidal hunk of clear plastic to Horus.
Rosemarian shifted her gaze back to Elena and Fatima Theodora. The older woman gestured wildly as she did when telling a story and continued to point to the receding Wild Man. Elena laughed, her body rocking with mirth and admiration for the innkeeper’s exploits of the night.
A mournful tune snaked out of a dark alleyway and licked her ears before fading like a sweet dream. Rosemarian knew with certainty that this was the last Mardi Gras parade that they would all enjoy together.