For this final holiday horror treat, we have another visit from Marvelous Madame BienVenu in…
The Marvelous Madame BienVenu: The Main Course
by Michele Roger
Catherine had been arguing with her mother telepathically. “I can see what you’re planning and you know its not a good idea.”
Agatha raised an eye brow while staring back from across the table. “And who is the crone here?”
Catherine sighed. She turned her gaze momentarily to the handsome Henry and then quickly averted her eyes. Agatha’s voice rang inside her head. “He is very handsome isn’t he? And smart. And subject to suggestion when the spell hits him just right….”
“Stop it, Mother! He’s old enough to be your son!”
“And since when has that ever stopped me….besides, I have our dear Henry here at this table and not in my bed for a reason. He will be far more useful in my plans for this evening with his clothes on rather than the alternative. Watch him in action as I prompt him to drive the tip of the knife just a little deeper into the skin of our Mr. Croswell……”
Henry filled Linda’s glass with a generous amount of wine and smiled at her. “Well of Dan doesn’t want to go on record to clear his good name regarding his warehouse dealings perhaps you have something to say?” He pushed the recorder a little closer to her plate.
Linda played up her doe eyes and replied innocently. “I only work for Mr. Croswell as his secretary. I don’t handle any of his other business transactions or accounts.”
Agatha passed him the platter of roasted beef with jalapeno and garlic glazed root vegetables. Henry hungrily at several bites and Catherine watched as the spellbound aromatics began to take effect. The spiciness inspired Henry’s tongue to be sharp while his questions delved into hotter topics. “Are you sure that is true Linda?” Henry asked with the tape still rolling. “I mean, everyone in town knows you are more than the average secretary. Officer Franklin has written you two more citations for indecent exposure in your car and in the park than any citizen has been written in the entire history of this town. Isn’t it more likely that you are really protecting not only your job but your lover?”
At this, Kim gasped but said nothing. It was as if Henry had cast his own spell and unknowingly rendered her speechless. Henry immediately felt bad. “I’m sorry Kim. I thought. Well, I thought you knew. The whole town thought you knew with you working late at the school so much lately.”
“The school open house is in two weeks” Kim was able to eek out quietly while she sat across the table in shock staring at her husband and his would be lover. Catherine quickly placed some of the spell bound food on Kim’s plate and cut a piece, feeding it to her in an awkward display of over zealous hospitality. Madame BienVenu ran her pearl necklace over the edge of her bottom lip ever so casually. Kim seemed to draw strength from somewhere inside herself. “You said you were working!” Kim spat and tears welled up in her eyes. “You’re nothing but a…a…a….a dog! “ Outside, the howling of several wild dogs was heard. Dan tried to argue but with the twisting of Agatha’s pearls, he spat more dog fur from his mouth in place of words. Kim stood up as the tears ran down her cheeks, turning to Linda. “And you’re nothing but his bitch!”
To everyone’s surprise, Dan Croswell leapt on to the table; knocking over candle sticks and sending dishes crashing to the floor. He crawled on all fours and lunged from Kim’s throat with his mouth that he sprouted large elongated teeth. In reaction, Pastor Dave put himself in between the dog man and the small framed school teacher. Catherine reacted without thinking and with a wave of her hand seemed to knock Dan down to the floor with effortless ease all the while shouting, “Bad dog!”
Linda began shouting at everyone and no one all at once. She took a handful of the tiny cheese pastries that Agatha had served along with the meat and tried to give them to Dan in an attempt to calm his rage. When she looked him in the eyes, she screamed all the louder. Kim put her hands to her mouth in horror. Henry gulped down his glass of wine and hurriedly poured himself a second and then a third as he stared in disbelief at the scene transpiring at his feet. Pastor Dave put his arms around Kim and shielded her eyes, allowing her to look away into the safety of Dave’s strong shoulder.
In all of the chaos, Catherine stood angrily with her arms crossed over the two humans who were beginning to change shape on the floor. Agatha too stood cool and calm while wearing a look of disdain. Her strand of pearls twisted in her gnarled fingers and her lips moved ever so slightly without uttering a word. Soon, the two scheming lovers were more dog in appearance than anything.
“Sit” Agatha commanded and everyone but Catherine did as they were told. “Now, you will answer my questions directly and immediately. Do you understand?” Agatha asked curtly.
Dan yelped a “yes”.
“Did you coerce several of the new residents in the assisted living facility out of their homes in less than honorable real estate deals?”
Dan nor Linda said anything. The two just cowered, holding on to one another.
“Yes or no?!” yelled Agatha and her gnarled finger pointed straight at Linda who immediately sprouted a dog’s tail from under her dress.
Henry gulped a fourth glass of wine and with fumbling hands, checked and rechecked to make sure his recorder was still working. Linda screamed out in pain and Dan yelled “Yes.”
“And the food your warehouse provided is contaminated?”
Dan whimpered. Henry interrupted. “That’s really not necessary. I mean I already have proof of that and the crime lab team is already filing the paper work with the judge to get a warrant for Mr. Crowell’s arrest…”
Agatha turned on Henry. Her old grey eyes were jet black. “How dare you interrupt me when I am making justice in my own house!! I care nothing for your laws!” The old woman pointed a finger at him and opened her mouth. Instead of words puffs of tiny grey feathers flew out from her lips as Catherine stomped her foot and pointed her finger back at her mother shouting a defiant “No!”
Catherine opened a bottle of what looked to be home made liquor from the cabinet to her right. “Quick!” she told Henry, Pastor Dave and Kim. “Drink this!” and she handed each of them a tiny glass. They looked skeptical of the strange red liquid in the glass looking oddly more like blood than any wine. Agatha cackled and stretched her arm out into the air. Catherine flew backwards into the kitchen, through the swinging door and the bottle in her hand could be heard smashing into shards.
But Agatha hadn’t considered the one element that she had spoken so fondly of when it had come to her cooking. Somehow, when the old woman had traded justice for revenge and good magic for that of the dark side of spells, she had forgotten herself.
The three remaining dinner guests quickly downed the shots and suddenly a warm glow filled inside of them. Kim was no longer cold. Pastor Dave stood again between Agatha and Kim and Henry had a clear head despite his too many glasses of wine. Agatha tried to curse him again and her grey hair began to sprout feathers in place of silvery strands. Picking herself up from the kitchen floor, Catherine re-entered the dining room with a small tin in her hands.
“Mother, you must and you know it.” Catherine handed Agatha the tin but the old woman shouted and cursed Catherine in furry. Feathers turned and swirled into a mini tornado at the end of the table. Catherine begged and begged as the insane storm of metamorphosis continued. “Just give them each one of these and the spells will be broken! Mother please! If you don’t ….” Suddenly, the chandelier in the room tangled into the spiraling vortex of black magic and old age and defiance and revenge. Shards of crystal and electrical current flew out into every direction. Henry and Catherine dove under the table for cover while Pastor Dave and Kim hit the floor and pulled his coat over the two of them.
Windows burst throughout the house. Catherine would later discover every wine bottle in the cellar had exploded. Pipes in the kitchen burst. The electricity finally collapsed in the surge of energy that was balled up and destroying everything it could. Every scrap of spell bound food was sucked into the vortex and as if it required more room than the house could provide, the Marvelous Madame BienVenu and her raging spirit spiraled at the window where she grew into a gale force wind like the storms that blew over the Great Lakes, sinking ships and twisting the waters. Like all storms, she blew herself out. All that remained was that of a tiny little, newly planted tree in the back yard where a grey little sparrow sat perched on a branch.
While the others sighed in relief, Catherine burst into tears……
Six months later, an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner arrived at every household in town. Henry had slowly helped Catherine to restore the old mansion to an elegant but conservative Victorian love nest. It seemed that with the help of some clever feature stories, the deceased Madame BienVenu had become a local legend and hero once she was gone. Catherine found comfort in that. She often said to Henry that she thought acceptance and respect were all that her mother had ever wanted.
The local paper had also suggested that the missing Dan Croswell and his secretary Linda were suspected of running off together to Ohio. Meanwhile, the new talk of the town was Pastor Dave and Miss Kim the school teacher. They made vows to each other in the next town over in front of the entire school assembly as well as the church congregation.
As the town gathered into the gardens of the BienVenu mansion where tables were strategically placed for optimum seating, Catherine looked out her dining room window. Henry joined her. There, just like every afternoon since for the past six months, two dogs came out of the forest and took an afternoon nap under the small but quickly growing tree where a sparrow sang until night fell. Henry pulled Catherine from the scene and kissed her. “We have a lot to be thankful for this year” he said to her as he popped an appetizer from one of Catherine’s many platters. Catherine looked up at him with slight alarm.
“How many of those have you had?” she asked.
“I don’t know, six or seven, why, what are they?” smiled Henry, not waiting for Catherine to answer as he leaned in and kissed her passionately.
Catherine giggled and pulled away. “You’re eating Kim and Dave’s honeymoon present….pastries filled with aphrodisiacs and a fertility spell.”
Henry reached over to the platter and quickly shoved two in Catherine’s mouth. “Wanna skip dinner?”
“But the whole town is here….”
Henry kissed Catherine again and she let the spell take over. As she let Henry take her hand to lead her up to the bedroom, she asked. “How did you know to eat so many off of THAT platter?”
Henry laughed. “A little bird told me.”
Michele Roger is the author of “Dark Matter” and “The Conservatory”; both horror novels. She also hosts her own podcast of short stories called “Something Wicked This Way Strums”. When Michele isn’t writing, she is performing as a solo harpist as well as in the ensemble “Bellissima Musica”. You can find both her writing and her music at www.micheleroger.com