Spring Festival

Spring Festival

A Chapter by YouoweYoupay

The color festival

12. Spring Festival

High up on a column of stone, in the center of the spring festival marketplace the statue of Lord Tambier struck a severe pose holding two bags of flour, each in one hand. It was a longstanding symbol to remind the shopkeepers, vendors and merchants to trade fairly. And in one corner by the broken fountain, stood a wooden pillory with three holes in its framework for the hands and head, to trap with it the thieves, scoundrels and men who spoke to women inappropriately. But the pillory was more frequently used in my grandparents’ days. Lord Tambier’s statue was admired by travelers, ignored by most villagers and disobeyed by the cranky looking obi by the abandoned bakery, who sold stale, damp rice and worm-infested oats.

Jaraan stopped to stare at the three dancers; abnormally tall women, flapping and flailing the hems of their swollen dresses. One wore the colors of the sunset, the other, the shades of deep blue ink, and the third one looked like the combination of a sunny melon and a green lime. A bare-chested man with dark olive skin hurtled and jumped into a ring of fire, spinning through it like a rolling stone. As the crowd grew wider around the fire ring, I pulled Jaraan by the hand in fear of losing him amidst the sea of amazed faces. But just as we barely escaped being squeezed in the horde, in the opposite direction marched a parade of men in soldierly uniforms, spinning flags above their heads.

“We are sandwiched!” my voice was lost in the loud cheer.
“What!” Jaraan leaned closer to me, straining to hear me.
“I SAID…” I shouted in his ear, a giant grin tearing my face, “WE ARE TRAPPED.”

“Fire!” someone wildly roared. 
Jaraan flinched when something hit him, splattering his shoulder and face with deep orange dust.

Thus it began, a row of men hiding behind the vendor stalls and trees flung handfuls of colorful sand, exploding in the faces and bodies of festivalgoers. Children twinkled and skipped, and girls squealed, their smiles blotted in blues, reds and yellows.  Obis frowned and memahs cursed under their breath, seeking refuge behind stone walls or their own sons, grown men who betrayed their mothers by wiping their faces with bright dust. Our spring festival was also known as the festival of colors. Now, whoever could not feel with the totality of their hearts the beauty of this season, will be bombarded with bursts of dust dyed in every possible color, thus transforming human beings into spring itself. The air breathed with the smell of buttered-corn and grilled meat and it was fogged by a sandstorm of brilliant hues.

When we finally broke free, panting and heaving as we reached the Carpet Square, our eyes met.

“How do I look?” I spread my arms open.
“Your forehead is purple. What about me?” he huffed, pointing at his face.
“Your nose is blue.”

Jaraan’s eyes kindled with delight, his dimples blotches of orange and sea-green now. I wanted to see more of his smiles. I wanted to make amends with him for the terrible judgment I had previously made. But I hardly had to make any effort, because every small thing in the Carpet Square left Jaraan in awe; the rugs and tapestries in dark red, gold and diamond blue piled in heaps and rolls and hung like pictures on the walls of the shop, you could build a whole castle with this much wool! He wanted to take a bite out of every rectangular stall of fruit; the ruby-red strawberries, the creamy, sugary bananas, the blushing apricots, the deep purple, juicy plums, meaty russet brown mushrooms as large as Fareed’s hand.
The hills of spices in horsehair baskets lined up as far as the eye could see. Jaraan sampled vibrant red saffron and sniffed it.

“Ah! Excellent.” he exhaled with satisfaction, “Bey-ya, always seek the sweet, floral flavor. Avoid the bitter tasting one. That is how you tell apart good saffron from the bad.” 
“You talk like a cook.” I eyed him curiously.
“That is exactly what I am.” He revealed without a hint of shame, savoring a string of saffron.

In the beginning, he would shyly offer to help his mother stir the bubbling pot or peel the corn cobs and as the years went by, Jaraan began excitedly preparing entire dinners for his parents. Emena wrote poems praising the culinary genius of her son. His father ate with agitation, hoping Jaraan would someday leave such tasks to their rightful folk; housewives. But cooking, as Jaraan understood it, is an expression of love and art, and should never be exclusive to women only. And this reminded me of the time Fareed shoved me, knocking me down against the playground of our school after I told him that there is nothing odd about a man, discreetly refering to my father, who loves to make Chona Barahi, chicken thighs marinated in ginger, butter and coriander, pan-fried until everything is caramelized, sweet and tender.

But eager as he was, Jaraan easily ran out of breath, letting out a few weak coughs.
“Let us rest,” he leaned against a stone column for support, “Just for a minute.”

Someone chuckled behind us.
“Already weary?” an old woman exclaimed, “When you’re this young?”

I had not realized that we wandered far enough to reach one of the gates of the giant marketplace. At the fringes of the oak forest, exiled from the clusters of other food vendors, this memah sat behind her usual rollich stall, toppled with cheeses, pickled garlic and vegetables. She had more than once insisted that her people and our people and can leave their past behind and become friends again. Instead of a indigo blue scarf, like the one her Ulian mother wore with sorrowful pride, this woman chose white, the color of forgiveness. The persecuted ones rendered this as a betrayal, while the remorseful ones considered this to be apathy. Her punishment was exclusion from practising her trade within the sight of everyone else. She ought to be thankful, the villagers had warned her, that they did not banish her on top of a hill as they did with the Mad Herbalist. They even called her Memah Takhmeen, which meant the one who makes an ignorant guess.

To the left of her humble stall, the sausage skewers grilled slowly over a small flame fenced by rocks. My stomach voiced a tiny, polite growl.

"Are you boys well?" she wiped her hands against her apron.

"Choleem, memah." I lied, the hunger eating at the edge of my soul.

“Stand tall and keep moving!” She urged Jaraan, tightening her fist, “Don’t be like those urban boys.” A reference to how lethargic and sickly children in Peham were regarded.
“Yes, meimah.” He straightened his stance, his forehead a little sweaty.
“Walking is good for your health. So, walk!” she nodded strongly.
“I will, meimah.” 
“Look at your friend, so full of vigor!” she motioned me with an open hand, “You’re a sweet boy, but you ought to be rowdy! Celebrate your health!” 
“Thank you, meimah.” Jaraan agreed with withering enthusiasm.

The smoke of the fireplace wafted in our direction. My mouth watered.

“Such well-mannered lads.” she praised, “Would you like some rollichs? Free of charge. ”
“Yes, please!” we both beamed at the same exact moment.
“Look at you now!” memah Takhmeen shook her head, pretending to be disappointed, “That one was chasing his breath and the other one quiet as a beaver. Now so full of life, both of you, at the sight of my food cart!”

I had always, always wanted to try a rollich; a beef sausage patiently roasted in the fire, nestled in a warm bread roll and drenched in melted goat cheese and cream, pickles, sweet chili pepper and lettuce. The only reason I had never dared to approach Memah Takhmeen’s stall during the spring festival was because my cousins voted against it every year, warning us that her cooking tasted just as rotten as her soul. On the other hand, my father had frowned upon these sausages for a completely different reason. Real meat, he would remind me, was anything but neat, to be savagely torn and shredded with your teeth. It was not meant to be minced into a paste, pressed into the shape of a sore finger concealed by chunky dough.

© 2020 YouoweYoupay

My Review

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This chapter was so fun to read. I've heard of a festival like this where colors are thrown at passerby. Always wanted to be a part of one. So fun! And goddamn, the food in this chapter sounds so good. I'm starving now, thanks to you! Grrrr, if only I could write food prose this good. I'm gonna go eat now.

Posted 5 Months Ago

Another well-written chapter with a ton of savory, lively, dynamic observations upon life & culture. This is some of the best writing to reveal a culture without it seeming like that's what you're doing. I love that you present the traditions in a way that doesn't seem preachy or like a tutorial. It all comes out sounding like a natural progression of what's happening in the story. Your "colors" festival was very well described, but your lively descriptions could've lasted a bit longer. Sometimes I ask myself: what other unique way can I show this? -- such as colors in a fountain, or a river, some other medium that also shows the colors, as well as the people's skin & clothing. What about showing colors against the texture of a building or some wooden surface of a stall? Stretch yourself to find inventive ways to show a scene, especially a scene as HUGE as this celebration. You kinda owe it to the celebration to make this feel as big as it really is (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 6 Months Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on December 5, 2020
Last Updated on December 6, 2020
Tags: Short novel



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