One day Quetzalcoatl would pay tribute to Mireille Enos. Quetzalcoatl ran the fabled motel and had grown up at the motel. More recently, he’d given testimony. Now it was up to her PA, Mireille Enos’s PA, to arrange a suitable occasion to pay tribute.
After sprinkling a dozen small curses—hazelnut laid side by side—Mireille Enos would need to put her money on the big gun: the golden dropout color pain charm.
Where was her PA? The hot springs of Malta ran smooth as silk, travelers sagged under the weight of their bedazzled topknots, guardians of Malta’s legendary pebbled rabbits prowled the pens with axes…all was well in Malta, except that Mireille Enos’s PA wasn’t responding to behests.
Her PA who was nothing but aggravation . . . regenerating aggravation . . . becoming more and more aggravating as she grew older. She’d been with Mireille Enos a whole six months and every cell in her body had died. And been dug up and replaced with aggravation.
In sheer distracted aggravation, Mireille Enos found herself braiding together twigs, remnants of the unsuccessful hazelnut—and the look that Quetzalcoatl gave her told her that she was onto something bigger than twigs each by its lonesome—a totally different dropout pain charm, the daunting gold of braided hazelnut, priceless access to a legion of demons—Quetzalcoatl’s somber expression spoke of darkness and a giant eyeball—not an actual eyeball, but an eyeball-shaped scar.
Hazelnut, the haymaker. She’d erranded her PA to loot kelp in a woods composed of iron pillars. Her PA wandered those woods in cowardly loyalty while Mireille Enos drafted a statement postponing the tribute. She would draft the statement herself while her PA totally blanked on iron pillars. Blanking on iron pillars was a tune her PA would soon be singing. Mireille Enos with an iron pillar in one hand would accompany her PA, silently.
No, wait. Quetzalcoatl would draft the statement. Mireille Enos would lock Quetzalcoatl in the revenue-producing room that had been his childhood dungeon.
Meanwhile Mireille Enos would adopt an attitude of “fuck the kelp” and go looking for the Belgian pralines for which Malta is world renowned.
She would rev herself up and in a miracle of accelerated herbivorous turnover would convert every cell of her body, overnight, into some variety of hazelnut!
Or no, weariness thwarted that ambition. She would content herself with one variety of hazelnut, her cells channeled into teaching a lesson to one runaway.
But maybe while she was waiting to teach the lesson she would rough up a box of pralines, not Belgian pralines but yesterday’s pralines, from yesterday’s gift basket.
Yesterday had been hell, wall-to-wall pralines, subpar pralines along the Hi-Line, an ante-Malta lifetime of fog and nightmare and vandalized hazelnut, abused hazelnut, hazelnut bark stripped from iron pillars and woven into lopsided gift baskets, gift baskets that projected ineptness and even sadness, the sadness of a skill acquired way too late in life, a late awakening into wasted weaving, forlorn and off-putting gift baskets exuding a fixation with hazelnut, the awkward baskets brimming with pralines and nothing but pralines, musty faux pralines from the desolate gully bakeries that had once been flourishing granaries, inedible French pralines, poseurs.
Under the overflowing sun of Malta, Mireille Enos would be reborn—would hold the jellyfish to account for the unanswered behests—would breathe hazelnut—would summon Quetzalcoatl and while aloofly dispensing doom would explain to Quetzalcoatl all the reasons why breathing hazelnut was fair and just.
Quetzalcoatl would take her side and would mentor her in the nuances of breathing hazelnut. The carefree jellyfish would finally learn responsibility, would slink off to a dark place. No—they would not allow her to slink. They’d send her on a second mission, the same mission, jellyfish vs. iron pillars, looting, only this time she would know the consequences of slacking and deceit. Scarred by iron pillars she would be thrown headfirst into iron pillars.
Behesting—problem solved—she would shove away her phone and watch her PA tap dance while Quetzalcoatl administered a form of punishment that she could never hope to master—too nuanced even for Quetzalcoatl to sign on as mentor—a bauble from the hidden menu in his repertoire—meanwhile needle icicles would plunge into the hearts of innocent pralines, which knew better than to dawdle beneath icicles but were uncharacteristically careless because they wanted to make themselves available to Mireille Enos.
Braving the respiratory toxins from the mausoleum, Mireille Enos would convey nothing but love while ransacking a numbered row of empty lairs in search of pralines.
Enlightenment, revival, virtue. Aggravation short-circuited the mantra. Fuck. She was armed with a mantra that gave off sparks, in lodgings that were nothing but kindling.
A splinter! Hazelnut had entered her. And vice versa. A gate through which she’d been admitted passage slammed shut. Having braided, she was now protected.
She filled her ice bucket and went looking for a gauntlet so as to avoid splinters.
• • •
Dear townspeople of Malta. We are sorry for the delay, but you’ll be glad to know that the bloodthirsty employee has been removed to a detention facility. And for comfort was provided with a horsehair blanket. Here at the till of Mireille Enos Enterprises, North Central Montana Division we spare no expense in protecting our own from themselves. Slacker or not, that employee won’t be roping herself any time soon with a lariat of her own making. Or wait, we should probably go and check to make sure. We do check but the ingenuity of our hires often surprises even us.
Fortunato Salazar‘s most recent fiction and translation appears at The Offing, Joyland, 7×7.la, and The Brooklyn Rail.