Chapter 41: Intermission
What followed was a flurry of activity. Some retreated into their tents, but lingered and mingled around the central fire. Kadmon had dominated the area and his absence was notable, but with over two dozen men and women of all shapes and sizes his gap was soon filled and surpassed. I was shocked, not just by the number but also the variety of shapes and sizes these beings presented. Appearances alone were remarkable, but the idea of ther being so many changed by the chaos in one place was mind boggling.
Most of the crowd seemed to congregate towards the table in the newly opened tent. Food was being carried from the back of the tent and elsewhere by three young women in the prime of life. All three seemed related at a glance despite their chaos-given alterations.
One stood to the far left of the table while tending to the plethora of crude drink cups and a large bowl of some bright amber liquid. She was short and squat, with chestnut colored hair and a bright expression. Her complexion was best described as “dusky,” and I immediately thought of a ripe and contented pumpkin. It was an image enhnced by her crudely made skirt of bright orange fabric, which had been decorated with a simple scarf that seemed to be made out of still-living vines. It all would’ve seemed ridiculous if not for her large and happy grin, which assured onlookers that it was all done for laughs.
The second of the women slowly stirred a large pot near the opposite end of the large table and occasionally tasted the spoon between stirs. Her contented smile spoke volumes about the soup’s flavor and her satisfaction with it. The woman herself was, in a word, plain. Her hair was a green so deep it was almost black and it was a curled and kinky mess, but in a fashion which only served to compliment. Her dress was also hand made, but more more intricate as it wrapped and wove around her narrow frame. She seemed less joyous than her sisters, but a small and guarded smile showed a lighter side than her serious eyes implied.
The last of the three appeared from the back of the tent with a large tray of cornbread, precut and ready to eat. She towered over her sisters and nearly everyone else in the camp. She could almost rival Kadmon in height if not in bulk. Her frame was thin and wispy, but her limbs revealed a wiry quality. Her face was bright and expressive, and she almost seemed to glow like the sun. Her long hair was both surprisingly straight and brighter blonde than I had ever seen, even before the chaos. She wore a thin dress of faded green, which drew the eye up and around to her sunny expression.
The women competed their tasks and stepped aside to offer their feast to the assembled crowd. The crowd quickly proved to be the most organized, unruly mob I had seen. They filled every square inch of room around the table as each grabbed their favorite dishes before none remained. The women smiled at each other with pride. The nodded to their patrons with a happy and contented expression. Just as they stepped back to disappear further into the tent, they beckoned me and my companions to join the feeding frenzy.
With a glance amongst ourselves and a mutual shrug, we stepped forward and were promptly lost in the push of bodies. I grabbed bread and vegetables without so much as a second thought. I paused when I reached the trays of sliced meats. I stared at a slice of what looked like roast beef, hungry but wary after all I had experienced in recent months.
I was about to leave without any meat, when the pumpkin woman appeared and asked, “Did you want some of the Buffalo roast, dear? Be sure to help yourself.” She smiled as she set a tray of white meat down to replace an empty tray. She tucked the tray beneath an arm, smiled, and walked away. The green haired woman leaned over as she passed with another empty dish and smiled reassuringly. “I assure you, there is nothing here you would not find on a normal kitchen table. Chicken, venison, buffalo, turkey. It’s all here. No beef or pork I’m afraid, they’re becoming hard to find you see. Can’t even find any around here.”
I nodded in thanks and took a few slices of meat, praying they were telling the truth. My craving for meat (real meat!) was too grea for me to worry too much about it. I pushed my worries aside and walked over to accept a glass of the amber liquid from the third young woman. She smiled brightly. “Hope you enjoy it, it’s my own special recipe.” My leery glance must have been too obvious, as she smiled broader and assured me. “I meant nothing by it. Merely that it’s a weak cider I made myself. Enjoy it!” With a cautious nod, I took the drink and wandered back to the rug where we had sat before and sat down. The food was simple but delicious, and I was happy to have it.
After a few moments, Bobbi and Rick joined me and we ate in relative silence. Once we had finished, we took the chance to finally relax. Many of the others seemed to be finishing their own meals and meandered towards the tents, likely to get some sleep before whatever Kadmon had planned for later. The three of us had nowhere to go, so we simply laid back on the oversized rug.