Catalina was feeding her grandmother when ocean waves swelled bringing news of her brother Tamas, long gone on a misguided sailing expedition. The blustery winds of the high seas played mischief with the pious families of the village, spreading rumours and lies, twisting and winding them up like a chroniker with no hands. Today it was Catalina’s misfortune which blew in to insinuate itself.
The grandmother who was used to these inflammatory gusts and currents, had sway over their interpretation, and while her granddaughter was held hostage by the disquieting whispers and mysteries, she, hardly paid them attention. Slender feathered birds cloaked in turquoise and citrine plumes decorated the wallpaper in the kitchenette where they dined. Perched above the applique mirror pool the Modigliani figures gawked at the moon’s reflection and ruminated on secrets kept hidden on its shrouded side.
Inserting one finger after another into to her deep cavernous mouth, the grandmother lathered them with loud smacking sounds indicating her pleasure and satiety and signaled the end of her gorging. Her exaggerated volume, Botero inspired, leaned into Catalina, who, preoccupied with melancholic thoughts of her long-lost brother, was not prepared for her grandmother’s ill-conceived prognostication, which the matron disguised and professed as divinely inspired.
Catalina knew of no other heart. When she dreamed of the golden eagle’s sharp talons poised to pierce and crush its prey, and the cunning lynx stalking its victim ready with a precise bite to the throat, she awoke in a fitful sweat; her grandmother faithfully caressed her cheek and soothed her brow with an uncommon tenderness. But the young Catalina did not recognize or heed the dream’s vivid warning, which her grandmother interpreted only too well, and concealed.
The mammoth figure crumpled over to bathe and scrub the young Catalina, perfuming her pubescent body in aromatic water in which purifying herbs and aromatic leaves had been boiled, the latter clinging to her puerile form, preparing a vision to be worshiped like Aphrodite; her flowing yellow tresses brushed and left unadorned and alluring.
Within days, throngs of expectant men; soldiers, farmers, tailors, vintners, and smugglers all, responded to the grandmother’s call for wise council; a salute to her maleficent fabrication which she continued to disguise as prophecy. They congregated outside the modest cabin as the stench of deceit and greed was ripening, the grandmother, licking and sucking her lips in grotesque anticipation, took up her position as custodian of the coffer at the entrance, ruminating on her dreams of grandeur, like a troll waiting under the bridge to collect coin from the lustful as they crossed the transom to enter the damsel’s lair.
In her innocence the beauty would put the lotharios to shame.
(after Garcia Marquez)
“The Sad Misfortune of Naive Catalina And Her Sinister Grandmother” was originally published in Flash Boulevard, August, 2018
FEATURED IMAGE: Joseph Turner – Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth,1842
Karen Schauber's work appears in sixty-five international literary magazines, journals and anthologies, including Bending Genres, Cabinet of Heed, Cease Cows, Ekphrastic Review, Fiction Southeast, New World Writing, Spelk; and a 'Best Microfiction' nomination. 'The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings' (Heritage House, 2019), her first editorial/curatorial flash fiction anthology, achieved 'Silver' in 2020 in The Miramichi Reader's ‘Very Best Book Award" for Short Fiction. Schauber curates Vancouver Flash Fiction - an online resource hub, and Miramichi Flash - a monthly flash fiction column. In her spare time, she is a seasoned family therapist.