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The Green Man

After the Tornado

By Barbara Steinhauser Published 3 years ago 7 min read

The hills were alive with the sound of frenzied hardanger fiddling, high pitched screams, outraged shouts. Amazing how pervious a renovated barn became, packed with disgruntled guests attending wedding festivities only to imbibe food and drink. Such behavior might have been expected from a hungry populace ordered to fund the elaborate repair of a dilapidated barn and then witness the marriage between their King and his reluctant bride.

This beauteous bride stood apart, oblivious to the chaos surrounding her, gazing with clear hazel eyes through a double pane casement window where she observed the expansive buildup of cumulous clouds. As she made her way to the barn, she had noted how blue the sky, blue as only sky above mountain peaks could be in spring, its brightness offset by lingering snow topped fourteeners exploding freshness, renewal, hope. She hadn’t felt hopeful. But the promise of rebirth came with the onset of spring and she harbored an ever-optimistic heart.

The funny little man, wrinkled as a caterpillar, had suggested things were never as they seemed and she had listened because these were words she wished to hear more than words she believed true. In her experience, things were exactly as they seemed -or worse.

Now, gathering golden threaded white silk in trembling hands, she wondered what might be her next move. Northern rough winged swallows were exiting their dirt banks, violet-greens and tree swallows zipped from dead trees and limbs with acrobatic speed. All was not well; a circus of tumultuous weather would make its appearance before she gave her hand in marriage. How would this play out? Her intended had threatened Papa with violent death, should she deny him. An interruption would only delay the inevitable, wouldn’t it?

Across the valley perched a causal observer, green hands folded in prayer. The power of interference, though well-intended, often paved a road to new frontiers. He hoped his fertile hands bore promise and no further violence visited the pale woman for whom he held reverence. Or was he a she? These days, knowers of the oak tree came in all varieties, a change from Caesar’s era, when legal disputes were subject to the judgment of honorable men become Druids. Women over time had joined the order to study ancient verse, natural philosophy, astronomy and the lore of the gods. This Green Man believed as did Druids of the past, that the soul was immortal and passed from one being to another, oblivious to the sex of said new container.

The King was no Druid, of this all were certain. What he was at heart, was criminal: a materialist King Mammon. The narcissistic King had murdered the expansive chocolate cake his guests salivated over upon entering the venue their hard-earned tax dollars had restored. He might have stabbed it with glee, had all not witnessed the public humiliation foisted upon him by the State Accountant, demanding payment for restorations before wedding vows were made.

The bride in waiting had clung to her father’s hand, astonished the King could not remember her name. And yet, thinking of the Green Man, she wondered whether his fingers had jiggled the Groom’s brain with invisible sonic attacks rendering him idiotic. It was a brilliant move, reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s Let them eat cake. And yet, these citizens wished to eat cake, were infuriated by the destruction of promised cake, were this moment covering their ornamentation with the brown icing and moist interior of the most chocolate of cakes. Had she not known, she might have suspected them of smearing excrement across marble countertops. That they licked the slabs clean might have sickened her, had she not known the exquisite nature of the cake’s delicate seduction.

Grandmother’s lovingly baked, most delicious chocolate cake, gently hauled by rubber-tired wagon across rocky roads from her humble cottage to this uncharitable site, lay slashed and smashed upon the highly polished, black walnut floor. How this had occurred, in the middle of a ceremony halted when the King could not remember his bride’s name and was further hampered by an accountant demanding payment for the lavish surroundings, had inspired the crowd’s accelerating anger.

“Where went our tax dollars, if not into these rebalanced and strengthened walls,” they asked, voices shrill with inference. “What indulgences does King Ransom demand of us, now?” “Shall we feed our children refuse while he nibbles breasts of chicken and garbages the rest?” “See him standing still as Michelangelo’s Bacchus, drunk with ignorance.” “He murdered a cake, not a man, with that slash of knife and yet, remains oblivious as no-mates Nigel.”

Certainly, the bridegroom’s knife dripped chocolate frosting into gaping mouths hovering like koi. Lusting fingers reached past his creased, blue trousers, starched white formal shirt, satin bow tie and white satin cummerbund, knocking him to the ground as they grabbed handfuls of toppled chocolate patisserie, lips masked in gooey brown substance.

Rosalyn, for that was her name, the bride’s name was Rosalyn watched building cumulous clouds above the fray respond to heated, rising air, churning thermals as easily as Grandmother had whisked the infamous chocolate cake from a smattering of ingredients into this wedding cake, whipping together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and coffee grounds with buttermilk, cocoa, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla—adjusting for altitude.

The developing mesocyclone, extremely rare on mountain tops, but possible, when unstable air met wind shear had dropped a cone, smooth as the gown she clutched. Cloud condensation caused by rising hot air contributed energy to the process by transforming a liquid into a gas, a process called evaporation. Thus, latent heat warmed rising air, reducing its density.

Grandmother, who wasn’t her Nana but who sheltered all impoverished in the Kingdom, had purposefully added both baking soda and baking powder leavenings. She meant to expand the batter by inspiring reactions between baking soda, liquids of buttermilk and oil and acids like cocoa and brown sugar. Heat from her big old black, cast iron cooking range leavened the slow reaction of baking powder, expanding the batter into a texture that titillated the tongue.

Was there more to Grandmother’s creation of this stupendous chocolate cake? Had all things worked for the good of the Kingdom, though all had appeared lost? Or did what once been lost heat the core of their outrageous transactions?

Which transactions? Why, first among them was the transaction between a single man’s dream of avarice excited by a proud father exaggerating his maiden daughter’s ability to spin gold from straw. The core of that transition was social phobia. The King wishing to impress with his great wealth; the father wishing to impress by making up his daughter’s talent.

Rosalyn’s refusal to contradict the father’s claim, seeking to protect his name and languish in a cell rather than tell the truth, incurred a second transaction avoiding humiliation: also a social phobia.

The third transaction occurred when the Green Man’s appearance in that very cell alchemically transformed straw into gold, saving all three characters from social disgrace. Yet committing each of them to a distasteful conclusion.

The heaving cone was broken and blowing, dragging its accelerated downdraft toward the barn like a hiking boot beneath a petticoat. A weak tornado perhaps and yet tree branches broke, roots were damaged, debris and dust rose like cocoa and flour. The base was 250’ across, headed straight towards the 40’ by 60’ barn. Windows began to shatter.

Guests, muddied with chocolate, dove beneath chairs, tables, the makeshift altar. One believer, certain of redemption, dove beneath the presiding minister’s black robes. He was naked beneath his gown and the unfortunate woman clinging to his legs, upon this discovery, leapt out from the heavy darkness then through the shattered picture window, disappearing in the direction of sanity. Unphased, the minister crossed his arms in a hex, whether meant to halt the swirling winds or to discourage similar action, no one knew nor cared.

Rosalyn, calm as can be, stepped from the barn as lightening illuminated the white washed frame, symbol of wedded bliss. She discarded the white gown with its golden threads, tossing it toward the ravaging tornado. It rose with elegance, dancing and swaying like a feather falling from the wing of a soaring bird.

Remembering the direction taken by Northern rough winged swallows exiting their dirt banks, by violet-green swallows and tree swallows escaping dead branches and trees, she stepped away from the barn, intuiting their destination. The web of life wrapped harmoniously around her like a golden cone and she wondered, for the first time in years, what happened to her mother. She stepped forward towards the green canopy beyond, lifting her arms as if they were wings and reclaimed herself.


About the Creator

Barbara Steinhauser

Thank you for taking time to read my stuff. I love writing almost as much as I love my people. I went back to college and earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and often run on that storytelling track. Enjoy!

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