Tom Eubanks
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                                       Excerpt from Worlds Apart

        The hounsi danced in a single rotating line around the priest and all the stuff on the ground, while two hounsi built fires, one on each side of the dance court. Over the fires they set the iron pots and poured liquid from clear, plastic jugs into them. I knew it was oil, because the jugs were like those Ida had in her kitchen. The pots were too small for a missionary, but then I remembered what Mom did when she made stew: first, she chopped up the beef.

        But when the oil began to boil, they balled up some concoction in their hands the way Mom rolled cookie dough and dropped them into the pot.
These folks knew how to have a good time at church, I'll tell you. They danced and sang and drummed for over an hour, and got themselves all in a frenzy. More oil was added to the pots. By then the thatched roof was making me itch and my neck was sore from holding my head up to see. I considered climbing down, going home, but I didn't want to waste the two hours I'd spent there. Or get caught.

        A second team of drummers—including Agovi—took over without a break in the music. The dancers were exhausted, some of them falling to the ground.

        The priest poured rum into the boiling pots. A blue flame shot high into the air; the hounsi screamed. Two of them threw themselves to the ground, their arms and legs jerking like they were being filled with the Holy Spirit—but I knew there was nothing holy about it, because one rolled on top of the other and they squirmed around on each other like they were having sex, rolling over and over, messing up the vèvè. When they stood up, staggering, they hunched over like they were too tired to dance, twirled their heads on their necks and waved their arms like the Devil jumped inside of them.

        From just below me, someone was rushed from the hounfor, covered in a white cloth. All I saw were hands and feet. Must be the bossale, I thought. They led the bossale to the dance court. Following with one hand on the houngan's assistant's shoulder for guidance, the bossale walked circles around the two boiling pots.

        They stopped at the first pot. The houngan slowly took hold of the bossale's hand, bent down and, without thinking about it for even a second, dipped it into the boiling oil. The sizzle made me cringe. But there wasn't a scream. Nothing. The bossale stood rigid. They led him to the second pot; again, his hand was dipped into the boiling oil. They went back to the first pot, dipping in the same hand. No sound, no resistance. I was amazed. When Mom fried chicken, I'd been splattered by flying hot oil enough times to know the burning pain it caused. Couldn't imagine dipping my hand in the pan. I got sick to my stomach thinking about it. But they weren't finished. They dipped the hand in oil again. And again and again and again.

        In the Works

a novel 
Tom Eubanks

A disturbing story about loving the wrong age.

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