In a Sooty Boot-Black Ginnel


In a sooty boot-black ginnel near the grimy dernières étapes*
a bitty pale dracunculus awaits a cadre of
tatterdemalions who come with glee unsurpassed
with the anticipation of observing the dance
of the beautiful rusalkas with chestnut hair.
Upon that very same eve a starved tokoloshe happened
to await the rinthereouts passing through that
very same alley to marvel at le spectacle
de magie au cirque* in the poorest of poor
sides of the invisible decagonal town square.
Neither creature was up to any good deed, but since they
were there, they decided to wait and take in a
prestidigitator’s off’rings. That’s about as far as it
went, an’ that weren’t the plan a’tall; no! no! not the
plan a’tall. An’ neither grinch won their dinner that day!

But every man, dragon, toadie and childe were entertained alike!

The yokozuna sat astraddle two jennets for a ride through the
crowds who tossed francs.*
A great loosened flap flying high on the shamianah was the
coups d’etat* for the penniless who stood agape in grey rain
ogling something or someone they’d never imagined.
Two callipygous glendoveers avec deux crème des pêcher déshabillé*
danced the ballet of Sappho and Leda flying mid-air with a bird.
They taunted the birkie while he swallowed the fiery yatagan:
“Tsk tsk,” said the dwarf in a djellaba. “That is surely bad form.”

Insofar as a moral can be drawn from this tale, here is the best of the lot:

Bardán the ollav crouched at the foothill of fantasy-land, whittling with
his thumbnail as he whistled the march of the speckled Leprechauns.
“Namaste!”, he cried as the bunch crossed the disappearing hill, “you’re a
jingbang of chthonian visitors who couldn’t manage a zapateado!”
Then, he pronounced with hoary authority –“tha’ cirque* ‘twas the
huntiegowk of a ginias dólámhach*, if e’r nor ne’r I seen one!”

© Toni Christman, 2014


Namaste is a Southeastern Asian greeting/farewell in Hindi, but originated in Sanskrit. It is a combination of two words: Namas + te (te is the dative form of the word for you in Hindi). This greeting most closely means “I recognize and honor the divine in you.”

Translations of French and Irish Gaelic follow:

In French:

dernières étapes – Metaphorically, the final steps in a long line of a dangerous trek in stark blackness between two buildings. Final stages (literal)

le spectaclede magie au cirque– The show of the circus magicians

avec deux crème des pêcher déshabillé – with two crème peach negligee

francs. -Antiquated French money correlated to the US dollar

coups d’etat – A kind of all-encompassing win by secret means. (metaphorically).

cirque – Circus

Other languages translated:

ginias dólámhach – a true genius (Irish Gaelic)


I found myself more and more enrapt in the story as it went on — even if I didn’t fully understand what was going on at first. So I had to ask, “Why is that? Why am I so interested in something that I don’t understand (well, at least not completely)?”, and the answer is: because it is written with drama and enticement. So even stumbling over words like “dracunculus” (which sounds like a dragon with cold sore…!) and “djellaba” (like a DJ with an Italian jello fetish), yes, even when stumbling over such words, the story still manages interest and impact!

First you have that painting — now who could look and NOT be interested? Then you have that first line, “In a sooty boot-black ginnel near the grimy dernières étapes”, who could resist knowing what happened THERE? , and then you have a well-thought-out tail (I mean tale!) that opens (whoops!), I mean unfolds, into as spicy a dish of storytelling as any taste-testing-hunger-ridden reader would want!

In the middle, you have that crisp climactic moment: “But every man, dragon, toadie and childe were entertained alike!” that places us square in the center of thrilled company (even those of us with dragon-breath or warts!).

Then, at the end:  a moral! So denouement, denouement! We have resolution! (Even in French!)  I must say, this is the most fun I’ve had reading words I didn’t know how to pronounce, ever! (And, the secret was the words I COULD pronounce made all the difference.)   What a feast for imagination you serve! I’m thoroughly filled.

Katherine Michaels


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