Word of the Day: Tarantism

Word of the Day: Tarantism

In this series, I will take the Word of the Day from Dictionary.com and craft a short piece of creative writing around it.  My goal is to embrace the meaning of the word in some unique way, all the while trying out different styles, rhythms and characterizations.  It is as much an exercise in creativity as it is an exploration of grammar. Enjoy!

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By Alex Seise

The wedding had gone smoothly, despite the barb-tongued bickerers seated across from one another on either side of the church aisle. The solemnity of the ceremony tempered their wits and stifled most simmering animosity, and at the beginning of the reception, it seemed like the entire evening would be a pleasantly unexpected affair after all. The two matriarchs exchanged a polite bise as the guests filed into the banquet hall, a grand gesture that rippled through both sides of the now-conjoined families and loosened the terse, guarded air.

But halfway through the amuse-bouche course, a great, big woman from the Pastella clan dropped her fork and slammed her massive arm onto the table, shattering her dainty hors d’oeuvre plate into no less than eighteen jagged shards. A hush fell over the room; the Campella tongues wagged about the woman’s heft and uncouth accident, while her fellow Pastellas wondered what had come over one of their own. The woman’s gray-green eyes glazed over and trained upwards in their sockets toward the chandelier while crumb-crusted foam seeped out the corners of her mouth. She made no sound.

Then, without provocation, she slammed her other massive arm down on the table, sending wine glasses tipping as the force of the impact reverberated. Veins of inky red drink as dark as the woman’s own burgundy gown flowed off the edges of the table as she continued her morbid, stiff dance, dripping onto the floor with a wet trickling noise. The whispers turned to hushed commentary on both sides of the family.

She then stood, throwing the table upwards and sending dishes crashing down on the elderly man across from her. He shielded his face with his hands as appetizers rolled past his liver-spotted knuckles and landed into the puddles of wine. The woman stomped and flung her arms in the air, wildly swinging without grace. The roar of the crowd, punctuated by gasps and moans, grew steadily.

In the chaos of her tarantism, no one noticed the small octopod creature scuttle out from under the table and lunge toward the courtyard door. It’d feasted on the soft, pale flesh of the woman’s inner right thigh as she tucked into the first bites of food. When it had finished its luscious meal, the beast delivered her a present for her pain, a thin ribbon of thick, green elixir from its curved fangs. But its calculation had been off; she was large, but still much smaller than the oxen and stallions it usually devoured. Rather than soothing the bite mark, the overdose seeped into her rich, warm blood and traveled directly to her brain.

And so, she danced. She danced unaware of the bite, pushing and heaving and thrusting and slinging herself across the creaking planks of the wooden dance floor. And when the poison finished running its course, her eyes rolled upwards and she fainted, crashing to the floor in a thunderous maroon heap.

When she awoke the next morning, all she remembered of the affair was the kiss of the two grand dames and the silky chiffon texture of the truffle mousse amuse-bouche.

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