Preview of Unsaid Eight : Decorum in the Fall : Jason Schwartz



The Feast of the Beheading – first on the list – begins with a curious notion. It concerns a word, to be sure – the date comes later – in poor weather, as you crawl toward the arbor. Now, as for the hour. Whose error is this? It is mine, I imagine. Dire windows – covered with pitch – and an animal falling from the awning. The chairs – in an awful circle. The menu – perhaps too narrow. Whitebait and onions, in Dutch sauce. Perch and turnips, on a bed of wilted fennel. Boiled tongue, pickled eggs, and walnuts – garnished with horseradish. There is, this evening, no breeze to speak of – but they accept the table anyway. The Feast of the Ghost – a tender event in the recollection of a Mr. Hall, who was always excluded – would occupy five days every summer, just east of the mill, until the mill was pulled down. We can see, from here, a man with his hands in the air. He appears to rehearse – welcome and farewell. The candlestick is a modest object, but rather too stout for the table. The tablecloth is neither embroidered nor red. The napkin, open like so, conceals a stain. Stuffed goosenecks and gravy soup. Broiled John Dory, with stewed celery, mushrooms, and prunes. Mutton kidneys and anchovy paste, with split peas and capers. There is a very great delay. The Feast of the Body – a late occasion for a Mr. Anderson and family, on holiday in the south one year, all summer, until overtaken by unhappy thoughts – would usually precede the burial ceremony. The view of the river, however, is quite satisfactory. We can see, from here, the black rocks – unless these are burnt rowboats. The cutlery – in charmless disarray. The plate – divided by a spine. The glass – at the lip of which, the remnants of a whelk. Cabinet pudding, with watercress and a quartered egg. Bavarian cream, with filberts and toast soldiers. Trifle – brandy, crushed pears, calf’s feet aspic – and a red jam. There is, at table, rather a poor selection of persons. The Feast of the Beheading – undertaken in the rain – begins with a history of the victim. The wrong name, that is to say – as the procession arrives, the head atop a wooden spike.

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