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Steaming Aphrodite

I recently bought a trunk at a flea market and was surprised to discover that it had a false bottom. Under the faux cover I discovered a diary written in 1909 by a man named Dr. York Van Landingham. Here is a page:

July 17th 1909

She was from Mother Russia and her name was Svetlana Minsky. She spoke perfect English in an accent that one could not detect as foreign. Svetlana had a penchant for bawdy revelry, and used the kind of language which might make an unassuming male turn burgundy from blushing. I had sought her company while we were aboard a steamboat vessel bound for the shores of North Africa. I was wary of her however, as earlier, I had witnessed her bilk three men of their life savings with a fifth, and yes even a sixth King up her lace sleeve.

In the event that her conniving was discovered, she kept a knife in her garter. Upon discovering the weapon one sultry night in Constantinople I decided to nickname her “Svetlana Switchblade.” As I recall, she only stabbed me with it once, and I remain convinced that it was somewhat accidental, but the piercing occurred after I confessed that I relinquished one of her diamond earrings to get out of a tight spot in Bombay.

The night we met, I caught up with her on the deck as she stared out across the Atlantic Ocean at the purple dusk, her winnings tucked into the folds of her undergarments. She told me she’d first noticed me playing trumpet among the troupe of musicians that kept the passengers and crew entertained. It was someone else that she had seen, but I played along not wishing to disappoint her.

She told me she had been entrusted to discover if there were truths to the legend of the goddess Aphrodite and the potions so named after her. She had journeyed through Greece and was now headed to the barely reachable corners of the darkest continent. Entrusted by whom she never confirmed, but she had alluded to a man named Rasputin.

I knew nothing of Aphrodite and she asked me to join her in her cabin to discuss matters of amour. I hadn’t been invited to a woman’s quarters since my journey began and I lustily agreed. She asked if I had absinthe, and of course I did.

We sipped our pastis and made playful conversation. She pulled a patina box from the drawer and opened it. “This is dust from a rhinoceros’s horn,” she said, offering it to me.

     “And?” I said.

     “You snort it, like so.”

     “Madame, I have ingested many a foreign object in my time but nothing from a beast of such stature.”

“It’s an aphrodisiac.

 “An aphro what?”

“It’s named after the goddess,” she said. “If you take it you will likely want to consume me with desire.”

     “I have never heard of such a thing. Won’t I become ill?”

     “No. Legend says that you will become aroused. Try it.”

      “Hm, do you have any other aphrodisiacs, say something in a chewable form?”

       “Many men have died trying to discover what it is about this and other ingredients that turn us into savages.” She passed a leather-bound book under my nose that she had been writing in. I opened it somewhere near the beginning and read her words. I suddenly felt the urge to regurgitate my lunch.

      “What in the name of Satan’s hot tub?”

       “What did you read? Is it the tiger penis thing?”

        “Yes, of course it’s that!!”

        “That’s usually the reaction.”

         “People actually eat tiger’s penises?” I blurted. She nodded slowly. “I mean I’m adventurous in the kitchen, Svetlana, but there is one ingredient that doesn’t leap to mind when cooking and that is tiger penis. I mean, how does one even discover something like that? Oh, I know, why don’t I try tiger penis in my omelet this morning? But before I can do that it’s off to hunt and castrate a tiger…hope he doesn’t mind having his masculinity severed from him before he’s had his morning cup of tea. Maybe I can find other ways to use tiger penis, since I went to the trouble, maybe as an accompaniment to a cheese plate. Oh what have we got here then? Brie, Camembert, Stilton, Tiger penis…oh, yes, perfect, just fits right in there doesn’t it? Pass the salted crackers; this tiger penis is in need of a bed of crunchiness before I can consume it. Good god!”

        “What is it then that makes man want to consume the horn from a rhinoceros and the genitals of a jungle cat?” she asked with a perfectly straight face.

        “I couldn’t tell you, Svetlana, but if this catches on, these poor things are looking to go the way of the dodo and the unicorn. Oh no, do you think that’s what happened to those doomed creatures? Unicorn testicle flambé ? Dodo Eggs Benedict?”

       She calmed me with her smile and we drank long into the night. At some point she asked if I would be interested in joining her on her mission. I laughed. “As long as you don’t try to get me to snort pelican beak, drink panda bear urine, or inhale a mongoose’s fart. I’ll think upon it.”

      Hours later I awoke under my own bed with a headache the size of the earthquake that shook San Francisco. In my view was a half-eaten plate of oysters and my ears filled with sounds of an accordion melody skipping on the phonograph caught in a three second loop. Oh, Svetlana, I thought, I really must stop drinking that absinthe.

I crawled out from beneath the bed and sought the comfort of some woolen trousers so that I might get some fresh sea air and locate my mysterious Russian adventurer. Tomorrow night we are due to dock in Casablanca. I hope that there are no tigers in Morocco, the temptation might be too great an urge to resist.

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8 Responses

  1. I enjoyed this mightily Mr. Stone, Svetlana sounds like my kind of girl! 🙂

  2. one of the best things from you in a while. got the genuine, real world LOL out of me with the cheese plate and tiger penis bit.

  3. Yes this Svetlana sounds like quite a character, if this were a diary entry I’d love to read her memoirs.

    Luckily viagra has been created and no need to consume tiger penis or rhino horn anymore!! Horny men and tigers can both rest easy.

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