It was a sultry, hot summer’s day.
They had tried cold summer’s days but, what the hell, you get a winning formula, you stick with it.
Miss Celany Garden lounged in the beautiful, manicured estate.
Every tree had a double coating of nail varnish on its leaves, every gnome its cuticles pushed back (1).
How she loved this house! Built, as it had been, by her late father, Judge Garden. A man of harsh punishments (2), he was known as "Hanging " Garden by those unfortunates who came before him (3). He had so loved building this house. Unfortunately, his skills, such as they were, lay in legal argument rather than brick laying and those parts of the house that had not fallen down immediately, now leaned precariously against each other like drunks after a very long night.
From the region of the servants quarters (4), came the merry sound of singing as Ulolulo Sødme, the Garden's devoted maid, beat the laundry with a lump of rock. No amount of pleading could persuade her not to do this. All of Miss Celany's expensive, imported dresses hung in tatters in her wardrobes. Fortunately, the Garden family were held in such high regard locally that this was now regarded as the height of fashion and throughout the area, young ladies could be heard pounding their dresses with half bricks - sometimes while they were still in them.
No-one knew for sure where Ulolulo had come from, or even if that was her real name. One night, all of the lights in the house had gone out and there, at the front door, was Ulolulo, her once blonde hair, blackened and standing straight from her head, sparks flying from the fillings in her teeth. As they prised her finger from the electric bell-push that Judge Garden had installed that very day, they asked her name.
She had not spoken or moved again for a whole month after that. Now, she was a much valued member of the household staff. In fact, she was the only member of the household staff. The servants quarters had proved to be aptly named when they had collapsed on the butler, cook and kitchen maid. Ulolulo had sensibly refused to sleep inside any building erected by the Judge and now lived happily but warily in a hole in the ground.
It was the time of the Civil War. There had been many uncivil wars in the past and Miss Celany strongly disapproved of those, they were so common. This was a much more ordered affair. Currently, both armies were camped on Wilbur's Rise (5) and were resolutely refusing to talk to one another. Apparently one army had called upon the other and failed to leave a visiting card and things had gone on from there.
Miss Celany thought of her beau, Captain Verucca of the Fourth Regiment of Foot. He was serving in the Army of the South led by General Tendency. Ah, but he was dashing and charming, although in truth he was mostly mashing and darning at present. Mashing the potatoes and darning the socks for the rest of the Regiment.
"Landsakes, Miss Celany." It was Ulolulo. She always talked like that. No-one knew why.
"Why, Ulolulo, you startled me."
"Yo been a mooning over your young blood missy?"
"Why I am sure I have been doing no such thing Ulolulo, whatever it was you said. Tell me, is there any news, from the front?"
"No missy, but I got news from the font, seems the Jackson child breathed in while being baptised and they'se still trying to get the water out of it."
"Oh, but that is terrible!"
"Sho is missy, holy water is real hard to come by."(6)
"Is dinner served yet, Ulolulo?"
"Sho thing, you want gumbo?"
"I suppose it contains fish, does it?"
"Has to, else it ain't my kinda gumbo."
Miss Celany sighed. Four years Ulolulo had been with them and everything she cooked contained fish, even the marmalade.
"Look, could you make me something without fish?"
"Lawdy, all you have to do is ask missy, how 'bout a chicken sandwich?"
"Oh that would be wonderful, Ulolulo, prepared in your own special way I'll be bound?"
"What you do in yo' private life is your own affair missy, jes try not to get rope marks on the furniture is all I ask"
"I am not referring to anything as unpleasant as that Ulolulo, even if I did know to what you were alluding.” Celany blushed, “I was hoping you were going to prepare my sandwich to a secret recipe handed down over generations.”
"Well, ain't you jes dang right missy, first you takes a prime piece of real fresh southern fried chicken and you coats that with home made mayonnaise, add a hint of paprika and dust with a little thyme....."
"Mmm, sounds heavenly"
"Then you takes all that and puts it between two sardines."
"Perhaps not, bring on the gumbo."
Ulolulo stomped off, muttering to herself. A strange thing to mutter, but then she was a strange woman.
(1) Which probably explains the peculiar expressions they always have
(2) His buttocks frequently looked like a relief map of Wales
(3) An offence in itself
(4) Which sounds vaguely disgusting, but you know what I mean
(5) Which inevitably, in later years, led to one of those unfortunate Army traditions that meant that new recruits for generations to come would dread the ritual of "camping on Wilbur's Rise"
(6) Quite why Ulolulo talked in this manner was a mystery. No-one else did. She seemed to have invented a dialect all of her own. Which was just as well because nobody else would have wanted it.
You can find an explanation for all of this nonsense at Jambalaya Prologue and read the next part at Jambalaya 2nd and Final Excerpt
Read more and buy Jambalaya at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
And for those who prefer non-fiction, The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format at Amazon UK and Amazon USA and now read the new bumper collection of stories, Crutches For Ducks also at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.