A Preternatural Thanksgiving
with DJ Jaco
I’m a wizard, not a cook. I heat up potions in my microwave and stir together charms on my stovetop. Thanks to a couple of grenades set off by an undead serial killer, my house burned down and I’m living in the half-finished shell of my late father’s gutted house in one of New Orleans’ Katrina zones.
Which I don’t say to make you feel sorry for me, but simply to explain that I can’t cook worth a damn. So my half-finished kitchen seemed a good excuse to invite some friends over for a potluck Thanksgiving.
I envisioned a traditional New Orleans feast: fried turkey pumped up with Cajun spices and dripping with savory juices; rich, savory oyster stuffing; mirliton casserole so creamy and tasty you can forgive it for containing our local version of a squash; cranberry relish thick with pecans and spices; maybe a side of dark, thick gumbo; and a bread pudding so full of nuts and cream and butter and, well, okay, some bourbon, that it would make the angels weep.
Alex arrived first, and I wasn’t surprised to see him with one of those old-lady casserole dishes in its own navy blue carrier with handles. I unwrapped it, knowing what I’d find. The dish had NORMA WARIN, PICAYUNE, MISSISSIPPI written on the bottom on a strip of tape.
I shook my head. “With all she has to do, you made your mom fix extra banana pudding while she was doing your family Thanksgiving?”
He didn’t even look contrite. “I don’t cook. And she knows it’s my favorite so she always makes extra for me to bring home. So I have dibs on anything left over.”
Jake Warin arrived next. I’d thought since he was a loup-garou with a prodigious appetite for meat, he’d bring a turkey, even if it had been a pickup from the Rouses Supermarket deli. Instead, he arrived with a big plastic bag holding six dozen pralines still in their individual boxes from Aunt Sally’s Pralines in the French Quarter.
I pulled out the colorful boxes and set them on the counter. “They’re all the creamy kind?” At least he could’ve gotten some of the original ones that left crumbs of sugar all over me when I ate them.
We were all going to be in diabetic comas by the time the day was out if someone didn’t show up with…
“Hey DJ, I got your favorite!” My friend Eugenie struggled in the front door with two oversized bags from Gambino’s Bakery. I bit my tongue and shoved the pralines and banana pudding aside to make room for three ginormous seven-layer Doberge Cakes. “I got one caramel, one lemon, and one chocolate,” she said, then looked at the counter. “That’s a lot of sugar.”
I nodded. “But Rene and Jean Lafitte aren’t here yet, or Ken—they won’t bring dessert,” I assured her. Surely undead pirates and mermen and NOPD homicide detectives wouldn’t bake. I hoped Ken didn’t bring doughnuts.
Ken brought doughnuts. “The Krispy Kreme is two blocks from my house and the light was flashing,” he said as I took out the still-warm pastries dripping sugar and arranged them on a plate next to the pralines, pudding, and cakes.
“Damn, that’s a lot of dessert.” Ken stood and stared at it for a minute before shouts from the living room drew his attention. “You got cable? I was afraid we’d have to miss the Saints-Packers game.” He wandered away, a doughnut in each hand.
I heard a familiar Cajun voice yelling that Drew Brees couldn’t hit a receiver if he was standing still and three feet in front of him. Brees was the Saints’ quarterback. “Go and see what Rene brought,” I told Eugenie, slicing the cakes. “If it has sugar in it, don’t even tell me.”
She left the kitchen and I wondered if it was too late to get reservations at a restaurant. The guys wouldn’t even know if Eugenie and I left.
“Rene didn’t bring dessert,” Eugenie announced, coming empty-handed back into the kitchen. “He brought beer; two cases of Abita.”
Great. I was forced to do the unthinkable. I closed my eyes and concentrated.
The elven jerk I had let myself be bonded to winced from across town. Quince Randolph and I had been able to communicate telepathically since the bonding. It annoyed him for me to yell, so I’d become adept at mental screeching.
Jeez, Dru. You give me a headache. What do you want?
I found his tone offensive. He didn’t worry about interrupting me. I took a deep breath. Why don’t you come over for dinner? We have a bunch of people here.
I paused and added, Everyone’s anxious to see you. He was too arrogant to realize that wasn’t possible since no one liked him.
Sorry, I’m watching the football game.
Huh? Since when do elves watch football?
It’s a wonderful game, Dru. Full of deception and violence.
He had a point—it was a perfect game for elves. We have the game on here. Bring something to eat that isn’t sweet.
“You realize everybody here hates him,” Eugenie pointed out. “Including you and especially me.”
“I don’t hate him. I just never want to see him again.” I pointed at the counter. “But all the stores are closed and we need protein.”
“You realize he’ll show up with tofu.”
She was wrong, however. Rand showed up twenty minutes later carrying the world’s largest-ever bowl and wearing Green Bay Packers gear from head to toe. “Where did you get cheesehead stuff?” I asked, imagining the Saints fans in the living room beating him to an elven pulp.
“NFL-dot-com,” he said, thrusting the bowl into my arms. “Need to eat those soon or they’ll get cold.” Then he left for the living room.
I exchanged a wary look with Eugenie before pulling the foil off the top of the bowl. We stared silently at what had to be at least five pounds of steamed brussel sprouts.
“It’s healthy,” she said.
“It’s cabbage mini-me’s,” I said.
Our only hope for Thanksgiving salvation lay with an 230-year-old undead pirate.
The savory aroma of roasted meat wafted in and I followed it like a siren call to the front door, where Jean Lafitte was struggling in the door with a coffin-shaped wooden box.
“Is it a turkey?” I asked, leading him to the kitchen from the back so he could avoid the football crew.
“Non, le sanglier,” he said. “I caught it myself and had my cooks prepare it for you. It is a slow process, and therefore I am not prompt.”
I didn’t care how late he was; he’d brought something that didn’t involve sugar or steamed balls of bitterness.
“Football! Très bien! I have grown fond of this game.”
And the pirate, too, was gone. “Let’s make a ham sandwich and go upstairs,” Eugenie said. “We can binge-watch Project Runway on your laptop.”
“Perfect.” It wasn’t the Thanksgiving I’d envisioned, but—other than Rand being ostracized like a Green Bay outcast in the corner—the guys were enjoying themselves with the beer. I opened the big wooden box Jean had deposited on the floor in front of the refrigerator.
“Well?” Eugenie walked over to stand next to me, and we stared down at the blackened boar lying on a bed of smoking wood chips.
“It still has its head,” she said.
“And its feet,” I added. “And its tail.”
We held a moment of silence for the boar no-more.
“You want doughnuts or cake? I’m eating pralines.” Eugenie threw a half-dozen pralines in one of the discarded bags and headed toward the stairs to the second floor. The rooms upstairs were still studs and bare wood, without walls or carpets. But my computer was there, my Internet connection was fast, and I had streaming video.
I grabbed the caramel cake and two forks. “Lead the way. As Tim Gunn would say, this is a ‘Make It Work Moment.’”
Have a “Make It Work” Thanksgiving! To enter for a $50 gift card to the online bookseller of your choice as part of the PIRATESHIP DOWN release tour, use the Rafflecopter form below.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Pirateship Down by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #4.5
Published by Suzanne Johnson on November 9th 2015
Pages: 225 pages
Amazon | Goodreads
From award-winning author Suzanne Johnson comes the first story collection set in the Sentinels of New Orleans world, including the all-new novella, Pirateship Down.
French pirate Jean Lafitte is tall, cobalt-eyed, broad-shouldered and immortal. What’s not to love? But New Orleans’ most esteemed member of the historical undead is headed for trouble: He’s determined to reclaim Le Diligent, his gold-laden schooner lost at sea in 1814 and recently found at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico near Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.
The U.S. Coast Guard might beg to differ.
New Orleans’ wizard sentinel DJ Jaco and her merman friend Rene Delachaise can either lock Lafitte up or save him from himself, joining him on a road trip to Cajun country. Terrebonne Parish—not to mention its jail—might never be the same after the events of the all-new novella Pirateship Down.
Wizards and Cajun mermen, sexy shifters and undead French pirates. Welcome to the world of the Sentinels of New Orleans in this first collection of new and revised stories, along with a little Louisiana lagniappe.