Welcome to our first issue of 2022!
In this issue, we’re writing about indulging the senses and the different kinds of indulgences.
The A Muse Bouche Review Team
by Renée Gendron (@reneegendron)
Ice covered snow cracked under Sylvie Pelletier’s snowshoes. She walked the trails of Parrott’s Bay Conservation Area. Ven, a five-year-old black lab, bounded beside her.
“How many loops do you want to do?” she asked over her shoulder.
“Two’s good,” Armando—Manny—Pereira said. His breath was steady, smooth, not like he had snowshoed five kilometres.
Three white-tailed deer pawed at the ground, digging through the snow to grass and roots. Ven perked up at their site and wagged his tail.
“Ven,” Manny said.
Ven fell in beside Manny, trotted on, but turned towards the deer.
Fingers toasty in gloves, chest warm in her ski jacket, thighs cold from the wind that whipped through the forest and polished the snow until it was coated in a thin layer of ice, Sylvie marched on. The lush trail with maple blossoms and fiddleheads and wild leek had been transformed into a blanket of white with brown twigs sticking out.
She picked up the pace, more and more satisfied with the clomp of her snowshoes on the snow. She half-jogged, half-waddled up the straight. Ven barked and kept pace. She ran farther up the trail. A maple tree stood leafless but had, months prior, had provided vivid red leaves.
Breathless and filled with joy, she raced up the path to the parking lot, finishing the second loop.
Ven ran circles around her, tail wagging, eyes alert. He ran off in the direction of the entrance of the trail.
Manny whistled. “Come back.”
Ven stopped, turned around, but stayed near the trail entrance.
“We’re done for the day, Ven,” Manny said.
Ven wagged his tail and took a step towards the trail.
Ven wagged his tail but stayed at the trail’s opening.
Sylvie walked to Manny’s truck and opened the tailgate. She slid the cooler over and opened it. “Peanut butter or carrot?”
Ven barked and raced towards her.
She tossed him a peanut butter cookie, and he snatched it mid-air.
Manny spread a blanket across the lowered tailgate, helped Sylvie up, then sat on the end.
“Sweet or salty?” Sylvie rooted around in the cooler.
She opened a thermos, poured them some hot chocolate and scattered candy cane sprinkles and marshmellows on top.
Manny sipped his cup. He sucked on his upper lip to remove some hot chocolate.
“You still have some.” She kissed the hot chocolate off his upper lip then explored the corners of his sweet mouth. He tasted of wilderness and winter and peppermint.
Manny chuckled. Sylvie laughed, and she broke away from their kiss.
Ven wagged his tail and barked. And barked. And barked. Large brown eyes looked up at Sylvie in anticipation.
“All right. All right.” She removed a cookie from the cooler. “You get one more. But that’s all for tonight.” She tossed the cookie, and Ven snatched it.
“Any cookies for me?” Manny asked.
“Cookies? No. But I made some caramel salted brownies.”
Manny grunted an after-sex grunt that signified pure bliss.
She handed him two, and he all but inhaled the first. There was that rumble again, low and deep, and if it were against her skin, she’d cum.
“What are we watching tonight?” she asked.
“Something funny, but not stupid.”
“Nothing that includes fart jokes or bachelor parties or runners on first.”
“You make it hard,” he said in a teasing voice. “How about a classic.”
“Sure.” She handed him a third caramel salted brownie and tossed Ven another cookie.
“The Pink Panther.”
She bit into her brownie and let the sensations melt into her tongue. The brownie was cold from being in the cooler for three hours, but once it hit her tongue, it warmed and coated every inch of her mouth. Caramel blended with chocolate and spiked with salt.
She washed it down with a swig of peppermint hot chocolate.
The only thing missing was peppermint schnapps. That would be their after-dinner-wine-snuggle-on-the-sofa treat.
“What’s it about?” she asked.
“A detective’s blunders. It’s a classic. Trust me.”
She inclined her head.
“Go back, shower, head out to dinner?” he asked.
She shook her head. She cooked better than most restaurants.
He removed his cellphone from his inside pocket and swiped through some app.
“You made a reservation?”
“The Italian place off King Street.” His thumb rested against a cancel button.”
Her numbed cheeks lifted in a smile. “That’s very sweet.”
“You sure you don’t want to go?”
“I’d rather eat at home.”
He cancelled the reservation. “What about that Greek place on Princess Street?”
“You reserved a second spot?”
“A second and third and forth.”
“Really?” she asked.
“Greek, Steakhouse, and French.”
She ran her tongue along her chapped lower lip. He’d only reserved spots in the city’s top places. She eyed him over the brim of her hot chocolate, breathing in the fresh mint. “I’d rather go back to mine. A quiet night.”
Manny grunted and cancelled their dinner reservations.
They finished their after-snowshoe-walk hot chocolate and headed back to hers.
Manny pulled into her laneway and parked his truck. His truck’s lights shone onto packages left by her doorstep.
Sylvie slid from the passenger side and made way for Ven to jump down. “Can you get those?”
“Sure.” He picked up the boxes, followed her inside her house, and then placed them on her kitchen table.
Sylvie opened her fridge and stared at the ingredients. “Can you open those?”
Something sharp cut through something plastic, followed by the ripping sound of a box opening.
She risked a glance towards Manny.
He stood there, mouth slightly open, staring at the contents of the box.
She walked over and pressed a kiss to his neck. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
He removed a bag of store-bought candy, then another, and another, finally removing a large bag of popcorn. He looked at her, all aw-shucks and surprised.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.” She pressed a kiss to his lips.
He groaned an insatiable groan.
Sylvie Pelletier and Manny Pereira will be featured in Book 2 of the Outdoorsmen. Release Fall 2022.
by A.P. Miller (@Millerverse)
If we’re being honest, I hate the word “indulge,” and all of its derivatives. Some people hate the word “moist,” I have a similar aversion to “indulge.” I’m not sure exactly why — I’m a very visual thinker, so maybe it’s the picture I get in my head of people indulging themselves. I have a very negative recall of the word. For my contribution to this month’s edition, I am going to give the gift …of misery! I’m going to share five images I get when I meditate on the word “indulge” and maybe we can figure out why this word makes my skin crawl.
Number One (and possibly the easiest): Hellraiser — full disclosure: I used to be an Edgelord. I took advanced art classes, watched God-awful horror movies, and went out of my way for shock value. One of the movies that sharpened the edge of my lordness was Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser.” For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a movie about some guy who seeks further realms of pleasure, so he opens a magic box to BDSM heaven …or hell, depending on how you look at it. Pinhead, as played by Doug Bradley, says the word a few times. I’m not sure if his pronunciation of the word, the shape of his mouth, or the fact that it reminds me of my cringelord phase, but when I heard the word, I thought of Pinhead for a moment.
Considering the context of the movie, I also get depictions of pervy guys doing weird things in hopes of meeting Pinhead. It’s gross.
Number Two: Religion — When I was young, my grandparents were trying out a new church and invited my sister and I to come along. It started out as all good cults …I mean, churches, do: people felt good, they felt more spiritually in-tune, and they felt like they had purpose. There came a time when the congregation tried to out-church each other. Things like “Well, Margaret isn’t going to heaven because she drank wine on Tuesday,” and “Regina is going to hell because she watched MacGyver!” That led to discussions about how one’s indulgences could lead them astray from the righteous path. At that age, I couldn’t have cared less what Margaret drank, or who Regina was throwing one dollar bills at — I also couldn’t grasp the concept of a room full of adults being told to check their indulgences — it made the word sound …filthy, I guess.
Before you all start firing up the hate-mail, let me be clear on my position about religion. I have my own faith system, I believe in a hereafter, my problem with religion and that word stems from that one location, and not religion as a whole.
Number Three: History — For some odd reason, the word “indulgence” makes me think of the Roman emperor Caligula. Now, kudos to my Seventh Grade history teacher, he did an excellent job of educating us on what kind of mad-man Caligula was, but maybe he did too good of a job. When I get the Caligula level imagery of indulgence, I see some guy sitting on a chaise lounge making nasty innuendo to his guests, and then covering himself in something unholy. Logically, I know the word I should be associating with this image is “hedonism,” but my simple back-woods upbringing tacked this mental image to “indulge.”
Gun to my head, I think this mental image stings so much because I relate it to people chewing with their mouth open. I have no desire to see your ability to masticate in motion and I don’t want to see a Roman Emperor douse himself in the closest goblet of gross.
Number Four: The Typecast Neighbor Lady — This one may tie in with the religious one. When I say “Typecast Neighbor Lady,” I see a woman named Janet who power walks down the neighborhood in a blue velour jumpsuit, silently judging everyone who isn’t training for the a**hole olympics right beside her. Janet is that woman who comments on everything on your plate, how much she’s done at the church bake sale, and writes letters to the editor of her local newspaper about the childhood obesity epidemic. No one invites Janet to functions, she just shows up. Janet has strong opinions about foreign policy and feels she’s an expert because her second cousin served during World War II. It’s okay, you can say it. I’ll say it with you: f*** you, Janet.
What conjures this image when I think of the word “indulge” is Janet being at the church potluck, going up to Mary-Anne’s famous chocolate panda balls, and saying “I’ll indulge myself just once, it is the holidays.” Janet, in her self-righteous glory, gets a look in her eyes like a python about to swallow a rat — the stare is intense, and uncomfortable. After Janet gets the chocolate sin down her gullet, she goes back to saying things like “Little Becky is getting pudgy, isn’t she?” Janet may have served a purpose for society once, but no one remembers what it was.
Number Five: Corporate America — Rounding out this hit parade of hating a single word is the image of some smug middle-manager who relies on chemical intervention to feel like a man. Mr. Smith, as he insists on being called by his underlings, wears a short-sleeved dress shirt, has a picture of himself holding a fish on his desk, and is trying way too hard to hide his balding pattern.
Why do I think of this guy? Picture sitting across from his desk, answering to a write-up (probably sent by Janet, who came out of retirement because she has too much to offer the working world) that shouldn’t have been sent, and trying to plead your case to this clown. With a look on his face that screams “please punch me as hard as you can in my obsolete genitals,” he allows you a moment to render an argument. Before he does, armed to the teeth in condescension, he says “Indulge me with your argument.” The temperature of my blood runs so hot that the tops of my ears begin to burn just typing about it.
I know that this issue of AMBR may have a different tone from my piece — that’s what makes the project worth contributing to: the contrast in styles.
Thank you for reading, we’ll see you next time!
By Crystal L. Kirkham (@canuckclick)
I brush my fingers across the touch-worn grain of heavy oak doors until they reach the icy brass handle. I grasp it and a shiver of anticipation runs through me. On the other side is the one indulgence I allow myself to have in an otherwise austere life. Work, work, and more work was how every day went, but the night… Ah, the night was mine to enjoy and I intend to do just that
I pull aside the barrier that separates me from temptation and saunter into the dim-lit room. There they are—my loves—waiting in lines to discover who I would choose. My decision dictated only by mood and whim.
I inhale deeply of a scent like no other and smile. This was where a million different versions of myself collided. Where I could choose to be whatever I wanted and no one dared to question it.
I walk to the small round table and turn on the lamp that illuminates little more than a crystal decanter and the single glass beside it. I pop the top and pour a small measure to sip as I contemplate what I want for this night—and most likely something to last the next few as well. It was rare for me to finish quickly.
Sharp liquid fire burns my throat and I relish the feeling. A reminder that I am still alive, that I can feel things. A grandfather clock ticks away the passing seconds, reminding me of the growing hour. Even my free time has a schedule that must be kept. My eyes drift over the waiting choices. Was it time for something new and exciting or should I choose the safe and familiar?
It was a conundrum every time. I found myself indecisive as I walk the line, occasionally stopping to inspect a potential companion. None seem right. It had been a hard day, one full of both triumph and disappointment. I want something special, something different. I need something that is both familiar and exciting. An adventure reminding me of my wonderous youth; of spring days lying in the sun beneath a tree, happy and content. And something with that would give me the excitement of the unexpected. Get my blood rushing and my heart beating at a furious pace.
Such a rare and delicate combination. My lips curl in a smile as I realize exactly what I am after. I stride to the other side of the room where the favourites that I savour on the rainy days of life call home. I close my eyes, reach out, and pull one to me. It’s only then that I look to see what I have, though there are no wrong choices here. If I find tonight unsatisfying, I will simply return tomorrow and try again.
And yet, as my fingers trace that familiar curve of the spine, I know that this will satisfy me to my very core. I stroke the cover of my chosen book, a long-forgotten favourite of my youth. It has everything I want, everything I need. Tonight, I would dive back into a time where anything seems possible.
Seven Points of Contact, Renée Gendron
White Lightening, Melissa Yi
Dead Reckoning, Grave Intentions, Book 1 by Aedyn Brooks
Ready or Not, Grave Intentions, Book 2 by Aedyn Brooks
Devil’s Due, Grave Intentions, Book 3 by Aedyn Brooks – August 2021
Book 1 of the Outdoorsman Series, by Renée Gendron to be released October 14, 2021
Seven Points of Contact, by Renée Gendron to be released fall/winter 2021-2022
Heads and Tales A supernatural / mythological anthology. Renée Gendron contributed a historical, supernatural, romance. Amazon.