When a Maenad…

by Allison Floyd


When you Invite a Maenad to Dinner

Don’t be surprised if she shows up with blood in the corners of her mouth.  The wine she brings will be in a goatskin,  and there will likely be tufts of bull fur matted in her hair. When you seat her next to your best girlfriend from high school, things might get ugly. 

Your best girlfriend from high school will make allusions to being a princess, to wearing her big girl panties, and to honoring the Girl Code. She will religiously count calories, dipping the tines of her fork in the shallow bowl of dressing beside her salad. “That way you get the flavor, without all the calories,” she will say.

Your maenad, meanwhile, will be forcing a grin, baring her sharp teeth in the process. She will have dirt under her fingernails and scratches like deep ravines running up and down her arms.  Her laugh will resemble a low growl, or if she finds something particularly amusing, it will dangerously resemble a shriek. Your best girlfriend from high school will falter in her company, ask your maenad if she was in a sorority, ask her about her girlfriends.

Your maenad will pull long draughts from her goatskin. Rivulets of wine will trickle down her chin and she will belch unabashedly.  Your best girlfriend from high school will shoot you a look, like OMG, and you will hastily excuse yourself to go check on the roast.

Your maenad will take this moment to propose a toast to Dionysus, and your best girlfriend from high school will ask her if she’s Greek.

You maenad will issue a grimace that is truly terrifying, and she will say, “More importantly, I’m with the band. Bottoms up!”  And she will swill more of her fetid wine, which seems to congeal as it runs down her chin.

You will return from the kitchen, arms laden with the roast you’ve prepared for dinner.  Your best girlfriend from high school will look markedly uncomfortable.  “Oh, the calories!” she’ll say, casting a nervous glance at your maenad.

You will set the roast on the table and your maenad will pounce before you’ve even had a chance to remove your hands from the platter. She will grab hunks of meat and start ripping them to shreds she will voraciously stuff into her mouth, which she will not bother to close when chewing.

This will be the last straw for your best girlfriend from high school, who will set down her glass of chardonnay with more force than she intended to.  “That’s disgusting,” she’ll say, “Who the eff raised you?”

Your maenad will bare her teeth, which have hunks of gristle caught between them. The goatskin will come out again, and after she’s gulped her fill of fetid wine, your maenad will say, “This is nice and bloody—just the way I like it.”

It will belatedly occur to you that you should have given your best girlfriend from high school a briefing on just what to expect at dinner with a Maenad. Since you didn’t, and since your best girlfriend from high school is accordingly unprepared for the situation, she folds her cloth napkin in prim creases, and lays it on her chair once she’s pulled it back from the table and stood up. 

“No civilized person could be expected to eat with”—she will make a dramatic hand flourish in your maenad’s direction—“this. I’m leaving,” she says.

You offer your objections, but for your best high school girlfriend, the line has been well and truly crossed. The door has closed behind her before you’ve had the chance to fully process what just happened.

You cast a reproachful glance at your maenad, who is licking the blood from the rare roast from her fingers. She catches the look you’re giving her and shrugs. “Never could stand a priss.” She finishes her sentence with a resounding belch and pulls out her goatskin. “Now the party can start,” she says.

Then you hear someone at the door. A gaggle of crazed-looking women see themselves in, their hair matted with fur, dirt, and leaves, their faces streaked with mud, their sharp fingernails—more like talons, really—filthy, their loose dresses falling off their shoulders, and their eyes shining with the wild secrets of the forest. Each carries a goatskin, which they raise to the members of their collective and swig.

“I hope you don’t mind that I brought company,” your maenad says, proffering you her goatskin. Meanwhile the other maenads descend on the shredded remnants of the roast, tearing hunks of meat and stuffing them into their mouths as fast as they can.

Your tablecloth is hopelessly stained with meat juices and wine and you doubt all of them will come out.  The maenads adjourn to the backyard, where they welcome the full moon with bouts of frenzied dancing and shrieking, joined in a circle and moving faster and faster until they’re all a blur, and you watch through the sliding glass door, enthralled and horrified.

You hear more commotion at the front door and the maenads drop to their knees, lift their heads in unspeakable ecstasy. A horned man, bare-chested and wearing leather pants, swaggers through your kitchen. His body is simultaneously sculpted and razor thin. He is wearing a crown of flowers and leaves. Everything about him spells trouble. He makes his way toward the backyard to join his entourage.

And now, you think to yourself, watching in rapt, helpless fascination, shit is really about to hit the fan.

When a Maenad Does the Housework

She will lick each plate clean and then smash it on the floor. She’ll tear the dirty drapes to shreds with her bare hands and set them on fire in the backyard. When she notices dirt on the floor, she’ll smear it with her bare feet so everything blends. When there are no clean wineglasses, she’ll throw the dirty ones against the wall and shriek in delight as the shards rain down. When the wine opener is nowhere to be found, she’ll smash the neck of the bottle against the counter and imbibe in great greedy gulps, the liquid cascading down her face and neck in purple rivers. When the linens are soiled, she’ll wipe her ass with them and decide to sleep on the floor. It’s too hot for linens anyway. A maenad’s blood runs hot.

When a Maenad Goes on a Job Interview

Her eye contact will be fierce and unrelenting, and her firm handshake will border on violence. There will be moss and bark stuck to her suit and a moth in her hair. Something about her will seem familiar.

She’ll answer each interview question with, “Well, I always ask myself—what would Dionysus do? And then I try to do that.”

She will account for gaps in employment with tales of sabbaticals spent running wild in the forest, howling at the moon, and communing with other wild things.

“I’d rather have gaps in my employment than in my lived experience,” she’ll tell you. 

Trust fund, you’ll think.

The way she looks at you will make you feel like she can see the gap inside of you, your plastered-on lacuna smile, your empty eyes, the vacant stock responses that roll off your tongue like rabbit pellets. You perfected your persona long ago.

“Do you mind if I smoke?” she’ll ask you, and it will be a rhetorical question.

Of course you mind if she smokes. No one can smoke indoors in this day and age. Everyone knows that.

Undaunted, she’ll take out a hand-rolled cigarette and light up. Fragrant, herbal smoke will fill the room while you sit there, speechless, unable to believe this is happening. She will of course set off the fire alarm, activating the ceiling sprinklers, soaking you, her, and the rest of the hiring committee.

Your maenad will cackle with shrieks of wild glee, jump up on the conference room table and dance a crazy rain dance, arms outstretched, embracing the steady spray of water.

You’ll reach under the table and press the panic button, the one that summons the police.

She is so not getting this job, you’ll think.

And you know she won’t care, because she’s already doing exactly what she needs to be. What she was put here to do.

You will feel a creeping jealousy in spite of yourself.

Why can’t that be me? You’ll think.

And spend the rest of the day, and your life, doing what you’re supposed to.

Later, in the restroom, you’ll pick a moth from your hair. It will make you wonder.

When a Maenad Goes on a Date

She will order the most expensive item on the menu: prime rib, bloody in the middle, and many bottles of Cabernet. She’ll rip the hunks of meat with her bare hands and lick the blood from her fingers. The flowers you gave her will be scattered on the floor, a ruined pile of shredded petals. When dessert arrives, she’ll crawl across the white tablecloth and rake her talons through your hair.

At this point, the maître-d will intervene, and you will be asked to leave.

You’ll attempt to extricate your maenad’s claws from your hair. She is, it turns out, stronger than you, and snarls at your attempts.

“We have to leave,” you say. “People are looking.”

And they are. All eyes are on you, and they are not approving.

“Fuck them,” your maenad says. “And fuck me.”

You try to maintain your composure.

Your maenad drags you to the parking lot. You’re barely in the car before she attacks you, and soon your shirt is in tatters. She rakes her claws down your chest, and when you look down, rivulets of blood are streaming down your torso. She kisses you with such violence that it may as well be a punch. In spite of yourself, you find yourself kissing her back. Before you know it, you’ve blacked out.

When you come to, you’ll be in your own bed, with no idea how you got there. Every inch of you will hurt. You’ll wonder what has become of your maenad. As you sit up, a few errant leaves will fall from your hair. You’ll notice dirt beneath your fingernails. Memories of the forest will wash over you: the full moon, the animal howls, the teeming thrum of insect life. The smell of blood, desire, and terror—intoxicating.

You’ll stagger out of bed and get ready for work. You’ll think of all that life could be. Crawling along in gridlock traffic, you will remember the night you were wild. You will remember the night you were free.

When a Maenad Goes Out at Night 

She runs through the forest, gaining momentum, until she lights upon her prey and tears it limb from limb. She will smear the blood of the bison, deer, elk—whichever unfortunate creature wandered into her crosshairs—across her face and lift her head toward the moon. She will howl like a wolf, but more feral, as if she could shatter the forest with her scream. She will raise her arms and extend her hands, palms facing upward, to the heavens. She will chant ancient chants, long lost to mortals, in the hope of summoning the White Bull. She will be forever wanting. The nature of a maenad is to want. She does so unapologetically, embraces her abjection, her sloppy, unseemly female need.

A maenad needs many things: meat; mead; the caress of the cold wind on her arms; the damp, black loam of the woods between her toes; the flesh and fur of her prey beneath her fingernails; and, above all, the One True Bull. This is bull, you might say, and she would merely regard you with pity. Poor you! Not knowing enough of the divine to long for it. To want it hysterically. To need it like she needs the night wrapped around her. Maenads do not sleep because there is too much night to want. No number of nights can fill the need.

As the night begins to wane and the first insinuations of dawn insert themselves in the horizon, a maenad will survey the havoc she has wrought and congratulate herself on another night well-lived. She may retreat to the forest and sleep the day away on its floor. Or she may not. She may just be getting started. For the day has its own wilderness, and a maenad is a wild thing indeed.






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5 Responses to “When a Maenad…”

  1. When a Maenad… | Defenestrationism.net Says:

    […] « When a Maenad… […]

  2. When a Maenad… | Defenestrationism.net Says:

    […] This is part three. Read the suite from the beginning. […]

  3. When a Maenad… | Defenestrationism.net Says:

    […] This is part four. Read the suite from the beginning. […]

  4. When a Maenad… | Defenestrationism.net Says:

    […] This is part four. Read the suite from the beginning. […]

  5. Matt Hollingsworth Says:

    This is a cute story, really funny, especially the first. I’m not sure I really got why the other characters felt so jealous of the Maenad’s lifestyle. That doesn’t seem particularly fulfilling.

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