Tuesday, March 19, 2024

“Poisoned Stew to Go” • by Henry Herz

(with apologies to William Shakespeare)

BANQUO (to himself): Ah, Macbeth, thou art king now, as the witches promised, and I fear thou played’st most foully for it. Still, they also said the crown would pass not to your posterity, but to mine. So I have’st that going for me.

(Enter Macbeth and Lady Macbeth)

MACBETH: Welcome to our castle, Banquo. Thou art our chief guest. No celebration would be complete without thee. We have arranged a special dinner on your behalf. So please, no snacking. As anticipation shall make the, um, banquet sweeter, we will keep ourself alone till suppertime.

BANQUO: My lord.

(Exit Banquo)

MACBETH: To be the king is nothing if I am not safe. Banquo is my enemy and scarest the bejeezus out of me. He is noble, willing to take risks, and his mind never stops working. He has the wisdom to act bravely but also cleverly.

LADY MACBETH: Why not simply take his head, milord?

MACBETH: Well I could with barefaced power sweep him from my sight and take claim of the deed. Yet I must not. For there are certain friends that are both his and mine, whose support I cannot lightly discard. I must be able to wail his fall who I myself struck down. And thence it is, I must mask this foul business from the common eye.

LADY MACBETH: What will you do, milord?

MACBETH: Remain innocent of the plot, my dear, till thou may applaud the deed. Come, night, and raise your bloody, invisible hand to extinguish my foe. The day creatures begin to drowse, while night's black agents to their prey do rouse!

LADY MACBETH: My lord! Thou employ’st rhyme?

MACBETH: Marvel at my words, but hold thee still. No one questions my iron will. To sharpen a blade, one must hone. Now, where’s the royal telephone? 

(A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron. Thunder. Phone rings.)

FIRST WITCH: Thank you for calling Acheron BBQ Pit. May I take your order? Uh, huh. Anything else, Lord Macbeth? Very well. That will be three pound twenty. Your order will be ready in the hour. We are open all night, milord. Yes, we do take credit cards. Good evening.

(hangs up)

FIRST WITCH: Four orders of beef stew, one with poison!

SECOND WITCH: Four stew, one spicy, aye.
Round about the cauldron go,
In the poisoned entrails throw.
Toad bespeckled, wart and blot,
Boil thou first in rusted pot.

THIRD WITCH: Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH: Fillet of a forest snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake.
Eye of new and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog.
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth, boil and bubble.

THIRD WITCH: Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH: Tooth of wolf and dragon scale,
Witches’ locks, teeth and tail
Of a ravenous deep-sea shark.
Root of hemlock dug in the dark.
Liver of a kangaroo,
Gall of goat and slips of yew,
Slivered in the moon’s eclipse.
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips.
Finger of birth-strangled child,
Ditch-delivered and reviled.

THIRD WITCH: Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH: Cool it with a wand of wood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
And now about the cauldron sing,
Like elves and fairies in a ring.

THIRD WITCH: By the pricking of my thumbs,
Someone wicked this way comes.
Open, locks, whoever knocks.

(Enter Macbeth)

MACBETH: We are in a royal hurry, as our coach is double parked. How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags?

FIRST WITCH: There’s no need for name-calling, milord. Welcome to Acheron BBQ Pit. Will you dine in or are you here to pick up?

OTHER CUSTOMER (interrupting): Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!

MACBETH: What’s this? How dos’t thou know me? Had I three ears, I’d listen with them all.

OTHER CUSTOMER: Oh, king be bold and laugh to scorn,
Banquo’s power for none of woman born,
shall harm ye.

MACBETH: That is all to the good, but I’m no fool. Will Banquo’s sons yet come to rule?

OTHER CUSTOMER: Be lion-hearted and take no care,
who frets or where conspirers fare.
Macbeth shall never vanquished be,
until to Dunsinane come a host of tree.

MACBETH: I like the sound of that, good dude. Excuse me whilst I claim my food. I called in four orders of stew. Poison into one you threw?

FIRST WITCH: Yes, milord. That’s three pound twenty. 

MACBETH: You have filled my urgent need. Now, I’m off to do the deed.
Keepeth the change.  



Henry Herz’s stories will/have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Weird Tales, Pseudopod, Metastellar, Titan Books, Highlights for Children, Ladybug Magazine, and anthologies from Albert Whitman & Co., Blackstone Publishing, Brigids Gate Press, Air and Nothingness Press, Baen Books, and elsewhere. He’s edited seven anthologies and written twelve picture books. www.henryherz.com






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