Carnival of Farts

“Oh my god, Alli, I can’t believe you missed tonight, it was the best!”

Alli’s roommate Becca flung herself down on the couch. Alli didn’t even look up from their laptop. “I was busy.”

“Busy being boring. That paper isn’t due for like four whole days.”

Which meant Becca hadn’t touched it yet and would be begging them for their notes in three days. They winced in memory of Becca’s steady whine of just a peek, I only want to see your references from the last paper.

“I have to turn it in tomorrow since I won’t be in class on Monday.” Excitement thrummed in their veins. It was the Carnival of Farts this weekend. Except it wasn’t a carnival, not exactly. And it wasn’t about flatulence.

“You never skip!”

“Religious exemption,” Alli said. They’d booked their plane ticket months ago. It was their first overseas trip and it had taken months of saving every penny from their second job to save for it. But it was worth it. For the first time in their life, they would be surrounded by people with similar beliefs.

They would be at the Carnival of Farts.

“That stupid fake religion? Your professor bought that excuse?”

The professor wasn’t really allowed to ask once Alli had invoked the phrase religious exemption. Besides, they were a decent student and always turned papers in on time. Just because they hadn’t heard of the Carnival of Farts before didn’t make it any less real. And Alli had notified them in advance that they would be missing classes. Most of their professors shifted around due dates and didn’t make a big deal of it. But their religious studies professor asked for a write-up of the celebration in lieu of any missed assignments.

Which was great because most of their classes loaded them down with assignments during fall break.

“It’s not fake, Becca.”

“Prove it.”


“Take me with you.”

“Do you even know where I’m going?” Did they? Not really. The birthplace of the Carnival of Farts was in a town lost to history. But every year believers gathered in Madrid and made a pilgrimage to the lost city.

Everyone thought Alli was taking Spanish in high school because it was the easiest language to learn in a town dominated by Mexican immigrants. Alli had grown up speaking Spanish to their Great Grandmother, the woman who had raised them in the faith. But when she’d passed away when Alli was still nothing more than a little girl, the language slipped from their mind like a rusty sieve.

Even with the lessons in high school and continued on into college, Alli had never reclaimed the fluency they’d had in their youth.

“Does it matter? It’s going to be so much fun!”

“Yes, Becca, it matters. Can you even afford a last minute plane ticket to Madrid? My flight leaves tomorrow night and I can’t afford to pay for you.”

“Spain? We’re going to Spain? You jerk! You should have told me your stupid religion meant you got to go to Spain and I never would have questioned it!”

Alli bit back a sharp retort. The religion wasn’t stupid. “Don’t make me regret this.”

“On my heart, never!”

Becca forked over the thousands of dollars necessary for a last minute plane ticket out of the country and Alli didn’t question where the money had come from or why she could never seem to cover bills when they were due. You couldn’t pay your roommate with daddy’s credit card.

Alli’s seatmate refused to swap with Becca, so the plane ride was long but blissfully quiet after popping in earbuds. They were asleep long before beverage service rolled through and when they woke up it was with the dawn hailing their descent into Spain.

It was impossible to avoid Becca at baggage claim and so with her luggage and her baggage, Alli called the shuttle that would take them to the city gates where they would join the others.

There was a large crowd outside the gate when they arrived. Children and dogs darted underfoot and were greeted with good natured swears. Alli grabbed Becca’s arm before she could wander off and after introducing themselves to one of the passing adults, gained directions to where to check in.

“So like, why’s it called the Carnival of Farts? Are we going to be eating beans or something?”

A man with salted hair joined them. “During the Roman occupation of Hispania, worship of our lord was done in secrecy. Every autumn after the harvest our ancestors would take a tithe out under the Roman’s legionnaires’ noses. To escape inspection, they would pretend a great malady in which only the healing coastal waters could cure.”

“But why farts?”

“It’s not important,” Alli muttered even though they were curious. It was the one thing their grandmother had never been able to explain.

“Everyone you ask will have a different answer. Some say the pretend malady caused great flatulence, others say it was as an insult to the Roman Legionnaires, others yet claim the name was another burden inherited from the Romans.” He held out his hand to Becca. “I’m Rafael.”

“Becca. That’s Alli.”

“You have many questions, Becca. Is this your first time attending the Carnival?”

“Both of our first time,” Alli cut in. “My grandmother raised me on tales of the Carnival, this was the first time I could manage to come. Becca’s just…” they trailed off not wanting to out their roommate as a non-believer. “Becca’s here to see what it’s all about.”

“Any excuse to visit Spain,” Becca agreed.

“Ah yes, I do recall the late addition to our ranks. Welcome, both of you. I trust you will find the pilgrimage enlightening.”

Becca started complaining about fifteen minutes into the excursion and with every complaint I ignored, she became louder and more persistent until the entire pilgrimage glared at her.

“You should have stayed at home if all you’re going to do is complain.”

“You said Spain, you never said walking down a country road.”

It was down the side of a highway, the country roads wouldn’t come until later. “We’ve barely left Madrid. If you don’t want to be here, turn around and get a hotel room. You can meet me at the airport.”

“You would make me walk back alone? No, you’re coming with me.”

“You can either go back by yourself or shut up and continue on with us.” Alli ditched Becca moving to the front of the group. If she wanted to leave, so be her. She wasn’t their problem any longer.

“It is not good to fight,” Rafael said.

“Coming on this pilgrimage is everything I’ve dreamed of for years and last minute she insisted on joining me and now I have to babysit her.”

“If you abandon her now, what will happen when you return home?”

She would be impossible to live with. “So what, I’m supposed to give up on the pilgrimage because she’s being unreasonable?”

“You could always try reasoning with her.” Rafael patted Alli on the shoulder and then turned to speak to another.

A quick scan of the crowd revealed that Becca hadn’t taken my advice: she was still with the pilgrimage and still making everyone around her miserable.

“Look, I’m sorry this isn’t what you expected. I should have done a better job talking you out of coming.”

“I get it, you don’t want me here. You never want stupid, party girl Becca around. No one does.”

They grabbed her arm and pulled her aside. As large and slow-moving as the pilgrimage was, it wouldn’t be that hard to catch up. “That’s not it and you know it. But this—walking twenty-something miles to a town that doesn’t exist? Camping out overnight? You hate this kind of thing.”

Becca sniffed and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, leaving a streak of mascara. “Why do you even want to do this? You’re not religious.”

“It’s the last connection I have to my grandmother. Growing up she would tell me about the carnival and it was our secret. Years after she died I found photos of her and my grandpa at the lost city and I realized it wasn’t just the story of a delusional old woman. Coming here? Standing in the same place she once stood?”

“I didn’t know.”

Because they didn’t talk about it. “I know. But… this is important. I can’t just give up. But I get it, it’s not your thing. So I won’t be mad if you go back to Madrid but I can’t go with you.”

Becca flung herself into Alli’s arms, all soft curves. “You should have said. Of course I’m not going back. And I’ll stop complaining.”

“You won’t.”

Becca laughed. “You’re right, I won’t. But… I’ll be less obnoxious about it.”

And really, that was all Alli could ask for. When they held out their hand, Becca took it, lacing their fingers together. “Come on. Spain awaits.”

“I’m in Spain, how cool is that!”

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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