Saturday, April 27, 2019
Happy weekend, everyone! It seems like such a long time since I did an “interactive” serial with reader participation. Well, I’m finally back with a new spontaneously written, pantser story done in my “Three Things” way of writing. I’m delighted to bring you the first installment today!
Blogger Dan Antion collaborates with me on this new story. He provides photos to inspire me and illustrate the posts. He also gives me two of the “three things” that drive this unplanned serial. The third thing comes from you the reader!
Some of you read the original introduction I posted recently, when I shared how this idea began about a year ago. I’ve revised it to fit this collaborative effort and include the first three things. Now that part is Chapter 1 — but first I have the Prologue. On a whim I added a character that suddenly came to mind. Like I said, this is full-on pantser storytelling.
This time, all three things will be from Dan, but after that I will start including reader “things.”
Oh, and I went pos-i-lutely off the rails and narrated the last part of the prologue as an extra bit of punishment. The sound bite bar is at the end of the prologue and before chapter one.
Without further ado, I present to you…. Brother Love.
Brother Love 1
Prologue — A Sinnerman
On a moonlit night, a dark figure sat on the corpse of a fallen tree. He touched the narrow brim of his Trilby style hat, pushing it back from his brow. Patiently he tuned a guitar. Long fingers deftly twisted the tuning knobs. Wooden pegs would have been typical. These were made of ivory.
No, they’re not just ivory, they’re made of bones, Jinx silently reminded himself. I wonder if they came from one of the old graves here?
Any grave stones were long gone, if there ever were any in the first place. Only the town’s oldest residents knew the clearing near the crossroads had been a graveyard. Even they wouldn’t have been able to say whether it was a potter’s field or an old Choctaw burial ground.
With head tilted, Jinx waited eagerly for the music he hoped to hear. For a moment he thought he should give some encouragement, ask for a song. Yet discretion seemed the better course. Jinx remained quietly hidden in shadow.
Those graceful long fingers caressed the guitar’s neck, and then tested the sound at each fret, every chord. Casually a thumb strummed across the strings.
Excited, Jinx leaned forward toward the vibration of the music that emanated from the guitar’s sound hole.
Jinx had positioned his hiding place so he could also see the crossroads. Yet he didn’t notice the approach of the powerfully built man. Jinx was too intent in his anticipation of the music. His heart skipped a beat with surprise, but he didn’t move a muscle.
Foolish! Jinx mentally chided himself. This is no place to let your guard down.
He watched the approach of the big man in fascination. Sweat soaked the armpits of the white shirt. The heat and humidity of an August night in Mississippi didn’t bother Jinx, but Doug Armstrong had never gotten used to the climate.
Long strides slowed as Doug approached the figure who sat in a relaxed pose on the fallen tree. Though his manner was reluctant, it seemed clear that the encounter was not by chance. Even so, Doug stopped well out of arm’s reach.
Doug Armstrong mutely watched the man as he finished tuning the guitar. The sweat of the big man’s brow glittered in the moonlight.
Jinx thought Doug perspired more than most men. Although he had good reason to be in a nervous sweat. That place, the crossroads, the dark figure ― Doug would have been stupid to relax.
Abruptly, those dark, graceful fingers stopped strumming the guitar. He held it out to Doug, offering the instrument. Armstrong took a step backward. His arms remained stiffly at his sides.
The other gave him a kind smile. He chuckled softly. Then mischief glinted in his coal black eyes and he played the guitar and sang.
With the first words of the song, Doug’s face blanched. He turned to walk away. He moved faster and faster until he ran through the night, away from the crossroads.
“What about you, magpie?” the musician called up toward the trees. “Care to come down here and sing with me?”
The figure went back to the song that seemed to frighten Doug Armstrong away.
“Oh, sinnerman, where you gonna run to? Sinnerman where you gonna run to? All on that day!” he sang and played.
Jinx burst from his hiding place and flew home as fast as his wings would carry him.
1 — A House at the Crossroads
Baseball, Excited, and Pickles
In the summer, leaves hung down so far, they almost reached the sweet-smelling grass on the ground. Moths clung to the screen, attracted to the kitchen light.
Earlier that day, sitting in my little house at the crossroads, I listened to the sharp crack of a bat hitting a baseball from the ballgame that had started up in the field next to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. People cheered their teams and made happy sounds.
From the other side of the tracks, I heard the bell of the First Methodist Church up in the town. When the breeze was right, I could hear the Wurlitzer organ as the choir practiced. Folks were excited about that organ. I preferred the sound of their old piano.
The two churches were on either side of the town. The crossroads lay between the two. Nobody from either of them ever came to the house at the crossroads. Neither group wanted anything to do with Birdie Devovo. By the way, that would be me.
When the sun finally hid behind the horizon, the heat remained. I fanned myself futilely with a mimeographed flyer. It did nothing to alleviate the heat of the night, and the cloying odor of the ink turned my stomach.
I stared at the wet circles on the formica tabletop as the ice melted in my glass of sweet tea. Absently I wondered if some pickle juice would remove the rings.
At last a breeze! I thought with a sigh.
It rustled the pages of the Pan Am calendar hanging on the wall. August exclaimed “Back to Hawaii” and boasted a man and woman disembarking a plane while greeted by hula dancers and musicians. That scene was too far-fetched for my imagination.
I liked July better. It showed a couple, suitcases in hand, laughing and walking fast. Yes, I liked that one best. They could be anyone, going anywhere… maybe the girl could even me.
The mimeographed flyer floated on the breeze from the table down to the cracked and faded linoleum floor.
For the umpteenth time I wondered who came all the way to the outside of town to leave it, but I was glad I missed them. They left the ad on the front door. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, it read.
Thunder rumbled faintly, very far away. Maybe there would be rain.
Or maybe not, I thought as I put the damp glass to my forehead.
It had been hot and humid for so long that the heavenly rumble seemed like an empty threat.
I crawled half-under the table to pick up the flyer. The kitchen light flickered and popped, causing me to bump my head. Then all the lights went out.
The screen door creaked open. Normally it would bang shut, but it closed softly.
At the sound of footsteps, I scrunched the rest of the way under the table.
Real World Notes — Hats Back in the Day
I was torn between two different hats when I wrote the prologue. So, in these notes, I’ll share both. Since I imagine K.C. Collins in the part of the (as yet) unnamed figure with the guitar, I went with the Trilby he often wears in his role as Hale on “Lost Girl.”
Trilby Hats. The Trilby style has a narrow brim and might be made from rabbit hair, tweed, straw or wool, and pinched on both sides with an indented crown. The front brim is snapped down, but the back brim is turned upward. The trilby may be finished with a ribbon and a feather.
The Trilby hat was used in a 1894 illustration for the novel “Trilby” by George du Maurier. The novel was an international success. The heroine was named Trilby.
Many say the Trilby is a bastardization of the Fedora. However, others believe it modernized the look of men’s hats.
Pork Pie Hats. A small round hat with a narrow and curled brim, finished with a ribbon is known as a pork pie hat. The crown is either flat or slightly domed, with a crease running along the crown perimeter. As you may have guessed, “pork pie” is a term used to describe hats symbolically resembling the culinary British pork pie dish.
Early in the 20th century, film star Buster Keaton immortalized the hat for men. He owned more than 1,000 of the hats in his lifetime.
A slightly enlarged style of the pork pie became popular during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was preferred by Frank Lloyd Wright and jazz musicians. Its popularity grew again during the 1940s.
Heartfelt thanks for being here for the first episode of Brother Love! If you want to participate by leaving a “thing” to be included in a future episode, please make a comment. Remember this is a mysterious story, set in rural Mississippi of the late 1950s to early 1960s.
I’ll meet you at the crossroads again next Saturday! Hugs on the wing.
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This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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