Saturday, May 4, 2019
There are many things on my mind that I want to share with you today. If I had known about the most recent one before yesterday, I would have done a midweek post. First let me welcome you…
Welcome to my sanctuary. Pull up a chair. The sanctuary may be found in a quirky Tennessee town called Atonement. It might be at a diesel-punk train station with an outrageous flapper named Lulu. Or it could even be found at a steampunk submarine port, with an alchemist named Cornelis. For now, my sanctuary has moved to a crossroads in a rural Mississippi town sometime in the late 1950s to early 1960s. So, I also welcome you to the crossroads.
Yes, my blog is my sanctuary — a place where I can feel safe from the world. It’s a place for me to share stories with friends (old and new). It’s also a place where I can promote and lift up others. That’s why I love making serials “interactive” by using things from readers.
That said, I freely admit to being a blog-tater. I wouldn’t come into your house and be less than hospitable to you. So, behave accordingly. Bullying in any form, including passive-aggressive behavior gets deleted.
Now the new thing on my mind… Here it goes again — that Creative One-Mind thing!
At the end of the post concluding my Cornelis Drebbel serial, I talked about how utterly undermined I was (in 2015) because I had all the details of a novel outlined (in-depth too, not pantsering). Then I saw a movie with all those same details. Something similar happened with the new serial here — Brother Love. Guess what I just found on Netflix…
I haven’t had time to watch the show on Netflix, but there’s also this article about it. At least it’s not as bad as the thing with The Skull of the Alchemist, but still I no longer look original… I just look like an unimaginative copycat. It’s frustrating.
Onward to the reason we are here. Let’s get back to my crossroads!
This is my new spontaneously written, pantser story, done in my “Three Things” way of writing. Blogger Dan Antion collaborates with me on this new story. He provides photos to inspire me and illustrate the posts. Dan also gives me two of the “three things” that drive this unplanned serial. The third thing comes from you the reader!
The things you’ve already sent won’t be used in any particular order. This week’s reader supplied thing is croquet mallet from Ally Bean at The Spectacled Bean blog.
Without further ado, I’m delighted to bring you Chapter 2 today!
Previously with Brother Love
Chapter 1. Birdie crawled half-under the table to pick up the flyer. The kitchen light flickered and popped, causing her to bump her 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, she scrunched the rest of the way under the table.
Brother Love 2
Shadow, Rain, and Croquet Mallet
The footfalls hesitated. It seemed like they turned back toward me, although I couldn’t see in the dark. Then I realized there had been a faint noise outside. Maybe that was the reason for the pause.
I dared not breathe, but the way I was crouched under the table, I wouldn’t have been able to draw a good breath anyway.
The footsteps moved across my little kitchen to the spot where the PanAm calendar hung on the wall. I heard the pages rustle.
Then a firm knock rapped against the frame of the flimsy screen door.
Surprise shot through me like electricity. My body jerked and I banged my head and shoulders against the underside of the table.
The kitchen light, along with the single light-bulb on the porch flickered and then came back to life.
A shadow lurched outside on the porch, and the knock came again, harder.
“Miss Devovo, are you alright?” came the startled voice of a man. “Birdie, it’s Reverend Armstrong. Is everything okay?”
For half a beat I stayed under my table. Just as I was sure someone had been in the kitchen with me a moment before, I was also certain they were suddenly gone.
The preacher sounded as spooked as I felt. His voice had the slightest quiver. Plus, Doug Armstrong never added “Reverend” to his name. Preacher, or more often Brother Armstrong was how he named himself.
His fist banged on the screen door-frame again. I extricated myself from my hiding spot before Armstrong broke the poor excuse for a door.
That didn’t make it any easier for me to calm myself. I opened the door, and belatedly thought to straighten my dress.
I was relieved to see anyone including the preacher, but I was too rattled to know what to say.
“What brings you to the outside of town so late, Brother Armstrong?” I asked.
Doug was a big, tall man. A single stride took him halfway across the kitchen. His eyes darted around the room, and he took another step, craning his neck to see the living room.
“The Lord’s work doesn’t keep a schedule,” he replied with forced joviality.
I didn’t wonder so much about why he was out long after dark. Rather, I was curious as to why he took the road on the back side of the house.
You see, my house sat in a triangle between ways at a crossroads. There was a street in front and another road in back. There were also any number of old trails that intersected there.
Old superstitions about the crossroads abounded. My mother had been able to get the house because no one else would have it. I kept it because I had nowhere else to go.
Doug Armstrong looked down at me as if inspecting my face.
“Is everything alright here, Miss Devovo? As I was driving by,” he began but hesitated and shook his head. “Maybe it was just a trick of light and shadow, but I thought I saw somebody moving around on the porch. Then the lights sparked and went out. I was concerned for your safety.”
I gulped. I wasn’t sure why I would hesitate to tell him what had happened. Maybe it was just the lifetime of skepticism and outright disdain I had experienced.
Communities on any side of the crossroads, on both sides of the tracks, as they would say, had whispered about me all my life. They knew my mother would take up with any musician who came through. After I grew up, she finally ran off with one.
They never believed the story my mother told when we moved to Parliament, Mississippi. I wasn’t sure I believed it myself, but she always said my father had died in the military when I was too young to remember him. It would have been easier to believe if it hadn’t happened before the war.
Heck, maybe it was true. A few times she got drunk and claimed the government had covered up the real circumstances of his death. My mother had some wild stories, but conspiracies weren’t among them.
Anyhow, Doug Armstrong was probably the only person they gossiped about as much as they talked about me.
Although Doug made no secret of his past. His whole purpose in life seemed to be a constant attempt to redeem himself. Doug was an ex-convict. He had gone to prison for killing a man.
He was also one of the few people who would even think about visiting the house at the crossroads.
I cleared my throat and then told him about hearing someone in the kitchen. He asked if he could look around. I nodded my assent. Although I was sure we were the only ones there. I also knew there would be no sign that anyone else had been in the house.
Even so, it was a comfort to have Doug look through the house. He checked every window and door. He even looked in the closets.
Doug brought a croquet mallet out of one closet, suggesting that I might want to keep it at hand. However, just as I expected, there was no indication that anyone had been inside the house.
“I guess it was my imagination,” I said awkwardly.
“Then it was mine too,” he muttered. “There hasn’t been any rain,” he went on in a speculative tone. “So, I guess there’s no use looking outside for footprints. Even with a flash light, it would be hard to tell much in the dark.”
I got the feeling that he was nervous. It made me want to ask him if he was alright. However, that seemed rude, so I didn’t.
Doug looked down at my hand. I hadn’t realized that I still clutched the flyer I had crawled under the table to retrieve. It was for Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.
The mimeographed ad boasted of a revival meeting every night for a week, with evangelists from all over the state, and the supposedly famous Brother Love himself. I’d never heard of him.
“Will you be preaching there?” I asked Armstrong.
“I was invited, but I haven’t decided,” he answered.
There was something strange about his voice and manner when he replied. I had no idea what was behind it, but it gave the kind of uneasy feeling that makes you want to look over your shoulder.
Then I noticed the calendar. I had been looking at the July picture and left that page up, because I liked it better than the image for August. The calendar was turned back to August. There was a smudge on the square for the coming Saturday. The mark had not been there earlier.
Jinx back-winged in his hurried flight when he saw the lights flash and go dark. He alighted cautiously in the upper branches of the towering spruce pine. He looked down inquisitively as someone walked across the back porch and into the house.
Curiosity got the better of the magpie when a moment later the big man stopped his old red car and went to the door. Jinx glided down to the southern magnolia. He settled amid the glossy dark leaves, next to a big hairy seed pod that had previously been a fragrant snow white flower.
He tilted his head. Was it random chance that brought Doug Armstrong there at that specific moment? Or did it happen by design?
Real World Notes — Southern Magnolia
In 1938 the southern magnolia was named the state tree of Mississippi. Who picked it? The school children of the state cast their votes. The southern magnolia was already the state flower, originally named as such in 1900.
It’s a long-lived evergreen species found throughout the southeastern United States. The glossy leaves are dark green on top and yellowish to brown on the underside. In the spring, the highly fragrant showy white flowers, emerge, but may bloom sporadically throughout spring and summer.
When left to grow naturally, southern magnolias have an irregular canopy, with many large twisting branches lower to the ground. At maturity they may reach 100 feet in height, although that doesn’t happen often.
Real World Notes — The Kissing Couple
From Dan: Those statues are in the Renaissance Hotel in Minneapolis, MN known as The Depot. It’s a hotel built in the renovated Milwaukee Road railroad depot. They kept a railroad terminal theme throughout the hotel. The statue is called “Kissing Couple.”
I imagine this statue as Birdie’s mother when she ran off. Dan tells more about these images in this post at his blog, “No Facilities.”
Thank you for coming to my sanctuary for the second 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.
More storytelling by Teagan
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USA: Atonement, Tennessee
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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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