Saturday, May 18, 2019
Note: Last week I mentioned Dan was working on his own post about his part of the inspiration for the Doug Armstrong character. That is Dan’s Saturday post this week at his blog, No Facilities.
Welcome to my sanctuary at the crossroads. Relax and sit for awhile. It makes no difference what your name may be. Although there is oh so much in a name.
I tend to obsess about character names. In stories with a real world setting (even if they are also fantasy) I try to add authenticity through the names of some characters. With Atonement, Tennessee and Atonement in Bloom, I consulted a (public) government database that will show the most popular names, for a state, in a given year.
Last time in A Hymn, we met two new characters, a woman and a little girl. I had to give the girl a first name. To my those ever so handy databases I went. I chose four names from the 100 most popular names in Mississippi in 1960. (Since I haven’t established an exact year for the story, that’s smack in the middle of my range of when the story might take place.)
Then I sent my top choices to Dan Antion and asked if he’d mind choosing the name. He chose from Dorothy, Shirley, Sandra (Sandy), and Tammy. As you know, he picked Tammy.
One of Dan’s “things” for Chapter 4 is the number nine. This song came into the story. It also inspired a couple of street names.
For Chapter 4, the “things” from Dan are Round Domino and Nine (the number). The third thing is from V. M. Sang, Faberge egg. She had not left a comment before my “call for things,” but that’s perfectly fine.
This time I apologize and request your patience. I was barely able to get this chapter posted in time. It’s raw. You’ll undoubtedly see a lot of mistakes, but at least I managed to get it here.
It’s time to go to the crossroads.
Chapter 2. Doug Armstrong stopped at Birdie Devovo’s house at the crossroads moments after the lights went out. He said he saw someone moving around on the porch. Birdie certainly thought someone was inside. Yet, was it odd that Doug should be there at that specific moment? Was it random chance? Or did it happen by design? If so, then whose design?
Chapter 3. An unknown woman and a rather odd little girl stopped at the house at the crossroads asking for directions. They were looking for Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. The woman said she believed Tammy could be healed of her hemophilia there.
4 — A Domino
Round Domino, Nine, and Faberge Egg
Even after I could no longer see or hear the Ford, I stood there, pondering the strangeness of the child.
Jinx fluttered down near my feet. He started pecking at something amid the gravels of the drive. I noticed a small black disk. With his beak, he tossed it into the air.
Sometimes when the magpie found bottle caps, he liked me to throw them for him to find. However, that was no metal cap.
I bent down for a closer look. A black disk with white dots. It was right beside where the woman had stopped her car.
While she had called the child by her name, Tammy, the woman had not given her own name. She was awfully nervous. I guessed that getting lost made her too flustered to think of social niceties. Although I didn’t feel she had been rude.
Jinx pecked at the disk again. I picked it up to investigate before he could fly off with it.
“Oh,” I felt so foolish that I said it aloud.
I had never seen a round domino. The game behind the regular kind mystified me. For the longest, I didn’t even know there was a game. Dominoes were just something you stood up to watch each one knock down the next. I wondered what you were supposed to do with round ones.
Jinx acted like he wanted it back.
“I know you found it, Jinx,” I told the bird. “It must belong to that strange little girl. If I see them again, I’ll give it to her.”
The magpie made a series of noises then started singing one of his favorites. He usually just repeated the simple chorus over and over again, but that time he sang most of a verse.
“When I kissed a cop on Thirty-fourth and Vine. Broke little bottle number nine,” he sang, getting most of the words.
“That’s a much better song than what you sang yesterday. Come on back to the house and I’ll give you another strawberry.”
That got his attention. For the next half hour, the magpie serenaded me with Love Potion Number Nine.
The song wouldn’t leave my head. I was still humming it the next morning when I got dressed to do errands.
I hated going into town. It didn’t matter whether people were uptown or down, or which side of the tracks, rich or poor, they… Well, let’s just say they didn’t approve of me. It’s hard to say which was worse, the spiteful remarks, or the cold, aloof behavior.
Granted, my mother had given them enough fuel for gossip to last several generations. They speculated about my parentage and then about whether I was legitimate. They cast doubt on my race, and even my sanity ― all knowing I could hear them.
Other comments spoken in hushed, sometimes fearful tones made me wonder if people really did think I was some sort of devil, just because I lived at the crossroads on the outside of town.
People could be so foolish. As if there weren’t crossroads all over town. As if there wasn’t a crossroad anywhere two roads met, I thought.
Regardless, I had things to do that wouldn’t do themselves. So, I got up and pulled my brown ringlet curls into a ponytail and got dressed.
Women in cities might have started wearing slim cigarette or capri pants out in public, but that hadn’t become acceptable in Parliament, Mississippi. I already attracted enough frowns and gossip, just from my mother’s reputation, so I didn’t wear those out in public.
I tried to banish the thoughts as I put on a yellow gingham, shirt-dress. It had a little bow at the neck from the same check fabric. Then I tied on my blue denim Keds. New white laces kept the wear and tear from being as noticeable. Nobody would know the soles were worn slick.
When I drove the old Nash Rambler wagon into Parliament, I turned onto Fourth Street. That took me past the First Methodist Church.
I noticed several cars in the parking lot. Among them was a late model Ford. When I saw a bleached blond head, I knew it was the car from the evening before.
Then I gave myself a mental kick for the uncharitable sound of the word. Describing a woman’s hair as bleached was insulting, even if that was obviously the case. I never wanted to treat others the way I was treated.
I saw Tammy getting into the car. The woman stood near the vehicle, talking to the preacher and some other people. One of them handed her an envelope.
For a moment I considered stopping. I was sure the domino must belong to Tammy so I had put it in my pocketbook just in case I saw them again. What good was a game with a missing piece?
As the woman put the packet into her white handbag, I realized it contained cash. She had mentioned Tammy’s medical bills taking all their money. It was not unusual for families with a sickly child to go to churches in their area for donations.
But they aren’t from around here, I thought. She must be in terrible need to ask for help outside their own community. It would embarrass them if they knew I saw.
So, I continued on my way. I stayed on Fourth Street to stop at the bakery. A loaf of freshly baked bread was my reward for going into town. Then I headed to the Post Office on Vine Street.
At the corner I noticed they had put up a street sign for the intersection of Fourth and Vine. The visual of the sign made me think of Love Potion Number Nine again. Parliament, Mississippi was nowhere near big enough to have a 34th Street, as in the song. However, Fourth and Vine was close enough to make me chuckle.
The Post Office was one of the prettiest buildings in Parliament. It was also one of the oldest. I liked the cooling marble floors and arched doorways.
Inside, a policeman removed a picture from the “most wanted” wall. When he looked up I saw it was Lamar Poole. He wasn’t originally from Mississippi, but he had been with our police force for many years.
The lawmen weren’t as bad as most of the rest of the people. Maybe it was because they had seen some truly bad people. Anyhow I felt comfortable enough to say hello.
“Caught one!” I said in a go-team sort of way.
“Unfortunately, there’s always at least one more to replace the ones that get caught,” Sargent Poole replied in a friendly voice.
He held out a newspaper with an article about “grand larceny” and a valuable Faberge egg.
“Are those things really worth that much?” I exclaimed.
Lamar’s expression showed skepticism, but he nodded. Fancy baubles were apparently not to his taste.
My mouth dropped open when he showed me the wanted-picture of the criminal.
I knew that face.
End Chapter 4.
Thank you kindly for reading 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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