Saturday, May 25, 2019
Welcome back to the crossroads.
As you know, the popular blogger and photographer Dan Antion illustrates Brother Love. I try to bring Dan into some of the process of creating the story. The “things” for this chapter led me to a scene that required some knowledge I didn’t possess — dark-haired actresses of the era. At the time Dan was visiting his brother, Bruce, and they both took up the challenge. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
Sometimes my life creeps into my stories, with small parallels. I’ve been having a disfiguring allergy problem. (It’s finally a lot better, thanks. Apparently running its dreadfully long course, just as they said.) I guess that’s why my narrator for this story became conscious of her appearance in chapters 4 and 5.
Birdie Devovo can’t afford to dress “to the nines,” but she tries to look presentable. She wouldn’t buy a love potion, No. 9 or otherwise. However “nine” will come into this story a few times, now and in the future.
Last time, the song Love Potion No. 9 sneaked into the story as I wrote. It caused me to name a couple of the streets in Parliament, Mississippi. I also used the song for another name (first name and surname). Let me know if you spot it this week.
The reader “thing” today is from author Diana Wallace Peach at Myths of the Mirror. Diana has been working over-time giving us monthly writing prompt images — and sharing the resulting stories on her blog. I think that’s a huge effort. The prompts she chooses are inspiring. I thank her for all the work she does, and for all her encouragement and support.
At first Diana sent an ordinary thing for this story. Then she decided that was too easy to be any fun. What did she give in exchange? A Taxidermied Alligator. No really, she did. I expected it to be quite awhile before I was able to use that, but it crawled into this chapter. The other “things” for Chapter 5 are from Dan — Iron and Chewing Tobacco.
Chapter 3, A Hymn. 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.
Chapter 4, A Domino. When Birdie’s errands took her to the Post Office on Vine Street, police Sargent Lamar Poole was hanging up a new wanted poster. Birdie thought she knew the face on the poster. We’ll learn what resulted from that encounter. Meanwhile Jinx is flying around, doing whatever magpies do. Let’s take a look at things from a bird’s eye view.
It’s time to go to the crossroads.
5 — A Face
Taxidermied Alligator, Iron, and Chewing Tobacco
Jinx perched atop the sign for the Alligator Motor Lodge. He looked at the spot five hundred yards away where the railroad tracks crossed Highway 61. It was another kind of crossroads.
Inside the picture window of the motel office was the establishment’s claim to local fame ― a taxidermied alligator. A couple walked arm in arm from the motel office, pointing at the erstwhile beast. They had signed in as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, but anyone would have known the names weren’t real.
The pair laughed when they looked up to see a bird perching on the sign as if he sat on the alligator’s nose. Jinx paid them no mind.
A Ford pulled directly up to one of the motel doors. The blond woman at the steering wheel paused, watching the couple go to their room. She briefly looked around the parking lot, as if judging whether the place was suitable.
The woman already had a key. A little girl got out of the passenger seat. She was not strapped in, the way she had been before.
Jinx started to flutter down to say hello to the girl, but he stayed put. He watched the woman. Little ball-shaped earrings could be seen with her short hair. Their facets glittered in the sunlight, mesmerizing the magpie.
“Come on, Tammy. Stop dawdling,” the woman told the child.
“The room smells funny,” Tammy complained.
“Well, there wasn’t much to choose from in this podunk town.”
“That preacher said there was plenty of room for us to stay at his house,” the child countered.
“You know we can’t do that. We need to get inside. Get out of the car. Now,” came the command. “Be sure to bring the bag with your new white dress.”
“Why do I always have to wear white to services?” Tammy asked as she got the bag from the backseat.
“It’s more dramatic,” the woman answered.
Jinx watched as she took a key that was hooked to a plastic alligator shape. She inserted the key and opened the faded green door.
“Will he really be there?” Tammy asked.
The woman turned. In contrast to her pale hair, her eyebrows were dark. Her brows went up, but her eyelids lowered slightly as she gave the child a sidelong look.
“If he isn’t there, maybe we will visit that preacher at his big house. Would you like that?” she asked in a different tone, as the green door closed behind them.
Jinx tilted his head toward the trees, listening. Although there had not been a train, he heard the sound of something moving on the rarely used railroad spur. The section of track stopped in a clearing on the other side of the thick stand of trees.
Then the magpie heard the distant chords of a guitar, coming from the same place. The first time he heard the song, Sinnerman, it frightened him. That time he flew toward the sound.
The Post Office door was propped open with an old-fashioned iron to let in the scant August breeze. A soft current of air rustled the papers the policeman held.
Noticing how I stared at the wanted poster, Sargent Poole handed it to me rather than hanging it on the Post Office wall.
“Somebody you know, Miss Devovo?” he asked.
Lamar Poole’s tone was a tad too official. I had the fleeting thought that maybe he wasn’t all that different from the other people in town after all.
However, my main concern was with the picture. My brows knitted as I thought ― and thought. Have you ever had the feeling that the memory was just barely out of reach, and that if you worked at it hard enough, you could pull it up from the depths of your recollections and out through your mouth?
“I could swear that I’ve seen that face,” I murmured, but shook my head.
The policeman relaxed again. He even smiled a little and chuckled.
“A lot of people think she looks like Ava Gardner,” he commented. “Maybe that’s what made her swap petty theft for grand larceny. An attractive woman like that could talk a man out of his life’s savings.”
The pictured woman had dark hair down to her shoulders. After Sargent Poole mentioned it, I could see that she did bear a strong resemblance to the movie star, Ava Gardner.
Although I was sure I had never met anyone who looked like a sultry dark-haired screen vixen, I couldn’t get over the feeling that I knew the face from somewhere.
“Ruth Leiber,” I read the name on the poster. “May be traveling with―”
Abruptly, the policeman took the poster from me as he turned. Poole strode out the door in a huff.
I only glimpsed it, but a man had spat a long stream of disgusting brown onto the sidewalk.
“Chewing tobacco,” I muttered and wrinkled my nose.
In a few strides Poole caught up with a man.
“Where’s your self-respect?” Sargent Poole demanded and threatened to write the perpetrator a ticket if it happened again.
Meanwhile, the postal clerk had worked through his line of customers.
“Can I help you ma’am?” he called to me.
Back to my own business, I quickly forgot about the wanted poster. Those thoughts were replaced by thirst. There was a vending machine across the street. I decided to splurge and buy myself a Doctor Pepper.
As I left the Post Office, I paused by the beauty parlor next door. The shop window had a picture of a fashionable woman against an Italian backdrop. Frowning, I turned away without going closer.
The last time I asked to get my hair done there, they told me there wasn’t an opening available for two months. Yet as I was leaving that day, a woman walked in and was waited on immediately.
With a sigh, I told myself my hair was too curly to ever wear a European bouffant like Sophia Loren. All they had ever managed to do with my hair was the poodle cut, favored by Lucille Ball, I thought with dissatisfaction.
A paper blew against my Keds. I bent to pick it up. It was one of those mimeographed flyers for Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. It made me think of the unknown presence in my house, and the smudge on my PanAm calendar.
I felt a chill. Although in the heat and humidity of an August day, that didn’t last long. I took a nickel from my change purse and went across the street toward the drink machine.
“Miss Bird Lady!” a child’s voice called.
I turned to see Tammy dart out of the beauty parlor and into the street.
The breaks of an oncoming car screeched.
End Chapter 5.
Real World Notes
Magpie Trivia. Magpies can hear the sound of grubs and worms under the ground. With that in mind, I figured Jinx could easily hear a guitar on the other side of some trees.
1950s Hair Styles. Hair trends for young adults broke free of the more conservative coiffures of the World War II Era. Names for the styles ranged from whimsical to glamorous, including European bouffant, the duck tail, the pixie, the pompadour, the poodle cut, as well as the simply named short and curly.
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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