Saturday, June 1, 2019
Welcome back to the crossroads.
As you know, Dan Antion shares his photographs to illustrate Brother Love. I make the serial “interactive” by letting things left by readers drive everything about the story.
I’ve completed at least six long-running serials here at Teagan’s Books — each of them written spontaneously and driven by “things” from readers. Perhaps the thing I enjoy most about writing these serials is involving you readers. I just had another idea for how to do that. I’m naming the businesses in fictional Parliament, Mississippi after readers! Keep an eye out for a couple of them today. I hope you’ll take a moment to visit all the links.
The reader “thing” today is a Coke from Mary J Melange. Be sure to check out her marvelous blog. Say hello to Gibbs and Ziva too.
The other “things” for Chapter 6 are from Dan — Trusses and Telephone.
If you’ve missed a chapter, I posted links to all the previous installments in “Get to the Crossroads.”
Chapter 5 — A Face. Birdie Devovo saw a wanted poster. The person being sought for grand larceny looked like Ava Gardner, the movie star. However, Birdie had seen that face somewhere else — she just couldn’t place it. Meanwhile, little Tammy (Chapter 3 — A Hymn) ran out into a street in downtown Parliament and…
It’s time to go to the crossroads.
6 — A Ring
Trusses, Telephone, and Coke
Quickly, Jinx flew up the road, on the outside of town. Though he reached the spot in moments, the music had stopped.
The magpie lingered on a current of air above the railroad spur. When he heard the music from his perch on the Alligator Motel sign, he also heard something moving on the rails. He soared above the tracks but found no train car.
However, the clearing was no longer vacant. In the place with no trees, sat a large ragged tent. Jinx fluttered to the ground and waddled beyond the open tent flap.
A movement startled the magpie and he flew up to the tent trusses high above. As he alighted, a guitar began to play a gospel tune.
Jinx looked down, watching the long fingers that effortlessly played the guitar. Whatever the music was, it wasn’t blues. Jinx kept to his lofty roost.
The musician stopped.
“What’s the matter with you? That’s a good gospel beat” the man called up to the bird. “Oh, I get it. You like them unresolved tritones. You want blues. Well now, magpie, hereabouts they say the blues is the Devil’s music, and this is a house of the Lord,” he explained in a sardonic tone, with a gesture that included the whole tent.
Jinx eyed the musician. The bird shifted foot-to-foot, but stayed on the truss. The man gave a soft, slow chuckle.
“Have it your way, then,” he said and then began to sing.
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above “have mercy, now save me, if you please…”
Jinx flew down to perch on the back of a folding chair and listened.
Between Joanne’s Five and Dime and the Hugh’s Appliance Repair stood the object of my sprint across the street ― a Coke machine filled with icy beverages. It made no difference that I wanted a Dr. Pepper. We called all fizzy soft-drinks “Cokes.”
However, the sound of a child calling out caused me to stop before releasing my nickel into the metal slot.
“Miss Bird Lady!” Tammy called to me.
I turned to see the girl as she darted out of the beauty parlor. She ran headlong into the street, and narrowly missed being hit by a car.
Tammy fell to her hands and knees, having tripped onto the sidewalk. Luckily for the child, the car had better brakes than a lot of the vehicles in Parliament, Mississippi.
There was a telephone booth next to the vending machine. It gave a single ring, and abruptly stopped. I glanced at it, but I had no thought for the phone, with what had just happened. I returned my focus to the little girl.
I had no idea where he came from to be standing there. When I crossed the street, no one had been near the booth or the drink machine. Yet long slender fingers grasped Tammy’s hand.
“You’re all right,” he started, in a soft slow voice. “No need for tears. Everything will be fine.”
Ever so gently he helped the child to her feet. She wiped a tear from her face. Tammy and I both stared into the depths of his eyes. They were black as coal.
With the imminent threat of the car removed, I remembered a danger equally great. Tammy was a hemophiliac.
As the child stood, I plopped to the pavement to inspect her knees and palms. Tiny pebbles were pressed into her flesh. Miraculously, none of them had broken the skin.
“Tammy! Tammy!” a woman ran from the beauty parlor shouting.
She still wore the cape to protect her clothing. Cotton balls were placed all around her hairline. Small curlers covered her blond head.
When I looked back to Tammy, the man was gone.
Without a word to me, the woman grabbed Tammy’s hand and hustled her back across the street and into the beauty parlor.
“Are you alright, Miss Birdie?” a voice inquired.
I saw a large pair of two-tone brown oxfords. Doug Armstrong put out a hand to courteously help me stand.
I didn’t know where Doug was originally from, but it was from somewhere farther north than Mississippi. It showed in his accent. Or maybe I should say his lack of accent. His voice didn’t seem to carry the sound of any particular part of the country. I figured that was because he traveled a lot. However, he often used “Miss” before a woman’s first name, according to southern custom.
He turned to look at the hair-curlered form quickly sashaying across the street, with Tammy in tow. His brows knitted in a questioning way. I looked askance at his expression.
“Children… I never had any, but they seem awfully impulsive,” he began.
Still rattled from seeing the near miss, I only nodded my agreement.
“That girl reminds me of my little sister. She wasn’t much bigger than that the last time I saw her. She’d be a grown woman by now,” he finished in a faraway voice.
During the confusion one of my Keds had come halfway off my foot. I teetered for a moment, trying to get the shoe back in place without removing it.
To my embarrassment, Doug stooped down and helped me get my foot back into the shoe. He hesitated for a moment and I was sure he had noticed how badly worn the sole was. Thankfully, he made no comment.
Instead, Doug pointed to the advertisement crumpled in my hand.
I had forgotten that I still held the flyer for Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. Although I had dropped the nickel for the drink machine.
“Hmm? Oh, it was laying on the sidewalk and I picked it up,” I told him.
I took a quick glance at the pavement, but didn’t spot the five-cent piece.
“I hear the big tent went up,” Doug commented in an odd tone. “Must have been awfully quick. Nobody saw it happen. But I guess there on the outside of town, a lot can happen without it being noticed.”
“I don’t suppose you were planning to go?” he added pointing to the flyer again.
It wasn’t exactly a question. I murmured that I hadn’t planned on it. He nodded his understanding.
“They act like they think you consort with the Devil, just because of where your house is,” Doug replied with a snort. “I hadn’t planned to go either. But I vowed to follow the calling to preach back in—” he stopped mid-sentence.
I knew he was about to say “back in prison.” Who could blame him for not wanting to talk about that? I waited silently, and half a beat later he continued.
“I try to preach some, whenever I’m here at home. But none of the churches here have needed me since I got back into town this time. So, I’ll go to Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” he stated with a trace of contempt.
There was a telephone booth next to the vending machine. As Doug spoke, the phone again gave a single ring, but then stopped.
Doug looked at the booth as if wondering whether he should go and pick up the phone. When it didn’t ring again, he turned back to me.
“I could really use some moral support,” he admitted ruefully. “If it’s not too much of an imposition to ask you to be there.”
Jinx knew Birdie’s old car when he saw it far below. Unnoticed, the magpie dropped down. He sat on the edge of a rooftop watching the humans.
He tilted his head and leaned closer when he saw Birdie was talking to a man. He kneeled down and was doing something to her shoe. Jinx was fascinated by a small shiny spot of skin that showed through the hair at the back of the man’s head. Then he recognized him as the Sinnerman.
The outdoor telephone rang. It only rang once, but Jinx noticed the tone of the ring matched the note of the guitar when it played Crossroad Blues.
Real World Notes
Magpie Trivia. Magpies can recognize specific humans. Some studies have shown they can differentiate between two humans even if they wear a clothing “disguise.” For example, a studied group of the birds did not like climbers (they were a perceived threat to the nests). However, when a climber and a “non-climber” (new person) wore the same hat and clothes, the magpies could tell the person who had bothered them in the past from the new person. (More information on the study here.)
Thanks for taking time to read 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
Photos Copyright © 2019 by Dan Antion
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