Saturday, July 13, 2019
Thanks for joining me for this walk to the crossroads.
This chapter comes with a couple of warnings.
Warning 1: It’s long. I can hear some of you groaning.
Warning 2: It’s the conclusion, the last chapter. Now I hear the rest of you.
I didn’t know until Monday that Chapter 10 was the penultimate chapter, or I would have… well, I would have warned you.
My heartfelt thanks to Dan Antion of No Facilities for letting me use his wonderful photos throughout this series. Dan went above and beyond the call as my collaborator for this story. He was always ready to get just the right image for each episode. He was proactive, doing all sorts of photo shoots at antique stores, with birds, and at crossroads. Plus, he patiently let me bounce ideas around, no matter how off the wall. Thank you again, Dan.
… And A Special Surprise!
I still have a few reader “things” left over. I apologize to everyone whose “thing” didn’t get into the story. A special shout-out to Adele Marie Park, whose thing “gris gris bag” took me to Birdie’s name paper. I really wanted to do more with that hoodoo angle, but the things brought the story to a close before I got there.
For this concluding chapter, I only used one thing — I’m Walkin’ which came from Dan.
If you need to review the previous episode, click to Chapter 10 A Cut.
Last time. The blood from Tammy’s finger slowed as it passed through the air of that hot August night. It hung there. A stream of red droplets was suspended in… nothing.
Jinx mimicked the sound of a telephone ringing one time. My ears started to ring with the very same sound. However, it went on and on, an endless ring.
Without further ado, let’s get to the crossroads for the conclusion.
11 — A Walk
Shouts of “Hallelujah!” continued to resound through the congregation. It made no difference that there was a scuffle at the choir’s exit, where Sargent Poole arrested Ruth Leiber. It only added to the cacophony of noises. The revival tent was in chaos.
Standing just a step away from us, I saw Brother Love. A moth fluttered past the guitar, which was still slung across his back. His face radiated an angelic smile. His reaction seemed absurd to me.
What if Tammy panicked and ran? I kept a tight hold on her shoulder. If she started running, that would be disastrous for a hemophiliac.
But is she really a free bleeder? I abruptly wondered. Tammy’s dad, the man who died in a fight with Doug… he was a hemophiliac. Yet Doug’s comment a moment before came back to me. Did Doug think he, in fact, might be Tammy’s true father?
Tammy’s eyes darted from Doug to me, to her bleeding hand. Hurriedly she pointed at Doug.
“Miss Birdie,” the girl began in a normal voice.
A faint ringing filled my ears. It grew louder, drowning out Tammy’s voice, but she had stopped talking anyway.
Almost everything around me started to move very slowly. Almost.
Jinx continued to scratch at the white handkerchief, trying to cover my locket.
Tammy shifted closer to me. Her eyes quickly roamed the stage.
However, those were the only things that seemed to move at a normal rate.
As sluggishly as everything besides Jinx and Tammy, the moth ever so gradually made its way through the air toward the lights above. It was impossible that the insect didn’t move faster.
Brother Love stood still. I couldn’t tell if he was affected by whatever was happening, or if he simply hadn’t moved.
Doug’s mouth made slight movements, like a film where the projector was running down to a stop. Bit by bit his eyes turned to the blood coming from Tammy’s finger.
As I watched, the narrow stream of the child’s blood slowly lifted into the air. The stream of droplets pointed toward Doug.
Then the blood divided into two streams, one of which pointed to me.
Doug’s mouth stopped in an odd mid-word expression.
The moth’s absurdly slow assent completely halted.
Yet Brother Love stepped forward to stand beside me. He moved the guitar from his back to hold it in one long fingered hand.
My eyes went back to the divided stream of blood. I wasn’t sure if I heard it making a faint hum, or if I felt the quivering of it. Either way, the two streams vibrated at different pitches.
“My grandma always said blood will tell, although she meant it in a hateful way,” Brother Love commented as if in idle conversation. “Like attracts like. At first, I didn’t know if the girl was like us, or if she just had… well, let’s say special mental abilities. But her blood is attracted to its like.”
What did he mean, like us? I wondered.
Although I didn’t have to think about the idea of Tammy having “special mental abilities.” It had been clear the first time I met the child that she was different. I remembered that moment clearly. It had been about the calendar in my kitchen.
Maybe Tammy could have seen into the kitchen window. She looked at the house and then at me.
“I like July better than August too,” she told me.
I wondered if they had the same PanAm calendar that hung on my kitchen wall. How else would Tammy come up with that comment about July and August?
As the Ford got back on the road, I looked toward my kitchen window. The calendar wasn’t visible from the spot where the car had been.
From the branches of the magnolia tree, Jinx started singing “Washed in the Blood” again.
Gradually, the thin stream of red droplets that moved toward Doug reached him. In slow motion, it splashed onto his shirt.
“That’s where his heart would be,” I murmured.
Jinx had stopped scratching the handkerchief. Instead, he pecked at the locket until it was half open. Carrying the necklace, he hopped over to me.
The other part of the stream of blood continued its inexorable progress toward the spot where Brother Love, Jinx, and I were. Love’s coal-black eyes went to the bird.
“Still not ready yet, magpie?” he asked the odd question. “All things in their own time then,” he finished with a shrug.
I looked at Jinx curiously.
There had always been a magpie. My mother said his name was Jinx. She said her mother gave him to her.
Jinx came and went as he pleased. Now and then he would disappear for a while, sometimes for a long time. I realized it couldn’t be the same bird every time he came back. The magpie would have been more than sixty years old if that was the case. Yet he was always named Jinx.
“They say there’s a secret chord,” Brother Love commented casually. “One that pleases the Lord. I wonder if that’s so.”
Then he strummed an intricate sound on the guitar. I was amazed that he could place his fingers in such a complex position on the frets. I also saw that the guitar had an extra string.
He strummed the chord a second time, and then a third.
The thin stream of blood became a fine cloud of mist. I felt the minute moisture on my skin, but as quickly as the sensation came, it was gone, absorbed.
I looked at Tammy’s finger. The place where the cardboard cut her finger was completely healed. Not so much as a blemish remained.
Brother Love turned to Doug. He strummed the guitar again. Doug “caught up” with us, though the rest of the congregation, and everything else in the tent, remained immobile.
Doug’s hand shot out to grab Tammy’s. He examined her finger carefully. He made relieved sounds. I thought words were probably beyond him for that moment.
Jinx still held my half-opened locket in his beak. He whistled. Then he dropped it and the name paper fell out.
The words of the hoodoo protection spell began to unravel. To my eyes, the script seemed to lift into the air, much as Tammy’s blood had done.
In order to make that name paper, words ― intentions had been written over each other nine times. With each intention, the paper was turned clockwise before writing. It made it impossible for me to decipher the decades old script. Previously, I had been able to make out my own name, but nothing else.
As I watched, the letters of my name, Alberta Devovo, lifted into the air. I also saw the name, Jinx.
I looked curiously at the magpie. He perched on the headstock of Brother Love’s guitar. With his head tilted to one side, Jinx intently stared at the words floating in the air.
It was hard to decipher the words as they wavered in midair. I made out “Keep them safe.” However, trying to read the shifting script was making my stomach queasy. One word came into focus ― home.
“How odd that I’d see that word, when I’ve never felt at home for as long as I can remember.”
I didn’t think I had spoken aloud, but Brother Love replied.
“There’s a reason for that, Birdie Devovo,” he said with a bright-eyed smile.
Then I saw the rest of that line of the hoodoo spell, “Bring them home.”
Abruptly the nine layers of words began to flow into a connected stream. It swirled, growing larger. My scalp tickled as my hair lifted slightly. I felt it pull at me.
A silent exchange seemed to take place between Jinx and Brother Love.
“Magpie, you just told me that you ain’t ready,” Love protested. “Oh, I get it. You ready for them to be ready, even if you ain’t.”
Brother Love began playing a blues tune on the guitar. The magpie fluttered down to me.
About the time I recognized the notes for a Muddy Waters tune called “I’m Ready,” Jinx started to sing part of the song.
I know you feels like I ain’t nowhere
But stop what you’re doin’ baby come over here
I’ll prove to you baby, that I ain’t no square
Because I’m ready, ready as anybody can be
I am ready for you, I hope you’re ready for me
As the magpie sang, he stepped toward the swirling script from my name paper. I wondered that the spiral didn’t suck the bird away. I could feel it’s pull growing stronger.
“Are you ready, Tammy?” Brother Love asked the girl.
The child seemed to understand everything that was happening. Although I sure didn’t!
Tammy looked at Doug. He looked rather confused, but not as utterly befuddled as I felt. I thought he had at least some idea of what was happening.
“Only if he comes too,” the girl stated firmly.
Doug and Tammy stood beside Brother Love. Doug took Tammy’s hand. He took a deep breath.
“The first time I met you,” Doug began as he looked into Brother Love’s dark eyes. “I thought you meant to carry me to Hell. Now I see that you’ve given me a great gift, even if only for a moment,” he added as he looked down at Tammy’s tiny hand in his huge one. “If Jesus is calling my child home, then I am ready to meet the Lord too,” Doug pronounced.
“What?” Brother Love exclaimed in shock. “It ain’t like that, Sinnerman. Well, you weren’t never a magpie, but if the girl wants you to come with us, then that’s alright with me.”
At those words, Doug looked as confused as I felt. I murmured my lack of understanding.
Jinx imitated the ring of a phone again. I gazed helplessly at everyone else.
“Birdie Devovo, why do you think the phones rang one time? Why do you think the magpie makes the ring sound?” Brother Love asked in a bemused voice. “He heard the call. He wants to make sure you hear it too, even though you ignore it.”
That didn’t enlighten me at all.
Brother Love played another series of chords on the guitar. Each tone was more intricate than the last.
The ringing sound was overwhelming. The swirling of the words from the name paper grew in velocity. My eyes squeezed shut. I felt myself being pulled into a vortex.
Abruptly the pressure that surrounded me released. The ringing stopped. We were enveloped in the cool air of a foggy evening.
Through the mist I could make out tombstones in the distance to one side. Turning, I could see the roofline of my house. That meant we were at the crossroads.
“Crossroads are how I travel,” Brother Love answered my unasked question. “My energy comes from them.”
“Are we… dead?” Doug questioned in an unsteady voice.
Tammy chuckled. She still held his hand.
“No, silly,” she told her father. “But now we don’t have to be strange or different,” she murmured as if to herself. “We don’t have to be alone,” she looked up at Doug and told him with a smile.
“We won’t be shunned,” she added as she turned to me.
“What is it with that bird?” Doug blurted out as Jinx alighted on Tammy’s shoulder.
“He’s still a magpie,” Brother Love told him, as if that explained anything.
“Jinx is still a magpie. We were all magpies once. Except for you of course,” Tammy told Doug.
“Well, not ordinary magpies. For certain beings, this particular kind of magpie is a stage of their progression,” Brother Love supplied.
He turned to me when I muttered my lack of understanding.
“Before I became me, I was like you,” Brother Love said. “Before that, I was like Jinx, a magpie. Just not the regular kind. So were you, Birdie ― and Tammy.”
“Jinx should have become like you a long time ago. But for reasons of his own, he is not ready to stop being a magpie,” Brother Love added.
Brother Love stood in the middle of the crossroads. He spread his arms wide. We all moved closer to him.
He had said he used crossroads to travel. He seemed to mean we could go with him. Tammy bounced on her toes eagerly.
The fog drew closer to us. I could no longer see beyond the crossroads. The mist started to shimmer.
“How?” was all I could manage to ask.
“You ain’t got to do nothing,” he replied. “I’ll take care of that part.”
“Where?” Doug asked, equally brief.
“Wherever we need to go,” Tammy told him.
“Yes,” Brother Love agreed with the girl. “There must be a need.”
Once again, Jinx imitated the ring of a telephone. The tone of the ring sounded the same, but that time the vibration of it felt different to me. It seemed to settle into my skin, instead of bouncing off my eardrums.
I had no idea what had changed, what was different, but in that moment, for the first time I could remember, everything felt right.
Jinx fluttered to the ground. With the bobbing gait of a magpie, he walked toward the shimmering fog. In the distance I heard the faint ring of a telephone. Jinx seemed to be moving toward the sound.
As the magpie walked, Jinx started singing Fats Domino’s song.
I’m walkin’, yes indeed, and I’m talkin’ ’bout you and me
I’m hopin’ that you’ll come back to me
I’m lonely as I can be, I’m waitin’ for your company
I’m hopin’ that you’ll come back to me
I shrugged and followed the magpie. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew it was where I needed to be.
As promised the “universal” links to Amazon in various countries for Brother Love – A Crossroad are here below the book cover.
Giveaway! Leave a comment, and I will put the names into a hat to do a drawing for a free Kindle/e-book of the novella, “Brother Love — a Crossroad.”
Note: The drawing is now over. The winner will be announced Wednesday.
Thanks to everyone who has commented on this serial for being a part of “Brother Love.” I appreciate your weekly visits to the crossroads.
Keep an eye open whenever you are at a place where one path intersects another. You just might get a glimpse of Jinx, or of Brother Love.
Hugs on magpie wings!
Now for the obligatory shameless self-promotion…
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
USA: Atonement in Bloom
USA: Atonement, Tennessee
(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )
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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