Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Happy hump day, everyone! In keeping with the current, surreal version of “normal,” I wondered what my characters might think about social isolation. I’ve had a lot of characters. The one who “spoke” loudest about the topic is Birdie Devovo, heroine of Brother Love — a Crossroad.
You see, Birdie experienced more than her share of social isolation. However, for her, it wasn’t voluntary — she is a social outcast, shunned by all the various groups within her community. Thank goodness she has Jinx.
Birdie Devovo is not a kid, but she is young and healthy. She had to become self sufficient at a younger age than most people. Since her neighbors didn’t want anything to do with her in the first place, she might wonder what all the fuss is about. At the same time, she would be worried about a little girl she had met — Tammy, who is a “free bleeder,” a hemophiliac.
Dan Antion collaborated with me on that story. He provided photos to inspire me and illustrate the posts for the blog serial version. Brother Love — a Crossroad was written in my “three things” style of story-telling, and Dan also provided many of the random things that fueled each chapter.
Since Birdie popped into my head this morning, I’m going to share the prologue and first chapter. Many of you are already familiar with the story, and I’m sorry to give you a repeat. Anyhow, here it is…
Brother Love 1
Prologue — A Sinnerman
On a moonlit night, a dark figure sat on the corpse of a fallen tree. He touched the narrow brim of his Trilby style hat, pushing it back from his brow. Patiently he tuned a guitar. Long fingers deftly twisted the tuning knobs. Wooden pegs would have been typical. These were made of ivory.
No, they’re not just ivory, they’re made of bones, Jinx silently reminded himself. I wonder if they came from one of the old graves here?
Any grave stones were long gone, if there ever were any in the first place. Only the town’s oldest residents knew the clearing near the crossroads had been a graveyard. Even they wouldn’t have been able to say whether it was a potter’s field or an old Choctaw burial ground.
With head tilted, Jinx waited eagerly for the music he hoped to hear. For a moment he thought he should give some encouragement, ask for a song. Yet discretion seemed the better course. Jinx remained quietly hidden in shadow.
Those graceful long fingers caressed the guitar’s neck, and then tested the sound at each fret, every chord. Casually a thumb strummed across the strings.
Excited, Jinx leaned forward toward the vibration of the music that emanated from the guitar’s sound hole.
Jinx had positioned his hiding place so he could also see the crossroads. Yet he didn’t notice the approach of the powerfully built man. Jinx was too intent in his anticipation of the music. His heart skipped a beat with surprise, but he didn’t move a muscle.
Foolish! Jinx mentally chided himself. This is no place to let your guard down.
He watched the approach of the big man in fascination. Sweat soaked the armpits of the white shirt. The heat and humidity of an August night in Mississippi didn’t bother Jinx, but Doug Armstrong had never gotten used to the climate.
Long strides slowed as Doug approached the figure who sat in a relaxed pose on the fallen tree. Though his manner was reluctant, it seemed clear that the encounter was not by chance. Even so, Doug stopped well out of arm’s reach.
Doug Armstrong mutely watched the man as he finished tuning the guitar. The sweat of the big man’s brow glittered in the moonlight.
Jinx thought Doug perspired more than most men. Although he had good reason to be in a nervous sweat. That place, the crossroads, the dark figure ― Doug would have been stupid to relax.
Abruptly, those dark, graceful fingers stopped strumming the guitar. He held it out to Doug, offering the instrument. Armstrong took a step backward. His arms remained stiffly at his sides.
The other gave him a kind smile. He chuckled softly. Then mischief glinted in his coal black eyes and he played the guitar and sang.
With the first words of the song, Doug’s face blanched. He turned to walk away. He moved faster and faster until he ran through the night, away from the crossroads.
“What about you, magpie?” the musician called up toward the trees. “Care to come down here and sing with me?”
The figure went back to the song that seemed to frighten Doug Armstrong away.
“Oh, sinnerman, where you gonna run to? Sinnerman where you gonna run to? All on that day!” he sang and played.
Jinx burst from his hiding place and flew home as fast as his wings would carry him.
1 — A House
Baseball, Excited, and Pickles
In the summer, leaves hung down so far, they almost reached the sweet-smelling grass on the ground. Moths clung to the screen, attracted to the kitchen light.
Earlier that day, sitting in my little house at the crossroads, I listened to the sharp crack of a bat hitting a baseball from the ballgame that had started up in the field next to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. People cheered their teams and made happy sounds.
From the other side of the tracks, I heard the bell of the First Methodist Church up in the town. When the breeze was right, I could hear the Wurlitzer organ as the choir practiced. Folks were excited about that organ. I preferred the sound of their old piano.
The two churches were on either side of the town. The crossroads lay between the two. Nobody from either of them ever came to the house at the crossroads. Neither group wanted anything to do with Birdie Devovo. By the way, that would be me.
When the sun finally hid behind the horizon, the heat remained. I fanned myself futilely with a mimeographed flyer. It did nothing to alleviate the heat of the night, and the cloying odor of the ink turned my stomach.
I stared at the wet circles on the Formica tabletop as the ice melted in my glass of sweet tea. Absently I wondered if some pickle juice would remove the rings.
At last a breeze! I thought with a sigh.
It rustled the pages of the Pan Am calendar hanging on the wall. August exclaimed “Back to Hawaii!” and boasted a man and woman disembarking a plane while greeted by hula dancers and musicians. That scene was too far-fetched for my imagination.
I liked July better. It showed a couple, suitcases in hand, laughing and walking fast. Yes, I liked that one best. They could be anyone, going anywhere… maybe the girl could even me.
The mimeographed flyer floated on the breeze from the table down to the cracked and faded linoleum floor.
For the umpteenth time I wondered who came all the way to the outside of town to leave it, but I was glad I missed them. They left the ad on the front door. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, it read.
Thunder rumbled faintly, very far away. Maybe there would be rain.
Or maybe not, I thought as I put the damp glass to my forehead.
It had been hot and humid for so long that the heavenly rumble seemed like an empty threat.
I crawled half-under the table to pick up the flyer. The kitchen light flickered and popped, causing me to bump my 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, I scrunched the rest of the way under the table.
Well, of course I had to leave you hanging — that’s what I do. (winks) If you missed the serial, you can get the Kindle version for 99 cents.
You can find more information about all of my books, including Brother Love — a Crossroad at my Author Page. Or click the “About Teagan’s Books” link just under the steampunk banner at the top of the page.
I’ll meet you at the river again next Saturday, for another chapter of The Delta Pearl! Hugs on the wing.
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 © 2020 & 2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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