Brother Love 8 — A Confession

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Welcome back to the crossroads.    

Brother Love promo image

Image collage by Teagan, featuring a photo by Dan

This chapter has two things from  Dan Antion, who shares his photographs to illustrate Brother Love.  Read on to see how I used Bubblegum and Newspaper in this episode.

The third “thing” that is used to drive Chapter 8 is from Fraggle, aka C. J. Hyslop, who is a marvelous photographer.  It’s easy to see what a terrific imagination she has at Fraggle’s Other Place.  What was Fraggle’s thing?  Camera, of course!

I have to give Dan credit for a line in this chapter.  In our discussion about the two evangelists who inspired my Doug Armstrong character, Dan talked about something the preacher from his past said about not inviting people to dinner.  Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean. 

Chapter 7 — A Lament.  Birdie saw a picture of that movie star again, but she had blond hair.  Later she saw another blond.

Meanwhile at the revival meeting, the other preachers tried to pressure Doug Armstrong into doing a “healing.”  Honest man that Doug is, he resisted, but he saw little Tammy waiting in the wings.

Jinx is waiting for us at the crossroads. 

Brother Love

8 — A Confession 

Bubblegum, Camera, Newspaper

Bubblegum, by Dan Antion

Bubblegum, by Dan Antion

Bright pink, the ball of bubblegum distracted Jinx.  When he picked it up to investigate, it stuck to his beak.  The magpie gave a violent shake of his head, and nearly knocked himself over.  The gum came loose. 

The music stopped and the guitar player chuckled at him.

He turned back around, but the man had disappeared that quickly.

Jinx flew to the revival tent.  Even though he couldn’t see the mysterious figure, the magpie was sure that was where the musician was headed.

The bird watched as an old school bus pulled up to the ragtag tent.  A man hurried out and met the driver as he climbed down from the vehicle.

The dirty bandana, by Dan Antion

The dirty bandana, by Dan Antion

“You’ve missed half the service,” the usher said.

“Man, it’s hotter’n the hinges on the gates of Hades!” the driver grumbled.

He held his cap with one hand, and used the other to wipe sweat that glittered on his bare pate.  The red print bandana he used as a handkerchief was smeared with black grease.

“Fan belt broke,” he added in belated answer.  “Fixin’ that thing wore me slap out.”

“Shame.  Well, grab the old ladies and help them down to the front row.  They always get in the Spirit and help get the crowd going.  I’ll help pack up the babies and get them to the front too.  You never know who might need healing,” the usher added with a wink.

“We all go to the front?” a man with a camera asked.

Yessiree!  Everybody goes.  You know Brother Love’s show.  Now you be sure and take plenty of pictures for your Gospel Times.

Polaroid Land Camera circa 1960, by Dan Antion

Polaroid Land Camera circa 1960, by Dan Antion

Jinx flew across to the back side of the tent.  The bird settled on a tree limb when he saw Sinnerman below.  The big man had just stepped out of the large tent, having followed the woman who wore little glittering balls dangling from her ears.

With his sharp hearing, it was no effort for the magpie to hear their conversation.  However, making sense of humans and their words was not always so easy.

“You don’t need any gift of healing,” the woman began heatedly.  “Just put your hands on her head and yell ‘Healed!’ or something,” she demanded.

The man’s eyebrows flew down into a V fit for a migratory formation of birds.  He didn’t seem to like the woman’s words, no matter how shiny her earrings were.  She seemed to realize that too, because her voice quickly changed.

“Please, Brother Armstrong,” she started over, placing a hand on his bicep and murmuring approval.  “If you will please just try.  I’m desperate for Tammy to be healed.  But we can’t stay here any longer.  I don’t know how I can ever pay the doctor, but she has an appointment with a specialist that took six months to get.  So, we need to leave in the morning,” she added without looking at Sinnerman.

The big man’s shoulders drooped in a defeated way.  He turned back toward the tent.  The woman smiled behind him.  Then he turned back to her, eyebrows making the V again.

“Why would you ask me to heal her, even though I’m not able, when you are planning on going to a doctor?”

Ava Gardner in The Killers, 1946

Ava Gardner in The Killers, 1946

The buttons on the front of her dress weren’t as sparkly as her earrings, but the pearl-like beads had a sheen that Jinx liked.  He noticed when for a quick second she turned her back and undid a few of the buttons at her neck.

The woman wriggled up onto a picnic table and crossed her legs.  Jinx liked the gold buckles on the ankle straps of her high-heeled sandals.

“Look,” she began.  “There’s no need to pussyfoot around.  I reckon we can help each other.  I know all about you and the time you did in prison.”

The magpie leaned closer on his hidden perch.  The big man’s face had turned the same bright pink of the bubblegum that had stuck to his beak.  Jinx thought humans must be the strangest species in the world.

“The haul will be bigger if there’s a healing.  It always is,” the woman continued.  “I just need one more score so I can get out of the country.  I’ll split it with you.”

Her lips tightened when she looked at the expression on the big man’s face.  He moved as if he meant to walk away.

“Now, listen here.  I know you got out of prison early.  If you try to turn me in, one word from me will get your parole revoked,” she threatened Sinnerman.

“My prison time is no secret.  You can’t blackmail me with it.  And I’m not on parole.  My sentence was commuted,” he said.  “Yes, I killed a man in a fight.  He got a cut on his head.  That was all.  It turned out he was a free bleeder.  He wouldn’t have died otherwise.  That’s why I got out early.”

Newspaper in the rain, by Dan Antion

Newspaper in the rain, by Dan Antion

“I know.  That’s why I came here,” she told him and was rewarded with his surprised look.  “The kid with me is his daughter.  Her mother died in a car wreck a couple of years back.  I read a newspaper article about it.”

Sinnerman’s mouth moved but no words came out of it.  Jinx knew it was hard to make new words.  He gave a soft whistle of encouragement, but the humans didn’t notice.  The woman kept talking.

“Bless her heart, I couldn’t let her end up in foster care.  You know, that mother instinct kicked in.  I was able to persuade a judge to let me have her,” she went on and leaned back to look at the sky.

“I tell you what, the money the state gives a poor foster mother isn’t enough to get by on,” she added.  “The newspaper articles I found about Tammy being orphaned ― those are good.  But the ones about her father having hemophilia?  They’re a gold mine!  Everybody assumes that the kid has it too.”

She paused and leered at Sinnerman.

“But she doesn’t, does she?  And we both know why,” the woman finished with a vulpine smile.

She winked and swung her legs where she sat on the picnic table. 

The V returned to the big man’s eyebrows.  His mouth again looked like he wanted to say a new word.

Several humans came out, asking them to come back inside.  Whatever word the man wanted to make remained unsaid.

***

Church pews from back with hymnals, by Dan Antion

Church pews from back with hymnals, by Dan Antion

***

My hand lifted toward Doug Armstrong, but the group of men hurried him out the side entrance.

I had to tell him that I recognized the woman.  She was the spitting image of the blond Ava Gardner on the magazine I saw the girls drop outside.  She was also a bleached version of the face on the fugitive poster ― Ruth Leiber, wanted for grand larceny.

What should I do?  Call the police, I answered myself.  A church would have an office, and possibly a phone, but that wasn’t the case for a temporary tent.  So, that wasn’t an option.

Standing, I turned to scan the crowd.  I was relieved to see a policeman in the audience.  At first, I didn’t recognize him out of uniform, but I spotted Sargent Lamar Poole.

I started side-stepping to get to the aisle.  Then a group of people, followed by Doug came back inside.  They stood almost protectively around Ruth Leiber and Tammy.

The preacher who had pressured Doug about trying to heal the child addressed the congregation.

“Sister Ruthann Lear traveled far to ask assistance from the church on behalf of her child here.  Just look at the lights shining on those two golden heads ― this angelic mother and daughter.  It looks like they’re already awash in the blessing of the good Lord,” the preacher told the crowd.

Audience looking at stage with lights

Stage Lights by Dan Antion

Ruth batted her eyelashes at him, and then demurely looked down at her hands.  The preacher sent the ushers around with plates to collect a goodwill offering.

Not a sound came from the congregation.  Everyone seemed to expect Doug Armstrong to do something.  The other men stepped back away from Tammy.

The child in her pristine white dress all but glowed as she stood under the lights.  A murmur arose from the crowd when Doug went up to the podium rather than to the girl.

His facial expression was impossible for me to read.  He began to speak of forgiveness and of hypocrisy.  My cheeks burned because I thought he was about to say something about the spiteful remarks people made about me when we came inside the tent.  I had hoped he didn’t hear them.

However, his ideas seemed disjointed.  His train of thought was unclear.  Abruptly, I wondered if he was nervous.  Or perhaps he was confused about something.

For a moment I wondered if he had also seen a wanted poster of Ruth Leiber, but it didn’t seem likely.  Yet he gave the woman a look so hard it made her twitch.

Last-Supper_Carl Bloch wikipedia

The Last Supper, by Carl Bloch, late 1800s, Wikipedia

“Listen to me, brothers and sisters in the Lord,” Doug said as if trying to explain his fragmented speech.  “You have to forgive people who have caused problems for you, but you don’t have to invite them to dinner!” he stated emphatically.

I tilted my head in confusion.  What could have rattled Doug so?  He had been a good speaker earlier that evening.

Abruptly the heat of the August night was broken by a gust of wind that blew through the tent.  The pages of hymnals and Bibles rustled.

Then to my astonishment, Jinx glided down the center aisle.  The magpie swooped down to alight on the pew in front of me.

Jinx imitated the sound of a single telephone ring. 

The end.

Mabel Amber at Pixabay

Mabel Amber at Pixabay

***

Real World Notes — Bubblegum

Bubblegum was also a “reader thing” in my Hullaba Lulu serial.  It has such a cool history, that I didn’t mind using it again here. In 1928, an accountant invented bubblegum. Walter Diemer, was experimenting with new gum recipes. One recipe was less sticky than regular chewing gum, and stretched more easily. The original bubble gum was pink in color because that was the dye that Diemer had most on hand at the time.

***

I’m glad you could make it to the crossroads for Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show!  I hope you’ll say hello in a comment.   

I’ll meet you at the crossroads again next Saturday!  Hugs on the wing.

***

Universal link to my Amazon Author Page

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USA:  The Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story Kindle 

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(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )

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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

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 

Brother Love 7 — A Lament

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Crows by Dan Antion

Crows by Dan Antion

Welcome back to the crossroads.    

This chapter turned out to be for the birds — or rather for the magpie.  If Brother Love was a television series, then this would be the quirky musical episode.

I was already working with music because of the “thing,” Elvis Presley, from Mary J. McCoy-Dressel.  That’s when Jinx, the magpie, got in on the act.  Then John W. Howell commented about the Buddy Holly song, That’ll Be the Day.  Of course that became another “thing.”  At that point, I just went completely off the rails.  Yes, there’s more punishment — I even narrated the ending with a new sound-bite… That’s supposed to be my scary voice, but whatever.

John specified the Buddy Holly version of That’ll Be the Day.  Mr. Holly wrote the song during the general time-frame I’ve given this story.  Although I confess that Linda Ronstadt‘s cover of this tune is my favorite.  Which is yours?

Vintage portable record player, by Dan Antion

Vintage portable record player, by Dan Antion

As for the remaining thing, two readers left the same item — matryoshka.  Like they say, great minds think alike.  Olga Núñez Miret and Staci Troilo thought of the same thing!    

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.  

If you’ve missed a chapter, I posted links to the first five installments in “Get to the Crossroads.” 

Chapter 5 — A FaceBirdie 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.

Chapter 6 — A Ring.  The mysterious stranger took Tammy’s hand so she could stand.  Amazingly, Birdie found the skin wasn’t broken when the child fell onto the sidewalk.  Also, Doug Armstrong reluctantly agreed to preach at Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.  He asked Birdie to attend as his moral support. 

All the while, it seemed like a telephone gave a single ring, whenever anyone made a decision.

Jinx is waiting for us at the crossroads. 

Brother Love

7 — A Lament 

Elvis Presley, Matryoshka, and “That’ll Be the Day”

Laundry, by Dan Antion

Laundry, by Dan Antion

Jinx sat on the perch in his birdcage.  The cage door was open as always.  He shifted foot-to-foot as Birdie came into the kitchen carrying a laundry basket and a small container of blueberries.

“How-deee!” Jinx chirped his Minnie Pearl voice.

That usually made Birdie laugh, but she barely noticed.  So, he flew to the top of his cage and made some sounds.  She looked his way and tossed him a blueberry.

Jinx followed when Birdie went to the bedroom.  She opened a dresser drawer and removed a pair of white mesh gloves.  However, she shook her head and sighed.  The worn metal bed squeaked as Birdie plopped down on the edge of the mattress.

“I never should have told him I’d go,” she muttered.

Her mouth was a tight line.  Jinx liked it better when she smiled.  So, he tried hard to imitate the words without too many whistles and clicks.

One for t’money
Two for t’show
Three t’get ready
Go, cat, go!

Elvis Presley you are not,” she told him and finally chuckled.  “And if you’re suggesting footwear, I don’t have any blue suede shoes.”

Birdie took a deep breath.

Vintage rotary phone, photo by Dan Antion

Vintage rotary phone, photo by Dan Antion

“I guess Doug would be in my corner.  Nobody else probably would.  If he feels like he needs somebody on his side, then surely, I can deal with one evening, one revival service.  Especially since he offered to come and get me.  The Rambler only has one headlight and these roads are dark enough even with two,” she said, going back to her closet.

Just then the telephone rang.  Birdie had her hand on a circle-dress with a blue on white polka dot skirt.  The bodice had the print reversed to white on blue.

She turned, looking toward the phone.  It sat on a gossip bench between the kitchen and the living room.  However, it didn’t ring again.

“Humph,” Birdie muttered.  “Strange… the payphone was doing that earlier too.”

Jinx whistled.  Birdie misunderstood the sound.  She told him he’d have to leave the room while she changed if he was going to misbehave.

He fluttered to the chest of drawers.  Jinx tried to perch on a big Russian nesting doll, but he turned it over.  The doll hit the wooden floor and burst open.  Another doll rolled out of the first, also open.

“Jinx, no!  Nana’s matryoshka,” Birdie cried.  “There were only two of the dolls left.  If they’re broken…”

Cut-off jeans Birdie might have worn around the house, by Dan Antion

Cut-off jeans Birdie might have worn around the house, by Dan Antion

Birdie sat down on the floor looking at the doll parts.  She inspected each piece.  Jinx cautiously landed nearby.  The thing wasn’t shiny.  The magpie didn’t see its appeal.

She picked up the top and bottom of the bigger doll.  Birdie fitted the two parts together and expelled a relieved sounding breath.

“Oh no,” she muttered the phrase again.

The magpie thought it was a good sign that she didn’t shout it that time.  He waddled closer.  Birdie’s forehead wrinkled as she looked at the halves of the smaller doll.

“This one was never open before.  I didn’t know it could…”

Jinx pecked at a small folded paper that came out of the little doll.  Birdie snatched it away from him.

“That was inside.”

Birdie unfolded the paper.  It was still small.  A lot of ink scratchings covered it.  He watched Birdie as she turned it this way and that, tilting her head.  Jinx tilted his own head every time the human tilted hers.

Name Paper, photo by Teagan Geneviene

Name Paper, photo by Teagan Geneviene

“It’s written over so many times, I can’t make out anything,” Birdie murmured.  “Oh wait.  There’s my name.  Alberta Devovo.  I can’t tell what the rest of it says.”

Then she made a human sound of recognition.

“Ah!  Nana and her hoodoo…  It’s a name paper.  That explains why Nana always said to keep the doll near my bed.  It must be a protection spell, hidden inside the smallest of the dolls all these years.”

Jinx tried to get another look at the paper.  However, Birdie shooed him back.  She folded the paper even smaller and put it inside a shiny box on a chain, which she hung around her neck.

The magpie whistled his encouragement.

“You’d better be glad nothing was broken,” Birdie admonished him with a shake of her finger.  “Else you’d be chicken pot pie!”

The human wasn’t being any fun at all, so Jinx flew back to sit on top of his birdcage.  A short time later he heard a car out on the gravel road.

Birdie must have heard it too, because she strode into the room, full skirt flouncing.  She adjusted a pillbox hat her mother had left behind, securing it with a hatpin.

Birdie Devovo, Dreamstime altered image

Birdie Devovo, apprehensive about the evening.  Dreamstime altered image

The magpie made a disgruntled noise when she moved toward the door.  Birdie didn’t pay any attention.  She blew Jinx a kiss and left.

After Birdie closed the door behind her, Jinx shifted foot-to-foot, shook his tail feathers, and started to sing.

Since my Birdie left me,

I sit here on my perch,

Down at the end of the crossroad,

At heartbreak birdcage,

I get so lonely,

I get so lonely,

I get so lonely I could cry.

Then he whistled a couple of times and changed songs.

Sinnerman where you gonna run to, all along dem days.

***

Doug came around to open the passenger door of his car.  I politely took the hand he proffered to help me stand.

A woman called out in an exasperated voice as two teenaged girls hurried our way.

“Put those magazines back in the car right now, and get yourselves right back here!” she demanded.

The girls dropped the magazines, scattering them on the ground.  A bright green “Screen Stars” cover with a beautiful blond woman caught my eye.  The headline mentioned Ava Gardner.  I had never seen the actress with blond hair before.  I didn’t think it suited her.

The teens quickly gathered the movie magazines.  One was hurriedly rolled and tucked inside a purse.  Then they ran to a Chevrolet where they deposited the rest.

Metal folding chairs, by Dan Antion

Metal folding chairs, by Dan Antion

Doug and I walked into a large yellow and white stripped tent.  I started to sit in the first row of folding chairs ― in other words, as far to the back of the meeting place as you could get.  He asked if I’d mind sitting close to the front.

The truth was that I did mind.  I minded a lot.  However, I couldn’t refuse.  I agreed to be there for moral support, and I realized my presence wouldn’t be worth anything if I sat all the way in the back.

My feet felt like lead as we stepped onto a carpet runner of faded red.  Doug looked down at me curiously and I realized how slow I was walking.  I made myself walk normally, despite the whispers that were easily audible.

“I’m surprised lightning didn’t strike when she came inside.  It’s a tent, but it’s still God’s house.”

“Blood will tell.  She’ll be no different than her mother.  Takin’ up with all sorts.”

“I heard tell her daddy was―”

My steps became quicker.

“You know her moma was sweatin’ bullets, when she was born, waiting to see what would come out.”

My cheeks burned.  I wanted to walk faster but I was already matching Doug’s long strides. 

Then I tripped on a tear in the carpet.  Doug caught my arm.  I put out my other hand, grabbing the wooden back of a pew to steady myself.

Church pews from back with hymnals, by Dan Antion

Church pews from back with hymnals, by Dan Antion

That’s when I noticed they had brought in a dozen real church pews, placed on either side of the center-front aisle.

“I guess they’re expecting me to get wound up,” Doug said dryly.

I was too uncomfortable to wonder what his comment meant.  It made sense later, after he began to preach.

Doug was such a dynamic speaker that I almost forgot how awkward I felt, sitting on the front row with a tent full of gossips behind me.

It was a hot August night and there wasn’t much ventilation in that ragged tent.  I was thankful that it had several rips to let in a little more air.

Doug used his big white handkerchief to mop his face.  Sweat poured off the man.  It seemed like the more he perspired, the harder he preached.

There were so many shouts of Amen and Praise Jesus that I barely noticed when he motioned to the ushers.  They quietly got everyone who sat near the end of the pews on the right-hand side of the tent to move over.

The congregation was so chaotic with people standing, waving heavenward and shouting praises, that I didn’t even see Doug move back, beyond the last row of pews.  The next thing I knew, Doug was running across the backs of the pews!

Revival_meeting_George R. Brunk II in Goshen IN 1950s_Theron F Schlabach Photos at Wikimedia Commons

Revival_meeting_George R. Brunk II in Goshen, IN circa 1950s, by Theron F Schlabach Photos at Wikimedia Commons

Long strides carried him from one narrow balancing point to the next.  As he jumped from the front pew to the ground, Doug made a jubilant exclamation.

The shouts from the audience were thunderous.

“Did he rally just run across the tops of the pews?” I heard someone ask.

“Praise God!” Doug exclaimed and mopped his face with the handkerchief again.  “I think I might have skipped one or two,” he said in answer to the unknown questioner.

I sat in stunned silence.

Doug sat down, directly in front of me, on a pew with all the other preachers.  He was still breathing hard.

He turned and said something to make sure I was okay.  I tried to give him an encouraging smile, but I wasn’t sure I succeeded.

Soon the choir came back to the stage to sing.  They sang a couple of upbeat gospel songs.  I  relaxed enough to tap my foot, but I didn’t sing along.

As the music continued, it occurred to me that no one had been introduced as Brother Love, whose “show” it was supposed to be.

Collage by Teagan featuring two of Dan's photos

Collage by Teagan featuring two of Dan’s photos

One of the deacons approached the row of preachers.  He whispered something that seemed to distress all the clergymen.  They were all shaking their heads negatively.  I leaned forward, curious to know the cause of their discomfort.

“Can you please do a laying on of hands, Brother Armstrong?” one of the preachers asked Doug.

“I don’t have the gift of healing!” Doug replied sounding shocked.

“Please, son.  Brother Love must have been delayed.  If you would just try.  That’s all we ask.  No one knows who the Lord might choose as his vessel to work a miracle.  Don’t let the good Lord down tonight,” the man urged.

Something bright caught my eye near the front exit that the choir would use ― something shinning white.  It was Tammy.

Then I saw the blond woman who was with her.  Anyone would have assumed the woman was Tammy’s mother.  Suddenly I knew that wasn’t the case.

1952 Screen Stars magazine, Ava Gardner

1952 Screen Stars magazine, Ava Gardner

I recognized the woman.  She was the spitting image of the face on the magazine I saw the girls drop outside.  She looked like Ava Gardner with blond hair. 

***

The golden fingers of evening stroked the August sky.  The heat had barely cooled any at all, even though the sun began its downward path on the horizon.

Foggy Cemetery, Dan Antion

Foggy Cemetery, Dan Antion

Jinx alighted on a tombstone and preened a feather, pretending to be at ease.  The dark figure sitting on the stone opposite the magpie played gazed into the fog, rather than at the instrument he strummed.  He played an unresolved tritone on the guitar, and then he abruptly stopped.

“Magpie, I heard you this afternoon.  Just a singin’ to beat the band, when your ma’ma left you ― and she left with a man taboot,” he told Jinx with a chuckle.

The bird made clicking noises that sounded a lot like “Tsk tsk.”  Then he flew to the branch of a magnolia and turned his back.

“Why, I do believe you’re jealous,” the musician replied.  “What do you mean, that’ll be the day?  All right now, magpie.  Now you just fly back down here.  We both know you ain’t goin’ nowhere.  What’s that you say?  Oh, do you mean the song?  And here I thought you liked blues better than anything.  That one?”

“Weeeeeell, that’ll be the day, when you say goodbye 

Yes, that’ll be the day, when you make me cry

You say you’re gonna leave, you know it’s a lie

‘Cause that’ll be the day when I die.”

The end.

***

Real World Notes — Music

Minnie Pearl. I started this chapter with a reference to Minnie Pearl.  I realize many of you haven’t heard of this comedienne, so here’s a sample.

“That’ll Be the Day” was a song written by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison.  It was first recorded I 1956 by Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes.  The next year he recorded it with his band the Crickets.  Linda Ronstadt also recorded the song for her 1976 Grammy Award–winning platinum album Hasten Down the Wind.

***

I’m glad you could make it to the crossroads for Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show!  I love to hear from you, so comments are encouraged.   

I’ll meet you at the crossroads again next Saturday!  Hugs on the wing.

***

Universal link to my Amazon Author Page

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USA:  The Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story Kindle 

Amazon UK

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USA:  Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I

Amazon UK

USA:  Atonement in Bloom

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USA:  The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

Atonement Video Cover copy

USA:  Atonement, Tennessee

(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )

Amazon UK

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

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 

Brother Love 6 — A Ring

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Rottary phone black Dan Antion

Vintage rotary phone, photo by Dan Antion

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. 

Gibbs & Ziva by Mary J Melange

Gibbs & Ziva, by Mary J Melange

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 FaceBirdie 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.

Brother Love

6 — A Ring 

Trusses, Telephone, and Coke

BW Railroad Tracks Snow Dan Antion

Railroad tracks by Dan Antion

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.

Tent trusses by Dan Antion

Tent Trusses, by Dan Antion

“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.

ChefKeem at Pixabay

ChefKeem at Pixabay

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.

Vintage GE Hair Dryer, by Dan Antion

Vintage GE Hair Dryer, by Dan Antion

“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.

Keds Ad circa 1950s

Keds Ad circa 1950s

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.

Revival Tent in Pennsylvania, Wikipedia

Revival Tent in Pennsylvania, Wikipedia

“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.”

***

A crow perched on a roof, looking down

Joe the crow in the role of Jinx the magpie, by Dan Antion

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

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 

Get to the Crossroads — Brother Love

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Train at crossroads

Dan Antion’s Crossroads

First a note of apology.  Half the time, WordPress is preventing me from using “likes” on comments or on posts — even here at my own blog. I’ve logged on repeatedly and it does no good. As for the “happiness engineers,” they give me no joy.

If you’ve made a comment, be sure that I tried to acknowledge it.

Have you been to the crossroads?     

If you haven’t started the new weekly serial, Brother Love, or if you’ve fallen behind, here’s your chance to get up-to-date. 

It’s a mysterious, you might even say spooky story, set somewhere in the late 1950s, during the hot month of August, in a small southern town. I’m writing it in full-on pantser mode — completely unplanned.  The story is driven by random “things” readers leave in comments.

Antique globe showing the Mississippi Delta, by Dan Antion

Antique globe showing the Mississippi Delta, by Dan Antion

Blogger Dan Antion illustrates weekly episodes of Brother Love with his photos.  

I tell the story through the eyes of local outcast, Birdie Devovo, and from the observations of Jinx the magpie.

angel-devil female_darksouls1 at Pixaby

Darksouls at Pixabay

The idea for this story started nearly a year ago.   It is partly inspired by a Neil Diamond song that has always caught my imagination.  I didn’t have time to write a new serial back then, but it now it’s here!

Along with the song “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” another inspiration is the blues legend of the devil at the crossroads and Robert Johnson. 

Crossroads with 3 blue guitar statues on a pole is a marker for Highways 61 and 49 in Mississippi

Electric guitars on a highway sign marks the crossroads where legend claims musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil for the ability to play the blues. (Wikimedia)

If you know me at all, then you know that something supernatural or magical is sure to be afoot.  Not to mention a good dash of whimsy.  The story is also peppered with music, both classic blues and 1950s rock and roll.

Here’s an extra route to the crossroads.

Here are links to all five chapters.

Prologue and Chapter 1

Chapter 2, A Shadow

Chapter 3, A Hymn

Chapter 4, A Domino

Chapter 5, A Face

Coming this Saturday — Chapter 6, A Ring.

I’ll see you at the crossroads.

Brother Love promo image

***

Now the obligatory shameless self-promotion

Universal link to my Amazon Author Page

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USA:  The Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story Kindle 

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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

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 

Brother Love 5 — A Face

Saturday, May 25, 2019

4th n Vine Sign

Image tomfoolery from Teagan

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.

Wanted Teagan

Chris Graham’s Wanted Poster of Teagan

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 HymnAn 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.

Brother Love

5 — A Face 

Taxidermied Alligator, Iron, and Chewing Tobacco

Dans metal alligator

Dan actually made this alligator back in his schooldays!

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.

Little girl in creepy garden

Rudy and Peter Skitterians at Pixabay

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.

A crow perched on a roof, looking down

Joe the crow in the role of Jinx the magpie, by Dan Antion

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.

***

Antique Iron photo

Antique Iron, by Dan Antion

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.”

Ava Gardner in The Killers, 1946

Ava Gardner in The Killers, 1946 (image courtesy Dan & Bruce Antion)

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.

Chewing tobacco tin, by Dan Antion

Chewing tobacco tin, by Dan Antion

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.

Dr Pepper bottle, by Dan Antion

Dr Pepper bottle, by Dan Antion

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.

***

Universal link to my Amazon Author Page

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USA:  The Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story Kindle 

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USA:  The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

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Atonement Video Cover copy

USA:  Atonement, Tennessee

(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )

Amazon UK

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

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 

Brother Love 4 — A Domino

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.

Various names on different colored cards in fancy text

Chuttersnap at Unsplash

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. 

Brother Love

4 — A Domino

Round Domino, Nine, and Faberge Egg

Round Dominoes, by Dan Antion

Round Dominoes, by Dan Antion

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.

Magpie on ground listening_PicturesofScotland Pixaby

Magpie, Pixabay

“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.

***

Church reflected in river Dan Antion

Church reflected in the river, by Dan Antion

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.

1948 Nash Rambler-a1-Rex Gray-2-

Birdie’s old 1948 Nash Rambler, by Rex Gray

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.

1950s Hat Purse Gloves ad

Pattern ad circa 1950

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.

"The Hub" at Iowa State University was a post office until 1963. Dan Antion

“The Hub” at Iowa State University was a post office until 1963. Dan Antion

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.

***

Universal link to my Amazon Author Page

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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

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 

Brother Love 3 — A Hymn

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Brother Love promo image

Brother Love composite by Teagan R. Geneviene

Welcome back to the crossroads everyone!   

 I should probably begin with a disclaimer.  This story is not about religion, nor is it a social commentary — that’s just part of the setting.  I also want you to understand that I approach this aspect of the story carefully.  While the story includes ways that I knew well and was involved in as a child, as an adult I acquired my own unique spirituality. 

That said, last time in A Shadow, now you learned some of the backstory for the Doug Armstrong character.  Today I wanted to tell you how his character came to be. 

You already know that Dan Antion provides photos to inspire me and illustrate this story —  and that he gives me two of the “three things” that drive each episode of this unplanned serial.  Shortly after I asked Dan to collaborate with me, we had a conversation about the Brother Love preacher of the Neil Diamond song.

Dan told me about an evangelist who made an unforgettable impact on him as a young man.  The preacher had a past.  Well, that didn’t fit with my idea of the title character.  However, that preacher inspired my “partner in crime” so I wanted to use it somehow. 

Church reflected in river Dan Antion

Church reflected in the river, by Dan Antion

Our discussion reminded me of a visiting preacher I encountered as a little girl.  He was youngish, and a little doughy, with a ruddy complexion.  He was also a very large, long legged guy.  The man would preach so hard that sweat just rolled off him.  He always had a big white handkerchief to mop his face.  Then when he really got excited, he would go to the back of the church and run across the tops of the pews, sometimes even skipping one, to the front, as the congregation shouted praise!

The Doug Armstrong character is inspired by a combination of the evangelist with a checkered past who made such an impression on Dan, and this astonishing figure from my childhood.  One day soon, at his blog, No Facilities, Dan will do his own post about his inspiration.

For Chapter 3, the “things” from Dan are Fog and Fox.  The third thing is one Olga Núñez Miret suggested, “Hymnal.”

Fog, by Dan Antion

Fog, by Dan Antion

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?

Brother Love

3 — A Hymn

Fog, Fox, and Hymnal

Rusted old tractor, photo by Dan Antion

Rusted old tractor, photo by Dan Antion

Jinx soared along a current of air.  Dawn’s light touched his feathers, making the magpie seem to glow.  Watching fog roll into a low area, he knew it would be another hot, humid day.

He alighted on the rusted out remains of an old tractor.  Keen eyes watched for the first morsel of the morning, a beetle, maybe a caterpillar.

Then he heard a guitar.  The sound came from the graveyard.  All thoughts of the insect forgotten, he flew toward the music.  Jinx loved blues that much.

He perched tentatively on a spruce-pine branch.  Dawn’s light had yet to penetrate the fog to illumine the cemetery.  In the shadows below, he could make out a dark figure, sitting on a tombstone.  Long fingers reached intricate, but deeply mournful chords.

A single ray of light found a way through branches and fog to reflect on the polished surface of the guitar.  Coal-black eyes looked up at Jinx.  The musician winked.

“Here, there ain’t nobody going to care how bad you are,” he said with a motion of one hand to include the graveyard.  “So, go ahead and sing along.  I know you could if you wanted to.”

He shifted on his tombstone seat and strummed an upbeat tune.

Jinx swooped down to roost on the gravestone opposite the musician.

With a grin, he looked at the magpie.  His dark eyes never went to the frets or strings of the instrument as he played.  It was as if the guitar was part of him.  Then he started to sing.

Hot tamales and they’re red hot.  Yeah, she got ’em for sale, hey.  Hot tamales and they’re red hot.  Oh, she got ’em for sale…

*********

Morning light streamed through the kitchen window.  Motes floated along the sunbeam paths.

There’s nothing like sunshine to shake off a bad night, I thought, as I poured the last drop of Maxwell House into my coffee cup.

A pecking sound at the window caused me to turn.  I opened the window and the magpie flew across the room to roost on the open door of the birdcage.

“I thought something happened to you, Jinx.  I haven’t seen you in weeks,” I admonished the bird as if he could understand me.

Vintage birdcage, by Dan Antion

Vintage birdcage, by Dan Antion

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 weeks or months.  Once he was gone for more than a year.

I knew magpies weren’t usually found in Mississippi.  I also knew 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.

A strawberry was leftover on my breakfast plate.  I saw Jinx eye it, so I gave him the berry.  He started the random noises that he usually made before trying to sing.  I figured he was pretty happy.

Are you washed in the blood?  Soul cleansing blood of the lamb,” Jinx sang.

“Where did you learn that song?” I asked in surprise, as if he could tell me.

I remembered it from the old church hymnal.  It was probably my least favorite hymn.

Pages of a Methodist hymnal, by Dan Antion

Pages of a Methodist hymnal, by Dan Antion

“But it’s better than the sound of hound dogs chasin’ down a hoodoo,” I muttered aloud.

A chorus of distant baying met my ears.  I got up to close the window and shut out the unpleasant sound.  The dogs probably thought they smelled a fox.  However, sometimes I thought the hounds just imagined it for an excuse to bark.

Hoodoo washed in the blood,” Jinx sang, mixing up the words.

“Maybe you should go back outside, Jinx,” I commented dryly.

The magpie flew to perch on the windowsill.

“All right, Jinx.  In or out.  What’ll it be?  I’m going to close this window.”

The magpie leaned out and looked toward the old road that ran behind my house.  Curious, I leaned as well, when I saw a Ford headed our way, on the seldom traveled road. 

It was unusual enough for anyone to take the back road, but that was also a relatively new car.  Most folks in Parliament, Mississippi couldn’t afford late model automobiles.

The car slowed and pulled into the gravel driveway.  A woman stepped out of the car.  She looked ordinary enough.  Her hair was short, curly, with thick bangs.  She walked toward the house, waving when she saw me at the window.

I went outside to see what made her stop.  Then I saw a little girl inside the Ford.  The child seemed to be struggling to get out of the car.

Fox, photo by Dan Antion

Fox, photo by Dan Antion

“Tammy, now I told you to stay in the car.  We can’t be bothering this lady,” the woman called over her shoulder.  “Thank goodness for seat-belts.  I nearly ran off the road when a fox ran out in front of me while ago,” she told me.  “Thank heaven and safety belts, Tammy wasn’t hurt.”

That situation seemed odd.  Not all cars had safety belts, and when they did, most people cut the uncomfortable things out and threw them away.

Jinx flew to the Ford and perched on the side mirror.  The girl trilled with delight.  The magpie stayed just out of her reach.

When the woman saw them, she screamed and ran toward the car.  Jinx made haste up into the branches of the magnolia tree.

“He wouldn’t hurt her,” I called as I ran behind the woman.  “He’s tame!”

“Where did he go?” the girl asked excitedly.  “He talks.  He’s a talking bird!”

“I’m sorry,” the woman apologized for her panic.  “Tammy is a free bleeder.  The least scratch and…  Anyhow, I’m sorry to trouble you, but I’ve made a wrong turn.  We’re trying to get to a revival meeting near Parliament, Mississippi.”

Hemophilia, I thought.  That would make any parent nervous.  I wonder if that’s her mother though.  They don’t seem to look much alike.

Tammy obligingly held out a copy of the same mimeographed flyer that was left on my door.  Inside the car I noticed the back seat filled with pillows and blankets, a drink box and other things.

Antique globe showing the Mississippi Delta, by Dan Antion

Antique globe showing the Mississippi Delta, by Dan Antion

I walked beside the woman when she went to open the car’s trunk.  She extracted a stuffed animal and handed it to Tammy.  I looked down at the license plate.  I didn’t recognize the county name, but I never did know much about the world beyond my home.

“You came a long way just for a revival service,” I remarked.

The woman looked at me with desperation in her eyes.

“They say Brother Love has healing hands.  Last year Tammy got hurt at school.  She nearly died from a cut that wouldn’t have needed more than a Band-Aid for another child.  The hospital bills took everything we had.  But I couldn’t sell the car for one without seat-belts.  I just couldn’t take the chance,” the woman explained through a nervous smile.

I was pretty sure those two were on their own, without much help from anyone else.  I certainly knew what that was like.  So, I invited them to come into the house for something cooling to drink.

Birdie Devovo's house as imagined by Dan Antion

Birdie Devovo’s house as imagined by Dan Antion

“Do you have any hot tamales?  They’re red hot!” Tammy asked a whimsical seeming question of which only a small child would think.

I laughed in surprise.

“What?” the woman turned to the child and asked.  “Honestly I don’t know where she gets these things.  She doesn’t even know what a tamale is.

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.

The woman had the restless expression of someone who wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else.  I had seen the look in my mother’s eyes all too often.  I wasn’t surprised when she declined my offer of refreshments.

Ready to Travel statue Dan Antion

Ready to Travel, by Dan Antion

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.

The sound of the Ford’s engine faded into the distance.  I liked the July calendar better than August, but how could the child know? 

I had an uncomfortable feeling that I couldn’t quite describe.  It was making me irritable.

“For pity’s sake, Jinx.  Sing something else,” I said.

Hot tamales and they’re red hot.  Oh, she got ’em for sale,” the magpie sang.

End Chapter 3.

***

I gave Dan the added challenge of choosing just the right image for Birdie’s house.  It needed to reflect the location, Birdie’s status, and her economic level.  Plus, since I had already mentioned her porch and screen door, that needed to be included.  Dan really rose to the challenge.  He did a fantastic job with the yellow house image you saw above. Kudos, Dan!

Here’s Dan’s Thursday Doors post about Birdie’s house.

Real World Notes — A Hoodoo

When used as “a hoodoo,” in this story the term does not mean a religion or practice.  “Chasing down a hoodoo” was a phrase John Fogerty used when he wrote the song Born on the Bayou.  Fogerty said, “(A) Hoodoo is a magical, mystical, spiritual, non-defined apparition, like a ghost or a shadow, not necessarily evil, but certainly other-worldly.”

***

Heartfelt thanks 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.

***

Universal link to my Amazon Author Page

Novel-book-The Three Things Serial Story-Teagan Riordain Geneviene-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-spotlight-author

USA:  The Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story Kindle 

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USA:  Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I

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USA:  Atonement in Bloom

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USA:  The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

Atonement Video Cover copy

USA:  Atonement, Tennessee

(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )

Amazon UK

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

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.