Snippet-The Mourning Cry (Part 4)

 

Natchez, Mississippi-Spring 1881

 

It wasn’t gon be long now. I watched Isabelle on that back porch just a’rockin. Not a care in God’s creation. She was doing a needlepoint, something her Gram had taught her how to do. All that restlessness she was havin, I knew she was gon have a boy. I told her to make sure she counted the kicks ever’time she felt ’em.

I had a little patch of dirt off to the side of  Orpah’s clothesline. It was just enough light to grow my foxglove and oleander. A stray dog had eaten my Dolls eyes seeds and died not long after I got to Ms. Victoria Folson’s house. Ira was still a groundsman at the house, even though there wasn’t much ground for him to man.  We buried that ole dog in the winter garden. It wasn’t until after Christmas that we found out that ole dog wasn’t a stray. It belonged to Mr. Andrew across the road. When he came to call on Ms. Victoria about the dog, Ira hid behind the door when Orpah answered it.”Girl, have you seen my god, I ain’t seen him in a coon’s year!” I remember being in the parlor when he said that. I pictured that lil beady eyed man in them  dirty duds talkin to Orpah. Before Christmas he tried to take me at Ms. Victoria’s. He saw me coming from the upstairs tending to Isabelle. He looked at me like a was a sweet in a window sill. I walked passed him, and he grabbed my apron, in his dress clothes no less!

He moved to grab my face when Ms. Victoria caught him. He was looking like a field mouse that caught sight of’a big ol’ owl. Them beady blue eyes lookin back at me on the step and Ms. Victoria by the door. He let my apron go, and went towards the great room. I felt all my breath leave my chest.  I heard Ms. Victoria  head down the hall while “That cad! Caint even keep his hands off the nigra girls!” I heard her stomp away so loud I thought she was bout to come through the floor.

But, that didn’t change my plan. I knew what I had come there for. I knew the foxglove would be ready soon. Sister Anne told me that at first it’ll look like a weed, and when got a real pretty blue, like the sky? Then it would be ready.

Isabelle was sleeping more, eatin more, and I knew that that big boy was gon be in the world by end of the Spring. Right before May.  Isabelle had already had me walk with her up and down the hallway by her room because she thought the baby was coming  four nights ago. Sister Anne told me when women do that the labor was gonna be hard.

I thought about all of this, while I watched her with that needle in that chair on that porch. Ira had come in and tapped me on the shoulder, covered from chin to knees in dirt. Ms. Victoria had asked him weed and plant some roses along the East side of the house. he looked at me for a hard minute for went through the back door, leaving me in the kitchen ‘tween the stove and sink. I stared, kept staring at how Ira looked at her when he passed Ms. Isabelle in that chair. He brushed her hand, and she didn’t move. Ms. Victoria was calling on Ms. Violet up the road a’ways, and would be back fo’ Orpah could make supper. I just watched. She didn’t look up, didn’t flinch. Her dark brown hair was down because she wouldn’t let me or Orpah fix it. But I knew her mama would fit to be tied if she come home and saw her all indecent.

But it was somethin about how Ira touched her hand. Something about how they were never in the same place.  If they were, one would hurry up and leave. I know that Ms. Victoria talked to spirits and the like. Sister Anne said alot of them old White missuses did. But I knew that Ms. Isabelle’s husband died for I come here. But I knew no woman could be pregnant mo’ than a year. I felt my eyes get big as the moon, and I put my hand over my mouth.

“That baby ain’t…it’s Ira’s.”

Snippet-The Mourning Cry (Part 3)

Natchez, Mississippi- Winter 1880

I made her tell me all she knew. All she thought I may ever need to know. Sister Anne said I took to bein low like a duck to water. Good, I had to be as good as perfect would let me be. I knew if that ole witch was gonna ever let me in her house, I had to be better than any girl that looked like me to be the least bit considered ‘fore a white girl would be.

Most of the white folk lost they fortunes once the Yankees came through Atlanta and Vicksburg. Sister Anne said it looked like Hell had opened up it was so much fire. There were still some successful farmers in Natchez, and some that still sold cotton. As I dodged the briar patches low cypress trees, I thought about my my Nan. I thought about how she and Sister Anne met. She never told me the whole story or truth as to how they met. But it was her and my grandmother that made their way from Vicksburg to Natchez as young women by way of the Union Army. I never had the nerve to ask my Nan why she didn’t just go North. I wanted to ask her on those quiet mornings where she made bread for the white family she used to work for, why didn’t she just leave.

I wanted to ask her why, do many times. I didn’t know what I was more afraid of if she ever answered me:  the answer or the silence.

I saw the house just as it had never changed. I walked up the road in the last dress my Nan ever got me. It was red, with an apron. The house was a day’s walk from my Nan’s cabin. Sister Anne’s instruction’s were in my head, echoing like the ha’nt she sometimes called at night. “Make sure you don’t look nobody in the face.” I stepped slower, watching the house get bigger as I walked. “Make sure you don’t look the Missus in the face, ‘less she ask yuh somethin.” I walked through open gate, towards the Big House. “Member yuh come juss to offer help, dass it.”

I clenched the end of my white apron, calming the storm in my belly. Sister Anne had told me all that she knew. She told me how to hold my head. How to act with the Missus of the house looks me over. Sister Anne told me how to act when the Mistuh of the house tries to ‘be a like a man on yuh.’ I got to the front door and looked at my dusty boots. I decided the dust  was okay, and hoped they had a dust rag I could use.

I held my breath as I knocked on the door. I remembered to keep breathing, relieved when the door opened. There was a woman that came to the door, and I was shocked when she looked like me. Her hair was up like mine. She had my Daddy’s eyes and looked at me and through me. Her pecan colored skin looked so much like mine, that I had to bite my tongue to ask if she was my kin. She gave me a smile, before she opened her lips that still looked like mine. “Back door.” I swallowed, mouth too dry. I couldn’t find strength to swallow again. “The lady of the house wants all servants to come to the back door.” She said it slowly as if she didn’t want me to forget, in the tone a child could remember. I found my voice, just low enough to answer hers. “Just around the back?” She nodded. “Be careful of the beans and roses. Miss Victoria is ‘ticular about her flowers. Her babygirl in her delicate state.” I nodded to her, stepping off the porch, and walking to the back door.

I looked at the white sheets on the wash line in back of the house. I looked at the magnolia trees that were in the back along with the fruit trees. This big house still with all these trees set around it. I saw the rose brushes around the back door and step. “It be that life left in that afta birth, that make flowers grow big and pretty. Always bury that deep in a flower bed, Tally.” I took another breath, hoping my boots weren’t dirtier than they had been before. I knocked on the door, still surprised that the woman that looked like my kin answered the door again. “You must be the girl Ira told Miss Victoria about.” I nodded. “Malathe.”  She opened the door wider. “I’m Orpa.” She made a motion for me to come in. “I’ll let the Missus know you here. Come with me.” Orpa walked in front of me, leading me to a small salon room. She pointed at the chair, with a pot with what was probably rags and water in it. “Wipe ya boots off, girl. The missus is ‘ticular about how everything look.” As I sat, she looked at me, almost mean. “She wanted a nigra midwife for her daughter. Wasnt no white ones in this county.” I sat in the high backed chair, reaching for a rag in the small pot. “If you stay, she gon treat you like that ole chair:  you got use, and as soon as  you don’t fit, you gone be gone.” I squinted at her, trying to figure out what ‘gone’ meant how she said.

Cousin Ira said the girl wasn’t due to show yet. That meant I had 6 months. That was enough time for foxglove and them Doll’s eyes seeds I brought with me to grow. “If God be for me, I ain’t gon be gone.” She looked at me, smiled a little, before she left to get Miss Victoria. “I made it to her house Daddy. Imma get her Nan. I know vengence is the Lord’s, but revenge gon be ours.”

Snippet: The Morning Cry (Part 2)

Natchez, Mississippi-Spring 1879

 

The washerwoman my grandmother knew let me study at her feet. I never knew her real name, but I heard my grandmother call her ‘Sister Anne’. My grandmother said she was the best one to go to if I ever had a baby. She could tell if the baby was a boy by the way a Mama stood, or a girl by how much a Mama slept. I knew that the best way to get the woman that set them wolves after my Daddy, was to get in her house.

Sister Ann told me the best way to make ‘them folk’ as she called White people, was to ‘be low.’ She was doing her needlework on a dress for her daughter when she told me this. Her eyes never left her work, either. “Dey some ole monsters.” she said. “If you be low, act like yuh don’t know nuthin. Can’t do nuthin.” She looked back at her calico dress.        “Den don’t nuthin happen to yuh.” She looked out at the trees and setting sun. “I caught babies fuh  dem people since I was yuh age, Tally.” She took a deep breath, looking like she was hiding from hants. “Some time, Tally, the best way to be low is catch dem youngins.” She went back to her needling, more careful than before. “If yuh catch dem, Tally, they wont lookatchu like dey do dem otha ones.”

I sat there, still and quiet like water. I kept my eyes on her.  I thought about everything she had told me. I swallowed hard, couldn’t catch my breath. I forced the words through my mouth. “Sister Anne?” Silence. “Teach me all you know.”  Sister Anne  kept needling. her shoulders rising and falling with her breath, the blue of her dress pulling her shoulders up and down. “Mmph.” her stitch pulling all the way through, her hand shaking. “Come in the morning.” I looked at the shaking white string. “Brang something to dig wit.”

I watched her finish her patch, and watched her go in her cabin. Her steps were slow and she leaned against the door frame. I fought the thought of going to help her. Sister Anne hated people to try and help her. My grandmother told me Sister Anne had worked in the field with her, and she had run from a plantation in L’sana. The talk was she had killed her master after he tried to take her sister as a bed wench. If anybody knew how to be low, it was Sister Anne.

She was bout to teach me all she knew.

Snippet 8-With An Heir (Narmon)

 

They were keeping her from me.  The amshuns were closing her off from the Open Plane. Yet, I knew exactly where she was. I knew that the entity she carried would be due right after The Beginning ceremony. It would only be fitting for this child to be born the same week my brother becomes The Third.

For this week, all the members of the new Alpha’s family were supposed to be around them. This time of seclusion was to prepare for the transition at the end of the week of The Beginning. As the older brother, I was delegated to a special type of seclusion. I wasn’t allowed to talk to Farron. I wasn’t allowed to be in seclusion.  I was charged with preparations. I had to talk to the amshuns, and be a part of the chain from the Open Plane that would allow Farron to become The Third. This was tradition, unbroken for centuries. The brother of the Alpha is a part of the ceremony to ensure there are no errant bonds. That the mate of the Alpha, is the mate of the Alpha.

I knew when the amshuns had come to rouse me and dispatch Leah from my bed, that they knew. They knew I had been with Tzipporah. I knew, as well as they knew, the child she carried was Farron’s and our tryst was long ago. But there was something wrong. Errant bonds were rare, but not impossible. They happened when there were those weres whom either denied their mates when presented or ran from them.  In the case of Tzipporah and it was after her father had died in war between our pack and another. She was restless and sad, Farron had to go with our father, The Second. He going to lead one day, and had to be a part of the battle first hand.

She came to me. Tzipporah, gorgeous and full of rage, was in my bed before I could open my eyes.  I knew she was there before I knew she was there. Her skin soft and hot, mouth the same. She pleaded for me to be inside her, so she wouldn’t have to think or feel. I obliged, filling all that she opened for me, impaling her with girth and length as furious as pounding rain.

It wasn’t meaningless. Intimacy is everything to us. But there was a shifting to this intimacy, I hadn’t found my mate. I hadn’t wanted to, and didn’t have access to the Open Plane. Yet, once inside her, I did. I saw a lush forest. Trees, water and sun. There was a river she sat by, looking like one of Nanja’s water nymphs. Her skin the color of cinnamon, hair raven dark, wearing a white dress.

Tzipporah sat on this rock by the river, looking at the water, never turning towards me. She looked at the water that rushed over her feet. “This was…this hasn’t happened to me before. This wasn’t supposed to happen.” I touched her shoulder, smiled at the contrast between her skin an the addition of my coconut brown. I said nothing, only watched her watch the water. We knew the Open Plane for was for those whom had mated, that’s when it opened. This space where your heart, mind and soul connected with that of your mate. This place where you both were safe, protected and heard–even when distance separated.

Now, the errant bond was a secret no longer. With the amshun’s knowledge, Farron would have to know. And I would have to explain.

Snippet 7-With An Heir (Farron)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tzipporah was separated from me for the first time in a decade. I mean, really separated. I couldn’t reach her, not even in the Open Plane. I couldn’t find her there. What was more, because she was with the amshuns  I wasn’t allowed to see her.

She had been my mate for a century. Promised to me before then. The Second, my father and her mother, the Grand, had foretold that she would be mine. Just mine. But I had no time to reflect on this, the loss I felt at not being at her side. I knew it was time. The babe she carried was coming. The amshuns had said it would be so. I knew that the time would be swift, but I had no idea it would be as swift as this! During the ceremony where I was to lead my people? Only the ancestors would have planned this.

With custom and tradition, Tzipporah and I were supposed to be separated for this week. It was hard for her, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. When I reached for her on the Open Plane, she hid from me. Tzipporah had never hidden from me, not there. Or anywhere. The Grand had told me it could be happening because of her impending delivery. “My Alpha, she is in a tender state.” She had touched my shoulders in the heated room I was left in. “Let us tend to her. We all knew this day would come, but none thought it would come so soon.” I stared at her, Tzipporah’s steady brown eyes in her face. I grimaced as she left the room.

Something was wrong, I knew something was wrong. I wish someone would have been brave enough to tell me what it was!

The separation for The Beginning was for purification. Tradition said this time was to prove the mate bond, to make sure it was true. That the Alpha was bonded to the right mate. Errant bonds happened, but if an errant bond happened to or with an Alpha the line could not produce the next Alpha. Without an Alpha, there could be no lineage. Without a lineage, there would be no pack.

The Grand left me in the heated room with the light off. Centuries before The Beginning, the first two days of the ceremonial week were in the dark. The Second told me this would be some of the deepest peace an Alpha could have. Here for two days, the ancestors would speak and I would listen. I would know what the previous Alpha knew. I would be asked questions, strength regained and deepened. It was the ancestors that gave the second set of confirmations for your mate. My mate.

I closed my eyes, counted my breaths as my father told me. As my Alpha had instructed. As Alphas had done since our pack began. I felt my hearing heighten, and the wolf that I housed groan and wish for the comfort of Tzipporah. The sweetness of her skin. The smell of her.  I heard my own growl in my new hearing, startled at the hunger found in it.

I

Snippet: The Mourning Cry (Part 1)

 

 Natchez, Mississippi-Fall 1878

 

I  remember the day I heard my Mama say she was leaving, that she would be back for me and my siblings. I never saw her along the Mississippi Delta again. I remember when she ran, how the men came out our cabin to find my Daddy. How they drug him from the arms of his Mama and down the stairs that his own Daddy made. They hung him over a lie the wife of my Mama’s master told.

We still lived on this land, only 2 families out of not being free. That mean man that owned my Mama, and her Mama was dead and his wife hated God for not letting her die with him. She had let these men kill my Daddy over a lie. This evil white woman, whom I just knew as Miss Victoria, said my Daddy had been ‘indescent’ with her and her daughter. “This all smell like Hell-baked lie!” My grandmother said. “Malathe, they killed yo Pap on a lie!” I remember she looked at my Daddy, her son, swing from that big ol’ elm tree in front of her house ‘neath the blanket of stars. “Over a lie!” she said, knocking over her candle into the dying grass.
She hated Victoria until she died, four winters later. “I don’t care if I don’t see God, ” she said, the fever making her mind slip, “I just won’t to see that harpy wherever the Lord lay me!” I was sixteen. That mob of white men killed my Daddy over a lie. And that lie killed my grandmother. After the war, my brothers went North to find our Mother. The last anyone hear she might have been a washerwoman in St. Louis or Chicago. I decided to stay home in Natchez. I wasn’t about to be run off.

I was gon fix Miss Victoria and her daughter, Isabelle. Just like she took from me. I was going to take from them.

[image from fhwa.dot.gov]

Novel Start: Alive And Remain (c)JBHarris2019

I sat there and watched him. Just like I had so many other times. So many other days. He left just like he always did. From the front door down the six marble steps, and to his black Jeep Liberty parked across the street from the St. Louis Metropolitian Police Station.

It was worth the extra money I paid the private eye for. Jeffrey Daniel Lloyd. Age 30. Son of Harrison and Joanna Lloyd. Birthday: September 20, 1985. I had bras older than him.

He killed my son. My youngest son. I had gotten two of my boys out of this damn city. I had told them how to talk to these murderers, these officers with licenses to kill and penises smaller than the guns they whipped at people. Like my son, like my Maurry. What could he have done to have a grown man shoot my boy? Me and Randall’s do-over baby. We were going to do everything right. Get the crib just right. Make all the appointments.

We were going to not work as much. We would make more time for each other. We have 4 children. Had 4. I keep forgetting Maurry. But can’t forget him. He had my Daddy’s eyes and his deep laugh. Maurice Randall Jacobs. Born July 8, 2000. Attending Hazelwood Central High School. Athlete. Artist. Born 7lbs, 10 oz…a whole week early. He was born ready. Doing everything early.

He walked early.
He talked early.

He wanted to go to school with his older sister, Melody. He couldn’t stand thinking he couldn’t do something. We had The Talk with him four years before when he was 12. I had to tell my baby, whom was bright and strong, the police may target him for all types of social ills because he was now old enough to fit a description.

We had to tell him to pull his pants up. Keep his hair cut. No hoodies. “I don’t wanna be crying over you like Trayvon’s mama.” I told him to start looking at colleges. It was his Junior year at Hazelwood Central. His father and I told him how to to get out of state tuition. We were finagling a college tour. “Ma! Don’t worry about it.” Maurry told me. “I’ll do UNC-Chapel Hill.” He smiled his Daddy’s smile at me. With that red Washington University hoodie. The one I told Melody not to get him. I didn’t want him to be a target. I never wanted him to ‘fit a description.’

Now he was gone. In that damn red sweatshirt. The sweatshirt and cold November night when Officer Lloyd was chasing someone else’s child, who probably didn’t do anything. Lost him, found my son; told him to freeze in the alley in the Shaw Neighborhood. Down the street from Mullanphy Elementary. He pulled a gun on him. His hands were up. He shot him because his cell phone was in his hands. He was on the phone with his girlfriend, Michelle.

We had met her last week at ta function her church had. He froze and he still died. In that damned shirt. For a year I waited. I waited to go to work. Waited to talk to officers. Waited politely like my Mama told me when answering while angry in a room full of folk you were smarter than—but weren’t Black: Yes, sir. No, sir. I don’t know.
I waited for my kids to get home from school breaks. My husband home from work. I waited for the pain killers to work. Extra shifts at BJC to open. I waited for settlement money. I waited for now Sgt. Jeffery Daniel Lloyd to die. All 5’10”, 175 pounds of him to leave the world. That’s what I prayed for. Was patiently waiting for God to answer.

I sat there. In my rented car watching him smooth his dark hair and jacket at the bottom of the stairs. I rolled my window down. I checked the time on my cell phone. November 9, 7:12 pm. The day he took my son from me. I grabbed the gun from my workbag and opened the door. I exhaled my breath to the night air. Open my eyes, walking across the street and fired at him until I saw him fall and the white woman he spoke to scream and run back inside.

 

(*This novel is not complete. This is something that I am rolling around. This novel is slated to be completed in Fall 2019.)