Snippet: The Mourning Cry (Part 6)

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Summer 1881-Jackson, Mississippi

 

My Missus wanted me to go with her out of town. The baby was big enough that me being gone for a while, at least two days. I hated to leave Isabelle and Tabitha. And Even Ira. I was scared out my head. I was jumpy for weeks. Weeks!

I sat in this hot coach ‘cross from the woman that had caused my Daddy to hang lower than a tree limb. I thought about Sister Anne. I thought about my grandmother. I thought about the last piece of advice Sister Anne told me before I left her house almost three years ago.

“You got to be careful ’round dem folk, Tally. Stay low. Be low. And if something not of the Most High happ’m? Run like a demon gotcha, baby!”

Miss Victoria was sleeping. Eyes closed and hands all perfect in her lap. Orpah was left in charge while she was gone. I still didn’t know why this woman asked me to go with her. “For company.” she said. “Tabitha needs some time with her own Mama, she always hanging on you!” It was how she said that. Like I was dirty or something that should be living outside. I watched her hand on my shoulder, lookin like a claw off some crab in a basket. I made my mouth break into a smile. “Yes, ma’am.” Those words tasted like vinegar.

We hit a bump that broke me free of the memory.  I wanted to talk to Ira. I needed to talk to him. Orpah mighta known. The way she looked at me in early July while she was hangin the wash let me know she knew. How she made sure the was never in a whole lotta light. It was getting to be the thick of summer. And Orpah and I was just watching Tabitha to see if she would turn as brown as bread. If she did, I didn’t know what lie I could tell to save her, me or Ira. Especially, Ira.

I took in the whole sight of Miss Victoria. Gold earrings. Stringy hair that she made Orpah fuss over into this pile on her head. She wore blue because her Nan told her that ‘ladies always wear blue for luck.’ Her dress was hemmed, and she had a new corset. I looked at her chest struggling to keep her breath in it. I got this sick feeling way down deep in me, stirring and rolling like.

I aint never had to be sold. But I knew that fear made my Mama run. That rolling, sick feeling is what I had the last time I thought I was gon be taken from my Nan. I closed my eyes. I thought about Ira. I thought about how he looked at me as I had gotten dressed that morning. He was looking like I was about to blow away outta open window. “You really going?” I looked at him looking at me in the little vanity I had in my room. “Yes, Ira. I’m goin’.” He shivered, still in his dirty field clothes, in my hot room. “I jus thank you about to be fed to a spider is all.”

Fed to a spider.

Sister Anne told me about at time she had almost been sold. Sold to a man that all he did was, ‘keep and breed’. That was why she had to run. I thought about the house. I thought about Isabelle. I thought about Ira and Tabitha. I thought about never seeing them again. I thought about how I couldn’t leave yet, she had to pay for what she did to my Daddy. To my family.  I wouldn’t be tricked or satisfied till I did what God hadn’t done yet.

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I woke up to a hand on me, and pulling at my dress. There was this small child pulling at my dress, with these big ole grass green eyes and brown hair. “Tally! Tally!” I squinted, making my mind settle. she wore green calico and her face was dirty. “Come inside and see your room!” I looked at her, and her dirty little hands. “Room?”

The little girl looked at me, her eyes as big as the moon over the big house we were in front of. I thought she was looking for the lie floating on the inside of me. “You are going to stay with us now Tally! Daddy made sure of it! For my birthday, I got you!”

 

 

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 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]

At The Bottom Of A Barrel

He was in the driveway.

This was supposed to be done now. Bags were in his car. Money untraced and in that same glove box. I watched him on the couch, asleep and oblivious. Hmph. Just like he was for our entire dating relationship and subsequent, sorry marriage. I stood in the foyer, opening the curtains twice to let him know I was still in the house and to kill the lights.

That’s what we called this, killing the lights.

I stood in the archway of the great room, looked at my husband of almost a decade sleeping on the couch. Oblivious. I stood there, in all black to cover face and shape. I counted his breaths, and adjusted the 9mm in my left hand. It felt unnatural, and heavy. Ceasar had said one of the ways to get away with this was to become ambidextrous. I remember his hand and how it felt over my left hand. How he guided it, silencing my tears with his lips to my cheek. “Brianna, you can do it. You know he’s never going to let you go–and may not care if you leave.” I adjusted my hand around the weapon, feeling more deadly than I thought I should. Shooting him would be easier than aiming at the cans and bottles in Ceasar’s brother’s backyard.

I thought about how mean he was. How he didn’t want children. I thought about how he thought money fixed everything. I thought about he couldn’t even fuck me right in the last eight months. I walked to the end of the couch, looked at his dirty black sneakers on my gray couch I picked out with my best friend.

Oblivious.

Rude.

Aloof.

 

I thought about when I met Cesar at the company party. How sweet he was when he found me by the elevator when I started at his law firm. I thought about his eyes, his mouth and how he always held me after making love to me. I loved him. For two years, we waited. We thought. We planned. Cesar had him followed, mapped his days. We had sex in the martial bed. I moved out of our bedroom, and he seemed to not to notice. What helped was be finding panties in his car. Pink. Lacey. And three sizes to small. I left them there.

Oblivious, cheating aloof husband.

I made it to his torso, the icy feeling over my chest and flowed to my armed left hand. I thought about how perfect he tried to make me. I thought about how he made fun of my family whenever we would leave a visit with them. I thought about how I felt when I found the underwear. I thought about the sexy text message from the naked woman named Candy the PI Ceasar hired. He cloaked his phone to make sure when I left, his life would be over.

I stood over him, thinking of out last fight. I thought about how mean he was. How he stormed out, probably to go to Candy. I remembered I called Ceasar in tears. I told him how I was ready. “I can’t be here anymore!”

“You ready?” he asked, no levity in his voice.

“Definitely.” I answered.

I flexed my hand around the gun. Untraced. My gloves would be thrown away when we were far enough away. I cut hair a month ago, and it fit under the skull cap I wore. I left hand itched. I just had to be brave one more time. Just be in his face one more time.I raised my hand, just like Cesar taught me. “When you raise your arm, level your hand. Close your eyes. It helps sometimes. Squeeze and walk away.”

The cat and mouse game was about to be over. It was all about to end. I steadied my breathing, and watched his walnut brown face slack with sleep. I remembered the silencer in my pocket, felt my eyes water as I looked down to assemble it.

Just be brave one more time, Brianna. Just one more time.

He stirred and I didn’t move. I put the gun in my left hand again. All I could see was the newness. All I could see what was world without him in it. I closed my eyes, felt the barrel against his forehead and pulled the trigger.

I opened my eyes and walked towards the front door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[image from Window World]