Happy Halloweenie Ghouls and Boils ( #TBT )

Hold out your eyes for a Halloween treat.

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Hold out your eyes and I’ll give you a little insight plus the beginning and the ending of Smoke Free.

Smoke Free is a weird little story conceived in the smoke of a brush pile. The photos below show the cover; the first photograph and the finished cover.

Smoke Free is probably the only book cover we have not changed at least a dozen times. The truth is I have never wanted to change it. I love this cover and the image of that little pumpkin smoking a cigar never fails to amuse me. (I have the husband to thank for that.)

I had never heard of Irwin Smutter before that day and he (like the cigar smoking pumpkin) still amuses me with his absolute weirdness; him and the bizarre world he resides in.

Okay, here you go.

In the beginning…

Irwin marched down the stark white hallway with the impudence of a man on a mission. At the end of corridor, a glass door awaited with the words FREE YOUR SELF painted in large gold letters. He raised a curled fist to knock but decided against it. Easing the door open he called out, “Yoo-hoo. Is anyone home?” when no one responded he grudgingly entered the room and scanned its contents.

The room appeared empty other than an oversized sofa. Irwin reposed himself against the frigid vinyl, crossed his feet and sighed. A lively timbered scene covered the wall opposite the door, designed in such a way it almost looked like a window. Beyond the dull sheen of the pretend window was a forest where rays of sunshine cut through a smoky haze. The remaining walls were un-textured, pale and bare. The room smelled of sandalwood and acetone, a bizarre sweetness that sickened and comforted him at the same time. Irwin shifted nervously on the stiff upholstery in search of a warm spot. There was none.

The faux leather, the lifeless walls, the fake window – it was all too unsettling. Nothing is real, he thought, stretching his arms until his hands met above his head. Fads! The world has been reduced to kooks, phonies, and fads. Reassured by his own summation, Irwin interlaced his fingers and stretched further. When the joints in his entwined hands refused to pop, he rested them at the base of his neck.

Smoking cessation. Yeah, right. It was not Irwin’s idea. Irwin enjoyed smoking. The pungent smell of a fresh-lit cigarette made bitter coffee sweet. Smoking was one of the few things he looked forward to each day.  A good smoke, a little booze, a lot of caffeine and Evie.

His wife, Evie was a non-smoker and she did not mind, she had never complained, but again, Evie never complained about anything. Evie was a saint.

So what am I doing here? Peer pressure. That was the only logical explanation. All of his friends had stopped smoking months ago. There is nothing more annoying than an ex-smoker. Irwin’s mind zigzagged trying to connect the dots, the trail of crumbs that had lead him here to this place where he was expected to free himself.

Evenings at the local tavern were not the same, instead of cheers and jokes the gang sat around bellyaching about a handful of smokers in the far corner. It wasn’t fun anymore. Irwin thought as he strained to recall the last time he had hung out with any of them, the last time he had stopped by the saloon on the way home. He could not remember. A few of his buddies had dropped by the house for a beer once or twice a week but then…

It occurred to Irwin he had been isolated for some time; cut off from society. Who needs them? Not me, I don’t have time for chewing the fat. He dug his heels into the armrest, tensed his abdominal muscles and forced a few halfhearted sit-ups. I’m healthy, a hell of a lot healthier than those slobs. Heck, Frank can’t see his ding-a-ling without a mirror. Irwin laughed aloud at the image of his friend groping for his penis. Poor bastard, he groaned, starring up at the flat alabaster ceiling, Frank’s a good guy. The kindest, most nonjudgmental man I have ever met… hey! Irwin bolted upright, Frank is my best friend.

When the sparkle abated from the realization, Irwin flopped back into a prone position and began a set of leg-lifts. Good ole Frank. Poor bastard. Dean and Will, now there is a couple of bonafide jerks!  Irwin scoffed to himself, holding his un-embellished feet at heart level, Health fanatics! You can smell Dean a mile away— wreaking of curry and cumin. And Will, with his dead man farts –methane poison. Both of them—with their stained yellow skin.

Irwin snickered at the memory of Frank again, the last memory of the saloon he could clearly recall. Dean and Will who were frequently referred to as Mutt and Jeff, and the sight of their jaundiced eyes–unwavering.  Long, lanky Dean slumped over his mug of warm Bud, squatty Will knocking back shots of cheap Vodka and the rank cloud of gas that always followed them.

“Dang! What are you two eating?” Frank had asked. When neither answered he pressed on, “It smells like you’re on the verge of shittin’ a dead man. What are you little tree huggers eatin’? Are y’all eatin’ people?” Irwin recalled Frank’s hearty laugh at his joke and smiled, until he remembered the response. Dean– shivering but never looking up.  Will with that cocky glare, wriggling his thin eyebrows and slamming his glass down on the table for effect, grinning through pink jagged teeth. “No one under the age of eighteen.”

“Screw it.” Irwin said aloud as he swung himself into a sitting position. He grabbed the package of Camels from his shirt pocket. Despite the shaking, he managed to free a cigarette without breaking it. He tapped the filter against his palm a few times and gently set it between his lips. His right hand habitually swept the pocket of his 501 jeans to retrieve the Zippo. Irwin studied the chrome lighter, rubbing his thumb across the engraving. “I loved your heart too Evie.” He whispered. Within the sound of two clicks, a beautiful orange flame emerged. Irwin closed his eyes and pulled the smoke deep into his lungs. The hissing crackle of dried tobacco had always eased his trembling. The feel of his Zippo, a gift from Evie, had always soothed his mind. I LOVE YOUR HEART was barely visible after years of stroking. He exhaled and imagined the writings of e.e. cummings. i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart). He fantasized about Evie, her soft white breasts against his back as she convinced him to be more accepting of lowercase letters and lower class people. Perfect breasts that now–

Just before The End…

Irwin and Evie spent their days and nights exploring endless trails. Time meant nothing to them now. Irwin was not sure how long he had been in this place, but it had been long enough to learn a few things. One: the sun never goes down. Two: there is no need for sleep and three: sometimes the boils come on slowly. He consoles himself with knowing Evie never minded his smoking.

Happy Halloween!

Available wherever e-books are sold.

Smoke Free narrated by Troy McElfresh

Tools (Mad Monday)

You know why I’m mad on this lovely Monday night?

Tools!

I’m not actually mad at tools (and I’m not talking about arse holes) — I am annoyed at myself.  

Me, the one who preaches to work smarter, not harder and to use the tools available and– guess what?

I completely forgot I had a tiny little story enrolled in KDP select at Amazon.

What’s the big deal?  Well [as writers will know] part of the allure and benefit of KDP select is the benefit of promoting —  it is a valuable tool.

 

So, Sam & Sally Scarecrow have sat on the digital shelf (for nearly a year) gathering dust because I forgot they were there and I failed to use my tools. What a waste!

The moral of this madness is, “use your tools but don’t be a tool.”

Oh, and Amazon patrons can get a free copy of Sam & Sally Scarecrow on Friday, every Friday in October.

This indie stuff is hard. 😉

The Irish Heart of the Matter (True Fiction)

…Picking up in Chapter 6 because I wanted to get to the [Irish] heart of the matter to pay homage to Joseph O’Bromely and all such kindred souls. HaPpY Saint Patrick’s Day Y’all. (Psst I think it’s a 99¢ St. Patty’s sale.)

…….

“I have to go to ER.” Clara calmly announced after she returned the telephone to its holding place. “I will go with you.” Mary told her, tossing her bag to Levi, “Keep up with this until I get back.”

Levi and Maggie stared as the two quietly exited without further explanation.

“I have to go to ER.” Clara calmly announced after she returned the telephone to its holding place.

“What was that about?” Maggie asked shaking her head.

“Clara’s father.” He told her, concentrating on the mental picture.

“Oh my lord! Is Mary telling you this? What’s going on?”

“He’s not going to make it.” Levi said, shaking his head sorrowfully.

Mary’s left hand was locked tightly inside Clara’s; with her right hand she pressed the silver colored disk on the wall that allowed them entry to the emergency room. She could see Jim pacing beside the clear enclosure. The same place that it seemed only moments ago Mary MacDougal O’Bromley had breathed her last breath.

“Have you seen the outcome?” Mary asked just above a whisper and Clara nodded. “Then you are ready?” again, the woman nodded. Turning loose of Mary’s hand, Clara rushed to Jim with open arms.

“Are you alright sweetie?” she asked wrapping her slender arms around him.

“I’m fine. I’m fine.” He repeated as if trying to reassure himself.

“We knew this was coming but it doesn’t make it any easier does it?”

“No. No, it doesn’t” he answered smudging a stray tear from his whiskers. “How are you Mary?” he asked pulling her in for a hug.

“I’m good.”

The women looked like children hugged against the massive man.

“You walk between the yin and yang.” Mary said, smiling up at him.

“It beats the lonely road that brought me here.” He said with a weak grin.

Clara watched through the clear wall as Dr. Lawrence pushed medication into the veins of her dying father. Easing away from Jim she pressed her forehead to the plastic glass and waited for Joseph O’Bromley to look her way. When his faded green eyes finally met hers he smiled and winked and motioned her to come in. She in turn held up her index finger indicating in a moment and winked back at him.

“They know not to resuscitate him, right?” she asked without taking her eyes off of the first man she had ever loved.

“They know.” Her husband answered, “The doc said they would just push a few cardiac meds and see if that will patch him up.”

“Their pharmaceuticals won’t fix a broken heart.” Clara replied with a quiver, “He will be with Mama before long and I don’t want him seeing you grieve Jim. He needs to know you’ll be okay.”

“I know. I know.”

Clara didn’t have to look to know that his cheeks were wet, that his beard was spattered with droplets like an autumn field in the early morning dew. She could feel his mourning; see the sobbing child in the dim corner of his subconscious and the terrible sadness that had overshadowed them both since the passing of her mother. A shared sadness more about the state of the man now on his journey to reunite with that woman, the one he could never live without. In an odd way Clara felt at peace with the fact.

“We’ve done as much as his living will allows us to do but I’m afraid it won’t be enough Clara… again, I’m sorry.” Dr. Lawrence carefully announced.

“How much time do you guesstimate?” she asked still frozen to the sight of Mr. O’Bromley.

“One hour… maybe three hours tops. This one’s hard to call.”

Dr. Lawrence had an uncanny ability to estimate death down to the hour. He considered it a matter of scientific reckoning though Clara argued if it were science the art should be prevalent in most doctors, it was not.

“Will you ask Maggie to write me off the clock? I want to be with him until it’s over.”

“I sure will. I’ve been meaning to stop in there and visit with her anyway; this will give me an excuse.”

“You all can go in now.” Lisa told them after she had tidied the room and smoothed the thinning gray hair of her patient. “We’re not going to admit him so if there is anything you need just let me know.” The three smiled and nodded graciously before entering the room. Mary seated herself against the wall while Jim and Clara stood silently on either side of the bed.

“You two should have a seat. This might take a while.” The old man announced without opening his eyes.

“I’ll stand for just a bit if you don’t mind.” His daughter said, smoothing the wrinkles on his cold blue hands.

“What about you Jimbo?”

“I can’t sit with a lady standing Joseph.” 

“You can if she insists.” Opening his eyes slightly where she could see them he added, “Clara Bell why don’t you insist he take a seat.”

“Please sit down honey, I insist.”

“Alright then.” Jim obliged.

“Who is that across the room?” Mr. O’Bromley asked squinting at Mary.

“It’s me – Mary, Linda’s mother. If you would like for me to wait outside I will understand.”

“Heavens no.” He gasped, “Come over here and give me a hug.” Mary quickly rose and hurried to the bedside. Leaning over she hugged him and asked, “How are you?” Immediately she regretted the inquiry. It was a stupid question, one asked out of polite habit. She knew how he was – he was dying.

“I’ll be better soon.” He smiled as he took her hand, “It didn’t take you long to lose that accent once you got to Texas did it?”

“No sir.”

“Is that a wedding ring on your finger? Who’d you marry?”

“His name is Levi Turner.”

“That’s Maggie’s dad ain’t it?”

“Yes it is.” Mary blushed.

“Didn’t take y’all long to-” Mr. O’Bromley’s words were cut short by a fit of coughing that left his lips a deep shade of lavender.

“Let’s put some oxygen on.” Clara said bringing the mask toward his face only to be met with a weak hand clutching her wrist.

“No now, let’s don’t prolong it. I’ve got a date with destiny.”

“Ok Daddy. I just want you to be comfortable – as comfortable as possible.” She told him in a tone as bold as she could muster.

“It ain’t near as bad as it looks honey… or as bad as it sounds.” He wheezed and licked at his dry lips. “You could get me a shot of whiskey to wet my whistle though.”

“You don’t drink whiskey.” Clara grinned.

“I do on special occasions and this here is pretty darn special I’d say.” His attempt at joking lead to another bout of hissing coughs which gave his mouth a darker appearance.

“How about you quit trying to be funny. There’s no need to rush it by-”

“By what? Laughing myself to death. I can’t think of a better way to leave here.”

“You’re right pops. You always did love to joke. I guess you can’t help it.” Clara subtly turned her head and swept the wandering trickle from her jaw line.

Mary stood vigil holding the old Irishman’s hand and viewed the clear memories on his outer cortex. The picture playing out in color of him as a small lad holding to the tattered pocket of his father’s mud stained khakis.

On a cobbled Chicago street he had stopped to spit shine their shoes with a dingy handkerchief laden with holes before stepping onto the sidewalk. He removed his woolen flat-cap and spoke to what looked like a butcher in a stained white apron,

I see ye have a help wanted sign and I sir am looking for work. They’ll be nothing I can’t do and do well if ye give me but a chance, I’ll prove it to ye.’

She could see Joseph hang his head so his father would not see him ashamed and crying when the cruel man answered, ‘Gawl darn white trash! Why don’t you first learn to read? The man then slammed the door where the sign was clearly visible through the glass pane

NO IRISHMEN NEED APPLY!

Maybe in another hundred year’s wee Joseph.’

The memory had apparently pained Mr. O’Bromley most of his life, not for himself but for his father’s desperation… for the humiliation.  Had it not been for the MacDougal’s they would have frozen or starved to death in the alleys.

I’d recommend you tone done yer accent Isaac and say yer a Scott. Drop the O in O’Bromley and maybe even try to pass yerself as a Brit- would certainly make life a bit kinder. That was Mr. MacDougal’s advice to Joseph’s father.

I’ll not do it. I cannot deny who I be no more than I could deny Christ himself. Tis by His mercies and good men like ye Marland MacDougal whom He put in me path – I’ll find favor. And me little Joseph will one day be a respectable citizen of these United States.

Mary continued watching, enthralled by the man’s mental history and squeezed his hand tighter at the sight of young Duffy.

The boys were instant buddies, playful and happy. She concentrated on every word, every gesture and movement of the adolescent MacDougal. She cheered him on as he slid onto the makeshift base in a game of ball played with a thick cedar limb and a heavy wad of masking tape. ‘Safe!’ a young girl yelled from the batter’s square and instantly the vision of Duffy was gone. Joseph’s full attention lighted on the smiling child with hazel colored eyes. The girl he knew he’d marry when they were old enough.

“Clara tells me you got the gift of seeing. And that you helped her.” Mr. O’Bromley forced the words out in short gasps. 

“She helped me more than I helped her, I’m sure.” Mary smiled at Clara who was entranced in her own theatre of the man’s reminiscences.

‘Duffy would you make me a cup?’ the expectant Mary O’Bromley was asking, ‘and mince a sprig of mint to ease my troubled tummy.’ The burly barefooted man smiled sweetly and obliged. Moving gracefully for his size Clara noted as he tenderly handed his sister the warm chamomile tea with fragments of wild mint floating toward the edges of the shallow cup. ‘Little Clara likes the chamomile.’ He’d told her.

“I still like the chamomile.” She said aloud.

“Who you talkin’ to baby girl?” her father asked, “Do you see your mama comin’ for me?”

“Not yet.” Clara whispered and went back to watching what was left of Joseph’s recollections.

‘I wish you would settle down and make a family. I miss you so much when you’re out gallivanting all over the county.’ Mrs. O’Bromley was pleading with her brother, ‘There’ll be no heir to carry on the MacDougal name `less ye produce one.’ 

A bright eyed Joseph O’Bromley squatted across the room tapping the last miniature nail in to a freshly made cradle before testing its sturdiness. Don’t harp on the man Mary. Could be ain’t no woman would have him and you’re gonna make him feel bad about his self ‘cause he aren’t as handsome as me.

Duffy laughed, shook his head and took her hand in his, ‘You worry too much sweet sister. If it be me destiny I’ll have a troublesome wife of me own and a dozen mean boys to give fits to my ugly brother in law. But if not, so be it. Time will tell.’  Time was what the young Mary feared, knowing that Duffy’s was running out.

Joseph…

Mary Magdalene and Clara simultaneously heard his approach.

Joseph, are you ready old friend?

“I am.” Mr. O’Bromley wheezed, “Is my Mary with you?”

She’s waiting.

Clara squeezed her father’s hand and motioned for Jim. When he stood Mary reluctantly released her hold along with the sparkling image of the beacon and allowed Jim to stand in her place.

“Please know I love you and how grateful I am that you made me family.” Jim’s voice cracked when he spoke causing both women to sniffle unexpectedly. Joseph weakly pinched his son in laws hand and mouthed a few inaudible words.

“He says he’ll see you on the other side.” Clara told him.

It’s time to go now Joseph O’Bromley.

“Good-bye Daddy.” Clara whispered.

Mary watched from the end of the bed as the man’s body went limp. When his eyes glazed over she inconspicuously placed her hand on his foot to catch a glimpse of the departure. She could see the faint outlining of a door that appeared out of nowhere. “What’s it like?” She heard Joseph ask to which Duffy replied, “You’ll know in a moment.” And just before the flickers of shattered light faded… the transporter turned to Mary and smiled.

Read the entire story wherever you buy books. Read the entire series.

It’s Harvest Time …

…And time to gather your copy of Feast or Famine (The Sharecropper’s Son)

The original cover–a photo of the real sharecropper. Preview compliments of Amazon.
The new/current cover. Click this lovely cover and get a copy at your favorite e-book retailer.
Thank you to my husband and the Hill family for sharing their history and graciously allowing me artistic liberties.

XoXo

Sam & Sally Scarecrow (Friday’s Free-for-All)

Hey y’all, HaPpY Friday!

This Friday’s free-for-all brings you an Oktoberfest treat.

A quick aside about this short story picture book…

I received news from Amazon about the launch of Kindle Create encouraging me to give it a try, it’s a software program that is supposed to make a writer’s life a little easier. Some of you may know that I have been rejecting neglecting KDP for a while now but hey, I’m not one to hold a grudge. 😉 Anywho… I decided to give it a go.

So there I was uploading photos and tinkering with the fonts and themes and BOOM! Sam & Sally Scarecrow came to life.

Ahhh, I can’t wait for you all to meet these wacky characters who may or may not have been inspired by my crazy family. 😜

At any rate, I have to admit it was nothing but pure pleasure putting this little short together. So grab your free copy today (Friday’s free-for-all) and don’t forget to tell your friends to grab a copy too.

Cover Sam & Sally

Friday’s Free-for-All (Dear Tallulah)

Lay your grammar obsessions aside, let your jaw relax, loosen your ears, take a long deep breath as you let your mind drift to the deep south and listen in to the privy conversation between Maggie and her dear Tallulah.

Chapter ElevenBOOK 1 COVER with title

“Are you gonna sleep all day Mizrez Lafont? Best try to git up a bit.”
It was the sweet southern voice of Tallulah attempting to rouse the exhausted Maggie. She tapped the rail of a lump beneath the bedding and continued.
“Ima open these shades now missy, better make yo eyes ready cuz it’s a mighty fine mornin’.” Tallulah warned. Her bedraggled vernacular seemed to come from every direction at once.

Maggie pulled the Egyptian cotton over her face and murmured,
“Thank you Tallulah but for the umpteenth time would you please call me Maggie, okay?”
“Okay Miss Maggie.” The drapes flew back and light filled the room. Maggie lifted the cover from her face and squinted at the morning sun. Tallulah studied the woman’s face which was no more than a shade darker than the snowy sheets. She planted her hands on her hips and stared into the hollow eyes of her mistress.

“Mr. Ray is comin’ home today. He’s gonna be here in time for supper, you gonna tell him?”
“Yes Tallulah, I am going to tell him.”
“Is you feelin’ sick this mornin’? I can fetch you some dry toast and warm tea. That was always a help to me and to Mr. Ray’s mama too.”
“Yes please.” Maggie strained to sit up and suppressed a gag as she spoke. “That would be nice.”

When Maggie heard the door shut she scrambled to the restroom, turned the cold water on and splashed her face. The wave of nausea subsided and she raised her head to inspect the figure before her. She hardly recognized the drawn, insipid person in the mirror.
Maggie had been ill since the last night of her honeymoon when Ray carried her from the beach. She barely recalled the long flight home and blamed it on the rum but there was something wrong and she knew it.
The illness quashed her plans to redecorate the beautiful old plantation house. It had been in the Lafont family for close to two hundred years. There wasn’t much Maggie wanted to change about the historical mansion, just a few personal touches to make it her own, their own. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Lafont – Ray didn’t care one way or the other.
Mrs. Turner kept her word and came to visit at least once a week, usually staying for several days though Maggie hardly noticed with most of her days spent between the bed and the bathroom of the apartment sized boudoir.
Unable to keep much of anything on her stomach Maggie wasn’t surprised when she noticed her collar bones protruding like bowed timber at the base of her bony neck. Lifting her gown she could visualize the distinct outline of every rib then letting her eyes drop she observed the only thing that wasn’t recessed was her belly. Her abdomen looked like a basketball had been shoved beneath her flesh. “Ohhh god,” she moaned as her emaciated frame convulsed and heaved. Green bile splashed against the marble sink.

“Awe honey child!” Tallulah cried, rushing to Maggie’s side. “Let’s get you back to bed.”
“I’m sorry Tallulah,” Maggie swept a trembling hand across her mouth; “I’ve made another mess.”
“Don’t you worry ‘bout that none. That’s what I’m here for.”
Tallulah helped Maggie back to bed and softly washed her face then held the cup steady while Maggie sipped the chamomile tea.
Tallulah was a thick framed black woman who reminded Maggie very much of Aunt Jamima though she never said it out loud for fear of offending the angelic lady.
“You have gots to tell Mr. Ray Miss Maggie! You shoulda done told him a month ago. You done let this go too long, way too long.” She fretted, dabbing a damp cloth at Maggie’s face.
“There is nothing to tell Ray that he doesn’t already know. You know how he feels Tallulah – how we both feel about this. Now please…”
Without warning tea colored liquid spewed across the fine linens.
“He don’t know the doctor said you need to be shed of this or it’s gonna kill ya. It caint be he knows and let you lay up here wastin’ away.” The old nurse insisted, talking while she put a fresh damp cloth to Maggie’s neck and replaced the soiled sheet, “Mr. Ray is gone all the time, he don’t see what I see and when he calls you makes like ever little thang is fine.”
“Nature will take its course.” Maggie argued.
“That it will.” Tallulah agreed, “And maybe yo life in the doin’. Y’all can make another baby ma’am.” Tallulah paused to weigh her words and put her hands on Maggie’s gaunt ashen face, “They is somethin’ bad wrong with this one precious. I seen thangs like this here before. If ‘n it lives and you die…”
“I want to sleep now.” Maggie spoke abruptly to put an end to the conversation. Tallulah did not press the matter and Maggie sunk back beneath the cotton sheets.
You better take care of yourself and make sure this baby gets born healthy, do you hear me young lady?

The words of her mother ran through Maggie’s mind. It wasn’t as if Maggie had any control over it. If she did, if she could will her misery out of existence, the life sucking parasite would have been expelled weeks ago.

Maggie had just dozed off when the rumbling in her gut stirred her. It was not the usual churning she was familiar with and there was no nausea accompanying it. She lay still waiting for it. She placed her hand on her belly felt it again, a flutter followed by a tiny thump.
It’s kicking! Maggie stretched out on the bed and exposed her naked stomach. When the flutter started again she could see a slight rise in the protrusion on her withered frame.
“Hello in there.” She said quietly. It seemed to respond to her voice so she spoke again. “I’m gonna be your mother little man.” The communication went on for about ten minutes and when Maggie felt the thumps diminish she whispered, “You go back to sleep now, it’s going to be okay, your mama loves you.” A single tear of relief tickled the corner of her nose and she rang for Tallulah to bring her a full Sunday breakfast.

Tallulah entered a half-hour later with a smile and a tray loaded with soft scrambled eggs, bacon, French toast, grits and juice.
“I never seen you look so good Miss Maggie.” She laughed as the starving mother-to-be inhaled the platter of food and kept it down. “May be you gonna be alright after all. You and the young-un, yes indeed, may hap.” Tallulah practically danced out of the room with the empty tray and soiled linens in tow.

The fact that she had consumed every morsel without regurgitating bolstered her confidence as well as her energy. Maggie stood beneath the shower-head, stroking and lathering her stomach as she sang nursery rhymes to her unborn child. After showering she realized her endurance was not yet up to par and returned to bed for the best sleep she had had in months.
Two hours later Maggie awoke feeling exuberant and summoned Tallulah.

“Would you like to take a walk with me Tallulah?” she inquired.
“Not looking like you look.” The lady laughed, “`S’pose I comb them rats outta yo hair first.” Tallulah guided Maggie to the balcony. “You sit right here while I get a brush and lay out somethun nice for you to wear. You done got so po ain’t likely nuthin’l fitcha but we’ll make do.” Tallulah chose a light yellow poly blend dress from the wardrobe, laid it on the settee and shoved a brush inside her apron pocket. Before stepping back out onto the terrace she made the bed and turned down the covers.
“Here we go Miss Maggie.” turning Maggie so her back was to her, “Lawd child yo head is nappy!”
Maggie didn’t bother remarking on the comment. She knew she looked a fright in her current condition.
“How long have you known the Lafont family?” Maggie asked, as Tallulah stood behind her on the sun drenched veranda brushing out a mat of blond tangles.
“All my life.” Tallulah answered, “My Mama was maid to Mr. Ray’s Mama.”
“Really?” Maggie asked in surprise.
“Sho nuff and her Mama was employed here fo her. See my peoples was once owned by the Lafont’s.” Tallulah stated matter of factly with what sounded like pride to Maggie.
“Why on earth would you stay after the abolition – I mean why would your family stay on? Didn’t they know they could leave? Did anyone ever say?” Maggie asked, thoroughly intrigued by the information.
“Yessum, my mother told me what was told her — that they was no cause to leave. Said the Lafont’s made sure they had money, land and educated um too. Said they always gave um Sunday off and Saturday if need be. Wuddint no beatin’ and rapin’ goin’ on here like in tha other parts I heard tell of. I b’lieve her too cause they paid all three of my sons through college – called it my bonus. I couldn’t a got that nowhere else.”
“No ma’am I don’t believe you could have. So you’re fond of the family?” Maggie asked.
“Love um like they’s my own. I got one son is a doctor thanks to Mr. Ray’s daddy.” Tallulah beamed with pride and added, “The other two boys is teachers. Good teachers too.”
“I bet they are. You must be so proud of them Tallulah– all three of them.”
“I am Miss Maggie, I really am.”
“So tell me about Ray when he was a little boy.” Maggie urged.
“What’s be you wanna know?” Tallulah asked admiring and grooming the now smooth golden tresses of hair.
“Everything.”

The first memory that came to Tallulah’s mind of the young Lafont conjured cruel pictures. Images of the puppy Ray had found in an old grain silo. Tallulah could not bring herself to tell the ailing lady of how her husband had broken the legs of the tiny cur at every joint and tied its muzzle so it couldn’t cry out. She diligently searched her memories for something more pleasant. The imposition was cut short when Maggie abruptly slouched forward grabbing her waist.
“What’ a matter Miss Maggie?”
“I’m not sure.” Maggie replied, straining to speak through the enervating cramp, “Can we go in now?”
“Yessum. But you gots to tell ole Tallulah what’s wrong? Is you hurtin?”
Maggie nodded her head and tried to stand but found her legs would not support her.
“Let me help you.” She said, lifting Maggie to her feet.
“Oh lawdy lawd child, better let me carry you.” She swept Maggie up and carried her like a child back into the bedroom, laying her gently on the bed. “Ima get some towels – just you lay real still now.”
Maggie pulled her knees toward her chest, a natural maneuver to relieve the unrelenting spasm.
“Oh no.” She whimpered, “No, no, no little baby.” She cried when she noticed the bright red stain on her gown.

“Up here Mrs. Turner.” Tallulah yelled. Maggie lay motionless staring up at nothing as the nursemaid removed the bloody towels from between her legs. “Looks like that’s all of it ma’am.” Tallulah told her.

“Good lord have mercy! Look at all the blood. Tallulah were you able to stop it?” Mrs. Turner spoke frantically as she stood at the doorway and stared at the sharp contrast of crimson against the white bed sheets.
“Tha bleedin’ is slowed to nearly nuthin but she ain’t with child no mo ma’am.”

“Are you sure. Maybe we’d better call an ambulance and get her to the hospital.”

“For the girl may be, but look here.” Tallulah said, opening a towel for the grandmother to be, “Woulda been a boy by tha looks of it.”

“Dear god, that thing is hideous! Throw it away!” Mrs. Turner screamed as the salty rivers ran from her daughter’s silent face.

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