Over the next two weeks, I’ll be taking part in the”Watch RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS) Write”Showcase Tour.
Today’s special guest: Beem Weeks
There might’ve been a
dream. Or maybe not. Violet Glass really couldn’t recall. Probably, though. A
dream concerning some stupid boy—or even a girl.
Can’t control what creeps
through your sleep.
Her body stirred awake as
the blackest part of night splashed its inky resolve across that part of
Violet stared at the
ceiling, tried like the dickens to recall a face, perhaps a voice—anything
belonging to the one responsible for this latest agitation.
Nothing came through,
Even dead of night did
little to lay low that sticky heat. Old-timers in town swore oaths affirming this, the summer of 1910, to be more
oppressive than any other summer since before the war between the states.
Violet eased her body
from her bed; the soles of her feet found cool the touch of creaking
There’d be nobody to
catch her—not at this hour.
Nobody, but Ruthie.
And Ruthie Sender?—she’d never let on of these doings.
Violet scampered through
the kitchen, flung her blue-eyed gaze against the darkened parlor. Only shadows
and silence bore witness to her planned escape, a girl’s nightly traipsing.
The back door gave up
with only minor provocation.
splashed the yard with a silvery sheen; promising secrets lingered among the
Around the rear of the
house she skulked, careful to hold close to the shadows, to remain hidden from
the ones who’d blab, those others who’d hold it over her head for gain.
Back behind the barn she
found her crouching spot, fell low to the ground, fixed sight on the direction
of Ruthie Sender’s place a few hundred yards away. Traipsing just didn’t hold
its fun without Ruthie tagging along.
Violet rushed her
granddad’s cotton field without that hesitation she’d known only a summer
Shadows stirred and
wiggled in the distance. Figures formed, made shapes around a low-burning fire.
Even at the center of all that cotton, Violet could pick out words of songs
sung by the coloreds, those kin to Ruthie Sender.
They sang about standing
on wood, an old slave’s saying, drawing up recollections of a time they
themselves belonged to someone else.
Belonged to Violet’s kin.
Wood smoke fogged the
Violet hunched low,
skirted the yard where those coloreds took up with their fire and song and
whiskey. Friendly sorts, all of them. Always first with a kind word, an
interest in Violet’s family, how the girl’s folks were getting on—even if that
interest leaned toward pretend. But that’s the nature of the matter. It’s
Violet’s great-granddad who’d once owned all those souls that gave creation to
the very ones now singing and drinking.
She broke through shadows
collected beneath an ancient willow tree, found respite behind the Sender
family’s privy, and waited for the girl to either show or not show.
The colored girl’s legs
appeared first, dangling from the pantry window, bare feet scrabbling at the
air, searching for a solid thing to set down upon. The thud of her sudden drop
wouldn’t wake anybody.
A dingy gray nightshirt
clung to Ruthie’s body. Her dark-eyed gaze landed out where she knew to find
Violet. If the girl offered a smile, it couldn’t be seen—not from this
“Go out back of Tussel’s,
maybe?” Ruthie asked, finding space in Violet’s shadow.
“Catch a strap across my
butt, I get found by that saloon again,” Violet promised. “Daddy don’t say
Ruthie said, “Chicken
Violet backed down a
notch, weighed her options. “Who’s gonna be there?”
“Fella named Ferdinand
something. Plays piano.” Ruthie tossed a nod toward those others out by the
fire. “They won’t share us no
“Won’t share up to
Tussel’s, neither—unless you got some money.”
They were born the same
night, Violet and Ruthie, back during spring of 1895. Only a few measly hours
managed to wedge in between them, separated the girls from being twins of a
Close enough, though.
Ruthie came first—if her
folks were to be believed.
“Where we going?” Violet asked, following
after Ruthie’s lead.
“Lena Canu’s place,” said
“She got stuff to drink,
Droplets of sweat ran
relays along Violet’s spine, leaving the girl’s skin wet, clammy. “Awful hot,
“She a conjure woman,” Ruthie announced, laying
her tone low, protected. “—Lena Canu, I mean.”
Midnight’s high ceiling
lent sparse light to the path splitting the two properties. Violet’s kin,
they’d once owned the entire lot. Her great-granddad, he’s the one took notion
to make things right, gave half of his land to the slaves he turned loose after
Ruthie’s kin, mostly.
Senders and Canus.
Couldn’t ever really make
a thing like that right, though.
A small cabin squatted in
the brush; the orange glow of a lamp shined in the window. Used to be a slave’s
shack, this one here.
Moonlight dripped on the
colored girl’s face, showed it round and smooth, lips full and perfect, eyes
alive with life and mischief. “Gonna see does she have any drink.”
Violet leaned closer, her
bare arms feeling the other girl’s heat. She asked, “Can she tell fortunes?”
“Like reading a book.”
That dark door yawned
wide; Lena Canu peered into the night. “I’ll tell your fortune, white girl,”
Ruthie gave a nudge,
guided Violet up the walk and into the shack.
A table and four chairs
congregated at the center of the bare space. Kerosene fed a flame dancing like
the devil atop the glass lamp. A pallet in a corner threw in its lot with the
Lena Canu tossed a nod
toward her rickety table. “Have you a seat, now,” she ordered, “—both of you.”
Violet sat first. Ruthie
found perch across from her friend. Beneath the table naked feet bumped and
rubbed, each girl assuring the other this would be a good turn.
“You one of them Glass
girls, ain’t you?” Lena asked, dropping onto a chair of her own.
Violet said, “Yes,
Lena waved her off.
“Ain’t no ma’am. Call me Lena, is all. You the one runs wild.” A pronouncement
rather than a question.
Ruthie asked, “You got
A clear pint bottle came
into the moment; its bitter amber liquid promised that sort of burn a person
Each girl drew off a long
pull, let the heat mingle with their blood. Neither girl had ever gone full-on
drunk; only a swig or two is all they ever dared.
Lena Canu, conjuring
woman, spread a pile of bones over the table and commenced to ciphering future
happenings a girl might need to know.
Things about boys and
marriage didn’t come up. Neither did mention of babies and such. All Violet
heard portended mainly to trouble.
“Quit you runnin’ wild,”
Lena proclaimed, “and you be just fine.” She took up her narrow gaze again,
aimed to settle matters. “But you keep doin’ what you been doin’, things gonna
The suddenness of gunfire
echoed through that sticky air. Three quick shots chased by a lazy fourth that
staggered along a moment later.
Lena jumped first, ran
for the door. Ruthie followed after, peering into the dark, no doubt expecting
to put a face to the one pulled that trigger.
Violet remained stuck to
her chair, attentions tugging between the matters outside and those sayings
left to her by that conjuring woman. Did she really believe in such things, or
was it all just a mess of nonsense?
“What am I gonna do to
make things go bad?” she asked, supposing it wouldn’t hurt to know—just in
But Lena had other notions
to work over. “Sounds like they come from over to your place,” she said to
Ruthie tipped a nod,
said, “Could be they gettin’ liquored up too much, huh?”
“Might could,” answered
It happens that way, boys
and their whiskey, wandering along crooked paths of discontent, blabbing things
not really meant for harm—just boasting, is all.
But boasting to a drunken
fella is as good as a punch on his nose.
“Gonna go see,” said
Ruthie, pushing past the threshold, pressing on toward home.
Violet held her ground,
let the colored girl disappear in the night. Attentions ceased their tugging,
settled on the one making proclamations concerning bad manners and trouble to
Lena came loose of her
thoughts, brought one to words, said, “Go on home now, white girl. Nighttime
belongs to devils.”
* * *
Clouds laid a brief
smudge against the moon, stripped its shine right off the night, left Violet to
wonder if it really might be footsteps stumbling along behind her, following
that same narrow path toward home.
“Fool boys,” she
muttered, tossing nervous glances over either shoulder.
Footfalls fell heavy—like
boots hammering the earth. An eager thing born of desperation.
Violet bolted left,
squatted low behind a pile of brush that had the makings of a snake shelter.
She held her breath and waited for the one at her back to pass on by.
A piece of tree limb came
to her hand, a long and heavy thing, able to put a soul right should he come at
her with wrong intentions.
That smudged moon went
shiny again, dripped light across the path, showed off the shape of a man
loping toward home. Tall and thin, this one; he moved quick with purpose.
Going the wrong way,
though, Violet thought, waiting for the man to pass.
She gained her feet,
charged his retreat, swung that heavy piece of wood and caught that interloper
straight between his shoulders.
the man hollered, hitting the ground like a sack of potatoes.
“This is private
property!” Violet informed him, fixing up for a second swing.
The fella pulled up on
his knees, tried to reach for that spot on his back no doubt gone swollen. He
said, “It’s private property only ’cause I
Foolishness seeped into
the girl. She squinted against the dark, drew recollection of his face. “Granddad?” she said, hoping her
recollections proved wrong.
“What the hell are you doing out here?” he demanded, giving
his legs a try.
“Came out to use the
privy,” she fibbed. “Heard gunshots, came to see, is all.”
“Liar!” the old man spat.
“You been gallivanting again, ain’t you?” He moved closer to the girl, sized
her up, made a big fuss over her running around in only a nightshirt and
nothing else. “Your daddy’s gonna hit ya where the good Lord split ya—then he’s
gonna move you to your sister’s room upstairs. Won’t be no sneaking out from there.”
Her gaze caught that
glint at his waistband, a familiar hunk of blued steel. “Don’t matter,” she
said. “Daddy’s gonna put you in the
“On account of what?”
“On account of you’re
going senile, traipsing off, bothering colored folks again with that pistol of
yours.” Violet leaned closer, continued her spiel. “Heard him and Mama talking
just last week, saying how you’re a danger to yourself just as much as to
The old man’s jaw fell
open and slammed shut; intended words went lost to the night. He couldn’t tell
on her now—not without personal risk.
Defeat fogged his eyes.
“I won’t tell your business if you don’t tell mine.”
Violet seized the moment
with both hands. “That depends,” she informed him.
“Who’d you shoot
“Nobody. Just meant to
scare, is all.”
“Gonna kill somebody one
day—if you ain’t already.”
“Ain’t in my blood,
“Don’t have to mean it to
The old man pulled back,
let frustration have its way. “We got a deal or don’t we?”
“You gonna leave Ruthie’s
“Just want what’s mine,”
“But it’s their land, Granddad—been so for
forty-five years. A hundred guns ain’t gonna make it not so.”
He never did wear misery
Violet’s arms went easily
around the man. She pulled close to him, breathed in that familiar odor of
sweat and tobacco.
He said, “I won’t bother
them no more.”
“Then we have us a deal.”
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