Robert Saunders Author
This story begins in the Deep South of 1939 and ends in the South Bronx of New York City in 2001. It follows the lives of two extraordinary, magical black women living in the Deep South during Jim Crow, who have special abilities and a powerful friendship that last beyond the grave.
It follows the life of one of their grandchildren, Dick Jones, as he grows up in the Harlem of 1969 and becomes a member of the Yoruba Temple where he learns of possession and African magic.
Without knowing it, Dick leads a life that trains and prepares him to save his dead grandmothers dearest friend when she is embattled by evil spirits.
Excerpt from the book:
From chapter one...
Chapter One - Miss Brown
The year 2001 found it an old apartment in great disrepair. Everything about it had settled long ago. If you set a marble on any floor in the apartment it would roll somewhere. Not just because the building had settled at odd angles, but because there must have been ten layers of linoleum, one on top of the other, that had been thrown in over the long years. The walls which must have been smooth and flat 80 or 90 years ago, when the tenement was first constructed, were now a mass of bumps, hills, valleys and curves, from the many layers of paint, which had built up a topography of its own over the years. Added to this was a section or two, (fortunately inside a closet or an easily hidden corner) where the plaster had disintegrated and you could see the actual old slat lattice construction. If you take these two characteristics of the apartment, the floors and the walls and you multiplied them by everything else, the bathroom, the kitchen, the ceilings, the old exposed, leaking radiators, you would have a good picture of how it looked.
And of how it felt for that matter. In fact, it felt even older and more run down than it looked or actually was and that was bad, really bad. But it was the pervasive reality of the South Bronx, in New York City. It was an old run down immigrant neighborhood. White at the beginning of its life, now Black and a ghetto at its end. But it was still a vibrant neighborhood due to the people who lived in it. Though their complexions were mostly dark, from light tan to jet black, though it was surely referred to and rightly so, as a Black neighborhood, it was really a complex, international, third world mix. The appearance and perception of it as a black neighborhood, was an illusion which only white people saw. In every sense that counts in human nature, there was absolutely nothing homogeneous about it. Almost every building and certainly every block was composed of people from different countries, cultures, religions and beliefs.
Haitians, Cubans, Porto Ricans, Salvadorians, Columbians, Hondurans, Africans from all over the continent, everything you could think of and of course American blacks. There were now, in 2001, even some white people, who had come in search of space and cheap rents and for whom cheap rents meant more than any possible danger or discomfort. People got along because they all knew one thing in common, no matter where they were from, its best to mind your own business and stick close to your own kind. A kind of instinctual live and let live. It worked because there was no other way such a mix could work. Imagine an area of roughly 30 square blocks where, Muslims, Catholics, Baptist, born again Christians, sanitaria, Voodoo, hogun, macumba, and just about anything you could think of, all existed, not just side by side but jowl by jowl and imagine any other point of view, state of mind, that could possibly allow it to exist.
The streets were dirty, the courtyards and backyards were dirty, the buildings were dirty, inside and out. If there was a sad thing, it was that the inhabitants were as responsible for this as anyone. But not out of a conscious decision or desire to live in filth and squalor, but because 5 or 6 generations later, they had all come to think that this was how it was suppose to be, that this was Normal. But even in the mist of such squalor, hopelessness and despair there were still people from the actual hood, not new comers seeking cheap rent, who lived in apartments that were as pristine as their energy would allow them to keep them. This was mostly true of very old people. They rarely went out, spending most of their time indoors, with nothing much to do other than keep their little corners of life clean and neat the way they knew they should be, which was the way they liked them.
Apartment number three at 1215 Fox Street was one of these. Though the walls and floors were wavy with a life of decay all there own, which the tenet could do nothing about, they were clean and the objects, crosses, photographs, prints, and little nick knacks which adorned them were neatly arranged and dusted, never neglected.
The bathroom was as clean as it could be considering its condition to begin with. The old woman who lived there was as neat and clean as everything else she could have an influence upon. Miss Marrybell Brown had lived a long and eventful life, one that had now left her alone in the world. In some ways this was a good thing, her daughter Marylu Brown had lived with her for six months or so, and it had been a period of hell for her. Marrybell had only lived in this apartment for one year and her daughter's sudden appearance, 6 months after she moved in, only served to make a difficult change more difficult. At eighty six, she stood an almost c shaped 5'3" and weighted just over a hundred pounds. She had been robust as a young woman and though time had reduced her to a weak old woman, she was not a sickly one. The biggest sickness she suffered from was loneliness. She had been forced to move from her former apartment, which she had occupied for almost 40 years, when the city finally condemned the building. The last five years or so there had become difficult for her but the first 35 had been good and it had been home. Having to up root oneself and move at 85 is a daunting task, especially as there was no one to help her. But move she did, she was a survivor, one of those noble souls which persist on and on, even when they can think of no better reason to continue other than it being what they have always done.
Her daughter was a wino, with fewer teeth than her mother, and none of her mother's spirit or brains. She was one of those lost soul women whose lives were one endless stream of the wrong men at all the wrong times. She had first become pregnant when she was 16 and had 4 children by the time she was 40, all of whom had been rescued by the state. On the day she washed up on her mothers door step she was 45 and except for the common characteristics of humanity, two arms, legs, eyes, etc., was barely a member of the human race any longer. Her current boy friend had beaten her badly for the last uncountable time and after escaping from the hospital, she found her way to her mother's house to seek refuge. She was hollow and broken when she arrived at her door and her mother had felt she had no choice other than to take her in, to do what she could for her only child. It always amazed Marrybell , on a very profound level, that this defeated, washed out, beaten creature was the fruit of her womb, was her daughter.
But even as she accepted her into her new home, the purely rational, intelligent side of herself keep screaming inside her head, no, no, no, don't do this, it's a mistake and one you will pay for over and over again, just as you have always paid for you kindness to her in the past. But her heart, looking through the rose tinted glasses of maternal affection, only saw her child, ragged and beaten, at her door, pleading for help from the only mother she had.
So she had let her into her home, she told her she could sleep on the couch until she got herself together, as there was only one bedroom in her apartment. There was only one bedroom because that was all she would ever need, she had never expected or predicted this would happen, though, if she were even 3 years younger, she would have, and then the decision to only have one bed room would have been an intentional one to prevent long term interlopers.
The first few hours went well. She told her daughter to run a bath, clean herself up and relax while she made her something to eat. She found her an old, but clean, housecoat to wear and told her she could wash her clothing down the street the next day. Her daughter's only possessions when she came were in a medium sized canvass sack, with a drawstring top, like a laundry bag. She pointed out to her that when she washed her clothing she should also wash the bag.
They had a simple dinner of reheated fried chicken, rice and corn, which her daughter devoured like a woman who had not eaten for days, which of course she was.
When the meal was finished she insisted on cleaning up after them. She got up from the table and went to stand behind her mother's chair, where she bent over and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, while whispering in her ear, "thank you momma, thank you so much".
This simple act on her part both shocked and pleased her mother. Marrylu had not kissed or hugged or shown any affection to her in years. In fact she could not remember the last time she had said thank you to her for any thing. She watched her daughter as she slowly removed the dishes from the table and took them into the little kitchen where she began to wash them.
'Maybe she's changed', she thought to herself, 'may be this time will be different, my little girl has to grow up sometime doesn't she? Maybe now at 45, this was the time, maybe, I did the right thing and it will be OK. It sure would be nice to have someone to talk to, that sure would be nice'.
When the dishes were done they sat in the living room and watched television. Her daughter was quiet and she seemed peaceful.
"Why don't you go on to bed momma", she said, "I wanna stay up and watch TV for a while, it's been so long sense I had a TV to sit up and watch".
She looked at her daughter and stood up and smiled." That's a good idea dear", she said, "I'm tired. There's sheets and a blanket for you on the table, have a good night".
She turned and slowly headed the few feet to her bed room door, then she stopped and turned around, looked at her daughter, sitting there on the couch looking at TV and said, "its nice to have you here" and with that she went into bed.
When she woke up the next morning the nightmare was beginning. She went out into the living room to say good morning and found her daughter passed out on the floor with an empty bottle of cheap wine beside her. 'Oh lordly, where did that come from', she thought, 'it must have been in that damn bag of hers'.
She went over to where her daughter lay, slobbering and mumbling in her stupor and shook her head back and forth. 'Oh lordy', she though, 'some things just never change, I guess I should just thank God for last night'..
She bent down and gently shook her daughter, saying "come on now girl, time to get up, at least get up on the couch so you wont be all cramped when you wake up".
Her daughter just turned away with a violent jerk to where her head faced into the bottom of the couch. Her mother tried again and this time she violently pushed her away, shouting "go fuck yourself and leave me alone, old bitch", without ever looking at her or seeming to wake up.