Johns mom looked at me and said,,"He's gonna go deaf." Then stood and began heading to the trailer saying,,"I'm
gonna go get ready to go to Hirams.I'll be back out in a few minutes."
Replying,"Okay,ma'am,I'll be right here." I popped the top off the ice cold 16oz. swirly fluted glass
bottle of Pepsi with my pocket knife,took a couple of big ol'swallows then set it down on the little table,put my knife back
and fished out a cigarette.
I stuck one in my mouth and bic flik'd it into a glowing ember on a stick of suddenly unappealing nasty
tasting vegetation and paper that I took out of my mouth,,dropped onto the ground next to my my foot and placed my right heel
down on it.Crushing it with such a wimpy sounding 'ewww' coming from my own mouth that I had to chuckle at my own sillyness
I grabbed the Pespi bottle and took a couple of more swallows in the hopes the carbonation bubbles would cut the taste.
The realization that I had put a cigarette out on the ground in John's mothers 'regular sitting area',,something
that was a 'known no-no' which most likely would incite a very unpleasant reaction from her,,prompted me to forego another
swallow and instead set it back down and lean over to pick it up.
As I leaned over,moved my heel and reached down a belch bubbled up from my belly that seemed to startle
and surprise the small pygmy rattler now coiling into a typical for them aggressive defensive posture a small distance from
my Puma shod foot.
Even given that it's greenish tail showed it was young it was not a large example of the small species.But
it was dutifully shaking the small rattles hard enough to come close to equaling a not too loud cicada about 15 feet away
in volume in order to let me know it had a nasty though not very often fatal venom in it's bite.
Freezing,,my hand suspended about a foot in front of and slightly above the snakes head I literally had
no idea what to do.As a germ of an idea regarding distracting the snake by moving my ankle away before snatching my hand back
thereby hoping to maybe catch the fangs in the thicker form of my shoe clad foot as opposed to the possible loss of a finger
or maybe two from being hit by the reptile in the thinner meat of my hand or fingers,,a flash of white obscured the snake
from behind it's head before disappearing as quick as it appeared in a speed distorted blur that continued forward past my
'about to move' foot.
About the time that registered in the 'ahhh,a snake' geared machine my mind had become,,the snake was
gone,,the sensation of a quick blow on top of my foot right above my toes shuddered up my leg and I leaped from my chair.
Landing stumblingly on my feet,,I tried to keep my eyes on the white objects path as the puzzlement and
befuddlement grew to an even greater level when laughter rang out to suddenly underscore the small,,yet rapidly growing feeling
of relief and self consciousness bubbling up out of the startled landscape of my mind.
The white object suddenly solidified into a somehow familiar shaped lean short haired female looking
cat with reddish colored patches following a turkish van pattern that strikingly accented a stark white lean form now froze
in a 'looking back over the shoulder' pose that left her amazingly bright golden eyes,,split like the instantly dead but still
twitching charcoal and reddish brown colored pygmy rattlers that hung from the sharp toothed mouth,,locked on my own.
As the laughter continued I recognised Johns moms voice a split instant before the beautiful white cat
uttered a delicate and comforting sounding sound that couldn't exactly be called a meow due to the jaws holding the head of
the slightly more than a foot long scaled body tightly to keep the death throes under control.
About the time that registered,,one more little sound came from the snake filled mouth that seemed to
be a parting phrase since the form disolved back into a blur which flashed away and into the weeds and bushes of the woods
to the west without so much as leaving a piece of vegetation moving any more than the now small breeze moving the warming
air should cause.
Turning to look at Johns mom standing at the foot of the trailer steps still laughing,,but not as much,,I
asked,,"Did you see that?"
"Yeah I did,,I didn't see the snake untill she stopped but I seen you jump out of your chair and clear
that table in a spilt second.Then I seen the look on your face,,that's what cracked me up.You can move mighty fast,young'un."
Her chuckling words brought the fact fully to my attention that I was on the opposite of the table than
I had been before the appearance of the two critters.
Not sure which was more amazing,,the sudden appearence of such a threat and the subsequent magical seeming
yet very fortunate,,for me,,not the snake,,intervention of the lightning fast cat or the unobserved,,by me,,leap over the
small table,,I just sort of stared back and forth between Johns smiling mom,,the table and the spot on the edge of the woods
where the cat had been absorbed by the shadows that seemed just a little darker than they should be considering the angle
of the rising sun in the blue Florida sky for a few minutes untill she said,,"Come on boy,,pick your jaw up,thank God and
let's get going."
'Yeah' came my naggers until now rather unusually silent voice,,'pick you jaw up,boy,,and let's go see
hiram.' Which made me ask it,,'What if I ask him how to get rid of you?' as I picked up my Pepsi,,and the crushed cigarette
and headed to my car which Johns mom had allready climbed into before I 'picked my jaw up'.
Making sure to say aloud,,"Thank you,God." I stepped quickly across the oak leaf strewn sparsely grassed
yard to the drivers door of the decade or so old car that my father had left me when he died during my 17th year on the planet.
Pausing before opening the door and climbing in,,I smelled the odor from the 'thing' in my trunk wafting
through the air which made me sort of puff a little out through my nose as I glanced back at the darkness where the cat had
went.It didn't seem so surprising to see the 'extra dark' quality no longer suffused the spaces where a moment or so ago the
shadows had seemed to fold around the spot as though to protect the passing feline from tracking eyes.
Thinking to myself that I might eventually stop being surprised by strangness if enough of it kept happening
around me I opened the door,slid in,dropped my Pepsi in the console and cranked the engine while shutting the door all in
one smooth set of motions.
Johns mom said,"Just get to 60 and head west untill I tell you to stop." to which I replied,,'Aye,Aye,mon
capiton." while beginning to back carefully out into the dirt road.
Putting the old GS's 455 into gear I refrained from kicking up some dust like I usually did leaving Johns
when his parents weren't around and instead just let it idle us to the stop sign at 27th.
As we did she begin to talk about the fellow she called Hiram,,"He knew my great grandfather back on
our island and he is the reason we came here.His family owned several trading ships,,a few old schooner types but mainly powered
ships.Originally working out of Louisiana they were allways coming past us.Either going or coming the old man would stop and
visit for at least one whole day saying that if he didn't sleep on steady land in peace before setting sail he would never
be able to sleep while on the waves."
"He knew your great grandfather?How old is he?"
After a pause during which she looked fairly hard at an old black man walking on the other side of 27th
heading south she said,,"I don't know.And I don't know anyone who claims to know.As far back as I can remember he pretty much
looks the same except for his hair.When I was young his hair was coal black,,like a ravens wings.I remember the way it would
shine so blue.And not just in the sunlight either.Firelight,,the fancy lights on his ships,,even the hand lights would do
it.I thought it was the prettiest hair I had ever seen."
"Then he showed up one day with every hair on his head gone such a shiny silvery white it was almost
blue color.And that became the prettiest hair I have seen to this day.He seemed worn ragged,bruises and a few cuts.He didn't
hardly talk to us kids or my parents at first but went off with my grandfather and we didn't see them for a week."
"Now my grandfather was one who fought the dark with all his soul and most things he did I know nothing
about.But I do know what he told me and that was that my great great grandfather used to not be against the dark and only
changed because of something that happened that my father did not want him to tell me about.During that time Hirams father
owned my great great grandfather."
"Wow,,really?" I asked as I braked to a stop at Oslo where the Cumberland Farms sat cattycornered across
the intersection to wait to turn west.
"Yes,now my grandfather has also said that Hiram looked the same all the years he knew him.And he was
the spitting image of his father except his father had red hair that turned silverish one day like Hirams did when it turned
from black to blueish silver.My grandfather said his great grandfather said Hirams fathers hair was red like a penny when
he bought him from the chief of the tribe his tribe was warring with at the time."
Having turned and was heading west by then I settled a little better in my seat and got prepared to let
the 'Lark idle casually at the posted speed limit of 45 mph as only a big block can while I listened to this fascinating tale
coming from Johns mom.I asked,"Uh,,so Hirams dad was a slave trader?"
"Yes,,well,,no.He was a slave hauler that stopped transporting slaves and swapped to anything else."
"But not before he transported your great great grand dad?" , "Oh,no,,he bought him outright.He owned
my great great grand father.Just hush and I will tell you,son.Hush."
I did and she continued with,,"Now Hirams daddy knew my great great great grandpa,,I'll call him Michael,,okay?"
I said nothing and keep my attention on directing the Buick down Oslos old hardtop,,so she went on,,"Hirams dad met Michael
when he was free and Hiram and his dad were in Michaels tribes area far from the ocean.They were almost the first white men
to ever be there.There had been a few in prevous years but they either didn't stay around or stayed long enough to get killed.The
natives were a primitive people as you can imagine."
I just nodded,,eyes forward,,hands at 10 and 2,,doing the driving thing.
"The way I allways was told to tell it was that Hiram and his dad were looking for gold but I think they
were looking for that and magic too."
Totally unbidden,,"Magic?" came out of my mouth."Hush!Don't ask nuthing,young'un.I ain't gonna throw
no words at you that will only confuse you and it don't matter any where they was.They was Africans and Hiram and his daddy
were looking for deep jungle ju-ju,,okay?Michael helped them get what they wanted even though his father said no.I don't have
any real idea what,,so don't ask.It didn't happen right away.They came a few times before Michael helped them and I don't
know for sure why he did,so don't ask."
"But later,,when Michael was captured by a neighboring tribe and sold to a black trader who took him
to a port market which Hirams dad ships were docked at.Hirams dad bought Michael that day and he became part of Hirams operational
crew and stayed with him for a long time.There are dozens of tales I could tell you about the things they are said to have
done looking for the stuff they did.And they weren't hardly ever nice about they did while trying to get a lot of those things."
Getting to the corner of 82nd I hung the corner and just accelerated as usual,,which was a little more
athletic than what was used to.Even though it wasn't like she got jounced around much she shot out a hand to grab the dash
and said,,"Hey,boy,,I know there's alot of horses in this thing but hold 'em back when I am riding with you,,okay?" , "Yes,ma'am,,sorry.The
seat belts work."
"Son,,if you make me scared enough to put on a seat belt I will get out and walk.Do you want to hear
anymore of this or not?" , "Uh,,yes,ma'am." , "Then shut up,boy.And quit jostling me around like you're making a damn martini
or something.Watch the road,ya hethern!"
Snapping my eyes firmly frontward and getting the 10 and 2 grip established again I said not a word and
She resettled in her seat while watching the pastures and groves on the other side of the canal as we
were passing then picked up her narration.
"Somewhere along the way,Michael had gained his 'legal freedom' from Hirams daddy,papers and all.Some
say it was a poker hand tipped in Michaels favor and claim the nick name of "The Four Ace King","The Ace King" or "King of
Aces" that he had as proof.Michael never acted any different,didn't say a word nor brought it up for years untill one day
he met a woman and fell for her.That's when he decided to stay on those islands permanently.It was after he had turned away
from his former way of life and he and Hiram had quit going after the things that led them to meet.My mother often said it
was a 'reward' for putting down obeah.My father sometimes said it was a 'puishment ' for having taken it up in the first place."
"Hirams family sailed back and forth from the islands to Louisiana all the time so since he had been
coming and going with them for years he gotten to know many of the locals.One of the local landowners,,yeah,,a plantation,,that
either liked Michael or Hiram since he was seen as a 'favored' slave of Hiram,or at the very least did business with him,,deeded
a piece of mountainside to Michael since he couldn't do much with it anyway,,and as a wedding present Hiram had a big area
leveled and gave him enough hardwood lumber to build a huge house.I grew up in that house."
Coming up on the intersection with 60 I let off on the gas then braked to a stop and popped my left hand
turn signal on while she was saying,,"He stayed there pretty much from then on.And Hiram wouldn't stop coming by untill after
I came to America 20 years ago.He doesn't really say why but he even left his place in Louisiana where he lived like a king
and moved onto a corner of a grove his family owns on 60,,they have holdings all over the world.But I think it was so he could
come and go without no one knowing."
She stopped talking as the 95 overpass came and went.Then she looked at me and said,,"It's about 4 miles
ahead." Then she paused a few minutes to watch as a semi spewing dark diesel smoke geared upward while passing us.When she
began speaking again her voice was subdued somehow and she seemed to try to pick her words carefully."Now,,as you probally
gathered,,Michael,Hiram nor Hirams father,,started out as good folks.Now,,I am not too sure of Hirams dad but Hiram and Michael
had something happen that made them change totally.Unfortunately,,some of the things they had done couldn't simply be undone
even if they wanted to.Some things they put into motion were cyclic and had to continue.The only choice they have is to not
keep fueling the process and let the cycles come to an end."
I glanced over at her,,she was looking down at her fidgeting hands in silence,,a rather sad strained
look on her face.Before she realized I was looking,,I turned my face back to the road.She cleared her throat then continued
with,"That's what they are still around.The cycle hasn't ran down yet."
She sat up in her seat a bit and seemed to gather herself before saying,,"So untill that happens they
try to stay busy using what they know to fight the things they know about."
"Like the ouijie board thing?"
"Yes,,like the ouija board thing.And other stuff too."
"My daughter helped Michael quite a bit and was still doing so when she died.I am so proud of her."
"Okay then,,why did John say she wanted me to have it rather than giving it to Hiram or Michael?"
She didn't answer but instead peered down the road and said,,"Slow down,,it's coming up."
Looking down the road for signs of a turn off all I seen along the straight away ahead of us was solid
unbroken guardrail on the leaft and right of the two lane road cutting through Florida like a belt cinched right along the
planets nothern halfs tropical zones northern most boundry.
"Uh,,where ,ma'am?" , "Just ahead a bit." , "But,,There's no where to turn off." , "Just pull off next
to the guardrail."
Looking in my rearviews as my car slowed,,I placed my foot on the brake pedal and began feathering more
speed off while wondering if there would be enough room left between her door and the guardrail for her to get out."It looks
like if I do that you'll have to get out on my side."
"Not if he sees it's me first I won't."
Totally not understanding that comment I chose to not ask about it while she pointed ahead and to our
right and asked, "Do you see those cypress trees.?"
"Yes,,and I see the cedars too."
"His house is right under them so pull of the road across from them."
Again glancing in my rearviews to make sure there was no vehicles close enough to matter,,I spied a semi
way back.If it hadn't of had its headlights on as most truckers that ran this road did I wouldn't have really seen it.But
it was a ways off yet and even at high speed it would not be an issue until after I pulled off on the shoulder when the matter
of how far off the road my car would be might cause a bit of concern as it passed.
Braking down slown enough to pull on off the hardtop with out major jostling I edged as close to the
guardrail as I could.
That effort put my stopping point a tab past the house now visable under the large cedars and cypress
towering over it.As Johns mom seen my careful manuvering would take us slightly past being directly opposite the building
she said "Good." then reached between my arms and hit the Skylarks horn in a quick 4 note tune.
Coming to a stop and placing my car in park I cut off the engine.I then popped on my 4 way flashers and
said,,"We might want to to get out and wait behind the car against the guard rail untill this semi behind us passes.That way
if he clips the car,,we won't be in it."
As that came out of my mouth it seemed like one of those not too uncommon morning showers that occured
as the morning humidity coalesced into brief moisture laden clouds that releases a few rain drops over the still night time
cool swamps west of the now much more sun warmed area of the drier coast to the east.As the light levels dropped rather quickly,,I
surmised that the cloud that obscured the sun had to be between us and any rain would probally not fall on us.
Thinking that,,I started to inform her that,'with it getting dark like this we really should hurry and
get out to be safe' when she stopped my by putting a hand on my bicep and saying,"Just sit still,young'un,,he knows it's me."
Surprised,,and my thoughts being on that semi,,I turned my attention to my rear view mirror to see how
close it was to maybe slamming us up over the guardrail and into the obscured by not recently cut vegetation and therefore
deceptively shallow appearing canal that ran parallel to 60 like its not so overgrown counterpart on the southern side.
Peering into the mirror suspended in my drivers window at the semis head and running lights getting more
noticable in the ever deepening gloom I started to tense up in response to what appeared to be the more and more dead on aim
of the semi at my trunk.
Staring at the approaching twin white points of light on each outside edge of the big dark rectangle
that was now virtually indistingushable in the now way more than ordinary darkness that I was accustomed to during these shower
events bringing I became filled with the not unexpectable fear of winding up in the middle of an inbalanced battle of momentum
and weight between my little car and the huge semi that seemed immenent then having a tornado whip over the tragic events
Turning to look at Johns mom,,who puzzingly had a smile of allmost pure delight as she watched the semis
headlight beams reflect out of the rearview into my face while simultaneously creating a cone of light around us that oddly
seemed to cause the view I now seen outside the windshield to get darker rather than lighter.Right as the moment approached
that I assumed would bring a hopefully quick cessation of feeling as opposed to a horrible crunching of metal amid feelings
of flesh and bone being and having been mangled,,that may continue for awhile whether or not I ultimately died,,,
A very strong breeze laden with the sounds and smells of the surrounding groves,pastures and swamp now
under a velvety blackish blue moonlit star studded sky,,blasted past,into and through the open windows washing over me and
(intro) (prt1) (prt2) (prt3) (prt4) (prt5) (prt6) (prt7) (prt8) (prt9) (prt10) (prt11) (prt12) (prt13) (prt14) (prt15) (prt16) (prt17) (prt18) (prt19) (prt20) (prt21) (prt22) (prt23) (prt24) (prt25) (prt26) (prt27) (prt28) (prt29)