A Minor Blues, chapter I

Someone has to write my first novel, it may as well be me. This idea has been fermenting in my brain for a couple of years. It is now either ripe or rotten, but that is for my readers to say. A single-sentence synopsis might read as follows: A dedicated but mediocre musician records the greatest album never released.    Or: Jack gets paid to eat barbecue and listen to the blues. Nice work if you can get it.

Actually,, I serialized this novel online circa 2009-10 on another forum, publishing chapter by chapter as I wrote them. Naturally, writing without a plan causes one’s narrative to meander a bit, and there are loose threads aplenty throughout the work, so it is due for a major re-write.

This 1st chapter, however, needs little or no work, so I am posting it to see if there is any interest in my continuing to post the story as i re-write it. If I know someone is reading, it will spur me to work harder, so let me know what you think, all one of you.

######################################

Everybody hits at least one home run. No matter what the game is, you

hear me? The thing is, you gotta play all the time. Cause sure as shit,
you ain’t gonna be lucky and show up only on the nights you shine
.”–
Delaney ‘Spoondog’ Partlow
 
Convict #126578, Delaney Partlow, NMI. Aliases- Spoondog, Spoon, Spoonboy,
Roosevelt, Tiger
. b. 1919, d. October 19, 1942. Served 17 months of a
12-year sentence for B&E of a private residence. Burned BR in kitchen
fire. Buried in pauper’s grave on grounds.–from the archives of the
Arkansas State Prison at Cummins, AK
 
Although slightly out of tune and a bit derivative, Spoondog and the
Dogmen’s infectious enthusiasm woke up the crowd and got them ready for
the main attraction. Yes, it was definitely Muddy’s night
….” from a
music review in The Tunica Weekly News, Monday, January 27, 1950
 
“You want me to find a guy who’s died three times, the last time over
forty years ago? And yet sent you a sympathy card when your Father
passed last month? It’s your money, honey. Drink? I sling a mean
singapore.”
 — Jack Moonlight
————————————————–
 
“This is it?” Jack swatted a mosquito on his left hand with the notebook
in his right. The little fellow had been in the middle of lunch; now Jack had
to switch hands , hold the notebook in his left hand, while he fumbled
for the napkin he had saved from his own last meal at Lucky’s Juke Joint
& BBQ Emporium. He wiped his patron’s bloody remains off his hand as
Horace answered seriously Jack’s rhetorical question.
 
“S’wat the headstone say, don’ it? ‘Sides, I helped dig the grave.”,
Horace said, with a note of pride in his voice.
 
Jack filed Horace’s obvious dislike of D. Partlow, 1919-1952 in his
medium-term memory banks as he looked around. The Negro Cemetery of Upper
Pulaski County had its own entrance, on a road that led from the highway
to nowhere else but a true dead-end. Here, as opposed to the white
graveyard which it abutted, live-oaks and magnolias had been allowed to
grow tall and wide. The shade touched nearly every grave at least part
of the day. On their way back here, in a battery-powered cart driven by
Horace, Jack had seen a white burial in process. The handkerchiefs were
wet with sweat, not tears. The cart was quiet enough that the preacher’s
platitudes reached Jack’s ears, as did his pause when a big rig gunned
its engines on the highway that was certainly not foreseen when the
graveyard was originally divided along color lines. It was peaceful,
restful even, back here under the trees. Jack had no trouble hearing
Horace Boulware’s recitation of the deceased’s faults.
 
“…not that good a musician, couldn’t sing worth a damn, ‘less you
count screamin’ and moanin’, that Howlin’ Wolf garbage. Still, the gals loved
him. Why, even when we were kids…”
——————————————
 
Euclidean, Mississippi, July, 1929
 
 
“Hey Spoonbill! Yo’ dog’s followin’ another trail”. The old negroes on
the porch of Mattie’s store variously laughed, coughed, or slapped
their knees at Grandy’s witticism.
 
William “Spoonbill” Geddie turned and looked at the boy carrying his
guitar. He was holding it like a growed man, slapping the strings,
eliciting a delighted laugh from a young light-skinned girl, pretty in
her braids and a pink dress.
 
“C’mon, dog. We got places to be.”
“Shawna Mae, see you around.” Delaney ran and caught up with his mentor.
“She likes me, Spoon. She was smilin’ big and pretty.”
“She was laughin’ at you, boy, you thinkin’ you can play that guitar
already.”
“Maybe she was laughin’ at your nose.”
 
Spoonbill unconsciously reached up and rubbed what had been a
proper proboscis before it was flattened by a jailer’s boot a few years back.
Untreated, the cartilage had hardened with an inward curve and a
depression above the nostrils, which now slanted out to the sides,
looking for all the world like a chinaman’s eyes.
 
“That mouth gonna get you a funny nose one day, boy. Now keep up, and
don’t be letting the strap drag on the ground.”
 
Spoonbill was proud of his strap, with its American flag motif. He found
it in a shop in Poitier, France, where Negro soldiers were allowed in
all the stores, could walk in the front entrance like a man, tip their
campaign hats to the mam’selles. Why, they could even look the ladies
straight in the eye, if that was what you wanted to look at, that is. As
many french gals touched black skin for the first time in those
years as members of his own 25th Infantry did the same with white
skin. Several men in his company stayed in France after the war to touch
more, and to live as equals, a privilege denied them in the country of their
birth, the country many friends had died for. William wished sometimes
that he had stayed In France, and got to talking about it to little Delaney
when he’d had a few.
 
“We gotta burn it if touches the ground, like the flag?”, the boy asked.
“Burn you, boy. That’s what we gon’ do, you let it drag.”
“I won’t. We goin’ to the park, Spoon?”
“Yessuh, pup. I’m gon’ play, you gon’ dance, and we’ll make a couple
dollars before Sheriff Tully says move on. Then off to Uncle Whitey’s
to get a bottle of hooch for me, and I’ll give you a nickel so’s you can
run back to Mattie’s, get a Barq’s. You can split it with little Shawna
Mae.”
 
A car cruising by, one of the few in town, caught Delaney’s attention. It
was Dr Hatton’s 1925 Model T, the Open Tourer. The Doc was taking his
kids to the lake for the day. His boy grinned shyly at Delaney from the
back seat. Delaney grinned back, gave a little wave. He didn’t know the
white boy’s first name. Doctor Hatton treated sick black folk on
Tuesdays, and stitched up black knife-wounds on Saturday mornings when
need be. But he wouldn’t let his young-uns mix with Negroes, not even a
little. Delanrl accepted this as just the way things were.
 
“Spoon? I’m gon’ have me a car like that someday.”
 
“Yeah boy. Prob’ly be that same car, after it’s rusted up and the
seats are worn to the springs.”
“You think I could get two nickels, Spoon? Shawna Mae might be thirsty
’nuff to want her own cola.”
 
“We’ll see. You dance real good, promise not to sing along, I might give
you a quarter. Then you can buy a magazine, do all that readin’ you like
so much.”
 
“Why can’t I sing?”
“‘Cause you cain’t, boy.”, Spoonbill sighed. ” ‘Cause you cain’t”.
 
 
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