Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Lord, have mercy! I just couldn't help myself!

I don't necessarily celebrate Halloween, most especially now that the young'uns is all grown up. It's not like when they were little and I would make them these really cool costumes to wear. I use to get a kick out of that and I have the many photos to remind my brood of just what a good time I had. (And no, this is not one of them.)

For me the day marks the beginning of the holiday season and I love the holidays. I'm like a little kid in a candy shop come Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year the holidays sucked big time. We didn't even bother to put up a tree. This year I plan to make up for that. Might even have me two trees if the moment moves me.

I'm approaching this holiday season with a renewed spirit. It feels promising and I'm excited about the prospects. So, for those of you who get into the ghouls and goblins, have a great day! For those of you who don't, have a great day!

And to all of you, I thought I would share the pumpkin a friend shared with me. Doesn't it just make you want a large slice of pie?

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I purposely don’t make writing the main focus of my blog. Although I may share my writing experiences and dilemmas as the moment moves me, I don’t feel that I have the expertise to tell others how or what or why in a professional capacity. I had an author-acquaintance (notice I did not say friend) comment that I should be blogging more about the art and craft of writing instead of the “mindless mutter” that I do share, and most especially because I am a black, female author, but I strongly disagreed. It was truly an “oh, hell no” moment. To put it more politely than I put it to her, this is my space and I will blog what I want and for no other reason than I can. If you like it, please come back and do tell a friend. If not, well then it was nice you stopped by for a visit but I certainly understand if you don’t come back again.

Folks looking for writing and publishing how-to can find such easily. There are plenty of blog and web sites that offer an abundance of information, more than any one writer may ever need. I personally frequent www.aalbc.com, www.sormag.com, www.rawsistaz.com, www.book-remarks.com, www.blogginginblack.com, www.romancingtheblog.com, and a host of others for info on what’s happening in the marketplace, with black-authored books, with the romance genre, or to seek writing advice. They’re all great resources to draw from. The folks who maintain these sites know their stuff and do a damn fine job of making information available to those who want it. I take my hat off to Troy, LaShaunda, Tee, Cydney, and the collective literary professionals who do what they do so well and with so much passion.

Writing, and writing well, comes with a long list of challenges. Publishing and all its idiosyncrasies only add to that list. Since becoming published I have found those challenges akin to climbing Mt. Everest with no legs, five hundred excess pounds, and an irritating itch that you can’t reach ‘cause frostbite is nipping at your nubs. This business is hard work and nothing I can say or share is going to make it easier. Toss in the inevitable politics and its a wonder more authors just don’t toss in the towel and change careers.

At the crux of my conversation with this person was the current discussion wafting over the internet about racism in publishing. Lines have been drawn and authors across the board have taken sides about niche marketing and the treatment of black authors versus their white counterparts. The issues being raised are particularly prevalent in the romance and women’s fiction genre. As would be expected you have the voices of reason, the voices of malcontent, and the thundering silence of voices that just don’t want to get caught up in the fray.

Discussions on racism are emotional tidal waves empowered by each individual’s personal experiences with it. Discussing race will easily bring out the very best and the absolute worse in people. Always has and always will. I applaud those who are willing to step front and center to voice their opinions. Authors, Monica Jackson and Millenia Black have much moxie and I applaud their efforts because I know they are taking some serious hits for not biting their tongues. Neither do I begrudge anyone who doesn’t speak out. Not everyone has that kind of chutzpah. I respect that we all have the right to our choices and that we have the right to respectfully disagree. I would never disparage anyone whose opinion was not my opinion. Of course, not everyone is as respectful.

As far as Deborah and the topic of issue, where I stand and what I choose to say or not is between me and my conscience. Years of being told that I was too white to be black and too black to be white has made me acutely aware of the emotional impact the subject of race can have on an individual’s psyche. When I think it’s necessary and appropriate I make my position known by what I write, what I read, and how I spend my green.

So, with me, I don’t know from one day to the next what I may blog about. I may wax philosophically one day and ponder the dynamics of dryer lint the next. But what I will always do, is try to give you a good story, a great tidbit, a moment of reflection, or a belly-shaking laugh. And, I will always try to give you the best of who I am and all I represent. The rest of it I’ll leave to the experts.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Disclaimer: All names have been changed to protect the guilty.

So, Jackie was bemoaning her man problems this past weekend at the beauty salon. Her man, Jack, has been giving her mixed signals and she’s gotten caught up in that drama that being in love can land a soul in. All was peachy, keen, and dandy in the beginning. Brother was sweating her big time – romantic dinners, expensive trinkets, and weekend excursions that didn’t just include the bedroom. Girlfriend fell and fell hard and just when it had gotten too good to her, Jack started to distance himself with no explanation for his cooling behavior. Jackie tried to play it cool, like she wasn’t but so bothered by it, but beneath her smiling facade, her heart was being ripped to shreds.

The last time they talked Jack told her that he really cared for her, that he couldn’t call it love, but that she definitely moved his spirit. A girl could have gone into insulin shock from all his sweet words. Then he ended the conversation by telling her that she was one of his many bees, like a worker bee. That’s right, BEE, as in buzz, buzz, sting, sting. Seems he’s got a few worker bees but he hasn’t yet selected any one of them to be his Queen Bee. For Jack, she was just a small but necessary cog in the larger picture of his existence.

Now this should have been a very large red flag for Jackie that she just needed to let this brother go. I mean, he’s comparing her to a bug, for Pete’s sake, but hey, her heart just wasn’t hearing it. So, like most women, Jackie goes back for more ‘cause one insult hadn’t stung quite enough. It had hurt but it hadn’t yet cut deep. Jackie showed up at the boyfriend’s place of employment to surprise him for lunch. She’d prepped some Southern fried chicken, macaroni salad and strawberry shortcake for them to share, packing it in a too cute picnic basket complete with matching wine glasses and sparkling grape juice. Imagine her surprise when Jack was sitting there enjoying lunch with one of his other “worker bees”. And not only did he barely acknowledge her, he instructs one of his employees to give her a hand like she was actually there to do some shopping. Not only did she have to eat that picnic lunch alone, but she ended up buying $20 worth of stuff she didn’t need just to make a graceful exit out of the joint. Jackie left with a raging case of jealousy and not one drop of common sense to see that Jack just ain’t all that.

Now, Jackie should have been too through with this man, but no, she still believes there’s something between them. And she’s moved right into stalker mode. She already has the 411 on worker bee number two and was fully engaged in memorizing every detail of Jack’s schedule for the next month. From what I heard, Jack better hide his car and not even think about leaving the house for a while, and heaven help him if he gets caught playing bee keeper again ‘cause Jackie is quickly transforming from a sweet honey bee to one of them killer hornets.

Everyone in the salon told her to let him go but Jackie wasn’t hearing it. All she had on her mind was trying to figure out how to get the brother tangled back up in her honey and if that didn’t work, how to make him pay for her being seriously stuck on stupid.

Friday, October 20, 2006


I wrote poetry before I wrote anything else. It was middle school, seventh grade, and I would scribble poems in the margins of my science workbook. My science teacher gave me validation when she told me to keep writing and to not let anything or any one deter me from my love of the written word. I am eternally grateful for the kindness and encouragement she gave me and the passing grade in a science class that I had no interest in being in.

The Naked Truth

Can you see me behind the shadows
of who I want you to know?
And if it’s me you think you see,
how can it be that what I know about me and what I show,
gets lost in the not so black and white gray area of
my truth and your truth and the real truth?
And if it’s me you think you see,
how can it be that you love me so
and still know that the naked truth
of who I am and what I be,
is lost, even to me?

Been To The Promised Land

Been to the Promised Land
on the sweat of your brow,
riding the shadowy mist of a stolen kiss
and promises of what we could be,
should be, once had been.
Been to the Promised Land
on the whisper of your breath,
the line of your lips, and
words never to be spoken again.
Been to the Promised Land
wrapped beneath the weight of your arms,
the heavy of your limbs,
and the memories of what once was,
now long since gone,
‘cause homes no more,
doors been closed, keys long lost,
But that’s okay,
Because I’ve been to the Promised Land...


history flutters along the curves of my ethnicity
born in shades of what had been
and what is yet to be...
i am image of the women who once were
and the woman i will become
i cry tears of understanding
streams that puddle in pools of of longing at my feet
blessed is the rhythm of my walk
that recites tales of past and present footsteps
shadowing my grandmother’s deeds
i am image
of the woman i once was
and the women i will become
i know the me you think you see
but better still is the me i have yet to be
for i am wrapped in the curves of my ethnicity
born in shades of what once was
and what is destined to be...

Girl In The Window

She regards herself...in the reflections...that pass beneath her window...where old men...whisper in he direction...and young boys...yell loudly for all to hear...before mothers...can pinch flesh....that hungers...for fathers...or something else...before the sun...disappears...and uncertainty...drapes the street...

She regards herself...in her brother’s cries...for the ice-cream truck...and her sister’s plea...for one more turn...of the jump rope...when double dutch...and the tingling cold...of Good Humor...carve the reflections....of where she is...and she wonders...if other girls...hear the same voices...and see the same shadows...that dance...in baby blue mini skirts...like the beauty queens...in the videos...and if other girls...warm themselves...in the window...under the sun...before uncertainty...drapes the street...

She regards herself...and dreams...about dark princes...in golden cars...with armor of denim...and leather...who climb the fire escape...to reach the window...where she sits...and she is enchanted...by a moment...of beauty...where she can sit...under the sun...and regard...herself...

IMAGE CREDITS: "The Naked Truth" by gwendolyn E. redfern; "Eve" by Olivia Gatewood; "Face II" by gwendolyn E. redfern; "Girl In Window" by Antonio Roberts

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Friday night the son and I went to see the touring production of the Lion King. The boy balked at first, eyes rolling, head waving, insisting that he was going to be bored for the entire night. Even had the audacity to say that I was his one and only mercy date for the year! Of course, he left the theater with the biggest grin on his face. After spending some sixty bucks on a tee shirt and a little stuffed Timon souvenir he is still raving about how spectacular the show was. The entire performance was a reminder of what I miss most about not living in Connecticut. I miss how easy it was to catch the train into New York for an evening of dinner and theater.

If you have an opportunity to see the stage production of Lion King, please do. It is well worth the price of a ticket. It was absolutely captivating. The entire show was just a breathtaking spectacle brought to life. They had giraffes strutting, birds swooping, gazelles leaping, an oversized elephant that strutted, and grass that danced. We were blessed with spectacular seats in the center mezzanine of the theater and were able to see every single detail. I am still in awe of the costumes and the music was just inspiring. The whole evening was simply sensory overload at its very best.

This coming weekend we’re doing a college open house. The boy has reserved my whole Saturday for walking the campus of North Carolina State University and talking to folks at their school of engineering. I want to be excited for him because he’s excited but this is too much of a reminder that my baby is getting closer to leaving the nest. The school year is almost half over as it is. Before I know it, it will be time for graduation and he’ll have his foot half out the door. I get teary every time I think about it and I think about it a lot.

With the holidays fast approaching I know that I don’t have but so much time left with him so I’m grabbing every spare minute I can. Even now I have to share him with his buddies and a long line of giggling girls. The buddies I can take. The girls tax my last nerve. Now, I don’t doubt that one or two of them are probably very nice young ladies, but since he’s my baby boy I don’t have to like any of them. I consider that a mother's prerogative.

As we were leaving the theater I asked my son if he finally felt the love, as I, admittedly, did a very bad rendition of Elton John and Tim Rice's Oscar -winning tune, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." My baby rolled his eyes, shook his head from side to side and gave me a “Mom, please, would you stop” look. Then he tossed an arm around my shoulders and hugged me. In that moment even if he didn’t, I surely did.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Rereading all of this after so many years brings back many memories. Two women in my critique group actually told me not to give up my day job. They said I couldn't write because they didn't understand or like the story. Oh, well! Enjoy!

It was one of Miss Tolliver's dusty days. The heat hung unbearably, blistering the green leaves that sheltered small gnats and flies. The air was thick and filled your lungs with the heavy fumes of the hibiscus and gardenias blooming under the sweltering sun. Miss Tolliver called it a dusty day because by nightfall even the brownest of skin was coated ashy white from the dry dust that rose in large swells.

Everyone in Delacroix knew Miss Tolliver, the Voodoo woman whose eccentric manners frightened and enthralled the most sincere skeptic who doubted her abilities and questioned her sanity. Although she professed to have drawn her first breath on the shores of France, somewhere along the Baie de la Seine, the elderly brethren of Delacroix would attest emphatically that Miss Tolliver had instead been born and raised right there in their small town some forty odd years ago. Of course no one, except Mr. Henry, would dare contradict Miss Tolliver to her face and even then, his normally booming voice would sometimes drop to a faint whisper, barely audible over the chirping of the small birds high up in the tall cypress trees.

As long as anyone could remember, Miss Tolliver had been a Voodoo woman. She paid tribute only to spiritual beings she insisted had stowed themselves aboard slave ships to help the captured black bodies survive their unholy fate in the New World. She believed these spirits had blessed her with the gifts of seeing what others could not and knowing when to tell what one might not want to hear. And, whether you chose to believe Miss Tolliver or not, you could not deny that she was somehow different from the other righteous citizens of Delacroix.

So on this particularly hot day, there was no surprise when Mr. Henry opened the back door of his old home to find Miss Tolliver perched in the branches of the dark, oak tree in his yard. He’d risen from his bed earlier than normal, wakened abruptly from a sound sleep by a cool hand that stroked the peppered hair along his chest, brushing lightly against his full lips, finally coming to rest along side his weathered cheek. His ebony skin pressed against the imagined touch and as his eyes opened widely, greeted only by the rising sun outside his window, he’d heard her laugh, a deep, vibrant laugh that could warm the coldest of hearts and send chills down one's spine.

Rising from his bed he slipped his massive frame into a tattered wool bathrobe and his large feet into a new pair of slippers he'd recently purchased for his birthday. His bowed legs had peeked naked from beneath his vain attempt at modesty, his limbs as solid as the trunk of the tree Miss Tolliver looked down from. Unlatching the screen door, he cursed loudly, the venomous words spewing past teeth stained lightly from morning rot and his nightly fix of tobacco.

Staring up at her seated atop the branches, the foliage brushing against her thin body, he could only shake his head with disbelief. He reached up to scratch the bristly curls atop his head. Her eyes met his, still laughing and as he turned to go back inside he heard her drop easily to the ground below, following him inside.

"It's too early in the morning for yo’ foolishness woman," he said, heading into the bathroom to wash his face and brush the film from his mouth. "What you want with me so early?"

"Never too early," she responded smiling, a wicked grin spreading across her face. "It's gonna’ be a dusty day. We have a lot to get done, you and I, and the heat's already rising. The earlier we get movin' the better ‘cause the sun hasn't found its seat between the stars yet and we need to get done befo’ the rains come."

Mr. Henry raised his eyebrows, silently questioning the "we" in her statement. Passing a damp washcloth across his face and under his arms, he watched her out of the corner of his eye as she made herself comfortable in his small kitchen. Searching his refrigerator she pulled four slabs of thick bacon and three large brown eggs from the small cooler drawer. Watching her break the eggs carefully into a black, cast-iron utensil, he marveled at her beauty.

Her distinct features had been kissed by many an African ancestor. Her ebony skin was the color of rich, dark coffee and her large, bright eyes were pools of black ice. Jet-black hair coiled meticulously atop her head, the thick braids accentuating the length of her neck. Staring, he imagined the silk of her cheek brushing against his and as she turned, meeting his gaze with her own, he shook lightly, suddenly unnerved.

Settling himself in front of the full plate she'd placed down before him, he ate vigorously, devouring the meal as she sat watching him.

"Delan Mae Tolliver, what do you want with me", he asked again, calling her by her full name, crumbs falling from his mouth onto his chest.

"Following the ancestors", she responded, rising from her seat to fill the sink with warm, soapy water.

Mr. Henry shook his head. "What's that got to do with me?"

"The Loa called me to you", she responded "Now hurry up and eat. It will soon be too hot to get anything done."

"What am I supposed to be doin' woman?"

"Keeping up with me, nothing more, nothing less. Now get dressed", she finished, resting her wet hand atop his knee, his robe draped open over his lap.

Knowing that it would be of no use to argue Mr. Henry did as he'd been told, throwing on his only pair of denim jeans which fit him too snugly through the hips, and a clean white tee-shirt snatched from the dryer on the porch.

Walking down the road side by side they made an odd pair, Mr. Henry and Miss Tolliver. He was a large man, his muscular frame developed from years of manual labor; she an itty-bitty woman, the top of her head barely reaching his shoulder, her lean frame easily lost behind his. As he strolled with his hands clenched tightly in his pockets, her arms swayed easily by her sides, brushing against the canvas sack tossed over her shoulder. He walked in silence, pausing only to grunt hello to Frankie Addison, who sat rocking in front of the convenience store, and the Moten sisters, Aretha and Roberta, who watched them curiously as they headed across town towards the school yard.

From their porch on the corner of Delaney Street and Franklin Boulevard the two women stared after them as the pair entered the children's play area. Miss Tolliver had sat easily on the swings, pumping her legs high up into the air as Mr. Henry rested on a bench to watch her.

"She right crazy she is", Aretha said to her sister, as the other woman shook her gray head.

"Uh huh, and why you suppose David Henry followin’ her?"

"Always been somethin' between um you know since ‘dey was real young. He 'da only one can look at her sid
eways without worryin’ about her workin’ her 'hoodoo on him. I heard it said that they was real cozy long time ago, just before she disappeared all that time. Say she went up North and had his baby. 'Dat what dey say."

"Who say 'dat?"

"People talk sister. You just don't never listen", Aretha responded dismissing her sister's question with a slight wave of her hand.

Roberta nodded. "He still a nice looking man ain't he Aretha. I wonder how come he ain't never got married?"

Aretha sucked her teeth. "Tch. Some people say it's cuz' he done had some 'hoodoo worked on him. I think it was just cuz' he won't the marryin' kind. Too wild spirited. Didn't like nice girls. Only wanted them easy one's to do you know what with so he could just pick up and move on."

Roberta giggled lightly. "Cud a done you know what wit' me", she muttered under her breath. "Yes, yes, yes. David Henry a nice lookin’ man."

They sat staring, watching as Miss Tolliver continued to swing in the air. Mr. Henry, he just sat quietly, saying nothing, the first sign of the rising heat flowing from the perspiration across his brow. His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of children flooding out into the yard. He looked towards the red brick building as the first grade class ran out for recess, their loud chatter carrying their small bodies. On seeing Miss Tolliver swinging high on the swings, they rushed over to greet her, throwing odd glances in his direction.

He grunted lightly. Mrs. Thomas, their teacher strolled out behind them, calling them to quiet down.

"Good morning Mr. Henry", she said greeting him curiously. "What brings you here today?"

"Mornin' Louise. And I have no idea", he responded, nodding his head in Miss Tolliver's direction. "How yo’ daddy doin'?"

"He's just fine thank you sir", Mrs. Thomas answered as a small hand reached up to pull on her skirt.

"Miz Thomas, Miz Thomas, is Miz Tolliber gone tell us a story", a freckled face little girl asked.

"Is she, Miz Thomas? Is she?”, the other children chorused.

Mrs. Thomas looked towards Miss Tolliver who had ceased swinging and had gone to sit under the low tree that offered the only bit of shade from the sun.

"Why don't y’all go ask her nicely", she responded.

Mr. Henry rose to his feet. "Does she come here often", he queried.

Mrs. Thomas nodded, smiling. "She scared me at first, but the children love her. Even I look forward to her coming now", she said, guiding him by the elbow to go stand within hearing distance of Miss Tolliver and the twenty-three cherub faces peering excitedly up at her.

Looking deep within her large bag, Miss Tolliver hummed softly to herself. Reaching inside she pulled out three handmade dolls and set them down upon the ground beside her. Made from dark fabric in varying shades of brown, they were each no more than ten inches tall with large bulbous heads that had no facial features. Scant wisps of yarn adorned the heads and each was elaborately dressed in a long flowing robe of brightly colored silk and intricate laces.

As the children sat, waiting patiently for her words, she passed her hands over the tops of the dolls' heads, then laughed eerily. A low hush fell over her captive audience. "They were sisters", she started, "three very brown girls, born right here in Delacroix. Each was very beautiful, with dark black hair and large bright eyes. On the day they were born an angel came down from the heavens, and kissed each one. And with each kiss, she blessed these three sisters with a gift. Shenaba, the eldest sister was given the gift of wisdom. Tealecia, the middle sister, the gift of spirit, and the youngest, whose name was Malika, was given the gift of goodness. Their parents were very poor, but they worked long, hard hours so that these three beautiful little girls could have everything they would ever want. They always wore the finest robes and ate the very best foods and each night before they would drift off to sleep, their parents would hug them and kiss them and tell them how much they were loved."

Miss Tolliver picked up the doll closest to her holding it out for the children to see and continued. "One day, Tealecia, who was guided by her gift of spirit, decided to go searching for an adventure. She told her sisters her plan and hugged them both good-bye. "You must not go alone", said Malika, whose gift of goodness would not allow her to let her sister be by herself. "I will go and keep you company," she said. "You must not go at all", said Shenaba, whose wisdom pointed out all the dangers that could befall her. "But if you must," she said, "I will go with you too." And so the three sisters left Delacroix to help Tealecia find her adventure.

"Along the way, they met an evil man, who whispered evil lies into their ears and gave them presents that were not good for them. He wanted only to steal their precious gifts of wisdom and spirit and goodness and when he had won their trust, he swept them up into his arms and whisked then away to his cold, dark home where he kept them hidden away from the sunshine."

As she proclaimed their capture, Miss Tolliver scooped all three of the dolls up into her arms and dropped them back into her sack as the children sat with wide eyes staring at her. "And now," she continued, " if you listen carefully on a clear night, you can hear the three sisters calling out for help, hoping that one day someone will come and rescue them." Laughing her wicked cackle, Miss Tolliver rose to her feet, throwing the canvas bag, back over her shoulder. As she turned away, the freckled faced little girl, whose tiny olive marks sparkled against the warm sepia of her complexion grabbed her by the hand, staring intently up into her face.

"Miz Tolliber? Is that it? What else happened? Does their Mommy cry for them? Does she Miz Tolliber?"

Looking down at the child whose wide eyes glistened ever so slightly, Miss Tolliver reached back into her bag, pulling one of the dolls back out. Pressing it tightly into the small hands that reached out to her she kissed the child lightly atop her neatly plaited hair and gently stroked the side of her small face. "Well Miss Alaura, mommy's always cry when their babies are gone, but they know the angels who kissed them when they're born will also watch over them when they're away. Don’t you ever forget that."

Behind them, Mr. Henry smiled slightly, nodding his head. Catching his eyes Miss Tolliver laughed, then pointed in his direction. “This is Mr. Henry and he’s come to play today,” she said. “You children do nice and go say hello.” The youngsters rose to greet him. Mr. Henry greeted each of them as they grabbed his hands and pulled him into the center of their group, chorus’ of hello ringing through the air.

“Play a game with us Mista’ Henry, please”, the small voices implored.

Looking about anxiously Mr. Henry searched for Miss Tolliver, who had gone back to sit beneath the tree, searching the contents of her bag. She smiled back nodding, then called out to him. “Yes Mr. Henry, play. You have not played for some time and it will be good for you.”

Mrs. Thomas watched the two of them curiously, then interjected. “It’s okay Mr. Henry. Don’t bother yourself. The children can finish their recess by themselves...”

Miss Tolliver interrupted, raising her voice ever so slightly. “Mr. Henry will play today. It is no problem. Now you leave him be and come sit with me Louise,” she finished, her tone commanding.

Obeying, Mrs. Thomas shrugged her shoulders in Mr. Henry’s direction, a faint smile upon her face, then went to sit down beside Miss Tolliver. The older woman patted her hand gently, then turned her attention back to the inner contents of her bag.

Looking about, Mr. Henry studied the anxious faces that stared up at him. He grinned broadly, a fountain of mirth rising from the pith of his stomach until an infectious laughter spilled out over his large body. Within moments the children were laughing with him, their tiny frames quivering like raspberry Jell-O under a warm breeze.

“Let’s play hide and seek”, he said finally, “and I’ll be it.”

Squatting low to the ground, he started to count quickly, his hands pressed over his eyes. “One, two, three,...” Around him he could hear the patter of small feet racing about in every direction. “...nine, ten.”
Rising, he looked about, his eyes scanning the perimeter of the playground. Smiling broadly at the two women, he turned, then scampered after the youngsters whose loud cheers begged him to seek and find them. Minutes later when the bell sounded, announcing the end of recess, Mr. Henry dropped to the bench, his breathing heavy, his tee-shirt soaked from sweat. The children all rushed to hug Miss Tolliver good-bye, and waved anxiously in his direction as they followed their teacher back inside.

Mr. Henry and Miss Tolliver smiled at each other. Rising, she tossed her canvas bag over her shoulder, then sauntered over to sit beside him. Her leg brushed gently against his, as she leaned easily next to him. They sat in silence, the sun overhead toasting the dark brown of their complexions. To Mr. Henry the brief moment seemed like an eternity. Large beads of perspiration fell from his pores and just when he started to silently question whether he could endure any more of the heat, Miss Thomas rushed back outside, two bottles of spring water in hand. Accepting them graciously, they both savored the flow of moisture which quenched their parched throats, Mr. Henry splashing the last few ounces across his face.

“Are you ready to move on?”

“Hell no. ’Um hot and ’um tired. ‘Da only place I want to move on to is my front porch. Woman you done wore me out.”

Miss Tolliver laughed. “But you feel good don’t you my friend?”

Mr. Henry rolled his eyes. “I said I was tired now.”

Miss Tolliver ignored him. “What we needs now is a swim. The water will make you feel better.” She rose to her feet, gesturing for him to follow her. “Let’s go, the rains will soon be coming.”

Shaking his head, Mr. Henry watched her as she raced ahead of him. Cutting across Delaney Street, she paused to glance back over her shoulder, her look piercing. Still shaking his head, Mr. Henry came to his feet and hurried to catch up with her. He followed as she led him past the Delacroix Public Library and Musethal Copage’s Antique Shop.

There wasn’t much to Delacroix. It was a small town with an odd quaintness. People who were born here, inevitably died here. Every so often someone might leave, but it was rare that an outsider would find his way to Delacroix and make a conscious decision to stay.

Reaching the end of Delaney Street, Miss Tolliver cut through Arthur Pitcher’s fields, disappearing into the thick brush that bordered the property. Hesitant, Mr. Henry followed, swiping at the green fronds that slapped against his body. Pushing through bushes which quickly germinated into massive trees, he recognized the area, though he had not walked this land for a very long time.

It was not long before they came to the edge of Lafitte Bay, a crisp blue body of water, that flowed down through the crevices of Metan Creek, out into the Mississippi Delta. The bottom was a dark visage of brown sand, emerald and olive vegetation, and on occasion, dependent upon your misfortune, nests of black water snakes. As children they had played here often.

Stopping, Miss Tolliver spread her arms outward, inhaling deeply, then hugged her arms about her body. Pulling her cotton sun dress over her head she stood naked, dipping her toes anxiously into the water. Mr. Henry inhaled sharply, unable to take his eyes off of her. She turned towards him, her hands clasped atop her stomach. “The water feels wonderful”, she sang, throwing her body under the watery blanket.

Nervous, Mr. Henry looked about. The water did look refreshing and although he welcomed an opportunity to splash naked in the cool liquid beside her, he was suddenly embarrassed.

“What you actin’ so shy about David Henry? This water feelin’ real good now!”

Turning his back towards her Mr. Henry stripped out of his clothes, then backed his way into the water. Behind him Miss Tolliver giggled, fluttering her hand along the top of the water.

“David Henry, you actin’ like an ole’ fool”, she shouted, her voice echoing off the trees.

“Leave me be Delan Mae. Why you got to be messin’ wit me anyhow? We too ‘ole to be doin’ this foolishness.”

“We ain’t doin’ nothin’, yet, “she chuckled again as a flush of red rose to the man’s cheeks. He shook his head.

Lying back, Mr. Henry finally gave into the cool spray surrounding him. The wetness was relaxing as he floated atop the water, the expanse of his nakedness spread above the pool below. Mr. Henry bobbed easily as Miss Tolliver splashed about like a young child in a wading pool. There was no sense of time as they each drifted off into their own worlds.

Oblivious to what she was doing, he jumped when she came up behind him, wrapping her arms about his head and shoulders. She’d been prepared though as she splashed away from him just missing being struck by his arm. “Why you so jumpy David Henry?”

“Damn woman! You got to ask? You scared the mess outta me is why. Hell, I though you was a snake or somethin’.”

“Ain’t no snakes in ‘dis water. You was always talking ‘bout snakes in ’dis water and we ain’t never seen a one.”

Mr. Henry shrugged. “Probably ‘cause you done scared ‘em off.”

Miss Tolliver smiled, swimming towards him. “How come you ain’t never been scared off?”

Mr. Henry shrugged again, as she swam into his arms, wrapping her thin legs about his waist.

“Tell me David Henry. How come I ain’t never scared you?” She brushed her hands along his chest, wrapping her arms about his neck.

Mr. Henry pulled her to him, cradling her in his arms. Pressing his face into her shoulder, he kissed the soft flesh, the taste of salt water upon his lips. “Why you always askin’ me so many questions”, he whispered, gliding his mouth up the length of her neck, along side her cheek, towards her lips. She kissed him lightly, her lips warm against his, a low moan her only response.

Mr. Henry was suddenly hungry for her. It had been a very long time since they’d last wrapped themselves about each other. He had accepted this arrangement many years ago, knowing that she would only be his when she dictated the terms. When she wanted him she came. The rest of the time he could only possess her in his dreams. It had been this way since she’d been fifteen and had given her virginity to him under a full moon during a summer rain shower. An eternity had passed between them since that late August night and he could easily count, with vivid recollection, each and every time they had made love since that first time.

As easily as she pressed against him, she suddenly pushed him away. “You must come play wit’ ‘da children again David Henry. They liked you.”

He shook his head, slightly bewildered. “Damn woman. Why you talkin’ bout ‘dem children?” His hands fell to his rising manhood, shielding the dark flesh that stretched towards her.

She laughed, swimming away from him. “You promise me David Henry. Promise me you’ll come play wit’ ‘dem children again.” She stopped, the water’s edge brushing against her chin as she treaded water.

“Why? Why you botherin’ me ‘bout ‘dem children?

A shadow passed across her face, her eyes pleading. “It’s meant to be. You need ‘dem children as much as they need you. They make you feel alive again David Henry and you need to remember what it’s like to be alive. That’s why I goes to play wit’ ‘dem and tell them stories. So’s I can feel alive. So promise me. Please?”

Her stare was intense, piercing his heart. Nodding, he wiped at his eyes. “I promise. You knows I’ll only do it for you Delan Mae Tolliver. I’ll only do it for you.”

She shook her head. “No. Do it for you David Henry. It won’t mean nothing if you don’t do it for you.”

Pausing only momentarily, he nodded again, knowing that she was right. “I promise, and I’ll do it for the both of us,” he finally responded.

Satisfied she smiled, then swam back towards him. As she reached his outstretched arms he molded his large hand around her small breast, dropping his head to suckle at the yielding flesh. Wrapping her arms about him, she tossed back her head and laughed wickedly, the sound reverberating through their bodies.

Hours later, Miss Tolliver and Mr. Henry made their way out of the heat, her hand clasped firmly in his. And on the corner of Delaney Street and Franklin Boulevard, the two Moten sisters watched with amazement as the unlikely pair danced under the summer sun, the dust settling against their skin, just as the tears of Delacroix came thundering down.

Excerpted from The Tears Of Delacroix All Rights Reserved © Deborah Fletcher Mello


Fifteen years ago, I took a creative writing course where we had to write a series of short tales that could stand alone but then be incorporated as chapters of a longer body of work. These have been gathering dust since forever and I thought I'd finally share them. Enjoy!

Musethal Copage

The playground sat at the very edge of the cemetary, the sliding board facing the headstone of Paul Patrick, 1889-1959, Beloved Husband and Father. Musethal Copage imagined that if you scooted too far off the end of that old metal sliding board you might well land bottoms down right where she imagined Paul Patrick’s feet rested in peace. She smile faintly at the thought.

Pulling herself from the window, she straightened the lace curtains, then glanced quickly over her shoulder at the large grandfather clock in the corner. It was five minutes to one and it was almost time for her stories. At one o’clock she would turn the CLOSED sign outwards and would lock the front door to her antique shop before turning on the television set.

She hated to be disturbed during her stories, this day in particular. You see, today, Beth Spencer was going to confront her low-life, lying, cheating, pathetic excuse for a husband. She’d found out about him and that harlot, Lindsay and she was going to put a stop to everything that was going on. If Musethal was lucky, Beth would blow his brains all over the television screen and ride off into the sunset with that real pretty Lyle Cannon. If she was lucky.

Actually Musethal could have closed the store any time she wanted. It wasn’t like there was a whole lot of traffic in and out that necessitated her being open. In fact, it had been at least two, maybe three weeks since the last person had come inside and he had only stopped in to ask for directions. Musethal had to admit that the last time she had served a customer had been well over two years ago and that she could barely remember what had been purchased. Instead though, she opened the shop punctually at nine o’clock every morning, took her lunch break from one to two in the afternoon, then closed for the night at exactly half past five. She’d spend the better part of each day polishing up the silver and brass or spreading copious layers of lemon oil atop the mahogany and pine. Her lunch-time soap opera and two, fifteen minute breaks for a cup of chamomile tea and an English Tea biscuit, were generally the highlights of her day.

She dropped her cleaning cloth, attended to the door, then headed for the back room. A commercial blared into the silence as she quickly switched to the station she wanted. She grimaced. Was there no decency anymore? Why they found it necessary to advertise ladies personal hygiene products was a mystery to her. She hated all those commercials. “Nasty filth," she said to Percy, the obese tomcat with ambrosia eyes that had belonged to her late husband. Percy twitched his tail, barely opening his eyes to acknowledge her presence. She pushed Percy out of her favorite chair and he hissed at her as he landed on his feet.

“Watch yourself, cat. You don’t pay no rent here,” she said, making herself comfortable.

Percy hissed again, before settling himself atop the counter.


Musethal wrapped a blue knitted shawl around her broad shoulders as she settled back with a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich in hand. Tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches were her absolute favorite. Her late husband, Xavier Copage, had detested them, calling them and her common. He had been uppity in his ways, which is why Musethal had married him. It had been her dream to pull herself up and out of the benign surroundings of Delacroix and she had figured only a man like Xavier could help her. It didn’t hurt that Aretha Moten had wanted him for herself either. Taking something from Aretha had given Musethal a perverse thrill since they’d been in grade school together.

She shivered, leaning her overweight body forward in her chair. Beth Spencer had just thrown the cheap photos of Lindsay and her husband, Allen, in his face. “Dirty dog,” Musethal shouted at the television. “Rip his eyes out Beth. He deserves it. Lying, dirty, no good dog.”

Reclining back in her chair for the commercial break, Musethal took another bite of her sandwich, washing it down with a swig of Pepsi. Percy rose from his resting place and headed into the outer room. “That’s right, go,” she called after him, throwing the TV Guide in his direction. “No loyalty! Just like that no good Xavier. He should’a taken you wit’ him.”

The cat hissed.

Pulling the shawl tighter, Musethal sighed. Xavier had brought Percy home to Musethal as a present. It hadn’t been a holiday or her birthday. He had said that it was just because he didn’t want her to be lonely when he wasn’t around. He knew she hated cats, but she had thought it sweet of him to give her something different. Besides, Percy had been a cute kitten and usually Xavier only gave her flannel nightgowns or bedroom slippers when he gave her presents.

Of course, when Xavier dropped that small bundle of fur into her lap and had gone over to the Murray's Convenience Store for a six-pack of Pepsi and a newspaper, he failed to tell her that he had no intentions of ever coming back. Musethal had waited for over eight hours for him to return before she realized he’d taken the car to go fifty feet around the corner. For weeks after when anyone called or came looking for him, she had stroked that damn cat’s fur and had told them that he’d gone on an errand and was ‘late’ getting back.

Musethal swore it was Aretha who’d started calling him the “late” Xavier Copage. After a while, that was how Musethal started referring to him too. He became her ‘late’ husband. She finally got a letter from him a year later postmarked from California. He’d taken up residence there with a waitress named Fiona. He’d apologized profusely and had begged for her forgiveness. Then he’d asked if she’d be so kind as to send him his sixteen volume Shakespeare set and his collection of eight track tapes, particularly those by Perry Como and Harry Belafonte.

Initially, she’d considered sending him Percy, stuffed. Instead though, she’d sent all the books, shredded and doused in samplings of cat droppings. She had also included the Como tapes, after of course taking a hammer to them. The Harry Belafonte tapes she’d kept for herself. Harry, she liked.

Musethal sighed, finishing the last of her sandwich. This was taking too long. The way they were dragging this out it would take at least a week before Allen Spencer was going to suffer some real damage at the hands of his wife, Beth. “Don’t be weak," Musethal said to the television screen. “Give ‘em what he deserves. Cheatin’ scum.”

“Damn," Musethal swore loudly. How many commercials was she going to have to endure? Hell, didn’t they know women already knew what to use when it was their time of the month. Not that Musethal had to concern herself with that dreaded curse any longer. Nature had cured that ill years ago with the menopause. The doctor had said hers was early, probably brought on by the stress of Xavier leaving. She had cursed then too. Not only had Xavier not been man enough to leave her with a child of her own, but he’d taken any remote hopes she’d had of getting pregnant from her too.

“My husband won’t no good neither. Sorry son-of-a-bitch.” She wiped the crumbs from her mouth with a pale yellow paper napkin, then pulled her plump frame out of the chair to go turn off the television set. Cleaning up her lunch dishes, she went to unlock the front door and set the sign right. “Percy,” she said to the cat who was slowly making his way back to the rear room and out of her reach, “I should’a just let Aretha have ‘em.”

The cat hissed.

Excerpted From TEARS OF DELACROIX All Rights Reserved © Deborah Fletcher Mello

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


My dog died yesterday. His name was Charlie Brown Eye. He was a “somma” dog – a mixed breed of “somma” this and “somma” that. And he had one bright, baby blue eye that made him look kind of loopy when you looked at him straight on. Charlie had suffered from epileptic seizures for over a year now. Saturday he suffered his last one and was unable to recover from it so we had to put him down to ease his suffering. I’ve been crying for days knowing that Charlie and I had come to the end of our journey together.

There are folks who don’t understand my attachment to my pets. For them an animal is just that, an animal. For me, I have yet to meet an animal that I didn’t like. I have met quite a few humans that I can’t stand. I loved Charlie. He was our second dog. We lost our first, a rottweiler named Jaxx, last year on July 19th, 2005. The vet believed Jaxx had been bitten by a snake. He was vibrant and full of life one day, and just a semblance of his self the next. A day later he simply laid down and went quietly off to sleep.

Little Miss Muffin is the last of the trio left. She’s a feisty, cream-colored Chow, absolutely beautiful with a queenly demeanor and she’s mean as spit. Folks think she’s the cutest, sweetest thing until she bares those teeth of hers, growls, and then snaps. She stops being cute then. She has ruled this roost for three years now, every one of us succumbing to Miss Muffin’s wishes. Even my brute of a husband hasn’t been able to escape the magnitude of her charms and the other dogs had just allowed her to sweep in and take full control.

My baby girl hasn’t left my side since we wished Charlie goodbye. Right now she’s curled up under my desk, her head resting against my feet. We both miss our big boys. It won’t be the same with the two of them now gone.

Monday, October 02, 2006


I so believe in the power of prayer. And I believe that prayer can work miracles. I am sending up a whole lot of prayer this week. This week could make or break me. I am praying for my agent and the editors and publishers she will be meeting with. I am praying that my proposals and my manuscripts are on point. I am praying that others will see the same beauty in my words that I see. I am praying that someone will think me worth the risk. And I am praying that my Higher Power is answering his calls this week, that there is nothing wrong with my prayer-filled transmissions. I am praying and I could sure use a few extra prayers on my behalf.


I am reminded of a moment in time when things weren’t going well for me. Not only was I unhappy with life, but life was really unhappy with me. Had I been able to I would have just walked away from it all and never looked back. Unfortunately, there were children who were dependent on me, family with expectations, employers making demands, bill collectors trailing my every move, and there didn’t seem to be an end to it all. Because I couldn’t walk away, I kept smiling, holding all my frustration and unhappiness inside. It was mine and mine alone to contend with and I was determined not to allow it to invade anyone else’s life. I firmly believed that my problems were my problems to deal with by my lonesome.

During that time I made some really great choices and probably just as many really bad choices. When desperate times feel like they call for desperate measures it is sometimes difficult to see one’s way straight and I readily admit that I couldn’t begin to see my way clear at all.

I have often wished that I had opened up to someone to ask for help if only to have had a sounding board to bounce the problems and what I thought were solutions off of. But I was too proud, too ashamed, and just too embarrassed to even contemplate sharing that part of myself with anyone else. Being so only compounded many of the bad choices I made.

I have often wondered if things would have been different if someone, anyone, had simply asked me what was wrong, what was happening in my world, and how they could have helped. I remember how that unhappiness felt behind my smile. I have often wondered why no one who knew me well could not see it.

I wonder because I can now see it in a loved one’s face. I can hear it in the inflection of their words. I know it exists because of the things they are doing, the choices they are making for themselves. They pretend to be well but my intuition is screaming that things aren’t well at all. I had convinced myself that they would ask for help if help was needed. But then I remember that I didn’t and I remember why.

I will not ask how things are going or how they are doing. I know that answer. I know the response will simple be “okay”. Instead I will let them know getting past a bad time is easier if you don’t have to do it alone. Then I will ask what I can do to help get them through. It's important that I do something because I know what it's like when nothing is done at all.