I haven't written anything for a while, so last night I decided I would write a little flash type fiction as fast as I could type, and I type very fast. I wrote this little story in around thirty minutes. I is a true story.
Our cook, Alonia, was a huge woman, weighing in at close to 300. She worked steady from seven in the morning until three and cooked everything “down.” What I mean by down is all meat was cooked in a gravy, and vegetables boiled right down to the bottom of the pot, but she was honest and faithful. And superstitious.
She wore a bandanna around her big round head and her eyes were bulging saucers, looking not unlike Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind. I swear she must have copied the stereotype, she even looked and dressed like her, but in the forties all southern black domestics looked and dressed much the same as they did in the Civil War. Things and attitudes in the South had not changed much in the seventy five years since the war between the states was over.
I was ten years old in 1945 when Daddy came in and told Alonia that an old man by the name of Lazarus was in town and had been arrested as he got off the bus. I thought Hazel was going to faint when she heard the name.
“Mr. Laurie, you don’t mean Lazarus?”
“Little man, real dark complected, wears a black hat and got real black looking eyes.”
“Ooooweeee, she wheezed, looking all around. “That;’s the voodoo man--he real bad.”
Alonia lived in a little cabin in the pasture down below our house. She became very agitated.
“I ain’t goin’ to stay in that house tonight by myself,” she moaned.
“Don’t you worry, I am going down town to see what is going on.”
Daddy and I drove the half mile to our little village of Castor, Louisiana and arrived to see a scene like I had never seen before. We didn’t have any law in our little town, but there was the sheriff from Arcadia was standing by the bus with a long stick in his hand. A little black man was sitting on the ground with an open gash in his head that was gushing blood. There was blood all over his clothes and the ground around him.
An old suitcase stood open by the bus. It was brimming over with money. There were ones, fives, tens and twenty dollar bills, and a bunch of silver dimes and quarters.
There must have been two dozen people standing around, watching. I remember the scene, still frozen in time. This seemingly harmless old black man, sitting on the hard dirt under the shade of a big sycamore tree right at the low board porch of Tooke’s cafe, butcher shop and grocery. The deputy was a large white man with a star on his chest He held a three foot stick, which I assumed he had used to hit the old man in the head blood pouring out of the coal black curls on his head.
Daddy was Mayor. He spoke to the sheriff.
The deputy pointed at the suit case. “Sonofabitch been stealing from people think he is some kind of hoodoo man. There must be five thousand dollars in there,”
Our little town, with its four stores, two gas stations, cafe, barbershop, depot and post office had a railroad track running through the center had never had any crime that would require the sheriff to come to town. Being Saturday, the town was filled with people who came in on wagons filled with cotton to be ginned pulled by mules, old trucks, even an A-Model Ford or two was putt putting down the one street. A crowd had gathered, about half white and half black onlookers. The blacks were cowed back, some holding their hands over their mouths, eyes wide in fear, looking at the little man sitting on the ground. He looked harmless enough, but he was enough to terrify Alonia.
“What you gonna do with him?” Daddy asked.
“Gonna take him in. We been keepin’ track of him. Heard he was headed for Castor to do more of his mischief. Need to get somebody to stich him up first.”
About that time, my granddaddy, who was a dentist, walked up. He had a little case and he bent over the little man and dabbed the blood away from the cut on his head and, poured some alcohol straight in the cut. The little man let out a holler as the alcohol scalded through the bloody mass.
“Hold still,” Grandaddy said, pinching the edges of the cut between his thumb and forefinger and began sewing the hole closed. Then he rinsed it again with alcohol and stood up.
“There, that should do it till you get him to Arcadia,: he said, wiping the blood from his hands with a cloth he had taken from the bag.
The sheriff stood the little man on his feet and put cuffs on him, then tucked him in the back seat of the sheriff’s car. He then closed thesuitcase and put it in the trunk.
He drove away and the crowd commenced to talk excitedly. I heard one of the black people say “that’s a hoodoo man. He can put the mojo on you.”
“Steal you soul,” one said, “make a walkin’ dead man outta you. I seen it happen. He one bad man.”
“Creep around at night, steal souls,” another said.
One bug eyed woman, wearing a red bandanna and carrying a walking stick said, “You can buy a spell from him and put the gris-gris on somebody. He burn candles an’ make spells. They work. I seen it happen.”
She went on, herself supposed to be a hoodoo woman who could do spells herself, “you listen tonight at nidnight, and see if a rooster don’t crow and a mockinbird don’t sing, and see if somebody don’t die hereabouts. He done took another one.”
A tall black man wearing overalls with no shirt under the galluses said, “He got all that money from the devil. He sold them souls to the devil. That Satan money we just seen.”
Daddy shook his head and smiled at me. I was wide eyed myself, listening to all this talk from this group of terrified men and women. The white people listened, though they avowed they didn’t believe in that, they were listening, very quietly.
Daddy moved back toward the car and we went home. He told Alonia what had happened.
“Wooie, Mr. Laurie, I am so glad that man is gone from here. Wherever he goes somebody dies, and he always has lots of money. Said he steals souls and sells them to the devil.”
I looked at daddy. He shook his head, and said” son don’t worry about that, ain’t nothing gonna happen.”
That night, a rooster crowed at midnight and a mockingbird sang in the plum orchard below the house. I slept upstairs with the windows open and I remember it was a full moon and that rooster crowed. And also, a dog howled. My skin crawled.
The next day I heard that Miz Skinner, the old maid that lived by herself in the big old house by the railroad, had died during the night.