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A short story about a memorable day in the life of the most famous folk-hero of Barbados, one Winston Hall.  I played loose with the actual facts of Winston’s life, the way all folk tales do, but also because the story is less about the particulars of his life and more of the imaginary mind-state and desires of a person in solitude who wishes to connect with a country that is as scared and confused about him as he is of the country itself. Enjoy.

Gershom part one (the mid-day son)

By Christopher White

Run always. Run until it doesn’t make sense, until it gets too thick and it makes more sense to stop. Do the patrol. First go up to Old Ledge and do some sight seeing from there. Look. Look at the brown on the rooftops. Look at that section there with the path by the side. You made that path, trample all over the grass. It makes the runs quicker. Sky is clear. No rain smell, good. Mrs. Graves must be cooking by now. She makes good veggies. Are you hungry? You aren’t hungry, good. Anything out the ordinary from the sight-seeing? No. Children going school. Look at that little one. Cheez on bredders I know he mother back when she was a child, now look she got a lil’ boy. What’s her name? She was cute girl, she used to look at me and smile sweet. I thought she did love me, but I was seven, I ain’t know what love was then. She was cute. What was she rassole name now? It’s an ’M’ name. Anyway, check the trespass traps. No one has been up here. Good. Look up again. Look at that sky. Now look at the green. Go over by that mango tree and tie your lacens. What was her name?

Winston stood by the mango tree overlooking St. Joseph and tied his shoe-laces carefully. The wind was soft but enough to push the trees to swaying. Down the hill was a pasture, a display of overgrown grass with an arcing path carved into it, made by Winston four months earlier. The countryside was silent save for the cheering that the leaves made in the wind, the occasional high shout of the school-children going to the nearby Primary School. A wooden crate laid half buried and overcome by the dirt, and one of the primary school boys stopped to kick at it. His mother quickly came and slapped his hand and the boy cried and breathed in, cried and breathed in, breathed in, then breathed in again, and then let his cry carry over the sloping section of the country, through the primplers of the dunks trees, over the ribs of the stray dogs, under the stereo of Stephen ’ Step-Hen’ Roberts, and into the tightly knit and thatched corridors of the Hill-trees (sparkling from the sun light coming through), past the perpetually deciduous Breadfruit tree until the last bit of the cry met the mango tree, and made Winston Hall look up, causing him to pity the boy and his own childhood, the recollections of which were as faded as the child’s bellow.

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If you’re Black and you grew up feeling left out cuz you liked sword fighting, magic potions, magical worlds, and just overall fantasy and you didn’t see yourself being represented…

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This is a good place for you to start. You won’t regret picking up this book and I’m certain you’ll be hooked from start to finish just like I was. A Blade So Black and the sequel A Dream So Dark are out now.

Come fall down the rabbit hole….

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CW: Blood consumption, homelessness, violence, starvation, and the usual

A/N: Tique finally gets a guest on her show. And it’s not pleasant

W/C: 3267

Hey guys. So ummm…..I finally got a guest to join me here at the station. I can’t say I’m too pleased. I think my listeners will understand why when I tell you who it is. 

You might say, I’m meeting my maker?

Give a…..warm…welcome to Jules. He turned me. 

Yeah….

Jules: Well, thank you for having me here today, Antique. I know it took a lot-

Antique: You don’t know, actually. You don’t have a fucking clue.

J: Listen…I know I can’t apologize enough for what I did to you. You’ve lost a lot because of my carelessness. You never deserved-

A: What part of “you don’t have a fucking clue” don’t you understand. You ruined my fucking life. And, yeah, I get that I was drunk and there were other guys that were all over me, too. But they all moved on. YOU knew your status, and you took a risk that might have ended my life, but just happened to fuck it up instead. 

J: And I’m so so-

A: Fuck your “sorry.” I allowed you to come here because you’ve been a vamp for over 15 years. You survived a time when no one knew about us, and are surviving when everyone knows about us. I have baby vamp listeners that need help. You wanna atone for your fucked up ways, help them.

J:……ok….. What do you wanna know? 

A: How were you turned? And untwist your face. The best place to start is the beginning. 

J: Alright. Damn. I used to be a drug addict. I shared needles. Probably was dying from some virus or another anyway. I never used protection when I did things for money or drugs. I never cared if I was sharing needles. Death didn’t mean a damn thing to me. I was all the way out there. The “War on Drugs” kept me in and out of jail, but that didn’t do anything to stop me. I was reckless.

Next thing I knew, everything was hurting. I had stuff coming out of every end of my body. I was a mess. I went to this chick’s house. She let me stay there sometimes. She paid me whenever I needed money, and I did whatever she wanted me to do. I had stored some clothes at her house. I got all changed and cleaned up. I threw my old clothes out. 

It was still night time. I didn’t realize right away what was happening. Vampires were still a myth back then. I couldn’t fathom it. I thought I just had some bad drugs. I was out of it, but I still had drugs flowing through my system. Adrenaline and fear kept me moving. I couldn’t completely shake my high though, so I passed out on the couch. I still threw up on her couch and her bathroom floor. She threw  me out after that. See, she thought I was dying and didn’t want my body in her house. I couldn’t blame her. I didn’t fight her when she told me to leave. 

I walked around outside, and waited for the sun to come up. Slowly, I started to realize that I was hot. You know exactly what feeling I’m talking about. Like my flesh was on fire. And it got worse as the sun moved over my head. Blisters started to form on me and everything. I know I looked like a monster. I was lucky no one called the cops on me. Getting locked up at that point would have killed me….

A: Sorry to interrupt, but I’m curious. You have no clue who turned you? Because you were exposed in so many different ways?

J: Yeah, basically.

A: Did you ever try to figure out who it was?

J: There was no point. It’s not like I could blast them on a radio show…

A: Don’t start with me, bitch nigga.

J: Chill the fuck out.

A: You can leave, if that’s how you feel.

J: Is that what you want?

A: I want you to shut the fuck up. But I promised I would do this for my baby vamp listeners, and you’re here. So by all means, go on.

J: Anyway, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went into a clinic, and asked to be seen. Obviously, I looked a mess, so the receptionist told me to leave. She just saw a crackhead, probably coming in to try to steal some fresh needles out of the rooms in the back. Again, I couldn’t blame her, but at this point I was aware enough to realize that the burning had stopped. I was starting to heal when I had to walk back out into the sun. 

A: So, just to give my listeners an idea. Jules is dark skin, he’s got plenty of melanin to spare. So, Jules, how long would you say it took for the burning to become visible on you?

J: Um, it took a couple of hours for the blisters to start. I felt the burning very slightly at first, then it got nearly unbearable after about 3 hours. The parts of my body that were covered by my clothes were darker, but not yet blistered. It didn’t take rocket science for me to figure out long sleeves, and hats. Sunglasses worked, too. Hoodies, and jackets. Long pants, dress socks, and boots. I basically looked shady af all the time. You think cops are bad now, there were a lot less cameras then. 

A: So when did you know you were for sure a vampire?

J: After I killed someone. And they bled……and I couldn’t help myself. I was starving, and they certainly didn’t need their blood anymore.

A: Uh….context is key here.

J: Basically, it was a few months after I turned. I went to various soup kitchens, and ate out of trash cans, but it all tasted like shit. Food, and even things I drank, tasted like ass.

A: Wait, so you could taste them?

J: I just said….

A:I KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU SAID! I can’t taste anything. Food literally tastes like air in my mouth. But you’re saying that you can taste it. It just tastes awful?

J: Well, yes.

A: Asshole.

J: What did I do now?

A: Exist.

J:… Do you need a moment?

A: No, keep going.

J: Right, so I didn’t crave drugs anymore. That was probably the biggest shock, after realizing I was a vampire, but that came much later. At the time, I was thinking I had a new lease on life, but I had already burned all my bridges. My family wanted nothing to do with me. I had no money, and I had to lift some clothes and shoes until I could had a couple outfits to change. 

It didn’t take long for the thirst to kick in. It started really bad those first couple of days after I turned. I drank all the water, soda, booze, anything I would get my hands on. Nothing made it go away. Eventually, I started to get thinner. I was already skinny, being a former crackhead, but I really began to look like a skeleton. I thought that I had HIV or something. I thought maybe it was cancer. I started feeling reckless again. Shit, if I was gonna die, I might as well do what made me feel good. Fucking, and smoking. 

I went back to my old bullshit, but my highs never lasted. It just wasn’t hittin the same anymore. Fucking, though, that shit got more intense. I know now that it’s just the virus picking up on a chance to spread to someone else, but at the time, I just enjoyed it.

A: And got several more people infected, I’m sure. 

J: Listen..

A: If you really thought you had HIV, why the fuck would you go around trying to infect more people? HIV has a much higher rate of infection than sanguinilis. 

J: I didn’t know anything about that at the time. No one would help me. The clinics turned me away.  

A: I’m not just talking about vampirism. If you thought you had HIV, why would you put people’s lives at risk like that??

J: I didn’t care.

A: Well, that’s obvious.

J: Did you bring me here to judge me, or to get information.

A: So far, all I’ve gotten from you is a fucking sob story.

J: What do you want from me? I apologized to you, I came here knowing how you and everyone else would feel about me. I don’t know what else to do. 

A: Help baby vamps. They need help. You can’t make anything better for the people you’ve fucked over. You can help people who need it. 

J: I don’t have any money, or influence, or anything worth giving.

A: Just keep talking then. I’ll decide what has value and what doesn’t. My listeners will decide what’s bullshit, and what’s not. Why did you kill someone?

J: So, as i was saying, I was starving. I had just had smoked, so I was in the peak of my high. I started coming down shortly after, and I feel someone’s hands all on me. Now, I was under one of those highway passes, and there are always homeless people willing to share space, especially if it’s cold out. 

Anyway, I woke up, and felt the dude I was sharing with trying to rob me. I considered just laying there and letting him finish. But, I could feel this fire building up in my stomach. Eventually, my throat started to burn, and my mouth felt so dry. I had no control over my impulse, I swung and hit him hard on the side of his head. He fell, and I got on top of him and just kept hitting him until he stopped moving. His teeth were broken, his lips were bleeding. I’ll never forget. He was the first person I had ever killed on purpose. I can’t speak to those I didn’t mean to infect, but I know that I had every intention of killing that man. 

So, yeah, he was bleeding out. I was thirsty. I knew he was dead. We always know when death is around. But it made no difference. His brain was gone, and his heart was on it’s last few pumps. I started drinking. It felt amazing. No orgasm could compare. No high could come close. I had all I could ever want right there, pouring down my throat. I went back to sleep, with his corpse sitting right beside me. I could feel my heartbeat speeding up. I never really listened to my heartbeat before. I realized for the first time that my heart rate was slower than normal. 

And in that exact second, it clicked. I was a vampire. And it was nothing like what I had read about or heard about or seen in movies. I felt amazing and awful at the same time. I now knew why I couldn’t be out in the sun for too long, but I used to love the sun. We all have our favorite foods, and now I knew that I would never enjoy them again. I knew that I had seen my reflection, so at least that story wasn’t true. 

A: And you still turned me, knowing that this was possibly going to be my fate?

J: I…

A: Just don’t. And I’m gonna pretend like you didn’t just say that was the FIRST kill on purpose.

J: Ok.

A: What kind of symptoms do you feel when you are starving?

J: I feel paranoid mostly. Like everyone around me is going to attack me at any moment. Sometimes, I hear voices. I feel a strong urge to attack, although not necessarily with the purpose of biting them. It doesn’t always feel like thirst. Sometimes, I just feel rage. I can’t really describe it. I have come very close to starving several times now. Each time is different. Although, that hasn’t been an issue for me for years now thanks to my connections. 

A: And you intend to share that info with my listeners, right?

J: I honestly can’t say that I do. Maybe a few places to go looking, but they have to do the rest on their own. I’m not going to lose what I have to feed anyone else. Maybe you. You look like you need it.

A: Shut the fuck up. I’m fine.

J: Uh huh. 

A: You’re an asshole.

J: Is that why you want to know what happens next? You want a peek into your future. 

A: Don’t flatter yourself. This virus is the only thing we have in common, and I refuse to let you manipulate me any more. You’re here to be useful, and if you can’t be that, then leave. 

J: You want the rest of the story?

A: Just tell it and finish.

J: I answered the last question already.

A: What did you do after? How did you link up with people to help you?

J: I mean. Without giving away too much, there’s a market for everything. If you do enough research, you can find anything. After the first few years of struggling, I got hold of a computer. The internet has kept me fed. I could buy and sell things without even having to meet anyone face to face. It didn’t take long for me to get a consistent plug who could provide what I needed. 

I still struggle with consistency today though. The demand has gotten higher since more and more people have been trying to get access lately. 

A: By struggle, is it safe to assume that you mean you fed off of people you knew? Clearly, you’re not above taking what you want. Did you even ask them if they wanted you to do it.?

J: No, I didn’t. How was I supposed to say “Hey, I’m a vampire” and get what I needed out them? 

A: You could have disguised it as some weird kink?

J: Don’t be naive?

A: Don’t be a little bitch.

J: Did you want to know anything else?

A: This is a waste of time. Why did you come?

J: I wanted to see you. I wanted to apologize to your face. But, I’m not going to put myself at risk of starving to death, to feed your “baby” vamps. I struggled. You struggled. All of us that make it, have struggled. Those that can’t just have to deal with it.

A: You’ve been sending me all these creepy emails about the night that you turned me just to come here and say that?

J: Oh yeah, almost forgot to say. I never sent you anything like that. 

A: You’re a fucking liar.

J: No, actually. I don’t always tell the whole truth, but I never lie. 

A: That literally makes no fucking sense. 

J: I didn’t send you any weird emails about that night. Yeah, I listened to your show. There’s nothing else like it. I like you enough, but I moved on from that night pretty fast. You wouldn’t let it go, and I wanted to clear my name of some of the shit that you said. But, at the end of the day, I didn’t remember much about you. I felt bad about what I did, and since you gave me your number, I was able to call you the next day. 

A: Stop. You expect me to believe that bullshit. You would be the only person to remember what I had on. You said you liked the way I looked in my dress.

J: I don’t remember what you had on. You looked good. You tasted good. But I knew you were drunk. And I’m not a rapist.

A: No… you just infect people who don’t know any better. 

J: Listen. I haven’t been emailing you a got damn thing about the night. I didn’t even remember who you were until I heard you describe that night. I wanted to come forward. So, when you offered to bring someone on, I took you up on it.

A: Well, then who the fuck has been emailing me?

J: I don’t know.

A: I don’t believe you.

J: I don’t care.

A: Fuck you.

J: Last time you tried that we ended up here. 

A: Get out.

J: Fine. 

A: I need a drink.

J: You can’t get drunk.

A: Why are you still here?

J: I don’t know. I guess I feel bad. I guess I’m kinda like your vamp daddy or whatever?

A: Don’t ever say that shit out of your mouth again. I swear on everything I love, I will end your life.

J: You’re not strong enough. I can see you, unlike your baby vamps. You’re not strong enough.

A: I fucking hate you.

J: I know. 

A:…..So that’s all that I’ve got for y’all today. Please, guys stay hydrated. I’m tired and I need to get off the air for a while. It’s the end of my semester, and that means it’s the end of my time here at my school as well. I do have some other things lined up, and I will definitely be active, but I won’t be posting for a little while.

Just remember that I love you all, and please stay safe. Stay moisturized. And stay hydrated.

Love Tique

*AFTER THE SHOW*

J: Listen…

A: DON’t FUCKING SPEAK TO ME! 

J: Will you calm the fuck down for a minute?

A: What else could you possibly want from me? After all this, what else can you take from me?

J: Nothing ok. I’m trying to help you.

A: Helping me would have been calling me a fucking uber that night! Not biting me. There’s no way you got enough blood to consider it a real feeding. You had to have been preying on other girls that night, too. You better pray to whoever the fuck you believe in that I can’t whip your ass right now. 

J: Shut the fuck up for a second.

A:….

J: I told you, I’m trying to make this shit right, you’ve lost weight. I’m a vampire, I know the signs. You need to feed. You need to keep doing what you’re doing. Talking to others out there like us. Educating others. I think what you do is important. And yeah, I’m an asshole, but it’s in my best interests to keep you alive. So here…

A: What the fuck?

J: It’s a bag of blood.

A: I know what the hell it is.

J: Take it.

A: No.

J: I know your naive, but you’re not stupid. I don’t get the impression that you’re suicidal either. So what is the issue?

A: You are.

J: You need to feed. Dying is the only other option. I don’t want you to die. I’m responsible for you….

A: So that’s it huh? You feel guilty?

J: I don’t want to be here anymore than you want me here.

A: Hold the fuck up. You tryna say someone made you come here?

J: I’mma leave this bag here. Drink it, or don’t. I don’t care.

A: Answer my damn question!

J: I’ll get you some more. Drink that. 

A: Got dammit! I said answer me!

J: See you around, Tique.

A: You don’t get to call me that.

Jules leaves. Antique caves. The world keeps turning.

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The etymology of “Black” names - a great post for etymology nerds and those interested in learning more about black culture, but also REALLY GREAT for those not a part of black culture but who want to come up with names for black characters that aren’t plain ol’ stereotypes.

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“You ever think about how crazy it is…” I took a big gulp of the rum mix, cringing at the taste. Watching as it swirled around in my glass, I continued. “When kids are young you practically have to shove medicine down their throat. They hate the taste. They hate going to sleep. They wanna stay up all day and all night. They don’t wanna miss anything. They wanna feel everything. But it’s like the older you get all of that changes. You’ll drink the nastiest shit just to feel numb”

My eyes lifted from the half empty glass to the guy sitting across from me. His eyes were glazed over, and his face made it clear I was killing the mood. I sighed and sat my glass on the table.

Who was I to try and hold a decent conversation?

From the time he’d picked me up all he could talk about was himself and on the off chance he was silent it was only because his eyes had slipped to the plunging V-neck dress I’d wasted on tonight, that he no doubt thought he’d be taking off.

“Yeah, that’s very interesting Neeci.” He replied dully, swiping through his phone. I scuffed.

“It’s Reeci.”

“Huh?”

“My name’s Reeci.” I stated, annoyed at the fact I’d wasted another Saturday night.

I guess after that slip up he knew all chances of getting some ass were dead. He slipped out a hundred dollar bill and placed it on the table.

“My bad. It’s just been a long day at work. You ready?”

“No, I think I’m gonna stay and finish up my drink. I’ll catch the subway home, but thanks for dinner.” I replied, pulling out my phone. And without hesitation he left.

Oh, Conner would definitely be hearing my mouth about this bullshit. She always wanted to play matchmaker, and I don’t know why I kept going along, but this was the last time.

I tucked my phone away and prepped my taste buds for the last of my drink.

A man plopped down in the seat in front of me. My glass stopped at my lips. Or boy rather. He had short dread things pulled into a rocket power type up do. He looked to have more tattoos then skin, but thank God he’d avoided his face. That was his only saving grace. The only reason I didn’t immediately catch an attitude, because goodness….his face was lickable.

“Excuse you?” I cocked my eyebrow at him. He was smirking at me. I didn’t like that.

“You’re excused.”

My glass clinked against the silverware as I placed it on the table. The bar was crowded, and again, his face was lickable (maybe sitable) so I still wasn’t too upset by his presence. He was actually the most interesting part of this night.

“If you’re going to take that seat you have to buy me a drink.”

“Ol’ boy didn’t take care of you before he left?” He leaned back, his lips wrapping around the beer in his hand, his eyes studying me. I don’t know why, but the way he looked at me made me feel naked. In a really good way but also in a really uncomfortable way. I took a big gulp of my drink.

“So why are you here? To waste my time?”

He tilted his bottle towards the bar, pointing at a little Latina girl waiting for her drink.

“My girl’s over there grabbing her drink. I saw ya friend leave so I figured you’d be right behind him but…” He paused, pressing his lips together and raising his eyebrows.

“Oh.” I mouthed. I gulped down the rest of my drink and picked up my purse as well as my face off the fucking floor before getting up.

He laughed. “I’m just fucking witchu.”

I was right. A boy. I rolled my eyes and laid a tip on the table. He grabbed my wrist. I don’t know why I didn’t pull away, but I wish I had.

“Sit down.”

I continued standing, glaring at him. He wasn’t that damn fine.

“Please?” He flashed a smile. Okay…Maybe he was. “Let me get you some tea.”

“Tea?”

“I don’t want you feeling numb or nothing.” He said. I frowned and then chuckled when I realized what he was talking about.

“An asshole, and nosey. This is a bad first impression you’re making.” I said as I sat back down.

“Well you already got left by one guy, you’re full of yourself, and you got an attitude problem. So…I’m winning if we keeping score.”

“Look.” I picked my purse back up. “Do you want me to leave or not?”

He laughed. “My bad, let me get you yo drink.”

“Yea do that.”

“Before you start tripping.” He added. I cut my eyes at him and he smirked again making my thighs clench together. This type of nigga had always been my weakness. James had been like this, Kenneth had been like this, Mace had been the same. The type that know where they’re going, what they want, and exactly how to get it.

With my experience I should’ve been running out the door. But instead I reached over and slipped his beer from his fingers, sat back, crossed one leg over the other, and took a sip.

“So what’s your name?”

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“Once you do this there is no going back.” Stated the Spirit

“Good” I spat, my heart was as numb, dead and cold as the tree that stood before. Its dry twisted branches wicked claws racking at the night sky. The land around it was dead nothing green had grown here in a long time.

“Nothing in this world is neither created or destroyed, life and death are a circle forever spiraling in a cycle. To have you must also give. Do you understand child.” The Spirits voice echoed. 

Without a word I open my calabash smearing the pungent concoction on my fingers. With it I marked my face, arms and breast. Walking slowly to the old dead tree painted the sacred mark of my people into its base a hollow circle crowned with three lines. 

Drums, deep, and sweet began play. The louder they beat the more the air seemed resonate. Stubborn dancing feet mine, started to tap to the rhythm. Clenching the firm plumpness of my arms I allowed the drums sweet music to wash over. But still making sure the cold dead center of my heart would not beat to it. Focus I must stay focus.

Yet the drums still beat on and then the voices came. Voice, high and low, loud and soft undulated and chanting words that only the Grandest of Grandmothers would understand. Spirit voices crying out for something, crying out for me.

I knew what must be done. On my knees I humbled myself and ate the salt from the earth. Tasting this cold grey land my world exploded into light and color. 

Around me the spirits be a whirling circle of black, brown and tan faces singing and crying out. Their arms and legs kicking, twirling and leaping as they danced. The stars them shine so bright, twinkling glass beads decorating the sky. It was all so much, color, music, dance. I felt the flesh hunger and my blood run to fire. I cry raced from my lips and I too joined this dance. 

The dance was death, it was life, it was eternity. Past, present and future stomped and swayed into rhythm and movement. Where all emotions were felt, where nothing truly began or ended. I was apart of it a flickering flame in a blazing pinwheel of this motion. Dance I would. Dance forever if it were mine. Till strong hands rough as tree flesh and soft as petal skin grabbed me.

The tree, big old dead tree. There it stood the brightest of lights. Here I be in eye in eye with tree person. Skin as dark as the earth itself and hair that reached as high as any tree limb. Its rough soft hands pinning me in place.

“Why are you here?” Lips full as molasses ask me. I stare stunned and daze. My cold numb heart twitch. My tongue feel thick and my eyes murky with salt tears. Yet hold fast tree person do and wait.

“My heart is numb and dead. I have no use for living. Give it both to land.” All I could say. Hot salt tears fall from my eyes.

Tree person stare. Stare hard, thick long fingers reach into my chest and encircles my heart. Heart feel like its been kiss by fire. Beats so hard and fast, like the light of the world was rushing in my blood.

Tree person chuckles, “No not dead, just scarred.” My world of light, color, sound and spirits fades to dark.

I woke up to soft green grass and the warm morning sun. The air hot buzzing and my body felt dull and aching. Yet my heart, still beat and fluttered. Alive, I was alive. Looking up so the old tree. Healthy and big its branches heavy with sweet smelling blossoms.

Clenching my painted chest I whispered “Scarred not dead.” 

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This is one of my favorite opening paragraphs. Good fiction is about movement. Any one can learn to create a character or render a setting in detail, but few can make them move together. Every sentence in this paragraph is necessary and widens the scope of the narrator’s world and her limited understanding of it. I’d kill to write a paragraph this strong.

By Toni Cade Bambara

Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and foolish and me and Sugar were the only ones just right, this lade moved on our block with nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup.  And quite naturally we laughed at her, laughed the way we did at the junk man who went about his business like he was some big-time president and his sorry-ass horse his secretary.  And we kinda hated her too, hated the way we did the winos who cluttered up our parks and pissed on our handball walls and stank up our hallways and stairs so you couldn’t halfway play hide-and-seek without a goddamn gasmask.  Miss Moore was her name.  The only woman on the block with no first name. And she was black as hell, cept for her feet, which were fish-white and spooky.  And she was always planning these boring-ass things for us to do, us being my cousin, mostly,who lived on the block cause we all moved North the same time and to the same apartment then spread out gradual to breathe.  And our parents would yank our heads into some kinda shape and crisp up our clothes so we’d be presentable for travel with Miss Moore, who always looked like she was going to church, though she never did.  Which is just one of the things the grown-ups talked about when they talked behind her back like a dog.  But when she came calling with some sachet she’d sewed up or some ginger bread she’d made or some book, why then they’d all be too embarrassed to turn her down and we’d get handed over all spruced up.  She’d been to college and said it was only right that she should take responsibility for the young ones’ education, and she not even related by marriage or blood.  So they’d go for it.  Specially Aunt Gretchen.  She was the main gofer in the family.  You got some ole dumb shit foolishness you want somebody to go for, you send for Aunt Gretchen.  She been screwed into the go-along for so long, it’s a blood-deep natural thing with her. Which is now she got saddled with me and Sugar and Junior in the first place while our mothers were in a la-de-da apartment up the block having a good ole time.

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