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The Man, Who Saved The Man, Who Saved The South!
Hurt Stoker: Chapter 3
© 2013 James LaFond
“When Hell crossed the Potomac
Stonewall flashed those blue lights;
The Monkey King cowering in his ivory nest—
for fear of a swinging end to his Yankee Nights.”
-from The Ghost of Bobby Lee, Woody Wilson, 1899
Devils’ Dance
Whiff felt—even as he prayed to the God he hoped had not forsaken him for a greedy sort—as if he would fall to his choking end. For minutes it seemed he twirled on the end of that rope; gagged, scratched and gouged by that terrible wood-fiber noose, his small hands bound behind his big butt. He found but slim purchase on the slick tailgate with his Jamaican goat-hide loafers, once lustrous and pearly white; now forever befouled by the brown stain of the rude Yankee beverage of choice—beer, or malt liquor, or whatever they call their belching swill!
Why a decent man drinks wine, a wine-cooler at least; or some whiskey, preferably gently mixed with iced-tea!
I will not be lynched by common Yankee drunks!
A whiskey drinking CSA Texas Anachronist, or a moonshine swilling piece of Southern Trash—but not some beer-drinking hoodlum of the godless North!
He could feel his ankle throb, constricted as it was by his rubberized silk stockings—no synthetic Yankee elastic for Whiff, no sir—as he clawed his way back to upright with his neck for a brace against the rope and his slick-soled toes tirelessly scraping the gate below. His ankle tendons, calves, and shin-muscles strained and tugged at his knees, fighting the mighty weight of his big butt, as he slowly, and then more assuredly, righted himself.
Yes, upright you are—might as well be tagging out a base-stealing fool at Second…in October!
Whiff actually felt good, elated even, and he wondered at this; at how far he had fallen as an athlete; as a man. He had made money with a smile, money with money, money with guile, hand over fist for these past twenty-odd years, and now he knew it had emptied his soul.
So fill that place back up Whiff!
A donation, to a charity, to a church—to an old hard-time-befallen lady!
If I survive this—and I will; I shall survive this—I will divest myself of assets and make of life a pilgrimage. Lord, I repent here and now for my greed—although never a thief, as you know from Up On High!
He opened his eyes and looked down at the three fiends, who sat upon the steel-bridge-beam/beer cooler swigging their sudsy nectar. Poor Tommy was bent over vomiting in the brush behind them.
“I will survive Tommy—you have not killed me, but given me hope!”
Tommy looked up through teary bloodshot eyes, thankfully he thought, but without hope that Whiff would indeed live out the night. Tommy looked at him as if he were already a swinging corpse. Weasel-face then looked over his shoulder at Tommy, “Boy, we about to need three more beers!”
With that they all three rose from their unsavory seat and hurled their bottles at Whiff. He was blinded by suds, stung on the cheek and pummeled in the belly. He did not flinch. Whiff held strong and firm even as his goat-hide loafers threatened to drag him to his swinging death.
You must find yourself Whiff!
Seek the ghost power of your youth, just like in the Negro League days!
A batting average of one-nineteen you may have had—what was the song you sang:
‘Whiff all season long,
Nary an error,
And, come October,
batting a thousand—all night long!’
Whiff smiled at himself, of his memories of youth; of the fact that he never failed to get a hit in a playoff or NLB Series game. The Virginia Beach Fins had been a hero team, don’t you know!
We sent the Austin Buffalo Soldiers packing five-to-zero!
The Tampa Bay Seminoles, shoot, they might as well have not showed up!
Then his knee began to ache, and he was reminded of his being cut from the team, after turning his knee leaping over Soso Paige making that double-play. He had to dig deeper, into that secret part of himself that had sustained him in those dark days, before the carnival, before the empowerment of well-calculated, politely-actuated greed.
It is time to become un-grown; a boy again, dreaming backwards with keen eyes and forging blindly ahead…
Ghost Stories for Boys
Southern boys—Negro and white—had their ghost stories. They had the movie-theater, the carnival, and the radio, but not that common lowdown TV screen of the North; unless of course, you were a black market sort and did not fear the CSA Tranquility Agents coming to get you in the night. Needless to say—aside from the hillbillies, moonshiners, trailer trash and backstreet rabble—a normal Southern boy found most of his entertainment with his friends, playing ball by day and telling ghost stories at night.
The white folks that used to be called abolishers in The North had turned into what they called activists today. According to them, the Confederate Negro was endlessly beaten and degraded by the Whiteman. Whiff knew it was different than all of that. Of course, you have your Southern trash in their isolated backstreets and trailer parks. But for the most part, what you had, at least in Maryland and Virginia and the Carolinas, was a partially integrated rural world connected by winding gray-gravel and red-dog roadways.
Yes, in the cities you had row-house slums for the lowdown whites around the factories. But they were small cities. The rural lowdown whites lived in self-segregated trailer parks. By far, the majority of the four Southern states Whiff had lived in were greenways [as they said in The North] dotted with small towns. These towns were all of big frame houses and cottages. The few big frame houses were naturally the habitations of the white captains and colonels; the many cottages the humble abodes of their Negro employees and subcontractors. There was the occasional well-off Negro, such as Whiff, who owned a big frame house, though he did not flaunt it. A sensible well-off Negro purchased such a house on an old off-road plantation with its own driveway, so as not to put on airs and embarrass the less-industrious captains and colonels.
Daddy had long ago told little Whiff—whose name had always been Whiff it seemed, having originated in neighborhood play with the plastic baseball of the same name—the following, ‘Yes, the Whiteman rules the world, except for what he could not seize from the yellows, and does not wish to be reminded of his laziness; for the myth of his industry sustains him.’
Big Daddy Gleason had been a wise Negro and a friend to the Whiteman, being a champion billiards player and first rate bartender. His son had never considered forgetting his well-taught life-lessons, and strived to remind himself of his father’s wisdom even into his middle-age.
In the industrialized North you had your indigenous white slums side-by-side with your colonies of Southern Negros imported by the white Masters of Industry. This meant continuous gang warfare between white and colored up there. As their daddies competed for factory jobs by undercutting each-other’s wages and working for ever less, so their sons fought in the streets—or so Whiff had been given to understand by Southbound colored folk.
In The South that Whiff knew, boys of one color gathered in their neighborly groups, and always with a friend of the other color. As far as sports, the alliance was natural; the colored boys supplying much needed physicality, and the white boys supplying the expensive gloves, cleats and uniforms. Even a neighborly team had a uniform. No Southern Boy, regardless of color, would imagine playing ball without a uniform. And naturally, the alliance of colored and white boy by day, spilled over into the electric lantern-lit night.
Why, what was a ghost story without a ghost?
Now you’re black boys had stories about alley-sneaking white hobos, undead lynch-mad colonels, hooded border riders, and Yankee salesmen working for the Devil to lure a boy down into Hell. A ghost story was all-the-better if you had the right-colored boy to play the ghost!
Likewise, white boys had their ghost stories about evil washer women strangling elders in bed, black-as-night voodoo queens cooking captains up in their deep-woods groves, the vengeful night-creeping ghosts of unforgiving whipped slaves of old, and your negra-in-the-woodpile, of course, to threaten the white girls.
Having his gift for gab from a young age, Whiff was a natural ghost in the white boys’ stories, which meant better quality snacks and soda pop, than that had participating in the black boys’ stories. Besides, being the ghost in a ghost story made you a force, a kind of boss fueling the story, as opposed to a mere victim. And, thanks to Daddy, and his retelling of the Secret Legend of Uncle Ben Samson, Whiff had been sought far and wide by white boys, from as far away as Virginia Beach, to play the ghost in their stories.
Nearly the entire Gleason clan, all of Aunt Mary’s Samson clan, and some of the Jacksons and Gents who had married in over the century and a half since Uncle Ben’s courageous battlefield exploits, had fled to The North or had changed their names so as not to be boycotted, whipped, or even murdered by members of the Militant Colored Underground, or simply ostracized by their community. Big Daddy Gleason had not given a hoot though, and had raised a defiant son, and had schooled him in the management of the Whiteman.
Whiff’s popularity and renown as a story ghost had gone a long way toward setting him up for his carnival career. And, it was essentially all based on his retelling and expansion of the Secret Legend of Uncle Ben Samson, who was mad—in Whiff’s version of the story—at not being enshrined on the Gray Granite-stone Wall of Fallen Heroes at Arlington, where Bobby Lee had breathed his last, on the very day Lincoln swung from the Capitol Steps Lantern Post. Ever after his boyhood, when boys-turned-to-men had gone their separate ways, Whiff had reached into his mind to bring forth the specter of Uncle Ben Samson, in times of self-doubt.
For never in his life, not even when he watched Saul Mays retreat to his Emerson Roadking in dismay, after failing to buy an afternoon with Miss Majesty with two-million Yankee dollars, had Whiff felt as powerful as he had all those years ago when he scared half of the Virginia sons of captains and colonels with his impersonation of the ghost of Uncle Ben Samson. For, as Daddy had said, the Whiteman—and his sons by extension—felt the deep-seated need to be superior, and any reminder that the greatest warrior of the Confederate States of America, owed the deepest battlefield debt to the lowdown negro man assigned to hold his reigns and serve his lunch, engendered the deepest of fears…
Every Whiteman, wise and foolish, North and South, fears your ghost Uncle Ben.
They did not call your big behind Samson for nothing!
If I ever needed you, I need you now, sitting next to God as you surely been.
I feel the Devil’s breath and contemplate his dreadful sting!
Please come to me Uncle Ben.
I want to hear—if just one more time—my sweet Majesty sing.
That wasn’t too bad for being made up on the spot and all, was it?
Make a note to have Brindle rework it before you recite it on stage.
Oh yes, I’m being hanged…
As sweat beaded on his brow, blood trickled down his check, and beer suds soaked his silk slacks, Whiff reached within for his secret savior, his favorite—though distant—ancestor whose famed acts, reviled by colored folk and denied by white folk, had safeguarded the very world he now lived in; a Whiteman’s world, in which he had thrived, but one in which he might, just now, die, swinging like Lincoln from the end of a readymade rope…
Broadcast Reference
“Jackson may have been a luck-struck genius to save the South. The negro message-boy who saved him, not once, but twice…would therefore be a damned fool.”
-Darby Coleman, on Radio Free Black America out of Toronto, July 8th, 2000
Come to Me Sunrise, With Song
The Lonely Tree
the first boxers
barbarism versus civilization
winter of a fighting life
fiction anthology one
under the god of things
z-pill forever
let the world fend for itself
blue eyed daughter of zeus
honor among men
the fighting edge
by the wine dark sea
masculine axis
the sunset saga complete
the greatest lie ever sold
the lesser angels of our nature
the year the world took the z-pill
songs of aryas
within leviathan’s craw
solo boxing
on combat
into leviathan’s maw
orphan nation
the gods of boxing
logic of force
night city
when you're food
book of nightmares
time & cosmos
menthol rampage
thriving in bad places
broken dance
on the overton railroad
dark, distant futures
son of a lesser god
your trojan whorse
advent america
logic of steel
america the brutal
the greatest boxer
taboo you
song of the secret gardener
the combat space
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