A Review of Day of the Dead: A Passion for Life by Mary J. Andrade

A Review of Day of the Dead: A Passion for Life by Mary J. Andrade Reviewed by Rickey E. Womens Nike Air Max 2016

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41IVp3Nmq9L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_This bilingual book is a must for anyone who has interest in the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico. In approximately 200 pages, Mary Andrade leads you in word and pictures through the various sections of Mexico and the varied ways the feast is celebrated. cheap albion silver The introduction by Eduardo Merlo Juárez sets a wonderful tone and he claims that Andrade’s “work is a complete chronicle for generations to come.” In her Foreword, Andrade says, the “Day of the Dead in Mexico is not a mournful commemoration, but a happy and colorful celebration where death takes a lively friendly expression . polska biega asics , The belief that the soul comes back every year to be honored by family, for some as butterflies and for others as invisible spirits is a legacy brought down by ancient civilizations . Scarpe Air Jordan Xx9 albion gold . buy albion silver . . FREE RN

cheap albion gold After experiencing Day of the Dead one usually returns home changed.” This is a book rich in historical details, food, rituals, legends, religion, family testimony, and illustrated with poetry by Julie Sopetran. Ezekiel Elliott Ohio State Jerseys cheap albion gold There is an elegant vocabulary belonging only to the Day of the Dead. Abercrombie Pas Cher As a storyteller and folksinger, I work often the Rio Grande Valley, and every October, my thoughts go to this special time and I contemplate the differences between this feast and our own Halloween. Nike Air Max 90 Uomo

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“Days of the Dead”: A Short story by Rickey E. Pittman

Days of the Dead

Tell me how you die and I’ll tell you who you are.—Octavio Paz

October 1999

Outside the Huntsville State Penitentiary, I waited for the bus. Glancing at the razor wire fence, I wondered what I had lost inside. Dont’a Hightower Four years ago a drunk at a Halloween party decided he wanted to fight. I won the scrap, but nearly killed the man in the process, so Texas charged me with vicious assault and sent me to Huntsville, which in turn viciously assaulted me. I shook my head, willing the nightmares to vanish, but they clung—web-like, dirty. Two other released inmates stood with me—Vic, a Mexican who had befriended me early in my sentence and another Mexican I didn’t know. When the bus arrived, the stranger hurried toward the open door, bumping me. “Lo siento,” he said. “You just naturally clumsy, bean-eater, or do you work at it?” I said. He wagged his finger. “Ah, the crazy one. Always angry and starting fights he can not win.” Vic stepped between us and placed his hand on my shoulder. “He is right, Justin. No trouble today, okay? We all leave Huntsville and go home.” He patted me on the shoulder and nudged me toward the bus. I gritted my teeth and stepped inside, sharing a seat with Vic. He grinned. “Is good to not be prisoner now, eh, Justin? But you do not seem happy.” “It doesn’t seem real yet. My head’s still inside.” He shifted his eyes toward the prison. “Who is to say when freedom is real? What will you do in Dallas?” “I’m going to stay with my parents for a while.

  • Let my head clear, find a job if I can. All that shit.” As the bus moved out onto the highway, he stared at the fallow fields and pastures. “I too go to Dallas. In time to celebrate Los Dias de Los Muertos with my family.” “What is this Days of the Dead?” “I’m happy you remember the Spanish I taught you. It is a festival which begins the last day of this month.” He held up three fingers. “For three days we honor death and the dead ones.” “Happy Halloween,” I said. “No, it is not the same.” I leaned my head against the window and closed my eyes while Vic rattled on about the Days of the Dead. As I drifted into sleep, I heard him singing softly of bandits and white scorpions in the mountains of Durango.

    * * *

    I paused outside the white frame house of my childhood on Lanoue Street, studying the chain link fence veiled with honeysuckle vines, the gardenia bushes, the concrete porch with its chipped edge. I looked up at the belly of a 747 on its roaring descent into Love Field. Shaking off the sensory overload, I walked inside. adidas yeezy boost 350 v2 męskie My father sat in his Lazy Boy, staring at the television. Mother was wiping off the dining room table. When she saw me, a choking sound came out of her mouth as she tried to say my name. She pressed the dishtowel against her mouth as if she wanted to keep something inside, then she hurried over and embraced me. “You’re home at last!” she said, rubbing fiercely at the tears on her cheek. “Justin, Oh, Justin!” My father rose slowly from his chair, shuffled over and wrapped his strong arms around us. The sound of their weeping tore my guts out. “Hey,” I said. “It’s alright. You knew I’d make it out okay.” I glanced around the room. “Where’s Jimmy and Shelby? I thought you said they’d be here.” They wailed louder. It was an hour before they had the control to tell me what had happened. The next day I booked a flight to Guadalajara.

    * * *

    On Highway 15 outside of Culiacán, the bus stopped at a ranch and discharged three passengers—men speaking an Indian dialect and wearing cowboy hats, serapes, cotton pants, and huarache sandals. As I watched them walk toward the ranch house, I heard several bursts from an automatic rifle. The man next to me was reading a Guadalajara bilingual newspaper. He didn’t seem to notice the loud gunfire. “Who is firing the machine gun?” I asked. He glanced up from his paper. “Los narcos,” he said, and with his lips he made like he spat. He glanced at the copy of Fodor’s Mexico in my lap. “You are American? You are sightseeing?” “I’m going to Culiacán,” I said. “Culiacán is my city. We do not often see Americanos. Except for our eighteenth century cathedral, there is little that tourists want to see. Why do you travel there?” “I’m going to ship the bodies of my brother and his fiancée back to the states. They were murdered there last week.” He nodded. “I am sorry for your loss,” he said, then lit a cigarette and lost himself in the newspaper. At the bus station in Culiacán, I took a cab to the home of Rafael Gonzales, a reporter for Noroeste, Culiacán’s newspaper. The American consulate in Guadalajara knew Rafael personally and had persuaded him to help me transport Shelby and Jimmy back to the states. Stepping out of the cab, I followed a trail of yellow marigold petals strewn from the road to the scrolled-iron gate in front of the modest stucco house. The wrought iron fence on either side of the gate was connected to high concrete block walls marking the property line. Above the wall to my left, I saw the blackened windows of a neighbor’s two-story house. I rattled the gate and called out, “Señor Rafael Gonzales, por favor!” The dark oak door of the house opened, and a man stepped out. He scanned the street both directions before he looked at me. “Señor Rafael Gonzalez?” I asked. “Yes.” “I’m Justin.” “Ah, yes. Please, come inside. You are welcome here.” I opened the gate and walked through the concrete front yard toward the porch. The yard was carefully landscaped with benches and pots and raised beds in which were planted gardenias, poinsettias, orange and avocado trees. Rafael shook my hand and motioned me inside. “I trust your trip was without incident?” he said. “It’s not like being on an American bus, but at least it didn’t break down. I heard Mexican busses are bad to do that.” He laughed. “Sometimes our busses deserve their reputation.” He led me by the arm to the sala, the family living room, where several family members stood on the tessellated tile floor. “Justin, allow me to present my family. My wife, Veronica; my son, Miguel; my daughter. Raquel; my mother, SeñoraGonzales; and my wife’s brother, Earnesto.” “Con mucho gusto,” I said. The adults smiled, and the two children, both in their early teens, giggled—I guessed because of my accent. Vic had taught me functional Spanish in Huntsville, but learning Spanish from that Tex-Mex is a lot like learning English from a redneck. “It is our pleasure, sir,” Miguel said in perfect English. Rafael placed his hand on my shoulder. “This is Justin. The occasion that brings him our way is unfortunate, but he will be our guest this week. Justin, let us sit and talk a moment.” We moved to a red velvet sofa in front of the fireplace. Rafael’s wife, mother, and daughter excused themselves and withdrew into the kitchen. Dennis Pitta Ravens Jerseys Miguel retired to his room, and Earnesto, who wore a police uniform, sat in a chair in front of a desk cleaning a small pistol. When Rafael looked at him, he sighed, rolled his eyes, nodded, and slipped the pistol into a desk drawer. Next to the desk, a small rectangular table had been converted into an altar. On the white tablecloth sat three framed photographs surrounded by flowers, burning candles, candy skulls, chocolate skeletons and miniaturemaraipan coffins, a pack of cigarettes, a glass of water, a bottle of tequila, and an oval loaf of sweet bread. “The ofrenda is beautiful, is it not?” Rafael asked. “Yes. The first such altar I’ve seen.” “Ah, come and take a closer look.” We rose and walked to the altar. “Justin, have you ever celebrated Los Dias de los Muertos?” “No,” I said. “But a friend of mine told me a little about it. In America, this time of year we observe Halloween.” “Our feast has none of the terror Americans like to attach to Halloween. We use the time to reflect on those who have died, and we seek to come to terms with our own certain death.” One by one, he lightly touched each photograph. “My father, my wife’s mother. The little one is my sister who died when she was very young. Now she is one of the angelitos. Every year, I tell my children about them, things they did not know before—their favorite foods, jokes they played on others, things they said, how they died. It is important to remember the dead. My father often said the dead die only when they die in our hearts.” Rafael picked up the photo of his father. “My father was a journalist as I am. Canotte Houston Rockets He was assassinated in Mexico City. Journalism in Mexico can be a very dangerous occupation. But he believed that one courageous soul could make a difference. Do you think one man can make a difference, Justin?” “I don’t know. I’d like to think so,” I said, looking at Rafael. His face was young, but his dark eyes were the weary eyes of an old man, like the eyes of the hard priest in Texas who had known me in confession all my life. A painting of a skeletal lady wearing a plumed hat was hung above the fireplace. I pointed to it. “Who is she?” I asked. “Not another relative I hope.” Rafael laughed. “She is death, La Katarina, the beautiful lady of our feast. She visits each of us when it is time to die—sometimes violently, sometimes she comes as softly as a whisper. My son has written many calaveras, many poems and songs about La Katarina. Would you like to hear one?” “Sure.” “Miguel, ben aqui,” he called out. His son ran to us from his room, a calacas in his hands. He raised the skeleton and pulled a string that caused it to smile and flap its arms and legs as if it were dancing. “Sing us the song you wrote for the holiday,” Rafael said. “¿En Español o Inglés?” Miguel said.

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  • Inglés.” Miguel closed his eyes and sang out: I danced with death and did not know her, And the out-of-tune violin Played on through the night To a song that had no end. And as we danced, I wondered, When would the music end? She said, “This dance will last until You fall, like other dying men.” She had soft hands and a pretty face, She whispered secrets in my ear, Her eyes looked deep inside my heart, And she shed a single tear. A warm embrace she gave me, And the world began to spin, Her fingers reached for my hand, The fate of dying men. When we applauded, Miguel bowed. “You’ve got a talented boy,” I said. Rafael lifted the boy’s chin and smiled affectionately. “Yes, we are very proud.” “Papa, may I turn on the radio?” Miguel asked. “Yes, but not too loud.” Miguel ran to the stereo and turned it on. He talked to the calacas, whose bony arms and legs danced wildly to the beat of the music as he pulled the strings. “I saw some kids playing with those skeleton toys at the airport,” I said. “The toys entertain, but they also teach. In Mexico, we want a child’s first acquaintance with death to be a cheerful one.” “I try not to think about death.” “Ah, but she thinks of you,” he said. Rafael’s wife and daughter returned to the sala with a tray of coffee, Coca-Colas, and cookies. Earnesto left his corner chair and joined us in front of the fireplace for the evening merienda. “I am sorry for the loss of your brother and his fiancée,” Rafael said. “¡Que en paz descansen! Es muy triste, very sad. It must be a great burden to bear, and attending to the details of death requires more strength than many have.” “I’ve got the strength,” I said. I tapped my fingers on the sofa arm to the beat of a song on the radio. Rafael placed his hand on top of mine and pressed my fingers down so that they ceased their tapping. “When your Spanish has improved, you will not enjoy this song. It’s called, ‘La Piñata,’ a corrido, a ballad about a drug lord’s party where bags of cocaine were stuffed into a piñata. A song about a man very much like the man who murdered your brother.” “You know who killed Jimmy?” “Yes. Would you like to know?” “Yes, I would.” “Veronica, bring me my briefcase.” Rafael leaned back on the sofa. “He is a drug dealer. Unfortunately, in the minds of many, the drug lords are like your famous Robin Hood. They throw people money because they love to be seen as generous benefactors who help the poor. Across from the capitol is a shrine devoted to Jesus Malverde, a narco who came from this area. On the same street is a chapel dedicated to his memory. Throughout Mexico we have monuments and songs dedicated to lawless men who steal girls from the poor barrios and kill anyone who asks too many questions or who tries to stop them. Once the Mariachis sang of love, the family, love of our land. Now . Inne Buty Adidas . . things are very different.” Veronica brought Rafael a leather attaché. He opened it and searched through the papers until he found a photograph. “This is the man—Roberto Cruz de la Cruz.” I took the photo and held it in my palm. Earnesto leaned over to take a look, raised his eyebrows, and shook his head. “He’s smiling,” I said. “A man who kills people I love and smiles.” “He believes he has much to smile about. Not long ago, he was just a local thug. Now, he is the leader of his own organization. And his status and brutality grows every week. Did the consulate tell you the circumstances of their death, how he killed them?” “No, I don’t know any details.” “Earnesto showed me a copy of the police report. Your brother entered a cantina which Cruz de la Cruz frequents every evening. Your brother spoke Spanish very well, so Cruz de la Cruz assumed that he was with the DEA. De la Cruz and his men took them to a hotel room where they were raped, beaten, and tortured with ice picks. The police found the girl nude, on the floor with her back against the bed. Her arms were stretched out and nailed to the posts of the headboard. Your brother’s face was stuffed into the toilet.” The images knotted up my insides. nike air max 1 donna “What cantina did they go to?” “A small one near the plaza.” “What are the police going to do?” He glanced at Earnesto. “What the authorities usually do here whenlos narcos commit a crime—nothing.” “Con permiso,” Earnesto said. He stood, snatched a Coke from the tray, and walked outside to the patio. “Did he understand us?” I asked. “He does not speak English, but he recognized Crus de la Cruz’s photograph, so he knew what we spoke about.” Veronica came to Rafael and placed her hand on his shoulder. “It is time to go to the cemetery,” she said. Rafael took her hand and kissed it. “Of course. The time had escaped me. Come walk with us to the cemetery, Justin.” I followed the Gonzales household outside. Many other families were on the streets, walking and laughing together. Fireworks filled the sky. A parade of singing, costumed people passed us, led by a skeleton with a violin. Following him were skeletal grooms arm in arm with ghoulish brides, ghosts, mummies, and four men carrying a coffin containing a smiling corpse to whom people tossed oranges, flowers, and candy. Mummers followed the coffin, wildly shouting and running about in pursuit of the stubborn dead souls attending the feast. In the cemetery, families gathered around altars constructed near the graves of ancestors and loved ones. Almost every grave was elaborately decorated with colored paper and arches of flowers. In the flickering light of thousands of candles, the cemetery seemed alive, and the heady aroma of the flowers mingled with the distinctive fragrance of copal incense. A priest moved from tomb to tomb praying for the souls of the departed. When we reached the freshly repainted tombs of Rafael’s father and sister, Earnesto lit several candles and votives and placed them on the vaults. With an arm around each child, Rafael told us stories about his father and sister while Veronica laid out a mole dish and tamales. After we ate, Rafael opened a bottle of tequila and he poured each adult a generous portion and we toasted the dead. Several toasts and stories later, the bottle of tequila was empty. A mariachi band made its way through the cemetery playing the favorite songs of the deceased. When they reached Rafael’s family, he requested a tune, tipped them, and they began a ballad. The song was slow, waltz-like, with a sad tone. Rafael danced with his wife, Earnesto with Rafael’s mother, and Miguel danced with his sister. I watched for a few minutes, then strolled alone through the cemetery. Stopping for a moment to listen to another mariachi band, I felt a soft hand on my arm. I turned and looked into the black-pearl eyes of a beautiful young woman. She wore a white cotton dress and her long dark hair was pulled tightly back. She slid her hand from my arm into my hand. “Baila conmigo.” “Con mucho gusto. I would love to dance,” I said and placed my hand on her waist. When I took uncertain steps to the music, she took the lead, gracefully swirling me about. “You have sadness in your eyes,” she said. Her English surprised me. I didn’t know exactly what to say or how to say it, so I only nodded. “Things will be okay,” she said. “What do you call yourself?” “Justin. And you, what is your name?” “Catrina,” she said. “Is this not beautiful—the lights, the flowers, the families? I am sure the angelitos are happy.” When the song ended, we applauded the band and she embraced me. ADIDAS ULTRA BOOST

    “Thank you for the dance,” she whispered in my ear.

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  • Vas a verme una vez mas.” I watched the mariachis stroll on to the next family, and when I turned to talk to the girl, she was gone. I walked back to my friends. Rafael stood behind Veronica with his arms around her waist. “My new friend,” he said. “Did you have a pleasant walk?” “Yeah, I did. I met a girl and we danced. She was a beauty, too.” “Where is she?” “I don’t know, but she said she’d see me again.”

    * * *

    AT dawn, we returned to Rafael’s home. I fell into bed, my head buzzing from tequila. A tapping noise woke me later that morning. I sat up in my bed and watched two hummingbirds hover near the window. I put on the robe and rubber flip-flops Vernoica had laid out for me, pulled a towel from my suitcase, and walked to the shower stall in the small open-air wash area. After I showered and dressed, I joined Rafael and his family on the patio for a breakfast of eggs, fried potatoes, corn tortillas, beans, and coffee. After breakfast, Rafael drove me to the police station where I presented the transit permit and consulate letter. At the funeral home, I obtained the death certificates, proof of embalming, and letters of no contagious disease that I would need at the airport. Rafael and I followed the funeral director’s hearse to the airport, and there I presented my papers and signed another mountain of forms. The sealed steel crates holding Jimmy’s and Shelby’s bodies were loaded onto a plane, and then Rafael drove us to his office. After he had parked, he glanced at his watch. “I have an important deadline, so I must do some work in my office. You do not need to wait for me. You may take my car if you wish.” “No thank you. I’ll just walk around town for a while. I’ll take a cab to your home later.” I left Rafael and strolled through Culiacán. At the plaza, I sat on a bench in the shade. Monarch butterflies covered many of the trees around me, and it seemed as if the limbs were full of orange flowers. Occasionally, the wind or noise would stir them and they rose above the plaza in clouds of color. I watched the families and young people of Culiacán as they strolled around the plaza. Across the street, I could see the cantina where Jimmy and Shelby had eaten their last meal. A pair of young girls passed my bench and I saw they had each other’s names embroidered on their jackets. When two boys flirted with them, the girls hissed. Laughing, the boys sat down on my bench. They were eating jalapeño Popsicles. “Hello. You are American?” one asked. “Yes. new balance 420 homme grise I’m from Dallas, Texas.” “Dallas? It is good. You are wealthy American like J.R.?” “No.” When a young girl and her mother walked by, the boys called out, “Oye, Suegra!” The girl ignored them, but her mother turned and smiled. “Is she your mother-in-law?” I asked one of the boys. “No, no. It is a compliment, a way of saying I would like for her to be my mother-in-law. Do you have a novia, a girlfriend?” “I did meet a girl at the festival last night. I liked her very much, but I haven’t seen her today.” “Perhaps you will see her soon,” he said. A small orange cloud hovered above us. I held out my arm and two butterflies lit on my hand. “Ay!” one of the boys said. “¡Como estraño! We think of the butterflies as the returning souls of the dead. Two in the spirit world must be thinking of you.” “Yeah. And I think of them too.” I lifted my arm and the butterflies floated into the sky. I rose and joined the crowd’s plaza perambulations, walking for nearly an hour, hoping to see Catrina again. I thought of her soft hands on my arm, the warmth of her breasts pressed against me while we danced. At sunset, I walked toward the capitol. I came upon the Jesus Malverde shrine housed in a large blue metal shed. Inside, there was a gift shop with a large showcase of silver belt buckles, necklaces, key chains, and bottle openers—all bearing Malverde’s image. Polaroids and handwritten notes of thanks for miracles were taped to the walls. One glass case, with a flickering candle on its top, contained a tiny pair of crutches and a cast of a child’s leg. A handwritten note indicated these items had been donated by a family in Stockton, California. In a corner, a man knelt praying. In front of him lay a baggie of hair and a set of false teeth. I heard him thank Malverde for helping him and his brother survive a San Quentin prison term. At the door, I read the inscription on a plaque. It had been donated by Roberto Cruz de la Cruz. As I walked away from the shrine, my anger toward Cruz de la Cruz grew. I remembered a time when a Bachman Lake bully jumped my brother outside a bowling alley in Dallas. I came on him as he was kicking in my brother’s ribs. Picking up a two-by-four, I stove his head in. I lifted my brother from the ground and used my T-shirt to wipe the blood from his face. “No one will ever hurt you and get away with it,” I promised him. Air Jordan 2 I had seen men like de la Cruz in Huntsville. Men with no conscience, no insides. Bullies. Men who thought they were invincible. I also saw a few of these bullies who learned they could bleed and die just like the men they victimized and intimidated.

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  • “No one, ever,” I said to myself. When I neared the plaza, I flagged a cab and returned to Rafael’s house. I directed the driver to wait for me. Inside, I found Rafael’s family eating supper on the patio. “Justin, I was worried. Come join us for supper,” Rafael said. West Virginia Mountaineers “No thanks. I’ve already eaten, and I’ve got a cab outside. I’ve got to go back to town.” “He’s probably going to meet a girl,” Miguel said. On my way out, I passed through the sala, opened the desk drawer, and slipped Earnesto’s pistol into my pocket. I directed the taxi to take me to the cantina where Rafael said Cruz de la Cruz spent his evenings.

    * * *

    THE Hispanic next to me wore a braided leather necklace with an attached cameo of Jesus Malverde. I could see the outline of what I supposed was a shoulder holster beneath his linen jacket. He chugged down a Corona, then laid a gold cocaine spoon on the bar’s countertop. On the spoon’s handle was a nude figurine of a crucified woman. Her eyes and mouth were slightly open and her head was bent forward so that her long hair fell across her face. The man studied the spoon a moment, then tapped it twice with his fingertips. He smiled, then slipped the spoon back into his shirt pocket. He signaled the bartender to bring each of us another beer. “Gracias,” I said. “De nada. But it is no necessary to speak Spanish. I speakeh perfect Englis.” “I can see that. You have a beautiful city.” “Ah, you are a tourista. Adrian Peterson To you Americanos, any foreign city is beautiful. It is,come se dice, ‘exotic’? Where are you from in America, my friend?” “Dallas, Texas. And you? Where are you from in Mexico?” “From the mountains of Durango, the land of the white scorpion.” “The white scorpion, rare and deadly,” I said. “Is good you know of such things.” “Yeah, I guess.” In the background I could hear a corrido about some Sinaloan mountain hick. ADIDAS NMD I listened carefully to the words: They say this man is very bad, Señores, I don’t believe it, Because he is legendary and valiant, Because of this they are scared of him, But at the bottom of his soul, He is a sincere friend. “I don’t need a friend like that,” I muttered as the song ended. “What?” he said. “You do not like the ballad?” “Sorry. Just thinking aloud.” Two men entered the restaurant and he stood up. “You must excuse me. My boss has arrived. You know of him?” I glanced at the mirror and recognized one of the two as Cruz de la Cruz. “No,” I said. With my right hand, I reached into the pocket of my trousers and wrapped my fingers around the handle of the five shot Smith and Wesson .38 revolver. He patted me on the back. “Is good. Is best this way.” He signaled the bartender to bring me another beer, threw a hundred-dollar bill on the bar, walked to the pair, and kissed the hand of Cruz de la Cruz. Sac À Dos Kånken Fjällräven I sipped my beer and watched as people in the cantina acknowledged Cruz de la Cruz with smiles and handshakes. Cruz de la Cruz motioned one old man over, pulled several folded Franklins from his pocket and handed the wad of bills to him. The man wept when Cruz de la Cruz embraced him. Cruz de la Cruz pointed at a table and he and his men sat down. Nothing to it, I told myself. Three men. You have five shots in the pistol. Don’t miss. Do it and then haul ass. I drained the beer and walked over to their table. The man I had talked with at the bar was sitting next to Cruz de la Cruz. “¿Que quieres, Americano?” “I want to speak to Señor Tonto.” I pointed to Cruz de la Cruz. “¿Mande?” He frowned, so I knew he understood me. His eyes shifted to Cruz de la Cruz. I yanked the pistol from my pocket, pointed at the head of de la Cruz, and pulled the trigger. The hammer snapped loudly on the defective shell. “Shit!” I said and pulled the trigger again. Snap. The bullets from their guns plowed into my chest, pushing and whirling me back from the table. I heard screaming and shouting as my back and head slammed against the tile floor. I stared at the swirling decoupage of faces above me until my eyes settled on Jimmy and Shelby. Next to my brother stood Catrina. She smiled sadly and held out her hand.

    Copyright 2013 Rickey E. Pittman.

    Adrift in Charleston: Chapter one–A new novel by Rickey Pittman

    I’m hoping my readers will let me know what they think of my newest novel-Adrift in Charleston. adidas zx 750 mujer I’m planning on posting it chapter by chapter on my blog. Here’s chapter one: Chapter One I had memorized the mapped route, but I followed the GPS lady-voice to 454 McKenna. I had Googled the home address of Elizabeth Myers and the school where she worked, had viewed it in satellite and street view and as there was still an hour or so of daylight, I was certain he would recognize it. I wound my way through the neighborhood, old but not ancient, near the University of South Alabama. The house was buried deep in the neighborhood, a cluster of circles and dead ends. I turned on McKenna and slowly passed in front of the house. Two cars were in the drive. I lit another cigarette and drove on. I couldn’t risk delivering his package to her today. The house spoke of old Southern elegance, but not extravagance, a house much like the house in Ruston that I knew she had lived in as a girl, shaded by oak trees, a gravel drive, a long porch extending across the front of the house where a black man had been shot when he dared to peep into the matriarch’s window. Yes, I had driven by that house too, even though it was not relevant to his present task. That’s the way it is with the dead. You have a best friend, but you discover you don’t know much about them or what was really important to them. And to be truthful, you’re not that interested in where an old girlfriend of your buddy once lived. Then the best friends dies and suddenly everything about him is important. You become a private investigator of the dead.  

    * * *

      The next morning, from my hotel I called the school where she worked. buy albion silver “Can you connect me to Elizabeth Myers, please,” I said to the secretary. “Who is calling?” “Michael Aucoin.” “Are you related to Ms. Myers?” “No, but someone close to us died recently and I need to pass on the details.” “Hold please.” The voice that came on next was calm, but held a touch of urgency. asics gel quantum 360 damskie “This is Elizabeth. “You’re Elizabeth Myers?” “I am. Do I know you?” “No, but you know about me. I’m Michael. I’ve been a friend of Sean’s for years.” “Oh, yeah, How can I help you?” “He told you about me I guess.” “Did he send you? What do you want? I’ve got to get back to my class.” “He did send me with a very important request.” I could guess what she was thinking—Was Sean okay? Is he in trouble again? Is he going to try to come into my life again? “He did send me, but only with a request.” “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Okay, here is the moment I dreaded, he thought. “He’s dead, Elizabeth. I’m to deliver you some things of his and fill you in.” I heard a chocked sob. “Dead? Oh, God . . .” “We need to meet so I can give you this stuff. Nike Air Max 90 Dames

    It needs to be today.” “Well, you can’t come by the house. Can you meet me at Books-A-Million on Airport at around 6:00 p.m.? “I’ll be there.” As I knew that their first meeting had been at a BAM, I thought it fitting that this meeting be there too.  

    * * *

    Elizabeth hung up the phone. She wiped her eyes and let her students keep working. She looked at her bookshelves and saw his books. nike air max 2017 femme Each time one was published, he had mailed it to her. Next to the books was the framed photograph he had sent her—black slouch hat, fringed leather jacket, guitar slung on his back, jeans and cowboy boots. His writing and his music—so much a part of him, so much of what had drawn her to him. She sat at her desk the rest of the day, putting the rest of the day’s classes to work after she took roll. There was too much to think about, too much to absorb. On the drive home, she played one of the music CD’s he had made for her—songs that made him think of her, he had said. cheap albion gold Now, the songs made her think of him–Evanescence, Kasey Chambers, Van Morrison—musicians and songs she would never have found without him. She buys a family meal from Kentucky Fried Chicken, and when she arrives home she says to her husband, “Here’s supper. albion gold You’re watching Evelyn tonight. I’ve got a meeting tonight that I can’t get out of. I’ll be back by nine.” He turned up his nose when he saw the sack of food. “Kentucky chicken? Going to a lot of trouble for supper tonight aren’t you?” “You can cook something else if you don’t like it.” “What’s this meeting about? I had a ball game I wanted to watch.” “So watch Evelyn and watch the game. You’ll do fine. Make sure she does her homework. I’ve got to go.” She slung her purse on her shoulder and walked out of the kitchen. “Elizabeth,” he called out. albion silver “What’s this meeting about?” She didn’t answer, and the sound of her steps across the hardwood floor were steady and determined. She knew she’d pay for this later. Mark would be pissed and he would alternate a silent treatment with vicious sarcasm. He’d sleep on the couch or gripe at her in bed until she would leave to go sleep with Evelyn.

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    I alternated sipping on his Fiji water and the tall Columbian coffee I had purchased. cheap albion silver Sean’s package lay before me. I resisted the urge to go through it again. I wondered what her reaction would be to the photos, letters, and the book of poems—the one book he knew she didn’t have of Sean’s. I hated doing this, but I knew that Sean would have done the same or likely even more for me. cheap albion gold I whispered, “Damn you, Sean. Why did you have to go to stinking Iraq?” The question was rhetorical because internally I knew why Sean had gone—for the money, for another book idea, because he no longer cared what happened to him in life. Maybe the one thing about the brutality of life is that if an experience or beating is bad enough, you are no longer afraid of what can happen. I recognized her immediately when she entered BAM, dressed in typical teacher attire—button down white shirt and black jacket, black skirt to below her knees, black heels. Her hair was strawberry blonde and she had a freckled face. So, this is the woman that stole my friend’s heart, I thought. I wondered if it was something more than her obvious beauty that caused him to get off-kilter. Did he know deep down that the relationship was something that would never work? Did the poet inside him need a muse, even if it was a relationship that would only progress so far? Was their love like that of Dante and Laura, Dante’s beau ideal? No, Sean and Elizabeth’s relationship had gone far beyond that of Dante’s and Laura. adidas nmd rouge Their year together had been the most passionate experience of his life Sean had said. I raised my hand to catch her attention. buy albion gold She came to the table and asked, “Are you Michael?” “Yeah,” I said. Canotte Los Angeles Clippers “Please sit down. air max 1 pas cher Can I get you something to drink?” “I’d like a chai with Splenda.” I slid the package over to her. “This is yours. Why don’t you take a look while I’m ordering your tea.” He already knew from Sean’s poem “Chai” what she would likely want. nike pas cher And that she would want three packages of Splenda. Goedkope Nike Air Max 90 She looked at it a minute, as if weighing her own desire to look inside, then opened it. Nike Free Running New Balance Goedkoop I turned and moved on the line at the coffee counter. Whatever this moment was, he would let it be hers, and hers alone. cheap albion gold I returned and set the tea down for her. Asics Gel Lyte 3 Donna Rosa

    “Thank you,” she said. “No worries,” I said. “Sean said that all the time.” “Said what?” I asked. Canotta Brooklyn NetsNo worries. He was always so confident that one way or another, he could fix anything, or that serendipity would come our—his way.” The photos inside the package were spread out in front of her. She picked up the book, caressing the cover with her hand. 300 Poems by Sean Evans. “I didn’t know he had written this one.” “It came out last month when he was still in Iraq. I don’t think he even saw a copy. He dedicated it to you.” She nodded. “Did you ever hear of anyone writing 300 poems for someone?” “No,” he said. “So, tell me about Sean’s death. It was in Iraq?” “Yes, he was there teaching ESL classes to Iraqi government employees. He was one week away from coming home. He lived in the Green Zone, but one of the random rockets found his trailer one night. “ I handed her a business card. “You’ve got to contact this lawyer. Sean named you as his benefactor in case of death.

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  • You’ll get about a hundred thousand after lawyer’s fees.” “Only one week away from coming back?” “He went knowing the risks, but he thought the situation was stabilizing enough, so he just wanted to do his time and get out. Just like he and I both did with our marriages.” “He divorced?” “Well, actually she divorced him when he started drinking hard and spiraling out of control. She vowed to bleed him and she did. He felt his life had turned to shit, and I think he was hoping his books and music would take off and enable him to cut loose from working for anyone. He said, ‘Michael, I don’t think I’m suited to work for anyone on a long-term basis.’ I think he was right on the mark—after you two broke up, he was too high-strung, too independent, too self-destructive to work for anyone but himself and he knew it. Fjallraven Kanken Mini So, he signed everything he owned over to his ex, bought a manual typewriter, a new laptop, and signed a year’s contract with one of the civilian contractors in Iraq. In his mind, he was trading one year of his life in misery for ten years of freedom. It seemed like a good plan. His funeral is going to be next week in Monroe at Kilpatrick’s.” “Should I go?” “His wife doesn’t know about you, so I think it would be okay if you went with someone else who knew him.” “Why are you going to all this trouble?” “Sean stuck with me all these years, even when everyone else had written me off. As I remember him talking, even you weren’t that crazy about him hanging around me.” “Sorry about that. Denver Nuggets He told me that friends were off-limits, so I knew better than to ask him to choose or demand he not be your friend.” “Yes, Sean did not respond well to demands,” I said. “Anyway, he’s going to be cremated. I’ve got a cenotaph to be put up in Magnolia Cemetery.” She looked puzzled, so I said, “You know what a cenotaph is, right? It’s one of those markers set up to honor someone whose body is not there.” “Did he want that? Why place it here? He never lived in Mobile.” “Because you live here. buy albion gold So he could be near you at least in spirit. You told him you’d never leave Mobile like you did Monroe, right.” She was now crying hard. “He died from a stray rocket?” “Yeah.” She didn’t know that I was lying about dying from the rocket. But I knew she wouldn’t want to know the details about how he really died. Hell, it was almost more than I could stand to know.

    Video of the Bard of the South at Beaumont, Texas Public Library

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    The Ridiculous Notion of Self-Plagiarism

    To my friends in education: Just when you think you’ve reached the bottom of ignorance, you find there is no bottom to this abyss. New Balance Tienda cheap albion silver The powers of ignorance and darkness are mighty. asics gel nimbus 14 donna cheap albion gold Every semester my college students are required to study plagiarism and every semester someone lists “SELF-PLAGIARISM” as a type of plagiarism. albion silver And unfortunately, there are sites, even some educational sites that warn students against self-plagiarism. Women Air Jordan 11 One student complained about the points I took off when she wrote a whole paragraph on “self-plagiarism.” She used a Wikipedia article as a source. NIKE Air VAPORMAX nike air max pas cher (Now, there’s an academic site for you!) This absurd notion makes me want to stick my head in the fan. Air Max Tailwind There is no such thing as self-plagiarism. buy albion gold The idea is ridiculous. It may be perhaps less than honest, may be lazy for one to recycle work, improve it, or adapt it to an assignment, but it is not stealing something from someone else and claiming it as one’s own. nike air max pas cher (The definition of plagiarism remember?) Think about it: How can one steal something from one’s self? It’s absurd. nike tn homme new balance 574 homme gris I can see why academic journals and such may not want recycled writing, but calling it plagiarism does not make it plagiarism. Nike Air Max 90 Pour Pas Cher

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    Storytime in the Pumpkin Patch

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    “Where Evil Grows”: Chords and Lyrics

    220px-Thins-behind-the-sun-dvd-coverSerendipity often does this to me–it leads me to discover new songs. Nike Air Max 2016 Rosso Uomo

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    The Heart Is Not Made of Bone: A Short Story by Rickey E. Pittman

    The Heart Is Not Made of Bone—Krio Proverb

    I was sent to Freetown, Sierra Leone by the Dallas Morning News to write a story on the nation’s recovery after its bloody civil war. One night I went to Paddy’s Bar and Chinese Restaurant. Paddy’s was a favorite haunt of Westerners and had a reputation for being a place where Africa met the world. The food was good, the drinks affordable, and usually the bar was crowded to capacity. I had made an appointment to meet with Father Ambrose, a priest whose mission and village in the northern district was overrun by RUF soldiers. I knew it would not be a pretty story—there were no pretty stories coming out of Sierra Leone—but I hoped it would give me insight into the soul and hearts of the nation’s people. My first question was: “What is the most important truth you’ve learned from your experience?” He sipped on his Scotch, then answered: “I learned that the heart is not made of bone.” Father Ambrose and I talked and drank long into the night. His bandaged right hand rested on the bar, a reminder of a night he and many others would never forget. Here is the story he gave me that I submitted to my editor. It was never published.

    A Priest’s Tale: Machetes and Words

    A writer I read somewhere said that if it weren’t for the AK 47’s they carried, the Zebra Small Boys Battalion would have appeared to be an African version of the Boy Scouts out for an afternoon stroll, dressed in a collage of fatigues and American T-shirts and jeans. Their hands and clothes were spotted and crusted with the blood of those newly slain or violated. soldes nike 2017 The soldiers surrounded a small herd of captives like malignant spectres. A line of porters, even younger than the soldiers, trailed behind them, and they were loaded down with the looted goods of Kamakwie and Kamalu. As the invaders entered the mission compound in the Northern District of Sierra Leone, Father Ambrose contemplated the scene. Many of the villagers were terrified. The screams, weeping, moans, and prayers blended together into a demented chorus, and the sounds of the choir’s grief and terror burned and burrowed into his soul. In the eyes and faces of the soldiers, he recognized the signs of drug madness and bloodlust. He whispered to Sister Agnes, “Calm the villagers. Nike Air Force 1 Men

    Tell them they must stop the wailing. It will only feed the soldiers’ rage and frenzy. Find out what has happened in Kamalu. Minister to any wounded the best you can without attracting attention.” “I will, father. May God help us,” Sister Agnes said. As she tended to the terrified villagers, the priest counted twenty boy-soldiers. Two older soldiers hung in the background. One was white, the other mulatto. cheap albion gold The aloofness of the two older men suggested they were either mercenaries or senior RUF officers. One of the boy soldiers sauntered to the truck and barked a command. All the soldiers dropped their prizes and snapped to attention. He spoke again and pointed, and a soldier set a wooden rocker upon a stack of wooden crates. A teenager with a Machiavellian smile, he slowly scanned the eyes of villagers and the young soldiers. He clambered up the boxes and sat on the improvised throne, impatiently drumming his fingers on the chair’s arm. A soldier rolled a stump to a spot directly in front of the prisoners. buy albion silver The enthroned one spoke dramatically, as if he made an important speech. Father Ambrose couldn’t understand the young boy-leader. He thought the dialect might be Mende. He stepped forward. “I don’t understand you, my son,” he said. He addressed the two older soldiers. “Do any of you speak English? Or Temne? Is he your leader? Why does he not speak Krio?” The white soldier held his hand up, palm toward the boy-leader and caught his attention. The white soldier motioned toward the priest and said in Krio, “The priest-man, he wants to know who you are and what you want. Can I tell him?” “Tell him,” the boy said in English, and then continued speaking in the unknown tongue. The white man stepped closer to the priest and translated: “The General prefers to address his audience in Mende. He understands some English, and Krio of course, but it makes him feel more important to be translated. God, these black buggers I work with are vain. I’ll tell you what he says, priest. He says, ‘I am General Share Blood.’ He greets you warmly. He says, ‘We are soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front. At Papa’s orders, we are here to liberate you from the corrupt government in Freetown. I have been told that you warn your Christians to not join Papa’s Army. Why? Is this a sign that you mean to betray us? You must learn you cannot show such disrespect.’ ” General Share Blood pointed to two Kamalu boys. The white soldier left the priest and yanked two boys away from their parents. Father Ambrose thought that neither boy could be over ten years of age. The white soldier cocked his AK 47 and thrust it into one boy’s hands, pointed to the other who was less than five feet away, and said, “Kill him.” The victim pleaded, “Please, I know you. Do not kill me!” The mercenary slapped the boy’s head. “Do it now!” The boy pulled the trigger. “That’s a good soldier. Gud pikin.” The white soldier snatched his rifle from the boy’s trembling hands and shoved him toward the other soldiers. “Sit down.” Father Ambrose bowed his head and prayed for murdered and murderer. This action had forever separated the young boy from the village of Kamalu. The new recruit could never come home. General Share Blood pointed to Father Ambrose. “You have diamonds for me?” “No,” Father Ambrose said. “We have no diamonds. adidas uk All of the diamond mines are far from here.” “You do not speak true. adidas pas cher femme You have diamonds.” He clapped his hands three times. The boy soldiers herded another group of villagers forward and gunned them down. Air Jordan 2 Homme

    The slaughter was followed by an ecstatic dance around the bodies. As they danced, the drunken and drugged executioners howled and fired their guns wildly into the air. “Now you have diamonds for me?” General Share Blood asked. Father Ambrose feared the mission staff might be killed next. He once again attempted to communicate. “I tell you we have no diamonds. This is cattle country.” Father Ambrose called out to the white man, “Who are you? Why are you here with these boys? Are you a mercenary? Are you not a high-ranking officer? Do you not see what they have just done? You must order him to stop this senseless killing. These people have done nothing to harm or threaten you. Have you no conscience?” The white man sat down in front of Ambrose. “No, I don’t.” He dropped a box of cartridges on the ground in front of him, and slowly reloaded his rifle magazine. The box was covered with Arabic writing. “Conscience is a luxury I cannot afford,” the white man replied. “I ‘m here as an advisor. About what’s happened—I don’t try to make sense of these buggers’ politics.” General Share Blood stood and stretched lazily, then resumed his seat. “It is time for the games,” he said in English. He drained a gourd of palm wine, then looked down upon the throng before him as if he were indeed perched on a royal throne. “I am thirsty for my daily drink of blood. Who among you will provide it? Perhaps you?” General Share Blood pointed at Brother Thomas. One soldier in a Rambo T-shirt grabbed the mission’s gardener by the shirt collar and dragged him forward. The gardener’s little girl clung to his leg screaming. Brother Thomas tried to pry loose his little girl’s hands, but she clung stubbornly. When Brother Thomas and his daughter in tow reached the stump in front of General Share Blood, the Rambo soldier placed the man’s arm across the top of the stump and drew his machete. As he raised the blade, Father Ambrose stepped forward and placed his hand on the young soldier’s shoulder. “No, my son. Do not hurt this man. He is good man, good friend.” The soldier holding the gardener squinted at the priest through cocaine and ganja-glazed eyes. He glanced at the general, then back to the priest. Something human etched itself upon his face. “Father, I do not know what I do,” he whispered. “Put the cutlass down, my son,” Father Ambrose said quietly. “You are a Christian man. I know you are afraid, but God will give you strength.” The trembling blade rose for a moment, then the young soldier stabbed the machete into the earth, and knelt before the priest with his eyes to the ground. Some of the soldiers hooted and laughed. General Share Blood shouted for the soldier to continue. “No,” the young Rambo replied. “I will not hurt this man.” Then to Father Ambrose he whispered, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” Father Ambrose knelt and gave the repentant man absolution in an abbreviated form, confident that God would accept the adaptation. General Blood’s retort was sharp, and two soldiers dragged the rebellious Rambo forward and held him before the General. After the General clumsily climbed down from his wooden-box throne, he plucked a long, dry leaf from a nearby tree, and rolled it up like a cigar. He lit it with a cigarette lighter, then as his troops held the man’s face, pressed the burning leaf into the soldier’s eye. General Blood smiled at the soldier’s screams. He swaggered around, looking at his soldiers and his captives, holding a fist in the air triumphantly. Father Ambrose stood and shouted, “Listen to me, all of you!” He looked at the white mercenary. “Please, do not let him do this. Ask your leader to take what he wants, but please, do not injure anyone else. We will not assist any of your enemies. ” He was cut short when the mercenary barked a command and one of the soldiers pushed him roughly to the ground. The mercenary slung his rifle onto his shoulder and strode toward the priest. On his way he kicked the sobbing young boy-soldier who was clutching his eye and writhing on the ground like a wounded snake. “That’s the problem when you don’t take them young enough,” the mercenary said. “I thought he was going to make a fine soldier, but I guess I was wrong. Our training was wasted on him. Now, if he lives, he won’t even be fit to be a porter.” “You do not talk like a man should, but like an animal,” Father Ambrose said. “No wonder the people of Salone fear and hate your soldiers. The RUF once were men of ideals who talked of helping the people of Salone. But now . . cheap albion gold .” The mercenary knelt and whispered, “Priest, I tend to like men in your occupation, but we don’t have time for a long philosophical discussion. The situation is actually very simple. The towns of this district and your mission are now under the control of the RUF. The ideals you speak of left Salone with the educated elite émigrés, and the same ideals left the RUF when Papa discovered how much money he could make in the diamond trade. Now, you cooperate and I might get you out of this in one piece. I want you to hook up your radio and call whoever you need to call and have them send money and diamonds. The general wants diamonds; but he and I both will settle for American dollars. Then, maybe he will let you go.” “Diamonds? He wants blood diamonds?” Father Ambrose felt a rage coursing through his body and he surrendered to it. He shouted, “And you want money? You want us to ask for ransom? You white devil! You want me to cooperate with this sadist and ask for money to buy our freedom? No!” The mercenary patted Father Ambrose’s face, turned to General Share Blood and in Krio said, “The priest, he will not respect the General.” Shouting, the General leaped from the chair to the ground. Father Ambrose felt boys’ hands clutching and dragging him forward. He was thrown to the ground next to the mission’s gardener and his daughter, and the three of the knelt together before General Share Blood. Ambrose looked up into the face of a young girl beside the general. She drew a machete from her web belt and nodded toward Brother Thomas, the gardener. Two soldiers stretched Thomas’s arm across the stump, and with a deft stroke, she amputated his right hand. Then she pointed to the little girl. Two strokes this time. The girl swooned and fell to her knees, a Lavinia holding up two bleeding handless limbs. At the sight, the priest felt his heart break within himself, and he knew now that all the sadness he had ever felt and all the evil and suffering he had ever seen had reached a culminating point, a climax. As if in the audience of a tragic play, he waited for the drama’s catharsis, the purging of his heart through pity and terror. The machete-welding girl smiled and pointed to Father Ambrose. Father Ambrose felt the rough top of the stump against his skin, felt the wetness of Thomas’s blood underneath, saw the whiteness of his own skin in the fading light. buy albion gold General Share Blood held the mission’s gold communion cup in his hands. The general turned dramatically, displaying the chalice to the group. He handed it to one soldier who knelt in front of the stump and held it at the ready. Father Ambrose flexed his fingers, staring at his hand. What followed seemed to happen in slow motion. A machete flashes in the fading sunlight. He hears a thwack, a thumping sound. The fingers wriggle on his detached left hand, convulsing on top of the stump as if they now had a life of their own apart from his brain. The hand rolls to the ground with the other three hands where it seems to crawl about. Another boy lifts the priest’s arm so the blood drips into the communion cup. His heart pumps four times and the cup is full. White hands wrap coarse twine tightly around his arm to stem the bleeding. The foaming cup is placed reverently into General Share Blood’s hands. Father Ambrose stared at the smooth, flat wall of bone and nerves and tissue where his hand used to be. The thought was odd, but he thanked God the machete used was sharp. He had heard tales of how the machetes were often dull and how they mangled the limbs of victims. Ambrose remained on his knees. He knew his body was in shock, but he couldn’t think of what he should do or say about it. He glanced up into the smiling, drugged face of the machete-girl. He studied her blood-splotched face as if it were an icon of a black Madonna. An amazon, Father Ambrose thought. This girl is a true amazon. She would amputate anything, even her own breast if it were in her way. He heard her chatter to the others in Krio. He felt a strong hand on his shoulder, and he turned. Another icon. This time, it is the tear-stained face of Sister Agnes. “What is she saying?” he asked her. “The machete-girl there.” Sister Agnes drew him to her bosom. Her breast felt soft, warm, comforting. “She calls herself Betty Cut Hands and she is General Shareblood’s queen. Here, open your mouth.” She pressed two tablets onto his tongue. “Swallow them. They’re pain pills. We have no water, so you’ll have to swallow them dry. Now, close your eyes. I’m sure you are in shock.” He swallowed the pills but he didn’t close his eyes. buy albion gold From within her embrace, he watched as drugs were mixed into the communion cup holding his blood and stirred with the General’s finger. The General, still thirsty for his daily blood, drank the priest’s blood and thumped his chest with his fist. He pointed to other soldiers who one by one came to the altar of the stump to sup and share in the sacred ritual of his perverted communion. The chalice was returned to the General and after he drained it, he set it on a crate next to him. He licked his lips, and his eyes rolled with delight. Father Ambrose turned his head and wept. Through the veil of tears, he spotted Tejan. How long had it been since that terrible day when the RUF kidnapped Tejan and five other students? Four years? Tejan possessed the same glazed eyes as the others, and an AK 47 was slung over his shoulder. Father Ambrose tried to focus his blurred, swirling vision. He raised himself and rubbed at his burning eyes with the stump of his right hand. He attempted to stand and go to Tejan, but the world spun in a strange mosaic of black and white faces, and he collapsed backwards into Sister Agnes’s arms. “Father, here, I will wipe your eyes,” Sister Agnes whispered. “What can I do? What will happen with us?” He willed himself to answer her, but his tongue was thick and slow. Finally, he uttered, “Vado mori.” He buried his face in her bosom. It was time to leave this sad earth. He knew too much now, had seen too much. albion silver “No, Father,” she whispered. “You cannot die and leave us alone.” When he woke, he was still alive in the sister’s arms. Everything of value in the mission and village had been piled in front of General Share Blood, who had returned to his throne of boxes. The priest’s hand was now buried beneath a pile of black hands, arms, legs, and ears. Several buildings and houses about them were burning. From within one he heard screams and saw black arms reaching out from the flames like anguished souls trapped in a torture chamber of hell. The General’s soldiers had found more palm wine. As they drained gourd after gourd, they fired their guns into the air, and they danced and staggered about a large fire like stiff skeletons in a danse macbre. One soldier had donned a nun’s habit, another a choir robe. Father Ambrose watched the one-eyed, disobedient soldier embrace a palm tree and struggle to pull himself to his feet. When he finally wrestled himself upright, a machine gun riddled his body and he died with his one good eye open, his arms still clutching the palm. Father Ambrose thought the RUF soldiers had executed the one-eyed soldier until he saw the mulatto fall. Then General Share Blood and his chair throne tumbled backwards. When the general’s body hit the ground, the gold communion cup bounced toward the priest. There was no blood in the chalice. Several of the dancing boy-soldiers dropped one by one as they too were splattered with bullets. An enemy presence was perceived and the boy soldiers of the Zebra battalion broke and ran. The white mercenary stood his ground, methodically taking aim and firing his automatic rifle. Washington State Cougars Jerseys Bullets peppered his white skin, and he fell to his knees. Then when a bullet struck his forehead, he fell face-first to the dark ground. A group of black shadows swarmed him, and Ambrose heard the sound of the clubs and spears as they struck and tore at his corpse. Several men sprinted past Father Ambrose in pursuit of the fleeing Zebra battalion. Some of the men were in fatigues, and others wore animal skins. One pushed Ambrose to the ground. “We have come to help you, Fader,” he said. “ Please, you are to stay close to de ground.”   “Father?” Sister Agnes whispered as she ducked down next to him. Villanova Wildcats “What’s happening?” “Government soldiers and Kamajors,” he said. “And maybe some Nigerian troops from Makeni. Stay down until we’re sure it’s safe.” “Oh, thank God they have come,” she whispered. A Kamajor threw a Zebra boy down near them and then machined-gunned him. The young rebel’s body bounced like a martinet as the bullets riddled his adolescent body. The Kamajor looked down at Ambrose and smiled. “It be OK soon, Fader,” he said. “Good Christians be here now.” Father Ambrose turned his head from the sight of the boy’s body. air max 90 damskie pomara czowe “Yes, Sister Agnes,” he said. “Thank God they have come.” The Kamajors and soldiers returned from their pursuit, herding several of the Zebra boys in front of them, caning them unmercifully every step. The mission captives watched as the Kamajors beat and then executed the rebels one by one with their guns or staves. A few of the younger rebel boys were terrified and began to moan senselessly, as if they were deaf and dumb. But the ruse of being a handicapped child was unconvincing, and the beatings and executions continued. The wails of the boy-soldiers filled the night and the sound could have been the audio illustration for the nightmarish paintings of Munch or Goya. Two more Kamajors returned, dragging a body. Father Ambrose saw that it was Tejan, a boy who had been taken from the village two years ago. The priest watched as they kicked him and whipped him with sticks. When one pointed a rifle at his head, Father Ambrose shouted, “No! He is one of ours!” “Are you sure, Fader?” the Kamajor said. “He look like rebel soldier moment ago. He fight me hard with his empty gun before I conk him on de head.” “I am sure. His name is Tejan,” he said. With his right hand, he picked up the gold communion cup and held it out to the Kamajor. “He’s probably just frightened.” “You can have him, Fader.” The Kamajor stuffed the chalice into his fanny pack and moved on. “Father!” Sister Agnes whispered. “What are you doing? This boy probably did some horrible things to . . .” “Hush, sister. The sin will be on my own soul. I knew this boy and his parents, and, demon though he is now, I’m not going to give him up to these murderers. He was kidnapped by the RUF a few years ago. Now, help me with him.” Together, they dragged the unconscious Tejan over to their group. Fortunately, Tejan had not been shot, only clubbed. A cane had laid his head open, and Sister Agnes pressed her hand on the wound. “Tejan . . . Tejan . . . Do you know who I am?” Ambrose asked. cheap albion silver Tejan’s eyes opened, and he groaned. Several villagers shook their heads in disgust at the priest. Ambrose knew they perceived his mercy as another example of the strange behavior and values of the poo-muis and that it confirmed their long-held suspicions of the priest-man’s naiveté. The Kamajors and government troops moved on in their search for more rebels. When the mission staff had buried the dead and every body part they could find, they filled the mission’s Toyota truck with the weak and wounded, twenty-three in all, and began the drive to Freetown. There they would join thousands of other refugees seeking safety and peace. Eventually, the RUF was defeated, some semblance of peace was restored, but nightmares are slow to fade in this land that few Americans know anything about.

    * * *

    From that sad priest I heard a story, a dark one of suffering, of one boy’s redemption, and of a priest who had nearly lost his faith. albion gold I learned that many reporters had covered those war days, the days of the Blood Diamonds, and written stories that were never published in our news. Some reporters, like many religious leaders, had paid with their lives. The suffering of Sierra Leone in those years is almost more than one can absorb. There is a glimmer of hope for the future, but nothing is for certain. The priest’s story would never leave my mind.

    The South Wind by Jed Marum: A Short Review of Marum’s New CD

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