Archive for May, 2010

PALM CITY CAFE

Posted in 1 on May 4, 2010 by naimahfuller

The moon looked lopsided through the half opened shutters as Jimmy made love to Anna. His passion was inexhaustible. But when he finally succumbed to his weakness for her, it felt as though the whole sky; the stars, the blackness, and the half-full moon were melting all over them.  But all though the moon wasn’t quite full yet, it was still influencing things.  He could feel it in the love they made, and the undertow of anger he couldn’t shake no matter how sweet she was or how good she made him feel.

Jimmy got dressed for the night, as always in his signature all white. It gave him such pleasure putting his gold cuff links on his french cuffed white linen shirt, and using practiced precision to tuck his shirttail into the trousers of his white linen Brooks Brothers suit.   Albert Thurston suspenders in place, he never wore a tie, the tropical climate of Palm City simply wouldn’t tolerate it. White silk socks, and his favorite pair of Stacy Adams two-toned ivory leather wingtips. Next came the jacket, accented by a white silk handkerchief with his embroidered initials posed perfectly in his vest pocket to reveal his initials: JS.   Then the final piece de resistance; his gold Rolex pocket watch delivered direct from Switzerland, Europe by way of CJ Duncan’s special order receipts. He had three inches added to the gold chain to make sure it hung conspicuously beneath the hem of his suit jackets. Three months he waited for it to arrive.  His gold watch was the ultimate symbol of how high up he had rose in the world.  Just the feel of it in his waist pocket made his swagger all the more conceited.

Getting dressed was his power ritual; his wardrobe validated his status in Palm City.  He cocked his white Panama Fedora slightly to the right, but tonight as he admired the completed picture looking back at him in the mirror, he caught a glimpse of Anna Lucille’s sadness as she lay in bed listening to Bessie Smith on the Victrola.  It gnawed at him the way she always seemed sad, even when they made love.  But deep down inside he knew he only had himself to blame for the way things were, so to relieve his guilt, he brought her expensive gifts.  She had the only phonograph player on the Colored side of town, special ordered from C. J. Duncan’s General Store.  But all the fancy gifts he gave her only made her happy for a little while, because she knew he loved his money more than he loved her, and nothing could make up for fact that he was using his own wife for monetary gain.

But even with all the glory that came with the money and the prestige, there was something about being married to her that gave him a feeling he’d never felt before.  Caught between irreconcilable emotions, the whole thing was eating him up inside.  But he had a reputation to protect.  Everything depended it.  So for the sake of profits, Jimmy maintained a flawless public facade to mask his private anguish. But it was Anna’s sadness that told the whole story of how the mess their marriage was in was taking a toll on her and on her husband.  His drinking, his failing health, and that new mean streak he was carrying around in his spirit.

Jimmy Sweetfields watched with contempt as Anna Lucille prepared her alter with love candles.  A growling noise came from his stomach, and he belched.

“You need to stop drinking so much Jimmy,” said Anna Lucille softly.  “That’s why your stomach is so messed up.”

Jimmy didn’t say a word as he watched her lighting the red candle.  His eyes stayed fixed on her near perfect mouth as she blew out the match, closed her eyes and began praying.  But he couldn’t control the surge of anger that rose up in his chest.

“What you praying for?”  He asked in a contemptible tone.

“For us,” she answered, looking at him innocently.  She turned back to her candle and closed her eyes again.

“The last time you lit one of your damn candles, the mayor of Palm City his self, made a drunken fool outta his self over you.”   Jimmy could feel his blood beginning to boil. “How you think that made me feel?  Huh?  A White man actin’ the fool over my wife.”

“You hear me talkin’ to you woman?” Jimmy roared. The tone in his voice made Anna’s eyes pop open. “You screaming loud enough for the whole town to hear you.”  She answered angrily.

“I don’t give a damn who hear me.”  But even as the words came out of his mouth, she knew he didn’t mean what he was saying, but his anger frightened her, and as he crossed the room and slammed the shutters closed, she kept him in the corner of her eye.  He grabbed his gun, stuffed it in his belt, and left.

She eased over to the window and watched him through the half closed shutters as he turned the corner on Blackberry Alleyway and headed toward Elderberry Avenue.  She closed the shutters and pulled the latch on tight.

She got down on her knees and took a deep breath as she reached under the bed, moving her hand around until she felt the cool iron handle on the old black pot.  She slowly pulled it toward her. There was something mysterious about the way it made her feel each time she touched it that made her know she was in the act of something extraordinary. Every since Jimmy told her the story about the pot’s special powers, how every wish he ever made came true, she could hardly wait to see if what he said was true. But he never allowed her to go near the old pot.  Said it was to much power for a woman.

She knew he would be mad as hell if he knew she was sneaking behind his back, messing with his good luck pot, but she had to take that chance.  So she secretly began putting her prayers in the pot.

She closed her eyes and imagined Jimmy’s smiling face surrounded by a bright white light, and she began praying the same prayer she always prayed; for Jimmy to stop drinking, for things to change between them, and for him to love her more than anything or anybody and for the whole world, and for them be happy together. But Anna Lucille didn’t know just how potent her spiritual configurations were once she mixed them with the powerful forces that lived inside the old ancient cauldron, and that Jimmy Sweetfields’ demons wasn’t nothing to play with.

It was Saturday night and things were starting to heat up on Elderberry Avenue.  A tropical breeze blew off the ocean, filling the city streets with the smell of sea salt mixing with the scent of sweet honeysuckle and magnolia blossoms, week old grease, stale urine and the heat. The convergence of these ancient elements made up that lethal mixture that was the underlying cause of the throbbing aches and pains, along with every other anguish known to the people who occupied the Colored side of Palm City.  The thick humid air was drawing sweat as the stage was set for another Saturday night on Elderberry Avenue.

The ladies in waiting stood side by side like queens of spades, leaning languidly over the second floor balcony banister at Jimmy Sweetfields’ Elderberry Avenue Hotel & Café. Their bright satin colored dresses looked like a rainbow of reds, oranges, purples, and yellows, as their pouting painted lips promised pleasures most could only dream about. The men passing on the street below, looked up at the women with stares that said more than words could ever say. But these wise women of the night never took a look for more than it meant; a need for somebody to love. But everybody knew if you wanted something to happen on Elderberry Avenue on Saturday night, you better have some money in your pocket or you might as well just keep right on walking. It was a sad affair for those who didn’t have the price to pay for their desires. Still, in spite of their empty pockets, they called out to the ladies in waiting.

“Hey baby, don’t you want a man like me?”

It was a question in search of the fulfillment of a wet dream that never came true, ’cause the colored women leaning over the balcony banister atop the Elderberry Avenue Hotel & Cafe had seen the insides of empty pockets enough times to know better than to be fooled by sugarcoated words.

“Ain’t nobody studyin’ ’bout yo’ broke self. Take yo’ funky blues, keen toed shoes, high water pants, Sad’dey night dance, ain’t got a dollar for a drank of soda water, lookin’ for anybody’s daughter, on away from heah.”

A chorus of laughter rang out from the balcony, filling the night air like musical notes, as the ladies of the night went on about their business, waving their red handkerchiefs at the sailors walking up from Port Street, looking for somebody to share their money with.  That’s the way things were on Elderberry Avenue, when hot summer nights sizzled.

But the steaming novella of the summer was Jimmy Sweetfields’ and Anna Lucille, and their secret love affair.

It was Saturday night, and the place was packed.  Jimmy Sweetfields sat at the bar drinking, and watching his wife laughing, and talking to a group of men on the other side of the café. It drove him crazy, the way she never got enough of his hard chiseled physique, especially when it reeked of hot sweat and passion.  And by the same sensuous token, he couldn’t get enough of her.  His eyes never tired of looking in hers, especially when they burned with desire, and passion, and nothing else mattered except their hot bodies melting into one.

It never ceased to amaze him how men would spend their last dollar just to get close enough to her to smell her perfume.  He pridefully gave himself credit for the ingenious scheme he was running on every man in Palm City who dreamed that they might be the one she’d choose and so they kept coming back every Saturday night.  It seemed as though the more they kept their secret, the more they wanted her, and the more money he made.  It was the perfect deception.

Jimmy kept his eyes on Anna as he sat at the bar, stacking dollar bills from the nights liquor sells. He loved his money, but something about it made him feel ashamed for the way it made him feel.  Still he could never forget how for most of his life he could barely scrape enough change together just to stay alive; scrimping and scraping from one meal to the next, always plotting and scheming so he could eat.  But the day he met Anna Lucille his luck changed.  He felt guilty for the way he had been treating her lately, and as he drank, he talked to himself.

“Look at her, got all of ‘em actin’ like a pack of hungry dogs, sniffin’ ‘round her. You keep on treatin’ her mean, she goin’ to leave you.”

He called out to the bartender loud enough for Anna Lucille to hear him.  “Hey bartender!  You done forgot ‘bout the boss man down here.”

All the while, his eyes stayed on her like a hawk watching a chicken.  He drank down the double shot of whiskey in one gulp and a warm feeling began to slowly rise from his stomach to his head.  It wasn’t long before his liquor started to take affect.  The bartender poured him another.  This time he drank the second double slow, and when he looked back over at his wife, something incredible happened.  Like magic, she looked more beautiful than she ever looked before, and in that moment, he wanted her more than he ever wanted her.  The men gawking at her made him desire her even more.  He sneered at the way their eyes stayed stuck to her every gesture.  A snide smile crossed his lips at thought of how they would give their last dollar just see her smile, when all the while she was his.

Anna Lucille could feel her husband’s eyes shooting arrows of passion at her from every angle.  Every chance she got she stole a glance at his reflection in the long mirror behind the bar. They took turns touching each other with a their eyes, playing their secret love game until they couldn’t keep it going any longer.  He finally sent her the signal she’d been waiting for all night.

She met him at their secret place behind the stage, and from the moment she fell into his arms, the spirit of love was upon them.  Possessed by passion, their kisses were long lustful kisses that made her body limp, and his rigid.  He kept his tongue in her mouth so no one could hear her sensuous sighs, and the harder she sucked his tongue, the wilder his passions grew. His hands were locked in a grip around her hips, and when he felt the hot moisture of her womanhood around his manhood, every ounce of blood in his body rushed to his loins, and for eight euphoric minutes, he did his lovers dance, until his knees buckled, and they both exploded in bliss.

He could still smell her perfume on his lapel as he sat back the bar drinking again, dreamily watching her.  Everything about her seduced him.  Her hazel eyes with their long eyelashes beckoning him from across the room; her full lips always ready for his, and his eyes that could never get enough of her delicious derrière.

The spell was broken when a man walked over to Anna Lucille, and started talking to her.  Jimmy Sweetfields’ heart began beating so hard he felt like it would bust out of his chest. To fan the flames of his jealous passions, he walked across the room and sat down at the piano and began playing. He knew how much she loved music, especially when he sang to her, and tonight he would do anything to keep her attention focused on him. The moment she heard him playing his rendition of Duke Ellington’s ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing’ the hit song of 1932, Anna Lucille spun around to find a big grin on Jimmy’s face, and his big brown sexy eyes sparkling with love.  She knew what that look meant and in that magic moment the whole world disappeared.  They were the only two people left on earth as she watched his long slender fingers moving across the piano keys.  She imagined how it would feel the next time he touched her.  But before they could finish dreaming awake together, a hand reached out from space and pulled Anna onto the dance floor. Caught by surprise, all she could do was laugh.  Suddenly, Jimmy’s world was upside-down again.  The sensual sound of Anna’s laughter mixing with his music made his whole body toxic with jealousy.

That night when they met back at the bungalow, she paid the price for love.  Anna barely got her foot in the door before Jimmy grabbed her, and threw her on the bed.

“Why you let that nigguh touch you?” he screamed.  “Huh!”

She tried to defend herself, but before she could even opened her mouth, he was on top of her, pinning her hands to the bed.  His breath smelled of stale whiskey, and his eyes were bloodshot with rage.

“You hear me talkin’ to you Anna. Huh.”  She was too afraid to speak, and when he saw the fear in her eyes, and the tears rolling down her face, he stopped cold.

“Oh baby don’t cry. Don’t cry baby. You know I love you.  Daddy didn’t mean it.  You know Daddy wouldn’t hurt you baby.” The moon disappeared behind a dark cloud, mimicking their motions under the covers.  The night went silent, and all the souls in Palm City finally fell asleep.

That night the old healer woman from the plantation where he grew up visited Jimmy Sweetfields in his dreams. His heart was racing as he tried to speak, but nothing came out of his mouth. The old woman just stood there looking down at him. She never spoke with her mouth, but the words that came out of her eyes were loud and clear.

“Dat dare my pot you got under yo’ bed Jimmy Sweetfields. You c’ain’t be the pot keeper no mo’, you done reached the end of the line wit yo’ devilment. But ‘um gwinnin’ tuh give you one mo’ chance.” And in an instant she was gone.

He could move again.  He sat up in bed, drenched in perspiration. He looked across the room, and there in the reflection of the mirror was the old pot, starring back at him from beneath the bed.

Anna Lucille turned over sleepily to find Jimmy out of bed, and dressing in a hurry.  Anna Lucille turned over sleepily  “Jimmy, where you goin’ this time of the morning?” He didn’t answer her, and when he grabbed the old pot from beneath the bed and left the house without saying a anything, she knew something was wrong.

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