SAMPLE SUNDAY: Excerpt from the forthcoming novel NIGHTWALKERS BOOK TWO: NIGHT LOVERS
Delayed because it’s twice as long as anticipated, but coming soon!
They sat together on the bench in the shade of the store porch, a man and boy separated by four generations. For a while they enjoyed their ice-chilled Pepsi-Colas without speaking. They also enjoyed the view of emerald and gold corn, the perfect sapphire sky, and the ribbon of blacktop stretching to places as unknown as the future.
After a while, when the moment felt right to interrupt their pleasure with words, Henry asked, “You wishing you could be on the road, going someplace new and exciting?”
Russell nodded. “I think about that sometimes, yes sir.”
“That what you plan to do when you finish school?”
“I figured I’d be here, working in the store with Mama and Daddy.”
“Don’t figure on that too much, son.”
“Well, because I’m thinking that things around here are going to change. I might not be here to see it, but I believe you will, and that’s a blessing.”
“What change, Papa?”
“Well, colored folks come here to our store because they can’t go no place else. That’s the way of things. But one day folks’ll be able to go where they please and buy what they please. I figure when that time comes, our store won’t be such good business. So don’t plan your life on this here store just because it’s family. Plan on what you want to do for yourself, like going away, if that’s what you want.”
“That guy said I could join the Army.”
“What do you think?”
“I think it’s up to you.”
“I’d sure miss ya’ll and everybody around here.”
With his eyes across the road, Henry said, “Everybody like Ellen Greer?”
Henry held back his smile. Even without looking at Russell he knew the boy’s eyebrows had almost disappeared into his scalp. Rose had told him a while back that her son and Reverend Greer’s daughter were sweet on each other.
“I know you and Ellen Greer been keeping company,” Henry said, and took a sip of his Pepsi-Cola.
“We just talk is all.”
“You know, on hot days like this nothing beats a dipper of cold water, straight from the well. But every now and then a soda pop goes down just right. Every now and then a man wants something sweet to taste.”
“Honest, Papa—we just talk.”
“Ain’t nothing wrong with talking, I guess. So what you gonna do about Ellen if you decide to leave?”
“We’re just kids, Papa. I don’t expect by the time we graduate we’ll still be…uh…talking.”
“So Ellen ain’t the girl your dream about, huh?”
“She’s all right.”
“You don’t ever dream about her?”
“I don’t think so. Not that I remember.”
“It’s a natural thing for men to dream about women.”
The boy was embarrassed to be talking about this. Henry felt for him, but there was a thing he needed to get to before he let the conversation go. “You ever dream about girls you don’t know?”
“You ever dream about a pretty girl or a young lady, and it’s not somebody real, but she seems real in your dream?”
“After we went to Suffolk last summer and saw The Three Musketeers I had a dream and Lana Turner was in it.”
“No, no, I mean a girl that ain’t real nowhere, not even in the movies.”
“Oh…no, I don’t think so.”
“Well, that’s all right.”
“Have you had dreams about girls like that, Papa Henry?”
“I have, but not in a long while. I guess that’s all right, too.”
Russell couldn’t recall ever having had a dream like Papa Henry asked about, about some girl he didn’t know. But he did remember something that felt like a memory but had to be a dream because he would have been too young to remember it. And anyway, he knew that Papa Henry had been asking about sexy dreams, and it wasn’t a dream like that.
In his dream that felt like a memory he had felt very young and small, like he was a baby not yet able to walk. He was on a bed, laying between two pillows, maybe so he couldn’t roll. He could hear muffled voices coming through the walls from another room; one of them his mother. Even in his dream the sound of her voice stirred in him a yearning that all babies must feel to be close to their mothers.
From somewhere in the room in his dream a lamp glowed dimly, and he had a sense that he was in Papa Henry’s bedroom, on his bed. He could see the rafters overhead. He could see the molding at the juncture of the ceiling and walls. He could see flowered wallpaper. He could see to a corner of the room where the lamp’s light did not completely push away the shadows. A woman stood in those shadows, watching him.
He couldn’t see the woman’s face in the gloom, but he wasn’t afraid. In his dream he sensed that she was smiling at him.