Monday, December 07, 2015

Manuela Blayne -- an excerpt from Chapter Four

For a limited time you can download a free copy of Covington Chronicles III and IV on Amazon. Chronicle III is The Dream Bucket. Chronicle IV is Manuela Blayne.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter Four of Manuela Blayne.

“Come in.” Manuela motioned toward Bailey and me. “Come see what we done with the newspapers.”
“Is it all right, Papa?” Bailey asked.
“Go ahead.”
Bailey and I followed her into the living room, which was pristine.
Bailey asked, “Why have you got a bed in your front room?”
“Sh-h.” How could I ever stop my sister from asking embarrassing questions?
“We keep this for Mama. This is where she sleeps when she comes home.” Manuela smiled.
The high bed, placed catty-cornered on the wall opposite the fireplace, had a tufted bedspread with a design of many colors.
“I ain’t never seen bedcover like this.” Bailey rubbed it with her hands. “Come on, Trudy. Touch it.”
“It ain’t polite to touch other people’s beds.” I grabbed Bailey’s hands.
“Go on and touch it.” Manuela flashed a wide smile. “You know you want to.”
My hand glided over it. “The fuzziness of it feels soft like a long-haired kitty.”
“It’s a chenille bedspread. Mama got it for us.”
Yellowed newspapers fastened to the walls served as a covering. “How smart!”
“Yeah. I wanted some wallpaper like Mama has in her house, so Granny made some out of newspapers.”
“Do you think it will last very long?” I couldn’t resist asking.
“It don’t matter.” Manuela shrugged her shoulders. “When this wears out, we’ll tear it down and put up some more.”
“It’s a nice house.” Bailey reached her hand down to the rag rug. “The walls don’t leak air in.”
“That’s right.” Manuela nodded. “The roof don’t leak neither. It’s big enough too.”
“What I don’t like about your house is it’s off the main road.” Bailey could be too direct. “It’s in the middle of the woods.”
“But we got a real good road here. Them men driving International pickups and Model T’s come down here to see Grandpa.”
Bailey said the wrong thing again. “It’s too close to the river. You know it floods about every other spring.”
“Bailey, don’t say things like that.” I shook my finger in her face.
“It’s true. Grandpa said that’s why it’s built up off the ground on high poles.”
“Smart.” I nodded in appreciation.
“When I stayed with Yasmin, we lived in a place on a street. Trudy, stop bossing Bailey. I like the way Bailey always be telling the truth.” Manuela bent over and whispered, “Now’s as good a time as any to tell y’all about Mr. Aaron.” 
“Trude. Bailey.” Papa’s deep voice beckoned us.
Bailey dragged her feet toward the front door. “We’s got to go.”
“Bye, Manuela. I like your wallpaper.” I followed Bailey.
As we loaded into the wagon, Nettie stood in the yard. “Mr. Sam, we’ll be over to your place in the morning.”
When we arrived at the house, Papa Sam pulled back on the reins. “Whoa, Bob.”
Big brother turned toward us. “Wait until the wagon is stopped all the way.”
The twins hopped out, but I stayed seated. “I’ll help put up the mules.”
With leading straps clipped to their bridles, the mules were ready to walk back to the horse pasture. Will led Bob Mule, I led Molasses.
Will accused me with his eyes. “I saw you through the window.”
“I didn’t do nothing. Saw what?”
“Saw you and Bailey wallowing your hands on the Blaynes’ bed.”
“We were just checking out the chenille bedspread. Nothing wrong with that.”
“You shouldn’t have put your hands on the bed where Negroes sleep. It was a stupid thing to do.” Will cleared his throat and spit like a grown man chewing tobacco would . . . anything to make him feel adult.
“You’ve got it all wrong. They save that bed for Yasmin. It’s their guest bed. Nobody sleeps on it every night. Do you know what chenille is? It’s a new kind of fancy bedspread. Yasmin got it for them.”
“Sister, I’m trying to protect you. What would your classmates say if they knew you went to colored folks’ houses and put your hands all over their beds?”
I cut my eyes at him. He had crazy notions.
“Keep your distance from Manuela.”

“Keep your distance from Manuela.”

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