On the horizon, out of the dust of the Harvest Road, comes a small trotting tribe of misfits.
It did not come with electricity or a smash of static on the air, but it was there. Braelin Cordelis, five minutes into the darkness of a new day, a streetlight’s glow falling through his window like a subtle visitor, was caught on the edge of his chair. Knowledge flowed to him, information of a most sublime order, privacy, intimacy, all in one slow sweep of the air; his grandson was just now, just this minute, into this world, his only grandson. He could feel him, that child coming, making way his debut into the universe, and his name would be Shag. And for this life he and Shag would be in a mysterious and incomprehensible state of connection. This, in the streetlight’s glow, in the start of a new day though dawn not yet afoot, he was told.
Jock’s folding his pyjamas back under his pillow when he hears it. A low, growling hiss. His twin daughters are elsewhere, probably playing in the walls, so it’s just him and the mannequin dressed as his wife in the bedroom. He’s searching for the source of the noise when the duvet shifts on the bed. It’s a slight movement, like wind-ruffled marram grass, but it’s something. Carefully, he pulls back the covers, revealing the green and yellow-chevroned scales of a king cobra.
The first time the piano teacher walked up the two flights to our apartment, my mother rushed to help him. “Thank you, but I can manage,” he said as he tap-tapped his way up. He wore the thickest glasses I had ever seen. His eyeballs, massive behind the lenses, wobbled and darted – not quite focused on anything in particular. Tallish and round, he always wore a suit. His big shoes were shiny. Before he even entered the room, I could smell his cologne – heavy and manly. When he opened his mouth to speak, he sounded airy, womanly. Sometimes, when I’d play, he’d sing along in a shrilly opera-singer voice. I’M a yankee doodle dan-DEE…
I stare into the fire, tendrils of heat swirling around my face.
It is the first time I will do this. I had anticipated growing inherent wisdom, like that of the elders, but here I am at a ripe age and still rendered witless by the task ahead of me. Adulthood is a farce.
I can’t wait to get it, the final one in the trilogy! I’m so desperate to read it but promised myself I’d wait until my birthday. It would be my main present again, like in previous years.
Back in 1949 or 1950 when I was six or seven, my grandfather took me on my first trip on ‘the Slave Road,’ ‘the Hidden Highway,’ ‘the Nigger Byway,’ ‘the Devil’s Footpath,’ or ‘the River Styx Trail.’ All these names and more for a narrow, dark path, a little over a half-mile long, that saved almost a mile and a half between our farm and Corn Row Road. The “Row” was a dirt road, where our black friends and relatives lived.