April 18, 1863

Refusing to break her trance-like stare a dark-skinned, tall, lanky young girl (no more than thirteen) rocked on her heels as she sang, “Green green the crab apple tree, where the green grass grows tall.” She stopped the tune. “I free,” she said.

“No,” a rather young white man said as he stood towering over her with a toothless grin. “You mine.” He grinned more, showing indeed he had teeth. “Mine—my slave.” He pointed his whip toward himself. “This here America; you belong to me now.”

“Free!” she said. “I free! Nam-o belongs to Nam-o.” She pointed at herself. “Free. Free!”

“No,” he said narrowing his eyes. “You mine. I own you. You...belongs...to...me.”

“Nam-o belong to no one but Nam-o. Nam-o and God!”

“Your name is not Nam-o...your name is Peggy. Peggy. That’s your name now. Say it.”
The young woman squinted her eyes, continuing to stare him down. “I Nam-o. I free. I born free...I die free. Nam-o gonna always know free.”

He drew back and lashed out at her with his whip. “You’re a troublemaker I see. That’s what I done bought myself—” he lashed her hard, “a troublemaker! Well allow me to help you understand.” He hit her again. “You’re my slave. And if I say you’re mine...” he struck her again, “...then that’s what you are! I’m the Master around here.”

Nam-o yelled with pain as the whip cut open her flesh.

He continued to beat her mercilessly—smirking at her now torn bloody body. “I’ll teach you to look a white in their eyes!” He struck her again and again until finally, his whip lay quiet.

She struggled to stand; tears now dry...white on her face. Her eyes held the ground as the young master spit tobacco juice past her lowered head. He flipped a silver dollar at her feet. “Cost me 450 of them there—449 more than you worth, it looks like! I suppose you do get what you pay for. I knew I should have bought that one they had for six-hundred.”

He turned to leave, but stayed when he heard a laugh. But not just any laugh—one later described as pure-dee-evil!

“You think you own some-body...some-thing?” Nam-o said clutching the coin and a shred of the green cloth torn from her body. “I tell you what then Master—die and see. Die and see just what you truly own! Nam-o show you a mystery. Nam-o know free. No whip gonna tell Nam-o no different. You sow, I sow. Soon both us gonna reap. Then all gonna see!”

It was two weeks to the day when the otherwise young and vigorous master fell dead. Ironically, in almost the exact same spot where he and Nam-o had stood that day.

The documented cause? Unknown.

* * *
It was the mild more spring than winter weather all across the South including Alabama that seduced quadrillions of dainty color blooms to burst forth early. The year two Friday the thirteenths did a tango back to back...

The year—I killed my own father...

June 9, 1998, at the grave site. I can recall so clear what Rev. Goodword read from the book of Psalm.

“Into thine hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Amen?” he had said.

And with bowed heads and humbled hearts, we said in unison, “Amen.”

From my journal—J. M. Taylor’s. Mine. My thoughts, my words...the bearing of my soul. Still, no one has the right to it. No one unless I say so. No one—save me. Right? No one!

Truth? Yes truth.

Confession they say, is good for the soul. Well...maybe.

A novel— Is it solely fiction or riddled with facts? If you take the truth...change a name here, a place there; make what’s short, tall; what’s thin, plump. Who truly recognizes it? But if fact is the truth and fiction a truth, doesn’t truth still manage somehow to be told? Does real life hold deeper truths—deeper meanings?

“Sometimes,” my father once told me, “it...” (life?...truth?) “...it can be as simple as putting on or taking off an old coat.”

Many accuse me of not allowing folks to get close to me. Making it hard to “sympathize” or “feel” for me. “They” say I and those around me build walls no one can seem to get past.

What do they know? What do they expect?

Who, in truth, can know all there is to know about another unless...until...time has been spent between them? And not all is known then. Even Jesus, had a Judas.

Time...trust...either...both bring to light who we—under the cloak of darkness—truly are. That’s what I say anyway.

And just like the walls of Jericho, even the strongest structures do have their ways—in the end—to come tumbling down.

Oh. But I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself. I do that, from time to time. Sort of like a prologue before the story.

Yes...a prologue.

Still, I find it does help to begin at the beginning. Or at the very least—close enough to it.

* * *
“Begin At The Beginning”


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