Historical Fiction

TRIUMPH, a Novel of the Human Spirit

By

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Synopsis

Two friends: one Black, one White. Two families: one wealthy, one poor. A rich family saga that resonates through centuries of American history to illuminate some of the central questions of our time. "Triumph" spans 65 years from 1903 to 1968 to dramatize who we are, how we got here, and where the better angels of our nature impel us to go. The novel’s epic sweep weaves together three vivid storylines in Louisiana, Texas, & St. Louis. Opening in 1903, two children are displaced from their homes. One is abducted by a secretive voodoo sect; the other is presented to a former Texas Ranger as part of a life-changing plea for help. Their uncertain fates set in motion a series of events that reverberates decades later. Triumph’s central storyline describes the friendship between Mercy and Annie, two girls growing up in the late-1950s St. Louis. As they grow older, their friendship is tested by their encounters with the city’s simmering bigotry and tenacious legacy of segregation. Moving forward, the past & future weigh more heavily on the present, bringing Mercy and Annie to a dramatic crossroad that casts an honest, wrenching, & hopeful light on issues we grapple with today.

Stolen

(NOTE: Copied from the PDF; Odd spacing)

Near Old Ruddock, Louisiana

1903


Flo’s piercing screech cuts the air like a sharp axe.

“Simon-man, pull up on those mules for gawd’s

sake!” she cries.

“Whoa there, Gabriel. Easy now, Michael.

Su-su-su, boys,” utters the man called Uncle Simon by four of

the six kids in the buckboard. He pulls the lead reins tight,

resting them across his lap. He turns to gaze at Flo sitting in

the seat beside him and swipes a hand with neatly trimmed

fingernails over the beads of perspiration on his dark forehead.

“My soul, you scared me, woman. I thought Doctor John

himself was come back to life.” He chuckles in uneasy relief.

“Or, for a minute, I was thinking, maybe, well… you know who

had figured out some things, and—”

“Shush now. It’s gettin’ dark time, but I knows I seen a

woman over to there by those trees.”

Simon rises to his feet, his neck stuck out like a gander

eyeing a snake. His eyes canvas the trees slouched over the

narrow trail before them. “Zeke, hand me that lantern up here,

won’t you, sir?”

Zeke, thirteen but growing fast out of his britches and

shirts and appearing mostly to be grown, hands the lantern he

fired up minutes before around the side of the buck seat to

Simon. Simon’s nerves are already taut from driving the

buckboard wagon over the checkerboard ground greedily

hoarding space between the swamps, marshes, and Lake

Pontchartrain. Everybody knows that kind of ground isn’t

wholly stable, but Flo asked for a little drive-about for the kids

before he left tomorrow morning on the train back to

New Orleans.

Flo, with her exotic eyes and shapely form, gets about

everything she asks for, and then some, and Simon finds that

to be a pride unto himself.

Water mosquitoes ramp up their hungry search for blood

as Simon strains to see through the humid tar of dusk slurping

up the wagon and its occupants like a hungry towel. Five other

kids besides Zeke jumble around in the back of the small

buckboard to see what’s causing the excitement. Curious eyes

stare into the gloom spreading across the watery cypress as a

pale moon rises over moss-swathed oaks on the shore. Hands

slap at the carnivorous insects diving toward their skin for

nourishment.

“There she is, Mama, by the black water!” Zeke shouts.

He and Flo jump from the wagon to the ground. Zeke

takes the proffered lantern from Simon while Flo directs a

silent finger at the small horde of squirming youngsters,

warning them to stay put. As soon as her back is turned, they

scale the wooden sides to the ground—delirious mice

abandoning a ship long at sea.

Simon’s gentle reprimands never make it past the toe

board at his feet. He patiently climbs from the wagon and

trudges toward the stranger standing in the lush St. Augustine

grass spreading like a carpet from the banks of the water. An

ancient crape myrtle burdened with fuchsia blossoms frames

the unmoving figure standing before them. Zeke’s high-held

lantern casts a ghostly light over a brown-skinned woman of

great beauty. She is swaddled in a pale-lilac shawl from her

neck to below her knees. Her arms hold a rolled blanket about

equal in size to a small log. Her hair is arranged high on her

head and fastened in place with pins of creamy ivory. Red

ribbons loop through her locks.

A surge of sickness invades Simon’s belly as buried

reminiscences dance on the edge of his mind. The woman

mumbles incoherently in soothing tones to the blanket,

sporadically covering it in tender kisses. Flo frowns at Simon,

then looks back at the stranger. “Honey-girl, you be all right?”

she asks softly.

The woman ignores her spectators, smiles at the blanket,

crushes it flat to her breast. She commences a slow rotation,

lifting her eyes to fall long seconds upon each person as she

turns. She traps Simon in her gaze the longest, coagulating the

air in his lungs. Long-forgotten memories creep from a deep

pit in his subconscious. He swabs the rolling sweat from his

face with a sleeve.

“Fl-Flo, we best be getting on-on back to R-Ruddock. It’s

g-g-getting late out here, and these young’uns n-n-need to be

tucked in their beds.” Simon coughs in his hand. “We’re l-leaving

now, ch-children.” He turns toward the buckboard.

The woman strikes up a humming rhythm replicating the

cadence of a drum. Simon stops, turns back around.

Flo, confused about her Simon-man’s stuttering, shoots

him a questioning look he doesn’t see. She steps nearer the

woman. “Come on, chile, let us bring you to town. Us

womens’ll help you with whatever’s ailing yer purty self. We

gots our medicines to heal yer heart and yer body, as well.

Let’s go now, honey. We understands how it feels to lose a

little baby not barely in this world yet.”

The woman seems not to hear Flo. Her feet move

rhythmically, slowly—mesmerizing the onlookers. She gazes

into the sky. Undulating. Singing.

Danse Calinda, boudoum, boudoum.

Danse Calinda, boudoum, boudoum.

Molten terror blossoms inside Simon, spreading hot into

his arms and legs. The children sneak closer to gaze at the

spectacle before them. Simon visualizes grabbing hold of his

two children and the other four who call him Uncle Simon as

an eagle hooks a fish to safely wing into the heavens, but he

cannot move.

The woman sways side to side. She flicks her hand across

her left shoulder. The swaddling shawl falls to the ground. She

stands before them wearing a flimsy strip of material tied to

her waist and dropping barely past her buttocks. Layers of

gold chains hang from her neck and spread over her naked

bosom. Her eyes gleam as she writhes and sings.

Eh! Eh! Bomba, ben! Ben!

Canga bafio, te,

Canga mou ne de le,

Canga do ki la,

Canga li!

Trapped by the gossamer web spun by the woman’s

beauty and peculiarities, the captive audience stares as she

stops moving. For a few frozen moments, she deliberately

gazes at each one. She tilts her face upward and shrieks, a

strange animal sound. She tosses aside the empty blanket,

bends to scoop up five-year-old Willy as though he is

weightless, and dashes toward the brackish water of the

estuary. She makes a sharp turn toward the swamp waters.

“My baby! Give me back my baby!” Flo shrieks, the heavy

darkness quickly gobbling up her cries. Her screams shock the

troupe from their trance-like stupor. One by one, they take to

their legs.

“Mama! Mama! Mama!” Willy shouts.

The woman vanishes behind the curtains of Spanish moss

draping the trees along the water bank. Her feet splash into

the water. Willy screams.

Then, silence.

In moments, the agonizing quiet surrounding the band of

confused people is filled with a cacophony of frog croaks and

cricket chirps. A black-crowned night heron emits a barking squawk

complaint from a nearby tree.

Simon, running fast, reaches the water’s edge and strains

to see through the darkness. He cups his hands. “William!

Willy-Boy! Where are you, son?”

An insect ensemble begins strumming nocturnal melodies

across the calm waters before him, rendering his soul bloodied

and bare. He sinks to his knees, lost in an agony for which

there are no words. Flo witnesses his collapse. She falls beside

him onto the damp earth.

The wails of her other five children rise like a pillar to the

cold moon eyeing the scene below.


About the author

. . . a fiction author who believes in and writes about the triumph of the human spirit through overcoming adversity . . . "TRIUMPH, a Novel of the Human Spirit" is Jodi’s sixth novel. Incidentally, she hopes you love wild storms and fried okra as much as she. view profile

Published on September 01, 2020

Published by Progressive Rising Phoenix Press

90000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Historical Fiction

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