Land to kill for
As an adult, James Jones went to church only once, and it was for his funeral.
The sermon, about not living an ungodly, concunbinal life, lasted a mere five minutes. The shortest ever in a Revival church. I was glad.
The tough bench in Mount Silas AME Sabbath Church had absolutely no mercy on my backside, and the fat woman sitting beside me on the left smelled like stale Anchor butter in malice with hard-dough bread.
I actually liked James, so irreverent, so funny. And when his son spoke about how he stripped him naked and dragged him to school by his tail because he was a truant I laughed uproariously in church.
My mother elbowed me in my left side. I was trapped between Anchor butter and a sharp elbow. Unspeakable pain.
Everybody laughed after I did. My milk-white teeth extended across my black face and my big, red tongue went four inches out of my mouth. I know James, too, was smiling in the shiny metal casket that the pastor refused to touch. "Unsightly," he grumbled low.
James didn't go to church because he was a womaniser and the churchwomen were playing hard to get. Moreover Maud Campbell was always in attendance. He was churched at Mount Silas only because one of his eight children who was hoping to get James' big house paid the bishop a substantial sum of money.
He didn't like Maud Campbell, for a moment. But her family had many acres of land. And she was the only sibling still alive.
Maud Campbell's family was a terrible one. They lent people money. When the debtors couldn't repay they took part of their land. They had a good lawyer who was run over by a cane truck on a visit to claim a piece of land. There was no more loans, no more seizures.
James had grudges against Maud. Her family had confiscated a piece of James Jones family land and he wanted it back, and more. So he proposed to Maud, who accepted, surprisingly.
But James Jones family was not destitute; they had another piece of land on which there was a big house.
Maud Campbell wanted that house so she quickly accepted James' proposal. Pastor Leon Ivey was vex. Maud was going to marry an infidel in his church.
Yet, the wedding was held under a big coco plum tree in bloom. Rose-pink blossoms carpeted the ground. James refused to go into Pastor Ivey's church. Ivey was glad.
I recall the straight-faced Maud riding on a big-belly mule to the wedding under the tree in James' yard. She resembled the mule. Could have been its mother, I thought, grinning to myself. Mama saw the grin. She drew closer to me. I closed my mouth, sniffling the laugh.
Pastor's face was as long as a donkey's under a cool shade, but he wanted the wedding 'fee' to give his wife to buy a broad-rim beige and brown hat to match her calico frock. No hat, no 'wife'. It was the mid-1970s. Lol. I am telling the story in 2016. ROTFL.
Anyway, I also remember the mannish water made with the meat of a goat named George. George was so tender and sweet, I am still basking in the aftertaste.
The food was the best part of the wedding. Everything else was insipid. Not true, the bridal frock that Mama sewed made Maud look pretty for the first and only time in her life.
While James repeated the vow in his throat, Maud recited bright and chirpy. The big house was on her mind.
James' grown children were upset. He didn't marry any of his children's mothers, but childless Maud. Maud had no children, but she had land. George had it all figured out. They didn't.
James and Maud planned to kill each other on their wedding night. No need pretending. It was a matter of land. No cold romance. No hugs. No kisses. And, yes, they did.
The wedding reception, too, was held under the same coco plum tree. That was where I drank the mannish water. James wanted no one in his house. His children lived with their mothers.
In the matrimonial home, James' big house, the couple didn't say much to each other. Too preoccupied with evil they were.
When night came they lay stoic beside each other. After two hours Maud left to get a drink downstairs in the kitchen. But it was to actually put rat poison into James' drink. People would say it was a heart attack. George was big and robust.
James rose when he heard Maud in the kitchen. People would say she was sickly and could not manage the stairs in the big house. He turned off the lights. And stood in the dark at the top of the stair.
Maud saw the darkness, and called up to James. No answer. She took her time. Step by step, wondering what happened to George and the lights. When she was on the last step, inches from George, he pushed her forcefully.
The lights went back on. He went downstairs to have a drink, stepping over Maud twice. Back in his room, he took a long drink. Time to sleep. He would call the police at daybreak.
As he lay waiting for sleep to come, he suddenly felt sick. He shot up, feeling nauseous. He smelled the drink. Slowly he rose, and left the room. He shook as he gingerly descended. He was delirious. As he was about to step over Maud a third time, to reach the kitchen door, he collapsed on top of her.
And there he was, suffering for about two hours, thinking about his land as he languished in excruciating pain, until he drifted off to another land, a faraway land, where he and Maud would spend a hateful eternity.