Thursday, February 14, 2013

Master’s Slavery Lesson: Continuing the Serialization of "Jack," the Charleston Antebellum Novel

Chapter 33           
Charleston, S.C., Civil War Era Lithograph copy by Harper's Weekly

 “Good morning girls and boys. Well let’s see what do we have here? Look at this why don‘t you, I see that Jeremy is with us today as is Jimmy, Jack, and Mr. Brooks! What do you know? Well boys, I hope you had a nice little vacation-I hear you all did such a marvelous job on the church grounds. I can’t say as though I’m particularly charmed to see any of you, especially after last weekend, but we’ll address that later. Perhaps some of you at least can start with a clean slate. I sincerely hope you’ve all learned the error of your ways and will make a considerable effort to abide by our school rules from now on and that you will lend your mind to the exalted lessons I have prepared for you this day. One of them involves our most cherished traditions and values which have made Charleston the great center of the south and, indeed, which has established Southern gentry at the great height of advanced civilization making it the envy of the world.
 “Do you know what I am referring to Mr. Stone?”
 “Well Masta Whittemore, sir, I think I do. You is referring to what you always like to talk about sir, the darkies, and how their suffering and misery is a good thing cuz it is necessary for the good of us all.”
 “Hmm,” master said as he walked one way in front of the class, then turned, and walked back with his hands clasping one another behind his back. His long pointed nose seemed to move up a little, then down, like a chicken pecking in a barnyard. He seemed to peck, peck, peck with each step he took with his long skinny legs attired with high leather boots which were a’creakin’ the floorboards. “Very good, Mister Stone. Very nicely put. I don’t think I’d have put it quite that way myself but the principle is the same. I’m surprised at your sudden attention, Mr. Stone, but do admit that I’m glad-quite glad-to have your participation and, uh, cooperation, in this most important lesson which is so essential to the development of the character of our youth. 
 “Class, it is easy for the Northern abolitionists who are a vicious lot and a scourge and even a disease in our land to advocate doing away with slavery. These selfish agitators are only interested in profiteering and at our expense and are jealous of our economic and social system. They want to tear down all that’s good. They don’t care a twit abut the black man. What galls them is that they hate that we have more liberty than they do. They are led by their misguided politicians in Washington, D.C., and the equally misguided newspaper editors in many of the northern cities like that high-faluttin, bombastic know-nothing, Mr. Horace Greeley, of the New York Tribune. The man should be tarred and feathered and dragged through the streets by his toes by a team of wild asses for agitating the people of this good land toward calling for the Negroes to rise up against their masters. They talk about us as being against the union when it is they who are attempting to break up the union. This great country of ours was built and unified upon the proud principle and sound institution of slavery and the Constitution has protected it for more than fifty years. These northern good-for-nothing abolitionists want to make the African equal to the American-to the Englishman, the Frenchman, the Scot and the Spaniard, the German. This is clearly preposterous. No Negro was ever the equal of a white man or woman. God made the world this way. He made the black man to serve the white man, this is the natural way of things. Color is the great division, not poverty and wealth. For every white man is already wealthy compared to any black man. Even the poorest white man is an aristocrat compared with the Negro and so he feels himself to be part of the upper class. And it’d be unnatural to mix them up and give the Negro the same rights which he would little know what to do with anyway. The white man is wealthy by nature, which God created, endowed with beauty, endowed with white skin, with superior intelligence and, not least, with great ability in architecture, art and science, with a natural power over the primitive black man who so obviously lacks natural wealth because the aristocratic impulse does not exist in the black man who is a low breed who is more like the apes than the humans. The black man is fit for the lowest work, he being of lowest endowment, and he is far happier in this natural state than in trying to be something he cannot be.”
 “What an idiot,” Jack whispered to me. “Leroy could give a much better lesson about slavery than Whittemore ever could. That’s just a load a crap he’s tryin’ to sell to these kids. Hey that gives me an idea.”
 “Here we go again,” I whispered. “What you goin to do now?”
 “Get Leroy’s story down on paper and read it to the class and then see if they agree with this knumbskull,” Jack whispered. “Gonna need ya to help with the writin, maybe the readin too.”
 “Mr. Stone, you have a further comment that the rest of us should hear?”
 “Well, not yet Master sir, I was a‘tellin Jeremy here something, an idea I had about doing a project on your fine lesson sir, but I really wanted to hear all of what you have to say first before I say anything myself. It’s only the polite thing to do. You do have a way with your words, Master Whittemore.”
 “Well son, nicely spoken. And I’m glad to see that you have come here today to get an education and to show the interest in the lesson that you have so far, but you need to quit commenting to Mr. Foster and wait, politely as you so aptly put it, until I’m finished. But know that I’m impressed with this change I see in you, Mr. Stone, and with this turn in your behavior. Yes, maybe you’ll turn out well after all. Just proves what I’ve always said-that there’s good in every child but that it takes patience and sometimes severity on the part of a superior educator to bring that good out of him. And certainly you may do such a project Mr. Stone-do you intend to be sharing it with the class?”
 “Oh yes sir, especially if it’d a’git me some extra credit cuz I need all the credit I can get to pass sir.”
 “Well I can’t wait to see it, Mr. Stone. I’ll expect it later in the week and we all look forward, I’m sure, to learning about your views on the subject.”
 “Bein that I’ll be a’puttin a lot of work into it sir, so as I can git extra credit and all, would you, sir, kindly make me a promise that I git to read the whole thing out loud to the class sir, and that I git extra credit for both a‘writin it and a‘readin it out loud?” asked Jack.
 “Certainly. certainly, you may certainly have such a promise. You do impress me, Mr. Stone, so that I am beginning to wonder if also I should not forget about your past transgressions, and even your most mischievous ones the weekend past sir.”
 “Weekend master? I guess I haven’t been very good have I sir? I’m going to try to make it up and do a good paper for you, Mr. Whittemore.”
 “I await it with pleasure, Mr. Stone. “Well now, isn’t this a pleasant surprise. Who would have ever thought? A magnificent change brought about by my persistence and great effort because I never lost hope sir, never, and that’s what the best educators do-they do not lose hope but they see the light in every student and every situation. And that brings us to the topic of secession.
 “And so now my good students, the southern states are becoming weaker and weaker because these know-nothing abolitionist fanatics have convinced the country through false and evil argument that the California Territory should be a free state, which it now has become, and all the rest of the western territories that numerous fine southern heroes died for in the war with Mexico are sure to follow. The abolitionists are bleeding the South to death and we must stop it before it is too late. Soon the anti-slavery states will overwhelm us and the south will have to submit to each and every bill the north shoves down our throats. I’m talking about the United States legislature who schemes against us every day!” Whittemore, nearly foaming at the mouth, thundered. It is becoming clearer and clearer that establishment of a Confederate States of America-yes the south’s own country to run as it sees fit-is the only choice left. Secession, my good fellows, separation from the union, is the only answer and Charleston will have to take the lead as it always has so ably done in our glorious past. The South will sink or swim depending upon what we do. What would become of our cherished civilization if we had the Negro living right next to us and having the same vote that the white folks have and having their pickaninnies go to the same schools and churches as the children of the white folks? It would be the end of civilization and the country would lapse into the dark ages and chaos. It’d be like giving the country back to the Indians. That‘s what the northern abolitionists are handing to us on a plate!”
 “So what’s the matter with that?” I suddenly asked, surprised at my own boldness.
 “Mr. Foster, you are joking, I hope!”
 “No sir, the Indians were here first. And my daddy says the white man pushed them out cuz they thinks they’re better than the Indians and they thinks they have a right to anything the Indians have because they thinks they’re better. And what right do white people have to sell a Negro mother away from her children? They is people just like us and they need a home, food, a family just like us and it is simply wrong for whites to sell’em and treat them lower than their dogs.”
 “You’ve made your point, Mr. Foster, but I do think that you will see the necessity of separating the races and the importance to the advance of civilization in elevating the white race at the expense of the naturally inferior dark race, this I believe you’ll come to see as you mature, Mr. Foster.”
 I raised my hand again and master looked at me icily and then called upon me again.
 “Sir, I beg to disagree with you. But I also think the Negroes should get an education just like us so they could learn to be citizens. Right now, it seems to me, the whites want to keep them as stupid as they can and won’t give ‘em a chance because they’re probably scared of them. Whites bring the Negroes in from Africa or Jamaica or something and force ‘em to be slaves and sell their wives and children and don’t give’em no education and now they’re afraid of what they’ve done.”
      Master’s face went grey momentarily and then his neck got red and redder and his face too and he gritted his teeth and blinked his eyes and he looked like he wanted to strangle me but I intended to have my say for once.
      “And how do you know that the slaves don’t like the comfort of having work, food, and a home provided by his master, Mr. Foster? Had you ever given any thought to that? Not all slaves are separated from their families! Most of them wouldn’t know how to care for themselves anyway if they were freed! Where would they go? Who would feed them? They’d have to steal their food! Then steal everything else they could get! It would be utter chaos, Mr. Foster, the end of civilization I declare! Look at how beautiful our city is-it is the shining light of the south with excellent buildings, its people excel in the arts, in mercantile occupations, our society consists of the brightest and the best all because the venerable and time-honored institution of slavery is the foundation of our great culture! All great cultures from ancient Rome to ancient Greece and Egypt had slaves that were on the bottom rung of the social ladder! It is the natural order of things! The best and the brightest-that being the white race-naturally occupies the top! You cannot give the black man an education and a vote because you would be destroying the great culture we have built up now for some two centuries! And the Negroes don’t really want to be free-it’s those darn northern abolitionists who wants them to be free and puts idiotic ideas in their heads so they can pull down our civilization and make it into a hodgepodge like their own!”
      Master was glowering now and his eyes a’bulging and his blood pressure must have raised a notch or two cuz he was redder in the face than before, just like he was at the trial when the kids got on top their benches and shouted that master was a cheat. I was scared but I wasn’t about to let up.
      “But sir, my daddy said the Negroes wants to be free just like any other human being. He said that, when he was a boy, there was a slave uprising right here in Charleston led by Denmark Vesey. Was in 1822, he done told me, and that there were thousands of slaves-both free Negroes and slaves-who were involved. And Daddy said they hung Vesey and thirty-six others down at Blacke’s Landing after a house Negro betrayed him. My daddy said Vesey was a good carpenter and was a free Negro cuz he’d bought his freedom from his master. Said he made his daddy a nice mahogany chest once. Daddy said Mr. Vesey had a lot of money and still he risked everything he had to help other Negroes to get free of the white masters. Daddy also said he knew different languages-that’s smarter than most whites folk I know. He don’t sound to me like he is a bottom-of-the-ladder human at all. Sound to be like he was up the top. So, what I was wonderin’ sir is, how come you never teach us about Denmark Vesey?”
      Master Whittemore glared at me like I was a venomous snake about to bite him between his eyes.
      “That’s not the kind of thing they wants to teach us,” Jack whispered.”
      “Please end this discussion now, Mister Upstart! And you too Mister!”
master hollered. “I can tell you this-that the reason we don’t study that kind of uppity nonsense- is because that darn nigger was a criminal and disobeyed the law and so did the other niggers who were punished along with him! And they got exactly what was coming to them!” 
     Master was yelling now. Sweat was beading on his forehead and he looked furiously annoyed, slappin ‘his own face, when one bead ran into his eye. He was mad. And this, I knew, was not the time to continue with my line of reasoning. So I didn’t.
 “It is not properly the goal of education to study what a bunch of contemptuous nigger criminals did or didn’t do!” he screamed. “Now let’s move on to geography!”
 I figured I should stop while I was ahead, so that’s what I did.
I looked at Jack. He seemed to agree as he tried to hide his mirth, bowing his somewhat flat head with the dark curls in front. His big brown eyes smiled mischievously-perhaps maliciously is the right word-as he stole a sidelong look at me. Then he whispered, “Nice goin’ sonny boy! But just you wait ‘til ya see what the big fellow ’s got in store for that horse’s ass!”

Ginny: Continued Serialization of the Antebellum Charleston Novel, "Jack"

Chapter 32

Charleston, S.C., Civil War Era Lithograph copy by Harper's Weekly

It was decided after talkin’ to Leroy that Jack and me would continue to keep our ears alert for any more talk about runaway slaves between Molly and her friend, Virginia. But nothin’ came up. So Jack did what he did best: get information he wanted on the sly.
“How come we don’t see no more auctioning of the slaves,” Jack asked Virginia one fine June morning in 1852.
“It’s done behind closed doors now so the good Charleston folks don’t have to see what they’re doin’ to those po’ people. But please call me Ginny like I asked you to.”  Ginny was, I later learned, referring to city ordinances Charleston passed into the 1850s prohibiting the sale of slaves out in the open and apparently many of Charleston’s residents were disgusted with the trade in their fair city.
“Sorry Ginny. But is that a fact? Are you one of those abolitionists?” Jack boldly asked.

Jack Gets a Job: The Continuing Serialization of the Novel

Chapter 32
Jack and me went back to Molly that afternoon and I was shocked when Jack told her that he had done stolen a pile of fruit and vegetables from her but said it was for a good cause and he wanted to work it off and pay her back. At first Molly was angry but then she smiled at Jack and said she had been right about him anyway, that even though he had taken things from her, she was greatly affected by his telling her the truth and offering his services. So she said he could certainly help her and that the next time Jack needed food to just ask and she’d give him all he wanted and she’d even give him a little job if he wanted. So she gave Jack a job helping her sell at the market and said I could help too if I wanted which I said I would. So that’s what we did. I must admit, Jack was the smoothest talker in Charleston and knew how to win people over to his side. And he sold twice as much food in a day as she could so she was all smiles every time Jack showed up for work, which was two or three times a week.
So we had a job all that summer and we made a little money and we had more than enough food for Leroy who was living like a king he said. Jack said he heard Molly talkin' one day to another woman who had a stall nearby where ladies’ bonnets were being sold-pink ones and yellow ones and big blue ones-and that he overheard them talkin' about a secret way to the north for runaways. Jack said he was a'goin' to ask Molly about it to see if she could help Leroy go north but first he wanted to get Leroy’s permission. “Wouldn’t be fittin’ to ask her without Leroy consentin’,” Jack said, “cuz he’s the one takin’ the risk.”

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Market Lady: The Serialization of the Antebellum Charleston, Novel, Continues

Chapter 31
The Market Lady
We headed back across the river to the market downtown where there was lots of fruit and vegetables and all kinds of food bein’ sold in the market stalls. The first thing Jack did was borrow a large burlap bag that had the words “Dark Coffee Beans” on it. “Here,” Jack said, “You carry it over your back and I’ll show you just how fast I can fill’er up.” Then Jack started a’borrowin turnips and peaches and apples and carrots and beats and lemons and limes and even a small watermelon.
In five minutes the bag was already heavy. Jack was good. He’d get people talkin’ and say somethin’ nice to them about what they was wearin’ or somethin’ and the next thing you knew he snitched somethin’ quick as lightnin’ off the table and put it in ma sack. Then when they’d turn ‘round again Jack would talk to them some more and do the same thing next time they turned ‘round. “Oh look’it , there’s a rotted peach. You’d better git it outta there,” he told a large woman with a blue and white polka-dotted apron and yellow sunbonnet.
“Oh you sweet boy! Why thanks for a’pointing that out to me.”
“That’s okay. I like to help out such pretty a woman such as yourself. It just makes ma day if I can do something good like that.”
And the woman blushed and gave each of us a handful of cherries. “Oh ma’am you didn’t have to. You’re too kind,” Jack said as he snitched another larger watermelon and sacked it in a second after she done turned ‘round agin to tend to her peaches.
“You sure have beautiful peaches,” Jack said.
“Oh you are so complimentary, have a peach both of you. Here’s a good ripe one for you and here’s beautiful Georgia peach just for you too. Now you boys have a nice day.”
“Thank you so much ma’am but I hate to take something for nothing. Can I unload those watermelons for ya?” said Jack.
“Well you are a treat. Thank you, sonny. I would very much appreciate it.”
Jack and me unloaded three crates of watermelons sweating in the hot noon sun and he placed them nicely on display so that a buyer could not avoid seeing them first they were so big. There must have been forty. Then Jack asked if there was anything else he could do but there wasn’t so we started to leave.  Jack didn’t take anything else, just took what he thought would get Leroy through for a few days so we could have some time to make a plan.
“I’ll be back this afternoon ma’m and if you like I’ll help you crate up whatever didn’t sell. Be glad to do it,” said Jack who meant what he said.
“Why I’d be so happy for your assistance. What a generous heart you have. You just don’t see many boys like you around Charleston anymore. Would you like another peach boys?”
“Oh no ma’am, you’ve been too generous,” Jack said, but the woman, whose name was Molly or Polly, insisted and gave us both two more of them sweet Georgia peaches which we saved one each for Leroy and we ate the other ones. Then we went back to the boat and headed back ‘cross the river. When Leroy saw us he wasn’t at the tree house but came up behind us. Said he was a’followin’ us just in case"cuz a runaway nigger just cain't be too careful.”
We didn’t mind. And Leroy was so glad when he saw how much food we’d brought him. Then we knew he trusted us from then on. Jack even cooked some carrots and beans for him before we left.
“Tomorrow we’ll bring you some blankets and some coffee Leroy. You just stay put now!”

Leroy: The Continuing Series of the Antebellum Novel, "Jack."

Chapter 30
When we got across the river, we found Leroy – an escaped slave - a’sleepin’ in our tree house. That’s when I told Jack we could get in big trouble if we helped him out or hid him or found him a place to stay. But Jack liked this new challenge and he liked Leroy right off. Leroy had a big straw hat and he was big and muscular and very dark. Said he came up from Alabama and was separated from his family in Charleston two years earlier when he and his sister and mom were auctioned off to different masters right at the same slave market we were just at. When Leroy saw us he looked like a scared raccoon and he took a runnin’ leap and jumped off of the tree house but Jack said to hold on, that we wouldn’t hurt him. So he stopped and turned around and stared at us wide-eyed.
“Hey want an apple boy? What’s your name?” I said.
“I’m called Leroy and I am so hungry, thank you sah, thank you!”
Leroy gobbled down the apple and then Jack gave him his too.
“Where you goin’ in such a hurry boy?” Jack said.
“I is goin’ to Massachusetts so I can be a lawya and git ma famli bak sah. We waz all done solded heya in Charleston some time ago and I went with ma masta to Albama and I ain’t seen hide nor hair of ma sista or motha since. I can read and rite a little so I wants to be a lawya sah. How fur is Massachusetts anyhow sah?”
“You got a long, long, long way to go Leroy and you goin’ to be hunted down all the way-why don’t ya let us help ya get there.”
“No sah, I gotta go. If’n I stop I thinks I’ll neva get goin’ agin and I git caught and the dogs’ll git me.”
“But you’re safe here. No-one but us comes here. Stay here for a while,” I said, “until we can figure a plan. If anyone can help you out of this fix, we can. And Jack here is the best kniver in all of Charleston and I bet we can help ya find out where your sister and mother went off to.”
“You can? You ain’t tryin' to trick me now, is you?”
“When is the last time you ate anythin’?” said Jack.
“Well I been pickin' raspberries and findin' vegables and such in da gardens dat I seen on da way heya but I havn’t had no good dinna sah, not since I left dat plantation shanty five weeks now. I been travlin' nites and sleepin' and hidin' days. I just keep a’goin' up da rivers and hidin' in da swamps where I knows people probably won’t go in.”
“Well Leroy,” Jack said, “you just stay here and we’re a’goin’ to go fetch a big pile of food for ya. So don’t ya go anywhere! You safe here cuz this is our secret fort and no-one but me and Jeremy and one other boy knows it’s here. Stay here okay? I promise we’re not going to turn ya in but that we is goin’ to help ya escape. Okay?”
“Yes sir, I’ll stay. You seem like fine yunguns and I trust ya already.”
“Be back in a few hours then,” I said.

Extendin’ a Helpin’ Hand: The continued serialization of the antebellum novel, "Jack."

Chapter 29
Me and Jack were hangin’ out near the slave market on Saturday – a few hours before we were supposed to be at the church for punishment duty. I picked up a pamphlet that talked ‘bout the  Fugitive Slave Act passed by the United States Congress in the summer of 1850 which had caused so much stir and aggravation among the Northern abolitionists, many of whom refused to live by the law and who tried to convince anyone else who would listen to disobey it. It was one of the seeds sown in fertile soil that brought the Civil War a decade later.
A man with a chipped front tooth and a long white mustache, curled upwards on each end, said, “Here sonny, learn about what’s really going on in the world.” So I took it and began reading. On the front was a picture of a black man with whip in his hand and several white women a’pickin’ cotton in the fields like they was field hands. I showed Jack and he said not to believe everythin’ I read, that it was "pure bull".
I kept a’readin’ to Jack: The abolitionists insisted on helpin’ and a’keepin, the runways free while deprivin’ the owners or their “rightful property,” I read aloud. “The law was the law and darn abolitionists were makin’  trouble refusing to return them to their owners if they escaped which federal law required,” said the pamphlet. I didn’t know what to make of it but Jack had some strong opinions on the matter and I guess I believed the same thing once I heard him sayin’ it.
I told Jack, “The abolitionists - they say it is simply wrong to return a black man or his family back to slavery after escapin’ from the cotton and sugar plantations when they finally made it up to a free state.” I told him what else I just read and told him many northern newspaper editors said people should disobey the law because it was against the constitution.
"But Master believes they’re wrong and they’re thieves," I said. "What do you think, Jack?”
“Well son, that good-for-nothin’ horse’s ass Whittemore is a dumb-ass ox. I don’t believe anythin’he says and I don’t think anyone else does neither, not after the stupid-ass trial he had goin’ on yesterday. You don’t have to go to his stupid-ass class and listen to that poor-excuse-for-a-teacher too long a’fore you know he’s rotten to the core. He’s a’gettinn’ the kids all messed up and you saw how he was manipulatin’ everythin’ at the trial and now they won’t believe anythin’ he says anymore. But they are just now seein’ his true colors. I saw them many moons ago kiddie.”
“But do you think master is right ‘bout the darkies?”
“Of course he’s not right son! What are you stupid? Master’s not right ‘bout anythin’. You’ve been havin’ so many of Whittemore’s lessons son your brain’s goin’ soft! Hey, they say down here in the south that the blacks aren’t real people but they all know it’s a lie. Course they’re real people. Just look at some of the freed slaves in Charleston – some a’runnin businesses and others makin’ a good livin’ making carriages or buildin’ houses. How are they different son? It’s just skin color and the fact that white people try to keep ‘em stupid. Some are as smart or smarter in my opinion than many white people. The reason that the darkies act stupid is cuz they can’t legally read or write cuz the white folk won’t let ‘em.  They won't let 'em because that'd give 'em too much power and they have to keep'em weak and ignorant if they're goin' make good slaves. They can whip ‘em to death for that, don’t ya know that? You see, that horse’s ass doesn’t tell you that in his puny little school house. That’s why they is stupid soundin’ sometimes. But you just talk to one of the ones that did learn some readin’ and writin’ and they're very educated and talk just like you and me. You know something sonny, I been thinkin’ a while now ‘bout goin’ back to school and lettin’ Master believe I’m a’goin to try hard for him, let him think I’m on his side – my idea is just beginnin’ to shine. But it ain’t that shiny yet. But what happened yesterday when all the kids stood on their benches even as Master threatened to punish them – well, it convinced me that I can turn them all against him if I come up with the right plan. I’ll need your help son.”
“Ah, no thanks. I’ll sit this one out,” I said.
“You can’t sit this one out moron! You don’t sit nothing out ‘less I say so and I say you don’t sit it out! That’s final. Now stop givin’ me lip or I’ll have to find a trash barrel for you.”
“Ya right. That’d be the day,” I said.
We decided to head on over the river to check on things as Jack said he thought somebody was using our tree house cuz he went by yesterday alone and heard noises. When he went up the rope ladder, there was a apple core on the little table we built and some spilled tobacco on the floor.
“I think it’s Mike,” Jack said, “cuz he was afraid to show his face when I said, “who is it? Come out here!” He’s such a coward. Let’s go now and see if it’s Mike or some other dimwit.” So that’s what we did.

The Verdict: The Continuing Series of the Antebellum Novel, "Jack."

Chapter 28
"Guilty, all of them,” said Wormwood.
“And the sentence?” asked Master Whittemore.
Wormwood read a note, “Expulsion from the altar boys with the permission of the good father, who has already agreed, and five days suspended from school with work instead on the grounds of the church.”
“A fair sentence to be sure Your Honor!” said Whittemore. “Have a nice afternoon now, sir, you may go. And thank you and thank the good father.”
Jack just smiled happily at the judge, then at Whittemore, knowing his triumph was the real one and that their’s was a comedy act. Master glowered at Jack and you could tell by his face that the punishment was not enough for his satisfaction. Jack had won. We had won. Whittemore knew it. Everyone in that room knew it.
As we were made to walk out of the school to begin our sentence, the kids one at a time stood up on the benches until the whole class except for the Slineys were standing there kind of in salute to us for standing up to master who yelled at them and threatened them, but they stood there anyway until we left.

Jack Comes to the Rescue: The antebellum Charleston novel, "Jack," Continues

Chapter 27
                                                        "We Want Jack!"

        So when we got back from recess I went to the judge and asked if we could have a new lawyer cuz our lawyer wasn’t doin' nothin'. The judge said he didn’t know, that it was up to Mr. Whittemore.
       Whittemore was more than delighted with the request:
       “Oh and who is your choice-pick anyone you like? The evidence is so strong at this point that it really makes no difference to me, I assure you. Would you like the judge to play a dual role, that is, being your lawyer and the judge?”
      “No sir. We all talked about it and we all want Jack to be our lawyer," I said. Master’s smile deserted his face like it was the sun blotted out by a big black cloud.
        “You want to place your fates in the hands of that good-for-nothing boy who doesn’t know the first thing about lawyering!“
        “Yes sir. All of us do. We want Jack!”
        “So you want Mr. Stone to match his wits against mine in this trial even though he himself is on trial as he clearly is the accused at this point. So be it Mr. Foster! It’s your own neck in the noose! So be it! Your Honor! I humbly accept the challenge and I really look forward to learning how Mr. Jack Stone intends to slither his way out of this one!”
        “We rest our case Your Honor,” Whittemore said. “Go forth Mr. Stone to your downfall, I expect.”
        “Yes Your Honor, I call the Slineys back to the stand,” said Jack. The twins took the seats at the front and the entire class riveted their attention on Jack.
        “So, are either of you friends with Jeremy?”
        “Not really,” said Johnny.
        “What about your brother?”
        “No, you know I’m not.”
        “Friends with Mike?” Jack asked.
        “Nope,” said Randy.
        “Friends with Jimmy?”
        “You’re friends with Brooksy then?”
        “You’re kidding right?” said Randy.
        “Nope,”said Johnnie.
        “Why not? Why would I be kiddin'?”
        “Cuz why, ain’t he good enough for you?”
        “It’s not that,” said Randy. “Brooksy’s not somebody we would nomally associate with.”
        “But why not?”
        “He’s too weird!”
        “You don’t like him do you?”
        “Can’t say as I do.”
       “Same here,” said Johnny.
       “Do you like me?”
       “Nope,”said Randy.
       “Why not?”
       “Because you’re a lousy student and you’re a bully-always pickin' on my brother and me.”
       “You recall what happened about two weeks ago right outside this school when your brother gave me some lip?”
       “Yeah,” said Randy. “You picked him up by the seat of his pants and dumped him into the trash barrel head first! It was unforgivable.”
       The class roared and Whittemore glared at them causing an immediate cessation of their fun, at least on the surface.
       “That’s right it was unforgivable wasn’t it? And didn’t you say I was goin' to pay?”
       “So what?”
       “So now you makin' me pay and worse than that you’re makin' my good friends pay who are no friends of yours?”
       “No? Did master want you to say somethin' against us?”
       “He just wanted us to say what we saw.”
       “Say what you saw or make it up?”
       “Say what we saw.”
       “He make any promises?”
       “No. Just said we were two of his best students which everyone knows we are and we probably were going to pass with high marks.”
       “Oh so he promised you both good grades if you talked against us, now I get it.”
       “I didn’t say that.”
       “What did ya say moron?”
       “Objection!” said master rising from his seat. “Mr. Stone is being abusive to the witness.”
       “Mr. Stone, please stop that behavior,” said the judge.
       “No problem. So Mr. Randy Sliney, you don’t like any of the accused boys including myself and you say master brought up the subject of good grades while you was talking to him about what you were going to tell the judge?”
       “We get good grades anyway and master was just saying it in passing.”
       “What exactly did he say?”
       “He said what I said, we were good students and probably would get good grades.”
       “How ‘bout you Johnny Sliney? What did master say ‘bout your grades?”
       “Said the same thing. I’d get good final grades because I was a responsible student.”
       “Didn't you think that he was a'tryin' to bribe you or something with grades if you’d say bad things at the court today?”
       “What did you think?”
       “I think he thought it was the responsible thing to do.”
       “What was?”
       “Tell what happened”
       “Or what didn’t happen?”
       “You lied for good grades?”
       “Objection judge!” yelled Whittemore.
       “You lied because myself, Jeremy, Brooksy, Mike and Jimmy all say we never did any of those things.”
       “Not true. You did ’em.”
       “Your brother convinced you to lie cuz I dumped you in a barrel and he said he was goin to get revenge! Isn’t that what really is a'happenin' here Hiney’s brother?”
       “Objection!” yelled Whittemore.
       “You lied didn’t you?”
       “No way!”
       Jack then turned to the class and said during a stream of noisy objections from Whittemore, “Stand up and say the Hineys are lyin' if you think they is and that we are innocent!?”
       At that the whole class stood and yelled “Innocent! Innocent!” and “the Hineys are liars!”
Mike and Jimmy and me stood on our benches and yelled at the top of our voices, “Masters a cheat! Masters a cheat!”
Then the whole class except the Slineys chanted:
      “Master’s a cheat! Master’s a cheat! The Hiney’s are liars! The Hiney’s are liars! Liars and cheats! Liars and cheats!”
      “Shut up! Shut up!” Whittemore screamed. He finally asked the judge what was the verdict.

Tattling Twins: The Continued Serialization of the Antebellum novel, "Jack"

Chapter 26
      “So Johnny and Randy, how long have you been altar boys?” Master asked when they were seated up front of the class near the judge.
      “Three years,” snapped Johnny Sliney. “Two years,” said Randy Sliney.
      “Well boys, which is it?”
      The twins looked at one another and then, at the same, time Johnny Sliney said two years but this time Randy Sliney said three. Some students snickered causing master to turn around sharply with a scowl and they all went perfectly still and silent.
      “Well, skip it!” said master. “What did you see Johnny on Saturday.”
      “Well sir, I don’t like to tattle but I saw Jack Stone lifting up the Monstrance and standing behind the altar like he was the priest or something.”
      “Yes I saw the same thing sir, and I don’t like to tattle either. But it was Jack Stone behind that altar alright and he was getting everyone except Johnny and me to play tag around the altar. They were all running around, everyone-Jack Stone, and Jeremy, and Jimmy and Mike and all of them drank some of the wine from the bottle in the sacristy but I didn’t and my brother didn’t. We were behaving ourselves because we respect the church and they were just having a good old time. I just didn’t think they should be doing that so we told my mother and she told my father and he said you have got to tell Master Whittemore and the pastor. So that’s why we came to your house, sir, on Saturday afternoon, as soon as we could, to let you know that there was some wicked things going on at the church earlier that day. But Jack was the one getting everyone to do the bad things.”
      “Well there you have it, Your Honor. And what about Mr. Brooks?
     “Mr. Brooks was running around like everyone else-I mean like the others, not my brother or me. Brooksy was having a good ole time too and I didn’t think he had a headache,” said Johnny Sliney.
      “Nor did I sir. He was having much too good a time.”
      “I see,” said master with a big grin on his face. “I see.”
      “And you say Jack Stone was behind the whole thing?”
      “Yes sir, it was obvious to me. And Jeremy too.”
      “Really? Why Jeremy too?”
      “Because he just kept not listening to me and my brother calling us Hiney and Hiney’s brother because that’s what Jack liked to call us, and then all of them would call us the Hiney twins and another word I would not like to repeat, sir.”
      “Oh but this is a trial and you must repeat that word, Mr. Hiney, I mean Mr. Sliney, “ said Whittemore. The students roared at master’s name slip and master screamed again to shut their faces.
      “Well sir, Jeremy called me a horse’s ass and said my brother was a donkey’s ass and that was totally inappropriate especially inside such a sacred place.” Many students held their hands over their mouths but could not prevent wind escaping violently through their mouths in great peals of laughter causing Master Whittemore to scream, “Shut your godforsaken mouths you idiots before I take a cane to each one of you!”
      “Now! Why did Jeremy say such a mean thing to you and your brother, Mr. Hiney, I mean Sliney sir?” said Whittemore whose face turned beat red as more snickers were heard. Jack was trying to get the class to laugh from his bench up the back of the class and Mike started throwing little pebbles at Jack and other kids. Then Jack winked at Brooksy who winked back and Jack spit a spitball at Mike hitting him in the face.
      Then master asked Mr. Philips, the defense lawyer, if he had any questions and Mr. Philips told the judge and master, “No sir, it seems pretty clear to me who the culprits are here and I don’t wish to waste the master’s time. I have no questions.”
      Then master said it was recess and that’s when Jack told me and Brooksy that we have to ask the court for a new lawyer cuz the one we have isn’t helping us at all and he asked no questions, and to say that we want Jack to be our lawyer. So that’s what we did.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Indictment: The Continuing Serialization of the Novel, "Jack:"

                                                     Chapter 24
                         The Indictment

Charleston, S.C., Charleston Harbor in Background.
Civil War Era Lithograph from Harper's Weekly.
     “Our Father. Who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, Amen.”
     “Mr. Brooks!” Master yelled right after we recited the Lord’s prayer as school began Monday morning. Two men from the church were seated in the room. “It has come to my attention, Mr. Brooks, that certain students in this classroom on Saturday defiled the Lord’s sacred altar at the Church while supposedly getting ready to practice their altar boy routines in preparation for Sunday masses upcoming. It has come to my attention Mr. Brooks that certain individuals were playing tag in the church and committed a most grievous outrage to the sanctity of that house of God by even playing tag on the altar and even jumping over the altar rail. And Mr. Brooks, it has come to my attention that one or more of these bad apples who parade their alleged goodness in sacred robes each and every Sunday before the congregation even jumped over the altar rail while another boy or boys was or were trying to catch them or him. 
      And Mr. Brooks, the devil definitely showed himself in one of these boys in the most horrific of ways and Mr. Brooks I will make it my personal mission to find out conclusively, Mr. Brooks, the exact identity of that malevolent boy who, disregarding and in fact having total contempt for our most sacred ceremonies and sacred articles, he being an altar boy on the surface but a friend of the devil beneath, I will see to it, Mr. Brooks, that this boy’s identity and bad acts are made perfectly visible to all and that he will be righteously punished if found guilty by our court today.

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Blood Brothers and Pirates": The Continuing Serialization of the Novel, "Jack"

                                                    Chapter 21
                   The Midnight Raiders

Charleston, S.C., with Charleston Harbor in the Background.
Civil War Era Lithograph
    “Hey! Where did you get this thing?” I asked Jack, staring wide-eyed at the wooden canoe that was covered by thick bushes just a’settin' there in the little backwater that was an offshoot of the river. It was covered with vines and reeds and you really had to be looking right at it to see it if you happened to be goin' by that way. But nobody except for some fishermen now and then would have much reason to drift off the river into that swamp. So Jack knew what he was doing when he hid the boat in that particular place.        
      “Is this that ole Indian’s canoe you said you took one day ‘cross the river and then lost again Jack?” I said.
      “No, no! This here is my daddy’s canoe,” said Brooksy, “the same one that Master Whittemore tole the class yesterday that Jack done stole it from my daddy for a handful of cheap marbles.”
      “Well that darn fool’s goin' ahead and blabbin' off his mouth again. We traded fair and square, didn’t we?” Jack asked Brooksy. “And beside that was supposed to be a secret bargain that no-one was supposed to know so how did master learn it?”