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L.L. Davis
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L.L. Davis

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L.L. Davis

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Part 1: The Stranger

June 1988

Dreya inserted the key into the lock and turned it. She took a deep breath and opened the lid. It was fairly heavy and required more strength from her than she initially realized. Once open, she sat up on her knees and looked inside. There was something large and heavy in there, but it was surrounded by a dark green blanket.

She slowly unwrapped the blanket. A shiny metallic object emerged. She couldn’t believe it. It was her uncle’s trumpet. It was worn and by the look of the green markings, oxidation took its toll. She removed the instrument and held it in her hands.

She recalled many summers in Alameda with her Uncle. She loved her time there. Her mother told her, that Uncle Jamie was the one who named her in the hospital. She was the youngest of her siblings and his favorite niece. While the other kids played, they sat together on the porch and he gave her lessons. She tried desperately to make it work, but she was too young. She awed at how Uncle Jamie made it look effortless. By the time she was 10, she managed to belt out a few tunes. Typical stuff, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Saints Go Marching In, etc. They were far from perfect renditions, but any passers-by would have been impressed.

She put the instrument to her lips and nothing came out. It couldn’t play anymore. Her uncle spent hours polishing and fixing his trumpet, but since he was gone it lost its music.

"What a shame," she thought to herself.

She began to place the object back into trunk, when she noticed something in the bottom. It was a note. She placed the trumpet down and picked it up. She unfolded the paper and a mini flyer fell out. She examined the note. It was old and the paper had dried out significantly. She needed to be careful or else it would tear. The ink was faded but still legible. It read simply-

Meet me at 9. Francine’s. - Art

She knew Art. Arthur Resik. He and Uncle Jamie were friends once upon a time, but they had a falling out. She never knew why. She picked up the flyer. On the front there was a picture of a bird on fire. The card itself was printed, but the figure in the front looked like it was crudely drawn. It was done in a solid red line and placed on a black background. A phone number was written on the back, but some of the numbers rubbed off.

She heard a car pull up in the driveway. She wondered who it could be. No one else has lived in this house since her uncle passed at ninety-three. She lived down the road, within walking distance, but the rest of the family lived out of the state. Uncle Jamie had no surviving children and after the funeral the rest of family left quickly and never bothered with any of his affairs. The only thing he had to his name was this house and he left that to her.

She put the note and card in her pocket. She began placing the trumpet back in the box when she heard the car door shut. As she turned the trumpet a coin fell out. She hurriedly placed that in her pockets as well. She covered the trumpet with the blanket, closed the lid and locked it.

The sounds disappeared and she was planning on going up the steps, when she heard the kitchen door rattling. The sudden the sound of shattered glass overtook her senses. Someone was breaking into the house. She looked around the basement and saw a door. It was the area that contained the heater. She hid herself in there but the door refused to shut all the way. She backed in as far as she could, sat down and waited. From this area she could see the bottom of the steps as well as the chest, which lay along the staircase.

The door upstairs opened and footsteps began to descend. She saw a man stop at the bottom of the steps and stopped breathing. He was in his thirties and dressed in gray khakis, a white polo shirt and a brown jacket. He walked over to the chest, knelt down and opened it.

"How does he have a key?" she thought. The key she had was given to her by her uncle before he died. She thought it was the only one.

He searched the trunk and shook the trumpet furiously. He was looking for something. Clearly upset, he threw the trumpet back in the trunk and shut the lid. Dreya hoped that he didn’t break it.

He stood and pulled out a phone. She had heard about them, but never saw one in person until now. It was so quiet she could hear it ringing.

"Yeah, Uncle Art. Yeah. It’s not here," The man waited a bit. "Yeah. I’m in the basement and there is nothing in the trunk. I just looked."

The voice on the phone spoke for awhile.

"You think one of the family has it. Maybe that woman. Well is there anywhere else he would’ve put it?"

The voice on the phone continued.

"Mmm-hmm. Ok. I’ll look up stairs."

The man hung up the phone and proceeded upstairs. Once she heard him ascending the second flight, Dreya came out from hiding and proceeded up the steps. She moved cautiously but as fast as she could. She needed to get out of that house. He was probably going to tear the place apart and she wasn’t safe there. As she made it to the top of the steps, she could see that the door was still open. She peered around the corner but saw no one. She could still hear him milling around in one of the rooms upstairs. She made her way out of the kitchen door and hurried to the edge of the house. Once she was sure it was safe, she disappeared into the woods. She knew the short cuts and didn’t look back as she took off running towards her house.
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L.L. Davis

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Part 2: Enter Jamie

August 1911

"Oh shit" were the only two words that came out of his mouth as he slid down the embankment. It was a six foot slide and a couple seconds until he reached the bottom. Jamie slowly stood up. His legs were scraped and his foot was a little sore, but he could still walk. He had made that climb a dozen times and this was the first time he lost his footing. Although, you couldn't blame him for being preoccupied considering that his life had just turned upside down. 

He lost his pole about three quarters of the way down. As he climbed for the pole he noticed that the slight pain in his foot subsided. Hopefully it wouldn't come back. He grabbed the pole and went back down the embankment. After inspecting the pole, he decided to make his way to his spot. As he rounded the corner, he saw the log. He sat the pole on top of it and made his way to the water’s edge. 

As he peered into the water, he noticed a single small fish, wiggling near a rock. He lightly touched his finger to the water and waited. The fish swam near and nipped at his finger. He kept still and it did it again. After several unsuccessful tries, it swam back to its rock. When Jamie removed his finger, the fish disappeared. He wondered if it knew just how close to death it was. 

He gathered his pole and began to fish. It was probably nearly five o'clock and the sun would be setting in a couple of hours. He needed to catch at least two fish before then. He baited his hook with a nice sized earthworm, swung his line back and watched it hit the water. As it disappeared into the lake, his mind drifted. Soon summer would be over and school would start. He liked school. At least he liked what they taught. He could've done without some of the children in his class. In his part of the county families like his were at the bottom of the pole. 

The line on the pole became taught. He got something. He slowly and surely reeled it in. It was a decent sized trout. He tossed it to the side and put his line back out into the lake. The trout wiggled fervently on the ground, but to no avail. It's life would soon be over and for a second, Jamie wished it was him. 

Unfortunately, he couldn't go back to school. He was the oldest and now responsible for the family. His father was in his life until last week. He went through another drunken stint and disappeared. He usually found his way back home, but two days ago his mother got the news. The drunken bastard drowned in the lake. This lake. And now, he had to find a job to try and replace his income. 

There weren't too many opportunities for a kid in the south. He might find a job on one of the plantations but that was hard to come by. Since reconstruction, many of the plantations were either destroyed or went out of business. Any negros that remained in the south, wound up working on those same plantations. It was hard for poor whites like him to compete. Yeah the niggers got paid, but not by much. The only real opportunity for a kid of his age was up north. Maybe he could find a job working in one of those factories or something. But that would mean leaving home. As much as they needed the money, he couldn't risk leaving his mother and his siblings alone. He would have to find work around here. Though his mom found some work as a seamstress, it was sparse. Time was not on their side; he needed to find work soon.

The line went taught again and Jamie reeled in a second fish. By then, the sky changed from a bright blue to an intense orange. He had to get these fish home to his mother. 

The walk home was longer than usual. The sharp pain in his foot made him constantly think about the distance between him and his home. He came to a turn in the road. There was a house immediately to his right. As he began to make the turn, he heard voices. Those voices sounded familiar. He slid next the fence and peeked around the corner. 

Those three figures looked familiar. As they drew closer, he knew who they were. He looked around and see an upside down wheelbarrow. He limped over to it and hid. The time marched by slowly. All he could do was think about the last day of school. 

All he wanted to do was go home, but they wouldn't let him. 

"Bitch!"


"I ain't no bitch!"

Another voice came in from the right, "Then fight him." 

Jaime had no choice. He tossed his books to the side and squared up. His opponent was bigger than him. Tim was five foot eight and nearly two hundred pounds. He had a muscular build for a fifteen year old. He took after his dad. Jamie, on the other hand, was barely five foot six; and he only weighed a hundred thirty pounds. He was a skinny kid, not too much muscle. His father was a more impressive sight. He was six foot tall with a solid build. If Jamie were to take after his dad, it wouldn't be for awhile. The only thing he could think was, "This fat fuck." 

They danced around for a bit before Jamie threw the first punch. It landed wide and completely missed Tim. As the momentum of the punch swung his whole body around, his face was at just the right distance to receive a swift and short uppercut from Tim. This completely knocked him to the ground. He somehow managed to land on all fours and scrambled to get up. That's when he saw, then felt, the impact of a brown shoe on his stomach. He clutched his stomach with both hands as he landed face down in the dirt. 

"I told you, you were a bitch", Tim said as he turned to leave. The other boys were walking away to, and laughing nonstop. Jamie rolled slowly on the ground trying to get his breath back. He was alone with blood dripping down his face and dirt in his mouth. 

Under the wheelbarrow, he still didn't know what caused them to do it. He figured they just liked picking with him. His dad was a hopeless alcoholic. Who could help defend him? Or at least teach him how to defend himself? No one was coming to his aide. 

He peeked out from underneath the barrel. He hadn't heard the voices in awhile. When he was sure they were gone, he hurried home.
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