Con Version; Chapter 8, Brown 284

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Stories from the Verse
Con Version
Chapter 8:  Brown 284
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Takano 86

The bull was up and about at dawn, and since Derek and Vashti were asleep in its food they were rousted.  Since they should probably be away before whoever owned this bull (and it occurred to Derek that the bull would probably deny that status for any such person) came to care for it, they were on the road and coming to the city limits as the sun rose.  A wide river ran to their right, and he saw the ironwork bridge over which the train had run the night before.

A ramshackle house stood right at the sign marking the entrance to New Orleans, and an elderly black man seemed to be dozing on its front porch in a swing chair hung from the overhang.  Derek stopped to survey the road ahead.  He had never been to New Orleans.  In fact, he’d never been farther south than Maryland, or farther west, either.  Of course he’d heard of New Orleans, built on the Mississippi River delta on the shores of the Caribbean.  He’d heard of Mardi Gras, and the city had something of a reputation for strange.

“Ah you brown?”

The voice startled him.  The man on the porch had opened his eyes and barely moved otherwise, but spoke in a thick cajun accent.

“Excuse me?” Derek said, not so much because he hadn’t heard but because the question confused him.

“Ah you brown?” he repeated, perhaps a bit more urgently.

“Oh!”  He glanced at Vashti.  “Yes, I suppose so.  We’re the Browns.  I’m Derek, this is Vashti.”

“Ah’ve been ‘spectin’ y’all.  Ah’m Pee-aya Hunta.  C’mon in an’ git some breakf’st, an’ we’ll talk.  Ah’m sho youz got lots a’ questions.  Ah ain’t got many ansuz, but ah’z got some, and anyway, youz needs t’eat.”  He rose and waved an inviting hand as he entered the front door of the building.

Shrugging at his wife, Derek rolled his bicycle up onto the porch and leaned it against one of the columns, and led the way inside.  He wasn’t sure what to make of this Pierre Hunter (for so he understood the name under the thick accent), but whether he was friend or enemy, he was the next clue along whatever path this was.

As he entered, he heard the voice calling from what he took to be the direction of the kitchen, and headed toward it.  “All ah’z got,” it was saying, “is some grits an’ a bit a’ bacon, but thea’s enough fo’ three, ah’m sho.  Oh, weah’s ma mannas?  The outhouse is out this back doh and to yo raht, an’ the watta pump is straight back if’n you need t’ wash up a bit.”

“Thank you, sir,” Derek said, echoed by Vashti, as they headed out the door.  Scanning the yard for the indicated facilities, he said, “Rustic.”  She looked at him as if she didn’t understand the comment, but he indicated the outhouse and said, “Ladies first.”

He had to show her how the pump worked; fortunately it was primed.  They were soon back inside, to find bowls of grits with a side of several strips of crisp bacon awaiting.  Derek helped Vashti into one seat and then settled in another; their host was already seated but waiting.  He offered them tea from a teapot, which they accepted, mostly because there didn’t seem to be anything else to drink.

“So,” Derek asked, “how do you know us?”

“Ah was tol’ to ‘spec you this mawnin’.  Yo’re ma replacement.  The Good Lawd let me know you’d be acomin’, an heah you is.”

It sounded crazy, but of course Derek had heard crazier--and the King had sent him to be a deliverer before, so why not again?

“What do I have to do?”

“You have t’ bring the light ‘gainst the fawces of dahkness.  Don’ know how to tell you mo’ than that.  Oh, but I have to give you--well, we have time.  Eat up.”

Derek didn’t have to ask too much about the forces of darkness.  He’d met them.  It also made sense that he must have been sent to fight them, since apparently he was expected, not only by this old man but also by the devil himself.  The question was how, and already Pierre had disclaimed any knowledge of that answer.

He ate his grits.  They were surprisingly good, apparently laced with a bit of pepper and just a bit of bacon fat.  His thoughts wandered.  How was he to fight this battle?

Apparently understanding the look on his face, Vashti said, “You’ll figure it out.”

Pierre smiled and agreed, “Yeah, ah’m sho you’ll know what to do when the time comes.”

As they finished eating--and both of them ate every scrap of it--Pierre cleared the table, washing the bowls in a pot of soapy water then rinsing them in a second pot of clean water and setting them in the sink.  He then turned and said, “We’ll be mo’ comfy out in the sittin’ room,” and without waiting for their response he headed back toward the front of the house.

By the time Derek and Vashti caught up, the man was seated in what looked to be a recliner, and there was a box, a suitcase of some sort, on a coffee table in front of what Derek was tempted to call a divan.  “That’s fo’ you,” Pierre said.  “Open it.”

It was a dark reddish brown leather-covered case with a handle, probably wood under leather, and a pair of lift latches.  Carefully Derek opened them, and raised the lid.

The inside was pristine, an odd juxtaposition of what looked to be a very old velvet-lined case in mint condition.  However, the centerpiece was a trumpet, brilliantly polished brass in immaculate condition, with a fourth finger valve.

“Well, try it,” Pierre said.

“I--I haven’t played a trumpet in--in almost forever.”

“Oh, you ain’t that old.  Give it a try.”

I’m older than I look, Derek thought, but realized that this in some way mattered to why he was here.  He picked up the trumpet, wiped and inserted the mouthpiece, and raised it to his lips.

What should he play?  He thought it wouldn’t really be polite to play scales and finger exercises.  He thought of a song, simple enough and he’d played the melody on the trumpet back in eighth grade.  Key of G, he thought, and began to play, slowly, G, B, C, D.  It was a beautiful instrument, easier to play than the one he had back home, with a wonderful tone.

“Ah, yes, that’s the sound,” Pierre said.  “When those saints come marchin’ in.  Yo’ gonna beat the devil.”

Derek played through the rest of the verse, and stopped.  He didn’t see how playing the trumpet was going to beat the devil, but the devil was obviously afraid of him, and Pierre was apparently told to give him this, so it must be connected somehow.

Pierre stood up.  “Ah got somp’m else,” he said.  “It was delivered to me yestiday, an’ ah have no idea what it is, but ah think it must be fo’ you, miss.  Lemme git it, ah put it in th’ bedroom.”  As he hobbled to the door, Derek realized just how frail this old man was.  He seemed to be deteriorating even since they had arrived.

“Do you need a hand?” he called.

“No, no, ah got this, ah think.”  He came back carrying another case, this one longer and a bit wider but not as thick, with both a handle and what might be a shoulder strap.  Repositioning the trumpet case, he placed this one more in front of Vashti  “Ah’ve no idea what it is, but lahk ah said, it was delivered yestiday, an’ I was tol’ ah’d know what to do with it, so ah think it mus’ be fo’ you.”

Vashti had a skeptical look on her face, but it had latches similar to those Derek had just opened on the trumpet case, and in a moment she had it opened.  Unlike the trumpet case, which opened to a ninety-degree angle, this opened flat, and it had long tubes, a dozen of them, six in each half of the case.

“Ney!” she exclaimed.

“Nay?” Derek queried, uncertain what she meant.

“It’s a traditional Persian pipe.  Most young girls in noble households are taught to play them from a young age.  I’ve never seen a complete set, though.  They’re beautiful.  Thank you very much.”

“Nothin’ t’do wit’ me,” Pierre said.  “Ah’m just the deliv’ry boy.  Thank the Lawd.”

She picked up one from the middle and played a quick melody on it.  It sounded more like a flute than like any other instrument with which he was familiar, but that it had a wooden whistle sound, perhaps more hollow and less brash than the flutes they played in his middle school band.  Derek thought she was probably better on the ney than he was on the trumpet, but he didn’t say anything; it didn’t seem the right moment.  Vashti stopped playing rather abruptly.

“I’m going to enjoy these, I think,” she said.

“Ah hope so; but ah think yo’ gonna need them to help yo’ man in this fight.”

Again Derek was stuck wondering how playing music was going to defeat the devil; again he decided that eventually he would find out.

They sat in silence for a moment, then Pierre, who had not sat down since bringing in Vashti’s case, pulled a ring of keys out of his pocket and plopped them on the table.  “The place is yaws,” he said.  “Sorry thea’s no food otha than some salt in the cubbud, but the Good Lawd provided just enough to see me through the end an’ welcome you.  Best a’ grace,” he said, and headed for the front door.

“Ah don’ ‘spec’ you’ll see me ag’in, but then, strangea things have happened.”

Derek carefully placed the trumpet back in the case, secured it, and closed it, then leapt up and rushed to the door.  There was no sign of the elderly man.

What were those words?  Curiouser and curiouser?

Next chapter:  Chapter 9:  Cooper 3
Table of Contents

There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eleven other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #498:  Characters Restart.  Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.  It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.

As to the old stories that have long been here:

Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel

Old Verses New

For Better or Verse

Spy Verses

Garden of Versers

Versers Versus Versers

Re Verse All

In Verse Proportion

Con Verse Lea
Stories from the Verse Main Page

The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

Read the Stories

The Online Games

Books by the Author

Go to Other Links

M. J. Young Net

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