King Lane and the devil

King Lane and the Devil

In Issue 76 by Seth Foster

King Lane and the devil
Photo from Adobe Stock

A little time before I’d see my sweet wife Ellamae at death’s door, trapped in our burning house surrounded by leaping flames and black smoke, this bluesman they call Ol’ Boy walked into Joogee’s wielding a guitar. Joogee’s is a small juke joint way back in the woods. It’s just an old shack. Bullet holes here and there. Blood stains smeared across the floor. The smell of liquor oozing from the walls. You’d miss it if you didn’t know where to find it. But Joogee’s got the best damn blues in all of Mississippi.

On weekends music all day and all night. Stays packed. Folks are always drinking, fighting, and keeping a ruckus. It’s not unusual to see a couple of men jump up yanking out straight razors aiming to settle a score or see a man and a woman outback in the shadows, rubbing and grinding, keeping out of sight of a suspicious husband or a wife or both. Let me tell you, Joogee’s is my type of place.

Now this Ol’ Boy climb on stage and set up a three-piece combo, him, a drumming man, and a bass fiddle man. I heard his music before. He had a record or two floating around on the radio. Catchy tunes but nothing to write home about. I sat at my usual spot in the back. My whiskey rested on the table and my guitar case leaned on the wall right behind me. I waited.

Ol’ Boy was a chocolate brown man. Lean. Hair black and straight. Scar across his cheek. You could tell from his sleepy eyes and the way his lips quivered when he sang that he was a lady’s man.

His band kicked in and he started doing his thing. Showing off. Wiggling and twisting like he got the Holy Ghost. Crowd went crazy. He was good. Real good. But weren’t nothing I ain’t seen or heard before.

After a few songs he looked at me. Most folk that play the blues know who I am. He asked me to come on up and sit in. I said, “No brother, this is your show man. No thanks. I’ll pass.”

“What, you scared?” He grinned. Crowd laughed.

I shook my head no.

“You don’t want to play with me? You know who I am Negro? I’m Ol ’Boy. You must be a crazy somebody to turn down playing with me.” Crowd howled.

I shook my head some more.

He said, “Must be you can’t play no more. I heard about you. You supposed to be one of the baddest. You musta lost a step or two.”

Someone shouted, “Go on and get him King. Show this fool why they call you King.”

I opened my case, took out Miss Betty and went on stage. He went into a slow blues in G. He took the first few choruses, I took the next.

Man I acted a fool. Let me tell you my Missy Betty sounded the best she had in years. I played harmonies some of those jazz cats be doing. I knew that fool wasn’t ready for nothing like that. Then I went down into the swamps on his ass. Deep and dark. Miss Betty screaming and trembling like a sanctified Sister at a Revival. Who he think he’s talking smack to? I was so mad at him talking mess in my neck of the woods that I had to show this fool who he was messing with.

The song ain’t finished yet. Ol’ Boy packed up his instrument and crawled out the door with his tail between his legs. I’d cut him down without even breaking a sweat. He got booed leaving. Song done and his band wanted to stay and play another song with me.

“That’s not right. Go on now.”

They begged me for just one more song. I said no and carried Miss Betty back to my table and my whiskey.

Two or three months later Ol’ Boy and his fellas come back. This time they were all dressed up real righteous. White linen suits. Two-toned wingtips. Fancy hats cocked to the side on their heads.

I was sitting at the same spot with my Whiskey and Miss Betty.

He came in. He looked right at me. He didn’t say a word.

His boys set up and then he played. Sparkling new guitar.

I was even less impressed than before.

He finished. Crowd cheered. He invited me up again. I said no. He ran the same insults. I said no.

“Yeah ‘cause you can’t play nothing new. You only got that same ol’ mess.”

I grabbed Miss Betty.

He went into a shuffle in “C” and he took the first choruses. Let me tell you man all them folks went nuts up in there. He played like a rabid dog. Everybody in the place started shouting and jumping up like they were in a sanctified church.

I have to tell you there something crazy was in his playing. His playing pulled on you and it filled you up with something like sunshine and salty water. In his playing you heard children laughing and old people walking and fussing. Hard to explain man. Never heard anything like it.

Then all of a sudden his body trembled and shook and he howled like a coyote and his guitar crying out like it was Armageddon.

The crowd was in a bigger frenzy now, screaming and whooping and stomping and carrying on. Women were falling out on the floor. Grown men weeping like babies. One man ran repeatedly into the wall headfirst. Folk running outside dropping down praying to God for eternal salvation. His playing was mean man. It was that mean man. I tell you it was crazy.

Well, I knew I’d been had. I got right down off the stage. Went to my seat. Packed up Miss Betty. I walked out of Joogee’s planning on never coming back.

I went on down the road a piece. I felt tired. I sat under a tree.

After a while Ol’ Boy and his gang came walking up the road. I hear him and his boys jiving and joking and having a good old time.

I got quiet. I was trembling mad. I was hoping he didn’t see me.

He saw me. He stopped.

He said, “Fella looka’ here you still one hellavu bluesman.”

“Not no mo’. You the big man now.”

“Not really.”

“Seem like it.”

“I’m gonna to tell you something. I’m gonna to let you in on a secret.”

“What kind of secret?”

“About playing this here.” He raised his guitar case.

“What you got to tell me so secret.”

“King Lane your name right?”

“That’s right.”

“King Lane, do you wanna play like you ain’t never played before?”

“Who don’t?”

“Who don’t is right.”

He tilted his head over to the side telling me to follow him. He waved to his boys to wait. I got up. We walked down the road a way. He looked around to make sure we were alone.

“Do you really want to do something brand new with your git’ fiddling?”

“I ain’t change my mind none.”

He said, “There’s a way to play beyond your imagination. But there’s a price.”

“A price?”

“Yessir a price.”

I thought about what I’d just heard his guitar do.

“What’s the price?”

“The only reason I’m telling you all this is because I owe you one. If you didn’t make a fool out of me the last time I was here, I would a never found out about this thing here.”

He opened his hand. In it was a small piece of wood.

“Now I had a gig down in Baton Rouge. Man I’m talking about a real pretty woman sitting in front row. What you’d call a full-figured gal just like I like ‘em. Crazy look in her eyes. She had a monkey foot on her neck and was missing an ear. But I still couldn’t stop staring at her.

“After a while she gave me that look. King Lane, you know what look I’m talking about. And she did not take her eyes off me the entire show.

“After the show we went to her house. Man I barely stepped through door she just shrugged her shoulders and stood right in front of me without a stitch of clothes. This gal was buck naked. Let me tell you brother, she look so, I don’t know man. . . She looked so good I started crying, started crying like a child.

“King Lane, I’m gonna tell you. She was together man. I am talking about put together righteous. She had curves that would throw you off the road, you hear me. I ain’t even going to talk about what she had up here man. Full, firm, and for me. Damn. And down below ain’t had a stitch of hair on that thing.

“Negro, we jumped at each other like two wild pole cats in a cage. Let me tell you lawdy lawd, that heifer nearly killed me. I ain’t come up for air ‘til three days later.

“Now you know how it is. I had to get back on the road. I done wasted three days with her. She begged me to stay. I said I couldn’t. She begged me to come back. I said maybe. She said she’d give me anything if I promised to come back. I told her the only thing I wanted was to be a better bluesman than King Lane. So she gave me this.”

He held up the piece of wood again between his fingers.

“She tells me in a whisper, ‘This is a conjuring charm.’ She says that some queen or something hid this coming over on a slave ship and ended up owning nearly half of Louisiana before she died. This Baton Rouge gal gave it to me and told me how to use it.”

He leaned in close. He whispered really soft like.

“Now if you really wanna do this thing you go down to da crossroad near da Dockery plantation ‘bouts midnight when it’s a full moon. You hold this wood in your hands. Hold your hands tight, hold ‘em like you is praying. Then say, ‘I call thee forth. I call thee forth. I call thee forth.’ Three times. You wait. He will come.”

“Who will come?”

“Don’t be no damn fool who do you think? He will come and make a deal with you. So whatcha say?”

In my mind I thought about Ellamae, my wife for seven years. I thought maybe instead of dealing for my git fiddling, I could make a deal so that Ellamae and I could have some little ones like she always wanted. I could see her holding a cute little chocolate brown baby in my mind.

Then I looked at Ol’ boy with his new suit and flashy new guitar case. I remembered how he walked into Joogee’s like he just got off some big-legged gal. Like he the damndest thing ever.

I remembered his sound. His crazy playing. How his guitar screeched like a fast train braking on the track.

I thought about Ellamae some more in her worn-out dresses. I thought about our rundown old shack.

I thought to myself that we really can’t afford children now but if I could play like Ol’ Boy I could make records and get some fancy stuff for my Ellamae and new little one.

I took in a deep breath. I nodded.

He showed me the piece of flat wood up close. It was square. It was dark brown. On it was carvings that looked ancient. Pyramids and eyes and strange markings and all sorts of stuff.

Ol’ Boy said, “Alright. Now this here is the most important thing. He’s gonna wanna know what is the thing that’s most precious to you. Now I have to tell you. He’s gonna take that precious thing away from you. Away from you for good. Ain’t gonna be easy, King Lane. He’s gonna take it away and you’re gonna feel something awful. You’ll feel worse than you ever did. But after a while your playing will change. Now, is you sure you want to go through it?”

“Give it here.”

He handed it to me.

I nodded a thank you. He looked at me like he was going to say something and then he went on to his boys and I walked on home.

Well hell, the next night was a full moon and I headed to that damn crossroad as fast as I could.

The crossroad is at the juncture where two roads cross in between cotton fields. This far out you couldn’t even see the farmhouse. Everything around me is tinted with moonlit. It was well before midnight, and I found a spot to sit down near a fallen tree on the side of the road.

I sat on the ground and leaned against the dead tree. Even though it was night, it was still hot as if it was high noon. A big full moon in the sky smeared a hint of blue over everything. I looked around. I was surrounded by the huge fields. In the moonlight the dying crops looked like dry bones sticking’ up out the grave.

A few fireflies flashed off in the distance. I swatted at some bugs for a while, and they left me in peace.

It was quiet.

When I thought it was ‘round midnight I reached in my pocket and took out that wood. Something told me to just chuck that wood into one of those fields and haul ass home. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

‘Round midnight I held that wood in my hands and said what Ol’ boy told me to say three times. I looked around and listened. Nothing.

I leaned back. I removed my hat and laid it on my knee. I grabbed my rag and wiped the sweat off my face. I sat and waited. I heard a train whistle far away. I started to moan an old Parchment work song.

I dozed off.

I opened my eyes when I heard the crunch of footsteps on the dirt road. I got to my knees fast. I looked around. I didn’t see a darn thing. I leaned back and closed my eyes.

Then I felt someone watching me.

I popped my eyes open. An old woman was standing in front of me. She was staring at me. Her skin was wrinkled like an old snapping turtle’s neck. Her face was black as coal and her eyes even blacker. She smiled. Just two teeth. One tooth shot up on the right, and one shot down on the left. She wore a long black dress that looked like a priest’s robe. She had a small basket.

“Good evening Ma’am.” I stood up. Brushed dirt and leaves off my trousers.

“Mind young man if I sit down here on this here tree right next to you.”

“Ma’am feel free.”

She exhaled as she sat down. That old woman scent tickled my nose. I sat on the tree too. Not too close.

“Have a cookie?”

“No Ma’am. Thank you.”

“These cookies be might tasty. Just baked ‘em myself.”

She reached into her basket and pulled out two ginger cookies. I hesitated and she nodded so I took one.

I took a bite. My God it was the best damn cookie I ever had.

“Thank you. This sure enough is good.”

“You mighty welcome.”

She looked up. “Pretty moon ain’t it.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“What brings you here young fella?”

“Nothing. Just waiting.”

“Just sitting and waiting.

“Yes Ma’am.”

“You awaiting for your sweetheart?”

“No Ma’am.”

“You and some strumpet ain’t meeting out here to squash the berries, is you? You ain’t out here in the dark to get a piece of tail is you?”

“No Ma’am.”

“So, what brings you out here so late?”

She held a cookie in her hand, but she didn’t take a bite.

“Ma’am I beg your pardon I was fixing to ask you the same thing. It’s a trifle late for a nice lady like you to be wandering around out here in the dark. It might not be too safe.”

Her eyes shone like a mischievous child’s.

“Well, I do take kindly to your concern. I’ll tell you why I’m out here. I came to make a deal.”

She put the cookie in her mouth and ate it.

I looked at that old woman like she was crazy. What kind of deal this here old skoochy skooch mean?

“Ma’am what you talking about?”

“You are carrying around that wood thing in ya’ hand. You called me and I’m here to make a deal.

Shivers shot right through me. Man my blood ran cold. I heard about people saying their blood ran cold but I didn’t think it was true.

I jumped up. I looked at her and she stared at me with those black eyes. She looked at me like a rattlesnake looks at a rabbit.

I said, “Ma’am. I... Ma’am... I don’t know about all this here.” My voice sounded like a warped record. “This has got to be a mistake”

“Ain’t no mistake.” she rose up slowly.

“Maybe Ma’am, I did something that I wasn’t supposed to. Maybe we can just act like this ain’t never took place.”

“Young man you know how many stairs I had to climb up to come out from where I was at? You listen to me. I am here now and you’s gonna make me a deal.”

“I can’t.”

“You can’t you say. That thing is set up so that if you don’t make a deal with me now, I will have to follow you around for the rest of your life until you make a deal, or until you die.”

She took a step closer to me. Smells coming off her I couldn’t believe. She was breathing and under her breathing seemed like she was growling. She took one more step and when she opened her mouth she had fangs like a serpent.

She said in a really deep voice that sounded like four or five voices at the same time, “Tell me what you want?”

“Lord Jesus help me.”

“He can’t help you now because you called me. What’s your deal?”

“I... I... I wanna be the best bluesman that ever was.”

“Blues? Dem damn blues. Why you fools don’t ask for something that means something like riches, wisdom, true love. A bunch of fools,” she cried.

Her eyes turned a funny gold color.

“Now the question is what can I take from you that’s most precious?”

Her “s” at the end of precious hissed like a flat tire.

I kept my eye on her and she started looking strange, like she was getting sick. She was sweating. A lot. It looked as if she was burning in a fire, she was sweating so. Water dripped from her face and down her arms and her dress became soaking wet like someone poured a bucket of water over her. From head to toe she was drenched.

Then in a flash, all the water on her and her whole body froze solid. She was coated with ice. And all the time I kept hearing that hiss, hiss, hiss.

There was a loud crack like a tree falling. The ice dropped off her and all of a sudden, just like that, she is covered head to toe, in scaly skin like a lizard, and warts are popping’ up on her body.

WOOSH and right before my eyes her head gets sucked into her body and she has no damn head man. Now my knees is shaking and my heart pounding. I knew I was about to die.

I heard a loud whoosh noise and a damn frog’s head started to come up from where her old head used to be. It’s twisting and turning like a baby coming out the womb. It was scaly and dark green like the rest of her body and covered in blood. It come up full. It opens it eyes that looked like a lizard’s eye and spoke to me.

“Tell me what is most precious to you? And do not lie.”

“Lie...”

I felt something stinging my foot. I looked down and saw the toe of my shoe was on fire. I kicked my foot in the dirt and I limped around for a second or two because my foot stung.

The first thing that come to my mind was the smell of Ellamae’s hair that always smells like hair cream and vanilla. But I can’t tell this thing about my Ellamae. I just can’t. So instead, I tell a lie.

“The most precious thing to me is the memories of my precious momma.”

“The memories of your precious momma. Are you telling me the Gospel truth?”

“Yes Ma’am I am.”

She stared into my eyes for a hard minute. As she stared, I heard something like electricity crackling. I looked up above me and a dark cloud was swimming around in the night sky right over my head. The cloud blackened out all the stars and the moon. As the cloud moved closer and as the sound got louder, I saw that it was not cloud but a huge swarm of wasps.

These wasps moved around in circles, and the next thing you know they covered up that evil old woman from head to toe. They crawled all over her like she’s made of honey and she’s standing perfectly still.

And just like that, they all flew away and she disappeared. There was nothing where she had been standing. Gone.

I started off running like a jackrabbit. My heart was banging in my chest and my breath was blowing like a tornado.

Way down the road after a while I slowed down and bent over to catch up with my breathing. I felt a slight tingling in my head. I looked around and began walking slowly. The trees all looked about the same. The sky was night blue like it always was. The stars shone bright.

I thought about the lie I just told. My mama’s memories although they sit right close to my heart, they ain’t nothing compared to what my little Ellamae means to me. That sweet little brown girl means everything to me. I would die if anything I just did caused her to be hurt in any way.

So, I walked along. The bugs started buzzing. The stars blinked up in the sky. I fox dashed across the road.

I thought to myself I will be alright. I put it over on that old wench. I laughed and looked at the big moon who seemed to be laughing too.

She will know better next time that you can’t put nothing over on King Lane.

I looked at my hands. I moved them a few times. I felt they were starving to get hold of a guitar with their newfound powers.

I was feeling good. I started singing St. Louis Blues by Mr. W.C. Handy.

About a half mile from my place, I smelled smoke. I know then that this thing ain’t nowhere near over.

I can tell you I was running fast like a young deer. I jumped over stones and holes in the road. And on the last stretch of road, I saw that my place was on fire. Big flames jumped clear up to the sky. A black cloud of smoke rose up about a mile high. Coming to me clear as a bell in the smoky air was my lovely Ellamae’s voice screaming for help. I kicked it up a notch and felt hot ciders sting my face

“King. King. Somebody help me. Please help me please... Somebody help me...”

I saw her through our front window. I saw her surrounded by red and yellow and black fire. I saw her figure almost blacked out against the blinding hot light. She was struggling like something was pulling on her leg.

I was just about three or four strides away from the door and I heard a loud crack. The whole building shook and trembled and the roof raised up like it just took in a deep breath. I knew in seconds it could fall on her and I knew I could get there before it did. Just as I was about to jump and to get my girl, my beautiful Ellamae, I fell down on the ground. Flat on my face and things around me slowed way down.

It was as if everything was underwater. It’s like the whole mind of the whole world got a taste of some bad rotgut moonshine and it was thinking like a drunk, thinking really slow. Everything around me was moving like it was stuck in molasses.

The flames danced slow. The smoke rose slow, and behind me I heard a loud buzz just like all those bees from before.

I tried to turn over or turn my head to see what’s behind me and I couldn’t move. Slowly a dark cloud passed in front of me, and I saw the old woman floating in midair.

But she ain’t old no more. She has the most beautiful face I have ever seen. Right then and there I thought she was even more beautiful than my Ellamae.

Something moved in me, some kind of a feeling, way deep down, a feeling more than just love. I was about to tell this evil thing how beautiful she was, and how I would give her my life if she would be with me for just a few moments. I stopped these thoughts. I stopped when I saw two horns sticking out from her head.

In a voice that sounded old as sin and young as a first talking baby, she said “King Lane, you lied to me. You lied to me. I told you not to tell me a lie but to tell the truth and you lied to me. Because you lied to me, you are going to watch your beloved burn to death. Slow. Real slow. Time is going to move so slow that you can see all the details of Ellamae being burnt to death. Her skin crackling. Her bones snapping from the heat. Ellamae will be burnt to a crisp right before your eyes.”

I cringed to hear the name of my sweet, sweet wife come out of the mouth of this foul thing.

“You can’t take her away from me.”

I struggled and got to my knees.

“You should have reckoned all that before you wanted to make a deal and then lied.”

This evilness slowly begins to drift toward me in midair.

“Don’t let her body feel no pain.”

“King Lane, why would I let her body feel pain. When the roof clasps in a few moments, she won’t feel at all.”

“Thank God.”

I started laughing with joy. My Ellamae won’t take her last breaths in agony. I was so so happy.

“Don’t thank him. Her body won’t feel a thing. You know why?”

It pointed a claw to the window where I saw Ellamae.

“Look. The smoke just cleared for a few seconds. Just enough for her to see you on your knees laughing. She sees you on your knees laughing like her being burnt up in this fire is the best thing that ever happened to you, King Lane. She thinks you want her to die. I tell you her body being burnt don’t hurt as much as what she feels in her heart now. She feels that you never loved her. She will die feeling like a fool.”

This ungodly thing floated slowly toward me just out of my reach.

The roof began to cave in. I knew I only had a few moments. The fire was moving slow, but I moved in real time.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out that piece of wood. I held it just so and I said...

“I call thee forth. I call thee forth. I call thee forth.”

Right at the corner of my eye I see it stop. And so does everything in the whole wide world. Stop just like that.

Slowly she floats backwards as if she was being pulled by a string.

She floated right in front of me and then stopped.  And all around me everything is perfectly still. The trees, sky, birds, bugs, grass, and even the flames in the house are perfectly still. It’s like a painting or a lithograph, or a photograph. Everything, I’m mean every dang blasted thing is still except me and her.

She’s changed. The frog head and the beautiful woman are all gone. Just like in those children’s books and bible pictures it stands in front of me all covered in red scaled skin like an alligator.

Moving and seething oozing living warts bubble out a slimy brown liquid and the smell would take your breath away. It’s like dung, spoilt milk, dead skunk, bad feet, rotten flesh, old fish all mixed up a thousand times stronger and shoved up your nose.

I could hardly breathe. I could hardly talk. Everything is pitch-black, quiet, not a sound. All I hear is the thudding of my heart and the swoosh of my breath and the ungodly sounds coming from the beast in front of me.

In a voice that sounds a thousand years old from a thousand dark places.

“You are tampering with things eternal. You can’t fool me. What do you want?”

The Black Death in its voice swirled around me. It flowed over my skin. I trembled like I was having a seizure.

“You are going to make a deal with me.”

“You don’t tell...”

“Close your mouth and you are going to listen to me.”

It growled and said in a voice oozing with ungodliness, “You can’t make me do anything you old fool. Death is about to claim her. What do you have that is more precious to you than your dying wife.”

“You are. You are the most precious thing to me now because you are the only thing in heaven and hell that can save my sweet Ellamae. Tell me I’m lying.”

Since God spoke all things into being there ain’t ne’er been a sound of such fury in all of creation.

A howl rose from its lips that rattled open the gates of heaven and blew away the gates of hell. All the host of angels and all demons shook and trembled from the force of this ungodly yell. Even God in heaven rose up from his throne from this commotion.

In the midst of that I said, “Take yourself away and let my Ellamae live.”

It vanished in a swirl of darkness and in a split second everything began to move like for real. The fire was burning around Ellamae.

I felt the wood still in my hand and I threw it into the blaze.

She screamed my name and I ran toward her.

A loud crash and the burning roof collapsed onto my Ellamae.

“No,” I screamed with all I had.

I raised my hands to the heavens, and I noticed that I only had one hand. My left hand was gone, missing like it had been cut off.

If Ellamae died in the fire, then so would I. I ran toward the hot flames.

I was seconds from the heat.

I closed my eyes and jumped in. I jump right into the heart of the fire.

I screamed and opened my eyes.

I was in the middle of the crossroad. It was morning. My heart was pounding and a sweat poured down my face. I was alone. It looked to be a quiet and peaceful day. I heard a few birds chirping and a steady breeze blowing green fresh air across my face.

I had been dreaming.

“It was all a dream. Gosh darn it all, that was a dream. Hell, ain’t nobody ever come in the night because it was a dream.”

I stayed seated on the ground. A smile splashed across my face as I figured that my Ellamae was alright. She was alive.

I threw my shoulder back to get up and reached down for my hat lying on the ground and I stopped. I saw a knub. I had no hand. I had no hand.

I took off running.

I got to my property and where the house was, I saw a huge burnt-out hole. The hole was scorched pitch-black.

Shining up in the middle of the ashes I saw the piece of wood. It was smooth and untouched.

My Ellamae was gone. Gone for good because of my foolishness. I dropped down to my knees and my head fell to the ground. Tears started pouring down from my eyes and my mouth tasted dry charred soil.

I prayed to the Good Lord to make it so that I had never lived. I prayed to God to make me go away for eternities.

Then I heard, “King. Is that you?”

I can’t be. That old devil was just still playing with me. I knew it.

“Go away,” I hollered between sobs.

“King. King.”

I forced myself to lift up my head. Off in the distance, I saw the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life. The prettiest brown skinned girl was running toward me from down the road.

Man, I jumped up and ran to her. Tears poured down my face and snot dripped down my nose.

“Ellamae.”

“King.”

She leapt into my arms. I felt the warmth of her flesh and the hard bones in her body. I took a deep breath of her hair. Vanilla. It was her. My Ellamae.

“Where you been King? I almost died in a fire.”

“I ain’t ever leaving your side Ellamae.”

“Mr. Jenkins and his wife saw me in the middle of the road after an explosion. They dragged me to their place. King I was looking all over for you.”

“Ellamae.”

“King. King, I got good news for you real good news.”

She stepped back. She looked down and saw I was missing a hand.

“My God King what happened to your hand.”

“I lost it fiddling around.”

“But you can’t play. You got one hand.”

“This is my strumming hand. I’m a southpaw. My right hand is the one I use for chords baby. I can still strum. Tell me. Tell me. What’s the good news””

“Well in the morning yesterday I went to the midwife in Jefferson and she told me I am with child. She said it seems strong. She said this one is going to be the one to make it.”

I held that beautiful woman with all my strength. I swore to heaven and hell I was never going to let her go never, her or our child, never.

So now I am at my usual spot in the back of Joogee’s. I am sitting here with Miss Betty and a whiskey. I rigged up something that lets me strum with my left hand so I can work the neck with my right. I am here waiting for Ol’ Boy to come back. This whisky and me is just awaiting. Word will get around. He’s a bluesman, he’ll come. And you best believe, and when he does, I really got something for his ass now. I beat the devil and lived to tell. My baby that I thought died in that fire came back to me in one piece and is expecting us a baby. Ol’ Boy ain’t got nothing on me now. He’s gonna find out that I am still the King.

About the Author

Seth Foster

Seth Foster, years ago, while living in NYC co-founded a theater company and wrote, directed, produced, and performed in one act plays. Decades later, after playing bass and guitars in small ensembles, Seth decided to take on the herculean tasks of writing short stories and writing a novel. Seth has had short stories published online and is working on a novel that takes place during the Harlem Renaissance and features jazz, gangsters, and witches.

Read more work by Seth Foster .