"Mandeville" ("Belle Rose")  by Marcinho Savant

(Copyright Registration Number: TXu-813-456)



                                                             Chapter 1 (Excerpt)
                                                            “My Mama’s Son“ 

 “I’m Jasper Payne.  I was about six or seven years old in the second grade and I was very much in love with my teacher— Miss Jackson.  The woman did things to me in my soul that I didn’t understand.  I knew that what I was feeling had to be this thing the grown folks was calling “love”.  She was just about the prettiest thing I had ever seen, other than my sweet Mama, and then, my lovely wife.  Yeah, but back then, I just knew I was in love with Miss Jackson!  This much, I knew!  Yes, Lord.  Miss Jackson!  Our romance was strong and long-lasting!  But, I remember the day our love died.  I was in love until she brought her big ass, ugly husband to school to meet the class.

“He had to be the biggest thing I ever seen in my life. I was standing there getting introduced and all I remember was looking up to the tall leaves of a gigantic, black Oak tree.  I looked at his knee— which started round about my waist— and all I knew was “UPPPP”!  This Negro was a giant in my eyes and I damned near snapped my head loose looking all the way up there to that jacked-up face!  What in the hell was she doing with this ugly fool?  I really didn’t understand, Man! She was beautiful.  She could have did better!  That’s right!  She could have picked me!  That year was a year of firsts.  I hardly knew anything about living, really.  I’m a country boy from Cane country, living in the bliss of an innocence and Godliness— we was a strong Christian home— that filled my heart every day!

“Everything I saw at that age was like the first time I saw it— it was the first time.  I didn’t understand a lot of what I saw  and heard until I was older and could reflect upon it… they were imprinting me as a youth and I was recognizing later.  Based on what I observed growing up, I learned to ask myself “if so and so, or mama was here, or daddy was here… what would they would do?”  I didn’t know no better what life was like out there, outside the lane.  I didn’t care to know.  I loved my life, because it was what I knew and I didn’t have much of a worry about the outside.

“Where I grew up, everyone was like that.  They were happy to be where they was and do like they daddy did and whatever the neighbors did.  Some of us eventually aspired to higher concepts and bigger dreams… we had television at the general store, radio and occasional movies that fed our imaginations and longing to explore.  And explore, I did.  Like most of the kids my age, we eventually made our way down to “Crescent City”, New Orleans.  Being damned near in the woods and surrounded by sugar cane, a chance to get down to New Orleans was as big as going to Paris, France— Or London, England.  It was the “Big City” and filled with pitfalls, traps and devilment.  Liquor, women and music were the thing in New Orleans.  When I got there, I had to get me some.

“But I always remained my Mama’s son.  There wasn’t anything that I ever wanted to do to make her pain over me or some stupid thing I did.  I never wanted to break her heart.  I did a lot of things in “Crescent City” that would not make my mother proud.  It wasn’t nothing major or shameful.  They were mainly things that I know my Christian Mama would not approve of.  Fast livin’, trashy women, Devil music and sin.  Bright lights, the Latin Quarter, drinkin’, Mardi Gras.  None of this was what she wanted for “Mama’ Baby”!  But what she ain’t know, didn’t hurt her.

“I became a drummer for a jazz band after a time… one while I was the “baddest dude” on the club circuit down there.  I was talented and just hungry enough to want more for me and my family.  Some people were none too pleased at my occupation, but I was able to contribute to the household and help bridge some mighty large and burdensome gaps. I am a proud country boy— From a family of proud, Country people.  Now, I’m not “prideful”.  But I am unashamed of where I come from.  I ain’t, at all, uncomfortable about where my people come from and who I am.  I’m a man full of “firsts” against every odd imaginable, for the time I was raised in.  Noteworthy, black, firsts, and things that nobody ever would have expected of a black boy, then man, from humble, yet ample, beginnings.

“All these assets I got from my Mama!  My father taught me also.  And I am the direct result of who they raised me to be and become. And my son now benefits from all those examples, lessons and proofs.  But my father… my daddy had some struggles.  The things he saw in battle, the nightmares that stalked him into his grave. Some battles are more than one man can face, especially when he feels there is nobody to turn to.  He never wanted to talk about it. Ever. 

“He was a powerful, honorable man.  He was a good man who raised good men.  He served his country, with honor.  He received commendations and medals he never even bothered to claim.  Only recently did my mother contact the veteran’s administration to try to put together a dossier of what had happened to her husband.  In this process, she learned little of consequence, but she also learned about his eight medals.  My daddy got a “Purple Heart”!  He didn’t care a thing about it though. 

“It took a mighty struggle, on all our parts, to even begin to, half-way, conceptualize what he endured.  The dark and agonizing days, memories, visions, sounds and traumas he bravely attempted to manage all those years, on his own, and carried with him until his final breath.

“Private First Class Edmond Lanueville, US Army, 472D AVN SQ., served this country from 29 Oct 1942, until 21 Dec 1945.  That is three whole years.   Three long, horrifying, bloody, violent, brutal years of a war a man, at the top of his field, had to bear in grief and silence.  Nobody could detect the malaise he carried— even as he drank, hard, to dull his agony.  Not a soul could find fault with his excellence in the operating room.  He hid his suffering well.  His work was unimpeachable.  He was that good.

“My daddy was an excellent and exceptional man, troubled with a nightmare that hunted him down on a horse that never tired of the chase. Even he, in all his excellence, had his own crosses to bear.  He tried to.  He even conquered one or two demons before it was over, but he was an unbreakable man who somehow got broke… even with all the King’s horses and men. He lived with two diseases, one of which— that had no name, led him to the other. Meet my father.  Walk in his boots. See what he lived, until he lived and loved no more. Meet my daddy.” 



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