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Over Half-Way there, Hang On.
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My Seventeenth extract from my novel in progress will appear towards the middle of the novel. Mathilda is travelling down the Eastern Coast.
Brief synopsis of plot and characters :
Mathilda, my first main character, is American and lives in New York City. She is a student at NYU where she is preparing a thesis on the origins and developments of African American Music. She is a first person narrator. Her timeframe is 2005. In my previous extracts, Mathilda has travelled to New Orleans, Jekyll Island, Florida, Hattiesburg and Cherokee.
Bartolomé, my second main character, is Cameroonian and lives in Yaoundé. He is a professor of Mathematics at the University there. I will be using a third-person narrator for this character from his Point of View. His timeframe is the early ’90’s. In my previous extracts, Bartolomé has made a trip up North for his grand-father’s funeral and decided to leave Yaoundé behind for good.
S is for Savannah
My feet take me along Factors Walk and the Riverfront, past City Hall and the Old Cotton Exchange, imposing brick buildings, the only ones in the town centre. Then I stroll back through Washington Square and Colonial Square, avenues bordered by overhanging eucalypti laden with Swamp grass, just like in the movies. I pass the Savannah Theatre and Colonial park Cemetery. Outside Billy’s Place where T ate okra gumbo and corn muffins last night, a queue is already forming to be the first in line for opening time, and it’s only 1030 am.
Finally I make my way back up towards Savannah River to meet Gladys at Leopold’s Ice Cream Parlor.
Once we are settled in one of the red skye booths, Gladys turns to me.
” Leopold’s just reopened last year on East Broughton. The original store of 1919 was on Habesham and Gwinett, two streets over. Stratton left Savannah in the 80’s to become a movie producer in Hollywood but with his wife Mary, they decided to come back to the family business,” she explains. ” The Shrimp bisque is delicious I hear and the sandwiches, all freshly homemade, are scrumptious.”
” Thanks Gladys. I think I’ll have the Tuna Salad sandwich with chips and extra tomato.”
After we have ordered, Gladys asks me,
” So what are you planning on doing in the next few days ? “
” Well, I’d like to walk about some more to check everything out first. Maybe I’ll take a trip on the river to Tybee to see the ocean. But I won’t leave Savannah before visiting the Gilbert Museum.”
” Yeah, it’s a Civil Rights must. It’s over on Martin Luther King Boulevard, well worth the five bucks. Here, I’ll give you the name of a friend I know who works there,” she hands me a paper napkin from the parlor. ” Heru will take good care of and help you with your research to boot, he dabbles in music himself and plays in several joints in and about town.”
” That’s great Gladys, thanks a lot . I was thinking of maybe taking a tour round the slave burial grounds too. Are any of our common ancestors buried there ? “
” There may be Mathilda. But most of the graves are unmarked, just a stone slab in the ground or sometimes a headstone with ‘man, woman or child’ written and the master’s name.”
” Weren’t most of them baptised from the 1750’s onwards ? “
” Well the kids received Bible teachings, usually from the master’s wife but they wouldn’t go to church for years. The First African Baptist Church was founded by free men. There are probably loads of Felders in their cemetery, it’s a very common name. Your great-great grandfather rests in Thunderbolt’s cemetery as you know, his family moved out there in the 1920’s.”
” Yes, I’ll take a bus out there later this week to pay my respects. GrandPa asked me to take pictures as he hasn’t come back to Savannah in 40 years.”
” Again, you can always take the Freedom Trail Tour with Johnnie Brown. He’s supposed to be really good and his family have been in Savannah for ages.”
” Well, I might just do that, thanks for the heads-up.”
I dig into my Chocolate Raspberry Swirl and gaze around the room at the frames of all the Hollywood celebrities that fill the walls and think how different my distant relatives’ lives must have been. I shudder, I don’t know if it’s the ice-cream or the evocation of my roots.
Jim Croce, Photographs and Memories, listen here
I’ve got a name, here
No business singing the blues, here
My photos of Savannah, April 2008.
Thanks for visiting. Thunderstorm last night. Clouds and rain are back for the week. See you soon.