Out of the Blue Black and Blues Book One by Stephanie Rose Bird - Out of the Blue is a young-adult, coming-of-age novel that seamlessly bridges elements of African American folklore and spirituality with Greek mythology.
Black and Blues
by Stephanie Rose Bird
Publisher: One Odd Bird Press
Date of Publication: March 22, 2020
Word Count: 58,500 words
Formats available: E-Book and Paperback
Cover Artist: Najla Qamber Designs and Qamber Kids
Out of the Blue is a young-adult, coming-of-age novel that seamlessly bridges elements of African American folklore and spirituality with Greek mythology.
When two worlds collide, only one girl can unravel the mythical threads and save her father’s life. . .
Mobile, Alabama, 1947
Bobby “The Shrimp Man” Daniels, a blues singer and shrimper from Mobile, lies unconscious in a hospital bed, suffering from a mysterious illness. His daughter Tina, a sheltered sixteen year old, torn between her love for her father, and her disappointment in his relationship with Kyane, his much younger mistress, is determined to heal her father, no matter the cost.
Kyane isn’t just a mistress, she’s a Siren, obsessed with her overwhelming desire to become human and merge her otherworldly singing voice with Bobby’s incredible music. She’ll do anything to get what she wants, annihilating anything, and anyone who stands in her way.
In order to save her father, Tina will have to travel to the Kyane’s world, a world of strange and magical creatures, and figure out how to wrestle his soul from the Siren’s control. As Tina’s magical journey twists and turns, she’ll learn what it means to be a woman and what it means to save not only her father, but herself.
Out of the Blue is a young-adult, coming-of-age novel that seamlessly bridges elements of African American folklore and spirituality and Greek mythology.
ExcerptChapter 2 The Denby Twins
Mavis, pauses and waits for her sister’s response, but none comes.
“Maaaa-bel?” Mavis, projects her voice louder and annunciates each syllable of her sister’s name, but still nothing by way of a reply comes.
Three minutes older than Mabel, Mavis still takes her elder-sister-status seriously. She’s always watchful, attentive and curious about what her twin sister might get up to next.
Rather than wasting any more breath, she walks into the parlor, the swooshing of her heavy floral skirts grows louder with each agitated step. The sound, as much a part of her, as the swirl of her fingerprint, announces her presence to Mabel.
“I might have known.” Mavis’ disapproval is obvious.
“What you tink you goin’ find in the bottom of tat teacup tis time?
Lost in thought or perhaps a vision, Mabel continues to peer intently at the pictures forming in the tea leaves at the bottom of the china cup.
With a jarring clang, she sets it down heavily on the saucer, upside down, so the true reading can commence.
“Mavis?” She blinks several times, adjusting her eyes back to this world, so lost is she in her visions.
“I’m just wondering if you are ready. We need to head back over to the infirmary.”
“Does I look ready?” Mavis casts a dark look. Leaning back, her yard-long natty-dreads nearly touch the floor, as she props up her pink slipper-covered feet.
“Well, we ain’t got tat much time. Gots to see folk coming over later tis afternoon too, you know. Best we do what we gots to do in town, and then come back and prepare for our clients, don’t you tink?”
By the way her sister shuffled into the tiny, but tidy, bathroom, Mabel could tell Mavis hardly heard her.
Thrusting a soft white wash cloth into Mabel’s hand, she said, “Take yourself a duck bath and throw some’ting decent on.”
“For what?” Mabel asked.
Her twin is feeling fuzzy. She’s still not fully adjusted to the here and now. Mabel has seen it so many times over the years. She knows all about her sister, her moods, expressions, movements, so well that sometimes she’s sure she knows Mavis better than she knows herself.
“Silly old bird. We got to head on over to Mobile, to check in on Bobby,” said Mavis, slow and low, not even trying to veil her growing annoyance.
Never much on words, Mabel gets up and heads to the bathroom. First the water runs into the enameled basin, and then splashing ensues. Mavis is in the kitchen gathering the rest of her things. She perches on her foot stool. Mavis takes her time sorting through her collection of drying and steeping herbs. A foul-smelling asafetida brew, was an essential for her longstanding client, who’d fallen spiritually ill. That herb cleansed, strengthened and protected, all at once. It’s a formidable root with a pungent smell that’s unmistakable.
As a still-moist Mabel appears from around the corner in her lavender housecoat, Mavis finishes up the rest of her preparations. After a fresh sprinkling of hot foot powder on the insoles of her boots, she grabs her well-loved nation sack, a type of feminine mojo bag, and stuffs it into
the left side of her bra. She likes her nation sack to ride with her, directly over her heart. It is essential to what she does. The chamois cloth with which she’s wrapped the red flannel bag, feels soft and comforting against her breast.
“Yous so busy fussin’ at me all the time. You need to just shut your crooked-toothed- mouth and get your own self ready. Now, look at us. Who’s holding up who?” Mabel loved bickering with her sister.
But, then Mabel leaves the conversation altogether. She busies herself up, looking out the window, past the wildflowers and into the wood.
“At least I takes time with my visions. I prepare. It takes time,” Mabel said. The two constantly squabbled but are inseparable.
“Yous forgetting some’ting, ain’t you?” Mabel hands Mavis her Van Van oil, causing the fool’s gold chunks and lemongrass leaves to move about in the bottom of the tiny vial, which could double as a terrarium, were it not so tiny.
Mavis dabbs at her temples, wrists and the creases in her arms, as well as the back of her knees. Lemon and musk spread quickly throughout the room with all its tropical plants and velvet-covered chairs. With its scent, her mind begins to expand.
“Gimme some of tat,” Mabel orders more than asks, her hand is outstretched. Quickly, she mimics the ritualistic application of the Van Van, done by her sister.
Prepared with magickal oil known to open-the-way, the sisters set out.
Sugar-foot, how could I forget?
“Hold on a minute!” said Mavis.
She flies back inside to get her Lodestone Big Outfit.
“Dat your new stuff you ordered from . . . where was it now?” Mabel asked.
“Came in the post a couple of weeks ago, from King Novelty Catalog, from the south side of Chicago.” Mavis told her.
“I ain’t never really knowing what I be needing, so I gets me these big outfits prepared for instances like this. She’d wrapped it in a cloth smelling of lovely violet flowers, ranging from lilac to lavender, with its heady blend of oils and petals.
“What’s in dere?” Mabel pointed at the wrapped box.
“Well, you know I gots me some High John the Conqueror Root – just ‘bout the strongest, of all the magickal roots— and then, male and female White Lodestones to draw goodness, in whatever so form it chooses.
“Dat ain’t all dat’s in tat box, now is it?”
“Nah, not by a long shot. I got me some Devil’s Shoe Strings to trip up the devil if need be. Southern John the Conqueror Root, like High John but a tad bit stronger, and High John regular, that’s going to strengthen every’ting in this here box, and every’ting I needs to do. Oh, and dere’s a rabbit’s foot talisman for luck and agility,” said Mavis.
With her ear pressed to the box, Mavis shook the box back and forth gently. Hearing the sounds, something like rocks and pebbles, a smile brightens her face as she goes on with her inventory list . . .
“Gots the holiest of all incenses – frankincense and myrrh. You know in the Bible, around Exodus XXX it said some’ting like, ‘Thou shall set yourself up an altar to burn frankincense and myrrh.’”
“Hmm.” Mabel’s sigh was almost a growl.
“Oh, and dere’s Five-Fingered Grass, you know, dat one looks like fingers made from grass? Tat to pull good fortune.”
Then she shakes her outfit, ever so gently up and down. She needn’t worry about disturbing the contents of her box, as each element was cradled in its own individual section.
“Oh, and a dream book . . . I needs it, in case I hears my client has a special kind of dream that stick with him. Helps me interpret tings. Well, at least when theys talking, it help me a lot.”
After a painful silence, her sister responded.
“Yous pretty well-stocked for conjuration and rootwork, but you bes’ ta leave that dream work to me. I don’t need no books for dat. And you know I don’t go in for all that Bible crap. What you telling dem quotes for? Save tat kind of talk for someone tat believes,” Mavis said.
They didn’t see the need for a car, yet getting to town was becoming increasingly difficult for the two sisters, what with their flat feet and ever-growing bunions. They walked to their apprentice’s house instead, and hitched a ride on her Appaloosa mare, Finnegan. The girl, a twelve year-old named Sage, was grateful for how the two opened up new worlds for her, and she gladly loans them Finnegan whenever they need her.
While Mavis and Mabel have a modest vegetable and herb farm, on which the cottage is situated, that meets their basic needs, now and then, they need to go into Mobile. They go to visit folks in the infirmary, people who call on them for their ancient, mostly African, knowledge.
Finnegan, a steady bay roan, took the twins on rides into town for baking fixins like flour, baking soda and cornmeal, magickal and spiritual supplies, and fabric from which their clothes and aprons were made. In addition to providing transportation, Sage shares the metal filings from Finnegan’s shoeing, and this powerful substance strengthens their diverse, and thus formidable powers. They place the filings in their mojo bags and nation sacks and this feeds the ingredients, helping them stay alive and come together to grow stronger.
Sage, watches the two, marveling at how quickly their bodies conform with the horse’s, and how easily they adapt to her rhythm. If you figure Sage isn’t her real name, you’d be correct. It’s a name they’d given her when they’d first met her, and since then, it is the only way Miz Mabel and Miz Mavis, as she calls them, address her. They believe her to be a Sage, in the making, and they’ve grown quite fond of the girl.
Finnegan kicks up dust from the red-dirt road, and the two women, whom many mistakenly called witches, though actually one is a root doctor and the other an intuitive, go.
Watching her sister tether Finnegan to the post, a coldness creeps up Mavis’ spine, just as though someone has thrown a bucket of ice water inside the back of her white blouse.
Mabel has always been the dreamy sister, and Mavis sees that she’s lost in thought. She doesn’t even take notice at first. Soon enough, as is the way with the pair, Mabel feels her sister’s shock from the inexplicable chill, in her bones, in much the same way. With an otherworldly shudder, she nearly jumps out of her skin.
Even though they’re elders, the sisters have plenty of vim and vigor, and that spunk is accentuated by the Van Van oil. The magickal oil has seeped into their bodies through their pulse points during the half-hour ride. As usual, they ignore curious stares, because they know they cut quite the picture, what with the fact that they carry a black umbrella that matches their equally dark complexions. When anyone asked, they say it’s shielding them from getting darker, while this may be true, considering they carry it no matter what the sky condition it seems as though they just carry it because they feel like it. Then there is the floppy straw hats, complete with wide, colorful ribbons and pinned-on fresh flowers, the big, busy-patterned, aproned-skirts with old-fashioned petticoats underneath, finished off with laced-up mahogany-colored granny boots. They were an odd-ball pair who had mix-matched the most colorful parts of their homeland, Jamaica, with the staid manners of the Southern Negro.
They were two women who were used to walking between worlds.
A strange feeling overtook Mavis’ chill, as she clicks her stacked wood heels down the hardwood floors of the infirmary’s hallway. Instinctively, as she walks past the closed doors of all the patients, she reaches for her nation sack, the way a man or woman of the law, or not, might reach for a gun. Looking around to make sure no one was looking, she takes the bag of magickal herbs and special curios out from her bra, and squeezes it a few times, releasing a complex aroma in the otherwise sterile-smelling hall. Moving like electricity, the energy from her nation sack travels from her hands, up her arm and settles in her chest. Bolstered by its power, she quickens her step, after putting her powerful nation sack back in her bosom.
“What the hell?” Mabel said to no one in particular.
Mabel looked to the infirmary floor, where Tina laid. Dressed in her Sunday finest, with a dainty straw cloche to top it off, the reddish brown-skinned girl people call a Red Bone, was tiny and small, stuck somewhere between girl and woman. She likely doesn’t weigh much more than a couple of feed bags. She sure is a sad sight with a steady trickle of blood coming from her head. The poor girl is crumpled in a pool of water tinged pink with the blood flowing into it.
Tina was also surrounded by jagged shards from the shattered cobalt-blue glass.
As Mabel addresses Tina’s wound, Mavis goes straight over to Bobby’s bedside. She waves her hands over his eyes, which are still open.
Although her brass and copper bracelets clang loudly, Bobby doesn’t wince or blink. He takes no notice. His pupils seem to have rolled far back into his head.
Gently, she runs her fingers over his eyelids, closing them, and lays him back down, taking him out of the strange upright position he’s been stuck in. It’s difficult because he’s rigid, but she manages to do it, so at least if he awakens he won’t be greeted by the alarming sight of his daughter sprawled out on the wet floor, before him. Everyone knows how much he loves his sweet, oldest daughter, Earnestine.
“The devil is busy,” said Mavis. “Sho’ nuff,” her sister replied.
Even though, she’s perfectly capable of handling just about any situation, Mavis knows she needs to reserve her energy for doctoring, so she calls out for help.
“Nurse! Doctor! Orderly!” She uses the pointed end of her witching boot to hold open the heavy door and continues shouting, not caring a lick whether or not she upsets the other patients.
But before she has the time to go into a full rant, waking up sleeping patients, Bessie comes to see what all the commotion is about.
“What in the world?” Bessie calls back to Mavis.
Mabel should have known better. She’s usually so carefully in situations like this but seeing Tina on the floor stirs her sympathies something fierce. Mabel just jumps right in and acts before thinking things through. She’s about to give Tina mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Before Mabel can place her mouth over the girl’s, Tina reaches out and grabs the collar of Mabel’s blouse with all the strength she has in her ninety-five pound body. One hand latches on to the seer’s left hand. Quick as a wink, they’re connected. The girl’s touch acts like a lightning rod, pulling Mabel along an electrical current. Through this conduit, Mabel travels to a distant land– the land where Tina and Bobby are currently living.
Whether the father and daughter are captives or not, well now that’s still to be decided.
She is a novelist, published by One Odd Bird Press, in the Young Adult Fantasy and Magical Realism genres. “Out of the Blue” is her debut novel in the Black and Blues Series. One Odd Bird Press will also publish “Pine Barren Blues.” She writes and paints where she lives (Chicagoland) with her husband, near her children, and along with some very busy animal friends.