Read Black Angels Online

Authors: Linda Beatrice Brown

Black Angels

BOOK: Black Angels
4.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Table of Contents
Crossing Over Jordan
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
Published by The Penguin Group.
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3,
Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.).
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.).
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd).
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi - 110 017, India.
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd).
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank,
Johannesburg 2196, South Africa.
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.
Copyright © 2009 by Linda Beatrice Brown
eISBN : 978-1-101-13381-1

To My Mother, Edith Brown
Who Taught Me to Love the Imagination
To My Father, Raymond Brown
Who Taught Me to Love Freedom
Luke took the key out of the sideboard drawer in the dining room, took a rifle and put the key back very carefully. The drawer stuck so he couldn't get it closed. It squeaked slightly. If he forced it, it would jar the whole rifle case. He breathed short, shallow breaths and felt his heartbeat shaking his entire chest. How would he ever get the drawer shut without being heard? If they saw it open, they'd notice the missing gun for sure.
He pushed gently. The sideboard rattled. The drawer still wouldn't give. Lord, someone would be hearing him. He pushed one more time, and the drawer went in with a click that was as loud as a gunshot to him. But he had the rifle! The powder bag was in his pocket.
He hung Massa's tin box with its flint and steel for making fires around his neck in its little bag. Massa had already eaten. He'd be sleeping it off now, gone in early for the night. And Eugenia would be fixing their supper. They always had to wait and eat whatever was left over.
Luke would eat supper and pretend everything was normal. Then he'd wait until it got good and late before he left. By the time he was missed, it would be morning and they wouldn't know where to start looking. If he could just make his way out of the house tonight without being seen.
Supper was butter beans and corn and a little piece of pork chop Aunt Eugenia had saved for him. Massa always said he was fattening Luke up for special work. He'd be special and never have to fear being sold away. Luke didn't really taste his food though. He could hardly stand the excitement, knowing it was his last meal at that kitchen table; he might never see Aunt Eugenia again. His stomach was jumping like a wild thing, but he tried hard to act normal because Aunt Eugenia could smell mischief a mile away.
He wiped grease out from under his lip. She made him clean his plate and wash it at the pump, looking at him sideways with her forehead wrinkled up, like she knew he was up to something. When he came back in, the one kerosene lamp was shining on her dark brown face. The way she licked her lips, he knew what was coming.
Finally she said it. “Ain't no sense you thinking bout running.”
Luke jumped.
“Them Yankees have you snatched up in a minute. Eat you alive.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Luke said. But he thought, Old ladies always scared. Yankees can't be that bad.
“And go get me some wood for the stove, and put them rakes away fore too late. Us got a early morning comin. Need to get to bed. Missus want a big breakfast for company. Don't know what they spect me to use for provisions. Us running outta everything. Dadblast Yankees anyhow. They ain't no better'n any other White folks. Lord, she want light bread. Got to get up fore day in morning.” She groaned and slid back her chair. “Blow out the lamp after you lays that fire for mornin, Luke, I'm dead.” Tired, she slammed the kitchen door and walked off into the gloom toward her cabin. It was close to the kitchen so she could be called during the night.
Luke couldn't believe his luck. She had left him alone to finish up. She'd never done that before. She must have been really worn out. Now he could find some food to take with him. He finished his chores and looked around the kitchen. There was some corn bread left, but that was all. He'd have to find more than that.
A streak of lightning lit up the northern sky. He went to his pallet in the fruit cellar next to the kitchen where he slept. He guessed a little rest would be good before he started on the road north, but he dozed fitfully. He kept falling asleep and waking up, and finally he couldn't stand it any longer, so he sat up listening for sounds.
Something creaked. A rumble of thunder far away. He guessed the others must have left by now.
Luke opened the door a crack. No moon. It was completely dark. He reckoned it would take him an hour to get to the place. They were set to meet at the place where three big trees were growing together. It was called the haints' place. Luke knew what that meant, that spirits were there. He didn't like that, but he thought it'd be all right. By then the moon would be up and they'd be together. Him and Gustavus, Unc Steph and Junior Boy. He couldn't let them see him coming. They weren't taking children under fifteen. But if he met them, they'd have no choice but to take him along.
Unc Steph would be right proud of him. He had him a prize too. One of Massa's rifles! “My man,” that's what Unc Steph would say. “That's what I call a right grown man!”
Luke would be twelve on his next birthday. Or that's what he counted up. Nobody knew for sure how long ago he'd been born.
Luke looked around the fruit cellar. There was only a dim light cast from the kitchen fireplace. It threw a glow onto the dried apples for pies, and peppers on a string. He'd heard Eugenia talking about hiding food yesterday, so they wouldn't starve if the Yankees come. He decided to take apples and raisins, and from the bread box, more of yesterday's corn bread. He wrapped it in a napkin and stuffed it in his shirt, then saw a knife on the windowsill that Aunt Eugenia had forgot to put away. He stared at it, thought “yes,” finally, and grabbed it.
Luke stepped out of the back door into the night. He wiped his hand across his eyes. There was no way he could have told her good-bye. She would have stopped him sure enough. He wished he didn't care. He wished he didn't love nobody. Always somebody to say good-bye to.
Crickets whined, and it was so humid you could feel damp on your skin. Hot and damp. September summer.
Something fluttered in the dark and startled him. Maybe it was a bat. He walked quickly around to the side porch, carefully stepping over branches that would crack. The rifle was there, under the porch where he'd hidden it, half wrapped in the buckram. He tucked it tightly under his arm. Now he had to make it off the place without Massa's three-legged hunting dog, Black Nigger, turning up, or worse. He could go through the trees to the back pasture and over the fence to the road. Frogs sang. They sounded louder to him than he'd ever heard them.
He climbed the pasture fence easily, dropping down softly on the other side. The road to the river should be very close. As he neared the road, a loud thunderclap surprised him, and Luke turned to see the brilliant streak of light in the sky. It was right over Massa's house. In the bright flash he saw the rocking chairs on the wraparound porch sway a little in the breeze and the two old pecan trees in the yard where he had picked up so many buckets of pecans for Aunt Eugenia's pies. The trees were tall, old and gnarled, but they grew lots of pecans. In the distance, he could just barely see the cabins where the field hands lived. The rain had finally started. Luke adjusted his food bundle to keep it dry and was on his way.
It drizzled just a little at first, white flashes of light overhead, and a few drops. Luke padded along quickly on the muddy road. It had wagon ruts in it where water was collecting from the rain. Soon he left the road and crossed what he thought was Black Ankle Creek. The creek was supposed to be good luck, that's what Gustavus had told him. Black ankles crossing the creek meant you were on your way north.
He was moving faster now. It wouldn't do to be caught. He was more afraid of that than he was of being out here in the woods at night, or rebs or Yankees or anything.
Massa Higsaw was bad with runaways, and he had been in a bad mood what with the war he said “messin up his life.” It wouldn't do to be caught, not at all. War or no war, proclamation or no proclamation. Massa Higsaw didn't care what Lincoln said.
Suddenly the rain came on hard and fast. Luke was trying to see his way clear to the place where haints came out at night—that's where they were meeting—but it was hard going with the rain beating down on him. In a few minutes, he was soaking wet. The soles of his shoes were soggy, and his bread and fruit would be too wet now. He'd have to give in and stop, find a place to stay until it let up some.
Luke had been this far away before, hunting with Massa, and he thought he knew of a place near here where a big boulder formed a kind of shelter. He'd have to go a little deeper into the woods to find it. But things looked strange in the darkness. If he could find it, he could get under the edge of the boulder and stay dry for a while.
BOOK: Black Angels
4.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Stay by Goodwin, Emily
Los muros de Jericó by Jorge Molist
The Day of Atonement by David Liss
The Second Ring of Power by Carlos Castaneda
Sometimes Love Hurts by Fostino, Marie
The One You Want by Showalter, Gena
Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
Reverence by Angelica Chase