From chapter 1
The morning after my mother’s death, I was surprised to see the sunrise. From behind the curtain of my bedroom window I was surprised to see the people leave their homes and begin the day. Downstairs, the hands of the grandfather clock continued to tick, marking each passing hour with a chime that echoed over the black and white chessboard tiles of the front hall. I was surprised to see the mail come at the same time as the day before and, later that evening, the sun set once more as it did since the beginning of time. My mother’s death did not disturb the planets in their courses. And, though everything kept moving like she never existed at all, my world erupted into chaos until the universe swirled around me like a whirlpool of scattering stars.

“The Egyptians buried their dead with what they needed in the afterlife, and instructions to help them find their way.” Magda said.

Each night, she moved through the diner taking orders and clearing plates. She reminded me of a jungle cat I saw once as a boy pacing back and forth, back and forth; sleek, fluid, sexual, seeking release behind the bars of a cage. Occasionally she stopped to bend or twist so that the fabric between the buttons of her pink polyester uniform puckered and revealed to my eager adolescent eyes a glimpse of the black lace mysteries contained within. Oh, I imagined the plastic buttons of her blouse melting like butter between the heat of my fingers and, each time she caught me staring, she widened her dark, feline eyes at me before curling her lips into a cruel little grin that sent a shiver through my bones and set me off like a seismograph. 

History repeats itself, I remember Magda telling me. Again and again and again, the ancients believed, the hourglass of eternity was turned upside down and time was born anew. It was then the god Marduk, embodied in the human form of the king, was ordained to slay the dragon of chaos once more. For, only once chaos was destroyed, could order be reestablished in the universe and time be reborn.

History repeats itself. History repeats, repeats, repeats itself. Each day, while I unloaded trucks and brought skids of product to and from the machines, these thoughts echoed through my mind like the lyrics of The Old Man’s songs and his scratched and skipping records, his scratched and scratched and skipping records spinning round the central pin.

Repetitive and penitential, there was a religious quality in the call and response style of the Blues that I could not ignore when those old bluesmen sang to me. They sang to me throughout my working day until the Blues was a physical force in my life that tried to take possession of my shrunken and shriveled soul.

Can you hear me?
Can you hear me callin’?

From the delta, the Mississippi delta, where the Nile of North America became broad and unknowable, creating backwaters, bayous and swamps before emptying her existence into the Gulf of Mexico, they called. From the land of cypress forests and sycamores, a land of empty and dilapidated mansions, collapsing barns and abandoned cars rusting in the rain, they called to me. From the land where whippoorwills lamented the past, locomotives moaned in the distance like the ghosts of the confederacy and dirt roads trailed off into nowhere, just like my life, they called.

Can you hear me?
Can you hear me callin’?

The Blues. Boom. The Blues cut like a back alley knife and, tormented and tortured, with all the unrestrained rage of a field holler, those old bluesmen sang of lives lived in dissatisfaction and despair. Oh, I was there man. I was there and, with every dip and slur of the slide guitar, they conjured up images of unfaithful lovers, crying in the rain and standing at the crossroads, frozen in time like lovers on a Grecian urn, and forever trying to flag a ride.

Conceived in the bellies of slave ships and carried across the Atlantic to be born and raised in the greed and institutionalized hatred of the New World. The Blues, the Blues was the bastard child of Africa and Europe, the child of disappointment and the great Diaspora. It was in the delta, the Mississippi Delta that the traditions of Africa and Europe began to blend. Underneath the oppressive yoke of the sun those slaves and sharecroppers moaned and chanted with such elemental power that, within a matter of generations, they bent and shaped the English ballads of their oppressors into the musical expression of their souls that were so long suppressed. The legacy of Africa now took root in the New World and blossomed like Magnolia trees across the south.

From chapter  9
From chapter 15
Peppered with images of the bordello and the Bible, those songs were flavored with all the passions of a Baptist preacher who still savored the sins of the flesh. It was a blend of back talkin’, butt shakin’ and cat callin’ and, as Magda swayed seductively back and forth before the stove, stirring her magic pot with a large wooden spoon, tongues of steam billowed up and swirled around her body like spirits from the black abyss. Sometimes the delicate strap of her black lace bra slipped from underneath her sleeveless blouse on her bare white shoulder like an invitation for me to see. All I thought of was humping as the thump, thump, thumping of the Blues mimicked the beat of my heart, pumping my blood until it bubbled through my veins like bootlegged corn whiskey. Oh, I imagined myself licking her willing breasts and neck like those lucky tongues of steam until, with a single wisp of hair hanging undone upon her forehead, like the swaying tail of a witch’s cat, she was ravished.

Each time she caught me staring at her, she looked me up and down like she was thinking about all the secret things she could have a boy like me, with all my energy and eagerness to please, do for her. Sometimes she took a piece of raw meat and rolled it suggestively between the tips of her fingers and thumb. She rolled it before my eyes suggesting she could do the same to me if only, if only I would take and eat from her hand. Then, casting a come hither glance and extending her offering to me, she posed a question that was loaded like a gun.

“Do you want some?”

Or, sometimes she offered me a sip from her glass of blood red wine. But while I stood there, stiff as a marble statue, in the grip of her dark eyes I could not answer and felt like she was bidding me drink from the cup of death itself.

“Do you want some?”

She stood before me with her bedroom eyes and her blood red lips and I hoped that, like a vampire, she needed a steady diet of boys my age to keep the effects of time from ravishing her body.

“Do you want some?”

Yes! Oh, yes. Like a prisoner bound and tortured upon some medieval rack, my toes curled and my face flushed with blood each time she primped her lips and stretched her eyes across my body until, yes, the cry echoed through the dank dungeon of my mind. Yes! The answer in my heart was always, yes, yes, yes! But the answer on my lips was always no.

“Suit yourself,” she said, swinging her hair and turning her head away from me before, like an afterthought, she threw a backward glance at me. “You don’t know what you’re missing.”