Tuesday, September 19, 2006

BACK-TRACKING TUESDAY . . . A TASTE OF "NEW GROWTH"

The following is an excerpt from my very first published short story. "New Growth" debuted in the November 1990 issue of Memphis Magazine. Not to brag, but it also placed first in that year's Memphis Magazine's Fiction Award Contest. It's a fun, playful piece with more than a few serious undertones. Most of my work is like that, I think . . .

New Growth
by Lori D. Johnson
(an excerpt from a story first published in the November 1990 issue of Memphis Magazine)

Jackie Ann was a pretty little brown-skinned girl, who at the drop of the right down-beat could dance herself into a righteous frenzy. But these were facts that went unrecognized for their merit in her family. Whenever the spotlight turned to her, it seemed to focus on only one feature--her hair. It was always the hair, one and a half inches long and orange in some places, that pushed the reluctant Jackie Ann onto center stage.

From Tika and Shante, her long-haired half-sisters (half-monsters according to Jackie Ann), came the chant: "Short and nappy! Short and nappy! Ain't gone ever make no man happy!"

From her cigar-smoking, loud-talking Uncle Jake: "The girl sho' nuff got it honest though. All them folk on her mama's side of the family got that bad-ass hair."

From Charles, her father, a genuinely sympathetic but pretty much misguided soul: "Don't worry 'bout it, baby. When you get old enough, Daddy gone buy you a hair weave."

From Barbara Jean, her stepmother, who took everything to the most serious extreme: "Hair weave, my behind! You know how much those things cost! Humpf, if it was left up to me, I'd shave all that mess off and get her fitted for a wig."

And finally from Rose, Jackie Ann's grandmother, and the woman the family affectionately referred to as "M'Deah,' a tender-hearted: "Lawd, chile, what are we gonna do 'bout your head?"

What were they going to do about her head? A better question might have been--what hadn't they done to her head? It had been hot-combed, jheri-curled, permed, and cold-waved into a state of exhaustion. But still it remained defiant, steadfastly refusing to give in to their demands for luster and growth. Instead, it split at the ends, came out in patches, and turned orange from the unmerciful chemical warfare that had been launched against it.

Except for the vehement "No, don't cut it!" that accompanied the sight, sound or mention of scissors, Jackie Ann chose to endure both humiliation and mutilation in silence. A passive stance it was, but one frequently subject to betrayal by her body, which spoke eloquently in the language of dance. Her musically inspired performances, marked by fits of jerking, twisting, jumping, sliding, humping, and whirling 'round and 'round until she was drunk with motion and high on movement, led her puzzled kin to believe the child was truly crazy.

2 comments:

Tiffany A. Edwards said...

Hello Lori. I was introduced to your page through your brother, Derek. I enjoyed reading this excerpt. Will this be one of your books? When will "After the Dance" be available? I believe your books will be enjoyed by thousands. I love reading, and anticipate the release of your book. I wish you much success in your career. Be blessed.

Tiffany A. Edwards
Oklahoma City

Lori said...

TIFFANY,
Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Maybe one day I will do something with Jackie Ann (from New Growth) since so many people ask about her and her story.

You'll have to keep reading the blog if you want to know about AFTER THE DANCE'S release (smile). But I tell you what, since you're the first to ask, I'll send you a chapbook (the first 15 pages of the story) via my brother. How's that?

Again, thanks. Peace and Blessings, Lori D.