Monday, 15 November 2010

BLACKWATER by Anna Harris


Mama watched me walking, kicking up stones along the rutted track.  I seed she waiting for me but I not look her way, knowing I done a bad thing.  Mama sit. She not raise up from she big cane chair on the porch and I knowed then for sure the state of things and what I had to say.  I waved at old man crow with me stick some ‘til he flied off into the low sunball.  Weren’t no call for Mama to see that black bird this day so I slowed me feet and telled the lie inside me own head first, to practice the sound of it before I beed forced to tell it loud.

Me ambled through the open rusted gate that hanged off its broked hinges, past butterflies playing catch across the tall green willow grass, and all the way up onto the front porch where Mama sat rocking with she arms folded over real tight like she trying to hug sheself. 

She speaked quiet and slow. Past angry. “What hour you call this, Asafa Linstead? Why you coming home late from lessons with that stick in you hand? You been waving it at that raggedy evil bird; I seed you. You look me good in this face and you tell me true.”

The words comed out quieter than I practiced. “I not walk down near the blackwater on me way home, Mama.  I not go near that place.”
She eyes was wild, red, and she skin shake bad. Mama clutched at me shoulders and sayed, “You swear it with good on you tongue, Asafa?”

I nod but I don’t say the lie again. Then Mama grab me, crush me, squeeze me good and hard, wrap me into she warm skinny bones, breathing deep and long and hard into me hair. She smelled good - of lye soap, our little tin house and the stewing pot on the griddle.

“There’s evil dark voices in the blackwater that beckons good souls.  That the Juju Bokor’s bad place so you stay away.  No good man nor woman nor child got no business straying down by there, you hear me?”

I nodded.

“You hear me, Asafa Linstead? You go the long way round about and not never cut though.”

I heared no evil or dark voices. I heared no voices there at all and I seed no Juju Bokor when I walked on by.  It’s just a place where the water can’t run from but I sayed nothing of it to Mama.  “I know, Mama. You always tell me.”

“And I’ll tell you still. I done already lost you brother Dalvey to the blackwater and my chest would break in pieces to lose you, too.”  Mama took a deep breath, ruffled me hair and kissed me head.  Misty tears washed fear from she eyes and she smiled. Right at me. “Come, precious child, we go inside to eat and give our graces and we’ll say no more on it.”

I beed good and never goed there again for three whole weeks but one day old man crow waited for me in the big tree when I walked by. He cawed out, “As-afa-fa-fa” and he fly close to me head.

“Shoo away, crazy old black bird,” I sayed and I shaked me stick at he but still he fly round about.

“As-afa-fa-fa,” he done caw again. So me run far, shouting, waving and shooing he away. When he stopped quick right there I seed the still, dark place near he.  Stinking black as the bird heself. Old man crow look me good in the face and suddenly I knowed he the Juju Bokor and me chest get tight and small.  I much afraid and I whimper and scream and old man crow dispeer into the blackwater; not a plip, not a ripple.

I know I done a bad thing to go there but then I heared a sweet voice singing me name out soft.  A soothing little sing song voice like a tinkle bell.  Not evil at all. I knowed right away it was Dalvey.
“Is that you call me name, Dalvey Linstead?” I sayed.

“Sure enough it is, Asafa.”  Me brother sayed the Juju Bokor trick he into the blackwater and Dalvey asked me to reach in and fetch him up, to bring him home to Mama so she don’t cry at night no more.  Dalvey sayed he lonely and lost and cold and hungry in the blackwater down there and he want to be wrapped up again in Mama’s smell and in she warm skinny bones. Home safe with us again.

Then me not hear Dalvey no more.  He sing song tinkle voice gone. Silence.  Silence.

Me come cold and hungry and me want to be wrapped up in Mama’s sweet smells, too. Want to be crushed into she warm skinny bones with she smiling.  Right at me.
“Maaa-maaa,” I call. “Come find me Mama. Bring me home.” But she won’t come.  Much years now there’s silence. I know she not never come down here to the blackwater.  She go the long way round about and not never cut through.



BIO: Anna juggles her days between work, sketching portraits, writing, reading and chasing her own tail. But mostly chasing her own tail. Her fantasies include living on an unchartered tropical island – but one that has all the luxuries included.


  1. Oh wow, I loved this Anna. The sing song voice made me stop after a few paragraphs and go back to the beginning to read it out loud.

    The atmosphere was innocent but with a menacing undercurrent - the threat of the superbly named Juju Bokor and old man crow.

    The almost inevitable ending was tragic; you handled it beautifully. A chilling and excellent write. I'd love to read more from you in this style.

  2. I grew up in the Blackwater swamp by the Blackwater river in Walters, Virginia, so I know what you mean. Like we say: tall bush and cotton mouf gone get'cha dere. Stay way, chile. Took me back a bit, thanks.

  3. lovely voice, creepy story, brilliant read, just what I needed today. Great stuff, more please!

  4. Thanks Lily, AJH and Antonia.

    (I'd actually imagined more of a Jamaica/Haiti type feel, AJH, but if it works for you as Virginia then that's great too.) :) Thanks again.

  5. Very unique voice and a beautiful darkness to the tale. A good story to read when the lights grow dim on these autumn nights.

  6. I've always felt that the deep Virginia accent owed as much to the caribe accent as its african and english roots. Speaking of wonderful stories like yours, have you ever read the short-short, "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid? If not,you might want to give it a look. There's a few video readings but most of them suck.

  7. Thank you, Anthony, so glad you enjoyed it.
    Thanks for the history lesson on accents, AJH, (very much appreciated) and the 'Girl' link - thoroughly loved it.