We know that Africa is not a camera and the continent cannot steal someone’s soul but we know that words, superstitions, and traditions can signify an alternate reality to those who believe.
The fighter remained on the second rung of the ladder about twenty seconds longer than necessary approaching with bated breath.
“Go, go remember Red Hook,” shouted the Anglican right hand side.
“V’amos, v’amos from the left hand side.
’10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1′ and the roar shoots through the crowd like an elephant raising its trunk.
A jock in the front row licking his lips greedily.
“Hey, Morris,” he screams, “you got another one on the docket like this one?”
‘Naw,’ I say ‘he is one of a kind,’ and I shoot the breeze for awhile enjoying the sound of my big promises hitting the warm wind of the night. Let me introduce myself: I am Morris, alias is Georgio Giacalone aka promoter.
Morris loved his job in the New York ringside of Madison Square Garden. He was always reminded of his idol and nemesis, Norman Mailer….benefactor of the writer and overseer of the infamous book “In the Belly of the Beast.” Morris squinted and looked around with steely determination breathing deeply, he swung his shoulders back, ‘Today, we won,’ he gloated loudly. ’His mama…may she rest in peace, would have said….’to each his own.’ She had long given up on figuring out what made her boy run. Nana only knew that this one attracted trouble like a rat running in a circular maze never pausing to analyze or change direction. One day, she recounted to her best friend her philosophy of Morris’s movements, “Lena, I raised him to know right from wrong after his father left.
His dad, Silvestre,was gone to the wind.
Boxing had been the light at the end of the human file cabinet for Morris. After boxing, he became tired of someone using him as a punching bag and was only too happy to trade the gloves for the deal of making money off the bet. Morris was complicated with the raw hungry emotions that often propelled him toward making crazy decisions. Like his Nana, he was superstitious. The night before the fight, he prayed, just like his momma, with her rosary beads.
Morris had learned the art of the deal from Satchmo, a candy store proprietor, albeit a bookie.. Morris used to saunter in while he was on the phone, as Satchmo dipped his challah bread in honey…. munching and running his finger lovingly down the list of horses placing his odds.
His mama prayed to the good lord that Morris would remain a good boy while Morris prayed that “Satchmo” would teach him everything about the art of the deal. Morris earned a good living and some minor write ups in the Post. Breslin stated in his column “He lives for the game.” Morris was a character with his high steppin’ arched walk, a hat jauntily slung on his head, a leather jacket slung over his shoulder espousing the curly brown hair peeking out around his face.
The promised land was an occasional trip to Europe, a nice car, and a better home. Like an agile dancer thrown into the Hudson, he learned to navigate and fare well with his trade.
During one trip to Paris with Nana, she told him: “Morris, Have I met the woman for you?” She espoused, “I met her at the Quaker Meetings in the 7th arrondisement.”
“Yes, mum,” he mumbled under his breath. He thought aloud quickly, “Tell you what Nana, I will meet her one time for coffee and if you are right,we’ll make a bet. Even down. 10 to 1, if I find her perfect and ask her on a second date, you win the bet.”
Nana laughed thinking of Genevieve. She thought of the long red wavy flowing hair, the long lean slender body which seemed to dance along the street, and the subtle yet careful way she had of voicing her thoughts. “Deal is on,” and she shook her son’s hand gloating at her victory.“Where does she work, mum?” “She is with the South African Embassy as a secretary for the Diplomat to Paris.”Morris smiled to himself visualizing a stout woman with a poker face and a British accent. “Sure, mum,” he muttered, “whatever you say.”
As Morris was nursing his coffee at the agreed rendez-vous, he noticed a long lean female slinking along like a cat noticing before she plunked herself down a flash of her red hair and a high pitched laugh that made him sit up straighter.“Well, hello,” she blinked her eyes twice, “Are you Morris?”
“Yes, I am.” Dang his mom, she knew his style. He felt lucky, blessed as if she could help grant him every wish he desired. Dollar signs, Vegas, the roulette table, and every gambler’s superstition flitted through his mind as the conversation continued with talk of work, Paris, South Africa, New York. However, Genevieve was not especially interested in him. She later told her best friend “I just wish that I could meet a man I think I could settle down with.” Morris was intuitive as a bookie and since he made his living reading people sensed Genevieve’s disinterest.
“She has other contenders,” he told his mother and paid up his losing bet.
It was during this time that Morris wandering around the left side of the bank in Paris happened upon a book “Laughing Africa.” He picked it up and idly glanced through the stories until motivated to throw down a couple of dollars for it. The author wrote about the strange and mystical superstitions of Africa. Under one photograph, he read this quote, “Woe to the photographer who tries to capture the soul of the African. Doom and gloom will come to him…..one cannot capture the soul. The soul is the keeper of the man. Without this keeper, one cannot be released. Bad luck and misfortune will follow the one who messes with this. “I get that,” Morris mumbled to himself. One should never duet with the devil. It was around this time that Morris started to have a run of bad luck. Most of his bets fell short; his best protégé trained with him and then left; Jimmy Breslin stopped writing about him; and he moved back in with his mother to save money. He thought to himself ‘I need a good luck charm.’ So he began thinking and he remembered Genevieve.
‘Damm the feeling,’ he said aloud. ‘I felt so good with her beside me.’ And with that thought, he fixated on her.
‘What’s that,’ his mom dozing near his chair inquired. He sighed heavily glanced sideways at his mom, “Nothing, Nana“, he felt as if she was the answer to his long run of bad luck. “And from that moment, I knew I would return to Paris”, he later confided to a friend. Meanwhile, Morris followed Genevieve’s career….through social media, he quietly stalked her.
Morris took a sabbatical to Paris when his mom passed away a few months later. On her death bed, she told him “Morris, I just wish you would settle down.” With this in mind, he returned to Paris. Scouting her neighborhood near the embassy, he was riding an open double decker bus when he spotted that marvelous walk, and the red hair swaying as if to its own catwalk beat. It was Genevieve…in a long wedding dress surrounded by onlookers.
“Stop, stop. Arretez, arretez”, he commanded the bus driver.
Morris lunged off the bus and snatched the camera from the photographer as he was snapping pictures. He tore down the street too embarrassed to stop and then he kept going until he delivered the camera to a store. At least, he reasoned that he would have photographs of Genevieve to cherish. Maybe her visual presence would bring him some much needed luck. As he continued to his hotel, he remembered that strange African fable…when you take a photograph of someone, you steal the soul and so some tribes of Africa do not like to be photographed.
“Is everything alright sir?” questioned the bellhop
“Yes, yes,” Morris yelped, “I will be departing tomorrow at 6 p.m. for the states.”
“Very good,” replied the bellhop moving quickly on. Later, when reporting to the head bellhop, he complained about the strange moods of some foreigners.
Morris pondered all night about stealing the purity of Genevieve’s soul but really he was enraged that she had married someone else. His dreams were very weird full of black creatures disappearing into white fog and then reappearing with a box that resembled a soul. Nervously, he returned for the film. As he stood up at the stand up bar drowning a small cup of very dark espresso, Morris fidgeted impatiently. it was pouring heavy drenching rain like a Korean monsoon in Paris….cautiously, heart beating, he dashed back the espresso in one shot, banged some money down on the counter, and ran out the door much to the surprise of the proprietor who later told his wife he couldn’t imagine what it must be like to live in the United States. “These people expect everything immediately. They have no patience.”
He ran in the store and paid for the photos opening them with trembling hands. “What happened?” he demanded of the clerk.
The clerk shrugged and moved on to the next customer.
Black, black, all black…there were no images.
Morris gulped and searched his memory remembering the photographer clicking away; suddenly Morris was unsure of the past, present and the future. It was a signed death warrant….thunder crashed around him and the lightening rolled in…as if his mamma, may she rest in peace, was crying upon his shoulder. Morris broke out in a cold sweat and left Paris immediately deciding to have no further contact with anyone he knew. Upon arrival in Manhattan, he joined the Concrete Church and became a pall bearer for funerals. He had the opportunity to listen to all sermons on the power of positive thinking. He quit his night job at the Garden and bought a small ice cream business. Slowly and steadily, he became a fixture in the neighborhood. About three years later, he married a pretty high school French teacher, Ava. For their honeymoon, three months later, she begged him for a trip to Paris. With some trepidation, he agreed.
The second day they were walking near the Eiffel Tower when he spotted a woman with gorgeous red hair, and a quick two step pulling a little carriage. Morris realized it was Genevieve. They stared at one another with surprise: or rather one with delight and the other with despair.
His wife inquired rather suspiciously, “Who is this?”
“Hi, Genevieve,” he stammered.
His palms began to sweat and he had trouble breathing. Superstitiously, he crossed himself…twice for good luck. His palms began to sweat…
“Congratulations on your marriage,” he heard himself saying as if from a great distance. Genevieve continued talking. Genevieve and Ava did most of the talking and after awhile, his wife fell silent and looked at him with an accusatory stare.
She was beginning to get suspicious, “who was this lady and what did she mean to him?”
Genevieve told his wife, You may have heard of my marriage to the South African diplomat. We got married in Paris three years ago. I looked your husband up while we were in New York on our honeymoon but there was no record of him. It was as if he dropped out of sight. I tried the Garden…” As it was, Ava had no knowledge of his life prior to meeting her, stared suspiciously and quizzically at Morris.
Morris jumped into the conversation, “Ava and I are newlyweds. This is our honeymoon.”
Genevieve mentioned that she hoped they had some good photographs of the wedding to remind them of the special occasion. She said with vengeance, “We did have a professional photographer at our wedding but it didn’t work out.”
Belatedly, Morris queried “Why?”
“Someone ran off with the camera just as the film was put in the cartridge. The photographer never had a chance to take any photos. We were mugged on our wedding day by some stranger wearing a cap pulled down to hide his face.”
Morris asked aloud, “Do you have any idea who could have done such a thing?” Then, an image of his life for the past three years since that fateful day passed before him. He saw himself lighting a candle at the Concrete Church, the tithing of 20% of his income to the church and to the doctrine of the power of positive thinking. His wife who knew Morris as a successful small business owner quizzically asked him about what Genevieve was referring to when she mentioned “the Garden?”
Morris watched as Genevieve said “Chow” and sauntered casually down the boulevard.
“Arêtes, arêtes, stop, “he cried in anguish and rushed to the nearest bar.
It only took his wife, the newlywed, Ava, seven days with the help of the American Embassy to locate Morris. Morris was found reciting his prayers, standing up in a coffee bar outside the Moulin Rouge, drinking black coffee with sides of cognac.
The scenario was later reported by a French writer who happened to be in the bar at the time and wrote an article about the strange behavior of foreigners in Paris…
He concluded this segment by stating “Paris has a strange effect on people, n’est-ce que pas?”
The reporter was very grateful to get the quote from Ava. “He never drinks, never. He does enjoy his banana splits though.” One of his old boxing buddies happened to read the article written by a French journalist reporting on “Foreigners visiting Paris Bastille Day” and laughed uproariously, “That sounds like the Morris I knew,” “People change,” he thought, “but life continues.” He mused, “We are what we are.” He leaned back in his seat wondering what his old friend was doing and what had led to his behavior that day.Then he raised his mug to the television and simultaneously dialed the phone number of his bookie. “Hey, I have a good feeling about this one.”
This one’s for you, Morris. And he winked at the pretty young redhead on the barstool down the way.
Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash
Born in New York City and raised in a small town in the Catskill Mountains, Mrs. Eve Dobbin’s favorite quote for inspiration is “Everyone has two eyes but no one has the same view” (Harakeh). Her DNA blueprint defines her “a likely suspect for baking or travelling in time, or by train, boat or plane.”
Sandhill Review, BellaOnline Literary Review, Down in the Dirt Magazine, The Horror Zine, The Stray Branch, Mused Literary Review, The Literary Yard, Vita Brevis, Anapest, Page & Spine feature her literary talents. One recent honor was being designated “Poet of the Month” by the Zine.
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Thank you for publishing my story! It was a delight working with you!
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