Talking Book

Conjured up a bad dream


On my trip to town this week I saw Julius on the road. It was a hot one and he seemed to be trudging along with an older colored woman. I wondered if it was his wife or a sister. She was grey and lively-seeming just like him. Later that night I had a dream and she was in it. Nothing out of the ordinary, she just sat with Julius as he spun a tale on the piazza. He was speaking in a thicker pidgin and I could decipher the words, but I did I heard it was about me:

A man moved into a new house on old land much like mine. He had an ill wife who could not bear children. He resented her more and more, leaving her for longer and longer on trip to town with no one but the young, colored helper there for her company. She was growing more and more lonely and one day sought some help from the groundskeeper aunt, a conjure woman shared the likeness of Julius’ companion. The conjure women gave her a goofer for her husbands soup so that the next time he came home she could slip it in his wine. She did and found the when he left for town the next day, the young hand didn’t come to see her. Her husband came back a week later and didn’t ;eave her side thereafter. The goofer had switched his and the hand’s consciousness.

I woke after that, I didn’t sleep long enough to see how my newly-colored self would avenge the goofering. But I felt hot with resentment that my mind would conjure such a tale.

I think it must be in response to the cahoots Annie and Julius have been in. It as if each time I leave they coordinate behind my back to get things the way they prefer. I would never stand for it up North, and I wish I had realized that in coming to the South I would be forced to inherit the inefficient ways of antebellum; of course I stand against the barbaric slavery and mutilation, but it seems this Dixie Ideal of hospitality, “benevolence, duty and personal honor” does nothing but force me into weakening my authority in my own house and in my own fields! I come with entrepreneurial spirit, high hopes and motives and can do nothing but accept my wife and a former slave run the dialogue, and apparently the business. What am I to do when Julius brings his grandson and begs me to give him a job? Say no to the creative fool? So I give his grandson a job (if it is even his grandson, these folks of color call each other family when they were born in different states to different parents), and the boy does nothing but dawdle and waste my time. I put my fist down (as I rarely do) and fire the boy, naturally. A week later I make a trip to town and come back to find the boy hired again. God forbid I make one decision and see it be respected. It’s as if they think I’m as bad as one of the old “marses” Julius tells about. But surely I’m not! It would be absurd to corner me into a league with those brutes!

Of course I know it was nothing but a dream. I am not one to spin this into fantastic tales and nonsense for story time on the piazza. I find no cheer in these stupid things, though Annie may.

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