I am attempting to write a semi-fictional novella and I wanted to try my hand at creative writing, so I wrote a short story. I’ve only written a few chapters of the actual book though. But here is a short story that I wrote. Mind you, I’m no Toni Morrison or Mark Twain, I don’t know how well I can write a fictional story so I hope it’s not too torturous for my readers on this blog. also mind you this is a rough draft okay, so here we go….
He hadn’t even noticed her when he first came in. The loud sound of trumpets, saxophones and a beautiful cornet filled the room. So many beautiful women were there that night. It wasn’t often that Joe Holmes had the chance to make it to the Black speakeasy. The Jazz music, the booze and the beautiful ladies all put Joe in high spirits. After working 12 hours a day in a hot factory, some air, booze, and dancing girls were just what Joe needed. Then he saw her. She was sitting at a table, sipping from her glass and staring into the crowd as people danced to the brass band that played Potato Head Blues. Joe couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. She had beautiful, smooth dark brown skin, high cheekbones and luscious, full lips. Her eyes were deep brown and almond shaped and her hair was cut short, with a wave. Joe walked up to her table and stared in awe at the beautiful, mysterious woman.
“Hello.” Joe said in an alluring voice.
The woman glanced up to see Joe hovering over her.
“Hello,” she coolly replied.
“What’s a beauty like you doing here at Sonny’s alone?” Joe asked.
The beautiful woman smiled and replied, “I’m new in town, I’m just stopping here for a while. I’ve come from North Carolina. ”
Joe noticed a small suitcase resting under the table beside to her feet.
“Really? My mama was from North Carolina. Seems fate brought us together baby.” Joe replied.
The beautiful woman smiled and laughed at Joe’s cunning lines.
“Fate?” The woman smiled, “ I’m here cuz I was hoping to meet someone to help me get my Blues singing going. I used all my money to get here. Was hoping I’d get my chance, but I can’t even get near the band.”
“Oh so you’re beautiful and you can sing, what else can you do? …what’s your name by the way?”
“Ellie Mae Robinson.”
“My name is Joseph Lowry Holmes, but round here people just call me Joe.” Joe reached over and gently kissed Ellie Mae’s hand.
“Beautiful woman like you should never be alone, you got a man?”
Ellie Mae smiled bashfully, “I told you, I’m here for my blues singing.”
“But, do you have a man, that’s what I asked you?”
“No, I don’t have a man… You got a woman?”
“Nope. I’m a free man… Well, Ellie Mae. You see that man right there?” Joe pointed to a man carrying drinks to one of the tables. “That man and I go way back, he work here, maybe I can get him to take you up to meet the band.”
Ellie Mae’s eyes lit up “You’d…you’d do that for me?!”
“I’ll help you meet the band… but on one condition…”
Ellie Mae eyed Joe suspiciously.
Joe wore an mischievous expression on his face. “You gotta dance with me.”
“Oh is that all?.. I suppose I can do that.”
“Then, just give me one second,” Joe said as he smiled and walked over to his waiter friend. The two men spoke for a few moments, then the man nodded his head and Joe returned to the table.
” My friend say you gonna get to meet with the band after they finish playing…now you gotta dance with me.”
Joe looked at Ellie Mae with adoring eyes and held out his hand as if he were waiting to guide a graceful Princess out of her carriage and lead her to her palace.
Ellie Mae couldn’t help but feel nervous, after all this man was a perfect stranger. Granted, he was handsome with his mocha skin, onyx-colored eyes, neatly cut hair , wide shoulders, thick lips and sturdy frame…and those hands….He had the most beautiful hands…They were strong, masculine hands with thick veins that ran down his arm. But most beautiful were his eyes, they were deep, entrancing and piercing. When Ellie Mae looked into his eyes, it was as if she could see the world in them. It was easy to get lost when she gazed into them.
Ellie Mae stood up from the table and looked into his deep, alluring brown eyes and in one look, she was captured. One look into his eyes and Ellie Mae knew that she and Joe would be spending many more nights looking into each other’s eyes. Joe gently took Ellie Mae by the hand, pulled her close and led her onto the dance floor. They began to dance as if they had been dancing together their whole lives. They gazed into each other’s eyes and danced as the band played “All the Clouds I’ll Roll Away,” boy did they dance! Joe’s rhythm was smooth and enticing. Ellie Mae couldn’t help but fall into a deep trance when she gazed into his eyes. He looked at her with such longing as he caressed her lower back. Ellie Mae couldn’t help, but feel amorous and beautiful. She was already stunning in her dark blue blouse and blue flapper skirt, which clung tightly to her chest and flattered the round, ample shape of her bosom, but in Joe’s arms she felt more than beautiful. She felt like the most gorgeous creature on earth. The more they danced, the more their rhythm began to sync and soon it seemed as if they had been created especially for one another. Their movement was so fluid and lively that soon all eyes were on them. It was as if their bodies had known each other forever. They swayed, they turned and they bopped to the rhythm of blues and jazz. Joe gripped her tighter and as they moved closer, their bodies seemed to melt into one. It seemed like they had just begun dancing, when Joe’s friend from the bar came over and told them it was time to meet the band.
The man from the bar introduced himself as Raymond. He led Ellie Mae and Joe to the back of dance hall where the band players were seated in chairs that had been arranged in a circle. Some of them polished their instruments, while those with larger instruments sat theirs beside their chairs. They were sweaty, some were dabbing at their face with their handkerchiefs and others were drinking water to cool off. Ellie Mae had forgotten how much energy it took to be on stage. As Ellie Mae approached, the lead coronet player turned and glanced at Ellie Mae. He quickly stood up and introduced himself. After brief introductions, the band got right down to business and asked Ellie Mae if she had time to sing a quick tune for them.
“Of course, I’d love to sing for you.” Ellie Mae stood up right and began to sing. Her voice was clear, and majestic. She hit those high notes beautifully and filled the room with music. The band stood and listened, amazed at how beautiful she sang her own earth shattering rendition of Bessie Smith’s “After You’ve Gone.”
“That was very nice Miss Ellie Mae, let me give you a name of a guy I know who arranges musical acts at the Harlem Club.” The lead band player said.
Ellie Mae couldn’t contain her smile and could only mutter a “Thank you, so much sir,” before nearly exploding with joy.
After the band went back to playing for the club and Ellie Mae thanked Raymond, Joe took Ellie Mae aside.
“You sure got a beautiful voice Ellie Mae, you sing like an angel.”
Even though Ellie Mae knew, Joe was putting a line on her, she couldn’t resist feeling flattered. Joe was not only an incredibly handsome man who knew how to dance, but he had an alluring charm. So irresistible that even stereotypical lines sounded fresh and charming with him.
Joe and Ellie Mae danced for a while longer, but as the crowd died down and the band began to pack up, Ellie Mae and Joe knew it was time to go. Joe went to get his hat from the coat room and Ellie Mae went back to her table. The brief escape that she had felt with Joe and the band faded away when she realized that she would be faced with another night of sleeping on the street. She had traveled from North Carolina and had spent each night in shabby hotels, many without plumbing. But, as of last week, she had spent all of her money and had been at the mercy of kind women who were willing to give her a free room for a night or two. Tonight, she had nowhere to go. She worried that she would have to spend another night in the backroom of a club. Just as Ellie Mae was becoming overwhelmed by the thought of another homeless night, Joe returned to the table.
“So, Ellie Mae, you got a place in town that you go to or you staying with a relative?
Ellie Mae thought for a moment about making an excuse or making up a hotel that she was staying at, but this was Joe’s city. He would know if she was lying.
“You do have somewhere to go, don’t you Ellie Mae?” Joe asked in a protective tone.
Unable to lie, Ellie Mae stared down at the floor in shame and shook her head no. “I just used up the last of my money and I’ve been going from house to house and begging for room. I just been waiting for my big break and it hasn’t come yet.”
Joe sighed in disbelief. “A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be on the streets or begging for room at night…. I’d be happy to put you up for the night, Ellie Mae.”
Ellie Mae stared at Joe with uncertainty. She liked Joe, but she wasn’t certain that this was a genuine, caring gesture. Church girl or not, she knew how men could be.
“I don’t know Joe…I appreciate your kindness, but just cuz’ we danced tonight, doesn’t mean I’m gonna’ spend the night with you.” Ellie Mae replied.
“Woah, hold up girl! Can’t a man be a gentlemen and help a lady out? I’m not trying to be fresh with you. I just don’t want you on the streets, honey. We can sleep separately and you can stay in my bedroom…or don’t you trust me?”
Ellie Mae stared intensely into Joe’s eyes. Even though, she had been raised not to trust strange men, for some reason when she looked into Joe’s eyes, she just knew that she could trust him. In her heart, Ellie Mae just felt that with him, she would be safe.
“I trust you Joe…it’s just I do have to be careful. I don’t want you to think I am just going home with any man I meet.”
Joe stared at her in awe,
“I could never disrespect you like that Ellie Mae. Anyway, don’t worry Ellie Mae, my mama raised me right and I know how to be a gentlemen. I got a nice little apartment; you can stay sleep in peace. I won’t bother you…unless you want me to.” Joe smiled and winked as he picked up her suitcase and carried it out of the club.
They left the nightclub and began walking toward Joe’s apartment down the street. The moon in the night sky glistened like a diamond. The sky wasn’t as clear as it was in North Carolina, but it was undeniably beautiful. As Joe turned the corner, he took Ellie Mae’s hand in his. Ellie Mae felt a strange sense of comfort as she walked hand-in-hand with Joe. They were enjoying their moonlit walk when suddenly; Joe stopped walking, turned and said, “we almost at my apartment… I wanna show you something before we go to the room.”
“What, Joe? What you wanna show me?” Joe held Ellie Mae’s hand and led her up the stairs to his apartment building. Once inside the building, he led Ellie Mae up three flights of stairs. When they reached the third floor, he gently sat her suitcase in a dark corner out of sight. “I’m just gonna leave this here for a bit, we’ll come back and get it.” When they finally reached the top floor, Ellie Mae could see that there was a skylight, a small set of stairs and a small door that opened onto the roof. Joe held open the door and motioned for Ellie Mae to climb up onto the roof. Ellie Mae hesitated for a moment, but then obliged. “Don’t worry, I just want you to see the view of the city from the roof, then we’ll come right back down.” Ellie Mae slowly ascended the four small steps that led onto the roof. When she stepped onto the flat top roof,she was greeted by the bright gleam of a full moon. In the distance, she could see a backdrop of roofs and buildings. “Wow, the moon looks beautiful from up here and the city looks so different.” Ellie Mae said. Joe followed behind Ellie Mae and stood beside her as she gazed up at the night sky.
“This my favorite place to come for inspiration,” Joe said.
“Inspiration?” Ellie asked
“I come up here to help me write my poetry.” Joe said.
“You write poetry, you got anything published?”
“Nah, I just do it for myself. I had to drop out of school when my mama took sick. I had to work so I could take care of her and I never got back into it, I spose. I imagine if I could I would go back and finish up my schooling, and then get me a college degree. Those white boys I work with, they think I’m stupid, but I’m not stupid… I can think, I can create.” Ellie Mae listened intently.
“I’m a worker in the factory by the loading docks and I unload the packages for the factory workers. I work long hours, it’s hot…I don’t get paid as much as those white boys and none of us can get the manager jobs. I don’t like it. Nothing, but mindless tasks, and the monotony…the same thing every day. I can’t stand it, I can’t stand the way they treat me like I’m stupid.”
“Joe, you know you far from stupid. Don’t let them bother you. Just do what you gotta do, as long as they pay you and you can put food on the table, their words about you don’t matter. Make your own words about you.” Ellie Mae said
“It barely keeps food on the table and that’s about all the good that come of it…If I had some more schooling, I could write instead of working in that hot factory all day. I got my dreams. Langston Hughes say ‘in life there are ways of getting anywhere you want to go if you really want to go.’ I still have hope.” Joe said and there was silence for a few moments as they both thought about the power of words. The words that those workers spoke about Joe, the words that Ellie Mae sang about and the words that Joe wrote on paper, those were the words that had the power to build up and destroy life. Words can write the soul.
“I didn’t get to finish school either.” Ellie Mae broke the silence. “My mother died when I was 15 and I been working ever since. That’s how I got into singing, I used to sing in church. When mama died, I sang at the funeral. Folks kept telling me how beautiful I sounded. The truth is…it was healing for me. When I sing, I’m free. Are your folks still alive, Joe?”
“No, my momma died after she took sick and my daddy died when I was 12.”
“I can’t even remember my daddy. He was killed when I was two years old.” Ellie Mae said.
“Killed?…What happened if you don’t mind my asking that is…?” Joe said.
“No, it’s alright. Mama told me that my daddy had opened a store and the store got so much business that the white owners of a store in town decided they didn’t want no colored store owner taking away their colored customers. So, one night the KKK came… and lynched my Daddy… and burned down the store.” Ellie Mae spoke quickly and quietly as if it hurt her to even mutter the words.
“ Mama had a weak heart. I think it was hard for her, being without daddy all those years, raising me alone.”
Joe stared in silence for what seemed like an hour. He stared out into the night sky with a pensive expression on his face. Suddenly, a flush of anger, confusion and frustration flooded his face. Ellie Mae could not understand how the smiling, charming man that had greeted her on the dance floor and led her up the stairs into the quiet night could be transformed so quickly into a sullen, desperate shadow of a human being. After moments of silence, Joe finally spoke.
“I can’t stand it. Wherever we go, we can’t be free. Things are a little better the closer North you go, but even here things ain’t easy. Got to be careful here to… I can’t even get a good paying job at work. No one works harder than I do, but I can never get ahead. Shit, you gotta be white and the bosses nephew to get ahead these days. I was lucky to find this apartment. You know it’s one of the few in the city that rents to us. A Black man runs it, but we got to be careful even which side of the street we walk on. It ain’t right…wherever we go, we just can’t be free.”
They were both quiet.
“So, we’re both alone in the world then.” Ellie Mae finally said. Joe’s nodded silently in affirmation. They were both alone, and for them, their dreams meant more than anything. They both wanted to soar like the stars that shoot in the night, shine like the moon and bring hope like the lights of a Northern city.
The wind began to blow and the night breeze sent a chill up and down Ellie Mae’s body. She began to shiver.
“Getting chilly out,” Joe said. He took off his coat and wrapped it around Ellie Mae, but instead of letting go once it was around her shoulders, he wrapped his arms around her and embraced her from behind. His arms held onto Ellie Mae as if she were the most precious jewel in the world. Ellie Mae should have told him to let go, but instead she found herself leaning back against him and resting her head against his chest. Joe held Ellie Mae in an embrace and the two stood staring into the moonlight, as his strong arms held her securely.
“You sure are beautiful Ellie Mae. You the most beautiful woman I ever seen.”
“You mean that Joe?” Ellie Mae asked.
“Yes, Ellie Mae, you’re the most beautiful woman in the world. You beautiful and you smart, you everything a man could want in a woman.”
Ellie Mae felt an unfamiliar sensation in her body and she knew it was time to go inside. “I am getting cold Joe, can we go inside now?”
Joe led Ellie Mae back down the stairs and to the third floor where his apartment was. The inside was much smaller than Ellie Mae had imagined.
It was a one room apartment, one side of the apartment was reserved for cooking, the other side for sleeping. The cooking side of the room had a small metal sink, a small stove with a kettle and some dirty pots and pans scattered about. The sleeping side had one bed with a metal frame and a mattress with some blankets and a pillow. Beside the bed, there was a small table with a lamp and some papers. Shirts, pants and shoes were scattered all around the bed. A clothing line went from one end of the room to the other. The small, kitchenette-like apartment had no bathroom. As Ellie Mae’s eyes scanned the small apartment, she realized that there was only one bed.
“Oh, you must be thirsty, you want something to drink Ellie Mae?” Joe scuffled over to faucet to fill a metal pitcher with water.
“Joe! I thought you said we were sleeping separately?” Ellie Mae said nervously. Joe looked at Ellie Mae in amusement, but he could sense the apprehension and genuine concern in her voice. Instead of making a joke of it as he intended, he knew he needed to console her.
Joe placed the pitcher and two cups on the table beside the bed and said “Ellie Mae, I told you, you can trust me. I’m not sleeping in the bed with you if you don’t want me to. You can take the bed and I’ll sleep on the floor, I won’t bother you. Just gimme some of those extra sheets on the bed. I promise I would never do anything to make you uncomfortable or hurt you. I care for you Ellie Mae.”
Strange as it was, Ellie Mae believed that he cared for her, truly. Somehow, she knew he did. Ellie Mae let out a sigh and slowly began to relax again. She handed Joe some sheets from off of the bed and poured herself a glass of water.
“I know it’s not much, but I got everything I need and I’m saving to get a nicer place soon. We got a bathroom down the hall and it easy to get to the factory from here.” Joe said
“Oh, no it’s fine…nice.” Ellie Mae said.
Ellie Mae smiled, but she definitely thought the apartment could use some cleaning up and redecorating. It could use her creative eye to spice things up, but she appreciated Joe’s kindness.
“You want me to hang the curtain up so you can get some privacy?” Joe picked a curtain up off the floor and started to hang it on the clothes line.
“Oh the curtain…no Joe you don’t have to do that, I like seeing you for now.”
“Really? You like to look at my handsome face, huh Ellie Mae?”
Ellie Mae giggled as she sat down on the bed. “You are handsome Joe. I appreciate how nice you been to me today. Helping me meet the band and all.”
“Of course, I think you got a great voice Ellie Mae, you got lots going for you.”
“Well, you got things going for you too Joe. What you said about your writing… I think you can do anything you want and maybe someday you can share some of your poetry with me. I’d love to hear it.”
“Really, you think I can do anything?” Joe inched toward the bed and stood in front of Ellie Mae. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper.
“I just wrote this today , so it’s not that good. I call it a pendulum…”
‘ A pendulum that swings, always back and forth, til death finds a faceless clock to stop ticking. The heart stops, you see me as the faceless clock…but, Tick-tocking and never stopping. Every day, just see the Brassy, bronze machinery, the shrouded covering, but the heart don’t stop. The heart won’t stop.
Ellie Mae listened intently as he read. When Joe was finished reading, he let out a deep breath.
“I told you it wasn’t a good poem; I just write what I feel.”
“No, no Joe, it’s very beautiful, but cryptic. I’m just trying to understand it fully, but it’s beautiful. I never been a great writer myself, I can sing, but I can’t write…make no mistake. Maybe someday if I make it big, you’ll write the songs that I sing. Don’t ever let those fools at work take away your words Joe. Don’t let them suck the life out of you, like what happened to my mother.”
Joe straightened out the sheets on the floor as he asked, ” what you mean they took her words away? what happened to your mother…you mean because of what happened to your father…?”
When Ellie Mae didn’t answer, Joe looked up and was shocked to see that tears were rolling down Ellie Mae’s face.
Joe slowly rose from the floor and sat next to Ellie Mae on the bed. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her to his chest.
“Oh, I’m sorry Ellie Mae. I didn’t mean to upset you.You don’t have to talk about her. I’m sorry…”
“No, it’s not your fault Joe. Don’t be sorry, it was just hard growing up…I can’t talk about it right now. I just can’t deal with it.” Joe gently dried Ellie Mae’s reddened eyes with his handkerchief.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Joe asked, genuinely concerned.
“Yes, I’ll be alright,” Ellie Mae said through muffled cries. She dabbed at her face with the handkerchief and let out a deep sigh. Joe wondered what had happened to Ellie Mae’s mother, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask her again because it was obviously painful for her. Besides, sometimes words are written in the eyes and what’s unspoken is sometimes the most understood. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her.
He held her close and slowly rubbed her back until she stopped crying, then she looked up at him. He couldn’t help but gaze into her eyes. He pulled Ellie Mae closer into his embrace. He held her close and pressed his body against hers. He hugged her and gently rubbed her back. Before long, they were kissing. He waited for Ellie Mae to pull away or give any sign that she wanted to stop, but instead Ellie Mae wrapped her arms around Joe and pulled him closer. Ellie Mae knew that she shouldn’t, but she wanted every bit of him to touch her and melt away inside of her. She had been raised in the church and knew that she wasn’t supposed to lust after anyone, but surely, a feeling so natural couldn’t be wrong. Ellie Mae felt dizzy from the intense desire looming inside of her. Just as Ellie Mae thought she might faint from desire, Joe pulled away.
“Wait, we shouldn’t…I promised that we wouldn’t do anything.” His words shot Ellie Mae back to reality. Here she was alone in a room with a man she only met six hours ago. Yet, she felt like she knew him intimately.
Ellie Mae couldn’t believe it, but somehow, she just knew loving Joe was right. Ellie Mae pulled Joe closer and began to kiss him lightly. She kissed his lips, his nose and nuzzled him. Then, she slowly unbuttoned her blouse. The lower she unbuttoned, the more filled with desire Joe became. Joe kissed and caressed her ample bosom. Ellie Mae hugged Joe close and braced herself. There was nothing she could hide from Joe, everything was in the open and, in that moment, her body and heart were all his. Ellie Mae watched as Joe undressed. She stared deep into his eyes. They looked at one another and knew they had been searching for each other their whole lives. Their eyes interlocked and never left each other’s gaze. She could feel his heartbeat and the warmth of his body. She dug her fingers into his back and sighed in ecstasy. He moved with such grand rhythm that as her back lifted off the bed, she felt like she was floating in the air. Joe let out a deep sigh and fell back onto the bed. Joe held Ellie Mae as she rested her head against his chest. She softly sang her own rendition of Bessie Smith’s “It Makes my Love Come Down.”
“When I’m close up by your side…my love comes down, my love comes down.” Very sweetly and quietly, she sang, as the two drifted off to sleep, dreaming of nothing but peace.
The sunbeams lit up the room and slowly, Ellie Mae opened her eyes to see that she really was in the little apartment, she hadn’t been dreaming. Ellie Mae and Joe were still holding each other. She slowly sat up and leaned against the headrest of the bed, careful not to wake Joe. She hadn’t slept so well in months. Ellie Mae couldn’t help, but wonder what Joe would think of her now that she had woken up and last night’s booze had worn off. Would he still see her as the beautiful, alluring woman from the club the night before or would he wake up and see an ordinary, self-proclaimed church girl who let her guard down? Joe stirred and opened his eyes. He looked over at Ellie Mae.
“Haven’t slept so good in months… how you sleep Ellie Mae? I hope you don’t have plans today… ” He looked at Ellie Mae with a bright and glistening smile.
Ellie Mae had a feeling that this was going to be an unforgettable day.