Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Chapter 2 (edited)

Chapter Two: Reasons.


The hallway was a buzz of students scuttling to-and-fro it was 3 o’clock in Windom High School in Crown Heights and they were all on their way home. Marcus walked out of his classroom after everyone had funneled out; finally just go to check my mailbox, clock out and then I’m home free. Marcus had been a teacher for three months and still had the same desire to vacate the state institutions that he did when attended them. As he walked into the main office, a head of raven hair shot up. Megan Pearson was a history teacher and had been all over Marcus since day one. Her parents had been apart of the civil rights movement and introduced her to racial tolerance very early. She once told him that they bought her a black doll along with her white doll to show her that they were not really different. She wore wire frame glasses and her skin was pale making her hauntingly beautiful to most. She wore ankh earrings and her nails were a black lacquer. She still swung her hips as she walked toward him, but her face held a hint of nervousness in it, the reason being wasn’t clear to him. Maybe she got up enough courage to ask me out, poor girl he laughed to himself.

“Marcus, um I’m just giving you the info before you find out from someone else. She looked around to see who was watching. “I heard from the secretaries that Vice-principal Eckstein was talking to Principal Spaulding about…”

At that moment, the aforementioned vice-principal walked up to them “Mr. Ripley I need to see you in my office, excuse us Miss Pearson.”

“Sure.” Marcus followed the vice-principal to the frosted glass door of his office; behind him, Megan made a face that said ‘I’m sorry’.

Inside Marcus sat down in the chair across from the VP; he exhaled slightly and then folded his hands. The VP walked from one side of the room to the other and then sat down. “I’ve gotten a call from a parent about the literature you’ve assigned.”

“Have you, what seemed to be the problem?”

“They say that the material is too…graphic for their child.” The VP leaned on his desk and tented his fingers. “Now we’ve been trying this new culturally inclusive, English curriculum and so far it hasn’t been terrible we have a few more people writing better book reports and testing better but…”

“It’s not enough to actually warrant the change.” Marcus smirked. “I don’t think that’s true, there are a lot of kids in my class who are becoming more interested in cultures outside of the…Euro-American frame work.” He sat up. “And I think that it’s mainly because they can now see themselves in the work we’re covering, it gives them a point of reference and a sense of belonging.”

“That may very well be, however the literature is still risqué.” The VP exhaled. “Now I’m sure the ‘Ghost man on third’…”

Marcus cut him off, annoyance in his throat. “It’s The Spook who sat by the door, sir.”

“Right, is a good read if you’re into that sort of thing; however I think it’d be best if you added some more classical pieces to your syllabus?”


“Such as?” Marcus’ eyebrow twitched.

“I’ve always been a fan of Hardy’s ‘Jude the Obscure’”

Marcus stared at him and cracked a slight grin Does he think I’m stupid, that book makes the one I choose seem like ‘See Spot Run’ well maybe not that innocent. He leaned forward. The room seemed to become dim and cooler. “Actually I think that the students here would benefit more from my selection.”

“Well as your employer I’m suggesting that you substitute the reading for something else.” The VP rubbed his arms. “At the request of the parents of course.”

Marcus’ eyes widened slightly and so did his grin, this must have surprised the Eckstein because he moved back abruptly. “Sir, with all do respect I choose this piece because my students relate to it.” He continued. “And since it’s been proven that students who relate to the material, will do better because they see its relevance to them.”

“Well that is true…”

“That ultimately means that they’ll be less dropouts, drug dealers and inmates and more writers, philosophers, teachers and activists.” Marcus was laying it on thick, in truth he hated activists, but he was on a role. “Better the urban youth teach your kids than steal your wife’s purse right?” Maybe that was pushing it he thought, but if it got his point across then why not?”

“Y-yes, you make a valid point.” Eckstein cleared his throat. “Sorry I gave you a hard time about it.”

Marcus raised a hand in protest. “No need, you’re my employer and you have to make sure I’m doing right by the students.” Marcus leaned back in his chair, the temperature returned to normal, as did the lights. “May I go now?”

“Oh, Yes of course.” Eckstein got up and showed him to the door.

“Thank you.” Marcus began to walk out and stopped. “Oh and please ask that concerned parent, to call me so that we can discuss more acceptable pieces to read in the future.” He smiled.

Eckstein looked puzzled for a second and then. “Oh yes right I will, I will.”

Marcus walked outside and Megan nearly jumped out of his way as he exited. “Is everything ok?” she stammered.

“You tell me.” He smiled walking over to his mailbox. In it sat notices about school events. “Well I’m off.” He turned, threw the notices in the trash, punched the time clock, and began to exit.

“You know if you’re free my friends having this party in Bushwick tonight.” She smiled at him. “You know we could go, it’d be cool, two friends…”

“Not my kind of scene Megan sorry.” He turned and looked at her but you already knew that.

“You can call me Meg.”

“Right Meg, also Tea’s waiting at home for me.”

Her smile went from frown to a slight grimace, she knew he was with someone or at least she’d known a month ago. And although she was a nice girl, she really wasn’t Marcus’ type, for a few reasons, one of them was her constant attempt to convince him that she was down with some sort of external ‘struggle’ that his people faced when all of it was internal. Yes, we’re all noble savages he thought; please civilize us so we can be protected from this harsh new world. Maybe he was being too critical, but that’s what it felt like. “I’m flattered though.” He took her hand in a claming gesture “That you’d ask me and all, but how about one of these days you come to my family’s restaurant…”

“The Sankofa grill?” Her eyes lit up so fast Marcus thought they would explode.

“Yes, and we can hang out and talk ok?” He smiled and let go of her hand.

“Great, you have my number right?” She was smiling from ear to ear.

“I do, and I’ll utilize it, I promise.” He turned around and exited the office; he felt her eyes on his back the whole way. What she was thinking he didn’t know and at that moment it didn’t matter she could keep thinking it.

The train car rattled through the tunnel, its speed created a vacuum suffocating the very darkness it charged through. Marcus' mind swam in the motion like a fish. Being in transit had made him feel at ease especially after his job had put him on such edge.
His boss was nice enough, but prone to outbursts, so he bordered on comedian and drill sergeant. This caused tension, however it didn't bother Marcus much.
While it wasn't said, it was felt, his employers were afraid of him, or at least made uneasy by him. One could assume that because Marcus was black his bosses were always weary of him. Although he wasn't the only black person employed, nothing was more off putting than one with locks who liked all wearing black. While this seemed like a somewhat valid reason, it wasn't the cause of weary looks and soft tones in angered throats. For Marcus had a secret, one that had one hundred years of anger behind it had been what told Nat Turner to free his people. What Timothy Drew discovered in Atlanta; it was what taught Clarence Thirteen X Supreme Mathematics. Now it was presenting itself to the Ripley bloodline. To his grandfather it had been an honor, to his father a weapon and to his brother a duty. Marcus hadn't felt that way; he'd spent his whole life up until this point running from it, but it caught up to him. When it did he couldn’t figure out what he was running from. It was the wings of a bird in flight, the legs of a stallion on the plane, a song whose melody rang out to space. This was freedom and it was a power, which allowed him to vigilantly protect. The Geist. At least that's what it had been called since W.W.II... How long had it been since he had embrace this gift, this second self?
He had come back home to New York from Illinois State University. Hannibal David Ripley had passed on to meet his wife Nina Jasmine Ripley in the world after this one, Nina passed some years earlier settling a family debt in her native Florida. This left the Ripley family without any patriarch except for Marcus. With his older brother Seth giving his life to preventing something unearthly from engulfing NYC in riotous flames fueled by racial tension and his father MIA, he was last in line; that he knew of. With dad's disappearance who knows?

The loud speaker interrupted the train of thought, the odyssey into history, the history of a legacy.
This stop Nostrand Avenue.
Marcus stood up and exited; as he walked up the steps the wind greeted him with a slap. What did I do to you? He thought to Mother Nature. Traveling across Tompkins park a shout was directed his way.
]
" Yo teach, whadup?" The tone wasn't menacing, not in the least but to those who were of the wrong persuasion it would've been an invitation to panic. Brief case in hand he walked toward the voice, what he came upon was two young men sitting on a park bench. Kenny a young man with twists got up and greeted Marcus with a handshake and hug.
"Peace young brother." Marcus smiled.

"Peace teach, what's going on?"

"Heading home, what are you doing out here?"

Kenny looked back and nodded to the, child behind him. “Just building with my little bro Leon. Get up and greet the brother Lee."
Leon stood up and swaggered over to Marcus with an extended hand. His mannerisms reflected the cult of streets, but he had the makings of one with knowledge of self. “Whadup." His hair was corn rowed and stray strands blew in the wind.

Marcus raised his brow remembering something. “Oh, I’ve got a book my grandfather wrote." Marcus reached into his bag and retrieved a book.

“Souls of the Perfect Black" Kenny took the book. “This looks dope; I wish people in our family wrote stuff like this, or anything at all."

"Well I’ve got a couple of copies, you can have that one." Marcus started to walk out of the park. "I've got to get going, you boys should do the same, and just because, white folks are moving into the neighborhood doesn’t mean that it’s safe.”

"Right, oh before I forget, Lee’s gonna be transferring to your school coming semester so look out for him teach.” Kenny smiled patting his brother’s shoulder. Leon gave a forced smile.
“If he’s as hungry as you are I won’t have to.” Marcus smiled back.

“Well he will be I’ll make sure of it.” The wind began to blow furiously, Kenny put his hood on, and Leon did the same. “Well see ya teach.”

“Peace.” Marcus walked off across the park, seemingly pushed forward by the wind. At least some of the youth want to learn. His shoes clapped loudly on the concrete as he looked toward the row of apartment buildings. It’ll be nice to get out of this wind boy. He made his way to a nice brownstone. After his grandfather had gotten home from the war he and his grandmother bought several properties in New York City, an apartment building in Harlem, two brownstones in Brooklyn and two vacant lot’s which had been turned into a Book store/botanica and a restaurant. His grandparents had ‘flipped the script’ as they say in an era where black folks could only get so far, but then again they had that ‘lucky mojo’. Walking up the steps and opening the door a voice called to him from somewhere above.

“Marcus is that you?”

“Yeah baby it’s me.” Marcus had been living with his girlfriend Tea for since his grandfather passed; they were now staying in one of the Brownstones he’d inherited from his Grandparents. They had met senior year at Illinois State University at a Neo soul/Hip-hop concert and after a few days became an item. She double Majored in Journalism and minored in business, and he in Creative writing with a minor in literature studies. She decided to leave Chicago to go with him to her native New York after nine years Marcus always appreciated that. I’d hate to lose a relationship because of distance. It helped a great deal that a popular urban music magazine decided to hire her a week before, they arrived. Since then she had been out smoozing with music personalities in the world of R&B and Hip-hop, and he was a simple teacher. Sometimes in the waking hours of the morning he’d wonder how long they could last in a world of flashy men with ‘long money’, however the something about him that attracted her was deeper than that, as deep as the roots of the Acacia tree. Even if she didn’t know it, he’d smile in spite of himself.

The clatter of footfalls coming down the steps greeted him as he met Tea half way for a tight embrace. “I missed you baby.” she whispered.

“I just stopped in Tompkins to talk to Kenny and his little brother.”

“Always with the hoodlums aren’t we.” She smiled at him.

“I am a teacher babe; it’s my job to…”

“I know ‘educate the youth’, I was just teasing.” She said. “Maybe instead of buying that new lingerie I should’ve bought you a sense of humor.”

Marcus wrapped his arms around her waste and kissed her full on the lips. “No, the lingerie can stay baby, I’m sure the High School teaches a humor class.” They both laughed.

“Well it’s my night to cook, Calvin set me up to interview that new R&B singer Janelle Brown so I figured we’d celebrate and don’t worry I didn’t buy any meat, because I know you can’t eat it.”

Marcus smiled, she knew him so well, even his responses. “That’s great hun, your editor sure has been handing you all the prime talent.”

“Well he knows I can get the juicy details and well…” Tea hesitated.

“It doesn’t hurt that he’s attracted to you.” Marcus frowned.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it, I mean not really.” She put her hands on her hips. “Maybe he recognizes a hungry intelligent black woman when he sees one.”

“I’m not saying that as a woman, you couldn’t get these interviews on your own merit.” Marcus put his hands up in a calming motion, which seemed to work because she lowered her arms.

“Then what are you saying?”

“It’s just, that those very same attributes are some of the reasons I find you attractive, just saying.”

“Thanks, I think.”

He grabbed her hand and kissed it. “But then again, I’m usually wrong about things like this.” He smiled.

“Yes you are.” She laughed.

Just then, Marcus felt a buzzing in his pocket; he reached in and pulled out his cell phone. The number said ‘private’. “I have to take this honey.”

“Ok, I’ll be in the kitchen.” Tea looked at him forlornly, every night at least once a week he’d get calls and leave the house in a hurry directly afterward. She didn’t want to think about where he’d been going, if only for the sake of her own peace of mind.

Marcus stalked up the stairs, cradling the phone closely. “Hello.” He whispered.

“Where are you?” An inviting female voice responded.

“I just got home, what’s up?”

“We need to meet tonight, it’s important.” The voice sounded slightly seductive.

Marcus peeked below to see if Tea was still on the landing, but she had gone. He sighed heavily. “Where and when?”

“In an hour, same place as usual.”

“Are you sure?” Marcus said with a tinge of being on edge.

“Yes I’m sure, why what’s wrong?”

“Aren’t you worried about getting caught?” Marcus whispered.

“No and you shouldn’t be either, what we’re doing isn’t wrong.” She laughed. “And the sooner you realize that, the easier things will be.”

“Yeah ok, see you.” Marcus sighed.

“Right, love ya.” The phone clicked off.

Marcus walked down stairs and they moaned under his weight. Making his way into the kitchen, it was getting darker one of the many reasons he hated winter, and although he was very much at home in the dark , the sheer amount of people coming out, things happening and deals going down with the sun made him hate it.

“Baby…I’ve got to head out; they need me at my granddads restaurant.” Marcus sighed, his head slightly hanging. He wished he didn’t have to lie, but he had his reasons, a secret silent was a secret safe. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours you don’t have to wait for me.”

“Oh, well I could go with you. We could eat there instead.” Tea said with a hint of desperation.

“I’ll be washing dishes and busing tables, you wouldn’t like it.” Marcus dropped his brief case near the door. “I’ll be back baby.”

“Ok.” He kissed her on the forehead and left.

On the kitchen table, her cell phone began to sound and she went to pick it up. The name said ‘Calvin’. “Hello.”

“Hey there’s my top journalist, I’ve got good news.” His smile was apparent through the phone.

Tea let out a sigh. “What is it?”

“Well I was thinking after you nail this, Janelle Brown story, which I know you will I figure I’d reward you.” He paused for effect. “How does your own column sound?”

“Oh that sounds great.” She said half-heartedly.

“What’s the matter?” His smile faded.

“Nothing, it’s just.” She paused.

“Marcus isn’t treating you right again is he?” His smile returned, but his voice denoted that it was that of a fox, stealing a chicken egg.

“Well…” Tea hated to talk to Calvin about her relationship with Marcus, if only because he always seemed to try and convince her it wasn’t a good one. “We were supposed to have dinner at home tonight and…”

“He left, well you know I know of a nice new restaurant that opened just up town, you and I could go, celebrate, and discuss the interview.”

Tea began to bite her nails, she wanted to be home when Marcus got back, if only to welcome him, but she wondered if he’d even care. He felt so distant lately and she was so lonely, of course, they made love regularly but the intimacy seemed gone. And it wasn’t as if she was cheating, it was just an employer, employee celebration. That’s what she told herself, but she knew something very bad could come of it, if she allowed it.

“Tea are you there?” Calvin’s voice belied a hint of worry.

“Yeah I’m here.” She said in a somber tone.

“So what do you say?”

She sighed again, heavily, more heavily than she had ever done. It was as if this one breath would some how expel everything that she and Marcus had ever built. “I’ll be ready by seven.” She quickly hung up the phone not waiting for a reply and instinctively brought her hand down her cheek, it was wet.


The voices of the choir rang out in a harmony unmatched by any other place save the heavens. People clapped and shuffled behind the wood and concrete frame and were visible through its stained glass eyes. Inside Geoffrey October the great minister of Brooklyn’s very own Bethesda Baptist church was preaching up a storm today and he had the congregation eating out of the palm his hand. “...And today there are new dangers, dangers that attack our less fortunate-a .”

“Preach!.” came a voice from the crowd.

“Devil worshipin’ evil souls have come to our city and have been killin’ and hurtin in the name of Satan-ah.” He pounded the pulpit. “But I’ll tell ya, the lord, yes I said the lawd has shown me that his people will prevail-a I said they will prevail-a.”

“Yes Lawd.” came a shout from the back row.

“ And now I know there is an evil spirit descending on this city, and when it shows its self it will claim that it is here to help, but brothers and sisters let us remember ,the enemy will beg, borrow and steal to get your soul.”

“Tell em!”

“ So when that time comes, brothas and sistahs remember that Jesus died on the cross for you and that you should worship non but him. Can I get I get an Amen.”

Hallelujah’s and amen’s broke out all over the church as minister October made his way to the back of the church. After the service he sat in his office on the phone. “Yes, when do you need …Tonight…that’s…I mean it’s sudden you know. No I don’t have a problem with it. Yes I’ll be there. Thank You.” October leaned back in his chair when he first began preaching in the eighties he had one run down factory building in Bushwick converted into a church back then Brooklyn was much more dangerous and due to crime and overall violence a number of members left during the first week. That all changed when he went to his father’s funeral and met a man named Bruce or at least he appeared to be. Maybe it was the overwhelming desire to do good, or the notion that his intention was pure but when Bruce offered to help finance his struggling church and move it to a newer, safer location he couldn’t refuse. When he was originally asked to join the Black Ring Society he was apprehensive, but when he was introduced to the media mogul Thomas Haven he decided it couldn’t be that bad. In one month his members tripled and in three he was opening two more churches. Everything was fine until he learned the history of the Black Ring Society, however the knowledge didn’t come from Bruce or Haven but from his fathers own journals. He learned that his father a famous jazz musician named Maurice October had enjoyed a great bit of fame in his day at the cost of other peoples souls. Or at least that’s how he understood it, he learned his fame was tied to the ring he wore, which had similar properties to that of Solomon, it controlled entities that to Geoffrey sounded like demons. He couldn’t believe his father would have been a party to demon summoning and possible human sacrifices. When he confronted Bruce about it to renounce his member ship the man threatened to reveal Geoffrey’s affiliations with the group to his congregation. After the cars had pulled out from in front of the church a smooth black limousine slid into a parking space. The door nearest the curb flung open and a tall black man stepped out, Bruce. He had short-cropped hair and the shoulders of a linebacker; he wore a black suit that reminded one of the Harlem Renaissance. A young woman in a tight black dress and glossy black heels exited the car behind him and shut the door, one hand holding an expensive purse the other adorned with a glimmering bracelet.
Geoffrey watched them from the entrance way as they swaggered toward him. “Nice to see you Geoffrey, what’s the good word?” The man smirked as he walked past the minister into the chapel. “The congregation still singin’ your praises.” The young woman giggled as she followed. Geoffrey closed the door behind them. “Can I get you all anything?” Bruce walked toward the pulpit followed by the woman. “No this will be quick I have two more stops to make tonight.” He turned with a look of knowing. “The time has arrived when I ask you to do something for me. A variable has shown up in the equation and I want you to take it out before it becomes a problem.
Geoffrey looked apprehensive he had committed a number of sins under this man and before this night was done he feared he’d have to do much worse. However he owed a debt and regardless of his intentions they both knew they paved the road to hell. “What do you need me to do?” He let out a sigh.

“Nothing much.” He reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a ring with a six-pointed star on it. “ Just take this ring and put it on.”

“What does it do?” Geoffrey raised an eyebrow.

“You’re man of god, it should look familiar.” Bruce smiled and turned toward him.
Geoffrey’s breath caught in his throat. “This is the…” .Bruce, who put his finger up, cut him off. “Right so you know what it does, as for what I need you to do it’s simple. There are a few ‘people’ I have invited to the city they got in a week ago. They’re problem solvers, make sure they’re taken care of, fed and clothed they’ll do the rest.” It was more of a command than anything else.

“Right, but what do they need?”

“Like I said food and clothing, I mean you help the homeless here right, you should be fine.” Bruce looked up at the image of Christ on the cross in stained glass and made the sign of the crucifix. “Always did like that picture.” He turned motioned to the young lady and exited the church. Geoffrey watched them leave. When he heard the car pull off he looked at the ring then at the image of Jesus. He sighed and weighed the ring in his hand. He put his head down, put the ring on and went toward the door behind the pulpit stopping only briefly to glimpse the image again and then he left.

1 comment:

Deep V said...

Very dark, but interestingly so. It's hard to tell at this point if Marcus is a good guy or a bad guy; nice plot device.

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