Just Published: The Wolf Wife (Story)

One cold February night, his wife began to howl.

The becoming was a long process. His wife had been a small woman, barely a hundred pounds. The wolf she became was massive, almost double her human weight. She had thickly furred ears and a long, dense, whitish coat

Read the rest of the story in Spacecraft 13, a literary magazine edited by Gillian Parish

Ch. 13: Twelve Years a Slave

Now, Solomon Northup is working for a crazy master named Epps. This part was adapted in the movie — in fact, the Epps scenes have lingered longest in self’s memory. Could also be because Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsey, the fastest cotton picker on the whole plantation — no, maybe in the whole American South. (The great Sarah Paulson played Mrs. Epps: she killed in the role)

This Epps liked to make his slaves dance, even after they’ve had a long day laboring in the fields. He wanted them to laugh. He wanted Northup to play the fiddle.

Crazy!

Cotton Plantation, 1841

The slaves work seven days a week, with 15 minutes for lunch.

All that is allowed them is corn and bacon, which is given out at the corncrib and smoke-house every Sunday morning. Each one receives, as his weekly allowance, three and a half pounds of bacon, and corn enough to make a peck of a meal. That is all — no tea, coffee, sugar, and with the exception of a very scanty sprinkling now and then, no salt.

12 Years a Slave, still Chapter 12

Favorite Photos 2020

Big Cane Brake, 1841

We proceeded down the south shore of the bayou, crossing it at Carey’s plantation; from thence to Huff Power, passing which, we came upon the Bayou Rouge road, which runs towards the Red River. After passing through Bayou Rouge Swamp, and just at sunset, turning from the highway, we struck off into the Big Cane Brake. We followed an unbeaten track, scarcely wide enough to admit the wagon. The cane, such as are used for fishing rods, were as thick as they could stand. A person could not be seen through them the distance of a rod. The paths of wild beasts run through them in various directions — the bear and the American tiger abounding in these brakes, and wherever there is a basin of stagnant water, it is full of alligators.

12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup, Ch. 11

Sounds like a fascinating place.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Story of the Day: Mr. Oh, by Caroline Kim

Son say:

When I grow up, I’m going to be David Letterman.

Daughter say:

I’m going to be an immigration lawyer.

Son now vice president in bank. Daughter immigration lawyer. They happy. I happy, of course. Make everything worth it. How come I depress?

— Story # 1 in The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories, by Caroline Kim

Chapter 11, Twelve Years a Slave

Self was wrong: the good former master is STILL ALIVE! She was so sure the other planters would kill him, since he rescued his former slave, Solomon Northup, from a lynching, back in Chapter 8.

Anyhoo, in Chapter 10, Solomon’s new master has a foreman who tries to split Solomon’s head with a hatchet and Solomon runs through the bayous to escape. He ends up running all the way back to his former master’s plantation. The good man takes him in (even though there was a law on the books at the time, that a runaway slave must be returned to his master).

And this is what happens in Chapter 11: Solomon is walking by the side of his former master, when who should come galloping out of the bayou towards them but — the evil foreman! He comes alongside Solomon’s former master, and the two begin a conversation.

Self is thinking: any minute now the evil foreman is going to take out a hatchet and kill Solomon’s good former master! But self is midway through Chapter 11, and the two white men are still conversing. The good former master says he knows the foreman tried to kill Solomon, then the foreman explains why he was moved to try and kill Solomon, then the good former master tells the foreman that was not the way to treat a slave, then the foreman says his hound dogs aren’t worth their keep, and the good former master tells the foreman it is evident that the foreman will keep trying to kill Solomon, and Solomon will keep running away, and therefore the foreman must sell Solomon. He says: Unless you do so, I shall take measures to get him out of your possession.

Self does not remember this part of the movie at all, so she has to go on the movie’s imdb page and scroll down the cast list. She has to read practically all the way to the bottom to find that Ford (the good former master) was played by Benedict Cumberbatch! Niiiice! The real shock, though, is when self discovers that the evil foreman, Tibeats, was played by Paul Dano!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

A Dispassionate Description of ‘the Stocks’

Here is self, continuing with her heartwarming holiday reading.

The level of detail in this one-paragraph description of the stocks is amazing, all the more so because the knock-out blow is in the very last sentence. (Who invented this ingenious device? Self burns to know! It must have been a man of great practicality, shouldn’t he be famous? Maybe he is mentioned in the Museum of Lynching, which is on self’s bucket list of museums to visit? Or maybe it’s not unique to the New World, maybe it was brought over from England, or Spain, or France — she wishes she paid more attention when she visited the Museum of Torture in Balboa Park in San Diego)

The stocks are formed of two planks, the lower one made fast at the ends to two short posts, driven firmly into the ground. At regular distances half circles are cut in the upper edge. The other plank is fastened to one of the posts by a hinge, so that it can be opened or shut down, in the same manner as the blade of a pocket-knife is shut or opened. In the lower edge of the upper plank corresponding half circles are also cut, so that when they close, a row of holes is formed large enough to admit a negro’s leg above the ankle, but not large enough to enable him to draw out his foot. The other end of the upper plank, opposite the hinge, is fastened to its post by lock and key. The slave is made to sit upon the ground, when the uppermost plank is elevated, his legs, just above the ankles, placed in the sub-half circles, and shutting it down again, and locking it, he is held secure and fast. Very often the neck instead of the ankle is enclosed. In this manner they are held during the operation of whipping.

12 Years a Slave: A True Story of Betrayal, Kidnap, and Slavery, by Solomon Northup, Chapter 9

Self managed to get through four books in December. Which, given all the things demanding her attention simultaneously, not to mention trying to keep herself from getting COVID and not getting too upset with POTUS’s pardoning all the criminals in the US Justice System who call themselves his friends, is downright amazing.

At the start of the year, she committed to reading 35 books. She didn’t think she would make it, but she has.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The Jesuits in the Philippines, 1581 – 1768

Horacio de la Costa was dying of liver cancer before self arrived at Ateneo de Manila, and so she never took a class from one of the greatest Filipino writers.

Last month, she called Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino (Her go-to place for science fiction — she ordered the first six books of The Expanse from them — as well as hard-to-find books like The Laughter of My Father, by Filipino migrant worker Carlos Bulosan) and they were able to get her a copy of de la Costa’s The Jesuits in the Philippines, 1581 – 1768. The book arrived a few days ago, wowowowowow

From the Preface:

  • A grant from the New York Province of the Society of Jesus enabled me to spend several months in Europe in 1951, which I employed in gathering additional material in Roman and Spanish archives . . . In 1955 the Ateneo de Manila, of whose teaching staff I am a member, granted me leave of absence to undertake the actual writing of the history. A grant from the Philippine Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus permitted my doing this at Georgetown University, close to the great repository of the Library of Congress.

From Chapter One: The First Mission

In 1540, Pope Paul III granted the approval of the Holy See to a new religious order organized by a Basque gentleman . . .

Only 12 years later, the Jesuits were at “the gates of China.” They had founded “mission centers along the far-flung line of Portuguese trading posts from Goa to the Moluccas and obtained a foothold in Japan.” There were Jesuit missionaries in Abyssinia, the Congo, and Brazil. “The mission of Florida was opened in 1566, that of Peru in 1568, and that of Mexico in 1572.” In January 1581, a “little band” of Jesuit missionaries took “the road that dipped down from Mexico City to the little seaport of Acapulco where the galleon San Martin, 400 tons,” captained by Luis de Sahagosa, “waited to take them across the Pacific.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

So Good at Pretending It’s Not Christmas

Chapter 9 of 12 Years a Slave follows Chapter 8, when all hell broke loose. Below, self’s abbreviated summary of 8:

  • Solomon Northup, in his first year of slavery, was acquired by a good man who then sold him to a bad man, whose foreman took an extreme dislike to Northup and tried to beat him to death (even though this is stupid, as you lose your financial investment). Northup would not allow himself to be beaten to death, he fought back, for which he was condemned to hang, and had his hands bound and a noose placed around his neck, when his former master — having been informed of the impending death of his former slave — came galloping up just in the nick of time, and this former master (who btw was a preacher, and after Trump self didn’t think she could think kindly of preachers, ever again, but anyhoo) rode like lightning and made it in time to rescue his former slave, and himself walked up to Northup and cut the noose from around his neck. Afterwards, this former master was in danger from other planters and the bad foreman, who were always whispering aspersions and giving him side-eye, to the point where self is almost sure Chapter 9 (which she is just beginning) will end with the death of Northup’s former master.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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