Jack, the Novel

“They Call Me the Midnight Raider”

(Serialized, the full novel to be published in May, 2013)

        Charleston, South Carolina, 1853    
Charleston, S.C.,  during the Civil War.
 Charleston Harbor
 in background. Civil War
era lithograph

     “Wow Jack! Where did you get that nifty fishing pole?” I asked staring wide-eyed at the long imported bamboo rod that had ten eyelets for the line to pass through and was thick as a large carrot at the fist end and narrow as a green bean at the top. Call me Jeremy. Jeremy Foster. I was his best friend, perhaps his only friend.

     Jack Stone, the cool, collected, braggart, exaggerator, smooth talker, putter-downer and sometimes bully, said he had found it lying on the river bank just a’waitin for him to come along and snatch it and take it home. 


     “It was a’beggin me to take it,“ he said.
     But that wasn’t exactly true. In actuality, he stole it out of his grandpa’s store near the slave auction, having broken into it the previous night. The tag was still on the reel. One dollar. “They call me the midnight raider,” Jack said laughing. In several other of his midnight raids, Jack had broken into Mike Hawkins’ father’s funeral home and  appropriated gold watches, rings and other midnight hour trophies from whatever corpses happened to be  in attendance. “Won’t do’em no good no more nohow,” Jack pronounced with finality of conviction. 
 
                                          Chapter Two 
             Licorice Sticks and Fishing Hooks
     It was April, 1853, in the heart of the South, eight years before the Civil War, wonderful years for most folks, even for some of the black folks, but many of ‘em didn’t cotton much to their lot in life, being slaves and all, and havin’ to be sold, or separated from their families, and work the plantations and cotton fields pickin’ all day. Charlestonwas bustlin’ with activity and politics.  And not all of the white folks had it easy neither. Many worked in the same fields twelve hours a day. Other black people were free and some even had businesses in Charleston. Me, I was eleven years old and the whole debate about freein’ the Negroes or keepin’ them slaves or bringin’ ’em into the new territories west of the Mississippi just conquered from Mexicodidn’t mean much to me. I mean, I didn’t pay much attention. Those were the good ole days runnin’ around with Jack and Mike Hawkins, playin’ at adventures and doin’ whatever we wanted to do. We were young and the country was young and Jack and me wanted to explore the whole world.
     Stole that pole? No. Borrowed it. That’s the way Jack liked to view the matter. For he fully intended to give it all back sometime. Everythin’ he took from his grandpa’s store-all of the fishin’ gear includin’ the poles, bobbers, hooks, sinkers, lines, the rabbits feet, the coins from the cash drawer, the sour balls, the fire balls, the lemon balls, the honey suckers, the orange, lemon, and lime pops,  the salt candy, the peanut brittle, the licorice sticks, and lemonade jars, not to mention the huntin’ gear with boots and a jacket and even a musket. Jack fully intended to return all of it someday. 
    And I believed him. I’d never seen him return anythin’ yet but he sounded convincing. He was always borrowin’ this or that from somebody who never knew it was Jack doing the borrowin’. And he intended to give back the canoe he borrowed from the old Indian across the river down from the old Smythe plantation – he probably didn’t need it anyway, Jack concluded. He’d give that back too if only he could find it. Said he awoke one day in the grass on the riverbank and the darn thing that he left tied to a stick in the mud was gone just like that; said that perhaps the old Indian sensed where it was and took it while Jack was a’sleepin. Indians have special powers of sense and can find anythin’ that was lost or taken from them even if it was across a river, Jack said, which it was in this case. Although Jack didn’t have much schooling-skippin’ out as much as he could get away with and all-he knew a lot about Indians and knew what was what and who was doin’ what on the river.

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