The Nows

The Nows

A Story by R J Fuller

Sometimes when we lose what we want, we should make sure never to forget.

"why you say that, Denetra?"
"What do you mean, Klevon? Just look at it."
Klevon gave with a laugh. 
"Yea, but it was what they had to live in."
"Just downright shameful."
"Well," Klevon said, "do you want to go inside?"
"How safe is it?"
"We wouldn't be allowed here if it wasn't safe."
"Well, we have permission, so we might as well." 
The aged door virtually glided out of their way as Klevon opened it. 
"Is that the original door?" Denetra asked. 
"I think much of it is authentic 1800s," Klevon said, looking at his phone. 
Denetra eyed the floor suspiciously. 
"I don't know if I want to do this," she said. 
"Our ancestors walked on it," Klevon said, knowing that was all it would take. Denetra gingerly stepped onto the floor and entered the domain. Klevon followed. 
They stood in the absolutely most simple looking of rooms composed of dried, untreated wood. With no lighting, it wasn't necessary since a window on either side provided sufficient illumination into the dwelling. 
"Absolutely shocking," Denetra said as she walked about the room, looking at its structure. 
"It has aged in almost a hundred and fifty years," Klevon noted, "and it isn't like anyone lives here now."
"Why are you making excuses for this, Klevon?"
"I'm not," he stated. "I just think there are many angles to study on this."
"Slaves had to live here, whiie the white man lived in the mansion."
"True, but not all white people lived in the mansions. Many white people lived in this manner as well."
"But they were free to work their own farms, profit from their own crops," Denetra stated. 
"I don't want to discuss what white people did and didn't have," Klevon said. "Just take in what was had here." 
Denetra took a few more steps around. 
"Nothing," she said. "They had nothing. Not even family."
"Sold away from one another, then expected to continue picking cotton." 
Denetra looked at a far wall and took a deep breath. 
"Talk to me, young mother," she whispered with her eyes closed. She reached out and touched the wall, running her hand across the rough boards. "Tell me what you want to say." 
"This was all they were given," Klevon said, walking toward the fireplace. 
"Oh!" Denetra said. 
"You found something?"
"I got a splinter," she answered, looking at her hand. She reached into her purse to get out tweezers to remove the sliver. 
Klevon looked up at the stone relics making up the interior of the chimney 
"Yep," he said, "the wood is old now, but it was probably old then when the . . . the people lived here."
"The slaves," Denetra said. 
"Yea," Klevon agreed as he gripped a stone toward the top. He jostled with it a bit. 
"Then why don't you say slaves? They were slaves," Denetra replied, as she examined her hand. 
"Look at this." 
She looked over to him to see what he was doing. He had slid the stone away, revealing a small cubby hole. He reached in and removed a small packet.
"Klevon, what is that?" Denetra asked as she walked toward him. 
"I don't know," he responded. 
"Be careful."
Klevon brought the bundle down before him. The outer rag was centuries old. Carefully he unwrapped the contents. Inside he found several pages of writing. 
"Let me see that," Denetra said. He handed the papers to her as she carefully unfolded them, slowly so as not to break them in their brittle state. 
Klevon looked at the tiny contents remaining in the cloth. He picked one up and held it, seeing that it was a miniature figurine of some sort. 
"What does it say?" Klevon asked her. 
Denetra stepped back and began reading. 
"Be with me, dear soul, and hear my story. Let me tell it while I can still feel it within my heart and remember it in my mind. I want the hope and inspiration I have been presented to forever belong to the younger world of tomorrow where sunrises have not yet been seen. 
I am a slave woman named Delza. What my parents named me is unknown. Who my parents were is unknown. I was sold at a young age and told I was Delza. I began working on the plantation as soon as possible at a very young age, as was my duty. I did as I was told. 
I grew up and fancied the young man who also worked the fields with me. His name was Dean. He was very handsome. I hoped he and I may marry, but that was not to be. He was sold away after a while, and I never saw Dean again. I loved Dean. 
Losing Dean, I was then courted by Hank. Hank also worked the fields with Dean and I. Hank and Dean had the same mother, so Dean was Hank's brother. When Dean was sold, Hank was very unhappy. Hank wasn't as handsome or charming as Dean, but I fell for Hank and he for me. 
I was going to have Hank's child. Hank was looking forward to being a father, but then he was taken away from me as well, same way as Dean. 
I had the baby, a boy, and I named him Dean. He looked like his uncle, but had wistful ways like his father. I guess I should have named him Hank, but I loved Dean first. 
Dean grew up to be a happy baby, very cheeful. I was afraid he would be sold and I feared becoming close to him, but he would smile at me. He was my baby. When he was small, I would carry him in to the fields with me, while I picked cotton. He'd sing and smile at everybody. He made everybody smile. 
When Dean grew older, he began making his own games and pretending. He could keep himself entertained for hours on end. He would make up all sorts of things and stories. 
One day, the master's young daughter, Penelope, was around Dean and heard his tales. She listened and thought they were so nice. They made her smile. 
When Dean became old enough, he had to start picking cotton, but it didn't make him unhappy. He would still smile and pick up bits he found along the way in the dirt, and put them in a pocket to keep that was tied around his waist. Sometimes other slaves would find something new or different and give it to him. Even the overseer would show Dean a pebble or stone they thought he might like to add to his collection. 
I loved my little Dean so much. 
One day, I overheard him telling all the tales to Penelope, sitting out on our porch. I was fixing him his supper. When he came in to eat, I asked him what he had that he was telling Penelope about. He sat at the table and I knew he had them in his little pocket. I told him to let me see them and put them on the table. He knew I didn't like things cluttering up the table, but I told him this time was okay. 
He placed the little figures on the table, side-by-side. I looked at what he had made from the stones and leather bits and whatever else he found. I picked up a little figurine, all blue and shiny, and asked who this was. 
He told me that was Daddy-man. Daddy man is the father that is always there, no matter what. 
I realized Dean had never known his own father, never got to even see him, so he made up his own daddy who would always be there for him. 
I held up the next figurine and asked who this was. The figure was all white. He told me this one was Hot Cotton. Hot Cotton wasn't nice. He handed me another figure and said this was Hot Cotton's horse. The horse was white, too. 
I picked up another one and he told me that was Me-man. Me-man made everyone happy, no matter what. 
I picked up another one, seemed to be a person in a cape. He told me that Mother-woman. Mother-woman took care of everybody. 
Each figure I picked up, my little Dean had another name, another purpose for the name. 
There was Some Day Son, who tried to do good, but Hot Cotton would make him do mean things. 
And there was Water Daughter, who made everyone happy. 
I asked Dean if one figure was a dog. He said no, that was Daddy-man's horse. 
My son had made his own little world of happy characters to think for and be with. All I could do was look at him and wonder what part of Hank did he get this from. 
He then told me he called all the little characters the Nows, because that was when they were with him. Now. 
Dean put his little characters back in the pouch and left them under his bed at night when he slept. He made other figures of all sorts of looks and duties. 
I was glad my little Dean was so thoughtful with his creations. 
One day, when Dean was about eight summers, he was to work in the vegetable garden near the house, while I tended to the cotton. I thought it would be nicer for him. He wouldn't be so much out in the hot sun, and with his little ideas, he may think of things with the vegetables. 
When the day was over, I ventured to the vegetable garden to get Dean and was told he had been sold. I would never see my baby again. No one could tell me anything about who he was sold to, or why master sold him like that, if his own daughter Penelope played with him so much. 
I made my way back to my cabin, very unhappy. There sitting on the porch, was Penelope. She wasn't happy either. She had lost her friend. 
"I told daddy not to," she sobbed, "but he wouldn't listen. That man offered him a lot of money for Dean and four other boys."
Penelope held a pretty yellow figure in her hands. I knew it was one of Dean's making. She told me it was Miss You. She said Dean gave it to her before he left. He had been working on it for her and had to give it to her, letting her know he would 'Miss You'. 
Penelope told me Miss You belonged with the other Nows and asked me to put them together. I took the little yellow form and entered the cabin and sat on the bed. I then remembered Dean kept his figures in the little pocket under the bed. I immediately looked and there they were. I put Miss You in the pocket with the others, then closed it up. 
I went back out and Penelope was still there. I asked if she could get several sheets of paper and a writing pen to write me a letter about Dean. The next day, she did so, coming back to my cabin when able and writing as I spoke unto her. When we finish, I will put the note in the pocket with the Nows and hide them so no one will ever find them, until hopefully you, lovely one, all the way in the years of tomorrow have discovered my baby Dean's happiness in the form of the Nows and you will see what my precious child had to offer. He is gone from me, and by the time this is found, I may be gone, and so will my angel Dean, but his wonderful Nows will still be around.
Thank you, my heart. Penelope will finish writing now and sign off with my name. - Delza."
"This must be . . . . Daddy-man," Klevon said, looking at one tiny figure. It seemed to be made from a rock or pebble or something. 
"Oh, my Lord," Denetra said, looking at the letter once more. 
"And this must be . . . . Miss You," Klevon continued. 
"I wonder what become of Dean?" 
Klevon picked up one character. 
"He became Me-man?" 
"They're uh, . . . they're the Nows," she said. "He called them the Nows." 
"Because that's when they are here," Klevon spoke. "Now." 
"That's when he needed them to be there for him," Denetra said. "Now." 

© 2021 R J Fuller

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Added on February 10, 2021
Last Updated on February 10, 2021
Tags: slavery, sold, field, cotton, future, past, cabin, discovery