Excerpts

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Street Magic: Stories and Tales (2011) is a short story collection that promises to excite and awaken your literary taste buds. Meet unforgettable characters such as Eve from the Garden of Eden; Suzy Gomez, the cheating femme fatale; Mr. Jones, the African-American prophet who  is warned of his own death; two teens from the inner-city who make a gruesome discovery; Darlene, who concocts love potions to snag her next door neighbor; Miss Thompson, a single mother surviving in South Side Chicago who is obsessed with hitting the illegal lottery; and Helene Fulton, a rebellious teen who is accused of witchcraft. Here are excerpts from the collection to whet your appetite:

Elvis by Mary B. Banks

I moved into Mr. Jones’ neighborhood when Daddy left us for a raggedy woman who was known for going around braless and stealing church women’s husbands. Anyway, me, Ma, and my little sister moved into the brick rowhouse on a Saturday evening. There was still light outside when me and sis were playing hopscotch on the baking sidewalk when we saw him, and boy, was he a sight!

Mr. Jones was on his porch conversing with some old woman who had a red bandanna tied around her head. She was the color of cream and he the color of asphalt. His skin looked like soft velvet. So smooth and rich that it looked like you could peel his skin with a butter knife. He was tall. So tall that he could shame the giraffe at the Baltimore Zoo. And to top it off, he had eyes the color of sun and grass mixed together.

Once we got to know him better, we would jokingly call him “the black kitty giraffe” behind his back, but he never heard us. And I doubt he would’ve cared if he had. He would’ve probably smiled his big smile, exposed his perfect teeth, and flashed his pink kitty tongue.

And, boy, could Mr. Jones talk!

He talked like a Princeton scholar. He would use words like “splendid” and “tremendous” to describe things he liked. Like the time Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Everybody was crowded around their TV, huddled like football players discussing an important game-winning play. Of course, we didn’t have one, but it didn’t matter because Mr. Jones described in minute detail everything that happened: Armstrong raising the flag, Armstrong hopping like a bunny, Armstrong saying, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

And Mr. Jones spoke with a British accent, even though he had no family in England.

He was born and raised in Baltimore City. We’d ask him why he talked like that and he’d say, “Because I do, kiddies.” And he flashed his big smile, white teeth, and pink kitty tongue.

And not only did Mr. Jones speak the Queen’s English, he could add, multiply, subtract, and divide any numbers you threw at him, like 789,647,712 times 592,758,956.

And he’d memorized every city, capital, and country in the entire world.

He had a photographic memory. If you showed him a page from a book, he could recite the passage verbatim.

And he was a walking encyclopedia. If we had a trivia question, we would knock on his door, and he would look at us with those cat eyes and give us the answer.

Mr. Jones was the smartest man I’ve known.

But all those things I mentioned weren’t his best talent. (To read the story in its entirety, purchase a copy of Street Magic: Stories and Tales).

Love Dust by Mary B. Banks

Miss Darlene had enough of her. Of who you ask? Well, look around the congregation—who you think? No, not her. Nope. You’re getting close. Closer. Warm. Yep, that’s the one. Joanne Blackmon, the floozy, who has two kids and broke up two beautiful marriages. Yeah, in Westville, she’s known for talking crap about everyone. Joanne ain’t have no problem telling anyone’s grandma that her breath smelled like rotten fish. So, it shouldn’t have been no surprise when Darlene, who dying her gray hair a raven black, heard from her beautician that Joanne was going around telling folks including Pastor Greene and his lovely wife that Darlene was on food stamps and stealing from the collection plate! When Darlene heard that lie, she wanted to jump up from the shampoo bowl, find Joanne, and whip her skinny tail, but she decided she would do the christianly thing and turn the other cheek—isn’t that what the pastor preached every Sunday? To love thy enemy? But a month later when Joanne stood in front of the entire congregation on Easter Day and testified that she spotted Darlene in front of the drug rehabilitation center inside the mall soliciting change, well, that was the lie that did Joanne in, child!

Miss Darlene knew it was wrong to jinx people, but bigmouthed Joanne had it coming. So, one week after Easter, Darlene concocted her special “you-done-messed-with-the-wrong-one-bitch” potion and mixed it in Joanne’s lemonade and handed it to her at the weekly get-together after church, and that night Joanne was sick in the bed tossing and turning and throwing up. “That’ll teach her,” thought Miss Darlene when the announcements were read in church about Joanne’s sudden illness. Everyone figured Joanne got it from, in the words of Sister Francine, “being a trifling heifer.” The congregation never suspected that sweet, soft-spoken Darlene, a member of First Union Baptist since birth and the daughter of the late Pastor Crawford, was the culprit. How could good old faithful Darlene, the one who served hot meals at the soup kitchen and taught Sunday school to the young ones, do such an ungodly, heathenish thing? If they had known the real Darlene, they would have thrown holy water on her, thumped her over the head with their Bibles, and told her to step away from her wicked ways—good thing they never found out. They simply bowed heads and prayed for Joanne’s speedy recovery. The only one who wasn’t praying was Darlene, who had to bite her lower lip to keep herself from laughing.

You see, Miss Darlene had been jinxing folks since she was seven-years-old. She’d simply say what she wanted, pray to God about it—and like magic it would happen (to advance her skills, she later learned how to brew potions and spells at age ten).  Like the time when she was eight and wanted Mrs. Jacob’s son to like her, she simply said, “God, I want Junebug to like me” and the next day he gave her a dead dandelion and asked could she be his girl (of course, she broke up with him a week later once she discovered he was a bedwetter). It was so easy to put a jinx on God’s children it ain’t make no damn sense! Like the time when the white saleslady at Hecht’s told little Darlene and her mama they didn’t serve their kind—well it was so simple to have that lady lying in the hospital with pneumonia—it ain’t make no type of sense! She had simply envisioned the lady in the hospital with a cold rag on her forehead and a thermometer poking out of her mouth—and presto—it happened! (To read the story in its entirety, purchase a copy of Street Magic: Stories and Tales).

Crazy Witchy by Mary B. Banks

We knew her as Crazy Witchy, but her Christian name was Helene Fulton. Isn’t that a pretty name for a weirdo, evil-worshipping lunatic? When I hear the name Helene, I envision a Greek goddess with strands of blond hair blowing in the wind, a rosy mouth, and ivory skin. Not combat boots and black lipstick. Helene belonged in the circus freak show. Her hair was neon pink with blue streaks. She had piercings everywhere—one in her eyebrow, one in her tongue, and one in her lip. Looking at her was like looking at a demonic picture. I always made sure to say a prayer anytime I looked at her. She was that evil.

“What type of woman is this?” I asked myself, when I first saw her in Mr. Cole’s classroom.

We lived in a small farming town in West Virginia. You could smell the tobacco in the fields and on the other side of the tracks is where the Colored folks lived. We never said much to them, the Colored people. In our town, we all knew one another, but for some reason Weirdo just sprung up on us like a bad thunderstorm. You know, the type of storm that comes out the blue. First, it’s sunny and shiny. Then the sky becomes black and before you know it, you’re soaked in rain. Well, let’s just say that Weirdo was that unexpected downpour and our clothes became drenched with her evilness.

I remember that day like the back of my hand. I entered Mr. Cole’s homeroom and there she was sitting at the front of the room wearing her black lipstick and combat boots in the middle of August. She gently dabbed at the sweat that gathered at her forehead and upper lip. It was a hundred degrees outside, but inside the brick schoolhouse, it felt like two hundred.  The fan in the front room only blew hot air.

Helene’s hair was cut in a bob. It would have been awesome if her hair wasn’t died a hot pink. Me, Marty, and the girls simply stared at her with our mouths wide open. When she spoke, we knew she was a Yankee. We never bothered to ask her where specifically up North she came from—maybe it was Boston or New York. Hell if we knew and hell if we cared. All we did know is that she had an annoying accent and a face that would have been pretty if she wasn’t a witch. (To read the story in its entirety, purchase a copy of Street Magic: Stories and Tales).

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