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Hang on to your seat as Pat G'Orge-Walker spins a hilarious, inspiring novel of mistakes and second chances, heartache and love, sin and salvation...
Appearances mean everything to Delilah Dupree Jewel. So after hearing of her daughter-in-law's sudden death, Delilah decides that coming to the rescue of her long estranged son Jesse and her granddaughter Tamara would be a good look . . . though Lord knows she'll have to dig hard to find her ...
Hang on to your seat as Pat G'Orge-Walker spins a hilarious, inspiring novel of mistakes and second chances, heartache and love, sin and salvation...
Appearances mean everything to Delilah Dupree Jewel. So after hearing of her daughter-in-law's sudden death, Delilah decides that coming to the rescue of her long estranged son Jesse and her granddaughter Tamara would be a good look . . . though Lord knows she'll have to dig hard to find her maternal instincts.
But Delilah quickly discovers Jesse wants nothing to do with her. And Tamara, who's following in Delilah's musical footsteps, isn't interested in her career advice, especially since Delilah got ahead using the singing couch. And Delilah's old flame Deacon Pillar, an ex-convict who's traded in his gangster ways for a Bible, is stirring up a past that's sure to shock. Now, all Delilah knows is that she'd better hold on to her faith, 'cause she needs God now more than ever. . . .
Praise For Pat G'Orge-Walker
"Ms. Walker pens a tale so funny that you'll fall out of your chair laughing, and so poignantly realistic that you'll wipe tears from your eyes...a must-read." —Angela Benson on Cruisin' on Desperation
"Christian comedy fiction at its best." —Library Journal
Nine months ago she was the darling of the Apollo Theater. A gorgeous R & B chanteuse and often mistaken for a Dorothy Dandridge look-alike. Nine months ago, Claudine Dupree Jewel was someone on the verge of stardom because she'd made it into the downtown Manhattan nightclub scene. Downtown was where the white folks with money and connections migrated and played the queen-making game for some lucky Negress.
Nine months later, Claudine was an angry, fame-chasing, maternally lacking, pregnant, and unmarried nineteen-year-old.
It was 1947, and it came to a head during a snow blizzard in Westchester County, New York. She'd never completed high school and was barely existing on the little money she'd made and saved before she began to show. Nobody would hire a big-bellied singer, no matter how good the singer was.
In no time the money dwindled. Claudine didn't have money for the crowded, vermin-infested room she'd rented and barely enough to pay for a bus ride. But Claudine had what she called street smarts, so she made a plan. She couldn't afford prenatal care, so she just simply planned to wait until a few days from the date when Mother Luke, an elderly church mother who rented one of the other cockroach motel rooms, suggested she'd give birth, and then go to a nearby emergency room.
But Mother Luke's old custom of placing a hand on the belly and sizing up the dark line that ran from the navel to the pubic hairline wasn't quite scientific enough. If the pains that racked Claudine's back meant the baby was coming, then the old church mother was off by a couple of weeks.
So armed with just enough bus fare, and towels crammed into her underwear to catch the birth water, she stood on the bus, crushed between others who didn't care if she was pregnant or not. Twenty minutes later, a young and alone Claudine Dupree Jewel barely made it across the street after she'd stepped off the bus. Within fifteen minutes after arriving and some ignorant doctor yelling, "Don't push," while the blizzard howled louder than her screams, she gave birth in a small hospital labor room in Mount Vernon, New York. Shortly after, since she'd registered as a charity case and the bed was needed for paying patients, there'd been not too subtle hints tossed her way indicating that her stay would be short.
"We're sorry we can't allow you to stay past a day or so until you get your strength," the charity ward nurse began in her most uncharitable manner, "but the best we can do is give you a few diapers and a letter that will authorize a few bottles of formula from the hospital pharmacy. Once you leave, I suggest you try and eat healthy enough to give that baby some breast milk."
So that was all the kindness Claudine received. A couple of diapers, a letter for formula, and advice to eat healthy on money she didn't have so she could provide breast milk from her tiny yet swollen breasts. She got the news after she received a few hope-this-will-hold-ya stitches. Her five-pound-two-ounce pasty-colored baby girl, just hours ago, had almost ripped the petite Claudine apart.
To add further insult as she lay without the benefit of even an aspirin for the bone-crushing cramps that followed, someone came over to the bed and urged her to hurry and name her baby. Paperwork needed filing before they kicked Claudine to the curb in another twenty-four hours.
Claudine didn't give it a second thought. "I'm naming her Delilah." Her chest heaved as the tears poured. "This little girl's gonna blind every man with her beauty and steal their very soul, just like that Delilah gal did in the Bible story."
The unsympathetic woman with the pen and paper remained disconnected as she added, "And don't forget to fill in the father's name and date of birth."
"He's dead." Claudine let out another groan, indicating that was all she would say about the matter.
The woman retrieved the pen and paper from Claudine's hand and left without any further information. It wasn't the first time a woman gave birth and didn't give the father's name.
The real truth was that Claudine didn't care what the woman thought. Despite her pain and the wails coming from her hungry newborn baby in the bassinet a few feet away, Claudine turned to face the wall and cussed damnation upon every Y chromosome that walked the earth. Of course, there was one man in particular whom she'd have shot if he were there. She was really angry at a silvery-tongued devil named Sampson, and despite telling the lie that he was dead, she was very sure he was still alive.
Sampson, the object of her hatred, was a few years older; a tall, butterscotch-complexioned bass player who'd gotten more than a phone number from her-he'd gotten her pregnant. As smart as she thought she was, she'd fallen for the old "We don't need no piece of paper to show how much we love one another" jive. The first few months were like magic. Then hocus-pocus-Sampson disappeared off the planet as soon as she mentioned she'd missed her period. She would never forgive herself for not learning more about him so she could've ruined his life like he'd done hers. The only way to get back at him was to never tell her daughter who her father was. Claudine never did; not even when Delilah grew up teased and called a bastard child and cried to know his name.
Like most of Claudine's decisions that weren't well thought-out, if thought-out at all, she also messed up when she named her baby with a less than noble motive. Claudine hadn't read the entire biblical story, because in the end that particular Delilah didn't make out too well, while in Sampson's case, he brought the house down ... and not in a good way.
Only time would tell if Claudine's need for revenge would manifest in little Delilah's life, and to what degree. Whether it did or not, Claudine never waited to find out. As soon as Delilah, talented and gorgeous, turned eighteen, Claudine did to her daughter the same thing she'd always hated Sampson for. Claudine disappeared and left Delilah to fend for herself.
Delilah Dupree Jewel was dog tired of decades of life using her as its human Ping-Pong ball and toilet. She'd looked for love on her terms ever since Claudine abandoned her with nothing but youthful ignorance as a cover. It didn't matter that Delilah had beauty that either made one instantly love her or hate her. She'd lost count of how many times she'd heard You may look like Lena Horne, but you ain't Lena Horne.
How many times had she fallen for some man's game? All a pair of pants had to say was Lena Horne better watch out, 'cause you about to snatch her shine. You look like her twin.
Of course, Delilah wasn't totally blameless. If she found a diamond, Delilah would find a way to turn it into cubic zirconium. Self-sabotage, thy name be Delilah Dupree Jewel.
By the time she turned forty-something, she gave the idea of surrendering a try. I don't have another tear left, she told God for the umpteenth time. That time it was when the last of her sugar daddies turned out not to be so sweet. His wife, having thought more of the marriage than her husband, went after Delilah with a brick in one hand and a fistful of High John the Conqueror snuff. She'd planned to hit Delilah upside the head and then blind her.
"Don't you ever call my house again for my husband," the man's wife threatened.
Delilah was insulted that the woman thought so little of her. "As long as I've messed around with your husband, I've never called your house," Delilah barked. "I've got more class than that."
And that's when Delilah lost several teeth. The man's wife, apparently not happy with Delilah's apology, put a well-placed punch in Delilah's unrepentant mouth with the brick.
Getting her teeth fixed caused her to pawn a very expensive ring and laid her on the doorsteps of the poorhouse.
But eventually, as so many do as a last resort, Delilah wanted peace in her life; Jehovah-shalom. A lot of her decision also had to do with a failed singing and modeling career and a couple of other speed bumps along life's highway. And, of course, she expected God to do things on her terms and she set about to find Him. She wanted the great Jehovahnissi, the God that would protect her from the demons of her past and most of all protect Delilah from her own self-destructive behavior. After all, she'd endured for almost half her life, to Delilah's way of thinking, God owed her big-time. Delilah decided she'd serve Jehovah-jireh. After all, she'd heard He was the great provider.
So with no family or close friends to hold on to and her Jehovah at her beck and call, Delilah headed back East from California. Once she returned to New York, she continued her search for the elusive peace, but bad luck kept dogging her as though it were an ugly birthmark on her forehead. Yet Delilah was still Delilah "the stubborn," and as time went on she became less of a worshipper and more of God's adviser.
Delilah had barely taken a bite out of the big New York apple when she'd upped the she-gotta-lotta-nerve ante and placed God on a schedule. But it all started to unravel one Sunday in Brooklyn, New York. The temperature was in the nineties and the weather wasn't the only thing hot.
Delilah Dupree Jewel put on her best and most modest yellow print dress, tucked her long, snow white hair under her big-curls blond Farrah Fawcett wig, and donned her oversized sunglasses. She'd done all that so she could sit in her car outside one of the various Brooklyn churches she favored. That was how she did her "churchy duty."
In her car she could avoid inner church politics such as, "My tithes paid for this pew," or "God knows our hearts and a little sinning is okay." If she was inside and had to hear that familiar mess, she would've killed someone before the choir sang their first hymn.
By the time Delilah made it to her car that Sunday, the temperature had soared to almost one hundred degrees. As she drove along she sweated profusely. Her dress was wet and clung to her legs. Of course, the air-conditioning in her car was on the fritz.
"Okay, Lord, I know I promised you I would give you another shot when I came back to New York," Delilah whispered angrily, "and I've kept up my end of the arrangement, but I need you to touch this air-conditioning or I'm gonna hafta go back home."
Satisfied that God would do such a small thing on her behalf, she relaxed a little and let out a sigh. One of her small hands clutched the steering wheel while the other fiddled with the knobs for the A/C. The A/C was as stubborn as Delilah. "If I had another way of getting around and wasn't already three months behind on this piece of crap, I'd leave it in the middle of the street."
As she pushed her neon red, leased 2003 Navigator through the busy streets of Brooklyn's East New York streets, she pleaded, "Come on, Jesus. I wanna get there before the choir goes up and the Rapture comes."
There wasn't much gas in the tank, but she believed God. Even if He wouldn't touch the air-conditioning, He would get her to church on time, even if it had to be on fumes. And then Delilah suddenly took up from an earlier prayer she'd had with God, and reminded Him, "I know I promised You, when You let me keep this latest car out of the clutches of the repo man, that I'd serve You more often, but I still need Your help. I need help in paying that three months' back note...."
"Lord," Delilah continued, "there's that one thing I know I keep bothering You about. But if I don't bring it before You, who can I bring it before?" The sound of a blaring car horn shook Delilah. She realized that she was idling at a stop sign and not a red light. Since she was on her way to church, she decided not to flip the bird to the driver behind her.
Her attention was still on her driving, and she continued talking to God. "I know there're other problems in this cold, cruel world that occupy Your time. And just like I know folks say that You leave the past in the past, I want to thank You for being bothered with me and all my shame and hurt."
And then Delilah lowered her voice as though it were someone else in the car other than her and God. "I mean specifically the shame of having that breakdown, and me leaving my husband and putting my baby boy, Jessie, in foster care all those years ago. I'm sure they're doing quite well without me and my family curse. I remember throughout most of my teenage years, my mama taught me that it seems like the Jewels just don't shine that well here on earth...."
"Y'all sing that chorus just one more time," Delilah murmured through her car window that particular Sunday as she pulled into the New Hope Assembly Church's huge parking lot. Happy she was able to park not too far from the sanctuary, she rolled down her window and braved the heat. The huge, air-conditioned church's windows were closed, but she could still hear them praising God. Delilah swung her tiny hands from side to side and tapped the steering wheel like a choir director. Oh, how she did enjoy directing a good song almost as much as she did singing one. "Awww, come on now. Give God the glory!"
* * *
Delilah's attempt at pleasing her God caused her to spread her worship among several churches in Harlem and Brooklyn. New Hope was surely becoming one of her favorites. It was the third time she'd visited and praised God from their parking lot. She'd come to choose her place of worship according to which she thought had the best music. So many times the music that poured through open stained-glass windows or oversized amplifiers tugged at her spirit and fed her soul.
And yet, true to her word, as soon as it became time for God's message to come forth with all the loud preaching that was brought with it, along with the begging for money part of the service, she'd always drive off before it began. Delilah always managed to feel good after giving God His worship, on her terms.
However, soon enough Delilah would receive a message of another sort. God, omniscient and the author of the final word for all mankind, had had just about enough of Delilah's customized worship service. God was about to checkmate the old gal and she'd never see it coming.
Delilah swung her head around and peeked out through the driver's side rolled-down window. She'd moved too fast; something she didn't normally do when she heard her name called, without checking to see if there was drama attached to it.
"Delilah?" There was no mistaking that male voice. It sounded closer and a bit more confident than it had a moment ago. But now it had more of an accusatory tone than a questioning one. "Woman, stop trying to act like it ain't you."
The tall, dark-skinned man lumbered toward the passenger side of Delilah's car. Only a few feet separated him from the Navigator.
"Delilah Dupree ..." The man reached the car before he could complete her name for the third time. He had a dark jacket flung over his arm and wore a black-and-white polka-dot shirt and matching bow tie. His white pants didn't quite fit right, but the suspenders made certain they wouldn't fall off his lanky body. And the hair-a little sparser than the last time Delilah had laid eyes upon it-still appeared shiny and hard, as though it would crack if touched.
The sight of the man's hair pulled Delilah back to her senses. Anger replaced her fear and any other feeling she'd felt a second ago. Dayum, is that fool still wearing a conk?
Before she could put the car in drive, he was standing in front of it like he dared her to take off and risk running him over.
"Excuse me?" Delilah's mind went into warp speed but didn't take a single innovative thought with it. All she could say was, "I think you have me confused with someone else." "Heffa, please." The man's dark eyes narrowed as he cautiously walked over to the driver's side and stared. His eyes looked like two brown pieces of steel as he placed his Bible on the roof of the Navigator. Without turning his cold eyes away, he pointed at the front of the car. "Now, unless you stole this monster, why does your license plate have Delilah on it?"
Excerpted from Don't Blame the Devil by Pat G'Orge-Walker Copyright © 2010 by Pat G'Orge-Walker. Excerpted by permission.
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