Max's journey pits him against two of city's most powerful men and their plans for postwar riches. Their use of brutality and the fear it carries is not as motivating as the regret that fills Max's heart and haunts his dreams.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)|
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Maximillion SlaughterThat Ain't No Jive
By Ronald Bryan
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Ronald Bryan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTwilight; that time that is neither day nor night, when decisions are made more from doubt than lack of vision, when truth is hardest to see, when choice is often the result of subconscious memory; it was at that very time that Max stopped, and just stood there in the middle of Seventh Street, as if he were alone on the street, alone in all the world, alone and not just lonely. It was July 15, 1944; Maximillion Slaughter, like so many Black people, had come from the South, but unlike those who came out for the wartime jobs at the shipyards, he sought to make Oakland, California, his "Harlem of the West"; and the Avalon the center of his universe.
Max, a good looking buckskinned man in his early thirties, stood a little over six feet. He wore a grey hat, which perfectly matched his New York pin striped suit in color and style. His coat was buttoned and draped down from his strong broad shoulders. His tie, a solid red, demanded attention even though it was tucked neatly inside his coat. He wore Stacy Adams black Bostonian shoes, with a shine so brilliant they reflected any light that came their way.
The drivers of most of the cars moving up and down Seventh Street couldn't decide whether or not they should have their head lights on, but the conductor of the "Red Car," the local street train, with its huge yellow cow catcher, turned on his big single bright headlight, as it charged down the middle of Seventh Street. For a moment, the light blinded both Max and his friend, Samuel "Poppa" Johnson, who misjudged the speed of the Red Car and stepped into harm's way, but before the Red Car could claim him, Max yanked him back and into the traffic coming from the other direction. Both men froze at the sight of the stunning black nineteen-forty-two Cadillac fastback coupe, which abruptly skidded to a stop in front of them. The driver, Red Manning, a freckled red haired sporting-man of forty, reached across to restrain his attractive young female companion, Lucy "Tee-baby" Lawson.
Unshaken, Max, squared his hat and approached Red's car. He leaned down and looked in through the open window at the driver.
Red glared at him, "If I'd known it was you, Max Slaughter, I would'a run you down!"
Max grinned, showing his pearly whites, "It's like that, Red?" he replied.
Max looked just past Red to his passenger. His smile, which was usually welcomed by even the most unavailable women, had no effect on Tee-baby. She looked straight ahead. Max moved forward to see her better.
"Tee-baby, is that you?" he asked.
Red frowned, "You know damn well that's her!"
Max removed his hat and tried another pearl white glow, but this one was for naught too. Tee-baby continued to stare straight ahead without a response.
"I ain't forgot about how you stole Fatha Hines from my club last month, Maximillion Slaughter!" spat Red.
Max grinned and offered, "But that was just business, Red."
Max tried in vain to get Tee-baby to look his way, but she ignored him.
Red moved the car forward, just enough so that he could look dead into Max's face, and then flashed his gold teeth, "And this here's just pleasure!" said Red.
As quickly as he could, Red revved his engine, and dropped the gear shift into first. The Caddy's tires squealed and smoked. Max snapped his head back before the car shot away.
Max and Poppa watched the black Caddy's bright brake lights flash as it slowed in front of Walker's drugstore; and then they dashed across the street to the safety of the sidewalk.
Tee-baby opened her own door and extended her shapely brown legs. She got out of the car and stepped up onto the curb. She watched as the Caddy backed away and pulled off. Behind her, on both sides of the drugstore's front doors, were two large signs posted on the windows that read, "Uncle Sam Needs You!" Two other signs next to each of those, and even larger in size, read, "Now Hiring—McCabe & Morriston Shipyard."
Standing in front of Uncle Gus' barbershop, they looked down the street toward Walker's drugstore.
Poppa stood just behind Max and spoke in his deep grainy voice, "Maybe you should've kept that one?"
Max slowly turned his head from side to side, as though his mind and body were in conflict, "You know I couldn't give her what she wanted," he finally said.
"Don't give me that line man, you could've married her."
Before Tee-baby opened the door to the Walker's drugstore and threw a gentle glance in Max's direction. Max smiled and touched the brim of his hat with his fingers. At that same moment, Max was bumped from behind; he turned, and said, "Excuse me."
It was Miss Lola, the fortune teller, standing just in front of him now. She stared at him for a long moment.
"You alright Miss Lola?" he asked, as he briefly touched her forearm.
Miss Lola grabbed Max's hand as he returned his arm to his side. Her face was pale and her eyes dark as a country night, "Your heart will be touched by death again," she paused, her eyes glared deep into his, "and start you on a dangerous journey," she revealed.
Before Max could respond, she pulled her hand back and hurried away. Max watched her cross the street and ascend the side stairs to her place of business, just above the Walker's drugstore.
"What do you make of that?" asked Poppa.
"I don't believe in that fortune telling jive," Max replied glibly, but while he spoke with confidence, he pondered her words as if they were gospel.
When Max and Poppa left the barbershop, the sun had set and stars could be seen behind the buildings across the street. Lights on the big center building illuminated the large black and white sign on it, which read, "THE AVALON."
Seventh Street was now like the calm before a Pacific storm. Few cars passed along the street. The tail lights of the last street train twinkled in the distance. Max stroked his hand back across the top of his head.
Poppa studied him, "Is the cut too close?" he asked.
Max shook his head no, grinned, and donned his hat. Poppa watched Max gaze, across the street at the Avalon, like a man infatuated with a woman. A few early birds hovered around the front doors.
"She's beautiful, ain't she Poppa," Max finally said with deep affection.
"Come'on Max, it's just a bunch of old bricks and wood," replied Poppa.
"You know damn well that the Avalon is much more than that. She's got music for blood, and when she's really jumpin' there's smoke comin' out of her mouth."
"There you go with that crazy talk again," Poppa paused and then added, "Well, it ain't got no heart."
"Of course she does; she's got mine," Max held.
"Don't give me that jive," said Poppa.
"This ain't no foolishness, Poppa. I've given her my soul and my heart; in fact, I love the Avalon more than any woman I've ever been with," replied Max with a sparkle in his eyes.
Poppa looked at Max and spoke like the good friend that he was, "Well, it don't warm your bed at night; what you need is a good woman, Maximillion Slaughter, and that ain't no jive."
* * *
Max closed the door to his apartment and adjusted his tie as he walked toward the stairs. Before he started down, he stopped for a few moments to appreciate the sounds coming from the blues band in the Grand room on the first floor. The music flowed up the stairs to fill the hallway and all three apartments on the second floor of the Avalon. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he found Poppa, who waited there for him, as usual. Max smiled at his big friend, and Poppa nodded.
"Looks like a good crowd in there tonight Max. You ready?"
"Hold on a minute, Poppa."
Max stood just outside the threshold to the club's grand room and looked in at the crowd. He took a deep, long breath of the smoke and alcohol filled air.
"Damn, I love this!" Max said with a big grin.
Max entered the Grand room followed closely by Poppa. The band played an upbeat tune behind the old colored songstress who swayed back and forth in the middle of the stage. Smoke hung above the crowd of folks drinking and smoking. Like most Saturday nights, the Avalon was filled with young military men, in either Navy or Army uniforms, and because of the war, women in the club out-numbered the men three to one. The crowd was mostly black, but blues lovers come in all colors.
Max moved from table to table, shaking hands and greeting folks. One of the soldiers jumped to his feet and vigorously shook Max's hand.
"Mi ... Mi ... Míster Slaughter. Ni ... Ni ... Nice club you go ... got ... here!"
Poppa moved up next to the big soldier, who was just about his size, but Max smiled and nodded.
"He's okay," Max assured Poppa. "Thanks, soldier."
Max looked past the soldier to the bar, where a beautiful dark skinned woman sat next to a tall thin light skinned woman, who was equally as stunning. The two women had more than their fair share of admirers. Max thought that this was natural, after all, the sweetest flowers always seem to attract the most bees. The dark skinned woman also eyed Max, and sent him a warm welcoming smile.
"We're go ... go ... gonna win this here war, Mister Slaughter," said the soldier.
Max looked from the soldier's eyes down to their hands. The soldier followed Max's eyes and was embarrassed to find that he still held Max's hand. He suddenly released his grip and grinned nervously.
"We sure are son. You go on and enjoy yourself now."
Max tried to move toward the bar, but his progress was impeded at the next table of hand-shakers. He gazed at the bar again, and was surprised to see only one man standing with the two women.
Max took advantage of the moment, and skipped past the next two tables. Poppa had a hard time keeping up with Max. Standing just behind the dark skinned woman, Max leaned in and asked her, "Having a good time?"
The woman turned slowly toward Max, her words carried by the smoke that left her mouth, "I am now."
"Then maybe I shouldn't interrupt," Max replied casually as he looked around the room.
"Something wrong," she asked.
"No, I'm just checking the place out," he finally replied.
She turned to get her glass and then back to Max. She raised it to her lips, and Max watched them as they parted and the liquid flowed into her mouth.
Still focused on her beautiful lips, Max added, "I hope you don't think I was givin' you some line."
She spoke as she lowered her drink, "We don't need lines, Max Slaughter."
Max stepped back and took a long look at the woman, "Do we know each other?"
"Yeah, we know each other," she paused while she sipped from her drink again. With her drink in hand, she continued, "But if you're asking if we've ever met, the answer is no."
Max was taken by her confidence. He knew that the dance of the bees had begun; he plead, "Well ... , please tell me your ..."
"The name's Lily," she said with her drink close to her full dark red colored lips.
"Just Lily?" asked Max, as his gaze made its way up to her large soft brown eyes.
"Just Lily; like the flower."
Max looked at her empty glass, "Well, 'Lily like the flower,' can I get you another drink?"
"I've got one coming; a sailor gentleman offered to buy me one, he had to go down to the other end of the counter, to where the bartenders are."
At the end of the bar a middle aged, thin white man, wearing wire framed glasses, with thick lenses, sat next to a short black skinned sailor.
"Looks as though your lady friend might not be needing that drink of yours' sailor," the thin man said.
The sailor looked down the bar and saw Lily and Max laughing it up. "Damn pretty boys, always gettin' in somebody's way," said the sailor angrily.
Lily had already introduced Max to her girlfriend Rose, the gorgeous light skinned woman, and the sailor with her, before her other suitor returned. The grinning sailor handed Lily one of the drinks in his hands. She smiled and thanked him; then took a sip from the glass. The thin man watched from the end of the counter. He smiled wickedly as Lily took a second, longer, swallow.
Lily and her girlfriend kissed each other on the cheeks. Lily looked around the room and said with a devilish smile, "You treat your sailor real good you hear; he could've gone home with any of these pretty girls."
With a grin on her face, her friend replied, "It ain't hard to please one man ..." She then looked from Max to Lily's sailor friend, and continued, "But, I ain't never been able to make two of 'em happy, least not at the same time."
"Girl, you need to go before you start somethin' I cain't finish," laughed Lily.
Lily's friend shook her head up and down, and smiled, "I'll see you tomorrow girl, but make it late, ok?" She hooked her hand through her sailor's arm and they began to move slowly through the dense crowd, headed toward the main doors.
Lily sat comfortably between the two men, one standing to her right and the other on her left.
On stage, the songstress ended her number. The crowd stood and started to clap. Max turned toward the stage and added his hands to the loud applause. The sailor took advantage of the distraction and whispered into Lily's ear. Max turned back in time to see her shake her head no, as she calmly took another sip from her drink. He was now sure that he had more time with his flower, and welcomed his competition.
Down at the other end of the bar, the thin white man, smirked while he watched; and then tossed a buck on the counter, and turned to leave.
Lily downed the last of her drink and sat the empty glass back on the counter.
Max raised his hand and signaled the bartender. "Let me get you another drink, Lily," he said.
The sailor stuck his chest out and responded before Lily could, "I'm buying her drinks tonight!"
With a big grin, Max extended his hand, "I'm Max Slaughter, the Avalon's my club."
The sailor looked at Lily. Then he reluctantly, shook Max's hand, "Gilmore Green's my name, seaman 3rd class Gilmore Green."
Max looked from Gilmore to Lily and said, "Well, seaman 3rd class Gilmore Green, it seems that we're both out to win the attention of the lovely Miss Lily tonight."
Lily bent her head, in recognition of the compliment she had just received.
"This here ain't no kinda game. I been buying this gal drinks all night and she's leavin' here right now!"
Max looked over Gilmore's head, searching for the bartender, while responding to him, "But I don't think she's ready to leave yet, Seaman Green."
The bartender held Lily's drink high in the air. "Thanks," Max said as he reached across the bar for it. As he brought it down and offered it to Lily, Gilmore knocked the glass to the floor.
"You've had too much to drink, my friend," Max said as he glared at Gilmore.
Gilmore stood his ground, "I ain't your god damn friend!"
The grin on Max's face faded to a scowl, and Gilmore swung at him. Before his fist could reach its target, Max pulled his head back, and a large hand grabbed the back of Gilmore's collar and pulled him in that direction. Gilmore's fist whisked just inches away from Max's jaw. Gilmore jerked free from his handler; turned quickly and swung on the man behind him, without regard to who it might be. Poppa caught Gilmore's fist in one hand, and turned his arm back behind him. Poppa pulled up on Gilmore's arm until it made a sound like a branch that's been snapped. Gilmore yelled out in pain, "Get the fuck off of me man!"
"I'll throw him out," said Poppa.
"No. Get some coffee in him and see that he gets back to his base," replied Max.
Poppa held onto Gilmore's arm and pushed him toward the kitchen door at the end of the counter.
Max bent to pick up the glass from the floor and sat it on the counter.
Max beamed at Lily, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ..."
"Speak for me?" offered Lily.
Lily's eyes twinkled, and her pearl white teeth parted as she leaned into Max, "He was right when he said I was ready to leave."
Max tried to conceal his disappointment.
"You don't have to look at me like that; I want to leave with you, Maximillion Slaughter."
"You want to go up the street to the Chinese restaurant?" Max smiled.
"Is that what you want?" She inquired.
Max grinned like a young school boy, "Well that will do for a starter, unless you want to go somewhere else."
"I want to go to your place, and finish what we've started."
"And just what is it that we've started?" Max said with a devilish grin.
"Be patient, you'll see," replied Lily with a wink.
* * *
The room was dimly lit from a small lamp on one of the nightstands beside the large bed. The light from the lamp ran up the back wall to the mirror on the ceiling. The mirror reflected Lily's naked body as she sat on Max's mid-section. She gazed down at Max and then leaned back and stared up at herself. Her perfectly shaped firm large breasts pointed up toward the mirror; her black nipples were hard from the pleasure she enjoyed.
Excerpted from Maximillion Slaughter by Ronald Bryan Copyright © 2011 by Ronald Bryan. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Outstanding job for a upstart writer. Excellent story line, use of sub-plots and interweaving of historical facts. Great to see a writer able to bring a story to life. Looking forward to further adventers of Maximillion and other books from Mr. Bryan.