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The Mississippi Gulf Coast Writers Association's

       

Featured Writer

~ Jim Fraiser ~

 Pass Christian, Mississippi

    

     Jim Fraiser is a federal administrative law judge, law professor, freelance journalist, book and theater reviewer for the Sun Herald, a professional actor (My Dog Skip, The River Pirates, Blind Justice, Mississippi Burning), and historian. He is the author of 8 produced plays, two of which will be produced at Bay St. Louis Little Theater in March,  five published poems, and 17 books—four novels (including Shadow Seed, nominated for Best Fiction 1997 by Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters), one book of short stories, and 12 non-fiction books about the history, architecture and culture of the Deep South, including the best-selling French Quarter of New Orleans and The Garden District of New Orleans (University Press of Mississippi), and The Majesty of the Mississippi Delta, Vanished Mississippi Gulf Coast, Historic Architecture of Baton Rouge and Majesty of Mobile, with Pelican Publishing Company. A Greenwood native and longtime Jackson resident, he now lives in Pass Christian with his son Paul (7).

In An Enemy's Country

        The tall, angular, shaggy-haired man in a black open-collared silk shirt, balck designer jeans, and dark leather desert shoes intently eyed the woman seated on the wooded park bench before him.

She lifted the strands of raven-colored hair covering her eyes and forced herself to meet his baleful glare. “What exactly do you want with me, this time?” she asked solemnly. “Quit toying with me and tell me what you need me to do.”

When he didn’t answer, she lowered her eyes, fixing them on her shoe tops. “What must I do?” she asked again, flashing anger for the briefest moment before her eyes turned back into inscrutable obsidian disks.

“Thanks for coming. I’ve missed you.”

She blinked twice. “I know.”

He sat beside her on the bench. 

She looked away from him, into the night. Dark gray clouds blotted the purple twilight sky, humidity choked the air. She thought she discerned a trace of magnolia aroma in the heavy air, but the fetid scent of urine the homeless had left in the park smothered the scent.

The clouds hung so low they clipped the tops of the massive live oak that dominated the four block square park. The great oak’s ponderous limbs thrust out in every direction, suffocating the smaller pin oaks and magnolias standing at vaguely twisted angles, proof of their life-long struggles for sunlight in the larger tree’s shadow. 

She wiped beads of sweat from her brow. How could it be this hellish in December, she wondered, before reminding herself she now sat in the very heart of tropical Jackson, Mississippi.

Despite the humidity, or perhaps because of it, the tall man’s scent, dank, sour, unwashed, except for the recent change of unsullied clothes, assailed her with a vengeance. His breath reeked of something that reminded of carrion. It’s already begun, she realized with a shudder, feeling a sudden chill in no way connected to the weather.

She waited anxiously for him to speak, burrowing the pointed toes of her shoes into a soft patch of earth below the bench. But he remained silent, distant, peering straight ahead at the two Occupy the Park protesters in the distance, their large pasteboard signs stuck in the ground on stakes beside them, playing checkers on a concrete table beside a dried-up, weather-beaten fountain.  Behind these men, across the street from the park, stood a granite replica of an ancient Greek temple with a triangular pediment and massive, gray concrete columns. Either a bank or church, she figured, neither of which offered her sanctuary at times like these. She had nothing invested in either.

“If I do this for you, whatever you want me to do….”

“Yes?”

“Will you let me…” She felt his eyes searing irradiated fissures in her cheeks, sensed him inclining his head toward her in a malignant downward arc, his eyes coming almost level with hers. The fear, the rancid aromas, the heat simmering from his body, and the unexpected humidity stole her breath, choked off her words.

“Let you out of my life forever?” he murmured condescendingly. 

She could see his wide, iniquitous grin in her mind’s eye, but dared not turn to look. Nothing good would come of his seeing the disgust in her eyes, or of her moving her lips any closer to his.

“Yes,” he said in a much kinder tone than she expected. This was his way of conceding her terms. At least that’s what she hoped, the way a fly hopes the sleeping spider hasn’t felt her crashing into his web.

She forced herself to face him. “What do you want me to do?”

Holding her gaze, he gave a barely perceptible smile.

She felt a tightening in her throat, more suffocating than if he had smacked her on the mouth. At least that would have made her feel more alive than his disconcerting, gangrenous smile.

“In a moment,” he said, turning to the man on his left. “And what are you prepared to do?”

The woman glanced at the thin man. Lurking in the shadows with a scraggly mustache and sunken eyes like a cadaver’s, he looked like an overcooked radish in his brown polyester shirt, raggedy jeans, and tattered work boots. 

The gaunt man gave an exasperated look but spoke in a tone that could never be interpreted as aggressive.  “I’m ready to go through with your plan, Ryan. You know that, don’t you?”

“But not overly confident of its success?”

Before the other could blurt his usual beggarly response, the man called Ryan said, “Not to worry, my friend. As a modestly popular writer once said, ‘the greatest and most powerful revolutions often start very quietly, hidden in the shadows.’”

The woman turned in amazement, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, unable to believe what she had heard. You’ve never done anything quietly in your whole damned life, she thought but didn’t say.     

“What writer said that?” the thin man asked with more apprehension than curiosity.

“No one of consequence. Until now.”

   

With Love and Wet Kisses

by Paul E LaViolette

The Wagon Ride

by W. Michiel Hawkins

The Second Generation
by Terry I Miles
Mans Best Friend
by Bruce Wayne Sullivan

Dusty Pages
by Michael Gardebled

One Last Dance

Ayleene Thompson

Purple Passion

by Elva Avara

Holiday Poetry
by Patty Butkovich

Isle of Enchantment

by Henry Heitmann

The Guarantor

by Jay Waitkus

The Coffee House Dinner

by Shannon Rule

Sevan Laws of the Universe
by Linda Eschler

In the Garden

by Celine Rose Mariotti

The Devine Secret

by Mary Ann Sharp

Florida Has Cute Boys

by Lucy Jane Dixon

Roll 'Em, Roll 'Em, Roll 'Em

by Annie B McKee

Baptizing in the Pond

by Fred Prince

Dream World

by Alice Fitchie

Kidnapping of Charlie Rose

by Michael Groetsch

A Southern Baptist Courtship

by Karen Blakeney

Hand Prints

by Joe Brooks

Poetry

by Elena Ahrens

Something Happened-Cross

by Ed Hennessy

Love Hurts

by Bob Struthers

Veteran's Day

by Brenda Finnegan

Poetry
by Kristina Mullenix

Poetry

by Harold McLelland

Up From the Grave

by Betty Wilson Beamguard

Late Edition

by Dixon Hearne

Born Again Christmas Believer

by Elaine Stevens

Poetry

by Nelda R. Broom

Poetry
by Douglas Crotty

Archeologist Ruins Labrador

by John Freeman

Mom's Not Chummy With Fish

by Kristen Twedt

Pelham’s Sat. Morning Frolics

by R. F. Marazas

Old Mule Named Blue

by Charles Riley McInnis

On Being A Woman

by Victoria Olsen

In the Fine Print

by Philip Levin

Waiting for Barley Soup

by D. H. Clair

A Duet
by Andrew Badger
Poetry
by Lewis Stockham
Poetry
by Jane Blanchard
The Day the Music Ended
by Connie Rainey
Lifelines
by Dixon Hearne
You Gotta Be Kidding Me
by Sharon C. Walker
Run, Redneck, Run
by Sam Irwin

Poetry

by Judy Davies

Dixieland Murder
by Teresa Lynn
Poetry
by Elaine McDermott
Afternoon Conversation
by Meg Peresich
The Girl with the Bluebird Tattoo
by Lenny Emmanuel
Ruby Silver (excerpt)
by Randall Reneau
Apple Tree Tavern
by Mary Ellen Gavin
Poetry
by Frank DeCanio
Excerpt from "Gabe"
by Sue Monkgress
Nevermore, Once Again
by Charles Jones
Days of the Week
by Mandy B. Fernandez

We Went Skydiving...
by Frank Wilem

A Good Girl
by Johnnie Bernhard
Poetry
by Poppy Herrin
Excerpt from Bounty Hunters
by Melanie Atkins