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Re-Membering Katrina, “When Chris Met Katrina”- a short story

The boat whistled its’ way through the waters and soon the screams of the women faded. The air was now filled with the constant yells of families sitting on roofs screaming for help.  They approached Memorial Medical Center and Chris decided to seek refuge there.  As he got closer, he could see through the lobby window hundreds of people camped inside.  Every seat was occupied and people were sprawled out on the floor with blankets.  Police were patrolling the doors.  Chris knocked but the policemen just stood and shook their heads in the negative.  Chris trudged through the water to the other side of the hospital and policemen were standing heavy guard at those doors too.  He knew besides the sore bones and loose teeth, he had no serious injury and they were not going to let him in.

Chris double tied his bag of food and treaded through the water on his tippy toes.  He began to reminisce on the summers growing up in New Orleans.  His father worked as a mechanic in a neighborhood shop and in the summer Chris would help out by washing the cars once he was done.  Afterwards, instead of joining his cousins down at the local swimming pool, he hung out with the neighborhood knuckle heads and smoked weed.  Or they convinced one of the older drunks to buy them liquor.  He was all of nine years old.  With the water slapping up against his chest and occasionally splashing in his face, he wished he had taken those swimming lessons instead.

A few blocks from the hospital, Chris found himself pacing in the water side by side with a dog.  The dog was a dark brown cocker spaniel probably looking for a dry place to rest his feet.  From atop, the dog seemed to be relaxed.  But he knew underneath he was probably  paddling his legs wild as the devil!  Chris remembered how easy it was to tread the dog paddle when he was younger so he picked his feet up to give it a try.  He quickly dipped in the thick, murky waters and emerged panicked.  He struggled to get his stance stable but soon regained his pace and continued down the street with the other stranded people.

A little ways down, Chris spotted the small boat and whistled to get their attention.  They acknowledged him by waving.  Other people began to whistle and try and make their way to the boat too so Chris picked up his pace.  The eyes of the dog swimming nearby were showing signs of exhaustion.  There was no telling how long the dog had been in the water.  The dog let out a bark, then went under the water.  Within seconds, his head reappeared and he began to bark in desperation.  Chris was mindful to stay as far away from the dog as possible to avoid being bitten.  The small boat reeved it’s engine as they waited for him.  The dog’s bark now became aggressive as he continued to swim towards Chris.  The men on the boat splashed water towards the dog to slow him down and distract  his concentration on swimming.

“Come on man!  Dat dog look mad or summin’!,” one of the men said.

Chris turned his head to witness the dog go under again.  He started to run on his tip toes because he knew he would get sprayed with the dirty water when the dog came back up.  He reached the boat and threw his bag of food aboard.  He could feel the water spray on the back of his neck as the dog shook its’ head.  The men reached down and pulled Chris on the boat.

“They wasn’t lettin’ nobody in down at the hospital huh?,” Gunner asked.

“Naw,” Chris simply replied.

The boat pulled away and the dog continued to swim behind it.  His eyes were bulging as he barked pleas of help.  There was nothing in sight for the dog to take refuge on.  The dog’s shiny, brown coat disappeared under the water a third time, not to emerge again.

a snippet from the short story book, Mississippi Window Cracks.

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Mississippi Window Crack

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The Making of Mississippi Window Cracks

(the prologue to Mississippi Window Cracks written in 2006)

A few years ago I decided that after all the books and movies I had read and seen related to the civil rights struggles and the state called Mississippi, it was time to take a visit.  I arranged to spend a few days in Jackson, Mississippi, with a colleague of mine so I could walk the land that enveloped the energy of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Margaret Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Emmett Till and the streets of the infamous “Freedom Summers”.  My time there was filled with meeting civil rights heroes that are still alive, pouring libation on slave plantations, visiting museums and other historic sites, relaxing on the porch fanning flies until the sunset, and of course the southern cuisine.

One morning, my friend declared she knew the best place in town for a good bowl of grits.  Upon arriving at the cozy, corner diner downtown, she turned the car off and told me to put a crack in the window.  I told her that living in Los Angeles, people really didn’t do that but I remember it from growing up in Kansas City, Mo. Effortlessly, she rolled a crack in the driver’s side window.  I followed hastily already tasting the buttery grits in my mouth.  She turned and looked at me then spoke with hesitance in her voice.

“What’s that?”, she asked.

“What’s what?”

“I thought you were going to put a crack in the window.”

“I did.”

“That’s a crack?,” she asked sarcastically.

Now feeling totally self conscious I affirmed, “Yeah, this is the kind of window crack I used to do in the summertime in Kansas City.”

“Well this ain’t Missouri, this is Mississippi!  You better put a bigger crack in that window as hott as it is out here!”

I gave the handle on the window a few more turns to open it up.

She encouraged me, “A little more.”

I carefully cranked it until I gained her nod of approval, “Like this?”

“Yeah!  Now that there is a Mississippi window crack!”

The funny part about this story is how serious it got!  It was almost a borderline argument.  But as we walked in the diner, we laughed and joked how that would be a good title for a poem and who was going to write it first.  Well, here is my book of short stories that chronicle the tales fed to me through the trees, music, and people I met during my time spend in Jackson.  Instead of vacationing in the Bahamas or Paris, take a visit down in the deep south to a part of history, your history, our history.  You ever heard the saying, “There’s the United States and then there’s Mississippi?”  It’s the truth!  Go feel it for yourself!

with love,

nikki skies

PS – The grits were delicious!

Mississippi Window Crack

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“When Chris Met Katrina” Snippets of a story from the book “Mississippi Window Cracks”

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The boat whistled its’ way through the waters and soon the screams of the women faded. The air was now filled with the constant yells of families sitting on roofs screaming for help.  They approached Memorial Medical Center and Chris decided to seek refuge there.  As he got closer, he could see through the lobby window hundreds of people camped inside.  Every seat was occupied and people were sprawled out on the floor with blankets.  Police were patrolling the doors.  Chris knocked but the policemen just stood and shook their heads in the negative.  Chris trudged through the water to the other side of the hospital and policemen were standing heavy guard at those doors too.  He knew besides the sore bones and loose teeth, he had no serious injury and they were not going to let him in.

Chris double tied his bag of food and treaded through the water on his tippy toes.  He began to reminisce on the summers growing up in New Orleans.  His father worked as a mechanic in a neighborhood shop and in the summer Chris would help out by washing the cars once he was done.  Afterwards, instead of joining his cousins down at the local swimming pool, he hung out with the neighborhood knuckle heads and smoked weed.  Or they convinced one of the older drunks to buy them liquor.  He was all of nine years old.  With the water slapping up against his chest and occasionally splashing in his face, he wished he had taken those swimming lessons instead.

A few blocks from the hospital, Chris found himself pacing in the water side by side with a dog.  The dog was a dark brown cocker spaniel probably looking for a dry place to rest his feet.  From atop, the dog seemed to be relaxed.  But he knew underneath he was probably  paddling his legs wild as the devil!  Chris remembered how easy it was to tread the dog paddle when he was younger so he picked his feet up to give it a try.  He quickly dipped in the thick, murky waters and emerged panicked.  He struggled to get his stance stable but soon regained his pace and continued down the street with the other stranded people.

Continue reading “When Chris Met Katrina” Snippets of a story from the book “Mississippi Window Cracks”

Love for Louisiana, Re-membering Katrina

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August 29, 2005 marks the day the world has now recorded as one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the United States.  Hurricane Katrina struck the poorest region in this country, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  She changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

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The following story was inspired by an interview I conducted with my neighbor.  He moved to Los Angeles after losing everything to the storm in New Orleans.  Although the story is fiction, and written to connect with the other short stories in the book, some of the incidents, times and locations are true accounts of what he described to me during his four day ordeal of waiting to be rescued.  My neighbor declined interviews from dozens of Los Angeles newspapers that contacted him.  His simple request to me was that his name be Chris in the story.  I am honored he felt comfortable enough to share such an intimate story with me.  He cried twice and broke down once.  A man who can no longer sleep when it rains.  A man proud to be from New Orleans but angry that he was left to die.

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I dedicate the story, When Chris Met Katrina to EJ from apartment #7

also

my Grambling State University roommate, Kelly Lawrence.  A Louisiana native whose face flashed on CNN news with her three children at the Houston Astrodome.

And respectively,

to the millions of people

effected directly and indirectly.

love, libations and prayers.

nikki

ms window crack pic

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Another Literary Snippet from “Mississippi Window Cracks”

Hello All,

A few more days to take advantage of the literary promotion I have in remembrance of Hurricane Katrina.  I went to college in Louisiana, Grambling State University, and the devastation touched me through friends it effected directly.  I wrote a short story book, Mississippi Window Cracks, that linked characters traveling through Mississippi and Louisiana. (New Orleans in particular)

Through August 29th if you buy an autographed copy of my new novel, The Town Dance, and post a review on Amazon or Goodreads by September 19th, I will GIFT you with a copy of Mississippi Window Cracks.  (Hey, as indie artists we have to stay creative on how to promote!)

Enjoy an excerpt from the short story, Southern Betrayal, from the book Mississippi Window Cracks.

The store was smaller than I imagined it would be.  All of the walls were red, with one of them adorning a large American flag that had two black heads on top.  The two heads were smiling and holding rods with snakes wrapped around them.  Another wall that led towards the hall way, had a shirt incased in a wooden box.  I later learned this was a spell for trapping someone or to capture certain types of spirits when they walked in the store.

Since the curtain was open, I walked in the room.  There was a strong smell of lavender incense flowing and white candles were lite everywhere.  The furniture was arranged so the room gave a circular appearance.  After giving the room a quick glance, I figured the person giving the readings was only available by appointment so I turned to walk out.

“Chu been travelin?,” someone asked from within the room. 
Continue reading Another Literary Snippet from “Mississippi Window Cracks”

**Support Indie Artists!** Add These Titles to Your Bookshelf

Hello fellow writers/artists/speakers/art lovers/teachers (and everyone else),

As indie artists, we have to change things up to get our works out there, right?  So, my short story book, Mississippi Window Cracks has a story about Hurricane Katrina.  Being that Saturday the 29th is the 10 year anniversary of the devastation, I have a book offer for you:

When you buy an autographed copy of my new novel, The Town Dance, and leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, I will send you a copy of Mississippi Window Cracks FREE!  If you enjoy my poetry/prose, you will enjoy the characters in my books 🙂  And here is an excerpt from Mississippi Window Cracks, “When Chris Met Katrina“:

Chris wobbled up the walkway to his parents’ home.  It was Sunday afternoon so his mother was playing her gospel music loudly.  He grew up in a large, white two story house with a wraparound porch that had been passed down through his family for two generations.  City builders had been trying for years to get his parents and their neighbors to sell.  But they knew their homes were in a historic area and worth almost a quarter of a million dollars each.  As Chris walked his aching body up the creaking wood porch steps, he was startled by his mother as she threw the screen door open to put another piece of luggage on the porch.  His mother, a short, robust woman with a head full of proud gray hair, grabbed at her chest at the sight of her son.  Chris knew he must have looked a wretched mess so he lowered his head in embarrassment.

“I don’t even know why I’m surprised.  I truly thought you wanted to turn your life around,” she said sharply.

Chris finally made it to the top step and leaned against the post to rest, “Mama, I’m not in the streets like that no more.  I was only playing pool…”

“They re-arrange folks face like that from playing pool?,” she asked.  Before he had a chance to respond, the phone rang and his mother walked back in the house.

She yelled at him, “They saying on the news we need to get out of here and pack like we going camping.  Chris you should get some things together to go with us.”

Chris finally made it inside the house and stood at the front door rubbing at this left thigh.  It had a knot in it the size of a gold ball.

“That was Joseph.  He got caught in a lil’ traffic but’ll be here any second to bring us to the superdome.  Him and the girls are heading up to Lafayette.  They say this one is going to be something else!  Katrina, is what they calling her,” his mother proclaimed.

“Well, Imma’ be here to meet Katrina just like I met Hannah, Irene and that category two we had the other week,”  Chris went to sit down but his mother stopped him in mid motion.

“Oh no!  Don’t get your dirty behind on my couch! Grab some of that newspaper over there and wrap up my pictures on the mantel.  Your father never got around to fixing that side window and I now that wind is gonna’ whip through here and knock over all my picture frames!”

Chris held on to his lower back as he bent down to pick up the newspaper.  One of the first photographs he saw was that of his younger sister, Crystal, in her airline stewardess uniform.  She had just died in a plane crash a few months earlier in Mississippi.  Her plane was struck by lightning while they were still ascending.  His mother took her death really hard and was even hospitalized for two weeks from severe depression.  This was another reason he decided to move back home.   Besides, the only other family he had in Mississippi was Crystals’ estranged husband Joseph and their two daughters.  But they moved back to New Orleans after her death too.

His father came through the door wearing his favorite pair of faded black jean overalls.  Older age had not slumped his height as he still stood slightly over six foot.  He always kept a clean shaven face and like his wife, he let his hair turn it’s natural course of gray.  He stopped in his tracks when he saw Chris’s face.

“Good Lawd!”  Boy what’s wrong with chu’?,” he asked disappointed.

His mother yelled from the kitchen, “He look like Halloween in August don’t he?”

“It ain’t nothing…”, Chris tried to explain.

“It ain’t nothing?  Have you seen yo’ face?,” his father asked.  “You better not bring no mess around my house!  I don’t want nobody coming around here for nothing!”

His father walked in to the kitchen mumbling.  A car horn blows outside.

“Chris, see if that’s Joe and the girls!,” his mother asked.

Chris walked to the front door and looked out.  Outside sat a silver suburban SUV with tinted windows rolled up.  The truck reminded him of his truck club days back in Mississippi.  He smiled to himself.

“Yea, dis them,” Chris replied to his mother.

“Well, don’t you let them girls see you looking like that!  Let me put these sandwiches in a bag and I’m ready,” she said.

His father walked back in to the front room, “I’ll start bringing the bags to the car.”  He looked at Chris, “You staying?  They say she whipping across that water with a lot of force.”

“Yeah, I’m cool.  Ain’t nuttin’ but another hurricane that’s all.”

“Ok, well look after my house.  I got the rifle loaded out back on the service porch,” his father walked out the front door and took the luggage to the car.

His mother came from the kitchen with another small bag.  “If you leave, make sure you lock everything up and take you some food.”  She walked up to Chris and turned her head sideways for him to kiss her on the cheek.   Chris walked her to the front door.

“See ya’ll in a few days,” Chris said.

He locked the screen door as he watched his parent get into the truck and drive down the street.  Chris slowly sat down on the couch groaning the whole time.  He tried to reach and pull his shoes off but his bones were too sore and stiff.  He piled the throw pillows up in the corner of the couch and went to sleep.

A loud slamming noise came from outside the front window.  This startled Chris and his body jolted up.  He grimaced in pain as his head and stomach still ached.  He could feel that both of his jaws were swollen and a few of his side teeth were loose.  One was so loose, he could actually wiggle it with his tongue.   He managed to pull himself up from the couch and walk over to the door.  The storm poured buckets of rain onto the city streets.  It looked like regular hurricane storm weather.  Strong winds and heavy rain.  He positioned his sore bones back on the couch so he could sleep through the rest of the storm.

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Mississippi Window Crack

Louisiana Blackberry Summer a prose by Jolivette Anderson-Douoning

Madear is short in stature. She speaks in gentle tones with a high pitched voice. Her skin is dark. I liken it to the color of the blackberries growing on prickly vines in the Louisiana summer sun. To get those berries when they are plump, juicy and sweet, we check on them daily and hope that no one else beats us to the tree or field to pick them first. Plump, juicy and sweet –just like my Madear– are those blackberries, and their darkness makes them pretty and inviting to my heart.

blackberry tree

Those blackberries make me anxious to be near the source of their sweetness. The darker they become, the more my mouth waters with anticipation to pick them, wash them, and put them in my mouth, if I can wait long enough to reach running water. Continue reading Louisiana Blackberry Summer a prose by Jolivette Anderson-Douoning

Not Worth the Degree?

“There has to be more than what you see.”

This is what I say to friends that tell me that if they could do it over again they would not go to college.  A majority of them have found jobs outside of the fields they studied and made successful careers in them.  A few of them say for the work they are doing now, they only needed the on the job training offered so they are paying student loans “for nothing”.

“There has to be more you got from college.”

The majority of my friends from undergraduate and graduate school are from the Humanities and Social Science fields.  According to the National Center of Education Statistics, on average the unemployment rate for those fields have always been a steady 9.6%, the highest of any field of college study.  My friends divide between specific studies in theatre/speech communication, and the fields of psychology and criminal justice.  I look at how much these fields have grown with cultural and societal changes and clearly understand the difficulty in finding work.   I myself have had to find other fields of employment for financial support.  But would I say my degree wasn’t worth it?

I studied for my undergraduate degree at Grambling State University and chose to major in Theatre.  I had been into community theatre and the arts since I was a young child and had been writing poetry at a young age.  I remember during my senior year in high school, a friend who graduated a year ahead of me, and had the same reverence for theatre that I had, describe her displeasure she had with first year of college at a predominately white college.  She told me that the production season was booked with white productions and her confidence at being considered for any of the lead roles was dismal.  She “created” a love for costume design.  That gave me a different perspective on how to choose where I would go for college.  Being that I wanted to go into theatre, I applied to Pace University in New York and to Grambling State University (GSU) in Louisiana and was accepted to both.  I chose GSU.  “The Place Where Everybody is Somebody.”

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Continue reading Not Worth the Degree?