I wish I hadn't. I reread it following the TV show and thought, wow, it ain't bad and tells an inspiring over-the-top true story about when Mr. B (my name for the Chief) had his favorite singer perform for him in the swamp and how it almost came to bloodshed thanks to Indian Larry, a crazy high-strung NA wannabe from New Jersey.
So I'm going to publish it here. And, thanks to YouTube, the songs that were sang that night before it got dicey. The first one is about how babies are sent from heaven to lead us to our futures which had a major effect on me since I was pregnant with Haalie and discovered after her birth that it's very true. She was born in a bithlo in the middle of the night deep in the Everglades while it burned down all around us. Since then I can attest she is leading me on a different path just by being herself. (Spoiler Alert): I also suspect the spirit of her grandfather is abiding in her, having jumped from his mortal body to hers upon his ironic death only minutes before as he helped Nokosee and me escape our loosing route with Army Rangers.
As for those who haven't read my books, shame on you. :) However, if you choose to read the excluded chapter, please note "Demaris" is Nokosee's Cuban mother's first name and the real folk singer's name has been changed to protect her privacy. "Boom Box" is the NS bugler (he alerts us with recorded cavalry bugle commands during battle) and "Digital Camcorder Guy the Second" is the second NS videographer, the first having been killed in battle.
Saint vs. Sinner
The voice and the sound of the plastic bamboo curtain being pushed away startles me. It’s around one in the afternoon and I’ve just come down from the top of my tree where I had spent the morning thinking deep thoughts to get something to drink. Thank God I’m only half naked. I scramble to throw a bikini top on and quickly adjust my loincloth as Nokosee parts the bamboo curtain so Mrs. B can guide a woman up onto the raised log floor. The woman is blindfolded and dressed in faded jeans and and a t-shirt.
“I would have been more than happy to perform for the Chief,” the woman continues. “He and the NS have been on my radar for some time.”
While Mrs. B helps her find her footing, I rush to Nokosee’s side as he lets the curtain fall behind him. For some reason, he’s got an electric guitar strapped around his back which is unusual since he doesn’t play. I grab his wrist and pull him aside.
“You kidnapped somebody again?” I whisper.
“Yeah, mom needed some help.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
He shakes lose and walks over to his mother who is removing the blindfold from the woman.
“Stormy,” Nokosee says with a broad, proud smile, “meet Joannie St. Collins.”
Ms. St. Collins is still blinking her eyes to adjust to the light when she smiles and starts looking for me.
“Stormy Jones is here?” she says all friendly like. “I’ve heard so much about you.” When she sees me, she moves towards me with open arms. “You are so special.”
She’s deeply tanned and her long black hair is streaked with gray and could be another Seminole for all I know but the thing I notice most is her smile: it’s big, bright and angelic. I don’t know what to do or say. It’s not every day you get such a loving greeting from someone your husband and mother-in-law just kidnapped. She grabs me up and gives me a big hug. I try to hug back while giving Nokosee a look that could kill since I got no heads-up on another kidnapping which he knows I have a problem with and the fact I look like a wreck and need a bath. When she pushes me away to look at me, I get embarrassed and wish I had done something with my Mo.
“It’s a great look, Stormy.”
“Thanks,” I manage to mumble. Then she puts her hand on my big pregnant stomach hanging out over my loincloth like a beer gut which really catches me by surprise.
“I’m sure the baby is going to be as beautiful as you are.”
Okay, I still don’t know who she is, but I’m really beginning to like her.
“When are you expecting?”
“Late May or early June.”
“Boy or girl?”
“I...I don’t know.”
“Neither did I when I had my babies. As far as I’m concerned, not knowing is the only way to go when it comes to having babies.”
“Okay,” I stammer. I mean, this woman is like a force of nature. I swear, I’m so discombobulated.
“So,” she says as she puts her arm around me and turns to Nokosee and his mom, “when do I perform?”
As it turns out, Joannie St. Collins is a famous folk singer and apparently Mr. B has a jones for her. Because of that, Nokosee and his mom took it upon themselves to kidnap her this morning before she got a chance to perform at some kind of Disney World folk festival or something. Instead, she’ll be performing live for the Osceolas-- and surprising Mr. B-- in celebration of their 20th wedding anniversary. Until then, the co-conspirators are stashing her in our chickee.
Whoe, what we Osceola women will do for love.
Mr. B is, of course, overwhelmed when he discovers a night of karaoke under the big communal chickee has been preempted for a special appearance by (drum roll please followed by Kermit the Frog shouting because at the time it all seemed so... comical)... Ms. Joannie St. Collins!
When Joannie (that’s what she insists I call her) walks out onto the log floor with the guitar Nokosee had been carrying a couple of hours earlier and stands in front of the mic, Mr. B’s jaw drops down onto his chest and stays there until he’s lifted onto his feet by his wife and son to join the standing O the NS are giving the living legend.
“Happy anniversary, Busi,” Mrs. O says, “from Nokosee and me.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” he asks while still looking at Joannie and clapping his hands.
“No kid,” she says.
Mr. B doesn’t know who to look at as Digital Camcorder Guy the Second records it all for posterity.
“Go ahead and kiss her, Micco,” Joannie says, her voice amplified by Boom Box’s sound system. “She deserves it.”
Mr. B does as ordered. When he parts to look at his wife, he asks, “How--” but is cut short when her fingers touch his lips. He grabs them, takes them into his mouth and starts sucking and kissing them.
Oh, Lord! Well at least I know where Nokosee gets his mojo.
Mrs. O extricates her fingers from her husband’s mouth and turns his head toward Joannie.
“Yeah, Saint!” he yells, jabbing his fist into the air. “Saint! Saint! Saint!”
As others join Mr. B in the chant I turn to Nokosee with a puzzled shrug. He doesn’t have a clue why they’re doing that either but that doesn’t stop him from joining the cheer-- until his dad grabs him in a headlock and gives him a noogie and a kiss on the top of his head.
When Mr. B turns back to “The Saint” to applaud and scream, I’m surprised to report he sounds, dare I say, like a leetle girl. I make it a point to yell as loud as I can over the NS cheering, whistling and applause so Nokosee and his dad can hear me.
“Why I do believe, Nokosee, your papa’s a big giddy fanboy!”
Mr. B stops screaming long enough to reply, “Fanboy, hell I’m a fucking teeny bopper when it comes to The Saint!”
Nokosee and I look at each other and start laughing. Call me crazy but despite what I know about Mr. B, that he earned his right to be on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List-- right up there with me and Nokosee-- I’m happy for him.
When everyone settles down “The Saint” opens with a fitting romantic ballad that makes the old and new Osceolas put their arms around each other and kiss. A few songs later, I get why they call her “The Saint:” her songs-- none of which I have heard of but get the NS to applauding and cheering-- come with a message, usually about standing up for what’s right and respecting the land.
When she gets off the stage and walks over to me and starts playing a song, I immediately grab Nokosee for support because that kind of attention makes me nervous and surreptitiously motion for her to sing to the Osceolas sitting next to us, not me. But of course, she doesn’t listen being “The Saint” and all and, after playing the opening chords on her guitar, reaches out and puts her hand on my bare stomach and leaves it there when she sings with true passion, never once taking her eyes off of mine, about how babies are sent from heaven to lead us. By the time she takes her hand away from my stomach to sing the chorus to Mr. and Mrs. O, she’s turned me into a blubbering, true believer. Oh, yeah, she’s the perfect choice for this bunch-- including me.
Especially when you read what she wrote on her guitar.
Yeah, when she was singing to me with her hand on my stomach, it kinda took me by surprise: This machine kills fascists. Thankfully she doesn't have a jones for rubbing out losers like me.
She saves her most famous and most moving song for last and sings it directly to the Micco. It’s a song about soldiers. Her voice and her words cut me deeply right down to my soul. I glance at Nokosee to see if he’s crying like I am. He is. I lean forward to look past him at his parents. They’re crying to. Hell, everybody’s crying. When she gets to the last lines in the song she looks directly at Mr. B The Sinner and reminds him that no matter what a soldier does in trying to make the world a better place, war is not the answer.
By now I’m crying like a big baby and have to cover my eyes because I’m so embarrassed.
“Micco, you can’t go on like this. You can’t win this fight.”
I look up. “The Saint” is using her guitar like a rifle, sticking the neck in Mr. B’s chest and it in fact looks like the Marines planting the flag at Iwo Jima. I look around Nokosee at Mr. B. He’s looking up at her with an unflinching, steady gaze. His tear-filled eyes are narrowed on her’s and there’s a slight smile on his face.
“So far we don’t seem to be doing too badly.”
Mrs. O collapses in on herself and tries to control her body wrenching sobs but she cannot.
Nokosee reaches across his father under the guitar/rifle to touch her hand. She yanks it away, gets up and walks quickly across the open clearing and disappears in the jungle hammock.
Nokosee goes after her.
Mr. B drops his head onto his chest.
“Micco,” “The Saint” says softly, “you--”
He raises a hand and cuts her short.
He tries to push “The Saint’s” guitar away from his chest but she resists.
It’s Indian “The Whistler” Larry. He’s suddenly standing next to Mr. B and aiming his AK-47 at “The Saint.” Mr. B, without looking at the guy, motions for him to relax as he looks up at the guitar wielding folkie.
“Now, now, Joannie, let’s not forget our non-violent roots.”
Indian Larry loads a round in the chamber of his machine gun to help remind her.
“The Saint” isn’t intimidated as she struggles to keep the guitar planted in Mr. B’s chest.
“As much as I love your music and what you stand for,” Mr. B continues, “it’s no match for the power of my vision.”
He sticks his fingers through the strings and into the guitar and starts to close his fist but “The Saint” won’t give up. I look around to see if anyone will help her but they won’t look me in the eye.
“Leave her alone!”
It’s me. I’m standing up and yelling at him and don’t know if I’m more angry or surprised I got all in-your-face over his behavior. Of course, he never acknowledges me but instead keeps looking at “The Saint.”
“Fuck this shit!”
Now I’m standing by “The Saint” and helping her pin Mr. B to his chair with her guitar. But it quickly proves to be a fruitless gesture as the old bastard methodically and effortlessly pops the guitar strings one-by-one and, despite our combined struggle to keep it firmly implanted on his chest, rips it from our hands. We stumble into his body and he pushes us back with the guitar.
“And you call yourself a peace activist,” he says looking up at her from his chair. “You should be ashamed. Just for that, no guitar for you!”
Mr. B breaks the guitar across his thigh and throws it on the ground. It looks so sad lying there all crumpled in the dirt. When I turn back to Mr. B, he’s slowly rising from his chair and looking like he’s about to bust a valve or something. I step in between him and “The Saint.”
“Leave her alone,” I shout. “She was only trying to talk some sense into your thick skull.”
By the time I finish my sentence, he’s already towering over me and my perspective on things suddenly becomes more realistic and hopeless.
You really got to learn to keep your mouth shut and to curb your impulses.
How come you’re never around to advise me before my faux pas?
Focus. The old bastard looks like he wants to slap your head off.
“You touch me,” I quickly add, “and you’ll lose Nokosee too.”
He doesn’t move. He just looks at me as if he’s seeing me for the first time and what he sees disgusts him.
“I don’t take lightly to threats,” he finally says.
“Yeah, I know, you’re the toughest motherfucker in the jungle but if you keep this up, you’ll be the only motherfucker in the jungle because you will have driven everybody away if you don’t kill them all first.”
Mr. B pauses and then lets out a great sigh before lowering his head toward his chest and his hand to his head.
“You know, little girl,” he says while rubbing his temple, “you’re starting to give me a headache.”
“Good. Think of it as my anniversary present.”
He chuckles over that one.
“Okay,” he finally says as he turns to us, “I’ll take it under consideration. Will that work for you gals?”
“The Saint” and I are both dumbfounded. We were expecting bows and arrows with the occasional Stinger missile thrown in for good measure and got an olive branch instead. Go figure.
“It works for me, Micco,” “The Saint” replies. She grabs my hand and holds it tight.
“Me too,” I say. The last thing I want is a riff between Mr. B and me. We’re basically all living on top of one another out here in the middle of nowhere and it makes life so much easier if you’re on speaking terms with the people you bump into on your way to take a dump in the jungle.
“Fine. Joannie, please accept my apologies for the way things turned out.” He starts digging into his pant’s pocket for something. “How much was the guitar worth to you?”
“Boss Man,” Indian Larry interrupts, “what are you doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s hold her for ransom. She’s gotta be worth something?”
“Hm-m-m,” Mr. B says slowly, like he’s actually considering it, “ransom.”
“I don’t know, Indian Larry. She hasn’t had a hit in... decades. She probably won’t fetch much.”
“That’s right, Micco,” “The Saint” chimes in, “folk music isn’t as big as it use to be.”
“Don’t worry, Joannie. I’m not going to hold you for ransom. I was just having a little fun with you.”
“Damn!” Indian Larry stamps his foot and walks away in a huff.
“Anyway, Joannie, what’s that guitar worth to you?”
“It’s priceless. It was my talisman against writer’s block.”
“What, you can’t write songs with another guitar?”
“Hey, what can I tell you? I’m superstitious.”
“Okay, but priceless I can’t do.” He pulls out a thick wad of cash. “But I can and want to reimburse you for your troubles.”
“Mr. B,” I exclaim, “where did you get all that money?”
“I may not be a great host, little darling, but I’m a helluva bank robber. Joannie, give me a number I can work with.”
“That’s okay, Micco. It’s insured.”
“What? Isn’t my money good enough for you?”
“The Saint,” being as intuitive as she is, knows it’s probably a trick question and pauses before answering.
“Make me a copy of the video and we’ll call it even.”
“A copy of the video?”
“Yeah. I mean, if it’s not too much trouble for you.”
“No problem.” He turns and nods to DC-G2. “Mind telling me what you plan on doing with it?”
“I liked what The What did with theirs. Maybe I can do the same.”
Aw geese. Too late.
“‘The What?’ Those fucktards. If I ever get my hands on them I’m going to kill them.”
“The Saint” turns to me with a questioning shrug.
“He thinks they squealed on us,” I tell her.
“Think? They did! For crying out loud, Stormy, haven’t you learned anything about the Outside. It can’t be trusted.”
“Micco,” “The Saint” says softly, “Demaris needs you.”
The Sinner takes a deep breath and nods he understands. “I’ll go tell her you’re leaving. Nokosee will take you back. Thanks for the great show. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
“Me too,” “The Saint” replies.
“Oh, by the way,” The Sinner says as an afterthought, “would you mind listening to my CD? It’d be cool if you dug one of my songs enough to record it.”