Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Melody (08/24/06)
TITLE: Can't Stop Singin'
By Karri Compton
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The boss man cut through the ropes, sending the naked and bleeding negro to the ground with a thud. “That’ll teach ya to not waste time with your fool singing.” He then turned and left without another word.
A dozen of Josiah’s fellow slaves gathered around with a towel and clothes after the master was out of sight. They began to sing a hushed tune that washed over Josiah:
<i>Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh--
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?</i>
“Today I dun knowed a little how you felt, Lawd,” Josiah whispered. He saw the other slaves stare, probably wondering how he could manage the whip that had torn his back just minutes ago. He wondered himself.
Adelaide, the new young convert, apologized over and over. “Josiah, I’m so sorry. It’s my fault.”
But he would have none of it. “Naw, sistuh. When one of us comes to de Lawd, well then, we gots to sing. That’s how it’s always been, an’ I ain’t stoppin’ now. Cain’t nothin’ or nobody take away the Lawd’s song in our hearts. You in dah kingdom now, and that there’s somethin’ to sing about.” Josiah gave her as big a grin as he could muster, white teeth shining in the waning afternoon sun.
The next day brought blazing heat to the cotton fields. Josiah took a quick glance at young Adelaide, who picked close by. Josiah remembered the day she had come to the plantation. She had been separated from the rest of her family to come here. Such a strong and fiery personality. But she had softened and come to accept not only her fate at the plantation, but Christ as well.
“Thank ya, Lawd, fo another soul,” Josiah now prayed, as he drug his large burlap sack behind him. He winced from the fresh lacerations but continued picking the fluffy white cotton. A song spontaneously rose from Josiah’s lips that soon spread among the workers:
<i>Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus
Steal away, steal away home
I ain't got long to stay here</i>
Adelaide’s voice broke Josiah out of his reverie. “Why you singin’ again so soon, Josiah? You gonna get yoself in trouble.”
“I’s old, won’t be livin’ much longer. I’d rather be whipped an’ killed, knowin’ I’s pleasin’ my Jesus.” Sweat ran down his face, wetting his dirty shirt. “Jesus is sho nuff worth it. He knows duh pain, he was done whipped and hung. Gave us heaven, bless him. Boss man controls what we wears, when we eats, how long we sleeps. But like I tole ya’, he cain’t never take Jesus. So I figure I got to sing ‘bout it. Won’t be stoppin’ any time soon.”
Without warning, the boss man appeared, an angry scowl pasted on his round face. The group’s song dwindled to nothing in a quick second. “Don’t you learn your lessons? Now, who started this singin’ again? Nobody speaks up, and you’ll all get the whip. Talk!”
An eery silence hung in the field.
“I did, suh,” Adelaide called out. She stood, looked over at Josiah and nodded.
He nodded back, a melody filling his heart as he closed his eyes in silent prayer.
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