Here's an excerpt:
New Mexico Territory
Francine “Frankie” Mules was born in a gospel tent. That April evening, the raging New Mexican wind ripped about the pinned back flaps, whipping them about the poles plunged deep into the dirt. The poles anchored the makeshift structure to the earth but allowed enough of the spirit to roar out in hot Biblical truths and tongues. Mother Nature’s raging melody of whap, whap, whap served as a base for the music spilling out of the tent.
In the tent’s rear, Frankie’s momma, Jet, squatted and then collapsed to her knees, sweating through the anointing oil and the deacon’s palm print on her forehead. She ignored the pangs of Eve’s curse, choosing instead to mutter prayers through cracked lips and cotton mouth. Once her water broke, a shot of pink, watery rivulets raced down her thighs and into the dry earth. Jet’s sister, Joan, buried her fingernails into her flesh of her arm, and prayed for Jesus to take over.
Before anyone could fetch the doctor down in Wild Sage, Frankie slipped out, smacking the hardened desert floor with a thack. Joan scooped her up all slippery and pink, mouth balled up as if sucking on the already sour air of life. Joan took out her hunting knife with one hand, and severed Frankie’s attachment to Jet, figuratively and physically. Being part of some traveling revival, fetchin’ and singin’ for white folks wasn’t the life Lincoln wanted for freed slaves. It wouldn’t do for her niece neither. She clutched the baby tight with determination. Not this one. Not no more.
“Joanie, give ‘er here…” Jet reached out with shaking hands and pained eyes.
“We done talked about this.” Joan steeled her bleating heart. She’d never be able to understand how others found the iciness to break up families and snatch babes from mommas without emotion. It filled her with dread and unease. Her heart pounded and the roaring in her ears made her feel like she was drowning.
“She still mine…and his.” Jet whimpered, letting her arms drop.
“Yeah. Ain’t nuthin’ gonna change that, but she can’t go with ya’ and that revival. You know it. I know it,” Joan said, her tone softening. “Sorry.”
With that, Joan set off, away from the tent and the others gathered there to fetch water to clean up the baby girl and Jet. As she moved quickly through the brush, she hugged the little round baby close to her, smearing blood and bodily fluids all over her shirt. “You gonna wail like babies supposed to do?” she asked.
Frankie wrinkled her nose and opened her mouth, and let the world know she had come into it. Instead of crying and wailing, Frankie sang, pitch perfect and like a grown woman who didn’t know the words to the song but sang with abandon anyway.
“My, my, my,” Joan said, with a small smile slicing through her sorrow.
Nicole Givens Kurtz’s short stories have appeared in over 40 anthologies of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her novels have been finalists for the EPPIEs, Dream Realm, and Fresh Voices in science fiction awards. Her work has appeared in Bram Stoker Finalist, Sycorax’s Daughters, and in such professional anthologies as Baen’s Straight Outta Tombstone and Onyx Path’s The Endless Ages Anthology. Support Nicole’s #OwnVoices stories on Patreon.
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