|The Fire God
The fire roared inside their rickety house. Dinah's eyes stung with scalding tears as her lungs filled with smoke. She ran outside beneath a crimson and ebony sky. The Fire God from her childhood was accepting sacrifices.
Granny's stories about a Fire God, with it's dragon body and fiery tail held her captive at night. The creature would hold a child in front of it's beastly face as charcoal eyes gleamed. The mouth opened as flames shot forth to barbecue tender skin. Just when Dinah was about to wet her pants with fear, Granny proclaimed God's Holy Spirit had other plans. She revealed all the Devil could do is cause a sunburn. A loving God made the interior of children into sweet marshmallows. The Fire God hated sweets. The monster's frustration was God still loved innocent children. This was before their purity was spoiled by the depravity of the world.
Granny had a flair for the dramatic, by using the Bible and her imagination she created wonderful scenerios. She had passed but her stories lived on through her children and grandchildren.
Dinah, who was only six, believed the house fire was sent by the Fire God. Tragic as the fire was, now they didn't have to worry about her mother's boyfriend, Kenny Loren. He must have died in the flames. He was never seen again. Kenny was a mean man with rippling muscles who possessed a razor strap. He had used it on Florence, Dinah's mother, and threatened to hurt Dinah and Emily. There were the cigarette burns on Florence's back and buttocks. Once he had broken a chair over her nose for burning okra. The girls watched and sobbed.
Kenny would growl.
"Stupid kids, shut your traps. Same thing gonna happen to ya'l!"
Florence couldn't go to a doctor. Kenny would have killed her. Her nose healed but was crooked. The final sin was using a knife he gutted fish with to slice his name across her breasts. He had to tie her down for that and put a rag in her mouth. The pain must have been horrific. Now she was branded. He had made her too ugly for another man. The down side was he didn't want her anymore either.
Florence decided to be the Fire God with a gasoline can. She was the judge and jury. Usually Kenny was careful about how much he was drinking. Flo added liquor to his drink whenever he would get up to pee. He finally passed out for good and the fumes from his body and mouth made one powerful match.
Flo wrapped Emily close to her and put a damp blanket around Dinah, grabbed a bag of biscuits and streak-o-lean, a guitar, and the family Bible.
Kenny had swept Flo off her feet at first. He was a good looking dude and played a mean guitar singing the blues. He had a strong baritone voice and people came from other states to hear him. Flo had the voice of a mountain angel, played the autoharp and slide guitar. Kenny needed a singing partner to compliment him so when he heard her, it was an answer from the Universe. The next step was a talent scout from EMI was convinced to come out to listen to them.
Florence and Kenny's dream had been to sing at the Grand Ole Opry someday. It could have turned out really great for them if Kenny didn't drink it all up and then explode by tearing up walls and people. The EMI people had seen this all before. They knew talent when they heard gave them a chance by renting out a studio and hiring the best people. Kenny had written some really great tunes. They cut the first single with session musicians and it sounded solid gold.
Because it had worked before successfully, they opened the doors to their fans to have a listening party. Somehow liquor got past Security and Kenny started and didn't stop. He started sounding sloppy and it was shut down. The company gave him two more chances. He was running fast toward hitting bottom.
The dissapointment and abuse was taken out on Flo.
A New Life
Flo only had one place to go. They ended up in the Delta where her sister, Aunt Cassie Lee lived. Cassie made her money out of potions. She made potions out of everything. Dinah watched and learned. Cures exist for most anything made with a variety of herbs, plants, snake oil, toad's feet that were dried and crushed. The best remedy for cancers were alligator teeth, if you could get them, and ground up goat testicles.
The family traveled in a broken down truck from town to town and sold "medicine". The truck was painted with bright colors,
"Cassie Lees Magical Secret Potions."
Flo, dressed in multicolored gypsies' robes, told fortunes with a glass globe or cards in a tent. Gypsies frighten a lot of people but some believe they possess the gift of prophecy. It's amusing since many go to church regularly praising preachers who claim to have the gift of prophecy given by God. But they still flock to gypsies. Of course, they want to hear what was going to happen in their own love lives. They become the lead actor in a movie about their life. It is a chance to have something exciting happen in their otherwise dull lives.
Flo's broken nose and now "gold" front tooth intrigued them also. She had a makeup expert for the circus put gold paint on it. It wasn't supposed to be "toxic" and lasted for months.
She had a loud green and yellow parrot named "Killer Kidd". The parrot was great, it made so much noise people didn't hear most of what Flo predicted. It was hard to hear what she said anyway with only a few teeth and her broken Cajun accent.
"Mam, I didn't hear what you said about the dark man coming into my life."
"You gonna have to pay me mo to say stuff again...you wastin my time."
So, they shut up and strained to hear.
One very large woman came in. She had a black veil over her face. She was shaking so much the chair rocked from side to side along with her gold looped errings. She had her Bible held tight against her bosom.
Flo noticed everything about people, their wedding rings and how expensive their clothes and jewelry were. She listened carefully to their language and cadence to tell how educated they were. She knew just the right questions to ask to find out about their lives. It was so easy to smell liquor, expensive perfume, a tremor in the voice.
"Mam, you be ill with a nervous sickness. Yo man don't love yo like he should."
"How did you know?"
"The globe knows. That doctor give you laudanum but it don't help...yo can't sleep. Yo man don't share yo bed."
"What can I do? There is another woman, I fear."
"Stop loving yorself wid rich candy and liquor. Yo lookin like a wrestlin man...he don't want to hold to fat. Yo was a beauty...he wants her back."
Then the parrot began to squawk and time was up.
A handful of cash changes hands, the woman is crying. "I will do better."
"I pray yo do. I can help with my Goddess remedy-ask that girl outside."
The woman left with an armful of beauty products, potions to lose weight and attract a man, and remedies to calm a restless soul."
Time flew by. Dinah had two important jobs. First, she cared for Emily, making sure she went to school, did her homework and ate. If there wasn't a school around, Dinah taught from library books. That way they both learned more than schools taught. Emily was always ahead of other children when she went to a school.
Dinah's second job was also learning; she spied on people. She caught on quickly that some people weren't very smart and will believe almost anything. She would innocently stand around those waiting to buy potions or have a reading. Most would be telling someone all about their problems. Dinah would then sneak into the tent and tell Ma and Cassie the whole story. Their audience believed these women were so powerful they could read minds, see visions in a goldfish globe and cast spells. People wanted excitement in their lives. It was so easy. People were foolish with money to make themselves feel better. Dinah watched and learned many lessons about human nature.
After coming out of the tent, Dinah heard one woman.
"These gypsies are dirty but they have a gift for knowing the future. Last year one told my sister her husband was a no good thief. The next day someone murdered him. All his money was gone and a gold earring and silk scarve was found next to him. I knew he was a son of a bitch."
It never occurred to them that they should watch what they say. Someone might be listening and money often exchanged hands for information.
Gypsies made money in all kinds of ways. They rationalized if people were stupid enough to talk, they deserved what they got.
The Sands of Time Spill
Their caravan rolled along the lush green mountains on major roads trying to follow fairs and circuses. They passed through different towns to keep their act fresh. Dinah would steal movie magazines and dream about living like movie stars. She wanted an exciting life where people looked up to her. No more catching frogs, snakes and spying on people.
Emily was nine now and a sweet little girl. She clung to Dinah. Flo was too busy with her drinking and men to pay much attention to her children. Dinah would really get upset with her mother.
"Ma, can't you watch Emily for me?"
"If I'm watchin yo sister I won't make any money. Do you want food and those magazines you loves?"
As a teenager, Dinah wanted to have fun with friends. Her first boyfriend was Danny Friedman. He traveled with them for two years, repairing things and moving. It was the only time Dinah really got to be a kid. She, Emily and Danny would ride carnival rides and go to lakes with picnics.
Danny would pick wild flower bouquets for her.
"You are more beautiful than any flower God put on this Earth."
Dinah learned to kiss, his mouth tasted like melting cotton candy and she felt a warm silken feeling below.
Danny left as suddenly as he came.
"Mom, what happened to Danny?"
"He was a lazy slacker!"
"I thought he was a great worker."
Dinah received a slap across the face.
"Don't sass me."
Dinah believed her Mom was jealous of the attention Dinah was getting. She thought Flo had flirted with Danny and he had not responded so she fired him.
It is Flo's show and she wanted the attention directed at her. Dinah was growing up and precieved as a threat to Flo.
A Life of Ease and Beauty
Dinah Washington, at age sixteen with her sultry looks, appeared older. She had learned from Flo's mistakes. By reading literature (Anis Nin), watching movies and other women, she soon discovered how to satisfy a man. She did it without losing her virginity, knowing it was a precious gift to keep until the time was right.
Roxy Frahler was a woman that Flo read for. She approached Dinah about working for her. Dressed in lovely clothes with expensive jewelry, Roxy ran an Escort Service among other things. Dinah was a gold mine. It was hard to find a beautiful virgin. Dinah was hired for many reasons; an escort for much older wealthy gentlemen, a date for "out of town" powerful men. Having a smart beautiful woman with them made these men appear distinguished and increased their self esteem. Dinah herself had a low opinion of them. She thought men were stupid creatures with money to waste. They were fortunate to have her company for an evening. She saw herself as a gifted performer.
Finally she had enough money to get a decent down payment for a home. It was a older three bedroom that had been remodeled. The rooms were already large with high ceilings. It was set back off the road with lovely old hardwood trees, a white picket fence and rocking chair porch. Dinah shopped estate sales and antique stores for bargains. A screened in porch soon had lovely wicker furniture from the 1940's and healthy green plants. Her own bedroom was a fantasy with silk pillows and a comforter. The colors were scarlet, teal and cream. Her bed was brass and she had live ferns. The back faced a pond so she had a large window put in with a place to nap or just dream. She had two bird cages with finches. There was also a small room with shelves for a library and room for a small rolltop desk.
She had a delightful room for Emily. It was white and pink with a four poster bed. Her stuffed animals were put away on mesh hung from the ceilings. Her dolls were arranged on shelves along with her dollhouse with precious miniatures from all over the world. It had lovely hand stitched curtains, cut shingles, paintings, a circular staircase and a chandelier made from jewelry. She wanted Emily to have the very best.
When she was thirteen, Emily was put into a private high school. For the first time she could be a normal kid, having friends over, going to ball games and dating. Her room was soon redecorated with posters of the latest bands. The childish things were put away for her own children and a makeup mirror was put out with professional lighting and the best makeup. Her closet was a huge walk in with shelves for shoes and purses. Floor length three way mirrors allowed her to see a teenage girl becoming a woman.
The Man Dinah had Waited For
Dinah no longer needed Roxy. They had both made money and parted amicably. Now Dinah had contacts from all over and used them. Men bought her silk dresses from France with slits that showed shapely legs with four inch heels. She had fine silk hose and expensive perfume. Dinah had taught herself so many things from people and books over the years.
Esquire Lonny Sanders hired her as an interpreter and receptionist. She had taught herself enough French and Spanish to get by. That is how she met Jonah since he and Lonny went to law school together.
Jonah Wellington came to open a law office in the South Carolina area. He was a well respected, genuine man from the North. He had fine clothes and good manners. He already had an office in Boston.
The very first time the two laid eyes on each other, there were sparks in the air. He was very handsome with a mustache that tickled when they kissed. He had light brown eyes peppered with cinnamon. He smelled like expensive musk cologne, the finest bourbon and cherry cigars. He had a wonderful sense of humor.
Dinah wanted to immerse herself in him. Dinah's long curly brunette hair and her chicory coffee eyes knew a hundred different emotions; the two made a fine couple. No one here knew Dinah's past except Emily and she was loyal and thought her sister was brilliant.
Jonah genuinely loved Emily. He listened to her spin stories about gypsies and creatures. He spoiled her with jewelry and clothes.
Jonah was fascinated with Dinah, an alluring woman-child. He believed she needed a man to care for her. She was fine and let him know she was still untouched. That was very unusual considering her nomad lifestyle. He was patient.
Dinah had always had her emotions in control. She didn't understand these new feelings and they frightened her. Her life had always been full of adventure, so she decided to go along for the ride. Jonah introduced Dinah and Emily to a cultured life: traveling the world, the opera, museums, restaurants with fine cuisine, aged wines and champagnes.
Dinah still needed something to call her own. She told Jonah how she desired her own business and already had a knowledge of herbs, flowers and various natural substances. He put together a lab for her. She chose dozens of flowers, extracts and oils to work with. After six months, Dinah developed her own signature perfume; mixing scents to find one she liked enough to put her name on.
She named it,
"Fire and Ice".
It was an instant hit. She had her own business now and Emily was right by her side.
One night when the two were out to dinner, Jonah overheard two women speaking of Dinah's past. Jonah had worked hard to get where he was. He loved her, but he didn't want to jeopardize his own considerable business. He hired a private investigator and this gentleman took a month to find out all of Dinah's past.
Jonah told Dinah that he needed some time to straighten out business affairs.
"Darling, I can't think when you are around. You are a distraction."
"I don't understand, Jonah. I thought we had something special."
"You need to learn patience, Dinah. This whole thing has moved too fast."
She went home and cried her eyes out.
'She shouldn't have let her guard down. If he found out about her past, would he still want her?'
When two weeks went by, he called and said he was still tied up. She was afraid to push him.
Jonah sent a message that he was coming by for a visit. He was bringing along all the material he had gotten from the P.I. He knew she had lived with gypsies but he was worried about illegal behavior. He never had to show it to her.
When he arrived, he suggested they relax with a couple of brandies and he asked her to tell him about her life. After all, he had told her his own life story.
She knew this was the test, “Granny’s snake was circling”. She told him everything, the deceit as a child and then her business with men. She didn't even know who her or Emily's father was or where Flo was now. Her tears fell as she spoke. For the first time, Dinah told him she had discovered trust and love. She didn't need to lie to get what she wanted.
They cuddled together and he dried her eyes with kisses. He understood her now. Later, at his home, he burned all the information with a final vow to trust Dinah always.
Jonah planned a wonderful proposal. They had dinner at their favorite place and when the desert tray was rolled over, there was a beautiful flawless three carat emerald on the sugared creme brulee.
When Dinah saw the ring she cried and Jonah caught her tears on his fingertips.
It was a quiet elegant ceremony in the Judge's Chambers with a radiant bride and proud groom. Emily was a beautiful maid of honor.
That night Dinah discovered the true combination of fire and ice.
Ice cubes are pleasurable when gently rubbed over sensual places.
Fire was a romantic touch to represent tingling, warmth and then a release of emotions that causes a body to tremble with joy.
Life was just beginning for Dinah and Jonah.
Dinah wanted to tell her own children about her eccentric Granny and the Fire God. After all, there was a moral to the story.
He needed to disappear so children can believe in angels and fairies.
By Kathie Stehr
Edited July 7, 2011