Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Civil War nurse Charlotte Evans uncovers a mystery at a Mississippi plantation during the middle of the war.
* * * *
Several days later, Major Scott and the few remaining plantation hands took a large wooden cart deep into the south fields. When they returned, the cart was filled with expensive furnishings - valuables hidden from Union troops. Since the war was practically over in this neighborhood, the major deemed it safe to bring it out in the open again.
One of the furnishings turned out to be a heavy, walnut bureau that was placed in the room I shared with Alma. We decided to use it to put some of our and other belongings in it.
"Look what I found!" Alma declared. She held up a stack of letters tied together by a blue ribbon. "Wonder who they belong to?" She started to untie the package.
Outraged, I cried, "Alma!"
"That is someone's private letters! You shouldn't be prying into someone's affair!"
"So what? I already know who they belong to. Someone named Brent. And there's nobody name Brent living in this house."
"That's because he is dead! Brent was Major Scott's brother," I retorted sharply. I took the pack of letters from her hands. Waving them in front of Alma's face, I added, "And if anyone had ever dared to poke into any of my correspondence or those belonging to my family, they'd wish to God they hadn't been born." I threw the letters back into the bureau.
Pouting, Alma went back to her packing and later left the room, mumbling. After I put the last of my clothes into the bureau, I spotted one letter lying on the floor. I picked it up and started to return it to the bureau when I heard a whisper in my ear. "Read it." I glanced around the room and peeked outside the door. No one was around. "Read it," the voice repeated.
Slowly I unfolded the letter. It read:
April 2, 1842
Darling. Why haven't you answered any of my letters? Ever since you returned from Texas three years ago, I have tried repeatedly to regain the love we once had. Yet you continued to spurn my efforts. What have I done to deserve this? Don't you realize that I have never stopped loving you?
When you had informed me we were through that night at the Dickersons' ball, a fire inside had extinguished. I thank God I had our son Richard as a reminder of you during all those years living here alone with Matthew. I knew that Matthew always went to the slave wenches to warm his bed. A brute like him would prefer savages. But I never thought you would be the same. And yet, I saw you kiss that woman at Walker's Pond, two days ago. I nearly died right then and there. That creature who is Richard's mammy. I could not believe that for the past three years, you had prefer her to me, a woman who loves you heart and soul!
Please come back into my arms, my darling! I'm so unhappy and I need you so much. I know that deep in my heart, we belong to each other. Nothing, not even HER, can ever change that.
I stared at the initials below. D. I believe that Maum Janey once call Mrs. Scott, Miss Deborah. Now I knew why Richard's mother hated me so much. I reminded her of a woman - a colored woman - who had took away the affections of the only man she had ever loved. And history was in danger of repeating itself twenty years later.
Did Richard ever suspect his mother of murder? Did he ever discover that his uncle Brent, not Matthew, was his father? Part of me wanted to reveal what I knew. But something else inside me said to keep my mouth shut. There was no need to reopen that can of worms. Without realizing what I was doing, I tucked the letter in my skirt pocket and went downstairs.
* * * *
Once more, Major Scott invited the hospital staff to dine with his family. Only this time, Mrs. Scott was present. Her presence brought a pall upon suppertime. The fried chicken, potatoes, okra and bread were delicious, but the mood was tense. It was hard to feel jolly with Lady Medusa at the table not speaking but staring at everyone. And when Mrs. Scott spoke, she was cold, polite and short.
After the strained meal, Doctor Anders quickly excused himself to look after the patients. The coward. I asked for Major Scott's permission to play the beautiful Steinway piano in the parlor. It had returned with the other furniture. Everyone gathered inside the parlor and I started to play "Lorena". Somewhere in the middle of the song, Alma asked Richard if someone named Brent was an uncle of his.
"Why yes," Major Scott replied. "Brent was my father's younger brother. Why do you ask?"
"Miss Charlotte and me found this pile of letters in the bureau that was put in our room. On the top someone had wrote, 'To Brent'. Your uncle must have been a popular man. I ain't never seen so many letters to one man in my life."
Major Scott smiled cheerfully, unaware that his mother's face had suddenly paled. "Uncle Brent was always a popular one with the ladies. Best looking man in the county. Wouldn't you say so Mother?"
Mrs. Scott merely nodded.
"Unfortunately, after he became engaged to the daughter of a Natchez merchant, someone accidentally shot him during a deer hunt, twenty years ago. No one really knew who pulled the trigger."
Suddenly I hit the wrong note on the piano and everyone glanced at me. I waved it aside and started playing again. However, there was no mistaking the suspicion in the eyes of the mistress of the house.
"How sad," Alice commented. "I saw the portraits of him and your father. They were both handsome."
From the corner of my eye, I saw Mrs. Scott tremble with emotion as she got up and excused herself. So, more than one ghost resided at Green Willows. I found myself wondering about the "accidental" nature of Brent Scott's death.
End of Chapter Four
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Below are images from Christopher Nolan's last installment in his BATMAN trilogy, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES". Christian Bale stars at Bruce Wayne aka the Batman:
"THE DARK KNIGHT RISES" (2012) Photo Gallery
Friday, July 27, 2012
"MEN IN BLACK 3" (2012) Review
After 2002's "MEN IN BLACK II", I never thought I would ever see another movie from the franchise based upon Lowell Cunningham's The Men in Black comic book series. Never. After all, it was not exactly a critical success and was barely a commercial hit. And yet . . . the team from the first two movies went ahead and created a third one for the franchise.
"MEN IN BLACK 3" picks up ten years after the last movie. Boris the Animal, the last surviving member of the Boglodite species, escapes from the LunarMax prison on Earth's moon with the intention of seeking revenge against the MIB agent responsible for his arrest and loss of arm - Agent K. The latter discovers during a skirmish he and Agent J experience at a local Chinese restaurant that Boris has escaped. Unfortunately for Agent K, Boris arrives in Manhattan and seeks Jeffrey Price, the son of a fellow prisoner who had possession of a few time-jump mechanisms. Not much time passes before Agent K disappears from existence and Agent J is the only one who remembers his partner.
Agent O, who is MIB's new Chief following Zed's passing, deduces from Agent J's statements that a fracture has occurred in the space-time continuum. The two realize Boris must have time-jumped to 1969 and killed K. And now an imminent Boglodite invasion threatens Earth, due to the absence of the protective ArcNet that K had installed in 1969. J acquires a similar time-jump mechanism from Price, jumps off the Chrysler Building in order to reach time-travel velocity, and arrives in July 1969, a day before Boris kills K.
When I learned that Steven Spielberg, director Barry Sonnenfeld, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones planned to do a third MEN IN BLACK movie; I could only shake my head in disbelief. Mind you, I did not dislike the second film. But it seemed a disappointment in compare to the quality of 1997 original movie. But in the end, I could not say no to a MEN IN BLACK movie. And thank God I did go see it.
Now, "MEN IN BLACK 3" was not perfect. There were a few aspects about Etan Cohen's screenplay that left me scratching my head. If Boris the Animal (oops! I mean Boris) had been imprisoned in the LunarMax prison for over 40 years, how on earth did Boris' girlfriend Lily, who helped him escape, learn about his existence in the first place? I am also a little confused about Agent J and Agent K's ages. According to 1997's "MEN IN BLACK", Agent k was a teenager in New Jersey when he experienced his first alien encounter before becoming a member of the Men in Black agency in 1961 or 1962. Yet, according to Cohen's script, Agent K was a Texas native born in 1940. As for Agent J, he was at least four years old in July 1969. Which makes him at least 46 or 47 years old in this story. I could have sworn he was at least three or four years younger. Oh well.
However, by the time I became deeply engrossed in the story, I managed to forget these questionable aspects of "MEN IN BLACK 3". I believe that "MEN IN BLACK" is the funnier movie. I cannot deny this. However, I feel that "MEN IN BLACK 3" had the best plot of the three films. Time travel tends to be a hit-or-miss topic when it comes to the science-fiction genre. Aside from the questionable aspects of Agents K and J's ages, I feel that "MEN IN BLACK 3" provided a first-rate time travel story. One, Agent J proved to be the right character chosen for a time travel mission. Being over twenty years younger than his partner, he was the right person to see New York City and Cape Canaveral in 1969. Boris' reasons for time travel proved to be a heady mixture of personal vengeance and the successful completion of his original mission to kill a refugee alien named Griffin, who possessed the ArcNet, a satellite device that would prevent Boris' species, the Boglodites, from invading Earth and destroying mankind. Agent J's time travel adventures gave audiences two peaks into what it must have been like for an African-American in the 1960s New York - something that the TV series "MAD MEN" more or less failed to do after five seasons. Kudos to director Barry Sonnenfeld for keeping this fascinating tale hilarious, poignant and on track.
Not only did "MEN IN BLACK 3" provided a first-rate time travel story, it also possessed some memorable scenes that I will never forget. My favorite scenes include the brief, yet bizarre memorial service for the recently dead Agent Zed; Agents K and J's skirmish with some truly bizarre agents at a Chinese restaurant that I would not recommend to humans; Agent J's initial time jump to 1969; J's hilarious elevator encounter with a bigot fearful of being in close proximity with a black man; Agent J and young Agent K's very funny and surprising meeting with "Andy Warhol" at the latter's factory; the two agents' meeting with Griffin at Shea Stadium; the meeting between old and young Boris in 1969; and Agent J's discovery at Cape Canaveral of the true reason behind K's strange behavior at the beginning of the story. But my favorite moment featured Agent J's discovery that Agent K's habit of ordering pie was even frustrating in the past.
The production for "MEN IN BLACK 3" was also first-rate. Danny Elfman continued his outstanding work in providing a score similar to the franchise's signature theme. I found Bill Pope's photography to be rather sharp and colorful - especially the 1969 segments. Don Zimmerman did outstanding work as the film's editor. I was especially impressed by his work in the time jump sequence and the showdown between the MIB agents and Boris at Cape Canaveral. And both Mary E. Vogt's costume designs and Bo Welch's production designs perfectly recaptured the end of the 1960s.
As for the performances . . . what can I say? The cast gave some truly outstanding performances in this film. Will Smith was absolutely marvelous as the time traveling Agent J. I thought he gave one of his best performances in a role that required him to be funny and poignant at the same time. I suspect that he more or less carried the movie on his shoulders. But he had fine support from a wonderful Tommy Lee Jones, who allowed audiences another peek into a personality who hid his emotions behind a stoic mask. I just never thought his emotions would be directed at Smith's Agent J. And I never thought Spielberg and Sonnenfeld would find someone who not only could perfectly portray a younger Agent K, but create a similar screen dynamic with Smith. And Josh Brolin proved to be the man who did the job. He was fantastic.
Emma Thompson portrayed Agent O, the new leader of the Men in Black agency. And I adored her performance, especially the scene that required her to give a eulogy for Zed at his memorial . . . in an alien language. Alice Eve was charming as the younger Agent O. She and Brolin had a nice chemistry going as two MIB agents attracted to one another. What can I say about Michael Stuhlbarg's performance as the precognitive alien, Griffin? Oh God, he was so wonderful. He portrayed Griffin with a delicious mixture of wisdom and naivety. I wanted to gather him in my arms and squeeze him like a teddy bear. Someone once commented (or complained) that New Zealand comic Jemaine Clement as the movie's main villain, Boris the Animal. Frankly, Clement was a lot more scary than funny. But he did have one scene that left me rolling in the aisles with laughter - namely Boris' encounter with his younger self in 1969. Even more important, Clement portrayed Boris once scary and resourceful villain.
What else can I say about "MEN IN BLACK 3"? Sure, it had a few glitches regarding the plot and the two main characters' ages. But thanks to Etan Cohen's script that featured an outstanding time travel story, outstanding performances from a cast led by Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin; the movie turned out to be a first-rate addition to the franchise and one of my favorite movies of the summer of 2012. Thank you Barry Sonnenfeld! You have not lost your touch.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
The following is a list of questions I have regarding subplots that have been featured in past episodes of "LOST". If you have an answer to any of my questions, please feel free to reply:
"LOST": THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO . . . HMMM?
1. Who gave the original order for Walt Lloyd to be kidnapped?
2. Why did the Others kidnap some of the surviving Tail Section passengers of Oceanic 815?
3. Why did Ben Linus and the Others scheme to keep Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, and James “Sawyer” Ford as prisoners on Hydra Island?
4. Why did Michael Dawson confess his murder of Ana-Lucia Cortez and accidental killing of Libby to his ten year-old son, Walt Lloyd, following their departure from the island?
5. Why did Tom Friendly claim that no one was able to leave the island, following the explosion of the Swan Station, despite the fact that he, Michael and Walt were able to do so?
6. Why did the prosecuting attorney blindly believe Jack’s false testimony that Kate gave birth to Aaron Littleton, during their three-month stay on the island?
7. Why did the prosecuting attorney fail to continue her prosecution of Kate for the charges of bank robbery, assaulting a Federal peace officer, after the murder charges were dropped?
8. Why were the Losties, the Freighter people and Juliet the only ones who time traveled on the island and not the Others or Danielle Rousseau?
9. Why did Ben kill John Locke in “The Death of Jeremy Bentham”?
10. What happened to Claire Littleton during her three-year stay on the island, following the departure of the Oceanic Six?
11. Who killed the surviving Ajira 316 passengers at their beach camp and why?
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Civil War nurse Charlotte Evans uncovers a mystery at a Mississippi plantation during the middle of the war.
* * * *
Being a New Englander, it had been difficult for me to adjust to the hot and humid summers of Tennessee and Mississippi. To be honest, I still have not adjusted to it. It came as no surprise that I found myself unable to sleep during the sultry nights. The patients' moans and Alma's light snores did not help matters. One night, during our second week at Green Willows, I heard two people arguing next door. Our host and his mother.
"After I had begged you not to hang around that darky, you still defied my wishes during supper. Oh yes, Jenny told me all about it!" I assumed that the screeching voice belonged to Mrs. Scott. "You're just like them. Just like the Scotts! And to think I thought you were a son of mine!"
Major Scott was not as loud. "For heaven's sakes, Mother! Not so loud! The entire house can hear you."
"I don't care! Can you imagine my feelings when I saw you in the garden with that woman? Not only did you upset me, you have insulted Judith's memory!"
That woman? Mrs. Scott had obviously been referring to me.
"Judith has been dead for six years, Mama! And I don't recall you ever having any regard for her! And as for Miss Evans, we happen to be friendly acquaintances. That's all. Unlike you, I happen to like people for whom and not what they are."
A loud slap followed. Mrs. Scott must have struck her son.
"How dare you talk to me like that!" she cried in a voice loud enough to wake the dead.
Mrs. Scott certainly woke up Alma. She sat up in bed, her light brown eyes barely opened. "What's that?" she asked.
I answered, "Mrs. Scott giving her son hell."
Both of us remained silent as we overheard Major Scott continue. "I feel we have nothing further to say ma'am. Now if you will please excuse me." His voice was cold as steel.
"Richard! I won't have it, you hear? I won't have you insult your family name with that black slut!"
"Good-night Mother!" A door slammed shut.
Alma turned to me. "Whew! I reckon you're the . . . black slut Miss Scott was referring to?"
I merely rolled my eyes.
She shook her head. "Lord knows how many times I've heard Miss Catherine call my momma that." Alma sighed. She happened to be one of the offsprings of a cotton planter and his slave mistress. After his death, his widow began making preparations to sell Alma and her brothers to Texas. Which led them to run for the Union lines. "If I were you, Miss Charlotte, I'd stay away from that woman. Maum Janey tole me she was a little crazy."
What Alma had said about Mrs. Scott did not worry me. I felt I could handle the woman easily. What disturbed me was something she had said to Major Scott. "Just like the Scotts!" What did she meant by that?
* * * *
I finished wrapping a clean bandage on the corporal's leg. On the following afternoon, I found myself with Miriam and Doctor Anders on the manor's wide, front lawn. Before I could walk away, the corporal laid a hand on my arm. "Excuse me nurse, but am I crippled?" He looked up at me with brown hopeful eyes.
A lump formed in my throat. I knew he could walk again, but a Minie ball at Vicksburg shot off a fragment of his knee ligament and stiffened his leg for good. He would limp for the rest of his life.
The corporal had been so polite and friendly toward me that I decided to spare him the full details. I told him that he would be on his feet within a matter of days. At least I was being partially truthful. Relieved, the corporal laid his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes with a smile.
"Poor bastard'll be limping for the rest of his days. Won't he?" a voice murmured. I glanced up. Major Scott stood behind me, wearing a sad expression.
"I beg your pardon?" I asked.
"I'm sorry. What I meant was the corporal there has a permanent limp. Am I right?"
"How did you know?"
"I saw the expression on your face." His dark eyes met mine. There was something in them that reminded me of someone from the past. Josh Bradley, the son of a merchant in my hometown, once looked at me in the same manner before proposing marriage. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled.
It was not that I did not find Major Scott unattractive. I did. Very much. But like Josh, I knew there were too many differences in our backgrounds that would divide us. Major Scott happened to be white and I was colored. Jack was colored also, but came from a well-to-do family. Major Scott had the same problem of coming from a wealthy background. And worse, Major Scott was a native of Mississippi. I would not have lasted with him any longer than I would have with Josh.
The front door opened and three people emerged from the manor - Maum
Janey, Shelby and Mrs. Scott. Major Scott followed my stare with uneasy eyes. "Going shopping Mama?" The three females were dressed for travel.
"We're heading into town to purchase new shoes for Shelby," Mrs. Scott replied coolly. "We should return before supper." Mrs. Scott deliberately ignored me. That is until Major Scott helped her settled in an old barouche. For a brief moment, I felt the malevolence in her eyes, as she glanced at me. Major Scott excused himself and returned inside the manor. The carriage rattled down the road, driven by a dark old man.
"My goodness," Alice declared in a breathless manner. "Did you see the way Mrs. Scott looked at you? She must really hate you!"
I shrugged. "What can you expect? I'm a free, colored and a Yankee."
"I don't think so, Charlotte. I've never seen her look at Alma like that. She usually gets one of those 'don't-sass-me-I-am-your-superior' looks." I stared at Alice. I never realized she was capable of such cattiness.
Alice continued, "But you . . . she gave you a look of pure hatred. Like it was personal." Her remarks produced a glimmer of suspicion in my mind. Perhaps the reason Mrs. Scott disliked me so, was because I reminded her of Marie. After all, the man in my dream strongly resembled Major Scott. Perhaps his father had been Marie's lover. If so, then Mrs. Scott must have killed the nursemaid.
* * * *
Later that night, I had that same dream. Unable to return to sleep, I slipped out of bed and went downstairs to the library, hoping that I could find a book to read.
Decorated in brown oak paneling, the library was scantily furnished. The only furnishings in the room were a large desk with a kerosene lamp, green cushioned chair, two small wood-carved chairs and a tall grandfather clock.
After I had lit the lamp, my eyes fell upon two portraits hanging side by side on the north wall. Both men in the paintings strongly resembled Major Scott. Both possessed the dark hair and eyes, cleft chin and the aquiline nose of the Scotts. The man in the left portrait, with his fleshy skin and ruthless set of the mouth, had a more dissipated look. The other happened to be an exact replica of Major Scott.
The signatures of both paintings were the same. Solomon Green. Both paintings had been completed in June 1840. "That's Massa Richard's papa and uncle," a voice behind me said. I turned around. It was Maum Janey. She continued. "What you doin up so late, child?"
"I had a bad dream and could not go back to sleep," I answered. Looking at the paintings again, I realized that handsomer one must have been Major Scott's father. "What was Major Scott's father like?"
A heavy sigh escaped from Maum Janey's lips. "A real bastard." She paused momentarily before adding, "Pardon my language, miss. As I was trying to say, but Massa Coleman barely paid any attention to Miss Deborah, young Massa Richard or any of the other children. And he treated his niggers like dirt. Hardly a soul mourned his death."
I looked at the handsome man in the painting. This man was Marie's lover?
"No female slave, house or field, was safe from him," Maum Janey continued. "Except a few. You know I can't get over how much you look like her. Like Marie."
"Were you two close?"
"We were friends. Massa Coleman bought brought both of us from Nawlins years ago." I gathered Maum Janey meant New Orleans. Ironically, the housekeeper never struck me as someone with a Creole background. She continued, "I reckon almost thirty years ago. She became Massa Richard's nurse mammy and I became a house maid."
I asked, "Were you in the house when she died?"
"No. No I wasn't. Marie slept in Massa Richard's room and I slept in the slave quarters. Massa Coleman was getting ready to sell her anyhow. I saw him and Massa Brent - his brother - with Marie in this room the very day she died. Massa Coleman tore off her blouse so that he could look her over. Almost made her bend down to look some more, but a visitor was coming and they stopped."
I flinched at her story. Poor Marie. To be treated so brutally by her lover. So Major Scott's father had planned to sell Marie. I wondered why. I asked, "Did Mrs. Scott force him to sell her?"
"Why you ask that?" Maum Janey demanded.
"Perhaps Marie and Mr. Scott . . ." I began.
Maum Janey snorted with derision. "Are you kidding? Massa Coleman had never shown the least bit interest in Marie. Not during the five years she had been there. Besides, I doubt Miz Deborah could make Massa Coleman do anything. She couldn't care less about him and felt the same about her. They stayed away from each other."
Now, I felt confused. Perhaps Maum Janey did not know about Marie and Coleman Scott. I looked at the handsome man on the right. "I must say that Major Scott is the spitting image of his father."
Maum Janey followed my gaze. "Oh, that's not Massa Coleman." She pointed to the left portrait. "That's him. You were looking at his brother, Massa Brent. Now he . . . was more than interested in Marie." The old housekeeper paused momentarily. "She was his bed wench."
Completely astonished, I realized my mistake. Marie had an affair with Major Scott's uncle, not his father. So that meant Mrs. Scott had no reason to kill Marie. But who did?
End of Chapter Three
Monday, July 23, 2012
Below are images from Season One of ABC's "ONCE UPON A TIME". The series stars Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle:
"ONCE UPON A TIME" Season One (2011-2012) Photo Gallery