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Chapter 1


The worn unpainted boards of the porch creaked in protest as Grandma moved from the doorway to the mailbox. She pulled out a square envelope. Good. Looked like something personal for a change. Turned it over. “Ooah!”


She jammed it in her apron pocket. “That hyena!” The tone of her voice matched the frown on her face.


Grandma dragged herself back into the house just as a young woman with a small baby came into the front room. “You say something, Grandma?”


The older woman tried to put a smile on her face. “No. Don’t pay no ‘tention to me. Here. Lem’me take Allison. She patted her hands together a couple of times and spread her arms in welcome. Allison reached out.


“I’ll get back to the ham bone.” Josie washed her hands, picked up the paring knife and started chopping up little bits of meat.


Grandma sat at the kitchen table with the baby and began singing softly in a haunting minor key. “A charge to keep, I have…A God to glo-ri-fy…”


“Gorgeous.” Josie put the paring knife down. “I know the words to that one, but your melody is so much prettier. I’d like to learn yours.”


“It just makes me full up when I sing it. I love those old songs we used to sing back when I was a girl. They don’t hardly sing them no more. White folk used to come to our church to hear us. I don’t mean every Sunday. They’d come mostly during revivals. We’d always have choirs coming from other churches to sing with us then. Glorious! We’d welcome the white folk and escort them right down to the front rows of our church.”

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