After witnessing the ruthless murder of his best friend while his own life hung in the balance, the many demons Paton Jones spends a lifetime trying to suppress begin to emerge. Armed with an evil before its time, Paton’s life becomes a thick fog of deadly secrets, hidden betrayal, and overt lies that carve a relentless path of revenge and destruction against anyone who crosses him.
Before Secret, there was innocence. Before Colored Lily, there was corruption. In the beginning, there was PATON!
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“So the other little nigger boy wants to fight, too, huh? Come on over here, boy. Don’t you know whose land this ‘longs to now? This here my cousin’s land now. Bought and paid for yesterday, and he don’t take too kindly to niggers such as yourselves coming through here no more.”
“We ain’t know nothing about that! We ain’t know nothing about the sellin’ of no land or this property. Let him go!” Paton’s nostrils flared, and his eyes seemed to suffer from a lack of oxygen as they turned red while he memorized the man walking toward him. He was around five feet five inches tall with jet black, straight hair that went from the top of his head to the thin of his chin. When the hair on his face reached the chin’s narrowest part, there was a split – no hair at all. As Paton continued to study him, he didn’t move as he watched the man lean over and pick up the gun that fell from his hands minutes ago. In Paton’s mind, there was absolutely nothing that would make him leave Drowning Boy but death, so as long as he could see Drowning Boy alive, he was gonna stay with him, especially knowing in the back of his mind that none of them would have been in this position if it wasn’t for him.
“What was y’all doing back there at them bathrooms that’s sittin’ on my family’s property, boy? Them bathrooms so close to the field, hell, they may as well belong to us, too,” he laughed. “Soon as you seen us, you took off running there,” he continued as he pointed the gun directly at Paton’s chest, but Paton didn’t flinch.
“We wasn’t doing nothing but fixing the sign. Ain’t no law of death required for that.”
“What sign? You looks guilty to me,” the white man continued, swinging his gun from side to side with a huge ball of tobacco tucked in the side of his mouth. Then, he tilted his head back while his eyes stay planted on Paton and began speaking to the man holding Drowning Boy. “Hey, Lou, drop that big nigger on the ground and run back there to see if there’s a sign that needs fixin’. This boy here says that they was just fixin’ a sign, so I suppose there’s one back there broken. Go check,” he commanded as Paton stared down the barrel of his gun. “And you bet’ not move an inch because if you’re lyin’, I’m gonna blow your head sky high,” he threatened.
Paton turned his attention to his friend who was laying there on the ground gasping for air as his body dug into the dirt from him trying to handle the pain. The huge guy he had grown up with was now reduced to near death, and the only thing Paton could do was shout, “Drowning Boy, keep breathing. Keep breathin’!” Then, he turned to stare back into the eyes of the gunman, and the very threat of Paton’s anger burst through his skin, so much so that the white man with the gun reminded him of his earlier threat.
“You jump, and I’ll kill you, boy. You jump, and I’ll shoot you dead. Be laying here with your bastard friend here. Ain’t that, right? Ain’t all y’all black bastards there, boy? You even much got a last name?” he taunted, growing extra courage from his gun as Paton’s anger grew worse, and his breathing deepened as his eyes gravitated toward the trigger. His hands grew extremely light, just like a feather, as he motivated himself to fight as well as kill if he had to do so. The blood continued to drip lightly from where Drowning Boy punched the white man in the mouth, and each time it dripped, Paton became distracted, hearing his mother in the back of his mind, warning him to calm down.
“Whatcha’ thinkin’ ‘bout, boy? You want this here gun?” With his hairy arms, the white man leaned over and practically handed him the gun in a provoking manner. “Go ahead, Pate. Ain’t that your name? Pate? Or is it Nate…or Late…or Mate? Hell, boy, y’all can’t spell nor speak, ain’t that right? Where’s your other friend?” he asked, aiming the gun in the direction of the woods. “You think he still back there, boy? I tell you what,” he continued, walking in closer to Paton, so close that Paton could smell his dirty breath. “When I find him, I’ma kill him, too, if you lying about that sign back there. Ain’t got to be no law against nothing. I make my own law ‘gainst niggers.”
“The sign was off, and when we saw you in the corn, we got scared and ran. We was just using the bathroom,” Paton gritted his teeth as the words passed through his lips. “And it ain’t nothing but a sign!” he finally shouted, trembling in the hot sun. “It’s just a sign! That’s a human bein’! He just like you ‘cept a different color! Go shoot them men that burn them crosses and…” he paused, gathering his breath before speaking again. “It’s just a sign,” he stated, hopelessly thinking about how that sign meant more to them being that they were white than it did to him. “I just want my friend, so we can get him some help. He needs some…”
“Hey, Tommy!” called the other man on the way back from the bathroom. “Yeah, that sign there is hanging off. I put it back up on there. Looks like the boys were telling the truth. You can let ‘em go.”
“Well, hey!” Tommy spun around to face his fellow lyncher. “I guess we got into a fight with these boys here for nothing. Hey, boy! You can go home now,” he hollered down at Drowning Boy who was only taking minute breaths. “Whatcha’ waitin’ on?” he questioned, staring back at Paton. “Come get your friend before he die out here on my cousin’s land. Nigger blood’ll make the crops die, won’t it, Lou?”
“Something like that, Tommy,” he grinned, walking quickly back to where Drowning Boy laid.
“You ain’t have to shoot him,” Paton stormed past the man with the gun, and when he reached Drowning Boy, he lifted him, using all the strength he could muster. Drowning Boy stumbled heavily onto Paton’s body, nearly causing him to fall backwards, but Paton stood strong as both white men stood back and grinned as he struggled. “You’re gonna have to walk, DB. I got to get you some help,” he strained as tears started to flow from his eyes at the sight of what looked to him like pools of blood coming from Drowning Boy’s belly.
“Oh, he’ll be alright. Get that big boy on home, and put him in the tub. Wash him down. Be fine in the morning. I done seen niggers that size climb down from a rope ‘round their necks, so a bullet ain’t went that deep. Come on, Lou,” he called at his friend, but turns back to warn Paton. “If you come back through here, any of you, I’ll kill all three of you. Walk the road. This here is family property now. No more short cuts. We got rights, and we shoot to kill.”
Paton didn’t stick around to listen to a menial word coming from the man’s mouth. Instead, he was consumed with dragging his bloody friend along with all the strength and stamina he could muster while calling Jesse’s name at the top of his lungs. He knew for a fact that Jesse was somewhere still around watching. “Jesse! Come back. I need you back here for Drownin’ Boy. Jesse, he dyin’! They let us go, so come on back.” Paton turned back and watched the two white men walking away, and then he shouted into the woods again. “Jesse, they leavin’! Come on, or Drownin’ Boy ain’t gonna make it.” He ain’t!”
Sweat drenched Paton’s shirt as it mixed with the blood of his vulnerable friend, only to turn his white shirt red as Drowning Boy gripped tightly to the shirt’s bottom. Drowning Boy’s weight became too much for Paton to handle, resulting in him pounding into the ground with his knees as Drowning Boy fell to his side. That was when Paton spotted Jesse running back towards them, his eyes larger than they’d ever been because he was struck with pure fear. Once again, Paton took a deep breath to help Drowning Boy back onto his feet..
“Stand him up, Jesse, stand him up. Grab his legs and bend ‘em. You can do it, come on, DB. Come on!” he yelled, but the more he tried to force Drowning Boy, the worse the situation got.
“We gotta drag him, Pate. Let’s drag him…by his legs. You get one, and I get one. Keep him on his back. We get him to the woods, outta this sun and off this land, and then I go for help. Get him off this land ‘fore them men come back out here and do what they did to him to us.”
“Let’s go,” Paton responded. “Get the left one, and I’ll take the right. Now pull. We ain’t got no time to think about them and what they claim they gonna do to us. Got no time for it, so pull.”
As they pulled, Drowning Boy’s body was rescued from being cut by the many rocks in the soil because the weeds fell underneath him providing a sheeted cushion. Drowning Boy’s eyes ended up shifting permanently from white and brown to bloodshot as he started to choke on his own blood. Therefore, when his body reached the edge of the woods, Paton flipped him over onto his side.
“Jesse, run and go get some help. Hurry up ‘cause I don’t know if he’s gonna make it.” As Jesse set off with the speed of lightening through the woods, Paton erupted into desperate pleas for help as loudly as he could as his voice cracked through the screams. “Help! Somebody, help us! It’s Drowning Boy!” As he peered back into the eyes of the wounded, he ripped his own shirt off and began to wipe the blood from inside of Drowning Boy’s mouth. The blood came out extremely thick on the shirt until he had to wipe it off on his pants and try again.
Drowning Boy tried to talk, but each time he took a shallow breath, no sound escaped. That’s when Paton rushed behind him and lifted his upper body from the ground so that he could be in a seated position, but that caused his head to drop forward. This created even more of a panic inside of Paton, so he leaned him back into his arms, continuing to shake him to keep him alive. The woods closed in on Paton as he sat there, tired of desperately yelling for help and crying the hardest he’d ever cried. The end of his hope came when he finally looked back into Drowning Boys eyes. They weren’t looking back, but only staring into the clear, blue sky.
Paton’s stomach quaked as a loud groan traveled from the deepest part of his soul to the outside of his body as he held a dead Drowning Boy in his arms. With his forearm, he wiped all the blood from Drowning Boy’s face, attempting to get it as clean as possible while his tears drenched Drowning Boy’s face. “I’m sorry,” he choked on his words as the sorrow overtook him. “It was just a stupid sign,” he continued as he rocked back and forth, squeezing Drowning Boy at his chest as he recalled how he convinced both Drowning Boy and Jesse to come along with him as he pulled the prank. He’d done it plenty times before, and although he knew he would get in trouble if he ever got caught, he never thought it would cost a life – his or anyone else’s. To him, it was just a silly prank.
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–Anna Bowman of Florence Morning News calls Secret “a heart-wrenching story…with great presence to the main character”
—-Annie Hawes of Euro-Reviews calls Colored Lily: Poppa Took My Innocence “realistic and lifelike and vivid. Like Secret, of which Colored Lily is the prequel, no reader can come away from this book without being touched as deeply as possible.”
Secret, Colored Lily: Poppa Took My Innocence and Paton…one emotionally packed family saga with dramatic events in the deep south…lined in secrets!