“Uh huh, somethin’ spooky happening! I hears something rustling in the warehouse!”
Voodoo - by T.R.Hart Chicago-1947
The screech of tires and a loud “BANG” were followed by a woman’s scream. A large crowd gathered around the figure of an extremely tall black woman lying in the middle of the Chicago street. Her body was hideously contorted as she writhed in agony. She tried to speak, but no words escaped her lips. The whiteness of her eyes contrasted with her deep blue-black skin making them appear larger than they actually were. The flowered dress she wore under her coat billowed out and fluttered in the Chicago wind. She had the unmistakable appearance of a butterfly in its last moments of life.
“She’s a goner” somebody groaned.
“Everyone, move back” ordered the cop.
“She walked right in front of me!” cried the bus driver.
A witness agreed with him, and then the blaring sound of the ambulance drowned out the crowd’s commotion. The woman was lifted into the ambulance. It was a short trip to the hospital, maybe four to five blocks. The doctor declared her dead on arriving…something everyone already knew.
Her eyes were closed and then the nurses began to undress the body. They could not help but notice the dead woman’s striking beauty. She was just under six feet tall in the prone position. Her slim physique was muscular, wide at the hips and shoulders, the neck graceful. the head, small and well formed. The nose was petite, underneath were full lips that men might call “luscious”, but there was a fierceness lying under the beautiful mask that could not be concealed.
“She seemed so angry” said the little mousy nurse. “Well, that’s the way you might see it” the heavyset veteran nurse replied gruffly. “D’think that getting’ hit by a bus might be the reason she looks that way?”
The timid little mousy nurse replied in little more than a whisper:”Could be…but I was talking about the hammer in her hand.”
Indeed, the ball-peen hammer, unobserved during the commotion, was visible now. The handle was still tightly gripped in her dead hand.
Willie Johnson was sleeping in late on Saturday morning after working the docks all night. They were especially busy loading and unloading cargo all week. Work hadn’t been this busy since the war was on. He stretched his stubby legs, pointed his toes, and raised his arms up. His hands were meshed together and he stretched again. His sore body felt relieved with every pop and snap of those tired joints.
“Man, this bear is HUNGRY!” He chuckled to himself as he hobbled over to the bathroom and peed. Cold water on his face stung, but brought him to life. It took forever it seemed to get hot water in the pipes. Turning around and walking a few steps, brought him into his tiny kitchen. He opened the little door and looked into the refrigerator for something to eat. There was some cold leftover chicken. There was some cold mashed potatoes too, but a hungry bear will eat anything hot or cold.
Willie sat for a few seconds in his t-shirt and boxers ready to eat when suddenly; he felt a cold draft go down his spine that made him shiver. “I bet Mista’ landlord aint givin’ us no heat till November” he grumbled. He pulled his coat off of the clothes stand without getting up from his seat and within a minute he was warm and savoring his breakfast.
Bang! Bang! “Willie, you in there?”
Willie recognized the man’s deep booming voice and called back: “Clarence…that you?”
“Yeah man, it’s me Willie!”
Willie cracked the door open and looked up at the giant of a man standing in the hallway dressed in a stylish pin striped suit. He looked scared…real scared.
“You in trouble, Clarence?”
“Yeah man, let me in.”
“You dint kill no one?”
“No man, somebody tryin’ to kill me.
“You been messin’ with somebody wife?”
“Nope, jus’ let me in an’ I tells you everything.” Willie opened the door just enough for the big man to shuffle past sideways. Just to make sure that no one was following; Willie poked his head out the door and looked both ways before shutting and locking it. “Can’t be too careful” he thought. “I don’t need no trouble.”
Clarence looked down at his pudgy little friend and laughed when he saw him attired in a coat and boxer shorts. “Man, you got some crazy style!”
“Cheap bastard don’t give us no heat. You hungry?”
“No man, I got somethin’ on the train. I got in this mornin’.
“Got a fight in Chicago?”
“Nah, I’m between bouts. Gotta find me a new manager and a trainer. The Last one stole all my money and beat it outta town.”
“Heard you got dropped by that white boy in four. Hell, you a head taller, and got thirty pounds on him.”
Willie could see that Clarence was getting a little angry.
“Lucky shot.” He grumbled. “I was goin’ easy on him and he sticks me when I got my head turned.”
“Why you lookin’ the other way? You crazy?”
“Not me, it’s that crazy Sadie, the girl I told you about from Haiti. She come to the fight lookin’ fo’ me yellin’ and hollerin’ and swingin’ a hammer!”
The truth was that Clarence, or Kid Thunder, was washed up. He was big and strong, but he was slow and dumb. He could crush you with that left hook of his, providing he could catch you, but he couldn’t take a hit. A boxer with a glass jaw won’t get any reputable manager to touch him. Clarence wouldn’t take a dive for anybody. At least he was honest, but he did have one weakness - women.
“You was always shady with the ladies!” Willie snorted.
“Yeah, I loves the ladies, and the ladies love ol’ Kid Thunder” he laughed as he raised his arms and made a muscle. Willie made a muscle too, but looked more like Popeye than Charles Atlas.
“Workin’ at the docks is keepin’ me strong Clarence. I could get you a job there. Hard work, but good pay.”
“Yeah, I sure do needs the money. Hey, did you hear the news yesterday?”
“Nah, I sleep during the day an’ I work nights”
“You remember Sadie, the Haitian chick I told you about?”
“She a voodoo chick? Y’know, bein’ from Haiti.”
“Yeah man, she got killed yesterday!”
“No man, I never killed nobody. She got hit by a bus. She comes up on a train chasin’ after me with that hammer of hers, but I stopped by to see this little lady, a high yellow that look like Lena Horne, before catchin’ my ride.” She comes walkin’ down the street in a fury thinkin’ she sees me with another chick and walks in front of a bus.”
“Oh yeah, she crazy. Well, she an’ me were sorta married.”
“You got yourself married to a crazy lady?”
“Not really married. See, she was a fine lookin’ woman. Well, she got the hots for ol’ Kid Thunder, so I says to myself:”Clarence, she crazy, but you’ll be outta town tomorrow so why not? Well, she take me into the woods and I’m ready to get down to business if you knows what I mean, and she says we gotta get married before the Moon!”
“You got a preacher at night?”
“No man, jus’ listen: So, I told you she’s into this Voodoo stuff and says we got to make a sacrifice to her god. So then she kills a chicken and we exchange vows. Man, that was one wild night!”
“Did she cook the chicken?”
“Willie, you always thinkin’ bout yo’ belly. Yeah, she cooked the chicken. Well, she tell me that I have to be true to her cuz, if I aint she gonna kill me. I jus’ laugh and think:”I’ll be gone tomorrow and never see her again.
“Man, that’s real crazy.”
“Yeah Willie, she was crazy, but man, that was one fine women!”
The two men laughed about old times for a while and went down to the docks to get a job for Clarence.
“Ever work nights Clarence?
“All the time. Did you ever know a boxer to fight during the day?”
“Nope, but you gonna have to work for more than 15 minutes!” Willie laughed while ducking a playful swipe from his gigantic friend.
Working ten hour shifts at night didn't appeal to "Kid Thunder" but he was big, strong and up to the job and besides, the pay was good. Clarence loved to spend money and he loved the ladies, but one night while he was alone with his lady for the evening, something came up…or rather it didn't come up.
"Willie, I gots a problem."
"We all got problems Clarence."
"No man, this is serious!"
Willie looked at the big man and realized that his friend really did have a problem. "Alright tell Ol' Willie what ails you."
"It's like this. y'see, I've been thinkin' 'bout Sadie 'an how she come lookin' for me all mad wantin' to kill me."
"She dead Clarence, you gots no worries Champ!"
"No man, I think she still around. She's some kinda Voodoo queen. I think she put some kinda curse on me. Y'see, when I'm with a gal I see Sadie's face and I can't get no wood!"
"That's because you drinkin' fool. Everybody know that you can't drink and get a woodie!"
"Ain't touched a drop, I swears! I'm training for my next fight. I gotta get back in shape to be a prizefighter."
Willie chuckled to himself and reassured his slow friend that Voodoo is "Cuckoo". So that night he got together with Sam, Skinny Lewis, and Big Stanley at work and decided to pull a little joke on Clarence. Since he believed in the Voodoo curse they would scare him a little and then afterwards show him how silly he was. It was all in his head. The first part of the plan came in the mail.
"Hey Clarence, you got a package" Big Stanley the foreman yelled. "Fo' me? Nobody know Kid Thunder here yet…I didn't order nuffin."
"Hmmm…smells like perfume" Willie said. "Who's it from?"
"Don' know man, ain't no return address."
Clarence scratched his head for a moment, and with a puzzled look, began to open the package. There was wrapping inside. When he pulled off the wrap his eyes almost popped out of his head and he shouted: "Voodoo!"
The three men held their breath so that they wouldn't laugh and spoil the joke. After composing himself Willie said: "Clarence, it's jus' a black ragdoll! One of your ladies must've sent it."
"Yeah, an' I knows the lady who sent it. It's from Sadie!"
Skinny Lewis shook his head and said: " C'mon man, you know that Sadie dead."
"She dead, but she come back like Jesus, not to save me but to kill me!"
It took a little while, but the men convinced Clarence that it was his imagination running wild. Clarence was okay for a while, but after more unsuccessful dates he was sure that Sadie had come back to haunt him.
"Wasn't Clarence's Voodoo lady the one that got hit by the bus a couple of months back? The one swingin' the hammer?" Big Stanley asked Willie.
"The very same one!" he responded.
"Look here", Big Stanley said with a mouthful of his sandwich. "Supposin' we put a pin in the doll's head. I've seen this in the movies. Ol' Clarence will think that Sadie's gonna nail him with that hammer of hers. I'll bet he gets a headache"
Skinny Lewis and Willie burst out in laughter. "That's great Stanley. I always told him that this was all in his head!"
“Kid Thunder” trained hard for the prizefight that everyone but he knew would never happen. It happened that one day while earning some extra cash as a sparring partner for one of the heavyweight contenders, Clarence took an especially vicious right hook. Whether it was intentional or not no one knew for sure, but although he recovered from the blow he complained later of a terrific headache. Willie and the other two pranksters, not wanting to lose an opportunity for mischief, got a hole of Clarence’s “Voodoo Doll” and stuck a large lady’s hatpin into its head. Clarence discovered the harpooned ragdoll and immediately became convinced that his headache was caused by black magic, and totally ignoring the fact that he had received such a violent blow in the ring.
Willie, Stan, and Lewis took a malicious delight in determining whether Clarence should remove the pin from the doll’s head. They played into his superstitious nature but then realizing that Clarence was quite upset decided that he had enough.
“I’m gonna pull that pin outta that rag doll’s head!” Willie proclaimed. With great showmanship he pretended to struggle and then after a great pull removed the pin. Clarence’s horror turned to joy as he declared that his headache had miraculously disappeared.
To the superstitious among us, Halloween of all the nights in the year holds the greatest horror. Supposedly, the spirits of the dead leave their subterranean abodes and walk among the living with the intent of extracting vengeance of those that they perceived had wronged them. Big Stanley, the foreman, had recently become aware that Clarence had been sleeping during the night shift. He secretly harbored the desire to rid himself of this punch-drunk pugilist whom he considered lazy and shiftless.
“Hey Willie, since Halloween is coming we need to pull another joke on Ol’ Kid Thunder. Me and Lewis came up with the perfect plan.”
“I dunno,” Willie growled, “I’ve been thinkin’ that he’s had enough. He’s a big man and he’s liable to get real mad if he finds out we’ve been puttin’ him on like this…”
“He ain’t gonna find out” said Big Stanley. “Me and Lewis are gonna pretend his Sadie come back from the dead lookin’ for him. Lewis gonna get a dress from his wife and start swinging his hammer.”
“He gonna know it be Skinny Lewis. You two is crazy!”
“Nah he aint, Willie. He’ll be sleepin’ on the dock and there’s this big window overhead of him. You wake him up and tell him that you heard somethin’ and look up at the window. The window is real dirty and the light come from behind him makes him look like a shadow swinging’ that hammer of hers. He won’t know that you’re in on it because you act like you scared too!”
Willie agreed, albeit grudgingly. Halloween night came and he could see that Clarence was getting mightily sleepy from training at the gym that evening. He chuckled to himself as he saw his friend looking around to see if anyone was watching. He found a dark place and bedded down for a little nap.
It was decided that 1 AM, the “witching hour”, would be the perfect time for scaring poor Clarence. Willie checked his watch. In five minutes, Skinny Lewis would come walking by the window swinging a hammer and hooting and hollering.
Big Stanley, who was watching in the wings, looked up at the window. As the bell doleful sound of the church nearby announced the “witching hour”, it was time to wake Kid Thunder!
“Clarence! Hey wake up man!” Willie said in a loud whisper while he shook Clarence’s shoulder.
“Man, I just nodded off a minute. Big Stanley lookin’ for me?” “Uh huh, somethin’ spooky happening! I hears something rustling in the warehouse!”
Clarence wiped his eyes and Willie directed his attention to the terrifying spectre silhouetted before them in the warehouse window directly above them.
“Willie, dat’s Sadie, she come lookin’ for to kill me!”
The shadow shrieked and moaned. Willie and Stanley thought that Skinny Lewis was giving the performance of a lifetime.hey saw the eyes of the spectre glowing and Big Stanley and Willie were dumbfounded. “How did Lewis do that?”
Clarence’s eyes were white with fear and the big man stumbled over a couple of boxes as he sought to escape from the apparition that now seemed to walk right through the window and chasing Kid Thunder down the dark pier.
Big Stanley and Willie could no longer contain themselves and commended each other on a job well done. Skinny Lewis couldn’t have done it any better, but they feared that if he went too far, Clarence might wring his neck like a chicken. The rest of the night was calm, but scattered with a few of the men laughing and shouting “boo!” , but there was no sight of Lewis until the next night.
Skinny Lewis came to work seeming a little sheepish with his hat pulled down over his right eye. Willie felt ashamed of himself. Big Stanley was delighted that Clarence failed to show up for work without calling in sick. He had the perfect reason to fire him. “What you covering up your eye fo’ Lewis?”
After a little coaxing Lewis revealed that he was sporting a blackened eye. Willie felt awful. It looked like Clarence had given him a good shot. Stan, however, just complemented him on his acting ability.
Lewis shrugged it off and angrily related his misfortune: “Man you got me in a lot of trouble!” I went to get my wife’s dress on and she catch me thinkin’ I’m some sicko. I tried to tell her that it was a big joke but she a big and mean women and popped me in the eye so hard I couldn’t come to work last night!”
Big Stanley and Willie looked at each other in amazement thinking: If that wasn’t Lewis pulling the prank, then who was chasing Clarence down the street with the hammer? They never did find out… because no one ever saw or heard from Kid Thunder ever again.