In this one-of-a-kind family saga, the author writes about a young boy named Marcus Webster.
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Jacob O. Smith, Sr.
Granny pulled a deck of playing cards from her knapsack, and spread them out on the table. Who wants their fortune told, she asked with a smile? Not me replied Mama. How about you M. E., she asked? Why not, replied M. E. I watched in fascination as ole Granny began to shuffle the cards. I was now fully awake at this turn of events. She handed M. E. the deck, and told her to choose twelve cards. Don't look at them now cause it's bad luck if you do, Granny told her. M. E. chose twelve at random from the deck, and handed them face down to Granny.
I watched in fascination as Granny placed the 12 cards in a row on the tabletop, all face down. How you gonna read em face down, M.E asked her? I'll turn over each card one by one and then I read em to ya, she replied. Now at's what yore fortune's gonna be, she told M. E. Oh my Lord, exclaimed Granny. I see good, and I see bad, she added. Please tell me the good, I don't think I want to know about the bad M. E., told her. Well now! I see this good-looking young army feller, with a mustache as black as Marcus's eyebrows. M. E. looked at me and smiled. M. E. told Granny to please tell her more. Ya'll gonna git married. Whut do you think of at Mary Elizabeth? When Granny when? Not right away. Maybe like six years or more, added ole Granny. Oh Granny! That long? Are you sure? I can only tell you what I see in the cards M. E. Aw shucks, I thought it would have been a lot sooner, replied M. E. with a disappointed look on her face. I think at's enuff fer tonight, said Granny. But what about the bad part Granny? You said you didn't want to hear that, Granny told her. I change my mind Granny, so I'd like to know. Maybe later after we've all had some rest, I might tell you the rest, Granny told her. No! I want to know rat now this very minute Granny. Might's well tell ya. Because you won't let me rest atall til I do, Granny told her. I hate to tell you this. But you said you wanted to know M. E. I see a death in your fambly. Oh Lord no! You sure about that Granny? Plain as day. Who is it? Daddy, Mama, Darlene or me? It's not you M. E. Then who Granny who? I don't know. I just know there's gonna be a death in your fambly, at's all. Do you know when? It will happen fore you git married to at army feller. Lord have mercy! I don't know what to believe moaned M. E.
M. E. asked Granny about the possibility of her (Granny) being wrong. Well! I have to tell you M. E. I've never been wrong in the past. Just maybe this is the first time I'm totally wrong, added Granny. Well! I certainly hope so, replied M. E.
Well now! Ya'll got me going, who's next fer their fortune, asked ole Granny. How about you Athena? No way. After whut you just told M. E., just leave me out. Oh, I know. Tell Marcus his fortune Granny, said M. E. with a big smile. I watched as Granny reshuffle the cards, and go thru the same ritual with me as she had with M. E. We watched her stare intensely at the cards. Suddenly she asked Mama a question. Athena? Do ya’ll know anybody named Hadrian? Not personally replied Mama. How did Marcus git his name Athena? Why do you ask at Granny? Well! It shore seems to me you oughta know how he got the name Marcus. After all, you and Ollie did name him huh, asked Granny? It was me who named him, replied Mama. I'm ashamed and too scared to say how I come up with his name, added Mama. An besides, no one would ever believe me, if I told em added Mama. Scared? My God! Why would you be scared and ashamed of something lack at Athena, asked M. E? Marcus is a nice name. Why be ashamed of it, asked Granny. I'm not ashamed of naming him Marcus. It was the way all this came about, added Mama. M. E. asked Mama what she meant by that? Because Marcus might die if I tell ya'll, said Mama, biting her lower lip. Look! We all gonna die some time or another, said Granny. Ain't tat the truth, echoed M. E. But not before he reaches the age of twenty-one said Mama, with tears welling up in her eyes. Where in the hell did you ever git an idee like at Athena, asked M. E? This thing has been almost like a nightmare to me. I've been wanting to tell someone for a long time. I didn't cause some would surely think I was tetched in the head. Ya'll won't laugh or tell anybody else, said Mama. No said Granny. No! And I won't neither, said M. E. Well! Marcus might blabber it out, added Mama. I don't have a reason to blabber it out Mama. You sure Marcus, she asked? I'm sure Mama, I replied. Well! I may regret this, said Mama. But here goes she added.
Now for the first time, I was about to found out how I had gotten my name. Mama blurted out my name came to her in a dream a week before I was born. She began to explain the dream. In it, I saw this Roman Soldier. He was dressed up in the weirdest looking clothing. It wasn’t like anything I've ever seen before. A big sword hung from his side. You will name our son Marcus, the soldier told her. If you fail to do so, he will surely die before he reaches the age of 21. God Almighty! I can't believe anybody would ever dream something like that, said M. E. How in the world did you know it was a Roman soldier, added M. E? Now that's what I would like to know, said ole Granny. I've seen pictures of Roman soldiers in my Ma's bible, replied Mama. Grandma’s bible echoed M. E. Yes! Her bible, replied Mama. I'm not surprised none atall at tat, replied old Granny. I've heard my Ma talk of things way above that, she added. Does Ollie know all this, asked M..E? No! I've never told him, replied Mama. If I had, he would no doubt have laughed it off, said Mama. Maybe someday I will, she added. I'm surprised at Ollie not wanting to name him, said M. E. He never even suggested a name. It was like it was all planned ahead of time, said Mama. I thought that was a little odd at him not suggesting a name at the time, added Mama. I think there was a reason he didn't said ole Granny. What do you mean by that Granny, asked M. E. I don't think I can answer that really, replied Granny. That wasn't all the soldier told me, said Mama. You mean there's more, asked M. E. with a curious look on her face? That's what scares me the most, replied Mama. You've gone this far Athena. You might's well tell us the rest, said M. E. Well! What I thought was so strange, was what the soldier said next. What the Roman soldier said Athena, asked M. E? Yes, replied Mama. He said Marcus was destined for greatness. He will not control his destiny. That will be determined by me, the soldier said. Recon what he meant by that, M. E asked her? I jest don't rightly know replied Mama. And that's all he told you, asked Granny. Well, there was one other thing he said. It was then I woke up in a cold sweat, and shaking like a leaf in the wind. He said when Marcus was born, he would be far advanced for his age. What is this all about, Mama said she asked the Roman Soldier in the dream. Just remember Hadrian's Legacy, and Prophecy the soldier said. He also said Marcus would also be far advanced above most men, added Mama. Oh! I've already said that, added Mama. My God! I wonder what he meant by saying a thing like that, gasped M. E? I just don't rightly know about, replied Mama. I think this answered M. E.'s curiosity as to why I responded to her love making the way I did. Not only that, taking into account my beginning to read and do arithmetic problems. All the time Mama was talking, Granny had been staring at the cards on the table. Suddenly her eyes got big. She would stare at me, then at M. E. and Mama. She looked toward the ceiling in the room, staring wild eyed. Suddenly she mumbled out, Hadrian's Legacy. I can see it all now, she added. Then she mumbled out. "Oh my Lord my God". The kerosene lamp sitting on the table began to dim. Lord Jesus! What is it Granny, shouted M. E. I'm not gonna go no further, telling Marcus another word about his fortune. Further more, I'll never tell another person their fortune as long as I live. Well! Ya'll know what this sounds like to me, asked M. E. No! What replied Mama? Something like the Virgin Mary conceiving Jesus, replied M. E. Well! Our Heavenly Father only knows for sure about that, replied ole Granny.
M. E. and Mama would say later, that night would be the strangest thing they both had ever witnessed in their lives. . When the lamp dimmed, it got deathly cold in the room. Chill bumps came on the two of them. To me, it didn't affect me one way or the other. The only thing I noticed, was the dimming of the kerosene lamp. I remember how it flickered and almost went out, and how cold it became in the room. Mama was concerned that I would tell what she told us in the dream, especially my Daddy. You know how he is Marcus. He would probably give you a beating and give me down the river if you told him, said Mama.
Granny Siler was one peculiar and strange human being, to put it mildly. I had heard Mama, and my Grandma Lukers discussing her one day. I also overheard them mention ole Granny was All night long, Mama, M.E., and ole Granny Siler, as well as I, sat watching and nervously waiting for Grandpa's arrival. Old Conecuh was still on my mind. M. E. was smoking one Chesterfield after the other. I was somewhat puzzled seeing her do that in company of others. I asked her what her Mama and Daddy would do if they found out she was smoking. Hell fire and save matches, I don't give a shit, she replied. Might as well let the truth be known, she added. I later learned, she had been secretly smoking since she was 10 years old. Packaged cigarettes were selling at 12 cents a pack at the time. It made me wonder how she could afford such an expensive item. Later I found out she had put money back picking cotton and pulling corn.