Fiction: The Dragon Robe

| December 2008

Sam Watson’s wife, Camellia – a thin, overworked African-American woman and mother of seven – never forgot the winter “the Champ” came to live with them. That was when she ceased pumping water from the old well outside and got used to the thrill of turning on faucets instead. That was when they got their indoor bathroom – in fact, two bathrooms, because the empty second floor had been remodeled to accommodate their guest. Charlie was his name, but his boxing prowess led fans to call him Champ.

The house was refurbished with new cupboards, living room carpeting and a rose-patterned wall-paper. The wonder of it all put a new shade of color on Camellia Watson’s cheeks, too.

Ivy, the eldest of Sam and Camellia’s children, would never forget that summer, either, for something strange and fascinating came into her life.


Sam had married Camellia and settled into a poor, predominantly white district of a small Georgia town with his folks. After the arrival of their first child, Sam took off and headed north, where lumber camps and road work paid big money. However, it was four years before Camellia took little Ivy by the hand and joined Sam in the big, old house he had purchased in Wisconsin.

With a few years’ start on her siblings, Ivy had grown into a responsible caretaker for them,
toting babies, bottles and diapers wherever they went. The twins, Cyril and Cypress, came within a year after Sam and Camellia were reunited, and Sam was especially proud to have a son. Rapid succession of four more children – all girls – left Sam disappointed, depressed and downright sore at the world.

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