The Legend of Diddley Squatt: A Novella from a Brother Fella by Duane Lance Filer
Sometime during the middle of the twentieth century, a black child is born in Rundown City, Mississippi, to rundown parents. After Diddley Squatt’s sixteen-year-old mother splits the scene and leaves him in the care of his grandmother, Momma Squatt, Diddley settles into a new life within her three-story hotel/brothel, the Copp-A-Squatt Inn.
As he grows older and is nicknamed Young Didd, the boy is unfortunately bullied because of his unusual name and life circumstances. Luckily Diddley develops a thick skin and learns that love is better than hate, thanks to the nurturing, lessons, and mentoring provided by his grandmother and the strong ladies who, along with a goo-gaggle of Inn customers that include famous musicians, soldiers on leave, and politicians, visit the brothel.
While on his unique coming-of-age journey, Diddley also uncovers the mystical powers behind a magical harmonica that allow him to bond with creatures he never imagined could become his best friends, and who could somehow lead him to a new destiny. In this urban novella, a black boy growing up in the south must somehow learn to find his way in life after his mother abandons him, with help from well-meaning people.
Excerpt The Legend of Diddley Squatt by Duane Lance Filer
Didd was on the back porch of the Copp-A-Squatt; just sitting on the porch looking out into the back woods with his trusty harmonica in his mouth – playing this old blues tune known as “Squirrel Meat Stew” he had picked up. These old houses really never had any back fences, and backyards just ran out into the woods. This was good, because deer, possums, raccoons, and rats – all these different animals would run up to the end where the brown grass part ended – and you could bond with the animals. Didd loved to just sit on the porch and watch and feed the animals. When nobody was looking, he would rumble through the trash bin where Oscar (one of Momma’s house men others called a “pimp”) and the other help would throw the garbage after eating. He’d dig through the trash and get the leftovers – squish them in a paper bag and place it out on the edge of the backyard/woods area. He’d sit there and watch the animals come eat. They loved the food.
Then, one day, something really strange happened? As he was putting some of the leftovers out on the rickety back fence for the animals – today he put out some pork-chop bones, some un-eaten grits, some egg remnants, burnt toast – all just laid it across the fence; when this possum came up and acted like he wasn’t scared at all. Then, to Didd’s amazement, the possum started talking: “Thanks young Diddley. All the animals have been watching you from afar and we appreciate all the food you bring out here to us. It all tastes good and keep it coming.”
“Possum’s can’t talk?” Didd said.
“Why not? Why can’t we?” said the possum, “you humans just think we can’t talk because you can imagine the trouble we would be in if humans knew we could talk. We just choose not to talk. But to some few humans that we feel comfortable with – we will talk. Diddley Squatt- you are one of the few humans we feel comfortable talking. My friends will talk to you, you’ll see.”
“Wow” said young Diddley. “I love all animals. I mean I really like animals more than people. Animals always let you know how they feel.”
“You’re welcome” said the possum. “My name is Percy Possum– and I’ve been hanging back here in Momma Squatt’s backyard for years. Lots of action at this whorehouse, so there is always a lot of extra discarded food in the garbage. I hope we can be friends.” Percy extends his free hand while holding onto his food with the other. Young Diddley had seen this before from the johns, the shaking of hands, and knew he must respond. So, he shifted over to the back of the fence and shook Percy’s free hand. The bond was set!
Before he left, Percy said “you don’t happen to have any fresh food on you young Didd- do you?” “I have my lunch, a tomato sandwich. Sorry, but I don’t eat meat. I could never eat something that once breathed like me. One of the johns said that makes me a “VE-GEE-TARIAN.”
You are more than welcome to my sandwich” said Didd as he pushed the sandwich into Percy’s paws. Percy switched his tail in happiness.
“Thanks” said Percy,” I can share this fresh tomato sandwich with the rest of the animals. We possums eat anything – we even have a few ‘vegetarians’ that I’m aware. I knew you were special; and keep playing that harmonica. We animals sense something magical when we hear you playing.
See you later young Diddley,” said Percy, “I’m sure we will be talking more in the future. Like I said – you are one of the exceptional ones.” Percy slowly crept back into the woods; his teeth holding the bag of discarded food and the tomato sandwich bag in his hands.
“Wow!’ was all Diddley could say.
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Science Fiction & Fantasy > Magical Realism > Paranormal & Urban Life
About the Author
Duane Lance Filer is a retired funkster extraordinaire, writer, painter and musician who grew up in Compton, California with six brothers and sisters. He and his wife, Janice, have two adult children and currently reside in Carson, California. This is his seventh book. For more about Duane and his artist endeavors, visit him at http://duanelancefiler.wixsite.com/duanelancefiler.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM BLACK PEARLS MAGAZINE