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    The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez, Excerpt 2 Photos from the City Lights Bookstore 25th Anniversary Celebration, on April 13

    4.21Bay Times pp1-40v2_Page_21_Image_00044.21Bay Times pp1-40v2_Page_21_Image_0003(Editor’s Note: Over the course of three issues, we are presenting excerpts from Jewelle Gomez’s best-selling lesbian novel, The Gilda Stories, which was published 25 years ago. City Lights is honoring the occasion with a special 25th Anniversary Edition of this groundbreaking book that, as author Michael Nava said, “uses the vampire story as a vehicle for a re-telling of American history in which the disenfranchised finally get their say. Her take on queerness, community, and the vampire legend is as radical and relevant as ever.”

    This is the second of the three excerpts from the book that we will be featuring in the San Francisco Bay Times. Please look for our first issue of May to read the third and final entry in the series.)

    From Chapter 3, Rosebud, Missouri, 1921, in which Gilda encounters real danger that she must survive yet not break her vampire family code.

    Gilda had already stepped back onto the road intent on fulfilling the blood hunger inside of her when she saw two men on horseback approaching from the west. They were moving at a good pace, as if racing, but slowed when they spotted her, pulling up short a few feet away. Even from that distance Gilda noted the light of reckless cruelty that she’d seen in Eleanor’s eyes was reflected in theirs. One man swung down from the saddle immediately. He stood before her with an angry glare that quickly turned into a leer when he realized she was not a man.

    “This here’s a nigrah gal, we got here. What you doin’ out on the road this hour?”

    Gilda didn’t respond but let herself breathe in the smell of the horses and sense their anxiety and dissatisfaction with their masters. There was an idle communication between them and her that went unnoticed by the riders. Gilda felt reassured by the horses’ solid presence, their lack of malevolence, and their easy response to comforting messages she sent them. The other horseman dismounted holding a glistening whip coiled at his hip.

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    “Maybe we teach one more lesson tonight, hey Cook?”

    Gilda peered at the braided leather, dark with blood she could smell. She wondered who had been their most recent pupil.

    “Yeah, Zach, I think there’s a lesson here for sure.”

    Gilda still didn’t move or speak. She stood as if frozen, but her mind flooded with the words she’d been given: ‘We take blood, not life. Leave something in exchange.’ But she tasted the acid of hatred inside her mouth and wanted to be full of it; to teach the lesson these two needed to learn.

    “She must be mute, Zach. Don’t seem to talk, do she?”

    The taller man moved close to Gilda and yanked her hair, pulling her face up toward his. The moonlight glistened on her dark skin, unchanged since she’d escaped slavery more than seventy years earlier. Before he could press his advantage, Gilda grabbed his wrist, the crack of bone audible in the night. She twisted his hand behind his back, raising it so high the pain cut his voice before he could scream. She gave a sharp tug and let go only when she felt his muscles quaking with pain. He whipped around toward her again and she smashed the side of his face with her fist. The snap of his neck broke through the night as his body crumpled into the ditch beside the road.

    His fellow rider backed away, reaching behind him for the reins of a horse, but his mount deliberately twisted out of reach; and Gilda was upon him before he realized his vulnerability. She caught his whip in her left hand and pulled him backward. He fell to the ground then scurried back off the road to the brush with Gilda bounding behind him. She cracked the whip once over his head, then laid a stroke across his back. That she hit him with his own whip seemed to startle him more than the pain. At the second lash he turned to face Gilda, his eyes filled with rage.

    He gasped when he saw the swirling amber of her eyes and the sinewy strength of her body, thinking that they’d been wrong, that it was a man. An Indian he thought, confused by the moonlight and his own fear. She cracked the whip this time across his chest, then his cheek, opening the flesh almost to the bone.

    Gilda threw the whip down and leapt upon him, twisting his head to expose the pulsing vein in his neck. He was already faint with shock, yet Gilda sensed his disbelieving terror build. She scraped his flesh roughly with her nails; she’d not felt so hunted since slipping away from the plantation as a girl. It was as if the same men were after her almost a hundred years later. She watched the blood pulse from his neck, searching for what he felt when he lay open the flesh of men. Her chest swelled with anticipation as she understood the terrible joy he experienced at demanding terror and death. She drew his blood into her quickly then let him slip to the ground. She watched the blood continue to stream from his neck, soaking into the dust. She could feel life ebbing from him and was shocked at the excitement it aroused.

    It had been so long since she’d been caught unawares like this. Relenting, she knelt beside him, holding her hands to the wounds on his neck and cheek until the bleeding stopped. She left him little in exchange except a simple recollection of falling instead of the horror of the real memory. His breath was shallow but his life was no longer in danger.

    Gilda was sickened by her anger and the thrill the confrontation had given her. It was the nightmarish pleasure she’d seen in Eleanor’s eyes so many years before; and a pleasure she feared could become her own. She climbed back up to the road and stared down at the face of the one who was dead, frozen in the moonlight. She took in his features as she’d been taught and tried to absorb some sense of his deeper, true spirit. His image now took its place in a corner inside herself that Gilda would visit only when she needed to be reminded of how much like her tormenters she might become. Her duty fulfilled she felt the shadow of Anthony and Sorel’s shame lift from her heart.

    She turned back toward her farm. Instead of her usual swift pace that made her invisible inside the wind, Gilda took each step with deliberation. She was leaden with exhaustion. Anger had flared and burned out leaving the taste of ashes. One death. She was grateful it had not been two.

    To learn more about “The Gilda Stories, Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition” and author Jewelle Gomez, please see the April 7 issue of the “San Francisco Bay Times,”

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