NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 16.2: Fall 2016 - Page 22

William Demby with Mimmo Rotella and James Demby in Rome in 1961 .
But then , suddenly remembering talk the night before at the tavern about the shocking murder of an African slave child dressed up as the Whore of Babylon and then raped and murdered in the course of some obscene orgiastic ritual , which several journalists present described as a crude plot engineered by a cabal of reactionaries to discredit the growing ranks of certain humanitarian and outspoken delegates in favor of totally abolishing the slave trade , the young musician realized he may unwittingly have involved himself in some momentous international plot that could well result in his ending up hanged on the gallows or , at the very least , locked up for life in some windowless prison for the criminally insane —
But then , just as he was about to flee the scene of his crime ( for if the young violinist lacked one essential characteristic of his revolutionary age , it was courage ) the soaring strains of the finale of Bolinski ’ s “ Te Deum ” began to resonate through the chambers of his mind , as if being played somewhere out of sight by some heavenly orchestra , absolving him of all further doubt and guilt while at the same time pointing his way to an optimistic future —
And so it was — tears of joy streaming down his cheeks — he got down on his knees next to the baron ’ s corpse and surrendering himself completely to God ’ s inscrutable will , began painstakingly , piece by piece , one luxurious garment at a time , pausing only to admire the exquisite workmanship and fine materials of this garment or the other , to take off the dead man ’ s clothes —
First the wool gabardine and silk outer garments , which he carefully brushed off , folded with care , and arranged in a neat pile , and then the splendid linen shirt with its embroidered royal crown and monogram , and finally the baron ’ s highly polished boots , which he saved for last ( which , however , because of the swelling of the dead baron ’ s veins and muscles as rigor mortis began to set in , at first seemed glued forever to the corpse ’ s cold white feet ) —
In fact , and as many would say , miraculously , when after much yanking and twisting and coaxing , the young musician finally succeeded in wrenching the first boot off , and then , after taking off his own scarred worn shoes , began to ease his claw-like toes bumpy with calluses and bunions into the heavenly glove-like softness of the handcrafted boot ’ s lining ( discovering as he did so , and to his amazement and delight , that the boots were a perfect fit , he happily put on the other boot and danced a royal jig ) —
Indeed , and in no time at all , he had donned all the dead baron ’ s finery including the exquisite linen underwear the corpse had been wearing which , to be perfectly honest , was somewhat less than immaculately clean —
Nevertheless , and now barely recognizable in his new “ to the manor born ” attire ( which , of course , was more a matter of how he felt than what he could see of himself , there having been not a single mirror among the dead baron ’ s effects ), the young violinist scrambled back up the escarpment to the side of the road where the thoroughbred black stallions were politely waiting to be fed —
It was then , as the sun of a glorious optimistic sunrise rose over the horizon and after , having just finished feeding the stallions their morning ration of oats and hay , he was replacing the folded canvas feedbags inside the box under the seat where he had found them , and at the very moment the sun ’ s rays burst gloriously over the horizon , he suddenly discovered the baron ’ s personal trunk , which apparently the night before he hadn ’ t noticed because , evidently during the crash , it had become wedged out of sight between the driver ’ s seat and the springs —
Mostly the trunk contained nothing more exciting than more hastily packed clothing —