When my friend Julene English visited Savannah, we took a morning pilgrimage to Bonaventure Cemetery. A talented photographer, Julene captured angelic cemetery iconography.
There’s something beautiful — and creepy — about these images. If you’re a Thomas Wolfe fan, it doesn’t take much to imagine such expressive stone coming to life.
Because I find my friend’s name evocative I chose it for one of the characters in my novel,All Things Unusual: The Coming of Age of a Savannah Hoodoo Conjurer. Here’s the passage where Julene’s character is introduced:
Lulu pulled a floor-length, black satin cape out of her Miss Eugenia’s Historic Savannah Tours tote bag, tied it at the neck, and stepped outside. The various architectural elements of the historic district’s rooftops were burnished by the last caress of the setting sun.
Strange as it was, singing seemed to come from the back of the hearse:
“Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight,
Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight,
You must be my lucky star,”
Lulu eyed the hearse with resignation and walked over to get a closer look. Laid out on the floor boards, arms crossed over her chest like a corpse, was a young homeless Spirit. Vintage Madonna on a K-Mart budget she was dressed all in black: short skirt, corset, ripped leggings, ankle boots, fingerless net gloves, wild, snarly hair tied up with a bow, tons of Maybelline Big Lash. It didn’t take a genius to deduce she’d passed in the 80’s.
The Spirit spoke without raising her head,
“You’re the Conjurer, right?”
“No,” Lulu said. “I don’t even know what that means.”
“Word on the street says you are.”
“Idle homeless gossip.”
The Spirit sat up and rolled her eyes, “Well, that’s redundant. I’m Julene.”
Under all that makeup the girl looked to be about thirteen.
Lulu covered her surprise and introduced herself. A homeless Spirit had never given her name before. When Lulu was a little girl she used to ask for their names but they never could remember and that seemed to make them upset. She’d stopped asking. Figured it was impolite.
“Never seen you around these parts before,” Lulu said.
Julene looked her up and down with shrewd eyes.
“They say you’re mighty powerful.”
“Don’t believe everything you hear.”
Julene shrugged and settled back into a corpse pose,
“You must be my lucky starrrr…”
“Hey, I don’t mean to be rude but I’ve got a tour. Got to go pick up the tourists.”
The singing ended.
“Cool. Don’t let me stop you.”
For a moment Lulu stood processing Julene’s remark. Nothing about her day was going right. She shook it off, pulled out the keys and got into the driver’s seat. Julene leaned over her shoulder creating an instant chill.
“So what kind of tour are we giving?”
Julene’s proximity made the hairs on the back of Lulu’s neck stand up. A Spirit had never gotten so close to her before. Somehow Lulu had always known it wasn’t smart to let a Spirit get the upper hand so she gave Julene a hard look in the rearview mirror,
“We’re not doing anything. I’m giving a ghost tour.”
“This should be good.”