Carl Patterson began his writing career at the age of 45 after his now deceased wife inspired him with her unpublished poetry. He recalls her telling him, 'Carl, life will not always deal us a winning hand. We must accept the good with the bad and the bitter with the sweet. By doing so we can turn the negative into the positive. We can do that through life experiences in our writing. Anything negative can become a positive tool of learning for others.'
Strongly inspired by her positive views on life, Carl began to
write poetry, but when his wife read his work she said his writing reads more
like a script than poetry. She then encouraged him to attempt writing a novel
from his own life experiences. Although he knew his life at an early age was
exciting, he did not feel that it was novel material. So he decided to create
his own version of life as a child growing up in a big city after being born in
the South. Before his first draft was completed, Carl's wife died of an
unexpected illness and never got to see his finished project. Ironically, his
wife died at the age of 45 the same age he was when he began writing. A poem
entitled 'Unforgotten Love' can be found on Poetry.com. It was written by Carl
in memory of his wife. Other works Published by The National Library of Poetry
can be found there as well. He also had a piece published in the 'Dear John'
column of the Daily News in 1997. After his wife's death, Carl enrolled in a
writing program at The Institute of Children's Literature in West Redding,
Connecticut and took a course in 'Writing For Children & Teenagers.' Carl
dedicates 'Cross Roads' to his wife Eleanor 'Kim' Evans Patterson.
(1948 - 1993).
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Release date(s) September 29, 2006
Publisher: Melodrama Publishing
Southern Pines, North Carolina, is supposed to be a place where you can raise your children and not worry about safety. That was true until single mother Dorothy and her two sons, Bobby and Johnny, have to abandon their hometown when death comes knocking on their door. In a quest to flee after her best friend and mother-in-law are murdered, Dorothy hastily relocates her kids from their beloved community in the south to the gang- and drug-infested streets of Bedford Stuyvesant, New York.
Brooklyn breeds a new batch of worries as the younger son, Bobby, joins a vicious street gang. As Bobby struggles with the peer pressure of the ghetto'drug hustlers, prostitutes, gang violence, shootouts, and stabbings'his brother, Johnny, plans to kill the woman who gave him life.
Cross Roads is a classic timepiece set in the 1950s but is
reminiscent of modern times. Just as the Bishops and Chaplins fought for
territory back then, Bloods and Crips wage the same wars in today's society.
This inspiring coming-of-age story details how a young boy is forced to become a
man while fighting for his life and the safety of his family.
An Excerpt from Cross Roads...
I was born on April 17, 1944 in a peaceful and quiet community in Southern Pines, a small town not far from Aberdeen, North Carolina. The people were friendly, and most of the time everyone got along well with one another. The crime rate was minimal for a population of approximately nine thousand, jobs were plentiful, and there was always work for those who wanted it. However, it was very difficult for a single parent to find a job after only being accustomed to working as a housewife. My mother's best friend, who was also a single parent, got her a job where she worked as a cook in the home of one of the most prominent businessmen of our town. But by the time I was eight and my brother was ten years old, our mother decided that we should leave our beloved hometown to start a new life in New York City.
She said jobs in the city paid better and my brother and I could get a better education. We knew it was a strain on her raising two young boys alone, and we thought she was going to the city to look for our father. No matter what her reason was for our sudden departure, my brother and I were ecstatic when she told us we would be moving. Just the thought of living in a big city filled us with incredible excitement. We had never even been out of the South, and to live in New York City would be like the greatest Christmas or birthday gift that we had ever received. But leaving the South wasn't going to be that easy.
My brother and I knew we would no longer be able to see our two best friends, who were the daughters of our mother's childhood friend, so we begged our mother to let us see them before we left because their mother had bought them brand-new toys, and they were eager for us to see them. She agreed because she said it would give her time alone to do her packing. With that settled, we all walked down to the valley, caught a cab and rode around the heavily wooded countryside heading for our friends' home in a brand-new station wagon cab.
Once we arrived at their home my mother spoke briefly with her friend, gave her a hug and told us she would pick us up the next morning. But as always, she would not leave us without giving a stern warning for us to be good and to obey her friend. And as always, we promised that we would. She gave us her trademark kiss: a big, juicy one that left the print of her lips on our cheeks. When she left, Mrs. Wilson told us we would be sleeping in our usual rooms and for us to have fun, but to keep the noise down because she would be in her room reading. When she left the room, the girls brought out a box of toys and scattered them on the floor.
While we played, I noticed a long, dark car pull into the driveway and a light-complected man got out. I couldn't see his face clearly because of the wide-brim hat he wore, and his coat collar was pulled up, partially concealing his face, but when he came to door I could see that he had large pockmarks in his skin. His appearance was sinister.
'Come here, y'all,' I said as he raised his fist to bang on the door. 'Someone's here.'
'Wooo, it's the boogie man,' my brother teased, chasing the girls around the room.
'Who's at the door?' Mrs. Wilson asked as she came out of her room.
'We don't know, Mama,' Debra, the older girl, answered. Debra was the same age as Johnny, and Betty was my age, but even at ten years old, Debra seemed much older than Johnny. Debra placed her little hands on her hips and said while glaring at Johnny, 'That's why Johnny was teasing us.'
'Well, y'all go on to your rooms while I see who it is. And stop the horse playing.'
We did but we peeped out to see who he was. Once the door opened we could see him clearly. He had the appearance of some of the gangsters I had seen in the movies. I expected him to pull a gun and start shooting, but as Mrs. Wilson embraced him, I relaxed. She had a brief conversation with him and came back inside.
'What's the matter, Mama?' Debra asked. It was obvious that she was upset about something. Her facial features seemed strained, and her body slightly trembled.
'Nothing's the matter, honey,' she said, trying to sound calm, but her voice betrayed her. 'I just have to go out for a while, that's all. Johnny, I want you and Debra to look after Bobby and Betty until I get back. I won't be gone long, though.'
I looked out the window and saw the man pacing, smoking a cigarette while looking at his watch continuously.
'Ma'am, are you sure you're okay?' Johnny asked. 'You don't look like you feel well.'
'I'm just fine, Johnny,' she said with a trembling smile, 'Y'all just behave yourselves while I'm gone, okay?'
'Okay, Mama,' Debra said.
'Mama, can I go with you?' Betty asked, holding on to her mother's housecoat.
'No, honey. I won't be gone long. Stay here and keep Johnny and Bobby company until I get back. They'll be leaving for New York soon, and you won't be able to see them.'
'Why do everybody that you love have to leave you?'
'Well, honey, some people have to move on in life. It's not intended to hurt, but I know it hurts sometime, but I'm not leaving you. I'm just going out for a while.'
'Betty, honey, I thought we agreed not to discuss that. you're a big girl now, honey,' Mrs. Wilson said, wiping tears from Betty's cheeks. 'You don't want Bobby to see you crying like a baby, do you? Give Mama a big hug and be a big girl for me. Can you do that for me?'
'That's a good girl. Don't worry, I won't be gone long. Go on and entertain your friends while I go get dressed.' She dressed hurriedly and was out the door before we knew it.
We played with different toys until we were tired of them and decided to play word games. Mrs. Wilson seemed to take forever to come back. Every time we heard a car go by or if a car door closed, we would run to the window in hopes that it was her, but each time we were disappointed.
We fell asleep on the floor by the window waiting for her. When morning came and she still hadn't come, Betty started crying uncontrollably.
'Debra, something has happened to Mama,' Betty said. 'That man did something to her.'
'Betty, stop talking crazy,' Debra said. 'Ain't nothing happened to Mama. She'll be here, you just watch.'
'But that man, Debra'I didn't like the way he looked.'
'You never liked the way any man looked when Mama went out with them.'
'Mama's here, Bobby,' Johnny said, looking out the window.
'I told you,' Debra said.
'It's not your mother, Debra,' I said. 'It's our mother.'
I wished that it was Mrs. Wilson, because the look on Betty and Debra's face sent chills up my spine. It was as if life itself was drained from them.
'Y'all had a nice time?' my mother asked as she came into the house. 'What's the matter? Y'all look like you lost your best friend. Where's Paula?'
'Oh, Mrs. Jordan,' Betty said, running to my mother, 'something's happened to Mama.'
'What on earth are you talking about, chile?' my mother asked.
'She's just talking stupid, Mrs. Jordan,' Debra said. 'Ain't nothing happened to Mama. She just went out on a date, that's all. Like she always does.'
'A date?' my mother inquired. 'She didn't tell me she had a date. Why would she go out on a date and leave y'all? Where did she go, and who did she go with?'
'We don't know,' I answered. She just said that she would be right back.'
'When was that?' my mother asked while looking at all of us.
'Not long after you left last night,' Debra said. 'But I'm sure she's okay.'
'What did the man look like? Did y'all see him?' my mother asked.
'Ma, he was the scariest man that I have ever seen,' I said. 'The bad guys in the movies don't look as scary as him. He had big red spots on his face, and his collar was turned up so we couldn't see too much of his face, but I would be able to spot him anywhere because of them spots.'
'Oh, my God,' my mother said and placed her hands over her heart.
'What's wrong, Mama?' I asked. 'Do you know him?'
'No, son. I'm just surprised that she would go out with someone who looked like that. Maybe you're just exaggerating.'
'No he ain't, Mama,' Johnny said. 'I told them that he was the boogie man.'
Betty started crying again and attacked Johnny, swinging her fists in wild rage until my mother had to restrain her.
'Stop that, honey,' she demanded. As I watched my mother pampering Betty, I noticed for the first time that Betty was the spitting image of her mother. Their features were very fine, like they had been sculptured. 'There's no such thing as a boogie man. And Johnny, this is not the time for any of your foolishness. Just calm down. I'm sure she'll have a good explanation when she gets back. Y'all go wash up, and I'll fix you something to eat.'
'I'm not hungry, Mrs. Jordan,' Debra said, 'but I'll help you fix the food.'
'Thank you, dear, but I'll feel a lot better if you eat. you're hungry and just don't know it.'
'Yes, ma'am,' Debra said with her head hung down. 'Me and Betty will go upstairs and wash up. Johnny and Bobby can use the bathroom down here.'
I waited for Johnny to finish washing up, then I went in. When I finished, my mother had the table prepared, and we sat down in front of a plate of grits, home fries, bacon and eggs, and a cold glass of milk, but Debra and Betty only picked at their food.
'It's getting late, y'all,' my mother said. 'I'm going to call the authorities. I don't want to worry y'all, but Paula wouldn't have just left y'all just like that. She ain't never done nothing like this before. I'm going to call them right now.'
'I'm scared, Mrs. Jordan,' Betty said, burying her face in my mother's lap.
'Don't be scared, honey,' she assured Betty by gently stroking her silky hair. 'Everything will be all right. Just let me make the call. Okay?'
'Okay.' Betty sniffled, wiping her runny nose with the back of her hand.
We watched Mama make the call from Mrs. Wilson's bedroom. Debra had her arms wrapped around Betty, holding her very tightly while Betty laid her head against Debra's waist. Johnny and I just stood in the doorway looking at them, saddened by the sight.
'My name is Dorothy Jordan, sir,' Mama said into the phone. 'Yes, I can hold.'
She paced while holding the phone until someone came back on the line. 'Yes, sir. I want to report a missing person, sir'.Her name is Paula Wilson'.Since last night, sir. She went out with a man and didn't come back'.Forty-eight hours? Why that long? She has two kids, sir. I'm sure she hasn't run away and left them. She ain't never done anything like this before'.Yes, I understand'.My address? I live at 531 Pennsylvania Avenue'.I don't have a phone. I'm calling from her house'.She lives at 835 Kane Street'.It's 555-1435'.Okay, sir. I'll be waiting to hear from you.'
'What happened, Mrs. Jordan?' Debra asked after Mama hung up.
'They said that I couldn't file a missing person report until after forty-eight hours.'
'Forty-eight hours?' Betty screamed. 'But Mama could be dead by then.'
'They changed their minds. They said that they will get in touch with us. Now we'll have to wait and hope for the best.'
'Please, God, let my mother be all right,' Betty prayed while walking around the living room. 'Please don't take it out on her because she wouldn't let me go with her''
'Betty, honey,' my mother said, holding out her arms, 'come here. Come sit down with me, baby.'
Betty continued walking around the room, looking up to the ceiling as though she could actually see God.
'Betty, baby,' my mother said, grabbing hold of Betty's shoulders and turning her around to face her, 'you can't blame yourself for what your mother did. It's not your fault. What your mother did was her doing. It was her decision to go out with that man alone. She must have had a good reason for what she did, and I'm sure she'll tell us what it was when she gets back.'
'I asked her why everybody has to leave me, and she told me she wasn't going to leave me,' Betty said and started crying again. 'My father left me, and now she's gone. And pretty soon you'll take Bobby and Johnny away from me, too.'
'Baby, we're not leaving you. It's very important that I move to New York. But I'm sure Bobby will write you. We'll never forget you or Debra. Ain't that right, boys?'
Johnny and I just nodded, not knowing what to say because we weren't sure what was in store for us when we got to New York City. The separation of our parents was a deep blow to us. We had always thought them to be the perfect couple. They had always seemed to be so happy and at peace with each other. They would have little arguments like other couples, but the arguing would cease when they recognized that we were in hearing distance. When my father started coming home late, my mother would make excuses for him, but when he stopped coming home at all, she would get angry at us for asking for him. Eventually she told us that he left for New York City to start a new job. Even as she told that lie to us, she got angry and started crying. We knew the truth.
The day seemed to last forever. We huddled together in the living room until we fell asleep. My brother and I slept on the floor. Debra and Betty huddled together on the couch, while my mother slept in Mrs. Wilson's favorite high-back armchair.
The sound of someone banging on the door shocked us from sleep abruptly.
'Mama,' Betty screamed. 'It's Mama, Debra.'
'Wait a minute, girls,' my mother said. 'Let me see who it is.'
But they had already run to the door and snatched it open. Standing at the door with his fist raised to knock again was an overly white policeman who immediately let his fist retrieve his hat as a gesture of respect. 'Hey, Missy,' he said with nicotine-stained teeth. 'Is your''
Betty and Debra almost ran past the shocked officer looking for their mother, but my mother pulled them back inside the house. He just stood there with his hat in his hands looking at her struggling with the girls until she finally pushed them behind he 'Morning, ma'am. Are you'?'
'Yes, I'm Mrs. Jordan,' she said to the police officer. 'Is it morning already? What time is it?'
The officer looked at his watch and said, 'It's 7:45, ma'am. Sorry to bother y'all so early.'
'That's okay. Come on inside. Girls, please, go on sit down while I speak with the officer.'
'I hope you've come with some good news about my mama, officer,' Debra said.
'I'd prefer to speak with Mrs. Jordan in private,' the officer insisted.
His evasiveness gave her the answer to her question.
'Mr. Policeman, where is my mama?' Betty asked with tears streaming down her cheeks. 'Please tell me where my mama is. Did you arrest her?'
'Debra, you and the boys take Betty upstairs while I speak with the nice policeman. Go on now. I'll call y'all back downstairs when I'm finished.'
'She's locked up, ain't she?' Betty said as she walked up the stairs with us. 'That man got her into some trouble, didn't he, Bobby?'
I couldn't answer her because my mouth suddenly filled with salty tears as they ran uncontrollably from my eyes.
Debra tried all she could to console her baby sister, and she tried to be strong for her, but the realization that something tragic had happened to her mother made tears well up in her eyes as she held Betty tightly against her waist, muffling her screams of agony.
Johnny was the only tearless person in the room. His face was contorted with anger as he walked around us clenching his fist.
'God, no,' my mother screamed. 'You must be mistaken. Not Paula''
We broke for the door when we heard her screaming.
'Ma,' Johnny shouted from the top of the stairs. 'What are you doing to my mother?'
'He ain't doing nothing, son,' she said, wiping the tears from her face with the back of her hand. 'He ain't doing anything; now wait until I call you.'
We walked slowly down the stairs, defying my mother's orders. Betty clutched Debra's rainbow-colored, wrinkled full-length house dress with one hand while she sucked on the thumb of the other hand and walked down the stairs in front of my brother and me.
'Ma'am, is there anyone that I can call'?'
'Ma?' I said as I walked slowly toward her.
'Oh God,' she shouted. 'Oh my sweet Jesus.'
'I'm sorry, ma'am,' the officer said. 'I'm''
'Mrs. Jordan?' Debra said, 'Mama'Is my mama gone?'
Betty just stood next to Debra sucking greedily on her thumb and watched her sister crumple to the floor next to my mother when she nodded.
I looked at my brother, and tears were rolling freely down his cheeks to equal my already tear-stained face. Betty walked around her sister and my mother with her arms raised to the ceiling speaking silently to God then dropped to her knees and started violently pulling at her hair.
'Missy, don't do that,' the officer said.
'Betty, honey,' my mother said, recovering from her deep emotional shock and crawling over to Betty. 'I'm so sorry, baby''
'It's my fault,' Betty said, sniffling. 'I killed my mama. She wouldn't let me go with her. I killed her.'
'No, honey. No. God took her. Only God knows best.'
'Mrs. Jordan?' the officer said. His overly white face had suddenly turned a deep red as he stood nervously wringing his hat in his hands.
'I'm sorry, officer,' she said. 'I'll get in contact with someone. Just give me a moment, please.'
'There's no rush, ma'am. If you need me to do anything''
'No, everything will be fine,' she said, wiping her face, getting up and pulling Betty to her feet. 'I'll take care of everything.'
'Fine, ma'am. I'll be outside in the car if you need me. I'm deeply sorry about your loss.'
He raised his once proud hat in a gesture of respect, but the hat had lost all respectability by being crushed in his nervous fingers. As he walked toward the door, I couldn't tell whether the water streaming down his face was perspiration or tears.
'Girls, I'm going to have to call your father'.'
'I don't want to stay with my father,' Debra said.
'Me neither, Mrs. Jordan,' Betty said. 'Can't we stay with you? Please?'
'Honey, I would love for y'all to stay with us, but you know I'm moving to New York, and I'm not taking Johnny and Bobby right away'' Johnny and I looked at our mother, hoping she was just telling them that to make them feel better, but somehow I knew she was telling the truth. 'They'll live with my mother-in-law until I can come back for them. Your father loves y'all, honey. It's just that your mother and him couldn't see eye to eye. Just like me and my boys' father couldn't see eye to eye, but I'm sure if something happened to me he would take care of his boys.'
'Could we come to visit when y'all get settled?' Debra asked.
'Of course, honey.'
'Then we can play in those big fancy parks that they got up there. Right, Bobby?' Betty said with her hazel eyes unexpectedly shining bright.
'Yeah, Betty,' I said, happy at her recovery. 'And the jungle gyms.'
'That's great,' my mother said. 'Now, can I call your father?'
'Yes,' they said in unison.
Two hours later Mr. Wilson came to take the girls away. He was a burly man who looked like a boxer. He had huge hands, a thick chin, and his chest was so large that the buttons on his shirt cringed against the fabric, but after hearing the gruesome details of his wife's death, he broke down in front of his kids and cried like a baby. He began to blame himself for her death, as his daughter had done. The efforts of my mother, Debra, my brother, and me didn't stop his self-pity. Only the words of eight-year-old Betty shocked him back to reality.
'Don't cry, Daddy,' Betty said, removing his tear-stained hands from his face. 'Mama's with God now. She always told me that when God calls a person to heaven, it's a blessing. I spoke with God today, and I feel better. We have to be strong and take care of each other now for Mama. Ain't that right, Debra?'
'That's right, Betty,' Debra said, standing next to her baby sister. 'And we will, too.'
The tears that I thought had left my eyes returned. My mother and brother's tears returned also. Mama took us in her arms and pulled us close to her in a warm embrace and cried openly. Mr. Wilson put his arms around the girls and stroked their shoulder-length curly hair over and over, repeating, 'I love you.' He recovered enough to drive the girls to his home, but before he left he gave my mother the unfortunate duty of identifying his wife's body. He said he wouldn't be able to maintain his sanity if he saw his wife in the condition that was described to him. Mrs. Wilson's face was completely caved in when the police discovered her. She had been beaten unmercilessly with a blunt object. The police said an autopsy would have to be performed to determine exactly what she had been beaten with. It appeared she had a violent struggle with her attackers before she died. What upset Mr. Wilson more was the fact that her attackers buried her alive and her clothes were ripped from her body, suggesting she had also been raped.
My mother told the girls that my brother and I would write and give them our new address when we got to New York City. After saying our good-byes, Johnny and I stood in the doorway and watched Mr. Wilson's car as it disappeared down Kane Street with the girls waving to us from the back window. My mother took a picture of her and Mrs. Wilson from the mantel, looked around her friend's home for the last time while sniffling softly, then locked up the house before we left for the coroner's building.