Dear Secret Agent,
James Nathanial Pratchett left Balmer, Alabama as a terrified black
boy, falsely accused of his adoptive father's death. He returns
sixteen years later as a white man, enacting the plan he has bent
every decision towards: taking something from each of the five men who
ruined his life.
He plans to take the livelihood of the town's general store owner, who
didn't stop the sheriff from beating James' mother over a loaf of
bread she didn't steal.
He plans to take the joy from the sons of those bigoted men, who
tormented him throughout his childhood for his dark skin and the
strange white spots that began to appear and grow on it-- the same
sons who attacked him the day he fled town.
He plans to take everything the sheriff knows for the beating his
mother didn't survive.
Sixteen years of preparation and a diagnosis of vitiligo, a condition
that de-pigments the skin, have brought James back to where he began--
only this time, with a plan. But there's one thing in Balmer that
James isn't prepared for: Katey Adelaide, his only childhood friend
and first love, is still there, and James' arrival has put them both
in danger. As the plan begins to change in ways he never considered,
James will have to decide if the revenge he has craved for so long is
really all that matters to him.
VITILIGO is a 77,000 word commercial fiction novel of vengeance and
the vagaries of even the best-laid Plans.
Sixteen years ago I left Balmer, Alabama as a black boy. I
return today as a white man.
Not a stick of the town has changed. Not even the weight in the air,
the hot, dusty wind, or the mottled blue sky overhead threatening
equally distasteful sunlight or thunderstorms.
I approach on foot from the outskirts, and a well of trembling—what,
I don't know exactly, fear? rage?-- fills me at the very sight of it.
I expected something else. I don't really know what I expected, but
after the calm of the years past, coming back here with a purpose
feels . . .different.
A sharpness pierces me as McPherson's General Store, the first
building on the left, looms up out of the dusty morning shadows.
Sixteen years ago a boy stood there, next to the bottom step. The
other boys surrounding him called him a freak, along with other names
I won't repeat in dignified company. He didn't stay standing for long.
They shoved him down, their feet connecting with the strange white
splotches on his mocha face, raining pain and fear on him from above.
They didn't understand a black boy. They understood a black boy
covered in white patches even less.
The memories of that day bubble up inside of me, causing the
trembling to intensify as I walk down Main Street, looking for changes
in the buildings and people. There are none. Main Street is still,
like the mindsets of its residents, from another, older time.