How does on describe the scene and capture the emotions that envelope it? Charles stood there in awe. What started as one hundred black women, children and men, has now grown to a thousand. With notepad in hand he scribed quick visual descriptions of the solemn stone-faced marchers. Children and women led the march. In the distance muffled drums were heard. However, no one could see who was beating them. Not a soul spoke a word as the group past. Perhaps the signs said enough; Thou shall not kill, Make America safe for Democracy, 200,000 Black men fought for your liberty in the Civil War.
The patrons marching multiplied. This was apparently well organized. A sense of fear fell over Charles as he stood watching the children and women silently passed. Are they just going to march or break off into a riot? Who could blame them for being angry? Lynching and murders were out of control. Charles was a reporter for the Times newspaper. Guilt gripped him as he reflected on how nonchalant he composed his reports. Death after death, lynching after lynching, he grew numb to the lack of humanity New York had shown these people. It wasn’t just a southern attitude. It was everywhere in America. And now, he stood looking at the faces of the families that were affected by the tragedies he reported. A single tear rolled down his cheek. The white dressed patrons turned into men dressed in dark suits beating muffled drums. These were the laborers, the men who went out and worked all day to provide a living for their families. They marched behind their children and women echoing their silence. He too knew the struggles of the times. It was a dog-eat-dog world, and if one was to survive they had to fight. But how do you fight for your family in a country that shows nothing but hatred. At some point the silence speaks louder than anything. And today, Charles witnessed the silent scream of a human race begging to be loved, begging for life.
Never in one hundred years will we forget this silent protest. The day the Black man said everything without saying anything.
“It’s OK. I understand.” Will’s voice sounded well rehearsed. As a counselor, she dealt with a lot of young adults striking it out in the “real world” for the first time.
“Let’s start from the beginning. Why were you asked to leave your biology class?” she asked.
Susan chose her words carefully. “I called Professor Lens an idiot, and that sparked a debate that landed me here talking to you.”
“Why did you call him an idiot?” Will asked.
“He labeled me as a transgender. Therefore, I labeled him as an idiot.” A smile caressed her lips, signaling satisfaction in her action.
“Why do you suppose he labeled you as such?” She paused. “Or better asked, what was the foundation of his accusation?”
“His deduction came from a questionnaire we had to fill out. We had to list our likes and dislikes. It was from this list that he concluded I was transgender.” Susan’s face blushed with aggravation.
“I see. If you don’t mind me asking, what did you list on the questionnaire.” Will placed her pen down, giving Susan full attention.
“My likes were sports, hunting, and fishing. My dislikes were formal events, reading romance novels, and the Cowboys.”
“Given the short list, I can see how he came to his conclusion.” Will paused. “However, it doesn’t justify his accusation. I can see that he embarrassed you in front of your peers. I will have a talk with him on that matter.”
Susan’s shoulders relaxed in relief. “Thank you.” Feeling regretful for making a scene she continued. “I just get tired of being labeled as a lesbian, transgender, or a tomboy.” Looking at her sneakers. “I was raise by my father, had three older brothers, and we lived near Smithville, in the country. At any rate, I’m me. I have my likes and dislikes. It doesn’t give anyone the right to label me. I am not one genre.” Looking up at her counselor, “Is it so hard to comprehend that labeling is wrong?
Will smiled softly. “I understand exactly what you are saying. Maybe someday, we’ll understand that error; just not today.”
Disbelief fell over Nigel Carter as he read the notice from his mechanic. Due to the negligence of a former employee the company was forced to inform all customers that incomplete maintenance may have been performed on their vehicle. A recent oil change threw Nigel into this category. Thoughts of breaking down along side the road raced through his mind as he continued to read. The company would be happy to provide free service if the customer can show that the maintenance was not performed. That’s how they get you. They paint an image of wanting to help then insert a small clause that frees them from any responsibility. I just bought that car from Stuart, and didn’t know when the last oil change occurred.
Nigel’s older brother, Stuart, had the most peculiar habit of putting his initials on everything. As a child, he scurried around with a black felt marker ensuring everything was labeled. In later years, this transgressed to monograms on every clothing item, including his plaid boxer briefs.
Nigel drove to his mechanic. Upon giving it an inspection the serviceman could not find any proof that incomplete maintenance was performed. The mechanic backed his guy as Nigel rebutted.
“Did you check the oil filter for initials?” he asked..
“Sir, we have checked everything. It all appears good.”
“Did you check inside the oil filter?”
Both the mechanic and service man gave Nigel a crossed and confused look. “Sir, that would require dumping out the oil. We are not giving you a free oil change.”
Knowing his brother, Nigel stood his ground. “If his initial aren’t in that oil filter then I’ll pay for the oil change and buy you both lunch.”
Up for a free meal both men were in agreement. “Not so fast. If those letters are in the filter, then you owe me three free oil changes. And, I’m coming back there. I would hate to have any filters swapped.”
Aggravated at the accusation, the two conceded. With Nigel’s car in the air, the oil poured. The anticipation started to build as Nigel began to second guess his brotherly faith. Each twist of the oil filter brought him closer to proving his point. Finally the serviceman pulled the filter off and wiped out the inside. Stamped neatly inside were the letters SJC.
“Stuart Josephine Carter.” Nigel read with pride.
Never had he been more proud to see his brother’s initials than that very moment.
One could eloquently state that Charles was no romantic. The well established 45-year-old district sales manager shined in the aspect of providing for his beloved family. With a concrete dedication, he held fast to a work-eat-sleep routine. Amidst his well-balanced life a problem stewed.
He and Dianne married in their mid-twenties and, like all well planned out families, they had two girls four years apart; making college preparations easier. Truth be known, both were accidents, but that another quaint story for another rainy day. Having the gift for gab, Charles excelled as a sales representative and with time he progressively gained his current position, stepping on the shoulders of his coworkers.
A clear view of his misguided perspective laid the foundation of his skewed reality. For you see, although he wasn’t the most honest, nor virtuous man, he did have righteous intentions. This is what’s brings us to our ambiguous hero’s current situation; standing perplexed as he desperately searched for the right anniversary card.
Seeing that Charles was not having the best of times, a sales representative inquired “May I help you?”
Looking over his reading glasses, he politely smiled. “Perhaps.” A quick glimpse at the card in hand allowed him finish his read. “I’m looking for the perfect 20th anniversary card.”
“Oh how sweet!” she exclaimed. “We do carry a wide variety of cards that suits that very occasion.”
Placing the card back on the shelf, his chin pointed towards more cards as he peered for more prospects. “Do you have one that says ‘Thanks for understanding’?”
Not clear on his statement she point towards a set of cards. “These are our ‘Thanks for being so caring’ cards.”
His lip pouted in discontent. “No. It needs to say ‘Thanks for understanding’. I’m a little off schedule, as one may put it.”
“Oh I see. Are we talking a day or two late?” she asked.
Turning his attention to the sales rep he quickly muttered. “Nope. It was last year.”
Stunned and speechless the lady pick up a card and handed it to him.
Opening it, he found it to be blank inside.
“Wait, there aren’t any words in this one. I need a card, with words, right now.” Charles demanded
With raised eye brows and an honest look, the rep replied, “Sir, there are no words.”
With a storm on the horizon Herold loaded his wagon and hitched his horse. Large drops began to fall as he cinched up tarp. It’s going to be a long ride. He thought as the rhythm of the rain increased. Despite his large brim hat the rain peppered his face. Wave upon wave of rain began to fall making is almost impossible to see the road.
“Lord change this rain and make it blow the opposite way.” Herold prayed.
The rain stayed steady and refused to change its course. “Lord please send some relief and make this rain blow the opposite way.”
Over and over Herold prayed this simple prayer all the way into town. To his dismay, the rain stayed steady. Finally reaching his destination he unloaded the wagon and began to head back while the storm continued. At least the rain will finally be to my back. He jested to himself. Herold watched in disbelief as the rain slowly shifted directions and started “blowing the opposite way”, just as Herold had asked.
Unpleased with the weather, Herold prayed once more. “Well Lord, you sure picked a fine time to answer my prayer.” And with that, our wet wagoneer traveled home, regretting his initial request.
Lightening illuminated the room as Kevin began to count,
“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…”
A roll of thunder signaled the approaching storm. The ten-year old boy wasn’t as afraid of storms as he use to be. However, lightning always brought an eery view to his room. Perhaps it was the split second revelation followed by the sudden darkness that led to his overactive imagination. Was that shadow my coat or a dark creature? He was certain that it was his jacket hanging in the closet. He clearly remembered hanging it there.
Another flash of lightning revealed his jacket was indeed hanging there next to an unknown shadow that seemed to be staring at him. All features were hidden, but he was certain something was standing in his closet. The thunder crackled as the creature moved, ever so slightly. It moved! I saw it move. There is something in my closet and it just moved. Focusing his attention to the closet he could hear the creature breathing. But, what is it? Kevin slowly slid out of his bed and slipped across the carpet; taking care not to make a sound.
The creature appeared to be short like a goblin. No identifying features were revealed as Kevin got close. Holding his breath he got within inches of it. He could still hear it’s rapid shallow breathing. There’s no such thing as monsters. If there are, I’m about to catch my first one. Raising his hand towards its head he slowly began to exhale.
“Kevin.” a small voice called out.
A fear struck him as the creature seized his hand with its cold pale fingers. Lightening struck illuminating its screaming face. Kevin’s scream was eclipsed by the explosion of thunder. His backwards leap pulled the creature from the closet. The two fell to the floor as fear gripped them both. Before Kevin could move his unknown fiend wrapped it thin arms around him.
“I’m scared.” his sister whispered.
A flood of revelation brought an onslaught of relief to Kevin. Realizing it was his little sister the whole time, he hugged her back.
“It’s OK. That lightening was scary.”
Reaching up, he pulled his pillow from his bed for them to share and covered up with the blanket she brought from her room. The two slept on the floor as the storm passed over. Every now and then his sister would jerk from the thunder, and he would comfort her. He knew this was all part of being a big brother, even if she did scare the living daylight out of him.
Five a.m. came quick for Chris. It wasn’t a late night with the boys, or an argument with his wife that brought the morning on so quick. No, he was just worn out from his new carpentry job. Setting in his favorite chair, he realized he had fallen asleep with his work boots on. A small quilt covered him; a sure sign his wife took care of him.
Slowly making his way to the kitchen his body ached. Every joint popped like a bowl of milk and rice-crispies. Setting at the kitchen table, he untied his boots and kicked them off. Pulling his socks off too, he placed his feet on the cold hardwood floor. The cool flat surface brought relief as he made his way to the coffeepot. First the a precise measurement of grounds, then a pot full of water was added. As the first drip of coffee fell, Chris began to stretch. How could he be this young and feel this old? His hands still felt tight from gripping a hammer all day. Hand cramps were a sign of learning. Gotta let the hammer do the work. He told himself as he stretched his fingers out. The morning fog cleared from his thoughts as he stood there watching the pot fill. I could be getting ready for the day.
A quick shower and fresh clothes helped him face the morning. Moving with more ease, he poured his first cup. Not sure if it was his youth, inexperience or the excitement of learning a new trade, but he was actually excited to go to work. His career choice was the foundation he was building his life on.
Life didn’t come with instructions. It came with those before us showing what works and what doesn’t. Like Chris, we have all stepped out with uncertainty. But our youthful vigor perpetuated us all to achieve our greatness. As our work kicks back with pain, we are reminded five a.m. comes quick for us all.