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.”
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.
When the consolidating cool air is upon me. I will ban with others, and bring the storm. Winds, thunder, and lightening will join in our crusade. Within this war we wage, I will fall. Plummeting at a chaotic rate, the winds of change will rip at the fabric of my soul. Though I’ll fight to stay together, fragments will be lost. Others around me will fall with me with no Calvary in sight. We are all fighting the same fight, but we are so individual.
A catastrophic amount of myself will be lost within the realm of my descending impact. I will only be a fraction of what I was. Yet, my days of demise are not upon me. For as the sun rises and brings the heat of the day, I too shall rise far above this earth, only to wage another storm.
A moment of anxiety swept over Chris as he returned from getting a cup of coffee. It was Friday night and he had the next two days to rebuild his engine. Problem was, he had never built an engine before. Being an avid watcher of tune up shows, reading automotive articles, and having some mechanical sense led him to believe he could dismantle and rebuild his dying engine. Actually getting in and busting knuckles is a world different than reading an article.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be as stressful, but so much depended on getting it right. This was his only ride to work, bills were coming due, and Michelle, his wife, had her appointments next week. He had to get it completed in two days. For now, it was late at night, and morning would come quick. So Chris opted for a cup of coffee to help calm his nerves.
Morning came quick, and he was in the garage before the sun was up. The engine was out, mounted to the stand, and stripped down to the block. As he cleaned and inspected the block he recollected on all of the small engines he had torn apart and rebuilt. It’s just like rebuilding and small engine, except it’s bigger, and a four-stroke engine, and more complicated. All I have to do is take my time and put each piece back as I took them off.
Chris marveled at how smooth the cylinder walls were. This was indeed a good block to rebuild. Piece by piece he started to add the components from the rebuild kit. His dad’s voice echoed in his head. Make sure you use new hardware. The old ones are trashed. He could have saved money by reusing the old hardware, but as Chris mounted each piece he understood why it was important to have a fresh set.
By noon the bottom half of the engine was built. Michelle poked her head out only to let him know his lunch was ready. Everything was going as plan. He should have this engine in and running by night fall. As he washed the grease from his hands, he smiled. Michelle never once complained about him wanting to rebuild the engine. She trusted him. His heart sank a little. That’s another reason he cannot fail. She’s depending on him.
At the table Michelle asked how everything was going, and Chris gave her a full update on the progress and his expectations on completion.
“I’m sure you’ll have it done.” she said encouragingly. “You’re good with your hands.”
Two sandwiches and a glass of water later, Chris was back out building the top of the engine. Like an oversized puzzle each piece fell into place. Slow and steady, he made sure not to skip any steps in the assembly process. Looking at the completed engine Chris couldn’t believe he was done so soon. There was plenty of day light left.
After taking a small break to get some water, Chris had the engine on the hoist and slowly lowered it into the truck. After mating it to the transmission, he began to connect the wires, hoses, and lines. He couldn’t help but feel good. It was all coming together; literally. As the fluids were added he kept checking the oil plug. It was the one thing that he was worried about missing. He heard horror stories of people forgetting to install it only to have their garage floor covered in oil. An oil stain on a concrete floor is not a badge any grease monkey wants to wear.
The moment of truth had arrived. Did he do everything correctly? With the carburetor primed, Chris turned the ignition. Spitting and sputtering the engine began to fight. Then with a huge backfire, Chris watched as a huge flame shot out of the carb. What was that? Why isn’t it starting? With the hood still off, Chris climbed onto the engine and began to comb over everything. All lines were connected, wire harnesses were in their appropriate spots, and hoses were all clamped. The engine appeared as it did before he took it out, except cleaner. Aggravation began to set in. Daylight was starting to fade and he still had no clue as to why his engine refused to start. Attempt after attempt only led to more sputtering and fireballs.
“It’s getting late babe.” Michelle announced.
Defeated, Chris knew she was right. He had raised enough noise for one night. He was thankful his neighbors didn’t complain to the cops about the gunshot backfiring episodes. The garage door closed and the lights were turned off signaling the end of a day that had so much promise for victory but delivered defeat.
With a fresh head Chris sipped his coffee and stared at his engine. Michelle stood next to him mimicking his stance.
“It’s in the distributor. It’s has to be.” Chris stated out loud in an effort to solidify his thinking.
“What does it distribute?” Michelle innocently asked.
The question struck him as odd but Chris went with it. Perhaps having her ask simple questions he could find his mistake.
“It provides power to each spark plug.” He kept his answer simple as possible.
“Oh is it pointed in the right direction?” She asked not knowing what that meant. She remembered hearing something like that while watching one of his shows with him.
Chris chuckled. “Pointed in the right direction? What does that even mean? It’s round. There isn’t a point on it.”
Sticking to her statement she blankly volleyed back. “Oh, so I can just place the distributor in and it will work?”
“No, you have to set the timing.” He quickly retorted.
“How do you know where the front is. It’s round after all.” She smiled as she enjoyed the fact she sounded like the car guys on TV.
Chris stopped. His face had a serious look to it. “That’s it! Babe you’re a genius.” He stopped to recalculate his thoughts. “I think.”
Climbing onto the engine he pulled the distributor out and rotated it 180 degrees. Quickly he reconnected and tighten everything down. Jumping into the driver seat he turned the ignition. An air of relief fell over Chris as the engine roared to life. It needed some fine tuning but the dilemma was over, thanks to his wife.
Running over, he gave her a big hug. “How’d you know what was wrong?”
“I didn’t. I just said blah blah blah like those guys on TV did. You figured out what I was trying to say.”
Standing there with his wife was one of the most accomplished feelings Chris had ever felt. The truck was back on the road and bills were back to being paid. And it all happened over a simple chat with coffee.
The air around Eric curdled. Tension built as his ears filled with the peevish voice from his boss’ high pitch questions.
“Hey Marty, when’s that quarterly report going to be finished?”
Eric sighed as he fought to calm his nerves. “It’s Eric, and I’ll have it to you after I type it up. First, I need to run these numbers.”
“Oh, you better hurry up. The back office needs that report as soon as possible. I’ll try to run interference, but I don’t know how long I can keep them at bay.”
Eric was certain that his statement wasn’t completely true. Remain calm. Everything will work out. Focusing on his report, an odd feeling stopped his fingers from typing. A pair of eyes were still fixated on him.
“Is there anything else?” Eric asked his boss.
“Oh no, just watching.” He replied with a thin lipped smile.
“So you’re just going to stand there and watch me finish this report?”
Stay calm. Breathe from your abdomen. He’s just a poor pencil neck geek who needs a good roughing up. But, we’re not going to do that… today. A smile came across his face. Yep! Not today.
Bolstering at 6′ 3″ and weighing 258, Eric could see that his peckish boss was feeling the power of his position. It was the classic Chihuahua vs Great Dane scenario, where the little dog tries to bully the big dog. Given the situation, Eric didn’t have much choice but to remain calm.
Wrapping his attention around the quarterly numbers, he quickly typed out the next segment of the report. A quick tap on the F7 key revealed no errors. Moving to the next section, Eric fell into a comfortable zone. He could hear his boss giving interjections, but with everything falling into place, it was easy to ignore his snide remarks.
With the conclusion typed and his patience worn thin, Eric printed the report. Without saying a word, he went to the printer.
“Hey, is that the report?”
Glaring Eric calmly replied, “You know it is. You have been leering over my cubical for the last hour watching me type each letter, commenting on everything that popped into that peon brain of yours.”
Although his voice was low, it had a rolling thunder effect that silenced the whole floor. Realizing that everyone had stopped working and was now watching them Eric’s boss snatched the report from his hand.
“Do you know how much you have cost this company by delaying this report. IT WAS DUE LAST WEEK. YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL THAT I DON’T FIRE YOU FOR NOT MEETING YOUR QUOTA.”
With that his boss started to storm off but froze as a firm grip caught the back of his neck. In a reflex move, Eric had reached out and clamped his boss’ neck. He could let him go, but with everyone watching, Eric knew that the little worm would more than likely press charges. If he wants to fire me, let me give him a good reason. Stay calm. Don’t say anything. Go to the back office.
Eric began to walk towards the office without loosing grip. Determination flared in Eric’s eyes. He was going to get to the bottom of this. Perhaps he was wrong and his report was needed. Perhaps his boss was right and he was wrong. Perhaps…
“Here is your report Mr. Manning.” Eric replied.
An elderly gentleman sat behind the large desk. His suit was modest as the layout of his office. When he spoke, it was always calm and collect.
“What report are you referring to Mr. Green?” he asked Eric.
“The one that this gentleman stated, was due last week. I apologize for the inconvenience and cost that I have brought to this company.” Eric stood there, nervous and irritated.
“I see. Do you mind letting go of Mr. Lund?”
Eric quickly released his grip. Stepping to the side the petite bully started slandering about terminations and prosecutions. But none of this mattered to Eric. He was numb to the sound of his boss’ voice. Looking up, he could see the irritation in Mr. Manning’s eyes.
“You talk too much.”
Eric’s eyes opened wide. Did he say that? Those were the exact words that coursed his thoughts. No, he didn’t say that, Mr. Manning did.
“I am placing you on one week suspension Mr. Lund. Within that time I hope that you find the patience that Mr. Green here has afforded you. I have set here and watched you pick at this gentleman for the last three weeks. I am amazed at how much restraint he has shown. You and I both know that the quarterly report isn’t due until next Thursday.”
“But, Sir, I was only trying to get it to you ahead…”
“Of schedule. I got that, Mr. Lund. Now if you don’t mind, Mr. Green and I have a quarterly report to go over.” Mr. Manning walked to the door and gestured Eric’s boss to leave.
Not knowing if he was about to be reprimanded, Eric stood there in silence. A small chuckle broke the ice as Mr. Manning returned to his desk and asked Eric to set.
“How is it that you didn’t beat the snot out of that guy?”
Eric was struck by Mr. Manning’s informality. “Well, just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I try to stay as professional as possible.’
“You’ve definitely demonstrated that. I need someone with your mentality to run this floor. Would you be interested?”
He just offered me my boss’ job! As much as I would love the pay raise, personal parking, and private office, I really love my position. I would hate to see it fall on the account that I moved.”
Mr. Manning smiled. “Spoken like a true professional. I’ll talk to HR and we’ll get someone in for your to train. Until then, keep up the great work.”
Eric left with a great sense of pride. Today, professionalism won.
Patience is not always an easy task. In a world where everything is instantly done we find ourselves hating to wait. Even a five minute delay in a text message response can feel like an eternity. We want and we want it now. But have we ever stopped to think if we need it now. Looking back at my younger days I can see that I wasted a lot of time, energy, and money on things that I did not need. The things I wanted ended up costing me more than I needed to spend. I have past most of those items onto others that had similar wants. I have learnt that want is a bottomless pit. I can get everything that I need but I will always want more. We all have had to learn this lesson. We have disciplined ourselves to focus more on our needs, and save for future needs. The worse thing that we can do for ourselves is blur the line between the two. We should never need what we want. We should never need those $200 stilettos. Nor should we ever need a two seater Maserati. We do need shoes and if public transportation is not available we will need a vehicle. But discernment needs to be applied. We need to have a clear picture of our needs and wants, and they need to be separate. I do treat myself to somethings I want every now and then, but not often. This is one key to my happiness. 🙂