Contending with Fear

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I sit next to Gladys and, without choice, allow my head to throb. My eyes are filled with invisible grains of sand. My body is limp from exhaustion. Mrs. Roberts must feel the same way, only worse. She also has to contend with two young children and an abusive husband.

And Isaac. He has to contend with the fear for his safety, and the physical proof of racism.

If I didn’t have parents who fought for civil rights, would I be a clueless white girl whose only worry was flirting with the right boy, making descent grades, wondering what fun I would have the next day? Sometimes, I wish it were that easy. But I can’t go back on what I know. I can’t ignore the plight of my new friends, including Olvie.

I see now that she is a lonely woman. She loved a man who died before she had the chance to marry him. It’s made her stiff, like the plaster-molded Gladys and Fritz. There’s more I don’t know about Olvie. What? Who wrote her those letters that Isaac and I haven’t looked at since his scorpion bite?

The door opening startles me, but seeing Isaac, I relax.

“You okay, Chicken Coop?” he says.

I struggle to shrug my shoulders.

He sits next to me and sighs. “Damn, what a fucking day.”

“A fucking day.”

He turns sideways on the couch to look at me. “You really are scared of fires. Thought Olvie just made that shit up.”

“Not this time.” I tell him about the KKK crosses on my front lawn.

“Well, if I had to come here and meet a white girl, I’m glad it’s someone who understands.”

I want to tell him how I value our friendship but I’m so tired, my lips won’t move. I also want to tell him that I don’t understand, not really. My skin’s not dark.

“Willie, Lieutenant Davis, is going to help me.”

Isaac’s words Puncture my veins with new energy. “What? How?”

 

Excerpt from my WIP set in 1963, Working Titles: The Bare Bones of Justice/Plastic Justice

Daily Word prompt: Puncture

Sitting in the back of the bus

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I’m sitting with Isaac in the back of the bus as we pass Pease Park, one of my favorites. Daddy said Governor Elisha Pease owned the land for a slave plantation. But Pease believed in the Union’s cause so I must imagine that he treated them with kindness. Pease also owned the area the area now known as Clarksville. Freedman Charles Clark Griffin bought two acres of that land for one-hundred dollars, the land where Elias Ford has his home.

But Shoal Creek, the grass and the oak trees, aren’t what catch my eye. I’d recognize that red Schwinn anywhere. He’s staring at the bus.

“Duck down, Isaac.”

Isaac doesn’t ask why until he scrunches down in the seat, his eyes wide.

“It’s asshole. He must have followed us.”

Ours is the next stop. We don’t get off. Fifteen minutes later, we find ourselves back downtown. The bus’ engine shuts off. I have to pee in a bad way.

The driver stands up, his hands on his hips. “This ain’t no tour bus,” he yells to us.

“Sorry,” I yell back. “I must have fallen asleep. I’ll stay awake this time, I promise.”

“What about you, boy?”

“Must’a dozed off too. I’m headed for Clarksville.”

When more people climb the steps to board, Dick-Driver restarts the engine.

“I think we lost him,” I say. “He won’t find me now.”

“We’re stopping at Clarksville first,” the driver fumes out.

Isaac is the only Negro on the bus.

We pull to a stop. The brakes screech.. “Out,” Dick-Driver says.

When I follow Isaac out the door, the driver shouts at me. “Where you think you’re going?”

Fifteen passengers turn their heads and glare at me.

“Home,” I say.

“Home,” Isaac says as he waits for me to get off the bus.

“What a jerk,” I mumble.

“Shoot, that was nothing. But I don’t mind saying, it feels good to be in Clarksville again. No offense or anything. I enjoyed the movie.”

“None taken. Can I use your outhouse?”

Isaac nods. “Uncle Elias keeps it real clean.”

After the bladder relief, I meet Isaac on the front porch. “I was wondering. Mind if I look at your books. I think that’s another thing we have in common. You know, movies, books, dislike for mannequins.”

“What time is it?”

“Not time for your uncle to be home if that’s what you’re asking. Besides, I won’t stay long. I have to get back to Olive’s.”

Isaac ushers me inside. Of course, I see no TV or radio.

“A hurry to get back to the mannequins?” he says.

“Yep. Can you imagine if Gladys and Fritz only have Olvie to talk to?”

Isaac snickers and points to the books. The one open next to his sleeping pallet has no writing on the outside. “Your journal?”

“Private, if you don’t mind. Now it’s my turn.” Isaac heads out the front door.

The bright green cover is the first of his books to grab my attention. The Negro Motorist Green-Book was about how to avoid problems when travelling. I dig further—The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Harriet, the Moses of Her People by Sarah Bradford.

The last book is called Black Like Me written by John Howard Griffin. Something about this book jars a Distant memory. Is it on our bookshelf at home? I open the front cover and see that it’s a library book. I pull the yellow card from its pocket. Checked out on July 31 by Sylvia Peterson. The day she disappeared.

Excerpt from my WIP, working title Olvie and Chicken Coop, set in 1963.

 

Daily word prompt: Distant

Retaliation of the wrong kind?

Isaac grabs Olvie’s arm as she reaches the doorknob. “Olvie, don’t you do it. I don’t need protection just because a man’s called me names. I’m used to it. And you marching over there and giving him a tongue lashing will only make things worse.”

“He’s right, Olvie,” I say.

Then I realize. Isaac’s endured this kind of treatment his whole life. So have his friends and family and so many others. I also realize that the bigoted man across the street is using Isaac to calm his own domestic storm, to diffuse the quarrel by placing greater importance on what he doesn’t know as his personal fear and stupidity.

We didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. And now, Deputy Garvey has driven off.

Something else occurs to me. “Olvie? You used to harass Isaac’s uncle every morning.”

“What? You think I’m no better than Roberts of Asshole? Is that what you’re trying to say?”

It’s a thought worthy of her Pursuing. “No. I’m just wondering why you stopped messing with him.”

Olvie shrugs. “Guess having his nephew work for me is a good enough retaliation.”

“Well, that makes me feel peachy,” say Isaac.

“Oh, Wisenheimer, don’t be so sensitive. It has nothing to do with you. You, I happen to like. Your uncle and me have had a beef a long while now.”

“Why? What did he do that was so bad?” Isaac asks.

Although Olvie turns to the side, I see the tears puddle in the corner of her left eye.

“That,” she says so quietly I can barely hear her, “is a long story. It’s also my story.”

 

Work in Progress – a novel about diverse friendships in 1963.

Daily prompt: Pursue

Standing up to obstacles

Imagine having to protest for your right to be admitted into Officer Candidate School.

When that conflict is resolved, you become a second lieutenant in the Army. But then, on an Army bus, you confront the Army Bus driver for telling you you have to sit in the back. The military police takes you into custody. You complain about the questioning and an officers recommends you be court-martialed.

You are transferred to a different Battalion where the commander charges you with several offenses including public drunkenness. But you don’t even drink. Thankfully, months later, you are acquitted.

You leave the Army and play baseball in the minor leagues. But you are not allowed to stay with your teammates. Still, you prove yourself – big time.

On this day in 1947, you are signed to a major league team- the Dodgers. During one game, the manager of another team yells “go back to the cotton fields.”

And something strange happens. Your teammates stick up for you. Then, in 1962, you are inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
It went zoomin cross the left field wall.
Yeah boy, yes, yes. Jackie hit that ball.
 
And when he swung his bat,
the crowd went wild,
because he knocked that ball a solid mile.
Yeah boy, yes, yes. Jackie hit that ball.
 
Satchel Paige is mellow,
so is Campanella,
Newcombe and Doby, too.
But it’s a natural fact,
when Jackie comes to bat,
the other team is through.
 
Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Did he hit it? Yeah, and that ain’t all.
He stole home.
Yes, yes, Jackie’s real gone.
 
Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Did he hit it? Yeah, and that ain’t all.
He stole home.
Yes, yes, Jackie’s real gone.
Jackie’s is a real gone guy.  – song  by Buddy Johnson

 

Way to go, Jackie Robinson!

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If you are a Christian

As I sit here researching human rights, including the treatment of immigrants, the poor, the oppressed, I am reminded of my spirituality and the religions that are based on LOVE. One Christian song goes like this:

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in his sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

If you are a Christian, do you believe the meaning of these words?

If you are not a Christian, what religion of love do you worship and celebrate? 

I know there are many and, for that, I am grateful.

With love,

Carolyn

Crazy Olvie

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The rock crashes through the front window and glass shatters over Gladys. Crazy Olvie reaches for the telephone that sits in its cubby space in the short hallway. “Hurry up, now. Read me the name of the Sheriff’s Department.”

I know she meant to ask me to read the number instead of the name. But I can’t help it. I look at her telephone list of numbers taped to her fridge and say in my best deadpan voice, “Sheriff’s Department.”

“That’s what I said.” Her voice is louder now. “Read it to me!”

She’s clueless.

Her cheeks flush and her eyes look like they belong to one of Dracula’s brides.

“Glendale-4123.”

Mom had laughed when she told me that every time Olvie has to phone her doctor, she freaks out and curses all the zeros. She hates sticking her fingers in the seven-through-zero slots because she doesn’t like waiting for the dial to spin back around to home base.  Lucky for her, these numbers won’t take any time.

Excerpt from my Work in Progress, Olvie and Chicken Coop (working title)