Haters

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photo credit

I can’t see anything out of the ordinary, only Olvie’s backyard. But I hear it. Words my mother has heard slammed in her direction.

“<N…> lover!” the boys chant.

Five of them emerge from the backyard bushes and run towards the front yard.

I grab a frying pan and head for the front door.

“Cooking out tonight?” Olvie says.

I ignore her and run outside.

Boys scramble in the cab and the back of the pick-up truck and shoot me the bird. Kent, the last one in, glares at me. “Beam that Fry pan over your own head, Grace. You’re not thinking straight.”

They peel off. Hearing the frying pan slam the sidewalk gives me a bit of satisfaction. But not enough.

“Chicken Coop?”

Olvie stands on the porch, her eyes pinched and curious. “Somebody got shot?”

 

The damp cloth feels good on my forehead, but I could forego Gladys’ positioned arm against mine.

“Want me to call that imbecile Garvey?” Olvie says sitting next to me on the leopard skin couch.

I shake my head. “He couldn’t do anything anyway. Name-calling’s not against the law.”

“So, who were those ragamuffins?”

“I only know one of them. They called me a <n….> lover.”

“Next time,” she says, “Don’t be so stupid. Pull out the cast iron skillet instead of that cheap enamel one. No, never mind that. You’re too scrawny to lift it. Be best if you grab the baseball bat under my bed. But if you swing it, don’t miss.

“I don’t want to be violent,” I say, trying to sound like my parents.

“You hear what I said? Don’t miss.”

 

 

The unenlightened neighbor

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Olvie pours herself another cup of Folgers while I start the pancake mix. “I think that was the door, Olvie.”

“Come in, Wise-Guy,” Olvie yells.

“Well, that was pleasant,” Tanner says, wearing a clean pair of “underground” railroad pants.

I pour circles of batter into the hot skillet. “What?”

“Man came charging toward me from across the street. Said I didn’t have any business being here. Guess he doesn’t like Negros.”

“Asshole,” Olvie mumbles.“That’s because he doesn’t like himself, that stupid son of a bitch.”

Pondering her words, I wonder if Olvie is really smarter than the rest of us. Mom and Dad told me people are often scared of things they don’t understand. And instead of trying to figure out what they’re afraid of, they resist anything new, anything different. Mr. Roberts must not have any Negro friends. If he did, he wouldn’t be afraid of a teenage boy.

“What did you tell him?” I ask.

“Nothing. I ignored him.”

“Why’d you do a thing like that?” Olvie says. “Should have told him off.”

“And why would I do that?” he says. “I don’t want trouble.”

Olvie huffs. “You sound like your uncle. ‘Don’t wants to cause any trouble, ma’am. Yes’m, anything you want, ma’am. Ain’t no good stirring the pot, you see.’ Ugh.”

“You think Uncle Elias should stand up for himself? Like I told Chicken Coop, he’s old school. He’s still afraid of the white man’s world.”

“Oh, and you’re not?” Olvie says.

“Oh, yes’m, I is alright,” he says in dialect. “Jes’ try nots to show it.”

Olvie stops in mid Chuckle. “Elias still thinks garlic hanging over a bed will cure a cold. If you tell him otherwise, he won’t listen. Speaking of, how’s that finger, Wise Guy. Need me to chop it off? You hung those tools up real nice in the utility room. I can find my saw easy now.”

Tanner squeezes his hand. “No thanks. Think I’ll hold on to it for a while.”

This makes Olvie laugh. She has a good laugh, one I’d like to hear more often.

Excerpt from my work in progress set in 1963.

 

NOTE: The photo is of Emmett Till who reminds me of my character, Tanner Ford. This novel will be in honor and memory of Emmett.

I need your help. Seriously.

No matter your walk in life, we have all been affected by racial diversity. Some find it threatening. Others find is socially and culturally mesmerizing and exhilarating. For the purpose I am pursuing, let’s narrow it down to the white and African American culture.

While starting my new novel, my fear is the voice inside my head. It says,”How can you, a white woman, write about the African American experience in 1963? How could you possibly understand?”

Here’s my goal. To write an entertaining novel for all age groups but especially for young adults who may not know important historical facts about the Civil Rights Movement- which I will weave into the novel. I want the reader to take pause, reflect, and think about their actions going forward.

Big goal, huh? But I sincerely believe that understanding the past will put us in a better position for the future.

Here’s the premise to the novel:

In 1963, while staying with the unhinged friend of her deceased grandmother, a 14 yr old white girl from Texas meets a teenaged “Negro” boy from Alabama and learns first hand about racial injustice.

 

I am doing tons and tons of research. I have read “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

So here’s how you can, hopefully, help me.

  1. Is this a reasonable goal?
  2. What suggestions do you have for reading material that may help my accuracy?
  3. What experiences have you had that led you to a racial awareness/enlightenment?

I appreciate any and all suggestions!

Thank you for reading and responding!

Carolyn

Oh, and if you decide to write on this topic, MAKE SURE YOU LET ME KNOW. I promise to reblog unless it is offensive to humanity.

Cono meets a “Colored Man”

 

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Cono Dennis and his sister, Delma

1934:  We walk into the barber’s shop and Dad shakes hands with Mr. Kindle. The place looks pretty much the same as Grady’s in Ranger, but instead of a boxing poster, there’s a framed picture of President Roosevelt. Something else different too. There’s a colored man standing in the corner holding a rag. Dad walks up to him, shakes his hand and says, “How ya doin,’ H?”

  “I’m jest fine, Mr. Wayne. How ‘bout yerself?” They shake hands.

   “Any better ’n I’d be dead.”

  “Well, that’s fine then, jus’ fine,” H. laughs.

 “H., this is my boy, Cono.” H. bends down, looks me square in my eyes and says, “We’ll, it’s a real pleasure Little Dennis, a real pleasure.”

 I like how he’s Squatting so he can see my eyes. Like we’re playing on the same team. I don’t have to look up to him and he doesn’t have to look down on me. I stare back into his eyes where I can see right into the middle of him. What I see is safe and comfortable. So I say, “I ain’t never met a real colored man before.” I hear Dad laugh.

   “‘S’at right?”

   “Yeah.”

  “Yes, sir,” corrects Dad.

 “Yes sir,” I say.

“Well, Little Dennis, I’ve never met a young man so strong and smart lookin’ as you.”     Dad gets in the barber’s chair and H. pulls up a stool to start shining Dad’s old black shoes.

I like the way H. looks at me, like I’m worth a jar full of quarters.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

 

Don’t criticize those who are “different”

I don’t want to answer any more of her all-the-time questions. So I ask, “Where’s Scooter?”

“Behind on his school work. No surprise there.” She laughs, but I know her son lagging behind in this world rubs blisters of worry under her skin. “He’s home with Leonard,” she continues. “I’ll swannee, my poor husband doesn’t have much hair left from the strands he pulls out trying to help Scooter.”

“Hmm,” I say, looking at Choppers.

Kids at school say Scooter’s grain elevator doesn’t reach the top of the silo. That he acts more like a six-year-old than a thirteen-year-old. They don’t know Scooter like I do. He might not be the brightest penny in the cash box, but I’ve known him all my life. He has more grain than most of the numbskulls in Holly Gap, Texas and Scooter’s worth more than the whole lot of them. Wherever Scoot skips, bounces or walks, goodness sprouts in the footsteps he leaves behind. Without Scooter, everything would grow dead.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

Daily word prompt: Criticize

Have you earned your stripes yet?

 

For the longest time, I was tired of my black and white, tired of everyone bickering about who was smarter, who was better. I felt boring and tired, frustrated and snarky. Then, after I nudged  a fallen little boy back to upright and I licked his skinned knee, my first colorful stripe appeared! The second came after I pulled a mouthful of leaves from an acacia tree and, when I noticed the soulful eyes of a walking 4-legged loner, I gave my meal to him. Over time, my stripes became so colorful, my friends wanted to know my secret. Now, Arnie Armadillo is aqua, Scotty Skunk is sky blue and silver, Gracie Gray Wolf is green, and … well, you get the picture.

Anyway, being kind is easy and nobody bickers anymore.

How many stripes do you have?

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painting by me, CDW