Blackhumouristpress's Blog

September 26, 2009

Independence and Dependency

Filed under: Short Story,Uncategorized — blackhumouristpress @ 9:32 am
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Independence and Dependency

Wade volunteered in 1968 to fight for the United States of America in the Vietnam War before the government came calling.  His twin brother Warren, left on foot and crossed into Canada through Maine.  One moment he was in Maine and the next moment he was in New Brunswick.  It didn’t look or feel any different at the time.  Warren hitchhiked to Halifax, Nova Scotia and found a job hunting Cod on a really big ship in the Atlantic Ocean.  His brother Wade went hunting small Asiatic people who didn’t know they wanted democracy and freedom.  They wanted equality in the form of communism and in some strange, unexplainable way, it was a threat  to people like Wade in Southern California and other regions of the United States.  That’s what he believed at the time anyway.  That’s what he was told then.
Warren met a bunch of young people who were rebelling against their Scottish upbringing in the highlands of Cape Breton.  They bought a VW bus and decided that they were going to grow vegetables and wine and stuff near Victoria, British Columbia which was only 5000 miles or so away.  Warren smoked a lot of pot, took a lot of pills and fucked a lot of women.  His hair grew to the middle of his back and he had a beard.  Warren learned to play the banjo and got really good at playing Bluegrass music.
At roughly the same time, Wade was walking through the jungle that had recently lost all it’s leaves after a B52 dropped defoliants from the heavens.  Miles and miles of jungle with not a leaf on a tree.  Wade and a colored soldier from some southern state where people protested and white people tried to beat them, came up on a village.  The colored soldier who’s name was Cleveland and had never stepped foot in Ohio, was approached by a small Vietnamese boy who was running fast towards him.  Neither Cleveland nor Wade could understand anything the boy said except the word, candy.  Cleveland who was twenty feet from Wade, suddenly blew into pieces with the small boy.  Wade guessed that the people in the near by village that he and Cleveland were checking on, had strapped a bomb to the boy to kill not just one soldier but possibly many at once.
Warren met a woman in Victoria who held all the beauty and poise that he ever thought would be possible.  Her father was a missionary in Cote D’Ivoire in Africa.  Her name was Joan and she had been born in Africa and lived among Africans and taught poor people about god.  A god that had become Dutch over the course of almost two thousand years.  Joan’s father came back to tend to family business in British Columbia and Joan visited North America for the first time in her life.  Joan fell in love with Warren as hard as he fell in love with her.
Now back in that village, Wade returned with other young men who were thrust into a part of the world that was as foreign as the moon.  None of them understood that they were in a civil war.  None of them understood that most of the people just wanted to live and be left alone.  The people in the village that they massacred believing that they attempted to bomb the American soldiers, were just simple rice farmers who were threatened by the communist troops and killed by Americans who jumped to conclusions.  As they walked from the village, it was Wade who saw the three foot deep, six foot in diameter hole in the ground that would have been consistent with a mine at the spot where Cleveland and the young boy seeking candy, blew to pieces.  Wade never shared that information with the others who had mowed down dozens of innocent crying peasants.
“Remember that my brother is one of god’s children no matter how he may appear and no matter what he may say,” said Warren to his family while driving to their parent’s home to celebrate the United States independence from Great Britain.
Back during the Vietnam War, Warren was the one who smelled and had long unkempt hair and a beard.  Warren was the one who withdrew from society and took drugs and alcohol.  Wade was the god fearing, god loving, patriotic, Nixon loving young man with a buzz cut.  Sitting in the backyard of their parent’s home in Orange County, california, was Wade on one side without a wife, without children, without a home, without a car, without a job.  Wade appeared to be a street bum more than anything.His hair was graying, long, unwashed and uncombed.  Anti-depressants and alcohol, helped to numb the effect of no life and no future for Wade.  Sitting across from Wade was Warren; clean cut and smiling the smile of a well to do evangelist.  His wife and children for as much as they smiled, were very uncomfortable in the presence of Wade.  He smelled and his face sagged.  Wade’s eyes had the look of a zombie.  Wade appeared to be alive but he had checked out years ago.  He mumbled incoherent things to someone who wasn’t there.  Warren reached across the table and took Wade’s hand as the whole family clasped hands and bowed their heads while Warren gave the blessing.
“We thank you, lord… that we can live in such a great country and have such wonderful things with so much hope and so much prosperity.  We thank you, oh lord, for giving us independence and have guided us to where we our today over the course of some 200 plus years… Thank you for allowing us to be Americans.  The greatest nation in the world… Amen.”

September 19, 2009

Love in Detroit

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackhumouristpress @ 10:17 am
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            A name like Boyd Floyd in the books of most people, as the saying goes, would be a cruel choice.  Bobby, Timmy, Joey and so on, would have been better first names that would have fit nicely with the last name of Floyd. 

Boyd’s people left the Deep South in the late 1920’s.  Word got around that in the City of Detroit, in the state of Michigan, a man by the name of Henry Ford, needed help building automobiles and so they traversed their way up north and settled off what would become the Edsel Ford Freeway in Detroit or just plain old interstate 94.  Boyd inherited the modest brick home that belonged to his parents off of Van Dyke in Detroit near the Detroit City Airport, not far from the Plymouth plant belonging to Chrysler Motors.

 Boyd had everything going for him with Chrysler until they decided to close the Plymouth plant and along with it, the Plymouth brand.  Since graduating high school in 1988, Boyd had worked at the Plymouth plant.  His job eight hours a day was to put bench seats in the back of Plymouth Voyager minivans.  Each minivan got two bench seats each.  Twice back in the early days, Boyd got to meet and shake hands with Lee Iacocca.  Mr. Iacocca saved Chrysler from certain death in the late 1970’s and with the development of the K car and minivan, Chrysler was once again productive and viable.  Boyd made a good living and supported a family the way his dad did and his grandfather before him.  That was until they canned Plymouth.

Now Boyd’s wife left him around the time their two children grew up and went on with their own lives.  At the age of 39, on the cusp of 40, Boyd wondered what it was that he was going to do with the rest of his life.  He had no job, no wife, no kids and no future to speak of.  One day while things looked truly bleak for him and he was pumping gas into his light blue Plymouth Voyager minivan at the corner of Livernois and Michigan Avenues, two young black men put a gun to his head and riffled through his pockets.  Boyd had just sold some World War II mementos that belonged to his father who had fought in the Pacific.  Boyd received $250.00 for a Japanese issued revolver.  The two young thugs took that from him, hopped in his minivan and drove off.  It was that day and that moment that Boyd decided to start a life of crime.

It started with small stick ups near the casinos in and around Detroit.  There was the Greektown Casino, the MGM Casino and the Motor City Casino.  People would go into the Casinos and get all liquored up and leave at odd hours.  Boyd would usually try to find the rich cats that pulled up in foreign cars.  People who drove foreign cars really burned him up.  Boyd once went to Disneyland in California when his children were young and was amazed to find that most cars were foreign on the streets.  In fact the foreign car that he was issued at LAX was a Toyota.  When Boyd saw the car parked in the space, he went back in and demanded a domestic vehicle.  He wound up in a Chevy Suburban that cost him twice with the compact car would have cost him and so it goes.  Manufacturer plates on Mercedes was always a sure bet that he was hitting an executive at Chrysler who was probably some German born snob who hated living in Detroit but was sent by Daimler in Germany to make something of their American holding.  The robbing business was hit and miss but it kept food on the table for himself and his cat.

Like most people who opt to rob others for their means to an end, they eventually get caught and Boyd was no exception.  Boyd was charged with a string of armed robberies and was jailed in the state prison near Jackson, Michigan. 

After being in prison for a good long time and witnessing some of the worst things men were capable of doing to one another, Boyd came up with a plan to get himself free.  Every time it was necessary to appear in court on yet another charge for robbery, the deputies that transported him were always quite lax about the whole thing.  How it would work was that one would drive and one would sit next to Boyd.  Now what nobody could have possibly known about Boyd was that he was double jointed.  It was quite easy and possible for Boyd to flip his arms from behind him while cuffed to in front of himself in just over one second.  Boyd practiced this in his prison cell with his cell mate.  His cell mate would take a shoe laces and bind his arms together and watch in awe as Boyd contorted his shoulders and arms in ways that was not possible for most people.  Boyd’s cell mate had no idea why Boyd practiced doing the move over and over again until he watched the local Detroit news about an escaped convict who was on the loose somewhere near Ann Arbor.  The guys who recognized Boyd cheered wildly when they heard that one of their own had over taken not one but two deputies, disarmed them and left them handcuffed to each other around a tree off of a remote country road thirty miles west of Ann Arbor.  Boyd drove the state vehicle for a while until he carjacked a young couple who drove a Dodge Charger.  Boyd saw that the car had a souped up Hemi engine that would make the playing field even for him in the event of a police chase.  Boyd loved the car but hated Michael Bolton CD’s and so those he threw out of the window while driving along route 14 that had a large sign letting drivers know that they were on their way to Plymouth.  How ironic.

Boyd robbed people at gun point in an around Detroit for days and hid out in abandon houses and knew that it would be nearly impossible to find him due to the fact that there were so many abandon homes strewn all over Detroit.  The final plan was to hit the Comerica branch bank in the beautiful posh suburb of Royal Oak.  It was there that Boyd fell in love.

Everyone was face down on the floor of the bank, hoping that the man with the gun would not opt to use it.  A young man of Indian descent, stuffed big bills into a Detroit Tigers pillow case as Boyd unwrapped one of the lollypops in a dish left out for mostly crying children.  Lying on the floor in a skirt was a beautiful young woman with the face of an angel and blond hair.  Boyd ordered her to get up.  He held the gun to her head as he spoke to everyone in the bank.

“I’m walking out this door right now with this young lady…  I will have news radio on and if I hear on the radio that I robbed this bank and took this woman with me, I will blow her brains out…  If any of you squeal, she dies… Am I clear?”

The young woman went by the name of Amber and she lived Southfield with her husband who happened to be a police officer.  Amber had loved her husband dearly for the longest time but had grown to hate him in the last year or so of their seven year marriage.  It wasn’t clear if Amber or her husband was incapable of having children.  They both just quit trying to have children and pretty much quit the act of love making all together.  Amber slept in their big bed alone under a picture of herself on her wedding day in front of the old Tiger’s Stadium with the entire wedding party.  She looked so beautiful in her white gown and all the men and women looked so smart in their attire with the Bengal tiger symbol behind them.  Amber was absolutely terrified of the escaped convict but was absolutely attracted to the attractive man.  Nothing was being said as Boyd drove off in her car while pointing the revolver at her with his left hand which rested on his lap.

“Can I ask you not to point that at me?  I’m not going anywhere and I’m not going to fight you…  If you want to rape me you can but please don’t shoot me or beat me up,” said Amber in a soft sweet voice.

“I’m not gonna hurt you, Miss.  I just needed to get outta the bank…  I’m actually sorry to do this to you,” said Boyd softly.

As time went on, they spoke to each other as humans and as two people who were genuinely interested in each other.  Boyd learned about Amber’s hopeless home life and Boyd told her about he came to become a criminal.  Amber listened to Boyd’s plan to escape into Canada and disappear into some Canadian city and try to start over.

“I could go with you…  I could help you start over and you could help me,” said Amber to Boyd’s surprise.

“Why would you want to attach yourself to a convict on the run?”  Asked Boyd.

“Because I believe that god meant for us to meet,” said Amber.

Whether you believe that god has the time to take small meaningless creatures on one particular planet in the universe who happen to live on Earth, in the northern hemisphere, in a country called the United States in a state called Michigan on the north west side of Detroit, then you can understand where Amber was coming from.  Boyd was her gift from god. 

            Amber went and bought some horned rim glasses and blond hair dye for Boyd as he waited at the Marriott Hotel in Troy off of Big Beaver Road at exit 69 off of interstate 75.  You think I’m making those two things up but I’m not.  Exit 69 at Big Beaver Road is where Boyd was hiding out.  Boyd put his faith in a stranger who he was attracted to and felt that there was some sort of bond growing between them.  Boyd showered and shaved and when he finished, Amber came back with new clothes, hair dye and glasses.  In a matter of a half hour, Boyd was reinvented.  The clothes were stylish and Boyd actually had a European look to him with blond hair.

            “How do you think I look?”  Asked Boyd.

            Amber did not answer him but rather ripped at his clothes and hers until they were without a lick of clothes on either of them and were making passionate love to one another.  It had been so long for both of them that the love making almost appeared to be angry.  There was no anger though.  It would be like giving a steak dinner to a starving person.  They devoured each other over the course of hours.  Boyd woke up suddenly and the room was dark and he could not see a clock anywhere.  Lying on his chest drooling was Amber.  She was sleeping soundly after making love several times over the course of two or so hours.

            “I’ve got to go,” said Boyd as he sat up.

            “Just come back to bed…  We can get up early and head over to the tunnel or the Ambassador Bridge and be in Canada in minutes.  This time of night they are definitely on the look out for people crossing the border,” said Amber.

            Boyd thought about it as he looked out of the window that overlooked the interstate that was mostly quiet except for trucks and a few cars.

            “Yeah… Maybe you’re right,” said Boyd. 

            With that he climbed back into bed and held the warm fit body against his once again.  He kissed her neck and ear and she ran her fingers through his hair as she pressed herself against Boyd.  They made love for a fourth time and fell back asleep unaware that swat teams, local police, state police all were moving into place.  Rather than using cash, Amber used her credit card.  They found that within the span of an hour, she bought food at a Coney Island, clothes, glasses and hair dye as well as a room for the two of them at the Marriott in Troy at exit 69 and Big Beaver.  For a few short hours on one day in Detroit, two trapped people found heaven.  Where was it?  Exit 69 and Big Beaver Road.  It honestly exists.

September 14, 2009

Zimbabwe and Rhodesia

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackhumouristpress @ 4:15 am
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A tall blond woman with an uncommonly beautiful face walked up wearing a wind breaker that had a patch on it that read, Red Cross.  This tall blond woman went by the name of Jennifer.  Jennifer grew tired of being a sexually desired object for most of her life and at the age of twenty one, spun the globe and purposely kept her index finger below the equator.  It landed in the country of Zimbabwe.  Fortunately for Jennifer, she did not wind up in a country where she had to speak French, Dutch or Portuguese.  The people of Zimbabwe spoke English.  They learned English by the English and for a while, the country went by the name of Rhodesia.  Jennifer wasn’t even born when the country was called that.  In fact Jennifer was living in the country nearly a year when she figured out that Rhodesia and Zimbabwe were the same country. Many white farmers had long since moved out of the country and there were just a smattering of whites in big cities.  Jennifer didn’t seem to mind.  Jennifer went into a grocery store in the capital during her first few days in Zimbabwe in hopes of buying enough food to sustain her for a few days.  Upon entering a clean looking grocery store, Jennifer was shocked to see employees standing around a nearly vacant store.  There was bottled water and a few loaves of bread

 left.  Jennifer had no idea what it meant when the total in Zimbabwean Dollars came to $350,000.00 for two liters of water and a loaf of bread.  She gave the cashier a twenty dollar bill in American money and told her to keep the change.  The cashier pocketed nearly $400,000.00 Zimbabwean Dollars for herself which was the equivalent of a month’s pay.  It was a good day for that woman.  The only problem would be that she would have to spend that money immediately before the value changed.  The value of the Zimbabwean Dollar dropped by the minute.  Inflation was somewhere near 26,000% at the time of Jennifer’s arrival. Today it is nearly 2.2 million percent.  Jennifer picked the second poorest country in the world to make a difference.  As far as reaching the poor and impoverished, Jennifer was right on track.  To compound all of this, the president of the country declared land owned and run by white farmers to be seized.  There were nearly 400 white owned farms that helped the country sustain itself in 2000.  By 2007, there were just a handful of white hold outs that were in danger of not only losing their land but their lives.  Zimbabwe was really not a safe place for white people much less very attractive female white people.

            Now at time when blacks were squatting on white farm land and killing white

farmers, Jennifer showed up as innocent as Bambi.   The unemployment rate was somewhere near 80%. In the capital of Harare, she went to a clinic for women and told a large black woman behind a desk that she wanted to help.  This large black woman was surprised by the beauty and ignorant innocence of a young American woman, in a foreign land, unescorted.  After the initial shock, the woman sent her to the middle of nowhere.  The town she sent her to was dangerous and not far from the border with South Africa.  Most of the men and women were trying to enter South Africa illegally in hopes of finding a job.  Even if one could find a job in Zimbabwe, their currency was worth nearly nothing.  One might need a dump truck of money just to buy a meal.

            Jennifer showed up with a long tight skirt that went to her ankles.  She wore Birkenstock sandals with a shirt with George W. Bush’s face on it.  The caption said, “Wanted for war crimes”.  The people of the town were living in shacks with no plumbing.  There was no school for the children and no infrastructure to speak of.  It was worse than Tijuana in just about everyway and in this cesspool of human misery and squalor.  Jennifer was arguably one of the prettiest women in the world.  She came to the village with a back pack and an acoustic guitar.

            Jennifer’s father was a partner at a large law firm in downtown Chicago.  Their offices took up several floors of a high rise.  To be a part of this law firm was prestigious.  Attorneys were paid well. 

            Jennifer’s father had been a life long Republican.  He voted for every single Republican presidential candidate going back to Barry Goldwater.  Jennifer’s father was religious and driven.  They were Episcopal and lived in a small suburb that was in the top ten richest burgs in the country.  The village is called Kenilworth and all the streets were named after small towns in Great Britain.  England Primarily.  Most of the inhabitants were of British descent and very rich.  Jennifer too was of English lineage.  Ironically, Jack, Jennifer’s father, gave over $10,000.00 a year to an Episcopal missionary who was stationed in Namibia.  Jack was never even sure where that was.  He just knew his money went there to promote Christianity and safe drinking water.

            Jennifer went to prep school in the east and attended Stanford.  It was at Stanford that Jennifer had a history professor that told her that all American history was basically fabricated lies just like the bible and that the age of imperialism had come unravelled after World War II and the United States picked up where Great Britain and France had left off.  A man who had studied his whole life and received a doctorate at the age of

 forty five, challenged young and impressionable people to do something with their lives.  This professor read and re-read H.L Mencken and Nietzche in a studio apartment, with no wife and no family.  His big moment was protesting the war back in the late sixties and getting arrested.  He was promptly bailed out by his parents but told the story for so many years after that his time in jail went from four hours to four weeks.  His fabled plight resembled a Kafka novel rather than a simple act of civil disobedience that was considered to be a step above j walking or spitting on the sidewalk. 

            Be all that as it may, her father, his job, their community, their homogeneity, their insulation and so forth was somehow wrong.  Jennifer’s good fortune to be born into a good family was about as unlucky as some poor bastard’s luck to be born at a squatter’s camp in Zimbabwe near the border with South Africa.  Jennifer bought the line that it was up to her to make a difference.  Jennifer actually did make a difference in the lives of many people in Zimbabwe as did her father.

            Jack, the father of Jennifer, indulged his daughter despite the fact that he worried that at best, she would be gang raped by low level military leader, seeking to over throw Robert Mugabe, the first and only president of Zimbabwe.  At worst, Jack feared that Jennifer would be killed.  Either way, Jack knew that he could not stop Jennifer from doing what she wished.  He never set the stage for the word no and so Jack could not say no to Jennifer.  Jack built a hospital, a church and a school for the people of the town.  Doctors from France came and donated their time to help the people of the town.  Jack came at the insistence of his daughter to the remote town that did not even have a name.  He drove with a guide six hours in a Land Rover Defender on dirt roads until he found his daughter.  Along the way, Jack remembered his father’s friend who he had met in Great Britain during World  War II, was someone who had come from the area that became Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe.  He fought in the Second World War for Great Britain and lived on a farm about an hours drive outside of the city of Salisbury.  Jack’s father had always talked about visiting his old war friend in Rhodesia back when things were going well in the mid to late 1960’s.  They never got there.  Now Jack was riding in a Land Rover on roads that once existed during the days of colonial rule.  In many areas, the paved roads ceased to exist.  It after all had been over forty years since colonial rule.  Jack’s father never lived to visit his old war buddy but his son made it his duty to visit his daughter in what was once Rhodesia.

The children of the town danced and sang for Jack and hugged him.  It was

 the first time in his life that he had ever hugged a black person and the people of southern Africa were not like the caramel colored blacks back home that had mixed with whites at some point somewhere between modern times and the landing of the Mayflower.  The people of the town were blacker than black.  Their skin shined and their teeth and the whites of their eyes contrasted greatly.  Despite the fact that they had very little, they were happy looking and Jack left Africa feeling that he had done something very good despite the fact that he was badgered by his daughter.  Jack felt good about his contributions and that of his daughter until he received the news with a photograph that Jennifer had married a native of Zimbabwe.

            Nkute was like any other poor native of Zimbabwe.  It hadn’t been that way for him when he was young.  Nkute’s father was a well paid servant in a white household near Salisbury.  The man that Nkute’s father worked for was a politician that represented an area of Salisbury in the parliament.  He was part of the Rhodesian Front.  He had a hand in what was called the Lancaster House Agreement.  He wanted to ensure that if black majority rule was on the way, that whites still had a stake in the new government.  Whites were to retain 20% of the seats in parliament.

  Nkute lived in a descent home and was a champion Cricket player when the country was still Rhodesia.  After 1980, things began to change.  The white family that his father worked for moved to New Zealand and his father was out of a job.  Nkute’s family eventually moved out of the city to the country. 

Nkute was as an excellent student  He was sent by his village to school in Australia at the age of fourteen.  Nkute lived at the boarding school.  He was an exceptional student and gifted at soccer or as the call it, football.  He also was a valuable member of the school’s Cricket team.  Nkute did well all throughout school and became a doctor.  Nkute owned a house in suburban Sydney and had a nice life.  While listening to the BBC one day on his car radio, Nkute heard about white farmers being killed and land going to waste in Zimbabwe.  He listened to the reports of runaway inflation and the lack of medical attention for most who inhabited the country.   

Back in the Rhodesian days, white soldiers who assisted the British South Africa Company, were each given 3,000 acres of land through grants.  The leader of the British South Africa Company was a man whose name was Cecil Rhodes, hence the name Rhodesia.  The received a royal charter back in 1889.  The blacks on that land became tenants or were thrown off.  Blacks were given land in low rainfall areas and the good land for farming with good rainfall was given to whites.  At the time of independence, white farmers owned close to 5,000 farms.  The white farmers provided housing, school and hospitals for their black employees.  40% of the farms in the country were run by the 5,000 white farmers who made up over 60% of the country’s GDP.  Rhodesia was the bread basket of Africa.  Nkute understood what it was like to be ruled by white people and was happy as a young boy when independence happened.  It appeared to be the right thing for the majority.  The problem was the land distribution killed Zimbabwe’s ability to sustain itself.  People who did not understand and know how to farm, were given land and let the land go fallow.  It became paramount to import food to feed Zimbabweans.  The rate of malnutrition is at about 45% now.  It is low considering the inflation rate was 2.2% million percent when I first wrote about the inflation rate.  It has now risen again.

  Nkute took a leave of absence for a year from the hospital he worked for in Sydney and went to work for Medcin sans Frontier or Doctors without Borders.  Nkute made his way over to the same town that Jennifer happened to live in and the rest is history.  The normal boy meets girl stuff took place.  He was on good behavior while trying to woo her.  They married in Zimbabwe and disagreed as to where they would eventually live.  Jennifer did not want to remain in Zimbabwe the rest of her life nor immigrate to Australia.  Being in love with his beautiful wife, he decided to follow her back to the United States.  Nkute had to take further courses and training in order to be a full fledged practicing physician in the United States.  They both volunteered with the Red Cross together.

            “Excuse me, I am Nkute Nabazeen and thees ees my wife Jennifer… We har weeth thee RRRRed Crrross… Have you anyone who ees urt frrrom the fire?”  Said Nkute, in his strong southern African English accent.

 

 

            Nkute and Jennifer met with the tenants one by one and interviewed them in order to determine if they had somewhere to go for the night. At the end of the night, Nkute and Jennifer returned to their condominium on the 32nd floor that overlooked Lake Michigan. Jennifer went into their bedroom to light candles and prepare to do some yoga to help her unwind from the days events. Nkute purchased the Cricket Ticket on the Dish Network. India was playing South Africa in a test match. Nkute ate a deep dish pizza of spinach and onion, drank a Dutch beer and thought to himself; isn’t life grand?

September 9, 2009

Italian Chef Fire Chief

Italian chef fire chief
Now the lieutenant from the Chicago Fire Department, tenth battalion of the north west side, called Mort over by holding his palm up and pushing his index finger back and forth.
“I think you should know what kind of stuff goes on in your apartment building, sir.” Said the lieutenant in his clean white shirt and tie.
Mort suspected body parts of a serial killer or nude pictures of children. Mort braced himself for the worst. Once inside the second floor apartment that belonged to a doctor of philosophy from Northwestern University, was found mountains of newspapers that formed tunnels. Newspapers up to the ceiling in neat stacks. Mort followed the lieutenant through the tunnels to a bedroom in the back.
One of the bedrooms was used to sleep in and the other was used to store plastic.

Plastic.

Most of it made from carbon, which was drawn from petroleum. In the bedroom, packed to the ceiling were plastic milk jugs, two liter bottles, discarded household products and plastic grocery bags. The bags were being saved for years since the professor had lived in the apartment for over thirty years. Had these bags decomposed, they would have turned into pieces of plastic and then fine dust. The professor was worried about this dust eventually harming wild life and getting into the water or food chain and so he saved all his plastic. The papers were for reference.
It is true that plastic bags hang from trees and then find their way into streams and rivers and then eventually the oceans. Most people use the bags to cart home groceries and then later fill them with dog shit and never stop to think where the plastic eventually goes. Most swirls around like soup in the oceans… For a long time.
“What kind of a sick fuck does this?” Asked the lieutenant of Mort, as he tried to use his body weight to push open the bedroom door.
The plastic heated up from the intense heat of the fire and had melded together to form a ball of plastic. The milk jugs and old vinyl items got really warm and stuck together but did not melt. The smell was pretty strong and the fumes were really not that good to inhale. One of the firemen climbed across the mountain of plastic until he got to the window and used his pick axe to break open the windows in order to get fresh air.
The professor was not home. He was at work working on a computer. When the computer becomes obsolete, he will donate it poor inner city schools so that poorer children in Haiti or Cote d’ivoire, don’t smash the computer to retrieve valuable pieces of the inner components while at the same time, exposing themselves to harmful particulates that fill the air.
Say what you will about the professor but for all his inner demons, he knew what was killing the planet. As a recycler, the professor was first rate.
Mort was perplexed by the lieutenant’s anger. The lieutenant was more angered by the squirreling away of plastic than the actual fire. The lieutenant chewed his gum in a circular motion and could be heard breathing through his nose as if he had obstructions necessary to clear out. Between the gum chewing, loud breathing and the twitching mustache, all left Mort annoyed. The clencher for Mort was having to endure the strong scent of garlic on the lieutenant’s breath. The whole fire crew had just been at the fire house twenty minutes earlier and the lieutenant was preparing a delicious marinara sauce with garlic bread, soaked in butter. They were just minutes away from dinner when the alarm rang. This is what angered the lieutenant most. He would have to boil a new pot of pasta. The marinara sauce was a family secret that the lieutenant was very proud of. It dated back to Italy. The other firemen thought the lieutenant was an asshole but they loved his food. Here is what the recipe called for… You can try this at home.

8 cups of peeled tomatoes or canned italian plum tomatoes
10 tablespoons of butter. Real butter not margarine.
8 small onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup of marsala
1 tablespoon of oregano
4 cups of freshly grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
Salt and pepper at your dicretion
Add meatballs

This all goes best with red wine. The lieutenant prefers a Chianti. In fact he insists that all the firemen eat his concoction with at least a half glass of red wine to help bring out the flavor.
While the fire was going on, the sauce was simmering on a low flame. No pun intended. Fortunately for all involved, the sauce and meatballs were not burned. http://www.blackhumouristpress.com

September 8, 2009

Death a la Carte

Filed under: Short Story — blackhumouristpress @ 4:31 am
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The people who live off the interstate 94 north of Chicago between Dempster Street and Church street could not mistake the Mercury Marquis that hit a tree on the east side of the highway at 4 am on a Saturday morning.  It shook the windows and sound as if a bomb exploded.

Terrance Caldwell was thirty nine years old and was born and raised on the south side of Chicago in an area that had been primarily black since World War I.  Terrance showed so much promise as a young man.  He attended Malcolm X College to study business and wound up a heroin addict.  Terrance went from flopping in abandon homes to robbing people and stealing things until he wound up in jail for a few years and then later again for a few more.

When they found the heavy built eight cylinder automobile that was built with pride in Windsor, Ontario for Ford, it was cleaved in half right up the middle.  The police and curious neighbors, found belongings and body parts in the parkway adjacent to the expressway.  Terrance was a wreck when they found him one hundred or more feet from the burning vehicle.  Terrance had been drinking hard alcohol and took some pills before deciding to drive north to get his daughter from his ex-common law wife’s apartment north of Chicago.  Luckily for the little girl, Terrance never made it.

Terrance’s parents were both bust outs if you will.  The job of rearing Terrance became that of his aunt Matilda who was a small bowl legged black woman that never missed a day of church in over thirty years.  Her white wooden house was a show case of days long since gone.  Porcellin figurines, doilies and pictures of her soldier husband from World War II filled the immaculate living room.  Terrance was actually the grand son of Matilda’s sister who had died fifteen years earlier.  Terrance was dropped off by his mother at Matilda’s door when he was four years old and never returned.

Matilda did all she could and tried to instill good Christian values in the young man but he ultimately fell victim to the allure of quick money from other young men without strong male figures to guide them in their neighborhood.  When Matilda got the news from the state police that Terrance had died, she was of course grief stricken but relieved that a troubled life was finally at peace.

Matilda’s husband had believed in hard work and saving money.  He remembered stories from old people when he was young, people who remembered slavery and being a slave.  Those were people who had nothing and owned nothing and it was important to own things rather than being owned and so Jacob, Matilda’s husband purchased a final resting place for his extended family.  There just happened to be space for Terrance at the plot purchased by Jacob in 1958.

It had just been two months since a neighboring cemetery was under investigation for a scam where by cemetery workers were digging up the long since dead, discarding their remains and reselling the plot.  As Matilda drove up in the cab along 127th Street, she could see the Illinois State Police camped out in front of the neighboring Burr Oak Cemetary.  Across the stree, Matilda came into the office of the Lincoln Cemetery which was named after a man who had been a president of the United States, lived in Illinois and pissed off a lot of white southerners by declaring all blacks in the confederacy free.  The blacks in the union were already free and the declaration never really freed one black man at the time but it sounded pretty good or as the saying goes; looked good on paper.

A well dressed young black man ushered Matilda into an office and offered his condolences before hitting her with the fees.  It had been over twenty five years since Matilda had to bury a relative in the family plot.  A lot had changed since 1984.

“Now ma’am…  We will work all this out with the funeral home.  This is a one stop shop operation if you will.  The funeral home will do all the preparation of your loved one.  The charge for the services of the funeral director and staff is for their response to initial service, conference with yourself… The responsible party to determine all services required at this time, cooridination plans involved in the final disposition of the deceased, recording vital statistics, securing permits, authorizations, filling out and obtaining the death certification and any other forms necessary at this time.  The charge for this also includes services of the funeral director and the staff for the coordination and direction of the wake and visitation service, funeral service, handling of the flowers and any and all other memorial tributes, the supervision of the burial and any other requested and or necessary services…  I’ll need your signature here and down here and initial that you understand all that I have just explained to you,” said the facilitator.

There were several words that sound as if they could be strung together to make a sentence that would have been familiar to Matilda’s ears but for the most part much of what the young man explained, did not resemble the English language.

“Now then Ma’am…  Embalming…  Embalming is not required by law but it may be necessary if you opt for a viewing…” said the facilitator.

“Well…  I ain’t so sure I want people to be seeing Terrance.  He got into a terrible accident and well the po-lice were able to git most his parts together but he in terrible shape,” said Matilda.

“I understand ma’am.  Your other choice is cremation and then we can discuss burying the remains in your plot,” said the facilitator.

“Cremation!  I don’t know bout that, now.  Naw, I don’t think I want cremation for the boy.  You go ahead and do the embalming.”

“Now then…  Let’s go over the other fees.  The cost for visitation and viewing is $190.00.  For the use of the chapel which would accommodate a small group will be $325.00.  This includes transportation of the remains and set up fee for the church services.  The cost to transfer the remains is a flat fee of $325.00 within twenty five miles.  Anything beyond twenty five miles is a .75 cent per mile charge above that,” said the facilitator.

“You all running a cab service?  Y’all nickel and diming me til I’m in the dang gone ground…  I’m jus glad mah Jacob done took care of my costs foh me befoh he die.  Ida hafta git a job now jus to pay foh ma own funeral…  Go head then young man, let me have it,” said Matilda.

“Yes…  The acknowledgement cards are $20.00 per 100 cards,” said the facilitator.

“Ima have mah self an three other old ladies an that’s that.  I ain’t got no use foh no 100 cards,” said Matilda.

“I understand ma’am but $20.00 is the minimum,”

“Fine.  Go head befoh you burying me.”

“The registry book is $20.00, pallbearer’s gloves are $20.00, limousine is $375.00 from the funeral home to the cemetery… Let’s see what else we have then…  The minister cost is $95.00, the organist is $95.00 as well as the soloist except on Saturdays then they each charge $125.00.  A men’s suit cost is $150.00 and come in either blue or black but we now have white available…  I believe that is so, let me just make a quick call…  Mary, do we have white male suits available now?  That’s what I thought, thanks…  Yes, we do have white and the cost for that is $200.00 and that includes the white leather shoes…” said the facilitator with a smile.

“You ain’t told me yet bout the caskets,” said Matilda.

“Yes, yes…  We have this very nice ornate casket that goes for $2500.00 and can go up with accessories up to $9,298.00 for everything which would include a music box of your love one’s favorite song, mirrors and gold handles with his initials engraved upon them,” said the facilitator.

“Imma take the one you got here foh $350.00.  He dead and he won’t mind.  Tally all this up, young man.  Let’s git this finished today,” said Matilda as she removed and envelope stocked with one hundred dollar bills.

The visitation and funeral was attended by Matilda and three of her friends from the Baptist Church.  Matilda opted to use the funeral home minister, organist and singer for the ten minute service at the funeral home since it was cheaper than what her own minister would have charged and then Matilda would have had to feed everyone in attendance from the whole church.

At the grave site, five chairs were set up for the old ladies to sit and hear the canned words from a stranger as the remains of Terrance were lowered into the ground.  Matilda cried as the fat black man sang, How Great Thou Art, in a deep baritone.  Three Mexican men shovelled dirt onto the casket as the four old ladies waddled off in their nice dresses and hats.  Matilda ordered the limousine driver to take them to Chinatown.  It was a surprise snap decision by Matilda.  The old ladies questioned the choice.  Matilda had a simple response.

“Back when that boy had his whole life ahead of him and I could still reach him, he would aks me to take him to Chinatown to eat if he was good…  I want him to know where ever it is he wind up that he was always good to me.  He done broke mah heart but was always respectful…  An I don’t want no complaints bout nothing from any y’all.  I’m paying.  Food always find a way to taste good when it free…  Amen.”

September 2, 2009

Suburban Life

Filed under: Short Story — blackhumouristpress @ 5:53 am

Boothe was the new tennis instructor at the Country club.  Boothe used a Rod Laver wooden tennis racquet to teach the women at the club that over looks Lake Michigan in the northern Chicago suburb of Winnetka.

Boothe had played division I tennis for Cornell and had the type of good looks that made every smile material for an L.L. Bean catalogue.  He had sandy blond hair and perfect teeth.  He was wiry but muscular and although tennis was his game, women were his sport.  The challenge was always putting the chase on and seeing if he could land his target.  Only once in ten years since college graduation had Boothe been shot down and the woman who shot him down had actually been really and truly happy with the man she was with;  A definite oddity.

Now Tanya, a raven haired second generation Russian woman whose husband struck gold buying up World War II era ranch homes and reconstructing them to be small palaces, was the object of Boothe’s attention.  When the economy was good, Tanya’s husband made a killing as they say.  Vlad was new money amongst the old money, trust fund, Ivy League clans of Chicago’s north shore.

Vlad was as big as the houses he rehabilitated.  He stood six feet five inches and nearly three hundred pounds of solid muscle.  He wore his blondish hair in a flat top and with his square jaw; his head looked like a block.

The country club charged him a one time fee of $550,000.00 to become a member which was about $200,000.00 more than others were charged for membership.  The price jack was to dissuade the large Slavic man from entering one of the last bastions of Anglo-Saxonism.  Vlad paid the fee more than anything to appease his wife who wanted to be like all the other women in the neighborhood.  She wanted to work out all day, get her nails done, drink coffee and gossip with other rich neighborhood women and learn to play tennis.

Most of the other women in Winnetka pumped out three to five children a piece and gave them pretentious names like Boothe that was clearly a last name rather than a first name.  Old president’s last names were popular as first names for boys and girls alike.  Mostly Republican presidents back from the days when presidents were white and primarily Episcopalian.

Tanya had two kids and really felt one more would help her to fit in but with her children being in grade school, the autonomy during the day was quite refreshing and besides at 32 years of age, Tanya was in the best shape of her life.

Boothe caught Tanya’s attention by flashing his model like smile and making small talk.  Over time, Boothe was able to take small talk to another level and before long they were meeting for coffee and dinners in the city, far away from the eyes and ears of their small burg.

Vlad was really into fishing and shooting guns.  He had a basement full of riffles from all over the world from over a two hundred year period.  Vlad had told Tanya that he was going up to Ontario to fish for a week.  He packed his large Ford Truck with all his supplies and gave his wife one day notice of his plans to fish and hunt for a week with his friends in northern Ontario.  Tanya was actually relieved and liked the idea of Vlad being gone.  Tanya could run around with Boothe and not have to worry about excuses or cut their meetings short so as to not draw attention to her numerous absences from home.

COME TO MY PLACE TONIGHT.  EVERYONE WILL BE GONE

Boothe looked at his Rod Laver racquet and spoke to it as he twirled  it and read the text message out loud.  He called his racquet Betsy and spoke to it as if it were real.

“Betsy ole girl, I shall be soon putting another notch upon you…  This shall be number 129 over the course of our career.  This one will be very special to me as I have never had one from Russia…  Very exotic.”

Tanya bathed in the best smelling bath soap she owned and put a hint of perfume on various strategic areas of her body that would be most likely to be kissed and caressed.  She wore a dress with no underwear and lit the fireplace.  Smooth Jazz played on the stereo.  Boothe came in wearing khaki pants with Top Sider boat shoes with no socks.  His white sweater was wrapped around his pinstriped collared shirt.  He was ready for love.  The two of them downed a bottle of sweet red wine from Georgia as in the Republic of Georgia.  They kissed passionately and Boothe ran his right hand up Tanya’s dress to find that there were no under garments to impede his progress.  Everything was perfectly perfect until Tanya caught a glimpse of a truck pulling up the drive way on her close caption television that had a camera fixed on drive way.

“Oh my god!  My husband is here!”

“I thought you said he was in Ontario…”

“He was supposed to be.  He left two hours ago… Oh my god!  You have to go out the back door now!”

“That’s all fine but my car is in the driveway, he’ll see it as soon as he pulls up.”

Boothe ran through the back yard and scaled the ten foot fence, crushing banzai plants and tripping twice as he ran through the garden in the back.  Boothe was walking towards his car as the lights of the truck hit him.  He was trying to smooth his breathing out and not look surprised or nervous.  Boothe had in the trunk of his Audi, catalogues for time shares in exotic islands all over the world.  He calmly as possible opened his trunk and took out a folder of information.  Vlad got out of his truck and inquired as to who Boothe was.

“Who the fuck are you?”

“My name is Boothe, I work for the country club and wanted to stop by and discuss time shares and condos with you and your wife.  Your wife said that you may be interested in buying a time share in Mexico… Does that sound right to you?”

“No, that doesn’t sound right to me…  Come in, I want to gather more information myself.”

Tanya too was fast acting and within minutes, she was able to put cold cream all over her face and wrap a towel around her head.  She wore a velvet warm up suit and pretended to be talking to her sister in Russian when her husband walked in with Boothe.  She pretended to tell her sister that she would call her back when she caught sight of her husband with Boothe.

“Vladi…  I thought you would be in Canada by now…  What’s going on?”

“What’s going on?  You tell me.  Who is this man?”  Asked Vlad.

At this point, Boothe’s heart was beating at nearly 100 beats per minute.  He had beads of sweat on his forehead and was fearful of either being beat to death or shot by one of many muskets in the basement.  Boothe stayed cool.  Tanya had a wide eyed look that left Vlad unconvinced.

“This is my tennis coach from the club…  Boothe, this is my husband Vlad.  Vladimir, this is Boothe.”

Vlad looked down at the smaller slighter man with a furrowed brow.  Boothe could almost feel him breathing down on him.  Boothe took the opportunity to show both of them the information that he had in his trunk.  He played it off cool and convincing.

“I’m sorry to come by uninvited.  I was at your neighbor Liz’s house discussing property in Maui and I remembered that you had said that you and your husband may be interested in purchasing a time share or a condo at the new building going up in Miami or perhaps the new building we own in Cancun…  I apologize for the intrusion.  I’ll just leave the info for you and if you’re at all interested, my card is in the folder.  You can call me and I’d be happy to discuss with both of you at a time that is more convenient,” said Boothe.

Boothe turned and walked out.  He walked swiftly to his car and took off fast.  Vlad studied his wife for signs that she was covering up something.  She too was playing it cool.  Vlad had forgotten his passport down in the basement and came back to retrieve it.  It was a plausible thing for him as he was crossing the border into Canada…  Allegedly.  Vlad came up the stairs and calmly threatened his wife.

“If I ever see that man around here again when I am not around, I will kill him and then you…  Do you understand me?  I will choke the life out of him with my hands and then when I’m done, it will be you…”

With that, Vlad slammed the door and drove off in the Truck.  Tanya wiped the cream off her face with one hand and constructed a text message to Boothe with the other hand.

HE’S GONE.  DO YOU WANT TO MEET SOMEWHERE ELSE?  WE COULD GO TO A HOTEL OR SOMETHING.  LET ME KNOW WHERE.

Boothe never responded to the text message or the other three that followed or the phone calls after that.  He got home and looked at Betsy as he poured himself a Scotch.

“Ole girl, I almost met my Waterloo…  That was too close for comfort.  We’ll have to be happy for 128 for now,” said Boothe.

Vlad parked his truck in the garage of the home he was working on six miles away from home.  Waiting in the circular driveway was a large Cadillac stretch limousine.  In the car was a pretty young woman of twenty two years of age, which was fifteen years younger than Vlad.  She was text messaging a guy that she had been with in the past.  The man was her tennis instructor by the name of Boothe.  This is what his message said;

I’M SORRY I HAVEN’T CALLED YOU LATELY; I HAVE BEEN BOGGED DOWN WITH STUFF.  ARE YOU AVAILABLE FOR A DRINK TONIGHT?

The young girl kissed Vlad as he entered the limousine.  She quickly sent a text message back to Boothe.

CAN’T TONIGHT.  ON MY WAY TO ARUBA.  WILL CALL YOU WHEN I GET BACK.  I WOULD LOVE TO SEE YOU AGAIN SOON.

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