Blackhumouristpress's Blog

September 29, 2011

The Naked Truth

           Virgil was one of those quiet middle aged guys that would blend in at parties or picnics without notice.  All the people who knew of Virgil knew that he worked as a consultant for oil companies that had interests in the Middle East.  At any given time, Virgil could be gone for weeks on end and then he would be home golfing and doing wood working in his basement work shop.  Nothing unusual.
Virgil and his wife Gretchen, raised twin girls that went to college and were trying to make their way through adulthood. Carter and Reagan were born on Election Day in 1980.  Gretchen at the time thought it would be cute to name her fraternal twin girls after the presidential candidates.  Virgil went along with this.
           Carter was a thoughtful and quiet girl who loved to sing, dance and write poems.  Carter always carried a few more pounds than her sister and was not very good at math.  Boys found her introverted nature to be odd and so it was rare that Carter dated much during high school.  At the age of thirty, her boyfriend whom she had lived with for several years, quit his job to live in a park by Wall Street and protest banks and rich people with other idealists from around the country.  Carter considered quitting her job as a kindergarten teacher and joining her boyfriend but changed her mind when she thought about losing her medical and dental benefits.
          Reagan was slightly taller than Carter and was thin, vibrant, active and everyone’s best friend.  She met Nathan at her high priced gym and had been seeing him for close to two years.  Nathan was tall, had a nice smile, full head of hair, stomach muscles, a good job, a condo with parking and a healthy bank account.  Nathan loved to fuck a lot and so did Reagan but when they were not fucking, they also liked to jog together, play tennis, eat sushi, watch 30 Rock and take Tango lessons.  Reagan suggested marriage and Nathan thought that the idea had some merit and so they became engaged.
           Virgil on paper was a mild mannered consultant but what nobody knew about Virgil was that he worked for the CIA and was in charge of questioning suspected terrorists on their ties to terrorist groups from around the world.  Sleep deprivation, constant questioning of similar words that were substituted to carefully lure a mentally broken individual into purging themselves was Virgil’s forte.  There of course was food deprivation and not allowing suspects to have water but offering coffee and then denying the suspects to use of the washroom.  The job was unique and actually Virgil was quite a unique guy and yet nobody really knew this about him and that is how he wanted it.
              Now Virgil ran checks upon checks on Nathan and all he could find was that he was a party guy who loved fantasy sports and was treated for a Chlamydia once at age twenty two.  Virgil suspected his future son-in-law was a player but could not prove anything conclusively. 
             Howard, one of Virgil’s drinking buddies from the CIA who had been actively working on a truth serum, felt that he had a billion dollar product that would prove to be valuable to governments and to wives everywhere; an innocuous liquid that makes a person want to spill their guts.  Howard and Virgil tested the creation out on a Pakistani cab driver who they rounded up randomly. What they learned from the cab driver was that he had two other wives in Pakistan and several children.  He had an orthodox Jewish woman that he was sleeping with on the side, liked to have beads stuffed in his ass and often went into tire stores just so he could smell the tires.  Virgil was sold on the product and agreed with Howard that he was well on his way to being a billionaire.  After much pleading and prodding, Virgil convinced Howard to attend his daughter’s wedding and administer doses of the serum into the champagne flutes of the best man, who was a life long friend of Nathan’s and into the glasses of Nathan’s parents.  Virgil suspected that the wealthy people looked down at Virgil and his family and wanted to hear about it.  The serum was slipped into the flutes belonging to Nathan’s best man, a man by the name of Jim but was mistakenly slipped into the glasses of Virgil’s two daughters, Carter and Reagan. 
            Jim stood during dinner and walked up to the microphone while still chewing his roast beef.  The desire to speak became overwhelming like an itch or a burn within him.
           “Um, my name is Jim and I am Nathan’s best bud.  We’ve been friends since we were six and I’ve always liked Nathan even though he is selfish and pretty vain.  Nathan was always better in sports than me and could always get pussy…  I mean girls… and so I always rode his coat tails just to get chicks.  I don’t know why Nathan wants to be married.  He still is getting more ass than anyone I know and probably will always need variety.  He could tell you himself about all the chicks that still call him and want to be with him.  It really is crazy.  Reagan is really hot but is really high maintenance and I give the whole marriage about two months before they are ready to kill each other or divorce.  I hope they never have kids because they are both too caught up in themselves to really be selfless parents…  Okay, that was crazy but I feel much better.”
               Carter then pushed Jim away from the microphone and gripped it as if her life depended on it.  Carter was out of breath and flush. 
               “Wow…  Okay, so I just want to say that I have always loved Reagan and always wished that I was her identical twin instead of fraternal.  I wanted nice legs, a pretty smile, a vibrant personality, firm tits and an ass that turns heads.  I didn’t get any of those things and have always thought it was unfair.  I think Reagan is really beautiful on the outside but a train wreck on the inside and I truly believe she will never be happy.  I know my parents both favor her and I don’t give a fuck really…”
                As Virgil was escorting his daughter Carter away from the microphone and into another room, Reagan spoke into the microphone for about five minutes on how she thought she was fat and ugly and wished that she could sing and write poems like her sister.  She hated being insincere and really was scared to get old and ugly.  She confided in everyone that she really did not like anal sex but did it because Nathan really liked it and that she really only had one orgasm with him in three years since he is really predictable and rough. Reagan did let everyone know that when her high school boyfriend comes into town, they always have a lot of laughs, dinner, drinks and really good sex.  Virgil returned to find a lot of grumbling among guests and crying and screaming among the wedding party. The orchestra tried to smother the debacle by playing Glenn Miller’s,  In the Mood.  It didn’t work.
            When the dust settled, Reagan had come home to live with Virgil and Gretchen again in the bedroom she occupied as a girl. She was in therapy and found that gardening really helped her to feel better in general. Nathan found a new girl and then some other new girls.  Jim was not allowed around them.  Carter began to speak to men with confidence and exercise a bit more.  Her sex life improved as did her self esteem.  Howard and Virgil still met for drinks periodically and spoke about things that guys speak about when they work for the Central Intelligence Agency.  Both agreed that although billions of dollars would be fantastic and solve many of Howard’s needs and desires, humanity really was not ready for the naked truth.  And that is no lie. 

September 19, 2011

The Young Americans… In Canada

            Dion had decided at the age of twenty six that it was time to throw in the towel, lower the flag and wave the white drapeau that signifies giving in or giving up.  For women the announcement of marriage to other women sends voices up octaves, accompanied by hand holding, discussions about dresses and registries.  For men, especially young men, the news is received, processed and then there is a two second delay where the stone faces of other male comrades, brothers and friends appear to ask why with their eyes.  Once Dion’s friends and cousins accepted the news the first important question among men was asked.

            “When and where are we having the bachelor party?”

            Dion was born inRomania with his other Romanian friends and cousins and wound up of all places in Detroit.  Dion grew up to love all things Detroit; American cars, Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons.  Dion loved University of Michigan even though he never attended the school.  Trumpet playing of all things lead him towards his destiny of finding and falling in love with the minister’s daughter at a Romanian Pentecostal Church in Detroit.  It actually was a Missionary Baptist Churchfor the most part with a black congregation but atnoonwhen the black Baptists were having coffee in the gym, the Romanians would come in and have their service in Romanian and then when the Romanians took the gym, the Koreans took the sanctuary.  By the time the Koreans took the gym for their post church fellowship, the church janitor had well earned his day of rest which would have to come on a Monday.

            Dion was a band geek in junior high and high school and offered to play trumpet after his mother had prodded him to go back to church and play his trumpet with the organ player during the hymnal periods of the service.  It all worked out for Dion.  Dion met Dianna, the daughter of the minister of their church who was beautiful and detached at the time Dion met her.  Dion gave up drinking, swear, chewing tobacco, visits to casinos, and strip clubs.  Dion went to rough parts of Detroit with his girlfriend as inner city missionaries to try and work with teens.  Dion liked that idea a lot better than packing up and moving to Angola and so he willingly got together with his girlfriend to spend Friday and Saturday nights playing basketball and talking about the word of god with poor children that cared more about getting a nice car, a nice piece of ass and money in their pockets by any means necessary.  Speaking English in a Portuguese speaking country like Angola might have been easier than trying to convince poor inner city black teens in Detroit that leading a clean life, will lead to positive things.  Some bought into it and other showed up to the church gym to play basketball and eat coffee cake.  After a year or more of this sort of stuff, Dion decided that being with Dianna on a full time basis was his destiny in life and so be posed the question, Dianna cried and accepted.  A life of marital bliss was immanent if not terminal for the young couple.

            Theo, Dion’s cousin and life long friend, got their inner circle of friends together to do Dion’s last night as a single man the right way.  Theo knew that his cousin had played along with the no sex, no drinking, no dancing and no swearing rules of devout Romanian born again types but also knew that his cousin Dion was once quite the partier and cocksman.

            “Troy, Tommy, you and me are going to Windsor tonight.  I got the Fong Sisters coming to a private suite that I rented on the top floor of Caesar’sWindsor.  The Fong Sisters are lesbian and sisters.  Totally out of control, dude…  Where you can find sisters who are lesbian and would do each other in front of people?  That is extra special.  I met them at the casino last month inWindsor.  I’m telling you, they are smoking hot and will do anything.  They originally came from China but live in Ontario now.  Beautiful fucking faces, tight asses and huge fake tits on skinny frames.  They got a website where you can see them 69ing each other covered in chocolate syrup.”  Said Theo.

            “I would have been fine going to a strip club around here, getting a few beers and calling it a night,” said Dion.

            “Whaddya you like fifty now?  Fuck that shit…  You are going down but you’re going down in a grand style, bro.  Don’t sweat it, it will be mayhem.  Fully stocked bar in the limo, fully stocked bar in the suite, room service and the lesbian show… Oh and I paid for the happy ending shower with them both for you.” Said Theo as he high fived Dion.

            The foursome drank in the back of the stretch limo and blared music.  They opened up the moon roof, stood and yelled like little boys in the tunnel that went under theDetroitRiverfrom downtown Detroit to Windsor,Ontario in the country of Canada.  Once on the Canadian side of the river, cameras picked up the sight of four young men hanging out of the moon roof up to the waist, singing, yelling and hoisting drinks which spilled onto each other.  Constable Williams caught sight of this on his desk monitor while he ate a sandwich he had just purchased on Huron-Church Road at the Tim Horton’s which was on the south side of the street, not to be confused with the Tim Horton’s on Huron-Church on the north side of the street, less than a kilometer away from the Tim Horton’s on the south side of Huron-Church Road. 

            Yes.  Well then, Constable Williams was eating his sandwich and studying the monitor of unruly Americans in a limousine.  Pieces of the bread stuck to his bushy moustache.  Constable Williams lifted the cup to his tea and doused the tea bag several times before taking a sip.  He put the quartet on full screen and followed them all the way up to line three at customs.  Constable Williams got on the phone and called for the sniffer dogs to meet him at line three.

            The limousine queued up behind several cars.  The driver was an older black man that was listening to the Detroit Tigers game in his compartment, not paying attention at all to the frat boy activity going on the other side of his contained area.  The boys were mixing drinks and singing when the doors were thrown open.  Two German Sheppards accompanied four uniformed men who had just asked the four young men to step out of the vehicle.

            “Smart people you are in America, eh?”  Asked Constable Williams.

            Theo giggled and said, “yes, sir”.

            “You young Americans…  Just like in the David Bowie song.  You boys know that song, eh?  So smart in America that they spent millions to send men to the moon just so that they could say that they sent men to the moon and give em a ticker tape parade in New York City…  Yes, you Americans are so smart.  Only smart men would ride in the tunnel that have hanging signs that could decapitate them as they stick their heads out of an opening in the roof.  Smart, young Americans…  You smart men have anything you want to declare before we set the dogs to find contraband?”

            The four young men all sobered up enough to take Constable Williams seriously.  Three out of the four men had nothing worse than chewing tobacco on them.  Theo though thought that buying two joints from a guy at work would be the icing on the cake as the Chinese born sisters and lesbians did their thing in front of them.  Of course they were going to purchase Cohiba Cigars at the duty free store and take them up to their suite also.  Theo had forgotten about the two joints packed in a plastic bag that was in a small pocket on the sleeve of his Hollister sweat shirt.  The first German Sheppard found the joints in a matter of three seconds.  The dog put its front paws up on Theo’s shoulders as if they were going to slow dance together.  Constable Williams held up the discovered bag with two hand rolled joints and smiled.

            “We are about to get to know each other very intimately tonight, boys.”

           Dion stood up and day dreamed as his soon to be father-in-law conducted the wedding ceremony.  To Dianna’s eye, Dion looked to have been crying.  She had no idea that her betrothed had been drinking, smoking, detained by Canadian border guards and forced to do a full cavity check, naked in a bare room with a lot of lights.  Dion could only think about touching his toes and the Canadian guard flashing a light up his ass as the guard probed around with a gloved index finger in search of further illegal contraband.  They boys never made it to the hotel.  They were detained at the border until the early hours of the morning and then sent back to the United States without their joints or really good stories to share with their friends. During the ceremony, Dion turned and looked at his best man, Theo with squinty eyes and could only shake his head as he recalled the indignity of his night in Canada.  Call it bad luck of the draw or that God truly does work in mysterious ways.

David Bowie- Young American
I got a suite and you got defeat
Ain’t there a man you can say no more?

Ain’t there a pen that will write before they die?
Ain’t you proud that you’ve still got faces?
Ain’t there one damn song that can make me
break down and cry?
All night
I want the young American
Young American, young American, I want the young American

September 12, 2011

Harry the Angry Clown or The Cubs Suck

Every city in the United States has that local figure that is known by most of the inhabitants who are native to that city.  Harry the Angry Clown, is well known in Chicago for snapping one day the way a suicidal gun man does at a shopping mall.  Harry never hurt anyone and never really wanted to.  He was and always will be a clown and clowns really love to make people happy when happiness is hard to find.

            Harry was a smallish Jewish boy who grew up in an area of the south side of Chicago that was Italian, Irish or Black.  Harry’s father joked that having to dodge the micks, dagos and schwartas, would either make him fast or tough.  For all of Harry’s disdain of the south side and ethnic groups, Harry never left his home.  Harry stayed and took care of his parents and when they passed on, he remained in the home he always lived in.

            Harry’s parents had wished that Harry would have become an attorney or a doctor or even a slick car salesman.  The choice to become a full time clown did not sit well with either of his parents.  Harry’s father would generally say the same things over and over to him about the logistics of not having a conventional vocation.

            “Whaddya gonna do if you get sick?  You want the government should take care of you?  The goddamn government is broke and corrupt.  They’ll find a goddamn loophole to leave you out in the cold.  You wanna sit at Cook County with all the schwartzas?  Huh?  You smoke and don’t exercise.  You eat nothing but fatty food.  You’re gonna wind up a heart attack patient by the time you’re thirty years old.”

            At the age of forty, Harry did wind up with a scare that left him waiting in the lobby of the country hospital for hours just as his father had prophesized.  After real heart attacks, strokes, stabbings, shootings and overdoses, Harry would be seen by a physician.  Harry didn’t much mind the wait because his favorite baseball team, The Chicago Cubs, was just beginning a road game on the west coast against San Diego.

            Most intelligent people who analyze why it is that grown men live for and follow sports as if the sport had some sort of true direction on their lives, will tell you that these men are borderline delusional and lacking fundamental depth to their own lives.  Following the statistics of individual players, spending larges sums of money on tickets to games, alcohol and food, when truly viewed properly appears to be a waste and a terrific diversion from reality.  Those that run over small children in attempts to retrieve foul balls or home runs are usually cut of the same cloth as those who call sports radio and refer to their teams as if they were truly part of the team. “We just didn’t have it tonight…” These same individuals stand in line to have transitory athletes sign all sorts of things for them so that one day someone will enter their homes and ask who it was that signed that T shirt, that bat, that photograph?  That moment will bring depth and meaning to their lives.  Hopefully.

            Harry was one of those men who in their mid forties, had followed the Chicago Cubs so closely that he could actually be put on a panel and quizzed game show style on obscure statistics and players who nobody remembered or cared about.  Sitting in the hospital lobby really didn’t bother Harry.  There he was in a red and yellow outfit with a red bulbous nose and white and black make up on his face.  He held his chest as he slouched in his chair glued to the small television screen which was strapped to the ceiling.  Other occupants either lived in the lobby because they were homeless or were poor people without insurance.  Just about every seat in the lobby was taken but Harry felt fortunate to have a seat in front of the television.  A burly and surly security guard sauntered through the lobby to make sure nothing too strange was happening.  Harry stopped the guard and asked/demanded that he turn up the volume enough so that he could hear the commentators babble.  The security guard refused to do it.  Harry approached a young black child that was sitting in the lobby with his mother and his brothers and sisters.  His youngest sister had swallowed a bell from a toy.  The mom packed up her five children and took two buses to get to the hospital.  Harry eyed the young boy who was about ten years of age.  He thought the boy was strong and agile enough to reach up and turn up the volume manually to the television if he were to climb up and stand on Harry’s shoulders.

            “Hey son!  How would you like to make five dollars right here?  No funny stuff even though I’m a clown.  Five dollars and a candy bar.  And I will give your brothers and sisters each a candy bar too.  Doesn’t that sound swell?  Whaddya say?”

            The young wiry boy climbed up Harry in his clown suit as if he were a tree.  He reached up and turned up the volume.  The security guard was behind a podium talking to another security guard and never noticed the event taking place.  The young boy scared the death out his mother and awed those sitting around watching when he did a backwards flip off of Harry’s shoulders and landed on his feet.  The boy got a lot of claps.  The clown got to watch the Cubs game with the benefit of audio.

            The game ended and then the post game ended and then reruns of Friends ended.  The late news came on and then infomercials for bras and a waist band that hid fat.  Then the Cubs game aired again about 2am in the morning.  Harry was still waiting.  The young boy who did the flip was asleep, leaning against a younger brother.  Harry watched the game for the second time.  The Cubs had a commanding 10-0 lead.  Zambrano had enough runs to hold him through three games and yet the Padres whittled away at the lead until the Padres were up 16-10 in the ninth inning.  The Cubs would have had to score a touch down and kick and extra point to win the game at that point.  Seeing the game a second time put Harry over the edge.

            It is hard to say what it is that makes marginally sane people throw down their cards and opt out of the game.  For Harry it was a culmination of several events that day.  His wife and secretary had sent Harry to 7200 South Central when the party was at 7200 North Central, which was about twenty miles away.  Harry missed the party and was being yelled at by the parent who said they had nothing else planned for twenty screaming and crying five year olds who were bored watching movies they had all seen many times.  While Harry was listening to the berating, a Chicago Police officer noticed the clown talking on his cell phone while driving.  Within the city limits of Chicago, it is unlawful to speak on a handheld device.  Harry was ticketed for the use of a hand held cell phone, no seat belt, expired license plates, expired license card and a broken mirror.  The cost to Harry was going to be hundreds of dollars.  Harry called his wife and began swearing at her about not paying attention to north and south.  His wife had no sense of direction and since she lived on the south side, she assumed the call came from the south side and never asked the client if the house they lived in was north or south of downtown Chicago.  Everything just seemed to fall apart at once for Harry.  He felt a tightening in his chest and decided that he needed to get to a hospital at once.  Upon trying to get admitted to the nearest hospital, he was directed to the county hospital that had to take people with no insurance benefits.  Fourteen hours later, Harry felt no more tightening in his chest.  He was just incensed that he was still waiting and that he had to endure one of the most miserable Cub losses twice in a day.  Harry walked out of the hospital and went directly to a bar on the north side that closed at four in the morning and then opened up again two hours later at six.  The Cubs were scheduled to play the Pittsburg Pirates later that day as a make up for a rained out game earlier in the season.  Both Pittsburg and the Cubs would have rather told the league that they both were happy to forfeit the meaningless game but the league wouldn’t let them do that.  Instead the Cubs had to catch a red eye back to Chicago and be at Wrigley Field by 11am.  It was a tough day for millionaires but they worked it out.

            Harry drank beer and ate nuts and said nothing to the other patrons that were getting off of a third shift and wanted a beer or two before going to sleep.  At about 11:30, Harry paid to get into Wrigley Field and was one of the first fans to enter the park.  It will forever be known as the game that never happened.  No rain or snow or other acts of God stopped the game from happening.  The game was cancelled due to a hostage situation where by the entire Cubs team was being held at gun point by a man in a clown outfit in their clubhouse.  Harry yelled into the faces of players as he made them kneel on the ground with their heads down as if they were praying.  Nobody noticed at first that the gun was one of those guns that shoot a daisy out.  One of the players who was an avid hunter in the off season realized that the gun was a fake.  Several players rushed Harry and held him until the authorities arrived.

            Harry wrote a book about his devotion to the Cubs and how he came to snap one day.  This was after receiving psychiatric help and paying his debt to society in jail. Upon being released from prison, Harry did talk show after talk show and even had a cameo on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm upon becoming a free man.  The Chicago White Sox gave Harry a life time season ticket four rows up behind home plate in full view for the viewers at home, watching the games on television.  The caveat was that Harry had to attend all home games in full clown gear with an oversized White Sox hat and T shirt.  The White Sox were nearly as frustrating as the Cubs but at least they ended each season with a winning record and a tease of post season play.  Harry became less enthralled with baseball and spectator sports in general.  When asked about professional baseball by a sports reporter in Chicago and the allure they hold with the common man, Harry had only one comment while smoking a cigarette outside US Cellular Field.

            “It’s all pretty much a clown show… Right?”

September 7, 2011

The Road From Iraq to Detroit

Bill had finished two years in Iraq before being shipped out for four more in Afghanistan.  After six years of driving around in a light armored vehicle, he was fortunate to be alive and whole.  Bill had served one more year than his grandfather had in World War II and nearly five more than his father had inVietnam.  At the age of twenty five, Bill was hoping to become a police officer somewhere in the state of Michigan.  On Labor Day, Bertram volunteered to drive the school bus route that had been his since 1973, one more time to ensure Bill would be ready to go come Tuesday.

            Bertram had a late model Cadillac STS that he had saved up to buy for a number of years when his 1990 Pontiac had too many problems to throw money at.  Bertram sadly knew that the new Cadillac was probably going to be the last car he would ever purchase in his life.  At the age of sixty six, it just didn’t make too much sense to make a lot of long term plans like a thirty year mortgage on a house.  To buy a car out right in cash made more sense than to make payments into his seventies.

 On a bright, sunny and cool Labor Day Monday, Bertram met Bill at aConey Island off of Grand River in Detroit.  Bertram was finishing some eggs while reading about the Detroit Tigers huge win over the Chicago White Sox the night before.  Bertram, a tall and thin black man, clean shaven, wore a thin black tie on top of a long sleeved with shirt and dark tan slacks with shiny black shoes.  On the table next to the coffee and paper was a black pork pie hat. 

            Bill, a muscular young white man with four day old stubble on his head and face, walked in with a faded black sleeveless Detroit Red Wings T shirt from his high school days that proudly displayed a tattoo of a gothic D on his right shoulder.  He had a stud earring in his left ear, a furrowed brow and torn blue jeans as we walked into theConey Islandto meet Bertram.  Bill plopped himself down across from Bill as the waitress poured a cup of coffee for Bill.  Bill was tired and a bit hung over from being at the Tiger’s game the night before.  After the game, Bill and his friends hung out in the patio area of The Elwood, a bar down the street from Comerica Park.

 Bill thought it was a bit overkill to go through the bus route one more time but didn’t want to insult an old guy that gave a low level job, more respect than it deserved.  As they walked out to the parking lot, there was a huge boat of a car with the top down.  It was a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado painted light blue.

            “You evah driven one these old cars, young man?”

            “Can’t say I have…”

            Bertram tossed the keys across the car to Bill and got in on the passenger side of his own car.  The white seats were like new and the dashboard did not have a speck of dust.  Bill turned the car on.  Immediately the 8 track player began to play Summer Breeze by the Isley Brothers.  Bill still thought that the trip was pointless but looked forward to cruising around with the top down in a beautiful old car.  Bertram did most the talking.

            “So you gonna pick up the bus off Seven Mile…  My advice is to get there early so you ain’t lined up to get out there by the last minute.  You got you some fellas there with a chip on they shoulder, they gone try to cut and squeeze you outta place.  You gone want to bust them in the jaw.  My feeling is why go through that hassle the first day.  Get up early and take yo time and avoid all that mess…”

            Bertram spoke slow and in a deep rich voice.  Bill felt like he was driving in a time warp as he looked over at Bertram who was wearing a Pork Pie Hat and squared off Ray-Ban sunglasses.  Bill followed where Bertram directed him to go.

            “Make a right here onGrand River…  This is where you gone begin.  Now you gone find and make yer own way and I ain’t about to start telling you how you gone get things done.  That would be wrong of me.  I am gone to tell you how Bertram done things and you listen and decide whatchu want to do…  I started this here bus route afta losing my job at the Fisher Body 21 plant.  That’s that skeleton looking building you see off of 75 when you trying to git ovah to the 94.  I lost that job onna count I couldn’t keep mah self from drinking afta work.  You see…  I waddn’t married and I was young and had a few bones and so I would go out and have one and then one lead to anothah one and then a few moh and then before you knew what was going on, the sun be coming up.  So afta I missed work a few dozen times, they decided to drop me and they wasn’t nothing I could do even though I was in the union.  They only so much the union can do to help you when you off drunk every othah day…  Okay, here is where you gone make the first stop.  Lemme jus say this; the kids gone test you and the mo you try to act as bad as them, they gone try to git to you mo.  When I first started, there was a young guy with a large Afro and a pick stuck all up in his hair.  He came on the bus with a box blarin music loud.  I toll him to turn off the music and he toll me to do something to m’self.  My first thought was that not more than a year earlier, I was trying hard to stay alive in Nam and here some young punk who ain’t even got his feet wet yet in life gone step up to me?  I took his box and threw it out the bus and him with it.  The othah kids wasn’t scared.  They didn’t respect me no mo foh dat.  I didn’t git fired but I had to go and buy the punk a new box and aftah he looked like he did nothing wrong.  I ain’t gone throw religion in yo face cause we all got to find our way.  I started getting my life right and all the othah things in life fell in.  I began to think how I was gone to git the kids on my side and still git them to be respectful.  They gone swear and let they pants hang off they ass.  They gone git worked up ovah a pretty girl and act a fool.  How to let em know to act like young men and ladies and have respect foh each othah and they selves?  It wasn’t easy but I managed it, young man.”

            Bill had applied and accepted the job of being a school bus driver in inner city Detroit where most students were poor and all were black.  Bill looked to be a formidable looking young white guy with anger issues.  As they drove slowly downGrand River, the boarded up buildings and weeds growing in cracks in the side walk reminded him of driving in parts of Baghdad and Afghanistan.  Bill believed there were predators hiding behind windows of abandon buildings, ready to kill him and Bertram for the classic car not unlike what he had lived through in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Bill’s head was on a swivel.  He surveyed things from left to right and constantly used his peripheral vision as he drove an even thirty miles and hour.  Bertram wasn’t as cautious.

            “Yeah, I get what you’re saying.  The obvious difference between you and I is the color of our skin.  Them kids are gonna see me tomorrow and automatically are gonna hate me for what they think I am,” said Bill.

            “And you already decided that they gone look at you a certain way.  Imma tell you right now…  Some dem girls gone be workin you like a stick shift.  You a good lookin young man with a good smile and strong build.  Them girls look like women an probably they lookin as good as they evah gone look in they lives but you got to remember that they children trapped in an adult body.  Anyway…  All yo preconceived ideas and thoughts about young, poor black children gone ooze from yo eyes when they step on dat bus.  They already gone think that you some rich kid from Southfield or Royal Oak.  They ain’t gone think you jus some regular working class kid who jus live above 8 Mile all up in Warren.  They ain’t gone know you served.  They gone to think all the things they learned bout white people they whole lives.  How you gone to show dem they wrong?  I tell you what…  If enough white people and black people would put aside what they think and what they learned, we could bring this city back to what it was.  Black people blame whites and whites blame blacks.  How bout people who are black and white get together and say we Detroiters and we gone bring back this town.  I need you and you need me to do it.  I look at Nelson Mandela and the whole dang country of South Africa.  Them black people went from being nothing to running the country and they did not go aftah white people to punish them foh the past.  Why?  Cause a smart man like Mandela understood dat you need the whites to keep the country going. Detroitneed the whites to be in Detroit and if dat evah happens, things gone change.  Prejudice keep things where they at.  You ain’t gotta go to Mississippi, boy.  You got more racism in this state and city than you gone find in the south.  You and I both know cause we served in active combat that when you think might die, it don’t matter much the color of the skin of the dude next to you.  Somebody you know jus die and you not sure if you the next to git picked off and you lookin at the dude next to you and he from Hicksville, Alabama where they hated people from the north and they didn’t much like niggahs but he crying and just wants to be held like a baby and be told dat he gone make it, dat he ain’t gone die but if he does, he want you there wid him so that he don’t die alone…  Make a right up here.”

            Bill thought back to a day in Baghdad when a young boy had tripped a mine on the side of the road.  Bill had gotten out of his tank and tried to comfort a young boy that was missing a leg.  The boy, who was not more than ten years of age, died from a loss of blood.  Bill held the boy until fellow soldiers pried the boy away from him.  Despite all the gore and death Bill had witnessed, seeing a young boy die in a matter of minutes, hit Bill the hardest and had the greatest impact on him.  Tears began to stream down Bill’s cheeks.  Bertram asked no questions.  He just put his hand on Bill’s shoulder and rubbed it.

            “If I can give you one mo piece of advice, young man, I would like you to know dat you got you a finite number of days and yes when you young like you is, you can throw way years and still come out okay.  But them years gone roll like a Sherman Tank and take down evrah thang in it way.  Thirty, forty, fifty and then you git to sixty or mo like me and you wonder whatchu did with your life.  You ask yo-self if you lived or you jus existed?  What is the purpose of all this really?  I could have kept working foh a few more years but then it hit me in the spring when I had mah sixty sixth birthday; I ain’t gone be round much longer.  My wife dead, my son dead, two mah brothers dead and mah parents dead so long ago I sometimes think I jus made them up in mah mind.  If it weren’t foh pictures, Idda believe they was nevah here.  So I got to thinking bout what might make me happy and I decided that I will take this here car all the way toLos Angeles.  Imma go to California aftah living mah whole life in Dee-troit.  If you don’t count the two years I lived inVietnam, I ain’t nevah been nowhere else.  I got me an apartment picked out on computer where I can see the sun set ovah the Pacific Ocean.  Imma stay there all winter.  And so I tell you, young man, find now what gone make you happy.  Don’t keep saying someday cause that someday gone end up at the end of a road that you cain’t turn round on…  Speak of which, this here yo last stop.  Aftah here, you take dem right to school or you finished foh the day…  You gone be fine.”

            Bill drove back to the Coney Island and shook hands with an old man who had done more for him in an hour than most people had done for him in years.  After shaking hands with Bertram, Bill leaned forward and hugged Bertram.  Bill quietly spoke near Bertram’s ear before ending the embrace.

            “Not many people can begin to understand where I came from and where I’m going.  What I went through and where I could wind up…  I hope the west coast is exactly what you want and need.  Thank you for your time, sir.”

            At the second stop of the first day, a young black man with sleep still in his eyes stepped onto the bus with a straight brim Detroit Tigers hat and a white Tiger’s Jersey.  In the rear view mirror, Bill could see that the name on the back of the jersey was Verlander.  The young man sleepily stared out of the window while checking for messages on his cell phone that weren’t there.  His eyes met Bill’s several times in the mirror.  They both looked away.  Finally Bill engaged the young man in conversation.

           “Everyone thinks it’s going to be Boston, The Yankees or Phily.  We got Verlander, Valverde, Cabrera and Jackson.  Verlander might win the Cy Young but it takes a whole team and the Tigers are tough as hell this year,” said Bill.

            “If I could pitch like Verlander, I’d quit school today,” said the young man.

            “Most of us will never be a Verlander.  If we all just try to be as good as we can be everything will be alright.”  Said Bill.

            The young man nodded as he thought about what Bill said.

            “True dat…”

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