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Last Season as a Boy (NYC FF 2014 - 3 of 3)

Writer's note: I've chosen to post my semifinal entry now because I'm awaiting the judges feedback on my second entry (2 of 3) which is due end of week. I'll post that story and the "official" critique then.

As noted before, this writing comp. started with a pool of about 1,000 from around the globe and got gutted down to 125 semifinalists.

The parameters for my group (25 writers) were: Ghost story - gas (petro) station - dunce cap; with 48 hours to turn it around.

I used a short poem of the same title I penned a while back as a springboard and the rest fell into place (I hope).

Last Season as a Boy

Synopsis: As summer vacation comes to an end a young boy must prove himself worthy of his grandfather's trust and faith.

-------------------------------------
Summer is ending and I start to pack for school. Carolina's sun has turned my skin from pecan to blueberry jam, and everything I now say ends with "Sir" or "Ma'am."

Pine cones and Spanish moss will be replaced by monkey bars and the asphalt of Harlem.  I'll miss my grandfather's "coffee" voice singing gospel in the morning, young and old roosters his chorus.

Two nights before I'm to leave my grandfather calls me to the kitchen. Moonlight guides me through the cloaked house and I see him loading his pistol. His shotgun and shells lie on the breakfast table. He tells me there's going to be a parade and for now we need only watch. The parade is on the other side of the fence, the side I'm not allowed on even to chase down a fly ball. I see them march by. Dunce caps made bright by their torches.  

Granddad keeps his own dunce cap sitting in the kitchen. He's a Sunday school teacher and the cap is special for me cause he says I have too much gumption in me at times instead of God's word. He says I should save my sass for things like getting the right to vote.

He continued reading scripture, his shotgun in his lap. His voice, not the words soothe me. When we hear nothing but crickets again, he tells me come daylight he's gonna teach me to shoot.

Come true morning I wake again to my grandmother's kitchen offerings, warm buttery grits, fat succulent bacon, and cornbread.  

"Junior," my grandmother hums as if my name is gospel.

"Yes ma'am."

"I need you to walk to Mr. Rex's gas station and get me fifty cents worth of kerosene fo' our lamps. And be smart about it, you understand?"

"Yes ma'am."

"I mean it Junior.  With men like
Mr. Rex their secrets rest in the lies their eyes can't tell.  You understand?"

"Yes ma'am."

When I got to the station I could see friends of Mr. Rex under his shade tree playing checkers and sipping pop. They were no longer ghosts of the night, just old fat men laughin' and cussin'.

I went inside the station house store careful not to let the screen door announce me.  

"Morning suh.  My grandmama done send me to fetch fifty cents worth of lamp oil."

He was busy taking inventory and barely looked up. He just shoed me off like he was brushing away a gnat, so I left the fifty cents on the counter and went to pump the oil myself.

Outside I could still hear the men under the tree though they paid me no mind.   As I tightened the spout on the canister, I heard faint whispers passing by.

I followed the echoes towards the back of the gas station, but still  couldn't tell from where they came.

The outhouse.

As I pulled open the wooden door there he was.  He'd been beaten, bad.  One eye was the size and color of a ripe plum and teeth were missing.  He was charcoal in complexion though his was his own, not borrowed for the summer like mine.  I knew him from granddaddy's Sunday school class. His name was Andrew, but folks called him Drew.

He was hogtied with rope and gagged with a filthy piece of cloth.  His skin reeked with the stench of the outhouse mixed with his sweat.

I tried to untie him but the binding on the rope was too tight.  

I looked at him and told him, "Shhhh.  This may hurt."  With that warning I poured some of the kerosene over his wrists to loosen the knots.  The sting of the oil into his open wounds musta cut like razors because he teared up like a baby pleading for me to stop with his eyes but he knew it had to be done.

No sooner than I'd set him free than I looked up to see the men from the tree and Mr. Rex casting their shadows over us.

"Boy, whatcha think ya doin' there?" growled Mr. Rex, a tire chain swinging freely in his hand.  The other two held wooden axe handles.

"Smart ass negra' like you gots to be taught is all," snickered one.

I looked at Drew and guided his eyes with mine to my waist.  Strapped to my beanpole frame under my shirt was my grandfather's pistol.  

Drew grabbed it.

Crack!
Crack!

Crack!
Crack!
Crack!

Crack!

They were down.

Drew was still on his knees crying. I brushed his tears away the way my grandmother did after granddad had given me a good switchin'.

"Drew you gotta run, getaway from here," I whispered to him.  "I gotta go too.  My grandparents are waiting."

Before I left I went back into the store.  I took the fifty cents back and a Honey Bun for myself.  I'd be switched for teefin' but then again who was gonna tell.

When I got back to my grandparents' house I walked along the porch letting my fingers trace the shotgun holes that peppered the front of the house. Inside the charred walls cast black boogey man shadows. Broken glass bottles still cradling droplets of gasoline were scattered about.   Inside a bedroom I could still see the outline of my grandmother's body under the bed where she had suffocated.  

In the kitchen I could see my granddad's blood and my own splattered over the walls and floors.  The dunce cap now streaked in pink and crimson.  I stood there for a moment as a gargoyle over the nest of my own death.

And just when I thought I'd break down, I heard his singing.  I walked through our kitchen and out the backdoor, and there were my grandparents waiting for me.

"Come 'on Junior let's take you home."

"Granddad?"

"Yes son?"

"Can I sing for you this time?"

"I'd like that"

And I did, as a boy no more, walking between them hand in hand.

-----------------------------------

Postscript: just an FYI - the story's focus is on the Klu Klux Klan and how they terrorized Black families in the American south for decades.  They were known as the "White Knights" and the "ghosts of the Confederacy ".  

I feel good about the piece given the word limit; and I wanted something different from what I think 50% of the writers in the group will churn out.

The top five in each group (5 groups of 25 writers)  advance to the finals the first weekend of December.

If you've got a moment folks ... Tell me what works and what doesn't.
LobodeSanPedro
Written by LobodeSanPedro
Published
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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