I wrote in an earlier post that the theme of my book, Thou Shalt Eat Dust, was my way of remembering Dr. King and that the book’s theme was that there are consequences for our actions.
In this last post on remembering Dr. King My Way, we read of the consequences of Bennie’s straying from Dr. King’s legacy of peaceful protests and his taking part in the violence that followed his assassination.
Consequences for our actions, or our inactions, can sometimes be immediate or they can lurk in the shadows far down the road. Here now, is the consequence that Bennie paid.
ROY KEPT A BAT in the car for protection. Some of the neighborhoods, in which he dug the foundation for new roads, the White ones in particular, were not especially welcoming towards Black men. Most often, the men, in his crew, were attacked at the end of the day when they were on their way home, long after the White supervisors had left.
When he worked in such neighborhoods, his hand-fashioned Louisville Slugger occupied the front passenger seat of his 1958 Rambler; for faster retrieval.
Even though the spot he’d chosen seemed safe, Roy none-the-less rolled up the windows and locked the doors. Instinctively, he reached for the bat. It bumped against the tattered leather seats as he stepped out of the car.
It was a warm summer night and a full moon hung overhead. There was an eeriness to the city. It had an untinny or not quite right silence that was punctuated here and there by the urgent wailing of fire engines. A chill ran through him, and he tightened his grip on the bat. It comforted him. It gave him confidence should he run across any hoodlums out to rob him or by chance happen to cross paths with any of the crazed young rioters.
He’d taken just two steps when he heard a voice as clear as day say, “Get back in the car.” His heart nearly stopped. There was something about the voice that both calmed him and terrified him. He’d been absolutely sure that he was alone. He wanted to run but perceived that as being unmanly. He sucked in his breath and gripped the bat even tighter; ready to deliver a blow to anyone with the wrong intentions. But when he turned around, there was no one there.
As he stood in the Sears parking lot, wondering where the person who’d spoken to him had gone, he could smell the smoke from the fires. It wafted on the warm summer night’s breeze and urged him forward on his quest to find Bennie. He shook off the ominous warning and started the long treacherous walk to Madison.
As he rounded the southwest corner of the Sears store, he heard the sound of running footsteps. More than one, Roy thought. He readied his bat.
“Halt! Halt, or I’ll shoot,” he heard someone yell.
The footsteps he’d heard turned out to belong to three men, all of whom sprinted passed him, with heavy canvas sacks slung over their shoulders. All three were Black and young. But Roy could not make out their faces as they ran passed him. One of them could have been Bennie, he thought, as he stepped from his hiding place. “Bennie! Bennie,” he called. He was too busy calling for his lost son to notice the National Guardsman as he raised the gun and fired.
The shot struck Roy in the center of his back. The bullet knocked him forward about two feet and he lost his grip on the bat. He fell to the ground, dazed and confused, as white hot pain ripped through his body. The National Guardsman jumped over Roy’s incapacitated Black body chasing after the other three Black men who’d looted the Sears Store moments before Roy’s arrival.
Roy, paralyzed from the waist down fought off the twin giants of fear and shock. As he lay there wondering what had hit him, he reached his right arm behind him exploring his back as best he could. It felt wet. What? What had hit him, he wondered, bringing his wet hand around to his face. He was shocked at the sight of his own blood. He stared at his blood-soaked hand for several minutes before coming to the realization that he had been shot. Bertha would be so angry, he thought. She’d not wanted him to go out. He had to get home.
He pulled himself along, by his elbows, through the debris strewn parking lot, leaving a trail of blood behind. He was determined to make it back home as he’d promised Bertha.
With a phenomenal strength of will, he managed to pull his shattered body back to where he’d parked the car. Great beads of sweat dripped from his forehead as he unlocked the door and it took all of his upper body strength to pull himself inside. His legs were not working. And he was finding it increasingly difficult to stay awake. His heart, much to his distress, fluttered in his chest as if it were trying to decide whether or not to continue beating.
He lay sprawled across the front seat, of the old Rambler, wondering how he was going to drive home since he could no longer feel his legs or feet.
He was laboring hard for his next breath as the sounds of this world left him. There, in that old Rambler with its torn seats and broken windows, all the sounds of the chaos happening around him (the screams, the shouts, the gunfire, and the crackling of wood burning) stopped. The only sound he heard was the beating of his heart which was slowing, slowing, slowing. Stopped.
Eliza D. Ankum
Flight 404 – A Novel of Aviation Disaster
Ruby Sanders (The Ruby and Jared Saga Book 1)
Jared Anderson (The Ruby and Jared Saga Book 2)
OneThreeThirteen – A Presidential Agent Novel Series Book 1
The Hunt For Red November – A Presidential Agent Novel Series Book 2
Dancing With The Fat Woman
Thou Shalt Eat Dust – A Second Chance Love Story
A Woman’s Voice: A Little Book of Poems
STALKED! By Voices
A Tiny Kitten With A Big Mouth
RMD I meant it then and I mean it now. You rock, baby. You may be far away from me but you are never far from my thoughts.