DRINKIN CLEAN BLUES AND BLACK: Old Man, a 40, Happy and Home

The old man had skin blackened by the August sun’s fiery brand and dragon-breath assault, the way they used to tell him his granddaddy got beat for not actin right, whip him like a mule, make him keep a workin, the bacca gotta get cropped, things hadn’t changed much back deep in the cut. Farmers were still white like buscuits with red sausage necks and pigs feet fists. They still drove em hard and paid em less than the white trash and Mexicans. Sometimes he almost felt like he was the top dog, didn’t feel like black was as hard to match in all the colors. Slavery wasn’t dead, it went pro, made a man think he had a chance when he didn’t have much more than enough to buy a Colt 45 and a nick sack down on the corner where them boys with their britches hanging down almost to they knees would mob up and hustle. They in they time, all a game, grabbing they crotch and talking loud around each other, something to prove, tightening up when the cracker police rolled on by, trying them, bored good old boys who still said nigger at home around they family, never outloud anymore, not like back in the ole days, they said it like it was a switchblade, liked to stab it, watch em react, he remembered that, knew these young brothers didn’t know jack bout that, wouldn’t know what to do if it happened now, would wind up in jail, whole messa shit, lord, he almost wished one of them crackers would, see what them boys’d do…give a taste of what they’d come from and didn’t care about, didn’t care bout nothing but that corner, they rides, they hustle…old man slipped up in the parking lot of the quick mart and dug in his pocket, his fingers fumbling for the coins, walks in, shuffles straight back like he’d worn out a path, reached in the cooler door, grabbed him a 40 and headed to the counter. Indian woman rang him up without talking, just kept mumbling in her strange language to somebody on a phone he couldn’t see, she just staring into space, and he pushed the coins to her as he counted em and waited for the bottle in its brown bag….he was headin to his house, with its broken windows taped up with trash bags and duct tape and a floor that was worn thin enough to break through if you walked straight down the middle, had to walk on the sides, landlord big ole white boy who didn’t pay his taxes and never fixed nothin, but he was a good boy, too good, let everbody take him, pay him late or never, wouldn’t kick a family out unless they was bad folks, real bad. Old head rested against the couch cushion and he poured the beer into his mouth, straight in, letting it wash him clean of all the dirty, and he got clean, and he smiled and laughed, watching the TV screen he could barely see, and he laughed and coughed, smiled himself clean and then he dreamed….Image


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