He heard the crunch of leaves as he ran. Green and brown shades flashed through his peripheral vision. Everything was a blur, his past, his future, and the seemingly never ending forest. Uncertainty about where he should go clouded his mind. The only sure thing he knew was that he couldn’t go back. The shack he left was as shattered and broken as his family. So he ran, he ran as if his past smacked his backside like a whip.
Soon the forest was divided by the brown, murky waters of the lake, he only heard about and dreamed of. With his integrity and pride milked from him, he thought about how he had nothing left. He felt abandoned, and wanted to hide from the torture and pain, that of which did not only come from his own self hatred, but from the cruelty and hatred of another.
The thought of going back was out of the question, he’s come too far for that. There was also the haunting fact that he would be flogged to the point of death if he returned. He thought about how much trouble he would be in if the masta’ knew he was involved with that meetin’. He should have never gotten himself into this mess, Ol’ Tom should have never told him about it. He mind escaped back to that memory.
He turned around to the sound of his name. It was Ol’ Thomas.
“How you doin’, Charles?”
“I’m doing good, oh yes mighty good, it be a beautiful day today. Ain’t it Tom.”
“Yes suh, it’s mighty pretty out. Just have a look at the sun.”
“My it sure is a beauty, yes suh it is. You headed out to them cotton fields out yonder?”
“Yes suh, it’s about time that I should be headin’ out to them fields.”
“I’m headed out there myself, mind if I go with ya?”
“You hear about that meetin’ tonight?”
“Meetin’? No I don’t think I have.”
“Well they pose to be havin’ a meetin’.”
“There be talk of rebellion.”
Tom halted his steps and said, “Hush up fo’ masta hear you.”
Then in a hushed tone he said, “Where this meetin’ gonna be at?”
“Over yonder where we talk about the good Lord, you thinkin’ you gonna go to that there meetin’.”
“I don’t see why not.”
“Well I’ma have to go too.”
“It’s too dangerous, you should stay here.”
“Now you listen here…”
His thoughts were broken by the distant sounds of barking. He looked behind, and only one thought came to mind.
“Jump and swim fool.”
He turned around and obeyed the commands of his mind. All he knew was that he needed to keep movin’. The lake should hide his odor from the dogs. He knew the bounty hunters wanted to kill him, but the dogs will only circle the lake in confusion. That should give him some time. He reached the middle of the lake, and had the onslaught of the dogs. Their barks filled the morning air, sounding as if they were possessed by a creature of the deep. As he swam faster, wading deeper and deeper into the water, thoughts of what his friend would think collided against his skull.
“They will never forgive me.” He thought to himself.
“That there Tom, he be a coward, if I ever knows one.” They’d say.
“Yes suh, no mo’ courage than this here chicken.” Another would say.
“Goodness Tom, what you doin’?” He said out loud.
“There ain’t no use goin’ back now, you out here ain’t you.”
He reached the edge of the shore, worn out and completely out of breath. He needed to rest, surely he put enough distance between himself, and the bounty hunters. All he needed to do is remember how to find his way to the so called underground…
“Grand pa.” Antonio said interrupting the story.
“Boy, you need to hear this.”
“Grand pa, I really need to go, I don’t have time for this.”
“Boy you needs to know where you comes from. There is a lesson in this story. It’s not just some bed time story.”
“Man grand pa, another time.”
Antonio, in his jersey and shagging pants, walked out the door, basketball in hand, closing the door before his grand pa could respond. His grand pa could respond. His grand pa put his hand to his head, thinking about how different these kids are today. He was deep in thought when his wife walked in the room.
“George, where’s Antonio? I thought you were telling him the story.”
“He walked out of here, says he got somewhere to be.”
“That poor boy.”
George looked at his wife. Her eyes expressed the same concern he felt in his heart.
Antonio placed one foot after the other. Walking on the newly paved sidewalks, his private thoughts was all he could hear, despite the constant noise of the city.
“Why does grand pa keep telling me these stories?” He thought to himself.
“Antonio… yo Antonio.”
The sound of his name penetrated his thoughts. He turned around to see De Andre.”
“Dude, I’ve been calling you for like five minutes. What’s wrong with you? Are you high?
“Naw man, I’m just thinking. My grand pa keeps giving me these history lessons. I’m trying to figure out why.”
“Man, I don’t know.”
“Dude, whatever your stupid. What you doin’”
“Nothin’ just walkin’ around tryin’ to find something to do.”
“I was ‘bout to go play some ball.”
Antonio and De Andre reached the green and white concrete that made up the basketball courts. There were boys of all shapes, age, and color, passing back and forth, the orange and back ball. The ball was passed to Keith. With the ball in hand, he got into his stance about to shoot the ball, when he spotted Antonio walking on the court.
“Antonio, he yelled.”
De Andre jumped, and the whispered to Antonio, “Dude we should go.”
“I know lets head outta here, fo’ somethin’ happens.”
De Andre and Antonio turned around, and started to head of the courts. They almost reached the sidewalk before Keith yelled,
“Hey I was calling you, don’t you walk away from me when I’m calling you.”
“Who do you think you are? Antonio replied.”
“tony, we should just leave. Forget this loser.” De Andre said, while pulling his the sleeve of his shirt.
“Who do I think I am. Yo, yall hear this fool? I run this place boy. These streets belong to me. Matter of fact you belong to me. You’re my nigga fool, what do you think of that?”
“Dude ain’t nobody my master.”
Antonio stepped up to Keith, there chest touched and they were both breathing hard.
“I know this fool ain’t steppin’ up to me like he ‘bout to do somethin’?” Keith shouted.
Antonio didn’t know what he was doing. He was scared out of his mind, because this guy could serious do some damage, but he could not allow anyone to control him. His decisions were his own to make, and nobody will make them for him. There only problem was how was he going to relay this revelation to Keith?
“You got a problem?” Keith said, not even two inches from his face.
Antonio thought about the question. He looked at De Andre, who had the word, scared written all over his face. He looked at the thugs behind Antonio. Then he started to back off, and the words, “naw” started to roll of his tongue. Suddenly it clicked, he understood why grandpa was telling him these stories.
“Son, human beings aren’t to be controlled as if they were animals. They have rights, you do whatever you have to do to protect that right.” His grand pa would always say.
“Yes I do have a problem.” Antonio said getting back up in Keith’s face.
“Boy, who do you think you’re talking to?” Keith responded.
“I have a problem with you thinking that you own me. No man can own another man, I wouldn’t expect you to know that since you ain’t been in school, but it’s true. I know it’s surprising, but that’s just the way life is. I make my own decisions, and I ain’t yo nigga, and I’m not gonna fight you either.”
With that Antonio turned his back and walked over to De Andre.
“Let’s go.” Antonio said, and walked onto the sidewalk.
They never turned around, but they knew Keith was angry and they also knew this problem wasn’t over.
“Dude, you stood up to Keith. I didn’t think I would ever see the day.”
“No, I mean I thought you would have been selling his mess for the rest of your life.”
“Man, I know.”
“Where you get the courage?”
“My grand pa and his stupid history lessons. Come on, I want to hear the rest of the story.”
Antonio and De Andre sprinted all the way to Antonio’s house, busting through the door out of breath, yelling,
George and Helen got up anxiously, wondering what was wrong with their grandson.
“Son, what is wrong with you?” George said.
“Nothing grand pa, we just want you to tell us the rest of the story.” Antonio replied.
“Boy you nearly killed me and yo grand pa. What on earth has gotten into you.”
“Nothin’ grandma. Antonio said while giving her a hug and a kiss.”
“Ya’ll boys want to hear the story?” His grand pa said.
“Yes sir, we do.” Replied De Andre
“Well sit down here, and I’ll tell you.”
Thomas sat up against the trunk of a tree, unaware of the shedding bark that was attaching itself to his rags, called clothes. He started thinking to himself,
“I remember that I need to follow the star and knock on the doors with the light in the window.”
He searched his head for answers, trying to remember the spirituals they always sung, but for some reason he couldn’t think. Forgetting that he was on the run, he drifted off to sleep. He was relaxed, thinking sleep would help him think clearer. With his eyes closed, his world was engulfed with blackness. Out of the blackness, shot himself, frightened and out of breath, yet he was still running. Glancing over his shoulder, afraid his pursuers were catching up. Frantically he tried to find some place to hide. BANG! The sound of a gun exploded in the air, and suddenly his view was hidden by the darkness.
Thomas woke with a start. His heart raced, and he had a shortness of breath…
Helen looked at her husband as he told the story. Then she glanced at the two boys staring up at him from the floor, listening intently.
“There’s still hope for this generation.” She thought to herself.
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