Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Week(s) (02/10/11)
- TITLE: Smoke
By Sharon Eastman
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Bobby and I didn’t even quarrel in the car on the drive. In fact, we sang songs and spotted the colorful array of cars on the highway. Mom preened over her fresh tan in the rear view window. It accented her stunning sapphire eyes and ebony hair.
Auntie Edna’s cottage, our get-a-way, was charming with its yellow clapboards and white trim. As the sea gull’s cries whooped in the crystal blue sky, with sand so hot it could melt your feet, we laughed and played for three joyful, peaceful days. The time to leave was sad, but our hopes and plans to return overcame our melancholy.
Our partial family also entertained thoughts of seeing Daddy. He missed all the fun of the get-a-way because of his work schedule. He planned to go next time as he loved the sea. Bobby and I knew that when we arrived home Dad would have a present for us.
Nearing home, the city of Detroit, Bobby noticed clouds of smoke overhead. As we drove further in the city, the clouds became larger, thicker, and blacker. Smoke invaded our nostrils; smoke parched our mouth, and smoke led us to cough. Screaming ambulance and fire truck sirens sank like an off-key opera in our ears. And, ashes blocked our view.
Bobby started to cry, “Daddy, Daddy!”
Mom told him, “We’ll be home in a few minutes. Pray to Jesus.” But, she was nervous and afraid, too. She shuddered as she told Bobby everything was all right. It was probably just a big fire. I was frightened, also, but I kept quiet. I didn’t want my mom to worry about Bobby, me, and driving, at once.
We drove through the inner city, and Mom realized the fiery signals were more dangerous than she first thought. She drove as quickly as she could to our modest home in the farthest northwest area of Detroit.
When Dad saw the car pull in, he leaped out the front door and ran to Mom. His strength broke her resolve, and she dissolved into shudders and tears. Dad hugged and kissed her with frenzy. After consoling her, he kissed and hugged us.
“Oh, my precious darlings! You’re home safe and sound. You just drove through a race riot! The city of Detroit is like a war zone. People are raising Cain. It’s on all the TV news and radio, too.”
“What happened?” Mom asked.
“Rumor has it that something went wrong at a blind pig, and people, mostly blacks, started to riot. They crashed the streets, set fires, started looting, and even murdered. It’s awful!”
“This is certainly not Martin Luther King’s dream! He wanted more civil rights for the Negroes, but he wanted it achieved through peaceful demonstrations, not this chaos and violence.”
“Let’s go in and have some fresh, cold iced tea. You need to relax,” Dad said thoughtfully.
Mom nodded her head and breathed deeply.
Inside Mom was quiet as she sipped the tea. She had always led a sheltered life and remembered vividly her first encounter with a Negro. At four years old, Mom and her mother were riding the bus into the city. A Negro lady got on board, and Mom asked, “Who’s that dirty person?”
Her mother quietly said, “That lady just has dark skin. Inside, she’s just like us.’ That satisfied Mom, but she always wondered about blacks. The only other Negroes that she encountered were cleaning ladies from the wealthy section and garbage men.
She thought of the great civil rights leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Frederick Douglas of long ago. Would they be pleased with this riot, violence, and deaths? Shaking her head, she thought of peaceful demonstrations, marches with dignity, and diplomacy. Mom asked Dad, “What does all this mean?”
Dad shook his head and said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
The Detroit Riots of 1967 lasted only a week, but it left a sad legacy that lasts to this day. Now, 44 years later Detroit is a virtual ghost town due to the economy and corrupt government. In history, cities die. Hopefully, with God’s grace, Detroit will rise to a new vibrancy.
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