Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Actions Speak Louder than Words" (without using the actual phrase). (02/21/08)
TITLE: The Gift
By Marilee Alvey
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Entering and seeing his dilemma, a young nurse poured him more and held it to his lips.
“I guess I can’t hold my water.”
A giggle escaped her lips.
“I’ll never be able to thank everyone here for all the things they’ve done for me.”
“Oh, Mr. Dellums, it wasn’t much.”
“It was to me…..”
“Reminds me of the days of Spiro Agnew…”
“It’s not a what. It’s a who. He was once Vice President of our country.”
“You knew him?”
“Knew him? I wanted to shoot him! One day in 1971 I thought he’d ruined my life.”
The young nurse looked at her watch then pulled the visitor’s chair over to his bedside.
“I’m on break. Tell me more!”
“What’s your name, young lady?”
“So, when were you born Meghan?”
“No wonder you don’t recall Spiro Agnew! So, 1971 was your start, as well as mine. Memories are the gift of old age, Meghan.” He paused to catch his breath. “Seems like yesterday. I had won the nomination for California State Representative in 1971, the year you were born. Hadn’t even shown up for the job yet, but I was gunnin’ to: young, black and proud!” He signaled for another sip to help his dry throat before continuing. “I had been chosen to represent over 1 million people in Washington. It was a dream come true for a black man in the early 70’s.”
Sipping, once again, he licked his lips, relishing the lubrication.
“A few days before I was to leave, I was seated in front of my television when Spiro Agnew came on the air. He was nothin’ but an……..well, disregard…”
She unconsciously leaned closer. Perhaps it was his weak volume, but it felt as if it were top secret.
“Agnew told the interviewer that he considered Ron Dellums to be the most dangerous man in America.”
“Well, for one thing, we’re talking California. In those days, they considered all of us wacky, subversive radicals, much like now they call us the land of fruits and nuts….and, keep in mind that I was black, to boot. I will admit I had socialist tendencies…”
As he breathed, the air whistled through his lungs. Pausing a second, he forged ahead.
“The unknown often frightens us. I guess my ethnicity and popularity scared him, sort of like Obama today. As I sat there, it seemed my future had just been thrown into a huge bonfire. I wouldn’t escape unscathed. Now, give me just a moment….” He swallowed with great effort.
After a few more moments, he continued. “How could a black man stand up against the Vice President of America? I had no contacts, no friends in Washington. It was like bein’ punched in the gut with no chance to fight back.”
“What did you do?”
Breathing deeply, he faltered only for a moment before continuing. “I’d studied hard, worked like a dog, and sacrificed so many years to be where I was. I had to deal the cards I was played and leave the rest to the Almighty. I was black in a white world. I was scared, too, I ‘spose. The next morning, I walked to my campaign headquarters in an attempt to persevere. Surrounding my office was more press than I’d ever seen before.” He began to tire, but took another drink and pushed forward.
“Then I saw her. A little old white woman appeared in my peripheral vision. She wobbled and toddered on a cane. As I glanced at her, she gave me a warm smile and asked…. ‘Are you Mr. Dellums?’ ”
I replied, “I am.”
“Anyone Spiro Agnew is against I need to support.”
She pressed a wrinkled old ten dollar bill into my palm then turned around slowly, hobbling, cane and all, agonizingly retracing the ten blocks home.”
“Oh, my….” Meghan said, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
“Exactly. I pondered that momentous gift momentarily.” He laid his head back on the pillow, exhausted.
She leaned closer and asked softly, “Then what?”
Closing his eyes, a slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he whispered, “I crossed the street to my future.”
Although the hospital scene is completely fictional and the quotes are paraphrased, this is the true story of Ron Dellums, a U S Representative from California from 1971 until his resignation in 1998. He is now mayor of Oakland, California.
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