Morning First Draft, Number 1

It was an old church, like most of the churches in this small town. The walls inside were the pale green of lime sherbet. The carpet was an old deep green worn from years of parishioners walking on it and monthly cleanings. The pews were old oak with worn spots and worn edges. The lights were gold colored chandeliers that put out just enough golden light to provide some kind of mood. Behind the pulpit was the baptismal well with the incongruous painting of a white angel touching a white baby. The room was warm. The a/c wasn’t great and the day was hot and humid. A haze of cheap perfume/cologne and deodorant hung over the crowd as they fanned themselves with programs and the cheap paper fans that looked as old as the church.

Jack looked around at the people.  They all knew his mother.  Most loved and none hated her.  He looked over to his brother and sister as they each sobbed quietly as the ancient organ played on with a quiet rendition of “Amazing Grace.”  He, Meredith, and James were the oldest generation of the family left.  In fact, they were the only blood relatives that they knew of.

John Banks, Sr. and Karen Banks (nee Adams) were orphans.  They met as teenagers and bonded over never finding a family to call their own.  Both had been through foster families and stayed in places for months at a time.  John even stayed with a family for a year, but it never took.

Jack’s father was born sickly.  They thought it might be polio, it turned out he was just small for his age.  By the time he grew into his body, he was too old for anyone to really want him.  Mama was much the same, but it was mostly that she was a girl and girls couldn’t grow up to help keep up a farm like a boy.

They were also half-black and half-white in a time when no one wanted to admit that that sort of thing happened.  Looking at his brother and sister he could see the genetic soup they came from.  “Good hair” with latte skin.  His brother went to bed alone in college only by choice.  His sister had light blue eyes and light brown highlights in her curly hair to go along with skin the same shade as James.

The Marines first and now age made Jack shave his head, but he kept it in a long black ponytail until the day after high school graduation.

More people filed in and shook the three kids’ hands and hugged them and told them how sorry they were and how they were in their prayers.  Jack didn’t see any of their faces and barely heard any of their words.  He just kept looking at his mother.  She looked small and nothing like the force in his life that pushed and dragged him to adulthood.

His parents went to this church for 30 years.  These were the people that took them in after leaving the eastern part of the state.  John told him the story one night sitting on the porch.  Crickets sounded off like a chorus as moths and lightening bugs flew and banged into the screened windows.  John had just gotten out of the hospital for the first of his three heart attacks.  He could see the end was closer than the beginning and wanted to tell of the past that he and Karan ignored.

They were married for a few months and he was working at a tobacco farm between Raleigh and Fayetteville.  The Civil Rights Era of the 60s were just reaching that part of the state even though it was 1972.  It hadn’t been too long before that Henry Marrow was killed nearby.

John and Karen could have passed for Lumbees and no one would have known the difference.  Instead, they lived as black.  One night, Karen was walking home from her job cleaning the court house in their speck of a town.  Two men jumped out at her wearing masks and tried to rape her.  She managed to throw the bleach she was carrying home to clean her own house and blinded the men enough to get away.  When she got back to the house, she told John what they tried to do and what they said.  Later that night as the dawn crept in, they packed up their old pickup truck with their clothes and whatever else they could pack and left.

His father never told Jack what they said to set off their flight.  He tried to guess, but John never told him.  He had his second heart attack six months later out pruning trees in the yard and the last one in the hospital bed a week after that.  Jack could never ask his mother about it.  He didn’t know how to ask his mother about it.

The pastor stood up and signaled for the choir to start singing.  Jack’s mind drifted away from the church.  It swooped up and outside hovering over the steeple before zooming through time and space back to that night on a hot and dusty road in Eastern North Carolina.  Something changed that night.  His parent left the only home they ever had and journeyed without a plan to some new place where they knew no one.

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3 Responses to “Morning First Draft, Number 1”

  1. […] Not just another WordPress site. « Morning First Draft, Number 1 […]

  2. […] is First Draft No. 1 and First Draft No. […]

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