by: Frederick Foote
Two offerings of flash fiction that challenge our perceptions of change, both within an individual and across generations….
I come out here meaning no harm. Just looking for a better day, a fairer play, a new way. I put all that mean shit, bloody ways, dirty days, back stabbing bullshit behind me. A clean slate in a new state. That’s me in the raggedy rag-top black Cadillac.
She’s a brown-curvey cutie in a Bakersfield biker’s bar. Taste-me red lips, fuck-me brown thighs, pushed-up bulging boobs. I’m passing through, no time for that shit. I’m on the straight and narrow path to a new me, to the good life in Cali.
One drink to slack my Midwest thirst. One drink to celebrate my escape. One courtesy drink for her. One fucking drink, thirty seconds and I’m out of here without even a goodbye.
He, of the massive shoulders and many tattoos, takes exception, is offended. Angered and disturbed by my insolence, my arrogance, and my lack of respect for him and his lady.
I offer a sincere apology, a drink for him and his lady. I offer him a way out, a way to save face, a real opportunity to look good, and stand tall.
I explain that I have turned over a new leaf, found Jesus, saw the light, and changed my ways to walk the path of peace and brotherly love.
I even smile, raise my hands, and back away.
It ain’t enough. It never is. That Cali boy ain’t never met a straight razor. I introduce him. Six in the bar not counting me and her. They all got issues, complaints, concerns, interests, a great interest in staying alive and me; I just want to move on to the good life in Cali.
In the Cadillac with her in my lap, doing a hundred and ten, drinking gin with the top down listening to the radio talking about six dead men and the cops out looking for a Cadillac with out-of-state plates.
Shit, I don’t mean nobody no harm, no harm at all. I’m just looking for a fresh start, a second chance, redemption and salvation in a new place. Look at me. I’m a changed man. Come on now….look at the new me.
“Boy, you talk more shit than the radio and tell more stories than Fox News.” My Uncle Rodger says, looking into my eyes as he plays the double-five. “Tennessee for me. Mark me down counter man.”
“Uncle, all I said was that Clint is a hell of a movie maker. I mean, shit, he’s up there with Hitchcock, Frank Capra, Orson Wells and Coppola and them dudes. That’s all I’m saying.” I play blank-five. “Double-five said the black dude talkin jive. I need the money to stay alive.”
Grandpa Boyd is keeping score. He turns to me shaking his head. “No, no that’s not what you said, grandson. You said ‘Sniper was a great movie from a great movie maker.’ That’s what you said now.” Grandpa plays five-ace on the double-five. “You Negroes ain’t learned all money ain’t good money. Let me slow this mess down before there’s a run on the bank.”
“Look, look ‘Sniper pays homage to the men who fight and die for this country. You both served. You must understand the sacrifice and the burden of doing what is necessary. Necessary to keep us all safe.”
My uncle Roger and my grandfather exchange looks and shake their heads.
“Rodger, I thought you said your nephew was learning something down there at Stanford. Didn’t you say he was a, a honor’s scholar or some shit like that?”
My uncle Rodger frowns like he just smelled something bad. “I know. I know, but he is getting good grades – he just ain’t learning much I guess.”
“Wait, wait, wait a minute. I’m right here. Don’t talk about me like I’m not even here. I believe American Sniper is a good movie, a very good movie. I got a right to that opinion.”
Grandpa tosses in his bones. “Then you will love The Green Berets. Shit they the same damn propaganda.”
Now, I toss in my dominos. “No, no and hell no. There is no comparison. You….“
Uncle Rodger stands and stretches. “Come on now if you love ‘Sniper you gotta love The Birth of a Nation. It’s all the same racist bullshit.”
“You, you two are just playing, right? I mean there is no comparison between those movies. You guys are just out to lunch on this.”
Uncle brings us three beers from the fridge. He sits across from me and smiles. “You probably right. I mean you study this stuff, and we are old and.…it’s just that in those movies white men, righteous white men are protecting white women and white rights, including their rights to black women and their right to keep their boot up our black asses. Kinda rubs me the wrong way I guess.”
I take a long drink of my IPA. “Look, a movie is a selected slice of life. A movie can’t be all things to all people. Now, Nation was a giant step forward in movie making. It was a technical revolution, an incredible….“
My Grandpa laughs and reaches over and touches my cheek. “Grandson, you’re right. I never seen Nation, but I get a little tired of seeing Uncle Sam killing niggers all over the world. Black niggers, Indian niggers, Chinks, Gooks, Sand niggers….shit and you niggers die because you can’t shoot straight. Like Indians in the movies.”
My Uncle chimes in. “Yeah ain’t that the truth. The movie truth. There were some pretty good shooting Gooks over in Nam.”
“Grampa, you were in World War Two. You know we had to defeat the Germans and Japan. You know that. That was the right thing to do. So what’s wrong with celebrating the brave men….“
“Thank you, Uncle. And brave women who gave up so much?”
I have finally shut up these two motor mouths for a minute. I want to open up a new line of attack, but my Grandpa is off kind of mumbling. He rocks back in his chair and looks at me like he did when I was a child and did something so dumb it was funny. “Did you forget about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? He rubs his chin, his nervous tell. “We bombed defenseless cities full of old folks, children, the cripple, and the crazy. No military significance, no bases or depots, just the too young and the too old.” He takes a deep breath. “We gave medals and promotions and cheered for those heroes. That give ‘hero’ a whole new meaning.”
I don’t know what to say. I know we used the A-Bomb to save American lives and to bring the War to a quick end. I never gave much thought about the occupants of those cities. I mean, it was war and, and….
My uncle finishes his beer and stands. “Well, that sent a message to all the niggers in the world – we got the bomb, and we will use it on your yellow, brown, red and black asses. True, equal opportunity mass murders. Tell Clint to make a movie about those real Enola Gay heroes. Shit, they put the sniper to shame. A couple hundred thousand dead in a few minutes.”
Grandpa starts to stand.
“Wait, wait look, I didn’t realize what, how you guys felt. I thought you could relate. That’s why I treated you to ‘Sniper. I didn’t mean to insult you or hurt your feelings. I would never do that.”
Grandpa stands and holds out his arms to me. He holds me so tight it hurts. I never knew he was so strong. He pushes me back and holds me at arm’s length. “We went boy, to be with you. We are real proud of you. You know that.”
Uncle Rodger slaps me on the back. “Hell son, we would even go see Birth of a Nation if you asked us. But just remember that those movies are selling violence against niggers, they make heroes out of the most efficient nigger killers.”
Grandpa squeezes my shoulder. “You remember, that sniper back in DC a while ago? John Muhammad? What he kill nine, ten? He was a fair shot too. Clint should have put him in the movie.”
“Shit, they were pikers.” Uncle Rodger drains his beer. “That Charlie Whitman killed sixteen or seventeen and wounded twice as many students down in Texas. Now, he was a Marine sniper wasn’t he?”
I don’t buy all of what they are saying, but I’m going to do a little reading and studying and next time I will be better prepared to defend what….Art? Violence? War? Sharpshooting? I just got to think this through. I grab three beers from the fridge and join my contentious old heroes, and we watch the Raiders lose, again.