“My, my, you were starting some mess up in there.” An offering of flash fiction featuring a precocious, socially conscious child who bravely challenges the status quo…
by: Frederick Foote
My ten-year-old comes home dragging like she has the weight of the world on her thin shoulders.
“Why you look so blue, darling daughter. Are they still teasing you about your natural?”
She shakes her head no, struggles wearily into her bedroom and closes her door.
She is thoughtful. She tries to trap her gloom in her room. After awhile I tap on her door with an ice cream passport. Her smile is back, so bright it could jack the sun and put his ass in the shade. We sit on the bed enjoying our cones, waiting for the time to be right.
“Dad, I don’t understand. Our teacher, Ms. Turner, says Lincoln freed the slaves.”
“What did you say wonderful one?”
“I told her what I learned from you.”
“And pray tell what was that?”
“Congress freed some of the slaves, Lincoln saved the Union.”
“My, my, you were starting some mess up in there. What did Ms. Turner say?”
“She got all red and sweaty. She said, ‘Read your book, Oba. It is right in there.’”
“I said, yes ma’am, but the book is wrong. We still have slaves.”
“Go on, girl, this is getting good. Neater than Netflix.”
“She tells me to stop talking and stop being ignorant.”
“And you shut up with a mean-mugging frown and a bad mood, right?”
She nods, yes. “Ms. Turner said, ‘There are no slaves in the United States. Slavery is illegal in this country.’”
“Oh, boy. Oh, boy, I think I know what’s coming next.”
She gives me that special smile again.
“I raised my hand. Ms. Turner looked mean and mad. ‘What!’ She says it angry and loud.”
“And you say?”
“Involuntary servitude is slavery. And there are over two million slaves in jail and prison.”
“Oh, my God. So, what happened? Don’t leave me hanging, girl.”
“She sent me to Principal Takemoto’s office.”
“No, she didn’t!”
“Yes, she did.”
“She got a lot of nerve, huh?”
“I didn’t mind too much. Principal Tak is cool.”
“Grace Takemoto is cool. So, what happened in Principal Tak’s office?”
“We chilled, talked about how Lincoln wanted to send black people back to Africa.”
“Excellent. Did you get disciplined?”
“No, we did talk about reparations a little.”
“You did us proud daughter.”
“Dad, Principal Tak said I have to be strong and courageous, to tell the truth.”
“Yep, she’s right. The truth is a hard sell to a lot of folks.”
“But, Dad, I don’t want to be the only truth-teller. That’s too hard.”
I pull her close to me. “You’re not the only one girl. You just have to pick your fights, okay?”
“No, child. Not forever. You get vacations, sick leave, time off for good behavior.”
We both try to laugh, but we just end up holding each other tight.