Man, in my neck of the woods color still rules; white you all right, brown stick around, black get back. And sometimes we be so black we be blue. And the rules flip on you. Sometimes they do a back flip when you blue-black.
My papa has a blue-black cousin, Bob White. Our Bob White don’t sing or fly. We call him Mr. Blue. We kids call him Uncle Blue.
He special and he know it, like some kind of royalty out of our African past. Black people give him an extra measure of respect. We kids just get the hell out of his way. Uncle Blue do not play at all, a serious man with a serious walk and little talk. Rarely talks. Quiet and serious. But when he talks, we all listen: kids, adults and even the old folks. We shut the hell up and listen.
We going into Sumter with Uncle Blue and his oldest boy, Baby Blue. We take the wagon with the two gray mules, Cain and Abel. Go to the dry goods store. Go to the feed lot.
Walking to the dry goods store a big white man in an apron talking to an old white woman, blocking our path. Did we go around them? Did Uncle Blue tip his hat, say good day and move on? No! Not at all. Uncle Blue stop, he wait impatient, for the white folks to get the hell out of his way. You don’t do that shit in Sumter South Carolina in 1956. Not unless you got a death wish.
The white woman sees him first. All of the color drain out of her. Her hand go to her throat. She step back.
Big apron man turn to Uncle Blue.
“Nig… nig…” He trying to say: “Nigger what the hell is wrong with you?” He can’t get it out. He stagger back toward his shop. Backs into his shop.
“Sor… sorr…” He trying to say: “I’m sorry.” But, he can’t get that out either.
That little old white woman follow us to the feed lot. She polite about it. She stay well back.
By the time we get the wagon loaded, there are three or four white folks watching us at a respectful distance. The sheriff come and join them. He not in no uniform or wearing no badge. He stand with them others.
What the hell these white folks want? They not a lynch mob. They acting like they in church. No, they acting like they seeing a prophet or something out the Bible. But what do they want?
Loaded. Baby Blue and I up on the seat. Uncle Blue walk back to that old white woman that was following us. Stop in front of her. He poke her in the chest with his finger.
“You healed.” He say that.
The noise, the sound that come out of her is everything in her, all the pain and joy and despair and hope and suffering. Painful to hear that sound. Fell to her knees sobbing, rejoicing.
Uncle Blue take the reins and we drive away.
Later, I ask Baby Blue what that was all about. “A show, white folks expect a show.” That’s what Baby Blue tells me.
Frederick K. Foote, Jr. was born in and resides in Sacramento, California. You can find his work online at: spectermagazine.com, akashicbooks, and pikerpress.com.