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Expert of Experts - Things He Didn"t Tell Neale About the Road

Over five thousand people came to see the lynching the following week, they came from every county within 150-miles, and here Jeremiah stood in front of the crowed, stern-still, stoned-faced, flat affect, deep-narrow eyes of black and red--an iris as big as a cows; there he stood on the wooden gallows: yelling to the crowd; --and as he yelled the several closest to the gallows got sprayed purposely with slim and spit from his mouth, dribbling, slobbering all over everyone as he laughed and spoke: "Get on with it whitey [he shouted], yous keeping mes from having dinner in hell, whts ya problem boy...
! [Then he started to swear again at the crowd, obscenities no one had ever heard, the white women held their hands over their children's ears].
Every white person stood there in shock, as if he was supposed to use his last words, his last moments of life to repent with, andshow some kind of remorse, yet he didn't, not at all, matter of fact, it was dramatically to the contrary.
Yes, these brought back some old memories for the group watching Old Abram hanging.
A hundred years had pass, but the attitude of the county had not changed.
[Somehow those old memories were started to settle wrongly in the old man's head, he couldn't squash them in the corner of his brain anymore, they started to seep out, as he sat back in the rocking chair, grabbing a little white-lightening.
] 5.
Back to the Trailer Court Unhurried now, yet a bit tired from all the excitement Chris looked in his rearview mirror witnessing the old man steadily plowing through the mud to the porch beyond, trying to get to that old rocker, from time to time, checking out the dubious looking sky.
As Chris drove the road steadily, the rot, stink of the flesh and wet bones was on his person, he could smell himself, it was nauseating, and his stomach was turning.
He told himself, dead bodies smell, look nasty, have many colors to them, dull brushed colors.
It was not a pretty sight by far.
The sky was getting even darker as he raced down the lightly paved road: --racing as if the demons themselves were against him for taking the bones, an unblessed treasure, their feast, to look at, how they made man into a beast and had them kill for them.
And now Thompson's car would smell it was no more than a hearse for the moment.
Along with the dark clouds, dust was befalling the earth around Chris.
A chill went up his spine, now he was questing himself, did he do right?It was not a chill of fear he told himself, rather one of tampering with the sacred remains of another person.
Yet it was better to preserve a man's remains, bring them to a dignified closing, than let them rot like a meal for a vultures on a white man's farm; his sins were no greater than anyone else's, he told himself--[for he really didn't know Old Abram], and much less he presumed than the old man's, the one with the rocker on the porch.
--As he got closer to town, outside of the city was a cemetery, he entered it through a back road, saw a sign that read, "Cremation," and parked the car, went inside the one story building, and made arrangements for the body parts [mostly bones, and the skull] to be cremated, and picked out an urn--: one of wood.
The cremating cost him $50, which was ten-day pay, and the urn, which was five-day pay.
He was making about $127 a month, and that was taxed, with six-dollars a month coming out for bonds.
But he figured he'd drink off the other guys for a week and mooches cigarettes off his friends-likewise; what the heck he thought, they did it to him all the time.
It was all worth while he told himself, feeling guilty for putting that young black girl, almost a woman, and possible a woman in harms way; this was the least he could do.
Plus, it just felt good.
He told himself, God puts people in funny situations, and most people go tell someone else to do whatever they think should be done, when it is them who should be doing it, and so he did it.
His mother had told him that once; he never forgot it; kind of like telling someone else to take their own inventory, instead of taking yours, which so often people do.
--When Chris returned the car to the trailer court, he explained everything to his friend Thompson, whom simply shook his head, saying: "Things are quite different around here Chris, you got to stay out of the way of the issues they got down here, you're going to get yourself killed, and my damn car impounded for being part of this southern charade.
" Then he added, "But it's quite noble, I doubt I'd have done something like that, matter of fact, I'd never would have talked to the black girl in the first place, you know, one thing leads to another, just like it's happening now...
" then he gave Chris a pat on the shoulder, kind of man-hug one might say for his daring.
After that Chris grabbed a phone book, he remembered Elsa had a diabetes name chain around her wrist, it read, he remembered: 'Elsa something,' and quickly thumbed through the 'location' section of the phonebook.
"Whitehead--Boston ...
Rebecca Whitehead-Boston," he said out loud, "it must be Elsa's relative.
" "There," he told Thompson, "There she is, Elsa's last name, it was a funny one, a double one, Whitehead-Boston, got to use your phone please.
" At this juncture, Thompson thought Chris just had a baby, he was so excited to have found her identity; then Thompson handed him the phone with a sigh oozing out of his chest and mouth as to not delay Chris' mission, "Good luck?" "Hello," a female's voice came over the phone.
"Elsa Boston?" asked Chris "I mean Whitehead," Chris confused.
"Yes, yes, dhats me, why?[A pause] this is Elsa, why?" "Hello again, this is, is--I hope you remember me, I'm Chris, and I met you about a month ago ['Oh...
' came over the other side of the phone--with nervousness to it]; I don't mean to bother you but...
[A pause--'But what, doan mess wid me again' replied Elsa].
" She was listening intensively now.
"As I was about to say, I have a gift for you.
" "I'm using my Auntie's last name and ...
[she hesitated to fill in the sentence]," she correctedChris, as if to alert him that she was the right person, but she was not giving him her legal last name, possible for personal reasons.
"And what might that be, and howd-ya get my phone number?" she commented a little sarcastically.
"It's a grief gift, the ashes of your Old Uncle Abram...
[Then Chris explained what he had done].
" During the clearing up of events [namely, telling him her story], Elsa was idle, without words, and a few tears were sensed over the phone, which came with a sniffling, a cry, a moan...
:thought, Chris with a sense of relief, 'now she [they] can grieve,--put a closure to it, if that's what is really needed.
' "Aunty," Chris heard over the phone, "Uncle Abram...
hes comon hom I guess.
"Then with a pause, as Elsa clarified to her Aunty what was happening, she said--in all the excitement--she had forgotten his name, then abruptly said: "Is you gona stop over tomorrow?" "Yes," replied Christopher Wright, as she thanked him several times.
Returning of the Bones [Wirily and still a bit tired] Chris woke up early the next morning, it was Saturday, and borrowing Thompson's car again, he went and picked up the ashes, with the wooden urn [he had ordered], which had a wooden cross and butterfly carved of wood attached to the urn in the front of it; and headed out to find this black-girl's house.
[Chris had stayed overnight at the trailer court, drinking the night away with Chief, and Thompson, talking about his good deed, and not so good idea to get involved; --but both friends encouraged him to follow through on it, none the less.
They all had but two weeks to go to graduation, and it was best to settle this so he could get back to studying for the examination coming up in a week--thus, clearing his mind.
] The Shanties On the way to the black-girl's shanty, Chris noticed, as any single GI from the Midwest might have noticed, the strange area he was driving into: strange because it was extraordinary in contrast to the area he had just left, which was quiet visible, immediately when he turned the corner off the main highway, prior to entering the shanty-city; for the most part,now there were no more road signs anywhere to be seen--dirt compacted roads only [in St.
Paul, there was nothing so drastic in changes like this, from one extreme to the other], 'why: where's the tax money goin,' he whispered-out loud to the windshield.
The shanties were sparsely placed he noticed, some clusters of them here and there, some black kids running after chickens, chasing them down.
A man with an ax chopping away at the roots of an old tree, a stump of a tree that is; another someone: somebody--black-lady, collecting eggs inside a chicken-coup he noticed [she was walking on her hands and knees backwards to not allow the chickens to escape in front of her; as he drove down the zigzagging road].
The countryside, to include the outskirts of the city was quite a ragged sight compared to the inner city structure, or the Military Base; another world one might say--of itself.
It seemed like a version out of one of Steinbeck's novels, of the Depression time--figured the soldier.
Like most country roads, this one was of hard gravel, deeply rutted by trucks and car tires; some old timbers were lying about, erosion beaten, and with the window open, the landscape reeked everywhere, leaving a bad odor tohis senses.
[Inquisitively] Chris saw an old man resting [as he drove his car between five to seven miles an hour over the rouged terrain], doing a double take, he almost smiled at him, --the old man was lying peacefully against a huge Cyprus tree, laying against it with a shoe for a pillow; --his head pillowed on one of his shoes [an idea he thought that might be useful, '...
come in handy on some of them long Army marches,' he told himself, especially when one gets only a fifteen-minute rest after several miles].
In the not too far distance he could hear a train whistle, --couldn't see the tracks nor the train, but they had to be in back of the shanties somewhere he presupposed, where else, that was where the sound was coming from?The car came to almost a complete stop trying to get around, and drive over the holes and bumps in the soil, trying without breaking the car's axel, for should he continue this way, he'd surely break something: again, the odor, a different smell to his liking, come through the window, garbage possible.
It hadn't occurred to him, lifestyles were so drastically different, to be precise, poles apart, when everything was so close to the city or Army Base.
The only possible conclusion was, wet wood, a cooler atmosphere, less grass and more bare-brown earth, and a graveyard that was being used as a garbage facility; everything uncultivated, long-haired grass everywhere.
He concluded the benefits of modern life had not yet brought profit to this section of the county, or for that matter, country.
Bad roads, bad schools, bad shanties, and bad health; everything was poorly maintained--: no resemblance of a plan.
Houses zigzagged all over the place.
The so called Negro settlement was an abandon area for the most part, an area in a process of decay.
Yet still, Chris was intoxicated with the idea of bringing back the bones of a black-man to his kin; therefore, he looked every which-way for her, or her shanty.
He was now a half mile down the dirt road, and some old Negroes congregated at a corner of the road, theywere doing something, playing chess or checkers, he couldn't make it out, yet he could seethe uplifting of one old man's brow, seeing the whites of his eyes, big eyes: both eyes checking out his bluish-green eyes.
He was, or so he noticed, the only white man in this shanty-town.
Revenge or Redemption It was [thoughts going through his mind: Chris's] about 104-years in the past when this area was a slave society; where slaves and slavery were frequent subjects, and the white man was still at the forefront of this, a century later, or at least in the eyes of the black man, he had just seen, it seemed to be not much different: that is to say, decades had not washed or cleansed the sins that evidently were committed here, and his bones, the ones he had sitting on the seat beside him, proved just that.
Another amazing thought that went through Chris' head was the display of rich and poor living so close to one another, sometimes a grave apart, or a graveyard apart; he wasn't quite sure how to place it--to measure it, but it didn't seem to digest quite right.
Now he saw her house, it was standing as she described it, her shanty, like a dog-trot log cabin with planks, and a huge chimney to the side of it that stretched from the ground to over the roof, the chimney looked as if it could have heated up a mansion at one time, and probably did.
It looked as if it was built over another foundation [the shanty], and it was held up on short pegs, possible to keep the wiggly creatures away, such as snakes and so forth what was going on in Chris' mind, no one really knew, possible not even him, possible only God Himself; but what it seemed like, what it gave the impression of was a poor response, from a poor white boy, a soldier, a white soldier who put aside, or wanted to push aside resentment and revenge for an alternative response called redemption for his race.
And so he looked at the bones, and the black girl's shanty, and proceeded with his forbidden quest.
Returning of the Bones It was now 9:30 AM, he parked his car at the bottom of the road that led into what looked like a campsite; walking up the incline, he showed up outside of Elsa's house [shanty], it was in the back of the cemetery, he had found out, as he looked south-east, her house being morenorth-east.
Not all that far from where he was [he noticed] was actually the city.
Matter of fact, he noticed the cemetery was used for garbage--as expected--andpeople's old car parts, old tires and so forth--yes a junkyard to boot, and some very old graves where about [as he had walked up the dirt road, he had noticed the unfenced in cemetery's abandonment, and walked through it partially], so old were some of the names, that they were worn down to make the stone only carry a shadow within its surface, and only a few dates remained clearly identifiable.
Her shanty was quite small [as he looked ahead] compared to the houses he was used to seeing in St.
Paul, Minnesota, where he was from--the Midwest.
There were several houses in a row; actually they all looked rather small, similar to a one car garage back home.
There wasn't much grass around her house either, weeds for the most part, and only dirt roads in and out of there, that lead in and out and around the back of the cemetery, her neighborhood.
It was startling for Chris, for not far from there were expensive mansions--with seven bedrooms mansions, four bathrooms in some, and here were almost dugout houses of a century ago--now called shanties.
What a difference, what a 360-degree turn about--he pondered.
As Elsa met him at the doorway, as she was expecting to, she took the wooden box from his hands, hugged it for a moment, almost fearful it might drop, it was about a foot tall, and half foot wide, still holding it as if it was a baby, her eyes filled up with tears, and her mouth quivered, her legs seemed to weaken, the grieving process had started Chris told himself, it was marked by pain, and relief, sorry and sadness, but mostly love.
The young soldier [Private First Class Wright] looked kind of down on the ground for a moment, almost as if to give her a moment to get herself back together, yet he really didn't expect or demand that, it was all a new experience for him also.
He was trying to figure out what a person says in such a case, and in lack of anything intelligent he babbled: "I don't know what to say, but I'm here for you," she slightly glanced up--and smiled, evidently that was what she needed to hear.
He never expected she was that close to him, evidently, he had lived there with them; it seemed that Aunty, or Rebecca Whitehead [Boston] was the sister possible, to Abram: or so Chris deduced.
But he left well enough alone, and didn't pry--said no more--shifting a series of illusions in his head [phantasmagoria] as if he had made the world a little bit better; plus, he knew he was getting too involved, as he was told by his Army friends, which wasn't wise, and so he concurred with them at this point; for her he felt the previous unfinished grieving (she needed to do), could now be done properly; wherein if not done, possible creating more resentment, for as the old saying goes: 'Out of sight, out of mind,' if that was the case, time would tell.
She implied to the young soldier: he now would be handled with respect and dignity.
She didn't ask any questions, it just didn't matter anymore it seemed, or so her face showed--pale as it was with holding of the ashes--with a little animosity.
He was dead and right or wrong would not bring him back, nor would the people who did this atrocity get punished for it: not here on earth anyhow, and if so, she'd probably not hear about it, but she had learned the old saying was true: 'What goes around, comes around,' and so the monsters that did this could only expect some kind of ongoing nightmares concerning this matter, knowing everything has a price.
For the moment she was just happy to see that there was a proper ending to all this--a closing if you will; something she had not expected.
Chris couldn't see her aunty but he heard her: "Wes got a jug in de bushes--"she bellowed; there was a long pause, as Elsa held the urn, and Chris stood on one foot suspended over one of the three steps to their home, the other foot on one of the square blocks of cement leading to the steps, his balance--readily available to go up or back at any command.
She was trying to be polite, and possible it was all they had to offer--the home made whisky.
Then she asked a funny question, or so it seemed to Chris, since this was the first and only meeting they'd ever have, and under such circumstances, she asked: "Hows it to be a soldier, I mean, is it a good life?" Said Chris with a stunned look: "I like it, it gives me a roof over my head, three meals a day, a little money, some rank: I hope to get more rank, maybe be a sergeant someday and make more money, and I can go to school on the GI bill while in the Army.
I guess you can't beat that," smiling.
"Oh," she murmured.

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