Categories
Creative Work

G.A.P.

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Author’s Note: About four years ago, I was introduced to Brian Ketley’s The 3 A.M. Epiphany, a book of over 200 writing exercises designed to help transform your fiction. After sifting through prompts about synesthesia, atypical days at work, and practicing negative capability, I arrived at a prompt titled “What If?” In the prompt, I had to choose a historical event and write a short story centered around its opposite outcome. What if the South won the Civil War? What if Japan never attacked Pearl Harbor? I opted to choose a lesser known, yet just as deadly, event in U.S. history: The bombing of “Black Wall Street”, in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early 1920s. The bomb, dropped on the intersection of Greenwood, Archer, and Pine, inspired the title of my work, GAP (This event was also the inspiration behind the popular song “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” by GAP Band.) In this work, I wanted to emphasize the craft of elements of dialogue, dialect, and plot.


Greenwood Province, Tulsa, OK 1927

            “Notha roun’ on me, Scotty! We live, baby!” said Count from the large stage.

            The crowd roared with excitement. His band was visiting from Harlem and Tulsa ain’t know how to act. But that’s how we do it here in Greenwood – stompin’ our feet to the sounds of Swing. The smell of pipe smoke wisped through the thick air as the bass from the band shook the wooden floors of the GAP club.

            I nodded. The GAP club bustled with the poignant personalities of many – the ladies rolling their lovely brown bodies to the sounds of Count Basie’s band, while the fellas stared in awe, sippin’ the remainder of their scotches. I lined up ‘bout a dozen shot glasses on the sleek, wooden bar and a couple of youngins watched as the bourbon danced into each of ‘em.

“Not for y’all.” I winked. They giggled.

“Oh I know, Mr. Scotty! My Daddy’ll tear my raw hide if I tried!” said young Clyde Stradford. All the girls giggled – their petite brown hands over their mouths. I couldn’t help but smile.

He’d just finished up his last year at GAP High School and had been accepted to one of dem fancy schools up North. Harlem University is what dey call it. “Well, we’on want that. You’d miss the celebration.” I replied.

            “Yessir. Can’t believe it’s been a whole six years.” Clyde shook his head.

Now, we usually don’t let the youngins in this joint, but tonight is a special night. It’s the sixth anniversary of the Greenwood Province that almost ain’t exist.

*

            ‘Bout six years and some change ago, I was sittin’ in the lobby of J.B. Stradford’s hotel, waitin’ for my wife to finish up in the powder room. Stradford’s joint was the epitome of black excellence – it had over 54 rooms, a ballroom laced with crystal chandeliers, red carpets, and satin table linings. Most people would never believe he’d been born a slave. That night, we were coming to see a brotha named Edward Ellington from D.C. play with his band. Stradford said he had no doubt ol’ Ellie would make it big.

            My eyes were glued to the headline of the Tulsa Star, our local newspaper:

Dick Rowland Protected by Greenwood WWI Veterans

            Ol’ Roe was accused of accidently tripping over a little white girl in an elevator at the Drexel Building a few months ago. She screams and everyone reacts – y’all know how that goes. After he was arrested, a few of our Elders marched up to the courthouse to protect Roe from the angry mobs that lurked. They had just lynched ol’ Roy Belton the year before and we ain’t need another headline like that in our newspaper.

            As the story goes, a lynch mob approached the group and asked them what Roe was doing with a pistol. Roe looked the men up and down and replied that he’d use it if he needed to. They got into a scuffle and the gun went off. All hell broke loose.

            “Still readin’ deh madness, eh?” said Coolie as he sat next to me, peering at my newspaper.

“Coolie”, or Ian Baptiste, was a musician from one of dem islands in the Caribbean and man did he drive the women of Greenwood buck wild. If it wasn’t his long curly jet-black hair, it was surely was his dark skin contrasted against his dark blue eyes that kept them coming. He was opening for Ellie tonight.

“Yeah, man,” I sighed, “Hopefully, you an’ Ellie can take our minds off it for a while. We can’t wait to hear the set tonight.”

He bowed his head graciously, “Life back on deh island jus as wicked, yeh know? At least we have community here.”

            Next thing we knew, Stradford came runnin’ out of his backroom, yellin’ to the top of his lungs, “Y’all run in the ballroom! The mob’s comin’! The mob’s comin!”

            It was just before sunset and the shouting of quite a few men could be heard in the distance. Everyone jumped up and hustled all of the women and children into the ballroom. I stood up, lookin’ roun’ for my wife, MaeBelle. She and Stradford’s wife, Posie Kay, came runnin’ out the powder room like some chickens wit’ the heads cutoff.

            “Scotty, they got me sweatin’ in this satin dress, damn it!” she said. The red dress complimented her ebony skin.

            “Where Stradford? Tell ‘em I’m gonna get my pistol!” said Posie Kay, making her way toward her office. Coolie stood in front of her.

            “Posie, deh mob’s comin’. It’s not safe.” He said.

            Posie Kay looked Coolie from head to toe, “Coolie, get yo ass out the way! I ain’t lettin’ dem white boys take-”

Stradford came between the two and threw Posie Kay over his shoulder. He looked back at Coolie and gave him a nod. We rushed the women to the ballroom, with Posie Kay fussin’ the whole way.

All the men guarded the ballroom, ready to die. Stradford, in his red velvet suit, went outside and stood in front of his hotel – the pistol in his hand just as dark as his complexion.

“Stradford, you crazy? Get in here!” shouted one of the men.

            Stradford turned toward us. “If them white boys want my hotel, they gonna have to fight me for it!”

            I shook my head. Yeah, he and Posie were made for each otha.

We could hear the mob in the distance – or so we thought. It was the GAP militia, Greenwood’s very own army, charging toward the white mob and they managed to detain the group. Some say the mob worked with the U.S. government to try an’ bomb us – I didn’t doubt it. Once we got wind of this, Stradford, Coolie, and myself went over to meet up with the militia. Stradford’s oldest son, Renald, was one of highest ranking officials.

“Renny, what y’all gonna do wit’ ‘em?” asked Stradford, shootin’ daggers at the now powerless mob members, “Sendin’ back ain’t gonna stop ‘em from tryin’ this again.”

“I know, Pa.” nodded Renald, glancing the mobsters, their face as red as his father’s suit, “Y’all let us do our job. You won’t be hearing from them again.”

Renald’s words sent a chill down my spine. To this day, we don’t know what became of those mobsters. Did he kill ‘em? Hell, dey didn’t have a problem with tryin’ to kill us. Dem fools had 99% resentment in their eyes an’ 1% guilt. I ask myself why I only focus on the one percent.

*

A few fellas grabbed their shots of bourbon as J.B. Stradford walked onto the stage.

“Thank you, Count for that bangin’ performance! I wanna introduce our next act: He came on back to Greenwood to bless our ears! Welcome Edw- ‘cuse me, Duke Ellington and the Washingtonians!”

The crowd went wild as the sounds of “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” richoted off the walls of the GAP club. I snapped my fingers slowly to the beat of the music. MaeBelle came and leaned over the bar.

“You look good in that red.” I said with a smile.

She grinned, “Don’t I know it?”

I noticed a flower sitting neatly in the side of her hair.

“What’s that there?” I pointed.

“Oh this here’s a posie from Posie Kay,” she smiled, “She said a whole mess of ‘em started growing in that land behind Stradford’s hotel. I heard the Natives gonna build a monument back there or somethin’.”

Hm. There goes that one percent again.

Categories
Creative Work

The Intern

The Day That Shocked The Nation.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Author’s Note/Trigger Warning: I realized I hadn’t posted any of my creative work. I dug up this short story I wrote back in 2018, centered around the 9/11 terrorist attacks in NYC. The prompt called for short story centered around an atypical day at work. It surely is a day we will never forget. Rest In Peace to all the victims.

Good Morning Kafka,

I hope classes are going well. Are you sure you want to take a full course load this semester? I always advise my interns against it.

Anyhow, please complete following tasks today:

  • Order the office lunch at Vinny’s. They are usually busy this early, so I’d recommend going in person.
  • Please schedule social media for all of next week. Post content related to Fintech since we are hosting the Annual Technology ball next Friday.
  • Submit our survey to the Springville Most Talented Awards. It would look great if we were to win again this year.
  • Please draft a press release and a blog post to go out on Monday.
  • It’s your turn to plan an exciting event for office! J Let me know what ideas you come up with.
  • Find some potential background photos for our upcoming company holiday party.

Let me know if you need my assistance.

Thanks,

Neil H.

CEO, Caesura Capital Investments

P.S. The Finance department is looking forward to your presentation today!

Kafka buried his face in his hands. He’d forgotten about the damn presentation. The thought of trying to fulfill these tasks on two hours of sleep plagued him as he read Neil’s email for the third time. Kafka looked up at his reflection in the glass computer screen; his brown eyes were virtually sunken in, his brown skin looking rather dry, and he hadn’t been able to afford a decent haircut in about a month. He knows Professor Jones didn’t give a shit about him, having to be at work by 7 am the next morning when homeboy assigned that random ass critical analysis. Nor did Professor Craft when he decided to give the class an Excel file and told us to clean the data. Or Professor Kim. Or Dr. Umami. No, no. But Kafka couldn’t blame them. After all, they were just doing their jobs. He had nothing to blame it on but his tumultuous love affair with procrastination. And boy did he like it rough.

“Kafka, did you need some coffee…or a nap, perhaps?” asked Val, as she walked by his desk.

Kafka quickly straightened up. “Oh no, Val. I was just thinking about what I wanted post on social media for the upcoming tech event.”

Val nodded. “That’s good to hear. You know Neil puts a lot on you a lot because he cares about you.”

And when did Neil become an expert on caring for interns? His ass is always “working remote” on a yacht off the coast of a random tropical island. Or in the case of this week, islands. The Keys of Florida or something like that. Caesura Capital Investments was founded by Neil’s grandfather, Caesura Herring, then passed down to Neil’s father, Monroe “Ro” Herring, then of course to Neil. Folks around the office call Neil, “Red Herring”, because he never pays attention to the task at hand. He thinks it’s because everyone knows his favorite character is Red Foreman from That 70’s Show, but they’d rather not inform him of the truth. Val Herring is Neil’s younger sister and, you guessed it, CFO of Caesura Capital Investments.

Kafka half-smiled. “Thanks, Val.”

Val winked as she walked away- the click clacking of her stilettos a cacophony in the ever quiet office. Kafka looked around his undecorated cubicle. The iridescent lights inside the office reflected off of a shiny silver name plate embossed KAFKA ABDUSEMED, Intern.

He couldn’t explain it, but something about the way the letters of his name dug into the silver metal stirred excitement in his belly. He looked at Neil’s email and dragged it to his secondary monitor and pulled up search engine on his primary one.

He typed “How to start your own company” in the search bar. And within a millisecond his possibilities were endless.

“Plotting your escape?” said Dre, as he entered Kafka’s cube. Dre, formerly known as Aleksander Glasgow, reminded Kafka of a birch tree – tall, lanky, White, and always smelled nice. After some time working with the company’s satellite office out in Chicago, Aleksander had a cultural awakening, if you will. After feeling so accepted by the community there, he returned to New York insisting everyone call him “Dre”, the nickname bestowed upon him by the illustrious Black delegation of the Southside. He also met his fiancé, Brie, while there. And before you ask, yes. Yes, she is. Kafka disregarded most of his co-workers, but Dre made this place more bearable. He was like the older brother Kafka never had.

“Something like that.” Kafka laughed, leaning back in his chair.

“Hey, so I was thinking I should get a tattoo on my arm?” Dre said smiling.

“Of what?” Kafka asked.

“Maybe ‘Chi-Town’ or ‘Windy City love’?”

“Dre, you’re from suburbs of Syracuse.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t fulfill me, bro. You understand?”

Kafka shook his head. “Yeah, I feel you, bro.”

“Man, whatever. You can’t say anything to me with a name like ‘Kafka’. Why did your parents want you to become a German-speaking Bohemian Jewish novelist?”

“My Dad isn’t known for his intellect, you know? Just does shit without thinking of the consequences.” Kafka laughed, only half joking.

“Yeah, I bet. Well speaking of fulfillment and interesting white men, I have a meeting with some investment bankers on the 103rd floor and they took a liking to you last time. You wanna go?”

“Ah, I’d love to man, but Herring’s gave me a laundry list to do. Can’t go way up there right now. Matter fact, I have to go to Vinny’s to order lunch.”

 Kafka grabbed his jacket and walked with Dre to the elevators. As they walked, Kafka found himself staring out the windows. He used to be afraid of heights, but after some time working at Caesura, located on the 40th floor, his fear subsided. New York was busy as usual. Her hustle and bustle is why Kafka fell in love with her in the first place. The sun’s rays shot through the windows and gently kissed Kafka’s brown skin and illuminated Dre’s.

Dre sucked his teeth. “When’s Red Herring’s goof ass coming back anyway?”

“Who knows?” Kafka laughed. “How’s Brie?”

“Brie’s wonderful as usual. We went to Harlem last weekend to get her hair done by the Dominicans, and now they call us café con leche. ”

 “Yeah, I bet. See you in a few man!” Kafka smiled as he watched Dre step into the elevator going up. Dre smiled and waved.

****

Kafka had never seen so much smoke. It was so thick. So black. It was moving so slow, it looked like it’d stained the sky. He was standing off in the distance, outside of Vinny’s, and his neck stiffened as he stared this cloud that erupted from the side of the tower in the middle of NYC. Among the screams, gasps, and the “What the hell was that?”s, Kafka found himself thinking about Dre. Did he make it out? Kafka began counting the floors, hoping the impact hadn’t affected 103. 2. Did you see that? 14. Was that a plane? Did a plane hit the tower? 16. 35. 61. 84. Oh my God, all those people? 96.97.98.98…102.103. Dre, where was Dre? Where was Val? Where was the lady that smiled at Kafka every morning when she emptied his trash? Where was Dean, the accounts manager, who just became a father for the first time? 108. Where was the man in the plaid coat he’d seen walking in this morning? 109.110. Kafka found himself out of floors. He’d reached the top of the building and it had all been engulfed by the thick black smoke. Was that a fucking plane? Someone yelled. Oh my God, a plane! A plane hit the tower! A man screamed. Kafka looked down at his hands. He’d never seen them shaking so violently. The lunch order for the office had fallen from them onto the sidewalk some time ago. Val’s quinoa salad busted all over the ground, while Dean’s bean burger was no longer the sum of its parts. The artificial cloud had blocked the Sun. Fire engines roared, and the police sirens bellowed through the streets of NYC, but they were unmatched to the screams of the people they passed.

Speaking of fulfill, I have a meeting with some investment bankers on the 103rd floor and they took a liking to you last time. You wanna go?” You wanna go? Yeah, Kafka wanted to go. But where? Part of him wanted to run into the burning tower and find his friend. Part of him wanted to get out of NYC as fast as he could. Where was Dre?