“Ol’ Obama knocked it outta the park yestiddy didn’t he?”
“Sumbitch always does. He always does.”
“Big O was fuckin’ magnificent in Charleston. I can’t believe he actually sang ‘Amazing Grace.’ I think he knew Clementha Pinckney…”
The conversation was on-going at a table across from where I’m taking refuge from ominous weather. As near as I can tell, their names are Stan, Roy and Tommy. All three are African-American. They are gray-beards, firmly ensconced in the demographic labeled ‘active seniors.’ One of them, ‘Stan’, wears a yellow and black baseball cap that shouts ‘STEELERS’.
It’s mid-afternoon last Saturday in one of those places on the outskirts of town that serves breakfast anytime. In the air, there’s the faint smell of ham n’ eggs — and maybe a little grease. Up North, they’d call a place like this a “ham and eggery.” Truth is I’m not really in a breakfast way, but inside A/C is an oasis in otherwise thick, humid outside air and besides, thunderclouds are bearing down fast. Lightning flashes to the west; a split-second later, there’s a Biblical thunder clap. Storm is close. Hard rain in just a few.
The building permit posted near the cashier’s stand at the ‘Entrance/Exit’ says ‘Maximum Occupancy, 35′. I SWAG around twenty scattered among a dozen booths and tables. The clientele is mostly black, mostly men. The back and forth diagonally across from me continues.
“I still can’t believe it. I just can’t,” says the one who turns out to be Tommy.
“These funerals are so sad. Now we all gotta go through this shit nine times… in the next week! Nine times!”
“Lil’mothafucka with that terrible haircut went in and sat down with ’em… for an hour… in a church… in Bible Study,” says Tommy.
“…welcomed him in.”
“I can’t believe it either. Ya know, we were all young boys, real young boys when the four little girls were killed in Birmingham.”
“I thought we were all through with this kinda shit…,” the Steelers fan says.
“Me too… guess not,” his voice trails off.
“This is bad… real bad. Can’t remember when I been so angry ’bout…”
“And to make things worse, them damn cops in North Carolina, the ones that caught him, took his sorry ass to Burger King because he said he was hungry. Fuckin’ BURGER KING. Can you believe that shit?!?”
“If he had been black kid killin’ up a white church, they wouldn’t have taken his ass to no Burger King. He’d a been lucky to not get shot dead on site.”
“Got that right.”
“I remember my Momma cryin’ that Sunday the little girls were killed.”
“Mine too. There were a lot of tears. There have been too many damn tears then and now.”
“Those people in Charleston were too damn quick to forgive that fuckin’ coward.”
“Ya can’t say that. I mean isn’t that what they teach in church, you know, forgiveness…”
“Fuck that. I mean why did they have to ‘forgive’ the little motherfucker so soon… and on TV? Hell he didn’t even ask for forgiveness…maybe the little bastard doesn’t even want fuckin’ forgiveness…”
“I ain’t forgiving shit. Let somebody do sumthin’ to me or mine, let someone harm one of my grands …or anybody of mines. I ain’t forgivin’ his ass.”
“Listen Roy”, says Tommy “you’re my best dam friend in da whole world. If I die before you and it’s because someone killed me, you better not forgive them. You better not. I mean it. I want you to tell them to kiss yo ass…that you don’t forgive them …and that you hope they…”
“…ROT IN HELL”, the three men exclaim in unison.”
“You see where the lil’ sista took down that Confederate flag in front of the state capital,” Roy says.
“…just shinnied her lil’ skinny ass up the flagpole and took the sumbitch down.”
“Good. If I was a younger man, I’d a climbed up that pole and done it myself…”
“Fool, you can hardly climb up in a bed,” Stan gently laughs.
“They arrested her, ya know.”
“Shit, I’ll help bail her out.”
“Betcha they didn’t take her to Burger King.”
The three men, who’ve obviously known each other a long time, rise from their seats, leave what appears to be a generous tip, and start for the door. The man in the Steelers cap shook his head from side to side and quietly but angrily said “Black lives matter.”
“They sure do,” I whisper to myself. I finish my ham n’ grits and prepare to enter the storm outside.