All There, In Black And White

by sandra on August 14, 2017

{This story took place in 1968; hence, my use of the word “colored”, to maintain authenticity.

 Several years ago, I read this story at a poetry reading at Callanwolde Arts Center, here in Atlanta. The audience that evening was comprised of at least 50% black men and women.

At the end of the night, when I was walking out, a man approached me. “Thank you for that story,” he said. “It reminded me of a story from my own childhood. And that it only takes one, good, white person to make a difference. I’m sure that little kid never forgot you.”}

I was in fourth grade.  He was in kindergarten.  He was the only colored kid in all of Winchester Elementary.  Every morning he stood alone in front of his house waiting for the school bus to pick him up.  He lived so close to the school that he could have walked, but he was only five years old and there was no sidewalk.

We became friends.  He was a cute little guy, with his fluffy afro hair and beaming face.  I saved a spot for him next to me and we sat together every day on the short ride down Harlem Road to the front door of our school.  We talked and giggled and we grew to love each other.

One day, our school bus stopped in front of his house. He wasn’t standing outside so we waited. He didn’t come out. We waited a little longer. He still didn’t come out. The bus driver drove off.

Many of us kids kept our eyes peeled on his house while the bus driver pulled away. Suddenly, the little guy appeared, running up the road after our bus at the fullest speed his five-year old legs could muster.

We kids who spotted him yelled out to the bus driver to stop. The bus driver pulled over and stopped. Then he pulled the lever to open the school bus doors.

The little guy leapt onto the bus, panting and sweating. His Jesus-on-the-cross necklace was twisted and one of the latches on his Flintstones lunchbox had come undone.

Elephant-size tears were running down his face. He ran directly to me, dumping his upset body onto mine and burying his face deep into my pea coat.  My red-plastic change purse dropped to the floor.

Everyone on the bus was silent, except for Mark Dosier, who was standing in the aisle next to our seat.

He peered down on us, his face stoney and tight.  I looked up at him, clutching the little guy in my arms.

“Nigger lover,” he spat.

 

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