Harlow Cove may as well have been a ghost town.
The insufferable heat drove it’s weary residents in from their fields and duties, in search of relief that would never come. Hot air breezed through open windows, sweat dripped and stuck like salty sap on the arms of housewives and mothers trying their best to tend to chores and wild children glad to free of their studies.
Theodore Goodwin stood in the open doorway of his mother’s home, slowly dabbing the sweat from his face with a thin handkerchief.
Another day, same old nothing.
“I keep telling you, Child, you stand in that sun any longer, you’re going to be blacker than the coal in that there stove.”
He turned only for a moment, noticing that his mother was shuffling from the kitchen into the living room. She wiped her wrinkled hands on her apron, smudges of flour covering the pastel flowers printed across it.
She was a woman that had spent her life ‘passing’ out of necessity, a woman that had not moved past the fear of never being accepted in the world for what she truly was. He grew sad, but only for a moment as he shifted his weight from one leg to the other. Standing tall, his pride shone through as the baritone of his voice slipped past his lips. “I’m a black man Mama, and I’m glad to be a black man. Why, don’t you know, the beauty of my skin comes from that there sun you want me to stay out of. I could get so black that I’d look blue or purple, and I’d still hold my head high.”
“And die because of it.”
He shrugged, knowing all the things she knew and more. He feared nothing and no one, not even the harrowing tales she’d told his whole life. “Only if I were to leave the four corners of Harlow Grove. And even then, out in the world, I’d walk with my head held high. Life will be what it is, as it is already written. If I die, I’ll die a proud black man.”
He turned then, a smile dancing across his face as he eyed his mother. “My skin is beautiful, as is yours. But I understand your fears, and I’m glad you’ve found safeness here. As for me, I feel like a fluttering butterfly encased in glass, losing my will to go on by the second.”
“I want you safe Goody, always.”
“I’m a big boy now, Mama. You can’t save me from everything.”
He stared out the door once more, looking out into world in which he was trapped, wishing he could escape. Just once, perhaps for a day or longer. Perhaps for the rest of his life.
A group of children ran through the yard, giggling as they threw themselves into games and roughhousing. “Hi Mr. Goodwin!”
He waved, acknowledging the few that were his students. “I hope that schoolwork has been completed.”
“Aww, it’s the weekend!”
“It is, and your schoolwork should be completed when I see you again on Monday.”
The children griped for only a moment, promising they’d finish it all before excusing themselves to finish their fun.
One child stayed behind, approaching the Goodwin porch with caution. Twiddling his little fingers, he climbed the four steps and stood before his teacher. Head held down, he spoke softly, to which Theodore replied sternly. “Edgar, what have I told you before?”
“Stand tall, with my head held high. Look each man and woman in their eye, and speak well and-”
Edgar did as he’d been taught time and time again, admitting his woes to the only teacher that had ever taken the time to listen to him. “I’m having trouble with my schoolwork.”
“What kind of trouble, Edgar?”
Theodore bent down, meeting the young boy at his level. “I sent a note to your parents about that. Haven’t they been helping you?”
Edgar shook his head. “Daddy can’t read, and Mommy won’t make time to help. They don’t really care if I do good or not, even though you want me to. They say it won’t be long before I’m out in the fields anyway, for extra help to bring in more money.”
“Is that so?”
The boy nodded, speaking lowly though he knew better. “I don’t want to work in fields all my life. I want to be like you, Mr. Goodwin.”
“Like me? A teacher?”
“No, a person that dreams and gets out of here.”
Theodore sighed, clearing his throat as he stood tall. “Well, I’m not exactly out if I’m still here teaching you, now am I?”
“Not yet, but I believe you will be.”
Theodore smiled, placing his hand on Edgar’s shoulder as he guided him off the porch. “I’m very grateful that you believe in me, and I believe in you just the same. If you can, come here tomorrow after Church and I will help you.”
“Thanks Mr. Goodwin.”
Edgar rushed off then, catching up to his friends before they disappeared around the corner and rushed off to ‘terrorize’ the next block.
Imagine the difference I could make out in the real world, he thought to himself as he went to assist his mother with supper.