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A Beer, Tall and Cool
Flood #8
[This was Flood's favorite story to tell, to which he laughed and grinned at the bemused men on the crew, who came of a generation whence whitey didn't fight and only a discarded white woman could for a brother do.]
September 1967
Mamma was alright, had her a man and more children, to whom he was but a distant uncle. Women were all over Israel, like white on rice. They could smell that money. Every time he went into a bar, there she would be, somebody, who wanted to sit on his knee, hang on his arm and target his knot roll with her charm. After this long hot drive he just wanted a beer, wouldn’t be looking for no female company.
If he got lonely there was Aretha on Lanvale, Geraldine out in Turners, Naomi up on Biddle or whatever girl at whatever bar would target him for the smart money, which he had to admit he was.
He just wanted a beer. No trouble, no hustle, no little woman trying to get his baby so she could trap him into a mortgage.
He decided to swing up the eastside, on the white side of town, up on Moravia and Sinclair, to the Cedonia Inn. There he could just have his beer and maybe find some work or a deal with one of the men there. He believed in staying with his own kind, and always sneered with disgust on those fools who just had to have a white woman, the same fools that licked that white pussy, who in reality were just kissing the Whiteman’s balls via his discarded woman.
On the other hand, every man who had tried to rob him or do him wrong, cheat him or cuss him, had been of his own kind. He often wondered if it were that way among white folks. Were they forever doing each other wrong? Not being one to invent an answer he did not have, Israel just let such questions lie as asked until he came across the answer.
“Boy, a beer, tall and cool, would taste so right about now.” A Miller High Life, he fancied, awaited just around the corner here as he turned his Cadillac, with its nice almost new and well-rotated tires on it, into the parking lot. There were a few other cars there, right off the road, one older man walking in, and stopping to cast him a look that he could not quite fathom.
Israel parked his car away back, making sure not to crowd in to the regular patrons’ parking spaces, opened that door, shook the sweat out of his new slick hat and, “Oh, shoot, Israel!” he mumbled open-mouthed to himself as a dozen white men and two women, looking like little drowned rats—he never did see what cross-breeding Negroes saw in a white woman no how—came crowding in a rush out the bar door. It was a free-standing building, not in a row, just a single story of a block-made roadhouse bar.
He knew what this was about. Over the past few years young fellas of his kind had taken to robbing white folks all over town, wherever the two kinds came up alongside each other in the housing situation, usually at the behest of some distant whiteman who were making money off the fuss—heck, he’d been working in rentals out Frederick Road, up in Park Heights and up into Govans even as a handy man, demo man and housepainter.
Zing, came a Budweiser bottle by his ear.
Smash went a National Boh bottle against his grill.
The little drowned-rat-looking white women couldn’t throw worth a hoot, just spilled beer by way of throwing the bottle.
But that big boy with the cowboy hat on must have played ball, because that bottle of Bud thumped his shoulder like it was a heavyweight punch.
It was time to go.
As he got in behind the wheel his windshield took a crack from a bottle and a full can of beer came sailing through the open passenger side window and hit his face—getting him at least a suds of a taste.
He peeled out of that lot while two bottles dented his trunk from people running up and throwing them like spiked footballs.
“Goddamn! Please deliver me back to my own cheating, back stabbing, shiftless kind before my hide is tanned!”
That is the only prayer Israel could ever recall having uttered, him being a believer in sowing and reaping and contentedly hoping God—who seemed a mean old sort in the bible—would be looking the other way.
He gunned the engine past Armstead Gardens, where they would definitely killed his ass if he stopped there, and made his right down through town on the most direct route to the West Side, down U.S. Route 40.
Something had changed while he was gone Downhome, something that had him thirsty by the time he pulled up at Prestman and Stoddard and parked, getting out near the corner, the only car parked in the alley.
“Hey, Darrel, Jerry, you chumps wouldn’t happen to have any beer—ma car drank all ma beer up!”
They pitched quarters and drank late into the night, asking Israel about his recent adventures over and over again, every one of them trying on his prize hat and imitating the pained limp of Old Georgia Slick down Highway 19.
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