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Long Licking Shadows
Flood #9
April 6 1968 10:00 P.M.
The phone on the wall rang.
He didn’t even want to get up to answer it, he was so darned tired from boarding up storefronts and posting pictures of Doctor King for two straight days.
He let it ring and drank his beer.
The phone finished ringing and he finished his beer.
“Damn glad I’ve got pork rinds to go with the rest of this beer,” mused the tired bachelor, considering that liquor stores and bars were now closed in anticipation of all the stupidity to come.
As he rose to go to the kitchen and reached for the refrigerator door, the phone on the wall rang clean in his ear.
“Damn, Alvin, hold your horses.”
He reached into the fridge, grabbed another beer, ripped off the cap—always had been proud of that, that he could just pry off bottle cops without a tool—took a swig, and then answered the phone, “Yeah?”
“Of course I know they killed his black ass, Alvin.”
“What you wan’ me ta do about it? Dig him up? Hell, they ain’ put him in da groun’ yet.”
“Maybe he was a great man—I say getting’ shot is proof a dat. Nobody shot me, so I mus’ jus’ be a workin’ chump.”
“March, are you stupit?”
“I been boardin’ up fo’ two days—know what comin’. Dese fools ‘bout ta burn da joint down. Only question is do I go into da brick bidness too.”
“I’d a been more pissed iffin’ dey shot Mista Baines—dis preacher man never paid me fo’ nothin’” laughed Israel.
“Now, Alvin, it all well en good to be all high and mighty out dere in Turners but I’m down here in the shit and some bad fellas are gonna be pilin’ on en you know it. Ma black ass is settin’ right here, on my back porch—there you go, I can see some flames and shadows lickin’ up Govans way right now.”
“I ain’t gonna put it out! I’m gonna drink ma beer…”
“I’m gonna eat my rinds…”
“Because, Cuz, they about ta burn dis bitch down en I needz ma rest, ‘cause I got money saved en I goin’ into the rental biz in a big way—Whitey gonna be runnin’ fo dem hills and Big Izz is gonna be right dere at the auction with a knot roll a cash so big maybe I can hire your smart ass ta count it and carry it aroun’ fo’ me, write a book about how much money your Cuz has…”
“En when dese dumb muvafucas burn down dey market, I might even go back into da grocery biz, so dese fools can take the bus across town to spend their money on ma groceries…”
“ ‘Cause, Alvin, we caint fix dis shit. Da worl was born broke en ain’ no fixin what were never whole ta begin wit—damn dat beer is cold!”
“Ah, dat beer even colda… have a nice night, Alvin. I gots ta work in da monin’ now you stay out dare wit you Turner Station redbones and Dundalk crackas while I watch dese fools burn dis bitch down!”
The phone clanged dead on the wall with a ring that overpowered the pained chatter of Alvin upset about this big idea and that bad conspiracy.
He watched the flames lick in the distance and heard the worried chatter of the neighbors…then came that short little knock on the door what foretold of some fool named Otis neglecting to come home from the bar again.
“Shoot, the bar closed,” whispered Israel to himself.
He cracked the door and looked down at Otis’ wife, Brenda, in her blue bathrobe and slippers, come up from the first floor apartment he rented to them, batting her eyes from behind her just straightened hair.
He leaned on the door frame and looked down at her spread of hips and said, “Brenda,” as he held his beer in her way.
“Oh, Israel, Otis done got arrested for kicking in a store front with that fool Sam. I am so afraid about this craziness. How are you?”
“Oh, still large en in charge, Baby. Dere some chops in the fridge, eggs and butter too—get you pretty ass ta work girl.”
He punctuated that command with a resounding slap on her behind and she gave a little chirp and shuffled into the kitchen as he shut and locked the door behind her and swigged his beer, looking out the glass panel of the back door at the long licking shadows beginning to grow like a thing, a distant ever nearer and less clear thing.
“Ain’ dis some shit,” he rumbled as he leaned on the wall and looked out and away.”
It was going to be a long day’s work tomorrow. But at least that fool Otis had saved him the trouble of cooking and on top of that he’d have some pushing before the morning. Brenda was a good ten years older than he, but she was still fine enough. The bars would be closed, and the liquor stores too. So he was well stocked with three cases in the fridge…
Oh, he was neglecting the little lady.
Israel turned and gave her another slap while she was bent over getting out the butter and eggs and declared, “I maybe could give y’all a break on the rent in consideration of ma meals en all? Lessin’ you’d ratha’ me bail Otis out?”
“Yep, I thought so. Let ‘im rot.”
She blushed and got to her work as he chuckled and the distant flames danced in the freshly painted window frame as long, licking shadows.
“Shoot, dis is betta den TV.”
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Add a new comment below:
T-RexDecember 17, 2020 8:30 PM UTC

Fuckin masterpiece. I'd read 500 pages of this shit if I could.
responds:December 19, 2020 3:48 AM UTC

I can steel hear the old guy laugh—what a laugh, forever young.