A long time ago in the fabled southlands of America, the authorities told black people they had to use the “colored” restrooms – not the “white” people ones. It was thought at the time that “mixing the races” would lead to rape, diseases or other unfortunate circumstances. One public restroom each in a building’s common area was supplied for colored men, colored women, white men and white women; pretty idiotic, don’t you think?
It did make four “water closets” available, two apiece for each sex, which admittedly allowed for somewhat easier restroom availability. But it also undermined the dignity of the American Deep South, which was thus stuck moving from the lack of fair human rights to the promotion of greater civil rights, and eventually to manifesting independent living rights. After all, the involved country was America, and being a democracy, it couldn’t long maintain such hostile acts of racial segregation – or discrimination against the physically disabled, challenged, or handicapped.
You could say the 1950s and 60s were a time of incredible transition when it came to the full legal rights of American citizens. What was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s role in this so-called “incredible transition?” For one thing, changing racially segregated public restrooms back to the usual men’s and women’s ones was considered to be politically important. This sort of thing, along with the Deep South’s municipal bus boycotts, was to enable “colored” people to get away from such underhanded referencing to their darker and harmless black, brown or mulatto skin color.
Uniting the public restrooms enabled people to continue their normal way of life, unhampered by racism or any presumed “need” for such segregated facilities. Plus, there was the further needed transition of the municipal city buses, where black people had been forced to sit in the far backs of the buses. As with the public restrooms, there was no need for such isolation, which at the time was being corrected by the acting Civil Rights Movement, headed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so that people could use most public facilities without suffering from further racial segregation.
It was thus seen that transportation segregation wasn’t required by so-called “different” racial groups, and neither were racially segregated public restrooms. However, years later in the 1970s and 80s, it turned out that the people who actually needed such “specialty” restrooms were the disabled. However, they needed special, more copious interior stalls with grab bars within them, not unduly physically segregated restrooms.
It wasn’t altogether that “incredible” – when you think about it. The needed transition was for some of the restroom stalls to become wider – affording more ease and room for less ungainly wheelchair transfers. The disabled needed more room, sturdy grab bars to help them transfer, and large signs outside on the doors with the blue and white wheelchair access logos.
And there only needed to be one of these stalls available per restroom, not segregated restrooms for the able-bodied and the disabled. Although this had been proposed initially, it was not brought into practice. The racial segregation that had occurred years before caused people to reconsider segregating the restrooms per disabled and able-bodied access.
It had really only been the issues of universal wheelchair access and the universal integration of the disabled with the mainstream able-bodied in buildings, public accommodations and housing which were the needed transitions. These have become important public issues worldwide since the 1980s. Wheelchair users couldn’t easily use the internal stalls of public restrooms in the days before wheelchair access, as that was one major transition that turned out to be truly needed, as well as wheelchair access into other public places such as ramps outside of buildings.
As a nurse aide for the disabled, I used to help people transfer from their wheelchairs to the toilets and back in public restrooms. It was part of my job. Due to moderate learning disabilities, my other everyday work skills tend to be poor. I can’t really handle waitressing, for example. But I’ve done great at writing and editing professionally for a career, and helping people in wheelchairs get through daily obstacles has been easy for me.
Wheelchair riding “shut ins” used to stay at home. They had nowhere they could physically go having wide enough doorways, smooth ramps into the buildings, or areas flat enough for wheelchair access. It took years for colleges and universities to become wheelchair accessible, not to mention other buildings – hotels and motels, too. Added over many years, elevators greatly helped. Nowadays, you also see wheelchair ramps everywhere. This makes life easier for all kinds of people, including those using baby strollers, bicyclists, and the elderly. It’s quite wonderful.
Stairways were part of what kept people out. The seventies were not a “stairway to heaven” for most people with disabilities. But we’re learning. Meanwhile, “colored” and “white” colleges have also been opening their doors to each other, as the USA and the free world begins a phase of politics which we’re still entering, one where you might get to go exactly where you please, and do whatever you want within reason. But the days of yore, where you couldn’t always do so, were intriguing in their own way, although I’m glad those days are almost entirely gone.
Weirdly enough, there were a few good events, fantastical as it may seem, that happened under the loosening ties of racial segregation. For example, there were great “colored” ball teams, and also some well run and hospitably owned black people managed hotels and motels. They hired black workers, which occasionally involved better work situations than similar white run positions. This was unfortunate, as black people weren’t allowed to stay in or work at the white people hotels and motels. Having to contemplate the meaning of the word “colored” was also involved, for certain famous people. Colorful and lively is what they became, as they sojourned the road away from black and white racial segregation.
A concentration camp is the only imagery I can get myself when I think of how things could have ended up under continuing segregation. What monstrosity went worldwide since the “shackles” of such nonsense were rooted in the originally enforced life on our American Indian reservations? Overt “racial cleansing” has multiplied and swelled out from our country, in many a large, small and secretively torturous way. And it has not been so long since black people here in America were forced to sit in the back of city buses. It took a mighty man of talent to get them out of there at all, in spite of recent attempts to force black school children back in.
Nobody likes to sit in the absolute back of the bus forever. It was one of the better strategic moves in our history to get people away from that. Some folks want to “keep on trucking” and serve humanity more, working jobs that involve helping others. But many of these careers require university degrees, which as you know can be difficult to pay for nowadays.
Say, would you like a job that involves no prior experience? It doesn’t pay too well, maybe enough to get by. It’s called being a “personal care attendant” for the disabled, and I’ve been one for black, brown and white people. You don’t have to be a trained nurse, and open positions are listed under Home Care in the newspapers. If you take this job, which often only involves part time work, you may also experience the salutary effect of enjoying working for the civil rights of people with disabilities. You may also get free meals and a roof over your head by working this job. But without the proper implementation of universal wheelchair access, you won’t be able to get out much and enjoy life to the fullest.
Therefore, I want hereby to get the word out about municipal buses being outfitted with reasonably made wheelchair lifts. This involves various programs and accessibility issues – happening all over the modern world. Those white, black and brown people in manual and electric wheelchairs need to be able at last to get on the buses. And trains and airplanes too, not to mention into hotel rooms, apartments, buildings, restrooms, etc.
I wish they made wheelchair access part of the standard legal building codes of houses everywhere on the planet. Nearly everywhere you park now, you see the sign for wheelchair access in some parking spaces. Sooner or later, we will all become disabled, whether colored or white. People in “The Movement” know this well, and have been spreading the word about it for quite some time now. Movement is an umbrella term for all kinds of people gaining and exercising all kinds of human rights.
This is sort of their partial and jumbled story, as told by me. It covers some of racism, sexism, disability rights, gay rights, and God knows what else. It’s set in a cross between “the sixties” and modern times. The pitfalls of cigarette smoking also figure in. The one uniting factor is the Civil Rights Movement. I came along much later – when it comes to the major problem with this story, namely lots to write about, I had to “fictionalize” everything. I spent years as a personal care attendant for the disabled, working for black, brown and white people, in dozens of peculiar and challenging situations. It was difficult but rewarding. However, this story mainly concerns a pair of civil rights workers you may have heard of before: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King.
Dr. King has to be Dr. Queen, etc., in case somehow I’m accidentally “racist,” to make me be more “controversial,” and also because of “libel and slander” laws. It’s a serious matter. I don’t believe I’m entitled to ever use those two real people, who are both now deceased, as fictional characters. Instead, I’m going to use fictional “people” loosely based on them, and thank them profusely for being “my purple godparents.” I know it’s okay to write factual accounts using real people, and a lot of what I mention in this story are facts about Dr. King and his wife, but this is highly fictionalized. Not everything I say herein holds true about them. I’m breaking or bending a few rules to write this, so please bear with me.
You are the judge, gentle reader. You will see what you think of the below. But first, grab yourself a tall glass of lemonade, as this is definitely going to be somewhat a long winded – short term adventure in reading.
THE INCREDIBLE TRANSITION OF MICHAEL KING
That was the real name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His black dad may have tried to rescue mankind by bestowing a title on his son, and on himself as well. He named them both after Martin Luther, the white founder of Protestantism, who wanted to rescue people several centuries ago. Such a rescue may or may not be an option nowadays, in the time of Global Warming and worldwide uncertainties about race and religion.
I wonder what it would be like for me to rescue able bodied people for a change, taking them where they clearly need to live. But what if they went the wrong way, and ended up in, of all places – Hell? That is somewhat the place the colored folks were expecting to enter at times, instead of going home. The Ku Klux Klan had a nasty tendency to try to put them there. Being out on the road for lengthy pedestrian marches could make one long to go home again, when your brain doesn’t know exactly where you’ll end up, and your shod feet are afire with the irritating flames of pinched toes.
Where could I help such people go in a story? You fiction readers always seem to want a certain couple where it belongs. Going to the moon you would put it. Or Mars. Is there another planet where that couple could flourish, while they paved the way for future generations? Or would Hell Itself be the logical result of a racially segregated road, as one has to wonder why they were so near such an ungracious and futile end?
I believe people in wheelchairs are in a similar boat to so called “people of color.” Once upon a time, I was a minor component of the Independent Living Movement – a “helper,” as they put it in Third World countries. I used to take care of the movement impaired, toileting them, moving them physically from their beds to their wheelchairs, feeding them, and talking to them about their penchant to get in front of moving cars and buildings in order to protest – well, no, actually that may have been a good thing. There were black people around me also doing this work, not to mention white ladies with babies, and Native American, Asian, Jewish and Moslem others. And white men saved me from many an embarrassing moment, too.
It involved the Civil Rights Movement. The wheelchair folks were struggling to get their rights as human beings, in the face of non-wheelchair accessible buildings and the lack of nice flat curb cuts in the sidewalk. That involved risking their lives, tenuous ones that had little capacity to exercise, where they had to do everything from racing down the street, being run over by cars, and popping wild wheelies.
People seem to like to hear or read about such serious matters. It is still called the Independent Living Movement, and its connection to the Civil Rights Movement is relatively unheralded and unsung. One did and didn’t spring from the other. One movement was led by white people, and the other was led by black people. This mattered…somewhat.
Meanwhile to my writing this, my seemingly vicious father is already dead, and my incredibly loving mother is catching up with me. I think she is dying of cancer, oh so painlessly. They gave her a tuberculin vaccine and maybe she’s going to pull through. She will take it because she’s part Native American from Montana, a “Rosie the Riveter” during WWII. My Dad was all American, a mighty man, “Germie-American,” killed the “Japs” who were trying to dominate the “Chinks,” and had to deal with it his way. He was an absolute genius, and looked dishwater blonde and blue eyed. My Mom is an auburn redhead like me, and gorgeously green eyed. I also have two older sisters, both of whom have nothing to do with this story.
Dad had high blood pressure, which was giving him weird, deep-seated psychological problems. It made him chase us kids around and scream his lungs out at us. He was my hero, the White Man. Yet he did attempt to kill me several times. One time he chased me off a cliff. I like to think it was due to his having been a chain smoker. He was often the sweetest, kindest, most loving man in the world. It still matters. Say, do you think you might like to read about some independent living, or at least some colored people, by now? Believe it or not, this is all excusable background for the main story below, which is largely about racism and the supernatural.
Feminism is also an integral part of it. “Coletta” there has to up and do something “for a change,” instead of lounging around. She was a great looking lady, especially when she was young, and she and “Dr. Queen” were a cute couple for two people who cut such a wide swath for civil rights. But she had to play a supporting role as a wife and mother, so she didn’t get quoted much. Actually, to be honest, she did much more than that – gave many speeches and helped with other liberty events herself, too. But we’ve never gotten to hear lots about it. She always stood somewhat in “the great man’s” diverse and multiple shadows. Many of these were cast by men who didn’t love women well enough at the time to understand the need for equality – or at least a good belief system.
Even FBI surveillance gets a brief mention. It happened frequently during the Sixties that important Civil Rights figures were “checked out” from a distance through wire tapping, bugs and whatnot. A lot of Dr. Queen’s actions were thus performed while under surveillance, in a kind of living human “fish bowl.” I think it explains nearly everything “crazy” that he ever did. How would you feel if your every action was determined by a camera? You’d be crazy too – if you thought you could freak someone out that way.
Digression is over, for now. I have to talk about my purple African “godparents.” I have to thank them, trust me. They are mysteriously appearing in an extravagantly well appointed, but “seedy” and “cheap” hotel room somewhere. They are from the past, and currently no longer exist. They both died, spaced centuries apart, at least to one of them. “Dr. Queen” was shot and killed, and she had to go on without him.
Whether or not she truly loved her sometimes space cadet “hubbie” – I’m sure she did, as she founded an entire huge organization in his name. I’m her fellow widow, having also lost my husband, probably to not dissimilar circumstances of racial discrimination. My husband acted as if he was hounded to death by Christians, as he was Jewish. As he was also disabled, we had our own struggle with entering places with stairs. “Colored” hotels and motels were their own dark realms of intrigue, for awhile enterable but not exitable by their own dark hued denizens.
And those rooms were oft Godlike, I guess, but a mystery to me. They were created by colored people for other colored people, people like Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday, Ma Rainey and Stevie Wonder – he got at least to stay in the white ones and get served by white etc. people. This is because he came along much later in human history. Stevie is blind and got his own book out, “The Secret Life of Plants.” It’s published only in a form blind people can relate to – on tape. I figure it’s about how melanin in human skin relates to chlorophyll in plants. Aren’t colored and disabled people wonderful, especially when they happen to be both?
They probably saved my life, from my arrogantly paranoiac father. It had to do with certain circumstances. How does one thank such people? How does one even attempt to know them? My ignorance, and your innocence, dictates this. What can I say to people to whom I may owe my life?
May we enter their life story somehow, and be right there with them?
One night, a celebrated chocolate man decided something had gone wrong with his entire set of circumstances, and his wife did, too. Out of nowhere, they had melted into an extremely hot scenario – like unearthly large horizontal giants on a hotel bed. One of them, not being altogether fat, having the build of a boxer, was strikingly virile and handsome with his little mustache to the point where one’s mind would be boggled. He was relaxing on “never his own bed” looking at a black and white hotel television, lying down prone and relaxed after a hard day of walking and terse interviews. He was sprawled but composed on top of the pilled and soiled covers, which had seen lots of use and wear, but were still elegantly shiny and soft to the touch.
So was the woman lying next to him. He wondered if the cameras were still watching her, following her loveliness with wiretaps, bugging their simple hotel room, looking for “it.” Evidence that they were Communists, into drugs, weirdo sexual stuff, or breaking the “laws.” Laws along the line of keeping it all safe for “whitie,” not “blackie.”
For some reason, a disgruntled look slowly crossed his dark, plump, beautiful – manly, perhaps not lovely to some – Negro facial features. A quizzical, bemused grin crinkled the corner of one sleepy but slanted dark, large brown eye. And then a look of raw, unadulterated lust melded through all of his deeply brown facial features.
For you see, the black Negro man on the bed had ended up with what was once the most precious and prized ownership problem of our proto-nuclear age — the TV remote control. He cradled it, firmly enclosed in his massive brown hand. He intelligently scanned the television screen, squinting with a gimlet eye at what he saw on it. None of it was familiar.
The man knew one of his black eyes looked eerily Asiatic, especially his right one. The staleness of the surrounding air permeated his brain as the cig smoke seeped away from his fingertips. He knew the room, one of many in which he had practically been living, was smoke-filled. Over the years, ash had seeped into the walls, permeating and blackening the wrinkled fabric of the room’s wallpaper. He had guarded himself from the awful effects for millennia, perhaps. He often wondered why people smoked, being the victim of second-hand dust since before he was born. Both the sandy plains of equatorial Africa and the pleasurable smoke of industrial America had clotted his darkening, sighing pink lungs. “Rod Sterling” appears briefly and says: For you see before you a man going almost completely and quietly insane, both with and without his hugely desirable woman. She’s not around him as much as he’d like her to be. Normally, he lets his stress out at the camera. His wife does not have much to tell people ordinarily, at least not what he wants to say.
She’s right there beside him, but could be killed at any given time. She’d rather, seemingly, pour his coffee and serve him his food. Or would she? To wonder about this is not unusual for her. She took classes at her school so many long years ago on how diseases were the main reason they were in this predicament, stuck whiling their time away in hotel rooms. The classes had informed her of why their lives were a color coded obscenity. The “better people” had to be kept healthy. It was “natural law.” She had mainly studied the fine arts, especially singing, and was described in a magazine article as “a promising young alto soprano.” But she had also found out the hard way how worried white people were about diseases from blacks.
Really, maybe it was for the reason that white people were generally scared of black people. A disease pandemic was the major point emphasized in the classes Coletta had taken. She “supposedly” once wrote a paper explaining that it might be more worthwhile to face diseases than to tell people they remind each other of their own bowels. She had been studying music and education, but for the greater cause she took a minor side trip. Whether or not it mattered was her own dark secret.
While he’s watching TV, you also see one man studying an “Eventide Zone” episode, realizing meanwhile that he must die shortly, and feeling rather “terrific” about it. Actually, he’s sighing to himself, and wondering why he’s let his life become something of a sexual mess. He’s known by the FBI to have one of the world’s most wanton sex lives, asking both men and women to be “his” for brief periods of time, although some of this is highly alleged “info,” supposedly all captured on tape and on record. Some of it is probably lies, and some of it the truth, as it is known that Dr. Queen does “see” some black ladies. His real friends are keeping track of that fact. But whether or not he’s gay or bisexual, no one really knows.
And he needs something like fun and color in his often painful existence, where he’s often being accused of leading young people to their deaths from nonviolent resistance against the white authorities. This is because he’s destined to die young, and wants to live it up – or possibly, because he wants to demonstrate that he’s not afraid of anything at the FBI and others. Sex happens to be a cheap and nonviolent way to do so, kind of a hippy, sixties, free love and drug free way to misbehave – and not be merely “a good little nigger boy.” He also wants to not bend over backwards to make himself look unapproachable – like “colored wouldn’t dare do that.” He’s a Negro. He knows he’s only headed nowhere, or at least somewhere, when they finally get around to murdering him, in spite of his white authority-enforced religious degrees and belief systems. He does believe in good; whether or not he believes in the white man’s God is anyone’s guess.
He gets stressed out about his upcoming early demise sometimes, to the point of appearing paranoid. He fears intensively that most people see his four very young kids as giant African animals that need slaughtered. One of those kids is clearly named after him, just as he himself was named after his dad, in order to fulfill his mission on Earth of being a civil rights leader, and also unfortunately, a public martyr, which he doesn’t want for his son – he wants him to be like him, not dead like he’s going to be, but a leader, someday down the road.
Anyway, our hero is in full dress, a business suit as it were, sometimes called a monkey suit during those turbulent times, and is beginning to deeply indent the scratchy, prickly box spring mattress of many an ancient lost love. He likes life and living, to the fullest when he can, to do everything a black man can do. A lot of white people would rather that he shut up and die, but he’s not very game for that. He doesn’t like being told what to do.
His university self is watching a show on TV that he secretly liked, as it involved his special underground buddy, Rod Sterling. He could relate to the short, dark, intense white man on it, who was artful and clever and told him a good, moral story most of the time. It was fun for a change back there, when he gritted his teeth and turned away, to watch. Well, Freddie Hitchcock was good for an in-joke as well. Both Rod and Fred promoted white male death interests enough to morbidly fascinate Dr. Queen, who generally liked the news and sports more than TV fiction stories.
Yet the man we see before us also had a good story to tell. He had formed up the Montchapel Bus Boycott, to make sure Negro people didn’t have to ride solely in the far back of a city bus. Alabama was – however – not the only place with such problems. In the Seattle Metropolitan area, the buses clearly indicated where “colored” should sit with brown trim around the back windows. What could this be but an unspoken BM reference, even that far north? What being shuffled off to Buffalo would that mean, if it kept up forever, with black people being told they were made of s–t?
Why spend life as a chute joke? It made no sense to him. Maybe gay sex was okay, but not being “lost,” out in public as the world’s foremost representative of human manure. Nothing was Christian about that – nada.
Sideways slides the black and white camera – Rod Sterling, with his usual slouching class, slips upright in with the following words: For you see, the man on the bed is electronically color coded to die in advance by history itself, and he doesn’t know why. It’s his fate, written in the stars and planned by many others, although his final destination remains unknown. Some onlookers, noticing his name, have rather Inquisitional plans for him. He keeps surrounded by an entourage, rather like the President, to protect him from being snatched away and burned alive at the stake.
He knows his name is coincidentally Martin, and that he’s destined to die a martyr. He knows he is the king of a most peculiar kingdom, not unlike “The King.” Elvis was his own brand of a soul singer, but thought of as a white man. Michael, otherwise named Martin, disgruntledly accepts the fact of his own “niggerization” by nearly everyone who must continue their strange color coded way of life.
Almost everyone seems to be a believer in Jesus, God and the Afterlife. Michael believes he’d like his kids to go on living, even if they eventually become white someday. Dr. Queen is there to ensure that they will grow up, even if he himself does not “make it to the Promised Land.” Who needs it?
He shares in a wonderful African American subculture, but his own version of it is studiously religious and arrogantly bombastic in its peculiar style. He is his own behemoth of paranoia. In a jovial way, he knows that, but doesn’t laugh at himself. Even if he grew large as the planet Jupiter, he wouldn’t break so much as a smile on certain occasions. He had to go down in history as an angry young man, not one who “got the joke.”
That would be to give into a belief with which he has no accord. And that is why he must now enter The Eventide Zone. For indeed, without a jester, a king, and a kingdom…is there even truly a jest? – The camera then zooms away from Sterling, focusing on a black night of sparkling white stars.
THE INCREDIBLE TRANSITION OF DR. QUEEN
No man is truly a queen until he puts on a woman’s dress. “Martin,” on the other hand, never notably did so. The head of the FBI was a noted transvestite, but no, not Michael. “J. Edward Hoover” once tried to get Dr. Queen to suicide by “telling” on him to his wife, who got quite a chuckle out of that. As Dr. Queen lay on his hotel bed, he bemusedly wonders what the attraction is to women’s clothing, but decides he likes it better on Coletta, who was quite a voluptuous pinup girl in her day, with a lovely figure to match her equally lovely, somewhat wan face.
Instead, he thinks to himself how the color coded nonsense where his people have to sit or eat or live in seedy, cheap places has to do with how things are organic or inorganic, as he’s been involved deeply with his college of supposed choice. He was fourteen when he began attending it. His whole life was laid out before him, in spite of the hard work, and he had to go to that particular accredited and acclaimed Negro oriented school. At fifteen, he breezed through by plagiarizing most of his white oriented paperwork. His graduate thesis was a thus a work of artifice, not art. His speeches, lowest common denominator to reach the masses, are written largely by his fellow ministers. He is however a fully accredited minister in the Baptist Church, able to marry people legally, or lecture them about the twin devilries of racism and classism, either.
But he’s not really able to attain the Presidency, as many people want him to; the separation of church and state precludes this. Being kept from other high social positions by white people caused this problem, where a Christian minister must “pine” for death and not for life. And he knows the hotels he’s staying at are no longer cheap. Racial segregation had led to an impasse, where many “colored” commodities were getting to be as good as or better than their “white” counterparts – such as jazz music.
But as he lies there on the bed, his life is running through his head, as a kind of demolished motion picture show. He’d had to fake his own resume to prove he wasn’t scared of going to Hell when he died, as white people liked to accuse them of that by literally putting them there. He had to face it down as a civilized white man, by being unafraid in the face of certain death, and worse yet, he enjoys doing it that way for others. Sometimes. Mostly, he figures his end will come from gunshot wounds.
Everywhere he’d been at his brief college, a tacky red carpet was splayed out for him. Most of his friends seemed to be other Baptist ministers. And he did attend to the great place’s more esoteric science classes, where they’d taught him racism was part of human nature. He really liked to think he had written a good thesis proclaiming loudly against those “Natural Laws” where he wasn’t allowed to marry the wife he’d chosen. According to racial supremacists, his fair-skinned Coletta wasn’t allowed to so much as exist. A beautiful young lady, she’d done more for the Civil Rights Movement than most people knew about, while still remaining faithfully wed to her dark-hued gentleman.
But he is wearing velvety black skin, he was my “knight in shining armor” you see, and he is feeling sleepy, large and queasy because he hears his wife preparing him dinner in the kitchen suppinette. They had hiked around town by themselves for a lark, without their entourage, and picked up some lovely casual food at an Asian grocery store. This hotel room at least had a cooker and a fridge, not to mention a cigarette machine. An extremely prominent grayish one – it stood in the hallway outside their room and had a silvery top – which was always cleaned off. The colored maid had also visited their room that morning, and all was in tip top shape for them.
This black Negro man, not being an animal, doesn’t feel like he has to work too hard for a living. He’s been plugging away at words all his life, and his minister friends say they have helped him write some of his speeches and college term papers, mostly just to speed things along, which Dr. Queen thinks is very unimportant next to killing people because of their skin color. He yawns for a moment, stretching, feeling overweight from excessive comfort eating due to worrying too much. And he can’t go out for walks much anymore – he’s too easy to spot.
He feels a bit lazy at the present moment. Maybe even sleazy. How had he done a damn fool thing right? He had been stuck thinking that to himself earlier as he punched the cigarette machine with one plump index finger, receiving a pack of Kools. Usually he doesn’t smoke, but he was feeling like celebrating a little. It wasn’t very often that he had his wife traveling with him, for a change.
He appears slightly guilt ridden as he slinks down the hallway. He knows I don’t know if he even smoked. He knows my parents smoked. And he knows, while lying there, all about me. He had seen the black and white episode on TV in his hotel room, on Sterling’s show. Twice, now. Why? And far more familiar to him was the look of the people on the show, in ways that none of them should have been familiar to him. Why, he muses to himself, do I know about this stranger who is haunting my head? The drug certainly works; he gags, as he balls up one fist. But the childish cough he was going to withstand filters away. He is stalking slowly, slowly back to the bed, while carrying the cigs he bought.
In the prior Eventide Zone episode, the one Martin viewed originally, he had seen my father cruelly teasing me into running into my bedroom. I was white, and so was my father. But I was not entirely white. My father had run after me screaming what he was “gonna” do to me. I had ended up under my bed – scrunched up against the wall. My father obviously tried to not lift up the bed to tear me to pieces. He scrabbled under the bed with one arm. He then finally left. Later – I found a little black hole in the wall – and had disappeared into it momentarily. I stayed in the hole to escape my violent father, in case he came back. I emerged unscathed after a long, long while.
He was someone whom I dearly loved. Maybe I had been a bad girl, to get fat and all. And I had wished someone could find me in the tiny hole and save me. No one seemed to have done so. And my father was harmed psychologically by the misery of having lost me forever. That is because, in the episode as seen by Dr. Queen, I’d permanently vanished. It wasn’t so much “the poor girl” got through it: I’d disappeared away completely. When my father came back in the first episode, I was gone forever.
Funny thing was, in the newer episode Dr. Queen was watching, the ending had changed. The little girl was not lost, and had ended up elsewhere. And the entire episode was now in color, very realistic color at that. Dr. Queen wondered when the hotel had managed to install color TV in their room. He pinched himself and felt a slight “pang,” and so knew he wasn’t dreaming. He had thrown the open packet of cigs down on the night stand near him.
The black man, lounging around on the well appointed soft bed, sighs to himself about the episode. It’d reminded him about something stupid in his own upbringing, which he had both liked and disliked. His father was a yeller, and had been an occasional “curser.” It wasn’t such a nightmarish upbringing as the little girl’s had been. No one had been around his small but sophisticated home, jotting all down on a reporter’s notepad. Instead he recalled family and friends, almost a worthy life that implied greater living to be, if he could get the others moving in time.
But cameras have been around him frequently lately, and the black Negro man feels like he has become pretty much only a personal media circus. Would anything he has done mean anything real to someone, his own human history? Would it matter if he died in public, or in private? He didn’t want to die, or make it look like he liked dying. He’d rather work – hard.
He honestly doesn’t even know what the Godlike reason is why he’s stuck working for a living, so often away from his family, giving odd speeches here and there. He has a doctorate in the religious sciences, and wishes he was able to answer all of those theosophical questions. He knows the whole thing is a political setup for men to use to manipulate others’ minds. But he’s a phantom stranger who uses big words indeed – such as philanthropist and egalitarian – and perhaps lethargic toad. He really thinks he is one, honest! The phrase “hopeless romantic” also comes to mind. He is stuck forever trying to write a perfect speech, as he must “dumb” them all down. Stuff like the “I Have Dreams” speech was written by an obscure third party, most of it taken from a speech by a fellow minister. And all of his actions, including the wiser ones, are questioned by everybody.
He is trying to get some well deserved rest while lodging around, a sniper gun sight could spy his bulky figure through the dirt streaked window one foot away from his bed, and he hears noises outside that don’t belong to him. He’s very anti the Viet Nam War. He knows communist Africa could attack the United States through the atom bomb. One of the colored motels he was going to stay at was recently bombed, probably by the Ku Klux Klan. He is a pacifist, but gets angry enough to kill people sometimes.
Whether or not he ever “punched out” white women is not known. Some people said he used church money to buy “loose” girls, and then beat on them. It was the infamous “Marquis de Sade” claim. Lonely on the road, he had seen black hookers, according to his minister friends. They said he was nothing but absolutely gracious with them. Now Coletta was with him – at his side for a change, but so what?
I have a dream, he thinks to himself. Good line for a great speech, by an absolutely phony white man. I’ll never be one, he muses. He has his own self doubt all nailed. He drifts off for a few moments and subsequently has the strangest actual dream as he snores profoundly on the bed: a decade after a herd of Africans and other groups have defended humanity through the Mahatma K. Ghandaian Jesus Christ leading philosophy of being a peaceful warrior, a small passel of white wheelchair people, all disabled, learn how to get Seattle’s Metro buses reequipped with proper wheelchair lifts. They are thus able to get their civil rights that way – mainly, the right to spontaneously ride the bus, without it being a “planned trip.”
As some of them must go out, or perhaps die along the way, they need to get on the bus. Every other transit option is a hard to arrange trip. No spontaneity. The disabled people have to fill an independent living need, even if it involves white women deliberately falling off the first misguided attempts at wheelchair lifts. One of them did go ahead with that, and she managed to live through the hospital stay later. If she were here, she would say that being alive is the best way to go – but one must risk death for a good reason. It’s better than waiting to die of a head cold.
How do they do that, in Michael’s dream? The original “folding camel” lifts on the buses are lousy. Wheelchair people might get hurt on them, especially little old ladies. So the younger disabled radicals boldly risk their lives purposefully pointing out how faulty the lifts are by riding them the wrong way. One, John Tyler, is my 350 pound weighing radical black haired white Indian hero man. He successfully breaks one of the faulty lifts. The guy has polio and is seriously disabled, and dropping like that is extremely hard on him – and anyone else, if it happened accidentally.
The new lift company then puts the right lifts on the buses. Those “jobbers” hold up to 1000 pounds and have solid metal flaps on the rims of the lifts to ensure your personal safety. And disabled women were involved in the attempt to make sure the lifts didn’t support “worthless” life forms. One of the ladies apparently deliberately fell off the folding camel lift, once. Basically, when you gotta go, you gotta go. But fortunately, she lived through it. Gee, I wish I was that kind of brave.
Anyway, I come along. I’m the girl as the personal care attendant for one of these brave wheelchair people, a male handsome Jew who is the son of two Austrians who fled the Holocaust, and I help ensure the buses are properly ridden once the wheelchair person is strapped in. I have to do battle during this time with white male bus drivers who want to strap in the wheelchair people improperly. I was the little girl who disappeared through the hole in the wall to avoid her white male father. I manage later to not disappear and hide. I calmly end up accepting having to strap people in while being “bugged” by those drivers, until they learn how to do it right. Their argument is that disabled folks “can go ride in the vans.” Some of them drove vans for the disabled, and I made friends with one such driver, so in general they weren’t actually that discourteous.
Nonetheless, I make sure my Jewish fiancée is strapped into a slot on the bus, with what used to be airplane cargo straps from Boeing. It works. Later on, we get married in Golden Gardens Park in Seattle, near Ballard Locks, through a hippie wedding. Both sets of our parents and all our living relatives and friends are there. It’s quite a mixed rainbow crowd of different skin colors and religions, white men and disabled folk alike. Our catering is Matzo Mamas’ cold cuts and cheeses combined with my family’s hot dogs and hamburgers — plus potato salad. It’s a virtual smorgasbord. Ron and I are wearing Hawaiian shirts, and it’s a lot like a luau too.
Dr. Queen, feeling relaxed, hungry and happy, finds he’s applauding away at a great distance of deep, sleepy space and time. Largely, he’s trying to fight the image off. The wedding looks mostly like white people. As he turns to Coletta, he wakes up, as the dream ends with many black disabled people not being able to ride the bus. These are guys like him with no lives of their own. No women to marry, no way to make children. No real job they’ll be allowed to work, no real place to go. They’re stuck living at United Cerebral Palsy Residential Center, working for Boeing, putting together machine parts and not being able to work for an honest living.
And yet, they all need to ride the bus. It would get them out – help them look through a window. The whole entire situation robs them of anything like true dignity, and what they need is to learn to read – mainly. They’re stuck in a strange existence until something gets done. They need to help themselves. Unfortunately, none know if they can. What is the meaning in such a life, you might ponder? I have been away from those black men for so long, maybe somebody has done it, and they are at least riding the buses at long last.
The black man on the bed can barely think. Deep sleeplessness…it will be affecting her again. She was always lovely, but he had noticed her looking extra bedraggled today. She needed something real. Something good in her life, some way better she could feel.
“Coletta, are you ready for this? Something is coming across on the TV that didn’t belong to Sterling. I remember the previous episode — and this is not the same one in any way, shape or format. Some such is way wrong, and it’s happening, my dear mother goddess. Do you suppose we can do anything about it? HMMMMM!?!?!” He stormily threw an unusually level gaze at her, but glanced away. He was always afraid of his own arrogance with her. But she looked back at him without any fear in her face.
All that ran through both their minds was: we could use a vacation, not more utter nonsense in our lives. Instead, now we have to hear from the supernatural.
“Well,” she said dryly, her throat parched with smoking the cigs and the surrounding arid atmosphere, “I suppose we can die at it, handsome, but is that all we’re going to do — given this?” Is that all there is, she meant. She regained her composure, stretching out on the bed in a luxurious business suit of sorts, one that cannot be described herein but as very lovely in the dark, and yet quite wretched. It was relatively expensive and grey, but rumpled somewhat. For you see, she had been about town, and her feathers, as her man knew, were completely ruffled. She relaxed assiduously on the bed, and reclined. “Yes, you’re right.” She snuggled next to him. She knew something weird was set for the premises. A sudden heat wave had been drying everyone up, even black people. She is staying the day with him in the middle of a dreadful summer, somewhere in Mississippi, where the summers are usually heat drenched. It is her time with him, found on the run, when they could get together and be.
Something is certainly melting in their mutual intellectual heavens, and as the two spontaneous detectives are learning, there was nothing right on television. Doctor Queen is flipping through several channels at once. He keeps punching the remote with his thumb, wondering why they had what appears to be cable television. He knows that in 1967 or 1968, although the exact year they’re in was weirdly escaping him, all they have is the ability to manually change the channels. The TV is set up for manual, not automatic transmission. He suddenly recalls it was supposed to be 1968, and he has an eerie feeling something monumental has already happened.
Dr. Queen doesn’t know what they are watching, but he and Coletta had certainly come across something new. What was going on, really, that didn’t involve bombings, dead people and having a color coded name? It’s a little hot outside, the weather. Steamy, sultry, Mississippi mysterious. The television is full of the war coverage, and local news, sports and weather, but it’s not right. It is all from the future, which is getting to be pretty obvious. The war is being held in Iraq and the Middle East, not Viet Nam and South East Asia. They both wonder if cig smoking, rare for them, has anything to do with this particular mystery switch.
Much earlier, back when everything was still normal, they had seen an unusual sight. Two perfectly white cigarettes had been laid out by someone on the small and dingy plastic table next to their hotel room bed. They had obviously been set up by and for someone else, who had roomed there and left. Yet they’d seemed briefly inviting. Both Dr. Queen and his Coletta had broken down briefly, had decided to enjoy life, and had lit up.
They felt themselves drifting back and forth in time, between the past and the present, with a feeling that the future cannot be far behind . . .the not so fat man gets uncomfortable, and breaks the silence. “Hey, Mommy Dearest there, what do you think? How about exploring outer space without all those Chinese veggies between our teeth?” He neatly flicked away the leftover part of his burnt down cigarette. “Did you unpack our toothbrushes? What do you say? Let’s go exploring. The last thing we were ever responsible for was Viet Nam. Or these bed bunks, sweet as they almost are. I honestly think the war is the reason they want to kill us. Some of us are even Moslems, you know, their old enemies. Did white people do this? It’s like something out of “Ray Radbury” – all of a sudden, we’re in the future. Something tells me we have to go somewhere else.”
He smiles at her. Is there any other soul out there who thinks Africa was maybe the original pits? Heavy duty heat. Dr. Queen thinks, I don’t always like being me, but I’m all we’ve got. I don’t want to go back there, never. “What is going on? They expect someone listening to them as they rant and rave about Heaven and Hell. Africa was Hell, but this USA is the Heaven, you know…?”
Coletta is silent. She likes silence, but has a degree in something else. “You know there’s no God, we are their God, and we did leave the planet earlier. Whoops, lack of sleep.” She brushes her hair back with one long light brown finger, which is perfectly polished. She glares at the finger, realizing it wasn’t all that red and gorgeously shiny previously.
She tiredly spurts, “Yes, something is wrong with one who signifies nothing. Perhaps it is me, perhaps it is you, Mr. Flirt, and perhaps it is the weather…” A hole in the wall diner appears in both of their minds. One of her “other kids” had agreed to meet them there. Their Johnny was like a son to them, but was also someone else’s child. The media of late had made a fuss out of how he had children out of wedlock. How quaint, Coletta sighed, considering that any unwed reporter could be so picky.
Coletta is sighing as she is lying there, sweating mildly. It is so hot. Love with her man is stolen on the fly. Why, this room doesn’t have a fan, she thinks. She slowly drags her hand down his sizeable business suited chest, thinking things don’t change in a thousand years. “Yes, they are into watching us. Why do we in particular attract all of that attention from the European Inquisition? That’s all the KKK ever will be. It is the most curious ideal I’ve ever heard of – that YOU PEOPLE can go to Hell.” She smiles, meaning why does the Klan attack colored people: blacks, Indians, Jews, Chinese, and whoever? She had and hadn’t studied the history of it. Race wars tended to escape her as to having any realistic meaning to them.
“We’re willing to be at peace with them. Why don’t they leave us alone? Why do they insist on f—–g us over, when they have f—–g themselves to blame?” Ladylike, Coletta coughs delicately into her curved hand. Everything they do they do for the FBI, which is constantly taping them back there in the 1960s, where they belong. A record is being made of their every other action, in an attempt to arrest them for breathing.
“Yes, Coletta, you simply overuse their words. We are not even creatures of cussing, really. Some days I feel like a closet imitation white man. We able bodied Africans will simply never get it…cannibalism. I suppose it freaks out their mental abilities. They simply MUST cannibalize us, because they have figured out that we are cannibalistic electronic color coded parts, lost in the mechanisms and machineries of time, don’t you think? And we do have sex…?
He gently and sweetly strokes her thick, luxuriantly pomaded black hair. They had four children, in a way, maybe more out there somewhere, but enough was enough. Coletta frowns at him summarily.”No, we don’t. Not in front of them. We are going to look for that hole in the wall, starting now. Get up, you old dog, don’t go for the liquor as you never do that, you know, and we don’t have any in here. I am dragging you to that wall if you don’t get out of bed,” she snarled, the angry words jerking out of her melting self.
Sometimes she felt inwardly peeved, when she thought her husband was doing all the damned work. She did help out from time to time, and was on several important committees. But now this: a strange little almost white girl wanted rescued from death at the hands of her overlord white father, whom Coletta could see screaming at her. She is hot, tired and doesn’t want to respond to any such rescue requests. She instead glances down at the cigs pulling their own suck on the bedside table. Smoke curls and wafts up inches from where they lay. Something seems mildly different about the nature of the smoke. Is it only tobacco? It hadn’t tasted quite right.
Coletta finally figures out that it was, well, probably weed. She slowly perceives that the almighty suction device of babyhood has something to do with it. For some reason, a person has “just got” to smoke, even though it causes lung cancer, whether it’s weed or tobacco. She had tried to avoid smoking, but we all have oral fixations. Yes, that was it. Then a certain disgruntled look slips across her silent face as everything goes black. Time sneaks away from the present as it fell back into the past. Falling, she reeled slightly from all of the hard work she had done before, giving one of her own public speeches – and she fainted, her head racing down to the very hard wooden floor.
Dr. Queen’s muscular arms stoutly caught her. They were both standing upright, with Coletta’s supple heels clicking on the well polished hardwood floorboards and Dr. Queen’s large men’s shoes firmly planted on his feet. For the first time ever, they realized how odd was the perfect fit of them, how silent the stranger who seemed to be guiding them. Their gold wedding rings had also been a perfect fit when they got married years ago, and their previously raw, uncomfortable feet were now encompassed in snug, patent leather shoes. This was a bit of a problem. Earlier, they both knew they had kicked off all four of their tight, expensive thick soled shoes. What were they doing still there, with their feet still encased in previously peeled off stockings? First their television set, and now this. It had been easy enough to change the channel, but it was a color TV set.
Had they been smoking an illegal substance…was that stuff Mary Jane? Coletta knew her shoes had been grey soft toed walkers. Now they were black stiletto high heels, quite fashionable, but not what she’d been wearing a few minutes ago. This had something to do with the little girl, and the presumed hole in the wall from the TV show.
Earlier, they had been to a lovely old Chinese hole in the wall restaurant. Johnny had picked up the dinner for them. They’d eaten together and enjoyed it without cameras around everywhere, for a change. Now they were hungry again, for what reason their churning minds fathomed, must have something to do with the cigs being more powerful than they looked. But it had seemed so harmless to take a moment off. Dr. Queen’s face shifted into an wide, exotic African smile, the Black Cat.
“I know…perhaps not enough, my darling, as I am an accredited genius, but I’ve the feeling we’re needed somewhere. It has to do with this mysteriously hot onset of weather. We are experiencing a Field Effect of sorts. I wonder if it’s at all because we are dark. Let us look for that hole in the wall now, before it closes up completely. We are definitely needed by something in there. Somebody else is facing death completely, and we are needed…someone,” he spurted out with a dry chuckle, “needs us off of cigarettes. We’re supposed to not smoke them anymore. We were the university PhD crowd, nah, and she never understood us that profoundly. We are going there now, sugar, so come with me to the wall and let’s see if that hole is there. Courage? She says she has not her own life,” Dr. Queen smiled down at Coletta.
He ended this speech with a gentle note as he stared at his reflection looking back at him through a woman, a real and light black woman. A lady of color – a colored lady. He gripped her hand tightly, swept one arm around her small waist, and practically dragged her through the wall. But they made it down the brief unlit hallway to the little black hole in the wall – and were staring it over, as if waiting for it to speak. As they stood there, beads of salty sweat dropped from both their intent faces.
One of them, with the guts and panache of a lion in what he thought of as the hollow, shabby body of a man, was caught trying to grimace the hole away. Surely it was only another death threat for his woman. One of the reasons his wife was not a “limelight” person was so she could live to take care of their children. Coletta looked surprised, felt hungry, and yet neither one of them could eat the small hole — nor did both know they could not.
They were brutally overwhelmed by the simple fact they were starving. Yet life itself hinting around about food and drugs was not the answer. The cigs were way back there, and they were someone else entirely as they stared at the little black hole in the wall. Whatever was in the cigs not only clouded their brains, it made them think mainly of food alone. What that meant about how their universe had come unraveled was unknown.
They felt the divine lift “cigs” could give them, and hated it. Yet at the same time – as the brief high dribbled away – they felt like someone was trying to thank them for something, and show them some gratitude. Someone, perhaps the little girl, was trying to give them as much assistance as she could. The drug high was to get them over it, and talk them permanently out of smoking. Dr. Queen filled his hefty chest with a clean breath of air, feeling grateful for that – but growing angrier by the second.
“Your move,” he muttered with exceeding impatience. Coletta knew she wasn’t talking to him, and then something dawned on them both. Cigarettes and tobacco smoking had been invented by Native Americans, and that had something to do with what was now happening. Was it the Indians trying to tell them something through tobacco? A thank you for existing, for helping them too? They did not want to leave from their assigned task, or be poisoned by natives…as they were originally displaced Africans.
Coletta had studied at her school how all humans had originally come from Africa. We had spread out, summarily becoming other racial groups. There was, however, another school of thought where humanity was separated into several species, meeting up again later.
Were the Indians, Native Americans, somehow an enemy of theirs whom they had discounted? Did this mean Cherokee or whatever tribal vengeance against them, where they had unknown victims due to hypocrisy? The black people marches for their civil rights – was it a mistake to base them on The Trail of Tears? Coletta gulped, recalling that for the Indians, the enforced long marches were much more like The Trail of Blood. Blown away Native American heads, bodies dropping by the roadside as the whites made them walk for hundreds of miles – was this some strange form of vengeance against them?
“No,” she sighed decisively. “We Negroes didn’t make them do that. Long marches have occurred throughout human history. This is all due to inhalation of that idiotic drug. It must be pot. I’ve never been this hungry in my entire life, and we already ate.”
The dark couple had accidentally broken down and smoked those two leftover perfect cigs, after they had a couple from the pack Dr. Queen had bought. Were they poisoned? What an idiotic assassination that would be. No cameras as they pitched to the floor in their final throes of restless death agonies. Dr. Queen harrumphed, as Coletta deeply bowed her head to such an obnoxious fate. She performed her own feminine glare.
After a short pause, Dr. Queen spoke. “I know she’s needed, somehow, and only wants to thank us for being her alternating purple godparents, yet I do know that racism is a field effect that I studied back at that college in one of my science classes,” said Dr. Queen.
The Right Reverend and all. Perhaps the nearest thing to God on the face of the planet was one proud and virtuously arrogant black man. “We must go vanish through that hole for a second and leave. Yet I know we will back out on this empty promise and broken dream that way. Shall we do either, or both? I assume we will risk not coming back. Yet our reality has been so disrupted, I don’t see how we have any kind of a choice.”
“Colored, white, white, colored?” coughed Coletta. “How they must keep us apart for fear of diseases, African and European, except when we exist at their sexual whimsy for the sake of the almighty dollar. What an empty place we must leave momentarily, my darling. Shall we do it, and show them we were Africans? Where does that obvious portal lead us to? Death?” She smiled at him, and he thought he saw the little girl he knew from her family photographs. “Perhaps the Klan has finally mastered further magic powers than wearing those sheets while riding horses – and appearing mysteriously at night.”
“Should we take such a quaint leap in time, go through a purple hole or not, and see into such a future? They will never let us approach the arousing majesty of such an arresting moment, you know,” she sighed decisively. “They want to see us groping about sexually in public. We are too conservative for that…the Cotton Club and our entire culture aside. We were practically created to be left to our own devices.”
Coletta’s thoughts faded away. It felt like someone was doing her thinking for her, but she realized she had her own private self intact. She chuckled to herself inwardly. “This is not anything like ladies’ bridge night. I thought you said the worst thing that happened when you were alone was on the spot interviews about your views on the Viet Nam War and communism, and your strange position on . . . “
“Well, Coletta, as long as YOU feel brave,” cut off Martin, “We can play a game of detective work. What am I but the Batman’s Fatman? My growing fat is merely to survive the bullets, to speed the power of my elocution to help others, and because I already have you. We have been out in the open for quite a long time. The African veldt was stuffed with animals against us. Anything at all could come through that window over there,” stated the portly black gentleman as he stuffed a strange pocket watch out and put it back in. “I have a feeling we have to travel forward in time, and I do not know why, except to rescue that little girl. Surely you’re feeling particularly courageous?” As his wife was endangered, Dr. Queen did not feel much that way, so he thought to himself, posing a simple question to God. He was quite certain someone else was listening.
Something next told him to examine himself from the outside in. As Dr. Queen looked down, he was puzzled. He could see his waistline, and he really didn’t feel as overweight as he had before. It was as if he was slowly shrinking back to his previously lean self.
Coletta looked at him without that lost little girl look, and then sighed. “Those cigs are indeed a drug from Hell. I suppose we shall simply have to go back to where we belong, back to the future, back to the past, back to…where we must have come from.”
“Hush up, Coletta, and let’s jump hoodoo the damn hole, now, lady.” He looked at her with a terrific smile on his lips. “We are simply needed elsewhere. So what’s wrong with taking a cha