a tale by Chris Lewis Gibson
Part one of Chapter Two
Published on December 3, 2004 By Owen Ellis In Blogging


There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but
delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end... It never rejoiceth but
through sufferings; for the world’s joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have
fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places in the earth, who through
death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.

-- James Naylor

Justin Blake awoke with a start that night. The air conditioner was on,
whizzing loudly, but serving the room badly, and his naked body was covered in sweat. His
heart beat so fast he was afraid it would leap out of his chest. It caused him pain then, and I
wondered, “Am I going to die, like this, a few miles from home, naked as the day I was
born?” For these few moments, in the darkness of a hotel room in Terre Haute, on the other
side of the state, Justin Blake was in terror.
Gradually his breathing calmed down. He’d been having a nightmare again. He did
not have that many friends. People liked him, loved him, thought he was the best thing since
peanut butter and jelly, but no one got inside of him, and not because he tried to shut them
out, either. People just... didn’t know how to get inside of him. So no one knew that he had
not really slept without fear in nearly twenty years.
He got out his cigarettes. Delorian knew. Yes, Delorian knew, and he would be with
his old friend tomorrow in fact. Even as he inhaled he thought, “No, I’ll never get out of
Vigo County. Something will happen to me trying to leave.... Or... in Indianapolis. It will
happen then. I will never get to Izmir. I will never get back to Del Mario County.”
Ordinarily this would not have seemed like such a bad thing. Usually Justin was all
about not being at home, but right now he needed to be there. He thought that he would die,
that his heart and all of his arteries would pump and pump until they exploded if he did not
get home. He thought that he would simply crack apart if he didn’t see his friends, but mainly
Delorian, Shawn and Fred. And if he didn’t get some good sense from Monterey. And if he
didn’t talk to Wave. If he didn’t tell Wave.
Tell Wave, what?”
He remembered the story of Lao Tzu, getting ready to leave China and being stopped
at the border. How they begged him: before you leave, write down what you know, and he
wrote the Tao Te Ching. Everyone had something to write down before they went. Well, that
wasn’t true. Some people left things behind, Buddha left the dharma and then went to
nirvana, Jesus left the Apostles and then went up. Justin had nothing to give. He had the
feeling that he urgently needed to tell Waverly something, that Waverly would be lost unless
Justin could impart some knowledge to him, and exactly what this knowledge was Justin
could not say. He knew what is wasn’t. But it was he could not discern.
Wave, Little Brother, I am thirty-nine with no kids, no job, no family and I am daily
afraid that I’m going to die-- for no particular reason. I am driving back home in a beat up van
that probably will not make it through Marion County. I have done no good thing with my
life..... I have .... fucked around. I have fucked around with my life, always starting things,
always stopping when I’ve got what I think is enough and never, ever completing.... I do not
respect myself. Here is what I have to share with you.

And yet, as Justin lay in bed composing this, he thought, “But my life is happier than
yours, Wave....You have the life you should have, that everyone is supposed to want to
have.... But it’s not real, it’s stale.....”

Justin crawled out of bed and began to pull his clothes on. He could not sleep, and he
was filled with an overwhelming terror of staying in this room. He’d better get the fuck out.
He should just drive. He should just get the hell out of the only place in the state of Indiana
where they legally executed people. He thought he could smell death, and maybe it was just
his imagination. But.... he had to go.

On the other side of the state, Shawn Camden could not sleep for totally different reasons. In
the larger house by the river that he had been saying for two years now it was time to move
out of, he awoke to a sudden chill that filled the mid June air. A breeze had come up from the
river, and through the windows. From the little balcony it called him up out of bed. He
pulled on his boxers, went downstairs and huddled in the light of the refrigerator to see what
was there. He settled on a beer. He had given up cigarettes. He had been told he would feel so
much better once he quit smoking, but the thing was it was never hard to give them up, he
had never really gotten hooked the way some people--say, Justin,-- did, where you sucked the
poison from one after the other, and looked up to see you’d taken care of two packs in a
single day.
To Shawn with the beer in his hand, unopened, the result of not smoking was being
up at two, wishing he had a cigarette, and knowing there were none to be found.
He scratched at his rough jaw, and then went upstairs, pulled on shorts and a tee
shirt, some flipflops, got some money and then drove to the gas station on the corner of Saint
Peter Street.
The girl said, “Can I get some I.D.?”
“Do I look seventeen?”
“Sir... You don’t look old.”
“I’m forty. Going to be forty.”
“Well, you don’t look it,” she marveled.
Shawn jammed his hands in the pockets of his mesh shorts. This was not one of
those times he felt flattered at being told how young he looked.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the girl told him. “Besides, in the state of Indiana, we have to check
I.D. for anyone under forty.”
Shawn did not feel like hassling anyone, though he did wonder what the chances of
finding a bureacratic high schooler at two in the morning were.
She could be my daughter, Shawn marveled as he drove down Saint Peter’s Street,
and into Willowfield. He did not feel that he was old enough to have an almost grown up
daughter. It wasn’t that he asked himself, “Where have all the years gone?” Just that there
didn’t seem to be that many years. And so much had happened in them. Surely the raising
of children could not have been squeezed in with all the rest that had happened.

The little bungalow of stone and wood with a square, stain glass bay, and a stoop
hidden behind a wicker curtain was never locked. Shawn parked in front of the house and
went up the winding walk that circled a flower garden before dipping behind the curtain that
led to the door.
Delorian and Frances kept the bare minumum in their house, but they always felt that
cigarettes were part of the bare minimum, and there, on a low table Frances had broken
down and paid good money for, were some Camels. He should have come here, first. He
took two out of the pack, went to the refrigerator, took out half a bottle of wine and went to
the backyard.
The yard was not empty, but full of warmth and the scent of the trees, and cricket
song and the tingling of the windchime next door. Shawn sat down on the one seat out there
covered in an old blanket that Frances’s grandmother had woven He sat there and began to
drink and smoke and let years roll off him. Time to let himself stop being deaf, slow down,
and hear the universe.
“This house is a good place to hear the universe in,” Frances had said, “That’s why
we like to call it, World’s Roof.”

It had been so hot last night, and now it was freezing when the phone rang and Fred Wehlan
pushed the bedsheet off of his face. He debated not answering, but the shrill ringing on the
old rotary, and the insistence of his bladder made him come out of bed and pad across the
large, almost empty room to answer the phone.
“Hello?” he said.
“Fred, I am so glad to hear you!”
“Hello? Judd? Justin, is this you?”
“Yeah, man, it’s me?”
“Where are you? Why are you.... calling me at.... Jesus!” he looked over at the clock.
“It’s not even seven in the morning!”
“I know, I’ve been on the road since two.”
“I had bad vibes about where I was.”
“Where were you?”
“Terre Haute.”
“Oh, no wonder--” Fred picked up the heavy phone and walked with it to the mini
“No, I mean the room I was in. I just got really bad vibes about it, and everything. I
had to leave.”
“Was it Motel 6-- ?”
“Quit being funny.”
Fred lit his cigarette, positioned the phone on the tile floor, and sat on the toilet with
the phone cocked in the crook of his shoulder.
“What are you doing right now?”
“Taking a morning shit, but otherwise I’m completely unoccupied--thanks to your
waking me up.”
“Great,” Justin said, “I mean. Not about waking you up. Sorry for that. But, I’ll be
over in about fifteen minutes.”
“Are you on a cell phone?”
“Where’d you get a cell phone from?”
“Goodbye, Fred,” Justin said, cheerfully, “I’ll see you in fifteen.”


Since the death of his wife, Fred had lived with his son and daughter in a large house that
had been rennovated from a barn. No one asked any questions about his life or the lives of
the Wehlan children because the only people around were Amish, trotting up and down the
road in their buggies, smiling and exchanging pleasantries, understanding fully the
sacredness of minding one’s own business. They knew that Fred was one of them, sort of. In
a small way everyone in Orleepalluk was one of them. To be a “gentile” living around the
Amish, one had to be of a different sort. Everyone here minded their affairs.
The asphalt road that Justin drove through the land in was narrow, and on either side
were irrigation ditches. He was slow to avoid the few carriages whose horses went plodding
up and down this time of morning. And then he saw the old barn at the intersection of two
roads, and he drove up the gravel path to it.
Nathan was standing at the door, his face clear of childhood’s freckle’s, and his hair
two copper red wings in the morning light. He was solemn looking, but his smile was
genuine and he said, “It’s about time, Judd,” as the older man entered the large kitchen.
“That you smell,” Fred told his friend, by way of greeting, “is fresh coffee. Just for
“I made it--” Nathan began, and Fred gave him a look.
“Well, I did,” Nathan replied in mock injury, turning to go to the living room. His
voice trailed off with the admonition to his father, “And not for you, either.” .
“Kids,” Fred said, expressionlessly. “Gifts from God? You be the judge.”
Judd cracked a wide grin and the two men looked at each other, smiling for a long
time before Fred attempted to catch the much taller Justin in a bear hug.
“Three other little brothers and I still feel like I have to take care of you,” he told
Justin. “Go get yourself a coffee mug.”
As Justin poured his coffee and they watched the news, he said, “Ordinarily I would
protest, but today I am only too glad to be cared for.”
He sat down at the island in the middle of the huge, sunlit kitchen. Fred had the
paper ornamentally laid out before him and the morning news was on.
“What was that?” Fred said. “A shoot out?”
“Hum?” Justin looked up from his coffee.
The newscaster on the television went on while they showed a dingy hotel.
“Once again: people still shocked by the events in Terre Haute. This morning, this
man--Ray Collins, aged twenty-six, native of Libertyville, Illinois, walked into a Motel 6
looking for his wife, and shot through every room. Seven are reported injured. Six dead....”
“Holy shit,” Fred muttered, the cigarette frozen between his fingers.
He looked to Justin.
The black haired man’s mouth was half open and he was trembling, white as a sheet.

Delorian Matthews walked into his father’s barbershop on Pierce Street, and Monterey
looked from the head he was trimming and said, “What are you here for?”
“I’m here to cut some hair,” Delorian said, walking past his brother to the back
“Now, you know Delorian cain’t cut no hair,” Mr. Phipps said.
“Whaddo you mean?” Delorian stuck his head out of the back room. “I cut my own
“Um hum,” added Ray Ray, “and we see what it look like.”
“Why don’t you see what my fist looks like,” Delorian muttered coming out, with the
clippers. “I’ve been cutting hair since I could walk. You know I do it all.” Delorian was tying
the apron around his waist, and Monterey was laughing, and Calvin, who was sitting in the
chair under him said, “Pay attention before you cut a patch in my head.”
Monterey took the clippers up, and snapped them in the boys face.
“If you don’t sit still and mind yourself I will clip a patch in your head.”
“I won’t pay you.”
“I bet you will,” Monterey told him.
“Who wants to be first?” Delorian patted a chair, and started cleaning his set of
David, Aaron and OT didn’t seem in any hurry to come to Delorian’s chair.
“What? What?” Delorian said. “Or are you just gon sit there all day looking tired?
You know we’re overstaffed. Monterey cain’t handle all of y’all. You might as well come over
here and let me trim you.”
“You mean let me maime you,” Monterey said.
“Keep on talking, and you might be the one with a patch in his head,” Delorian fired
the clippers off in his brother’s direction.
The bell of the barbershop jingled as someone in baggy jeans walked in, and
Monterey said, “I know you want to take that cap off your head in a public building. Cause I
know your mama taught you better than that.”
“Man, you trippin,” the boy muttered.
“Tripping I may be, but you will take the cap off your head,” Monterey said without
even bothering to look at him. And he did.
“Are you free?” the boy looked at Delorian.
Delorian patted the chair to indicate that he was.
“What’s your specialty?” the boy said, sitting down.
“I do it all,” Delorian said.
“Um hum,” muttered OT. “Delorian do it all.”
“How but you shut up?” Delorian muttered.
The boy sat down.
“Can you fade me at the sides and leave it.... a little shorter than it is right now? Then
trim the sideburns real thin like P.Diddy.”
“Like who?”
“Puff Daddy.”
“Is that his name now?” Delorian looked at Monterey who shrugged.
“Generation gap?” said OT.
“More cultural than generational,” Monterey confessed.
From his chair, Calvin said, “Puff Daddy or P.Diddy or whatever he is ain’t got no
long sideburns.”
“He do too.”
“No, he don’t!”
“Calvin!’ said Monterey, “What did I tell you about a patch in your head?”
“Um,” Calvin muttered.
“Well,” the boy looked up at Delorian, “can you do that?”
“No,” Delorian told him.
“Could you do it low all the way around, and put a red tint at the top?”
“Probably not.”
“Could you shave my face so I have a little bitty goatee like Fiftycent?”
“Firstly,” Calvin said,” Fiftycent ain’t got no god--”
“Calvin!” Monterey snapped.
“No goshdanged,” Calvin said, feeling stupid, “goatee.”
“Yes, he do too. You don’t know nuthing!”
“Look,” said Delorian, “I don’t know who the hell Fiftycent or Seventycent or
Thirty-Five Cent to ride the cross town bus is, but it doesn’t matter, cause I can’t do it.”
“Man, you said you did it ALL. What can you do?”
“I can give you a number one, real nice. All the way around. Just like I have.”
The boy looked at him, stuck out his lower lip and said, “Um.”

“Are you coming with us?” Fred asked Nathan.
“I’d rather stay here... If you trust me not to burn the farm down.”
“I don’t trust you, but you may stay. Just try not to get into too much trouble.”
“Oooh, in wild old Orleepalluk!” Nathan said, trembling, “Maybe I’ll bump off a few
Amish gift shops.”
“I wouldn’t put it past you.”
‘Thanks, old man.”
“Firstly,” Fred said, sticking a cigarette in his mouth, “Your old man ain’t an old
man. Secondly, the fact that I wouldn’t put anything past you is what I like about you.”
He winked at his son, and headed up the stairs.
“Judd, are you ready yet?”
Justin had decided he needed to take a long bath. For someone who had gone
through three pots of coffee, he had said remarkably little.
“I’m right here and ready,” Justin said.
He always looked so young, Fred thought. And now he looked really wasted and thin,
as if he’d come out of the desert instead of merely passing through it. Justin had been gone
for over a year now. He grinned at Fred, but the grin was too wide and off putting. Judd Blake
was very tall, and rangy with wide, shadowed green eyes and very black hair, long black
sideburns. He could have passed for under thirty. He wore the same little golden crucifix Fred
had seen on him for twenty years now.
“Let’s roll,” Fred said.
On his way out the door of the large farmhouse, Justin grabbed Nathan by his red
head and shook the young man about a little.
“Stay out of trouble, kid.”
“How ‘bout you follow your own advice!” Nathan shouted back, and disappeared into
the workroom of the house.

Fred Wehlan drove the old big as a boat, powder blue Corvair that had once been Cecil’s.
Sailing down the highway, bright in the light of the early summer sun it looked like a patch
of sky on wheels. The music from the oldies station blared out of the car as they passed
rolling farm fields and patches of wood, and Fred took the part of Diana Ross when the
Supremes came on the radio, backed up Justin, and then he was the Miracles and let Justin
do the lead vocals whenever there was a Smoky song. None of them was very good with
Marvin Gaye. Whenever Aretha came on, they both thought of Cecil.
Justin stretched out long until he was rising out of the bucket seat, and he yawned.
“I am so glad to be back.”
“You can sleep if you want to,” Fred said. “I won’t feel put out.”
“I don’t,” Justin stifled another yawn, “need to sleep.”
Fred didn’t say anything.
“And I don’t need a second mother,” Justin said gently, and then yawned again as
Mama Cass started to say:

Stars shining right above you
night breezes seem to whisper, “I love you.”
Birds singing in the sycamore tree,
dream a little dream of me

“But maybe.... just a little shut eye,” Justin said, and turned over on his side.

When Nelson Tolliver walked into the barber shop he asked Monterey, “Are you gonna be
free any time soon?”
“No, but Dory is.”
Nelson looked over at Delorian, who was sending someone out of his chair.
“Um,” Nelson pronounced.
“Um, yourself,” said Delorian, snapping the clippers at him. “Do you want a trim or
do you not?”
“Will I still have a head?’ Nelson said, climbing into the chair.
“I might slip and cut off your mouth,” Delorian commented blithely, tying an apron
around Nelson Tolliver’s neck, and starting to comb his hair.
“Firstly,” said Delorian, “how long has it been since the last time you had a trim?
Secondly, what the hell are you putting up in here? Cause it feel’s like I’m combing through
“I don’t like to put a lot of stuff in my hair.”
You’re not white,”Monterey said.
“I know I’m not white,” Nelson pronounced, heatedly. In fact he was the furthest
thing from white. He was very thin and very black with dark eyes that blinked from behind
steel rimmed spectacles.
“Do all them girls you be with know?” O.T started. “Cause you don’t seem to want to
do nothing but dip your spoon in that vanilla ice cream all the time.”
Before Nelson could say anything, Monterey said, while Delorian tested the clippers,
“I didn’t know anyone was here to comment on the bedroom life--”
“Or backseat life,” added Delorian.
“Ha ha,” Nelson said meanly, clearly not amused.
“--of anybody. “Monterey continued. “I thought we were here to cut hair.”
“I’m gon give you a guard one,” Delorian said. “All the way around.”
“I don’t want it that low.”
“You need it that low, cause you don’t know how to care for it any other way.”
“Nelson, laying up with that new white woman,” O.T said, “thank his hair gon blow
in the breeze. Don’t he know that shit don’t happen to niggahs?”
“It happened to Michael Jackson,” Ray Ray reported.
“I mean naturally.”
“He said it was natural. He said he got a skin condition.”
“And I say that’s a bunch of bullshit, and if you believe that, Raymond Alexander,
that makes you the dumbest niggah this side of the state line.”
“Why everybody gotta be a niggah? Why every body gotta be a niggah!” Ray Ray said.
“Look at you. Telling folks who they can sleep with, ‘m telling everybody how to cut hair,
how to live. Who died and made you king of Niggah Land?”
Nelson rolled his eyes up toward Delorian, and Delorian just shook his head in
commiseration, and pushed back Nelson’s ear to cut behind it,
“I do not like that word,” Charles said from the chair where Ronnie was shaving him.
“It is 2000 and 3, and we do not have to revert to tired old slave language.”
Ornery, O.T. sang, “Niggah! Niggah! Niggah!”
“Why do I keep coming back here?” Nelson lamented to Delorian.
“Cause it’s cheap and it’s good fun, and it’s your bi weekly dose of African American
culture. Be that what it may in Izmir.”
Charles sat up and said to O.T, “You are so ignorant. And, by the way, the only
niggah here is you. Niggah.”
“I think,” Monterey pronounced, “the barbershop has reached it’s “niggah” quotient
for the day.”
As if on cue, a white boy walked in.
Delorian looked puzzled, Monterey got rid of the little boy he had, and slapped the
seat for another to hop in the barber chair. Mrs. Roberts wanted all of her boys trimmed on
the same day, every month.
O.T. looked up at the white boy and said, “Shouldn’t you be goin’ to Bo Rics or
“This is a barbershop, right?” the white boy said.
“You see these chairs?” Monterey said, suddenly impatient. “You see them swiveling
around with folks in white aprons running clippers over peoples heads, shavin’ em and shit.
Of course it’s a barber shop. What the hell else could it be?”
The young man looked at him and said, “I’d like to get what I have now, only a little
shorter. I sort of want wings on both sides of my face, and I like it a little bouncy, but not so
that I have to work too much with it.”
“I can’t even begin to help you,” Monterey shook his head. “Maybe my brother can.
He does it all.”
The man looked at Delorian who said,
“I can give you a number one, real nice. All the way around. Just like I have.”
The white man just stared at him.

Delorian was in the locker room talking on Nelson’s cellphone and Nelson, in his business
suit, was looking at him and pointing at his watch.
“Hold on,” Delorian said to the phone and turning to Nelson told him, “I know! I
know. But do you know who I’m talking to?”
Nelson raised an eyebrow.
“Justin,” Delorian mouthed, and went back to his conversation.
“Well, shit, Judd, I can leave with Nelson. Yeah, he’ll drop me off at Shawn’s. Yes,
I’ve been cutting hair all morning. I can too cut. Why don’t you shut your mouth! You know
what....? I don’t really have to be abused by cell phone.” He rang off and handed the phone
to Nelson.
“Did you just say that I would drop you off?”
“It’s on your way.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“It is now,” Delorian said, taking off his apron. “Let’s roll, Tonto.”


Nelson turned on the air in his car and slipped a CD in.
“I know you don’t approve of axcess and corporate selling out and all that,” Nelson
said, “but it’s my damn car.”
“Okay,” Delorian said, easily. “However, running the air conditioning on a day like
Nelson dealt the older man a look, and Delorian said, “Alright, already.”
When they crossed Westmoreland, they were officially out of the west side, and into
downtown. Nelson said, “Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t even be there.”
“Be where?”
“At the barbershop.”
“It’s just a barbershop?”
“It’s just... when O.T starts talking I feel like... I’m not really Black.”
Delorian, who was caramel colored, looked at his younger friend, and laughing he
said, “Rest assured, “you’re very black.”
“Ha ha. You know I mean.”
“Yes, I know what you mean, and you know what I mean. I don’t know why you
listen to O.T. You always do that; listen to foolish people. You need to sit down and have a
talk with Rush, who is the high school friend who has gone through everything you’ve gone
through, and will know exactly how you feel, instead of.... keeping all this shit inside and..
trying to make yourself blacker.”
As they came to a red light, Nelson humphed and blew out his cheeks.
“This is... not to offend...” he began.
“Yes?” Delorian said.
“But, I mean..... You all, You, Rush, Monterey. You’re not any different from me.
Not really I mean. You all don’t live in the ‘hood and go to some chruch where everybody
claps their hands and says, ‘Hallelujah! Praise Jesus!’ ”
“That was frightening, Nelson. Don’t ever do that again.”
“I mean... Rush is living on a houseboat, wearing tie dye and... sleeping with a white
dude for God’s sake! And no one ever makes fun of him, or you, or Monterey for not really
being Black. No one ever says you’re not Black enough.”
“That’s cause we’re real,” Delorian said. “My God, Nelson, I would have thought
you’d get that by now, or else you really have been away from your people too long. It’s not
about how much your jeans sag, or if you watch BET or... or.... do you know who Beyonce
Knowles is sleeping with.”
“I thought she was a virgin.”
“I don’t know and I don’t care and you are completely missing my point. My point is:
this is you. This is how you were born. It’s not about living up to some image.... It’s about
being real, being who you are. And what you are. And who you are is Nelson Tolliver, and
what you are is a Negro, with all the good, bad and not so ugly that this implies. So stop
And then Delorian added, “And turn off this goddamn air. It’s cold as shit in here!”

“I will not,” Delorian repeated to himself, going up the walk of the large white house,
“suggest that it’s too big or that maybe he hasn’t yet dealt with the divorce. I will NOT say,
‘Guess what, Shawn? She’s not coming back!’ This is something we will not discuss. Never
does well to discuss some things. I like having friends. Often, this is the best way to keep
And then Delorian thought, “Justin is home.”
Justin was back, this was not Justin’s home. Justin himself was insistent on this.
Justin Blake was homeless. He was a rover. Delorian opened the door without knocking, and
threaded through the house to the living room where Shawn and Justin and Fred all looked
up and immediately began talking at him.
“It’s about time,” Fred declared.
Justin got up, and caught his friend by the shoulders.
“Where the hell have you been?” Fred demanded.
“At the barbershop.”
“Doing what?” Shawn cocked his head.
“You’re so funny. Cutting hair.”
This time it was Justin who gave him a funny look.
“See, here, I’ve enough from all of you,” Delorian said. “I’ll have you know, “ he told
them, going to check the fridge, “that I professionally cut my first white head today.”
“White head?” said Fred.
“It’s a pimple,” Shawn informed him.
“No,” Delorian said, “a white person’s hair.”
“How?” this from Justin.
“I gave him the same haircut I used to give you,” Delorian said.
“A one all the way around. Just like you have.”
“No, the other one.”
Justin paused a moment, and then said, “You put a bowl on his head and cut all the
way around?”
“Oh, my God, you gave some poor kid a soup bowl?” Fred lamented.
“Look,” said Delorian, “he came in looking for the authentic African American
experience. And the authentic experience is when white folks come in with tons of money
and say, “Could you cut my hair...? We say yes.”
“How much money?” said Shawn.
“Fifty dollars. For a soup bowl.”
“What a sucker,” Fred shook his head and took out his cigarettes.
“You could do the same thing in your barn,” Delorian suggested, “and call it Amish
Fred eyed him.
“P.S.” Justin said, sticking his hand out, and grinning, “I’m strapped.”
“You would,” Delorian said. “Not even in my presence five minutes, and demanding
the friendship tax.”
Delorian reached into his pocket and handed him a twenty.
Justin kissed the bill and jammed it in his pocket, “Brother, you have no idea how
much I need this.”
“I think I have some idea,” Delorian said.
Suddenly, Fred said, “We’ve been trying to get a hold of your brother. Where’s
“At Cecil’s barbershop. Same as me. That’s where I was when you called Nelson
looking for me.”
“Well, I’ll be,” Fred muttered.
“Call him,” Justin told Shawn, and Shawn took out his phone and talked into it a
few seconds before shutting it off and reporting, “He just left.”

“At the barbershop.”
“Well, then you can take me.”
“Take you where.”
“I have play practice. Me and my friends have to go.”
“Why didn’t you tell Cecil?”
“Because I forgot.”
“That’s not really a good reason.”
Quite precociously, Delorian said, “But there it is.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do?” Monterey demanded.
“You could drive me and my friends.”
“No, I couldn’t.”
“Why couldn’t we?” Fred turned to him.
“Because we’re thirteen!” Monterey said.
Age was no obstacle to the red headed boy who was the first out the door. “Besides,”
he said climbing over the door of the convertible, “we’re Dragonflies.”
“We don’t have car keys--” Monterey began, and Fred bent down under the steering
wheel, muttering, “Not a problem.” as the car rumbled to life.
“Oh, my God,” Monterey muttered. “We’re so dead! We’re so dead!”
“Naw, man!” Fred laughed. “Woo Hoo! We’re free. If they could see us now--”
“then they would arrest us,” Monterey reminded him. “Now move aside. If anyone’s
driving my father’s car, it’s me.”
“Now first,” Delorian began from the back of the car, “we gotta get TJ, and then
Ryan, and then we gotta get Tiffany, and then Justin.....”
“Don’t any of these people have parents with cars.”
“Nope,” Delorian said, stalwardly, and years later Monterey was sure this was a lie,
but he always realized that he’d been too willing to believe it.

Monterey informed them that they would be driving with the top up, which mildly upset
Fred. Delorian, aged eight, was only looking for a ride to play practice, not an adventure, so
he didn’t mind concealment.
“And we’ll only be taking the inside streets.”
When they reached TJ’s house, the little boy said, “I can’t go with you all. I might get
in trouble.”
And Ryan and Tiffany said the same thing. Delorian told Fred, “Here, you take the
wheel. I think I’m going nt to throw up.”
Somehow, the idea that even eight year olds had better sense than him was not very
But when they rolled up to the large brick house on Overton Street, the only child of
Agnes and Gregory Blake was not so sensible. Skinny and black haired, used to a life of being
pampered and protected, when Justin looked inside of the powder blue Corvair and saw it
driven by a thirteen year old, nothing close to an adult inside of that vehicle, he jumped right
“This is so cool!” Justin shouted to Delorian, then he leaned over the front seat to
Monterey who was trying to take deep breaths, and said, “You are so cool. Both of you.”
This, somehow, gave monterey renewed confidence, and he said to Fred, “Move
aside, Red!”
And took the wheel himself.

Once he had dropped the kids off at the gymnasium behind Saitn Alphonsus,
Monterey said, “You all can get back safely, right?”
They both nodded at him, innocent.
“And if you can’t?” said Fred, folding his arms over his chest.
“We’ll call,” Delorian told him, dutifully.
And the eighth grader winked at the eight year old and gave him a thumbs up.
With a feeling of great maturity and triumph they drove safely back to the brick house
on Mernau Street, and rolled into the driveway. When they both walked in and saw Cecil
Matthews standing before them with a gin in one hand and a cigatette in the other, they just
“I think,” Monterey’s father told the boys, “We might have to talk.”

“Both of you,” Cecil said, sharply. “Silent. Now!”
“Firstly, you!” he said to his father. “This little bubblehead,” he pointed at Monterey--
“is my child who stole my car. Therefore, you have no say.”
“May I have a word, sir?” Monterey said, but at the look on his father’s face, he knew
that this was out of the question.
“I’m just going to be quiet,” Monterey told him.
“You are turning into a very wise little boy,” his father said, and now Fred said,
“Well, maybe I might have a word seeing as I’m not really your child, Cecil, and--”
“Frederick,” Cecil’s voice was much too calm.
“Yes, Cec-- Mr. Matthews?”
“You are not turning into a wise little boy. That does not please me. Now,” he said,
rounding on both boys, “I will find some punishment for the little redheaded child in a
moment, but as for you, my dear little chocolate drop, there will be no radio, no television.
You will go no place--- except-- daily Mass. And, Monterey--”
“Yes, sir,”
“You will offer up all you get paid for being an altar boy to the poor box.”
Monterey’s jaw dropped, and a sad whimper escaped him as Gibralter said, “That’s
what i’m talki--”
“Old man! One more word out of you--!”
Then the phone rang, and Cecil picked it up.
“You’re not Monterey!” a little boy’s voice accused.
“No. Not quite.”
“Is this Delorian’s Dad!”
“Hi, it’s Justin Blake. You don’t know me---”
“Cynthia and Gregory’s son?”
“That’s right. That’s my mom and Dad. Anyway, sir, we got a ride to play practice
from... we were with Monterey and Fred, and they said if we couldn’t get a ride back we were
supposed to call and then they--ouch!” there was some scrabbling on other end of the line
while Cecil, on his end, felt his brow furrowing and a tension headache building behind his
Justin continued, “Then they would have you come and get us. Because they would
never do anything like take your car and drive us to play practice because that would be wrong
and--ouch! Quit it, Dory! I mean, your car is with you. You are back sir... Because... I heard it
might be missing and, well...”
“Yes, Justin. “ Cecil looked out to the driveway, taking a deep breath. “It is back.”
“Well, then there’s nothing to say, so I guess, I’ll be--”
“Yes, sir?”
“When it came back my son, Monterey, was driving it.”
“Were you in my car?”
“Yes or no. Come on. You can do it.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Um hum.”
Sir... Do you usually let Monty drive your car, because--”
“No,” Cecil’s voice was final.” And he not may drive it.... or any other car.... again.”
“Oh, no,” Monterey murmured.
“Sir, please don’t be too hard on them. They were just giving Delorian and me a ride
to play practice, and please dont’ tell my mom and dad because they never let me do anything
anytime and it’s the first time I’ve got to do anything fun in a long time, and I bet you must
be a really, really, really good dad or else how would Monterey and Delorian even THINK
about driving your car all around town?”
“All around town?” Cecil snapped.
“Well, not really all the way around town. I mean.... PLEASE, be nice, sir.”
Cecil took a breath and said,” Alright, Justin. You’ve made your case.”
“What do you mean?
“I mean, you’ve made your case. Have a nice day,” Cecil hung up the phone, and
turned to the three boys.
“Get in the car. We’re going to Dairy Queen. Dilly Bars for everyone. My treat.”
“What about punishment?” Gibraltar demanded.
Cecil gave a very long sigh and said, “It’s so overrated.”

The first time Justin Blake laid eyes on Cecil, the little boy was wearing floods and a too tight
red tee shirt. He was eight years old with a mess of black hair in his face. It was 1970, but the
sight of the wild man in the debonair outfits caused the same visceral reaction in him that his
parents had felt in 1942 when Cecil Matthews first came to Saint Alphonsus.
For Justin, however, the wildness that carried a promise of turning over everything
he’d ever known was a welcome feeling, and when the man told his parents, “I’ve come to
take your son away for the day, Justin ran out of the house and jumped into the back of the
convertible joining Fred, Delorian and Monterey. Today no one rode shotgun.
“We’ll be back.... when we’re back,” Cecil told Cynthia and Greg. “You all have a
good day, and we will too.”
And they’d driven out past Orleepalluk, and out near Fort Wayne with music blasting
out of the radio, and the wind in their faces. It was not the last such drive but it was the first
for all of them together, and it was what Justin remembered everytime he sat in that car. He
always felt eight and free and full of wonder all over again.

That night Cecil had driven him home and the little boy had talked and talked to Mr.
Matthews. As he pulled up to the Blake house, Cecil said, “Justin. Don’t your parents listen
to you?”
“No. Not, really,” he said, shrugging as if this were the most natural thing in the
“Oh,” Cecil said looking at the house. “Well, go inside. And I’ll wait to see you’re
safely there. Say hello to your folks.”
“Yes, Mr. Matthews,” Justin climbed out of the car.
“Oh, and Justin?”
“Yes, sir?”
“We’ll come and.... get you on the weekend if you’re not too busy.”
The little boy’s eyes lit up.
“Oh, no sir! No, I’m not!”
Justin hallooed, and ran up the long walkway to his house.
Cecil sighed and thought, “What is it with white folks and they children?” And then,
when Justin had gone inside and flashed the porchlight three times, Cecil pulled away,
realizing he’d brought someone else’s child into the life of the Matthew’s family. Once again.

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