Black Author Showcase

Agents of Literary Change

Please let me know what you think of the opening passage. It is going to address many societal issues with a humorous side.

Chapter 1

DuPont Street

DuPont Street was lined with houses that looked alike, landscaped alike and quite frankly the minds residing in them more than likely thought alike. Examining the façade of one house could be a description of the next house. Most of these homes were built in 1961 when the nation was transitioning from the simple to the eclectic. A new president was sworn into office by the name of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the Peace Corps was established, The Congress of Racial Equality sponsored the Freedom Riders to explore influences in the segregated regions along southern United States, Alan Shepard is the first American in space, The Cuban Missile Crisis is averted, the great American novel Catch-22 is published and Charlie Brown successfully flies his kite.

In spite of the many accomplishments that endeared itself into the mainstream, one simple singular common thought resonated from door to door on DuPont Street, “Love God, your family, bleedin’ blue and fishin’.”

A total of ten homes were erected in 1961 along the quiet little neighborhood. Hedges were neat and trim to the point that a leaf did not seem out of place. White picket fences adorned the yards without a single smudge or blemish. Even when opening and closing of fence gates, the only sound there was came from the spring that maintained the technology of the latch to keep the gate closed. Roses, tulips, daisies and other types of flowers and fauna mingled together under bay windows, around sidewalks, along stone paths and patios.

The homes were composed of bricks with crimson and burnt orange like a large architectural expressionist painting. Careful thought and craftsmanship was placed in each brick that was lay. The carpentry that framed the doorway was of the best the area had to offer. Even the furniture of the doorbell was of a master wood worker, or so it would seem.

Behind this door to this particular house that appeared like every house on the street is a living room, four bedrooms; the master on the first floor and three regular sized upstairs, two bathrooms, a kitchen that had a car port through its door, a den and a basement.

In the living room sat 45 year old Jim Epperstein. A large man with a pot belly, Jim would regularly watch I Love Lucy while unwinding from a long day selling insurance. Dressed in button down shirt and his tie untied down his shirt he would drink a beer while laughing at Lucy’s antics played out on the black and white television set in front of him. Carol Epperstein would serve him liver and onions at least one night per week. Carol was the simple housewife that pandered to her husband through the good times and the bad.

One evening while Jim was watching I Love Lucy, he heard some disturbing news from Carol. “Jim, how is your liver and onions?” she asked in a reluctant tone.

Jim had been drinking for some time the beer was beginning to take effect on him.

“Oh they’re alright I reckon. Ain’t no different than last week I suppose.”

He stretched back in his recliner crossing his leg propping it up. Beads of sweat raced down his forehead in a marathon to reach his pudgy jaw line. His toe poked through a hole in his black sock. Jim yanked his sock from his sweaty foot revealing a large corn on his big toe. “Sweetness, this sucker is big. Didn’t think they made ‘em like that no more. Need some new shoes ‘cause this sholy does hurt.”

“Jim?” Carol inquires clutching her hands together as if in anticipation of some devastating news.

“Hm?” he belched.

Carol sits on the arm of the chair draping her arm around his shoulders as he tends to the festering lump on his foot.

“Shoot that thing smells like a skunk run over by a bigger skunk! You need to soak them dogs in the bath Jim Billy,” Carol protests deflecting any trouble stirring within herself.

“Yeah! Soak ‘em in some Epsom salt, amen!” shooting her with a glancing look. “You got somethin’ to say woman, then say it.”

Any deflection she just made returned instantly by her husband’s observation of her demeanor. She calmly removed her arm from his large shoulder clearing her throat.
“Jim, I know how you always like to hear how Junior keeps a steady girlfriend and all.”

“Yeah, steady girlfriend,” he took a drink of beer and belched again.

“Well, there’s a problem with his new one.”

“Yeah, what’s that? She pregnant or somethin?” he jested studying the corn on his toe squeezing it.

“It’s worse…” Carol replied with unequal anxiety. As she was about to deliver some otherwise fomented news she was soon interrupted Jim Epperstein junior.

Jim junior dipped his head into the living room from the staircase. He was 16 years old with blond hair. He had a frantic look on his face.

“Mom, I think your cookies are burnin’. Yeah, I smell fried cookies. Thought they supposed to be baked,” he insisted.

Jim senior laughed at the television as Lucy is lanced by a pie in her face by Ethel Mertz He burped again.

“Yeah, smells like fried cookies,” Jim senior added still laughing.

“Oh dear,” Carol exclaimed as she rushed back to the oven with Jim junior in tow. Carol realized he was behind her and had already dismissed any voice he might have on her eagerness to reveal his secret. “Now Jim, you know you have a test tomorrow, why don’t you rush on back upstairs and finish your studies, kay?”

“Mom, I told you she’s just a friend and…”

“I said to do your homework young man!” she exclaimed jabbing a spatula under the crusted cookies rattling the baking sheet loudly on the stove top.

Jim senior heard the commotion in the kitchen. His drunken buzz was indicated on his lazy eye pointed toward Lucille Ball holding a pie ready to splatter in Ethel Mertz’ face.

“What’s all the doggone commotion in’ere?”

Carol turns in the direction of the living room, “Nothing Jim, just drink your beer and watch Lucy.”

“But mom, you promised…,” Jim junior protests.

Carol gives him a stern look folding her lip downward and points her finger in his face, “Now you listen here boy, ain’t no son of mine gonna jeopardize this family’s good standing in this here neighborhood! I’ma gonna tell your daddy what it is I done found out and you ain’t got nothin in this world gonna save your butt from his rage!”
Carol stomps into the living room.

“She’s black!” Carol exclaims collapsing to the floor in a lump of pity.

Jim senior splashes his beer all over himself as she startles him.

“What’s black!?” he replies.

“Don’t know what she’s talkin about pop,” Jim junior objects.

Carol picks herself up from the floor disgruntled at her sons’ arrogance.

“You do know what I’m talking about.”

“No mom I don’t.”

“What in tarnation are ya getting at Carol?” Jim senior inquires with the beer can in his hand. “You two are actin like a couple of crazy critters. I ain’t in all my days seen you two go at each other like this. What’s got you so worked up?”

“Mom…”

Carol looked at her son with a distant look. “You’re son is dating a negra!”

“A what!? A negra!?”

Jim Epperstein’s eyes grew so wide that night that they looked like they were about to burst out of their lids.

“Am not! She’s Judy Miller’s friend and Judy is my friend!”

As a matter of fact, the reason his eyes grew so wide was because he was having a heart attack.

“It’s called being a mutual friend mom!”

“No!” Carol screams as she saw her husband collapse to the floor clutching at his artery clogged heart.

Yes, was that “no” as in no one truly knew the reason Jim senior had a heart attack that night since he died right there on the spot. Carol believed it was because of the news she delivered to him. Jim junior chalked it up to what others believed; that it was because of his weight, beer and livers and onions. Only God knows why he croaked and that was that.

Jim junior and his mother continued to have a loving relationship in spite of the of that tragic day.

The family being big Pittsburgh Steelers fans watched as the Steel Curtain gained world glory as four time Super Bowl winners in 1980. His mother proclaimed that, “Terry Bradshaw’ crown was larger than Elvis’ ever could be.” She later retracted that statement when she visited Graceland with Norma Jean Connors a year later and died of natural causes on a shag carpet shaped like a crown in the house. As she lay lying on the floor, “Elvis’ crown is obviously bigger than any crown Terry Bradshaw ever wore.” She died in Graceland even though the hospital records showed her dying in the hospital.

47 years later Jim Epperstein Jr. still lived in that same house. As a matter of fact all his childhood friends still lived. They not only still lived but they still lived on that same block in the same houses with that same one simple singular common thought resonating from door to door on DuPont Street, “Love God, your family, bleedin’ blue and fishin’.”

Views: 3

Replies to This Discussion

Hi Brent,

I like your entro you've definitely captured my attention. Other than a few minor typos I think it's a good beginning. The only thing I'm wondering is, where this particular DuPont St. is located. Because believe it or not, I grew up on a DuPont St. but judging by your description not the one in your story. Do you let the reader know shortly after your opening where in the country the story takes place? I think it would help with the imagination/picturing the scenery thing if you did. Hope this helps.

Savannah
Thanks for your response Savannah. Your input will be addressed in the draft. The story is taking place in Lexington, Ky which is where I live however, DuPont is a fictional street. The book is loosely based on experiences I have and still come across in regards to how races interact or do not interact based on relationships, socioeconomic, political, satirical (wink wink) pretty much everything you see today being played out on the world stage.

I have heard many people say, "I don't see color..." and yet here we are with everything in black and white.

Did you sense the humor in it? That is one of the main elements that I am working toward. I want the humor to be ever present in even the most crude circumstances.

-Brent
I like it. Very descriptive... maybe a little too descriptive. I was waiting to get to the good part. You may want to add what year it is when this happened. You said the houses were constructed in 1961. When you said he was watching I Love Lucy, my first thought was to wonder why he was watching that old show. Then, when you said black in white tv, then I thought, oh, ok, this must have been a while ago.
Thanks for you input as well. Your comments drew my attention to a couple of discrepancies.

It is a transitional period from 1961 (someone was born on that date, try to find out who) to the current time. Actually thank you for calling my attention to 30 years later, because it will be 47 years later to 2008.

Did you sense the humor in it? That is one of the main elements that I am working toward. I want the humor to be ever present in even the most crude circumstances.

-Brent
yep, I do see the humor in it as well... thanks for the reference to University of Kentucky (go big blue!!)... better if it was a UK game vs. a UL game (go Cards)... huge rivalry... University of Kentucky and University of Louisville... but that's cause I'm a Kentuckian :-)

Do me a favor... when you get a minute.. check out my first chapter of my book in the Critique Corner and tell me what you think.

Thanks bunches... and good luck!
Oh, it's in this room.. the subject is 1st Manuscript - Be Gentle.
Hey Brent,

I'm happy that my input helped. You are writing a very timely novel; the issues you pointed out are ever present. I do see the humor in it all. That's a great idea, keep the humor coming we need it especially these days.

Keep up the good work; I can't wait to read your finished product. Happy writing!
Savannah
Impressive. Hilarious and endearing. A negra huh?
I noticed you start talking about DuPont St. and I couldn't tell if someone was remembering when they was living on DuPont St. or if the event was taking place now. (like was the setting in the 60's or 2009) I wasn't sure who was the main focus or what important does DuPont means to the person in the story. I really want to read what happen next, I do like where it's going.

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