The Minstrel

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Jonathan was tired. It had been a long day at work. Frawley had missed his third day at the office in two weeks, as well as two trials. Jonathan felt like an idiot covering for his boss in court, and when Frawley’s clients called, for he did not know what to tell them when they demanded Frawley’s whereabouts. So he got yelled at, while Frawley was probably out partying his butt off in some bar. He was glad to be home now. It felt good to have a meal with his family, to clean the dishes with his wife and daughter, and sit on his own couch and watch news on his own TV. So glad to be able to enjoy the little pleasures of his life. So good to have a home.

He was just standing up to get something to eat when he heard the words “race riot” coming from the TV. His attention riveted upon the screen, watching the young Asian reporters mouth. The words race riot made his blood ripple. He felt conscious of his whiteness, and the danger it could present in this time. He wanted to run from his own skin when racial danger was present. He was reminded that he, Joseph Christopher Pfeifer, was white.

Living in this part of town, being white was an advantage. He could walk into a store or down the street without being stalked, or blatantly accused of stealing just for handling merchandise at a storefront. For everyone else though, it was another story. He remembered the time he invited an old college buddy of his, Michael Samuel, to his house for a weekend just after he got back from Oklahoma. Raven had been just about two then. Michael was black, which never made a difference to him but apparently made a difference to everyone else around his neighborhood. Jonathan recalled walking down the street with Michael and watching his neighbors cross the street when they saw his buddy and him coming. The bravest would give stay on the same side, but wouldn’t pass without throwing Jonathan a dirty look, as if to say, how dare you bring that garbage into the neighborhood. Jonathan was embarrassed for his friend, who had the dignity not to comment on their crass behavior. But he never visited Jonathan again. Jonathan hadn’t spoken to what had been his best friend for over two years now.

Jonathan himself never did so well, either there. By virtue of his whiteness, he was recruited to join the war against the coloreds. When he had been living with his grandparents, they tried to school him in the logic that white was better, but he never got it. His parents had taught him differently. They had been missionaries for the inner cities, and he had grown up believing that God made the black one, the yellow one, the brown one, the red one, and the white one all equal. God had sent his Son to rise up against sin for all of them. By the time Jonathan was sent to live with his paternal grandparents when his parents were killed in a car crash, it was too late for him to be convinced otherwise. He was nine years old, and he had seen too much of reality to buy his grandparents’ rhetoric. So he was deemed an insolent. A nigger lover. And of course bringing home his half-breed daughter really topped everything else. But he was white. So he was tolerated.

There were shouts coming from the TV. A mob of people congregated in front of a hospital. It looked like Columbia Presbyterian. It was nearly impossible to decipher the reporter’s voice amidst the roar of the crowd, and Jonathan felt frustrated, wanting to know what the scene was about. And yet, he didn’t want to know either. It made him afraid. The war had been declared between the races, and he would be thrown on a side. He didn’t want to be there.

Someone had been attacked. It was a white man, and the sketch of the suspect was that of a black man. Another person was seen fleeing the crime. They showed this composite, and it was that of a white woman. The sketch looked vaguely familiar to him, enough that he felt frozen to his seat. The reporter said something else, but Jonathan still couldn’t make out what she said. He wished to hell that he could hear what was going on. He wanted to know what she had done or what had happened to her.

Raven bounded toward him, snapping his attention away to her. With the spontaneity of a child, she jumped into Jonathan’s lap, hoping to find eternal security in her father’s embrace. Her smile conveyed this, entrusting an awesome amount of responsibility upon Jonathan. How could he be a tower if strength for this innocent one when he could hardly find the strength to sustain himself. But Raven’s smile never wavered. She loved him. Would she love him as much on the day that she discovered that he was not God? He wondered. He prayed that she would. She was his symbol of peace and purity. He looked into her eyes and all thoughts of race, the Brownies, and Frawley were gone. In her eyes, he saw hope. In her heart, there he found his peace.

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