The Minstrel

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When she was awake, the light was the same but the sky reversed. Dawn. She had slept right through the night. The earth was still. Nothing moved. Not even tree branches in the breeze. No noise but the sound of silence buzzing in her ear. Even her sleeping companion seemed to be lying like the dead. This kind of quiet brought no peace. She felt the eeriness inside her. Every nerve of her was on alert.

She looked around her. It was difficult to make out the various shapes in the morning haze. There were formless trees, nearly stripped of life from autumn cold, stretching endlessly in one direction; cold blobs of concrete yawning into the distance behind her. Very much the same as last night. Something was different. She knew. She was nobody’s fool.

Then a whistle came. Bronx cheer, hah hah. Loud. It pierced. She froze as her brain screamed where her ears detected the noise. During her studies, the noise came again, like it was right in front of her. Then her eyes saw. He was waving at her like he was an old pal from high school. Someone was lying at his feet. And Cindy felt a cold hate that she’d felt for only two people in her life. She wanted to kill.

The figure was gone as soon as he’d come, yet the immobile blob at his feet remained where it was. Instinctively, Cindy kicked at the minstrel to arouse him. They had to leave. He stirred, and with all the strength she could muster she hoisted him upon his feet. He was staggering, clutching to her, but moving. They could escape. Cindy felt a sigh of relief.

So engrossed in her movement was she that she did not hear the arrival of the security vehicle by the body. The security guard caught sight of the suspected figures just as he got out to look at the gruesome sight. A man and his kidnap victim. The caller said a man and a woman. Dejected, he let it gothe police had a radio of them. With gross fascination, he caught a wild glimpse of what he’d only read in papers. The cross in the forehead. Hands folded in prayer. Three out of seven like that. The security guard was watching a little bit of New York History in the making. He had seen the seventh of what was now dubbed lovingly by the law enforcement as the Minstrel Victims, Inc. He felt like a national hero.

The news was out in the fortress. Somehow, despite all their efforts, they had allowed a murderer into their midst. A town board meeting was called. Something had to be done. All in the high circle shook their heads before the commencement. Look what happens when the niggers come in. When he decide to be nice, they go and kill off women and children. And go and lie about it, to boot!

Joan Taylor addressed the crowd. She had called the meeting in part to discuss the development of the Gateway Plan. As of yet, the community around Emmanuel Jackson’s home had not been barricaded off. She had deliberately planned it that way, wanting to wait until the last possible moment before the Negro was permanently sealed in with all the hard-working people of Gateway, Bronxville, NY. Now, she was glad the project was taking longer than planned. She, along with her future ex-mother-in-law, had decided that there was no way that they could morally include such a lying murderer into their midst. His house, as well as nine others who were located in the far eastern corner of the establishment, were going to be cut from the plan. The board members, who were located on the northern border, would not be affected. Joan Taylor expected no hassle from them. As it turned out, she was right. They wholeheartedly agreed with her decision, in fact, Mr. Clyde Templeton, a retired international banker who’d been elected as a Republican village board official for years, expressed that if she hadn’t brought it up herself, he would have laid it on the table. The rest of the Grand Knights of the Round Table nodded in unison. This grave matter of conscience had plagued them for days.

So, it was decided unanimously. The eastern sector, which included an independent plumber, a district court judge, a Bronx accountant, a violin teacher, a divorcee living off her ex’s money, a CUNY English professor, a Daily News journalist, an assistant DA, and a retired court clerk, were eliminated from the Grand Plan of Federal Protection. Taylor would confirm with the Westchester County that the zoning was legal, but now, officially, in the village of Bronxville, it was. And all were confident that the county would hold their position. They usually didn’t get involved in these matters, the town quibbles. It wasn’t their yob, as the Hispanics would say.

No, it was the town’s job. And right now, they were the town. We the People. Me, myself and I. They were representatives. In this line of work, it was euphemistic for eunuchs.

Now, the next issue. TO form a village police.

This piqued their interests. The Royal Queen Joan Taylor smiled at her absolute power to manipulate their emotions at will. Ten middle aged men, each paunchier than the next one, at her beck and call. They were taken. They wanted her feedback. They were enthralled at the sheer genius of her logic. Inspired, she began her litany.

“Three weeks ago, a valuable citizen lost his only child to a vicious murderer.” She paused, dabbing her suddenly filmy eyes, and each person who was present was reminded that the humble speaker, who was also a valuable, venerated citizen, had also lost her only child to a vicious murdererdrugs. They bowed their heads in silence for him as well as the young life just lost. Joan Taylor began again once more.

“When Mark Timothy Haines, Jr., was murdered it was in broad daylight with hundreds of witnesses. The killer was right there. They saw him. The New York City Police saw him. And yet, he escaped. His father is a renowned lawyer. He has worked out trades with our ambassadors. His dealings have prevented wars from breaking out. And this man, in his tragedy, has been jerked from here to California just because everyone thinks it’s “cool” to be a liberal. Free the criminals and give them guns because two hundred years ago they were forced to make a living and get off their ass. Once the minorities”no one could not hear the sarcasm in her voice, and they laughed— “threw a little temper tantrum, everyone in the New York City Police Department sat on their butts. They’re afraid to do justice to the citizens because some individuals”the sarcasm again”might hurt them. So Mark Timothy Haines’ death goes unavenged, as well as the deaths of several other prominent members of our society. This cannot be tolerated. If no one will act for us, we shall act for ourselves. I vote to appoint our own private police. On Long Island, they have it all over the place. There is no reason why we shouldn’t either. This way, we have our own protecting us, not lowlife minorities who are only in to shoot guns legally and who would bee more than delighted to see this community go to rot. I make the motion now. Second?” she asked with a hand in the air.

“Mrs. Frawley, I mean Miss Taylor, I mean Joan” Tom Gray the financier raised his hand. “Election Day has just passed. Shouldn’t this be an issue that is decided by the people at that time?”

Joan folded her hands under her chin. She had watched over the years how the men of power spoke. She had been married to oneor at least, married to one who thought he had power. They would pause, reflect, allowing pregnant silences to cause anxiety in their audiences. Anxiety brought power to the instigator. Her final message would all the more have impact upon the hearers.

“Mr. GrayTom,” she began, mimicking his precious flustered statement, “what we have here is a state of emergency which has at the minimum lent a small panic within our walls. The urgent pleas for something like our Gateway Plan is representative of the upheaval that is being experienced. Drastic disasters call for drastic measures to solve them. This is one of those times. I’m sure, given the circumstances, the ‘good people'”she lent false pride to her voice” would be more than happy to see their town government working so hard to protect them and their interests. When a maniac is loose, people look for protection rather than silly political squabbles. A private police force dedicated to their interests and only their interests will help quell that fear. But” she raised her hands in mock defeat”if you insist on the issue being voted upon, we could always have a proposal election. They could be held any time of the year, even now if you wanted it. We don’t have to wait for a general election for something as vital as this. The people could decide now, for themselves, if they wanted to spend money on their security. Would that satisfy you?” The act of composure during the course of a confrontation. Another tool of power.

Now a silence. Confusion on written on their faces. Joan felt annoyed. She should have known better than to expect compromise from middle-aged blue bloods. Everything was black and white to them. Duh, which way did it go George? She thought watching their bafflement, thinking of the absurd cartoon that Quentin used to watch—

Quentin, oh Quentin. Such a young life snuffed out too soon. He would have been an adult now, a young man. Maybe he would have been married now, though she would have killed him for being so young, don’t make the same mistakes I made sweetiebut a grandchild, maybe she would have a grandchild now, but now not ever. Why did Mark Timothy Haines have to die, why now when her life was coming together, did he have to die, leave her to mourn alone? Old love, memory died? QuentinMark, Quentin; the images were confused, fused together, shattering apart:

“Why did it have to happen now?” “Miss Taylor?”

Startled back to the moment. Power to be attended to. Suddenly she felt hopelessly powerless.

“Miss Taylor? Are you all right?”

Templeton. The one who’d asked the first question. As sneaky as his namesake in Charlotte’s Webthe first book that Quentin read by himself, oh Godshe didn’t trust him for a minute. Not his supposed concern for her, not his charming looks. A good friend of Russell’sno wonder. The two were carbon copies of one another’s.

“Yes. I’m fine,” Taylor said with all the prim composure she could muster in a split second’s time, an act she was quite used to pulling being a decoration in the World of Power. It worked well now that she was the spotlight as well.

“Tom was just saying that he agreed with your idea. That he would like to second the motion. Right, Tom?” Templeton nudged a snoring Gray, who right now seemed to not be in a position to second anything, other than whether a catnap should be introduced to the minutes. When he finally erupted awake with a violent “Huh?” all his comrades broke out in a good-hearted laugh, the kind shared over a beer with your dearest of male friends. But Taylor found herself laughing with them. The camaraderie of the elite, the top echelon.

“Mr. Templeton said that you would like to second my motion to hold an election on the proposed private police force. Is that true?”

“Uh. Police force.” Gray said, straightening forward and pulling his suit jacket so it fit just so. “Yes, well. An election would be good. Yes. I second. Yes.”

Joan smiled a relieved smile, happy to adjourn the meeting now that her emotions were totally scrambled. Just wrap-up time. A date set for town residents to hear of the proposal. A discussion of how the Round Table of Town Board Members would disperse literature of the proposal. How it should be written up. Joan barely listened as she say in her cushy chair, watching the Town Clerk go through his motions of power.

Power. To make others do what you wanted them to do. She had done that tonight with her little building project. She captured them all with her words. Power.

Powerlessness. Where was Mark? Quentin? Why couldn’t they be there to live their young lives? She loved them both. But her love, no matter how strong, couldn’t bring them back. Why had they had to be taken?


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