Blue: King of the Walking People

DELTA SHORTS:

 

Blue: King of the Walking People

By WILLIAM PRENTISS

WARNING: See end of post!

Blue didn’t give a damn what folks thought. He had carved out a nice living for a 45-year old, uneducated black man in the Mississippi Delta. He didn’t have much, but he didn’t owe much, except whatever he “borrowed” from the downtown business folks who felt sorry for him while still enjoying his company. He paid them back with menial, do-nothing-much chores and by not stealing from them.

Photo by The Delta Bohemian

Photo by The Delta Bohemian

Blue made folks feel good about “loaning” him money. He was so damn appreciative, always offering to pray for God’s blessing on the giver. He might not have been formally educated, but he sure wasn’t stupid. He knew how to sell value. Blue even knew that praying in public made white folks nervous.

He also knew that sometimes they didn’t make change or look for smaller denominational bills, as they were in a hurry to not be prayed for. He prayed for them anyway, often silently as they hurried off to their too-damn-busy lives. White folks were always stressed and working too hard trying to earn enough to buy what he already had, time!

He was smart enough to realize that he didn’t hit much of a lick at a snake and was thought of as being lazy, but thinking that way wasn’t his problem. That was a white folks’ problem. Blue figured he was on borrowed time anyhow; why not enjoy washing a window now and again for some beer and snack money.

He liked to think how his “step-and-fetch-it” demeanor made white folks feel superior and good about themselves. Oh, he didn’t resent them for it; he loved them for it. Hating and resenting folks robbed him of too much energy, and he figured he didn’t have much to begin with.

Blue wasn’t worried about status, titles, job descriptions, or time. Time was relative and Blue figured he had all the time in the world. He had heard a “downtowner,” his name for folks who lived and worked in downtown Greendale, refer to black folks who walked everywhere, night and day, as “walking people.” He liked that name and he liked the white man who thought of it. He thought it appropriate. Blue thought of himself as the King of the Walking People.

White folks didn’t understand why black folks stayed outside so much. Most black folks didn’t like or couldn’t afford air conditioning, plus, their families were large and the only self-time that could be had was to be found outside, walking. Blue would never understand why white folks kept their homes and offices so cold. Must stem from when they lived in Europe or something.

Blue wanted something over his head at night; he thought walls were a good thing, if they kept one safe at night and kept most of the mosquitoes from chewing on him. But walls were troublesome too. He had spent 6-months in county lockup one time, and it had almost killed him. Not only did he have to listen to all of his own internal voices, but he also had to listen to other “convicts” talk shit around the clock. He knew they heard voices too. Walls reminded him of too many voices. So, he rambled, walked and loved his freedom.

Blue knew his talking to himself made folks nervous–black or white. He didn’t care. He could stop it when he wanted to. The meanest fellow inside of him, the one he was always carrying on with, knew to keep his mouth shut when there was a chance of scoring a few beer bucks. He liked to drink even more than Blue did.

When people who knew Blue would see him walking late at night, they would always ask him what he was up to and where was he heading. Blue always answered, with a smile, “I’m just a rambling; I am the Walking Man!”

Not many people messed with Blue; he promised he would cut whoever did, though he knew he probably wouldn’t. He had been beat up by a gang of “baggy pants” last year. They beat him up just for the fun of it. He swore that would never happen again without somebody else bleeding too.

What the hell did the “baggy pant’ boys think anyway, wearing their pants with their drawers showing. He reckoned it was their way of telling society to go to hell, but it was just plain nasty. Their mommas ought to be ashamed!

People came from all over the world to visit Greendale. They liked the music he grew up listening to–the blues–spending thousands of dollars just to fly down to the Mississippi Delta. They always told him they were looking for something “real.” He figured they might like brushing up next to something real, but they really didn’t want real. Real made folks hungry and afraid. Real hurt. Real “real” was too real for them. They didn’t want no part of real, not really.

Real meant being hungry, often. Real meant worrying about getting one’s ass beat for no reason. Real meant hearing voices that were sometimes hard to stop. No sir, those rich white folks from around the world didn’t want no part of real. Real was just too real. Real hurt like hell.

But if real was what they wanted, then real they got. Blue figured they could go back to wherever they was from and tell them they had encountered a real black man on the streets of Greendale. One who made them laugh, made them a little nervous, and one who made them feel better about themselves, because they helped him with his “daily living expenses.” Blue thought, “Real ain’t no big deal!”

Blue told locals and visitors alike that he just needed to “hold a few dollars” to help him with his medication. Blue wasn’t medicated; well, he didn’t take what the mental health center prescribed for him. He drank beer; it didn’t take much for him to feel better. Just knowing he was drinking made some of the voices disappear. There was one voice, however, that amped up the more he drank. He didn’t like what The Voice said. It told him to do things his grandmother would say was shameful.

Sometimes Blue would black out and not remember where he had been or what he had done. When he would wake up and The Voice was silent, he would start worrying. He knew the backtracking would begin.

Blue had never been afraid enough to stop his rambling and walking. He knew where and who to avoid. He had great instincts about who to ask for money and who not to ask. He could even predict within a dollar how much folks would give him, based on his observations of how they looked at him. He was good. He knew it.

Just last week, Blue had been scared shitless, a phrase his Daddy taught him before he left to go up North for good. Scared shitless? Didn’t make much sense to him, as being that scared made him afraid he would mess his pants. But, it made sense that it was what his grandmother called “some-kinda scared.”

Blue didn’t steal from folks often, and never from people he liked or from those who gave him money. He had his honor, but he would pick up something every now and again if the fools left something out for anybody to get. He figured it was better that he gets it and uses it to medicate himself than for some shiftless no-count fellow to steal it and waste it.

Late the other night, Blue had been rambling over by the McRae mansion. It was on his unscheduled rounds; the ones he made nightly. The McRae’s had their own yard and house people, so they had never needed his services. Consequently, they were not under his “protection.” There was never much to forage; they didn’t leave anything out.

As Blue approached the rear of the home from the Chickasaw River bank, he felt something like a wet, moldy blanket begin to weigh him down. He stopped, looked, and listened. He heard nothing, yet. There was little oxygen to breathe. What had changed?

The Voice, the one he didn’t like, woke up. It said nothing, but Blue knew he was awake and aware. He sensed The Voice was scared. Scared shitless. What could make The Voice afraid, the very voice that spoke fear into existence, dripping from its lifeless, unseen lips? Blue wanted to run, but his feet wouldn’t move.

Blue asked himself, out loud he thought, “What should I do?” The Voice said, “Run! Run home!” Blue still couldn’t move. Sensing movement in the tree line protecting the big house from the river and the town, Blue remained motionless, straining to see or hear anything that might explain this feeling and The Voice’s strange admonition to run.

He thought he saw a white man, thin and wary, edging closer to the home. What was a white man doing out here, sneaking around this time of night? Surely The Voice was not scared of him.

Blue silenced The Voice by thinking really hard. He had to know what this white man was doing. Ignoring his own sense of doom and fear, he snuck closer to where the white man had entered the thin stand of trees between the river and the rear of the home. Listening closely, he thought he heard words on the wind, but there was no wind. There were just words, raspy and throaty sounding.

The Voice kept trying to speak, but Blue willed him silent. Blue had to know. Inside the tree line now, he looked for movement close to the house. He didn’t see the white man; he stepped on him. He was passed smooth out; eyes wide open, and vomit dripping from his open mouth. His face was frozen and contorted into something like he had seen on a horror movie once.

Maybe he had a stroke. Maybe he was dead. But, neither strokes nor death could have been responsible for the look of fear seen on this skinny-ass, ugly white dude. The man’s forehead looked like somebody had hammered a butt-shaped piece of clay onto his noggin and then dried it to a stone hardness.

What in the hell was this redneck-looking piece of white trash doing on Mr. McRae’s property? Mr. McRae didn’t like rednecks anymore than he liked black folks. While Blue was trying to think through all this he felt something move, not 20 feet away. It was not an animal; it was not another person. It didn’t even need to make noise to move, but it did, kind of like a warning.

Blue sensed the darkness wanted him to know it was there. Blue knew the darkness was bad; he knew it was evil; he knew The Voice inside of him was scared of it. Blue felt the darkness speak to him, inside, near where the rest of them lived.

It seemed to say, “Go home, leave now, it is not you I want, not yet, maybe never. Tell The Voice, as you call him, that I will come for him soon. He has a bit part to play. Tell him the Greasy Man walks again, but he knows that, and he should be afraid. Go! This white man and what is to come need not be your concern. Leave now, run!”

As soon as the darkness finished with “run,” Blue felt his face freeze just as his body was set on fire. Heat, pain, ice, sensations worse than a toothache, they made him buckle, falling on the frozen white man with the vomit seeping into the earth.

Blue picked himself up and ran. He ran and he ran and he ran. He was alone. Not a single one of his voices, including The Voice, said a damn thing; he knew they were hiding, anxious to go. He knew they wouldn’t keep him up tonight.

He knew things had changed in Greendale. He was sure this thing that was about to happen was not just white-folks business. He left the white man with the frozen face and vomit, and he ran, and he ran, and he ran, so ran The Walking Man.

WE HIGHLY ENCOURAGE COMMENTS!!

This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to people or places, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

WARNING: This story, though ultimately shrouded in redemption, does portray some characters in their basest state, including coarse language, non-gratuitous graphic sexuality, and internal dialogue and behaviors, which include obvious incidents of racism, sexism, and behaviors unbecoming those seen in a moral and polite society.

Please read no malicious intent into the author’s purpose for developing these flawed characters other than to present to the reader believable Delta characters–always fodder for a tale told by an idiot, signifying very little, other than just a Delta tale worth telling.

William Prentiss, with the assistance of his able and noble bride of mythical proportions, a fine meta-muse named Madge Marley Howell, has begun thinking about the “Great Southern Novel.” He will be describing characters rooted deeply in the Delta psyche.

He knows no more about them than does the reader. They reveal themselves line-by-line and serif-by-serif. William is likely more expectant than the reader to find out how his developing characters will behave.

At what point will plot be made manifest? It depends. In describing the characters and an incident or two from their past and present, Mr. Prentiss believes the story line will become clearer as the morning sun burns away the dross like dew on Saint Augustine.

All characters are fictional, but how could a Delta writer not use real-life folks and genuine incidents as the skeletons awaiting the meat and sinew of prose and verse? For a better understanding of this character, read Carlene, Father Percy and Milky Steve, Grinnel, Genevieve and Eddie, all under DELTA SHORTS.


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Comments

  1. frank mckenna says:

    I look forward to each new addition .
    Thank you .

  2. “Le-me hold a hunnurd til i can see scrait”

  3. Good stuff William! This may be the best one since Carlene. In fact it may be better than Carlene. This story seems to be changing from the Great Southern Novel into a good old fashioned horror story. I’m seeing not so much a novel, but a screenplay instead. The Greasy Man is beginning to take charge of the storyline. All hail Poor William the redneck Stephen King!

  4. Lazarus, It was SUPPOSED to be the Great (or not-so-great) Southern novel, but the damn Greasy Man keeps showing up! Go figure! I am going to try to begin a somewhat-heroic, though eminently flawed character tonight, who likely will in the end be a savior-temporal and a worthy opponent for the Greasy Man! We will see; it is going to take some doing for flesh and blood to deal with the constantly evolving and head-rearing Greasy man! Hmmm?

  5. If you can’t come up with a savior-temporal character, I’ll settle for Magical Madge dressed as Wonder Woman. No matter what, just keep writing!

  6. Da Greezy Main got his ass shot off by Da Voo-do Main with a 12 Ga loaded with OO-BuckShot.

  7. P.W.–Correct pronuciation is “Loney-Sammich”. Mustard Only! On Lightnin Bread!

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