This submission continues the story of a young woman character from a multi-narrative novel, a work in progress. Interested readers may find earlier segments in the U.S. 1 archives from the last few years.
Anywhere is wherever I’d end up when I ran outta money. Keep a low profile, get a job or two, save enough t’ start out again. Then there was this place where they was havin’ a Union organizin’ ‘lection at a local chicken plant an’ o’ course, I got stuck there. First, ran out o’ my ticket’s reach. An’, more important, I ran into Roger. I also had a friend, Wanda, who warned me about Unions and they’s goods an’ bads. God bless Wanda, y’know, ‘cause ‘a she warned me about Unions and Juanita,, one special boss bitch who somehow got it in for me. On top of all that, somehow, I got pregnant. Never thought I could ‘cause ‘a what that bitch an bastard did back in Charlotte.
Course there was all kindsa’ rules about what y’ could and couldn’t do in union ‘lections., but Roger was good at flashin’ laws and stuff at ‘em an’ it seemed to be goin’ alright, although you could never trust them people at the plant. There was whispers about another time, but Roger jus’ went on. Roger quit provokin’ like that, though, when he saw how bad it was spookin’ soma’ those women.
Anyway, comes the day ’fore the ‘lection an’ Roger’s out there at the plant gates givin’ out leaflets an’ already filled out ballots. He’s politickin’ like crazy. The people at the plant is getting’ tougher an’ tougher. They’s letting it be known that if y’ vote f’r the Union, no matter what, they gonna get you someway or other. An’ so Roger’d organized a rally outside the plant gates f’r that last night. He wanted t’ get them women riled up so’s they’d vote f’’r him and his Union when the mornin’ came. He wanted ’em t’ remember what he said an’ “vote right tomorra’.
Well, by then he did have some other women who was on his side. They handed out stuff too an’ pushed hard as they could at breaks an’ stuff. They came along that night an’ helped out of course. It was just stan’ up, y’know, wit’ Roger standin’ on the back o’ some rented truck with a loudspeaker system. Man, he was workin’ those women. It was just like a prayer meetin’ — he had some singers over from the next town an’ all — an’ the singers was singin’ ‘bout freedom an’ love an’ God’s justice — an’ Roger’s talkin ‘bout human rights an’ the second end of slavery, the dignity of work, equality an’ all. Them women clappin’ an’ seranadin’ — “Tell it, brother — Listen to the man — Right on !” — an’ like that. Roger, he’s all worked up hisself, soggy in his own sweat, his eyes all whites, his voice breakin’ …
Finally, it’s all over an’ them women breakin’ up t’ go home. Roger’d made sure they had menfolk wit’ em’ to walk across the fields t’ home an’ the church folks had they own buses. We jus’ sat there in the torch light an’ watched em’ leave. Jus’ a few o’ us left — Wanda an’ a few other women — an’ Roger says:
‘Well, let’s go; ever’one in the truck; we’ll go a different way.” His voice was real raspy. Them who could, me included, got in the front an’ ever’one else piled inta the rear an’ we off down the road. That’s when it happened.
Alla sudden we could see a pile o’ burnin’ logs up the road. Ever’body says: “Oh, no” an’ Roger stops the truck. He looks t’ back up an’ way back on the road we can see headlights comin’, real slow — more ‘an one, too. Both sides we got gullies an’ planted fields. Then we starts seein’ people springin’ up along the road, comin’ outa the fields like a bad harvest. They looked like scarecrows wit’ flour sacks over they heads and eye holes cut through. Roger says: “Oh, shit”, then yells: “ever’body down in back and hole onto somethin’.” I’m gonna try runnin’ them logs. He starts t’ gunnin’ an’ movin’ forward a little at a time so as to get a better look.
He took a han’ off the wheel an’ grabbed mine.
“Roxanne, no matter what happens, I love you girl — an’ our baby.” I jus’ squeezed back. I was too scared t’ say anythin’. Finally he yells ”Here we go !” an’ the motor’s gunnin’ an’ he grinds a gear; suddenly the truck jumps an’ then starts flyin’ toward that fire. Jus; as we comin’ up on it Roger yells: “Too high ! Gottta …. try … t’ go aroun’ an’ he swerved t’ the left. He started turning the wheel an’ the truck starts skiddin’ an’ then hits a corner of the pile, starts t’ climb it a little an’ them flames coming in the winda and the truck starts skiddin’ to the side but we too high up an’ the truck turns over, swerves across a gully an’ rolls a few more times, then settles.
I couldn’t hardly move. Roger’s on top o’ me an’ he ain’t movin’ an’ I starts screaming f’ help an’ finally somebody pulls the door an’ we all fall outa the truck, me underneath. For a second I forgot an’ I’m yellin’; “Thank god, I think he’s … “My words froze in my throat. Two eyes in a flour sack lookin’ right at me. I turned my head ‘s best I could an’ tried to crawl out through the partly busted out front winder. All head and shoulders in flour sacks — some wit’ torches, some wit’ axe handles or shotguns — an’ I started screamin’ again: “Oh God, somebody please help me. They gonna kill us. A flour sack yelled back: “Shut up. y’ nigger bitch. Killin’s too good f’r ya’, though nobody gonna miss a few uppity niggers. We jus’ wanna teach ya’ a few manners is all.” Jus’ then a axe handle smashed that winda completely out, sprayin’ us all wit’ glass. I think my eyes was closed, but I could feel Roger’s weight on me start t’ move an” I knew they was taken Roger out o’ the truck.
I tried grabbin an’ holdin’ onto his legs, but I couldn’t. They dragged him away, then put they’s hands on me an’ dragged me out. ‘Course I’m kickin’ an’ screamin’ but they was too many of ‘em. When we outa the truck, I sneaked a look aroun’. They was a whole lotta them flour sacks an’ they was beatin’ up on our other pitiable folks as they was layin’ on the groun’. I started screamin’ f’r Roger again an’ again an’ finally a flour sack said “That union man’s over there.”
Roger was layin’’ flat on his back, blood comin’ outta his mouth and ears. He was quiet — too quiet.
“You killed him”, but the flour sack said: “Dumb nigger bitch; tole ya’ we wan’t gonna kill nobody. Jus teachin’ a few lessons. Then he — it — motioned to a few others an’ they stood Roger up. Then the flour sack went over an’ punched Roger a couplea times in the face. Roger was so gone he didn’t react an’ the flour sack started walkin’ away, but then he turned around and hit Roger straight in the stomach wit’ an’ axe handle. Roger’s body jus bent forward an’ the flour sack brought the axe handle down on his head. Thunk ! That soun’ was terrible, like splittin’ a melon full open. I started fightin’ ‘gainst the han’s that was holdin’ me an’ they let me fall on Roger. Flour sack looked at me and said: “Bitch is pregnant; I don’t want no truck wit’ that.” At this point I was holdin’ Roger’s head and moanin’.
“Shut up bitch”, I heard a voice say. One said t’ ‘nother”: What about the blessed virgin there ?”
“Boss said t’ leave her. Don’t want no foolin’ wit’ no pregnant woman.
”Bullshit !” I knowed it was Juanita right away an’ I screamed at her: “You the bitch; I’m like t’ kill you.”
She didn’t admit it was her, but she tried to change her voice. “Shut up, black whore.”
But I wouldn’t. I kep’ screamin’ names at her I can’t even remember.
Finally she walks over an’ says: “I warned ya’ Roxx — x — anne; raises that axe handle. I tries to cover my head an’ she cackles: “Bullseye” an’ hits me right in the belly. Well, y’know that knocked me six from Sunday. Then she caught me with an upstroke right on the side o’ my head. One o’ my hands goes up, one down an’ I was outta time. I collapsed.
I wakes up starin’ inta bright light. Then a face closed it over and I’m thinkin’ ‘flour sack’, so I screamed. A hand patted me on the arm an’ a nice voice says” “Roxanne, is it ?; Roxanne, I’m Doctor Michaels an’ you are at County General.
“You an’ your baby have had a rough time but we think you’re gonna be alright . You know what I’m thinkin’.
“What you mean ‘alright’ ?”
Well, it looks like that punch to your stomach started you into labor. When are you due ?”
Well, we starts talkin’ an’ pretty soon my head is whirlin’. I was in an’ out from then on. But I ‘membered to axe about Roger.
“Where’s Roger ? I screamed again when I ‘membered that flour sack hittin’ him an’ rememberin’ his blood turnin’ inta mud in that field. . .
“Is he the union man ?”
“Yeah … an’ he’s my husband … “
Well, he’s here, Roxanne, he’s here. He’s in another room wit’ some a y’r friends.
“I wanta see him”
“I’m sorry Roxanne, not a good idea right now. ‘Sides, he’ unconscious right now.”
“I wanna see him.”
Roxanne, we’re doing everything we can, but if we can’t calm you down, we may haveta sedate you.”
“Sedate ? What’s that ?”
“We could give you something to calm you down or even get you to sleep a little.
“No !”, I yells,” no sleepin’ !” I remembered Charlotte.
He asked me ‘bout baby names and’ I tole him Roger or Roland. He teased: “No girls names ?”
“I can’t be havin’ no girl.“ He looked at me peculiar, but cramps started again an’ nobody else asked.
Them cramps started coming more and more an’ he said, “Pretty soon Roxanne, pretty soon.” They was so much crampin’ and breathin’ and pushin’ I was glad when he said we goin’ to delivery. I got worried cause it looked like that room back in Charlotte, stirrups an’ all. but I was pretty gone at the time. And this was different an’ that Doctor a whole lot nicer. Then seems like everything got even more busy, ever’body rushin’ ‘roun’ an all.
Finally the doctor says: “I can see the crown; I can see the head; I have a shoulder an he’s like tellin’ me all this stuff.
“Push; breathe, breathe; push !”
An’ finally he says: “I have the baby. Roxanne, I have your baby. “
“Thank god’, my baby! ”
“Keep pushing; just a little more.”
The baby starts crying and the doctor says: “It’s breathing.”
“Doctor, my baby … !”
“Jus’ one more Roxanne,”
“Doctor, tell me, my baby ?!”
“Roxanne, it’s over …”
“Oh, thank the lord. Doctor, can I please have my baby ?”
An’ he put the slimy, bloody, beautiful new little person on my chest.
“An’ I lifted him up carefully wit’ a nurse’s helpin’. I looked him over, up an’ down…”
“Doctor, my baby …?
“Roxanne, what’s wrong ?”
“Doctor, my baby ?!”
“Roxanne … wrong ?”
“Doctor … my baby … my god …it’s a girl!”
Hugh Adams is a retired public and community services executive who resides in Trenton with his wife. He has been published in previous Summer Fiction issues with a variety of writing styles and viewpoints. He is working on several pieces of fiction for print or stage while pursuing multiple projects on the couple’s home.