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Meanwhile, the porter set out the tiny flight of stairs to carry the passengers safely from the car to the platform. One by one, disheveled women and men descended and made their way to waiting loved ones. Ellie Jane and Morris stood, expectant with each new arrival, then shrugged to each other as the former travelers filed right past them.
Finally, when the hands planted on her hips gave Ellie Jane a posture of resignation, one more passenger stood at the top of the steps. He was miraculously unrumpled in a pressed brown wool suit and a bowler hat sitting at a perfected angle over his left eye. His thin brown moustache was trimmed to symmetrical proportion, and the rest of his face seemed so cleanly shaven as to rival the smoothness of his patent leather shoes.
Morris’s face fell into slack-jawed rapture, and after Ellie Jane reminded him to hold out his hand for a handshake, he seemed entranced by whatever the man had pressed into his palm. So much so, in fact, that he had to be nudged in the direction of the baggage car.
Having dispatched the boy, Ellie Jane held out her own hand. The man took it, bent low, and gave it a kiss. Ned cringed at Ellie Jane’s girlish reaction, bringing her other hand up to capture what must be a lovely giggle while allowing herself to languish in this forward embrace.
Worried about her honor, Ned strode across the platform toward the couple, ready to wedge himself between them, but just as he got close, the stranger stood to his full height, giving a clear view of his face.
Shocked, Ned stopped midstride and turned on his heel, but not before tipping his hat to what must be the luckiest woman in Picksville, Missouri.
Tuesday, May 2
Mama says spending time with white folks will warp my soul. Well today those white folks sent me home with nearly seven dollars. I could spend a year toting for folks on Lincoln Street and never make half that. Course I only showed Mama the nickels and dimes—shakin them in my hand like it was the biggest treasure ever. If she seen deep in my pocket she’d snatch it all and give it over to that fool Darnell who’s always sniffin around here just in case Mama gets lonely for a man.
Now if my daddy was around I’d let him take it down to Bozie’s, roll some bones, and come back with it doubled. But I guess he’s back to Georgia for good this time—where he says blacks is blacks and whites is whites and the two walk a wide enough circle around each other that a colored man with good timing can live a life without any trouble.
But I like it here in Picksville. Not on my side of the tracks—where every day seems to be the same kind of nothin over and over. But in town bein around all them white people. Learnin what they know, hearin how they speak, seein how they live. I figure it’s trainin me up for when I get out of here. When I head out west to California or some other part of the country where everybody’s new and a boy can make his own life.
Darnell slaps the back of my head and says, Boy don’t you have any pride at all? You know you ain’t nothin but a grinnin fool to them, scrapin around for pennies.
Maybe so. But I get more than pennies when Mayor Birdiff sends me with a package to one of them pretty ladies on Sharon Street (boy wouldn’t Mama rip into me if she knew I went there!) and I don’t scrape for nothin. They like it when you look them straight in the eye, hand at your side—not holdin out but not in your pocket—and say somethin like, There you are sir. Anything else?
And there’s always somethin else.
End of Day 3 Excerpt - More coming in tomorrow's email!
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