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May 11, 1940 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1940-05-11

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PERSPECTIVES Page Seven
by Emile Gele

WAILING WILDLY, Edgar lay
sprawled out in the street where
he had fallen. The bulldog
nibbled angrily at his naked black bot-
tom. The seat of Edgar's ragged cover-
alls had already been half open. The
bulldog pulled the rest loose. The dog
didn't bite hard. He knew he was just
supposed to pinch.
"Here Bo!" Mack shouted, and whis-
tled shrilly.
With one final nibble, Bo wheeled
and galloped back, panting happily. He
panted happily as though he felt he had
done his duty. As though he didn't
like niggers anyway.
The gang was still laughing. As Mack
would say, it was damned funny the way
the little coon had walled his eyes and
jumped off his homemade scooter when
the dog started for him. It was goddam
funny, as Mack would say.
"Ain't you coming after this scooter,"
Mack hollered, while the gang still
laughed.
Edgar was on his hands and knees
rubbing his well-nibbled black bottom.
He looked sideways over at the dog lying
panting in the shade.
"Ah doan lak dat dawg," he mumbled.
The gang laughed again. Almost as
loud as before. Some of them slapped
their legs and rolled in the grass.
"Come on back," Mack said, grinning,
"He wont get you unless I tell him to."
Edgar got up slowly, pulling up the
tattered back flap of his coveralls. There
was still one button hanging on. He
hooked the flap on it and rubbed his
bottom again as he walked slowly over
toward Mack.
"You going to let me rub my dice on
your head now?" Mack asked testily,
"Yall orter gimme a nickel," whined
Edgar, still rubbing himself.
"Maybe I won't call Bo off next time,"
Mack threatened.
"Yo kin rub em on mah haid. Ah
aint say you caint," Edgar said quickly
as he rubbed his seat with one hand
and scratched his dusty head with the
other, "Mah gramma said ifn sumbody
tol' me to let 'em rub dice on mah haid
or dey dawg would chew mah laig off,
to let 'em rub mah haid. She say Ah
kin grow mo haid-fuzz, but wheah Ah
gonna git 'nother laig?"
The gang was out in back of Uncle
Sid's. High school was let out for lunch,
The boys usually ate their hamburgers
in five or ten minutes, and tosseddice
or did something else the rest of the
hour. Edgar nearly always came around
for shorts on sandwiches or candy. And
sometimes just because the white boys
paid enough attention to him to tease
him. But lately he had begun asking
for pennies and sometimes nickels.
As the dice game started again, Chubs
said to Edgar, "How come you're col-
lecting pennies now, Eightball?"
"Aint you heard?" Lou the Wop
mocked, "He's got a little chocolate gal
he takes to the show,"
"No Ah aint! Ah doan have no truck
wif gals," Edgar protested, turning from
his rock throwing, He had been seeing
how close he could get to the dog with-
out anybody noticing, "Mah gramma
say fo me not to have no truck wif gals
till dey's as old as she is. Den dey think
o' sumpin 'sides de jellyroll."
"What's your gramma mean by that?"
"Ah doan know."
"You don't know nothing, do you?"
sneered Mack, "You always say what
your "gramma" told you, but you don't
never know what she means, do you?"
Edgar was rocking on his knees in the
grass. He pulled up wads of grass with
both hands and stuffed them in his
month, then spit them out. He wrinkled
his white-smudged forehead thought-
fully and said,
"Mos' de time when she tells me
stuff, she's paddlin' me. Dat's how come

Ah 'members it. But Ah doan know
whut she mean mos' de time."
It was Mack's throw. He bent Edgar's
head down and rubbed the dice vigor-
ously over it. He tossed a seven.
"Damn! That coon-scalp's got the
right electricity," Chubs exclaimed.
Mack was pleased, but he said, "It
stinks. All nigger skin stinks. Why the
hell don't your gramma wash you some-
time?"
"She say dere ain't no call to wash
me," Edgar answered and rolled full
length on the ground till he came to a
pool of dust. He ran some of the dust
through his fingers, and sprinkled some

"Ah doan know."
"Aint you ever seen him?"
"Yeah, lbut he's gone now."
"What does your gramma say?"
"She say lots. But Ah doan know
what she mean," Edgar replied as he
grabbed the post of a stop sign near
the curb and began swinging around it
at arm's length. "She say ifn Ise gonna
grow up to be lak him, she orter use
de shears on me now. But Ah doan
know what she mean."
They didn't say much for a while.
Except Mack. He counted his nickels
and dimes aloud and jingled them in
his pocket.

At fke Airport

HERE, at the airport, waiting,
Watching the schedule by
The opulent calm of a match,
I think; the cold unpeopled stars,
This hutch of night that wears
A floodlight for an eye,
Have turned against my hope.
When silence broadens; swinging,
Whipped by the wind, the little
Zeppelins report a change;
And from the glassy tower goes
Immediately its subtle news:
Over the moonlike lakes
Whose wings? Whose winged name?
On margins of the field, cattle
Make their slow and noiseless
round.
Imprinting daisies or
A singular cleft hoof in mud;
Degenerate, soft-eyed, they plod
Without expectancy,
Sometimes, even, they sleep.
A signal's up! the humming
Imminence of wings
Berates the thoughtful ear;
I underline my schedule with
A fingernail; across the path
Of light, and lazily,
The great eyes land with pride.
All those I've loved in any
History have come;
Their presence, like a wreath
Of pain, sits coldly on my skull;

Puzzled, resigned to good or ill,
Yet fearing recognition,
I watch them evilly.
Do I dare to greet them, calling
"This is the place, this is
The one who telegraphed?"
Emerging single file, they seem
Like statues scissored from a dream,
Except that in their eyes
The past has turned to stone.
Yet, if they walk, or float,
Or if, like guardian angels,
Move invisible and near,
They are the heroes of my life,
Untouchable and turned to grief
With beauty, lost as water
In the quick unable hands.
I turn into the City;
Let them wonder who it was
That brought them here, who called
Across the distances as if
Their presence meant his very life;
The City is more kind
With stranger citizens.
Now when I hear my pillow
Hum with those approaching wings,
I remember how they came
Out of the sky that lyric night;
Only a ghost would choose to wait,
Among the quiet cattle,
Their coming down again.
-John Malcom Brinnin

"He helped you win a buck and twelve
cents."
"Yeah, you was losing before he
came," Chubs said.
"You was losing," repeated Jakie, who
was small and timid and cringed when
Mack said "Shut up, you!"
"Give him something for his pants;
Lou the Wop urged.
Edgar stood unusually still. He stared
wide-eyed from one face to another
afraid he'd do something wrong if he
moved. He swallowed hard and looked
at Mack who said, ,
"Aw hell, I'll give him a dime. What
the hell."
"You ought to give him more than
that," Joe said quickly, "He helped you
win a buck. You ought to give him half
of that so he can get his pants."
"Christ! You think I'm nuts?" Mack
exploded, "Give him half a rock? You
think I'm nuts?"
"Give him fifty cents," Chubs ex-
claimed, "And we'll chip in so he'll have
enough to buy the pants." And he
looked around to see if everybody agreed,
They did.
"Let him have it," piped Little Mack,
and Mack shot an angry "Shut up!" at
him and "I aint gonna do it!" to the
rest.
Joe said, "You'd still be half a buck
ahead. We all lost and we're willing to
chip in."
"Come on. It won't hurt you," Chubs
pleaded.
"Yeah," Jakie said, and cringed when
Mack glared at him without saying any-
thing.
"It aint right," Mack muttered
"Sure, he can get his pants," Lou the
Wop encouraged.
Mack drawled, "Well. But half a roc
is a lot of dough. I don't - Well, I'll
do it - Damn, I'm stupid!"
Edgar stood with his mouth hanging
open as they gathered the change and
tied it up in a handkerchief for him.
He couldn't say anything while they put
the handkerchief in his hand and
dragged up his scooter for him. Every-
body was grinning.
"An doan know whut mah gramma's
gonna say," he mumbled. Everybody
laughed. Everybody except Mack.
Edgar set out on his scooter. He went
fast down the sidewalk toward the rail'
road embankment that divided the'
Negro section from the white. He
dragged his scooter up the bank and
disappeared eown the other side.
Next day as the gang came racing
toward Uncle Sid's for lunch, Edgar
stood waiting. He wore some crisp,
green pants, and a grin that spread
almost from ear to ear. He had on a.
pair of shiny, leather sandals, too, with
green socks. He had been scrubbed ti
he shone like patent leather.
"Holy Jesus!" shouted Mack as he
ran up ahead of the gang, "Would you
look at that!"
Edgar's grin spread wider as each ones
of the gang stopped to examine him and
exclaim. He got more shorts than he
could eat. And without asking.
"Where'd you get the shoes?" Joe
asked smiling.
"Mah gramma say Ah had enough
money," Edgar said, "She say picka-
ninny feet aint made fo shoes. But dey
goes wif green pants. So Ah wear dem.
Jes' fo today and on Sundays. Dey as
sorta close." He was careful not to wipe
his hands on the pants, and he didn
sit down on the benches or the grass
or anywhere. He edged away when the
boys tried to feel his pants.
Chubs munched an over-mustardized
hamburger and reached toward Edgar
saying, "Those green pants would make
a good napkin."
"No you don't," Edgar said and
knocked over an empty case of pop
(Continued on Page Ten)

on his head and slapped it off, "She say
Ah doan live wif no white folks, and ifn
she wash me den Ah cud smell tother
colored folks. Ifn we's all not washed
together we's doan smell one tother."
Mack made his point three times. He
brushed the dice over Edgar's head be-
fore each throw.
Joe was in on the dice game, but he
didn't talk much. He didn't especially
like the way the gang teased Edgar.
He said,
"Why don't your ma ever tell you
anything. It's always your gramma."
Edgar grinned, then he frowned and
stuck his finger in his nose.
"My mama's in de booby house," he
said.
"The what?"
"De crazy house. She done gone goofy
in de haid." He scratched his own head
and got up off the ground.:
Mack threw an eleven, but nobody
was watching him. They all looked at
Edgar. Edgar dug his crusty black toe
in the ground and scratched himself
inside his coveralls.
"Hey, look!" Mack said, "Look! That
makes a buck I got off you guys. Look
at it!"
They all looked and then turned back
at Edgar.
"Where's your old man, your pappy?"
asked Joe.

"What you saving your money for,
Edgar?" Chubs asked again.
"Ise gonna get me sum new pants.
De kind whut has a shirt whut buttons
on dem. Dey's gonna be green pants
wif a white shirt."
"Why the hell green pants?" Mack
asked.
"Ah wanted red uns, but my gramma
say red is a nigger color," Edgar said
and tore off a little piece of his ragged
coveralls. He picked some of the thread
out of the piece and pushed the rest
carefully into his ear. The thread ticked
and he shook his head and thumped his
ear to get it out. "She say Ah might
hafta smell lak a nigger, but Ah doan
hafta wear red lak a nigger. She say
when Ah walk at nighttime in red pants
people wud say 'See dat red patch
movin' dere. Dat's a nigger boy'.. But
ifn I wear green pants dey say 'See dose
green pants. Dat's a white boy wif a
po'erful dirty face'."
Edgar said it seriously. But all the
gang smiled, except Little Mack. He
laughed aloud. He was Mack's kid
brother. His name was something like
Hastribal or Honeyweather, so every-
body called him Little Mack. He laughed
out loud until Mack shut him up.
"Aint you going to give Edgar some-
thing," Joe asked Mack quietly.
"What for?" Macked snapped.

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