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Black And white
This time of the year, cool days were few in the south. So in this small southern town it was not uncommon to wake up slick with sweat, and to sleep in thin garments. The older citizens would wake up and wade through the sticky heat that had already seeped into the morning. Then they would get ready and go to work, not worrying about kids, because at this time, most kids would be up and running about, not giving a moment’s thought to the heat and only caring about meeting their friends to play with.
The day started out like any other, at the sound of the alarm, calling Jane to her morning meal. She ate a simple breakfast of eggs and some burnt toast. Rising from the table, she banged her knee against the edge. Again, she thought, again I bump my dang leg against this small table… her thoughts trailed off, and she then went to change for work. A simple knee-length skirt and grey button up would maintain her simple image. Sensible shoes and her long, light brown hair tied up into a bun would finish off the look. Her day life was so simple: food, clothes, and then work followed by another meal, more work, and then home for her final meal. Repeat for each sunny day, and you have her day life written out in front of you. Jane liked it this way; the predictability of her day soothed her. With no husband, even for her age of 24, was absurd in her small town. But her simple features, paired with her extraordinary height, and modest income made her almost invisible to all men who could even consider having a wife.
She walked out of her plain brown house, with white shutters, into her plain yard, with a small green lawn and simple vegetable garden. Jane didn’t particularly like to garden, and really only did it to pass the time in her boring afternoons, when she could scrounge up the time. She walked down her plain street to her office, where she sat at her desk and answered phone calls for a doctor all day. Living in a small town meant that there were only 2 doctors, and one of them was specifically for the blacks of this town. That was her boss, Dr. Tennant. All she did was answer calls and fetch things he needed. He would often bustle in and out to answer house calls that required immediate attention.
If you were to describe her and her life in one word, it would be plain. She didn’t mind, even liked it. But once in a great while, she would catch herself daydreaming of her life if she was an adventurer, exploring the wild jungles of South America, or wandering the streets of Rome. But then she would think of what she would have to do to get there, and she would start her plain life again. Sitting at her desk, it was easy to slip into the monotony of work, and not think of anything deep or thought provoking, and only focus on the next call, the broken hip at the Huflymyer’s, or sick child at the Winston’s.
Jane answered call after call, until she got the familiar pattern of “Hello this is Dr. Tennant’s office, Jane speaking, how may I help you?” and for the rest of the day that was mostly what she said. Besides tailoring her next reply to fit the person on the other ends answer, she spoke to no one else, not even Dr. Tennant, her employer! She was afraid that when she got home, her mouth would be stuck together, as if someone had glued her lips shut.
Jane broke for lunch at noon, and ate at the small deli across the street, ordering her plain ham sandwich on wheat. No mayo, or mustard, or other delightful spread on top, just ham and bread. No more, no less. Then, at approximately 12:20, she went back to work and did the most interesting thing she did all day; she went out for coffee, not for her, but for her boss. So Jane walked to the nearest coffee house and stood in line. In front of her there was a young Negro woman reading a newspaper. The paper had the headline “Mass murderer on the prowl; Targets Blacks!”
This wasn’t news to Jane, she had heard all about the secretive killer who only targeted blacks. She knew quite a lot about the killer, and she found this topic dull, but the most exciting thing going on in this small, southern town, even though no murder had been committed in this town. So she waited in line for the coffee, ordered it without incident, and then left. No one would notice her, no one would care. Jane walked back to the office and handed her busy, noisy boss his coffee, then answered more calls till the bell rang at 5, telling her that her shift was over.
So she picked up her small leather purse and packed up all her things. Then, Jane bid a farewell to Dr. Tennant and went to the store. Not a clothing store, mind you, but the local grocery. She was running out of milk and eggs along with other necessities. She went through food very fast. So she made the walk of 100 feet to the town store, almost empty. The sign out front that boasted the stores name, Fin’s Foods, was damaged and torn, faded by the sun’s heat. Jane walked to the door and pulled it open, reveling in the coolness that washed over her. The inside was a nice 72 degrees, cooled by the town’s only air conditioning supply store, run by the richest person in town. Only a few businesses could afford the pricey air conditioning. Unfortunately, her work could not.
Jane picked up a basket and walked down the first isle, picking up some tea bags and sugar and dropping them into the basket. In the next isle there was the most expensive thing on her list, bread. She eyed the pricey white bread loaves, and made a noise of longing. Then she reached for the much cheaper option, the wheat bread. This always upset her some, because she was set in her mind set that pure, white people could eat the soft white bread, but mixes (god she hated that word) could not.
It wasn’t true of course, but it was her mindset, so she couldn’t change it. Moving on, Jane walked to the next isle for eggs, then, thinking she was finished, walked to the checkout counter. Behind the polished wood counter was a teen white boy, who she knew was Johnny Bises, a boy who had broken his wrist when he was 7 and he was now 15. He was the type of boy who would not ever leave this small town, just like Jane would not leave.
He rang up her order, and then she left with no “Goodbye!” or “Have a nice day!” Nothing but silence. Jane walked back to her small house, passing her garden, and into the house. She had forgotten to close her curtains that morning, so the house was flooded with warm light, upsetting Jane.
That set her off. She walked into the kitchen and started to cook, she cooked so much food, and she could have fed an army! But she did not eat, and cooked till all her purchases of the day were gone. Grits, toast, BBQ, the whole 9 yards. All mixed with special things and one special thing in particular.
Then, very calmly, Jane walked to her bedroom and changed from her conservative outfit, to a black pair of pants and a black tee-shirt with black shoes. So different was her appearance, if you were to see her at day, then again at night, you would not believe she is the same person. She tied up her hair into a ponytail, and then she walked back. Again she donned her apron and cooked, but this time for herself. A simple meal compared to the feast she prepared earlier. By now it was 9 at night, and the house had grown pitch black, beside the small light she used in the kitchen.
Then, Jane calmly packed away all her food she prepared before she ate and left the house. She walked and walked, her shoes doing a very good job to guard her feet from blisters and mud. She walked and walked, not thinking of anything but walking, food, and the task in front of her. She walked all the way past her work, the lights out and Dr. Tennant fast asleep by now. Jane walked so far; she walked out of town and into the next city. It was larger, large enough to have nightlife, filled with women begging and men drinking.
Jane knew this city, she knew it well. This was where she had been born, but back then it was smaller, more like the town she lived in now. She had been raised here by her mother, and in the beginning, her father. She knew her task and who was needed to accomplish it. So Jane, ever so determined, walked to the black side of town, not far really. She looked for the perfect person, and found her only 20 minutes later. By now it was midnight, so she knew this woman would be wary of any men. The young woman in question was a beautiful Negro woman, probably a mother who was working the late shift, and was on her way home.
“Excuse me?” Jane boldly spoke. The woman was wary, and turned, but when she saw Jane, she visibly relaxed and said, “Can I help you?”
“Yes, I was on my way to my sister’s house, but I got lost. Can you show me to Wilhern Street?”
“Sure, it’s on my way. Follow me.” The black woman walked on, with Jane following. When they approached Wilhern Street, Jane spoke again.
“Oh! Thank you so much! Please, take this bread roll as thanks!” Jane held out the bread, and the black woman was shocked. A stranger offering her food? All she wanted was to feed her kids, not herself. But she hadn’t eaten all day, so she graciously took it and bit into it hardily. Suddenly, the young mother found her body paralyzed, and she collapsed on the ground.
Jane picked up the woman’s feet, and dragged her into the nearest ally. There, Jane surveyed her prey. So easy it was, catching young women who hadn’t eaten. Jane knew. She had experienced hunger before, as a kid. Her mother had been similar to the one lying on the ground now. So wanting to feed her kid, but not being able to feed herself.
Jane crouched down and, without saying a word, started to choke the woman. She heard her gasp, but it didn’t matter. The woman’s face soon turned into her own, black, mother’s, contorting with desperate desire to be let go that only made it easier for Jane to kill her. She watched the life drain out of the woman’s eyes, all the while seeing her mother drive her father away, every moment replaying in her head. From the first, “Don’t Go!” to the last “Goodbye!” Jane’s pain fueled her auctioned, driving her to continue, squeezing her hands around the woman’s neck till her body went limp.
Jane felt no regret as she left the woman’s body in a dumpster to be found by the morning workers.