Published on June 6th, 2017 | by Randy Weeks0
A View From the Balcony: A Gathering of Old Ghosts
It was Friday night and I was plum worn out from the work week and looking forward to the Memorial Day weekend. It wasn’t all that surprising that after several drinks I fell asleep a few minutes before closing time on The Balcony. When the Knights of the Long Table were clearing folks out they somehow overlooked me—even King Cobra, or perhaps he simply couldn’t bring himself to stir me from my slumber. I woke up around two o’clock and for one brief groggy moment I didn’t know where I was.
When things became clear to me I realized that the only semi-viable way off The Balcony was to shinny down the street light that’s way too darned close to the railing of The Balcony. (If you ever sit there be prepared to be blinded by the light.) I wasn’t ready for that yet, so I went back to my corner and finished the remains of a greyhound—the drink, not the dog.
Suddenly I heard voices coming from inside, but couldn’t see anyone there. When what to my wandering…er… wondering eyes should appear but an otherworldly host of foggy apparitions, floating through the eastern door! I pulled my hat down over my eyes.
Shiver me timbers! There was Lincoln and Hamer, Barnett and Rosa—Wallace and Grant, Lee and Coretta! Oh, what a night for some ghoulish eavesdropping!
Barnett: Karl Oliver must be the stupidest man in the Mississippi Legislature. To suggest lynchin’ folks and then to put it on that innard net thing? Stupid is as stupid does!
Hamer: I’d like to nail his dumb rump to a stump! The squirrelly-eyed–
Coretta: Hold your horses, Fannie Lou. Martin always said that violence only begets violence.
Lincoln: And he was right, Coretta. I saw it every day in that damned un-Civil War. Brother against brother—I wept night and day. You did, too, General Lee. You told me yourself.
Lee: It was the hardest thing I ever did—sending boys into enemy lines–
Grant: …like sheep to the slaughter, Bobby. My heart was torn out every waking moment.
Rosa: You’d think people would have learned by now.
Wallace: Now, Ms. Parks, you know it takes some folks a little longer to see the error of their ways. It sure took me a while.
Lincoln: But, Governor, you did change. But even with that we still have all these ignorant bigots plaguing the world.
Barnett: Knowin’ what I know now, if I wuz still Guv’nor I’d tie ole Oliver up to a Confederate statue with nothin’ on but the stars an’ bars! An’ I’d make damn sure his face an’ private parts were on full display!
Grant: But, like Coretta said, Ross, returning evil for evil just makes more evil.
Lee: Amen to that, Useless…uh, Ulysses.
Hamer: Even though I’ve crossed over Jordan, I’ve still got some of that ole sick an’ tired in me. But it always turns to sadness when people look to things like statues an’ flags an’ such like they were handed down from Heaven.
Lincoln: Preach on, sister!
Wallace: I for one have a lot to make up for. As long as I can float through walls an’ scare the crap outta people I’m gonna get ‘em when they’re hatin’. I’m gonna get ‘em when they’re pontificatin’. I’m gonna get ‘em every time they start actin’ like they’re blind.
Rosa: Ooooh, Georgie boy! Gonna scare ‘em straight, are you?
They erupted in eerie laughter. Grant and Wallace passed out cigars and Ross produced a flask and poured the likker. It was a jolly special time!
Honest Abe started singing and everybody else chimed in.
Oh, that’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh,
I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.
Out of nowhere Coretta shot me a glance. “Hey, cowboy! C’mon over here and join us!”
My eyes nearly shot out of their sockets.
General Lee barked, “Yeah, Sundown! Get your scrawny little liberal butt over here an’ have some fun!”
So I moseyed over. Grant handed me a cigar and Ross poured my likker. I joined the spirit circle and we all sang and danced ‘till nearly dawn, when they floated away with the sounds of their revelry trailing behind them.
I grabbed my hat and cane and slid down the lamp post, whistling and dancing over the Van Buren crosswalk like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. Yeah, I tripped, but for once I didn’t care.
I drove away with two thoughts. First, this was the best night of my life, dancing with the stars, so to speak. And, two, racism sucks. It really sucks.