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Mark M Lichterman

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B .O.W. 96: Digging Holes
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Thursday, September 09, 2010
Last edited: Saturday, September 11, 2010
This short story is rated "PG13" by the Author.

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Ruby?

In the spring of 1961, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an interracial activist group founded in 1942, dispatched bands of black and white “Freedom Riders” aboard buses into the Deep South to test local compliance with court rulings that forbade segregated seating in terminal waiting rooms. While local authorities stood by, many Riders were beaten senseless by irate mobs as their buses were set afire.

________________________________________________________________________

 December 23, 1960

As she never drank—apparently with the exception of Pappy Yokum’s moonshine—even though Mitchell had three drinks, one more than his wife felt he should drink, completely enjoying themselves, on this night Marsha and Mitchell Lipensky attended Radio Station WHIP’s annual Christmas party.

________________________________________________________________________

Peoria, Illinois  

December 31, 1960

Living in small town such as Peoria, word spread rather quickly. And after being courted by all three—orthodox, conservative and reform—temples, Marsha and Mitchell Lipensky, having decided to join Peoria’s reform temple a few months earlier, attended a New Year’s party given in the home of one of the temple’s younger, wealthier members.

On this night, conceding to having one Harvey Wallbanger, even though Mitchell had three drinks—one more than his wife felt he should drink—they enjoyed themselves completely.

  January 1, 1961

Six inches of heavy snow having fallen the night before and into this first day of the year, “Mikey, you wanna go play in the snow with daddy?”

“Make a snowman, daddy?”

“Yeah, let’s make a snowman.”

Waiting as Marsha dressed Michael in his snow­suit and galoshes.”

“Tell you what, Mikey; what if we tie Mercy to your sled and we’ll let her pull you and we’ll go for a walk. How’s that sound?”

“Then we’ll make a snowman, Daddy?”

“Yeah, baby. After Mercy pulls you, we’ll make a snowman.”

Outside, the ends of four feet of clothesline knotted through the ends of the handle of Mikey’s Flexible Flyer with another foot tied to her collar, “Mush, mush!” Mitchell yelled to the full grown Dalmatian that, looking over her shoulder, stood stock still.

“Mush!” Getting the idea, Mercy lurched forward spilling a red faced, laughing Michael into a deep snow drift. Then again, and again. Until, releasing her, Mercy playfully lunged at Michael, knocking him back into the drift of snow where he lay laughing until his daddy fell into the snow with him and together, daddy and Mikey and Mercy rolled down the snow covered embankment, then again and again.

Two snowmen were made that day, one little “Mikey” snowman and one big “daddy” snowman, then…

“Hey, guys!” Mommy yelled through the door. “ I’ve toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup!”

“Yea!”

 Peoria, Illinois

The Hole Digger

January 10 to August 27, 1961

On Jefferson Street, two doors west of the Walgreens drug store, there was a storefront. Within the sign on the window there was a gold painted circle with three stepped letters that read: “HFC” Beneath the circle in heavy gold scroll the words proclaimed: “HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CORPORATION.”

He had passed this place hundreds of times, but on this day, he stopped, thinking, Why not?

Mentally calculating the amount of money he sent monthly to the hospital, doctors, lawyers and E­Z Credit. Calculating that, other than rent, he had been paying approximately $129.00 a month and that in total he and Marsha still owed about…?

Between the hospital, doctors, lawyers and E­Z Credit, considering that he had been paying these bills since 1957, thinking they still owed nearly $5,000, opening the door, walking into HFC, speaking to a “Financial Consultant,” the man began the paperwork that Mitchell would complete at home that, once signed by him and his wife, when approved, would loan the Lipenskys the sum of $5,500.00 from HFC at the present rate of interest to be repaid in seventy-two monthly payments of $85.33.

This balance would, of course, be paid in full once the long awaited lawsuit for the car accident with Randall Detwiler and Chicago Fastener Corporation was settled.

Digging. Digging…

Money from the new filling the financial hole of the old, so began a never ending field of holes.

May 8, 1961

Ruby?

In the spring of 1961, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an interracial activist group founded in 1942, dispatched bands of black and white “Freedom Riders” aboard buses into the Deep South to test local compliance with court rulings that forbade segregated seating in terminal waiting rooms. While local authorities stood by, many Riders were beaten senseless by irate mobs as their buses were set afire.

Finally, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent in 400 federal marshals to protect the Freedom Riders right to travel.

But not before…

Watching as they had on that day in September of 1957, when federal paratroopers stood bayonet to bayonet with the Arkansas Nation Guard outside of Central High School when Marsha and Mitchell thought they’d seen him.

Watching whenever television cameras focused on the ongoing, unfolding civil rights drama.

Watching as they had on that day in 1957 to this day, as always looking for Rubidoux Meyers but never catching another glimpse of anyone who might be Ruby.

But now…

Outside of a large bus depot in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the television camera focused onto a shoving, hitting match where a white man—a suit clad white man with a strange, albeit handsome face with a Negroid nose, Caucasian lips and, as seen on the black and white television, pure white hair—was being held from behind by one white man while being beaten by two other white men.

“Jesus! That’s Ruby! Marcy, that’s got to be Ruby!”

Rushing from the sofa, kneeling before the television, hoping to find this same scene on a different channel, he switched channels where almost immediately there was the scene again.

“Mitchie, that is Ruby!”

“Yeah, I know!”

“Where are you going?”

“To get my wallet.”

“Your wallet?”

“Yeah, I’ve got Ruby and Sherry’s number in it. I’m calling Sherry!”

“You can’t call now.” Glancing at the clock, “It’s after twelve there.”

“I don’t care! I’ve got to see if he’s okay.”

Taking his wallet from the dresser, stretching a finger into one of the thin pockets, he removed the piece of Columbia Yacht Club napkin where Ruby had written his and Sherry’s New York City phone number; where the scrap of napkin had remained untouched since that day in September of 1957 when Mitchell had last seen or spoken to Ruby and when, from that day to this day, out of embarrassment and guilt for not going to Little Rock with his friend, the scrap of napkin had remained untouched.

The dial spinning back to “O,” “Long distance, please.” Within moments giving the long distance operator the New York City phone number, he waited impatiently until the operator informed him that…

“Sorry, sir, that number is no longer a working number.”

“The name is Meyers, Rubidoux Meyers. Could you please see if there is a listing for either Rubidoux or Sherry Meyers?”

“I’ll connect you with New York City information.”

“Operator.”

“The name is Meyers, Rubidoux Meyers. Could you please see if there is a listing for either Rubidoux or Sherry Meyers?”

Strangely, the operator asked, “M­E­Y­E­R­S?” but not for the spelling of “Rubidoux.”

“Yes, Operator,” he repeated. “Rubidoux or Sherry Meyers.”

Mitchell standing in the doorway between the kitchen and living room, Marsha sitting on the sofa, the two stared at each other for the time it took until…

“Sorry, sir, there is no listing for either a Rubidoux or Sherry Meyers in the New York City area.”

“Thank you, Operator.”

Dialing “O” again, “Long distance operator, please…”

Baltimore, Maryland, information. Please…”

“Operator, do you have a number for Rubidoux or Sherry Meyers? That’s M­E­Y­E­R­S.”

And…

Once again an unfortunate fact of life occurred when a person or people whom we truly believed would never be gone from our life, when, due to time and/or distance, and/or when that thread of “something in common” breaks, we discover that that friend or friends are forever gone from our life.

                                                           Prospective 1965                                                                  

With the exception of a television film clip showing a vaguely familiar white man that looked like a black man wearing a black suit and a white shirt with, of all things, a white bow tie, who was obviously standing guard alongside of Malcolm X in 1965; two days before the pioneer black militant was assassinated… along with his two bodyguards, and…

With the exception of that television film clip, Mitchell and Marsha Lipensky never saw nor heard from Rubidoux or Sherry Meyers again.


Web Site: mmlichterman.com  


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Books by
Mark M Lichterman



For Better or Worse

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The Climbing Boy

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Becoming

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