Thursday Morning, Fifth Week, Sammy’s Store
Bitches Brew played over the stereo, Miles’ subversive masterpiece that Sammy embraced instantly when it dropped and caused an explosion and scandal in the jazz world. Why, then, could he not embrace his old buddy’s subversive plan for announcing her candidacy? He asked himself that question while not stating the answer. Instead he dithered on side issues. This Sunday? Tamera doesn’t think that’s too soon? Berry’s had three weeks to plan his event, how can we do one in three days? And if it ain’t being billed as your event, why would people come?
Tamera said she’d make it work, Charlotte explained. And folks will come out thinking something big will happen. We’re working the rumor mill, she said.
Sammy sipped his coffee. He heard her, but still couldn’t quite make himself get with the groove, as much as he wanted to.
She stood in front of him, arms folded. Her nearly filled mug sat idle. “Sammy,” she said, “either I do it or I don’t do it. Last time you said I was too passive. You were right. I was too passive. I’m not making that mistake again.”
“You own this neighborhood, Charlotte, in a way that Ford Berry never can. He don’t know the people here. You do. People are expecting you to run. It won’t be a surprise.”
“Yes, I get that. But I still need to bring attention to myself in the media.”
“Look, I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. I’m just saying that it might have unintended consequences.”
Harry entered from the storeroom before she could respond.
“I think it’s pure genius,” he said.
“Oh Great Dizzy, here we go.”
“Sammy,” Harry continued, “we have to hit him and hit him hard, out the gate. Period. End of discussion.”
Bingo came in the front door. He stayed quiet while the others continued.
“One of the first things you said was that I needed to get attention,” Charlotte said. “Stealing his thunder is the best way to do that.”
“That was before…,” Sammy said.
“Before what?” Charlotte said.
“Before Alfonso got involved with things, that’s all.”
“Alfonso Berry?” Harry said. “That’s what you’re going on about?”
“That’s not fair, Sammy,” Charlotte said. “You know how I feel about Alfonso.”
She looked hurt as he feared she would, but at least he spoke his mind.
“Yeah,” Harry said, “Come on, Sammy! If that kid had any sense, he’d up and leave home now. Instead, you see where he’s at. Sometimes I wonder…”
“Wonder what, Harry?” Bingo said. “You’re not gonna start that bullshit about him being a spy for his father again, are you?”
“I’m just saying, that’s all.”
“No,” Charlotte said. “That’s not where he’s coming from at all.”
“He’s in grief over Carlton, Harry,” Bingo said. “Fuck! How hard is that to understand?”
“There’s a lot more to Alfonso than you know, Harry,” Sammy said.
“Yeah, OK. Maybe I don’t necessarily think he is, but you know,” Harry said.
“Then why the hell do you keep bringing it up?” Bingo said.
“Girl, please,” Harry said, returning to the storeroom. “Stop your tripping.”
“No, listen!” Bingo said. “That kid has more guts than all of us put together, OK? He ain’t no goddamn spy for his fucking father!”
“Blah, blah, blah,” Harry said, his left hand moving like a mouth opening and closing.
“Asshole,” Bingo said. “You got my usual, Sammy?”
Sammy took out a pack of cigarettes and put it on the counter. Bingo slapped down a twenty then went for the door. He didn’t bother waiting for his change.
“How long has he been hanging at the clinic?” Charlotte said.
“About three weeks now,” Sammy said. “He’s writing a paper about it for his class up at State.”
“Good. That’s good.”
Sammy sighed. He closed the till.
“He’ll be alright,” Charlotte said.
“I sure in the hell hope so. You sure you wanna do this?”
“Tamera’s already getting the wheels in motion. I have to do this, Sammy. You know, with Carlton…”
“With Carlton it was different. He was already estranged. And he didn’t live under the man’s roof.”
“What am I gonna do, Sammy? Not run? I’m going against an eight-year incumbent. I need the momentum. Anytime I declare will be the wrong time as far as Ford Berry is concerned. We can’t control how he’ll react.”
“I know.” He sat down. “I know. I don’t have any answers.”
“I need you behind me, Sammy.”
A loyalty test? Now he felt hurt, and didn’t care if it showed.
“Of course I’m behind you,” he finally said, refusing to make eye contact.
“Will you be there Sunday?” she pressed.
He remained silent.
“Does his father even know what he’s doing?” Charlotte said.
“So what’s the problem?”
She walked away abruptly, out the door, her nearly filled mug left on the counter. Miles and crew continued over the stereo, filling the store with turbulence.
Sammy stood, picked up Charlotte’s mug. He took it to the storeroom, emptied it, and washed it in the sink. Harry stood nearby doing inventory. They ignored each other. On the trip back to the counter, he turned off Miles. Silence. As he sat, the photo of Charlotte and Carlton on the wall behind the counter jumped out at him. He realized that it had been staring Charlotte in the face during their argument.
“You handled that well, Samuel Turner,” he muttered to himself.
(To be continued…)