Thunder and Lightening
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
During the drive to the house, Jerry was worried about how Jenny would take to the neighborhood. Jenny was trying to put on a brave face at going into such a dangerous part of town. Bill sat in the back watching the scenery pass by totally oblivious to the tension in the front seat. Jerry said, “Don’t worry about the neighbors. You’ve already met Martin and Abe at the store.”
Trying to hide her concern, Jenny smiled back and said, “I’m not worried.”
“Right,” he replied knowing how worried she was. It was his opinion that her presence could trigger a riot once everyone saw her beauty. Hadn’t the beauty of Helen started a war? Of course, that wasn’t the kind of thing he could joke about with her.
He pulled up in front of the house and parked at the curb. Getting out, he went around the car and opened the door for Jenny. She climbed out and then turned to lever the seat forward so that Bill could exit the car. When everyone was standing by the car, Jerry asked, “What do you say that we go next door for a minute?”
Jenny frowned as she looked around the neighborhood taking in the run down houses. Curtains moved as the old people across the street watched what was happening. She watched as Bill looked over at the house next door and stared open mouthed at the black Caddy that was parked in the yard. He exclaimed, “Wow, look at the Caddy.”
The comment caused her to look over at the car. Jerry took her by the arm and led her over to the car. Martin had heard them pull up in the car and came running out of the house eager to show off his car. With a wink, he said, “Hey, you brought her over here to see the car? I’m impressed.”
Jerry explained, “Martin fixed up the Caddy. It wasn’t anywhere near this nice when he started. He did a great job on it.”
Jenny looked at the car impressed with it. She exclaimed, “It looks brand new. I’d swear it was just driven off the showroom floor.”
Martin grinned and opened the door of the car. He said, “Take a look inside.”
As Jenny looked inside the car, Sharon came out of the house and went over to Jerry. She hugged him and said, “Thanks for helping him fix up that car. I couldn’t believe it when he drove up in it. I told him he had to park it in the yard so that no one would hit it by accident.”
Jenny had turned and looked at Sharon when she had greeted Jerry in such a friendly fashion. The look she gave the black woman was not exactly nice and it was lucky that the recipient didn’t notice. Jerry said, “Jenny, I’d like you to meet Sharon. She’s the mother of Abe and Martin. Sharon, I’d like you to meet Jenny, my girlfriend.”
The reaction of Sharon was immediate and honest. She turned to Jenny and hugged the woman just as strongly as she had hugged Jerry. Stepping back, she said, “So I finally got to meet the woman that caught Jerry.”
“Oh yeah. I’m sure there are hearts breaking all over town,” replied Sharon. She put an arm around the other woman and led her away talking softly. The kindness that Jerry had shown her sons had helped shape both of them into better men. He had served as a male role model in a part of town where that was rare.
Martin smiled at the women walking away and said, “Oh, my. Momma’s gonna find out all the juicy gossip, now.”
Jerry blushed and looked down at the ground. After a second, he looked up and asked, “Where’s Abe?”
“He’s in the house.”
While Bill was busy looking at the Caddy, Jerry asked, “Would you mind getting him?”
Martin slapped his forehead realizing that Bill didn’t know about the surprise waiting for him in the living room. He said, “Sure. Give me a second.”
As Martin went into the house, Jerry went over to where Bill was checking out the car. Putting a hand on his son’s shoulder, he said, “You helped do that. I’m assuming that you and Abe will want to fix up cars for yourselves.”
Bill looked up at his father and smiled at the thought of driving around in a classic car that he had restored himself. He replied, “I’d really like that, Dad.”
“Good. We’ll talk to Abe and then start looking for a couple of cars. Next week, I take the Camaro in to be painted and the interior repaired.”
Abe came out of the house and joined them at the car. He was grinning from ear to ear knowing the surprise that waited for Bill in the house and couldn’t wait to see the look on his friends face. They stood around discussing the Caddy and the offer by Jerry to rebuild their own cars.
One of the retired men from across the street came over. Walking slowly, using a cane to support himself, he looked like a man on a mission. Jerry turned and saw the man approaching surprised to see one of the elderly people actually cross the street. He went over to the man and said, “Hello, I’m Jerry Smith.”
The old man worked his mouth for a second before answering, “I know who you is. Bin watching ya fo a while.”
It wasn’t exactly a friendly tone of voice, but Jerry smiled and said, “Okay.”
“Ya did good learnin’ that boy how ta work on cars,” replied the old man. While his words were nice, his voice wasn’t friendly. He used his cane to momentarily point at the car. “She’s a beauty.”
“Martin did a great job on it,” Jerry replied looking over at the car for a minute.
Almost reverently, Sharon came over with Jenny to greet the old man. Smiling, she said, “Mr. Atkins, It’s so nice to see you.”
At least now Jerry knew the man’s name. It seemed to him that the man didn’t like him. He looked over at Jenny and winked, getting a smile from her in return. A deep rich voice rang out as Henry Buckman arrived, “Hello, everyone.”
Mr. Atkins turned and looked at Henry. A grin came across his face at seeing the huge black man appear. With real respect in his voice, he answered, “Hello, Henry.”
“Mr. Atkins. Are you giving Jerry a hard time?” asked Henry knowing the old man very well.
“Nah. Nevah thought that havin’ a cracker here ‘bouts ud be good. He bin provin’ me wrong,” answered Mr. Atkins with begrudging respect.
Jerry smiled at the assessment. Henry put a hand on Jerry’s shoulder and replied, “He’s a good role model for a number of the boys around here. He and I are trying to fill your boots.”
Mr. Atkins nodded and said, “Did a damn good job on dat car. Marty did good work.”
Henry asked, “Is there anything we can do for you?”
“Kin I sit ba-hine the wheel, for a sec’,” asked the old man looking over at the car with envy. In his day, black men drove cars like that to make the statement that they were just as important as whites, even if that was all they could afford. Dress nice, drive a good car, and carry yourself with pride.
Martin had been listening to the conversation. It was quite an honor to have Mr. Atkins notice you in a positive fashion. He came over and said, “I’d be proud to have you sit behind the wheel for a while.”
Watching Martin take the old man over to the car, Jerry smiled at the simple pleasures that had resulted from the young man’s hard work. When the old man sat behind the wheel, it seemed to him that Mr. Atkins had sat up straighter and looked prouder. Henry said, “Look at him. He’s so proud.”
Not knowing which man to whom Henry was referring, Jerry replied, “Martin is so proud of himself that he’s about to burst. Mr. Atkins looks real dignified sitting behind the wheel.”
Henry laughed and said, “Sorry about Mr. Atkins. He doesn’t care much for whites.”
“No problem,” replied Jerry. He grinned and said, “I’d rather be disliked because I’m white than because of my size.”
The comment caused Henry to nearly double over in laughter at the statement. He knew exactly what his friend had meant and shared that same sentiment. He quipped, “Same here. Never heard anyone else say that they preferred racism, though.”
Jenny looked at both men in surprise, unable to believe that they would take that attitude. Sharon looked puzzled at the statement and the reaction of Henry. She complained, “I don’t understand.”
Looking over at Sharon, Henry realized that she didn’t understand. With a sudden seriousness that contrasted with his previous laughter, he answered, “If you are disliked because of race, that means there are still a lot of people that will like you. When you are disliked because of your size, nobody likes you. Even other big men leave you alone.”
Jenny looked from one man to the other. They were both very big strong men who looked threatening at first glance. That was particularly true when serious or angry. In a flash of insight, she realized just how tough life could be when you were large. She said, “That’s so sad. I like big men.”
Sharon burst out laughing and said, “I like big men, too. Particularly when certain parts are big.”
Jenny, laughing at the comment, watched as Jerry and Henry both blushed at the comment. In his deep gruff voice, Jerry answered, “I wouldn’t know about that.”
Mr. Atkins headed back across the street. On his way, he stopped by Henry and said, “Ya keep watchin’ out for the kids, ya hear me.”
Henry answered, “Yes, Sir, and you take care of yourself, Mr. Atkins.”
Jerry said, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Atkins.”
The old man walked across the street grumbling to no one in particular. It was clear that he was of two minds about having Jerry in the neighborhood. He hadn’t approved of how the big man had thrown the kid out of his house that one night. White men just weren’t allowed to do that kind of thing to black kids.
Trying to minimize the negative attitude of the old man, Martin said, “Don’t mind him.”
“I do mind him,” replied Jerry suddenly becoming the center of attention. He said, “He cares about the kids around here. That makes him a good guy in my book, and you pay attention to the advice of good guys.”
A very pleased Henry burst out in a smile, his white teeth providing a great contrast with his dark skin. Jenny put an arm around her boyfriend amazed at how understanding he was. She wondered how long it would be before they took the relationship to the next level. The more she learned about him, the more she loved him. Martin was thoughtful as he walked along. He mumbled, “Never thought about it like that.”
Pleased to see that his friend had taken Mr. Atkins in stride, Henry said, “Yeah. That’s a good way of putting it.”
It was getting dark and there was still the surprise waiting for Bill in the house. Jerry said, “Hey, let’s go over to my place for some cokes.”
As the group trooped over to the house, Abe and Bill trailed along trading jokes about his weak arm. The boys were having a good time being themselves. Abe was having difficulty keeping the scooter a secret. Bill was happy about having had such a good day.
Jerry opened the front door and ushered everyone into the house before Bill and Abe reached the porch. Abe stopped at the door to let Bill into the house first. Everyone watched as Bill came into the room and spotted the new scooter. Mouth open, he moved in slow motion towards the scooter as his eyes took in the sight. His heart raced as he realized that he had a new scooter. Suddenly he turned and launched himself at Jerry.
Grabbing his father in a great big hug, he cried, “Thank you, Dad!”
There were times when Jerry really enjoyed being a father and the relationship that he had with his son. He put his arms around his son and hugged him tightly amazed at how his son had thought to thank him first before even touching the bike. He answered, “What are fathers for?”
Pulling back, Bill wiped the tears from his eyes and answered, “Raising my allowance?”
Abe laughed at the joke relieved that the emotional moment had passed for the most part. He felt a little tightness in his chest and didn’t feel very manly. He looked around and noticed that Jenny and his mother were both wiping tears from their eyes. Even Henry was watching with a soft look on his face.
Martin put a hand on Abe’s shoulder and, in a quiet voice, said, “Your friend is very happy.”
“Yeah,” replied Abe.
“I remember how happy you were when you got your scooter,” remarked Martin.
It was a timely reminder of how happy he had been. If his scooter had been lost under the circumstances in which Bill had lost his, he would have been just as emotional getting a new one.
He smiled and said, “It’s time for the Salt and Pepper scooter gang to take to the road.”
Everyone laughed at that announcement as Sharon replied, “Oh, no you don’t! No gang talk around this house.”
Jerry brought out a cake and a couple six packs of cola as Bill and Abe examined the new scooter. The evening turned into a party with the males in the living room talking about the bike, cars, and work. Jenny and Sharon went into the kitchen. Sitting at the table, Sharon asked, “Did you find the Polaroids, yet?”
“No,” replied Jenny wondering what the other woman talking about.
“Oh, good. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about them,” replied the black woman.
“Wrong idea about what?”
“My sister used to live in this house until she was locked out by the landlord. When Jerry moved in, he found a stack of Polaroid pictures of my sister in various states of undress. Some of them were very explicit.”
Jenny didn’t know how to respond to the news. Reserving judgment, she said, “Oh.”
It was clear to Sharon that Jenny wasn’t quite sure what to make of the news. She said, “Jerry tried to return them to me, thinking that they were pictures of me. You should have seen him standing there blushing and unable to look at me.”
Jenny very well knew the sight of Jerry being off-balance around women and she laughed at the image. Much warmer, she said, “So what did you do?”
“I laughed and told him to keep the pictures.”
“You didn’t?” asked a shocked Jenny. She would have taken the pictures away in a minute.
“Oh, yes I did! My big sister is a holier than thou bitch that never failed to use a chance to rub my youthful indiscretions in my face. I’ll admit, I get off on the idea of a white guy jacking off over her pictures,” replied Sharon much more defensive than she had intended.
“Oh, so he still has them?”
“As far as I know, he does,” answered Sharon with a smile.
The idea that Jerry was looking at naked pictures of another woman disturbed Jenny more than she was willing to admit. He hadn’t attempted to sleep with her and yet he might be jacking off to the pictures of another woman. In a way, it hurt. She said, “I don’t know how I feel about that.”
“Girl friend, look at it as an opportunity. Just think of how you can use those pictures to work him up into a real sexual frenzy!” Sharon practically shivered at the idea and said, “Now I just have to find some way to get Henry to notice me.”
The idea of using pictures of another woman as a means of exciting Jerry moved her mind into unexplored territory. It was so bad, that she almost missed the statement about Henry. She leaned forward and said, “I’ve been working on Jerry for more than six months.”
Looking at the door to see if anyone could hear her, she whispered, “We haven’t even been to bed, yet.”
Shocked, Sharon sat back and exclaimed, “Shit. I always thought that jokes about white folks being sexually repressed were just jokes. I’d have been all over him by now.”
Shrugging her shoulders, Jenny didn’t know what to say. She knew that Jerry was very worried about touching her with his rough hands. To be honest, she worried about what it would be like to have his calluses rubbing her sensitive vagina. Confessing one of the barriers, she said, “He’s worried about the roughness of his hands.”