The Great American Negro Performer – Short Story By: Eric Blair (@HeavyAsHeaven84)
“Hey, C.J. I heard what happened last night. Are you okay?”
I am still a little agitated but I am good, Rose.
“Did you tell ya mom?”
Why the hell would I do that? This isn’t her concern. Do you have any cigarettes?
“You don’t have to look at me like that, since when you start smokin’?”
Since last night, that shit was fucking crazy.
“C.J., sit down, talk to me; I am here for you. Talk to me, papi. Wazzzup?”
Well, my father stopped by our show last night.
“Oh my, what did he say to you?”
Some bullshit, nothing but nonsense. I really don’t want to talk about him.
“Wait, wait, wait. C.J. STOP! Talk. To. Me. I am here for you, I love you. Let’s go sit in the livin’ room.”
After the performance before last I came back to my dressing room and low and behold he was there holding a bouquet of red roses, sitting in my chair, with a big goofy grin on his face… as if he missed me or something.
“That’s why when you closed wit’ Moons and Stars and you were a little off key.”
Really, with the interruptions? C’mon son!
“My B. Continue.”
Shit, more like start. Can I start interruption free, Rose? Thank you.
I entered the dressing room in disbelief, not because my father is there, because he’s sitting in my chair with roses like Ike from What’s Love Got to Do with It. He stood up from the chair, reeking of cheap knock off cologne, wearing a grey suit that looked like a hand me down. My father looked skinny and sickly. I have always known him to be a strong, charming, great looking man, but what I saw last night was a shard of the man he once was. I was fresh off of stage, still in my costume and makeup. His eyes were wide and bright like a deer in headlights; he smiled and said,
“Hello boy, ya look good.”
I scanned him from head to toe with a look of anger, and disgust. I replied,
“Why are you here? What do you want?”
The goofy smile left his bony face. I walked over to my fridge to get some water and he followed behind me like a lost puppy still holding onto the roses. He looked over my shoulder and said,
“My throat is kinda dry, I want a water or something ta drink, boy.”
I gazed over my shoulder with a stare of hatred and replied,
“You have air and spit, enjoy that. What’s with the roses?”
He shifted his weight nervously as he released an uncomfortable chuckled. He replied,
“They’re fo’ you, ya…ya kno’ cuz of ya good performance. Ya funny, always was funny.”
I walked toward him as he extended his arms to hand me the roses, I walked around him to my chair and sat right down. After I sat down his back was still toward me, his shoulders slumped in defeat or embarrassment; I really didn’t give a fuck. He lowered his head and took a deep breath before he turned around. He turned toward me and uttered the dumbest sentence he could utter,
“How is ya mom, boy?”
I stared straight in his face, and slowly took a sip of water. I stared him right in his eyes, the same way Alex would stare at me when I had done wrong. He lowered his gazed like an little boy in trouble, looking pathetic with the roses in his arms. I slowly swallowed a mouth full of water never taking my stare off of him. I know he could feel it all, my disappointments, my rage, my anger, and my hatred all for him. I replied,
“You have her number, call her yourself. Wait; is this the part you make up an excuse why you can’t call my mother because your wife is stopping you or you’re too busy at work? Come on, old man, give me something.”
He looked down on himself, rubbed the back of his head with his right hand, and smirked. He dared to utter,
“Hm, maybe this was a mistake. Why do ya gonna treat me like this, boy? I made a mistake, I am sor—”
I snapped at the sound of his pathetic words, his smug attitude, and his arrogance; I just couldn’t take it anymore. I just jumped out of my seat and threw my water at him and he threw down the roses and we got up in one another’s face. Before he could utter one word I screamed at him,
“YOU DO NOT HAVE THAT FUCKING RIGHT! You’re not going to march in here and just say “sorry” and then expect shit to be cool. You don’t know me, I don’t know YOU! Who are you! Don’t give me that sorry shit. Where the fuck were you when I needed to learn how to fight? Where were you when I needed to learn about sex? Where were you when Alex was killed?! All you could do is pat me on my back and leave me! You left a boy to bear the burden of a man! You stroll back in here when I got a little something? Now I am your son? You’re so proud of me? Fuck you!”
His face flinched in anger as if he was trying to contain his rage. He simply said,
“Watch ya mouth, boy. I came ta make peace not start war but I will bury ya ass if ya keep talkin’ ta me like that, boy.”
I gritted my teeth together and begun to make a fist. I screamed,
“My name is Christopher James, not “boy,” not “sonny,” and not “C.J.” You call me “Mr. Johnson.” Truthfully at Alex’s funeral I wished it was you in the casket not Alex. I wish you would die each da—.
He shoved me into my vanity and I jumped up, charged him, and wrapped my hands around his throat. I blacked out; all I remember are moments of my white gloves around his frail neck. I squeezed so tight. I still stared right in his eyes, and watched hope drain from his limp body and life drained from his eyes, just as I had watched Alex slip into lifelessness. I felt his body begin to give up on struggling. At that moment security rushed into the dressing room and pulled me off of him. He was grasping for air as I was screaming trying to break away from securities’ hold. Security helped him up and then asked me if they wanted me to throw him out. I replied,
“He can find his way out.”
He dragged himself away with one hand around his neck. At the doorway he turned around with his red, watery eyes. He barely uttered,
“I came ta make peace, bo—.”
“Fuck your peace.”
He took big breaths as he broke down in tears and said,
“I am your father! I kno’ I fucked up but I am tryin’! I am tryin’ ta make it up ta you and Alex. Ya so fuckin’ blind and stupid, ya rather dress up and chuckle and jive fo’ tho’ crackers out there, but you greet me wit’ war. That black paint on ya face, boy, isn’t makeup, that’s really who ya are; The Amazin’ Poof. ‘Nother Uncle Tom! Ya keep actin’ like ya don’t need anybody; ya gonna die alone. I was honestly ashamed ta tell or know that ya my son but at this point it’s not ‘bout my feelin’ or yours. It’s ‘bout a new beginin’. If I can accept you fo’ bein’ the “most famous Minstrel” then you can accept me fo’ my past mistakes.”
The room became silent, pain was in the air. I stared him in his eyes with my face frowned up and blurted out,
“Get the fuck out! Don’t come near me again.”
He looked directly in my eyes, searching for compassion in my heart. As tear were racing down his face he said,
“I have cancer, Christopher. I don’t wanna die wit’ ya hatin’ me. I don’t wanna die not knowin’ my last son. I don’t have long ta go. I am sorry, son.”
He reached his hand out to me. I walked away from him to lean. The moment I glanced away, I saw in the mirror a person I would never want to see again; a man of hatred and rage. My paint was running down my face with my brown skin peeking through themidnightoil, black face paint. I looked back at him and said,
“So? That’s not my problem. Send me a postcard from hell. Get out.”
He sighed as he wiped the tears from his eyes. He pointed to the flowers on the floor and said to me,
“Ya can keep ‘em. Good luck.”
He turned away from me and walked away in defeat and embarrassment. I continued the show as you know and I just got a call from his wife and my mother telling me he died in his sleep this morning.
“How do you feel, C.J.?”
How should I feel? I meant every word I said to him; I am not going to shed one tear for him…
Stars & Moons
Poof is sitting on stage at a black piano with a microphone in front of his face. There is a spotlight on him. Poof is dressed in a black suit, with white gloves, and a black top hat with ace of spade card wedged in the white band of his hat. His face is covered in black paint with white outlines around his lips. He began to play the piano.
Somewhere above the stars
Where our love floats by
Somewhere beyond the moons
The destruction of our trust floats by
Somewhere above it all
The ashes of which we were
Sprinkles onto the universe
Desolated on the moon is where I stand.
Somewhere in your heart is an abyss collapsing
Somewhere out there
Somewhere in the atmosphere
Somewhere you’re there when you need to be here