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The Road to Atlanta
Flood: Chapter 1
August, 1956
All he knew was it was the biggest town around, the place where you caught the train. Surely, there would be a place nearby where a body could sell his hogs and chickens.
The world spun in his mind, despite the sky staying firm in heaven—why he supposed they used to call that the firmament, that the sky stayed in its place when confused people—confused like he was right now—sought their place under it.
Was Solomon ever this unsure of his self?
Was he at the bus stop?
There was no marker here about, just the assurance of the man up the road that this was where one caught the bus to Atlanta, that big unseen place in the far away.
The asphalt road was hot as all get out, which kept his hog from treading there. He prided himself on a well-trained hog, followed him like a dog it did. He looked up to his right at the sign over his shoulder where the man up the way told him to stand, under the big 19, written in black on it’s white painted metal shaped like an old time knight’s shield.
Did that mean anything? Did knights of a kind stalk these roads?
The sun was rising behind the sign—soon it would not even be morning anymore. By his hand and the horizon he’d say it was 9 o’clock.
Why’d Daddy have to up and die?
A distant hum disturbed the chickens in their twig-made cage, which if he was lucky they would not peck full apart before he managed to get them to Atlanta and sell them.
The sound heralded the nearing of a car, a big white car thundering down the road on his side, a car without a top to ward off the late summer sun.
Soon the car had stopped right next to him, his hog stepping back and sitting and the chickens all aflutter in their cage. Behind the wheel was a long, lean white man, in a white hat, one long hand on the wheel.
“Where you headed, son?”
“Atlanta, sir.”
“Whatever for, with a hog trained like a dog and a mess of unruly chickens—what in tarnation would they do with you in Atlanta?”
“Sell them and get me a train ticket—sir.”
“How old might you be?”
“Twelve, sir.”
“And why are you hauling your live goods down the road for a train? Why you not doin’ your business up in Griffin?”
“I don’ know ‘bout no Griffin, sir. I know—or so I been told—this here road goes to Atlanta and that would be where the big train station is, where I get the big ticket—my Daddy up en died, sir. All my Mamma does is cry. My aunt up in a place called Baltimore says I can come there.”
“Dam, son. You jus’ got you a ride. I will also buy your ticket for the hog and give you three dollars for those unruly chickens, as I do not think the clerk at the train station is used to dealing in such ole time currency. Get you and yours in.”
“Thank you sir, thank you…” he hurried as he opened the back door of the car and said, “Ged in, Hog,” and the little hog, about as big as he supposed he was when he was six, hopped in sat up, and sniffed the clean-shaven neck of the white man from under the back brim of that white hat, and he sat his chickens gingerly in the backseat so their makeshift crate would not disintegrate.
He then shut the door, picked up his burlap sack, filled with his clean clothes, soap and work shoes and slid into the seat next to the tall thin man and thought to himself about sitting up straighter so he could look that long fellow in the eye. The man then grinned, “Damned near a man, ain’t ya?”
He answered, “My Daddy were big. Now he gone.”
The man then extended that long pale hand and said, “Brandon Rose, is the name. Who might I be ushering up to that distant Promised Land?”
He took that hand, tried to lengthen his own fingers so that they wouldn’t get entirely swallowed up, and as they shook, the words came easy, “Israel, Israel Flood, sir.”
“Good on you, son!” grinned the man as he made that big machine roar, the first car ride Israel ever had had…
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