Although he hadn’t become the minister he’d trained to be at the seminary, a missionary’s zeal burned within and led him to the school. How and why, Lord only knew. But the detail he detested most was upon him, beginning with an exhaustive train trip all the way to New York City, then an automobile journey to the center of Long Island, and finally the sessions with Miss Deal.
(1927) – It had been such a long ride. Will dusted off his rumpled suit jacket, wondering how it had gotten so dirty on the train. From the seats he concluded. The railway people seldom bothered to put forth any effort and clean the colored section, and Will made the mistake of sitting on the jacket just as the train entered North Carolina. He damned his carelessness, then found calm, knowing the situation demanded addressing before the day’s session with Miss Deal.
A quick stopover at his cousin’s place? He could get the jacket– and himself– cleaned up there. A visit at Marietta’s was rarely quick though. She’d just moved to New York a few years before, and though she’d never let loose an admission, was sick for home. When Will visited last, she peppered him with silly questions about Georgia, as if it had been a century since she’d seen her homeland.
“Yes Marietta,” Will had answered over and over, before having to recount the details of the memories still warm in her mind — the sweetest of peaches, the reddest red clay, and the aroma of old ladies’ kitchens that filled the streets. However, to trump any notion of happy times down South, Marietta offered litanies about the wonders of Harlem’s people, its businessmen, a dignified high society set, earnest working people, and all the handsome bachelors who’d come back from the Great War ready for something entirely new. Even the criminals ofHarlemwere different she’d maintained. Happy-go-lucky they were, not at all malicious or filled with pure evil and hatred like their daring and foolish Southern brothers.
“It’s a whole ‘nother world Will,” she’d said before tsk-tsking his decision to stay down South and take the position to head a colored high school. “What possessed you?” she had asked, answering herself with a favorite refrain: “Lord only knows.”
Exactly Will thought. Although he hadn’t become the minister he’d trained to be at the seminary, a missionary’s zeal burned within and led him to the school. How and why, Lord only knew. But the detail he detested most was upon him, beginning with an exhaustive train trip all the way to New York City, then an automobile journey to the center of the long island extending from the city, and finally the sessions with Miss Deal. The first time had been such an adventure. The glimpses of the soaring skylines in the northern cities, the purposeful bustle of people with white faces so different that those in the South; some with darker hued complexions, different shaped features. But the yearly routine had grown wearisome. Will reached for the last of his headache powders to prepare himself for the day’s work ahead.
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