I wanted to thank everyone who came to hear me read at the Carnegie Center's "Feast of Fiction" competition last night. It was so great to see so many friends in attendance and the director Jan Isenhour thanked us for our large contingent of people. Bev Olert's short story "Unbroken Chain," which talks about Mountaintop Removal, among many other things, was truly tremendous and if you didn't hear it I would encourage you to go to the Carnegie Center's site and look it up under the "For Writers" tab. Again, thanks for your support and encouragement. Here is the story that I read in the "Flash Fiction" category, entitled "Savannah Sacred":
“Now Mr. Taylor,” said Roland Anthony with cool conviction, “I do believe you’ll understand me when I say that your friend on the front porch must go. I appreciate your heart in the matter, son, but I believe you’ll agree that there are more proper establishments for such men.”
The sweet southern drawl of the imperious man’s voice almost made the request seem hospitable. But there was no mistaking the intent. David Taylor had secretly lived in fear of this moment for the past two months like an anxious kid who’d been slowly siphoning off the ole’ man’s liquor.
Roland Anthony made his point abundantly clear, just as clear as he had been making his arguments to the courts of Savannah and the rest of Georgia for thirty five years.
David Wayne Taylor IV, fresh out of Yale Law, a husband with a newborn, being paid handsomely to study for the bar, and trying to carry the storied family name, was sobered by Roland Anthony’s unspoken reminder of his proud southern heritage. Charity certainly had its place for a southern gentleman, but that place was not the front porch of the magnificent Victorian housing the acclaimed law office of Anthony, Sloan, & Hicks.
David had been at the firm for a mere two and a half months. Eager to impress, he was always first at the office. It was during one of these early mornings that he stumbled upon the “friend” to whom Roland Anthony had politely referred.
David knew him simply as “Hollywood,” a homeless African-American Vet in his late fifties. Their first encounter was abrupt, and the unsuspecting David was unsettled. But Hollywood had a mysterious presence, a lighthearted and relaxed command of the awkwardness of the situation that enthralled David and made him feel truly welcomed. Having lived his life in the long shadow of southern social propriety, David was both fascinated and undone by the unaffected grace and dignity of Hollywood. “How can he still feel so good about life?” David mused.
They began visiting for a few minutes each morning. They sat on the porch talking freely in the cool early morning breezes of late fall in Savannah. Soon they began getting coffee and it wasn’t long before David was the last one to the office. It didn’t seem to matter anymore. There was contentment to be found in life apart from career success and family pedigrees. It was the contentment of simply knowing and being known, and apart from his wife, David wondered if he’d ever really known it before he met Hollywood.
The trouble came the morning that Roland Anthony discovered the improbable pair meeting on the porch.
Hollywood knew the score.
The next morning he took the gut-wrenching words right out of David’s mouth.
“No worry Cap’n,” he said. “You gotcha’yer family to keep. Don worry about me. No sir, I been workin’ these streets a long time.”
Hollywood smiled brightly, hugged David, grabbed his pack, and walked off into the bright Savannah morning.
David kept a low profile over the next several weeks, nursing along the first true bout of depression that he’d ever known.
He resumed his early morning routine, and every morning he thought about Hollywood.
Late one night David was working alone at the office. Exhausted, he’d turned off the light to take a nap. He was awakened by a loud commotion coming from the porch. He heard a familiar voice say, “Hey, you,” followed by several gunshots.
David jumped to his feet, raced downstairs, and unlocked the front door.
Lying in a pull of blood on the front porch was Hollywood.
His breathing was shallow, but he smiled as a speechless David cradled him.
It was a cold windy night and he’d come back to the porch. He’d been awakened by a man trying to break into the house who he confronted.
“Well Cap’n,” said Hollywood, still smiling, “Tell de boss I finally paid de rent!”
David yelled for help as his friend breathed his last and slumped, lifeless, in David’s arms.
David sobbed uncontrollably as he held Hollywood’s limp body.
Several police cruisers soon arrived as David continued to hold his friend. He was quiet now, mysteriously content as the officers approached.
Only now had the truth become clear to David. He was also unwelcome on this porch. It was not the “proper establishment” for a man like him. But no one would ask him to leave this place. He alone had to make that decision.